In 235, Emperor Alexander Severus was murdered by mutinous soldiers, at Moguntiacum (modern-day Mainz), on the Rhine.* The mutineers hailed their commander – a common man who had risen through the ranks – emperor. He is known as Maximinus Thrax (reigned 235–238), and his elevation to the purple marks the beginning of a half-century of upheaval in the Roman Empire – a period characterised by:
This, so-called, ‘third-century crisis’, which draws to a close with the accession of Diocletian in 284, reached its peak around the year 260 – a time when Britain became part of a breakaway empire known as:
The Gallic Empire
Valerian became undisputed emperor in 253 – his rival, Aemilian, having been killed by his own troops after a reign of only three months. The Empire's frontiers were threatened on all sides – the main antagonists being the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Persians. Valerian immediately shared power with, his adult son, Gallienus – Valerian assumed responsibility for the eastern half of the Empire, Gallienus the western half.


Unfortunately, there is no surviving contemporary narrative of these eventful times. There are four Latin-written sources from the second half of the 4th century: Aurelius VictorEutropius, the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ and the ‘Historia Augusta’, and two, much later, Greek-written sources: Zosimus and Zonaras. The Latin story and the Greek story are sometimes contradictory.
The two Byzantine historians, Zosimus and Zonaras, preserve snippets of Dexippus of Athens, who wrote soon after 270. The Latin sources, which, with one notable exception, carry only brief summaries of emperors' reigns, chiefly draw on a single, early-4th century, source, known as the ‘Kaisergeschichte’. The exception is the ‘Historia Augusta’ which, though usually following the ‘Kaisergeschichte’, also knows Dexippus, and is notorious for mischievously weaving an elaborate web of fantasy around a slim thread of history.
In 260, whilst campaigning against the Persians, in Mesopotamia, Valerian was taken captive.


Valerian was never released. Aurelius Victor implies (Chapter 32) that he was “cruelly mutilated and died” promptly after his capture, but Victor seems to be in error here. The story told by other sources is that he spent some time in servitude before dying. (He was in his 60s when taken captive.) Christian apologist Lactantius, in ‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’ (On the Deaths of the Persecutors), written circa 313–15, says:
“And presently Valerian also, in a mood alike frantic, lifted up his impious hands to assault God, and, although his time was short, shed much righteous blood. But God punished him in a new and extraordinary manner, that it might be a lesson to future ages that the adversaries of Heaven always receive the just recompense of their iniquities. He, having been made prisoner by the Persians, lost not only that power which he had exercised without moderation, but also the liberty of which be had deprived others; and he wasted the remainder of his days in the vilest condition of slavery: for Sapores [Shapur I], the king of the Persians, who had made him prisoner, whenever he chose to get into his carriage or to mount on horseback, commanded the Roman to stoop and present his back; then, setting his foot on the shoulders of Valerian, he said, with a smile of reproach, “This is true, and not what the Romans delineate on board or plaster.” Valerian lived for a considerable time under the well-merited insults of his conqueror; so that the Roman name remained long the scoff and derision of the barbarians: and this also was added to the severity of his punishment, that although he had an emperor for his son, he found no one to revenge his captivity and most abject and servile state; neither indeed was he ever demanded back. Afterward, when he had finished this shameful life under so great dishonour, he was flayed, and his skin, stripped from the flesh, was dyed with vermilion, and placed in the temple of the gods of the barbarians, that the remembrance of a triumph so signal might be perpetuated, and that this spectacle might always be exhibited to our ambassadors, as an admonition to the Romans, that, beholding the spoils of their captived emperor in a Persian temple, they should not place too great confidence in their own strength.”
‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’ Chapter 5
“At the same time, although he was strenuously attempting to drive the Germans out of Gaul, Licinius Gallienus [i.e. Valerian's son] hurriedly descended on Illyricum. There at Mursa [Osijek, in eastern Croatia] he defeated Ingebus [actually, Ingenuus], the governor of Pannonia, who had conceived a desire to be emperor after learning of Valerian's disaster, and subsequently Regalianus, who had renewed the war after rallying the soldiers who had survived the disaster at Mursa.”
