An independent Roman state that existed between the years 260 and
274 comprising the Roman dioceses of Gaul, Britannia, Iberia and
Germania. (That is France, Britain Spain and the Roman
provinces on the Rhine.)
Emperors of the Gallic Empire
- Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus (260-269)
- Marcus Aurelius Marius (269)
- Marcus Piavonius Victorinus (269-271)
- Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus (271-274)
The creation of the Gallic Empire
During the mid and late third century the Roman empire went
through a period of severe uncertainty and dislocation. Between the death of
the last Severan emeperor, Alexander Severus in 235 and the accession
of Valerian in 254 the Roman Empire was ruled by a total of
seventeen emperors in almost as many years.
The accession of Valerian may have initially promised a respite from
these recent troubles but in 258 the Alemanni broke through the
frontier and fought their way into Italy before being finally defeated
short of Mediolanum (modern Milan), whilst in the east the empire was
threatened by the resurgent Sassanid Persian empire. Valerian went
east to deal with the Persians, leaving his son Gallienus (whom he
had appointed as co-emperor) in charge at Rome.
Unfortunately for Valerian in 260 he was defeated, captured and
eventually killed by the Sassanid king Shapur I, and whilst
Gallienus was occupied surpressing a revolt on the Danube, one Marcus
Cassianius Latinius Postumus, who was a senior officer on the Rhine frontier,
took advantage of the situation and after securing the support of the
legions in Gaul, Iberia and Britannia, declared himself emperor.
Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus
Postumus set up a new Roman state, which became known as the
Impericum Gallicum or the Gallic Empire, established
Augusta Trevivorum (modern Trier) as his capital, and created his own
senate and praetorian guard.
He made no attempt to expand his empire, and seems to have been a
popular ruler who ruled well and was successfully able to defended it both
from Gallienus and the Germanic tribes who threatened from across
Gallienus made an attempt to quash the rebel empire by invading
Gaul in 263, but despite initial successes, Gallienus was himself
seriously wounded and was forced to retreat back to Italy. In 268 he faced
further problems when the Roman general Aureolus decided support
Postumus and raised the flag of rebellion in Mediolanum.
However in 268, Postumus had to face his own rebellion by the city
of Moguntiacum (modern Mainz) led by one Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus.
(2) Postumus eventually defeated Laelianus (he was
executed) and recovered Moguntiacum but refused to allow his troops to
sack the city. Disappointed at missing out on the customary orgy of
looting and pillage that was the normal reward for victory, in 269 the troops
assassinated Postumus and proclaimed one Marcus Aurelius Marius as emperor.
Marcus Aurelius Marius
Marius was apparently a blacksmith by profession before taking up a
military career and therefore perhaps not the most obvious choice for
emperor. Estimates of how long he actually reigned range from two days
to three months. But in any event, he was killed in a private quarrel
and his reign was by all accounts short and uneventful.
Marcus Piavonius Victorinus
Marius' replacement was Marcus Piavonius Victorinus, a military
commander who had served with distinction under Postumus and had been seen
by many as his natural successor.
In Rome, Claudius Gothicus (sometimes known as Claudius II)
had succeeded Gallienus after the latter's assassination in 268.
Claudius Gothicus took advantage of the dislocation caused to the Gallic
Empire by the events of 269 and 270 to
persuade the legions in Iberia to transfer their allegiances back to Rome.
He was also able to reoccupy the territory in southern Gaul to the
east of the Rhone.
Victrorinus who appears to have governed from Colonia Agrippina ( modern Cologne)
otherwise occupied dealing
with a rebellion at Augustodorum Haedorum (modern Autun) which had
declared itself for Claudius Gothicus. It was perhaps fortunate for
Victrorinus that Claudius Gothicus appeared to have no interest in
coming to the aid of Augustodorum Haedorum and Victorinus
was able, after a siege lasting some seven months, to recapture the
city. Perhaps mindful of Postumus' fate, he allowed the troops to plunder
the city this time. Victrorinus returned in triumph to Colonia Agrippina, where
in early 271 he was murdered by one of his own officers, a
quartermaster named Attitianus. (Apparently in revenge for having seduced, or
attempting to seduce Attitianus' wife.)
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus
At which point Victorinus' mother Victoria bribed the troops to
accept Tetricus (who had been the governor of Aquitania) as emperor. He
was proclaimed emperor at Burdigalia (modern Bordeaux) in early 271
but was forced to fight off a Germanic invasion before he could even
make it to his capital at Augusta Treverorum.
The legitimate Roman emperor, Claudius Gothicus had died of the
plague in 270. He was briefly succeeded by his brother Quintillus,
but was very quickly replaced by Aurelian. Fortunately for Tetricus,
Aurelian was engaged in dealing with the problems of barbarian
incursions into north Italy and Pannonia as well as the recovery of eastern
provinces that were attempting to break away from Rome.
Tetricus was therefore able to proceed unmolested in restoring the
authority of the Gallic Empire in much of the territory that had been
lost to Claudius Gothicus in southern Gaul as well as successfully
resisting further Germanic incursions. He appointed his son (who was
also called Tetricus) to the rank of caesar, thereby establishing the
However Aurelian, who was perhaps of a more
vigorous nature than many of his predecessors, was eager to restablish
imperial power in the west.
Having dealt with his eastern problems, by 274 he was free to turn his
attention westwards and challenge Tetricus. Aurelian moved his forces
into Gaul and the opposing armies met at the battle of Catalaunos
or modern Chalons-sur-Marne. Aurelian was victorious and with this
single victory efectively bought the Gallic Empire to an end.
Aurelian magnanimously pardoned both Tetricus and his son.
Tetricus was even given an official post in southern Italy where he eventually
died of old age some years later.
Some sources suggest that Tetricus had reached some sort of prior
agreement with Aurelian
and that his pardon was the reward for betraying his own troops at the
battle of Catalaunos. Howver it is equally clear that Aurelian
needed to re-establish and stabilise imperial administration in the western
part of the empire. By pardoning Tetricus, Aurelian sent out a clear
message to the supporters of the rebel empire that he intended to do so
with the minimum of recriminations.
If that was the intention, then it can be said to worked; Aurelian
seems to have had little further trouble in re-integrating the former
Gallic Empire back into the Roman Empire proper.
(1) - It is recorded that Postumus murdered both the
praetorian prefect Silvanus and Saloninus who was the son of the emperor
It is not known whether Postumus killed them in order to establish his
rebel empire, or whether there was another motive
and rebellion was simply a means of escaping the inevitable imperial
(2) - It is unclear whether Laelianus rebelled in a fit of
loyalty to Rome or whether this was his own bid for power.
Sourced from Peter Salway's Roman Britain Oxford University Press (1991)
together with the online lecture notes for the Later Roman
Empire at www.ualberta.ca/~csmackay/CLASS_379/Syllabus.html and
from material located at www.roman-empire.net and