Postumus, Gallic Emperor 260 to 269 Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumas was the governor of Gaul under the Roman co-emperors Valerian and Gallienus. Postumus’ soldiers declared him emperor in 260 during a barbarian invasion. The only barrier that stood between Postumas and his rise to power in Gaul, was Saloninus, the teenaged son of Gallienus, who was stationed in Cologne. Gallienus was occupied with a war with the Persian Empire and other problems in the Balkans. During that war, Gallienus’ father, Valerian, had been kidnaped by the Sasanids when he met with them to negotiate a peace settlement. The Sasanids delivered Valerian to the Persians, and he was never seen again. Gallienus was too occupied with his own problems to help his son. Postumus put Cologne under siege and quickly took charge of the city. He executed the unfortunate teenager and his praetorian prefect - bodyguard, Silvanus. Postumus expanded his empire to include Gaul, Britain and Spain. The Roman Government was too weak to respond to this usurpation because of its foreign wars and failed economic policies. In a sense the Romans benefited because Postumus was able to control the threat from the barbarians in the west. Yet, Gallienus made two failed attempts to bring Postumus down in 263 and 265. In some ways, Postumus was more successful than the Roman Government. The weight of his gold aureus coins was at least 5.5 grams more than their Roman counterparts. The Gallic version of the principle silver coin, the antoninianus, continued to be heavily debased, but it contained more silver than the Roman version of the piece. There was also a robust mintage of copper coinage. In 268, Aureolus, who was one of Gallienus’ most trusted generals, revolted against the emperor. Aureolus, from his base in Milan, offered Postumus an opportunity to join him in his attack on Italy. He even went so far as to issue coins with Postumus’ image on them. Postumus declined this offer. Ultimately Gallienus led a force that placed Milan under siege. Gallienus’ men, led by the next emperor Claudius II Gothicus, turned on the emperor during this military operation and killed him. Aureolus was killed as well which made Claudius II the next Roman emperor. In the meantime, Postumus faced troubles of his own. Ulpius Cornelius Laetianus seized power in what is now the German city of Mainz. After a few months, Postumus laid siege to the city and took control fairly easily. When Postumus refused to let his troops sack the city, they killed him. The death of Postumus brought political instability to the Gallic Empire. Acquiring a Representative Postumus Coin My interest in Roman coinage rests more in acquiring and overview of the history of the empire than acquiring an extensive collection of coins from any one emperor. Therefore, my goal has been to acquire at least one coin for each emperor. My representative piece is a Postumus antoninianus. In the early days of the Roman Empire the principle denomination was the denarius. As debasement and inflation took hold in the monetary system the Rome government introduced the antoninianus was worth two denarii. As inflation and debasement continued, the amount of silver in the antoninianus was reduced and the denarius was no longer issued. My Postumus antoninianus has a silver color. Like most Roman coins, it is irregularly shaped. At its narrowest point, it is 19 mm wide. At its widest point, it measures 24 mm. The obverse features a profile portrait of Postumus wearing a crown with radiant points above his head. The abbreviated Latin wording surrounding him is “IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG.” This translates to “Emperor Cassianius Postumus Pius Felix (dutiful and patriotic) Augustus. The reverse features a personification, Fides, who is standing, holding an ensign in each hand. Fides stood for good faith and confidence. The legend reads, “FIDES MILITVM,” which translates to “Fides military” which represents faith and confidence in the army or legions. This was a recurring theme on the Gallic coins because the country was dependent upon the military for its independence from Rome. Marius, Emperor for a Couple of Days to a Few Months in 268 Marcus Aurelius Marius was a blacksmith who rose through the ranks of the Roman Army. He probably did not have any special qualifications to become the supreme leader, but he was in the right place (or perhaps the wrong place given subsequent events) to win the support of the soldiers who proclaimed him emperor. Accounts vary as to how long Marius held office. Some say that he was emperor for only a few days but, given the number of coins that bear his name, he must have held office for a longer period. The best estimates are that he lasted for about three months. Like most leaders during this period, he was slain by his own soldiers. Some say that