Aurelian
Overview
 
Aurelian was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

, Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Juthungi
Juthungi
The Juthungi were a Germanic tribe in the region north of the rivers Danube and Altmühl in the modern German state of Bavaria....

, Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

 in 273. The following year he conquered the Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

 in the west, reuniting the Empire in its entirety. He was also responsible for the construction of the Aurelian Walls
Aurelian Walls
The Aurelian Walls is a line of city walls built between 271 and 275 in Rome, Italy, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus....

 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and the abandonment of the province of Dacia
Roman Dacia
The Roman province of Dacia on the Balkans included the modern Romanian regions of Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia, and temporarily Muntenia and southern Moldova, but not the nearby regions of Moesia...

.
Encyclopedia
Aurelian was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

, Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Juthungi
Juthungi
The Juthungi were a Germanic tribe in the region north of the rivers Danube and Altmühl in the modern German state of Bavaria....

, Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

 in 273. The following year he conquered the Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

 in the west, reuniting the Empire in its entirety. He was also responsible for the construction of the Aurelian Walls
Aurelian Walls
The Aurelian Walls is a line of city walls built between 271 and 275 in Rome, Italy, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus....

 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and the abandonment of the province of Dacia
Roman Dacia
The Roman province of Dacia on the Balkans included the modern Romanian regions of Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia, and temporarily Muntenia and southern Moldova, but not the nearby regions of Moesia...

. His successes effectively ended the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

, earning him the title Restorer of the World.

Early life and rise to power

Aurelian was born in Serdica (today Sofia
Sofia
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city in the European Union with a population of 1.27 million people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and approximately at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula.Prehistoric settlements were excavated...

 in Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

) in Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

 or what was later called Dacia Ripensis
Dacia Ripensis
Dacia Ripensis was the name of a Roman province first established by Aurelian circa 283 AD, south of the Danube River, after he withdrew from Dacia Traiana.-History:...

 to an obscure provincial family; his father was tenant to a senator named Aurelius, who gave his name to the family. Aurelian probably joined the army in 235 at around age twenty. He distinguished himself in several wars during the tumultuous mid-century; his successes as a cavalry commander ultimately made him a member of emperor Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

' entourage. In 268, Aurelian and his cavalry participated in general Claudius
Claudius II
Claudius II , commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, was Roman Emperor from 268 to 270. During his reign he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus. He died after succumbing to a smallpox plague that ravaged the provinces of...

' victory over the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 at the Battle of Naissus
Battle of Naissus
The Battle of Naissus was the defeat of a Gothic coalition by the Roman Empire under Emperor Gallienus near Naissus...

. Later that year Gallienus traveled to Italy and fought Aureolus
Aureolus
For the Frankish ruler of Aragon, see Aureolus of Aragon.Manius Acilius Aureolus was a Roman military commander and would-be usurper. He was one of the so-called Thirty Tyrants who populated the reign of the Emperor Gallienus...

, his former general and now usurper for the throne. Driving Aureolus back into Mediolanum
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, 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
Ulpia Severina
Ulpia Severina was a Roman Empress, the wife of the emperor Aurelian. There is evidence that she reigned in her own right for some period after Aurelian's death in 275, which would make her the only woman to have ruled over the entire Roman Empire by her own power. Very little is known about her,...

, about whom little is known. Like Aurelian she may have been from Dacia
Dacia
In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians or Getae as they were known by the Greeks—the branch of the Thracians north of the Haemus range...

. 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 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.

During the reign of Claudius, Aurelian was promoted rapidly: he was given command of the elite Dalmatian cavalry, and was soon promoted to overall commander of the cavalry – the Emperor's position before his acclamation. The war against Aureolus and the concentration of forces in Italy allowed the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 to break through the Rhaetian limes
Limes Germanicus
The Limes Germanicus was a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 to about 260 AD...

 along the upper Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

. Marching through Raetia
Raetia
Raetia was a province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian people. It was bounded on the west by the country of the Helvetii, on the east by Noricum, on the north by Vindelicia, on the west by Cisalpine Gaul and on south by Venetia et Histria...

 and the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 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 decisively at the Battle of Lake Benacus
Battle of Lake Benacus
The Battle of Lake Benacus was one of the decisive battles that marked the beginning of the Roman Empire's emergence from the Crisis of the Third Century...

