Key to Umbria

Military Crisis (235-85 AD)

Gallic Empire (260 - 74 AD)

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

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 

Gallic Empire (260 - 74 AD)

Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus (261-9 AD)

Postumus seems to have been serving in the army and/or administration in Gaul at the time of the catastrophic defeat of the Emperor Valerian in 260 AD.  Valerian’s son and co-ruler, Gallienus charged him with protecting the frontier on the Rhine while he left to deal with emergencies in the Balkans.  He also left his young son, the Caesar Saloninus in the care of his Praetorian Prefect Silvanus at Colonia Agrippina (Cologne). 

According to Zosimus:

  1. “[Postumus], who commanded the [Gallic] army ...  accompanied some soldiers that revolted at the same time [at Colonia Agrippina], which is the principal city on the Rhine, in which he besieged [Saloninus], the son of Gallienus, threatening to remain before the walls until he was given up to him.  On this account the soldiers found it necessary to surrender both him and Silvanus, whom his father had appointed his guardian, both of whom Posthumus put to death, and made himself sovereign of the [Gallic provinces]” ‘Historia Nova’  (1:38:2).

With the backing of the legions, Postumus was soon able to proclaim himself Augustus and to exercise imperium across Gaul, Britain (where the milestones RIB 2232, 2255 and 2260 give his full name) and Spain. 

An inscription discovered in 1992 at Augsburg was on the base of a statue to the goddess Victoria that Marcus Simplicius Genialis, the acting governor of the province of Raetia, had dedicated on the 11th September.  It commemorated a victory that Genialis and his German and Raetian armies, supported by the local militia, had celebrated against a band of ‘Semnones or Juthungi’ on the 24th April of the same year.  The defeated barbarians had been returning to the lands on the north of the Danube with ‘many thousands’ of Italian prisoners, whom Genialis was able to set free.  The year of the victory and the dedication of the altar was given as”

IMP(eratore) D(omino) N(ostro) [[POSTVMO AV]]G(usto)


While our lord Postumus Augustus and Honoratianus were Consuls

This was either 260 or 261 AD.  Thus, Postumus had the allegiance at least part of  Raetia at this point, presumably because the local peopl and the armies there had begun to doubt that Gallienus could defend their borders.

However, Postumus seems studiously to have avoided any further encroachment on the Roman Empire.  Within his own territories, he created a replica Roman Empire with its own Senate, Consuls and Praetorian Guard.  His capital, Augusta Trevivorum (Trier) became the Gallic equivalent of Rome.  Postumus’ prolific coinage was superior in quality to that of Gallienus, albeit that its quality  deteriorated over his reign.   His coins (in RIC V:2, p 344, proclaim him:

  1. Germanicus maximus V’ , five times victor over Germanic invaders, (numbers 63, 129 and 198);

  2. Restitutor Galliarum’, restorer of Gaul, (numbers 82, 157 and 223); and

  3. Salus Provinciarum’ , bringer of security to to the provinces, (numbers 38 and 87), in coins with reverse designs depicting a river god that protected the Rhine.

This was probably the basis on which his rule was accepted by the army and the provincial élite. 

Gallienus apparently attempted to retake Gaul in ca. 265 AD, but was forced to withdraw after he was wounded in battle.  He then faced further emergencies elsewhere, so Postumus was left in relative peace.  In 268 AD, Gallienus’ general Aureolus, who was charged with the defence of peninsular Italy from his base at Mediolanum (Milan), suddenly declared his support for Postumus and minted for him, but Postumus failed to respond to Aureolus’ initiative.  This rebellion was fatal for both Gallienus and Aureolus :

  1. Gallienus was murdered as he besieged Aureolus in Milan, in what seems to have been a conspiracy involving his senior officers, one of whom was acclaimed as the Emperor Claudius II.

  2. Aureolus tried to surrender to Claudius II but was apparently murdered by Gallienus’ soldiers.

Postumus’ last dated coins (RIC V:2, p 361, numbers 293-6) have the reverse legend:

P[ontifex] M[aximus]; TR[ibunician] P[ower] X; CO[n]S[ul] V; P[ater] P[atria]

Thus he claimed tribunician power ten times, and the 10th occasion coincided with his fifth year as Consul, probably 268 AD.  Shortly thereafter, he faced a rebellion on the part of Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus, who was acclaimed by his army at Moguntiacum (Mainz).  Laelianus managed to produce coins there for himself as Augustus over a period of about two months before Postumus took the city and executed him.  However, Postumus was killed in his turn by his own soldiers (possibly because he had not allowed them to sack the captured city).

Marcus Piavonius Victorinus (ca. 269-71 AD) 

After Postumus’ murder, the army at Moguntiacum proclaimed a man called Marcus Aurelius Marius as Emperor.   Marius seems to have minted for himself as Emperor for a few months before he too was murdered.  The army then proclaimed Victorinus as Emperor.  He had served held under Postumus and had held the Consulate with him in 267 or 268 AD (see CIL II 5736, from Hispania citerior, which id dated by Postumus’ 4th consulship, shared with Victorinus). 

Claudius II seems to have regained control of some parts of Postumus’ ‘Empire’ in the anarchic period that had followed his death.  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.  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, Victorinus retained possession of the rest of Gaul and of Britain, where the milestones RIB 2241, 2251, 2261, 2287 and 2296 give his full name.

