Splintered Empire (Cont.)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Cherd, Mar 19, 2023.

  1. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    Continued From:

    Aurelian’s local military Commander Probus was able to retake Egypt while Aurelian marched toward Palmyra (sacking Zenobia loyal cities along the way). Zenobia began traveling out from the capital to confront Aurelian’s forces at various points along his route. There were three major battles, with Aurelian victorious in all and Zenobia retreating in order to regroup. Aurelian finally reached the capital and laid siege. He promised that the confrontation could be resolved peacefully if Zenobia surrendered to him in person, but she refused.

    Zenobia instead snuck out of the city and tried to go east to rouse support among the Persians. She was tracked down, captured by Roman soldiers, and brought back to Aurelian. At this point, the citizenry of greater Palmyrene begged for peace, and the city surrendered in response. Aurelian spared the city of Palmyra and headed for home.

    It was less than a year later that Aurelian was headed back to Palmyra. In that time, the city had decided to put forth yet another usurper and declared him emperor. Aurelian showed no mercy this time. He handily defeated their forces, breached their walls, and razed the city to the ground (literally smashed the buildings). The Palmyrene Empire’s existence was brief, but it is remembered for having been ruled by one of the most formattable women in history.

    Things were running smoothly back in the Gallic Empire for Postumus, who had ruled for 9 years at this point. That is, until one of Postumus’ generals named Laelianus attempted to usurp him by declaring himself emperor in the city of Moguntiacum. Postumus marched on Moguntiacum in response, laid siege to the city, and managed to kill Laelianus. Postumus refused to let his soldiers sack the city afterward, which angered them so much that they killed him for it!

    Probus and Laelianus

    In the resulting confusion, the soldiers elected a new Gallic Emperor in Marius. Marius had originally been a blacksmith, whose skill at metalworking had made him a legend in his own time. He joined the Roman army at some point, and worked his way up the ranks to become an officer under Postumus. His first act as Emperor was…obviously…to let the army sack Moguntiacum! His reign only lasted for 2-3 months though, as he was confronted and killed by the forces of the man that had been Postumus’ Praetorian Prefect, Victorinus.

    Marius and Victorinus

    Victorinus became emperor, but there was resistance to recognition of his authority. One City, Augustodunum Haeduorum in Gaul, actually announced their intention to submit to Roman rule. Victorinus made an example out of them by laying siege for 7 months, and then plundering and destroying the city.

    Victorinus returned to Colonia to celebrate his triumph, and he must have celebrated a bit too hard. He ended up putting some moves on the wife of one of his officers, Attitianus, and the enraged husband killed him for it! Victorinus’ mother, Victoria, stepped in to rule for a short time before appointing Tetricus I as her son’s successor.

    Tetricus I and Tetricus II

    Tetricus made his son Tetricus II Caesar, and spent most of his 4-year reign fending off Barbarian invaders in his north-eastern territories. But his biggest challenge came in 274 when Aurelian, having successfully retaken the Palmyrene Empire, turned his sites on the Gallic provinces. Aurelian’s and Tetricus’ armies met in Northern Gaul at the Battle of Chalons in 274, where Tetricus was soundly defeated. Tetricus surrendered after the battle and was taken into custody.

    Back in Rome, Tetricus I, Tetricus II, Zenobia, and Vaballathus were paraded through the streets during Aurelian’s Triumph celebration. The Tetricus boys were not put in chains for the parade like the others, but they were forced to wear braccae (pants worn by German tribes) in order to make them seem more Barbaric. All four offenders were pardoned after the triumph, and while we’re not sure what became of Zenobia and Vaballathus, we do know that Tetricus was given a political position. This led to the rumor that Tetricus’ surrender to Aurelian was part of a pre-planned agreement between the two, but nobody knows for sure. What is known for sure is that Aurelian had actually managed to fully restore all lost territories to the Empire.

    Barbarous Coinage
    As an aside, this period was also known for “Barbarous coinage”. These were unofficial coins that were minted at various places in the western provinces during the late third and early fourth centuries. They tended to be rough copies of official designs for emperors, mostly of the Gallic Empire. However, they weren’t perceived to be counterfeits because they were not meant to fool anybody and were a convenient way to make small change.

    We use the word “Imitative” to describe coins where some effort was put into mimicking imperial bust coins (thought to correlate with the starts of emperor’s reigns). But over time the designs would devolve into a jumble of unintelligible, meaningless letters and symbols, and stick figures. The one attribute that tended to stay constant on these low-effort coins was an overly emphasized depiction of the radiate crown that was always included on antoniniani. We call these coins “Radiates”. (take all of this with a grain of salt, I’m no expert)

    Barbarous Imitative and Barbarous Radiate

    I’m sure everybody is tired of reading by now, hope you liked it!

    PS: One other person with coins that was not mentioned, Domitianus (Domitian II). Thought to have been a Gallic usurper around 270, not much more is known. There are only two known coins, this one is obviously not mine
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  3. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Thoroughly enjoyed that write up. The inclusion of pictorial references (lovely coins) made it all complete. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together for our enjoyment.
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  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

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  5. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    That's an impressive collection. Most collectors have a few coins from the Crisis era, but not many pursue them in depth as you have. That might have to do with the overall low quality of minting during the period. The big bronzes and denarii of the 1st and 2nd centuries are more visually appealing, as are the issues of the Tetrarchy and Constantinian Dynasty. But I think that's part of the allure of collecting Crisis coins - the hunt for decent examples of the various types. You've done a great job!
    Cherd and expat like this.
  6. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    Thanks a lot!