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber de Caesaribus’ Chapter 33


The chronology of this time is not at all clear. The literary sources are not in agreement about the dates, nor indeed order, of Valerian's capture and the rebellion of Ingenuus. Aurelius Victor (in Chapter 32) places Valerian's capture in “the sixth year of his reign”, i.e. in 259, and, in the ‘Historia Augusta’, Trebellius Pollio avers (The Two Gallieni Chapter 21) that “all agree .. Valerian was captured in his sixth [year]”. But the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ says (Chapter 33) Gallienus ruled for “seven [years] with his father”, which would place Valerian's capture in 260. Whilst Aurelius Victor clearly places the rebellion of Ingenuus after the capture of Valerian, Trebellius Pollio (Thirty Tyrants Chapter 9) dates the rebellion to “the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus”, i.e. 258, which is before.
Valerian's coinage was still being minted in Alexandria at the end of August 260 – but possibly this simply indicates that, though he had been captured the previous year, his loss had not yet been officially accepted. At any rate, the most popular current opinion seems to be that Valerian was captured in the summer of 260 – but the debate continues. How Ingenuus' rebellion slots into the story is also the subject of debate. The simplest view is to accept Aurelius Victor's train of events, which has the advantage of providing motivation for Ingenuus' actions. A possible neat solution is to accept Victor's date, 259, for Valerian's capture, but to propose that Trebellius Pollio, in the ‘Historia Augusta’, inadvertently placed Ingenuus' rebellion in the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus instead of Aemilianus and Bassus, which is 259, and thus agrees with Victor. There are, of course, other theories – you pays your money and you takes your choice!
Aurelius Victor also notes:
“At that time too, a force of Alamanni took possession of Italy while tribes of Franks pillaged Gaul and occupied Spain, where they ravaged and almost destroyed the town of Tarraconensis [Tarragona], and some, after conveniently acquiring ships, penetrated as far as Africa.”
‘Liber de Caesaribus’ Chapter 33
Eutropius says (Book IX Chapter 7) that “the Germans [the Alamanni] advanced as far as Ravenna”. Zosimus, however, says (Book I Chapter 37) that “the Scythians ... penetrated Italy as far as Rome”. Presumably, when Zosimus says “Scythians”, usually meaning the Goths, he actually means the Alamanni. At any rate, Zosimus goes on to say that Gallienus “continued beyond the Alps, intent on the German war [against the Franks, presumably]”, so the Romans scraped together an ad hoc army which scared off the “Barbarians”, who then “ravaged all the rest of Italy”. Eventually, Gallienus went “to Rome to relieve Italy from the war which the Scythians were thus carrying on”. Zonaras says (Book XII Chapter 24) that Gallienus defeated 300,000 Alamanni, at Milan, with a force of just 10,000. An inscription, found at Augsburg (in Roman times: Augusta Vindelicum, capital of the province of Raetia) in 1992, celebrates the defeat of a band of Iuthungi (a component of the Alamanni) in the April of, probably, 261. The inscription notes that “many thousand Italian captives were freed”, so the Iuthungi must have been returning home from a raid on Italy. No doubt Gallienus took a considerable number of troops from the Rhine frontier to confront Ingenuus. It would seem reasonable to suggest that the Alamanni and the Franks took advantage, and managed to penetrate deep into the Empire.* Incidentally, the mention of the Franks by Aurelius Victor, above, is their first appearance in history.
During his absence, Gallienus had left his son, the Caesar Saloninus, in nominal charge.* Saloninus was under the guardianship of one Silvanus (or Albanus), whilst the army was under the command of Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus.
“[Postumus was] inclined towards innovation, and accompanied some soldiers that revolted at the same time to Agrippina [Cologne], 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 Postumus put to death and made himself sovereign of the Celtae [Gauls].”
Zosimus ‘New History’ Book I Chapter 38


Zonaras provides more detail – Postumus intercepted a band of “barbarians” who were carrying their loot back across the Rhine. He killed many of the raiders and distributed the plunder amongst his own men:
“Albanus [Silvanus in Zosimus], when he had learned this, sent messengers and demanded that the plunder be brought to him and to the young Galienus [i.e. Saloninus]. Postumus called his soldiers together and exacted from them their shares of the plunder, scheming to incite them to rebellion. And that is exactly what happened. With them he attacked the city of Agrippina, and the inhabitants of the city surrendered to him both the son of the sovereign and Albanus, and he executed them both.”
Zonaras ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ Book XII Chapter 24
In their accounts of the time of Postumus' rebellion, Aurelius Victor, Trebellius Pollio (‘Historia Augusta’) and Zosimus name Gallienus' son as Saloninus. Zonaras says the youth had the same name as his father, i.e. Gallienus – on this point though, Trebellius Pollio notes:
“With regard to his name there is great uncertainty, for many have recorded that it was Gallienus and many Saloninus.”
