Vir clarissimus, rex, imperator, dux Romanorum -- "Most illustrious man, king, emperor, commander of the Romans." Who is this fellow? How did he acquire such impressive titulature? And, with epithets like that, how did things go wrong?! Well, here's the scoop! Vabalathus (AD 259-274) was born in Palmyra, the son of Odaenathus (a Roman ally under Gallenius) and Zenobia. In 267 AD, his father and his half-brother Hairan I were murdered by their relative Maeonius, who briefly ruled as a usurper before being overthrown and executed. Vabalathus, as the next in line to the throne, inherited the title of King of Palmyra at the age of eight; his mother served as regent. While Claudius and his legions were preoccupied fighting against the Gallic Empire in the west, Zenobia took advantage of the situation and undertook several successful campaigns which resulted in the Palmyrene conquest of Egypt, all of Syria and the Levant, and much of Asia minor. Vabalathus was about 11 years old when Aurelian assumed the throne in October or November, AD 270. Aurelian had his hands full in the Balkans, where he had to suppress three revolts (by Septimius, Urbanus, and a Domitianus), as well as organize a retreat from Dacia, and campaign against the Goths. In order to buy time, Aurelian appeased Zenobia, granting the Palmyrene queen and her son the titles they desired. That's how a prepubescent boy became "Most illustrious man, king, emperor, commander of the Romans." Aurelian even struck coinage -- such as this antoninianus -- jointly with Vabalathus at Antioch and Alexandria, placing the boy-king on the obverse and his image on the reverse (the officina mark in the exergue demonstrates this). But after one last campaign against the Goths in mid-271, things were settled enough in central Europe that Aurelian decided it was time to recover the territory lost to the Palmyrans in the east. In the spring of AD 272, Aurelian counterattacked, crossing the Bosphorus and invading Syria, where he defeated Zenobia's armies and forced Palmyra to surrender. In 274, Aurelian planned to bring Zenobia and Vabalathus to Rome in order to parade them around as part of his triumphal celebrations, but the then-fourteen-year-old, self-styled, vir clarissimus, rex, imperator, dux Romanorum died while en route. Zenobia was treated honorably, though, and allowed to retire to a villa near Tibur. Her descendants were still prominent among the Roman aristocracy a century later. Nonetheless, Palmyra remained a hot spot for Aurelian, for not long after, another revolt broke out there under the leadership of Antiochus, who was likely a descendent of Vabalathus' father, Odaenathus. Aurelian and his armies returned to crush the revolt, after which the Romans leveled the city of Palmyra, and ousted their supporter in Alexandria, a fellow named Firmius. Post your coins of Zenobia, Vabalathus, Aurelian, or anything you feel is relevant! Vabalathus, AD 270-272 and Aurelian, AD 270-275. Roman billon antoninianus, 3.58 gm, 20.4 mm, 5 h. Antioch, late AD 270-spring 272. Obv: VABALATHVS V C R IMP D R, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Vabalathus, right. Rev: IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust of Aurelian right; officina mark Є below. Refs: RIC 381; CBN 1248; Cohen 1; MIR 353; RCV 11718. Bibliography: Sear, David R. Roman Coins and Their Values III: The accession of Maximinus to the death of Carinus AD 235 - 285, London, Spink, 2005, pp. 441-442. Vagi, David L. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, c. 82 B.C.- A.D. 480. Volume One: History, Coin World, 1999, pp. 365-66.