The Sale of the Roman Empire
One of the earliest financial crimes/ fraud case on record occurred in the Roman Empire during A.D 193. In this particular situation Marcus Didius Severus Julianus ( yes I know a mouthful), actually bought the Roman empire from the Praetorian Guard after the previous emperor (Pertinax) had been assassinated by that same said guard. Julianus was an opportunist and saw this as the perfect way to secure the position with out in blood shed. Julianus was born into a prominent and powerful family and was raised in the house of Marcus Aurelius’s mother which granted him both mother and sons favor.
Julianus swiftly rose through the ranks and gained power in favor. He was give command of Legio Xll Primigenia in Germania, received governorship of Belgica, Dalmatia, and Germania Superior. He also at some point was given the position of praefectus alimentorum in Italy which is basically someone responsible for taking care of grant money and welfare to the poor citizens of Italy. In each of these leadership roles he rose to expectations and was respected and admired by his peer except when he briefly fell out of favor with emperor Commodus (Julianus was suspected of planning an assignation attempt on Commodus’s life). Julianus eventually became close friends with Pertinax who was to be the future emperor and his predecessor. Commodus was assassinated and Pertinax was appointed by Senate to be the new ruler of Rome.
Unfortunately for Pertinax hes had gartnered no loyalty among the Praetorian Guard ( which was suppose to be the emperor’s loyal personal army) and three months in to his new job he was quickly assassinated by the same guard that was sworn to protect him. With the emperor position void of a leader the Praetorian Guard saw this a wonderful opportunity to enrich their pockets and fill the position as well. Julianus being as ambitious as he was bought the empire for 250 gold pieces for every member of the guard or basically the equivalent of one billion dollars in today’s money. Whether the transaction went through is still speculation however the guard knowingly sold an empire they not only did not own but also sold a position that that wasn’t theirs to appoint. Because of this Julianus was not able to settle and relax into his new lofty position for very long. Once the senate confirmed him as a legitimate successor other aristocratic members were none too supportive and the people, once they heard the news of the purchase, became hostile to the rule.
Following the people’s lead the governor’s of Syria, Great Britain, and Pannonia openly revolted and marched with their troops to reclaim Rome from Julianus. Julianus for all his efforts tried to bargain with them and even executed two suspects who were possibly behind Pertinax’s death but they were not swayed. The Praetorian Guard, ever fickle, knew that they were in a precarious position especially after being responsible for killing the previous emperor. In exchange for safety they betrayed Julianus and turned him over to be sentenced to death. His one billion dollar purchase only gave him sixty six days of ruling.
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