‘Historia Augusta’ The Two Gallieni Chapter 19
The ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’, however, compounding the chronological uncertainty, implies that it was Valerian Junior who was killed during Postumus' rebellion. Nevertheless, most modern writers seem to accept that the son of Gallienus killed by Postumus was Saloninus, and place the event, after Valerian's capture, in 260.
Neither Aurelius Victor nor Eutropius mention that Saloninus was killed – in fact, Eutropius' brisk résumé mentions no son of Gallienus at all. The ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’, though it says that Gallienus' son was killed when Postumus came to power, does not say he was executed. Zosimus and Zonaras, however, are explicit on that point.
Now, according to Aurelius Victor, Eutropius and the ‘Historia Augusta’, once his father was out of the way, Gallienus neglected his duties and indulged in debauchery – it was as a result of Gallienus' behaviour that Postumus rebelled.* The two Greek-writers, however, give no indication that this was the case, indeed, Zonaras (Book XII Chapter 25) praises Gallienus' character. Nevertheless, in the ‘Historia Augusta’, Trebellius Pollio conjures up a tale in which Gallienus is “the evil prince”, and Postumus is cast as the hero:
“If anyone, indeed, desires to know the merits of Postumus, he may learn Valerian's opinion concerning him from the following letter which he wrote to the Gauls: “As general in charge of the Rhine frontier and governor of Gaul we have named Postumus, a man most worthy of the stern discipline of the Gauls. He by his presence will safeguard the soldiers in the camp, civil rights in the forum, law-suits at the bar of judgement, and the dignity of the council chamber, and he will preserve for each one his own personal possessions; he is a man at whom I marvel above all others and well deserving of the office of prince, and for him, I hope you will render me thanks. If however, I have erred in my judgement concerning him, you may rest assured that nowhere in the world will a man be found who can win complete approval...” ”
‘Historia Augusta’ Thirty Tyrants Chapter 3
Valerian's glowing testimonial is, without doubt, an invention of the ‘Historia Augusta’.
“Now while Gallienus, continuing in luxury and debauchery, gave himself up to amusements and reveling and administered the commonwealth like a boy who plays at holding power, the Gauls, by nature unable to endure princes who are frivolous and given over to luxury and have fallen below the standard of Roman valour, called Postumus to the imperial power; and armies, too, joined with them, for they complained of an emperor who was busied with his lusts.”
‘Historia Augusta’ The Two Gallieni Chapter 4
Trebellius Pollio refuses to associate any dishonourable conduct with, his knight in shining armour, Postumus:
“This man, the most valiant in war and most steadfast in peace, was so highly respected for his whole manner of life that he was even entrusted by Gallienus with the care of his son Saloninus (whom he had placed in command of Gaul), as the guardian of his life and conduct and his instructor in the duties of a ruler. Nevertheless, as some writers assert – though it does not accord with his character – he afterwards broke faith and after slaying Saloninus seized the imperial power. As others, however, have related with greater truth, the Gauls themselves, hating Gallienus most bitterly and being unwilling to endure a boy as their emperor, hailed as their ruler the man who was holding the rule in trust for another [i.e. Postumus], and despatching soldiers they slew the boy.”
‘Historia Augusta’ Thirty Tyrants Chapter 3
“Galienus, when he had learned of these things, proceeded against Postumus, and, when he had engaged him, was initially beaten and then prevailed, with the result that Postumus fled. Then Auriolus was sent to chase him down. Though able to capture him, he was unwilling to pursue him for long, but, coming back, he said that he was unable to capture him. Thus Postumus, having escaped, next organized an army.”
Zonaras ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ Book XII Chapter 24
At some point, Gallienus again marched against Postumus. He besieged him in an unnamed Gallic city, but received an arrow wound in the back and was obliged to abandon the siege. He clearly never achieved a decisive victory over Postumus.
An aureus of Postumus. The reverse depicts his “dutiful generosity”. His coinage was superior to Gallienus' in terms of metal content, and also, it is generally felt, in artistic terms.
