Roman Emperors Dir Phillip The Arabian

Marcus Julius Philippus rose from obscure origins to rule for five and one-half years as Rome's emperor. Only sketchy details of his life and reign have survived in the historical record. One of those details -- his ethnicity -- was latched onto by later historians, who called the emperor by the name Philip the Arab.

Background and Early Career

Philip the Arab seems to have been born sometime during the reign of Septimius Severus.[[1]] He was born in the Roman province of Arabia, in what today is the village of Shahba, roughly 55 miles south-southeast of Damascus. The village was obscure at the time of Philip's birth, though once he became emperor, Philip renamed the community Philippopolis and embarked on a major building campaign. Little is known of Philip's father, save the name Julius Marinus. This name, however, indicates that the family held Roman citizenship and must have been locally prominent. Nothing is known of Philip's mother. At some point, probably in the 230s, Philip married Marcia Otacilia Severa. A son was born by 238 and named Marcus Julius Severus Philippus. Philip's early career is also obscure, though it was undoubtedly helped by that of his brother, Julius Priscus. Priscus was appointed praetorian prefect by Gordian III and had previously served as prefect of the Roman province of Mesopotamia. If a fragmentary inscription from Rome can be connected to Priscus, Philip's brother rose quickly during Gordian III's reign through a variety of equestrian offices, including procurator of Macedonia, vice prefect of Egypt, and judge at Alexandria.[[2]]

Priscus' appointment as praetorian prefect probably came at the beginning of the Roman campaign to reconquer upper Mesopotamia in the spring of 242. The success of the campaign must have reflected well on Priscus, and when his colleague Timesitheus (who was also Gordian III's father-in-law) died the following year, Priscus' brother Philip joined him as praetorian prefect.[[3]] The brothers remained the young emperor's most powerful deputies during the disastrous campaign against the Persians in the winter of 243-44. On the retreat back up the Euphrates after the Roman defeat at Misikhe, Gordian was killed sometime during the winter months of 244. Most sources state that Philip was involved in Gordian's death; some claim that Philip engineered a mutiny by diverting the grain that was supposed to feed Gordian's troops.[[4]]

The Emperor and the Military

Philip was acclaimed the new emperor and was firmly in control by late winter 244.[[5]] Like his predecessor Macrinus, Philip faced, as his first important task, the problem of ending a war in the East. Philip was more fortunate in his negotiations than Macrinus had been. Philip made a peace treaty with the Persian king Shapur in which Philip agreed to pay the equivalent of 50 million sesterces, and possibly an annual tribute. The treaty enabled the new emperor to travel westward to Rome.[[6]] It remains unknown why Philip was displayed before the soldiers as their new emperor instead of his more accomplished brother Priscus, but Priscus went on to have extraordinary power in the East during the new regime. Priscus is described in one inscription as rector Orientis, and he exercised supreme authority over armies and provinces from his headquarters in Antioch.[[7]]

The following year the Carpi, a people native to the northern bank of the lower Danube, crossed the river and attacked settlements in the Roman province of Moesia (today, northern Bulgaria), where Philip's brother-in-law Severianus had been put in command.[[8]] Fighting lasted several years and may have spread westward into Pannonia because of incursions by German tribes. Victory was proclaimed in 248, but the legions in Moesia and Pannonia were dissatisfied with the war's results. The armies there revolted, proclaiming Tiberius Claudius Marinus Pacatianus as emperor.[[9]] While Philip could point to some success on the Danube frontier, he could not claim victory in his battles with the Moors. The emperor preferred to pay for an ignominious peace rather than lose an ignominious war. The heavy-handedness of his brother Priscus in collecting taxes in the East caused another revolt, this one led by a man named Iotapianus, who claimed to be a kinsman of Severus Alexander.[[10]] Coins that may also be from this period show two other men who tried to become emperors, Silbannacus and Sponsianus.[[11]] Neither is otherwise attested, and each revolt must have been short-lived.

The Millennium and Christianity

Despite growing instability in the provinces, Romans in the year 248 were fascinated by the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of their city's foundation. The festivities may have been patterned after the Secular Games (last held under Septimius Severus 44 years earlier) and included magnificent spectacles for the arena.[[12]] Millennarianism extended into the literary world, with the author Asinius Quadratus honoring the event by writing his Thousand-Year History.[[13]]

Philip's religious beliefs have garnered the most attention from modern historians. Writing but 75 years after Philip's reign, the Church father Eusebius relayed a report that Philip was a Christian who was once compelled by a church official to confess his sins before being allowed to attend an Easter service.[[14]] Later sources locate the story in Antioch and connect the tale to Babylas, a bishop later martyred in the persecution mounted by Philip's successor, Decius.[[15]] The Decian persecution is itself blamed by Eusebius on Decius' personal hatred for Philip.[[16]] Eusebius also reported that the Christian teacher and apologist Origen wrote one letter to Philip and another to Otacilia Severa.[[17]] While it is quite likely that Philip was well acquainted with Christianity and may even have been respectful of its teachings and leaders, he could not have been a Christian in any meaningful way. Philip appears indistinguishable from other third-century emperors in his use of pagan symbols and titles. Philip made no improvements in the legal status of Christians or their religion. Moreover, Philip's alleged Christianity was never corroborated by non-Christian authors.[[18]]