.

While still dealing with the defeated enemy, news came from the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 reporting large-scale attacks from the Heruli
Heruli
The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe who are famous for their naval exploits. Migrating from Northern Europe to the Black Sea in the third century They were part of the...

, Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

, Gepids, and Bastarnae
Bastarnae
The Bastarnae or Basternae were an ancient Germanic tribe,, who between 200 BC and 300 AD inhabited the region between the eastern Carpathian mountains and the Dnieper 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 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 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
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

. As winter set in, the Goths retreated into the Haemus Mountains
Haemus Mons
In earlier times the Balkan mountains were known as the Haemus Mons. It is believed that the name is derived from a Thracian word *saimon, 'mountain ridge', which is unattested but conjectured as the original Thracian form of Greek Haimos....

, 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 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 deal with. 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
Quintillus , commonly known as Quintillus, was Roman Emperor for less than a year in 270.-Early Life and Election as Emperor:Quintillus was born at Sirmium in Illyricum. Originally coming from a low born family, Quintillus came to prominence with the accession of his brother Claudius II Gothicus to...

 seized power with support of the Senate. With an act typical of the Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

, the army refused to recognize the new Emperor, preferring to support one of its own commanders: Aurelian was proclaimed emperor in September 270 by the legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

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 the day of Claudius' death, thus implicitly considering Quintillus a usurper
Roman usurper
Usurpers are individuals or groups of individuals who obtain and maintain the power or rights of another by force and without legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third century onwards, when political instability became the rule.The...

.

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.

Conqueror and reformer

In 248, Emperor Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab , also known as Philip or Philippus Arabs, was Roman Emperor from 244 to 249. He came from Syria, and rose to become a major figure in the Roman Empire. He achieved power after the death of Gordian III, quickly negotiating peace with the Sassanid Empire...

 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 economical substrate of the state, the agriculture and the 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
Valerian (emperor)
Valerian , also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, resulting in wide-ranging instability across the Empire.-Origins and rise...

 in 260. The eastern provinces found their protectors in the rulers of the city of Palmyra
Palmyra
Palmyra was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert...

, in Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

, whose autonomy grew until the formation of the Palmyrene Empire
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

, which was more successful against the Persian threat. The western provinces, those facing the limes
Limes
A limes was a border defense or delimiting system of Ancient Rome. It marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire.The Latin noun limes had a number of different meanings: a path or balk delimiting fields, a boundary line or marker, any road or path, any channel, such as a stream channel, or any...

of the Rhine seceded, forming a third, autonomous state within the territories of the Roman Empire, which is now known as Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

.

In Rome, the Emperor was occupied with the internal menaces to his power and with the defence of Italia
Italia (Roman province)
Italia was the name of the Italian peninsula of the Roman Empire.-Under the Republic and Augustan organization:During the Republic and the first centuries of the empire, Italia was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military...

 and the Balkans. This was the situation faced by Gallienus and Claudius, and the problems Aurelian had to deal with at the beginning of his rule.

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
Italia (Roman province)
Italia was the name of the Italian peninsula of the Roman Empire.-Under the Republic and Augustan organization:During the Republic and the first centuries of the empire, Italia was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military...

 against the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Juthungi
Juthungi
The Juthungi were a Germanic tribe in the region north of the rivers Danube and Altmühl in the modern German state of Bavaria....

, and Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

, 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 usurpers
Roman usurper
Usurpers are individuals or groups of individuals who obtain and maintain the power or rights of another by force and without legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third century onwards, when political instability became the rule.The...

 — Septimius, Urbanus
Urbanus (Roman usurper)
Urbanus was a Roman usurper.Urbanus staged an uprising in the beginning of the reign of Aurelian. According to Zosimus he was soon defeated. It is possible that this usurper never existed.-References:...

, Domitianus
Domitianus
-Introduction:Domitianus was probably a Roman soldier of the mid-third century AD who was acclaimed Emperor, probably in northern Gaul, in late 270 or early 271 AD and struck coins to advertise his elevation...

