Carus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Carus Augustus;[1][2] c. 222[3] – July or August 283) was Roman Emperor from 282 to 283, and was 60 at ascension. During his short reign, Carus fought the Germanic tribes and Sarmatians along the Danube frontier with success.

He died while campaigning against the Sassanid Empire, shortly after his forces sacked its capital Ctesiphon. He was succeeded by his sons Carinus and Numerian, creating a dynasty which, though short-lived, provided further stability to the resurgent empire.


An Antoninianus of Carus.

Carus, whose name before the accession may have been Marcus Numerius Carus,[4] was likely born at Narbo (modern Narbonne) in Gaul[5][6] but was educated in Rome.[7] He was a senator[8] and filled various civil and military posts before being appointed prefect of the Praetorian Guard by the emperor Probus in 282.[9]

After the murder of Probus at Sirmium, Carus was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers.[10] Although Carus severely avenged the death of Probus, he was suspected as an accessory to the deed.[11] He does not seem to have returned to Rome after his accession, contenting himself with an announcement to the Senate.[12]

Campaign against the Sassanids and death

The top panel at Naqsh-e Rustam depicts the victory of Bahram II over Carus. The victory of Bahram II over Hormizd I Kushanshah is depicted in the bottom panel.[13]

Bestowing the title of Caesar upon his sons Carinus and Numerian,[14][15] he left Carinus in charge of the western portion of the empire and took Numerian with him on an expedition against the Persians, which had been contemplated by Probus.[16] Having defeated the Quadi and Sarmatians on the Danube,[17] for which he was given the title Germanicus Maximus,[18] Carus proceeded through Thrace and Asia Minor, annexed Mesopotamia, pressed on to Seleucia and Ctesiphon, and marched his soldiers beyond the Tigris.[19]

The Sassanid King Bahram II, limited by internal opposition and his troops occupied with a campaign in modern-day Afghanistan, could not effectively defend his territory.[20] The victories of Carus avenged all the previous defeats suffered by the Romans against the Sassanids, and he received the title of Persicus Maximus.[21]

Carus' hopes of further conquest were cut short by his death, which was announced after a violent storm.[22] His death was variously attributed to disease,[23] the effects of lightning,[24] a wound received in the campaign against the Persians,[25] or an assassination planned by his Praetorian prefect, Lucius Flavius Aper.[26] The fact that he was leading a victorious campaign, and his son Numerian succeeded him without opposition, suggest that his death may have been due to natural causes.[27]

See also


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

  • Leadbetter, William, "Carus (282–283 A.D.)", DIR
  • Jones, A.H.M., Martindale, J.R. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I: AD260-395, Cambridge University Press, 1971
  • Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001
  • Canduci, Alexander (2010), Triumph & Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors, Pier 9, ISBN 978-1-74196-598-8 
  • Gibbon. Edward Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1888)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Carus, Marcus Aurelius". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


  1. ^ In Classical Latin, Carus' name would be inscribed as MARCVS AVRELIVS CARVS AVGVSTVS.
  2. ^ Jones, pg. 183
  3. ^ Canduci, pg. 105
  4. ^ Jones, pg. 183
  5. ^ Victor, 38:1
  6. ^ The tradition that he was one of the so-called "Illyrian Emperors", based on the unreliable vita Cari embedded in the Augustan History, was accepted uncritically by Joseph Scaliger, who assumed the other sources were wrong, and followed by Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. (Tom B. Jones, "A Note on Marcus Aurelius Carus" Classical Philology 37.2 (April 1942), pp. 193–194).
  7. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 4:2
  8. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 5:4
  9. ^ Canduci, pg.105
  10. ^ Zonaras, 12:29
  11. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 6:1
  12. ^ Southern, pg. 132
  13. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica [1]
  14. ^ Zonaras, 12:30
  15. ^ Victor 38:2
  16. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 7:1
  17. ^ Canduci, pg. 105
  18. ^ Leadbetter, www.roman-emperors.org/carus.htm
  19. ^ Zonaras, 12:30
  20. ^ Leadbetter, www.roman-emperors.org/carus.htm
  21. ^ Southern, pg. 133
  22. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 8:3
  23. ^ Historia Augusta, "Vita Cari", 8:2
  24. ^ Victor, 38:3
  25. ^ Zonaras, 12:30
  26. ^ Southern, Patricia (May 15, 2015). The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. Routledge. p. 193. ISBN 9781317496946. 
  27. ^ Leadbetter, www.roman-emperors.org/carus.htm
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Carinus (283)
Succeeded by
Carinus and Numerian
Political offices
Preceded by
Probus ,
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Carinus
Succeeded by