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XXI

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Julian of Pannonia, c. November 284 - c. February 285 A.D.

Not much is known about this usurper. He was governor of Venetia (Venice) and rebelled in Pannonia. Carinus defeated him at Verona. All his coins were struck at the Siscia mint and are very rare. Vagi notes that perhaps 30 of his aurei are known.


Obverse Legends

IMPCMAVRIVLIANVSPFAVG
IMPCIVLIANVSPFAVG


Context and Chronology

An early date (Autumn 283 AD) for the rebellion of Julian of Pannonia, at Siscia, is imposed by numismatic evidence and supported by ancient sources.The following chronology presents a coherent sequence of events, based on this date. The rebellion context is still much more a matter of opinion. The weak legitimacy of the Carus dynasty was caused by the way Carus came to power (after the assassination of a ‘good’ and regretted emperor), his gallic origin and a useless campaign in the East. This overweighted the capabilities and successes of Carus and the positive fact that he had two adult sons to assist him. The dynasty evolved rapidly (a change each quarter from October/November 282 AD up to April/May 283 AD) in an attempt to strengthen its legitimacy and compensate for  Carus’ illness and/or age.Time lacked to consolidate the dynastic institutional system and whatever the real ruling talents of Carinus, after Carus’ death both Carinus and Numerian legitimacy was challenged. One of the main figures in the ruling circles in the West, Carinus’ praetorian prefect Marcus Aurelius Julianus seized the first opportunity the death of the founder of the dynasty opened, to try to overthrow it. Julian’s rebellion was the result of a  fragile dynastic legitimacy coupled with a still unseasoned institutional and ruling system and with an opportunity, in political and military terms, for a praetorian prefect to seize the power. Its failure was caused by Carinus’quick and surprising reaction and by Julian’s hasty movement due to a very limited local support granted to a man seen as aged, non-Illyrian and ancient comrade of Carus.

1. Context.

Carus dynasty faced a question of legitimacy within a system that makes the power unstable and its transfer always difficult. Three Augusti of different ages and talent died within three years and not in a context of failure but of real successes. Ancient historians scrutinized each element of the legitimacy of Carus’ dynasty (access to power, gallic origin, circumstances of his death).Evaluation of Carus’role goes only from ‘fair’ to ‘good’ (strong criticism on  Carinus is a result of Diocletian’s propaganda). Transfer of power to Carus’s sons assisting him with rapidly increased responsibilities/rank occurred before they established their own authority/legitimacy.

1.1. Carus dynasty weakness came from the assassination of the “goodProbus by rebellious soldiers.Carus’ accession was considered as linked to the sudden disposition of a regretted emperor and stained by an, at least, indirect responsibility in this. Not to mention the historical tradition noting that Carus did not ask for a recognition by the Senate nor went to Rome; true or not, a real flaw in his formal legitimacy.
 
1.2. The gallic origin of Carus (his predecessors and a significant part of the imperial central ruling group were Illyrians) was a challenge, as Illyrian emperors were greatly regarded since M. A. Claudius. His gallic origin weakened Carus’ position; even more so, if this was coupled with a policy in nominations, for the highest ruling circles of staff coming from various other provinces - Italian, Gallic or Greek - (Sabinus Julianus,  Aper, Geminius Festus, Aristobulus). Despite Carus’ great personal talent and his two adult sons’ support, his dynasty was isolated amidst an Illyrian aristocracy.

1.3. Carus’ eastern campaign is a pledge by the new ruler to ‘continue’ the brilliant Probus’ policy made at the expense of the security along the Upper Danube limes.and not an indispensable one. Carus’ main action is criticized via a discussion about the real reason of his death: ‘divine’, natural or by assassination, turning his successful eastern campaign into inappropriate action.The debate on the necessity of the crossing of the main rivers in Mesopotamia and the mention of evil reasons behind a campaign reflects clear criticism. Moreover, the campaign allowed the praetorian prefect Aper to start plotting against Carus and  Numerian.

1.4. Numerian is only mentioned as a gifted orator and poet or as an ill person, a way to say that he had no real ruling talent or was not able to rule. He was under the influence of his step-father the praetorian prefect Aper. The position or ambition of the praetorian prefect in the East may have triggered off the ambition of the praetorian prefect in the West. The situation created a flaw in the new system based on two Augusti with more or less the same rank and powers and expected to rule in harmony.
 
1.5.1. Carinus is characterized as young (Zosimus). In fact, he was not. So why? Born in 249/250 AD he was well in his thirties. His age was a problem because, Carus being born about 223/230 AD and part of his comrades and senior advisers alike, those were appreciably older than Carinus himself. So the loyalty of Carus’ comrades left to assist Carinus, was not automatically transferred from Carus to his son. Carinus faced a ‘generation gap’ worsened by the lack of time to establish his personal authority on an efficient but aging ruling group (compare Julian and Carinus' Siscian coin portraits).Carinus’successors were at least 5 years older (and decentralized centers of power).

