Talk:Roman usurper

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This describes a phenomenon, not a thing. I propose a move to Roman usurpers. Sverdrup 17:10, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

This is an excellent article! Very well done!

  • Its already a redirect. Thanks! I enjoyed writing it a lot. Muriel

One weakness in this article (& I hate criticizing what Muriel has written; while I agonize how to write various articles, she just writes them) is that the discussion ends with Diocletian. Usurpers plagued the Roman Empire through the 4th century & into the first decades of the 5th. My reading of Ammianus Marcellinus suggests that many of the usurpers were capable or gifted men who believed that they were forced to seek the purple to save their own lives. (If the emperor is going to sentence you to a savage death for some minor offence, why not commit treason, insurrection, & the deaths of a few highly-placed beauracrats while you're at it?). Usurpers stopped appearing in the West (although revolts & usurpers plagued the Byzantine Empire for centuries afterwards) in the 5th century, apparently when it became clear that being Emperor had far more liabilities than assets. (Would you want to be Emperor in the years following the death of Valentinian III?) -- llywrch 00:09, 7 Dec 2003 (UTC)

  • No! Definetely not, God protect me from the purple! Good point, Llywrch. The article stops there because i didnt get sources for the later. I'm rewriting all the emperors and at the moment I'm struggling with Gallienus. I plan to expand if somebody doesnt get there first. And by all means criticize, i rather like healthy criticism. If nobody does it, how am i going to improve? Muriel Victoria 13:13, 7 Dec 2003 (UTC)

For usurpers of the 4th Century, see the articles I wrote on Magnentius & Procopius (usurper); for the 5th, there is the article on Constantine III of Rome. (From what I remember, the other articles are too slight to be of help -- although Magnus Maximus & Eugenius are interesting stories.) But the tale that probably explains the mindset of numerous usurpers -- not only of the 4th Century, but probably of the 3rd -- is the tale of Silvanus the Frank (Ammianus Marcellinus, 14.5). He was an honest soldier who found himself falsely implicated in treachery, & had no way out than to listen to his men & declare himself emperor -- only to be killed after 28 days when he became too much of a liability for his followers.

As for Gallienus, good luck. I've looked at that article several times, trying to figure out how to add material to it. (There needs to be something about the countless coins of his reign which are described as copper "washed" with silver, & how they are typically interpreted as evidence of hyperinflation during his reign -- although this interpretation is no longer as favored as it once was.) -- llywrch 21:29, 7 Dec 2003 (UTC)


This page is supposed to talk about "Roman" usurpers, but yet the leading sentence refers to "Usurpers". The Usurper contains little information. Worse yet, both pages link to one single page in other languages. I propose a merge into "Usurper". 石川 (talk) 10:55, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Or if not, a lot of redirect has to be done, and the leading paragraph needs to be rewritten. And Usurper needs to be expanded, but that's another story. What do you guys think?石川 (talk) 10:57, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Usurpation is the wrong word[edit]

A usurper is someone who gains power in a constitutionally illegitimate way. But the office of emperor did not exist in the Roman constitution (at least, not till the dying days of the Empire in east.) They maintained the polite fiction that Rome was still a res publica, and the emperor was merely princeps, the first among equals.

As there was no constitutional office of emperor, equally well there was no constitutional succession. The only fairly reliable method of guaranteeing succession was to retire whilst still fairly healthy so as to be able to enforce transition to a chosen successor (although even this method didn't work out so well for Constantine I); otherwise succession occurred through a wide range of means, running the gamut from the conventionalised and quasi-legal down to assassination. The acquisition of the de facto auctoritas of Augustus through acclamation by the army was neither more nor less illegal than any other method. As such, "usurper" is not the right word to describe these men. -- (talk) 04:47, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

  • I agree completely. This is a false positive, to indicate or imply that there was any issue of legitimacy in becoming a Roman emperor, period. You became the emperor because you were able to achieve its selection. Plenty of ascensions were contested, which is why the Romans have civil wars, and wars over the ascensions to power. There was no issue of legitimacy because the only people who could contest the selection are those others with armies... This article needs to distinguish at its opening that this is a post-Roman and modern European conception of the assumption of power in Roman... Stevenmitchell (talk) 11:37, 29 March 2013 (UTC)