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E&D 18: Zenobia & Aurelian: The Usurper Queen and the Restoration of Empire
Transcript of E&D 18: Zenobia & Aurelian: The Usurper Queen and the Restoration of Empire
Imp. Caesar Marcus Annius
Imp. Caesar Marcus Aurelius
Imp. Caesar Marcus Aurelius
Imp. Caesar Marcus Aurelius Numerius
Imp. Caesar Marcus Aurelius
275 - Aurelian dies at Caenophurium near Byzantium
low level administrator - a low key end
no succession plan... no obvious factions
= choice of leading generals
retired general & senator
[decisive] action vs. Goths?
murdered after 6 months
acclaimed by army in Asia
cf. Claudius-Quintillus-Aurelian triad
Florianus killed by own soldiers
Probus reigned 6 years
constant campaigning [resurgence post Aurelian?]
died at Sirmium - random? or
[his praetorian prefect]?
Carus elevates sons
in east Carus struck by lightning(!)
and Numerianus killed by uncle-in-law Numerianus (praetorian prefect)
army acclaim a junior officer, Gaius Valerius
Carinus in west - series of usurpers
betrayed (by praetorian prefect) to Diocles
Lord of Palmyra Odaenathus
helped repel Sapor...
then sided w/ Gallienus vs. Ballista/Callistus Macrianus & sons
control of east -
corrector totius orientis
a working relationship... that stopped working
elastic nature not questionned while alive
as ever, succession the problem!
hereditary rulers of Palmyra?
murdered along w/ his elder son
younger son Vaballathus, not yet 10 & wife
Zenobia engineers his accession in Palmyrene royal house... and east at large
goes beyond former husband
new titulature - developing claim
back date rule (so Aurelian accede 3 years after Vaballathus)
assert control over Arabia & Egypt [governors resist... & die]
attempt to legimitise the boy ruler?
Claudius Gothicus take military/diplomatic action? unclear...
Marcus Cassianus Latinius
governor of Lower Germany
defeated German raiding party
Gallienus' deputy Silvanus w/ Caesar Saloninus demanded booty
Postumus gave to troops
marched on Cologne, Silvanus & Saloninus delivered up
- not march on Rome
Gallienus initially too busy, and latterly too incompetent
established new state beyond Alps
Gaul, Britain, N. Spain, [parts Raetia]
and stayed there - [no expansion]!
ten year reign
Roman ideology - titulature, coins etc
language of restoration!
no desire for independence?
usurper usurped! Ulpius Cornelius
Postumus defeats.. but forbids troops to plunder city
, officer where Postumus died (268)
, praetorian prefect (268-270)
Caius Pius Esuvius
a new Gallic emperor?
Zosimus (1.49.2) refers to 3 rebellions vs. Aurelian early in his reign
by ‘Septiminus, Urbanus and Domitianus’
Zenobia & Aurelian: The Usurper Queen and the Restoration of Empire
2. John Zonaras,
Epitome of the Histories
Selection of Chronography
4. John Malalas,
Chronicle of Antioch
all using Athenian historian Publius Herennius Dexippus...
Dexippus ends w/ Aurelian
"At which time will reign over the mighty Romans
two men, swift lords of war. One will have
the number 70 [i.e. Valerian] and the other 3 [i.e. Gallienus].
And then a haughty bull, digging the earth
with its hoofs and lifting the dust with its two horns,
will do much harm to a dark-skinned reptile,
dragging its coil by its horny scales. But he will perish with it.
Another well-horned stag [i.e. Macrinus?] will again come after him,
hungering in the mountains, desiring in its belly to feed upon
the venomous beasts. Then shall come one who was sent by the sun [i.e. Odaenathus],
a mighty and fearful lion, breathing much flame.
he with much shameless daring will destroy
the well-horned swift-moving stag [i.e. Quietus]
and the greatest beast -
venomous, fearful and emitting a great deal of hisses [i.e. Shapur]
and the sideways walking goat [i.e. Callistus?]
and fame will attend him;
he himself, entire, unhurt and great,
will rule over the Romans
, but the Persians will be weakened."
Sibyllline Oracle XIII, lines 155-171
“Emperor Caesar Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus, Pious, Blessed, Unconquered Augustus,
, Germanicus Maximus, holding the tribunician power, consul for the second time, proconsul.”
"In honor of the divine [imperial] house,
for the safety of Emperor Severus Alexander Augustus
In honor of the divine [imperial] house.