1.5.2. Carinus is labeled as thoughtless or unconcerned (Zosimus). His military activities are continuous and focused in accordance with the task entrusted to him by Carus (to protect Gaul): Upper Danube and Upper Rhine limes, Britannia, where difficulties appeared in the next years. Lack of decisive success is due to limited time and means resulting from  Julian’s usurpation in 283 AD and conflict with Diocletian in 284/5 AD.

So it’s his six months of internal policy that are under criticism (marriage and renewal of staff). His marriage -a political one- occurred only 4 months after Carinus became Augustus while Carus and Numerian were in Ctesiphon. Their absence, a possible previous divorce, a dignified Urbica coming possibly from a senatorial family, point to an autonomous and very personal decision. Overlooked obvious political and institutional consequences made Carus’ comrades quite uneasy. Accelerated renewal of ruling staff through nominations  following Carus’ policy but with an added age criteria - not to mention others (H.A.)- raised discontent in the equestrian order; discontent shared by senators if Aristobulus’ exceptional career (praetorian prefect and consul at the same time in the last part of the reign) was preceded by cases where usual cursus honorum rules were overlooked. Carinus brought in, roughly-lack of temperance-, changes not accepted by members of the existing ruling groups.

2. Julian’s rebellion.

2.1. These elements give weight to the fact that the death of Carus (July/August 283 A.D), the founder of the dynasty, triggered off a deep crisis in the Western part of the Empire as soon as Autumn 283 AD (Cari morte cognita). In a context of discontent amongst ruling groups, Marcus Aurelius Julianus, Carinus’ praetorian prefect, with some hesitation, tried to take advantage of the new situation. In the East Numerian’s praetorian prefect, Aper, controlled, at least for sometimes, the situation. As a retreat was decided if the brothers were to rule in harmony, at least part of the western troops (in particular the Danubian limes ones), of the staff and some V.I.P.s were to go back rapidly to the West. Their arrival (a few weeks after the cursus public) triggered off Julian’s rebellion. The praetorian prefect, temporarily monitoring Illyricum-Pannonia, was the first high representative of the imperial central power to meet them, thus receiving more information and rumors from the East (circumstances of Carus’ death, situation and possible evolution, and the atmosphere in the ruling circles surrounding Numerian). Julian estimated that he could take advantage of several months before the return to the West of the bulk of  Numerian’s army.

2.2. The military situation was favorable to such an attempt. Distance and confusion on Numerian’s side; involvement in the final phase of the 283 AD military campaign beyond the Alps on the Upper Rhine or Upper Danube limes on Carinusside.  The absence of part of the ruling elite still in the East made also the political situation favorable: hesitation amongst Carus’ ancient comrades and Carinus advisers, discontent amongst the senators and the equestrian order as a result of Carus’ policy and of the rough personal policy of Carinus. Both elements made the occupation of Rome an objective being at hand in military terms and obviously a political advantage in further competition.

2.3. It can be considered that Julian took the lead of the rebellion, after some hesitation, by end September-beginning October 283 AD, about one month after Carus’ death was known. A quick move could cut Carinus from Italy where Julian expected to receive support (troops covering northern Italy) and recognition (Senate, prefects, and notables in Rome) before the future conflict. Julian left Siscia (under the protection of Pannonian troops) by the beginning of November 283 AD, with a small army - unwilling or unable (not recognized in surrounding provinces as a too close comrade of Carus) to gather more troops from a region already depleted and under threat. He moved quickly to northern Italy to reach Ticinum and Rome.

2.3. A quick move by Carinus prevented this attempt to succeed. By the end of October Carinus moved from Lyons or the Upper Rhine limes towards Siscia following the Alpine arc. Informed of Julian’s move towards northern Italy Carinus, unexpectedly in the season (beginning November 283 AD), crossed the alpine passes and fall on the flank of Julian’s army moving along the river Po. Near Verona, by mid/end November 283 AD, Carinus beats Julian, killed in battle, executed or committing suicide after the defeat. Carinus then moved quickly to Siscia, the city being recovered at the latest by mid-December 283 AD, in time to organize efficiently, even if in urgency, the celebration of his joint consulate at the beginning of January 284 AD including the gold and bullion (SMSXXIA-I¨) issue.

2.4. The failure of Julian’s rebellion came from the reactive Carinus executing a swift and audacious movement (strength of mind, H.A.). It also arose from Julian’s profile, one of the first of the viri lectissimi, Carus’comrades left to assist Carinus, implying that he was aged and probably non-Illyrian, a limitation to the support he could gather at first.His attempt seemed rather a personal ambition than a real opportunity for a change or a return to status quo ante. His chosen or compelled hasty move to gain recognition and support in Italy before his regional support was enlarged made the collapse of the rebellion a very quick one.

