This Week In History

Elagabalus adopts Alexianus – June 26, 221 AD

Gessius Bassianus Alexianus was born in c.208/9 AD at Phoenicia-Arca Caesarea. He was the son of Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus and Julia Avita Mamaea, making him the cousin of Elagabalus and part of the ruling Severan family. Not much is written about his youth, but it is documented he accompanied his cousin to Rome when Elagabalus was proclaimed emperor in 218.  This characters are in many Roman Coins. While living in Rome under the rule of Elagabalus, Alexianus remained virtually unknown. The citizens of Rome became increasingly intolerant of the bizarre behavior and rituals of Elagabalus over the years, forcing Julia Maesa, grandmother of Elagabalus, to put pressure on the emperor to adopt his cousin and elevate him to the rank of Caesar on June 26, 221. Alexianus was Maesa’s backup p...

Titus Begins Sole Reign – June 23, 79 AD

During the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), Vespasian was held in high esteem, allowing his son, Titus to be raised in the company of the royal court. Titus was taught along side Britannicus, Claudius’s son. They became close friends and Titus was at the dinner party at which Britannicus was fatally poisoned by Nero in 55. It is said Titus even drank some of the poison and became very ill, but recovered. Nero continued to rule, Vespasian had retired in 51 and Titus was sent to Germania. From c.57-59, Titus was a military tribune in Germania, arriving in Britannia c.60 with reinforcements after the revolt of Boadicea. Titus married twice, the first to Arrecina Tertulla, the daughter of one of Caligula’s praetorian prefects, when he returned to Rome in c.63. The were married until Tertulla’s de...

Magna Carta – June 15, 1215 AD

In 1204 AD, King John of England lost most of his ancestral lands to King Philip II of France. In response, John heavily taxed the barons in his remaining lands to raise funds to ultimately wage an expensive war in 1214. That effort was a failure and John ended up having to sue for peace after the Battle of Bouvines. John returned to England and found the barons, who already disliked him because of his abuse of authority against them, had organized in the north and east against him. The rebel barons swore an oath for “liberty of the church and realm” and demanded John uphold the Charter of Liberties issued in 1100 AD by King Henry I, which bound the king to laws regarding the treatment of nobles, church officials and individuals. John held a council in 1215 in London and in spring held dis...

Julia Drusilla – June 10, 38 AD

Julia Drusilla was one of the daughters of Germanicus and Agrippina Senior. She was also the sister of Nero Caesar, Drusus Caesar, Caligula, Agrippina Junior and Julia Livilla. Born in 16 AD, she was only three when Germanicus died in Antioch. Drusilla and her siblings were brought back to Rome by their mother, from where they all lived in Germany. The children were raised by Agrippina Senior, with the help of their paternal grandmother, Antonia Junior. During 26 AD, the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, essentially was running Rome and the administration of it, thanks to Tiberius delegating so much responsibility to him. Although Sejanus was not in line for succession to the throne, he used his power to eliminate possible challengers. Agrippina Senior, Nero Caesar and Drusus Caesar were all ar...

Counter-Rebellion – June 3, 350 AD

Constantinus Flavius Popilius Nepotianus was the grandson of Flavius Valerius Constantius (Chlorus) and Flavia Maximana Theodora. His parents were Virius Nepotianus and Eutropia, his mother being the half-sister of Constantine the Great. He and his two cousins, Julian II and Constantius Gallus, lived in semi-exile until Fausta was executed in 326. Nepotian served as consul in 336, but he must have kept a relatively low profile as not much is known about his life. Because of his very young age, he survived the purge in Summer 337 by the sons of Constantine the Great when they were eliminating many potential dynastic challengers. On June 3, 350 AD, Nepotian was hailed emperor in Rome by a mob. Magnentius had taken control Rome around 20 weeks earlier, usurping the throne from the legitimate ...

“Et tu, Brute?” – Brutus Coins

Brutus Coins: It’s not often collectors have the opportunity to acquire one of the most famous, and infamous, coins ever produced in the history of mankind. However, the only known example from Die H of the Eid Mar denarius, minted under Brutus and celebrating the assassination of Julius Caesar by his hands on the Ides of March, 44 BC is now available on VCoins, along with a selection of other coins related to the cast of characters from the tumultuous Roman Imperatorial period. Brutus is a cognomen of the Roman gens Junia, a prominent family of the Roman Republic. The plural of Brutus is Bruti, and the vocative form is Brute, as used in the quotation “Et tu, Brute?” (“you too, Brutus?”), from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Our selection of Coins:

