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5601941
5601941. Sold For $345

Gallienus. AD 253-268. AR Antoninianus (21mm, 4.60 g, 12h). Siscia mint. 1st emission, AD 263-264. Radiate head left / Pax advancing left, holding palm frond and scepter. RIC V 576; MIR 36, 1397k; RSC 741c. Silvering, spots of light porosity, a few minor scratches. Near EF. Strong portrait.


No Roman emperor is more undeservedly vilified than Gallienus, who spent his entire 15-year reign desperately fighting the forces of chaos and destruction that threatened the empire’s very existence. Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus was born circa A.D. 218-220 in the waning days of the Pax Romana—the “Roman Peace” which had endured for 250 years. His father, Valerian, was a wealthy senator who served in a number of important posts during the AD 230s and 240s in a Roman government increasingly beset by invasions and revolts. In AD 253, Valerian seized the throne for himself and named Gallienus, then in his mid 30s, as co-emperor. Gallienus took charge of Roman forces in Gaul and the Balkans while Valerian traveled East to combat a major Persian invasion. From AD 253-260, Gallienus fought furiously against continuous barbarian incursions along the crumbling Rhine and Danube frontiers. He won a smashing victory over the Alemanni in AD 259, but almost immediately thereafter came news that Valerian had been captured by the Persians and the entire Roman army of the East annihilated. Gallienus had no time to ponder rescuing his father, for all hell broke loose in the following months. Roman generals revolted in Gaul, the Balkans and Asia Minor, while barbarian raiders poured across the unprotected frontiers in destructive waves. Economic collapse, banditry, piracy and pestilence followed in their wake as the Roman Empire fragmented and spiraled perilously close to oblivion. Still, Gallienus battled on doggedly, showing grit and ingenuity. His military reforms, including the creation of a large central cavalry reserve and the promotion of a tough new officer class from the Danubian provinces, were key to the eventual Roman recovery. Somehow amid this frenetic activity, he found time to foster a revival in the arts, literature and philosophy. His poetic pretensions, gender-bending wit and love of luxury earned him the disdain of Rome’s upper classes. But he was tolerant and humane, and he won the respect of Christians by ending decades of persecution. In AD 268, he fell victim to a plot by the very Danubian officers he had raised to prominence. But the great Roman revival of the late third century owes as much to Gallienus as to the soldier-emperors that followed him.