Within six months of the beginning of his reign, Philip had appointed his son as Caesar and heir. Three years later, in the summer of 247, the boy was named Augustus and co-ruler, even though he was probably not yet 10 years old. His mother, Otacilia Severa, is last named on coins in the year 248, leading to speculation that she may have died in that year. Nothing is known of the emperor's brother Priscus after the outbreak of Iotapianus' revolt: and it seems likely that he died either naturally or as a result of the uprising.

Defeat and Death

Iotapianus was eventually defeated and killed in the East, as was Pacatianus along the Danube.[[19]] To restore discipline among the Danubian troops, Philip sent as the new commander Decius, a native of the region. The appointment proved a dangerous blunder. The disgruntled soldiers, still eager for decisive leadership and decisive victories, revolted yet again in the late spring of 249 and proclaimed Decius emperor. Philip marched out from Rome to face the approaching troops of Decius. In late summer, the two armies met outside Verona. Philip's troops were bested, and the emperor either died in the battle or was assassinated by his troops. When news of Philip's defeat and death reached Rome, the praetorian guard murdered Philip's son and colleague.[[20]]

Philip the Arabian remains an enigmatic figure because different authors evaluated his reign with wildly divergent interpretations. Christian authors of late antiquity praised the man they regarded as the first Christian emperor. Pagan historians saw Philip as indecisive, treacherous and weak. Our lack of detailed knowledge about the reign makes any analysis highly speculative. Nonetheless, Philip's provincial and administrative background represents continuity with features of Severan government. His career has its closest parallel with that of Macrinus, an equestrian from the provinces who, a quarter of a century earlier, capped an administrative career by moving from the office of praetorian prefect to that of emperor. In the struggle to maintain legitimacy, Philip faced revolts and upheavals in several corners of the empire. He was able to overcome these challenges for half a decade. The empire remained fundamentally sound and stable during his reign. The great disruptions of the third century were yet to come.


Zosimus, New History, 1.19-22 (available in English translations of Ronald T. Ridley [Canberra: Australian National University, 1982]; James J. Buchanan and Harold T. Davis [Austin: University of Texas, 1967]).

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.34-39 (available in English translation in the Loeb Classical Library).

Historia Augusta, Life of Gordian 28-34 (available in English translation in the Loeb Classical Library).

Aurelius Victor, Lives of the Caesars 28 (available in English translation in the Liverpool series Translated Texts for Historians).

Eutropius, Breviarium 9.2-3 (available in English translation in the Liverpool series Translated Texts for Historians).

Epitome de Caesaribus 28.

Zonaras, Epitome 12.18-19.


Denis Feissel and Jean Gascou, "Documents d'archives romains inédits du moyen Euphrate (IIIe siècle après J.-C.)," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (CRAI) 1989, 535-61.

Xavier Loriot, "Chronologie du règne de Philippe l'Arabe (244-249 après J.C.)," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.2 (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1975), pp. 788-97.

Michael Peachin, Roman Imperial Titulature and Chronology, A.D. 235-284 (Amsterdam: Gieben, 1990).

David S. Potter, Prophecy and History in the Crisis of the Roman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Hans A. Pohlsander, "Philip the Arab and Christianity," Historia 29 (1980), 463-73.

id., "Did Decius Kill the Philippi?" Historia 31( 1982), 214-22.

Irfan Shahîd, Rome and the Arabs (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 1984)

Dennis E. Trout, "Victoria Redux and the First Year of the Reign of Philip the Arab," Chiron 19 (1989), 221-33.

Ruprecht Ziegler, "Thessalonike in der Politik des Traianus Decius und der Tod des Philippus Arabs," Roma Renascens (Festschrift Ilona Opelt, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1988), pp. 385-414.


[[1]] The Chronicon Paschale, in an imaginative tale, claims that Philip was 45 years old at the time of his death in 249, which would place his birth in 204. Aurelius Victor 28.10 writes that Philip's body was weakened by age in the year 249. One would expect a praetorian prefect, the office held by Philip in 243, to be at least in his 40s. A year of birth ca. 200 is probably not far off the mark.

[[2]] ILS 1331; see Potter, Prophecy, pp. 213-15.

[[3]] Zonaras 12.18; HA Gord. 28.1, 29.1.

[[4]] e.g., Zosimus 1.18; Zonaras 12.18; HA Gord. 29.2-30.9; on the confused tradition, see Potter, pp. 204-12.

[[5]] On Philip's dies imperii, see Peachin, Titulature, pp. 29-30; Loriot, "Chronologie," pp. 788-89.

