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Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Mid 293 A.D.

Carausius coins for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop

Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius was originally a fleet commander sent by the first Tetrarchs to rid the Northern seas of Saxon and Frankish pirates. He soon turned to piracy himself, before fleeing to Britain and declaring himself emperor. His natural cunning enabled him to resist all attempts to dislodge him. In 293 Constantius I captured his continental stronghold of Boulogne. Soon after Carausius was murdered by his chief minister Allectus.


Numismatic References

Akerman, J.Y. Coins of the Romans Relating to Britain. (London, 1844). Available Online
Askew, G. The Coinage of Roman Britain, 2nd edition. (London, 1980).
Beaujard, E.B. & H. Huvelin. "Le tresor de Rouen et l 'occupation de la Gaule par Carausius" in Histoire et Numismatique en Haut-Normandie. (Caen, 1980). Available Online
Bland, R. "A Hoard of Carausius and Allectus from Burton Latimer" in BNJ 54 (1984), pp. 41 - 50. Available Online
Bourne, R.J. "The Coinage of Carausius and his Colleagues" in Numismatic Circular 117 (2009), pp. 198 - 206. Available online
Burnett, A. & J. Casey. A Carausian Hoard from Croydon, Surrey, and a Note on Carausius ' Continental Possessions" in BNJ 54 (1984), pp. 10 - 20.
Calicó, X. The Roman Avrei, Vol. 2: From Didius Julianus to Constantius I, 193 AD - 335 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Carson, R.A.G. "The Sequence-marks on the Coinage of Carausius and Allectus" in Essays Baldwin (1971), pp. 57 - 65.
Casey, P.J. Carausius and Allectus: The British Usurpers. (New Haven, 1995).
Challis, C.E. & M.A.S. Blackburn. Studies in the Coinages of Carausius and Allectus. (London, 1985).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l 'Empire Romain, Vol. 7: Carausius to Constantine & Sons. (Paris, 1888).
Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d 'or de Dioclétien a Constantin I (284-337). (Wetteren, 1995).
Giard, J-B. "La monnaie de Carausius à Rouen: une remise en question" in RN 1995, Vol. 6, Issue 150, pp. 264 - 266. Available Online
King, C.E. "A Small Hoard of Carausius Found Near Bicester Oxfordshire" in BNJ 53, (1982), pp. 7 - 16. Available Online
King, C.E. "The Unmarked Coins of Carausius" in BNJ 54 (1984), pp. 1 - 9. Available Online
King, C.E. & D.R. Sear. Roman Silver Coins, Volume V, Carausius to Romulus Augustus. (London, 1987).
Lyne, M. "Some new coin types of Carausius and Allectus and the history of the British provinces AD 286-296" in NC 163 (2003), pp. 147-168. Available Online
Lyne, M. "Two Notes on the Coinage of Carausius" in NC 161 (2001), pp. 291-292. Available Online
Mattingly, H., E.A. Sydenham & P. Webb. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol V, Part II, Probus to Amandus. (London, 1933).
Minnit, S. "Blackmoor, Hampshire (addenda)" in CHRB X (1997).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. IV. Valerian I to Allectus. (Oxford, 1978).
Schaaff, U. Münzen der römischen Kaiserzeit mit Schiffsdarstellungen im Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum. (Munich, 2003).
Sear, D.R. Roman Coins and Their Values, Volume IV: The Tetrarchies and the Rise of the House of Constantine...Diocletian To Constantine I, AD 284 - 337. (London, 2011).
Shiel, N. The Episode of Carausius and Allectus. BAR 40. (Oxford, 1977).
Southerland, C.H.V. " 'Carausius II ', 'Censeris ', and the Barbarous Fel. Temp. Reparatio Overstrikes" in NC 1945.
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).
Webb, P.H. The reign and coinage of Carausius. (London, 1908). Available on NumisWiki
Webb, P.H. "The Linchmere Hoard" in NC 1925, pp. 173 - 235. Available on NumisWiki
Williams, H. Carausius: A consideration of the Historical Archeological and Numismatic Aspect of His Reign. BAR 378. (Oxford, 2003).


