Probus
276 - 282 CE
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With Tacitus and Florianus disposed of, Probus picked up where Aurelian had left off, leading his loyal troops to deal forcefully with border incursions and internal rebellions alike. But with peace finally established, he discovered that there was one thing his soldiers wouldn't do for him ...

Probus Antonianus
About this coin: Highly unusual for this period, this coin has fully intact silvering, not to mention a more artistically and realistically rendered portrait than was typical for the time. The reverse features Probus on horseback, (trampling on?) a seated captive. (Same legends and reverse type as S (4th ed) 3338A, though Emperor's bust is different)

Probus had been Aurelian's most successful general. When Aurelian was recovering Syria from the Palmyrans, Probus had been equally successful restoring Egypt to Imperial control. Still in charge in the Roman east, he was proclaimed Emperor by his troops upon the accession of Florian. He demoralized Florian's troops by forcing them to come to him, subjecting them to climatic extremes for which they were ill prepared. They quickly agreed to a suggestion that a long and unpleasant fight could be avoided if they simply murdered their leader, and thus ended Florian's short and unhappy reign.

Probus then began an extensive military tour of the Roman borderlands to solidify the gains Aurelian had made, which had started to unravel under Tacitus and Florianus. Hearing of destructive invasions of Gaul, he headed north and west. He stopped off in the Balkan peninsula that winter, stomping on the Goths who were wreaking havoc there. A quick jaunt down to Rome, then it was off to Gaul.

After two years of serious fighting against several different foes, he finally stabilized the region. Then it was off east again. Asia Minor clamored for his attention, having suffered a series of piratic raids led by Lidius, an Isaurian. A revolt in Syria and an internal uprising in Egypt also occurred at this time, but the local military commanders dealt effectively with these, so Probus's personal attention was not needed. Apparently sufficiently impressed with Probus's military skill and vigor, the Sasanian king Vahran II signed a treaty without fighting.

With the external threats at least temporarily pacified, Probus then had to deal with internal uprisings. Back to Gaul he went, but this time it was would-be usurpers whom he fought. The governor of Britain also rebelled, but he was efficiently dispatched. It took several months, however, to put down the revolt in Gaul.

Finally, Probus was able to head back to Rome to celebrate some much-deserved triumphs. The usual crowd-pleasing bloody gladiatorial battles and slaughter of captives and exotic animals were happily received by the Roman citizenry, and all seemed well. At this point, he felt it was time to at last conquer Persia, the prize that had eluded Rome for so many centuries, first under the control of the Parthians and then under their successors, the Sasanians.

But once again, it was not to be. Heading eastward through the Balkans, Probus learned of a rebellion by his Praetorian Prefect, Carus. The troops he sent to suppress it instead defected. Hearing this, his own troops exercised that peculiar Roman military tradition -- that is, they murdered their Emperor.

With all of his glorious successes, it's hard to understand how his troops could have so easily thrown him over for Carus. But two things seem to have displeased his soldiers. First, he was known as quite the disciplinarian; second, he employed his soldiers in public works, doing much to repair the ravages of battle and invasion. This made the local populace quite happy, but the soldiers found the work unpleasant and demeaning.

Or perhaps they were simply sick and tired of all this continuous fighting, and got grumpy when he dragged them off once more to engage in a war of conquest. Regardless of the reason, it would be left to his successor to finally mount the long-awaited invasion of Persia.


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