One of the most popular ways to collect ancient Roman coins is by emperor, as most bear a portrait of the issuing ruler. This section includes imperial portrait coins of most of the emperors and their families, followed by a brief description of their lives. Dates for reign as Caesar as well as Augustus are included. The emperor's family or adopted name follows his historical name. As you read, look at the progression as rulers adopt a predecessor's name to advertise their legitimacy.
We hope you enjoy collecting ancient Roman coins, and that you find this guide to ancient Roman coins useful and entertaining.
Please Note: Because of the wide variety of portraits used, the photo opposite each description serves as a representation of the emperor's portrait – individual portraits will vary.
Early unified period of the Roman Empire
AUGUSTUS (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius)27 B.C.-A.D. 14
Augustus (known as Octavian until 27 B.C.) was the first Roman to use the title Augustus, and was Rome's first emperor. He laid down the foundation for provincial administration, preserved republican institutions, and returned the administration of government to the Senate.
LIVIA (Livia Drusilla)Augusta A.D. 14-29
Livia came from a noble family, and was the second wife of Augustus. Their marriage of 52 years was based on compatibility and love. Politically savvy, she was involved in conspiracies to ensure her son Tiberius' succession. She died at age 85.
AGRIPPA (Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa)Tribunician Power 18-12 B.C.
As classmate and friend of Augustus, Agrippa had a distinguished military career and won many honors. He married Augustus' daughter and received the tribunician power (made heir to throne). He died in 12 B.C.
TIBERIUS (Tiberius Claudius Nero)Augustus A.D. 14-37
One of the empire's best generals and an experienced administrator, shared rule during the last 10 years of Augustus' life. Tiberius ruled during Christ's life, and by continuing the policies instituted by Augustus, increased Rome's prosperity.
DRUSUS – the Younger (Drusus Julius Caesar)Born 14 B.C./Died A.D. 23
Son of Tiberius and Vipsania, who eventually received the tribunician power. Compared to his father, he was inferior in almost every way. He was poisoned by his wife and her lover, Sejanus (praetorian prefect of Tiberius).
NERO CLAUDIUS DRUSUS – the Elder Born 38 B.C./Died 9 B.C.
Youngest son of Tiberius and Livia. One of the greatest heroes of his time. After becoming general of the armies in Germany, he had outstanding success. Married Marc Antony's youngest daughter Antonia. After his death, the Senate honored him with the title and surname Germanicus.
GERMANICUS (Germanicus Julius Caesar)Born 15 B.C./Died A.D. 19
Son of Nero Claudius Drusus, brother of Claudius. He was very popular with the legions. They wanted him to fight for the rule of the empire, but Germanicus remained loyal. As nephew of Tiberius, he became Caesar in A.D. 4. While overseeing the succession to the throne in Antioch, he was poisoned.
NERO CAESAR (Nero Julius Caesar)(Born A.D. 7/Died A.D. 30/31)
and DRUSUS CAESAR (Drusus Julius Caesar)(Born A.D. 8/Died A.D. 33)
Sons of Germanicus and Agrippina. Nero was highly educated and outstanding in character, the opposite of his brother, Drusus. He fell victim to a plot by Sejanus and Drusus, and was exiled to an island where he died.
Drusus helped plot his brother's downfall, but became a victim of political intrigue, too. He was arrested and died in prison.
CALIGULA (Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus)Caesar A.D. 35-37Augustus A.D. 37-41
Youngest son of Germanicus and Agrippina, and brother to Nero and Drusus Caesar. He was given the nickname "Caligula" by soldiers because as a young boy, he wore a small soldier's uniform along with the half-boot (caliga). Caligula (or "Bootsie") became emperor after smothering Tiberius. He soon became excessively cruel and was murdered by a group of praetorians.
CLAUDIUS (Tiberius Claudius Drusus)Augustus A.D. 41-54
Claudius was the son of Nero Claudius Drusus. He suffered from infantile paralysis and his family considered him dullwitted, so he wasn't considered for any serious office. After Caligula's death, the legions took an oath in Claudius' name, and forced the Senate to accept him. Claudius participated in the invasion of Britain and proved to be a capable ruler.
NERO (Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus)Caesar A.D. 50-54Augustus A.D. 54-68
Nero had a happy first year of rule. Eventually he killed his half‑brother, mother, aunt, wife and tutors. Many noble families became victims of his murderous rage. Legend says Nero started the fire which burned ten districts in Rome. After the Praetorian Guard deserted him, he committed suicide.
GALBA (Servius Sulpicius Galba)Ruled about seven months – A.D. 68-69
First of 4 rulers in what is known as "The Year of Four Emperors." Confirmed by the Senate, Galba alienated the Praetorian Guard by refusing to reward them for bringing him to power. The army eventually killed him because of his strict discipline and thriftiness.
OTHO (Marcus Salvius Otho)Ruled about 3 months – A.D. 69
The Senate accepted Otho, but legions in Germany named their general Vitellius emperor. The two battled for the empire, skirmishing and later fighting at the First Battle of Bedriacum, where heavy losses occurred. When Otho learned of the outcome, he committed suicide.
VITELLIUS (Aulus Vitellius)Ruled almost 8 months – A.D. 69
After becoming emperor, Vitellius gradually left the government to his freeman, Asiaticus, and focused his attention on lavish banquets and eating. Defeated by Vespasian's soldiers, his body was dragged through the streets of Rome.
VESPASIAN (Titus Flavius Vespasianus)Augustus A.D. 69-79
Vespasian brought calm and sanity after years of bloodshed. He was a just ruler, from a humble background. He built the Colosseum, Rome's best-known ruin. After ruling 10 years, and bringing stability to Rome, he died at age seventy.
TITUS (Titus Flavius Vespasianus)Caesar A.D. 69-79Augustus A.D. 79-81
Elder son of Vespasian, who is best known for his part in the war in Judaea. Mt. Vesuvius erupted during his reign. He was a good ruler, looking after the people's welfare. Most historians now think that Titus died from fever, not poisoning by his brother Domitian.
