ROMAN IMPERIAL COINAGE
BRITANNIC COINAGE OF THE FIRST TETRARCHY
AD 296-305

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Last updated: 10 July 2016

On this page: The institution of the Dyarchy of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius, the geographical division of the Empire into East and West and the creation of seccessionist Britain by the Usurper Augustus, Carausius.

Diocletian - the reforming Augustus 284-305 AD

[Diocletian coin photo]

Diocletian (Caius Aurelius Verus Diocletianus) has come down in history as an astute politician, accomplished administrator and a stalwart leader. Upon assuming the Imperium as Augustus in 284 he determined to bring an end to the social and political chaos that had pervaded the Roman Empire for over fifty years by instituting several radical reforms including the institution of a Dyarchical, and subsequently a Tetrarchical, form of government. He was the driving force in reorganizing the entire Imperial Governmental System and reforming the coinage.

The accompanying image is an enlarged photograph of the obverse of a reformed aes follis (RIC VI, Londinium, Diocletian, No. 6a).

The Dyarchy of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius 285-293 AD

[Maximian coin photo]

In 285 Diocletian appointed Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus), a close friend and a renowned General like himself, as his Caesar elevating him to co-Augustus the following year. Diocletian subsequently divided the Empire geographically with himself as Augustus of the East and Maximian as Augustus of the West, thereby instituting a Dyarchy. Diocletian emphasized his status as Senior Augustus by adopting Jovius as his Protector-God and assigning Herculius to Maximian. Diocletian established his headquarters at Nicomedia and Maximian established his at Milan.

The accompanying image is an enlarged photograph of the obverse of a reformed aes follis (RIC VI, Londinium, Maximian Herculius, No. 6b).

Carausius - usurper Augustus of secessionist Britain 286-293

[Carausius coin photo]

The political and military turmoil of the third century spawned numerous external assaults on the Roman Empire. One of these was the incessant seafaring piracy in the waters surrounding the Roman occupied island outpost of Britain. In 286 Maximian, in his capacity as Dyarch Augustus of the West, designated a highly regarded military commander named Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius, of Flemish descent, to head a fleet of ships who's mission was to eliminate, or at least severely curtail, this piracy. Carausius had distinguished himself by outstanding leadership and military prowess, especially as a naval "Admiral", in the Gallic campaigns.

The accompanying image is an enlarged photograph of the obverse of a typical antoninianus (RIC V [2], London, Carausius, No. 475).

Carausius established his operational base at the coastal city of Boulogne (Gesoriacum) in Roman occupied northern Gaul. Carausius did indeed accomplish his mission, but reports of corruption and extortion led Maximian to dispatch a fleet of ships in order to remove Carausius from command. However, Carausius proved too strong and he repulsed the attack. Carausius subsequently used his continental base to launch an invasion force to occupy and subjugate Britain. Landing in the north, Carausius secured the support of the native Picts and, advancing south, confronted and defeated the forces of the Roman Governor. Having thus conquered the Island, he proclaimed himself Augustus of a Secessionist Britain, becoming an effective and efficient Administrator using the Roman Imperial governmental framework as a model. He maintained control of Boulogne and coastal northern Gaul.

Carausius established his own mints at London (Londinium) and Colchester - Camulodunum - Clausentum ("C" Mint) and across the Channel in Gaul which began to produce coins of distinctive style in Gold, Silver and Copper.

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