The TRUTH about AUREOLUS (?)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Jan 23, 2022.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    We know almost nothing about the Gallic Empire, since only few written documents have survived until our modern days ; what was the truth 100 years ago has completely changed, and today a large part of what we believe is based on speculation and circumstantial proofs. So let’s have fun and be sceptical a bit…

    The official story
    Aureolus, "Magister Equity" for 260 AD, entered in 267 in Gaul with Gallienus to regain the "Pars Occidentalis" of the Empire. Injured Gallienus returned to Italy, leaving Aureolus who was defeated. Feeling betrayed and taking advantage of what Gallienus was protecting the empire against the Goths, Aureolus was able to establish in Milan, and throughout northern Italy, a military government. He allied with Postumus and shut himself up in Milan and had coins minted in the latter's name in the Lombard capital. Gallienus ran and besieged Aureolus but he was murdered at the instigation of the new master of the horse, Claudius II, who left then kill the besieged to whom he had promised life saves against his surrender.

    The ancient texts do not agree on the defection of Aureolus, nor on his death, nor on that of Gallienus. In no ancient text it is said that Aureolus took the partit of Postumus, but rather that he prized the purple for himself.

    The facts
    ZOSIMUS (500 AD) Historia Nova, book I, XL: "Such was the situation in the East when one announces to Gallien, who continued to war against the Scythians, that Auréolus, commander of all the cavalry, who had received the order to watch in the city of Milan, the arrival in Italy of Postumus, thought of revolting and claiming power for himself ... (...) Gallienus, on his way to Italy, is the victim of the following plot. . "XLI" However, Aureolus, who for a long time had withdrawn from the authority of Gallienus, immediately sent an embassy to Claudius, surrendered and was assassinated by the soldiers who were with the emperor and who were angry at because of his defection. "

    AURELIUS VICTOR (360 AD), De Caesaribus, XXXIII, Licinius Gallien and Salonin. "Aureolus, commander of the legions of Rhaetia, encouraged, as it should have been, by the indolence of such a cowardly emperor, had seized power, and marched straight on Rome. Gallienus defeats him near the bridge called of his name the bridge of Aureolus, forced him to take refuge in Milan; and, while he attacks this place with machines of all kinds, he is killed by his own soldiers. Here is how: Aureolus, despairing of raising the siege , cunningly draws up false lists, in which he inscribes the names of the chiefs and tribunes of Gallienus's army, whom the emperor is supposed to want to destroy; then these tablets are thrown, as mysteriously as possible, at the foot of the walls Chance dictates that they are found by those whose names they bear; seized with fear, they suspect that a death warrant has been signed against them, and that the negligence of Gallien's henchmen alone could have brought him down. hands. Immediately, on the advice of Aurelian, who enjoyed, in the mée, of the highest consideration, they spread the false news of an exit of the besieged. As always happens in times of confusion and surprise, Gallienus comes out of his tent, unguarded and in the midst of the darkness of the night; and then he is struck by a line which pierces him through and through, without one being able, in the darkness, to recognize the hand which unchecked him.

    HISTORIA AUGUSTAE (395 AD ?), The thirty tyrants, XI, Aureolus: "He then becomes a powerful emperor and Gallienus, after having vainly tried to reduce this brave man, made peace with him when fighting against Postumus."

    ZONARAS (1120 AD),Gallienus: "Aureolus, who as we have already said in command of the cavalry and possessed great power, formed a new conspiracy against Gallienus, seized Milan and prepared for battle. The emperor having amassed all his forces and charged the rebel's troops, cut to pieces a large number, even wounded Aureolus and forced him to shut himself up in Milan where he besieged him ... (...) As Aureolus marched towards Italy at the head of the legions of Gaul which he commanded ... "Claudius:" Gallienus having been killed in this way, Claudius was elected emperor, and Aureolus gave up arms, submitting to his obedience. But having since made new plans for revolt , he was massacred by the soldiers. "

    In this passage, Zonaras suggests that Aureolus was at the head of the armies of Gaul and therefore seems to be the only ancient text which implies a rallying of Aureolus to the cause of Postumus.

    The coinage
    We do not know of any coins in the name of Aureolus himself. Many numismatists have presented since the 17th century specimens attributed to Aureolus as Augustus. Most of them have been considered as counterfeit by Eckhel and Cohen later said that he hasn't been able to find only one genuine example. Only Banduri in 1718 asserted that he had examined during his research "ein authentische Münzen des Aureolus". Here are two of them from the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris :



    History does not record an occupation of Milan by Postumus , but some scholars believed in the past that he may have held it for a short period of time as the result of a cavalry raid, which could be a possible explanation for the existence of these coins. Here is an interesting fact: a century ago, the popular idea was that Tarraco was the mint who produced these issues.