, and the rebellion of Felicissimus
Felicissimus
Felicissimus was a public officer in Ancient Rome, during the reign of Emperor Aurelian. He is famous because he led an uprising of mint workers against the emperor, but was defeated and killed, possibly in 274, but more probably in 271....

 — 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.

Defeat of the Alamanni

The burden of the northern barbarians was not yet over, however. In 271, the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 moved towards Italia, entering the Po plain and sacking the villages; they passed the Po River
Po River
The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

, occupied Placentia
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

 and moved towards Fano
Fano
Fano is a town and comune of the province of Pesaro and Urbino in the Marche region of Italy. It is a beach resort 12 km southeast of Pesaro, located where the Via Flaminia reaches the Adriatic Sea...

. Aurelian, who was in Pannonia to control Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

' withdrawal, quickly entered Italia, but his army was defeated in an ambush near Placentia
Battle of Placentia
The Battle of Placentia was fought in January 271 between a Roman army led by Emperor Aurelian and the Alamanni , near modern Piacenza....

 (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
Metauro
The Metauro is a river of the Marche, central Italy. It rises in the Apennine Mountains and runs east for 110 km ....

, defeating them in the Battle of Fano
Battle of Fano
The Battle of Fano - also known as the Battle of Fanum Fortunae - was fought in January 271 between the Roman Empire and the Alamanni. The Romans were led by Emperor Aurelian, and they were victorious....

, and forcing them to re-cross the Po river; Aurelian finally routed them at Pavia
Battle of Pavia (271)
The Battle of Pavia was fought in 271 near Pavia , and resulted in the Roman Emperor Aurelian destroying the retreating Alamanni army.-The battle:...

. For this, he received the title Germanicus Maximus. However, the menace of the German people remained high as perceived by the Romans, so Aurelian resolved to build the walls that became known as the Aurelian Walls
Aurelian Walls
The Aurelian Walls is a line of city walls built between 271 and 275 in Rome, Italy, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus....

 around Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

.

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
Roman Dacia
The Roman province of Dacia on the Balkans included the modern Romanian regions of Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia, and temporarily Muntenia and southern Moldova, but not the nearby regions of Moesia...

, on the exposed north bank of the Danube, as too difficult and expensive to defend. He reorganised a new province of Dacia south of the Danube, inside the former Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

, called Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana was a province of the Roman Empire found by Emperor Aurelian, after his retreat from Dacia Traiana in 271. Between 271/275 and 285, it occupied most of what is today Bulgaria. Its capital was in Serdica...

, with Serdica as the capital.

Conquest of the Palmyrene Empire

In 272, Aurelian turned his attention to the lost eastern provinces of the empire, the so-called "Palmyrene Empire
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

" ruled by Queen Zenobia
Zenobia
Zenobia was a 3rd-century Queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Roman Syria. She led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire. The second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus, Zenobia became queen of the Palmyrene Empire following Odaenathus' death in 267...

 from the city of Palmyra
Palmyra
Palmyra was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert...

. Zenobia had carved out her own empire, encompassing Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

, Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and large parts of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. The Egyptian 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
Vaballathus
Lucius Iulius Aurelius Septimius Vabalathus Athenodorus was a king of the Palmyrene Empire. Vabalathus is the Latinized form of his name in the Arabic language, Wahb Allat or gift of the Goddess...

, the son of Zenobia, hold 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
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 and Tyana
Tyana
Tyana or Tyanna was an ancient city in the Anatolian region of Cappadocia, in modern south-central Turkey. It was the capital of a Luwian-speaking Neo-Hittite kingdom in the 1st millennium BC.-History:...

 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
Apollonius of Tyana was a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher from the town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. Little is certainly known about him...

, whom he respected greatly, in a dream.

Apollonius implored him, stating, "Aurelian, if you desire to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent! Aurelian, if you will conquer, be merciful!" Whatever the reason, Aurelian spared Tyana. 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
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

. The "Palmyrene Empire" was no more.

Eventually Zenobia and her son were captured and made to walk on the streets of Rome in his triumph. 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 usurper Firmus
Firmus
Firmus was a Roman usurper against Aurelian. His story is told by the often unreliable Historia Augusta twice, with the first account the most sketchy and reliable.- Life of the historical Firmus :...

