Sources

Besides the narrative of the coin types there are a number of ancient written sources that deal with the reign of Carausius (and also that of Allectus). Whilst one must be mindful of their content, reasons for transcription to be handed down and contemporary political bias (ie history written by the victor in a conflict will be significantly different from that of the vanquished) they do serve to add colour to the period.

MAMERTINI PANEGYRICVS MAXIMIANO AVGVSTO DICTO – Trier, April 289

It is proof of your good fortune, your success, Your Majesty, that your soldiers have already reached the Ocean in victory, that the tides have swallowed the blood of enemies slaughtered on that shore. That pirate must now lose heart………. Is there any more distant land he can hope for, any other Ocean?…..And thus after many ages, Most Holy Emperor, it is one of the duties of your divinity to overcome pirates. Certainly that day will soon dawn, when Rome sees you victorious….

A speech delivered in 289 on the birthday of Maximianus praising his victory over Carausius (the pirate) that led to the abandonment of the Rouen mint and subsequent flight to Britain and the preparations for an assault against him.

PANEGYRICVS CONSTANTIO CAESARI DICTVS – Trier, March 297

By coming to Gaul, your Gaul, Caesar, you immediately conquered it: for the speed with which you outran all news of your succession and arrival caught and penned within the walls of Boulogne an obstinate, deluded band of piratical rebels, and took the Ocean that washed its gates away from men who had depended on the sea…….. In that criminal usurpation first the fleet that used to protect Gaul was stolen by a pirate on the run, then many ships were built in our style, a Roman legion was seized, several units of non-Roman soldiers were secured, Gallic merchants were recruited, considerable forces of barbarians were seduced by the loot of the very provinces……..And you, unconquered Caesar, by equipping and deploying several fleets so bewildered and baffled the enemy that he finally felt surrounded, not protected, by Ocean…….. You were the avenger, the liberator long prayed for, and the moment you reached the shore, a triumphant procession met Your Majesty deserved; the Britons jumping for joy, with their wives and children presented themselves, not merely falling down to worship you, yourself, whom they regarded as come down from heaven,, but even the sails and the oars of that ship which had brought to them your divinity, and they were quite ready to throw themselves upon the ground and thus feel your coming. And no wonder they were elated with such joy, if, after that helpless captivity….they were at length free, at length Roman, at length refreshed by the true light of the empire.

An interesting speech from 297 on the accession of Constantius as caesar some years before in 293. The speech covers both the defeat of Carausius in 293 and that of Allectus in 296/7. It also links nicely to the “Arras medallion” (pictured right) with the reverse REDITTOR LVCIS AETERNAE (Restorer of the Eternal Light) when talking of being “refreshed by the true light of the empire” – political message embodied in both coin type and official history.

AURELIUS VICTOR – c.360

Carausius, a Menapian, distinguished himself in this war (an uprising of the Bagaudae), and because he was also thought to be an experienced sailor, having earned his living this way as a young man, they commisioned him to put together a fleet and fight off the Germans who were infesting the seas….He killed many of the barbarians but did not pay all the booty into the treasury……he was afraid of Maximian, therefore, who had ordered his execution, he usurped the imperial power and seized Britain…..And he was overthrown six years later, by the treachery of someone called Allectus. Carausius had made him his chief finance minister, but fear of his own crimes and of execution for them made Allectus usurp the imperial power. He had only enjoyed it for a short time when Constantius sent Asclepiodotus, whom he had made praetorian prefect, ahead with part of his fleet and legions, and destroyed him.

EUTROPIUS – c.370

….Carausius, a man of very humble birth, had gained a great reputation in a command on active service: he had been commissioned at Boulogne to bring peace to the sea infested by Franks and Saxons….. and he had often captured many barbarians, but had not returned all the booty to the provincials or sent it to the emperors; the suspicion had arisen that he allowed the barbarians in on purpose, to catch them as they passed with their booty, and thus to enrich himself; and when Maximian ordered his execution, he usurped the purple and seized the British provinces………..After seven years his own ally Allectus killed him, and himself held the British provinces for three years; he was crushed by the agency of Asclepiodotus, the praetorian prefect. Thus the British provinces were recovered after ten years.

ZONARAS – c.12th cent.

The prefect Asclepiodotus destroyed Crassus (sic) who had held Britain for three years.

Comments are closed.