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Praetorian Prefects’ Power and Senatorial Status in the Third Century: Re-evaluating Historia Augusta, Vita Alexandri 21.5*)

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Abstract In Vita Alexandri 21.5 the author of the Historia Augusta claims that praetorian prefects were elevated to the rank of senator by Severus Alexander to make sure that no Roman senator would be judged by someone who was not a senator. Most scholars agree that the writer of the Historia Augusta makes a muddle of truth, half truth and falsehood concerning the grant of senatorial dignity to praetorian prefects. Yet they pay little attention to the statement concerning the motive of the prefects’ status upgrade. Re-interpretations based on recent discoveries suggest that information from the Historia Augusta may contain elements of truth, which makes it worthwhile to re-evaluate cases for which alternative sources are available. In this article, the case of L. Petronius Taurus Volusianus, praetorian prefect under Gallienus and consul in AD 261, is discussed against the background of changing power and status relations in the third century, showing that Historia Augusta, Vita Alexandri 21.5 may contain more truth than is usually agreed upon.

Affiliations: 1: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam The Netherlands I.A.M.Mennen@uva.nl

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852511x547992
2012-01-01
2016-12-10

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