c. August 251 – August 253
PredecessorTraianus Decius and Herennius Etruscus
DiedAugust 253, Interamna


FatherTrebonianus Gallus
MotherAfinia Gemina Baebiana

His Story

Who was Emperor Volusianus? A brief biography of a short-lived ruler

Emperor Volusianus is not a very well-known figure in Roman history. He ruled for less than two years, from 251 to 253 AD, together with his father Trebonianus Gallus. His reign was marked by external threats, internal unrest and a devastating plague. In this blog post, we will explore his life and legacy, based on the available sources and archaeological evidence.

Volusianus was born around 230 AD, as the son of Trebonianus Gallus and Afinia Gemina Baebiana. His full name was Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Veldumnianus Volusianus. He may have had a sister named Wibia Galla. Not much is known about his early career, but he probably held some minor offices before his father became emperor.

Trebonianus Gallus came to power in June 251 AD, after the previous emperor Decius and his son and co-emperor Herennius Etruscus were killed by the Goths at the Battle of Abritus. Gallus was a general who commanded the troops in Moesia (modern Bulgaria and Serbia), and he was acclaimed by the army as the new emperor. He quickly made peace with the Goths, agreeing to pay them tribute and allow them to keep their prisoners and spoils. This was seen by many Romans as a shameful act of cowardice and weakness.

Gallus also adopted Hostilian, the surviving son of Decius, as his co-emperor, in order to appease the supporters of the previous dynasty. However, Hostilian died soon after, possibly of a plague that was ravaging the empire at that time. Some sources suggest that Gallus had him murdered to make way for his own son Volusianus, whom he elevated to the rank of Caesar (heir-apparent) in July 251 AD, and then to Augustus (co-emperor) shortly after.

Volusianus was made consul in 252 and 253 AD, along with his father. He also issued coins with his image and titles, which show him as a young man with curly hair and a short beard. He may have married a daughter of Decius, whose name is unknown.

The reign of Gallus and Volusianus was troubled by several problems. The plague continued to spread throughout the empire, killing thousands of people and disrupting trade and agriculture. The Sassanid Empire in Persia attacked the eastern provinces, capturing several cities and fortresses. The Goths resumed their raids along the Danube and the Black Sea, while other barbarian tribes invaded Gaul and Hispania.

In 253 AD, a rebellion broke out in Moesia, led by Aemilian, another general who claimed the imperial title. Aemilian defeated Gallus’ loyal forces and marched towards Italy. Gallus and Volusianus tried to stop him near Interamna (modern Terni), but they were betrayed by their own soldiers, who killed them both in August 253 AD. Aemilian became the new emperor, but he was soon overthrown by another usurper, Valerian.

Volusianus’ death marked the end of his short and obscure reign. He left no lasting achievements or monuments behind him. He is mostly remembered as a minor figure in a period of crisis and chaos for the Roman Empire.

Coins in our Collection of this Authority

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