Carausius (DNB00)

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CARAUSIUS (245?–293), Roman emperor in Britain in the time of Diocletian and Maximianus Herculius, was a man of very humble origin, and is described by Aurelius Victor (De Cæsaribus, c. 39) as 'Menapiæ civis,' an expression which indicates the district about the mouths of the Scheldt and the Meuse as his native country (cf. Bunbury, Hist of Anc. Geog., ii. 135; G. Long in Smith's Dict. of Anc. Geog, s.v. 'Menapii'). The portrait of himself on his coins, which were probably first issued in A.D. 287, is apparently that of a man of about forty. In his youth Carausius earned his livelihood as a pilot. In 286 he is mentioned as greatly distinguishing himself in the campaign of the Emperor Maximian against the Bagaudæ — the revolted peasants and banditti of Gaul. About this period Maximian found it necessary to take active measures for suppressing the Frank and Saxon pirates who preyed upon the coasts of Britain and Gaul. Carausius was entrusted with the formation and command of a fleet which was stationed at Gessoriacum (Boulogne). But 'the integrity of the new admiral (as Gibbon says), 'corresponded not with his abilities.' He allowed the pirates to sail out and ravage as usual, but when they returned he fell upon them and seized the spoil, reserving a portion — apparently a very considerable portion — for his own purposes. Maximian at last gave orders that his admiral should be put to death. But Carausius was strong in the possession of the fleet, and had ample resources for corruption, and on becoming aware of Maximian's intention, he promptly crossed the Channel with his ships, took possession of Britain, and 'assumed the purple' ('purpuram sumpsit,' Eutropius), A.D. 287. It has been sometimes said that Carausius was 'the first count of the Saxon shore' ('comes littoris Saxonici'), a title only first made known to us in the 'Notitia,' i.e. about the end of the fourth century A.D. If we assume with Guest (Origines Celtica, ii. 154), Freeman (Norman Conquest, ed. 1867, i. 11), Stubbs (Constitutional Hist. of Eng, Library ed. 1880, i. 67 note), and other writers (see Böcking's commentary on cap. xxv. of his edition of the Notitia), that the duties of the 'Comes' were to protect 'the Saxon shore,' i.e. the shore on either side of the Channel from the ravages of the Saxon pirates, we may, at any rate, safely affirm that Carausius was practically the first who was appointed to perform the duties of the Comes. Lappenberg (Hist of Eng. under the Anglo Saxon Kings, 1845, i. 44 fl".; cf. Kemble, Saxons in England, i. 12), who thinks that the 'comes littoris Saxonici' was the commander of the Saxon colonists settled along the coasts of Britain and Gaul before 460 considers that Carausius was practically the first 'comes' in this sense, remarking that if Carausius, ‘himself a German by extraction, a Menapian by birth . . . did not cause the setting of the Saxons along the Saxon shore, in Gaul as well as in Britain, he at last promoted it by his alliance with them' A substantially similar view as to the relations of Carausius and the Saxons is takesn by Schaumann (Zur Geschichte der Broberung England's durch germanische Stämme, Göttingen, 1845), Dirks (Les Anglo-Saxons et leurs petits deniers dit Sceattas, Brussels, 1870, pp. 15 ff.), and Howarth (Journ. of Anthropological Institute, February, 1878).