, 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 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
Library of Alexandria
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...

, although it is not known if the Library still existed in Aurelian's time. (It had already been damaged by fire during the visit of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 to Alexandria.)

Conquest of the Gallic Empire

In 274, the victorious emperor turned his attention to the west, and the "Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

" which had already been reduced in size by Claudius II. Aurelian won this campaign largely through diplomacy; the "Gallic Emperor" Tetricus
Tetricus I
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was Emperor of the Gallic Empire from 271 to 274, following the murder of Victorinus. Tetricus, who ruled with his son, Tetricus II, was the last of the Gallic emperors following his surrender to the Roman emperor Aurelian.-Reign:Tetricus was a senator born to a noble...

 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
Châlons-en-Champagne is a city in France. It is the capital of both the department of Marne and the region of Champagne-Ardenne, despite being only a quarter the size of the city of Reims....

 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"). In four years, he had secured the frontiers of the Empire and reunified it, effectively giving the Empire a new lease on life that lasted 200 years.

Reformations

Aurelian was a reformer, and settled many important functions of the imperial apparatus, including the economy and the religion. He also 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
Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new...

) or Oriens, 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 a new temple, built in 271 in Campus Agrippae in Rome, with great decorations financed by the spoils of the Palmyrene Empire.

Aurelian did not persecute other religions. However, during his short rule, he seemed to follow the principle of "one god, one empire", that was later adopted to a full extent by Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

. On some coins, he appears with the title deus et dominus natus ("God and born ruler"), also later adopted by Diocletian. Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

 argued that Aurelian would have outlawed all the other gods if he had had enough time.

Felicissimus' rebellion and coinage reform

Aurelian's reign records the only uprising of mint workers. The rationalis
Rationalis
The rationalis was the Roman Empire's chief financial minister prior to the reforms of Emperor Diocletian and the Late Empire. Among the tasks of the rationalis were the collection of all normal taxes payable in coin and duties, the control of the currency, and the administration of mines, mints,...

Felicissimus
Felicissimus
Felicissimus was a public officer in Ancient Rome, during the reign of Emperor Aurelian. He is famous because he led an uprising of mint workers against the emperor, but was defeated and killed, possibly in 274, but more probably in 271....

, mintmaster 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 under trial. The rationalis incited the mintworkers to revolt: the rebellion spread in the streets, even if it seems that Felicissimus was killed immediately, possibly executed.

The Palmyrene rebellion in Egypt had probably reduced the grain supply to Rome
Grain supply to the city of Rome
In classical antiquity, the grain supply to the city of Rome could not be met entirely from the surrounding countryside, which was taken up by the villas and parks of the aristocracy and which produced mainly fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods...

, thus disaffecting the population with respect to the emperor. This rebellion also had the support of some senators, probably those who had supported the election of Quintillus
Quintillus
Quintillus , commonly known as Quintillus, was Roman Emperor for less than a year in 270.-Early Life and Election as Emperor:Quintillus was born at Sirmium in Illyricum. Originally coming from a low born family, Quintillus came to prominence with the accession of his brother Claudius II Gothicus to...

, 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
Caelian Hill
The Caelian Hill is one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. Under reign of Tullus Hostilius, the entire population of Alba Longa was forcibly resettled 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 rebelling 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 in the introduction of antoninianii
Antoninianus
The antoninianus was a coin used during the Roman Empire thought to have been valued at 2 denarii. It was initially silver, but was slowly debased to bronze. The coin was introduced by Caracalla in early 215 and was a silver coin similar to the denarius except that it was slightly larger and...

containing 5% silver. They bore the mark XXI (or its Greek numerals form KA), which meant that twenty of such coins would contain the same silver quantity of an old silver denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

. 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.

Death

In 275, Aurelian marched towards Asia Minor, preparing another campaign against the Sassanids: the deaths of Kings Shapur I
Shapur I
Shapur I or also known as Shapur I the Great was the second Sassanid King of the Second Persian Empire. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 - 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent prior to his father's death in 242 .-Early years:Shapur was the son of Ardashir I...

