with his full name, P. LICINIUS VALERIANUS EGNATIUS GALLIENUS, Roman emperor A. D. 260-268. When Valerian, upon the death of Aemilianus, was raised to the throne (A. D. 253), he immediately assumed his eldest son Gallienus as an associate in the purple, and employed him, under the care of the experienced Postumus, governor of Gaul, to check the incursions of the barbarian Franks and Alemanni upon the Upper Danube and the Rhine. Could we repose any faith in the testimony of medals and inscriptions, the oft-repeated title of Germanicus,
the legends Victoria Germanica, Victoria Augustorum, Restitutor Galliarum,
accompanied by representations of the great rivers of the West crouching as suppliants at the feet of the prince, would indicate a long series of glorious achievments.
But the records of this epoch, imperfect as they are, tell a very different tale, and prove that these pompous manifestations of triumph were weak frauds, intended to minister to vanity, or to conceal for a moment defeat and dishonour. Our authorities are so imperfect, that it is impossible to describe with distinctness, even in outline, the events which occurred during the reign of Valerian, from his accession in A. D. 253 until his capture by the Persians in A. D. 260, or during the eight following years, while Gallienus alone enjoyed the title of Augustus.
It is certain that towards the close of this period the Roman dominion, which for a quarter of a century had sustained a succession of shocks, which seemed to threaten its dissolution, reached its lowest point of weakness. So numerous were the foes by which it was on every side assailed from without, and so completely were its powers of resistance paralysed by the incapacity of its rulers, that it is hard to comprehend how it escaped complete dismemberment, became again united and victorious, and recovered some portion at least of its ancient glory. During this period the Franks ravaged Gaul and Spain, and even sailed over the straits to Africa; the Alemanni devastated unceasingly the provinces of the Upper Danube ; the Goths pillaged the cities of Asia on the southern shores of the Euxine, gained possession of Byzantium, and diffused dismay throughout Greece by the capture of Athens; the Sarmatians swept all Dacia, and the fertile valley of Moesia, to the base of Mount Haemus; while Sapor made himself master of Armenia, recovered Mesopotamia, and, passing the Euphrates, pursued his career of victory through Syria, until Antioch yielded to his arms.
Nor were the population and resources of the empire exhausted by the direct ravages of war alone.
The ravages of the barbarians were followed by a long protracted famine, which in its turn gave energy to the frightful plague, first imported from the East by the soldiers of Verus, and which having for a time lain dormant now burst forth with terrific violence.
At the period when the virulence of the epidemic attained its greatest height, five thousand sick are said to have perished daily at Rome; and, after the scourge had passed away, it was found that the inhabitants of Alexandria were diminished by nearly two thirds.
Paradoxical as the assertion may appear, general anarchy and a complete dissolution of the political fabric were averted mainly by a series of internal rebellions.
In every district able officers sprung up, who, disdaining the feeble sceptre of the emperor, asserted and strove to maintain the dignity of independent princes.
The armies levied by these usurpers, who are commonly distinguished by the fanciful designation of The Thirty Tyrants
[see AUREOLUS], in many cases arrested the progress of the invaders, until the strong arm and vigorous intellect of a Claudius, an Aurelian, and a Probus collected and bound together once more the scattered fragments into one strong and well-compacted whole.
The character of Gallienus himself is one of the most contemptible presented in history. So long as he remained subject to his parent, he maintained a fair and decent reputation, but no sooner was he released from this control than he at once gave way to his natural propensities.
The accounts of his father's capture were received with evident pleasure, and not a single effort was made to procure the release of the imprisoned emperor. Sinking at once into indolence, he passed his life in a succession of puerile and profligate indulgences, totally indifferent to the public welfare.
At the same time, he was not deficient in talents and accomplishments.
He possessed skill and grace as a rhetorician and a poet, several of his bons mots which have been preserved possess considerable neatness and point, he displayed great skill in the art of dress, and was deeply versed in the science of good eating.
But, amidst all his follies, we find traces of nobler impulses and of darker passions. When fairly roused by the approach of unavoidable danger, he showed no want of courage and military prudence, all of which were evinced in the victory gained over the Goths in Thrace, and in his campaign against Postumus, although on this last occasion he probably owed much to the experienced valour of his generals Aureolus and Claudius. On the other hand, the latent treachery and cruelty of his temper were manifested in the massacre of the mutinous soldiers at Byzantium, who had surrendered under the express stipulation of an amnesty, and in the curious letter preserved by the Augustan historian, in which Celer Verianus is earnestly enjoined to mutilate, slay, and cut to pieces (lacera, occide, concide
) all whto had favoured the pretensions of the usurper Ingenuus, old and young, without distinction. (Trebell. Poll. Ingen. inter Trig. Tyrann.
Gallienus appears to have set out for Greece in A. D. 267, in order to oppose the Goths and Heruli, who were devastating Mocsia; he returned hastily to Italy upon receiving news of the insurrection of Aureolus, whom he defeated, and shut up in Milan ; but, while pressing the siege of that city, he was slain by his own soldiers, in the month of March, A. D. 268, in the fiftieth year of his age, after lie had enjoyed the title of Augustus for fifteen years, and reigned alone for upwards of seven. [SALONINUS.]
(Trebell. Poll. Valerian. pater et fil., Gallieni duo ;
Victor, de Caes.
xxxii. xxxiii ; Eutrop. 9.7
; Zonar. 12.23
; Zosim. 1.30, 37, 40, who speaks in such gentle terms of this prince, that some persons have imagined that his character was wilfully misrepresented by the historians of the age of Constantine, who sought to render the virtues of their own patrons more conspicuous by calumniating their predecessors.
With regard to the names of Gallienus, see Eckhel, vol. vii. p. 417.)