“... Postumus, a man of very obscure birth, assumed the purple in Gaul, and held the government with such ability for ten years, that he restored the provinces, which had been almost ruined, by his great energy and judgement.”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 9
Inscriptions show that the British provinces, the Spanish provinces and, for a short time at least, the province of Raetia, were part of the, so-called, ‘Gallic Empire’, which Postumus organized in proper Roman style, with its own senate and consuls.* It would appear that he never attempted to expand his empire further.*
“... intelligence was brought to Gallienus, who was then occupied in the Scythian war [i.e. against the Goths], that Aureolus, who was commander of the cavalry posted in the neighbourhood of Milan to watch the motions of Postumus,* had formed some new design, and was ambitious to be emperor. Being alarmed at this he [Gallienus] went immediately to Italy ...”
Zosimus ‘New History’ Book I Chapter 40
In 268, whilst he was besieging Aureolus in Milan, Gallienus was assassinated. One of the officers (probably) involved in the murder plot, Claudius (Claudius II, generally called Claudius Gothicus, a title gained as a result of his success against the Goths), was proclaimed emperor. During his occupation of Milan, Aureolus had minted coins in Postumus' name. If he was expecting Postumus to come to his aid, he was disappointed. Following Gallienus' murder, Aureolus was also despatched. Postumus seems to have had problems of his own. At about this time, his coinage apparently underwent a sudden debasement. There is speculation that he needed to dramatically increase the number of coins minted in order to buy the loyalty of his troops (perhaps they thought he should have marched into Italy). In any event, probably in 269, Postumus had to deal with a rebellion:
“After he had driven off a horde of Germans he was involved in a war with Laelianus whom he routed just as successfully, but he then perished in a revolt of his own men supposedly since he had refused to allow them, despite their insistence, to plunder the inhabitants of Mainz because they had supported Laelianus.”
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber De Caesaribus’ Chapter 33
With Postumus and Laelianus both dead, the purple was assumed by Marius, a blacksmith. Numismatic evidence suggests he lasted rather longer than the two days that Victor allots to him. Next to rule was Victorinus, but the Gallic Empire was beginning to crumble. Inscriptions suggest that Spain shifted its allegiance to Claudius Gothicus. Mentions in later panegyrics and a poem by Ausonius testify that, after a siege of seven months, Victorinus suppressed a rebellion by the denizens of Augustodonum (now Autun, in east central France). Victorinus was:
“... a man of great energy; but, as he was abandoned to excessive licentiousness, and corrupted other men's wives, he was assassinated at Agrippina [Cologne] in the second year of his reign ...”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 9
Two coins have been found – one in western France, the other in Oxfordshire, England – showing that, plainly for only a very short time, one Domitianus was emperor. It has been proposed that he ruled after Victorinus, but it is not mentioned in the literary sources. Aurelius Victor says:
“... Victoria, after the loss of her son Victorinus, bought the approval of the legions with a large sum of money and made Tetricus emperor. He was of a noble family and was serving as governor of Aquitaine, and the title and trappings of Caesar were bestowed upon his son, Tetricus.”
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber De Caesaribus’ Chapter 33
“... [Tetricus] was chosen emperor in his absence, and assumed the purple at Bordeaux. He had to endure many insurrections among the soldiery.”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 10
It was probably in 271 that Tetricus became ruler of the Gallic Empire. Meanwhile, in the legitimate Empire (sometimes called the Central Empire), Claudius Gothicus had died of natural causes – a plague – in 270. Claudius was succeeded by his brother Quintillus. Aurelian, one of the officers involved in the plot that had brought Claudius to power, soon declared against Quintillus. The dispute didn't come to warfare, however. Quintillus was either killed or committed suicide, and Aurelian was undisputed emperor:
“That man was not unlike Alexander the Great or Caesar the Dictator; for in the space of three years he retook the Roman world from invaders ...”
‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ Chapter 35
Probably early in 274, Aurelian turned his attention to the Gallic Empire:
“He overthrew Tetricus at Catalauni [Châlons-sur-Marne] in Gaul. Tetricus himself, indeed, betraying his own army, whose constant mutinies he was unable to bear; and he had even by secret letters entreated Aurelian to march towards him, using, among other solicitations, the verse of Vergil:–
Unconquer'd hero, free me from these ills.”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 13
Tetricus was displayed, in Rome, at Aurelian's triumph, but, in a final twist:
“This Tetricus was afterwards governor of Lucania [in southern Italy], and lived long after he was divested of the purple.”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 13
The Gallic Empire was no more.* Britain had been loyal to it throughout.*
Aurelian was murdered in 275. There followed a short interregnum before Tacitus (said to be seventy-five years old) was chosen as his successor. Tacitus reigned for about seven months before he too was (probably) murdered, and his praetorian prefect, Florian, assumed the purple. The army in the East, though, hailed their commander, Probus, emperor. The opposing factions met at Tarsus. Apparently, Florian's army, being mainly composed of Europeans, was overcome by the extreme heat. Only a few skirmishes were fought; Florian was killed by his own soldiers (having reigned for around two months).
