Gallienus AE Antoninianus. Sole reign. Rome.
Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right.
Reverse: SOLI CONS AVG, Pegasus springing right, heavenward.
Goebl 712b; RIC V-1, Rome 283 var (bust type)
Gallienus, AE antoninianus, Rome mint. Sole reign.
Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right.
Reverse: SOLI CONS AVG, Pegasus springing right.
Officina letter A offset to right of exergue.
RIC V-1, Rome 283 var (mintmark A); Goebl 712
Gallienus, Antoninianus, 260-268, Antioch
Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG. Radiate, draped, cuirassed
bust right, seen from behind
Reverse: AETERNITAS AVG, She-wolf standing right,
Palm branch right in exergue
RIC V, Part I, 628; Göbl 1628c
Gallienus, Bi. antoninianus, Rome mint.
Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate, cuirassed bust right.
Reverse: LAETITIA AVG, Laetitia standing left, holding
wreath and anchor.
Something in exergue, but unknown to me at this point.
Gallienus, Antoninianus, 260-268, Sole Reign, Asia,
Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG Radiate, draped, cuirassed
bust right, seen from behind
Reverse: AETERNITAS AVG She-wolf standing right,
suckling twins (No Palm branch right in exergue)
RIC V, Part I, 628; Göbl 1628c
Gallienus (Latin: Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus Augustus; c. 218
– 268) was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260 and alone
from 260 to 268. He ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century
that nearly caused the collapse of the empire. While he won a number
of military victories, he was unable to prevent the secession of important
Rise to power:
The exact birth date of Gallienus is unknown. The Greek chronicler
John Malalas and the Epitome de Caesaribus report that he was about 50
years old at the time of his death, meaning he was born around 218.
He was the son of emperor Valerian and Mariniana, who may have been of
senatorial rank, possibly the daughter of Egnatius Victor Marinianus, and
his brother was Valerianus Minor. Inscriptions on coins connect him
with Falerii in Etruria, which may have been his birthplace; it has yielded
many inscriptions relating to his mother's family, the Egnatii. Gallienus
married Cornelia Salonina about ten years before his accession to the throne.
She was the mother of three princes: Valerian II, who died in 258; Saloninus,
who was named co-emperor but was murdered in 260 by the army of general
Postumus; and Marinianus, who was killed in 268, shortly after his father
When Valerian was proclaimed Emperor on 22 October 253, he asked the Senate
to ratify the elevation of Gallienus to Caesar and Augustus. He was
also designated Consul Ordinarius for 254. As Marcus Aurelius and
his adopted brother Lucius Verus had done a century earlier, Gallienus
and his father divided the Empire. Valerian left for the East to
stem the Persian threat, and Gallienus remained in Italy to repel the Germanic
tribes on the Rhine and Danube. Division of the empire had become
necessary due to its sheer size and the numerous threats it faced, and
it facilitated negotiations with enemies who demanded to communicate directly
with the emperor.
Early reign and the revolt of Ingenuus:
Gallienus spent most of his time in the provinces of the Rhine area (Germania
Inferior, Germania Superior, Raetia, and Noricum), though he almost certainly
visited the Danube area and Illyricum in the years from 253 to 258.
According to Eutropius and Aurelius Victor, he was particularly energetic
and successful in preventing invaders from attacking the German provinces
and Gaul, despite the weakness caused by Valerian's march on Italy against
Aemilianus in 253. According to numismatic evidence, he seems to
have won many victories there, and a victory in Roman Dacia might also
be dated to that period. Even the hostile Latin tradition attributes success
to him at this time.
In 255 or 257, Gallienus was made Consul again, suggesting that he briefly
visited Rome on those occasions, although no record survives. During
his Danube sojourn (Drinkwater suggests in 255 or 256), he proclaimed his
elder son Valerian II Caesar and thus official heir to himself and Valerian
I; the boy probably joined Gallienus on campaign at that time, and when
Gallienus moved west to the Rhine provinces in 257, he remained behind
on the Danube as the personification of Imperial authority.
