Volusianus (Latin: Imperator Caesar Gaius Vibius Volusianus Augustus; died August 253), also known as Volusian, was a Roman Emperor from November 251 to August 253. His father, Trebonianus Gallus, became Roman Emperor after being elected in the field by the legion, following the deaths of the previous co-emperors Decius and Herennius Etruscus. Trebonianus Gallus raised Hostilian, the son of Decius, to augustus, making him his co-emperor in June 251. Volusianus was elevated to caesar in the same month. After the death, or murder, of Hostilian in November 251, Volusianus was raised to augustus, co-ruling with his father. The short reign of Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus was notable for the outbreak of a plague, which is said by some to be the reason for Hostilian's death, the invasion of the Sasanian Empire, and the raids of the Goths. Volusianus was killed alongside his father in August 253 by their own soldiers, who were terrified of the forces of the usurper Aemilian which were marching towards Rome.
Coin featuring Volusian
|Emperor of the Roman Empire|
|Reign||November 251 – August 253 (with Trebonianus Gallus)|
|Predecessor||Decius and Herennius Etruscus|
|Mother||Afinia Gemina Baebiana|
Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Vendumnianus Volusianus was born in about 230 AD to future Roman Emperor Trebonianus Gallus. Trebonianus Gallus had become emperor after the previous emperors, Decius and Herennius Etruscus, were both killed in July 251 by the Goths, led by Cniva, at the Battle of Abritus. The troops in the field elected Trebonianus Gallus as emperor. Trebonianus Gallus was forced to sign a treaty, which contemporary historians decried as "shameful", with the Goths, promising them tribute if the Goths abstained from raiding them. After Trebonianus Gallus became emperor, he made Hostilian, the son of Decius, augustus (emperor) with him, in order to improve the opinion of the people. He then elevated Volusianus to caesar (heir-apparent) in about July 251. Volusianus was wed to Hostilian's sister, of an unknown name.
Hostilian died in November 251, though the reason for his death is disputed. Aurelius Victor and the author of the Epitome de Caesaribus both say that Hostilian died of a plague, however Zosimus claims that he was killed off by Trebonianus Gallus, so that Volusianus could become augustus. Trebonianus Gallus elevated Volusianus to augustus in November 251. He was made consul in 252, alongside Trebonianus Gallus, and in 253, alongside Valerius Maximus. The same plague that killed Hostilian devastated the rest of Rome, although Trebonianus Gallus gained much popularity by ensuring that all of the plague victims were given proper burials, regardless of their social status. During the reign of Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus, the persecution of Christians was not as extreme as it was under Decius, although Pope Cornelius was exiled in 252 AD. Novatian was also forced to flee Rome during this period of persecution. Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus issued only two imperial rescripts during their reign.
During the shared reign of Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus, the Roman Empire was invaded by both the Goths and the Sassanids. Both co-emperors chose to stay in Rome rather than confront the invasions themselves. The Sassanids attacked in 252, quickly overrunning Mesopotamia, and defeated the Romans at the Battle of Barbalissos, near Barbalissos in the province of Euphratensis (modern day Syria). They advanced into Roman territory as far as Antioch, which was captured in 253 after a prolonged siege. In 253, the Goths invaded Moesia Inferior, as the new governor, Aemilian, had refused to pay the tribute to them. The Goths split into two bands, with one raiding the cities of Moesia Inferior and Thracia, and the other crossing into Asia Minor as far as Ephesus.
Aemilian succeed in repelling the Goths, slaughtering many and forcing the rest back across the Danube. The prestige of this victory was so great that Aemilian's soldiers spontaneously declared him emperor, in opposition to Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus. Upon hearing this news, they sent word to Valerian, the future emperor, who had been strengthening Rome's defences on the Rhine, to send reinforcements. Aemilian marched to Italy at a rapid pace, such that Valerian did not reach Rome in time to provide assistance. The co-emperors mustered what troops they could and prepared to defend, but made it less than two days before being killed by their own troops in August 253, at Interamna, in Umbria, because they feared fighting the much stronger forces of Aemilian. The Chronography of 354 says they ruled for a total of two years, four months, and nine days.
The aurei of Volusianus fell into two types. There were 5 styles of coins which featured his bust on the obverse, with the reverse showing: Aequitas sitting, Aeternitas standing, Apollo standing, Juno sitting inside a rounded temple, or Victoria standing. There were a further six styles of coins which featured his bust with a Radiate on the obverse, with the reverse displaying: Concordia sitting, Felicitas standing, Libertas standing, Providence standing, Salus standing, or a helmeted Virtus standing. The coins of Volusianus occasionally bore the inscription Saeculum nouum (new age), alongside the traditional inscriptions Romae aeternae (eternal Rome) and Pax aeternae (eternal peace).
∞ Herenia Etruscilla
∞ Afinia Gemina Baebiana
∞ Cornelia Supera
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Media related to Volusianus at Wikimedia Commons
| Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Trebonianus Gallus
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Trebonianus Gallus,
Lucius Valerius Poplicola Balbinus Maximus