Decimus Clodius Albinus (c. 150 – 19 February 197) was a Roman imperial pretender between 193 and 197. He was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal) after the murder of Pertinax in 193 (known as the "Year of the Five Emperors"), and proclaimed himself emperor again in 196, before his final defeat and death the following year.[1]

Clodius Albinus
White statue of bearded man in military attire
Bornc. 150
Hadrumetum, Roman Africa (Sousse, Tunisia)
Died19 February 197
  • Decimus Clodius Albinus (before 193)
  • Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus[1][2]
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus

Biography edit

Early life edit

Albinus was born in Hadrumetum, Africa Province (Sousse, Tunisia) to an aristocratic Roman family. The unreliable Historia Augusta claims his parents' names were Aurelia Messallina and Ceionius Postumus, along with other relatives mentioned in Vita Albini none of these names are considered likely to be accurate by modern historians.[3] The text also claims that Clodius received the cognomen Albinus because of the extraordinary whiteness of his complexion.[4]

Career under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus edit

Showing a disposition for military life, he entered the army when very young and served with distinction, especially in 175 during the rebellion of Avidius Cassius against Emperor Marcus Aurelius. His merit was acknowledged by the Emperor in two letters in which he calls Albinus an African, who resembled his countrymen but little, and who was praiseworthy for his military experience and the gravity of his character.[4] The Emperor likewise declared that without Albinus the legions (in Bithynia) would have gone over to Avidius Cassius, and that he intended to have him chosen consul.[5]

The Emperor Commodus gave Albinus a command in Gallia Belgica and afterwards in Britain. A false rumor having been spread that Commodus had died, Albinus denounced the man before his soldiers in Britain, calling Commodus a tyrant, and maintaining that it would be useful to the Roman Empire to restore to the Senate its ancient dignity and power. The Senate was very pleased with these sentiments, but not so the Emperor, who sent Junius Severus to relieve Albinus of his command. Despite this, Albinus kept his command until after the murders of Commodus and his successor Pertinax in 193.

Alliance with Septimius Severus edit

Coin of Clodius Albinus[a]

After Pertinax was assassinated, the praetorian prefect Aemilius Laetus and his men, who had arranged the murder, "sold" the imperial throne to wealthy senator Didius Julianus, effectively crowning him emperor. A string of mutinies by the troops in the provinces, however, meant the next emperor was far from decided. Pescennius Niger was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Syria; Septimius Severus by the troops in Illyricum and Pannonia; and Albinus by the armies in Britain and Gaul.

In the civil war that followed, Albinus was initially allied with Septimius Severus, who had captured Rome. Albinus added the name Septimius to his own, and accepted the title of Caesar from him; the two shared a consulship in 194. Albinus remained effective ruler of much of the western part of the Empire, with support from three British legions and one Spanish.[b] When Didius Julianus was put to death by order of the Senate, who dreaded the power of Septimius Severus, the latter turned his arms against Pescennius Niger. After the defeat and death of Niger in 194, and the complete discomfiture of his adherents, especially after the fall of Byzantium in 196, Severus resolved to make himself the absolute master of the Roman Empire. Albinus, seeing the danger of his position, prepared for resistance. He narrowly escaped being assassinated by a messenger of Severus, after which he put himself at the head of his army, which is said to have consisted of 150,000 men.[4]

Declaring himself emperor edit

In autumn 196, Albinus received word that Severus had appointed his elder son Caracalla as his successor with the title of Caesar and convinced the Senate to declare Albinus himself an official enemy of Rome. Now with nothing to lose, Albinus mobilized his legions in Britannia, proclaimed himself emperor (Imperator Caesar Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus) and crossed from Britain to Gaul, bringing a large part of the British garrison with him.[c] He defeated Severus' legate Virius Lupus, and was able to lay claim to the military resources of Gaul, but although he made Lugdunum the headquarters of his forces, he was unable to win the allegiance of the Rhine legions.[1]

On 19 February 197 Albinus met Severus' army at the Battle of Lugdunum.[6] After a hard-fought battle, with 150,000 troops on each side according to Cassius Dio, Albinus was defeated and killed himself, or was captured and executed on the orders of Severus.[7] Severus had his naked body laid out on the ground before him, so that he could ride his horse over it, in a final act of humiliation. Albinus' wife and two sons were initially pardoned by Severus, but he changed his mind almost immediately afterwards, for as the dead Albinus was beheaded, so were they. Albinus' headless body was thrown into the Rhône, together with the corpses of his murdered family. Severus sent his head to Rome as a warning to his supporters; with it he sent an insolent letter, in which he mocked the Senate for their loyalty to Albinus. The town of Lugdunum was plundered, and the adherents of Albinus were cruelly persecuted by Severus.

