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Aurelian ( la, Lucius Domitius Aurelianus; 9 September 214c. October 275) was
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
from 270 to 275. As emperor, he won an unprecedented series of military victories which reunited the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
after it had practically disintegrated under the pressure of
barbarian A barbarian is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bioc ...

barbarian
invasions and internal revolts. His successes were instrumental in ending the
Crisis of the Third Century The Crisis of the Third Century, also known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (235–284 AD), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed. It ended due to the military victories of Aurelian and with the ascension of Dioclet ...
, earning him the title – "Restorer of the World". Born in humble circumstances, he rose through the military ranks to become emperor. During his reign, he defeated the
Alamanni The Alemanni (also ''Alamanni''; ''Suebi'' "Swabians") were a confederation of Germanic tribe This list of ancient s is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in anci ...
after a devastating war. He also defeated the
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between West ...
,
Vandals The Vandals were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who first inhabited what is now southern Poland. They established Vandal Kingdom, Vandal kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean islands, and North Africa in the fifth century. The ...
,
Juthungi Memorial stone from Augsburg The Juthungi (Greek: ''Iouthungoi'', Latin: ''Iuthungi'') were a Germanic tribe This list of ancient Germanic peoples is a list of groups and alliances of ancient Germanic peoples in ancient times. These reports begin ...
,
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ; la, Sarmatae , ) were a large Iranian peoples, Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD. Originating in the centr ...
, and
Carpi Carpi may refer to : Places * Carpi, Emilia-Romagna, a large town in the province of Modena, central Italy * Carpi (Africa), a city and former diocese of Roman Africa, now a Latin Catholic titular bishopric People * Carpi (people), an ancie ...
. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the
Palmyrene Empire The Palmyrene Empire was a short-lived Breakaway state, splinter state of the Roman Empire resulting from the Crisis of the Third Century. Named after its capital city, Palmyra, it encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petra ...

Palmyrene Empire
in 273. The following year he conquered the
Gallic Empire The Gallic Empire or the Gallic Roman Empire are names used in modern historiography for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rh ...
in the west, reuniting the Empire in its entirety. He was also responsible for the construction of the
Aurelian Walls The Aurelian Walls ( it, Mura aureliane) are a line of city walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of ...
in
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
, the abandonment of the province of
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians The Dacians (; la, Daci ; grc-gre, Δάκοι, Δάοι, Δάκαι) were a Thracians, Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the ar ...

Dacia
, and monetary reform. Although
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
, two centuries previous, was the first emperor who had demanded to be officially hailed as ''dominus et deus'' (master and god), these titles never occurred in written form on official documents until the reign of Aurelian.


Early life

Aurelian was born on 9 September, most likely in 214 AD, although 215 is also possible. The ancient sources do not agree on his place of birth, although he was generally accepted as being a native of
Illyricum Illyricum may refer to: * Illyria In classical antiquity, Illyria ( grc, Ἰλλυρία, ''Illyría'' or , ''Illyrís''; la, Illyria, ''Illyricum'') was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by numerous tribes of peopl ...
but, another common belief was that he was born in Greece. According to the author of the ''
Historia Augusta The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, r ...
'', "Aurelian was born of a humble family, at
Sirmium Sirmium was a city in the Roman province of Pannonia, located on the Sava river, on the site of modern Sremska Mitrovica in northern Serbia Serbia (, ; sr, Србија, Srbija, ),, * cs, Srbsko, * ro, Serbia * rue, Сербия *germa ...

Sirmium
according to most writers, but in
Dacia Ripensis Dacia Ripensis () was the name of a Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and l ...
according to some. I remember, moreover, having read one author who declared that he was born in
Moesia Moesia (; Latin: ''Moesia''; el, Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern ...
..." The province of
Dacia Ripensis Dacia Ripensis () was the name of a Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and l ...
was actually created in
Moesia Moesia (; Latin: ''Moesia''; el, Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern ...
by Aurelian as emperor when he abandoned the old trans-Danubian territory of
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians The Dacians (; la, Daci ; grc-gre, Δάκοι, Δάοι, Δάκαι) were a Thracians, Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the ar ...

