Imperium Galliarum[note 1]
The Gallic Empire under Tetricus I by 271 A.D. (in green)
|Capital||Colonia Agrippina (260–271), Augusta Treverorum (271–274)|
|Languages||Latin (official), local languages such as Gaulish, Brittonic, and other languages that survived into this period|
|-||270–274||Tetricus II (Caesar)|
|Historical era||Late Antiquity|
The Gallic Empire (Latin: Imperium Galliarum[note 1]) is the modern name for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire that functioned de facto as a separate state from 260 to 274.[note 2] It originated during the Crisis of the Third Century.
It was established by Postumus in 260 in the wake of barbarian invasions and instability in Rome, and at its height included the territories of Germania, Gaul, Britannia, and (for a time) Hispania. After Postumus' assassination in 268 it lost much of its territory, but continued under a number of emperors and usurpers. It was retaken by Roman emperor Aurelian after the Battle of Châlons in 274.
The Crisis of the Third Century began as Emperor Valerian was defeated and captured by the Sassanid Empire of Persia, leaving his son Gallienus in very shaky control. Shortly thereafter, the Palmyrene Empire, which came to encompass Egypt, Syria, Judea, and Arabia Petraea also broke away.
The governors in Pannonia staged unsuccessful local revolts. The Emperor left for the Danube to attend to their disruption. This left Postumus, who was governor of Germania Superior and Inferior, in charge at the Rhine border. The imperial heir Saloninus and the praetorian prefect Silvanus remained at Colonia Agrippina (Cologne), to keep the young heir out of danger and perhaps also as a check on Postumus' ambitions. Before long, however, Postumus besieged Colonia Agrippina and put the young heir and his guardian to death. Postumus is thought to have established his capital at Cologne or Trier.
The Gallic Empire had its own praetorian guard, two annually elected consuls (not all of whose names have survived) and probably its own senate. According to the numismatic evidence, Postumus himself held the office of consul five times.
Postumus successfully fended off a military incursion by Gallienus in 263, and was never challenged by him again. However, in early 268 he was challenged by Laelianus, probably one of his commanders, who was declared emperor at Mogontiacum (Mainz) by his Legio XXII Primigenia. Postumus quickly retook Mogontiacum and Laelianus was killed. Postumus himself, however, was overthrown and killed by his own troops, reportedly because he did not allow them to sack the city.
After the death of Postumus, the Gallic Empire began to fall apart. Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus re-established Roman authority in Gallia Narbonensis and parts of Gallia Aquitania, and there is some evidence that the provinces of Hispania, which did not recognize the subsequent Gallic Emperors, may have re-aligned with Rome then.
Marius was instated as Emperor upon Postumus' death, but died very shortly after; the literary sources say he reigned only two days, though it is more likely he reigned for a few months. Subsequently Victorinus came to power, being recognized as Emperor in northern Gaul and Britannia, but not in Hispania. Victorinus spent most of his reign dealing with insurgencies and attempting to recover the Gaulish territories taken by Claudius Gothicus. He was assassinated in 271, but his mother Victoria took control of his troops and used her power to influence the selection of his successor. With Victoria's support, Tetricus was made Emperor, and was recognized in Britannia and the parts of Gaul still controlled by the Empire. Tetricus fought off Germanic barbarians who had begun ravaging Gaul after the death of Victorinus, and was able to re-take Gallia Aquitania and western Gallia Narbonensis while Roman Emperor Aurelian was engaging Queen Zenobia's Palmyrene Empire in the east. He established the imperial court at Trier, and in 273 he elevated his son, also named Tetricus, to the rank of Caesar. The following year the younger Tetricus was made co-consul, but the Empire grew weak from internal strife, including a mutiny led by the usurper Faustinus. By that time Aurelian had defeated the Palmyrene Empire and had made plans to re-conquer the west. He moved into Gaul and defeated Tetricus at the Battle of Châlons in 274; according to the sources, Tetricus, weary of the in-fighting, offered to surrender in exchange for clemency for him and his son. This detail may be later propaganda, but either way, Aurelian was victorious, and the Gallic Empire was effectively dismantled.
