Popular culture associates the lives of Roman emperors with luxury, cruelty, and debauchery, sometimes rightfully so. One missing attribute in this list is, surprisingly, that this mighty office was most dangerous for its holder. Of the 69 rulers of the unified Roman Empire, from Augustus (d. 14 CE) to Theodosius (d. 395 CE), 62% suffered violent death. This has been known for a while, if not quantitatively at least qualitatively. What is not known, however, and has never been examined is the time-to-violent-death of Roman emperors. This work adopts the statistical tools of survival data analysis to an unlikely population, Roman emperors, and it examines a particular event in their rule, not unlike the focus of reliability engineering, but instead of their time-to-failure, their time-to-violent-death. We investigate the temporal signature of this seemingly haphazardous stochastic process that is the violent death of a Roman emperor, and we examine whether there is some structure underlying the randomness in this process or not. Nonparametric and parametric results show that: (i) emperors faced a significantly high risk of violent death in the first year of their rule, which is reminiscent of infant mortality in reliability engineering; (ii) their risk of violent death further increased after 12 years, which is reminiscent of wear-out period in reliability engineering; (iii) their failure rate displayed a bathtub-like curve, similar to that of a host of mechanical engineering items and electronic components. Results also showed that the stochastic process underlying the violent deaths of emperors is remarkably well captured by a (mixture) Weibull distribution. We discuss the interpretation and possible reasons for this uncanny result, and we propose a number of fruitful venues for future work to help better understand the deeper etiology of the spectacle of regicide of Roman emperors.
The odds of survival for a Roman emperor were roughly equivalent to playing the Russian roulette with a six-chambered revolver, in which the participant places not one but four bullets, spins the cylinder to randomize the outcome, and pulls the trigger with the muzzle against his head.
Such was the unhappy condition of the Roman emperors, that, whatever might be their conduct, their fate was commonly the same. A life of pleasure or virtue, of severity or mildness, of indolence or glory, alike led to an untimely grave; and almost every reign is closed by the same disgusting repetition of treason and murder [emphasis added].
The next section extends the application of these statistical tools to an unlikely population, Roman emperors, and it examines a particular event in their rule, not unlike the focus of reliability engineering, but instead of their-time-to-failure, their time-to-violent-death.
The data for this work was obtained for De Imperatoribus Romanis, a peer-reviewed online encyclopedia of Roman emperors [DIR] (De Imperatoribus Romanis DIR, 2019). The entry for each emperor was written by a leading scholar in the field. The Imperial Index provides the list of the rulers of the united Roman empire, along with the many usurpers who unsuccessfully claimed the mantle. The data is fairly standard and generally accepted, and consequently it was considered beyond the scope of the present work to subject it to further quality control. Only legitimate emperors confirmed by the Roman senate are here consideredFootnote 3.
In this section, we investigate the temporal signature of this seemingly haphazardous stochastic process that is the violent death of a Roman emperor. We also examine whether there is some structure underlying the randomness of this process or not, and we discuss parallels with results in reliability engineering.
Figure 2 reads as follows: at the 3-year mark for example, an emperor had 64% chance of not having met a violent death; at the 7-year mark, those chances drop to 50%, a mere coin toss. The likelihood of a violent death is the complement of these figures, 36% and 50%, respectively.
Emperors faced a significantly high risk of violent death in the first year of their rule. This risk remained high but progressively dropped over the next 7 years. This is reminiscent of infant mortality in reliability engineering, a phase during which weak components fail early on after they have been put into service, often because of design or manufacturing defects for example. Roman emperors therefore experienced a form of infant mortality;
The extension of these observations to the violent death of Roman emperors has to be done cautiously. But they offer nonetheless a fruitful venue for exploration. The fact that the time signature of the stochastic process of interest here is remarkably well captured by a Weibull distribution suggests that it is perhaps indeed the result of a very large number of underlying processes conspiring to violently eliminate the emperor. The fact that there were many pathways to the violent death of an emperor, with large numbers of individuals and motivations for undertaking the grisly task, makes the Weibull, an extreme value distribution, theoretically plausible in this case.
