273: (M. Claudius) Tacitus, Iulius Placidianus coss.

The news of the rebellion of Palmyra reached Aurelian, while he was in Europe, at the mouth of the Danube. A certain Apsaios, an important Palmyrene who already had been involved int the previous events, had attempted to trap the prefect Marcellinus in order to push him to usurpation. Marcellinus secretly informed the emperor but it was another individual, Antiochus, who soon assumed power (Zosimus I. 60). The imperial army returned with forced marches across Asia Minor, passed through an astounded city of Antioch and reached Palmyra. The town was taken without difficulty and this time it was sacked. The Palmyrene inscription in the honour of Haddudan, cited above, shows that the Palmyrene revolt was suppressed in March 273.
Egypt, or at least Alexandria, where there was still a strong pro-Palmyrene force, had revolted in the same way as Palmyra. It may be that the usurpation of Firmus was a fiction created by the Historia Augusta, but it is still certain that serious disorders occurred in Alexandria, as is confirmed by the Alexandrian coinage. The mint had had to interrupt its activity for a number of months: the coins of the fourth year of Aurelian (August 272-August 273) are few, compared to what would be expected of a normal output during a full year. The hoards from Karanis only include 26 tetradrachms of Aurelian’s fourth year, compared with 73 for the fifth. From Palmyra, the imperial army headed for Egypt. A new mint was opened at Tripolis in Phoenicia in order to strike an important gold donative for the army, using the booty taken from Palmyra.
The return towards the West was delayed but it was necessary to recompense the troops for their Eastern victories and therefore to strike the coins locally. The donative was distributed amongst the army while it was en route for Egypt. The troubles at Alexandria were quelled, and the district of Bruchion, the royal and aristocratic district of Alexandria which was home to the museum and the library was besieged. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the town was then stripped of its walls and Bruchion was isolated.
At the start of the fifth year of his reign (autumn 273), Aurelian reformed the Alexandrian tetradrachms, reducing their weight. The tetradrachm carried on its reverse the old formula L Є (year 5) which was replaced by ЄTOVC Є on the light-weight tetradrachms. Egypt was subjected to economic sanctions.

Second adventus in Rome and monetary reform (end of 273-spring 274)

The emperor headed back towards the West with his army at the end of 273. The mint of Rome had been reopened in the summer of that year, and the return of the emperor to the West had been anticipated by the striking of a reverse Adventus Aug.
The renewed production of coinage at the mint of Rome, closed since the dramatic events of two years before, would not have been technically possible without the arrival in Rome of members of the staff from the ‘Uncertain Balkan mint’. Rome now functioned at a low output and probably under strict surveillance. The Balkan mint, however, ended production a few months later in autumn 273: its activity had been strictly dependent on circumstances and was linked to the Eastern campaigns.

274: Imp. Caes. L. Domitius. Aurelianus Aug. II, Capitolinus coss.

The emperor was back in Rome in the spring of 274. In April–May 274, he presided over the currency reform, or rather its first stage, the replacement of the devalued antoninianus with a new radiate piece of silver, the aurelianus. The literary sources are, by their nature, indifferent to the analysis of economic and monetary evidence. Therefore the phrase that Zosimus devotes to the monetary reform of Aurelian and to the withdrawal of the devalued antoniniani is of exceptional importance (Zos. I, 61, 3): ‘At that time he (Aurelian) distributed to the public a new piece of silver, foreseeing the official withdrawal of the debased coinage; by this process, he removed all confusion in the exchanges‘.

In fact, the introduction of the marks XXI and KA on the reformed aureliani, which guaranteed their silver content – XX/I or K/A: 20 (aureliani) for 1 (argenteus), that is a silver content of 5% – did not do anything but make official an improvement in the quality of the currency that had already been introduced in the Italian mints: indeed, the antoniniani produced in Rome, as well as Milan, had for several months already been struck at the reformed standard. In northern Italy, the reform was marked by the transfer of the mint from Milan to Ticinum. The letters XXI or KA were introduced at all the other imperial mints that were then in operation: Siscia, Serdica, Cyzicus, Antioch and Tripolis, even at those where the standards of the reform had not yet been met.
At the same time the official weight of the aureus, the size and purity of which had undergone chaotic variations at Rome under Gallienus, was fixed with the mark I L, denoting 1/50 of a pound, or 6.45g.
The reform was very orthodox in inspiration, and attempted to return to the Augustan trimetallic monetary system, as revised by Caracalla. It also embraced the other denominations: denarii in silver and asses, sestertii and dupondii in bronze.
These denominations were introduced later, in 275, and only at the mint of Rome. But Aurelian ran out of time to reintroduce the coin which should have been the backbone of the system: a silver coin of good quality, an argenteus worth 20 aureliani, the existence of which is implied by the use of the mark XXI / KA.