    A.Alföldi was the first in 1927 to assigned to the revolt of Aureolus an issue of antoniniani in Milanese style, with reverses showing the valor and fidelity of the cavalry, coupled with obverse portrait of Postumus on the assumption that Aureolus declared for the Gallic emperor Postumus upon rebelling against Gallienus. This attribution has been generally accepted until now. Alföldi has pointed out that Aureolus, Gallienus’s Magister Equitum, betrayed Gallienus and struck coins at Milan in Postumus’s name. Coins of this mint are distinguished by a very particular style and fabric, very different of the coins of the Gallic Empire mints.

    Most authors distinguish five different issues for Aureolus in the name of Postume in Milan which would span the period 267-268 AD. It is possible that all emissions were only minted in 268, between the months of February and May. These monetary strikes are divided into five issues. The first two are characterized by a diameter and a greater weight than the last. Schulzki isolated only four emissions, but with two phases for the second emission. All reverse legends always end with Aequit, Equit or Equitum' in honor of Aureolus who was the general-in-chief of the Milan cavalry, an elite body created by Gallienus in 260 AD. Alföldi isolated a part of Postumus’s coinage with very distinct features: these coins are late radiates, with a low silver content, and a very distinct portrait, style and fabric. These characteristics are undoubtedly the same as the latest coins of Gallienus minted at Milan with the letter M(ediolanum) in the exergue; and they are also similar to the first radiates issued by Claudius II at Milan, with which they share the reverse type SALVS AVG – Aesculapius – issued by the P(rima) officina. Alföldi’s attribution of these coins to Milan is hardly contestable and has since been fully accepted.

    The sub-collection
    One of my main goal in 2021 was to assemble a sub-collection of Postumus / Aureolus coinage. I was not aiming all variants in reverse legends nor all officinaes for each type (P,S,T), but rather the 6 different reverse types in the best condition possible. Are these coins rare ? Not at all as you will see with the numbers of different obverse and reverse dies listed. Are they expensive to buy ? Yes they can be, especially since we’re in the crazy COVID era. So here they are :



    Hercules, lion skin over left arm, leaning on club.

    3.59g 18mm Issue 4 Officinae S

    Doyen listed 11 different obverse dies and 14 reverse dies



    Mars holding spear & shield

    3.26g. 19mm Issue 2 Officinae T

    132 obverse dies and 143 reverse



    Concordia, holding rudder & patera, prow of ship at feet.

    2.94g. 19mm. Issue 2 Officinae S

    113 obverse dies and 110 reverse

    This reverse is very interesting: the Concordia pours a patera onto the prow of a ship at its feet. In this way, the allusion is made between the Aureolus cavalry and the fleet.



    Fides seated, holding patera and standard.

    4.00g 19mm Issue 2 Officinae P

    127 obverse dies and 135 reverse



    Pax holding olive branch & transverse sceptre.

    3.60g 20mm Issue 4 Officinae T

    19 obverse dies and 18 reverse

    The classic reverse PAX EQVITVM, was not previously used at Milan but, here again, a similar design can be found on the radiates of Trier. However, the iconography of the coins issued by Aureolus is slightly different: Aesculapius holds the serpent-staff in his right hand (instead of resting on it) on the left side, and holds his drapery (instead of resting his hand on his back). Interestingly, an exact prototype can be found on radiates of issue 7 at Trier (Mairat 347).



    Aesculapius with right hand leaning on serpent-staff which rests on the floor.

    1.96g 19mm Issue 4 Officinae P

    10 obverse dies and 10 reverse

    * In conclusion, I’ll show you the Graal coin for every Aureolus’ collector, a new type discovered not that long ago, only 3 known examples :


    Hoping you enjoyed this thread, sometimes it’s good to ask ourselves if what we think we know is really the truth… Please show me your Aureolus or anything you feel is relevant from the Gallic Empire.
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  3. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Very informative and enjoyable post, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix. Here are a couple of coins to add to your thread (neither as nice as your examples). First a flatly struck VIRTVS EQVIT of Aureolus/Postumus from Milan. Coins of Gallienus (after the capture of Valerian) are a small subcollection that has interested me since my first coin (a well worn Valerian sestertius). Having a couple of coins from the Normanby Hoard I happen to have the "Cunetio Hoard" book from Spink.
    Auréolus Postumus Equit Milan.jpg
    Struck by Aureolus, Romano-Gallic Usurper, AD 267-268, Antoninianus, in the name of Postumus. Mediolanum (Milan) mint, 3rd officina. 3rd emission, mid AD 268.
    Obv: IMP POSTVMVS AVG, Radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Postumus right
    Rev: VIRTVS EQV[IT], Mars advancing right, holding spear in his right hand and shield in his left.

    And a VIRTVS EQVITVM with Hercules of Milan from Victorinus
    Aureolus Hercules Mediolanum.jpg
    Roman Empire, Aureolus struck in the name of Postumus, Mediolanum (Milan), 267-268, Antoninianus
    Obv: IMP C [POSTVM]VS P F AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
    Rev: VIRTVS [EQVI]TVM, Hercules standing right, lion skin over left arm, leaning on club propped on rocks to right, S.
    Ref: Cunetio 2497

    - Zonaras, writing in the 12th century AD, Edit: from 16th century translation from Greek to Italian, Gallienus

    My notes and related coins: Postumus, Romano-Gallic Emperor
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2022
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  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    What an interesting and informative post, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix! I have only one of the types illustrated, the SALVG AVG issue with Aesculapius.