There is evidence that some sections of Gallic opinion hoped that Claudius II would continue his advance into Gaul at this point.  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 during the reign of Victorinus:

  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.

Victorinus’ last dated coin (RIC V:2, p 391, number 39) had the reverse legend:

P[ontifex] M[aximus]; TR[ibunician] P[ower] III; CO[n]S[ul] III; P[ater] P[atria]

Thus he claimed tribunician power three times, and the 3rd occasion coincided with his third year as Consul, probably 270 AD.  He was killed by his own soldiers shortly thereafter, allegedly because of his propensity to seduce other people’s wives.  Thus, Aurelius Victor:

  1. “... after a reign of two years,when  he forced his attentions on the wife of Attitianus and she informed her husband of the outrage, the soldiers were secretly incited and he was killed at Cologne in a mutiny” (‘De Caesaribus’ 33:13). 

Caius Pius Esuvius Tetricus (271-4 AD)

Aurelius Victor recorded the events that followed this murder as follows:

  1. “... Victoria, after the loss of her son, Victorinus, bought the approval of the legions ... and made Tetricus Emperor.  He was of a noble family and was serving as governor of Aquitania.  The title and trappings of Caesar were bestowed upon his son, Tetricus [junior]” (‘De Caesaribus’ 33:13). 

Three milestones in Britain (RIB 224-6) preserve his full name (or approximations to it).  According to Eutropius, he was:

  1. “... a senator, who, when he was governing Aquitania with the title of prefect, was chosen Emperor in his absence, and assumed the purple at Bordeaux”.

The Historia Augusta claims that:

  1. “After Victorinus ...[was] slain, his mother Victoria (or Vitruvia) urged Tetricus [who was erroneously described here as a Roman Senator then holding the governorship of Gaul] to take the imperial power, for the reason, many relate, that he was her kinsman; she then caused him to be entitled Augustus and bestowed on his son the name of Caesar”.

There is no other evidence of a familial relationship between Victoria and Victorinus on the one hand and Tetricus on the other.

Tetricus faced severe economic difficulties (as evidenced by the rapid devaluation of the Gallic coinage), together with problems with internal security and Germanic incursions across the Rhine.  After the new Emperor, Aurelian recovered the Asian provinces from Queen Zenobia of Palmyra in 272 AD, the fate of the similarly independent Gallic Empire was sealed. 

Tetricus’ last dated coin (RIC V:2, p 402, number7) had the reverse legend:

P[ontifex] M[aximus]; TR[ibunician] P[ower] III; CO[n]S[ul] II; P[ater] P[atria]

Thus he claimed tribunician power three times, and the 3rd occasion coincided with his third year as Consul, probably 273 AD.  Aurelian’s forces the moved against Tetricus at Châlons-sur-Marne in 274 AD.  According to Aurelius Victor:

  1. “‘.... the legions of  Tetricus ... were cut down, having been betrayed by their own general.  For  Tetricus , because he was frequently assailed by his soldiers, who had been corrupted by the intrigue of the governor Faustinus, had begged by letter for Aurelian’s protection. ... the battle line [was] led forweard for the sake of appearances but, during the fighting, [Tetricus] surrendered to Aurelian ... the ranks were thrown into confusion and crushed.  Tetricus himself, after two years of power, was led in triumph but then given the governorship of Lucania [in southern Italy]and, for his son, pardon and senatorial rank” ” (‘De Caesaribus’ 35: 3-5).

The Gallic Empire was at an end.

Tetricus’ Coins for Divus Victorinus

David Sear (referenced below) observed (at p 394):

  1. “Of all the Gallic emperors, Victorinus alone was accorded deification and a posthumous coinage in his honour .  As he was the only one to be succeeded by a close relative [Tetricus I], this should occasion little surprise.”

He had presumably arranged for the deification of Victorinus, presumably at Augusta Trevivorum (Trier), in imitation of traditional Roman practice. 

Some of these coins (RIC V:2, p 394: 85-9) were ‘hybrid’, in that they had what were normally ‘lifetime’ reverses.  The others (RIC V:2, p 394: 82-4) all had the traditional ‘posthumous’ reverses depicting a standing eagle, with the reverse legend ‘CONSECRATIO (as illustrated on this page from the website ‘Monnaies Gallo Romaines de 260-74 AD’).  Of these, two had ‘lifetime’ legends: only RIV V:2 83 had the obverse legend DIVO VICTORINO PIO.

Read more:

‘RIC’ - see Percy Webb (1933) below

R. Hedlund, “... Achieved Nothing Worthy Of Memory: Coinage and Authority in the Roman Empire: ca. 260-95 AD”, (2008) Upsala

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

D. Sear, “Roman Coins and Their Values” (Volume III, 2005), London 

R. Bourne, “Aspects of the Relationship between the Central and Gallic Empires in the mid to late Third Century AD, with Special Reference to Coinage Studies” (2000) Durham University (

D. Vagi, “Coinage and History of the Roman Empire: ca. 82 BC - 480 AD”, (1999) Chicago 

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

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

R. van Dam, “Leadership and Community in Late Antique Gaul”, (1985) Berkeley, Ca.

P. Webb, “The Roman Imperial Coinage: Volume 5:2”, (1933) 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 

Return to the History Index