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Later Debased Issue of Gallenius
AD 253 - 268
Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus
Gallienus was born in the year of Rome 971 = AD 218, the son of the Emperor Valerianus and his first wife, who was probably called Galliena. On the death of Trebonianus and Aemilianus, he was made joint emperor with his father in AD 253.
He appears to have been a capable and courageous soldier and general. He successfully defended the Rhine territories against the local tribes Franci, Alamanni, Germani. This summarises his virtues.

His reign occurred in a part of Roman history when the Empire was in decline, under attack on most of its borders, from within, and also by famine and plague. His son Saloninus was captured and executed by Postumus who rebelled and seized control of Gaul, Britannia and Hispania in AD 260. When his father Valerian was captured by the Persians in AD 260, Gallienus failed to avenge his captivity, and it is believed that he saw it to be to his advantage. Valerian had strict morals, and with him safely out of the way, Gallienus was able to indulge his own excesses and cruelties. Historians regard him as an unsavoury character with every vice imaginable, and lacking in moral courage, magnanimity and decision.
In AD 263, he captured Byzantium and put to the sword its garrison, despite his promise to the contrary. Writing to Celer Verianus, he instructs him to destroy the supporters of the usurper Ingenuus "...mutilate, kill, and exterminate them...". It is surprising that his reign lasted so long before he was assassinated by his own Illyrian officers at the siege of Milan in AD 268.

The Antoninianus
Nero had first debased the Roman coinage, and mild inflation and debasement had continued gradually. During the reign of Gallienus, from about AD 260, the silver coinage was completely debased, and hyper-inflation occurred. Prices had risen by a factor of about 3 from the first to the third centuries. During the second half of Gallenius' reign, prices rose by a factor of about 20. Bankers refused to accept the vast quantities of low quality coins which were minted. Low quality referring mainly to their lack of precious metal content, but later by their reduced size, and irregular shape. Very few gold and true silver coins were issued, and these are quite rare. The antoninianus, which had started as a silver coin, had its silver content reduced to that of a thin silver coating, and eventually even this pretence stopped, later coins being completely base metal.
This however is good news for numismatists and others interested in owning a piece of Roman history. Because they were issued in large quantities, presumably to finance the heavy activities of the Roman army, we are able to enjoy ownership of the antoniniani of Gallienus at very low cost.
His wife Salonina also appears on many coins.

Roman Emperors Portrait Gallery
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