Carausius Coins Sold by Forum Ancient Coins

Mauseus ' Carausius Gallery in RIC Order (Members ' Gallery)

The Dated Coins of Carausius

Mauseus ' Carausius Website

The Coinage of Carausius - Legend, Mintmark, and Portrait Type Sequences, Rarity, and Dating

The sequence and dating below is based on the sequence and dating first established by P.H. Webb in "The Linchmere Hoard" in NC 1925, pp. 173 - 235, updated by him in The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume V, Part 2 in 1933 and refined by many authors since. Changes to dating proposed here are primarily based on recognizing Carausius ' three portrait types and their sequence, identified by C.E. King in "The Unmarked Coins of Carausius" in BNJ 54 (1984), pp. 1 - 9. An adaption of the relevant portion of King 's article is provided below.

The most significant change from previous dating applies to coins with the mintmarks CXXI and MCXXI. Previous sequencing and dating associated these issues with the B-E / MLXXI issues from the London mint, with dating from 288 to 291. However, all official coins with these mintmarks have Carausius ' earliest portrait type and must be dated to 286 or 287. 

RIC and other references list many examples with IMP CARAVSIVS... obverse legends and a S-C / [ ] or a S-C / C mintmark. Whenever a plate coin is provided, the listings appears to be in error and the actual legend is IMP C CARAVSIVS... Of the thousands of Carausius coin images we have examined, we found only two examples that might have official style. It is almost certain that these coins are unofficial but perhaps some are official mule or engraving errors that should have an obverse legend beginning IMP C CARAVSIVS...

Coins with mintmarks that are not listed below are very likely unofficial, some may be official but irregular or trial strikes, and some are certainly the result of engraving errors, filled dies, or strike errors.

IMP CARAVSIVS... (286 - 291)

Unmarked Mint (traveling mint located with the court of Carausius?)

BRI, mustache portrait, great rarity (c. mid 286) [less than a dozen known, or Londinium?]

RSR, mustache portrait, extremely rare (c. mid 286) [or Londinium? or Rouen?]

Unmarked, mustache portrait, very common (c. mid 286 - 287)

Unmarked, middle portrait, very rare (c. 288 - 291)

Londinium (London, England)

XX, XXX, mustache portrait, rare (c. mid 286 - early 287)

ML, mustache portrait, common, (c. 287)

ML, middle portrait, common (c. 288)

L-[ ] / ML, middle portrait, common (c. 288)

F-O / ML, middle portrait, very common (c. 289)

B-E / MLXXI, middle portrait, very common (c. late 289 - 291)

Camulodunum (Colchester, England)

CXXI, MCXXI, mustache portrait, common (c. mid 286 - early 287)

C, MC, mustache portrait, scarce (c. 287) [MC is very scarce]

C, MC, middle portrait, very common (c. 288 - 291) [MC is very scarce]

SMC, MSC, MSCC, middle portrait, scarce (c. 288 - 291)

IMP C CARAVSIVS... (291 - mid 293)

Unmarked Mint (traveling mint located with the court of Carausius?)

Unmarked, middle portrait, scarce (c. 291)

S-C / [ ], middle portrait, very common (c. 291 - mid 292)

S-P / [ ], SP, tetrarchic portrait, common (c. mid 292 - early summer 293) [long neck portrait variety]

Londinium (London, England)

B-E / MLXXI, middle portrait, common (c. 291)

S-P / MLXXI, tetrarchic portrait, very common (c. 292 - early 293)

S-P / ML, tetrarchic portrait, scarce, (c. early 293 - early summer 293) [S-P / ML continued by Allectus.]

