Infobox Roman emperor
title = Emperor of the Roman Empire
full name =Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (from birth to accession);
Caesar Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus Augustus (as emperor)

caption =Bust of Gallienus
reign =253-260 with Valerian;
260-268 alone
predecessor =Aemilianus
successor =Claudius II
spouse 1 =Cornelia Salonina
issue =Valerianus, Saloninus, Egnatius Marinianus
dynasty =
father =Valerian
mother =Egnatia Mariniana
date of birth =c. 218
place of birth =
date of death =268
place of death =Milan
place of burial =|

Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (218-268) ruled the Roman Empire as co-emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and then as the sole Roman Emperor from 260 to 268. He took control of the empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis. His record in dealing with those crises is mixed, as he won a number of military victories but was unable to keep much of his realm from seceding.


Rise to power

Gallienus was born around 218 to Valerian and Mariniana, a woman possibly of senatorial rank and daughter of Egnatius Victor Marinianus. [It is generally accepted that he was 35 years old when he was raised to the throne in 253, see John Bray, p.16]

When his father Valerian was proclaimed emperor, he asked the Senate to ratify Gallienus' elevation to Augustus, in order to share the power between two persons.As Marcus Aurelius and his adopted brother Lucius Verus had done a hundred years before them, Gallienus and his father divided the Empire; Valerian struck for the East to stem the Persian threat and Gallienus remained in Italy to repel the Germanic tribes on the Rhine and Danube. This policy made sense not simply because the unhappy fates of several Emperors previous to this duo had made it clear that one man simply could not rule a state this size; equally, a 'barbarian' enemy suing for peace in this time tended to demand that they be allowed to apply to the 'chief' or 'king' of the victorious side. Therefore, an Emperor had to be available to negotiate if such a situation arose.


One of the key characteristics of the Crisis of the Third Century was the inability of the Emperors to maintain their hold on the Imperium for any marked length of time. Gallienus' reign was an exception to this rule. The fact that he served as junior Emperor with his father from 253 to 260 may have had something to do with his successes. Father and son did each wield authority over about half of the empire, thus allowing for more flexible control. Another, more probable reason, lay in Gallienus' success in convincing Rome that he was the best man for the job. However, Gallienus still had to handle many rebellions of the so-called "Gallienus usurpers".

Little time was allowed this emperor for anything but the defence of the realm, but unlike some who occupied the throne before and after him, Gallienus appeared to understand that the Empire's history had to be preserved if it were to have been worth fighting for. Culture and the ancient humanities required promotion, and Gallienus was up to the task when he was allowed a breath. Traveling to Attica in Greece, he had himself initiated into the mystery-cult of Eleusis and encouraged others to do the same. His coin series (further elucidated below), in which he was depicted in the disguise of several Greek deities, powerfully reminded ordinary Romans of the Hellenic side of their own culture. And Plotinus of Lycopolis, referred to as 'the last man of antiquity' by German historian Ivar Lissner, was encouraged and patronized by the Roman royal family during this time. Given Plotinus' Neo-Platonist beliefs and their concentrated nature centering about an "ur-Soul" or "nous", it is very possible that Gallienus, in an attempt to counter Christianity, sought to curb its growth via some method other than persecution. For this he is well spoken of in Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica, just as he is not as fondly recalled for losing Gaul in Eutropius' Breviarium.

In 260, Valerian was taken prisoner by Shapur I, ruler of the Sassanid Empire, while trying to negotiate a peace settlement. Although aware that his father had been taken alive (first emperor to have suffered this fate), Gallienus did not make public Valerian's death until a month later. His decision hinged on the fact that Romans believed that their fate rose and fell with the fate of the emperor, which in turn depended upon his demonstrating the proper amount of piety (Latin "pietas") to the gods and maintaining their favor. A defeated emperor would surely have meant that the gods had forsaken Valerian and, by extension, Gallienus. This belief had a point: after all, the Persians looted and murdered at will after Valerian was captured. It took a rally by a general Callistusvague|full name?|date=March 2008, a prefect Macrianusvague|full name?|date=March 2008, the remains of the Eastern Roman legionsFact|date=August 2007 and one Odaenathus and his Palmyrene horsemen to turn the tide against Shapur.

Gallienus's chief method of reinforcing his position is seen in the coinage produced during his reign. The coins provide clear evidence of a successful propaganda campaign in a time previous to television or newspapers. Quite a few of the Roman mints' issue had images of soldiers and the legend FIDES MILITVM ("loyalty of the soldiers") as well, despite the constant usurper problems. Gallienus took pains to make sure that he was regularly represented as victorious, merciful, and pious. The peasants and merchants who used these coins on a daily basis saw these messages and, with little evidence to the contrary, remained supportive of their Emperor. Word of mouth, one hoped (and Rome's rumor mill was second to none in the ancient world), did the rest.