[[6]] Trout, "Victoria Redux"; Res Gestae Divi Saporis, line 9.

[[7]] Zosimus 1.19.2, 1.20.2; ILS 9005. Priscus is described in one petition from the year 245 as "holding consular authority," which may indicate a special appointment as governor of Syria, see Feissel and Gascou, pp. 552-54.

[[8]] Zosimus 1.19.2.

[[9]] Peachin, p. 63; Zosimus 1.20.2.

[[10]] Aurelius Victor 29.2; Zosimus 1.20.2-21.2.

[[11]] RIC 4.3, pp. 66-7, 105-6.

[[12]] Both HA Gord. 33.1 and Epitome de Caesaribus 28.3 call the festivities Ludi Saeculares; the list given in HA Gord. of exotic animals killed at Philip's games should not necessarily be trusted.

[[13]] Fr. Gr. Hist. no.97.

[[14]] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.34.

[[15]] John Chrysostom, Saint Babylas; Chronicon Paschale.

[[16]] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.39.1.

[[17]] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.36.3.

[[18]] Pohlsander, "Philip and Christianity." For a contrasting view, see Shahîd, Rome and Arabs, pp. 65-93.

[[19]] Zosimus 1.21.2.

[[20]] The Latin historiographical tradition uniformly places the battle at Verona, the murder of Philip's son at Rome. Zosimus 1.22.2 claimed that both father and son died in an unlocated battle fighting Decius. A fragment from the seventh-century Byzantine historian John of Antioch ( fragment 148 in Carolus Müller, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, vol. 4 [Paris: Firmin Didot, 1851], pp. 597-98) places the battle in Beroea. The sources have been well sifted by Pohlsander, "Decius." On the dating, see Peachin, pp. 30-31; Loriot, pp. 795-96. Ziegler, pp. 397-400, argued for Macedonian Beroea (modern Véroia) as the site of the battle.

Rebellions During the reign of Phillip the Arab (244-249 A.D.): Iotapianus, Pacatianus, Silbannacus, and Sponsianus

Christian Körner

University of Bern

1. Introduction

In the ancient and Byzantine sources, several rebellions against the reign of Philip the Arab (A.D. 244-249) are mentioned: these include the revolts of Iotapianus in the Near East, and of Pacatianus and Decius in the Danube Area. The usurpations of Mar. Silbannacus, probably near the Rhine frontier, and of Sponsianus, pehaps in Transylvania, are only known because of numismatic evidence.[[1]]

The following essay deals separately with Iotapianus, Pacatianus, Silbannacus and Sponsianus. In the end, there will be an attempt to compare these usurpers and to integrate them into the historical context of the third century.[[2]]

2. Iotapianus

Iotapianus, known from accounts in Aurelius Victor, Zosimus and Polemius Silvius, revolted in the East against Philip.[[3]] The coins which he had minted give his full name: M. F. Ru. Iotapianus.[[4]] According to Victor, Iotapianus claimed a connection to an Alexander. Most scholars think he was claiming descent from the Severan dynasty of Emesa in Syria through Severus Alexander.[[5]] However, it is also possible that the usurper claimed to be a descendant of Alexander the Great of Macedonia: the name Iotapianus sounds similar to those of the queens Iotape I and II of the royal house of Commagene. The kings of Commagene, mainly Antiochus I, famous for his building on the Nemrud Dagh, claimed descent from Alexander the Great. Therefore, Iotapianus may have belonged to the Commagenian royal family (which had lost the throne under Vespasian).[[6]] In any case, Iotapianus came from the local aristocracy of the Near East, but what position he held when he was proclaimed emperor is unknown. According to Zosimus, Iotapianus' rebellion was directed against the taxes raised by C. Iulius Priscus, Philip's brother. Priscus was rector Orientis and governed several provinces in the East.[[7]] It was a revolt of the provincials in Syria and Cappadocia rather than a military usurpation (according to Victor and to Polemius Silvius). Philip's reign was obviously not popular in Syria. In one passage of the Sibylline Oracles, the Syrian author shows his jealousy against the flowering of Arabia with the cities Bostra and Philippopolis under Philip.[[8]]

Iotapianus' revolt should be dated near the end of Philip's reign. The rebellion seems to have ground to a halt while Philip was still emperor (Zosimus); Iotapianus himself was probably not put to death until Decius' reign (Victor). The circumstances under which the rebellion ended are unknown except for the fact that Iotapianus was killed by his own soldiers. It is unknown how or if Philip reacted against the rebellion.[[9]] After all, Iotapianus and Pacatianus were not really a threat to the Empire; according to Zosimus, both rebellions could be suppressed easily.[[10]] Some coinage of Iotapianus is extant. The obverse sides show the usurper and give his full name. The reverse sides read Victoria Aug(usti), showing Victory with a wreath and a palm. Although this imagery could refer to a victory of the rebels against Philip's troops, perhaps it is only propaganda claiming "the power of the Emperor to conquer"[[11]]. Iotapianus was not a military usurper like Pacatianus and Decius and had led a rebellion of provincials against the tax policy of Rome. He can be seen as a precursor of Uranius Antoninus of Emesa (A.D. 253) and Odaenathus of Palmyra who did not plan to seize power in the entire Roman empire, but gained an outstanding position in the East and used the title "Augustus" to mark this.