Probus ruled from 276 to 282:
“... a man rendered illustrious by the distinction which he obtained in war. He recovered Gaul, which had been seized by the Barbarians, by remarkable successes in the field.”
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 17
“He made war on the Burgundians and the Vandals... All of them that were taken alive were sent to Britain, where they settled, and were subsequently very serviceable to the emperor when any insurrection broke out.”
Zosimus ‘New History’ Book I Chapter 68
“He also suppressed, in several battles, some persons that attempted to seize the throne, namely Saturninus in the east, and Proculus and Bonosus at Agrippina.”*
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ Book IX Chapter 17
“He likewise suppressed an insurrection in Britain, by means of Victorinus, a Moor, who had persuaded him to confer the government of Britain upon the leader of the insurgents. Having sent for Victorinus, and rebuked him for his advice, he sent him to appease the disturbance; who going presently to Britain, took off the traitor by a stratagem.”
Zosimus ‘New History’ Book I Chapter 66
In 282, Probus was killed at Sirmium (then in Pannonia Inferior; now Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) by his own men, who had, seemingly, switched their support to, his praetorian prefect, Carus.*
“... [Carus] was clothed in the imperial robe and his sons, Carinus and Numerian, became Caesars. And since all the barbarians had seized the opportunity to invade once they had learned of the death of Probus, he sent his elder son to defend Gaul and, accompanied by Numerian, he straightway proceeded to Mesopotamia because that land is, so to speak, a customary cause of war with the Persians.”
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber De Caesaribus’ Chapter 38
In 283, whilst campaigning against the Persians, Carus suddenly died. Carinus and Numerian continued to rule. Carinus (or an officer despatched by him) would seem to have fought a successful campaign in Britain, since both he and his brother acquired the title Britannicus Maximus. Numerian was killed in November 284, and the army declared a Dalmatian guards officer called Diocles emperor.* Diocles took the name Diocletian. Carinus, pausing to suppress the rebellion of one Julianus, at Verona, marched against Diocletian. The two armies met, in 285, at a site near Belgrade. Carinus' larger army was apparently at the point of victory when he was murdered by his own men,* leaving Diocletian as undisputed emperor.
New Empires    
‘Historia Augusta’ by David Magie
Zosimus ‘New History’ anonymous translation
‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ by Thomas M. Banchich
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber De Caesaribus’ by H.W. Bird
Lactantius ‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’ by William Fletcher
Eutropius ‘Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita’ by John Selby Watson
Zonaras ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ by Thomas M. Banchich and Eugene N. Lane
Orosius ‘Historiarum Adversus Paganos Libri Septem’ by Irving Woodworth Raymond
It may be found stated that Alexander was killed at Bretzenheim, near Mainz. This is, however, far from certain. It is clear he was on campaign on the Rhine, but the contemporary source, Herodian, does not say exactly where his camp was. Later sources, Jerome and Orosius specify Mainz. However, the ‘Historia Augusta’ says:
“... while he [Alexander] was in quarters with a few men in Britain, or, according to some, in Gaul, in a village named Sicilia, some soldiers murdered him.”
Aelius Lampridius ‘Historia Augusta’ Alexander Severus Chapter 59
and Aurelius Victor states:
“... they cut him down in a British village named Sicilia ...
Aurelius Victor ‘Liber de Caesaribus’ Chapter 24
It is conjectured that the British village – in Latin: vicus Britanniae – is a corruption, and that it should be vicus Britannicus, i.e. a village settled by Britons (presumably auxiliaries in the Roman army). It is further conjectured that this vicus Britannicus has, over the centuries, metamorphosed into, the German, Bretzenheim. At any rate, Alexander certainly wasn't killed in Britain, and there is no place in Britain known to have been called Sicilia. Incidentally, Zosimus tells a unique story, presumably based on a misunderstanding of his source material, which has Alexander killed in Rome.
