From AD 217 to 284 in sixty seven years there were twenty four Emperors with an average tenure of less than two years. One tenure (Gordion) was only twenty-one days.
The instability almost took the form of an elaborate competion to gain control between east and west of more specifically between the Dacian legions and the Rhineland legions both of whom were experiencing attacks from outside the empire and were probabably searching for a greater share of total resources.
In 260 the Emperor Valerian who had his power base in Gaul marched east to meet a challenge from the Parthians. He was disastrously defeated at the battle of Edessa and spent the rest of his life in slavery. The eastern provinces feared for their safety and in the same year the Palmyrene queen Xenobia , who claimed direct descent from Cleopatra, rebelled and created a breakaway declared a Palmyrene empire with herself as Augusta. In the north of the nmediterranian the empire came as far west as the shores of the Bosphorus and in the south as far as Libya.
Simultaneously it was the signal for Marcus Cassianus Latinus Posthumous to declare Britain, Gaul and Hispania and Raetia independent of Rome. He created a new empire , on the Roman model complete with senators and consuls. The Celts including Britain, Gaul and Hispania, felt they had been deserted by Valerian and made the long Desire for independance a reality. For the next decade the Roman Emperor was in control only of Africa, Italy, the Balkans and Greece.
Postumous executed the son of Gallienus and his guardian Silvanus and created an independent state with its capital at Trier (Augusta Trevorum).
Posthumus ruled for nine years before succuming to instability within his own army. he was killed by his army for refusing to allow them to sack Mainz where he had just put down a rebellion. Posthumus was followed in quick succession by Marius, Marcus Piaonius Victorinus, Domitianus and Tetricus.
It is not an attractiive tale laced with murder and rape but it does show the determination of the celts to break away from contol from Rome. the fact that none of these emperors can be found in the standard lists of roman emperors is initself evidence of just how independant it was.
it is also important to note that Hispania , Gaul and Britain were all part of this independant state, and for ten years the local govenors or kings would have responded to Trier not to Rome.
This brief period has become known as ‘The Gallic Empire” but as is shown by other segments in this topic it was preeceeded and followed by a continuous series of initiatives all intended to provide indepenance from Rome.
Helen of the Cross
The attempt to reclaim the east was delayed until 270 when the emperor Aurelian accepted the challenge. The campaign was notable because one of his senior officers a member of the Protectores Augusti Nostri was Constantine Chlorus, the father of Constantine, perhaps the most famous of the roman emperors.
Constantine’s mother was Helen of the Cross. The commonly accepted version of her identity is that she was born in Drepanum in Bithnia, Asia Minor. In this version, she was the daughter of an inn-keeper who acted as a stable maid and who, for a small fee offered other services to visitors. The justification of the choice of Drepanum is that much later Constantine renamed the town Helenopolis.
Constantius Chlorus is supposed to have met her there at the very beginning of the attack by Aurelian of the Palmyrene empire which did indeed start in Asia Minor. Helen is then supposed to have given birth to Constantine in Naissius in Moesia in the district of Dacia Aurelis. It is known that Constantine was born on the 27th February but the date of constantine’s birth is given as between 270 and 274.
There is no doubt that Constantus Chlorus was in both these places but the dates are all wrong.
The Gothic invasion.
There was a battle of Naissius in 269 at which a massive invasion of Goths into moesia was repulsed by the Emporer Claudius II who may well have been born in Naissius. After winning the battle Claudius promptly died of the plague (possibly smallpox)
There was a short lived attemp by Quintillus, Claudius brother to succeed his brother. Aurialian was hailed as Emporer by the Pannonian legions and defeated Quintillus. Quintillus died shortly afterwars possibly struck down by the same plague which killed Claudius.
A complication to the story is that there are geneologies which show Constantius Chlorus as the son of Claudius. If these geneologies are correct and the family home was at Naissius it is possible that Constantine would be described as “of Naissius’ wherever he was born.