3. Pacatianus

The evidence about the reign of Pacatianus is similar in nature to that for the reign of Iotapianus: there are some small notices in the Byzantine authors Zosimus and Zonaras as well as some coins which give his full name: Ti. Cl(audius) Marinus Pacatianus.[[12]] The passages in Zosimus and Zonaras show many similarities; both authors may have used the same source.[[13]] Perhaps Pacatianus may be identified with C[l(audius) ...] Marinus, c(larissimus) p(uer), who is mentioned, together with his father Cl(audius) Sollemnius Pac[atianus?], on an inscription from Bostra.[[14]] According to the inscription, Claudius Sollemnius was governor of the province of Arabia under Severus Alexander and later served as consular governor of Coele Syria .[[15]] According to Zonaras, Pacatianus was in the Roman army stationed on the Danube frontier. The term can define several military ranks: military tribune, centurio, legate of a legion.[[16]] Most scholars assume that Pacatianus was of senatorial rank, and may have commanded troops of several provinces near the Danube.[[17]] Yet Zonaras also writes that Pacatianus was not worthy of ruling. Bleckmann deduces from this passage that the usurper cannot have been a military commander; moreover, he notes, Zonaras uses the term for officers of low rank.[[18]]

No causes of the revolt are mentioned in the sources, but the Danube area is known to have been threatened by the Goths. There was a general unrest among the troops generating several rebellions in the region. Zosimus speaks of problems with the discipline of the army stationed on the Danube frontier.[[19]] The usurpation of Pacatianus can be dated from his coins: one coin has the reverse legend Romae Aeter(nae) an(no) mill(esimo) et primo, which gives April 248 as terminus post quem.[[20]] Pacatianus was raised to the purple by the troops of Moesia (Zosimus, Zonaras) and possibly also of Pannonia (Zosimus). Perhaps he obtained possession of the mint of Viminacium because there were no coins of Philip apparently minted at Viminacium in the year X of the local era, i. e. A.D. 248/9.[[21]] The obverse sides of Pacatianus' coins show the usurper and give his name and title (Imp. Ti. Cl. Mar. Pacatianus p. f. Aug.). The reverse sides celebrate the harmony among the soldiers and the fidelity of the troops (Concordia Militum, Fides Militum), prosperity and everlasting peace (Felicitas Publica, Pax Aeterna), Rome's eternity (Romae Aeternae anno millesimo et primo), return of the emperor (Fortuna Redux, perhaps an allusion to a planned march to Rome?). We find exactly the same types also with Philip's coins.[[22]] Therefore, Pacatianus' coins do not show a program different from Philip's propaganda.

According to Zosimus, Philip was very worried about the rebellions of Iotapianus and of Pacatianus. He spoke to the senate and offered to abdicate if the senators were not content with him as emperor any longer. The senator Decius predicted the breakdown of both rebellions. In fact, Pacatianus and Iotapianus were killed by their own soldiers and, unfortunately, the sources do not give any explanation. Perhaps Pacatianus proved to be unsuccessful in repelling the Goths.[[23]] In any case, this description of Philip's panic is due to the negative picture Zosimus gives of this emperor. Therefore, we should not accord too much credibility to the account of Philip's reaction. That the emperor himself was a capable general is shown by his successful campaigns against the Carpi earlier in his reign.

The rebellion of Pacatianus, like the later one of Decius, shows that among the troops in the Danube area there was a strong wish for the presence of the emperor with the soldiers (Castritius and Hartmann call this "Bedürfnis nach Kaisernähe"[[24]]). The Danube area was the centre of several rebellions in the third century: Trebonianus Gallus, Aemilianus, Ingenuus and Regalianus, to name but a few, were proclaimed emperors in this region. This shows that the soldiers wished the emperor to be near them: firstly, this guaranteed the regular paying of the troops; secondly the Danube region was particularly threatened by the Germans and other tribes.