Maximian, deprived of his fleet, was unable to pursue Carausius immediately, but during part of 288 and 289 confined himself to making elaborate naval preparations. Csrausius meanwhile was supposed to bs trembling for his safety. ‘Quid nunc animi babet ille pirata?' asks the courtly panegyrist of Maximian in an oration delivered at Trêves on 21 April 289: ‘Ædificatæ sunt ornatæque pulcerrimæ classes cunctis simul amnibus oceanum petituræ’ (Maxertini Paneg. Max. Herc. dict. c. 12). The new fleet was brought into action—probably shortly after this date—its half-trained seamen proved to be no match for the sailors of Carausius, who had built a number of additional ships after the Roman model. Carausius was, moreover, an experienced soldier (Eutrop. ix. 22). On landing in Britain in 287 he had won over to his side (probably by bribery) the Roman legion stationed in the island, and he proceeded to organise an army by adding to the legion some oompanies of foreign mercenaries and evialnngmfirchlpunts from Gaul : the prospect of spoil made his servioe attractive, and 'barbarians’ also joined the ranks. Part of his fleet held possession of Boulogne. The contest between the rivals seems to have laated some time, the advantage being always, apparantly, on the side of Csrausius, and at last in Maximian was glad to come to terms with the usurper. Eurompius (ix. 22) only records the bare fact that peace was brought about; but from certain coins issued by Carausius, evidently at this period, it would appear that he was actually acknowledged by Maximian and Diocletian as a gunner in the empire. Carausius, probably from the very moment of his first setting sail for Britain had already placed his own portrait on the coins which he issued, and had styled himself 'Imperator,' 'Cæsar,' 'Augustus,' adding the usual imperial epithets of ‘Pius’ and ‘Felix;’ but he now issued a remarkable copper coin (a specimen is in the British Museum) an the obverse of which he placed the three heads of Dioeletian, Maximian, and himself, accompanied by the inscription caravsivs et fratres svi. The reverse bore the inscription pax avggg (i.e. ‘trium Augustorum’) and a female personification of pesos, holding olive-branch and sceptre. On a few other coins of Carausius, which must also belong to this period, the legends have reference to three Augusti, and not merely-as at first-to a single Augustus (Carausius himself). But the union of the imperial ‘brethren’ was soon to be dissolved. In 292 Dioolstian and Maximian invited Galsrius and Constantius Chlorus to share in the growing cares of empire, as Cæsars. The defense of Gaul and Britain was entrusted to Constantius; and he proceeded to strike a blow at the power of Esrausius hy an attaclr on Boulogne. He besieged the town both by land and sea, obstructing the mouth of the harbour by a mole. The garrison surrendered, and Constautius was mailing other preparations for the recovery of Britain, when he received the welcome news that Oanusiua had been assassinated by his chief minister, Allectua, 293. [The exact date and sequence of the events in the life of Carausius are not absolutely certain; the chronology that has here been adopted is that of Clinton (Fasti Rom.) According to other modern critics (see Pauli, Real-Encyclop.) the reign of Carausius lasted from 286 to 298, and the pews with Maximian and Diocletian was made, not in 290 but in 292. The date, 294, adopted by Gibbon (also in Monum. Hist. Briton. and elsewhere) for the death of Carausius is erroneous (see W. Smith's note in the Decline and Fall, ii. 71).]

The brief notion of Aurelius Victor and Eutropius,snd the neousarily unsatisfactory statements of the Panegy-rists, throw little light upon the character and motives of Carausius. He is contemptuously spoken of as the ‘pirate’ or the ‘pirate chief' (‘archi-pirata'), and his avarice and faithlessness are not unjustly stigmatised. All the ancient writers, however, recognise his ability in nautical and military affairs. His motive in seizing Britain and and his position as ‘imperator’ have been discussed by several modern writers. 'Under his oommand,’ says Gibbon, ‘Britain, destined in a future age to obtain the empire ef the sea, already assumed its natural and respectable station of a maritime power.' Carausius certainly relied upon his fleet, and he mg possibly, in the first instance, have Bed to ritain merely as to a harbour of refuge, without having any ultimate designs upon the empire, but, in any case, it is evident that he did not rest content with being a mere ‘king' of Britain. Mr. Freeman (Norman Conquest, 1867, i. 153; 1877, i. 139) well points out that Carausius, Maximus, and the other so-called tyrants or provincial emperors, did not claim any independent existence for any part of the empire of which they might have gained possession. ‘They were pretenders to the whole empire if they could get it, and they not uncommonly did get it in the end.’ ‘Carausius, the first British emperor, according to this theory, held not only Britain but part of Gaul.’ ‘Britain and part of Gaul were simply those parts of the empire of which Carausius, a candidate for the whole empire, had been able actually to possess himself. At last Carausius was accepted as a colleague by Diocletian and Maximian, and so became a lawful Cæsar and Augustus.’ ‘Allectus was less fortunate; he never got beyond Britain, and, instead of being acknowledged as a colleague, he was defeated and slain by Constantius.’