3. Chronology.

Based on the ancient sources and coinage (Lyons and Siscia), a chronology is proposed, dating the rebellion of Julian of Pannonia, at Siscia, from mid/end September 283 AD up to the end November/beginning December 283 AD.
 
283 AD.

III: Start of Carus’ eastern campaign with Numerian Caesar. Carinus Augustus on Upper Danube and Upper Rhine limes
IV-V: Numerian Augustus after first successes (at the latest in Ctesiphon).

V-VI: Lyons: issue for three Augusti (6th issue,1st phase-Numerian with bust A2). Ticinium:  issue for three Augusti.

VI: Three Augusti Persici Maximi. Carinus married Urbica in northern Italy. Ticinium: special issue (gold, bullion) for three Augusti and  Augusta.

VII: Ticinium closed. Carinus back on Upper Rhine limes.Lyons: 6th issue, 2d phase, aureliani for Carus and Numerian with exceptional military busts, donative (aurei, unmarked aureliani) for Numerian’s promotion/victory in the East and new Augusta Urbica. Praetorian prefect Julian temporarily posted in Siscia.

VII-VIII: Carinus and Numerian consules designati. Issue for the 2d part of 283 AD prepared to celebrate the dynasty, its successes and the joint consulate for 284 AD. Siscia: 2d phase of the VIRTVS AVGG XXIA-I¨ issue.

VIII: Carus’death known in the West. Lyons: planned issue for the 2d part of the year canceled. ‘Patchwork coinage’ (6th issue, 3d phase).

VIII-IX: Lyons: issue (aurei and aureliani) marked (I-IIII) and donative, for Carus’s deification. Siscia: last phase of the XXI/A-I¨ issue starts (Carinus: short obverse legend, Divo Caro Parthico) under the authority of Julian, still faithful to Carinus

15-30. IX: In Siscia Julian, Carinus’ praetorian prefect takes the lead of a rebellion  (Zosimus); last phase of the XXIA-I¨ issue cut short; issue for Julian (aurei, aureliani, medallions), with realistic portraits full of likeness begins.

X: Lyons: issue (9th issue) -Carinus PF-Victoria-A, Divo Caro Consecratio-II, IMP NVMERIANVS AVG-Pietas-C, Urbica-Venus-D-: dynastic support and pay for the war against Julian.

15.X/15. XI: Carinus moves towards Illyricum (A.Victor) along the alpine arc to reach Siscia. Julian moved from Siscia to northern Italy (A.Victor). Informed of Julian’s move towards northern Italy, Carinus makes a detour to Italy (A.Victor), crossing the alpine passes and falling on Julian’s moving troops.

15-30. XI: Battle in northern Italy (Verona) between Carinus’ and Julian’s troops. Julian’s army defeated. Julian killed. Quick move by Carinus to Siscia.

1-15. XII: Siscia recovered by Carinus. Then preparation for the celebration of the joint consulate, issue in two phases (aurei, aureliani, quinarii), including a donativum, for the dynasty. Aureliani marked SMSXXI A-I¨, aurei and quinarii immediately follow the last strikes for Julian (some coins of Carinus, Numerian, and Urbica with obverse portraits looking like those of Julianus: in urgency obverse dies of Julian were used after some modifications).

284 AD.

I: Celebration of the joint consulate (including the Vota Publica), Urbica present. Nomination of the new praetorian prefect, Aristobulus, made public.
 
I-II: After the 2d phase of the SMSXXIA-I¨ issue, Siscia mint closed.

II: Carinus and Urbica at Rome.Games (H.A.?). Gold coinage: VENERI VICTRICI series Carinus, Numerian (Victory) and Urbica (Apple) and SALVS/VIRTVS AVGG.

II-III: Carinus in Lyons (7th//8th issues) to start survey/campaign up to Britannia The A-D/LVG issue to thank for Lyons’ support in 283 AD; canceled celebration at Lyons of the joint consulate results in the use of outdated exceptional obverse busts amidst a ‘back to normal’ coinage.Lyons mint closed.
   
The early date for Julian’s rebellion and the end of the ‘Winter 284-Spring 285 AD hypothesis’ makes the consequently late date for the battle on the Margus not the most probable one. Carinus seems to have taken the initiative. An early date in Spring 285 AD (March/April) is much more probable. This saves a few months in Spring/ Summer 285 AD, very useful to establish the chronology of the early period of Diocletianus’ reign.


Dictionary of Roman Coins


Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.


Julianus (Marcus Aurelianus)[Julian of Pannonia], a usurper of the imperial purple at the period of Numerianus' death, from which time (A.D. 284) Pannonia acknowledged his claim and submitted to his government, until defeated and slain in a battle with Carinus, near Verona, in the following year.

There are gold and brass coins of this "tyrant," all of extreme rarity, and of which he is styled IMP. C. M. AVR. IVLIANVS P. F. AVG.


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