The Tragedy of the House of Valerianus

During the military anarchy of the third century, Publius Licinius Valerianus, simple known as Valerian I, would become Roman Emperor in 253 AD. Unlike many others that proclaimed themselves Augustus, Valerian was of noble blood – a son of a traditional senatorial family, and held high political positions throughout his early life such as Consul, Suffectus, and Ordinarius. In 238, as acting Princeps Senatus, it is said that Gordian I Africanus negotiated through him for senatorial acknowledgement for his claim as emperor, a reign that had lasted only 21 days before being defeated by forces loyal to Maximinus Thrax.

Similar to his predecessors and certainly in the image of the later tetrarchy, Valerian would, upon his accession to Emperorship, split the administration of the Empire in order to ensure proper management, having his elder son elevated to both Caesar and Augustus and thus co-ruler. Son to Valerian and his first wife Egnatius Mariniana, Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus, simply Gallienus, ruled the western side of the Roman Empire with his father in the East. This may be, unfortunately, a poor decision as the history books would not be so kind to the house of Valerianus.

Based in the East, Valerian would be in position to recapture lost territory, particularly those within the wider Asia Minor area; Antioch and Syria were recaptured by 257 AD after being lost several years earlier to constant Persian invasion. In 259 the goths had managed to further ravage other Roman controlled regions of Asia Minor and thus the Augustus moved accordingly, only to meet a different enemy at Edessa. Arriving to the town before enemy forces, Valerian’s legionaries would unfortunately be swept with plague, ravaging their numbers and weakening the Roman position in the area, allowing the approaching Sassanid army under King of Kings Shapur I to siege the city with ease.

The Battle of Edessa in the Spring of 260 AD was a complete defeat for the Roman Empire, being thoroughly overpowered by the large, unweakened Sassanid army. Rome had seen many defeats in its lifetime, but Edessa was an unprecedented failure; the capturing of the Emperor as a prisoner of war – being taken hostage with the entirety of his surviving Roman Legionaries. News would soon reach the wider Empire, causing great panic and socio-political instability.

Much like his father, Gallienus had been preoccupied with constant warfare in the west, defeating several rebellions such as the usurper Ingenuus in 258 and destroying an Alemanni army at Mediolanum in 259. Upon Valerian’s capture in 260, power would fall solely to Gallienus – this would prove to be an impossible task for an Augustus alone; much like their time ruling together, Gallienus’ sole rule of 8 years would be writhe with military conflicts and would-be Emperors. Although sometimes biased, the biographies of the Historia Augusta detail the ‘Tyranni Trigrinti’ of Gallienus, translated as the ‘Thirty Tyrants’ to act as pretenders to the throne of the Roman Empire during his reign; although the number may be off, I feel the historical sentiment of Gallienus’ reign remains true.

In 261-262 AD, Britain, Spain and parts of Germania would be lost in the west, and in the east the usurpers Macrianus major and his sons Quietus and Macrianus minor would claim power in Asia Minor, and the Macrianii supporter Lucius Mussius Aemilianus would take power in Egypt. Although these men would be soundly defeated Gallienus’ forces, the Macrianii by Roman Officer Aureolus and Aemilianus by Theodotus, their rebellions would coincide with the formation of the breakaway ‘Gallic Empire’ under Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus, causing further loss of territory in Gaul.

From 262-268, Gallienus would not only be in conflict with the Usurper Postumus but would also see constant warfare against the Goths and Heruls who frequently ravaged the lands, causing his Legions to be stretched thin. To add to this, the previously mentioned Roman Officer Aureolus, for unconfirmed reasons although possibly due to a personal distaste, had lost faith in his master; Aureolus confirmed his disaffection from Gallienus by deserting his Alpine command and invading Italy where he took command over Mediolanum (Milan) and openly supported Postumus and the Gallic Empire. This was an act of the very highest treason and meant that Gallienus was forced to break off his campaign against the Goths in the Balkans at a most critical stage in order to return to Italy in 268. The decisive battle took place at what is now Pontirolo Nuovo near Milan – the would-be usurper was thoroughly defeated and driven back to Milan which would be besieged shortly thereafter. It is said that during the siege a rumour had spread that “Aureolus was killed by his followers”; upon hearing the news of his enemy’s death, Gallienus would leave his tent unguarded, only to be stabbed to death by the officer Cecropius as part of an internal conspiracy. Unfortunately for the now slain Emperor, Aerolus had not been killed but would be put to death soon after by Gallienus’ successor, Claudius II Gothicus. Upon hearing the news of his assassination, the Senate would order the execution of Gallienus’ family and their supporters in Rome despite Claudius’ attempt to spare their lives and deify his predecessor.

