Saturday, February 19, 2005

Carausius and Allectus

Carausius and Allectus. Essay describing the reigns of these two Roman rulers. Also includes annotated pictures of coins issued during their tenure as emperor.

From the site:

In AD 286 Maximian, newly appointed as his co-emperor by Diocletian, was in Gaul (modern day France) suppressing a revolt by runaway slaves and peasants known as the Bacaudae. At this time the south-eastern coast of Britain and northern Gaul were being subjected to raids by Saxon pirates and it was thought necessary to create a naval force to deal with them.

Command of this fleet was given to one of Maximian's lieutenants called Carausius, who had already demonstrated his skill and valour. Soon after his appointment, however, complaints were made that instead of returning any recaptured booty, Carausius was expropriating it for his own use. Maximian ordered his arrest and execution but Carausius forestalled this by sailing off to Britain and declaring himself emperor. How this was accomplished is unknown and the literary evidence for the chronology and events of this rebellion are extremely scanty. The main sources are two panegyrics, one in honour of Maximian, delivered by Claudius Mamertinus in AD 289, and the other by Eumenius in AD 297 for Constantius I. There are also sketchy accounts by Aurelius Victor and Eutropius over half a century later, the ramblings of Geoffrey of Monmouth written circa AD 1136, reputedly based on Welsh folklore, and the medieval Scottish Chronicles of John of Fordun and Hector Boethius. Although writing a thousand years after the event, the Chroniclers add many details not found elsewhere, such as a supposed alliance with the Picts and Scots which enabled Carausius to defeat the Roman garrison and take control of the island.

In general they are in agreement, that Carausius first sailed round Britain and then, after landing in the north, defeated the Roman governor, Quintus Bassianus, in a battle fought near York. So little is known about Carausius that were it not for the famous Carlisle milestone we would not even be aware of his full name. This stone, discovered in 1875, bears the legend IMP C M AVR MAVS CARAVSIO INVICTO AVG. It had been reversed in the ground and re-used in the time of Constantius I. His name and titles were therefore Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius the Invincible (unconquered) Augustus (emperor). According to the historians he was a citizen of Menapia, part of modern Belgium, and stress that he was "vilissime natus" - of the most humble birth.

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