Dacia
. The Roman historian Eutropius also opts for the area that later became Dacia Ripensis. The academic consensus is that he was of humble birth and that his father was a peasant-farmer who took his Roman ''
nomen Nomen may refer to: *Nomen (Roman name) The (or simply ) was a hereditary name borne by the peoples of ancient Italy and later by the citizens of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. It was originally the name of one's (family or clan) by p ...
'' from his landlord, a senator of the
Aurelia gens The gens Aurelia was a plebeian family at ancient Rome, which flourished from the third century BC to the latest period of the Roman Empire, Empire. The first of the Aurelian gens to obtain the Roman consul, consulship was Gaius Aurelius Cotta ...
. Saunders suggests that his family might in fact have been of Roman settler origin and of much higher social status; however, his suggestion has not been taken up by his more recent academic colleagues such as Southern and Watson. Using the evidence of the ancient sources, it was at one time suggested that Aurelian's mother was a
freedwoman A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person (a s ...
of a member of the Aurelia gens and that she herself was a priestess of the
sun god A solar deity (also sun goddess or sun god) is a sky deity The sky often has important religious significance. Many religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, have deities associated with the sky. The day lit sky deities are ty ...
in her native village. These two propositions, together with the tradition that the clan Aurelius had been entrusted with the maintenance of that deity's cult in Rome, inspired the notion that this could explain the devotion to the sun-god that Aurelian was to manifest as emperor. However, it seems that this pleasant extrapolation of dubious facts is now generally accepted as being no more than just that.


Military career

It is commonly accepted that Aurelian probably joined the army in 235 AD at around age twenty. It is also generally assumed that, as a member of the lowest rank of societyalbeit a citizenhe would have enlisted in the ranks of the legions. Saunders suggests that his career is more easily understood if it is assumed that his family was of Roman settler origins with a tradition of military service and that he enlisted as an equestrian. This would have opened up for him the ''tres militia''the three steps of the equestrian military careerone of the routes to higher equestrian office in the Imperial Service. This could be a more expeditious route to senior military and
procurator Procurator (with procuracy or procuratorate referring to the office itself) may refer to: * Procurator, one engaged in procuration, the action of taking care of, hence management, stewardship, agency * ''Procurator'' (Ancient Rome), the title of ...
ial offices than that pursued by ex-rankers, although not necessarily less laborious. However, Saunders's conjecture as to Aurelian's early career is not supported by any evidence other than his ''nomen'' which could indicate Italian settler ancestry—although even this is contested—and his rise to the highest ranks which is more easily understood if he did not have to start from the bottom. His suggestion has not been taken up by other academic authorities. Whatever his origins, Aurelian certainly must have built up a very solid reputation for military competence during the tumultuous mid-decades of the century. To be sure, the exploits detailed in the ''
Historia Augusta The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, r ...
'' ''vita Divi Aureliani'', while not always impossible, are not supported by any independent evidence and one at least is demonstrably an invention typical of that author. However, he was probably associated with
Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (; c. 218 – September 268) was Roman emperor with his father Valerian (emperor), Valerian from 253 to 260 and alone from 260 to 268. He ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century that nearly caused the coll ...

Gallienus
's cavalry army and shone as an officer of that elite unit because, when he finally emerged in a historically reliable context in the early part of the reign of
Claudius II Marcus Aurelius Claudius 'Gothicus' (10 May 214 – January 270), also known as Claudius II, was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). Th ...
, he seems to have been its commander.


Service under Ulpius Crinitus

The existence of Ulpius Crinitus has been doubted by many
historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the stu ...
s. If he did exist he would have been a
Dux ''Dux'' (; plural: ''ducēs'') is Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the ...

Dux
of the
Illyrian Illyrian may refer to: * Illyria, the historical region on the Balkan Peninsula ** Illyrians, ancient tribes inhabiting Illyria ** Illyrian language, a language or group of languages of ancient Illyrian tribes * Illyrian (South Slavic), a common na ...
and
Thracia 250px, Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117–38), showing the imperial province of Thracia in southeastern Europe. Thracia or Thrace ( ''Thrakē'') is the ancient name given to the southeastern Balkans, Balkan region, the land inhabited by ...
n . Ulpius was reportedly born in the city of
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic peoples, Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio Africanus, Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the ...
, which is currently in
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
. Aurelian was reportedly his deputy for a time. When a group of
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between West ...
invaded An invasion is a Offensive (military), military offensive in which large numbers of combatants of one geopolitics, geopolitical Legal entity, entity aggressively enter territory (country subdivision), territory owned by another such entity, gene ...
Illyria and Thrace, Ulpius had been taken ill, so he had Aurelian deal with the invaders. He designated Aurelian the of the Third Legion. Aurelian commanded two thousand five hundred
Auxilia The lat, Auxilia (: , lit. "auxiliaries") were introduced as non-citizen troops attached to the citizen by after his reorganisation of the from 30 BC. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same number of infantry as the legions ...
ries, and the tribal forces of four German Chieftains. He defeated the barbarians in battle and used the resources gained from the battles to enrich the
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
. After the battle, Crinitus thanked Valerian, the emperor at the time, for providing him with such a talented deputy. Afterward, Crinitus adopted Aurelian as his heir, either voluntarily or possibly through force. Following this, Crinitus disappeared from the historical record. A painting showing Ulpius Crinitus alongside Aurelian has been found in the Temple of Sol, adding to the veracity of his existence.