In 380–81, St Jerome (Hieronymus) translated chronological tables – a summary of world history, beginning with Abraham's birth and finishing in AD325 – composed by Eusebius of Caesarea, into Latin from Greek (the original Greek text no longer exists), but making additions from Roman history in the process. Jerome also continued the ‘Chronicon’ (Chronicle) to 378.
A grouping of Germanic tribes along the lower Rhine. Their first mention in history is during this period.
A grouping of Germanic tribes along the upper Rhine. The Alamanni are first mentioned in connection with a campaign carried out against them, by Caracalla, in 213. Aurelius Victor notes that:
“He [Caracalla] crushed the Alamanni, a populous nation who fight wonderfully well from horseback, near the River Main.”
‘Liber de Caesaribus’ Chapter 21
According to their own tradition (as recorded by Jordanes, in the mid-6th century), this Germanic group originated on the island of Scandza, which would seem to be the southern end of the Scandinavian peninsula. Be that as it may, by this time they were occupying territory adjacent to the Black Sea, between the Danube and the Don. They later split into two factions – the Ostrogoths (Eastern Goths) and the Visigoths (Western Goths).
Persia was once again under Persian rule (the Sassanid dynasty) – the Parthians having being overthrown in 224.
Pannonia – bounded on its north and east by the Danube – comprised modern western Hungary, and parts of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. At this time, Pannonia was divided into two provinces: Pannonia Superior and Pannonia Inferior. The ‘Historia Augusta’ says that:
“... Ingenuus, then ruler of the Pannonian provinces, was acclaimed emperor by the legions of Moesia, and those in Pannonia assented thereto.”
Trebellius Pollio  ‘Historia Augusta’ Thirty Tyrants Chapter 9
Zonaras agrees (Book XII Chapter 24) that it was the Moesian legions who proclaimed Ingenuus emperor. Moesia comprised; most of Serbia, part of Macedonia and part of Bulgaria. Moesia was also divided into two provinces: Moesia Superior and Moesia Inferior. Illyricum was a general term for the Pannonia/Dalmatia/Moesia region. Mursa was in Pannonia Inferior.
In the first half of the 12th century, John Zonaras, after holding offices in the court of, Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, became a monk, and compiled his ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ (Epitome of Histories) – an eighteen book universal chronicle, written in Greek, extending from the Creation to the death of Alexius in 1118. Zonaras is, perhaps, best known for preserving, albeit in abridged form, the first twenty-one books of the ‘Roman History’ of Dio Cassius. His record of the 3rd and 4th centuries, taken from now lost sources, is also important.
The land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates – roughly equivalent to modern Iraq.
“As soon as Valerian had seized the throne, he began the eighth persecution since Nero's time. He ordered that the Christians be forced by torture into idolatry and that they be killed if they should refuse to worship the Roman gods. As a result, the blood of the saints was shed throughout the length and breadth of the Roman Empire.”
Orosius ‘Historiarum Adversus Paganos Libri Septem’ Book VII Chapter 22
Trebellius Pollio makes no mention of Silvanus/Albanus.
Mention was made earlier of an inscription from Augsburg, the capital of Raetia, celebrating the defeat of a band of Iuthungi. The inscription is dated 11th September, in the consular year of Postumus Augustus and Honoratianus (consuls of the Gallic Empire of course). This probably equates to 261.
In the ‘Historia Augusta’, Trebellius Pollio twice asserts that it was seven years. Postumus would appear to have ruled 260–269.
Comprising parts of: Austria, Switzerland, Germany.
According to an anecdote told in a fragment of the ‘Anonymous Continuator of Dio’ (continues the history of Dio Cassius to the time of Constantine – sometimes equated to, the 6th century, Peter the Patrician), in order to prevent the spilling of Roman blood, Gallienus offered to fight Postumus in single combat. Postumus declined, saying he did not intend to become a gladiator, and added:
“I have preserved those provinces whose safety you entrusted to me. I have been elected emperor by the Gauls. It is enough for me if I reign over those who have voluntarily chosen me. And I shall do that to the limit of my strength and ability.”
Quote taken from ‘Gallienus: a study in reformist and sexual politics’ by John Bray (1997).
Aurelius Victor says (Chapter 33) that Aureolus was "in command of the legions in Raetia".
Trebellius Pollio (‘Historia Augusta’), in what would clearly seem to be an allusion to the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, contrives to list thirty tyrants – meaning usurpers or pretenders – during the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus. In order to make up the numbers, he includes in his list: pretenders who do not fall within the timescale, persons who were not pretenders at all, and individuals who are thought to be total fabrications. Out of Pollio's thirty, perhaps as few as nine truly fit the bill.