    You're right, it's tough to beat a well-struck, smooth-surfaced, 34mm diameter sestertius when it comes to eye appeal. But, the thing that really draws me to different coins are the associated stories. When a coin comes along, I tend to think something like, "Which cool things could I tell others about this coin if I made the purchase?"

    My intended collection actually spans from Caesar through Theodosius, but I think that I've unintentionally managed to flesh out this period more quickly because of the thought process described above. For coins from what other period do you conjure up thoughts like:

    Ooh, this guy's name was pronounced "Poopy Anus"!
    , this guy was allegedly 8 ft tall!
    , this guy was captured and used as a footstool!
    , this guy was whoopin on the Persians but was killed by a bolt of lightning!
    , these people formed their own empires!
    , etc, etc, etc.
    John Anthony likes this.
  7. Noah Worke

    Noah Worke Well-Known Member

    The afterthought about Domitianus really caught my attention. I just recently finished listening to the "Emperors of Rome" podcast episodes about Domitian. I doubt there's any relation, but it would be interesting to see if he would try to be like his namesake or how he would have turned out. Late emperors sharing the names of early emperors is interesting to me, in fact the thing about Rome seeming to be that at any point they try to go back to the "good old days" especially in times of uncertainty. They put a lot of stock in names. One being named after Claudius, as Julio-Claudian, and one after Domitian, a Flavian. However, I'm just guessing. These stories hidden in the shadow really inspire the imagination. The barbarous imitations are really odd, and quite fascinating. I wonder if they were intended to look artistic at all, or if they just hired anyone who would do it to try and carve out the die from a description. It's all really interesting, there's a lot of mystery and "what-ifs" during the crisis- Particularly, what if the good ones survived for longer than a month or so.
    Cherd likes this.
  8. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    When Postumus seized power in 260 and started minting coins in Cologne and Trier, he immediately introduced a new type of imperial portrait. Since Caracalla all imperial heads or busts had been either beardless young men or short bearded adults with short hair. Gallienus had longer hair but still a short beard. Postumus displayed a completely different look: a long beard and a thick curly hair like Marcus Aurelius. This imperial look that had not been seen on coins since the late 190s.

    Between 260 and 274 two parallel series of imperial coins circulated in Gaul:
    The "Gallic emperors" Postumus, Laelianus, Victorinus and Tetricus, to which we must add Domitianus II. All their portraits with long beards are Postumus style, as if each of them claimed to be a new Postumus. Marius is the only one who wears the short beard and distances himself from the Postumian standard, but he was Postumus' opponent.
    The official Roman emperors: Gallienus, Claudius II Gothicus and Quintillus, Aurelian, all have the regular 3rd c. short beard.

    portraits 260 274.jpg

    Domitian II : 2 specimens only are known from hoards, one found in Western France, the other one in Oxfordshire, UK. Another isolated specimen is said to have been found in Bulgaria but it's completely different and very suspect. The Bulgarian publications show only a blurred picture though the coin is in a public collection (National History Museum in Sofia, 45197). On this bad picture the name Domitianus is far from clear, and it's not possible to check if it has not been tooled.
    This museum in Sofia sometimes happens to validate fake antiquities, like a bogus Etruscan gold book. Thus, the question of this third Domitianus II is still pending until better pictures are released.
    Domitianus II coins are of very good style: obviously he controlled an official and professional mint for a short time: Cologne? Trier? His Postumus-style portrait looks very much like Tetricus' early coins: he could well have been attempting to overthrow him but soon failed.
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  9. Noah Worke

    Noah Worke Well-Known Member

    I just read an article on it, and the author seemed pretty sure that the third one is legit, but that's just one man's opinion. I myself hope it's real, that would be really interesting because it implies that he controlled more than one mint and had that authority for a longer period of time. The fact that new dies were cut means he had at least some promise, but he must have been assassinated or otherwise neutralized to not have even been mentioned. Perhaps a successful Damnatio Memoriae? Either way, we can only hope to learn more about him.
    Cherd likes this.
  10. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Yes, why not? They should at least publish a high res photo of this coin. For the moment nobody can make hypotheses from this blurry pic of a coin with no provenance...
    Cherd likes this.
  11. marchal steel

    marchal steel Active Member

    Very interesting reading, friend... I found myself "experiencing" all the fighting, sacking, killing, etc! This was a piece of "direct" history that you told the tale of; you brought it to life. Well done, mon ami...
    Noah Worke and Cherd like this.
  12. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    Right? It's as though nobody over the last 50 years has thought it a good idea to take pictures of hyper-rare ancient Roman coins! When I tried to find photos of "known to be legitimate" coins of Silvius Amandus and Flavia Constantia, these were the best that I could find!

    Somebody point a cell phone at these things already!

    Noah Worke and Bing like this.
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