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Military Crisis (235-85 AD)

Claudus II (268-70 AD)

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Military Crisis (235-85 AD): Valerian (253-60 AD) and Gallienus (253-68 AD)

Gallic Empire (260-74 AD)    Claudius II (268-70 AD)

Carus, Carinus and Numerian (282-5 AD) 

Literary Sources 

Claudius II (identified from coin portraits)

Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA

Claudius II, who had been born in Illyricum in ca. 215 AD, had risen through the military ranks under Valerian and Gallienus.  He may well have been involved in the conspiracy that brought about the murder of Gallienus.  Zosimus described the aftermath of the murder:

  1. “When the troops were calmed by their commanders, Claudius was chosen Emperor, having previously been designated for that dignity by general consent (‘Historia Nova’, 1: 41).

Consolidation of Power (268 AD)

Claudius now needed to deal with Aureolus.  According to Zosimus:

  1. “Aureolus ... presently sent agents to Claudius, [in an attempt] to effect a peace.  Surrendering himself, he was killed by the imperial guard, who still remembered the hatred they bore against him for his treachery” (‘Historia Nova’, 1: 41).

Another early action was described in the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’:

  1. “... when Aureolus had been killed by his own men, by means of the legions regained, [Claudius II] fought against the people of the Alamanni not far from Lake Benacus [modern Lake Garda] and vanquished so great a multitude that scarcely half will have survived” (34:2). 

Claudius II then seems to have travelled to Rome, where he designated himself as Consul for 269 AD, together with a Senator, Paternus.  John Drinkwater (referenced below, at p 48) suggested that he had to move carefully to address the soldiers’ resentment at the murder of Gallienus at one extreme and the Senate’s vindictive hatred of him at the other.  According to the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’:

  1. “... if Claudius had not given orders immediately after the capture of Milan that those who chanced to survive [a Senate-inspired massacre of Gallienus’ supporters] should be spared, ostensibly because the army demanded it, the nobility and common people would have run riot more savagely” (33:31).

The author of the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ also claimed that:

  1. “Eventually, the Senators were compelled by Claudius to declare Gallienus a god ....” (33:26).

However, this is the only  is the only source for the deification of Gallienus and it must be open to doubt, particularly since no consecration coins were minted for him.  However, it is possible that he arranged for the burial of Gallienus in the mausoleum that he had built next to a palace on the Via Appia (as discussed in the page on Valerian (253-60 AD) and Gallienus (253-68 AD)).


Claudius II seems to have regained control of some parts of the so-called ‘Gallic Empire’ in the anarchic period that had followed the death of its erstwhile ruler, Postumus.  An inscription (CIL XII 2228) of 269 AD from Cularone (modern Grenoble) commemorates an invasion of Narbonensis (southern France) by Julius Placidianus, who was described as Claudius’ prefect of the Vigiles in Rome, and who had presumably established a base at Grenoble.  Raymond van Dam (referenced below, at p 29 and note 17) cited other inscriptions in Claudius’ honour in Narbonensis  and in the adjoining province of Tarraconensis (in what now northern Spain).  However, the new Gallic ruler, Victorinus, retained possession of the rest of Gaul and of Britain.

There is evidence that some sections of Gallic opinion hoped that Claudius II would continue his campaign to regain Gaul.  A panegyric (Panegyric V, translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below), which was delivered as a speech of thanks to the Emperor Constantine after his visit to Augustodunum, (modern Autun) in 310/1 AD, recalled traumatic events that had taken place there, presumably at the time of Julius Placidianus’ advance on Gaul:

  1. “... how serious a thing it was for the Aedui to be the first to urge the deified Claudius ... to recover the Gauls.  Awaiting his help, besieged for seven months, and suffering piteously all the miseries of famine, they finally abandoned their gates to be broken down by the rebel Gauls, only when, exhausted, they could no longer mount guard over them.  Had Fortune favoured ... the Aedui, [so that Claudius II] had been able to come to our rescue, [the reintegration of Gaul would have been achieved] ... without the slaughter  at Catalaunum [Châlons sur Marne, see below]” (4: 2-3).

