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Sextus Tigidius Perennis
|Years of service||??–185|
|Commands held||Praetorian Guard|
Sextus Tigidius Perennis (died 185) was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, during the reigns of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Under the latter, Perennis was the man who exercised the chief responsibilities of government in the Roman Empire. In 185 however, Perennis was implicated in a plot to overthrow the emperor by his political rival Marcus Aurelius Cleander, and executed under orders of Commodus.
Rise to power
Perennis was appointed Praetorian Prefect after the execution of the incumbent Prefect Paternus, who had displeased Commodus by ordering without consent the death of the Emperor's lover and friend Saoterus for his questionable involvement in an assassination plot headed by Lucilla and Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus. Perennis himself was influential in the instigation of his predecessor Paternus's punishment.
Herodian describes how Perennis capitalised on Commodus's distrust of the Roman Senate (following the aforementioned assassination attempt to which the Senate was linked) by destroying many powerful Senators and claiming their wealth as his own. So too was Perennis thought to have held ambitions of military power: soldiers were given lavish gifts in an attempt to seduce them to his cause, and his sons were appointed to commanding army roles. The Augustan History suggests Perennis also persuaded Commodus to allow him political control, freeing the Emperor for his more hedonistic personal pursuits.
Herodian wrote that Perennis began to plot against Commodus. Gifts from his newly-acquired fortune were to curry favor with the army and his sons were secretly recruiting additional forces in anticipation of the coming revolt. Before they could act, however, the plot was exposed. First, during a public festival honoring Capitoline Jupiter, an unknown person took the stage before the performers and warned the emperor and the assembled crowd of Perennis' plans. He wasn't believed, and Perennis had him executed. Later, a group of soldiers came to Commodus and relayed the details of the plot, and showed him coins with Perennis' portrait that they had stolen from one of prefect's sons. The emperor had him and his sons executed. Also instrumental in Perennis' downfall was Marcus Aurelius Cleander, who would go on to fulfill a similar role in the next period of Commodus's reign.
- Life of Commodus, Augustan History, Chapter IV
- History of the Roman Empire, Herodian, Book One, Chapter VIII
- History of the Roman Empire, Herodian, Book One, Chapter IX
- Life of Commodus, Augustan History, Chapter V
- History of the Roman Empire, Herodian, Book One, Chapters VIII & IX
- Roman History, Cassius Dio, Book Seventy Three, Chapter IX