Postumus, 260 – 269
Quinarius, Lugdunum 262, AV 2.12 g. POSTVMV — S AVG Laureate head l. Rev. P M TR P – IIII COS III P P Mars walking r., holding spear in r. hand and trophy on l. shoulder. C –. RIC –, cf. 5 (aureus). Schulte –. King –.
Apparently unique and unrecorded. Only the tenth gold quinarius of Postumus known
and the only one in private hands. A very fascinating issue with a wonderful portrait
of excellent style. Minor marks otherwise about extremely fine
Ex Bru sale 3, 2011, 87.
Of probable Batavian origin, M. Cassianius Latinius Postumus rose through the ranks of the Roman army to become a high-ranking officer in Gaul under the emperor Valerian I. However, when Valerian was captured by the Sasanian Persians and a new wave of Germanic invaders crossed the Rhine frontier in A.D. 260, the Gallic army proclaimed Postumus as emperor despite the survival of Gallienus, Valerian’s son and co-emperor. Postumus’ generosity in the distribution of spoils after the defeat of a Juthungian army in this year made it easy for the soldiers under his command to turn against Gallienus and give their loyalty to Postumus. When challenged by Gallienus’ son, Saloninus, and the praetorian prefect Silvanus, Postumus besieged them in Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensium (Cologne) where they were ultimately captured and killed. This event marked the beginning of the rupture between the Roman Empire and a breakaway Gallic Empire.
Unlike many usurpers of the third century, Postumus possessed special vision. After the deaths of Saloninus and Silvanus, he did not march on Rome. Instead he established his own capital at Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensium or Augusta Treverorum (Treveri) and rooted his own private Gallic Empire in the territories of Gaul and Germania. The new Gallic Emperor was advised by his own senate, guarded by his own praetorians, and led the state religion as self-declared chief priest (pontifex maximus). Postumus’ successes against the Franks and Alamanni and good internal administration allowed him to cast himself as both the “Restorer of the Gauls” (Restitutor Galliarum) and the provider of “Security for the Provinces” (Salus Provinciarum) on his coinage.
For four years Postumus remained unmolested by Gallienus, who had been too distracted with eastern usurpers and Germanic invasions to turn to the problems of Gaul. Gallienus did attempt invasions of the Gallic Empire in A.D. 265 and 267, but neither were able to dislodge Postumus or bring an end to his breakaway empire. However, Postumus’ failure to move against Gallienus following his withdrawal and apparent financial problems led to a military revolt. In early A.D. 268, the Gallic forces in Germania Superior hailed their commander, Laelianus, emperor at Moguntiacum (Mainz). Postumus crushed the revolt and executed Laelianus within a few months, but the victorious Gallic emperor was killed by his own troops when he tried to restrain them from sacking the city.
This unique quinarius belongs to the golden years of Postumus’ reign, when his access to precious metals and skilled engravers was superior to what could be found in the mints of the Roman Empire. The expressive bearded portrait invites comparison with contemporary depictions of Hercules, a demigod much admired by Postumus. The reverse depicts Mars carrying a trophy and thus alludes to Postumus’ victories over the Franks and Alamanni in A.D. 262. The coin was probably struck as part of a donative issue following this successful campaign.