Numerian, 283-284 AD. Æ Antoninianus of Ticinum
Obverse: IMP NVMERIANVS P F AVG, Radiate and draped
Reverse: PROVIDENT AVGG, Providentia standing left
corn ears over modius at feet left, & cornucopiae.
VIXXI in ex.
Numerian, 283-284, Antoninianus, struck 283-284 at
Obverse: IMP NVMERIANVS AVG - Radiate and cuirassed
Reverse: PIETAS AVGG - Mercury standing left,
holding purse and caduceus
Mintmark KA Delta
RIC 416, RIC-V-II-415-C
Numerian (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Numerius Numerianus Augustus; died
20 November 284) was Roman Emperor from 283 to 284 with his older brother
Carinus. They were sons of Carus, a general raised to the office
of praetorian prefect under Emperor Probus in 282.
In 282, the legions of the upper Danube in Raetia and Noricum proclaimed
as emperor Numerian's father, the praetorian prefect Marcus Aurelius Carus,
beginning a rebellion against the emperor Probus. Probus' army, stationed
in Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia), decided they did not wish to fight
Carus and assassinated Probus instead. Carus, already sixty, wished
to establish a dynasty and immediately elevated Carinus and Numerian to
the rank of Caesar.
In 283, Carus left Carinus in charge of the West and moved with Numerian
and his praetorian prefect Arrius Aper to the East to wage war against
the Sassanid Empire. The Sassanids had been embroiled in a succession
dispute since the death of Shapur and were in no position to oppose Carus'
According to Zonaras, Eutropius, and Festus, Carus won a major victory
against the Persians, taking Seleucia and the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon
(near modern Al-Mada'in, Iraq), cities on opposite banks of the Tigris.
In celebration, Numerian, Carus, and Carinus all took the title Persici
maximi. Carus died in July or early August of 283, possibly due to
a strike of lightning.
Numerian and Carinus as Augusti:
The death of Carus left Numerian and Carinus as the new Augusti. Carinus
quickly made his way to Rome from Gaul, arriving in January 284, while
Numerian lingered in the East. The Roman retreat from Persia was
orderly and unopposed, for the Persian King, Bahram II, was still struggling
to establish his authority.
By March 284, Numerian had only reached Emesa (Homs) in Syria; by November,
only Asia Minor. In Emesa he was apparently still alive and in good
health, as he issued the only extant rescript in his name there.
Coins were issued in his name in Cyzicus at some time before the end of
284, but it is impossible to know whether he was still in the public eye
by that point.
After Emesa, Numerian's staff, including the prefect Aper, reported that
Numerian suffered from an inflammation of the eyes and had to travel in
a closed coach. When the army reached Bithynia, some of Numerian's
soldiers smelled an odor reminiscent of a decaying corpse emanating from
the coach. They opened its curtains and found Numerian dead.
After Numerian's death:
Aper officially broke the news of Numerian's death in Nicomedia (?zmit)
in November 284. Numerian's generals and tribunes called a council
for the succession and chose as emperor Diocletian, commander of the cavalry
arm of the imperial bodyguard, despite Aper's attempts to garner support.
The army of the east gathered on a hill outside of Nicomedia and unanimously
saluted their new Augustus. Diocletian accepted the purple imperial
vestments and raised his sword to the light of the sun, swearing an oath
denying responsibility for Numerian's death. He asserted that Aper
had killed Numerian and concealed the deed. In full view of the army,
Diocletian then turned and killed Aper.
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