Coinage is the main source of information about the rogue emperor; his coinage was issued from mints in Londinium, Rotomagus (Rouen) and a third site, possibly Colonia Claudia Victricensis (Colchester). He also used them for sophisticated propaganda. He issued the first proper silver coins that had appeared in the Roman Empire for generations, knowing that good quality bullion coinage would enhance his legitimacy and make him look more successful than Diocletian and Maximian.
Carausius was a man of considerable talent who rose from humble origins in Menapia, a seafaring region between the Waal and the Scheldt rivers, to achieve command of the Channel Fleet and, ultimately, to found his own empire. Whether Carausius abused his authority over the Channel fleet or he was a victim of false accusations, the issuance of an arrest warrant caused the new commander to believe his only chance for survival was to stage a revolt, using Britain as his base. After making landfall and forging agreements with the Scots and the Picts, Carausius defeated the army of the Roman governor Quintus Bassianus and absorbed many of those soldiers into his own army. He was in a good position at the start of his revolt, for he had an expert knowledge of the waters surrounding the island, there were many new fortresses along the shore, and Maximianus was distracted by persistent warfare on the Rhine. This gave Carausius a chance to develop his philosophy of governance, which included copying much of what he admired about the Roman Empire and its ancient institutions. Indeed, this coin’s exergual mark references a passage in Virgil:
The legend RSR was for a long time considered to be a mystery. Two Carausian medallions, now in the British Museum, were also found: one has RSR in the exergue, the other has INPCDA. In 1998 these letters were recognized as representing the sixth and seventh lines of the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil, which reads Redeunt Saturnia Regna, Iam Nova Progenies Caelo Demittitur Alto, meaning ‘The Golden Ages are back, now a new generation is let down from Heaven above’. This poem was widely known in the Roman world, so that anyone who was literate and educated would have known what the initials represented.
No other Roman emperor in history ever made such an explicit reference to Roman literature. It is quite extraordinary that in a remote province like Britain a rebel emperor should utilize such a method to appeal to his public. He was claiming to represent a revival of traditional Roman virtues and the great traditions of the Empire as established by Augustus back in the last few decades of the first century BC, not in Rome but in Britain.
His success did not long endure, though. In 293 the emperors Diocletian and Maximian each adopted a Caesar, with Constantius I being assigned in the West. Constantius’ main purpose seems to have been recovering the lost territories, and his initial efforts expelled Carausius from his possessions in Gaul. He also terrified the rebel’s Frankish allies so greatly that Carausius’ sphere of influence was effectively reduced to Britain. Carausius was murdered and replaced by his chief minister Allectus, who survived three years before he was defeated in a daring invasion of Britain by which Constantius brought an end to the rebel state.
Bust of Carausius, laureate, draped and cuirassed, with beard, right
IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG
Galley with mast and four rowers; waves below
FELICITAS, RSR in ex
A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.