Trebonianus Gallus
Trebonianus Gallus also known as Gallus, 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 251 to 253, in a joint rule with his son Volusianus
Volusianus , also known as Volusian, was a Roman Emperor from 251 to 253.He was son to Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus by his wife Afinia Gemina Baebiana. He is known to have had a sister, Vibia Galla....


Early life

Gallus was born in Italy, in a family with respected ancestry of Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 background. He had two children in his marriage with Afinia Gemina Baebiana
Afinia Gemina Baebiana
Afinia Gemina Baebiana was the wife of Roman Emperor Trebonianus Gallus, who ruled briefly in 251-253.Almost nothing is known about her life. She had two children, Volusianus and a daughter, Vibia Galla. After Trebonianus Gallus was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers, Herennia Etruscilla, widow of...

: Gaius Vibius Volusianus, later Emperor, and a daughter, Vibia Galla. His early career was a typical cursus honorum
Cursus honorum
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

, with several appointments, both political and military. He was suffect consul
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

 and in 250 was nominated governor of the Roman province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of Moesia Superior
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...

, an appointment that showed the confidence of Emperor Trajan Decius in him. In Moesia, Gallus was a key figure in repelling the frequent invasion attacks by the Gothic
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....

 tribes of the 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....

 and became popular with the army, catered to during his brief Imperial rule by his official image: military haircut, gladiatorial physique, intimidating stance (illustration, left).

Rise to power

In June 251, Decius and his co-emperor and son Herennius Etruscus
Herennius Etruscus
Herennius Etruscus , was Roman emperor in 251, in a joint rule with his father Decius. Emperor Hostilian was his younger brother.Herennius was born in near Sirmium in Pannonia , during one of his father's military postings. His mother was Herennia Cupressenia Etruscilla, a Roman lady of an...

 died in the Battle of Abrittus
Battle of Abrittus
The Battle of Abritus, also known as the Battle of Forum Terebronii, occurred in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior probably in July, 251, between the Roman Empire and a federation of Scythian tribesmen under the Goth king Cniva. The Romans were soundly defeated, and Roman emperors Decius and...

, at the hands of the 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....

 they were supposed to punish for raids into the empire. According to rumours supported by Dexippus
Publius Herennius Dexippus , Greek historian, statesman and general, was an hereditary priest of the Eleusinian family of the Kerykes, and held the offices of archon basileus and eponymous in Athens....

 (a contemporary Greek historian) and the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle
Sibylline oracles
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive...

, Decius' failure was largely owing to Gallus who had conspired with the invaders. In any case, when the army heard the news, the soldiers proclaimed Gallus emperor, despite Hostilian
Hostilian was Roman emperor in 251. Hostilian was born in Sirmium in Illyricum sometime after 230, as the son of the future emperor Decius by his wife Herennia Cupressenia Etruscilla...

, Decius' surviving son, ascending the imperial throne in Rome. This action of the army, and the fact that Gallus seems to have been on good terms with Decius' family, makes Dexippus' allegation improbable. Gallus did not back down from his intention to become emperor, but accepted Hostilian as co-emperor, perhaps to avoid the damage of another civil war.

Anxious to secure his position at Rome and stabilize the situation on the Danube frontier, Gallus made peace with the Goths. Peace terms allowed the Goths to leave the Roman territory while keeping their captives and plunder. In addition, it was agreed that they would be paid an annual subsidy. Reaching Rome, Gallus proclamation was formally confirmed by the Senate
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature or parliament. There have been many such bodies in history, since senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class...

, with his son Volusianus
Volusianus , also known as Volusian, was a Roman Emperor from 251 to 253.He was son to Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus by his wife Afinia Gemina Baebiana. He is known to have had a sister, Vibia Galla....

 being appointed Caesar. On June 24, 251, Decius was deified but, by July 15, Hostilian disappears from history. It is possible that the latter died during an outbreak of plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

. Eager to show himself competent and gain popularity with the citizens, Gallus swiftly dealt with the epidemic, providing burial for the victims.

Gallus may also have ordered a localized and uncoordinated persecution of the Christians
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, but the only solid evidence of this allegation is the imprisoning of Pope Cornelius
Pope Cornelius
Pope Saint Cornelius was pope from his election on 6 or 13 March 251 to his martyrdom in June 253.- Christian persecution :Emperor Decius, who ruled from 249 to 251 AD, persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire rather sporadically and locally, but starting January in the year 250, he ordered all...

 in 252.

Like his predecessors, Gallus did not have an easy reign. In the East, an Antiochene nobleman, Mariades, revolted and began ravaging Syria and Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

 then fled to the Persians. Gallus ordered his troops to attack the Persians but Persian Emperor 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...

 invaded Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and destroyed, taking by surprise, a large Roman army at Barbalissos
Battle of Barbalissos
The Battle of Barbalissos was fought between the Sassanid Persians and Romans at Barbalissos. Shapur I used Roman incursions into Armenia as pretext and resumed hostilities with the Romans. The Romans and Sassanids clashed at Barbalissos...

, in 252. Then he invaded the defenceless Syrian provinces, captured all of its legionary posts and ravaged its cities, including Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, without any response. Persian invasions were repeated in the following year, but now Uranius
Uranius is the name of a Roman usurper cited by Zosimus, and active during the reigns of Elagabalus or Alexander Severus.However, it is possible that Zosimus confused this usurper with Lucius Julius Aurelius Sulpicius Severus Uranius Antoninus, who, according to numismatical evidence, reigned much...

 Antoninus (a priest originally called Sampsiceramus
Royal family of Emesa
The royal family of Emesa, also known as the Emesani Dynasty or the Sempsigerami of Emesa , sometimes known as The Sampsiceramids were a ruling Roman client dynasty of priest-kings in Emesa, Syria Province...

), a descendant of the royal house of Emesa, confronted Sapor and forced him to retreat. However, he proclaimed himself emperor and minted coins with his image upon them. On the Danube, "Scythian" tribes were once again on the loose, despite the peace treaty signed in 251. They invaded Asia Minor by sea, burned the great temple of Artemis
Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis , also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess Greeks identified as Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was situated at Ephesus , and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction...

 at Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

 and returned home with plunder. Lower Moesia was also invaded in early 253. Aemilianus
Aemilianus , also known as Aemilian, was Roman Emperor for three months in 253.Commander of the Moesian troops, he obtained an important victory against the invading Goths and was, for this reason, acclaimed Emperor by his army...

, governor of Moesia Superior and Pannonia, took the initiative of battle and defeated the invaders.


Since the army was not long pleased with the Emperor, the soldiers proclaimed Aemilianus emperor. With a usurper threatening the throne, Gallus prepared for a fight. He recalled several legions
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"...

 and ordered reinforcements to return to Rome from Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, under the command of the future emperor Publius Licinius Valerianus
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...

. Despite these dispositions, Aemilianus marched onto Italy ready to fight for his claim and caught Gallus at Interamna (modern Terni)
Terni is a city in southern Umbria, central Italy, capital of the province of Terni, located in the plain of the Nera river. It is 104 km N of Rome, 36 km NW of Rieti, and 29 km S of Spoleto.-History:...

, before the arrival of Valerianus. What exactly happened there is not clear. Later sources claim that, after an initial defeat, Gallus and Volusianus
Volusianus , also known as Volusian, was a Roman Emperor from 251 to 253.He was son to Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus by his wife Afinia Gemina Baebiana. He is known to have had a sister, Vibia Galla....

 were murdered by their own troops or Gallus did not have the chance to face Aemilianus at all because his army went over to the usurper. In any case, he and Volusianus were killed in August 253.

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