Personal life edit

It is said that he wrote a treatise on agriculture and a collection of Milesian tales.[8][9]

The name of Albinus' wife is unknown,[d] and only the unreliable Historia Augusta mention any name for his sons,[15] claiming that he had an infant son named Pescennius Princus,[e] but some historians such as Anthony Birley hold that this name is fictitious.[18]

Notes edit

  1. ^ This coin celebrates Saeculum Frugiferum, the embodiment of a "fruitful era", probably Baal Hammon, a Phoenician divinity worshipped in North Africa, where Clodius came from.
  2. ^ The British legions were II Augusta, VI Victrix, and XX Valeria Victrix, the Spanish legion was the VII Gemina.
  3. ^ Indeed, he stripped Britain of every available soldier, which meant that Severus' new administration had to deal with several rebellions, including those of the Maeatae.
  4. ^ In the past some have thought that she might have been Pescennia Plautiana;[10] this name has also been ascribed to a possible wife or daughter of Pescennius Niger. The woman may be entirely fictional and created by coin forgers.[11] Anthony Birley has proposed that she may have been an Asellia, a relative of Asellius Aemilianus.[12] Alexander Mlasowsky and Dietmar Kienast also found this plausible.[13][14]
  5. ^ The name "Princus" may have been a mistake for Prineus, Primus or Priscus.[16][17]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Birley, Anthony R. (1996), "Clodius Septimius Albinus, Decimus", in Hornblower, Simon (ed.), Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  2. ^ RE Clodius 17
  3. ^ Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium. Vol. 7. R. Habelt Verlag. 1970. p. 54. ISBN 9783774910980.
  4. ^ a b c Capitolinus, Clodius Albinus 4-10
  5. ^ Plate, William (1867), "Albinus, Clodius", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, pp. 93–94, archived from the original on 2012-10-10, retrieved 2008-06-17
  6. ^ Spartianus, Severus 11
  7. ^ Collingwood, Robin George; Myres, John Nowell Linton (1998), "Severeus and Albinus", Roman Britain and English Settlements, Biblo & Tannen Publishers, p. 155, ISBN 978-0-8196-1160-4, retrieved January 27, 2009
  8. ^ Cassius Dio, lxx. 4–7
  9. ^ Herodian, ii. 15, iii. 5–7
  10. ^ Chifflet, Claude (1678). Claudii Chifletii ... De antiquo nummo ... liber posthumus ... hac tertia editione, parte quoque secunda et tertia auctus: eo fini, ut ad hanc regulam et stateram, examinari, censeri et probari possit, Nummophylacium illud Luederianum Hamburgense, incredibili diligentia et sumpta comparatum ... prodit accurante Rudolfo Capello (in French). p. 10.
  11. ^ The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society. Vol. 15–16. Royal Numismatic Society. 1875. pp. 34–40.
  12. ^ Birley, Anthony (1981). The Fasti of Roman Britain. Clarendon Press. p. 149. ISBN 9780198148210.
  13. ^ Mlasowsky, Alexander (2001). Imago imperatoris: römische Kaiserbildnisse einer norddeutschen Sammlung. Schriften der Archäologischen Sammlung Freiburg. Vol. 6. Biering & Brinkmann. p. 272. ISBN 9783930609307.
  14. ^ Kienast, Dietmar (1996). Römische Kaisertabelle: Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie (Second ed.). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. p. 161. ISBN 9783534132898.
  15. ^ British Museum. Dept. of Coins and Medals (1965). Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum. Vol. 5. Trustees of the British Museum. p. 105.
  16. ^ Schulz, Otto Theodor (1984). Contributions to the criticism of our literary tradition for the period from Commodus' fall to the death of M. Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla). Scientia-Verlag. p. 77. ISBN 9783511072612.
  17. ^ von Sybel, Heinrich (1897). Historische Zeitschrift. Cott'sche Buchhandlung. p. 457.
  18. ^ Birley, Anthony (1981). The Fasti of Roman Britain. Clarendon Press. p. 149. ISBN 9780198148210.

Further reading edit

External links edit

Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Britain
Succeeded by
Preceded by
L. Fabius Cilo
G. Aemilius Severus Cantabrinus
Roman consul
With: Septimius Severus
Succeeded by
Regnal titles
Preceded by Roman emperor
in competition with
Pescennius Niger
and Septimius Severus
Succeeded by