List of Roman usurpers

The following is a list of usurpers in the Roman Empire. For an overview of the problem and consequences of usurpation, see Roman usurpers. In the Eastern Roman Empire (395–1453), rebellion and usurpation were so notoriously frequent (in the vision of the medieval West, where usurpation was rare) that the modern term "byzantine" became a byword for political intrigue and conspiracy. For usurpation in the Eastern Roman Empire, see List of Byzantine usurpers.


  • kPG, killed by the Praetorian Guard
  • kS, killed by own soldiers
  • kB, killed in battle
  • e, executed
  • S, suicide
  • dates are beginning and end of reign
  • origin of the rebellion indicated where possible
  • the list is complete until the advent of the tetrarchy in the end of the 3rd century

Usurpers who became legitimate emperorsEdit

The following individuals began as usurpers, but became the legitimate emperor either by establishing uncontested control of the empire or by confirmation of their position by the Roman Senate or by the legitimate emperor.

First Imperial civil war; the year of the four emperorsEdit

  • Galba – killed January 15, 69
  • Otho – committed suicide April 16, 69
  • Vitellius – killed December 22, 69
  • Vespasian – secured the throne

Second Imperial civil warEdit

Crisis of the Third CenturyEdit

Western EmpireEdit

The following last emperors of the West were all accepted by the Senate but never recognized as colleagues by the Emperor of the East:

Usurpers not considered legitimate emperorsEdit

The following individuals proclaimed themselves emperor (or were proclaimed or appointed as emperor), but are not considered as legitimate emperors because they did not oust the ruling emperor, or did not establish control of the whole empire, or were not accepted by the senate or other imperial colleagues.

They are listed here under the emperor whose rule they attempted to usurp. The noted date is the attempted year of usurpation.

Claudius: 41–54Edit

Galba: 68–69Edit

Titus: 79–81Edit

Domitian: 81–96Edit

Marcus Aurelius: 161–180Edit

  • Avidius Cassius (175), in Egypt and Syria, governor of Syria, declared himself emperor upon the rumor that Marcus Aurelius had died, continued his revolt even upon learning Marcus Aurelius was alive.

Septimius Severus: 193–211Edit

Elagabalus: 218–222Edit

  • Gellius Maximus (219), in Syria, executed, originally an officer of Legio IV Scythica
  • Verus (late 219), in Syria, executed, commander of Legio III Gallica
  • Uranius (c. 221), questioned existence and date; sources place him in 253
  • Seleucus (after 221). He could be Julius Antonius Seleucus, in Moesia, or M. Flavius Vitellius Seleucus, consul for 221

Alexander Severus: 222–235Edit

  • Sallustius (c. 227), in Rome, raised to Caesar by Alexander, executed for attempted murder, prefect of the Praetorian Guard
  • Taurinus (S. date unclear), in the East, committed suicide in the Euphrates after being hailed Augustus
  • Ovinius Camillus, alleged usurper mentioned only in the Historia Augusta, now thought to have been fictitious

Maximinus Thrax: 235–238Edit

  • Magnus (235), ordered some soldiers of Maximinus to destroy the bridge that allowed the Emperor to cross back the Rhine, a former consul
  • Quartinus (235), in the East, supported by soldiers loyal to former emperor Alexander Severus

Gordian III: 238–244Edit

  • Sabinianus (240), in Africa, governor of the province

Philip the Arab: 244–249Edit

Decius: 249–251Edit

Gallienus: 253–268Edit

Claudius II: 268–270Edit

Aurelian: 270–275Edit

  • Domitianus (270–271) most probably in Southern Gaul. He was probably encouraged by Aurelian's difficulties in dealing with an Alamannic incursion into Italy that occurred early in his reign. His bid for power could have been suppressed by Aurelian's Praetorian Prefect, Placidianus who was in the Rhone valley at the time or by Tetricus, the Gallic Emperor.
  • Felicissimus (k.271) in Rome, a civil servant involved in corruption
  • Septimius (kS.271) in Dalmatia
  • Urbanus (271), questioned existence
  • Firmus (k.273) in Egypt, questioned existence

Probus: 276–282Edit

Carus, Carinus, Numerian: 282–284Edit

Diocletian: 284–305Edit

Galerius: 305–311Edit

Constantine I: 309–337Edit

Constantius II: 337–361Edit

Valentinian I: 364–375Edit

Theodosius I: 379–395Edit

Honorius: 395–423Edit

Valentinian III: 423–455Edit

Anthemius: 467–472Edit

Unsuccessful regional usurpers after the fall of Rome (476)Edit

  • Julius Nepos (476-480) ruled as emperor in exile in Dalmatia since 475, tried to reclaim imperial throne from the barbarian regime in Italy lead by Odoacer around 479-480, killed by his soldiers in the same year.
  • Burdunellus (e.496), in the Ebro valley
  • Peter (e.506), in the Ebro valley