DOMITIAN (Titus Flavius Domitianus)Caesar A.D. 69-81Augustus A.D. 81-96
Domitian was the youngest son of Vespasian, and last of the "Twelve Caesars." Taxation made him unpopular with the senate and upper class, causing plots against him. In later years, he became suspicious and cruel. Members of his household killed him.
NERVA (Marcus Cocceius Nerva)Augustus A.D. 96-9
One of the "good" emperors, Nerva tended to the poor, reorganized the empire's finances, and brought peaceful relationships into existence between the army and Senate.
TRAJAN (Marcus Ulpius Traianus)Caesar A.D. 97Augustus A.D. 98-117
Trajan was popular with the army and Senate. Under his rule, the Roman Empire reached its largest size. Many public works were undertaken during his reign.
HADRIAN (Publius Aelius Hadrianus)Augustus A.D. 117-138
Hadrian was adopted by Trajan and continued his governmental policies. Hadrian's Wall in Britain is one of the many fortifications he ordered to protect the empire's frontiers.
SABINA (Vibia Sabina)Augusta A.D. 128?-136
Entered an arranged marriage with Hadrian long before he became emperor. Contemporary history paints their 36 years of marriage as unhappy, but Sabina accompanied Hadrian on most of his journeys throughout the empire.
AELIUS (Lucius Aelius Verus)Caesar A.D. 136-138
Adopted by Hadrian, stories about his character vary. Some say he was unfit to rule, and others say he was competent and fair. Always weak and unhealthy, Aelius eventually died.
ANTONINUS PIUS (Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus)Caesar A.D. 138Augustus A.D. 138-161
A former senator adopted by Hadrian, Antoninus adopted his relative Marcus Aurelius to succeed him as emperor. He had a peaceful reign in which the economy flourished.
FAUSTINA SR. (Annia Galeria Faustina)Augusta A.D. 138-140/1
From a wealthy, noble Spanish family, Faustina Senior married Antoninus Pius about A.D. 110. Three years after Antoninus became emperor, Faustina Sr. died and was deified on a vast number of Imperial coins.
MARCUS AURELIUS (Marcus Annius Verus)Caesar A.D. 139-161Augustus A.D. 161-180
Under Marcus Aurelius Rome's prosperity continued, but there were border problems with the barbarians. A careful, moral ruler, his writings survived, showing he should have been a philosopher instead of emperor. He made Lucius Verus co-emperor.
FAUSTINA JR. (Annia Galeria Faustina)Augusta A.D. 147-175/6
Faustina Jr. became the first daughter of an emperor to marry an emperor, and give birth to a future emperor. She died from natural causes. Ancient historians accuse her of numerous infidelities. She travelled extensively with her husband Marcus Aurelius, and earned the title Mater Castrorum (mother of the camps).
LUCIUS VERUS (Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus)Augustus A.D. 161-169
Lucius became "Colleague in the Principate" in A.D. 161. He was almost the opposite of Marcus Aurelius in character. In A.D. 169, he died while returning to Rome from battles in Dacia.
LUCILLA (Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla)Augusta A.D. 164-182/3
The daughter of Marcus Aurelius, wed at 16 to co-emperor Lucius Verus. Widowed at 20, her father carefully selected a respected, older senator as her next husband. When her involvement in a plot to murder her brother Emperor Commodus was exposed, she was exiled and put to death.
COMMODUS (Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus)Caesar A.D. 166-177Augustus A.D. 177-192
Made Augustus and co-emperor in A.D. 177. When Marcus Aurelius' son Commodus came to rule, the peaceful era that had existed from Galba to Aurelius ended. Mental instability marked his later life, and he often appeared dressed like Hercules. His mistress gave him poison and an athlete strangled him.
CRISPINA (Bruttia Crispina)Augusta A.D. 177-182/3
She married Commodus in A.D. 177, the same year he became emperor. According to contemporary historians, she was exceptionally beautiful. As Commodus' insanity progressed, she supposedly engaged in many affairs, resulting in banishment and death. Now it is believed she took part in an attempt on his life.
PERTINAX (Publius Helvius Pertinax)Ruled about 3 months – A.D. 193
Starting as teacher, Pertinax joined the military and rose to commander, serving under Marcus Aurelius and his son. Most historians think he knew of the plot to kill Commodus, but praise his efforts to reform government corruption and stop bribes the army received. The Praetorian guard revolted, and murdered him.
DIDIUS JULIANUS (Marcus Didius Severus Julianus)Ruled for 66 days – A.D. 193
One of 3 emperors who ruled during a 6-month span, Didius won the office of emperor during an auction at the army camp. Offended Roman citizens appealed to three frontier generals to rescue them. He was beheaded, a fate usually reserved for common criminals.
PESCENNIUS NIGER (Gaius Pescennius Niger)Ruled less than a year A.D. 193-194
After a long military career, Pescennius became governor of Syria. When Pertinax was murdered, he was one of the generals Rome's citizens sent pleas to, but word reached him late, and Septimus Severus had acted. In the summer of A.D. 193, the two met and fought several successive battles. He died sometime in A.D. 194.
CLODIUS ALBINUS (Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus)Caesar A.D. 193-195Augustus A.D. 195-197
Served as governor in Germany and later Britain. He also received appeals from Rome's citizens. Under Septimius Severus, he became Caesar. Later when Septimius elevated his own sons and named him enemy, Clodius' troops made him emperor. Battle occurred in A.D. 197, and after losing, he committed suicide.
SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS (Lucius Septimius Severus)Augustus A.D. 193-211
The 3rd general who received appeals from Rome, he became emperor after defeating both of his rivals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. He adopted a military-style government, while paying little attention to the Senate.
JULIA DOMNA (Julia Domna)Augusta A.D. 193-217
A woman of beauty, intelligence and wit, Julia Domna was matriarch of the Severan dynasty. Her staunch refusal to allow the empire to be divided between her sons was her greatest feat. She was so well respected that she retained the title of Augusta even after her sons died.