Eagles Recovered – May 26, 17 AD

Publius Quinctilius Varus, born in 46 BC, came from a noble family and became a personal friend to both Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Roman emperor Augustus. He married Vipsania Marcella Agrippina, great-niece of Augustus and daughter of Marcus Agrippa. After she died, he married Claudia Pulchra, grand-niece of Augustus through Octavia the Younger. Varus was fast-tracked on his political career and finished his cursus honorem early when he was elected consul with Tiberius in 13 BC. He gave the eulogy at Marcus Agrippa’s funeral in 12 BC. In 8/7 BC, he was appointed governor of Africa and in 7/6 BC, moved on to governor of Syria with four legions at his command. It was here Varus was known for his harsh rule and high taxes. A revolt in Judaea after the death of King Herod the Great in 4 BC w...

Elagabalus – May 16, 218 AD

Upon the assassination of Caracalla in April 217, the Praetorian Prefect, Marcus Opellius Macrinus became the next Roman emperor. To help protect himself and his family, Macrinus exiled the remaining members of the Severan dynasty to their estate in Syria, except Julia Domna, who was forced to stay in Rome, where she starved herself to death. When they arrived in Emesa, Julia Maesa, the grandmother, began plotting with Gannys, the tutor of her eldest grandson, Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus, to overthrow Macrinus and his son Marcus Opellius Diadumenianus. Bassianus was born the son of Sextus Varius Marcellus and Julia Soaemias Bassiana in c.203. As part of the plot with Maesa, Soaemias claimed Bassianus was actually the illegitimate son of her cousin, former emperor Caracalla. Being the el...

The New Capital – May 11, 330 AD

The city of Byzantium was founded in the 7th Century BC as part of the Greek colonial expansion. Byzantium had the benefits of a large seaport in the form of the Golden Horn, as well as being positioned on the way between Europe and Asia for trade by land, and the Black and Mediterranean Seas for trade by water. In 324 AD, Constantine the Great founded on the site of the still-existing city of Byzantium, and began construction of what would be called Konstantinoupolis. Rome was too distant from the frontiers of the empire, so Constantine set about plans to make some drastic changes. Over the next six years, the city grew until on May 11, 330 AD, Constantine officially dedicated Constantinople the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city was divided into 14 regions to emulate Rome. However...

The Parthian Shot – May 6-8, 53 BC

The town of Carrhae was the site for the battle between the Parthians under Orodes II and Romans under Marcus Licinius Crassus in 53 BC. This battle was the most celebrated episode of all Parthian history, according to a chronicler of the events. This historian’s name is unknown, but the events were apparently recorded impartially and in ways to show what was happening on both sides. The Romans were successfully expanding the boundaries of the Republic and kept their eyes on the East. Lucius Licinius Lucullus invaded the Armenian Kingdom to Tigranocerta, its capital, in 69 BC, during the Third Mithradatic War. Lucullus appealed to the Parthian king, Arsaces XVI, to remain neutral as the Roman pursued Tigranes II, King of Armenia, establishing the Euphrates River as the boundary to Parthia....

Maximinus II vs. Licinius I – April 30, 313 AD

While the Tetrarchy was breaking down, with rival claimants to the throne of the Roman Empire assessing the power of the others, the emperor Galerius sent Licinius I in 307 AD to meet with Maxentius in Rome about his usurpation and occupation of the city. Maxentius accepted the title of Augustus from officers in Rome who promoted him in 306, since he was passed over for the title of Caesar, as was Constantine I (who was raised to Augustus in 305 after the death of his father, Constantius I), in favor of Severus II and Maximinus II Daia. But, Galerius then decided to put Licinius in charge of the eastern provinces and deal with Maxentius himself, after Maxentius defeated Severus II, whom Galerius first sent. The miscalculation Galerius made was many of the troops under Severus II first serv...

Let The Games Begin! – April 21-23, 248 AD

Traditionally, the date of the founding of Rome by Romulus is April 21, 753 BC. Marcus Julius Verus Philippus was the emperor of Rome in 248 AD when the 1000th anniversary arrived and celebrated with three days of festivities from April 21-23. The Greek historian, Gaius Asinius Quadratus, wrote a 15-volume work entitled “Chilieteris” (“Millenium”), chronicling the city from the founding to the reign of Severus Alexander, and intended to follow through to the reign of Philip, but died before it could be completed. The celebration took place throughout the city in the forms of theatrical performances, ludi saeculares, and spectacular games in the Colosseum. Gordian III had collected exotic animals for his anticipated triumphal parade over the Persians, but since he failed to defeat them and ...

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