4. Mar. Silbannacus

Silbannacus is known only from one antoninianus, said to have been found in Lorraine. On the basis of stylistic criteria, the coin is dated to Philip's reign.[[25]] The obverse side gives the portrait of the emperor Silbannacus with the legend Imp. Mar. Silbannacus Aug. On the reverse side, Mercury is depicted holding a Victory and a caduceus and the legend of the text reads Victoria Aug. Hartmann, in his study on the usurpers of the third century, tries to reconstruct the circumstances of the rebellion and comes to the following conclusions[[26]]: Silbannacus, whose name indicates Celtic origin, revolted against Philip near the Rhine frontier in Germania Superior, which was threatened by the German tribes. Silbannacus may well have commanded auxiliaries of other Germans that were serving in the Roman army. The rebellion must have ended under Decius, because Eutropius speaks of a bellum civile in Gaul, suppressed by Decius.[[27]]

Hartmann's conclusions, drawn on analogy with other usurpers of the third century, are very speculative. For example, we do not hear anything of German tribes threatening the Rhine frontier in Philip's reign. Even the dating of the coin and of the usurper under Philip are far from certain, as well as is the hypothesis that Silbannacus was a commander of auxiliary troops. Perhaps we can only say that Silbannacus may have had connections with Gaul, as the reverse side of the coin may well show: Mercury appears to have been an eminent god in Gaul and also appears in the later coins of Postumus, emperor of Gaul in the second half of the third century.[[28]] Therefore we can only say, that at some date -- perhaps during the 240s -- a man named Silbannacus was proclaimed emperor in Gaul or in one of the provinces of Germania, and that he may have been of Gallic origin.

5. Sponsianus

Sponsianus is known from very mysterious aurei, found in Transylvania in 1713.[[29]] Because coins of Philip and Gordian III were found in the same context, Sponsianus is believed to have been proclaimed emperor in the forties of the third century. The main problem is the reverse side of Sponsianus' coins, which is identical with a republican reverse of the Minucii from the second century B.C. Hartmann deduces from this reverse side that Sponsianus may have been the leader of a "senatorial resistance" against Philip and therefore minted a republican reverse side.[[30]] This hypothesis is totally unfounded: if there existed something like a "senatorial resistance" against Philip, they would not have minted coins with a rare republican reverse side which was of interest only for the members of the republican gens Minucia which undoubtedly had died out long ago; the coins of a "senatorial resistance" would probably show types referring to the emperors Balbinus and Pupienus elected by the senate in A.D. 238. Furthermore, no senator really thought of returning to the days of the republic. (Most republican senatorial families had died out already in the first century A.D.[[31]])

In the last century, Cohen declared the coins to be modern forgeries of very poor quality.[[52]] In any case, a hybrid coin, be it a modern forgery or a barbarous coin of late antiquity, is not strong enough evidence to base any conclusions upon.

6. Conclusions

Toward the end of Philip's reign there were three or perhaps four rebellions: those of Iotapianus in the East, Pacatianus and Decius in the Danubian provinces, and perhaps Silbannacus near the Rhine frontier.[[33]] The three usurpers we know better fit well into the context of the third century. Their rebellions reveal the two main problems of the third century: (1) the invasions of the tribes from outside the empire caused unrest among the troops who had to protect the frontiers, and (2), the economic and financial crisis caused the emperors to raise high taxes among the provincials. Concerning their origin, all three came from the "upper-classes": Decius was a senator, Pacatianus probably came from senatorial stock, while Iotapianus came from the local elite in the East. Until the reign of Gallienus (253-268), almost every usurper had a senatorial background.[[34]]

Decius and Pacatianus were proclaimed emperor by the army and owed this to their military rank. This shows the crucial role the army (especially the troops stationed near the Danube) played in the crisis of the third century. This development is due to the fact that the frontier was threatened by the Germans and other tribes, and that the soldiers wanted their emperors to be near them. Iotapianus, on the other hand, was the leader of an uprising of the Eastern provincials who felt that the government did not regard their interests sufficiently. Philip needed cash during his reign: he, for example, had to pay the Persians for the peace at the beginning of his reign, he launched the building of his hometown in Arabia, Philippopolis, and the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of Rome was certainly very expensive. The more mundane costs of paying the troops have not even been taken into account.

All three rebellions also show the charisma the Roman emperors had won in the eyes of the soldiers and of the provincials during the preceding two and a half centuries: by electing an emperor who was near them, they hoped that security (or victory in the case of the soldiers) and economic stability would be guaranteed. The revolts of Pacatianus and of Iotapianus soon broke down. Both had lost their charisma, maybe as a result of military defeat. Decius on the other side succeeded when he defeated Philip in A.D. 249 in the battle of Verona.


1. Abbreviations

ANRW Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung, ed. by H. Temporini, Berlin/ New York 1972ff.

Barbieri, 1952 G. Barbieri, L'albo senatorio da Settimio Severo a Carino (193-285), Rome 1952.

Bland, Roger. "The coinage of Jotapian" in M. Price, A. Burnett, and R. Bland, eds., Essays in Honour of Robert Carson and Kenneth Jenkins (London, 1993), 191-206.

Bleckmann, 1992 B. Bleckmann, Die Reichskrise des III. Jahrhunderts in der spätantiken und byzantinischen Geschichtsschreibung. Untersuchungen zu den nachdionischen Quellen der Chronik des Johannes Zonaras, München 1992 (Quellen und Forschungen zur Antiken Welt, Vol. 11).