he was killed with a sword of his own making, although this is probably only a romantic embellishment of the truth. Acquiring a Representative Marius Coin Given Marius’ brief time as emperor, his coins are quite scarce. The coin in my collection is an antoninianus which contains very little, if any, silver. It features the standard profile of Marius wearing a radiant crown. The Latin abbreviated legend is “IMP C MARIVUS P F AVG,” which translates to “Emperor caesar Marcus dutiful and patriotic augustus.” The reverse features the personification Felicitas who stands for happiness and prosperity. Felicitas is holding a cornucopia and is surrounded by the words, “SAEC FELICITAS,” which translates to “happy age.” Given the turmoil after the murder of Postumus, this was probably wishful thinking. Victorinus, Emperor from 269 to 271 Marcus Piavvonius Victorinus was one of the Gallic Empire’s best generals. He took power after the death of Marius. His highly ambitious mother, Victoria, pushed him to seek higher office. His short reign was marked by rebellions and the secession of various territories that had been under his rule. These problems were undoubtedly fueled by the emperors, Claudius II and Aurelian who were pushed bring the Gallic Empire back into the fold. Despite these problems most historians rate Victorinus as competent leader. His greatest weakness was women. He had the unfortunate habit of seducing the wives of the officers who reported to him. One of them took exception to that and killed him. Acquiring a Representative Victorinus Coin My Victorinus antoninianus features the standard portrait of the emperor with same description: “IMP C VICTORINVS P F AVG,” “Emperor caesar Victorninus dutiful, patriotic augustus.” The reverse features the personification Pax, who stood for peace. She is holding an olive branch and is surrounded by the words, “PAX AVG,” peaceful augustus. Given the unrest within the Gallic Empire and the attacks from outside, this was more of the prayer than a reality. Tetricus I, Emperor from 271 to 274 Gainus Pius Esuvius Tetricus became emperor after the surprise assassination of Victorinus. The later emperor’s mother, Victoria, had a hand in helping Tetricus gain power in place of her dead son. She may have been related to Tetricus, but nature of that association is unclear. Perhaps he was her nephew. At the time of his elevation, Tetricus was the governor of Aquitania. Tetricus named his son caesar, or second in command, which was a common practice at the time. He may have elevated Tetricus II to co-emperor before he lost his grip on power. By this time, the powerful Roman emperor, Aurelian, was pressuring the Gallic states to re-join the empire. After settling his disputes with his enemies in the east, Aurelian turned his attention to the west. The decisive Battle of Châlons-sur-Marne, was fought at what is now Châlons-en-Champagne in northern France. Tetricus and his son abdicated. After Aurelian used them as ornaments in his triumphant return to Rome, he allowed Tetricus and his son to live out their lives as officials in the Roman Government, which was highly unusual for the time. Some have speculated that Tetricus cut a deal with Aurelian prior to his capture. The dead of death for Tetricus and his son are not known; they simply disappeared in history. Acquiring a Representative Tetricus Coin By the time Tetricus came to power, the chaos that was engulfing the Gallic Empire had reached the minting operation. The coins were often carelessly made with the reverse often lacking much of the design details. The antoninianus is my collection is no exception. The coin was struck on an oval shaped planchet, but the moneyer was somehow able to get most of the lettering on the piece. As with my other Gallic Empire coins, the emperor is shown in profile sounded by the words, “IMP C TETRICVS P F AVG,” “Emperor caesar Tetricus dutiful and patriotic augustus.” The reverse features the personification Virtus who stood for courage. Virtus is dressed in armor and is holding a victory shield and a spear. He is surrounded by the words, “VIRTVS AVGG,” “courageous augusti.” It is interesting that “AVGG,” the plural for augustus, is used here. It may have had two meanings. First, it may have referred to Tetricus I and his son, Tetricus II. A second interpretation could be that Tetricus was looking to become a co-emperor with the Roman leader. Conclusions The Gallic Empire coins provide an interesting subset for the collector. Aside from the Emperor Marius, the coins are fairly common and moderately priced. As one can see from my modest collection, the reverse designs offer insights into the hopes and dreams of a nation that was in a great crisis. Ultimately that nation did not survive, but its history provides insights into the weaknesses that racked the Roman Empire in the mid third century.