Camulodunum (Colchester, England)

S-C / C, middle portrait, very common (c. 291 - mid 292)

S-P / C, S-P / MC, SPC, tetrarchic portrait, common (c. mid 292 - early summer 293) [SPC used on types without space in fields, S-P / C continued by Allectus.]

Rotomagus (Rouen, France)

R, OPR, continental portrait, rare (c. first half of 293)

Four Portrait Types of Carausius

This article is based on C.E. King 's "The Unmarked Coins of Carausius" in BNJ 54 (1984), pp. 1 - 9. The plate images below are from King 's article and most of this article corresponds very closely with his.

There are four types of Carausius portraits: 1) an early-reign portrait with a full moustache, 2) a mid-reign portrait without a moustache or diminished moustache, 3) a late-reign tetrarchic style portrait, and 4) the unique "continental" type or the Rotomagus mint. The "continental" type will not be discussed below.

1) Early reign 'moustache ' portrait (c. mid 286 - 287). In the first type, Carausius is bearded and has a full moustache (e.g. Nos. 24-28 and 48-50). The 'moustache ' portrait seems to occur mainly on C mint coins and unmarked pieces, and only very rarely on L mint pieces. At the C mint this portrait is restricted to the CXXI and MCXXI marks. The middle reign portrait is accompanied by legends beginning IMP CARAVSIVS.

2) Middle reign portrait (c. 288 - 291). In the second portrait type, Carausius is still bearded but his moustache is either non-existent or else much less emphatic (e.g. Nos. 29-30, 33-34, and 40-43). His neck is longer and some examples have some tetrarchic aspects. This middle reign portrait style occurs commonly on L mint, C mint, and unmarked coins. The middle reign portrait is accompanied by legends beginning IMP CARAVSIVS or IMP C CARAVSIVS.

3) Late reign tetrarchic portrait (c. 292 - mid 293). In the third Carausius is much more tetrarchic in appearance, he is still bearded, and a moustache is often engraved, but again much less obviously than on coins of the first group (e.g. No. 35 and 46). The tetrarchic portrait is always accompanied by legends beginning IMP C CARAVSIVS. The tetrarchic portrait is the last portrait type struck; it does not occur on unmarked coins, which were no longer struck when this portrait was used.

RIC V, Part 2, Carausius

Inscriptions referred to by number 

Busts referred to by letter
A. Radiate, draped bust r.
B. Laureate, draped bust r.
C. Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust r.
D. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r.
E. Laureate, cuirassed bust r.
F. Radiate, cuirassed bust r.
G. Radiate, helmeted, cuirassed bust l., holding spear and shield.


Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
CARAUSIUS (Marcus Aurelius Valerius), was born of obscure parents, in that part of the Belgic Gaul called Menapia, a district between the Scheldt and the Meuse. Bred a pilot, he had recommended himself alike by the skill in nautical affairs, and by his bravery as a soldier, to the favor of Diocletian and Maximianus Hercules. It was the latter emperor that gave him the command of a naval force, which had been equipped for the purpose of putting a stop to the predatory expeditions of the Franks, who, cruising about in their light vessels, from place to place, were committing continual outrages on the coasts of what are now Holland, Belgium, France, and Spain. At first Carausius displayed zeal and activity in discharging the duties of his appointed service; but subsequently his equivocal movements, and increasing wealth, gave rise to strong suspicions that he allowed the sea-robbers whom he should have suppressed, to rove with impunity the narrow seas in order afterwards to possess himself of the greater portion of their ill-acquired booty. Maximianus therefore ordered that he should be put to death. But with a vigilant eye to his own safety, Carausius instantly sailed across to Britain with the imperial fleet, which was devoted to his interests, and being well received by the Roman troops there, he assumed the purple with the title of Augustus, A.D. 287. His prudence and valor enabled him to maintain his independent government of the island. By the speedy construction of new galleys, and the formation of alliances with the different tribes, whom he trained as sailors, the usurper made head against all the armaments sent against him by Maximianus, who, with the senior Augustus, Diocletian, was at length compelled (A.D. 289) to acknowledge him as their colleague, so far at least as Britain was concerned.