CARACALLA (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)Caesar A.D. 195-198Augustus A.D. 198-217
Elder son of Septimius and brother of Geta. His nickname, Caracalla, came from the Gallic coat he wore. He convinced the Praetorian Guard to murder his brother. Known for his extravagances and cruelties, he was murdered by his praetorian prefect. "Caracalla's Baths" in Rome still exist.
PLAUTILLA (Publia Fulvia Plautilla)Augusta A.D. 202-205
Caracalla and Plautilla's marriage was a political arrangement, not love. Supposedly, they wouldn't even dine together because they disliked each other so much. After Caracalla killed her father, he divorced and exiled her, and later had her murdered.
GETA (Lucius Septimius Geta)Caesar A.D. 198-209Augustus A.D. 209-211
Younger son of Septimius, who was popular with the military and co-ruled with his brother, Caracalla. Prior to turning 23, Geta was murdered by guards under his brother's command.
MACRINUS (Marcus Opellius Macrinus)Augustus A.D. 217-218
He was involved in Caracalla's death, and ruled for about 14 months. After making an unfavorable peace treaty with the Parthians, the army revolted, killing him and his son. It was instigated by the grandmother of future emperor Elagabalus.
DIADUMENIAN (Marcus Opellius Diadumenianus)Caesar A.D. 217-218Ruled for one month in A.D. 218
Diadumenian became Caesar in A.D. 217, and became Augustus at 10 years old. He was killed in the revolt that took his father's life.
JULIA MAESA (Julia Maesa)Augusta A.D. 218-224/5
A shrewd woman of wealth and courage, Julia Maesa was the sister of Julia Domna and Elagabalus and Severus Alexander's grandmother. She bribed the Eastern legions helping Elagabalus gain power, and tried to restrain his excessive behaviors. She survived his assassination, but died three years later.
ELAGABALUS (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)Augustus A.D. 218-222
Elagabalus was disliked because of his unusual Eastern religious practices and extravagances. His rule was noted for cruelty, bloodshed and excesses of every type.
JULIA SOAEMIAS (Julia Soaemias Bassiana)Augusta A.D. 218-22
Became Augusta when her 14-year-old son Elagabalus was named emperor. Of the four women of the Severan dynasty, Soaemias was the least responsible in her duties. She was slain, along with her son, by the Praetorian Guard.
SEVERUS ALEXANDER (Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander)Caesar A.D. 221-222Augustus A.D. 222-235
Severus Alexander, who was adopted by his cousin Elagabalus, ruled wisely and justly with the help of his mother and advisors. He was killed by his soldiers during a German campaign.
JULIA MAMAEA (Julia Avita Mamaea)Augusta A.D. 222-235
When her son Severus Alexander became emperor, Julia Mamaea influenced the empire's politics for over a decade. Although she was popular with some Romans, others disliked her because of her greed and arrogance. The army hung both Julia and her son.
MAXIMINUS I "THRAX" (Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus)Augustus A.D. 235-238
Historical sources say "Thrax" had great strength and size, standing over 8½ feet tall. After he became emperor, he increased taxes, making him unpopular. Both he and his son, Maximus, were murdered by the soldiers of Legion II.
MAXIMUS (Gaius Julius Verus Maximus)Caesar A.D. 235/6-238
Maximus became proud and insolent after his father Maximinus I named him Caesar. His attitude made him hated by Roman citizens and the military. Eventually his troops executed him.
GORDIAN I (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus
"Africanus")Ruled 21 days in A.D. 238
Said to be one of the wealthiest men in the empire, and a man of great integrity. His troops in Africa named him emperor, but due to his age, he made his son co-emperor. He committed suicide when he learned that his son, Gordian II, had been killed in a battle.
GORDIAN II (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus
"Africanus")Ruled 20 days in A.D. 238
Although Gordian II was highly educated, with a library of over 62,000 books, he led an inexperienced, undisciplined group of "locals" against an army of Carthaginians. When the forces met, Gordian's men fled. Many were trampled trying to escape, and he was killed. When his body was recovered it was unrecognizable.
BALBINUS (Decimus Caelius Calvinus Balbinus)Ruled 98 days in A.D. 238
The Senate named Balbinus joint emperor with Pupienus on the condition that they make Gordian III Caesar. He was murdered by the Praetorian Guard who were jealous because the Senate had named him emperor instead of one from their ranks.
PUPIENUS (Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus)Ruled 98 days in A.D. 238
Joint emperor with Balbinus. He rose through the ranks of the military, and as co-emperor, had the best interests of the country at heart. The Praetorian Guard killed him along with Balbinus.
GORDIAN III (Marcus Antonius Gordianus "Pius")Caesar A.D. 238Augustus A.D. 238-244
A popular, young emperor who was grandson of Gordian I. He fought several successful battles against the Sassanians. He died in the Middle East, either murdered by his soldiers or of natural causes, history is not clear.
PHILIP I (Marcus Julius Verus Philippus)Augustus A.D. 244-249
Known as "Philip the Arab" he progressed through the ranks to become Praetorian Prefect under Gordian III, and was thought to have turned the army against him. Philip's reign was marked by border invasions and rebellions. He died in battle against Trajan Decius.
OTACILIA SEVERA (Marcia Otacilia Severa)Augusta A.D. 244-249
Little is known about Otacilia, Philip I's wife. Christian historians tend to portray her as Christian, seeking penance for her part in Gordian III's death. Now most experts think this is untrue. Some sources say she was killed by the Praetorians, one says she lived out her life in retirement.
PHILIP II (Marcus Julius Severus Philippus)Caesar A.D. 244-247Augustus A.D. 247-249
Philip II became Caesar at the age of seven. He died at the age of 12, soon after his father, most likely murdered by the Praetorian Guard.
TRAJAN DECIUS (Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius)Augustus A.D. 249-251
Forced to become emperor when his soldiers revolted against Philip I, Decius restored the Colosseum and many Roman traditions. He died in an ambush against the Goths along with his older son, Herennius. He was the first emperor to die in a battle against the enemy.
HERENNIA ESTRUSCILLA (Herennia Cupressenia Etruscilla)Augusta A.D. 249-253 (?)