Dedicated to the holy goddess Victory, because of barbarians of the race of Semnones and Iuthungi slaughtered on the eight and seventh days before the Kalends of May and routed by the soldiers of the province of Raetia and [those stationed] in the Germanies, and likewise many local peoples, as a result of which many thousands of Italian captives were freed. Marcus Simplicinius Genialis, distinguished equestrian, acting in place of the governor, together with his army placed this freely and deservedly, being satisfied of their vows.
Dedicated three days before the Ides of September in the year when our lord Emperor Postumus Augustus and Honoratianus were consuls
accession of Aurelian
refortification of Rome
defeat of Palmyra 
2x quick defeats: Antioch & Emesa
beseige Palmyra, Zenobia captured fleeing
leaders executed after trial in Emesa (except Zenobia)
further revolt [response to financial penalties]
Aurelian returns & orders destruction city
tour of the east: symbol of order restored
defeat of Gallic empire 
under Tetricus - named son Caesar
Aurelian approach... Tetricus betrayed army
and surrendered himself
double triumph: first in many years
Zenobia, Tetricus & son all march
[both lived to old age]
fall 274 -
new coins - demands exchange
priviliged Sol Invictus [Elagabal by another name...]
aid vs/ Zenobia at Emesa
new Temple dedicated Dec 25th 275
"For the safety and victory of Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus, illustrious King of Kings, who is also
of the entire region, son of Septimius Odaenathus, King of Kings;
and also on behalf of (the safety) of Septimia
(Zenobia), (most) illustrious Queen, mother of the King
, daughter of Antiochus. Fourteen miles."
CISem. II 3971 bilingual milestone [Palmyrene only];
"Then with matters in a terrible state and the Roman empire nearly destroyed, Postumus, who had been born in Gaul in the humblest circumstances, assumed the purple and
ruled for ten years, in such a way that he restored by his great virtue and moderation provinces that had nearly been consumed
"This is the statue of
Septimius Hairan, son of Odaenathus, illustrious senator and chief of Palmyra [rš’ tdmwr]
, which has been set up to him by Aurelius Philinus, son of Marius Philinus [Gr: Heliodorus], son of Ra’ai, soldier in the [Gre: Cyrenean] legion of Bostra, in his honour. In the month Tishri of the year 563 (October 251)."
PAT 0290: bilingual inscription from AD 251
POSTUMUS' GALLIC EMPIRE
THE PALMYRENE KINGDOM
RIC 276: aureus of Postumus (Gaul, AD 263-4). Obverse: bust of Postumus (POSTVMVS PIVS AVG). Reverse: Postumus in toga on curule chair, holding roll & extending right hand towards a kneeling citizen (INDVLG PIA POSTVMI AVG).
Septimius Herodian, King of Kings, crowned near the Orontes with the diadem of royalty for his victory over the Persians
, (this statue was set up by) Julius Aurelius Septimius Worod, procurator and ducenarius, and Julius Aurelius Hermes, centenarius, both being strategoi of the illustrious colony (i.e. Palmyra), the year 571 (AD 260).”
IGR 1032, dedicatory inscription on arch at Palmyra
“Under Gallienus the Persians invaded Mesopotamia and
would even have begun to lay claim to Syria, except that (it is shameful to relate) Odaenathus, the Palmyrene decurion, collected a band of Syrian country folk and put up a spirited resistance
. On a number of occasions, he routed the Persians and not only defended our border, but even as
the avenger of the Roman empire
, marvellous to say, forced his way to Ctesiphon.”
23 (ed. Eadie, p.64, 13-18)
a new mosaic from Palmyra: hunting scene with Persian tigers & Bellerophon riding Pegasus, fighting the chimaera (an allegory for Odaenathus’ and Herodian’s victory over the Persians?)
"Odaenathus was killed in
a conspiracy of Gallienus
. And Zenobia, who was his wife, took over the affairs there. She had a man’s courage and avenged her husband’s death with his friends.."
John of Antioch, fr.152.2, FHG IV, p.599
Maeonius, the cousin of Odaenathus, murdered that excellent emperor, being moved thereto by nothing else than contemptible envy
, for he could bring no charge against him save that Herodes [i.e. Herodian/Hairan] was his son. It is said, however, that previously
he had entered into a conspiracy with Zenobia
, who could not bear that her stepson Herodes should be called a prince in a higher rank than her own two sons, Herennianus and Timolaus."