Although Carausius ruled in Britain from 287 to 293, no lapidary inscriptions or other monuments of his reign have at present been discovered, with the exception of the gold, silver, and copper coins which he issued in large numbers. The testimony of these coins confirms, and in some points supplements, the scanty information derived from the literary sources. Gibbon, in a note in the ‘Decline and Fall,’ observes that ‘as a great number of medals (i.e. coins) of Carausius are still preserved, he is become a very favourite object of antiquarian curiosity, and every circumstance of his life and actions has been investigated with sagacious accuracy.’ However, until the latter part of the present century the coins of Carausius were always considered by numismatists as rarities, and Gibbon had only before him the learned but fanciful work of Dr. Stukeley—possibly also that of Genebrier—who made Carausius a Welshman and gave him for a wife a lady named Oriuna—a name which he arrived at by misreading the word Fortuna on one of the emperor's coins. Even now, no complete list of the coins of Carausius brought down to the present date is in existence, though a very large number may be found engraved in the ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica’ and in Roach Smith's ‘Collectanea Antiqua.’ Cohen, in his ‘Médailles impériales’ (first edition), gives a description of six varieties in gold, forty-six in silver, and 242 in copper; but since this list was compiled, about 1861, numerous additional specimens have been discovered, especially in copper. In particular, the very large hoard of coins unearthed by Lord Selborne in 1873 at Blackmoor in Hampshire contained 545 coins of Carausius, which included 117 varieties not described by Cohen. Among the numerous localities where coins of Carausius have been discovered may be mentioned London (some of the coins were found in the bed of the Thames); Richborough; Rouen (where a hoard of late third-century coins, discovered in 1846, contained 210 of Carausius); St. Albans, Silchester, Strood, Wroxeter, and different parts of Gloucestershire. Carausius struck his money at London, and at a mint indicated by the letter ‘C,’ probably Camulodunum (Colchester); a number of his coins give no indication of their place of mintage. Rutupiæ and Clausentum have by some been suggested as mints; but this is doubtful. De Salis (Num. Chron. n. s. vii. 57) would assign to 287–90? those coins of Carausius which are ‘without mint-marks and mostly of inferior workmanship;’ and to the years 290?–3 the gold and copper coins with the mint-mark of London, and the copper with the mint-mark of Camulodunum: the ‘silver coins with the exergual mark rsr probably belong to this period and to the mint of London.’ It is not improbable that Carausius struck coins with his name and titles even before setting out from Boulogne for Britain. There are two sets of coins which some writers have proposed to attribute to this period: (1) a series (from the Rouen find) bearing a portrait of Carausius differing from that on the coins undoubtedly struck in Britain, and (2) a number of specimens (from the Blackmoor and Silchester hoards) which are restruck on money of previous emperors (Gallienus, Victorinus, Tetricus, &c.). Not having a supply of metal ‘blanks’ ready to hand at Boulogne, Carausius may very well have adopted the expedient of using the copper coins which he found already in circulation, stamping them over again from dies engraved with his own devices and inscriptions. The coins of Carausius as a whole are fairly well executed for the period, though some of the legends are blundered; they hardly, however, warrant the assertion of Gibbon that their issuer ‘invited from the continent a great number of skilful artists.’ The legend of the obverse is almost invariably imp. [or imp. c.] Caravsivs p. f. avg. In rare instances i or in—probably for ‘Invictus’—is added. ‘Carausius’ may, from the evidence of the coins, be considered as the true form of the emperor's name; the author of the Epitome of the ‘De Cæsaribus’ of Victor calls him ‘Charausio,’ and in mediæval and other writers he is given such curious names as ‘Caratius,’ ‘Crausius,’ &c. (see a list of these in Genebrier, pp. 5, 6). Nearly all modern writers—Stukeley; Pauly, ‘Real-Encyclop.;’ Smith, ‘Dict. Class. Biog.;’ Madden, ‘Handbook of Roman Coins'—have stated that he assumed the names of Marcus Aurelius Vulerius, names already borne by the Emperor Maximian; but the only authority for this appears to the inscription—very possibly misread—on a coin referred to by Eckhel (Doct. Num. Vet. viii. 47). Two specimens in the Hunter collection at Glaglow (Cohen, Med. imp. vol. v., ‘Caraosius,’ Nos. 192, 199) are, however, said to read m[arcus] Caravsivs. The obverse types of the coins of Carausius consist of a portrait of himself which does not appear to be much conventionalised; it is that of a sturdy soldier with a slight touch of brutality. The head is in profile and is either radiate or wreathed with laurel. Some specimen with the legend vintvs caravsi[i] display a nearly half-length figure of the emperor in armour, helmeted and radiate, and with a shield on the left arm, and in the right a javelin. A unique copper coin found at Wroxeter, and now in the British Museum (R. Smith, Collect. Antiqua, ii. 153, 154, with engraving), shows the head of Carausius full-face and bare; the workmanship is more careful and the face has a look of greater benignity than in the profile representations.

Historical deductions from the reverse types of Carsusius must be made with caution, for the reason that many of these types are more or lass commonplace, and are not peculiar to the British potentate. But a certain number of types were undoubtedly originated hy Carausius himself and others seem to be historically significant. On one important reverse type Carausius represents himself as the ‘long-looked for' deliverer welcomed by Britannia, who stands holding a trident and extends her hand to the new emperor; the legend is ‘exprotate veni.' On another coin, with the type of the Wolf and the 'Romanorum Renovatio’ is proclaimed; or, again, the ‘Sæculi Felicitas’ and the ‘Liberalitas Augusti.' Some of the types and legends are of a warlike nature, e.g. the ‘Mars Ultor,’ the ‘Concordia Militum,' the ‘Fides Militum,’ and on various pieces the names of Roman legions are recorded. Types relating to nautical matters are somewhat rare; Neptune occurs on several coins, and one of the types is a galley with its crew. Jupiter, and more especially the Sun-god, seem to be the divinities usually invoked by Carausius. There are also a number of more or less hackneyed tapes, such as ‘Victoria,’ 'Pax,' ‘Moneta,’ ‘Fortuna,’ ‘Providentia.' It has been supposed that the frequent occurrence of the ‘Victoria’ and the 'Pax' (especially of the latter) is due to actual events in the reign of Carausius, such as s victory over or a peace concluded with the Caledonians; but these conjectures seem somewhat hazardous.