Paulus Orosius wrote his ‘Historiarum Adversus Paganos Libri Septem’ (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans) at the request of St Augustine of Hippo, in about 417.
‘Caesar’ was the title conferred on an emperor's junior colleague and intended heir. The emperor himself was titled ‘Augustus’. When Valerian assumed power, he raised his son, Gallienus, to the same rank, i.e. Augustus, as himself. He subsequently raised Gallienus' son, also called Valerian, to the rank of Caesar. When Valerian Junior died – numismatic evidence suggests it was in 258 – Gallienus' younger son, Saloninus, replaced him as Caesar. 258 is also the year that the ‘Historia Augusta’ claims Ingenuus rebelled, and some writers suggest Valerian Junior was killed in the rebellion.
Presumably this was the story told by the ‘Kaisergeschichte’. According to Aurelius Victor (Chapter 33) Gallienus had enemies in the senate, and it is widely believed that hostile senators were the source of the, in all likelihood unwarranted, slur on Gallienus.
The testimony of Zosimus, regarding the invasion of Italy, presents something of a conundrum though. It would seem to make more sense if Gallienus had intercepted the Alamanni on his way back from Illyricum, rather than from “the German war” – which would suggest that Gallienus travelled all the way from Illyricum to the lower Rhine; the Alamanni then invaded (which, with Gallienus' forces back in place, might seem unlikely); Gallienus then doubled back “to relieve Italy”. Perhaps Zosimus simply made an assumption, since he makes no mention of the rebellion of Ingenuus.
‘Panegyrici Latini’: ‘V. Speech of Thanks to Constantine’ Chapter 4 (Anonymous, written c.311), ‘IX. For the Restoration of the Schools’ Chapter 4 (Eumenius, written c.298).
‘Parentalia’ IV (written c.380).
Possibly the fleeting rule of Domitianus, recorded by two coins, should be placed in 274. Zosimus mentions (Book I Chapter 49) that Aurelian punished a person named Domitianus for an unspecified act of rebellion.
Postumus, Victorinus and Tetricus all feature in British inscriptions – mainly on milestones. Worthy of note, however, are altars from the fort at Birdoswald, on Hadrian's Wall, where, on two, the First Aelian Cohort of Dacians are styled Postumiana (Postumus' Own) and, on another, Tetriciana (Tetricus' Own). The Sebosian Wing of cavalry are also titled Postumiana, on a building inscription from Lancaster.
Zonaras ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ Book XII Chapter 28.
Zosimus ‘New History’ Book I Chapter 64.
According to Zosimus (Book I Chapter 63) and Zonaras (Book XII Chapter 28), Tacitus was murdered by soldiers, who had already murdered a kinsman of his, to escape punishment. However, Aurelius Victor (Chapter 36) and Eutropius (Book IX Chapter 16) say that Tacitus simply died, whilst the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ (Chapter 36) adds “from a fever”. Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse (‘Historia Augusta’ Tacitus Chapter 13) knows of both versions of Tacitus' death, but doesn't venture an opinion as to which is correct.
“... [Victorinus] departed [for Britain] – ostensibly fleeing the emperor – and was gladly received by the usurper. After he had murdered him in the night, he returned to Probus.”
Zonaras ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ Book XII Chapter 29
In the ‘Historia Augusta’, Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse asserts that Proculus and Bonosus:
“... proceeded to claim all of Britain and Spain and the provinces, also, of farther Gaul [bracatae Galliae] ...”
Probus Chapter 18
Elsewhere (Four Tyrants Chapter 14) Flavius Vopiscus says that Bonosus' father was a British teacher. It is likely that both of these assertions are fabrications.
Literally ‘trousered Gaul’ (after the bracae worn by the native population). A jocularly disparaging reference to the more distant (from Rome), and hence less civilized, parts of Gaul.
The Vandals were one of the Germanic peoples against whom Marcus Aurelius had fought, on the Danube, a century earlier (in the, so-called, Marcomannic Wars). In 271, Aurelian defeated Vandals who had invaded Pannonia. As part of the ensuing treaty, the Vandals supplied 2,000 cavalrymen to the Roman army.
Writing in the 1st-century AD, Pliny the Elder uses the term Vandal in a general sense – including the Burgundians and Goths (Gutones) as part of the Vandal nation.
Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder, was the author of ‘Natural History’, a 37 book encyclopedia, to which he was putting the final touches in AD77. Pliny discusses Germany in Book IV Chapter 28.
East Germanic tribe, possibly having Scandinavian origins. This is the first recorded military encounter between the Burgundians and the Romans.
Once again, there is a difference between the Greek-writers and the Latin-writers. Zonaras (Book XII Chapter 29) says that Carus realized the troops under his command wanted to proclaim him emperor. He told Probus this, and asked to be removed from his command. Probus refused. An unwilling Carus was compelled by his men – the army in Raetia and Noricum, says, 7th century chronicler, John of Antioch (fragment 160 Müller) – to assume the purple. Probus sent out an army, but they surrendered themselves to Carus. When Probus' guards heard about the army's defection, they killed Probus. No doubt Zosimus told a similar tale, but this section of the manuscript is lost. However, Latin-writers, Eutropius (Book IX Chapter 17) and the anonymous Epitomator (‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ Chapter 37) say Probus was killed, at Sirmium, in an iron tower – Eutropius noting “during an insurrection of the soldiery”. Aurelius Victor, though, doesn't mention any iron tower. He says that Probus had made the troops dig drains at Sirmium. This irritated the already disgruntled men, who promptly killed him. The whole story is brought together in the ‘Historia Augusta’:
“When he [Probus] had come to Sirmium, desiring to enrich and enlarge his native place, he set many thousand soldiers together to draining a certain marsh, planning a great canal with outlets flowing into the Save, and thus draining a region for the use of the people of Sirmium. At this the soldiers rebelled, and pursuing him as he fled to an iron-clad tower, which he himself had reared to a very great height to serve as a look-out, they slew him there ...”
Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse ‘Historia Augusta’ Probus Chapter 21
Once again, the ‘Historia Augusta’ also knows the Greek tradition:
“I am not unaware that many have suspected and, in fact, have put it into the records that Probus was slain by the treachery of Carus. This, however, neither the kindness of Probus toward Carus nor Carus' own character will permit us to believe ...”
Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse ‘Historia Augusta’ Carus, Carinus & Numerian Chapter 6
South of the Danube, sandwiched between Raetia and Pannonia. Modern Austria, more or less.
All sources report a story that he was killed by lightning.
The story of Numerian's murder is somewhat bizarre (told in greatest detail by Aurelius Victor (Chapters 38 & 39) and Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse (‘Historia Augusta’ Carus, Carinus & Numerian Chapters 12 & 13). Numerian was suffering from an eye condition, and was being carried in a litter. In a plot instigated by his father-in-law, Aper, he was surreptitiously murdered. It was not until the body started smelling that the deed was discovered. Diocletian was hailed emperor by the army. During his first address to the assembled troops, Diocletian swore that he had not been complicit in Numerian's murder, and personally ran Aper through with his sword. In a charmingly whimsical flourish, Flavius Vopiscus places his grandfather at the scene:
“... and he used to say that Diocletian, after slaying him, shouted, “Well may you boast, Aper, 'Tis by the hand of the mighty Aeneas you perish [Virgil ‘Aeneid’ Book X].” ”
‘Historia Augusta’ Carus, Carinus & Numerian Chapter 13
Aurelius Victor doesn't mention the relative size of the armies, but says (Chapter 39) that while Carinus “was in hot pursuit of his defeated foes he died under the blows of his own men because he could not control his lust and used to seduce many of his soldiers' wives”. Eutropius says (Book IX Chapter 20) that he “was betrayed by his own troops, for though he had a greater number of men than the enemy, he was altogether abandoned by them”. Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse (‘Historia Augusta’ Carus, Carinus & Numerian Chapter 10) simply says Diocletian “met in battle and put to death” Carinus. These three sources agree that the battle was fought on the River Margus, though Eutropius is more precise in his location. The ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ doesn't mention the battle, but says (Chapter 38) that Carinus was “tortured to death chiefly by the hand of his tribune, whose wife he was said to have violated”. Oddly, Zonaras (Book XII Chapter 30) has Carinus “living in Rome”, and Diocletian killing him there. None of the sources has a good word to say about Carinus.
Numerous resemblances – the selection of facts, shared errors and similar phraseology – between Aurelius Victor, Eutropius and the ‘Historia Augusta’, led Alexander Enmann to conclude (in a paper published in 1884) that they had drawn on a common, no longer extant, source. This phantom work is known as the ‘Kaisergeschichte’ (History of the Emperors).