Service under Gallienus

Aurelian's successes as a cavalry commander ultimately made him a member of Emperor
Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (; c. 218 – September 268) was Roman emperor with his father Valerian (emperor), Valerian from 253 to 260 and alone from 260 to 268. He ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century that nearly caused the coll ...

Gallienus
' entourage. In 268, Aurelian and his cavalry participated in general
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...
' victory over the
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between West ...
at the
Battle of Naissus The Battle of Naissus (268 or 269 CE) was the defeat of a Gothic coalition by the Roman Empire under Emperor Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (; c. 218 – September 268) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of t ...
. Later that year, Gallienus traveled to Italy and fought
Aureolus Aureolus (died 268) was a Roman Empire, Roman Roman army, military commander and would-be usurper. He was one of the so-called Thirty Tyrants (Roman), Thirty Tyrants who populated the reign of the Emperor Gallienus. Of humble Daco-Roman origins, h ...

Aureolus
, his former general and now usurper for the throne. Driving Aureolus back into
Mediolanum Mediolanum, the ancient city where Milan Milan (, , Milanese: ; it, Milano ) is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome. Milan served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire, ...

Mediolanum
, Gallienus promptly besieged his adversary in the city. However, while the siege was ongoing the Emperor was assassinated. One source says Aurelian, who was present at the siege, participated and supported general Claudius for the purple—which is plausible. Aurelian was married to Ulpia Severina, about whom little is known. She was from
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians The Dacians (; la, Daci ; grc-gre, Δάκοι, Δάοι, Δάκαι) were a Thracians, Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the ar ...

Dacia
. They are known to have had a daughter together.


Service under Claudius

Claudius was acclaimed emperor by the soldiers outside Mediolanum. The new emperor immediately ordered the senate to deify Gallienus. Next, he began to distance himself from those responsible for his predecessor's assassination, ordering the execution of those directly involved.
Aureolus Aureolus (died 268) was a Roman Empire, Roman Roman army, military commander and would-be usurper. He was one of the so-called Thirty Tyrants (Roman), Thirty Tyrants who populated the reign of the Emperor Gallienus. Of humble Daco-Roman origins, h ...

Aureolus
was still besieged in Mediolanum and sought reconciliation with the new emperor, but Claudius had no sympathy for a potential rival. The emperor had Aureolus killed and one source implicates Aurelian in the deed, perhaps even signing the warrant for his death himself. During the reign of Claudius, Aurelian was promoted rapidly: he was given command of the elite Dalmatian cavalry and soon promoted to overall ''
Magister equitum The , in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate appointed as lieutenant to a Roman dictator, dictator. His nominal function was to serve as commander of the Roman cavalry in time of war, but just as a dictato ...
'', what was effectively the head of the army after the emperor and what had been Emperor Claudius' own position before his acclamation. The war against Aureolus and the concentration of forces in Italy allowed the
Alamanni The Alemanni (also ''Alamanni''; ''Suebi'' "Swabians") were a confederation of Germanic tribe This list of ancient s is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in anci ...
to break through the
Rhaetian limes The Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes (german: Obergermanisch-Raetischer Limes), or ORL, is a 550-kilometre-long section of the former external frontier of the Roman Empire between the rivers Rhine and Danube. It runs from Rheinbrohl to Eining Roman Ca ...
along the upper
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
. Marching through
Raetia Raetia ( ; ; also spelled Rhaetia) was a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, firs ...

Raetia
and the
Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest and most extensive mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt ...

Alps
unhindered, they entered northern Italy and began pillaging the area. In early 269, emperor Claudius and Aurelian marched north to meet the Alamanni, defeating them at the Battle of Lake Benacus. While still dealing with the defeated enemy, news came from the
Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rathe ...