The military anarchy of the Third Century saw many tragedies, one of which is certainly the legacy of the house of Valerianus. To summarize, Publius Licinius Valerianus, now known as Valerian I, had a reign filled with military conflict, ultimately being defeated by King Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire; Valerian’s legacy is that of despair as he is most famously known for being the first Emperor to be taken as a prisoner of war. His son and co-ruler, Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus, simply known as Gallenius, would collapse under the enormity of managing such a large and volatile Empire alone, gradually losing territory as he was logistically unable to combat the numerous usurpers that rose to power. Tragically, ancient historians would not treat the legacy of Gallienus favourably, highlighting his inabilities rather then what he had achieved given the circumstances. In addition to the several military victories across the West and East, he would contribute reforms to the Roman army that laid the foundation for the success of his successors, notably Aurelian and Diocletian, two men largely responsible for ending the Crisis of the Third Century.

 – Charles

Two boys, opposing sides

En route to a temple near Carrhae in modern-day Turkey, Caracalla of the Severan Dynasty, Roman Emperor from 198 to 217 AD, would be stabbed to death by one of his soldiers, Justin Martalis – an unfortunate result of the soldier being denied the position of Centurion. The aftermath would result in the Praetorian Prefect, Macrinus, assuming the title of Augustus and, with the support of the present legions, granting himself Imperial power and authority. This action, an accession to Emperorship not a result of dynastic succession, would be the first time since the Year of the Five Emperors of 193 AD following the death of Commodus and the Antonine Dynasty.

With his new position, Macrinus would elevate his son, Diadumenian, to the office of Caesar in 217, then later to Augustus the next year, acting as co-ruler during their short reign. Unfortunately, a short reign it would certainly be as a very distant relative of Caracalla, Elagabalus, would revolt against the ‘usurpers’, gaining much military support through his ‘rite’ as a successor to late Emperor as well as the keen socio-political prowess of his grandmother Julia Maesa. Elagabalus would act as the figurehead for retaking the empire for the Severan Dynasty, eventually defeating Macrinus at the Battle of Antioch on the 8th of June 218 AD.

If not for the actions of a single soldier, two boys would not be thrust into opposing political positions of power. Following Macrinus’ defeat, Diadumenian, at only ten years old, atempted to flee to Parthia but would be captured en route and executed shortly after – his head would be presented to the emperor and made a trophy. Elagabalus, at only 14 years old, would assume the title of Augustus and be given imperial power following his victory; his resulting reign is now known as ‘the least capable rule of any Roman Emperor’ – as a consequence, he would be assassinated a short few years later in favour of his brother Severus Alexander.

If not for the assassination of Caracalla, the events described here would clearly not have happened and the fates of both boys would have been far different; more importantly, however, the future of the Roman Empire may have progressed differently. Firstly, Macrinus would not indulge his ambition and claim power, forcing his son into a very inauspicious political position; it’s plausible to think that the young Diadumenian would have followed in his father’s footsteps, serving the Severan Dynasty in a military capacity like his father before him.

Second, and more importantly, Elagabalus had no strong dynastic rite to the throne – his familial connection to the former emperor was through his grandmother, Julia Maesa, who’s sister was Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus; if Caracalla had not died, he, who was clearly a soldier first and Emperor second, would have solidified the Empire through military conquest, leaving the affairs of management to his mother Julia Domna. The political prowess of the Severan Augusta is clearly demonstrated in the history books, which leads one to believe that the socio-political stability of the empire would not be in question in this circumstance. Further to this, it is likely that, given a longer reign, Caracalla would have an heir, a successor with the appropriate dynastic rite.

With this theoretical socio-economic-political situation for the Roman Empire in mind, it begs the question: would the crisis of the third century still occur as it did, and if it did would it have been so catastrophic for Ancient Rome?