Cohen 52 H. Cohen, Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire romain communément appelées Médailles impériales, Bd. V2, Paris 1885.

DNP Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopädie der Antike, ed. by H. Cancik and H. Schneider, Stuttgart/ Weimar 1996ff.

Hartmann, 1982 F. Hartmann, Herrscherwechsel und Reichskrise. Untersuchungen zu den Ursachen und Konsequenzen der Herrscherwechsel im Imperium Romanum der Soldatenkaiserzeit (3. Jahrhundert n. Chr.), Frankfurt a. M./ Bern 1982 (Europäische Hochschulschriften, Ser. III, Vol. 149).

Kienast, 1996 D. Kienast, Römische Kaisertabelle. Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie, Darmstadt 21996.

KlP Der Kleine Pauly. Lexikon der Antike, ed. by K. Ziegler and W. Sontheimer, Stuttgart 1964ff.

Potter, 1990 D. S. Potter, Prophecy and History in the Crisis of the Roman Empire. A historical commentary on the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle, Oxford 1990.

PIR2 Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III, Second edition, ed. by E. Groag and A. Stein, Berlin/ Leipzig 1933ff.

RE Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. by G. Wissowa, Stuttgart 1893ff.

RIC 4.3 H. Mattingly et al., The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. IV, Part III: Gordian III - Uranius Antoninus, London 1949.

s.v. sub verbo

2. Literature on Iotapianus

Barbieri, 1952, p. 405, no. 17; p. 654, no. 17.

G. M. Bersanetti, L'abrasione del nome del prefetto del pretorio C. Iulius Priscus in un'iscrizione palmirena e la rivolta di Iotapiano, in: Laureae Aquincenses memoriae Valentini Kuzsinszky dicatae, Vol. 2, Budapest 1941 (Dissertationes Pannonicae. Series II, Fasc. 11), pp. 265-268.

T. Franke, s.v. Iotapianus, DNP 5, 1998, col. 1093.

R. Hanslik, s.v. Iotapianus, KlP 2, 1967, col. 1444.

F. Millar, The Roman Near East 31 BC - AD 337, Cambridge (Mass.)/ London 1993, pp. 156f.

L. Petersen, PIR IV2, Fasc. 3, 1966, p. 114, no. 49

A. Stein, s.v. Iotapianus, RE IX.2, 1916, col. 2004f.


Cohen 52, pp. 183f., no. 1-3.

RIC 4.3, pp. 66; 105.

Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, transl. and comm. by H. W. Bird, Liverpool 1994.

T. Mommsen, Polemii Silvii Laterculus, Abhandlungen der Kgl. Sächs. Gesellsch. d. Wiss. 8, 1861, pp. 547-696 (shortened in: Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7: Philologische Schriften, Berlin 1909, pp. 668-690).

Zosime, Histoire nouvelle, Vol. 1: Livres 1-2, ed. and transl. F. Paschoud, Paris 1971.

3. Literature on Pacatianus

Barbieri, 1952, p. 268, no. 1522.

A. Birley, s.v. Claudius no. II.46, DNP 3, 1997, col. 19.

J. Fitz, Die Vereinigung der Donauprovinzen in der Mitte des 3. Jahrhunderts, in: Studien zu den Militärgrenzen Roms. Vorträge des 6. Internationalen Limeskongresses in Süddeutschland, Köln/ Graz 1967, pp. 113-121.

E. Groag, PIR II2, 1936, p. 216, no. 929.

R. Hanslik, s.v. Claudius no. II.36, KlP 1, 1964, col. 1214f.

Kienast, 1996, p. 201.

L. Petersen, PIR VI2, 1998, p. 2, no. 6.

A. Stein, s.v. Claudius no. 235, RE III.2, 1899, col. 2771f.

A. Stein, s.v. Claudius no. 352, RE III.2, 1899, col. 2871.

A. Stein, PIR II2, 1936, p. 216, no. 930.

A. Stein, Die Legaten von Moesien, Budapest 1940 (Dissertationes Pannonicae, Series I, Fasc. 11), pp. 56f.

B. E. Thomasson, Laterculi praesidum, Vol. 1, Arlöv 1984, col. 107, no. 52; col. 117, no. 41; col. 129, no. 54; col. 145, no. 139; Vol. 2, Fasc. 2, Lund 1978, pp. 53f.


Cohen, 52, pp. 181-183, no. 1-8.

RIC 4.3, pp. 65f., 104f.

Zonaras, in: Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 134, ed. J.-P. Migne, Paris 1864.

Zosimus: see above under 2.

4. Literature on Silbannacus

Kienast, 1996, p. 202.


RIC 4.3, pp. 66f. 105.

A. S. Robertson, Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet. University of Glasgow, Vol. 3: Pertinax to Aemilian, Oxford/ London/ Glasgow/ New York 1977, pp. Xf. XX, Anm. 2. XCV.

