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Tetricus I

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Tetricus I
The obverse of a golden coin showing a bust Tetricus
The obverse of an Aurelius featuring Tetricus I.
Emperor of the Gallic Empire
Reign 271–274 AD
Predecessor Victorinus
Successor None (Reconquered by Aurelian)
Born Gallia
Died Italia
Issue Tetricus II
Full name
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Esuvius Tetricus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus Pontifex Maximus

Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was the emperor of the Gallic Empire from 271–274 AD. Originally the Praeses (governor) of Gallia Aquitania, he was raised to emperor in 271 after the murder of Emperor Victorinus, by the influence of Victorinus' mother, Victoria. During his reign, he faced external pressure both from Germanic raiders pillaging the eastern and northern parts of his empire, and from the Roman Empire from which the Gallic Empire split off. He also faced increasing internal pressure, which led to him declaring his son, Tetricus II, caesar in 273, and potentially co-emperor in 274, although this is debated. Emperor Aurelian of the Roman empire invaded in either 273 or 274, culminating in the Battle of Châlons, in which Tetricus surrendered, although whether this was the result of a secret agreement between Tetricus and Aurelian, or simply necessitated by his defeat, is debated. Tetricus was spared by Aurelian, and even made a senator and Corrector (governor) of Lucania et Bruttii. A few years after 274, he died of natural causes.


Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus, commonly referred to as Tetricus I, was born on an unknown date.[1] It is believed, based upon his name, that he was born in Gaul.[2] In 271 AD, Tetricus was the governor of Gallia Aquitania when Emperor Victorinus was murdered by the Gallic Army. Victorinus's mother, Victoria, selected Tetricus to be his replacement, and bribed the army to have him proclaimed emperor of the Gallic Empire in the spring of 271.[1][3][4] He was coronated at Burdigala in Gaul.[5] In late 271, Tetricus moved the capital of the Gallic Empire from Cologne to Trier.[5][6] In 273 he had his son, Tetricus II, elevated to caesar, in order to increase his support.[5][6] He may have been elevated to co-emperor during the last days of Tetricus I's reign, but this is disputed.[3]

During his reign, the Gallic Empire was pressured both internally by dissent in the army and government, and externally by Germanic tribes and the Roman Empire, from whom the Gallic Empire had split off.[3][7] Upon his ascension, all of the Gallic provinces, except Gallia Narbonensis, which had been partially reconquered by Placidianus under Claudius Gothicus, recognized him as emperor. Britain recognized him as emperor, but the Spanish provinces of Hispania Baetica, Lusitania, and Hispania Tarraconensis, and the German city of Strasbourg, all chose to recognize Aurelian instead. During his rule, Germanic tribes became increasingly brave, raiding across the Rhine, and along the coast, to pillage Gallic territory. Tetricus occasionally fought against them, mostly in the early years of his reign, even once celebrating a triumph, but mostly he would withdraw troops and abandon forts, allowing the territory to be pillaged. Germanic raids continued with almost no opposition, with one stretching so far into Gallic territory as to reach the Loire.[6]

Emperor Aurelian began preparing to invade the Gallic Empire in either early or late 273, with both sides meeting at Châlons-sur-Marne.[6] There are two accounts of the occurrences there. One, which is believed to have been created by Roman imperial propaganda some time after the actual occurrence, holds that Tetricus offered surrender, quoting Virgil and saying "eripe me his invicte malis", literally "rescue me undefeated from these troubles". However, modern scholars contend that the Battle of Châlons did actually occur, with Tetricus surrendering either directly after the battle, or at a later date.[8][9][10] This battle was recorded as being exceptionally bloody, so much so that for generations it was referred to as the "Catalaunian catastrophe".[11] The latest possible date for his surrender is March 274, when all of the Gallic mints switched from minting coins of Tetricus I and II to minting those of Aurelian. With his surrender, the Gallic Empire rejoined the Roman Empire. Aurelian held a triumph in Rome, where he paraded the leaders of the two breakaway states he had conquered, Tetricus of the Gallic Empire, and Zenobia of the Palmyrene Empire.[9][10] Aurelian pardoned both,[1][9] and made Tetricus both a senator, and Corrector (a governor of a minor province) of Lucania et Bruttii.[3][9][12] Tetricus died of natural causes several years later, in Lucania.[1]


The Aurei issued during the reign of Tetricus I fell into several types. There were seven types that featured his bust on the obverse, with the reverses showing, him riding a horse, a standing Aequitas, a standing Jupiter, a standing Laetitia, a standing Pax, him holding an olive branch and a sceptre, or a standing Spes. There was one type that featured his face on the obverse, and a standing Hilaritas on the reverse. There was another type that displayed his head on the obverse, and a depiction of Victoria walking to the right on the reverse. There were two Aurelius types which depicted Tetricus I and Tetricus II together. Both featured Jugate busts of both on the obverse, with one type having a standing Aeternitas on the reverse, and the other having a standing Felicitas. A rare Quinarius issued during his reign held a 3/4th facing bust of Tetricus I on the obverse, with Victoria standing with her foot on a globe on the reverse.[13]


Primary sources


  1. ^ a b c d Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 30.
  2. ^ Potter 2014, p. 257.
  3. ^ a b c d Sayles 2007, p. 138.
  4. ^ Southern 2015, p. 119.
  5. ^ a b c Canduci 2010, p. 98.
  6. ^ a b c d Southern 2015, p. 175.
  7. ^ Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 8.
  8. ^ Canduci 2010, p. 100.
  9. ^ a b c d Southern 2015, p. 176.
  10. ^ a b Vagi 2000, p. 386.
  11. ^ Potter 2014, p. 268.
  12. ^ Matyszak 2014, p. 134.
  13. ^ Friedberg, Friedberg & Friedberg 2017, p. 50.


  • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (2004). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9780816074822. 
  • Canduci, Alexander (2010). Triumph and Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors. Sydney: Murdoch Books. ISBN 9781741965988. 
  • Friedberg, Arthur L.; Friedberg, Ira S.; Friedberg, Robert (2017). Gold Coins of the World - 9th edition: From Ancient Times to the Present. An Illustrated Standard Catlaog with Valuations. Coin & Currency Institute. ISBN 9780871840097. 
  • Matyszak, Philip (2014). The Roman Empire. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 9781780744254. 
  • Potter, David S. (2014). The Roman Empire at Bay, AD 180–395. Routledge. ISBN 9781134694778. 
  • Sayles, Wayne G. (2007). Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World - Politics and Propaganda. Iola: KP. ISBN 9780896894785. 
  • Southern, Patricia (2015). The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. Routledge. ISBN 9781317496946. 
  • Vagi, David L. (2000). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, c. 82 B.C.- A.D. 480. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 9781579583163. 
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor of the Gallic Empire
271–274 AD
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Consul of the Gallic Empire
with Tetricus II (273–274)
Succeeded by
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