Almost nothing is known of Herennia, except that she came from an aristocratic Italian family. Thanks to inscriptions found on coins, we know that she was Decius' wife.
HERENNIUS ETRUSCUS (Quintus Herennius Etruscus Messius Decius)Caesar A.D. 250-251Augustus A.D. 251
Herennius, the elder son of Trajan Decius, became Caesar in A.D. 250 and a year later, Augustus. He died with his father in the marshes of Bulgaria in the Battle of Arbitus in A.D. 251.
HOSTILIAN (Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus)Caesar A.D. 250?/251Augustus A.D. 251
Hostilian, youngest son of Trajan Decius, remained in Rome with his mother, surviving his father and brother's death. Under Trebonianus Gallus, he became Augustus, sharing the title with him. The plague killed him.
TREBONIANUS GALLUS (Gaius Vibius Afinius Trebonianus Gallus)Augustus A.D. 251-253
Proclaimed emperor after Decius and his son were killed, Gallus made a disgraceful treaty with the Goths, and headed to Rome. There he discovered plague had crippled the city. Borders were under attack on all sides, and when Aemilian was proclaimed emperor, Gallus and his son were unable to muster enough support among the legions and were killed.
VOLUSIAN (Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Vendumnianus Volusianus)Caesar A.D. 251Augustus A.D. 251-253
Volusian was made Caesar in A.D. 251, and a year later Augustus by his father, Trebonianus. Volusian was killed in the same mutiny that claimed his father's life.
AEMILIAN (Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus)Ruled about three months in A.D. 2
After a victory against the Goths, the legions made Aemilian emperor. He entered Rome and gained Senate approval, but his success was shortlived. Valerian I, commander under Gallus, marched toward the city. Aemilian's soldiers turned against him, rather than fight Valerian.
VALERIAN I (Publius Licinius Valerianus)Augustus A.D. 253-260
Remaining loyal to Gallus, he defeated Aemilian to become sole emperor. Had Valerian ruled earlier, he might have been considered one of Rome's greatest emperors. He was captured by Shapur I of Persia and died in captivity.
GALLIENUS (Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus)Augustus A.D. 253-268
Gallienus was co-emperor and became sole ruler after his father, Valerian, was captured. In A.D. 260 the empire was in chaos, barbarians attacked the borders, various legions revolted, and the usurper Postumus took control of Western provinces. Eight years later, Gallienus was assassinated as he put down a rebellion.
SALONINA (Julia Cornelia Salonina Crysogone) Augusta A.D. 254-268
An ideal empress, this woman was interested in the arts and philosophy. She worked to enhance her husband's achievements and ensure the army's loyalty. Salonina died during a massacre of Gallienus' family and followers at Milan.
VALERIAN II (Publius Licinius Cornelius Valerianus)Caesar A.D. 256-258
Valerian, the older son of Gallienus, was given the title of Caesar when his father became emperor. He died in battle on the Danube.
SALONINUS (Publius Licinius Cornelius Saloninus Valerianus)Caesar A.D. 258-260Augustus A.D. 260
Saloninus, younger son of Gallienus, became Caesar in A.D. 258 when his brother Valerian II died. After attaining the rank of Augustus in A.D. 260, he was murdered by Postumus' soldiers.
MACRIANUS I (Titus Fulvius Junius Macrianus)Augustus A.D. 260-261
Macrianus, the elder, served under Valerian I, and took command of legions in the East when the former emperor was captured. He made his sons Macrianus I and Quietus co-emperors. Macrianus I set out to topple Gallienus, but was killed in a battle.
QUIETUS (Titus Fulvius Junius Quietus)Augustus A.D. 260-261
Quietus showed talent for leadership in both the government and military, and was left in charge of Eastern provinces. When both his father and brother were slain by Gallienus' troops, he escaped to Emesa, but was taken prisoner and put to death.
Separation of Gaul through end of unification
From A.D. 259 until A.D. 273, the provinces of Gaul, Spain and Britain were not under Roman rule. Starting with Postumus, various generals rose up to take control of the region. It was returned to Rome during the rule of Aurelian.
POSTUMUS (Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus)Augustus A.D. 260-269Ruler in Gaul, Spain and Britain
Postumus took command of legions in the Rhine under Valerian. He was considered a usurper by some, because he declared himself emperor of Gaul, Spain and Britain while Gallienus ruled. To his credit, he kept peace within his borders. His own soldiers killed him when he wouldn't allow them to sack a town after a battle.
LAELIANUS (Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus)Usurper A.D. 269Ruler in Gaul, Spain and Britain
Laelianus seized power in what is now Germany. His own men killed him during the revolt he started against Postumus.
MARIUS (Marcus Aurelius Marius)Usurper A.D. 269Ruler in Gaul, Spain and Britain
Soldier and blacksmith Marius had a reputation for having great strength. After Postumus' death, the troops named him emperor. His reign was brief – in just weeks he was killed by his soldiers.
VICTORINUS (Marcus Piavvonius Victorinus)Augustus A.D. 269-271Ruler in Gaul, Spain and Britain
A former tribune, Victorinus reigned in Gaul for a short time after Postumus' death. His womanizing caught up with him when he insulted the wife of a military official, and was murdered.
TETRICUS I (Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus)Augustus A.D. 271-274Ruler in Gaul, Spain and Britain
Tetricus I was one of the few emperors who died naturally. A governor in Aquitania, he was named emperor after Victorinus' death, and proved equal to the task. The constant threat of revolt by the army continued. He formally surrendered to Aurelian, and retired in peace. Once again the Roman empire was whole.
TETRICUS II (Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus)Caesar A.D. 273-274Augustus A.D. 274
Named Caesar under his father's rule, and later co-emperor. After his father abdicated, Aurelian gave him a seat in the Senate and returned his family's possessions.
VABALATHUS (Lucius Julius Aurelius Septimius Vabalathus
Athenodorus)Augustus A.D. 270/1-272
Kingdom of Palmyra. After the murder of his father in A.D. 267, Vabalathus governed Palmyra with his mother Zenobia. When his troops named him Augustus, Aurelian marched against him. Vabalathus was taken captive by Aurelian in A.D. 272.