"This Odaenathus became a great man and loyal to the Romans, and was victorious in many wars against different nations and against the Persians themselves. But
in the end he was killed by his own nephew
. For that man joined his uncle in a hunt, and when the animal leapt out, he made the first attack and threw and killed the beast. Odaenathus was angry and threatened his relative. But the nephew did not desist, but did this two or three times. Odaenathus flew into a rage and took away his horse. This is considered a great insult among the barbarians. So the young man angrily threatened his uncle. For this reason, he put him in chains. Later the elder of Odaenathus’ sons requested his father that the prisoner be freed. And when the young man was released, while Odaenathus was drinking, he came at him with a sword and killed him and his son by whom the release had been obtained. But the young man was slain when some of them attacked him."
Zonaras 12.24 (eds. Pinder and Büttner-Wobst, p.600, 10-23)
"At the time
Zenobia the Saracen, wife of Enathus [i.e. Odaenathus], exacting revenge for the death of her own husband, gathered his kinsmen and took over Arabia, then held by the Romans
. She also slew the dux Trassus of the Romans and all the force with him during the reign of Apollianus himself (also called Claudius, 268-270). The same Claudius was in Sirmium, waging war, and there he died at the age of fifty-six.
John Malalas 12 (ed. Dindorf, p.299, 3-10):
“--- --- ---] the temple of Jupiter Hammon,
destroyed by the Palmyrene enemies, which [--- ---] rebuilt
, with a silver statue and iron doors.”
9107: Latin inscription on lintel of temple of Jupiter Hammon at Bostra
"Probus fought also against
the Palmyrenes, who held Egypt for the party of Odaenathus and Cleopatra [i.e. Zenobia]
, fighting at first with success, but later so recklessly that he nearly was captured; later, however, when his forces were strengthened, he brought Egypt and the greater part of the Orient under the sway of Aurelian."
"The 2nd year of Imperator Caesar Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Pius Felix Augustus and the 5th year of Julius Aurelius Septimius
most illustrious King, Consul, Imperator, General of the Romans
. Phamenoth 8 (14 March 272)"
P.Oxy. 1264, lines 20-27
"[L. Jul]ius Aurelius Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus, King, Consul, Imperator,
dux of the Romans
. 15 miles.
T. Bauzou, in P. Freeman and D. Kennedy (eds.),
The Defence of the Roman and Byzantine East
. BAR 297 (Oxford, 1986), 2.
"To Imperator Caesar L. Julius Aurelius Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus, Persicus Maximus, Arabicus Maximus, Adiabenicus Maximus, Pius Fortunate
RIC 2v: Antoninianus of Zenobia (spring or early summer 272, probably from the Emesa mint. Obverse: bust of Zenobia (S(eptimia) ZENOBIA AVG(usta)). Reverse: Juno with patera, sceptre and peacock (IVNO REGINA).
RIC 4: Antoninianus of Vaballathus as Augustus. Obverse: bust of Vaballathus, crowned (IM C VHABALATHVS AVG). Reverse: Hercules standing right with club, lionskin, & 3 apples of the Hesperides, star to left (IV(v)EN(t)VS AVG).
RIC 381: Antoninianus of Vabalathus and Aurelian (Antioch Mint). Obverse: bust of Aurelian, crowned (IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG). Reverse: bust of Vaballathus (VABALATHVS V(ir) C(onsularis) R(ex) IM(perator) D(ux) R(omanorum).
Milne 1735: tetradrachm from the Alexandria mint. Obverse: bust of Aurelian (ΑΥΤ(οκρατωρ) ΚΑΙ(σαρ) ΑΥΡΗΛΙΑΝΟΣ ΣΕΒ(αστος)). Reverse: bust of Vaballathus (Υ(πατικος) ΑΥΤ(οκρατωρ) Σ(τρατηγος) ΡΩ(μαιων) Ι(ουλιος) Α(υρηλιος) Σ(επτιμιυς) ΟΥΑΒΑΛΛΑΘΟΣ ΑΘΗΝΟ(δωρος)).
"What concord prevailed among the soldiers! How great was the peace for the people! How weighty was the authority of the Senate!
, no usurper emerged, while the world was governed by the collaborative judgement of Senate, army and people
"Zenobia, the wife of Odaenathus, was an addition to the glory of the emperor Aurelian. For after her husband’s death she held the Eastern empire within her female control. Although she relied on many thousands of heavy cavalry and archers
Aurelian defeated her at Immae not far from Antioch and captured her.
24 (ed. Eadie, p.65, 1-6)
"It is a rare thing, or rather, a difficult thing, for the Syrians to keep faith. For the Palmyrenes, who had once been defeated and crushed,
now that Aurelian was busied with matters in Europe, began a rebellion of no small size.
