271: Imp. Caes. L. Domitius Aurelianus Aug., Pomponius Bassus II coss.

Panic seized Rome, where troubles arose. Emergency measures were taken by the Senate, and these included consulting the Sibylline books, but we can rule out the theory of a senatorial revolt. In January 271, following the normal procedure, Aurelian was named a consul, taking as his colleague one of the most prominent members of the senatorial class, Pomponius Bassus, who was also the Prefect of the City.
Aurelian pursued the barbarians across Aemilia to the Adriatic and Umbria. He stopped them finally at the junction of the Via Flaminia which opens the way to Rome and it was there that the imperial forces had their first victories, on the Metaurus and at Fano. After they had forced back the barbarians towards the north, the Romans gained another victory near Ticinum (Pavia). After several months, the war was brought to a conclusion near the Danube, on the limes of Raetia, where the Juthungi, laden with booty and slowed down by the prisoners they had taken, were finally trapped by the imperial army and forced to negotiate. The campaign against the Alamanni and the Juthungi occupied the first months of 271 and its victorious conclusion earned Aurelian the title Germanicus Maximus.

The entry of Aurelian into Rome and the revolt of the moneyers

Aurelian entered Rome in mid 271. He worked to stop the unrest in the area and to see to the fortification of the capital, as well as of the other cities of Italy, following the policies started by Gallienus: in Rome, the works required the construction of 19 km of walls, which would not be completed until the reign of Probus.
However, the situation in Rome demanded further measures: following the 1st issue of coins in the name of Aurelian, the workers at the mint of Rome had continued the old practices of manipulation and fraud which they had started in the final years of Gallienus’s reign, fraudulently lowering both the fineness and the weight of the silver coins. During the few months from the end of 270 to mid 271, the Roman mint had flooded the market with debased radiates in the name of the deified Claudius (Divo Claudio). We do not know to what extent the rationalis Felicissimus was complicit in these fraudulent productions.

Once the immediate external threats had been dealt with, Aurelian was able to suppress the abuses of the moneyers which neither Gallienus, nor Claudius nor Quintillus, who had had to spend almost all their time outside Rome because of the barbarian threat, had been able to stop. The mint workers, feeling endangered, rebelled and their uprising ended in bloodshed. The mint at Rome was closed, an unprecedented measure but an unavoidable one, and its engravers were exiled. Skilled workers were sent to Serdica to open a mint in what was to become the capital of the future province of Dacia. So it is in the middle of the year 271 that the decision had been taken to abandon the Transdanubian territories.
Within a few months the military and political situation had actually changed. According to Zosimus, Aurelian’s difficulties in 271 had led to the emergence of three usurpers: Septiminus, Urbanus and Domitianus. Urbanus is not otherwise known; the Epitome de Caesaribus indicates that Septiminus took power in Dalmatia but was rapidly eliminated by his soldiers.
As for Domitianus, he did not appear as a rival to Aurelian, but as a competitor to Tetricus with whom he had disputed the position at the head of the Gallic Empire (Tetricus came to power in the spring of the year 271). Domitianus is known to us from two coins, issued by Mint II (Trier) of the Gallic empire. If he is the same man as the homonym general who is mentioned by the Historia Augusta as playing an important role in the defeat of the Macriani in Illyricum in 261 under the command of Aureolus, this Domitianus would then have followed Aureolus to the west when the latter was charged by Gallienus to lead an unified army in Raetia to counter the threat of the Gallic Empire. The threats of these usurpers, however, were nothing compared to the threat posed to the empire by the expansion of the Palmyrenes.

The first campaign against Palmyra (summer 271-summer 272)

Aurelian left Rome in the summer of 271. The theme of the reconquest of the East was immediately taken up by the mint of Milan, the only mint operating in Italy since the closure of Rome, and spread eastward in the wake of the imperial armies. The propaganda message equated the Palmyrenes, allies not long ago, with the Sasanians, eternal enemies. The iconography adopted for these Restitutio Orientis types, with two figures on the reverse, was actually copied from the joint reign of Valerian and Gallienus: it had been produced by the eastern mints at the time of the wars against Sapor.

During the passage of Aurelian and his army through Pannonia a gold issue produced at Siscia finally celebrated his first consulship, which he entered on 1 January 271: his military campaigns had prevented him from celebrating this earlier in the year.
A series of measures were undertaken as part of the reorganization of the Danube frontier from Illyricum to the lower Danube. While he was preparing to move against Palmyra in the East, Aurelian had to ensure that the areas he was leaving behind him were sufficiently pacified and protected. Furthermore, the reconquest of the East demanded troops. Transdanubian Dacia, already largely demilitarized by Gallienus, was evacuated: the V Macedonica and XIII Gemina legions were moved to the south bank of the Danube, to Oescus and Ratiaria, while the Romanised population was relocated to the new province of Dacia created by Aurelian. An administrative and military organization was established for this new province, formed out of the territories of the two Moesian provinces: the mint of Serdica, which had already been working for several months following the transfer of the moneyers exiled from Rome, gained in importance.

A new mint, at a still unknown geographical location (‘Uncertain Balkan Mint’) opened at the turn of 271-2 in order to ensure the production of the coins required for the eastern war alongside the mints of Serdica and of Cyzicus. Military operations were undertaken with the aim of restoring security along the frontier, particularly against the Danubian Goths. The reports of Aurelian’s victory south of the Danube over the troops of the Gothic leader Cannabaudes in the Historia Augusta are without doubt founded on a historical reality. It is certain that the Roman won victories over the Goths; the historiographic tradition gives Aurelian’s military victories as the reason for the relative tranquillity of the Goths thereafter. In fact, the abandonment of Dacia opened up a vast territory where not only could they establish themselves, but also those peoples whom they had driven back against the Roman frontier in the course of their migrations.

Aurelian received the title Gothicus Maximus. However, this title does not appear on his coins. The 3rd issue of the mint of Cyzicus, dated to the end of 271, celebrated the passage of Aurelian to the Asiatic coast of the Dardanelles with the reverse Adventus Aug and commemorates his recent victory over the Goths with the type Victoria Gern (sic), that is Victoria Germanica and not Gothica.

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