Pertinax (Emperor)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aureus of the Pertinax

Publius Helvius Pertinax (born August 1, 126 in Alba Pompeia , † March 28, 193 in Rome ) was 193 Roman Emperor . He was the first emperor of the second year of the four emperors .

Origin and career as a knight

Pertinax was the son of a freedman from Liguria . He first became a teacher and joined the Roman army as an officer around 160, which was connected with his elevation to the knighthood . He initially served as prefect of the Cohors VII Gallorum in the Roman province of Syria (Syria) and took part in the Parthian War. Around 165 he was transferred to Britannia and promoted to the tribune of the Legio VI Victrix . Later he was probably prefect of the Cohors I Tungrorum there .

The next career step was the command of an Ala quingenaria (unit of 500 riders), probably in Moesia ( Moesia ). He then switched (probably 168) to a civilian job as a procurator alimentorum in northern Italy at the lowest salary level (60,000 sesterces annually). Around 169 he was back in a military post, namely as commander of the Rhine fleet with an annual salary of 100,000 sesterces. Around 170 he was already the procurator for the three Dacian provinces and Moesia superior (Upper Moesia ) in the highest salary class (200,000 sesterces). So his career went very quickly. In the following years he proved himself militarily in the defense against Germanic tribes that had invaded the empire and penetrated as far as Italy.

Senator under Marcus Aurelius

Because of his military merits and also thanks to the support of a powerful sponsor, the influential Senator Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus , Pertinax was admitted to the Senate around 170 by an adlectio with the rank of praetor. Pompeianus had been the son-in-law of the then reigning emperor Marcus Aurelius since 169 . He came from the province of Syria and had already known and appreciated Pertinax during his time there. Now senator, Pertinax could become a legate of the Legio I Adiutrix , which was stationed in the province of Pannonia superior (Upper Pannonia). During the Marcomannic Wars he gained a great reputation by succeeding in completely driving the invading Teutons from the provinces of Raetia ( Raetia ) and Noricum (Norikum). He was also involved in the offensive on Germanic territory. For his services he was rewarded with the suffect consulate in 175 and thus rose to the nobility . He administered various provinces as governor, first Moesia inferior (Lower Moesia ), then Dacia (Dacia) and finally Syria .

Role under Commodus

Bust from the villa at Lullingstone ; which possibly represents Pertinax, who may have lived in the villa for a while

Meanwhile in 180 Emperor Commodus , the son of Marcus Aurelius, had come to power. Its Praetorian prefect Tigidius Perennis was in fact the most powerful man in the empire from 182-185, he made the important personnel decisions and ensured that some careers were not continued. Pertinax was forced to retire into private life. He spent the years of the Perennis rule in his Ligurian homeland and in Athens. After the fall and death of Perennis in 185, the imperial freedman Marcus Aurelius Cleander became his successor as a decisive shaper of the politics of Commodus. As part of the associated change in personnel policy, Pertinax was able to return to the civil service and was 185–187 governor of Britain, where he gained renown again by confidently ending a soldiers' mutiny. 188-189 he administered the province of Africa as proconsul , where he is said to have made himself unpopular here due to excessive severity, after which he became city ​​prefect of Rome and thus climbed the climax of a senatorial career.

In 190 Commodus' favorite Cleander, who had made himself hated by scandalous sales of office, was overthrown. Cleander's opponents allegedly caused an artificial grain shortage in Rome, for which he was blamed, so that riots and fighting broke out. To calm the crowd, Commodus had Cleander executed. The city prefect of Pertinax played a key role in this crisis. Apparently he emerged stronger from the turmoil. In 192 he held the ordinary consulate as a colleague of the emperor, a great honor.

Elevation to Emperor

In 191 the new Praetorian prefect Aemilius Laetus became the real ruler in the background. He decided to get rid of the Commodus in order to avoid the fate of his predecessors, who had fallen victim to the incessant intrigues, and instead to appoint a new emperor of his own choosing. On December 31, 192, Commodus was murdered at the instigation of the Laetus. Laetus immediately ensured that Pertinax was proclaimed the new emperor.

Since Laetus, who was responsible for the murder of Commodus, was also the one who selected and enforced Pertinax as his successor, it has often been assumed that Pertinax himself was involved in the conspiracy against Commodus. Opinions differ on this. The sources do not allow a definite judgment.

Government and death

Pertinax ruled for just under three months, during which there were several mutinies and conspiracies. His position was extremely precarious as he had no power base of his own but was completely dependent on the benevolence of the Praetorians and metropolitan soldiers, while Laetus allegedly intended to continue pulling the strings from the background.