Aurelian first task was to clean up the aftermath of the battle of Nassias.
Therefore Constantius was in Naissius in 271, helping to evacuate Romans from Dacia proper and resettle them in Moesia.
It was the next year 272 that he went to Asia Minor From Asia minor, in an integrated campaign against Xenobia he went eastward through Asia minor, to Egypt and finally to Syria Palastine where the campaign ended in 273.
If he met Helen and got her pregnant in 272 he would have had to have sent her back to Naissias( to the family Home?) whilst he continued to the east in which case Constantine would have been born in 273 whilst he was still on active duty. This does not sound like an unintended pregnancy with a stable-maid.
An alternative history has Helen as a British Princess, the daughter of King Cole. This is again offered by Geoffrey of Monmouth and has been much derided by modern historians. However…
When the Eastern empire had been reclaimed Aurelian dashed back during 273 to win back his Western empire. As “Protectores Augusti Nostri” Contantius would have been with him.
In early 274 Tetricas emperor of the Gallic Empire surrendered. Clearly there had been advance negotiations as Tetricas was not punished but awarded the position as governor of Luciana and Brutium (the toe of Italy).
At the negotiations which must have preceded the surrender it is not impossible that King Cole was a part to discussions and that Constantius could have met and wooed his daughter.
The marriage could have been a part of the agreed settlement to ensure continued interest in the british case in the central empire. This would then place the birth in 274 at approximately at the same time as Tetricus surrender. In these circumstances Helen would have been escorted back to Naissius, (the family home?)with a substantial escort.
Now other things fall into place.
in 289 Constantius divorced Helen and made a dynastic marriage with Maxentius’ step daughter theodora and in 305 their daughter Anastasia married a “Bassianus”. aside from this “Bassianus’ there are only four other people in recorded history with the name Bassianus. Three of them were associated with Caracella who shared his cognomen with his grandfather. His nephew, who is more commonly referred to as Heliogabalus, had this same cognomen.
Totally seperately Geoffrey of Monmouth, or the documents he was working with identified a British king called Bassianius and assumed that this must be Caracella.
The timing in Geoffrey suggested was however co incident with Constantius Chlorus, and King Cole. It is possible with a slight amendment in timing to conclude that Geoffrey’s Bassianius and Constantius Chlorus son in law are one and the same.
This would make Constantius Chlorus son in law of one British King and the father in law of another.
The connection between Constantius Chlorus family and the Britons do not end there. Some geneologies identify another british king, Magnus Maximus who is known in welsh history as Macsen Weldig, as the great grandson of Constantius Chlorus. This Macsen used Britain as a springboard for an attempt to reclain the empire which in his eyes had been usurped by the Valentian dynasty. Though Maximus does not appear in many of the lists of Roman Emporers, between 383 and 388 he was recognised as Augustus for Britain ,Gaul and Hispania this was another life for the Gallic empire, possibly in the eyes of the celts it never ceased to exist. Once again Maccsen placed his the capital at Augusta Treverorum (Trier).
Thus there more evidence to support the view that Helen of the cross was indeed a British princess and not a stable maid, than the mainstream view would have us believe.
Incidentally, Constantine called other towns and cities after his mother, not just Drepanum and there is one more Bessianus, a character in Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” for which the story line and characters are total fiction.
Constantius managed to switch his alliance to a succession of Emporers in the years 275 to 284 after the death of Aurelia and spent a year as govenor of Dalmatia. Salona on the coast of Dalmatia was the birthplace and home of Diocles.
For Diocles fate took a hand when the emperor Carus was struck by lightening during an otherwise successful campaign against the Persians and his son Numerian died of a mystery disease on the journey back to Rome. The army chose the commander of Carus’ cavalry as the new Emporer. This was Diocles .
In 290 Diocletian (name change to make him sound Roman) planned substantial reforms. From now on, the provinces, almost a hundred in number, would be administered directly by the Emperor through a monarchical hierachy of “Vicars”.