The poet Ausonius (died ca. 395 AD) referred to the fate of his family when the Aedui were defeated:

  1. “.... my grandfather and his father were proscribed when Victorinus was holding sway as prince, and when the supreme power passed [thereafter] into the hands of the two Tetrici [below]” (‘Parentalia’, 4:8-10)

In the preface to his collected works, he explained that:

  1. “... my mother was of Aeduan race on her father's side...” (‘Prefatory Pieces’, 1)

which identifies Ausonius’ maternal grandfather as a member of the ancient Aedui, who lived in and around the city of Augustodunum.

In fact, Cladius II was too distracted by the events described below to consolidate the campaign in Gaul.  The remaining territory there passed from Victorinus to Tetricus (mentioned above) after Vicorinus’ murder in 271 AD and was regained by the Empire two years later by Claudius’ successor, Aurelian.  (These events are described in more detail in the page on the Gallic Empire (260-74 AD)).

Military Victories (269 AD)


RIC V:1 Claudius 252 (Cyzicus)

A number of coins minted for Claudius II at Cyzicus commemorated his military victories against the Germans (‘VICTORIA GERMAN’: RIC 247-50) and against the Goths (‘VICTORIAE GOTHIC’: RIC 251-2, the second of which is illustrated above).  The Gothic victory, for which Claudius was given the victory title Gothicus maximus, took place at Naissus (modern Nis) in 269 AD in what was, in effect, the continuation of Gallienus’ “Scythian war” (above).  Zosimus described what seems to have been a crushing victory:

  1. “But hearing that [Claudius II] was advancing with an army, [the marauding Goths abandoned the siege of Cassandria and Thessalonica and] went into the interior, plundering all the neighbourhood of Doberus and Pelagonia.  There they sustained a loss of 3,000 men, who were met with by the Dalmatian cavalry, and with the rest of their force engaged the army of the Emperor.  Great numbers were slain in this battle on both sides, but the Romans, by a pretended flight, drew the barbarians into an ambuscade and killed more than 50, 000 of them.  ... the barbarians who survived the battle of Naissus ... marched towards Macedon, but were so distressed by the want of necessaries that many of them and of their beasts perished with hunger” (‘Historia Nova’, 1: 46).

Death of Claudius II

According to Eutropius:

  1. “[Claudius II was] carried off by disease within two years after he began to reign, and had the title of a god.  The Senate honoured him with extraordinary distinctions, insomuch that a golden shield was hung up to him in the Senate House and a golden statue was erected to him in the Capitol” (‘Breviarium historiae Romanae’, 9:11).

Orosius provided the place of his death:

  1. “But before [Claudius II]  had been two full years in power, a disease overtook him and he died at Sirmium” (Historiae adversum Paganos’, (7:23).


The entry the ‘Chronicle of St Jerome’ for 270 AD noted that:

  1. “Claudius dies at Sirmium.  Quintilius the brother of Claudius is named Augustus by the Senate; on the 17th day of his reign he is slain at Aquileia”.

Eutropius also gave Quintillus a reign of only 17 days: 

  1. “After [the death of Claudius, his brother] Quintillus ... was elected Emperor by agreement among the soldiers, a man of singular moderation and aptitude for governing, comparable, or perhaps superior, to his brother.  He received the title of Emperor with the consent of the Senate, and was killed on the 17th day of his reign” (‘Breviarium historiae Romanae’, 9:12).

However, a longer reign than this is implied by the fact that Quintillus was able to produce coins for himself at all the mints (Rome, Milan, Siscia and Cyzicus) that had been controlled by Claudius II at the time of his death.  Thus, in this respect, Zosimus is more probably correct: 

  1. “Quintillus ... had reigned but a few months, and had performed nothing worthy of notice, before Aurelianus was raised to the imperial throne [as the Emperor Aurelian].  Some writers inform us that Quintillus was advised by his friends, as soon as they heard of Aurelianus being made Emperor, to die by his own hand, and give place voluntarily to a man of so much greater merit.  They report, that he complied by opening a vein and bleeding to death” (‘Historia Nova’, 1: 47).