The Gallic Empire was symptomatic of the fragmentation of power during the third-century crisis. It has also been taken to represent autonomous trends in the western provinces, including proto-feudalistic tendencies among the Gaulish land-owning class whose support has sometimes been thought to have underpinned the strength of the Gallic Empire, and an interplay between the strength of Roman institutions and the growing salience of provincial concerns. One of Postumus' primary objectives as emperor was evidently the defence of the Germanic frontier; in 261 he repelled mixed groups of Franks and Alamanni to hold the Rhine limes secure (though lands beyond the upper Rhine and Danube had to be abandoned to the barbarians within a couple of years). In so doing, Postumus positioned himself avowedly as not only the defender and restorer of Gaul, but also as the upholder of the Roman name.
The usurpation of power over Britain and northern Gaul by Carausius just twenty years later reflects a continuing trend by which local loyalties from the landed aristocracy and deteriorating morale in the legions enabled Carausius to seize power in Britain. Similarly with the withdrawal of legions after 408, many Britons desired a localized Roman authority rather than nationalist revolt. The desire for Roman order and institutions was entirely compatible with a degree of national or regional separatism.
The Gallic Emperors are known primarily from the coins they minted. The political and military history of the Gallic Empire can be sketched through the careers of these emperors. Their names are as follows:
- Postumus 260–268
- Marius 268
- Victorinus 268–270
- Tetricus the elder 270–274
Consuls of the Gallic Empire
|260||Postumus (second time)||unknown|
|261||Postumus (third time)|
|265||Postumus (fourth time)|
|268||Postumus (fifth time)||Victorinus (first time)|
|270||Victorinus (second time)||Sanctus|
|271||Tetricus (first time)||unknown|
|272||Tetricus (second time)|
|273||Tetricus (third time)|
|Year and sequence unknown:|
|?||Censor (twice)||Lepidus (twice)|
- The state was never officially styled as Imperium Galliarum on the official monuments, inscriptions or coins that have survived; rather, the phrase comes from a phrase in Eutropius (Galliarum accepit imperium, "[he took] command of the Gallic provinces", Drinkwater 1987, p. 15). Instead, the titles and administrative structures of the empire followed their Roman models (Drinkwater 1987, pp. 126-127).
- The year of Postumus' accession was either 259 or 260. In the past, the year 259 was favoured; today, however, most scholars consider that the summer or fall of 260 is the more likely date that Postumus was hailed emperor, according to Polfer (Postumus) and J.F. Drinkwater (1987), p. 97. The exact dating depends on several factors, including when the emperor Valerian was captured and disgraced. Other dates cited in this article must be pushed forward by one year for those who take 259 as the year of Postumus' accession. See Drinkwater (1987), pp. 95-106.
- Bourne, R. J. (2001) Aspects of the relationship between the Central and Gallic Empires in the mid to late third century AD with special reference to coinage studies. Archaeopress. p. 22.
- J.F. Drinkwater (1987), The Gallic Empire: Separatism and continuity in the north-western provinces of the Roman Empire, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, pp. 24-27.
- Aurelius Victor 33.8.
- Eutropius 9.9.1.
- Polfer, Michel (June 3, 2000). "Victorinus (A.D. 269–271)". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- Weigel, Richard D. (June 19, 2001). "Claudius II Gothicus (268–270)". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- Polfer, Michael (June 24, 1999). "Marius (A.D. 269)". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- Polfer, Michel (January 28, 2000). "Tetricus I (AD 271–273)". De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and Their Families. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
- Drinkwater (1987), p. 239.
- Drinkwater (1987), pp. 247-248.
- Drinkwater (1987), pp. 226-227.
- Drinkwater (1987), pp. 28 and 240; the Gallic emperors are called adsertores Romani nominis in the Historia Augusta.
- Drinkwater (1987), p. 16.
- Drinkwater (1987), p. 102.
- Richard Abdy. "The Domitian II coin from Chalgrove: a Gallic emperor returns to history". Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- Drinkwater (1987), p. 188.
- Drinkwater (1987), pp. 128-130.