CLAUDIUS II GOTHICUS (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius)Augustus A.D. 268-270
A brilliant soldier who earned the title Gothicus for victory against the Goths. He plotted to have Gallienus murdered and was named emperor. He had many military successes. During his brief reign, he set Rome on the path to recovery, but died of the plague.
QUINTILLUS (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus)Augustus A.D. 270
Younger brother of Claudius Gothicus, Quintillus was initially supported by the Senate and the army as the next emperor. With Aurelian's success in battles, support shifted to him instead, so Quintillus committed suicide.
AURELIAN (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus)Augustus A.D. 270-275
Called the "Restorer of the Empire," Aurelian brought Gaul back into the realm, and recovered Palmyra. An able defender of Roman borders, he pushed back the barbarians. While on a campaign he was assassinated by his generals.
SEVERINA (Ulpia Severina)Augusta A.D. 274-275
History has left us little to remember of Severina, wife of Aurelian, except her coins. Her family name seems to indicate she might have come from the same Spanish family as Trajan. What happened to her after the murder of Aurelian is unknown.
TACITUS (Marcus Claudius Tacitus)Augustus A.D. 275-276
The Senate and army asked Tacitus to come out of retirement. Before resuming Aurelian's campaign, Tacitus honored him and punished his killers. Historical sources are not clear about how he died – it was either through treachery or sickness.
FLORIAN (Marcus Annius Florianus)Ruled less than 3 months A.D. 276
As praetorian prefect for his half-brother Tacitus, Florian went East with him. When Tacitus died, the army named him emperor, which the Senate supported. But armies in Syria and Egypt backed Probus, so Florian's own soldiers killed him.
PROBUS (Marcus Aurelius Probus)Augustus A.D. 276-282
One of Aurelius' most successful generals Probus reclaimed Egypt and Palmyra. After Tacitus' death, he became ruler. Borders were under attack on all sides, but by A.D. 281, he established peace. He was murdered in a revolt led by Carus.
CARUS (Marcus Aurelius Carus)Augustus A.D. 282-283
Praetorian Prefect under Probus. As emperor Carus led a successful campaign against the Sassaninans. Ancient sources say he was struck by lightning, but now most think it was foul play.
CARINUS (Marcus Aurelius Carinus)Caesar A.D. 282-283Augustus A.D. 283-285
Eldest son of Carus, and ruler in the West. Successfully fought barbarians in Gaul, put down Julian of Pannonia's rebellion, and had upper hand against Diocletian, whose troops had named him emperor, but was killed by a soldier whose wife he had seduced.
NIGRINIAN Died before A.D. 283
Today we only know about Nigrinian, Carinus' son, because of his coins which are very rare. Historians think he died in infancy.
NUMERIAN (Marcus Aurelius Numerius Numerianus)Caesar A.D. 282-283Augustus A.D. 283-284
As Caesar and youngest son, Numerian fought in Persia with Carus, his father. After his father's death he was named Augustus. As he returned West to meet his brother, he was found dead in his litter. Diocletian, leader of guards, blamed Numerian's praetorian prefect.
JULIAN OF PANNONIA (Marcus Aurelius Julianus)Usurper A.D. 284-285
With Numerian dead, Julian, governor in Northeastern Italy, decided to revolt. He marched against Carinus. The two met in northern Italy where he was defeated and killed.
Division into Eastern and Western Empires
Two factors were at work in the subsequent division of the Roman Empire. At one time the Senate awarded the title of emperor, but over the years their power diminished as the military's grew, and they began to name men from their own ranks. Because of the empire's size, the emperor needed strong, trustworthy generals, who commanded the respect of the army.
Plus, the size of the Roman state made it difficult to defend against increasing border attacks. The attacks and internal unrest caused economic upheaval. Peasants could not work the land, tradesmen lacked supplies for their crafts, and landowners had no income for taxes. As a result, these upheavals spelled economic disaster, causing dissatisfaction with the government and internal unrest.
Diocletian realized the empire was too large for one man to rule, so he established a system of government called the Tetrarchy, made up of two co-emperors and two Caesars. One co-emperor and Caesar ruled the East, and the other pair ruled the West. The empire was split into Greek and Latin-speaking portions, in the region encompassing present-day Yugoslavia southward, and including Africa. However, the Tetrarchy lasted only 20 years. After Diocletian and Maximianus retired, fighting among would-be rulers broke out. Constantine the Great finally became emperor in the West, while Licinius ruled in the East.
DIOCLETIAN (Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus)Augustus A.D. 284-305Ruler in the East
After Numerian's death, he became emperor. An excellent statesman and military leader, he unified most of the empire except for Britain. Introducing far-reaching reforms, he officially split rule of the empire between East and West and divided it into 4 units. As one of the tetrarchs, he voluntarily abdicated and retired in peace.
MAXIMIAN "HERCULIUS" (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus)Caesar A.D. 285-286Augustus A.D. 286-305, 307-308, & 310Ruler in the West
Because Diocletian trusted Maximian, and had great respect for his military ability, he made Maximian Augustus in the West. Although he abdicated at the same time that Diocletian did, he returned to rule from A.D. 307-308 at the request of his son. But in A.D. 310, he revolted against Constantine I (then Caesar) and declared himself emperor. In a matter of weeks, he was captured and put to death.
CARAUSIUS (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Carausius)Usurper in Britain A.D. 286/7-29
Taking advantage of his position as commander in Gaul, Carausius started pillaging the countryside. He went to Britain, where he proclaimed himself emperor. Never recognized by legitimate emperors as ruler, he was eventually slain by Allectus.
ALLECTUSUsurper in Britain A.D. 293-296/7
As Carausius' chief minister, Allectus became emperor after killing him. He was known for his cruelty, and died in a battle against Constantius I from Gaul.
DOMITIUS DOMITIANUS (Lucius Domitius Domitianus)Usurper in Egypt A.D. 297-298
Little is known about Domitius, the usurper who led a revolt in Egypt. This country provided grain to Rome as well as other monetary benefits. He grabbed control for about 18 months before Diocletian crushed the uprising.
