Saturday, September 03, 2011

Coins of Gallienus: The Praetorians, the VII Legion, and Inflation

In the coins of the Roman Emperor Gallienus, who lived from AD ca. 213 - AD 268 and was Emperor from 253-268, we can visibly see the effects of inflation on the Roman coinage.

Gallienus as emperor had to deal with incursions into the Empire from the Persians and the Goths, slaughtering 50,000 Goths at the battle of Naissus in what is today Yugoslavia. He also had to handle a conflict with Palmyra and he also had to contend with the rebellions of Macrianus and Quietus in the east, Mussius Aemilianus in Egypt, Regalianus in Illyrica, Postumus and Aureolus in the west.

Ensuring the loyalty of the armies during these crises grew increasingly expensive as well as a vital necessity. Inflation occurred with the precious metal content of the coinage steadily decreasing as the Roman fisc tried to keep up with a multitude of expenses both military and civilian.

The Antoninianus, itself an answer to inflation supplanting the denarius, goes from a silver coin to a silver-washed bronze piece.

The coinage of Gallienus bears a multitude of interesting motifs, from wild animals to a series honoring the Roman Legions by name and number, one of only 4 such striking of Legionary coins series in the Roman coinage.

The Legionary series was meant to show the loyalty of the armies and Praetorian cohort was to the emperor even in the face of the numerous rebellions occurring against him.

The Praetorian Cohort Antoninianus:

Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, Emperor draped bust, facing right with radiate crown.

Reverse: COHH PRAET VI P VI F, radiate lion walking right.

This coin honored the Praetorian cohort.

The Legionary Antoninianus of the 7th Legion:

Emperor draped bust, facing right with radiate crown.

Reverse: LEG VII CL VI P VI F, (Legion VII Claudia Pia Fidelis) bull walking right.

In September 268, Gallienus was killed in his camp by his own officers. Included in the plot to assassinate him was the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Heraclianus.

Gallienus was succeeded to the purple by Claudius II Gothicus, one of Gallienus' officers and conspirators who arranged his assassination.

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