It seems that Quintillus had been stationed at Aquileia during Claudius’ Gothic War, and had been acclaimed by the army there when the news of Claudius’ death had reached them.  The Senate had indeed probably approved his acclamation.  However, Aurelian, who had probably been involved with Claudius in the murder of Gallienus (above), and who had served under him in the Gothic War, was acclaimed by the army on the Danube.  Alaric Watson (referenced below, at Appendix B, p 215) placed the acclamation of Aurelian at Sirmium in late September 270 AD.  It was probably the fact that Aurelian was marching on Aquileia that prompted Quintillus’ suicide.

Consecration Coins



RIC V:1 Claudius 266 (Rome)                                  RIC V:1 Claudius 259 (Rome)

Quintillus and/or Aurelian minted for divus Claudius at all four official mints soon after his death, in the period before the Aurelian’s currency reform of 271 AD (see RIC V:1 pp 233-4: “Commemorative Coins; Series I”: 256-67).  All of these earlier coins had the legend “CONSECRATIO”, and the majority had a reverse design depicting:

  1. a standing eagle (as in RIC 266, illustrated above); or

  2. a lit altar. (as in RIC 259, illustrated above)  

As Percy Webb commented (in RIC, at p 203), similar coins were also common in the irregular mints of Gaul.  

In addition to these ‘traditional’ consecration coins:

  1. the coins for Divus Claudius were listed  as “Commemorative Coins; Series II” (pp 234-6, numbers 268-91) were ‘hybrid’, in that they had what were normally ‘lifetime’ reverses.

  2. those for Divus Claudius listed as “Commemorative Coins; Series III” (pp 236-7, numbers 292-9) were issued by Constantine I in 317-8 AD (as explained at p 203).

These two series lie outside the current discussion


RIC V:1 Claudius 267 (Cyzicus)

The coin illustrated above is the only one in Series I from an official mint (Cyzicus) that depicted a funerary pyre (although a similar coin in this series, RIC Claudius 256, seems to have been minted at Gaul).  This interesting page from “Beast Coins” illustrates the precedents for this design on the reverses of coins minted for the divi:

  1. Antoninus Pius (138-61 AD);

  2. Marcus Aurelius (161-80 AD); and

  3. Lucius Verus (161-9 AD)

as well as some of the coins struck for Claudius II himself.  The Emperor Caracalla minted similar coins (RIC IV p 239, 191F, illustrated by the British Museum and RIC IV p292, 490B) in Rome for his father, Septimius Severus (193-211 AD).  In all these earlier cases, the pyre was topped by a quadriga (four-horse chariot) that symbolised apotheosis (the ascent of the deceased after deification).  However, in the case of Claudius II, the pyre had a horned roof, the significance of which is unclear [at least, to me]. 

According to Alaric Watson (referenced below, at p 133):

  1. “The mints at Siscia and Cyzicus were the first [of the four] mints to go over to Aurelian, after only a brief output in the name of Quintillus.”

Since Aurelian was in the area of Cyzicus at the time of Claudius’ death, we can reasonably assume that he arranged for the coins to commemorate a ceremony held in the east that involved the cremation of an effigy of the deceased Emperor.

Read more:

‘RIC’ - see Percy Webb (1927) below

A. Watson, “Aurelian and the Third Century”, (1999) London

J. Drinkwater, “Maximinus to Diocletian and the ‘Crisis’ ”, in:

  1. A. Bowman et al. (Eds), “Crisis of Empire (193-337 AD)”, Cambridge Ancient History, 12 (2005) pp 28-59

C. E. V. Nixon and B. S. Rodgers, “In Praise of Later Roman Emperors: The Panegyrici Latini”, (1994) Berkeley

P. Webb, “The Roman Imperial Coinage: Valerian I to Florian, Volume 5:1”. (1927) London


3rd Century Crisis: Valerian (253-60 AD) and Gallienus (253-68 AD)

Gallic Empire (260-74 AD)    Claudius II (268-70 AD)

Carus, Carinus and Numerian (282-5 AD) 

Literary Sources 

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