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Webb Carausius Historians


The testimony of the historians is as follows:

Aurelius Victor (De Caesaribus, chap. xxxix.) describes the association of Maximian in the Imperial power and his war against the Bagaudae, and says

"In which war Carausius, a native of Menapia, distinguished himself by his feats of valour, and on this account and also because he was reputed to be skilled in nautical mattersfor in his youth he had been a pilotthey charged him with getting together a fleet and beating off the German pirates who infested the seas. Emboldened by this, as he was crushing many of the barbarians, and not paying into the treasury all the spoil, in fear of Hercules, by whom he had learnt that orders had been given for his death, he sailed over to Britain and assumed the empire."

Subsequently, after describing the pacification of other parts of the Roman Empire, he continues

"To Carausius alone the empire of the island was left, after that he was regarded as amenable to orders and a protection for the inhabitants against warlike nations. Him indeed, after the space of six years, one Allectus by name overcame by guile, This Allectus, being by commission of Carausius his first minister, in fear of his crimes and of death on that account, had traitorously wrested from him the empire. He held it for a short time, when Constantius dispatched Asclepiodotus, who was the prefect in command of the praetorians, with a portion of the fleet and the legions, and deleted him."

Eutropius, in his History (Bk. X.), after shortly describing the restoration of peace in Gaul, says

"After these times Carausius too, who, meanly born, had got a mighty name and a considerable post in the army, having at Bononia secured a commission to keep all quiet at sea along the coast of Belgica and Armorica, which the Franks and Saxons infested, having often taken many of the barbarians, but not returning the booty entire to the provincial governors nor sending it to the Emperors, when there began to be a suspicion entertained of him that the barbarians were purposely suffered to come there by him that he might snap them as they passed with their booty, and might by that convenience enrich himself, being ordered by Maximian to be slain, he took the purple and seized on Britain. Thus whilst matters were in great disorder throughout the whole world and Carausius was raising a war in Britain, Achilleus in Egypt, the Pentapolitans harassed Africa, Narseus made war upon the East, Diocletian raised Maximian Hercules from the dignity of Caesar to that of Emperor, and made Constantius and (Galerius) Maximian Caesars...

"However, at last, since war was in vain attempted against a man perfectly skilled in military art, a peace was agreed upon with Carausius. Allectus, a companion of his, killed him seven years after, and himself kept possession of Britain three years after him, who was suppressed by the conduct of Asclepiodotus, praefect of the guards."

Orosius Paulus, in Bk. VII. chap. xxv. of his History, tells the story very much in the same words

"Then, as a certain Carausius, in birth of the lowest, but in wisdom and action ready, appointed to keep guard over the coasts of the Ocean, which the Franks and Saxons were then ravaging, was acting rather for the destruction than the profit of the state, by rendering to his lords none of .the booty taken
from the pirates, but keeping it entirely to himself, be excited the suspicion that, by a skillful negligence, he was allowing the enemy to make attacks upon various countries. On which account, Maximian ordered him to be put to death; but he assumed the purple and made himself master of Britain...Carausius, having during seven years, with the greatest bravery defended and kept for himself Britain, at length was slain by his associate Allectus. Allectus afterwards held for a space of three years the island wrested from Carausius; him Asclepiodotus, prefect of the Praetorian guard, crushed and recovered Britain for the Empire after ten years."

The Roman historians naturally took an unfavourable view of the loyalty of Carausius, but it seems they had no doubt as to the greatness of his bravery and capacity.

Webb, P.H. The reign and coinage of Carausius. (London, 1908).

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