How the mighty fell! Scientists determine that 75% of Rome's emperors died from violent deaths on the battlefield or palace plots

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More than 75% of the 69 Roman emperors died from unnatural causes  This includes dying in battle or being murdered in palace plots The data also means that only one in four died from sickness or old age

More than 75 percent of the 69 men who ruled the Roman Empire from 63BC to 395AD died from violent deaths – either on the battlefield or they were brutally murdered by conspirators looking to remove them form the throne, scientists have determined.   

The rest, which accounts to just one in four, died of natural causes like sickness or old age. 

Data scientists University of São Paulo’s Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (ICMC-USP) in São Carlos determined the 80/20 rule is associated with the deaths of the Roman rulers, as they were more likely to die of unnatural causes.

Analyzing the deaths further, researchers found an emperor was more likely to perish from unnatural causes shortly after taking the thrown and the threat did not decline for 13 years after. 

More than 75 percent of the 69 men who ruled the Roman Empire from 63 B.C. to 395 A.D. died from violent deaths. One such famous death was that endured by Julius Caesar (pictured), who reigned from 46BC to 44BC. Caesar died at age 55 when he was violently stabbed 23 times

More than 75 percent of the 69 men who ruled the Roman Empire from 63 B.C. to 395 A.D. died from violent deaths. One such famous death was that endured by Julius Caesar (pictured), who reigned from 46BC to 44BC. Caesar died at age 55 when he was violently stabbed 23 times

One such famous death was that endured by Julius Caesar, who reigned from 46BC to 44BC.

Caesar died at age 55 when he was violently stabbed 23 times, in a plot among 40 conspirators on the Ides of March. 

However, other well-known emperors like Augustus (Caesar’s adopted son) at age 75 of natural causes and Marcus Aurelius died at 55 years years old from a hemorrhage.

The researches set out to see if the death data was associated with any mathematical patterns, leading them to the 80/20 rule – the probability that a common occurrence happens 80 percent of the time and a rare event is about 20 percent. 

The rest, which accounts to just one in four, died of natural causes like sickness or old age.  Marcus Aurelius died at 55 years years old from a hemorrhage

The rest, which accounts to just one in four, died of natural causes like sickness or old age.  Marcus Aurelius died at 55 years years old from a hemorrhage

In the case of Roman emperors, the rare event was them dying of natural causes.   

‘When we analyzed time to death for each emperor, we found that the risk was high when the emperor took the throne,’ data scientist Francisco Rodrigues, a professor at ICMC-USP and principal investigator for the study, told Agência FAPESP.

‘This could have something to do with the difficulties and demands of the job and the new emperor’s lack of political expertise.

‘The risk then declines systematically until the emperor has reigned for 13 years. At that point, it rises sharply again.’

If the 80/20 rule is a well-known pattern, the sharp downturn in the survival curve around year 13 is a novel finding.

‘We envisaged several possible explanations for this turning-point. It may be that after the 13-year cycle the emperor’s rivals concluded they were unlikely to ascend the throne by natural means,’ said Rodrigues.

‘Perhaps his old enemies regrouped, or new rivals may have come to the fore. 

‘A crisis may have arisen owing to all these factors combined. It’s worth noting that the risk falls again after this turning-point.’ 

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