5. Literature on Sponsianus

Kienast, 1996, p. 203.


Cohen, 52, 1885, pp. 184f.

RIC 4.3, 1949, pp. 67. 106.

[[1]] In addition, Byzantine sources (mainly Zonaras 12,18) mention also two emperors elected by the senate in Rome A.D. 244, after Gordian III was killed at the Euphrates and while Philip was still in the East: Marcus Philosophus and Severus Hostilianus. They are distortions of the Byzantine tradition, Marcus being a confusion with Marcus Aurelius, known for his philosophical interests, and maybe with Marcus Iulius Philippus (Philip the Arab), Severus Hostilianus being a contamination of the names of Severus and of Decius' younger son Hostilianus.

[[2]] As there will be a special biography of Decius, his rebellion will not be treated in detail in the following abstract. I would like to refer here also to my thesis on Philip the Arab which is being prepared now and where the usurpers will be treated in detail.

[[3]]Aurelius Victor, Caesares 29,2; Polemius Silvius, Laterculus (Th. Mommsen, Chronica minora, Vol. I, p. 521, l. 38; cf. Mommsen, Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7, p. 644); Zosimus 1,20,2 and 1,21,2. According to M. Sprengling (Third Century Iran. Sapor and Kartir, Chicago 1953, p. 87) and E. Kettenhofen (Die römisch-persischen Kriege des 3. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. nach der Inschrift Sahpuhrs I. an der Ka'be-ye Zartost (SKZ), Wiesbaden 1982, pp. 84f.), Iotapianus may also be mentioned in the Sibylline Oracles (13,89-102), but Potter (1990, pp. 268-273) convincingly argues that this passage refers to Mareades.

[[4]]RIC 4.3, p. 105; Cohen 52, pp. 183f. Ru. may be completed to Ru(fus) (Cohen 52, p. 183; Kienast, 1996, p. 202), F. to Fulvius (Cohen, loc. cit.).

[[5]] Stein, RE IX.2, 1916, col. 2004f.; Barbieri, 1952, pp. 405. 654; Hartmann, 1982, pp. 73f.; Potter, 1990, pp. 248f.; Kienast, 1996, p. 202; Franke, DNP 5, 1998, col. 1903.

[[6]]E. Honigmann, s.v. Kommagene, RE Suppl. IV, 1924, col. 988; R. Syme, Emperors and biography. Studies in the Historia Augusta, Oxford 1971, p. 202; H. W. Bird (following Syme) in his commentary on Aurelius Victor, Liverpool 1994, p. 129, n. 5. For the dynasty of Commagene see R. D. Sullivan, The dynasty of Commagene, ANRW II.8, 1977, pp. 732-798. For the alleged descent of Alexander the Great see H. Dörrie, Der Königskult des Antiochos von Kommagene im Lichte neuer Inschriften-Funde, Göttingen 1964, and F. K. Dörner, Die Ahnengalerie der kommagenischen Dynastie, in: F. K. Dörner (Ed.), Kommagene. Geschichte und Kultur einer antiken Landschaft, Antike Welt 1975, Sondernummer, pp. 26-31.

[[7]]Cf. Papyrus Euphratensis 1, in: D. Feissel/ J. Gascou, Documents d'archives romains inédits du Moyen Euphrate (IIIe siècle après J.-C.), CRAI 1989, pp. 545-557; D. Feissel/ J. Gascou, Documents d'archives romains inédits du Moyen Euphrate (IIIe s. après. J.-C.): I. Les pétitions (P. Euphr. 1 à 5), Journal des Savants 1995, pp. 67-84.

[[8]] Oracula Sibyllina 13,64-73; see also Potter, 1990, pp. 247-249.

[[9]]According to Zosimus (1,21,1-2), Philip was struck with panic when he heard of the revolts of Pacatianus and Iotapianus, and Decius tried to calm him (see also below under Pacatianus). This seems to be an invention of the historian who paints a black-and-white portrayal of the "coward" Philip versus the "hero" Decius (cf. especially the chapters 21 and 22 of Book One).

[[10]] Zosimus 1,21,2: ___ ("without much effort").

[[11]] RIC 4.3, p. 66.

[[12]] Zosimus 1,20,2-21,2; Zonaras 12,19. Coins: RIC 4.3, pp. 104f.; Cohen 52, pp. 181-183.

[[13]]Bleckmann, 1992, pp. 277-283 passim, mainly pp. 278f., n. 15, and p. 281, n. 23. He uses the term "Leoquelle" to denote the common source of Zosimus and Zonaras.

[[14]]CIL III, 94, add. p. 969. The following scholars vote for the identity of C[l. ...] Marinus with the usurper: Groag, 1936, p. 216; Stein, 1940, p. 57; Barbieri, 1952, pp. 203. 268; Petersen, 1998, p. 2. The usurper may also be identical with a Pacatianus appearing in another inscription from Bostra with his mother Cornel(ia) Optata A[...] Flavia and his sister Pacata: Ann. ép. 1965, 21.