The failure rate (Eq. (2)) of the parametric fit (Eq. (4)) is given in Fig. 5. The result shows a remarkable bathtub-like curve, a model widely used, and empirically confirmed in reliability engineering for a host of mechanical and electronic components. Roman emperors, like these engineering items, therefore experienced a bathtub-like failure rate.
The previous subsections investigated the temporal signature of the phenomenon here examined, the violent death of emperors, a spectacle of brutality and violence not unlike the gladiatorial games, except it stretched over four centuries and affected the entire Roman world (Millar, 1977).
This work began in jest by comparing Roman emperors with gladiators, and it noted that the odds of survival of the former were worse than those of the latter. There is perhaps more to this comparison than meets the eye. There was a particular appeal to gladiatorial games in the Roman world (Fagan, 2011). Whatever its reasonsFootnote 10, it is undeniable that these games offered a spectacle of extreme brutality, like an unscripted theatrical play with violence as the main protagonist, and gladiators the creative agents of its delivery. Roman emperors performed in similar games, except instead of delivering their role in single afternoon, they took several years, sometimes only a few months to complete it before they were dismissed from the stage. They also faced more diverse hazards, and stealthier adversaries than those encountered by the gladiators in the arena. Incidentally, the emperor Commodus would blur the line of this analogy and go down into the arena and fight gladiators (as well as wild beats).
In examining their time-to-violent-death, this work found that of Roman emperors experienced infant mortality as well as wear-out failures. Their failure rate displayed a bathtub curve, similar to that of a host of mechanical engineering items and electronic components. More interestingly, it was found that a stochastic process as unconventional and haphazardous as the violent death of a Roman emperor has a definite underlying structure, and is remarkably well captured by a Weibull distribution. The interpretation and possible reasons for this result were discussed. Some fruitful venues for future work were proposed to help understand the deeper etiology of the violent deaths of Roman emperors.
When the Colosseum first opened, the emperor Titus celebrated with a hundred days of gladiatorial games. Emperors traditionally attended the games. The emperor Commodus is known to have performed in the arena on hundreds of occasions. Aside from the games, the Colosseum also hosted dramas, reenactments, and even public executions.
He actively defended his territorial interests throughout Europe, invading Italy in 1525, eventually making his peace with the pope, Clement VII, in Bologna in 1530, when the pope crowned him as emperor. He abdicated in 1556, retiring to the monastery at Yuste in northern Spain, and died in 1558.
The name Aurelia is a reference to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, and marks the third time in as many tries that Zuckerberg has given one of his daughters a name that calls back to one of the most powerful empires in history.
The 38-year-old's first daughter is named Maxima, a twist on the Latin name Maximus. His second daughter is named August in reference to the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, who Zuckerberg has called one of the "most fascinating" figures in history.
Archaeologists excavating an ancient temple in Egypt have unearthed a statue of a sphinx whose face may depict the Roman emperor Claudius, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement Monday (March 6).
During his reign (A.D. 41-54), the Roman Empire controlled ancient Egypt; however, like most emperors, Claudius never visited Egypt. He is most famous for his invasion of Britain, which resulted in the Roman Empire conquering a sizable part of the island. Claudius is also well known for being poisoned to death, possibly by his wife, Agrippina.
The sphinx's face has a dimpled smile, and yellow and red can still be seen on the face, Mamdouh Eldamaty (opens in new tab), an archaeology professor at Ain Shams University in Egypt and a former minister of antiquities, said in the statement (opens in new tab). Eldamaty's team compared the face with surviving depictions of Roman emperors and found Claudius to be a close match.
Other scholars gave similar assessments. "From the photos I find it impossible to make any statement about whether the features resemble Claudius," Olivier Hekster (opens in new tab), a history professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands who specializes in the representation of Roman emperors, told Live Science in an email. Steven Tuck (opens in new tab), a professor of history and classics at Miami University in Ohio, also told Live Science that he doesn't know if the face is Claudius'. 041b061a72