GALERIUS (Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus)Caesar A.D. 293-305Augustus A.D. 305-311Ruler in the East
Caesar in the East, making his capital Thessalonica. Defeated the Sassasian king Narses in A.D. 298, and then fought in the Danube region. Became co-emperor in A.D. 305 with Constantius I after Diocletian abdicated. Galerius followed a policy of persecuting Christians. He died from a painful illness.
GALERIA VALERIA (Galeria Valeria)Augusta A.D. 293?-311
Daughter of Diocletian, and second wife of Galerius. Following the politics of the time, she supported his persecution of Christians. After Galerius and her nephew died, she was put to death by Licinius I.
CONSTANTIUS I "CHLORUS" (Flavius Valerius Constantius)Caesar A.D. 293-305Augustus A.D. 305-306Ruler in the West
Constantius I ruled as Caesar in the West – Gaul, Spain and Britain – and was one the four tetrarchs. He was the father of Constantine the Great. Upon Diocletian's abdication, he became Augustus, reigning as co-emperor with Galerius. He died in Britain of natural causes.
HELENA (Flavia Julia Helena [Saint Helena])Augusta A.D. 324-328/3
A remarkable woman who began life as a barmaid and ended as a Christian saint. Helena was the first wife of Constantius I, and mother of Constantine the Great. While on a Christian pilgrimage, it is said that she recovered the "true cross."
The daughter of Diocletian's Praetorian Prefect, Theodora became Constantius I's second wife shortly before he was named Caesar, and they had six children. She was Constantine the Great's stepmother.
SEVERUS II (Flavius Valerius Severus)Caesar A.D. 305-306Augustus A.D. 306-307Ruler in the West
A friend of Galerius, Severus was named Caesar in the West and later Augustus. When he decided to tax Italy and Rome and get rid of the Praetorian Guard, the guard revolted. They threw their support to Maxentius (son of Maximian), and Severus' troops deserted him. Although he surrendered, he was later executed.
MAXIMINUS II DAIA (Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximinus)Caesar A.D. 305-310Augustus A.D. 310-313Ruler in the East
The nephew of Galerius, he was named Caesar in A.D. 305, ruling in Syria. Passed over twice for Augustus by Galerius, his troops finally named him ruler in A.D. 310. He attempted to foil an alliance between Constantine and Licinius, by invading Thrace. Defeated by Licinius in A.D. 313, he managed to survive for 6 months before discovery and death.
MAXENTIUS (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius)Caesar A.D. 306-307Augustus A.D. 307-312
Proclaimed Augustus by the people of Rome, Maxentius asked his father Maximian to come out of retirement. They defeated Severus II, gaining control of Italy, Africa and Spain. His father attempted to overthrow him in A.D. 308. Four years later, in a battle against Constantine, he drowned when the bridge of boats over the Tiber River collapsed during retreat.
ROMULUS (Marcus Valerius Romulus)Died A.D. 309
The son of Maxentius and grandson of Maximian and Galerius. Romulus became consul at a young age. His exact age at death ranges from three to fifteen. All coins were struck posthumously.
LICINIUS I (Gaius Valerius Licinianus Licinius)Augustus A.D. 308-324Ruler in the East
Gaining recognition in battles against the Persians, he was adopted by Diocletian, and received the title of Augustus, instead of Maximinus Daia, or Constantine the Great. He married Constantine I's sister and the men attempted to reign peacefully. Over time, war broke out and Licinius was eventually killed.
LICINIUS II (Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius)Caesar A.D. 317-324
Son of Licinius I, who was made Caesar in A.D. 317. As a prince he showed great promise, but after his father's death he was killed at the age of nine.
CONSTANTINE I "THE GREAT" (Flavius Valerius Constantinus)Caesar A.D. 306-310Augustus A.D. 310-337Ruler in the West
Constantine the Great shared joint rule with Licinius, until the fall of A.D. 324, when he became the sole ruler. In A.D. 313 he issued the Edict of Milan, giving all subjects religious freedom. He was a good general and administrator, and tried to instill Christianity as the dominant religion. He dedicated the city of Constantinople in A.D. 330 as the eastern capital. While preparing to campaign against Shapur II, he fell sick and died in May 337.
FAUSTA (Flavia Maxima Fausta)Augusta A.D. 324-326
In an attempt to strengthen political ties, Maximian wed his daughter Fausta to Constantine the Great. History remembers her as the wife who plotted against her stepson Crispus and caused his execution to secure power for her own sons. In the end, Constantine regretted his hasty actions and executed her.
CRISPUS (Flavius Julius Crispus)Caesar A.D. 316-326
Crispus, the popular son of Constantine the Great, had many talents and showed military skill at age of 20. Four years later, he won a great naval victory, but shortly after, because of plotting by Fausta, his stepmother, he was put to death by his father.
DELMATIUS (Flavius Julius Delmatius)Caesar A.D. 335-337
The nephew of Constantine the Great. He gave Delmatius part of what is now Greece and Bulgaria to rule. After Constantine's death, his sons ordered Delmatius' execution.
HANNIBALLIANUS (Flavius Claudius Hanniballianus)Caesar A.D. 335-33
Younger brother of Delmatius and nephew of Constantine I, he was given the title "King of Kings" and part of modern-day Turkey to rule. Like his brother, he was put to death after Constantine died.
CONSTANTINE II (Flavius Claudius Julius Constantinus) Caesar A.D. 316-337 Augustus A.D. 337-340
Eldest of Constantine the Great's three sons, by his second wife Fausta, he became emperor of Gaul, Spain, Britain and North Africa after his father died. His provinces were poorer, so he demanded lands from Constans. In A.D. 340, he initiated an attack against Constans, but was killed during battle.
CONSTANS (Flavius Julius Constans)Caesar A.D. 333-337Augustus A.D. 337-350Ruler in the West
The youngest son of Constantine the Great, who became the last legitimate emperor to visit Britain. After Constantine II's death, he ruled the West. The soldiers despised him because of the way he treated them. He was overthrown by Magnentius, his field commander, and killed.
