Archive for August 3rd, 2012

How Roman Emperors died

Augustus. He died of natural causes, lucky guy.

I love Roman History, from it’s beginnings with the foundation of the city in the 8th century BC, to its end with the fall of Constantinople in 1453*. With a history that long, you can imagine that, somewhere along the line, some of it rulers met some odd –and grisly– ends.

At The Awl, Josh Fruhlinger provides a “how they died” list for the emperors from Augustus Caesar through Romulus Augustulus, in what we classically think of as “The Roman Empire, 27 BC to 476 AD. The whole list is worth browsing (if you’re a Rome-geek like me), but here are a couple of my favorites:

Tiberius (37): His entourage thought he died of old age, announced his death, then smothered him in a panic when he suddenly regained consciousness. (“I’m not dead yet!”)

Carinus (285): Assassinated by an officer whose wife he had seduced. (That’ll teach him to keep it zipped.)

Leo II (474): Poisoned by his own mother so her husband could become emperor. (Mommie Dearest.)

Valerian (sometime after 260): Captured by the Persians and died in captivity; rumored to have been used as a human footstool by the Persian king, killed by having molten gold poured down his throat, then taxidermied. (Dude…)

*Yep, I count the Byzantine Empire as part of the Roman Empire. The political continuity was there, and “Romans” was how they referred to themselves to the bitter end. So there.

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