 (272) and Hormizd I
Hormizd I
Hormizd I was the third Sassanid King of Persia from 270/72 to 273.He was the youngest son of Shapur I , under whom he was governor of Khorasan, and appears in his wars against Rome Hormizd I was the third Sassanid King of Persia from 270/72 to 273.He was the youngest son of Shapur I...

 (273) in quick succession, and the rise to power of a weakened ruler (Bahram I
Bahram I
Bahram I was the fourth Sassanid emperor of the second Persian Empire. He was the eldest son of Shapur I and succeeded his brother Hormizd I , who had reigned for only a year....

), set the possibility to attack the Sassanid Empire.

On his way, the Emperor suppressed a revolt in Gaul — possibly against Faustinus, an officer or usurper of Tetricus — and defeated barbarian marauders in Vindelicia
Vindelicia
In the pre-Roman geography of Europe, Vindelicia identifies the country inhabited by the Vindelici, a region bounded on the north by the Danube and the Hadrian's Limes Germanicus, on the east by the Oenus , on the south by Raetia and on the west by the territory of the Helvetii...

 (Germany).

However, Aurelian never reached Persia, as he was murdered while waiting in Thrace to cross into Asia Minor. As an administrator, Aurelian had been very strict and handed out severe punishments to corrupt officials or soldiers. A secretary of Aurelian (called Eros by Zosimus
Zosimus
Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

) 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
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, fearing punishment from the Emperor, murdered him in September of 275, in Caenophrurium
Çorlu
Çorlu is a northwestern Turkish city in inland Eastern Thrace that falls under the administration of the Province of Tekirdağ. It is a rapidly developing industrial center built on flatland located off the E80 highway between Istanbul and Turkey's border with Greece and Bulgaria. As of the 2000...

, Thrace (modern Turkey).

Aurelian's enemies in the Senate briefly succeeded in passing damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae is the Latin phrase literally meaning "condemnation of memory" in the sense of a judgment that a person must not be remembered. It was a form of dishonor that could be passed by the Roman Senate upon traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State...

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
Ulpia Severina
Ulpia Severina was a Roman Empress, the wife of the emperor Aurelian. There is evidence that she reigned in her own right for some period after Aurelian's death in 275, which would make her the only woman to have ruled over the entire Roman Empire by her own power. Very little is known about her,...

, who had been declared Augusta
Augusta (honorific)
Augusta was the imperial honorific title of empresses. It was given to the women of the Roman and Byzantine imperial families. In the third century, Augustae could also receive the titles of Mater castrorum and Mater Patriae .The title implied the greatest prestige, with the Augustae able to...

in 274, may have ruled the Empire by her own power for some time after his death. The sources indicate that there was an interregnum
Interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

 between Aurelian's death and the election of Marcus Claudius Tacitus
Marcus Claudius Tacitus
Tacitus , was Roman Emperor from 275 to 276. During his short reign he campaigned against the Goths and the Heruli, for which he received the title Gothicus Maximus.-Biography:Tacitus was born in Interamna , in Italia...

 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 would never have survived the invasions and fragmentation of the decade in which he reigned. 20 years later the reign of Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 would fully restore stability and end the Crisis of the third century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

. The Western half would survive another 200 years while the East would last for another millennium.


Primary sources

  • Aurelius Victor
    Aurelius Victor
    Sextus Aurelius Victor was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire.Aurelius Victor was the author of a History of Rome from Augustus to Julian , published ca. 361. Julian honoured him and appointed him prefect of Pannonia Secunda...

     Epitome de Caesaribus, xxxv "Epitome de Caesaribus" (4th century)
  • Eutropius, Breviarium historiae Romanae, IX. 13–15 (4th century)
  • Historia Augusta Aurelianus Life of Aurelian Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
  • Zosimus
    Zosimus
    Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

    , Historia Nova Translation of the Historia Nova (published in 1814), book 1, (5th–6th century)
  • Joannes Zonaras
    Joannes Zonaras
    Ioannes Zonaras was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary to the emperor, but after Alexios' death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his...

    , Compendium of History Compendium excerpt: Claudius to Diocletian 268–284(12th century)

External links

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