Herennius Etruscus (Latin: Caesar Quintus Herennius Etruscus Messius Decius Augustus; c. 227–June 251), was Roman emperor in 251, ruling jointly with his father Decius. He was born in c.227 AD. His father, Decius, was proclaimed emperor by his troops in September 249, while leading troops in Pannonia and Moesia, in opposition to Emperor Philip the Arab. Decius defeated Philip in battle, and was proclaimed emperor by the Roman Senate. Herennius Etruscus was elevated to caesar in 250, then further raised to augustus in May 251. When the Goths, under Cniva, invaded the Danubian provinces, Herennius Etruscus was sent with a vanguard, followed by the main body of Roman troops, led by Decius. They ambushed Cniva at the Battle of Nicopolis, routing him, before being ambushed and routed themselves at the Battle of Beroca. Herennius Etruscus was killed in the Battle of Abritus, alongside his father. After the deaths of both emperors, Trebonianus Gallus, who had been governor of Moesia, was elected emperor by the remaining Roman forces.

Coin of Herennius Etruscus


Quintus Herennius Etruscus Messius Decius was born in c.227 AD, to Decius, a Roman general who later became Emperor, and Herennia Etruscilla, his wife. Decius became emperor after being sent to lead troops in the provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, where he was declared emperor by his troops in September 249, in opposition to Philip the Arab. He led his troops against Philip, their forces meeting in September 249, near Verona, Italy. In this battle, Philip was slain, after which the Roman Senate declared Decius emperor, and honored him with the name Traianus, a reference to Emperor Trajan.[1][2]

Herennius Etruscus was elevated to caesar in 250, making him the designated heir of Decius, before being elevated to augustus in May 251, making him co-emperor under Decius.[1] After Herennius Etruscus was made augustus, his younger brother Hostilian was made caesar.[3] Herennius Etruscus was also made consul for 251.[2]

Map of the Gothic Invasion led by Cniva.

In 249 the Goths, led by King Cniva, invaded the Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire with a huge force. They split into two columns, with one column attacking Dacia, and the other force, made up of 70,000 men, and personally led by Cniva, attacking Moesia. Cniva's forces further split into two groups, with one attacking Philippolis, and the other attacking Novae. Cniva was prevented from sieging Novae by Trebonianus Gallus, the governor of Moesia and future emperor, and thus moved south, on to Nicopolis.[4] By this time news of the invasion reached Rome, and both Decius and Herennius Etruscus travelled to repulse the Gothic invasion, although Hostilian remained in Rome.[5][4] Herennius Etruscus was sent forward with a vanguard, followed by the main body of Roman forces, led by Decius.[6] Decius and Herennius Etruscus took the Gothic forces by surprise in the Battle of Nicopolis, and beat them decisively. Following the crushing defeat, Cniva retreated over the Haemus Mons, and met up with his other forces at Philippolis. Cniva then ambushed Decius and Herennius Etruscus' forces at the Battle of Beroca, near the small town of Beroca at the base of the Haemus Mons. The Roman forces were beaten decisively in this engagement, and fled in disarray to Moesia where Decius and Herennius Etruscus worked to reorganize them. Cniva then returned to Philippolis, and with the help of Titus Julius Priscus, the Roman governor of Thrace, managed to capture the city.[4]

Decius and Herennius Etruscus launched a counterattack in spring 251, and was initially successful in pushing back the Goths. However, Cniva set an ambush for them, in June 251, near Abrittus.[4] In this battle, both Decius and Herennius Etruscus were killed. The exact circumstances of Herennius Etruscus' death are somewhat vague. The main source for the event, Aurelius Victor, says only that Herennius Etruscus was killed when he "pressed the attack too boldly". Aurelius Victor specifies that he was acting as an imperator, rather than a commilito, meaning that he commanded troops, but did not physically fight alongside them. After the news of his death reached Decius, Decius refused to be consoled, stating that the loss of one life was minor to a battle, and thus continued the combat, in which he was also slain. Decius' death is similarly obscure, although it is agreed upon that he must have died either during the battle, as a commilito, during the retreat from the battle, or else was slain while serving as imperator.[7][1] After the death of both Decius and Herennius Etruscus, and much of the Roman army with them, the remaining forces immediately elected Trebonianus Gallus, the governor of Moesia, as emperor. Trebonianus Gallus made peace with Cniva on humiliating terms, allowing them to keep their prisoners and spoils in order to secure peace.[4] In order to gain popular support, Trebonianus Gallus retained Herennia Etruscilla as augusta (empress), and elevated Hostilian to augustus, making him co-emperor alongside Trebonianus Gallus himself.[1][8][9] However, Hostilian died in November 251, either from a plague or murder, [1][8] after which point Volusianus, Trebonianus Gallus' son, was raised to augustus. After Trebonianus Gallus was overthrown by Aemilianus in 253, Herennia Etruscilla faded into obscurity.[5]




  1. ^ a b c d e Adkins & Adkins 1998, p. 28.
  2. ^ a b Chrystal 2015, p. 193.
  3. ^ Bunson 2014, p. 265.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bunson 2014, p. 297.
  5. ^ a b Bunson 2014, p. 256.
  6. ^ Taylor 2016, p. 140.
  7. ^ a b Hebblewhite 2016, p. 24.
  8. ^ a b Salisbury & Mattingly 1924, p. 16.
  9. ^ Bunson 2014, p. 266.
  10. ^ a b c Taylor 2016, p. 46.
  11. ^ a b Hebblewhite 2016, p. 32.


  • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (1998). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195123326. 
  • Bunson, Matthew (2014). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9781438110271. 
  • Chrystal, Paul (2015). Roman Military Disasters: Dark Days & Lost Legions. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473873964. 
  • Hebblewhite, Mark (2016). The Emperor and the Army in the Later Roman Empire, AD 235–395. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781317034308. 
  • Salisbury, F. S.; Mattingly, H. (1924). "The Reign of Trajan Decius". The Journal of Roman Studies. 14. doi:10.2307/296323. JSTOR 296323. 
  • Taylor, Donathan (2016). Roman Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 31 B.C. to A.D. 565. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473869110. 

Media related to Herennius Etruscus at Wikimedia Commons

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Philip the Arab
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Decius
Succeeded by
Trebonianus Gallus
Political offices
Preceded by
Vettius Gratus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Decius
Succeeded by
Trebonianus Gallus,