There were, however, those who knew better. Propaganda worked both ways; several comedians ambled through the triumphal procession in Rome that Gallienus staged in 263 to commemorate his decennalia (tenth anniversary on the throne). When asked what they were doing, they answered that they were searching for the Emperor's father. As if anticipating this, Gallienus had had a number of men dressed in Persian costumes to resemble prisoners of war.Fact|date=February 2007

During Gallienus' reign, there was constant fighting on the western fringes of the Empire. As early as 258, Gallienus had lost control over a large part of Gaul, where another general, Postumus, had declared his own realm (typically known today as the Gallic Empire). As Gallienus' influence waned, another general came to the fore. In time-honored tradition, Claudius II Gothicus gained the loyalty of the army and succeeded Gallienus to the Imperium.


In the months leading up to his mysterious death in September of 268, Gallienus was ironically orchestrating the greatest achievements of his reign. An invasion of Goths into the province of Pannonia was leading to disaster and even threatening Rome, while at the same time, the Alamanni were raising havoc in the northern part of Italy. Gallienus halted the progress of the Alamanni by defeating them in battle in April 268, then turned north and won several victories over the Huns. Fact|date=September 2007 That fall, he turned on the Goths once again, and in September either he or Claudius, his leading general, led the Roman army to victory (although the cavalry commander Aurelian was the real victor) at the Battle of Naissus.

At some time following this battle, Gallienus' authority was challenged by Aureolus, commander of the field army in Mediolanum (Milan), who supported Postumus. Gallienus moved to lay siege to Mediolanum, but during the siege he was murdered.

There are different accounts of the murder. According to the Historia Augusta, an unreliable source compiled long after the events it describes [A.H.M. Jones, "Ammianus and the Historia Augusta", The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968] , a conspiracy was led by the commander of the guard Aurelianus Heraclianus and Marcianus. Cecropius, commander of the Dalmatians, spread the word that Aureolus was leaving the city, and Gallienus left his tent without his bodyguard, only to be struck down by Cecropius ("Historia Augusta - Gallieni", xiv.4-11). One version has Claudius selected as emperor by the conspirators, another chosen by Gallienus on his death bed; the Historia Augusta was concerned to substantiate the descent of the Constantinian dynasty from Claudius, and this may explain its accounts which do not involve Claudius in the murder. The other sources, (Zosimus i.40 and Zonaras xii.25, report that the conspiracy was organized by Heracles, Claudius and Aurelian.

Gallienus' wife, Cornelia Salonina, had given him three sons: Valerianus (who died in 258), Saloninus (who, after becoming co-emperor, died in 260 by the hand of his tutor Postumus), and Egnatius Marinianus (consul in 268). Claudius spared the lives of Gallienus' family and declared his predecessor deified.


Gallienus has not been dealt with well by ancient historians, partly due to the secession of Gaul and his inability to get it back. According to the modern scholar Pat Southern, however, some historians now see him in a more positive light. Gallienus was the father of some useful reforms. His contribution to military history was the first commissioning of a cavalry only unit which could be dispatched anywhere within the empire within short order. This reform arguably created a precedent for the future emperors Diocletian and Constantine I. The biographer Aurelius Victor also reports that Gallienus forbade senators from becoming military commanders [Aurelius Victor, "De Caesaribus", 33-34] . This policy undermined senatorial power, as more reliable equestrian commanders rose to prominence. In Southern's opinion, these reforms and the decline in senatorial influence not only helped Aurelian to salvage the Empire, but they also make Gallienus one of the emperors most responsible for the creation of the dominate, along with Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine I. In portraying himself with the attributes of the gods on his coinage, Gallienus began the final separation of the Emperor from his subjects. A late bust of Gallienus (see above) shows him of largely blank face and gazing heavenward as we see on the famous stone head of Constantine I. One of the last rulers of Rome to be theoretically called "Princeps" or First Citizen, Gallienus' shrewd self-promotion assisted in paving the way for those who would be addressed with the words "Dominus et Deus" (Lord and God).


Primary Sources

* Aurelius Victor, [ Epitome de Caesaribus]
* Eutropius, [ Breviarium ab urbe condita]
* Historia Augusta, [*.html The Two Gallieni]
* Joannes Zonaras, Compendium of History [ extract: Zonaras: Alexander Severus to Diocletian: 222-284]
* Zosimus, [ Historia Nova]

econdary Sources

*Ivar Lissner, "Power and Folly; The Story of the Caesars". Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1958.
*John Bray, "Gallienus : A Study in Reformist and Sexual Politics", Wakefield Press, 1997, ISBN 1-862-54337-2
*Pat Southern, "The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine". London and New York: Routledge, 2001.
*Ronald Syme, "Ammianus and the Historia Augusta", The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968

ee also

* Thirty Tyrants (Roman)

External links

* [ "Valerian and Gallienus"] , at "De Imperatoribus Romanis".
* [ Download an Excel list of all Gallienus bronze and billon coins incl. hoard coins not in RIC etc.]

s-ttl | title=Roman Emperor
alongside=Valerian (253–260) and Saloninus (260)

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