Balkans
reporting large-scale attacks from the
Heruli The Heruli (or Herules) were an early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Ger ...
,
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi) were a Germanic people The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between West ...
,
Gepids The Gepids ( la, Gepidae, Gipedae, grc, Γήπαιδες) were an East Germanic tribe who lived in the area of modern Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern ...
, and
Bastarnae The Bastarnae (Latin language, Latin variants: ''Bastarni'', or ''Basternae''; grc, Βαστάρναι or Βαστέρναι) were an ancient people who between 200 BC and 300 AD inhabited the region between the Carpathian Mountains and the river ...
. Claudius immediately dispatched Aurelian to the Balkans to contain the invasion as best he could until Claudius could arrive with his main army. The Goths were besieging
Thessalonica Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, ), also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki or Salonica () is the second-largest city in Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in So ...
when they heard of emperor Claudius' approach, causing them to abandon the siege and pillage north-eastern Macedonia. Aurelian intercepted the Goths with his Dalmatian cavalry and defeated them in a series of minor skirmishes, killing as many as three thousand of the enemy. Aurelian continued to harass the enemy, driving them northward into
Upper Moesia Moesia (; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
where emperor Claudius had assembled his main army. The ensuing battle was indecisive: the northward advance of the Goths was halted but Roman losses were heavy. Claudius could not afford another pitched battle, so he instead laid a successful ambush, killing thousands. However, the majority of the Goths escaped and began retreating south the way they had come. For the rest of year, Aurelian harassed the enemy with his Dalmatian cavalry. Now stranded in Roman territory, the Goths' lack of provisions began to take its toll. Aurelian, sensing his enemies' desperation, attacked them with the full force of his cavalry, killing many and driving the remainder westward into
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
. As winter set in, the Goths retreated into the Haemus Mountains, only to find themselves trapped and surrounded. The harsh conditions now exacerbated their shortage of food. However, the Romans underestimated the Goths and let their guard down, allowing the enemy to break through their lines and escape. Apparently emperor Claudius ignored advice, perhaps from Aurelian, and withheld the cavalry and sent in only the infantry to stop their break-out. The determined Goths killed many of the oncoming infantry and were only prevented from slaughtering them all when Aurelian finally charged in with his Dalmatian cavalry. The Goths still managed to escape and continued their march through Thrace. The Roman army continued to follow the Goths during the spring and summer of 270. Meanwhile, a devastating plague swept through the Balkans, killing many soldiers in both armies. Emperor Claudius fell ill on the march to the battle and returned to his regional headquarters in Sirmium, leaving Aurelian in charge of operations against the Goths. Aurelian used his cavalry to great effect, breaking the Goths into smaller groups which were easier to handle. By late summer the Goths were defeated: any survivors were stripped of their animals and booty and were levied into the army or settled as farmers in frontier regions. Aurelian had no time to relish his victories; in late August news arrived from Sirmium that Emperor Claudius was dead.


Opposition to Quintillus

When Claudius died, his brother
Quintillus Quintillus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus; died April 270) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety o ...
seized power with support of the Senate. With an act typical of the
Crisis of the Third Century The Crisis of the Third Century, also known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (235–284 AD), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed. It ended due to the military victories of Aurelian and with the ascension of Dioclet ...
, the army refused to recognize the new Emperor, preferring to support one of its own commanders: Aurelian was proclaimed emperor about May 270 by the
legion Legion may refer to: Military * Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...

legion
s in Sirmium. Aurelian defeated Quintillus' troops, and was recognized as Emperor by the Senate after Quintillus' death. The claim that Aurelian was chosen by Claudius on his death bed can be dismissed as propaganda; later, probably in 272, Aurelian put his own ''dies imperii'' at the day of Claudius' death, thus implicitly considering Quintillus a
usurper A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of ...
.Korner. With his base of power secure, he now turned his attention to Rome's greatest problems—recovering the vast territories lost over the previous two decades, and reforming the ''res publica''.


Emperor


The Roman Empire in the 270s

In 248, Emperor
Philip the Arab Philip the Arab ( la, Marcus Julius Philippus Arabs; 204 – September 249) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors us ...
had celebrated the millennium of the city of Rome with great and expensive ceremonies and games, and the Empire had given a tremendous proof of self-confidence. In the following years, however, the Empire had to face a huge pressure from external enemies, while, at the same time, dangerous civil wars threatened the empire from within, with usurpers weakening the strength of the state. Also, the economic substrate of the state, agriculture and commerce, suffered from the disruption caused by the instability. On top of this an epidemic swept through the Empire around 250, greatly diminishing manpower both for the army and for agriculture. The end result was that the Empire could not endure the blow of the capture of Emperor Valerian in 260 by the
Sassanids The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, '), and also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last before the in the mid-7th century AD. Named after the , it endured for over four centuri ...
. The eastern provinces found their protectors in the rulers of the city of
Palmyra Palmyra (; Palmyrene dialect, Palmyrene: 𐡶𐡣𐡬𐡥𐡴 () ''Tadmor''; ar, تَدْمُر ''Tadmur'') is an ancient Semitic people, Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic pe ...