    Postumus, AD 260-269.
    Roman Billon Antoninianus, 2.84 g, 21.1 mm.
    Cologne, AD 265-68.
    Obv: IMP C POSTVMVS PF AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: SALVS AVG, Aesculapius standing facing, head left, holding snake-entwined staff; globe at feet, right.
    Refs: RIC 86; Hunter 85, 86; Cohen 336; Sear 10985; DeWitte 280.
    Edessa, wittwolf, PeteB and 12 others like this.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Very nice article and as you say, the sources are conflicting. Certainly the evidence from the coinage is stronger than those in the historical record. I don't have an example yet, but here is one of Postumus:


    AR Antoninianus

    Radiate, draped, cuirassed but right

    Serapis standing left, raising hand and holding sceptre

    Year: 267 C.E.

    Reference: RSC 360a, Sear 10991

    Mint: Trier


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  6. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    OBVERSE: IMP POSTVMVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Postumus right
    REVERSE: VIRTVS EQVIT, Virtus advancing right, holding transverse spear and shield; T in ex.
    Struck at Mediolanum, 268 AD
    3.17g, 19mm
    RIC V 388
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  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Nice write-up and coins @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Here is mine, it came in an undescribed lot and I had a hard time figuring it out, what with it saying POSTVMVS on the obverse:

    Aureolus - Ant. lot Nov 2017.JPG
    Gallic Empire Aureolus
    (usurper struck for Postumus)
    Billon / Æ Antoninianus
    (267 A.D.)
    Milan Mint

    [IMP] C POSTVMVS P F AVG, radiate, draped & cuirassed bust right / [F]IDES EQ[VIT], Fides seated left holding patera and standard; P in exergue.
    RIC 377, Cohen 59; Sear 10938.
    (1.91 grams / 18 mm)
    eBay Nov. 2017
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  8. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Part of the left side spontaneous broke off, inside is made of some crappy alloy mix.
    I glued it back together , looks decent now:

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  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Using the word 'truth' in the same sentence with 'Aureolus' based on the writings of later Roman historians seems to be pushing it a mite. I have mine cataloged as Postumus, Milan mint. I am not all that fond of the fact that a coin sells for more if it gets attached to a tale with no more substance than this but it is a fact that these coins do sell better when attributed to the name of someone than to a common emperor like Postumus. This strikes me as about as sensible as paying extra for common denarii of Tiberius on the theory that Jesus once saw one like it.
    rr1930bb1699.jpg rr1940b1772.jpg
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  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Utterly fascinating. I assume that that must be a translation into Italian, though, and that Zonaras wrote the original in Latin. I don't think anyone was writing in the Italian vernacular in the 12th century AD, 200 years before Dante wrote in Florentine.
  11. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Exactly, published by Ludovico de gli Auranzi in 1560.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2022
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  12. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    RI Postumus struck by Aureolus 268 CE Revolt of Milan Concordia
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  13. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    yes - newly translated in 1560 from the Greek by Marco Emilio Fiorentino with his copious tables.
  14. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Great writeup, and congrats on putting together all of those types!

    Here's a first issue (no officina in the exergue) of the FIDES type. I especially like the portrait on this coin:

    And here's a first issue Milan from Claudius II, just after the murders of Gallienus and Aureolus:
    CII first issue Milan.jpg
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Great writeup!

    I have a couple of Aureolus coins:

    CONCORD EQVIT Screenshot 2022-01-24 at 08.31.26.png


    Screenshot 2022-01-24 at 08.32.30.png

    I also have the MARS EQVITVM. I bought it recently on Ebay (a German seller sold a large group of excellent Postumus coins, including about 10 to 15 coins of Aureolus with all reverse types. I only bought this one (still have to take pictures).

    Screenshot 2022-01-24 at 08.35.45.png
  16. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I love the portrait! Is this an issue from Milan?
  17. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I’m pretty sure your example is a VIRTVS EQVIT but with Mars holding spear and shield on the reverse.

    Yes it is. In fact a coin « not often seen » without the officinae letter. It’s hard to tell if there’s a dot between FIDES and AEQVIT. 12 different obverse dies and 16 reverses dies known.​
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2022
  18. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    You are probably right. I put it away in an album in the bank, but need to take it out for photographing and proper description. The full Ebay entry is no longer available, unfortunately.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2022
  19. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    By the way @Tejas , do you know what happened with Dr. Simonian (Dionysos Numismatik) ? His ebay and v-coins stores are inactive for a couple of months. He is (was ?) one of my favorite seller…
  20. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    No, I don't unfortunately. I bought a number of Postumus coins from him in November, but that was the last contact I had. I hope he is still around.
  21. Ricardo123

    Ricardo123 Well-Known Member

    Here mine example, but my description is Fortuna ? And a question: how can difference the Salus in the op and the one from @Roman Collector from Cologne ?

    Johndakerftw and Bing like this.
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