Trebonianus Gallus

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Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus (206 – August 253) was Roman Emperor from 251 to 253, in a joint rule with his son Volusianus.


Early life

Gallus was born in Italy, in a family with respected ancestry of Etruscan senatorial background. He had two children in his marriage with Afinia Gemina Baebiana: Gaius Vibius Volusianus, later Emperor, and a daughter, Vibia Galla. His early career was a typical cursus honorum, with several appointments, both political and military. He was suffect consul and in 250 was nominated governor of the Roman province of Moesia Superior, an appointment that showed the confidence of emperor Trajan Decius in him. In Moesia, Gallus was a key figure in repelling the frequent invasion attacks by the Gothic tribes of the Danube and became popular with the army, catered to during his brief Imperial rule by his official image: military haircut, gladiatorial physique, intimidating stance (illustration, left).[1]

Rise to power

In June 251, Decius and his co-emperor and son Herennius Etruscus died in the Battle of Abrittus, at the hands of the Goths they were supposed to punish for raids into the empire. According to rumours supported by Dexippus (a contemporary Greek historian) and the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle, Decius' failure was largely owing to Gallus who had conspired with the invaders. In any case, when the army heard the news, the soldiers proclaimed Gallus emperor, despite Hostilian, Decius' surviving son, ascending the imperial throne in Rome. This action of the army, and the fact that Gallus seems to have been on good terms with Decius' family, makes Dexippus' allegation improbable.[2] Gallus did not back down from his intention to become emperor, but accepted Hostilian as co-emperor, perhaps to avoid the damage of another civil war.

Anxious to secure his position at Rome and stabilize the situation on the Danube frontier, Gallus made peace with the Goths. Peace terms allowed the Goths to leave the Roman territory while keeping their captives and plunder. In addition, it was agreed that they would be paid an annual subsidy.[4] Reaching Rome, Gallus proclamation was formally confirmed by the Senate, with his son Volusianus being appointed Caesar. On June 24, 251, Decius was deified but, by July 15, Hostilian disappears from history. It is possible that the latter died during an outbreak of plague.[5] Eager to show himself competent and gain popularity with the citizens, Gallus swiftly dealt with the epidemic, providing burial for the victims[citation needed].

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