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Full Version: The Good Emperors - Was Rome onto something?
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The period of Roman history consideredto be the most stable. I have two questions. First is how the Emperors were selected. I have read in one place that each Emperor hand selected their sucessor as Emperor. Another surce suggests that each of these 4 emperors was selected and if confirmed by the Senate.

Which of these was the true selection method? I am assuming since I cannot find the source I read just the other day that the Emperor chose his sucessor and that the senate merely rubberstamped his choice.

If this method had continued and the Emperors instead of chosing their sons as Marcus Aurelius did and screwed everything up but instead had chosen competent men from the Senate or the military in their 40's or later how would this have affcted the Empire?

Would this have been any better than what happened historically? Or can we assume that such a system would have never lasted as far too many men would be enticed to do as Marcus Aurelius did and chose sons who rarely if ever equal their fathers and generally make a huge mess of everything.
Basically, in most cases the emperor named his successor and then the Senate confirmed it. The Senate made it "official." The Senate had little choice in the matter, as we saw with Hadrian. As long as the heir had the support of the army, the Senate was a rubber stamp.

Nerva named Trajan as successor, and the Senate confirmed the elevation on the death of Nerva.

Now we aren’t sure about Hadrian. Trajan’s widow endorsed Hadrian’s adoption after the death of Trajan, but many rumour mongers stated that it was a trick and Trajan never intended it. There were some coins issued with Hadrian as Caesar but not yet Augustus, but some (like Michael Grant) believe that this issue could have been a ploy. Trajan died on 8 August, but the death was kept secret. The adoption was announced on the 9th, and the death was finally reported on the 11th. Besides the suspicious timing, the army hailed Hadrian as Emperor and the unhappy Senate rather angrily acquiesced.

Hadrian had long term plans for his successors, and combined the idea of the “best manâ€
Quote:Basically, in most cases the emperor named his successor and then the Senate confirmed it. The Senate made it "official." The Senate had little choice in the matter, as we saw with Hadrian. As long as the heir had the support of the army, the Senate was a rubber stamp.

And if Senate wouldn't have confirmed the successor, what would happen? Would Princeps consider that decision?

Thank's :wink:
I doubt it. Wink Although some emperors made efforts to honour the Senate, the Senate had no power and many individuals had no administrative training. "Men fit to be slaves!" was what Tiberius called them.

The Senate did act independently on occasion. For instance, after the Gordians rebelled against Maximinus, the Senate ratified the Gordians as emperors. They were quickly killed however. Instead of returning to the allegiance of Maximinus, the Senate instead chose their own emperors: Balbinus and Pupienus.

The problem with this is that the Senate had no real power. They did not conrol the Praetorian Guard or any army. At times a General might be a Senator, but as a whole the Senate had no military power. With no power to enforce their will, they became a mere formality.

Balbinus and Pupienus only lasted 99 days.

Edit: You know, I did think of one instance when the "best man" was chosen over a son. Diocletian forced co-Emperor Maximian to forego his own son Maxentius when they abdicated. As you could expect, Maxentius declared himself emperor anyway and rebelled.
If Rome -- as a whole -- could have found a way to guarantee the army's loyalty to the Senate, rather than individual generals or Emperor-candidates -- then the Senate's authority might have had some real teeth in it.

Of course, then we're working on the assumption that the Senate would make a wise decision. History shows that parliamentary bodies are usually really good at making the right decision when it's painfully obvious, but when it's a close call they often degenerate into squabbling and the "what's in it for me" sort of decision process. I'm sure Rome's Senate was not immune to that weakness.

So, while they may have avoided some of the worst Emperors, they might also have avoided some of the best, and we'd see a steady history of mediocrity. Instead we have wild swings of the pendulum, which at least makes interesting reading.
Quote:If this method had continued and the Emperors instead of chosing their sons as Marcus Aurelius did and screwed everything up but instead had chosen competent men from the Senate or the military in their 40's or later how would this have affcted the Empire?

Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't the Roman emperors choose their successor by his own merits specially after Nero? Ok, we all know that this is only theory and it really wasn't this way, but I think it is something to take into account.

About the Senate: I do believe that in the Empire it had not real power. Senate did approve mostly what good emperors said... indeed his maintenance was only for keeping up appearances. I mean, probably the Senate must approve the successor, but what we may investigate indeed if is this was just foolish bureaucracy or it really matters.

EDIT: I mistaked "Nero" for "Nerva". It's all right now.
Don't forget the vote of the Praetorian Guard... :?
Quote:If this method had continued and the Emperors instead of chosing their sons as Marcus Aurelius did and screwed everything up but instead had chosen competent men from the Senate or the military in their 40's or later how would this have affcted the Empire?

The thing is that there was no system. The row of emperors selecting their heirs instead of making their own son emperor is pure coincidence and has one reason....non of them had a son. I doubt Traian or Hadrian would have chosen someone else instead of their son, if they would have had one.

It was not Marcus' shortsightedness or anything but his only real choice. The emperor was the most powerful man in the empire and after his death became a god. Do you think his son would say "no thanks"? Do you think the army or many other people would accept that the son of the great, divine emperor is left out of the succession? Don't you think that the son of a former emperor isn't a big danger to any new emperor because of his status and would survive that?

There was indeed another period in Roman history when someone tried to create a real system of succession and ignored the sons of his co-emperors...Diocletian's tetrarchy...but it didn't work...the status of Maxentius and Constantinus was too high for them to be ignored and what followed was a bloody civil war.
So we need a sucession of bachleur Emperors whose children if he had any while Emperor would have to be executed.

I guess this comes down to a fundamental flaw in Roman society. Family and family prestiege was so important that sons were considered competent automatically just for being a son of someone who is.

Which leads to an interesting question. How many times in history has a son suceeded a famous father and actually been a worthy heir.
Quote:Which leads to an interesting question. How many times in history has a son suceeded a famous father and actually been a worthy heir.

Well, maybe Philippus II and his son called Alexander. But yes, generally the son was worst than his father just because people expect something of them just for being sons of X. Some examples are Caligula (son of the glorious Germanicus) or the sons of Socrates (who were really mediocre). Indeed this belief in great father= good son was one of the reasons of why Hellenistic Tyrants were defeated.