Sometime between 258 and 260 (the exact date is unclear), while Valerian
was distracted with the ongoing invasion of Shapur in the East, and Gallienus
was preoccupied with his problems in the West, Ingenuus, governor of at
least one of the Pannonian provinces, took advantage and declared himself
emperor. Valerian II had apparently died on the Danube, most likely
in 258. Ingenuus may have been responsible for that calamity.
Alternatively, the defeat and capture of Valerian at the battle of Edessa
may have been the trigger for the subsequent revolts of Ingenuus, Regalianus,
and Postumus. In any case, Gallienus reacted with great speed.
He left his son Saloninus as Caesar at Cologne, under the supervision of
Albanus (or Silvanus) and the military leadership of Postumus. He
then hastily crossed the Balkans, taking with him the new cavalry corps
(comitatus) under the command of Aureolus and defeated Ingenuus at Mursa
or Sirmium. The victory must be attributed mainly to the cavalry
and its brilliant commander. Ingenuus was killed by his own guards
or committed suicide by drowning himself after the fall of his capital,
Invasion of the Alamanni:
A major invasion by the Alemanni and other Germanic tribes occurred between
258 and 260 (it is hard to fix the precise date of these events), probably
due to the vacuum left by the withdrawal of troops supporting Gallienus
in the campaign against Ingenuus. Franks broke through the lower
Rhine, invading Gaul, some reaching as far as southern Spain, sacking Tarraco
(modern Tarragona). The Alamanni invaded, probably through Agri Decumates
(an area between the upper Rhine and the upper Danube), likely followed
by the Juthungi. After devastating Germania Superior and Raetia (parts
of southern France and Switzerland), they entered Italy, the first invasion
of the Italian peninsula, aside from its most remote northern regions,
since Hannibal 500 years before. When invaders reached the outskirts
of Rome, they were repelled by an improvised army assembled by the Senate,
consisting of local troops (probably praetorian guards) and the strongest
of the civilian population. On their retreat through northern Italy,
they were intercepted and defeated in the battle of Mediolanum (near present-day
Milan) by Gallienus' army, which had advanced from Gaul, or from the Balkans
after dealing with the Franks. The battle of Mediolanum was decisive,
and the Alamanni did not bother the empire for the next ten years. The
Juthungi managed to cross the Alps with their valuables and captives from
Italy. An historian in the 19th century suggested that the initiative
of the Senate gave rise to jealousy and suspicion by Gallienus, thus contributing
to his exclusion of senators from military commands.
The revolt of Regalianus:
Around the same time, Regalianus, who held some command in the Balkans,
was proclaimed Emperor. The reasons for this are unclear, and the
Historia Augusta (almost the sole resource for these events) does not provide
a credible story. It is possible the seizure can be attributed to
the discontent of the civilian and military provincials, who felt the defense
of the province was being neglected.
Regalianus held power for some six months and issued coins bearing his
image. After some success against the Sarmatians, his revolt ended when
the Roxolani invaded Pannonia and killed Regalianus in taking the city
of Sirmium. There is a suggestion that Gallienus invited Roxolani
to attack Regalianus, but other historians dismiss the accusation.
It is also suggested that the invasion was finally checked by Gallienus
near Verona and that he directed the restoration of the province, probably
Capture of Valerian, revolt of Macrianus:
In the East, Valerian was confronted with serious troubles. Bands of "Scythai"
began a naval raid of Pontus, in the northern part of modern Turkey.
After ravaging the province, they moved south into Cappadocia. A
Roman army from Antioch, under Valerian, tried to intercept them but failed.
According to Zosimus, this army was infected by a plague that gravely weakened
it. In that condition, this army had to repel a new invasion of the
province of Mesopotamia by Shapur I, ruler of the Sassanid Empire.
