Didii in Roman History

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Coin showing Didius Julianus
From the Forum Romanum Picture Index

Here is a brief rundown of the well known Didii in history, as they appeared on the Didius Family boards at AS! I'll post who wrote them in front of each section!

Although the Didius family was very much a low class family, there have been a few high ranking Didii. Didius Julianus was the Emperor of Rome in AD 193. The senator was so rich, that after the Praetorian Guard had murdered Pertinax, emperor from 177 to 192 AD, that he was able to buy the Empire.

After the death of Pertinax, the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the Empire to the highest bidder. There were two people bidding, the City Prefect Titus Flavius Sulpicianus, and Didius Julianus. In order to buy the Empire, Didius Julianus payed each member of the Praetorian Guard 25, 000 sestertii. The highest that Titus Flavius Sulpicianus reached was about 20, 000 per guard.

The senate confirmed that Didius Julianus was the new Emperor, however disturbances broke out in the city, and the nine Eastern Legions called Pescennius Niger, the governor of Syria, the new emperor. He was not the only one to try to gain the position, as one other provincial governor also was declared by his men as emperor: Septimus Severus in Upper Pannonia. Didius Julianus would only live as long as it took the quickest of these two to reach Rome. Didius Julianus sent threats and assassins to no avail, and the envoys he entrusted to negotiate with Severus kept changing to Severus’ cause.

Didius Julianus tried to defend Rome, but his plans were inadequate. Severus sent messages to the praetorians, which soon announced to a consul that they were following Severus' orders. The senate met and renounced Didius Julianus and proclaimed Serverus as Emperor. Julianus became public enemy. Julianus barricaded himself in the palace as Severus’ armies were quickly desending on Rome. The Praetorian Guard, loyal as they were (!), decided that they were in too dangerous a situation, and that they would kill Julianus. They led him to a private room in the palace baths, where they beheaded him.

On arrival in Rome, Severus ordered that the Praetorian Guard be assembled, where his officers surrounded them, and relieved them of their rank and weapons. They were sent home in disgrace.

Didius Julianus had reigned for 66 days. Because the senate in Rome had proclaimed him emperor after the auction, Julianus was accepted as a historical emperor.

Junia Didius - THE GENERAL

Here's an interesting tidbit I turned up in Will Durant's "Caesar and Christ."

"In 98 BC, the Roman general Didius repeated the exploit of Sulpicius Galba: he lured a whole tribe of troublesome natives into a Roman camp in Spain by pretending to register them for a distribution of land; when they had entered, with their wives and children, he had them all slaughtered. On his return to Rome he was awarded a public triumph."

Apparently this led to a rebellion in Spain.

I find no personal names for this dedicated general; just the family name. Apparently the Didii have never been averse to doing whatever is necessary to gain notice.

In 69 AD the Empire was in turmoil and civil war. The previous year Nero committed suicide and Galba became Emperor, only to be challenged by Otho (who had the support of the Praetorian Guard). So, Galba was murdered in Rome and Otho was declared Emperor by the Senate, only to be challenged by Vitellius. Legions loyal to Otho and Vitellius fought one another, Otho committed suicide, and Vitellius was declared Emperor. Then came a challenge from a reletively unknown general, who had been fighting in Judea ... yep, this guy was Vespasian!

During the fight for Rome, Vespasian's brother, Flavius Sabinus (a senator) led those loyal to his brother in a desparate fight to protect the city, after Vitellius broke his promise to abdicate. This ended up with the Flavians being beseiged in the Temple of Jupiter, on the Capitol, which was set alight! In the confusion, the Vitellians forced their way into the building, but most of the Flavians were in a panic trying to escape. However, there were a few good soldiers who were calm (and brave) enough to attempt to fight the Vitellians.

According to Tacitus (in The Histories), the most notable of these men were:
Cornelius Martialis
Aemilius Pacenisis
Casperius Niger
Didius Scaeva

Alas, all four men were cut down by the Vitellians. Sabinus was captured and executed. Domitian (Vespasian's youngest son), who was also present in the seige escaped disguised in a linen mantle (shame!). However, the Vitellian victory was short lived, as Vespasian entered Rome later that year and Vitellius was killed! I think the Didii know the rest of the story!

So, for all the Didii who led "questionable" lives, there are some who were noble and brave!

Let's hear it for....
Didius Scaeva, A National Hero!

Thea Didius - AULUS DIDIUS GALLUS (Gov. of Britain)
This information was found in Peter Salway’s Roman Britain

After the defeat of Caratacus of the Catuvellauni (see this message on the Catuvellauni family board for more info ), the war in Britain continued, probably because the Britons wanted revenge on the Romans, or the attention of the Romans became slack. It was during this time that the govenor of Britain died, and a new governor was appointed with unusual speed – Aulus Didius Gallus.

Didius Gallus had recently been decorated for a successful campaign in the south of the modern day former USSR. This campaign had placed a Roman on the troubled throne of the client-kingdom which controlled the Crimea. The historian Tacitus did not like Didius Gallus. Tacitus accuses him of leaving any action to his subordinates, which might suggest that Didius Gallus liked a quiet life.

When he arrived in Britain, the Silures tribe had defeated a legion, possibly the twentieth, and they were ranging far and wide. His arrival was sufficient enough to bring control to the area again, which suggests that he had more energy and military skill than Tacitus gave credit for.

After the Silures had been brought under Roman control again, trouble started in the Brigantes tribe. Venutius, husband of Queen Cartimandua and at that point in time the best military man the Britons had, had been alienated by his wife and had taken up arms against the pro-Romans. He attacked her kingdom because Cartimandua was holding Venutius’ brother and other relatives. The Romans sent in an auxiliary cohort at first, and then a legion, which fought successfully against Venutius.

It was during Didius Gallus’ time as governor that the emperor Claudius died suspiciously in AD 54 and Nero gained the throne. Suetonius says that at one point Nero thought of withdrawing from Britain, so perhaps with this uncertainty Didius Gallus didn’t feel justified doing more than contain trouble on the borders.


Didius Julianus was probably born in Milan on the 29th of January, AD 137. He is said to have been the child of a multicultural marriage, as his father's family were from Milan, and his mother's from Hadrumetum in Africa.

Didius Julianus rose steadily through the ranks of important administrative positions, including several provincial governorships. During the reign of the emperor Commodus, he was accused of of being involved in a plot against the emperor, and exiled to Milan. He was then aquitted and returned to favour.

His career then closely resembled that of Pertinax, who is reported to have said that Didius Julianus was his "collegue and successor" - collegue referring to them both holding consulships at the time, and "successor" as Didius Julianus succeeded him as Proconsul of Africa. He did not know then that that would prove prophetic as Didius Julianus succeeded him as emperor!

This info was from the Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors

I found a mention of L. Didius Maxinus in one textbook.

At about 205 AD, L. Didius Maxinus held the position of procurator in charge of recruiting and training gladiators in Britain, Gaul, Spain, Germany and Raetia.

I found this and couldn't help but smile!

Q. Pompeius Falco was the Governor of Britain from 118 to 122 AD. He was able to suppress the insurrection (the act of rising up in arms against established authority) of the Brigantes tribe, and because of which Hadrian constucted his wall to separate the Brigantes from their northern allies.


I found a website that has coins of Didius Julianus and Didia Clara. Here:


You'll have to scroll down and click on "Didius Julianus" and "Didia Clara". There is also a "source" link for Didius Julianus.

(I don't remember who Didia Clara was, but I think she was either Didius Julianus's wife or daughter.)
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