Probus (emperor)

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Probus
Probus Musei Capitolini MC493.jpg
Bust of Probus
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 276 – September/October 282
Predecessor Florianus
Successor Carus
Born c. 19 August 232
Sirmium, Pannonia Inferior
(present-day Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia)
Died September/October 282 (aged 50)
Sirmium, Pannonia Inferior
(present-day Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia)
Full name
Marcus Aurelius Probus
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Probus Augustus
Father Dalmatius[1]

Probus (/ˈprbəs/; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Probus Augustus;[2][3] c. 19 August 232 – September/October 282), was Roman Emperor from 276 to 282. Probus was an active and successful general as well as a conscientious administrator, and in his reign of six years he secured prosperity for the inner provinces while withstanding repeated inundations of hostile barbarian tribes on almost every sector of the frontier.[4]

Aside from repelling the foreign enemies of the empire Probus was forced to handle several internal revolts, but demonstrated leniency and moderation to the vanquished wherever possible.[5] In his reign the facade of the constitutional authority of the Roman Senate was fastidiously maintained, and the conqueror who had carried his arms to victory over the Rhine professed himself dependent on the sanction of the Senate.[6]

After defeating the Germans Probus re-erected the ancient fortifications of emperor Hadrian between the Rhine and Danube rivers, protecting the Agri Decumates,[7] and exacted from the vanquished a tribute of manpower to resettle depopulated provinces within the empire and provide for adequate defence of the frontiers.[8]

Probus was killed in a mutiny of the soldiers while in the middle of preparations for the Persian war, which would be carried out under his successor Carus.[9]

Early life

Probus was born between 230 and 235 (exact date of birth unknown) in Sirmium (modern day Sremska Mitrovica), Pannonia Inferior,[10] the son of Dalmatius.[1] According to the Alexandrian Chronicle, he was born sometime in the year 232.[11]

Military career

Probus entered the army around 250 upon reaching adulthood. He rose rapidly through the ranks, repeatedly earning high military decorations. Appointed as a military tribune by the emperor Valerian, at a very young age, in recognition of his latent ability, [12] he justified the choice by a distinguished victory over the Sarmatians on the Illyrian frontier.[13] During the chaotic years of the reign of Valerian, Illyria was the only province, generaled by such officers as Claudius, Aurelian and Probus, where the barbarians were kept at bay, while Gaul was overrun by the Franks, Rhaetia by the Alemans, Thrace and the Mediterranean by the Goths, and the east by Shapur I.[14] Probus became amongst the highest placed liuetenants of Aurelian, reconquering Egypt from Zenobia in 273 A.D. Emperor Tacitus, upon his accession in 275, appointed Probus supreme chief of the east, granting him extraordinary powers in order to secure a dangerous frontier.[15] Though the details are not specified, he is said to have fought with success on almost every frontier of the empire, before his election as emperor by the troops upon Tacitus' death of old age in 276, in his camp in Asia minor[16][17]

As emperor

Florianus, the half-brother of Tacitus, also proclaimed himself emperor, and took control of Tacitus' army in Asia Minor, but was killed by his own soldiers after an indecisive campaign against Probus in the mountains of Cilicia.[18][19] In contrast to Florianus, who ignored the wishes of the senate, Probus referred his claim to Rome in a respectful dispatch. The senate enthusiastically ratified his pretensions.[20] Probus next travelled west, defeating the Goths along the lower Danube in 277, and acquiring the title of Gothicus.[10] However, the Goths came to respect his ability and implored a treaty with the empire.[21]

Antoninianus of Probus minted in 280. Depicts the solar divinity Sol Invictus riding a quadriga. Probus issued many different coins during his six years of rule.
Sculpted head of Probus from Brescia in northern Italy.

In 278, Probus campaigned successfully in Gaul against the Alamanni and Longiones; both tribes had advanced through the Neckar valley and across the Rhine into Roman territory.[22] Meanwhile, his generals defeated the Franks and these operations were directed to clearing Gaul of Germanic invaders (Franks and Burgundians), allowing Probus to adopt the titles of Gothicus Maximus and Germanicus Maximus.[10] Reportedly, 400,000 barbarians were killed during Probus' campaign, and the entire nation of the Lugii were extirpated.[23]

After the defeat of the Germanic invaders in Gaul, Probus crossed the Rhine to campaign successfully against the Barbarians in their homeland. After his victory, Probus repaired the ancient fortifications erected by Hadrian in the vulnerable space between the Rhine and Danube, in the territory of Swabia. More significantly, Probus, by forcing from the vanquished tribes a tribute of manpower, established the precedent of settling barbarians within the empire as auxiliaries on a large scale. The provinces were depopulated by war, disease and the chaotic administration, heavy taxation, and extensive army recruitment, during the crisis of the Third century, and the barbarian colonies, at least in the short term, helped to restore frontier defense and the practice of agriculture.[24]

The army discipline which Aurelian had repaired was cultivated and extended under Probus, who was however more shy in the practice of cruelty.[25] One of his principles was never to allow the soldiers to be idle, and to employ them in time of peace on useful works, such as the planting of vineyards in Gaul, Pannonia and other districts, in order to restart the economy in these devastated lands.[26]

