Monday, 28 March 2016

The German victories of Gallienus

Two captives seated back-to-back flanking the foot of a trophy of captured equipment, their arms tied behind their backs

In the late 250s the emperor Gallienus was based in Cologne orchestrating the campaign against the barbarians that were crossing from the free lands on the western Rhine and then eastern Rhine.

A major invasion by the Alemanni and other Germanic tribes occurred between 258 and 260 (it is hard to fix the precise date of these events), probably due to the vacuum left by the withdrawal of troops supporting Gallienus in the campaign against the rebel Ingenuus. Franks broke through the lower Rhine, invading Gaul, some reaching as far as southern Spain, sacking Tarraco (modern Tarragona). The Alamanni invaded, probably through Agri Decumates (an area between the upper Rhine and the upper Danube), likely followed by the Juthungi. After devastating Germania Superior and Raetia (parts of southern France and Switzerland), they entered Italy, the first invasion of the Italian peninsula, aside from its most remote northern regions, since Hannibal 500 years before.

When invaders reached the outskirts of Rome, they were repelled by an improvised army assembled by the Senate, consisting of local troops (probably praetorian guards) and the strongest of the civilian population. On their retreat through northern Italy, they were intercepted and defeated in the battle of Mediolanum (near present-day Milan) by Gallienus' army, which had advanced from Gaul, or from the Balkans after dealing with the Franks. The battle of Mediolanum was decisive, and the Alamanni didn't bother the empire for the next ten years. The Juthungi managed to cross the Alps with their valuables and captives from Italy. An historian in the 19th century suggested that the initiative of the Senate gave rise to jealousy and suspicion by Gallienus, thus contributing to his exclusion of senators from military commands

The coin here features, on one side, Gallienus in the spiky, radiate crown, wearing a cloak over his military armour. The other side proclaims a victory against the Germanic tribes and shows two barbarian captives below a trophy of arms.

It is available for purchase from the Mauseus Vcoins inventory, HERE, £35.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bainbridge Roman fort

I found myself in the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday and decided to head on up to Bainbridge to see the Roman fort.

The very well-defined almost square-shaped earthworks of Bainbridge Roman fort, lie just a little to the east of the village on the opposite side of the river Bain (England’s shortest river) at a place called Brough. The Romans called this fort Virosidvm – ‘the settlement of true men’. Thought to have been built in the Late Flavian period and abandoned by the late 4th century, it has a single ditch surrounding the north, east and south sides.

Three Latin inscribed building and military-type stones found here record that rebuilding took place after it was burnt to the ground in the early 3rd century AD – the rebuilding being carried out by the VI cohort of Nervi or Cohors Sextae Nerviorum. An earlier 2nd century timber fort was replaced by one made of stone, something that happened at many Roman forts in Brittannia. As well as the three stones with Latin inscriptions a further stone bearing a crudely carved mermaid was discovered and also substantial amounts of metalworking material and ingot moulds. It is believed there are Roman stones built into a number of cottages and farm buildings in and around Bainbridge.

The photograph of the fort was taken from the road leading up to Semerwater. Semerwater is the largest of only three natural water bodies in Yorkshire. It is a glacial lake which was formed at the end of the last Ice Age when huge amounts of glacial till blocked the outflow from Raydale.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A medallion of Marcus Aurelius

I have just acquired an extremely rare medallion of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius
AE medallion
Rome mint
Laureate, draped bust right
Emperor standing right, turning left and crowning a trophy of arm with two captives below
Gnecchi II, pl 59, 6 (obv), Gnecchi II, pl 60, 9 (rev)

Medallions were produced during the Roman empire predominantly as new year gifts. The dating on this medallion, using the TRP, IMP and COS titles, show this medallion was struck for the year December 177 to December 178 AD for the 1st of January 178 AD.

Gnecchi II, pl 60, 9

The dating of the medallion, with the reverse type that clearly shows a scene of victory with the trophy of arms with the captives seated below, must be a celebration of the outcome of the first Marcomannic war (162 through to 176). On December 23rd Marcus Aurelius, together with his son Commodus, celebrated a joint triumph for his German victories ("de Germanis" and "de Sarmatis" that appear in the obverse titles of this medallion). I suspect the victory celebration occurred too late for the medallions for January 1st 177, given the iconography of the reverses of the other medallions dated to TRP XXXII (December 177-178).

Gnecchi II, pl 59

In commemoration of this victory the Aurelian Column was erected, in imitation of Trajan's Column.

The Aurelian column