The obverse of an Aurelius featuring Tetricus I.
|Emperor of the Gallic Empire|
|Successor||None (Reconquered by Aurelian)|
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was the emperor of the Gallic Empire from 271 to 274 AD. He was originally the Praeses (governor) of Gallia Aquitania, and became emperor after the murder of Emperor Victorinus in 271, having received the support of Victorinus's mother, Victoria. During his reign, he faced external pressure from Germanic raiders, who pillaged the eastern and northern parts of his empire, and the Roman Empire, from which the Gallic Empire had split. He also faced increasing internal pressure, which led to him declaring his son, Tetricus II, caesar in 273 and potentially co-emperor in 274, although this is debated. The Roman Emperor Aurelian invaded in either 273 or 274, culminating in the Battle of Châlons, in which Tetricus surrendered. Whether this was the result of a secret agreement between Tetricus and Aurelian or necessary after his defeat, is debated. Aurelian spared Tetricus, and even made him a senator and Corrector (governor) of Lucania et Bruttii. He died of natural causes a few years after 274.
Commonly referred to as Tetricus I, Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus is believed, based upon his name, to have been born in Gaul, though the date is not known. In 271 AD, he was the Praeses provinciae (governor) of Gallia Aquitania, when Emperor Victorinus was murdered by the Gallic Army. Victorinus's mother, Victoria, selected Tetricus to be his replacement and bribed the army to have him proclaimed emperor of the Gallic Empire in the spring of 271. He was ceremonially proclaimed emperor at Burdigala in Gaul. Multiple regnal titles were added to Tetricus' name on his ascension, as was custom for Roman emperors, changing it to Imperator Caesar Esuvius Tetricus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus Pontifex Maximus. In late 271, Tetricus moved the capital of the Gallic Empire from Cologne to Trier. He elevated his son, Tetricus II, to caesar in 273 to increase his support. He may have also elevated his son to co-emperor during the last days of his reign, but this is disputed.
During his reign, the Gallic Empire was subject to internal and external pressures. There was dissent within the army and the government. It was threatened by the Roman Empire, from which the Gallic Empire had split, and by Germanic tribes. Upon his accession, all of the Gallic provinces except Gallia Narbonensis, which had been partially reconquered by Placidianus under Claudius Gothicus, recognised him as emperor. Britain recognised him but the Spanish provinces of Hispania Baetica, Lusitania and Hispania Tarraconensis and the German city of Strasbourg, recognised Aurelian instead. During his rule, Germanic tribes became increasingly aggressive, raiding across the Rhine and along the coast, to pillage Gallic territory. Tetricus occasionally fought against them, mostly in the early years of his reign, even once celebrating a triumph but mostly he would withdraw troops and abandon forts, allowing the territory to be pillaged. Germanic raids continued with almost no opposition. One penetrated so far into Gallic territory that it reached the Loire.
Emperor Aurelian began preparations to invade the Gallic Empire in either early or late 273, with both sides meeting at Châlons-sur-Marne. There are two accounts of what happened; one, which is believed to have been created by Roman imperial propaganda some time later, states that Tetricus offered to surrender, quoting Virgil and saying "eripe me his invicte malis" (rescue me undefeated from these troubles). Modern scholars contend that the Battle of Châlons did occur, with Tetricus surrendering either directly after the battle or later. This battle was recorded as being exceptionally bloody, so much so that for generations it was referred to as the "Catalaunian catastrophe". The latest possible date for his surrender is March 274, when the Gallic mints switched from minting coins of Tetricus I and II to those of Aurelian. With his surrender, the Gallic Empire rejoined the Roman Empire and Aurelian held a triumph in Rome. The leaders of the two breakaway states he had conquered, Tetricus of the Gallic Empire and Zenobia of the Palmyrene Empire were paraded. Aurelian pardoned both and made Tetricus a senator and Corrector (a governor of a minor province) of Lucania et Bruttii. Tetricus died of natural causes several years later in Lucania.
The Aurei (a gold coin) issued during the reign of Tetricus fell into several types. Seven featured his bust on the obverse, with the reverses showing him riding a horse, a standing Aequitas, a standing Jupiter, a standing Laetitia, a standing Pax, him holding an olive branch and a sceptre, or a standing Spes. One featured his face on the obverse and a standing Hilaritas on the reverse. Another displayed his head on the obverse and a depiction of Victoria walking to the right on the reverse. There were two Aurelius types which depicted Tetricus I and Tetricus II together; both featured Jugate busts of them on the obverse, with one having a standing Aeternitas on the reverse and the other having a standing Felicitas. A rare Quinarius (a silver coin) issued during his reign held a three-quarter facing bust of Tetricus on the obverse and Victoria standing with her foot on a globe on the reverse.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tetricus I.|
These sources were written by early chronicles and been drawn upon by modern scholars.
- Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus
- Aurelius Victor, Liber de Caesaribus
- Eutropius, Brevarium, Book 9
- Historia Augusta, The Thirty Tyrants
- Joannes Zonaras, Compendium of History, Zonaras: Alexander Severus to Diocletian: 222–284
- Zosimus, Historia Nova
- Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 30.
- Potter 2014, p. 257.
- Sayles 2007, p. 138.
- Southern 2015, p. 119.
- Canduci 2010, p. 98.
- Drinkwater 1987, p. 125.
- Southern 2015, p. 175.
- Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 8.
- Canduci 2010, p. 100.
- Southern 2015, p. 176.
- Vagi 2000, p. 386.
- Potter 2014, p. 268.
- Matyszak 2014, p. 134.
- Friedberg, Friedberg & Friedberg 2017, p. 50.
- Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (2004). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Facts On File. ISBN 9780816074822.
- Canduci, Alexander (2010). Triumph and Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors. Murdoch Books. ISBN 9781741965988.
- Drinkwater, J.F. (1987). The Gallic Empire: Separatism and Continuity in the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire, A.D. 260-274. Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden. ISBN 9783515048064.
- Friedberg, Arthur L.; Friedberg, Ira S.; Friedberg, Robert (2017). Gold Coins of the World: From Ancient Times to the Present. An Illustrated Standard Catlaog with Valuations. Coin & Currency Institute. ISBN 9780871840097.
- Matyszak, Philip (2014). The Roman Empire (9th ed.). Oneworld Publications. ISBN 9781780744254.
- Potter, David S. (2014). The Roman Empire at Bay, AD 180–395. Routledge. ISBN 9781134694778.
- Sayles, Wayne G. (2007). Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World – Politics and Propaganda. KP. ISBN 9780896894785.
- Southern, Patricia (2015). The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. Routledge. ISBN 9781317496946.
- Vagi, David L. (2000). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, c. 82 B.C.– A.D. 480. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 9781579583163.
| Emperor of the Gallic Empire
| Consul of the Gallic Empire
with Tetricus II (273–274)