In 279–280, Probus was, according to Zosimus, in Raetia, Illyricum and Lycia, where he fought the Vandals.[19] In the same years, Probus' generals defeated the Blemmyes in Egypt. Either then, or during his previous command in Egypt, he ordered the reconstruction of bridges and canals along the Nile, where the production of grain for the Empire was centered.[27][28]

In 280–281, Probus put down three usurpers, Julius Saturninus, Proculus and Bonosus.[29] The extent of these revolts is not clear, but there are clues that they were not just local problems (an inscription with the name of Probus erased has been found as far as Spain).[30] In 281, the emperor was in Rome, where he celebrated his well-deserved triumph.[26]

Radiate of Probus

Probus was eager to start his eastern campaign, delayed by the revolts in the west.[31] He left Rome in 282, travelling first towards Sirmium, his birth city.

Assassination

Different accounts of Probus's death exist. According to Joannes Zonaras, the commander of the Praetorian Guard Marcus Aurelius Carus had been proclaimed, more or less unwillingly, emperor by his troops.[32]

Probus sent some troops against the new usurper, but when those troops changed sides and supported Carus, Probus' remaining soldiers assassinated him at Sirmium (September/October 282).[33] According to other sources, however, Probus was killed by disgruntled soldiers, who rebelled against his orders to be employed for civic purposes, like draining marshes.[34] Allegedly, the soldiers were provoked when they overheard him lamenting the necessity of a standing army.[35] Carus was proclaimed emperor after Probus' death and avenged the murder of his predecessor.[36]

Legacy

According to the favorable treatment of Gibbon, Probus was the last of the benevolent constitutional emperors of Rome.[37] While his successor Carus (Imp. 281-284) simply disdained to seek the senate's confirmation of his title, Diocletian (Imp. 284-305) took active measures to undermine its authority, and established the autocratic nature and divine deriviation of the Imperial power. Never again, after Diocletian's reforms, would the Roman senate play an active role in the management of the empire. Besides, Probus' victories continued the succession of martial Illyrian emperors begun by Claudius, which restored the military supremacy of Rome after her defeats during the crisis of the third century.[38]

References

  1. ^ a b Victor, 37:1
  2. ^ In Classical Latin, Probus' name would be inscribed as MARCVS AVRELIVS PROBVS AVGVSTVS.
  3. ^ Jones, pg. 736
  4. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. XII. p. 284
  5. ^ Gibbon, p. 289, 290
  6. ^ Gibbon, p. 283
  7. ^ Gibbon, p. 287
  8. ^ Gibbon, p. 288
  9. ^ Gibbon, p. 292
  10. ^ a b c "Roman Emperors - DIR probus". roman-emperors.org. 
  11. ^ Gibbon, p. 282, note
  12. ^ Canduci, pg. 101
  13. ^ Gibbon, p. 282
  14. ^ Gibbon, chap. X., pp. 226, 227
  15. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Probi, 6–7
  16. ^ Gibbon, p. 282
  17. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Probi, 10:1
  18. ^ Gibbon, Ibid. p. 281
  19. ^ a b Zosimus, 1:32
  20. ^ Gibbon, p. 283
  21. ^ Gibbon, p. 284
  22. ^ Southern, pg. 129
  23. ^ Gibbon, p. 286
  24. ^ Gibbon, pp. 286-288
  25. ^ Gibbon, p. 291
  26. ^ a b Canduci, pg. 103
  27. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Probi, 9:3–4
  28. ^ Gibbon, Ibid.
  29. ^ Victor, 37:2
  30. ^ "Roman Emperors - DIR probus". roman-emperors.org. 
  31. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Probi, 20:1
  32. ^ Zonaras, 12:29
  33. ^ Victor, 37:4
  34. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Probi, 20:2-3
  35. ^ Gibbon, p. 292
  36. ^ Historia Augusta, Vita Cari, 6:1
  37. ^ Gibbon, p. 293
  38. ^ Gibbon, p. 282

Sources

Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Mc Mahon, Robin, "Probus (276–282 A.D.) and Rival Claimants (Proculus, Bonosus, and Saturninus) of the 280s", DIR
  • Dennis, Anthony J., "Antoniniani of the Roman Emperor Probus", Vol. 9, No. 11 The Celator November, 1995.
  • Jones, A.H.M., Martindale, J.R. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I: AD260-395, Cambridge University Press, 1971
  • Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001
  • Canduci, Alexander (2010), Triumph & Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors, Pier 9, ISBN 978-1-74196-598-8 
  • Gibbon. Edward Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1888)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Probus, Marcus Aurelius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 408. 
  • Probus Marcus Aurelius
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Hoeber, Karl (1913). "Marcus Aurelius Probus". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 

External links

  • Probus, article at NumisWiki
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Florianus
Roman Emperor
276–282
Succeeded by
Carus
Political offices
Preceded by
Marcus Claudius Tacitus ,
Aemilianus
Consul of the Roman Empire
277–279
with Paulinus,
Virius Lupus,
Nonnius Paternus
Succeeded by
Lucius Valerius Messalla,
Gratus
Preceded by
Lucius Valerius Messalla,
Gratus
Consul of the Roman Empire
281–282
with Junius Tiberianus,
Victorinus
Succeeded by
Carus,
Carinus
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