Palmyra
, in
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
, whose autonomy grew until the formation of the
Palmyrene Empire The Palmyrene Empire was a short-lived Breakaway state, splinter state of the Roman Empire resulting from the Crisis of the Third Century. Named after its capital city, Palmyra, it encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petra ...

Palmyrene Empire
, which was successful in defending against the Sassanid threat. The western provinces, those facing the ''
limes Limes is the plural of lime. It is also the Latin word for ''limit'' which refers to: * Limes (Roman Empire), a border marking and defense system of the ancient Roman Empire * Limes (magazine), ''Limes'' (magazine), an Italian geopolitical magazi ...
'' of the
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many s ...

Rhine
, seceded to form a third, autonomous state within the territories of the Roman Empire, which is now known as the
Gallic Empire The Gallic Empire or the Gallic Roman Empire are names used in modern historiography for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rh ...
. In Rome, the Emperor was occupied with internal menaces to his power and with the defense of
Italia Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...
and the Balkans.


Reunification of the empire

The first actions of the new Emperor were aimed at strengthening his own position in his territories. Late in 270, Aurelian campaigned in northern
Italia Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...
against the
Vandals The Vandals were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who first inhabited what is now southern Poland. They established Vandal Kingdom, Vandal kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean islands, and North Africa in the fifth century. The ...
,
Juthungi Memorial stone from Augsburg The Juthungi (Greek: ''Iouthungoi'', Latin: ''Iuthungi'') were a Germanic tribe This list of ancient Germanic peoples is a list of groups and alliances of ancient Germanic peoples in ancient times. These reports begin ...
, and
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ; la, Sarmatae , ) were a large Iranian peoples, Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD. Originating in the centr ...
, expelling them from Roman territory. To celebrate these victories, Aurelian was granted the title of ''Germanicus Maximus''. The authority of the Emperor was challenged by several usurpersSeptimius,
Urbanus Urbain Servranckx (born 7 June 1949), better known as Urbanus, is a Belgian comedian, actor, singer and comic book A comic book, also called comic magazine or (in the United Kingdom and Ireland) simply comic, is a publication that consists o ...
, Domitianus, and the rebellion of Felicissimus—who tried to exploit the sense of insecurity of the empire and the overwhelming influence of the armies in Roman politics. Aurelian, being an experienced commander, was aware of the importance of the army, and his propaganda, known through his coinage, shows he wanted the support of the legions.


Defending Italy against the Juthungi

The burden of the northern barbarians was not yet over, however. In 271, the
Alamanni The Alemanni (also ''Alamanni''; ''Suebi'' "Swabians") were a confederation of Germanic tribe This list of ancient s is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in anci ...
moved towards Italia, entering the
Po plain The Po Valley, Po Plain, Plain of the Po, or Padan Plain ( it, Pianura Padana , or ''Val Padana'') is a major geographical feature of Northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, lab ...
and sacking the villages; they passed the
Po River The Po ( , ; la, Padus or ; grc, Πάδος, Pádos, or , ; Ancient Ligurian: or ) is the longest river in Italy. It is a river that flows eastward across northern Italy starting from the Cottian Alps; it, Alpi Cozie , photo=Monviso_Cottian ...
, occupied Placentia and moved towards
Fano Fano is a town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public services: Civil ...

Fano
. Aurelian, who was in Pannonia to control the
Vandals The Vandals were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who first inhabited what is now southern Poland. They established Vandal Kingdom, Vandal kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean islands, and North Africa in the fifth century. The ...
' withdrawal, quickly entered Italia, but his army was defeated in an ambush near Placentia (January 271). When the news of the defeat arrived in Rome, it caused great fear for the arrival of the barbarians. But Aurelian attacked the Alamanni camping near the
Metaurus River The Metauro is a river in the Marche region of central Italy. It rises in the Apennine Mountains and runs east for or if the Meta is included as its uppermost reach. The name of the river in Latin is ''Metaurus'' or ''Mataurus.'' In Ancient Gree ...
, defeating them in the
Battle of Fano The Battle of Fano, also known as the Battle of Fanum Fortunae,Michael Grant, The History of Rome, p. 285 was fought in 271 between the Roman Empire and the Juthungi. The Romans were led by Emperor Aurelian Aurelian ( la, Lucius Domitius Au ...
, and forcing them to re-cross the Po river; Aurelian finally routed them at
Pavia Pavia (, , , ; la, Ticinum; Medieval Latin: ) is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy in northern Italy, south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po River, Po. It has a population of c. 73,086. The city was ...
. For this, he received the title ''Germanicus Maximus''. However, the menace of the Germanic people and a Germanic invasion was still perceived by the Romans as likely, so Aurelian resolved to build a new system of walls around
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
that became known as the
Aurelian Walls The Aurelian Walls ( it, Mura aureliane) are a line of city walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of ...
.


