Trebonianus Gallus AR Antoninianus. 251-253 AD.
Obv: IMP CAE C VIB TREB GALLVS AVG, radiate, draped
Rev: PIETAS AVGG, Pietas, veiled, standing left, raising
RIC IV 41, Sear 9642
Trebonianus Gallus (Latin: Gaius Vibius Afinius Trebonianus Gallus Augustus;
206 – August 253), also known as Gallus, was Roman Emperor from 251 to
253, in a joint rule with his son Volusianus.
Gallus was born in Italy, in a family with respected ancestry of Etruscan
senatorial background. He had two children in his marriage with Afinia
Gemina Baebiana: Gaius Vibius Volusianus, later Emperor, and a daughter,
Vibia Galla. His early career was a typical cursus honorum, with
several appointments, both political and military. He was suffect
consul and in 250 was nominated governor of the Roman province of Moesia
Superior, an appointment that showed the confidence of Emperor Trajan Decius
Rise to power:
In June 251, Decius and his co-emperor and son Herennius Etruscus died
in the Battle of Abrittus at the hands of the Goths they were supposed
to punish for raids into the empire. According to rumours supported
by Dexippus (a contemporary Greek historian) and the Thirteenth Sibylline
Oracle, Decius' failure was largely owing to Gallus, who had conspired
with the invaders. In any case, when the army heard the news, the
soldiers proclaimed Gallus emperor, despite Hostilian, Decius' surviving
son, ascending the imperial throne in Rome. This action of the army,
and the fact that Gallus seems to have been on good terms with Decius'
family, makes Dexippus' allegation improbable. Gallus did not back
down from his intention to become emperor, but accepted Hostilian as co-emperor,
perhaps to avoid the damage of another civil war.
Anxious to secure his position at Rome and stabilize the situation on the
Danube frontier, Gallus made peace with the Goths. Peace terms allowed
the Goths to leave the Roman territory while keeping their captives and
plunder. In addition, it was agreed that they would be paid an annual subsidy.
Reaching Rome, Gallus' proclamation was formally confirmed by the Senate,
with his son Volusianus being appointed Caesar. On June 24, 251,
Decius was deified, but by July 15 Hostilian disappears from history—he
may have died in an outbreak of plague.
Gallus may have also ordered a localized and uncoordinated persecution
of Christians. However, only two incidents are known to us: the Pope
Cornelius exile to Centumcellae, where he died in 253 and the exile of
his successor, Pope Lucius, right after his election. The latter
was recalled to Rome during the reign of Valerian.
Radiate of Trebonianus Gallus:
Like his predecessors, Gallus did not have an easy reign. In the
East, an Antiochene nobleman, Mariades, revolted and began ravaging Syria
and Cappadocia, then fled to the Persians. Gallus ordered his troops
to attack the Persians, but Persian Emperor Shapur I invaded Armenia and
destroyed a large Roman army, taking it by surprise at Barbalissos in 253.
Shapur I then invaded the defenseless Syrian provinces, captured all of
its legionary posts and ravaged its cities, including Antioch, without
any response. Persian invasions were repeated in the following year,
but now Uranius Antoninus (a priest originally called Sampsiceramus), a
descendant of the royal house of Emesa, confronted Shapur and forced him
to retreat. He proclaimed himself emperor, however, and minted coins
with his image upon them. On the Danube, Scythian tribes were once
again on the loose, despite the peace treaty signed in 251. They
invaded Asia Minor by sea, burned the great Temple of Artemis at Ephesus,
and returned home with plunder. Lower Moesia was also invaded in
early 253. Aemilianus, governor of Moesia Superior and Pannonia,
took the initiative of battle and defeated the invaders.
Since the army was no longer pleased with the Emperor, the soldiers proclaimed
Aemilianus emperor. With a usurper, supported by Pauloctus, threatening
the throne, Gallus prepared for a fight. He recalled several legions
and ordered reinforcements to return to Rome from Gaul under the command
of the future emperor Publius Licinius Valerianus. Despite these
dispositions, Aemilianus marched onto Italy ready to fight for his claim
and caught Gallus at Interamna (modern Terni) before the arrival of Valerianus.
What exactly happened there is not clear. Later sources claim that
after an initial defeat, Gallus and Volusianus were murdered by their own
troops; or Gallus did not have the chance to face Aemilianus at all because
his army went over to the usurper. In any case, both Gallus and Volusianus
were killed in August 253.
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