CONSTANTIUS II (Flavius Julius Valerius Constantius)Caesar A.D. 324-337Augustus A.D. 337-361Ruler in the East
The middle son of Constantine the Great, who ruled the rich Eastern lands. After his father's death, he acted to wipe out Delmatius and Hanniballianus and other relatives. He later defeated the usurper Magnentius, and ruled the West, too. As he prepared to march against his cousin, Julian, he died of illness.
MAGNENTIUS (Flavius Magnus Magnentius)Augustus A.D. 350-35
As commander of troops on the Rhine, Magnentius caused the revolt that killed Constans. After peace talks with Constantius II failed, he marched against him. One of the bloodiest battles of the century occurred. He withdrew to Gaul, was deserted by his soldiers and committed suicide.
DECENTIUS (Flavius Magnus Decentius)Caesar A.D. 350-353
Younger brother, or relative, of the usurper Magnentius, he was given command of Gaul. As Constantius' forces regained Italy and Africa in the summer of A.D. 353, Magnentius committed suicide, and Decentius, learning of the defeat, hung himself eight days later.
VETRANIOAugustus A.D. 350
After Magnentius seized power, the sister of Constantius asked the legions of Pannonia to name the elderly soldier Vetranio emperor. Loyal to Constantine the Great, Vetranio maintained the borders, abdicated 10 months later and lived out his life in peace.
NEPOTIAN (Constantinus Flavius Popilius Nepotianus)Augustus A.D. 350
Nepotian, half nephew of Constantine the Great, managed to escape the massacre which killed most of his family. He lived most of his life in exile in Italy, until Magnentius seized power and a crowd of Romans hailed him as emperor. He ruled about a month before another rival killed him.
CONSTANTIUS GALLUS (Flavius Claudius Constantius Gallus)Caesar A.D. 351-354
Another nephew of Constantine the Great who also survived the family massacre. Little is known about him until Constantius II appointed him ruler in the east, in A.D. 351. Because of his cruel and disdainful attitude, he became unpopular with the public and army. When Constantius II sent officials to investigate Gallus' brutalities, they were hung. Gallus was arrested and beheaded on the emperor's orders.
JULIAN II "The Apostate" (Flavius Claudius Julianus)Caesar A.D. 355-360Augustus A.D. 360-363
The last member of the ill-fated branch of Constantine the Great's family that escaped the massacre. Known as Julian "the Apostate," he attempted to restore the pagan religion, perhaps because of what he saw his "Christian" relatives do as a child. He led successful campaigns in Gaul and Asia. After Constantius' death, he was sole emperor. Julian II died on the banks of the Tigris while engaging in war against Persia.
JOVIAN (Flavius Jovianus)Augustus A.D. 363-364
Proclaimed emperor by troops both from Gaul and the East. To safely retreat from Persia, he gave up lands East of the Tigris. As emperor, Jovian restored the rights to Christians that his predecessor had taken away. But at 33, while traveling to Constantinople, he was found dead in his room, most likely caused by accidental suffocation by fumes from a charcoal heater.
VALENTINIAN I (Flavius Valentinianus)Augustus A.D. 364-375Ruler in the West
Rose through the military ranks to become emperor upon Jovian's death. After leaving his brother Valens in charge of the East, he returned to Italy. He looked after the common man and spent much of his time protecting his borders against the barbarians. He died of a rage-induced stroke in A.D. 375.
VALENS (Flavius Julius)Augustus A.D. 364-378Ruler in the East
Younger brother of Valentinian I and co-emperor in the East. Almost immediately after accepting rule, he had to put down rebellions by the usurpers Procopius and Theodorus as well as deal with the Visigoths and Huns. In the battle of Adrianople against the Visigoths in A.D. 378, two-thirds of the Roman army were killed. Valens died either in battle or during a fire set in the farmhouse he sought refuge in to dress his wounds.
PROCOPIUSUsurper, ruled eight months A.D. 365-366Ruler in the East
A commander in the East, and distant relative of Julian II, he withdrew from public life after Valentinian and Valens became rulers. When Valens left to fight in the Middle East, he reappeared in Constantinople. Named emperor by the army, he enjoyed success for about 8 months, but was defeated in battle and executed.
GRATIAN (Flavius Gratianus)Augustus A.D. 367-383Ruler in the West
Gratian, son of Valentinian I, became Augustus at age 7 and eventually ruled the entire West. His time was spent defending the borders against the barbarians. After Valens' death, he appointed Theodosius, a general, to rule in the East. He was killed after his soldiers deserted him in a battle against Magnus Maximus.
VALENTINIAN II (Flavius Valentinianus)Augustus A.D. 375-392Ruler in the West
Son of Valentinian I, and half-brother of Gratian, who at 4 became co-emperor with his brother. By about 12, he ruled the entire West. After the usurper Magnus Maximus revolted, Valentinian II moved his government to Milan, but when the usurper invaded again, he fled to Greece. Theodosius I helped him regain power. Valentinian either killed himself or was strangled on orders of Arbogast.
THEODOSIUS I "THE GREAT" (Flavius Theodosius)Augustus A.D. 379-395Ruler in the East
Rose through the military to eventually become co-emperor with Gratian. Led successful campaigns against the Goths, and defeated Magnus Maximus and Eugenius. Upon his death, he split the Empire between his two sons – it was never reunited. He was one of the more effective rulers of the late empire.
MAGNUS MAXIMUS (Flavius Magnus Clemens Maximus)Augustus A.D. 383-388Ruler in the West
Rising through the military ranks, Magnus was named emperor by his soldiers in Britain. He invaded Gaul and usurped Spain, defeating Gratian. In A.D. 387, he invaded Italy, but a little over a year later was killed by Theodosius.
FLAVIUS VICTOR (Flavius Victor)Augustus A.D. 387-388Ruler in the West
Young son of Magnus Maximus, was made Augustus in A.D. 387. Flavius was executed after Theodosius I's victory.