Defeat of the Goths and abandonment of Dacia

The emperor led his legions to the Balkans, where he defeated and routed the Goths beyond the Danube, killing the Gothic leader Cannabaudes, and assuming the title of ''Gothicus Maximus''. However, he decided to abandon the province of
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians The Dacians (; la, Daci ; grc-gre, Δάκοι, Δάοι, Δάκαι) were a Thracians, Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the ar ...

Dacia
, on the exposed north bank of the Danube, as too difficult and expensive to defend. He reorganized a new province of Dacia south of the Danube, inside the former
Moesia Moesia (; Latin: ''Moesia''; el, Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern ...
, called '' Dacia Aureliana'', with
Serdica Serdika or Serdica is the historical Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome ( ...
as the capital.


Conquest of the Palmyrene Empire

In 272, Aurelian turned his attention to the lost eastern provinces of the empire, the
Palmyrene Empire The Palmyrene Empire was a short-lived Breakaway state, splinter state of the Roman Empire resulting from the Crisis of the Third Century. Named after its capital city, Palmyra, it encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petra ...

Palmyrene Empire
, ruled by Queen
Zenobia Septimia Zenobia (Palmyrene dialect, Palmyrene: 𐡡𐡶𐡦𐡡𐡩 () ''Btzby''/''Bat-Zabbai''; 240 – c. 274 AD) was a third-century queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria (region), Syria. Many legends surround her ancestry; she was probab ...

Zenobia
from the city of
Palmyra Palmyra (; Palmyrene dialect, Palmyrene: 𐡶𐡣𐡬𐡥𐡴 () ''Tadmor''; ar, تَدْمُر ''Tadmur'') is an ancient Semitic people, Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic pe ...

Palmyra
. Zenobia had carved out her own empire, encompassing
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
,
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
and large parts of
Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of ...

Asia Minor
. The Syrian queen cut off Rome's shipments of grain, and in a matter of weeks, the Romans started running low on bread. In the beginning, Aurelian had been recognized as Emperor, while
Vaballathus Septimius Vaballathus (Palmyrene Palmyrene may refer to: * an inhabitant of ancient Palmyra, Syria * Palmyrene alphabet * Palmyrene Aramaic * Palmyrene Empire * Palmyrene (Unicode block) {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation p ...

Vaballathus
, the son of Zenobia, held the title of ''rex'' and ''imperator'' ("king" and "supreme military commander"), but Aurelian decided to invade the eastern provinces as soon as he felt his army to be strong enough. Asia Minor was recovered easily; every city but
Byzantium Byzantium () or Byzantion ( grc-gre, Βυζάντιον) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark A ...

Byzantium
and
Tyana Tyana ( grc, Τύανα; Hittite language, Hittite ''Tuwanuwa'') was an ancient city in the Anatolian region of Cappadocia, in modern Kemerhisar, Niğde Province, Central Anatolia Region, Central Anatolia, Turkey. It was the capital of a Luvians ...
surrendered to him with little resistance. The fall of Tyana lent itself to a legend: Aurelian to that point had destroyed every city that resisted him, but he spared Tyana after having a vision of the great 1st-century philosopher
Apollonius of Tyana Apollonius of Tyana ( grc, Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς; c. 3 BC – c. 97 AD), sometimes also called Apollonios of Tyana, was a Greeks, Greek Neopythagoreanism, Neopythagorean Ancient Greek philosophy, philosopher ...

Apollonius of Tyana
, whom he respected greatly, in a dream. Apollonius implored: "Aurelian, if you desire to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent! Aurelian, if you will conquer, be merciful!" Aurelian spared Tyana, and it paid off; many more cities submitted to him upon seeing that the Emperor would not exact revenge upon them. Within six months, his armies stood at the gates of Palmyra, which surrendered when Zenobia tried to flee to the
Sassanid Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...
. Eventually Zenobia and her son were captured and made to walk on the streets of Rome in his triumph, the woman in golden chains. With the grain stores once again shipped to Rome, Aurelian's soldiers handed out free bread to the citizens of the city, and the Emperor was hailed a hero by his subjects. After a brief clash with the Persians and another in Egypt against the usurper
Firmus:''For the 4th-century Roman usurper under Valentinian I, see Firmus (4th-century usurper)Firmus (died 375) was a Berber prince and Roman usurper Roman usurpers were individuals or groups of individuals who obtained or tried to obtain power by for ...
, Aurelian was obliged to return to Palmyra in 273 when that city rebelled once more. This time, Aurelian allowed his soldiers to sack the city, and Palmyra never recovered. More honors came his way; he was now known as ''Parthicus Maximus'' and ''Restitutor Orientis'' ("Restorer of the East"). The rich province of Egypt was also recovered by Aurelian. The Brucheion (Royal Quarter) in Alexandria was burned to the ground. This section of the city once contained the
Library of Alexandria The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The Library was part of a larger research institution called the Musaeum, Mouseion, which was dedicated to the ...

