“I'm gonna get classical on yo' ass!”
Let's not beat about the bush, the Roman Empire was pretty racist. I mean, there were plenty of people of all sorts of races living within its borders but when you look at the emperors they were a pretty white lot. Okay, there was Septimius Severus and he was from Africa but he was still more "coffee with cream" than "rich dark chocolate", if you know what I mean; and even then he made all those white-boy senators a bit nervous. So you can imagine how it was in 217AD when Marcus Opellius Macrinus, the blackest emperor until Haile Selassie, proclaimed himself Augustus and made the senate recognise his black ass!
How a Brother Man Became Emperor in a White Man's World
Macrinus was born to hard-working Berber folks in Mauritania, the empire's blackest province. It was hard for a brother in the Roman Empire; the man kept him down for much of his life but Macrinus was nobody's fool. Slowly but surely, he learned to fight back against the white latin man's system. He rose rapidly in the ranks of the Roman Army under emperor Caracalla, gaining support and loyalty from troops under his command. Under the African Severan dynasty, brothers were starting to get more and more power, infuriating the old guard in the eternal city. Not only did Caracalla choose to make Macrinus head of the Praetorian Guard but he also appointed one Jacobus Brownus, a nubian, his proconsul of funk. It was during preperations for a war with the Parthian Empire that Carcalla was murdered to death by an unknown assassin. But, for Macrinus, there weren't unknown reasons: even with his relatively pale complexion, Caracalla had still been too damn black for those old white men in Rome! Well, now he knew what he had to do: fight the power! Macrinus proclaimed himself emperor and marched all the way to Rome with his troops. The senate gasped in horror when they saw the "usurper" and his distinctly un-european complexion and initially tried to explain to Macrinus that it simply wasn't possible and offered him a consulship instead. Macrinus was having none of it, though. He stood before those stammering old crackers and laid it down to them.
"Seems y'all don't like a black man being here in yo' white senate telling y'all he's going to be yo' emperor. Well, I got news for y'all: there's a new power in town and a new tune for y'all to dance to. Y'all can shake your boney white butts to the funk Marcus Opellius Macrinus is laying down here or y'all can float down the Tiber with a sword in your back. Dig?!"
The senate voted Macrinus all the usual powers and the Roman Empire became a cooler, funkier place.
Macrinus was disgusted at how damn uptight and white things were in Rome. Whilst the city might be a good place to hang for some honky from Gaul, Greece or Britannia it was no place for a brother from Mauretania. Macrinus, having had enough of the city elected to leave within a month of his being confirmed emperor. The emperor got into his chariot (a real grain-guzzler pulled by four black horses and pimped-out with decals depicting Macrinus owning the senate and spinners on the wheels worth thousands of denari) and, along with his troops, left the city with the intention of finishing what Caracalla had started and prosecuting some sort of war with the Persians.
Macrinus split the empire. The conservative European provinces didn't approve of him or his chilled-out style of rule. They had found the Severans a bit difficult to deal with as it was and now here was this black man wearing the imperial purple and probably planning to usher in an era of increased grain dole and Big Empire; before they knew it they'd probably be forced to give-up their gladius's and have to live next door to Berbers and Moors who didn't even speak Latin or Greek! A rumour even started that Macrinus' claim to be a pagan was untrue and that he was secretly Christian!
The African provinces, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of him. The Severans had been a breath of fresh air after all those European emperors and now Macrinus had arrived, the natural successor to an empire that had become a little bit blacker already. He was showered with rose petals wherever he went through the African empire and was so popular in a city called Volubilis that they built a temple in his honour.
Not all white men in the empire hated the new emperor, though. Two coffin-dodgers called Flavius Minimus and Dirtius Decrepitus created a new dance sensation with their composition 'The Macrinus', a raucus little ditty which combined the rhythms of the province of Hispania with half-naked girls cavorting around. The song came with its own dance, also known as 'The Macrinus' and which Flavius Minimus claimed was based on some "moves" he'd seen the emperor "laying down one evening in Carthage". The dance became incredibly popular, even the barbarians of Germania were said to be shaking their barbaric stuff to it and it was rumoured that 'The Macrinus' was popular, if banned, in the cities of the Parthian Empire. This dance-craze simply infuriated the senate even more, though, since most of them didn't like dancing and even when forced to couldn't do much more than gently swing their old hips and place their hands on their elbows before twirling one finger around unenthusiastically.
The Man Gets His Revenge
But things didn't go according to plan. Macrinus was a lover, not a fighter, and he failed to defeat the Parthians. Eventually, to stop the war being long and drawn out, he was forced to pay substantial damages to that bad motherfucker the Parthian emperor and pulled his homies back over the Roman border. This was all the white establishment in Rome needed; once news of Macrinus's failure spread they took the opportunity to put an end to a rule that was too funky, too smooth and too damn black for them. Then when he heard that a new emperor Elagabalus had been proclaimed in Syria , Macrinus put on his best party duds to take on 'that ugly Kid from Emesa'. But the God of the Dance seemed to have turned against him and Macrinus was overthrown and killed . An all-too-brief victory over The Man came to an end. Damn!