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Gallienus - Roman Emperor


Portrait bust of the Emperor Gallienus, 3rd century A.D., Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne

Portrait bust of the Emperor Gallienus, 3rd century A.D., Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne

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Gallienus (Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus), born c. A.D. 218, was a Roman emperor from 253, when he was named Caesar -- following the senate appointment of his father Valerian to Augustus -- until his murder by his own generals in 268 during the siege of Milan. This fifteen year term was longer than any emperor since Septimius Severus.

Shortly after becoming Caesar, Valerian elevated Gallienus to co-emperor putting him in charge in the West. He campaigned against Goths, Germans, and barbarians along the Danube.

In 259-60, Shapur I, king of the Persians, captured, humiliated (a scene shown alongside the tomb of the Persian king Darius I at Naqsh-i Rustam) and killed Gallienus' father.

In 267, when the Goths attacked, Gallienus set out again to fight them. Aureolus, in charge of the cavalry in Milan, rebelled, and so Gallienus returned to handle it. It was at this point that Gallienus was murdered by a group of generals who included the next emperor, Claudius II.

Gallienus' is counted among those emperors who opposed the senatorial class: Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and Septimius Severus. Interested in the arts, he made changes in the portrait style, and encouraged learning and culture, like Plotinus' Neoplatonism. His forehead shows locks of hair reminiscent of the first emperor (Augustus).

From 260-268, Gallienus debased the coinage to below 2% silver.


  • Diana Bowder's Who Was Who in the Roman World.
  • "The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus, by Lukas de Blois. Review author: M. T. W. Arnheim. The American Historical Review, Vol. 82, No. 3. (Jun., 1977), pp. 614-615.
  • Roman Art, third edition, by Nancy H. Ramage and Andrew Ramage; New Jersey: Prentice Hall: 2001.
The Historia Augusta writes vehemently against Gallienus. Here's an example.
Gallienus, on the other hand, when he learned that Macrianus and his sons were slain, as though he were secure in his power and his father were now set free, surrendered himself to lust and pleasure.

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