The sequel of this bold adventurer 's history cannot be better related than in the terms employed by Mr. Akerman:-

"Carausius enjoyed his honors seven years, and, during that period, performed many acts which evinced his ability to rule, notwithstanding his defection from his masters. He defended the frontiers of his empire from the Caledonians, courted the friendship and alliance of the Franks (upon the confines of whose country he was born), and in reward for their services instructed them in Naval and Military affairs. His fleets swept the seas, and commanding the mouths of the Rhine and the Seine, ravaged the coast, and rendered the name of the once obscure Menapian pilot, as celebrated as those of the emperor 's. During this time, Carausius still kept possession of the Boulogne; but in the year to 292, the adoption of the two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, added strength to the Roman arms. Maximianus guarded the Rhine; and Constantius, taking command of the legions appointed for the British war, immediately laid Siege to Boulogne, which, after an obstinate resistance, surrendered to the conqueror, who possessed himself of the naval stores of Carausius. 3 years were consumed in the preparation of a fleet for the recovery of Britain : but ere it was launched, news arrived of the assassination of Carausius by his friend and prime minister Allectus, A.D. 293. The event was considered as a presage of Victory to the Roman arms."

-- Coins of the Romans relating to Britain, 2nd edition.


The connection of this usurper with Britain has always rendered his coin, an object or peculiar curiosity and appreciation, with the numismatic antiquaries and collectors or out country. In Italy his coins are beyond comp, risen more rare than in England; and were almost equally scarce M France, until a recent trouvaille at Rouen brought a large hoard . them to light. Indeed they were for the far greater part struck in this island, during the six years (A. D. 286 to A. D. 293) in which its government was virtually separated from that of the Roman Empire. ---"Of this eventful period (observes Mr. Roach Smith, in his Antiquities of Richborough, etc.) as far as regards Britain, no monumental inscriptions are extant; and the brief notices of historical writers, which have come down to us, are in the suspicious language of panegyrists and emperors." p. 136.

In the last edition of Mr. Akerman 's work above quoted, 53 varieties in gold and silver are enumerated, and no less than 233 in brass, which are of the third size only. And since 1844, others are now known, has scarcely a year passes without the discovery of some variety hitherto undescribed. " In the bed of the Thames and in the neighborhood of St. Alban 's, and other Roman Stations (says Mr . Bergue), coins of Carausius are found in great numbers. Nor is it improbable that on examining any dozen coins picked up successively in the fields which occupy the site of the ancient Verulam, two or three would prove to be of Carausius. -- (See Numismatic Chronicle, No. LV. Jan. 1852, p. 151).

The workmanship of the gold resembles that of the contemporary coins of Diocletian and his imperial colleague, being of a fine and bold, but peculiar fabric. With rare exceptions, the fabric of the silver is rough, and their quality of metal is base. Of the brass, a great portion is of barbarous execution ; " but (as Mr. Akerman remarks, all of them bear a portrait, which it is impossible to confound with any other in the Roman series."

Many of the types and legends of the money of this usurper obviously apply to Carausius only : among these may be noticed those of EXPECTATE VENI and CARAVSIVS ET FRATRES SVI; whilst it is equally clear that such legends as PRINCIPI IVVENTVT(IS) and ORIENS AVG can can have no reference to the acts, or to the situation, of Carausius. In the latter case they must have been executed by ignorant, and probably illiterate, moneyers, without knowledge of their application or significance.

Carausius is styled on his coins — CARAVSIVS — CARAVSIVS AVG. — IMP CARAVSIVS AVG. -- IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG. -- IMP C M CARAVSIVS AVG  -- IMP C M AVR V CARAVSIVS P AVG. -- CARAVSIVS ET FRATRES SVI — On his gold and silver coinage his effigy is adorned with a laurel wreath; on the brass with a radiated diadem.

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