Clodius Albinus

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Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus (ca. 150 – February 19, 197) was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal) upon the murder of Pertinax in 193.[1]



Albinus was born into an aristocratic family at Hadrumetum in Africa. According to his father, he received the name of Albinus because of the extraordinary whiteness of his body.[2] Showing great disposition for a military life, he entered the army at an early age and served with great distinction, especially during the rebellion of Avidius Cassius against the emperor Marcus Aurelius in 175. His merits were acknowledged by the emperor in two letters in which he calls Albinus an African, who resembled his countrymen but little, and who was praiseworthy for his military experience and the gravity of his character.[2] The emperor likewise declared that without Albinus the legions (in Bithynia) would have gone over to Avidius Cassius, and that he intended to have him chosen consul.[3]

The emperor Commodus gave Albinus a command in Gallia Belgica and afterwards in Britain. A false rumor having been spread that Commodus had died, Albinus denounced the man before his soldiers in Britain, calling Commodus a tyrant, and maintaining that it would be useful to the Roman empire to restore to the senate its ancient dignity and power. The senate was very pleased with these sentiments, but not so the emperor, who sent Junius Severus to relieve Albinus of his command. At this time Albinus must have been a very distinguished man, which we may conclude from the fact that some time before Commodus had offered him the title of Caesar, which he declined. Notwithstanding the appointment of Junius Severus as his successor, Albinus kept his command until after the murders of Commodus and his successor Pertinax in 193.

After Pertinax was assassinated, the praetorian prefect Aemilius Laetus and his men, who had arranged the murder, "sold" the imperial throne to wealthy senator Didius Julianus, effectively crowning him emperor, but a string of mutinies from the troops in the provinces meant the next emperor was far from decided. Immediately afterwards, Pescennius Niger was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Syria; Septimius Severus by the troops in Illyricum and Pannonia; and Albinus by the armies in Britain and Gaul.

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