Of the early Life of Allectus (250?-298), the successor of Carausius, nothing whatever is recorded, though the portrait on his coins enables us to select 250 as the approximate date of his birth. He is first introduced to us as the right-hand man of Carausius, but, havinig committed certain unpardonsbls offences, he assassinated Carausius and seized the government. His reign lasted for about three years only (293-296). During its progress he issued a good many coins, minting, like his predecessor, at London and Colchester. According to Cohen (whose estimate, however, does not take account of coins discovered since 1861), there are ten varieties in gold and fifty-six in copper: the so-called silver coins appear to be only copper washed with silver. The obverses display the head of Allectus in profile, laureate. Allectus takes the imperial style imp. c. allectvs. p. p. avg. His reverse types are for the most part similar to those of his predecessor; it is noticeable, however, that the type of the galley with rowers now becomes extremely common, as if Allectus wished to direct attention to his maritime resources. His enemies, however, were maturing their plans, and by 296 Constantius had his fleet ready for action. To distract the attention of Allectus, Constantius divided it into two squadrons, one under his own command, stationed at Boulogne, the other, at the mouth of the Seine, under the command of the prætorian præfect, Asclepiodotus. Asclepiodotus sailed out first, and under cover of a fog passed unobserved by the British fleet, which lay off the Isle of Wight, and effected a landing. Allectus immediately hastened westward. With men wearied by forced marches he encountered Asclepiodotus, and was defeated and slain A.D. 296. Lord Selborne conjectures that the engagement took place in or near Woolmer Forest in Hampshire, and he supposes that it was just before the fight that Allectus or some of his officers hurriedly buried for safety the enormous ‘Blackmoor hoard,' consisting of more than 29,788 coins, among which were ninety of Allectus.

Shortly after the battle Constantius himself arrived, and Britain was restored to the empire in the tenth year of the usurpation of Carausius and Allectus.

[The ancient authorities are: Aurelius Victor, De Cæsaribus, c. 89, and the Epitome of the De Cæs. c. 40; Eutropius, Histor. Rom. Brev. lib. ix. capp. 11, 12; the Panegyricus Maximiano Hare. dictus, capp. 11, 12, and the Paneg. Genathliacus Maxim. Aug. dict. c. 19, of the so-called Mamertinus; Eumenius, Panegyr. Constantio Cæsari, capp. 6, 7. 12; Paneg. Constantino, c. 5; Orosius. Histor. lib. vii. c. 25 Bedæ Hist. Eccl. lib. i. cap. 6. Among modern writers see especially: Clinton, Fasti Romani, i. 330-5; Gibbon, Decline and Fall (ed. W. Smith), ii. 70-3; J. Roulez in Biogaphie Nat. de Belgique; Monumenta Historia Britannica (Chrono1ogical Abstract and Excerpta de Britannia); Pauly, Real-Encyclopädie, s.v. 'Carausius;' Duruy, ‘Hist. des Romains, vi. 535-6, 540, 549, 550; on monographs of W. Stukeley (Medallic History of Carausius, London, 1757-9, 4to), and Genebrier (Histoire de Carausius, Paris, 1740, 4to) are of very little value. For the coins, see: Monumenta Hist. Brit. plates v-xiv. (Carausius), xv-xvii. (Allectus); C. Roach Smith, Collectanea Antiqua, ii. 153, iv. 125, 216, v. 152, 184, 241, vi. 130, vii. 223; Cohen, Médailles impériales (1861), v. 501-39, and vii. 360-2; Akerman, Coins of the Romans relating to Britain (1836), pp. 47-59, and his Descriptive Catal. of Rom. Coins (1834), ii. 153-75; Numismatic Chronicle (old series) reff. in Index ii. in vol. xx.; (new series) i. 36, 161, 183, ii. 41, v. 108, vii. 57, xiv. 87, xvii. 139, xix. 44, and p. 18 (Proceedings); Journal of the Archæol. Assoc., reff. in Index to vols. i-xxx.; Archæol. Journal, i. 133, ix. 194; verions reff. in Archæologia of Soc. of Antiq.;British Museum Collection. Meet of the above sources also give information about Allectus.]

W. W.