Library of Alexandria
, although the extent of the surviving Library in Aurelian's time is uncertain.


Conquest of the Gallic Empire

In 274, the victorious emperor turned his attention to the west, and the
Gallic Empire The Gallic Empire or the Gallic Roman Empire are names used in modern historiography for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rh ...
which had already been reduced in size by Claudius II. Aurelian won this campaign largely through diplomacy; the "Gallic Emperor" Tetricus was willing to abandon his throne and allow Gaul and Britain to return to the Empire, but could not openly submit to Aurelian. Instead, the two seem to have conspired so that when the armies met at
Châlons-en-Champagne Châlons-en-Champagne () is a city in the Grand Est region of France. It is the capital of the Departments of France, department of Marne (department), Marne, despite being only a quarter the size of the city of Reims. Formerly called Châlons ...

Châlons-en-Champagne
that autumn, Tetricus simply deserted to the Roman camp and Aurelian easily defeated the Gallic army facing him. Tetricus was rewarded for his part in the conspiracy with a high-ranking position in Italy itself. Aurelian returned to Rome and won his last honorific from the Senate – ''Restitutor Orbis'' ("Restorer of the World"). This title was first assumed by Aurelian in late summer of 272, and had been carried previously by both Valerian and Gallienus. In four years, Aurelian had secured the frontiers of the Empire and reunified it, effectively giving the Empire a new lease on life that lasted 200 years.


Reforms

Aurelian was a reformer, and settled many important functions of the imperial apparatus, dealing with the economy and religion. He restored many public buildings, re-organized the management of the food reserves, set fixed prices for the most important goods, and prosecuted misconduct by the public officers.


Religious reform

Aurelian strengthened the position of the Sun god Sol Invictus as the main divinity of the Roman pantheon. His intention was to give to all the peoples of the Empire, civilian or soldiers, easterners or westerners, a single god they could believe in without betraying their own gods. The center of the cult was Temple of the Sun (Rome), a new temple, built in 274 and dedicated on December 25 of that year in the ''Campus Agrippae'' in Rome, with great decorations financed by the spoils of the Palmyrene Empire. During his short rule, Aurelian seemed to follow the principle of "one faith, one empire", which would not be made official until the Edict of Thessalonica. He appears with the title ''deus et dominus natus'' ("God and born ruler") on some of his coins, a style also later adopted by Diocletian. Lactantius argued that Aurelian would have outlawed all the other gods if he had had enough time. He was recorded by Christian historians as having organized Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, persecutions.


Felicissimus' rebellion and coinage reform

Aurelian's reign records the only uprising of mint workers. The ''rationalis'' Felicissimus, a senior public financial official whose responsibilities included supervision of the mint at Rome, revolted against Aurelian. The revolt seems to have been caused by the fact that the mint workers, and Felicissimus first, were accustomed to stealing the silver for the coins and producing coins of inferior quality. Aurelian wanted to eliminate this, and put Felicissimus on trial. The ''rationalis'' incited the mintworkers to revolt: the rebellion spread in the streets, even if it seems that Felicissimus was killed immediately, presumably executed. The Palmyrene rebellion in Egypt had probably reduced the Grain supply to the city of Rome, grain supply to Rome, thus disaffecting the population to the emperor. This rebellion also had the support of some senators, probably those who had supported the election of
Quintillus Quintillus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus; died April 270) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety o ...
, and thus had something to fear from Aurelian. Aurelian ordered the urban cohorts, reinforced by some regular troops of the imperial army, to attack the rebelling mob: the resulting battle, fought on the Caelian hill, marked the end of the revolt, even if at a high price (some sources give the figure, probably exaggerated, of 7,000 casualties). Many of the rebels were executed; also some of the supporting senators were put to death. The mint of Rome was closed temporarily, and the institution of several other mints caused the main mint of the empire to lose its hegemony. His monetary reformation included the introduction of ''antoninianus, antoniniani'' containing 5% silver. They bore the mark XXI (or its Greek numeral form KA), which meant that twenty of such coins would contain the same silver quantity of an old silver ''denarius''. Considering that this was an improvement over the previous situation gives an idea of the severity of the economic situation Aurelian faced. The Emperor struggled to introduce the new "good" coin by recalling all the old "bad" coins prior to their introduction. A very large number of rare gold coins of Aurelian have been discovered as part of the Lava Treasure in Corsica, France, in the 1980s.