The invasion occurred probably in the early spring of 260.
The Roman army was defeated at the Battle of Edessa, and Valerian was taken
prisoner. Shapur's army raided Cilicia and Cappadocia (in present-day
Turkey), sacking, as Shapur's inscriptions claim, 36 cities. It took
a rally by an officer Callistus (Balista), a fiscal official named Fulvius
Macrianus, the remnants of the Roman army in the east, and Odenathus and
his Palmyrene horsemen to turn the tide against Shapur. The Sassanids
were driven back, but Macrianus proclaimed his two sons Quietus and Macrianus
(sometimes misspelled Macrinus) as emperors. Coins struck for them
in major cities of the East indicate acknowledgement of the usurpation.
The two Macriani left Quietus, Ballista, and, presumably, Odenathus to
deal with the Persians while they invaded Europe with an army of 30,000
men, according to the Historia Augusta. At first they met no opposition.
The Pannonian legions joined the invaders, being resentful of the absence
of Gallienus. He sent his successful commander Aureolus against the
rebels, however, and the decisive battle was fought in the spring or early
summer of 261, most likely in Illyricum, although Zonaras locates it in
Pannonia. In any case, the army of the usurpers was defeated and
surrendered, and their two leaders were killed.
In the aftermath of the battle, the rebellion of Postumus had already started,
so Gallienus had no time to deal with the rest of the usurpers, namely
Balista and Quietus. He came to an agreement with Odenathus, who
had just returned from his victorious Persian expedition. Odenathus
received the title of dux Romanorum and besieged the usurpers, who were
based at Emesa. Eventually, the people of Emesa killed Quietus, and
Odenathus arrested and executed Balista about November 261.
The revolt of Postumus:
After the defeat at Edessa, Gallienus lost control over the provinces of
Britain, Spain, parts of Germania, and a large part of Gaul when another
general, Postumus, declared his own realm (usually known today as the Gallic
Empire). The revolt partially coincided with that of Macrianus in
the East. Gallienus had installed his son Saloninus and his guardian,
Silvanus, in Cologne in 258. Postumus, a general in command of troops
on the banks of the Rhine, defeated some raiders and took possession of
their spoils. Instead of returning it to the original owners, he preferred
to distribute it amongst his soldiers. When news of this reached
Silvanus, he demanded the spoils be sent to him. Postumus made a show of
submission, but his soldiers mutinied and proclaimed him Emperor.
Under his command, they besieged Cologne, and after some weeks the defenders
of the city opened the gates and handed Saloninus and Silvanus to Postumus,
who had them killed. The dating of these events was long uncertain,
but an inscription discovered in 1992 at Augsburg indicates that Postumus
had been proclaimed Emperor by September of 260. Postumus claimed
the consulship for himself and one of his associates, Honoratianus, but
according to D.S. Potter, he never tried to unseat Gallienus or invade
Upon receiving news of the murder of his son, Gallienus began gathering
forces to face Postumus. The invasion of the Macriani forced him
to dispatch Aureolus with a large force to oppose them, however, leaving
him with insufficient troops to battle Postumus. After some initial
defeats, the army of Aureolus, having defeated the Macriani, rejoined him,
and Postumus was expelled. Aureolus was entrusted with the pursuit
and deliberately allowed Postumus to escape and gather new forces.
Gallienus returned in 263 or 265 and surrounded Postumus in an unnamed
Gallic city. During the siege, Gallienus was severely wounded by
an arrow and had to leave the field. The standstill persisted until
his later death, and the Gallic Empire remained independent until 274.
The revolt of Aemilianus:
In 262, the mint in Alexandria started to again issue coins for Gallienus,
demonstrating that Egypt had returned to his control after suppressing
the revolt of the Macriani. In spring of 262, the city was wrenched
by civil unrest as a result of a new revolt. The rebel this time
was the prefect of Egypt, Lucius Mussius Aemilianus, who had already given
support to the revolt of the Macriani. The correspondence of bishop
Dionysius of Alexandria provides a commentary on the background of invasion,
civil war, plague, and famine that characterized this age.