– Charles

The Counter-mark Coinage of Lanark Mills

New Lanark cotton mills were founded in 1786 by David Dale in the Lanarkshire region of Scotland, approximately 1.4 miles from the town of Lanark. The mills used recently developed water-powered cotton spinning machinery and saw much success and development, becoming the largest cotton mill in Scotland. At the dawn of 1800, Dale would sell the mills, lands and the surrounding residential village – which homed those that worked the mills, for £60,000, payable over 20 years, to a partnership that included his son-in-law Robert Owen. Owen, much similar to his father in law Dale, was an industrialist and quickly sought to optimize the mills’ affairs: tightening control of costs, quality, and management practices, monitor wages and time-keeping resulting in the dismissal of a number of employees. The mill offered free education for children and had a church, among other improvements in living standards. Though he was strict he was still fair and won the approval of his employees. New Lanark cotton mills is a typical example of early 19th century Scotland and its contribution to the Industrial Revolution; with the growing level of industry, manufacturers were eager for coins to facilitate trade. The Royal mint was unable to keep up with ever-growing demands for currency, especially after the recent crisis of silver coinage at the end of the 18th Century – much similar to the Bank of England emergency dollars, private counter-stamped issues were done on Spanish dollars that freely circulated.

Scotland, Lanarkshire, New Lanark Mills, Silver 5 Shillings, counter-marked circa 1800-1820 over a Mexico 8 Reales of King Charles IV dated 1792 Mo FM, struck at Mexico City. Obverse (Host coin): Laureate bust of King Charles IV facing right, “CAROLUS· IIII· DEI· GRATIA ·1792·”; Denomination “5/” counter-stamped within a counter-stamped circle, “PAYABLE AT LANARK MILLS”. Reverse: Crowned Shield of Arms of the Spanish Monarch (1700-1868) flanked by the Pillars of Hercules, “· HISPA.N· ET IND· REX· Mo· 8R· F· M·”. KM-. One of the higher denominations for the counter-stamp series of New Lanark, a modest grade that appears to have extensive circulation before and/or after it’s re-value. Good Fine, Counter-stamp the same.

Baseball and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Although brought to Australia as early as the 1850’s by American gold miners that would frequently play on the gold fields of Ballarat, Baseball would not officially be taken up by Australians until several decades later. The first competitions would be held in 1878, in which the Surry Baseball Club and the NSW Cricket Association would compete at venues in Sydney and were likely only local competitions. Baseball would only officially kick off as a recognized, competitive sport in 1885 after the NSW Baseball Association was formed. When looking back with a 21st Century perspective, it is clear that Australian cricket was, and would be, the dominating bat and ball sport for Australia – despite this, however, baseball would have clear historical implications for Australia. Most notably would be in 1925 in which Australia received the largest single contingent of foreign naval vessels it had ever seen for a fortnight long visit by the USA Navy between 26th July and 6th August. Melbourne, being the interim capital city at the time, would receive the larger contingent of 43 vessels, and Sydney, with its deep-water harbour, hosted the 8 largest battleships and remaining support vessels. Baseball, among a few other things, would be one of the larger events provided as entertainment for officers and sailors, as clearly the sport’s origins were rooted in American culture and would be received in kind. This event was a resounding success and would strengthen Australian-American relations during the interwar period, laying the foundations for ANZUS, the ‘Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty’, of 1951 following the second world war.

Sydney Harbour Bridge would be opened on the 19th of March 1932 and, likely influenced by the events of 1925 only 7 years earlier, would hold baseball matches during the inaugural celebrations, as commemorated by this silver medallion impressed “BASEBALL”. The historical significance of baseball during Australia’s history, as well as the American cultural connection, creates distinct collectability for this silver medallion, only expedited by its gem condition.

Australia, Sydney, ‘Inaugural Celebrations for the Opening of Sydney Harbour 19th March 1932’ Commemorative Medallion, struck in Silver by Amor Ltd., issued to the ‘N.S.W. W.B.A.’ for Baseball. Obverse: the Shield of Arms of Sydney: a ship, representing Sydney’s harbour as well as its history with the First fleet, at the centre below the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Hughes, Captain James Cook, and Margrave Thomas Townsend, flanked by an Aboriginal and a British Sailor, “SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE OPENED 19TH MARCH 1932 / · INAUGURAL CELEBRATIONS ·”. Reverse: Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from above. Edge: Impressed “BASEBALL. BASEBALL MATCH. N.S.W. W.B.A. THE REST.”. Carslisle-1932/5. Displayed in its original Amor box in as virtually issued condition. The medallion is exceptional with lovely eye appeal – the obverse fields are captivating and reflective, the detail on the shield of arms is accentuated with the lovely hue of rainbow toning around the periphery. The reverse, displaying a captivating bird’s eye view of the Harbour Bridge itself, emits such lovely rainbow radiance across the whole face. Virtually Fleur de Medal.