For they killed Sandario, whom Aurelian had put in command of the garrison there, and with him 600 bowmen, thus getting the rule for a certain Achilleus, a kinsman of Zenobia’s. But Aurelian, indeed, prepared as he always was, came back from Rhodope and, because it deserved it, destroyed the city."
, [--- ---], who claimed to be the descendant of the emperor Domitian and Domitilla [--- ---]."
Aureus of Domitian II, found in Oxfordshire in 2004. Obverse: bust of Domitian II (IMP C DOMITIANUS P[ius] F[elix] AUG). Reverse: goddess with cornucopia (CONCORDIA MILITUM)
RIC 54: Antoninianus of Aurelian (Rome mint, AD 274/5). Obverse: bust of Aurelian (IMP AVRELIANVS AVG). Reverse: Sol with laurel branch & bow, treading down an enemy (ORIENS AVG).
RIC 386: Antoninianus of Aurelian. Obverse: bust of Aurelian (IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG). Reverse: goddess (?) presenting wreath to Aurelian (RESTITVT ORBIS).
the Senate elevated the consular Tacitus
, about 6 months after the death of Aurelian, to emperor."
Book of the Caesars
"Finally, by the treachery of his own servant - who gave to certain military men, friends of that very servant, names with notations (he deceitfully imitated his [i.e. Aurelian’s] handwriting), as though Aurelian were preparing to kill them -
he was murdered at the halfway point in the road which is between Constantinople and Heracleum
. He was savage, bloodthirsty, and ferocious at every moment - even the murderer of his sister’s son.
At the time, for seven months, there proceeded a kind of interregnum
Epitome about the Caesars
"How difficult it is to choose an emperor in the place of a good ruler is shown both by the dignified action of a revered senate and by the power exerted by a wise army. For when this sternest of princes was slain, the army referred to the senate the business of choosing an emperor, for the reason that it believed that no one of those should be chosen who had slain such an excellent ruler. The senate, however, thrust this selection back on the army, knowing well that the emperors whom the senate selected were no longer gladly received by the troops.
Finally, for the third time, the choice was referred, and so for the space of six months the Roman world was without a ruler
, and all those governors whom either the senate or Aurelian had chosen remained at their posts, save only that Faltonius Probus was appointed proconsul of Asia in the place of Arellius Fuscus."
RIC V.1, 3: dupondius of so-called Interregnum, ca 275? Obverse: head of Genius of the Roman People (GENIVS P R). Reverse: legend within wreath (INT(erregnum) VRB(is) [?] S C)
RIC 10: antoninianus of Florianus, from the mint at Lyon (AD 276). Obverse: bust of Florianus (IMP C M AN FLORIANVS AVG). Reverse: Providentia (PROVIDENTIA AVG)
“After this, the whole issue of the war was decided near Emesa in a mighty battle fought against Zenobia and Zaba, her ally.
When Aurelian's horsemen, now exhausted, were on the point of breaking their ranks and turning their backs, suddenly by the power of a supernatural agency, as was afterwards made known, a divine form spread encouragement throughout the foot-soldiers and rallied even the horsemen.
Zenobia and Zaba were put to flight, and a victory was won in full. And so, having reduced the East to its former state, Aurelian entered Emesa as a conqueror, and
at once made his way to the Temple of Elagabalus, to pay his vows as if by a duty common to all
But there he beheld that same divine form which he had seen supporting his cause in the battle.
Wherefore he not only established temples there, dedicating gifts of great value, but
he also built a temple to the Sun at Rome
, which he consecrated with still greater pomp, as we shall relate in the proper place.”
In the procession was Tetricus also
, arrayed in scarlet cloak, a yellow tunic, and Gallic trousers, and with him his son, whom he had proclaimed in Gaul as emperor.
And there came Zenobia, too
, decked with jewels and in golden chains, the weight of which was borne by others."
After his death Aurelian succeeded to the throne. He was born in Dacia Ripensis, and was a man of ability in war, but of an ungovernable temper, and too much inclined to cruelty. He defeated the Goths with great vigour, and extended the Roman empire, by various successes in the field, to its former limits. He overthrew Tetricus at Catalauni in Gaul,
Tetricus himself, indeed, betraying his own army, whose constant mutinies he was unable to bear; and he had even by secret letters entreated Aurelian to march towards him
, using, among other solicitations, the verse of Virgil:----
Eripe me his, invicte, malis.
Unconquer'd hero, free me from these ills.
Map of ancient Rome, showing the Servian wall in blue, and the Aurelian wall in red.