Food distribution reforms

Rome had been distributing grain to its poorest citizens at a reduced price since 123 BC, and for free since 58 BC through the ''Cura Annonae''. Aurelian is usually credited with changing or completing the change of the food distribution system from grain or flour to bread, and adding olive oil, salt, and pork to the products distributed to the populace. These products had been distributed sporadically before. Aurelian is also credited with increasing the size of the loaves of bread without increasing their price—a measure that was undoubtedly popular with the Romans who were not receiving free bread and other products through the dole. Aurelian is believed to have terminated Trajan's ''alimenta'' program. Roman prefect Titus Flavius Postumius Quietus was the last known official in charge of the ''alimenta'', in 271 AD. If Aurelian "did suppress this food distribution system, he most likely intended to put into effect a more radical reform."Pat Southern, ''The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine'' (London: Routledge, 2015), , page 181.


Death

The deaths of the Sassanid Kings Shapur I (272) and Hormizd I (273) in quick succession, and the rise to power of a weakened ruler (Bahram I), presented an opportunity to attack the Sassanid Empire, and in 275 Aurelian set out for another campaign against the Sassanids. On his way, he suppressed a revolt in Gaul—possibly against Faustinus, an officer or usurper of Tetricus—and defeated barbarian marauders in Vindelicia (Germany). However, Aurelian never reached Persia, as he was murdered while waiting in Thrace to cross into Asia Minor. As an administrator, he had been strict and had handed out severe punishments to corrupt officials or soldiers. A secretary of his (called Eros by Zosimus) had told a lie on a minor issue. In fear of what the emperor might do, he forged a document listing the names of high officials marked by the emperor for execution and showed it to collaborators. The ''notarius'' Mucapor and other high-ranking officers of the Praetorian Guard, fearing punishment from the emperor, murdered him in September 275, in Caenophrurium, Thrace (modern Turkey). Aurelian's enemies in the Senate briefly succeeded in passing ''damnatio memoriae'' on the emperor, but this was reversed before the end of the year, and Aurelian, like his predecessor Claudius II, was deified as ''Divus Aurelianus''. There is substantial evidence that Aurelian's wife, Ulpia Severina, who had been declared ''Augusta (honorific), Augusta'' in 274, ruled the empire in her own right for some time after his death. Sources hint at an interregnum between Aurelian's death and the election of Marcus Claudius Tacitus as his successor. Additionally, some of Ulpia's coins appear to have been minted after Aurelian's death.


Legacy

Aurelian's short reign reunited a fragmented Empire while saving Rome from barbarian invasions that had reached Italy itself. His death prevented a full restoration of political stability and a lasting dynasty that could end the cycle of assassination of emperors and civil war that marked this period. Even so, he brought the Empire through a very critical period in its history and, without Aurelian, it might never have survived the invasions and fragmentation of the decade in which he reigned. Moreover, the Western half of the Empire would survive another two hundred years, while the East would last another millennium, and for that Aurelian must be allowed much of the credit. The city of Orléans in France is named after Aurelian. Originally named Cenabum, Aurelian rebuilt and renamed it ''Aurelianum'' or ''Aureliana Civitas'' ("city of Aurelian", ''cité d'Aurélien''), which evolved into ''Orléans''.


Family tree


Notes


References


Primary sources

* Aurelius Victor ''Epitome de Caesaribus'', xxxv "Epitome de Caesaribus" (4th century) * Eutropius, ''Breviarium historiae Romanae'', IX. 13–15 (4th century) * ''
Historia Augusta The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, r ...
Aurelianus Life of Aurelian Part 1 Part 2 Part 3'' * Zosimus, ''Historia Nova'' Translation of the ''Historia Nova'' (published in 1814), book 1, (5th–6th century) *


Secondary sources

* * (Korner:2001) * * (Southern:2001); * *


Further reading

*


External links


Aurelian coinage
at Wildwinds.com

{{Authority control Aurelian, 210s births 275 deaths 3rd-century murdered monarchs Crisis of the Third Century Illyrian people Deified Roman emperors Domitii, Aurelianus, Lucius 3rd-century Roman emperors Imperial Roman consuls Roman emperors murdered by the Praetorian Guard Gothicus Maximus Assassinated heads of state People from Sirmium Roman emperors to suffer posthumous denigration or damnatio memoriae