Mexico Is Not For Sale!

By Herbert W. Piekow


ancient-rome-soldierThe recent Mexican Presidential election with claims of fraud and vote buying reminded me of an interesting, true event in the saga that occurred in the Roman Empire. The date was March 28, 193 when the Praetorian Guards offered the entire Roman Empire from the Euphrates to Scotland to the highest bidder. To fully appreciate this storied event I must digress to Augustus Caesar who in 43 BC formed the powerful 5,000 strong cohortspraetoriane, the Praetorian Guard, who for nearly 200 years were the only soldiers allowed into Rome, the city that ruled the world. These soldiers were special in many ways because besides protecting Rome they also had political power and a strong voice in Rome´s affairs.

Sejanus, the Praetorian prefect, “convinced” the Emperor Tiberius to retire to the Isle of Capri, while Sejanus be allowed to run things in Rome. But this did not last long because Marco, Sejanus´s successor, decided that Tiberius had lived long enough and so Tiberius met an untimely death and Caligula became emperor. Are you still with me?

It may not be Mexican history but it just shows that the more things change the less they change. Suffice it to say Caligula was arrogant and vengeful and did not appreciate the Praetorian Guards, who held the real power and so one afternoon in AD 41 they killed him and installed Uncle Claudius as Emperor of Rome, remember PBS series, I Claudius? By this time the Praetorians realized they, not the emperor, held the real power and a few well-placed Praetorian leaders succumbed to the charms of Agipina; she was then able to have them declare her son Nero the latest Roman Emperor.

Not all the Praetorian Guards or Roman emperors were greedy or corrupt or venial. Many were honest and upright and behaved both respectfully and splendidly. There were many “good” emperors like: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius.

However Marcus Aurelius committed a grave error when he appointed his son Commodus as his successor. Commodus was a hedonist with 300 concubines, three hundred “ripe young men” (puberesexoleti), an ancient biographer wrote; (turpis, improbus, libidinosus, ore quoque pollutes etconstupratus) or more impure than Nero.

Despite all this, Commodus signed his own death warrant and precipitated the sale of Rome when he pushed a Praetorian Guard into the imperial pool, then had the man dance naked before the emperor´s concubines. After humiliating the soldier, Commodus had the guard murdered. The Praetorians made quick work of Commodus and choose an excellent and venerable senator as the next ruler of the Roman Empire.

Pertinax was too good and virtuous and after twelve years of lax rule and loose morals with Commodus, the praetorian soldiers did not appreciate a righteous man who ate modestly, cut the palace expenses in half and auctioned off Commodus´s things including his ambisexual harem. Exactly eighty-seven days after Pertinax was appointed Emperor of Rome by the Praetorian Guards, outraged by his righteousness, killed him without thought of who might replace him. The date was March 28, 193 and the Roman Empire was suddenly without a ruler.

Three historians tell of what happened next but most credence is given to Dio Cassius, a Roman senator who was there when it all happened. No one knows whose idea it was to sell Rome and her empire but Roman Soldiers shouted from the streets that the empire was for sale. One can imagine the soldiers running down the Via Condott shouting, “Auction! Auction!”

The bidding came down to two men, Sulpicianus, the mayor of Rome and DidiusJulianus, who was the richest man in Rome. Julianus was described as a, “fat, money grubbing gourmand with low morals.” Like many of the citizens of Rome, he was indoors eating dinner that March evening and probably would not have gone to the auction but he was goaded into buying Rome by both his wife and his daughter, his only child. The two insisted he leave his dinner table and return with Rome.

The two men bid against one another until they reached the sum of 20,000 sesterces for each Praetorian. Suddenly Julianus shouted 25,000 sesterces for each of the guards, about USD $1,200 per man. With that bid the entire Roman Empire belonged to DidiusJulianus. And so the man who left his dinner table to bid on Rome had dessert in the Imperial Palace. But like his predecessor the rule was short because after only sixty-six days he too was assassinated on July 1, 193.

I don’t think Carlos Slim, the world´s richest man and a Mexican, would want to buy Mexico and I do not think Mexico is for sale. What I do believe is that Mexico is a healthy country with great economic and political power.

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