Gaius Vibius Volusianus (died August 253) was a Roman emperor from November 251 to August 253, ruling with his father Trebonianus Gallus.

Bust of Volusianus
Roman emperor
ReignNovember 251 – August 253 (with Trebonianus Gallus)
PredecessorDecius and Herennius Etruscus
Born230 AD
DiedAugust 253 (aged 22)
Gaius Vibius Gallus Veldumnianus Volusianus
Gaius Vibius Volusianus Caesar (251)[1]
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Veldumnianus Volusianus Augustus[1]
FatherTrebonianus Gallus
MotherAfinia Gemina Baebiana

After Emperor Decius and his son and co-ruler Herennius Etruscus died in battle in June 251, Trebonianus Gallus was elected emperor in the field by the legion. Gallus raised Hostilian, the younger son of Decius, to augustus (co-emperor) and elevated Volusianus to caesar. After the death of Hostilian in November 251, Volusianus was raised to augustus. The short reign of 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.


Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Vendumnianus Volusianus was born about 230 AD to the future Roman Emperor Trebonianus Gallus.[2][3] 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.[2][4][5] 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.[6] 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) about July 251.[2] Volusianus was wed to Hostilian's sister, of an unknown name.[7]

Hostilian died in November 251, though the reason for his death is disputed.[2][5] 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.[8] Trebonianus Gallus elevated Volusianus to augustus in November 251. He was made consul in 252, alongside Trebonianus Gallus, and in 253, alongside Valerius Maximus.[9][1] 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.[6] 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.[10] Novatian was also forced to flee Rome during this period of persecution.[11] Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus issued only two imperial rescripts during their reign.[12]

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.[7][2][13][14][15][6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

Aemilian succeeded 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.[6] 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.[2][13][14] The Chronography of 354 says they ruled for a total of two years, four months, and nine days.[15]


Coin featuring Volusianus

The aurei of Volusianus fell into two types. There were five 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.[16] 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).[17]

Family treeEdit

Roman Emperor
Herenia Etruscilla
Trebonianus Gallus
Roman Emperor
Afinia Gemina Baebiana
Roman Emperor
Cornelia Supera
Herennius Etruscus

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c Cooley 2012, p. 498.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Adkins & Adkins 1998, p. 28.
  3. ^ Foss 1990, p. 215.
  4. ^ Bunson 2014, pp. 255–256.
  5. ^ a b Salisbury & Mattingly 1924, p. 16.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Kean & Frey 2012, p. 355.
  7. ^ a b Vagi 2000, p. 342.
  8. ^ Manders 2012, p. 18.
  9. ^ Cooley 2012, p. 477.
  10. ^ Conway 1957, p. 12.
  11. ^ Marthaler 2003, p. 464.
  12. ^ Ando 2012, p. 195.
  13. ^ a b Newton 2014, p. 826.
  14. ^ a b Truhart 2000, p. 347.
  15. ^ a b Bird 1993, p. 138.
  16. ^ Friedberg, Friedberg & Friedberg 2017, p. 48.
  17. ^ Brent 2010, p. 163.


  • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (1998). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195123326.
  • Ando, Clifford (2012). Imperial Rome AD 193 to 284 The Critical Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748629206.
  • Bird, H.W. (1993). The Breviarum Ab Urbe Condita of Eutropius. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 9780853232087.
  • Brent, Allen (2010). Cyprian and Roman Carthage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521515474.
  • Bunson, Matthew (2014). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9781438110271.
  • Conway, George Edward (1957). De Bono Patientiae. Catholic University of America. OCLC 3301214.
  • Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521840262.
  • Foss, Clive (1990). Roman Historical Coins. London: Seaby Namismatic. ISBN 9780900652974.
  • Friedberg, Arthur L.; Friedberg, Ira S.; Friedberg, Robert (2017). Gold Coins of the World: From Ancient Times to the Present. An Illustrated Standard Catlaog with Valuations (9th ed.). Coin & Currency Institute. ISBN 9780871840097.
  • Kean, Roger M.; Frey, Oliver (2012). The Complete Chronicle of the Emperors of Rome. Reckless Books. ASIN B0097SBTJM.
  • Marthaler, Berard L. (2003). New Catholic Encyclopedia. Detroit: Thomson/Gale. ISBN 9780787640040.
  • Manders, Erika (2012). Coining Images of Power: Patterns in the Representation of Roman Emperors on Imperial Coinage, A.D. 193–284. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004189706.
  • Newton, Michael (2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610692861.
  • Salisbury, F. S.; Mattingly, H. (1924). "The Reign of Trajan Decius". The Journal of Roman Studies. 14 (1–2): 1–23. doi:10.2307/296323. JSTOR 296323.
  • Truhart, Peter (2000). Regenten Der Nationen. München: Saur. ISBN 9783598215438.
  • Vagi, David L. (2000). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, C. 82 B.C.--A.D. 480: History. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 9781579583163.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Volusianus at Wikimedia Commons

Regnal titles
Preceded by Roman Emperor
With: Trebonianus Gallus
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Consul of the Roman Empire
with Trebonianus Gallus,
Lucius Valerius Poplicola Balbinus Maximus
Succeeded by