Knowing he could not afford to lose control of the vital Egyptian granaries,
Gallienus sent his general Theodotus against Aemilianus, probably by a
naval expedition. The decisive battle probably took place near Thebes,
and the result was a clear defeat of Aemilianus. In the aftermath,
Gallienus became Consul three more times in 262, 264, and 266.
Herulian invasions, revolt of Aureolus, conspiracy
In the years 267–269, Goths and other barbarians invaded the empire in
great numbers. Sources are extremely confused on the dating of these
invasions, the participants, and their targets. Modern historians
are not even able to discern with certainty whether there were two or more
of these invasions or a single prolonged one. It seems that, at first,
a major naval expedition was led by the Heruli starting from north of the
Black Sea and leading in the ravaging of many cities of Greece (among them,
Athens and Sparta). Then another, even more numerous army of invaders
started a second naval invasion of the empire. The Romans defeated
the barbarians on sea first. Gallienus' army then won a battle in Thrace,
and the Emperor pursued the invaders. According to some historians,
he was the leader of the army who won the great Battle of Naissus, while
the majority believes that the victory must be attributed to his successor,
In 268, at some time before or soon after the battle of Naissus, the authority
of Gallienus was challenged by Aureolus, commander of the cavalry stationed
in Mediolanum (Milan), who was supposed to keep an eye on Postumus.
Instead, he acted as deputy to Postumus until the very last days of his
revolt, when he seems to have claimed the throne for himself. The
decisive battle took place at what is now Pontirolo Nuovo near Milan; Aureolus
was clearly defeated and driven back to Milan. Gallienus laid siege
to the city but was murdered during the siege. There are differing
accounts of the murder, but the sources agree that most of Gallienus' officials
wanted him dead. According to the Historia Augusta, an unreliable
source compiled long after the events it describes, a conspiracy was led
by the commander of the guard Aurelius Heraclianus and Lucius Aurelius
Marcianus. Marcianus's role in the conspiracy is not confirmed by
any other ancient source.
Cecropius, commander of the Dalmatians, spread the word that the forces
of Aureolus were leaving the city, and Gallienus left his tent without
his bodyguard, only to be struck down by Cecropius. One version has
Claudius selected as Emperor by the conspirators, another chosen by Gallienus
on his death bed; the Historia Augusta was concerned to substantiate the
descent of the Constantinian dynasty from Claudius, and this may explain
its accounts, which do not involve Claudius in the murder. The other
sources (Zosimus i.40 and Zonaras xii.25) report that the conspiracy was
organized by Heraclianus, Claudius, and Aurelian.
According to Aurelius Victor and Zonaras, on hearing the news that Gallienus
was dead, the Senate in Rome ordered the execution of his family (including
his brother Valerianus and son Marinianus) and their supporters, just before
receiving a message from Claudius to spare their lives and deify his predecessor.
Gallienus was not treated favorably by ancient historians, partly due to
the secession of Gaul and Palmyra and his inability to win them back.
According to modern scholar Pat Southern, some historians now see him in
a more positive light. Gallienus produced some useful reforms.
He contributed to military history as the first to commission primarily
cavalry units, the Comitatenses, that could be dispatched anywhere in the
Empire in short order. This reform arguably created a precedent for
the future emperors Diocletian and Constantine I. The biographer
Aurelius Victor reports that Gallienus forbade senators from becoming military
commanders. This policy undermined senatorial power, as more reliable
equestrian commanders rose to prominence. In Southern's view, these
reforms and the decline in senatorial influence not only helped Aurelian
to salvage the Empire, but they also make Gallienus one of the emperors
most responsible for the creation of the Dominate, along with Septimius
Severus, Diocletian, and Constantine I.
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