[[15]] Ann. ép. 1933, 227.

[[16]] H. G. Liddell/ R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. H. S. Jones/ R. McKenzie, Oxford 1968, s. v. .

[[17]]Cohen, 52, p. 181; Stein, 1940, p. 56 (Stein first supposed that Pacatianus was an officer [Stein, 1899, col. 2771f.], but later changed his mind); Barbieri, 1952, p. 268; Hanslik, 1964, col. 1214; Fitz, 1967, p. 113; A. Mócsy, Pannonien und die Soldatenkaiser, ANRW II.6, 1977, p. 563; Thomasson, 1984, col. 107; Birley, 1997, col. 19.

[[18]] Bleckmann, 1992, pp. 280f.

[[19]] Zosimus 1,21,2.

[[20]] RIC 4.3, p. 105, no. 6 = Cohen 52, p. 182, no. 7. Birley wrote that, according to a personal statement of Loriot, the coins with the legend Romae Aeter(nae) an(no) mill(esimo) et primo are fakes and therefore to be dismissed: A. R. Birley, "Decius Reconsidered," in: Les empereurs illyriens. Actes du colloque de Strasbourg (11-13 octobre 1990) organisé par le Centre de recherche sur l'Europe centrale et sud-orientale, ed. by E. Frézouls and H. Jouffroy, Strasbourg 1998 (Université des Sciences humaines de Strasbourg. Contributions et travaux de l'Institut d'Histoire romaine, 8), p. 67, n. 85. But as long as there is no publication of Loriot's examination of the coins, we hold on to their authenticity and therefore to the common dating of Pacatianus' revolt. (Birley too maintains the dating to A.D. 248 in his article in the DNP: Birley, 1997, col. 19.)

[[21]] RIC 4.3, p. 65; Stein, 1936, p. 216; Stein, 1940, p. 56; A. Mócsy, s.v. Pannonia, RE Suppl. IX, 1962, col. 567; Fitz, 1967, p. 121.

[[22]] Cf. the following coins minted by Philip: RIC 4.3, p. 72, no. 32-34 (Fides Militum); p. 73, no. 40f. (Pax Aeterna); p. 73, no. 44f. (Romae Aeternae); p. 75, no. 63 (Fortuna Redux).

[[23]] The events that followed Pacatianus' end are part of the biographies of Philip and Decius: Philip sent Decius (against the latter's own will) to the Danubian troops to put things in order. The soldiers who had supported Pacatianus prevented punishment by proclaiming Decius emperor. (See Zosimus and Zonaras)

[[24]] H. Castritius, Rezension Baldus, Gnomon 46, 1974, p. 595; Hartmann, 1982, pp. 140-148.

[[25]] RIC 4.3, pp. 66 and 105 n; Robertson, 1977, p. XCV; Hartmann, 1982, pp. 63. 94. 161f.; Kienast, 1996, p. 202.

[[26]] Hartmann, 1982, pp. 63. 82. 94, n. 1.

[[27]] Eutr. 9,4: Bellum civile, quod in Gallia motum fuerat, oppressit (sc. Decius). J. P. Callu ("L'empire gaulois selon J. F. Drinkwater," JRA 2, 1989, p. 363), followed by Potter (1990, p. 248, Anm. 125), think that there may be a mistake in the text: One should read Galatia instead of Gallia, the text therefore referring to Iotapianus' rebellion which, according to Aurelius Victor (Caesares 29,2), ended under Decius (see above).

[[28]] For the importance of Mercury in Gaul, cf. Caes., bell. Gall. 6,17,1; Min. Fel., Oct. 6,1; K. Ziegler, s.v. Mercurius no. II, KlP 3, 1969, col. 1230. Postumus' coins bearing the picture of the emperor with the god Mercury: RIC 5.2, p. 337, no. 13; p. 357, no. 255.

[[29]] RIC 4.3, p. 106, no. 1; Cohen 52, pp. 184f., no. 1; R. Münsterberg, Ein Siebenbürgischer Goldmünzfund aus dem Jahre 1713, Blätter für Münzfreunde 58, 1923, pp. 425-428, v.a. 428.

[[30]] Hartmann, 1982, p. 121, n. 1.

[[31]] See K. Christ, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit von Augustus bis zu Konstantin, München 1988, p. 403.

[[32]] Cohen, 52, p. 184: "... des coins modernes ridiculement imaginés, et très mal faits." Hartmann (1982, p. 82, n. 10) too, in spite of his far-reaching hypotheses, speaks of the "zweifelhafte Identität" of the usurper.

[[33]] In the following lines, I also include Decius, who was not treated in the article above. He cannot be omitted in an examination of the events at the end of Philip's reign.

[[34]]Hartmann, 1982, pp. 140f.; Bleckmann, 1992, p. 287, n. 42.

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