After the long reign of Commodus, who had neglected the affairs of government, not only were the state finances broken, but also respect for the office of the emperor and the traditional authorities had largely been lost. The fact that Pertinax enjoyed a great reputation with the senators, had military fame and was popular with the city population was of little use to him under these circumstances. He was slain on March 28, 193 by mutinous soldiers of the Praetorian Guard . Apparently it was not a conspiracy or a planned insurrection, just a chaotic action made possible by the general lack of discipline: When Laetus, allegedly on the orders of the emperor, had some Praetorians executed for offenses, the rest mutinied out of fear from further punishments. About two hundred of them entered the palace without encountering any resistance. Pertinax, who, as in 185 in Britain, now bravely and unarmed stood in the way of the mutineers, almost succeeded in ending the riot through his demeanor and his authority. The contemporary witness Cassius Dio reports:

Hoping to intimidate the mutineers by his appearance and to win them over with his words, he faced the attackers who were already inside the palace. (...) When the soldiers saw the emperor, all but one felt ashamed. They lowered their eyes and sheathed their swords in shame. Only when one man suddenly rushed forward with the cry, "This is sending you the guard!" And struck Pertinax with a sword, did his comrades no longer hold back and put the emperor down . "

- Cass. Dio 74.9.4-10.1

Septimius Severus , who was able to prevail against several competitors in the ensuing civil war and became the new sole ruler (193-211), had Pertinax, as whose avenger he appeared, rise to god ( divus ) as part of the imperial cult .


Pertinax was married to Flavia Titiana , a daughter of Titus Flavius ​​Sulpicianus , whom he appointed city prefect as emperor. From her he had a son of the same name, who is known as Pertinax Caesar , because the Senate, ostensibly against the will of the father, awarded him the title of Caesar after his father had been raised . According to the Historia Augusta , Pertinax also did not agree that his wife was given the title Augusta by the Senate , especially since she had a bad reputation; nevertheless it is attested in inscriptions and on coins as Augusta , and in truth this elevation was certainly not carried out against the will of the emperor. The couple also had a daughter, whose name is unknown. The Pertinax family survived his murder.


  • Géza Alföldy : P. Helvius Pertinax and M. Valerius Maximianus . In: Geza Alföldy: Roman army history. Contributions 1962–1985 . Gieben, Amsterdam 1987, ISBN 90-70265-48-6 , pp. 326-348 ( Mavors 3).
  • Hubert Devijver: Les "militiae equestres" de P. Helvius Pertinax . In: Journal of Papyrology and Epigraphy . 75, 1988, pp. 207-214 (pdf; 278 KB).
  • Jenő Fitz : Pertinax in Raetia . In: Bavarian history sheets . 32, 1967, ISSN  0341-3918 , pp. 40-51.
  • Ernst Hohl : Emperor Pertinax and the accession to the throne of his successor in the light of Herodian criticism . In addition to an appendix: Herodian and the fall of Plautian . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1956 ( meeting reports of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, class for philosophy, history, political, legal and economic sciences . 1956, No. 2, ISSN  0065-5155 ).
  • Hans-Georg Kolbe : The Pertinax stone from Brühl . In: Bonner Jahrbücher . 162, 1962, pp. 407-420 ( AE 1963, 52 ), publication of an honoring inscription [base of statues?] Of the inhabitants of Cologne for Pertinax in connection with his work in the Rhine fleet; ( Text and translation of the inscription ).
  • Adolf Lippold : On the career of P. Helvius Pertinax . In: Johannes Straub (Ed.): Bonner Historia-Augusta Colloquium. 1979/1981 . Habelt, Bonn 1983, ISBN 3-7749-1917-8 , pp. 173-191 ( Antiquitas . Series 4: Contributions to Historia Augusta Research . 15).
  • Steve Pasek : Coniuratio ad principem occidendum faciendumque. The successful coup against Commodus and the reign of Helvius Pertinax (192/193 AD) . Contributions to history, AVM, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-86924-405-1 .
  • Ioan Piso: Fasti Provinciae Daciae . Volume 1: The Senatorial Office Holders . Habelt, Bonn 1993, ISBN 3-7749-2615-8 , pp. 117-130 ( Antiquitas . Series 1: Abhandlungen zur Alten Geschichte . 43).
  • Karl Strobel : Commodus and Pertinax. “Perversion of Power” and “Restoration of the Good”? In: Herbert Heftner , Kurt Tomaschitz (Ed.): Ad Fontes! Festschrift for Gerhard Dobesch on his 65th birthday. Self-published by the editors, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-200-00193-3 , pp. 519-532.
  • Martin Zimmermann : Emperor and Event. Studies on the history of Herodian (= Vestigia . Vol. 52). CH Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-45162-4 , pp. 151-170.

Web links

Commons : Pertinax  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hubert Devijver: Les "militiae Equestres" de P. Helvius Pertinax . In: Journal of Papyrology and Epigraphy . 75, 1988, pp. 207-214 ( PDF pp. 208-210 )
  2. T. Ganschow / M. Steinhart: The Roman portraits from the villa of Lullingstone: Pertinax and his father, P Helvius Successus. In: Otium: Festschrift for Volker Michael Strocka. Remshalden 2005, pp. 47-53.
predecessor Office successor
Commodus Roman Emperor
Didius Julianus