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First of the new Illyrian emperors that dominated the late third and early fourth centuries, Claudius II Gothicus (bust and coin below) spent his two-year tenure as emperor waging a successful war against the Goths.
Quintillus (coin below right), brother of Claudius II, was soon deserted by his army when Aurelian was proclaimed emperor by his own troops.
Aurelian and his wife Ulpia Severina. The emperor wears the crown of Sol Invictus, whom he promoted to the head of the Roman pantheon. The monotheistic worship of the sun went back to the reign of Elagabalus, and had grown steadily. Aurelian believed that a single god’s rule would best reflect the new unity of the restored empire after years of violent fragmentation.
Maps for the Gothic Sea Raids, the Aurelian Wall, Aurelian's reconquest of Asia Mior and Palmyra, and the empire at Aurelian's death are on a separate page. CLICK HERE
Tacitus was 75 years old when he was chosen to wear the purple but proved an energetic—if short-lived—ruler. His downfall after a little over five months came from appointing a relative as governor of Syria, whose
harsh treatment led to
mutiny and the emperor's murder by infuriated conspirators.
Florian, half-brother of Tacitus and his praetorian prefect, stepped his shoes, but quickly became the victim of renewed civil war, lasting barely four months.
Marcus Aurelius Probus (right, bust and coin) had already enjoyed a long, distinguished military career by the time he was proclaimed emperor. He was murdered partly for his love of growing grape vines.
Bonosus (coin left), commander of the Rhine fleet under Probus, had himself made emperor to avoid his master’s retribution for having lost a squadron of ships to marauding Germans.
In a reign cut short by his death camaigning against the Persians, Carus achieved much.
Left: coin of Sassanian king Vahram II, successor to Shapur I
Left: a coin shows the brothers Carinus and Numerian as co-Augusti. Numerian (bust left below) had no stomach for war and abandoned his father’s Persian campaign.
Center: Carinus and coins of his wife Magnia Urbica and their son Nigrinianus. Carinus was made of sterner stuff than his younger brother, had campaigned under his father, and continued to do so against the Quadi when he became emperor. His character would be denigrated after his death, and he became known as "the evil emperor Carinus" for his supposed brutality and sexual voraciousness
Marcus Aurelius Julianus: he usurped the purple in Illyricum, but was defeated by Carinus, who in turn fell foul of an assassin during the battle on the Margus against the usurper Diocles—now known as Diocletian.
Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England