The campaign against the Gallic empire (summer-autumn 274)

Aurelian launched a campaign against the Gallic Empire at the beginning of the summer of 274. Tetricus became the ruler of the rebel empire at the beginning of 271 in difficult conditions: he was a member of the senatorial Roman class, governor of Aquitaine and residing in Bordeaux at the time of his proclamation, and there was nothing in his career to suggest that he would follow in the footsteps of great generals who, from Postumus to Victorinus, had considered themselves as committed to the fight against the barbarians on the Rhine frontier. The coinage in the name of the usurper Domitianus shows he was a competitor of Tetricus, dangerous enough to grab at least one of the two mints of the Gallic empire, that of Trier, and to strike coins in his name there. Tetricus, on his accession, was forced to assert his challenged legitimacy calling up the memory of his predecessor: his coins Divo Victorino Pio are the exact equivalent of those dedicated to Divo Claudio by Quintillus and Aurelian some months beforehand, at the time when each one claimed to be the legitimate successor to Claudius II.
From 273, Tetricus II was associated in power with the rank of Caesar. At the start of 274, Tetricus I celebrated his third consulship, the first consulship of his son and his Decennial Vows (Vota Decennalia).

We know of hardly any events or campaigns during the reign of the Tetrici but at the beginning of 274, as three years earlier, the Gallic empire appeared to be plagued by a crisis of leadership which was also reflected in monetary disorder. Among the numerous military revolts mentioned by historians, that of Faustinus, governor of Gallia Belgica, seems well attested.
Moreover, the inscriptions in the name of the Central emperors and the Gallic emperors shows that the territory controlled by the Gallic Empire had shrunk since the reign of Postumus: if Britain had remained part of the Gallic Empire, the same could not be said of the Iberian peninsula, as this had been regained by the Central Empire under Claudius II, as demonstrated by the inscriptions in his name from Tarraconensis and Lusitania, as well as the water pipes of Leόn which are stamped in the name of the Legio VII Gemina Claudiana, then Quintillana.
Similarly, the eastern part of Narbonensis, on the left bank of the Rhone, had been under the military control of the Central Empire at least since the reign of Claudius II: Julius Placidianus’s expeditionary force assured the protection of the Roman positions which had been moved forward into eastern Narbonensis. Placidianus’s career clearly shows the importance of the role allotted to him and the trust that the emperors gave him: while leader of the expeditionary force he was promoted to praetorian prefect in 272 with the rank of clarissimus, and it was as holder of that office that he became consul in 273, with the future emperor Tacitus as his colleague.

The situation of the Agri Decumates and the western part of Raetia is less clear. However, it appears that, following the victory of the army commanded by M. Simplicinius Genialis over the Juthungi in April 260 which finally came out in support of Postumus, Raetia returned to the control of the Central Empire, probably following the second campaign led by Gallienus against Postumus in 266 on the same territory.
The Rhine frontier opposite Germania Superior, upstream from Mainz, returned to the side of Rome under Claudius II: tiles stamped in the name of Legio VIII Augusta Claudiana show that Strasbourg, its headquarters, had - possibly provisionally - returned to the authority of the Central Empire.
The protection of Raetia itself, as well as northern Italy, was entrusted to duces who commanded a mobile field army based in Milan: in 267-8 this was Aureolus, followed by Quintillus until 270 and Tacitus in 275.

The Gallic power was so weak that Aurelian’s army was able to progress as far as Châlons-en-Champagne before meeting Tetricus’s legions. A single mock battle took place at which Tetricus gave himself over into the hands of Aurelian, citing a verse of Virgil: ‘Eripe me his, invicte, malis’ (‘Rescue me, unconquered one, from these evils’, Aeneid 6, 365) which must have sounded very agreeable to the ears of the follower of Sol Invictus.
Aurelian took possession of the single remaining mint of the Gallic Empire which was still operating at the end of Tetricus’s reign at Trier and struck a limited issue of coins there before closing it. Alongside a type exalting the military virtus of Aurelian was the reverse Pacator Orbis showing the emperor in military dress sacrificing over an altar: the Restitutio Orbis had come to an end with the victory over Palmyra during the summer of 272; the Gallic reconquest ended up as a mere pacification campaign. The mint was then transferred to a safer location; the mint of Lyon, inactive since AD 197, was re-opened in the autumn of 274, and staffed with workers from the mint at Trier.

The return to Rome and the triumph (end of 274 - beginning of 275)

Aurelian had reunited an empire that had been torn apart for 14 years by separatist forces. On his return to Rome, the emperor celebrated his triumph over the East and West with much pomp. At the same time he celebrated the fifth anniversary of his reign (Quinquennalia), as well as the dedication of the Temple of Sol, the creation of a priest’s college which was linked to this cult and the institution of a series of games in honour of Sol (Agon Solis). The festivities took place from October-November 274 to the beginning of 275. A gold donative was prepared at the mint of Ticinum - not Rome - for distribution in the capital on this great occasion.
The Augusta Severina shared in the honours rendered to her husband the emperor. The growing political role played by the Empress is shown by the exceptional place accorded Severina in the coins struck from the end of 274. The Historia Augusta includes a possible indirect reference to this. The HA created the fictitious personality, Ulpius Crinitus, who was said to be a descendant of Trajan and to have adopted Aurelian; he in part owes his existence to Ulpia Severina: her gentilicium Ulpia is attested by the tetradrachms of Alexandria and by inscriptions.

>>> 275