EUGENIUS (Flavius Eugenius)Usurper A.D. 392-394Ruler in the West
Although Eugenius was a Christian, he allied himself with the pagans to gain support. He served as a puppet emperor for Arbogast, the Frankish general. Eugenius seized Italy, angering Theodosius who defeated him, executing both him and Arbogast.
ARCADIUS (Flavius Arcadius)Augustus A.D. 383-408Ruler in the East
Elder son of Theodosius I, who became emperor in the East at 16 after his father's death. His wife and ministers held the real power during his reign. The Eastern Empire was generally at peace while he ruled. He died at age 31 of natural causes.
HONORIUS (Flavius Honorius)Augustus A.D. 393-423Ruler in the West
Younger son of Theodosius I, who ruled the West from Ravenna. During his rule, the city of Rome was sacked in A.D. 410. It was the first time the city had fallen in 800 years, and marked the collapse of the Western Empire. He died after reigning 30 inglorious years.
CONSTANTINE III (Flavius Claudius Constantinus)Usurper in Gaul and Britain A.D. 407-411Ruler in the West
A soldier, named emperor by legions in Britain, Constantine III crossed the channel to Gaul, and helped Honorius against the Goths. His success was short-lived because his own general revolted, capturing and killing Constantine III's son. Constantius III, a commander of Honorius, put down the rebellion, and later killed Constantine III. Rome gave up all claims to Britain.
PRISCUS ATTALUS Augustus A.D. 409-410 & 414-415
After the Goths invaded Rome, Gothic king Alaric set Priscus Attalus up as a puppet ruler. Under Attalus, Rome was pillaged for the first time in 800 years, and he was taken prisoner. He returned as emperor again in A.D. 414, but after a short rule, was banished by Honorius.
CONSTANTIUS III (Flavius Constantius)Augustus A.D. 421Ruler in the West
Appointed general of the armies under Honorius, and later made Augustus. He married Honorius' sister, and was father of Valentinian III. The Eastern government, under Theodosius II, refused to recognize him. He died after a reign of seven months.
JOHANNES (John)Usurper A.D. 423-425
After the death of Honorius he proclaimed himself emperor of Italy, Gaul and Spain, but Theodosius II refused to acknowledge him and sent an army to defeat him. After his capture, he was put on display and later executed.
THEODOSIUS II (Flavius Theodosius)Augustus A.D. 402-450Ruler in the East
The grandson of Theodosius "the Great," who was named Augustus before age one, and became sole ruler in the East at age seven. In A.D. 434, he bought peace with the infamous Attila the Hun. The Theodosian Code (books compiling all the laws written since A.D. 312) was created during his reign. A fall from a horse is thought to have killed him.
VALENTINIAN III (Flavius Placidus Valentinianus)Caesar A.D. 424-425Augustus A.D. 425-455Ruler in the West
The son of Constantius III, he was named emperor in the West by Theodosius II. The Empire was continually under siege from barbarians, and Africa was lost to the Vandals. He was murdered by two bodyguards of a general he had killed.
MARCIAN (Flavius Valerius Marcianus)Augustus A.D. 450-457Ruler in the East
A distinguished soldier who was chosen to be Theodosius II's successor. He is remembered for his refusal to pay Attila his annual tribute of gold. Marcian did not stop the Vandals from sacking Rome, and under his reign, Roman lands enjoyed six years of peace. He died of natural causes.
LEO I "THE GREAT" (Flavius Valerius Leo)Augustus A.D. 457-474Ruler in the East
Emperor in the East, who squandered the treasury built up by Marcian. He built a fleet that was destroyed by the Vandals. He died of illness in his 70s.
LEO II Caesar A.D. 473-474Augustus A.D. 474Ruler in the East
Grandson of Leo I, who was made Caesar and later Augustus, at age 7, after Leo I's death. He was a sickly child who died after reigning less than a year. His father, Zeno, was named co-emperor.
MAJORIAN (Flavius Julius Valerius Majorianus)Augustus A.D. 457-461Ruler in the West
Following a period of unrest, Majorian claimed the throne. He dealt with invading tribes in Gaul, and pushed back Vandals in southern Italy. Perhaps he was too successful, because Ricimer, a general who helped him become ruler, double crossed him, and had him executed.
SEVERUS III (Libius Severus)Augustus A.D. 461-465Ruler in the West
For more than three months the West had no emperor until Rimicer, Master of Soldiers, named the puppet emperor Severus III. During his reign borders were under attack and Vandal raided the coastlines. Some sources say he died of natural causes, but others think it was poisoning.
ANTHEMIUS (Procopius Anthemius)Augustus A.D. 467-472Ruler in the West
An Eastern general who had many victories over the Huns and Goths. Appointed emperor by Leo I as the Western Empire began to deteriorate. A bad relationship with his father-in-law, Ricimer, led to a civil war. Eventually Anthemius was murdered.
ZENO (Tarasicodissa)Augustus A.D. 474-491Ruler in the East
Through marriage to Leo I's daughter, Zeno became his ally against the barbarian general Aspar. After Leo's death, and the death of Zeno's son, he became emperor. Soon he became victim of a plot hatched by his mother-in-law and lived in exile for 19 months. Upon his return in A.D. 476, he ruled for another 17 years before dying of natural causes.
BASILISCUS Augustus A.D. 475-476
Basiliscus was encouraged to rebel against Zeno by his sister, the former empress Aelia Verina (wife of Leo I), and gained control of Constantinople. Not having Zeno's military strength, and alienating the religious community and his leading generals, he became unpopular. When Zeno regained control, Basiliscus was exiled to Cappadocia, where he was starved to death.
ANASTASIUS I Augustus A.D. 491-518Ruler in the East
Rose from a simple officer in the emperor's household to ruler by marrying Zeno's widow. During his reign of 27 years, Anastasius set the empire on firm financial footing. Under his direction the Long Walls of Thrace, an outer defense around Constantinople, were built to protect the city from invaders. With his monetary reforms, Byzantine bronze coinage began. After a long life, he was struck by lightning and killed.