The Gallican Empire: The Byzantines of Western Rome

The First Gallican Emperor: Part 1
I figure, why don't we have an Byzantine Empire for the West?

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Imperator Caesar Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus Augustus had been troubled by a rival in Gaul since 260 when the German legions raised among themselves Imperator Caesar Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus Pius Felix Augustus. In 265 he invaded Gaul to put an end to the proclaimed usurper.

Postumus who would style himself Restitutor Galliarum (Restorer of Gaul), Salus Provinciarum (Bringer of Security to the Provinces) and Germanicus maximus (Victor in Germania) was first raised to the purple in 260 following the defeat of the Juthungi when at the command of the local praetorian prefect the spoils of the battle were to be transferred to the prefect's personal residence in Colonia Agrippina (Cologne).The soldiers under Postumus’ command revolted and stormed Cologne - but the command to transfer the spoils had been ordered by one Publius Licinius Cornelius Saloninus Valerianus - titled Caesar for he was Emperor Gallienus’ only son. Shortly thereafter Saloninus was taken from Colonia Agrippina and handily murdered by the revolting army. While perhaps reluctant at first, when news arrived of Emperor Valerian’s capture and execution by the Sassanids - Postumus fully committed to the revolt and in short order was recognized as Emperor in all of the European provinces from Gaul westward.


For the first five years of his reign, Postumus set himself up in his Gallic territories with a strong administrative system and fiercely defended it against invaders from across the Rhine in 262 and 263. Augusta Treverorum (Trier) was his capital where he swiftly set up a rival senate to the one in Rome, even a Praetorian Guard but again much of his strength came from Gaul where many of his soldiers came from leading to a rapid Gallicization of the Rhineland where he focused much of his attention. With silver mines in Hispania and Britannia he was able to maintain a fair amount of control over his army and fund the construction of fortifications along the Rhine. For all this time though his focus was not to take Rome itself, he wished to simply be recognized as Co-Emperor with Gallienus but the death of the man’s issue no doubt saw any chance of that incredibly thin.

Following Valerian’s death revolts and invasions by barbarians wracked the eastern frontier preventing Gallienus from turning his attention to the Gallic regime in his western provinces he gave command to Aurelous, a well regarded cavalry commander. However, Aurelous was unable to decisively defeat Postumus and for this he was censured having his command stripped from him and placed in command of the garrison in Mediolanum (Milan) - something which would have drastic results in a few years. Gathering his forces in northern Italy, Gallienus invaded Gaul intent on retaking the wayward provinces once and for all.

Postumus rose to meet the challenge of the two armies clashing in southern Gaul but thanks to the command of his subordinates Claudius and Aurelian the tempo of the conflict pushed Postumus back to the city of Arelate (Arles) and besieged him behind its walls. Perhaps Gallienus was eager to avenge himself upon Postumus or perhaps he was worn down by the years of constant war attempting to keep the empire together - regardless an arrow from one of the defenders found its way into his flesh and he killed in moments.

Once Gallienus’ army saw him fall it was chaos as the army fractured as some of the men went over to Postumus while others retreated under the command of Claudius and Aurelian. Perhaps emboldened by the defeat of Gallienus or wishing at least to insure that these rivals would not return to Gaul, Postumus gave chase into Italy. Claudius sent word to Aurelous to bring reinforcements from Mediolanum and the news he received was that the former cavalry commander was on his way as fast as he could travel. Claudius turned to face Postumus’ army at Cueno but when Aurelous’ forces arrived instead of joining with them they turned their banners to Postumus thus pinning Claudius’ forces between the two fronts. Decimated, Claudius’ army surrendered and both he and Aurelian were forced to commit suicide.

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Thus began the reign of the Gallic Emperors, and what would be referred to historians as the beginning of the Gallican Empire.
 
The First Gallican Emperor: Part 2
The Gallican Empire is so named due to the influence of the Gallic provinces on the persons and administration of the western Roman regimes following the rise of Postumus to the purple.

As mentioned previously Postumus’ powerbase primarily came from the Gaulish provinces firstly and foremostly (with the early exception of Narbonensis which due to the proximity to Italy was an early battleground for Postumus and Gallienus’ supporters). Much of his support was derived from the increasingly independent Gallo-Roman aristocracy, the landowners throughout the Gallic provinces who supplied Postumus the most support in money and manpower as well as an able body of bureaucrats for running his early breakaway administration. In fact the counter-senate that Postumus established in Treverorum was by the majority filled with Gallo-Roman senators with a small number of Hispano-Roman and Romano-British colleagues.

While the northern Belgica province was the most reliant on imperial support owing to their location next to the Germanic provinces the other provinces (Aquitania, Lugdunensis, and Narbonensis) exercised increasingly localist or even separatist tendencies in the years leading up to 260.This reflects Postumus’ interest, especially while still acting as a usurper in protecting the Gallic provinces by spending much of his time and energy defending the Rhineland against barbarian incursions. The Gallo-Roman aristocracy was increasingly uninterested in the wider empire especially with such threats on their own metaphorical doorstep. In fact so much so that Ilulius Placidanus who initially fought against Postumus was given clemency due to his family’s ties in Gaul.

Thus when Postumus and his army marched on Rome it can be very much likened to the 390 BC sack of Rome by the Celts under King Brennus.

Knowledgeable that a full sack of the city would damage his reputation, but also mindful of his army’s desire for loot, Postumus ordered his army to only look the neighborhoods of the city that resisted his rule - not so coincidentally this being areas where the local Roman aristocracy lived and is credited with breaking the back of the Italian nobility for some time. Fortunately for Postumus, Gallienus’ last living son, Marinianus, was captured attempting to flee the city and was quietly put to death - thus ending support for Gallienus through his own bloodline in the wider empire. Unfortunately though not all of the senators in residence of the city were captured and several escaped south and then across the Adriatic Sea to the Balkans where they elected the Consul Marcus Claudius Tacitus as their Emperor in Thessalonica. However, there would be not much they could do in regards to Postumus as emboldened by the deaths of Gallienus and his closest men the Goths began to encroach into the Balkans again which would ultimately lead to the collapse of Roman Dacia, and a later attempt would be abandoned due to a resurgence of the Cyprian Plague which would kill Tacticus.

Likewise Postumus was busy, as Raetia came under assault by the Almann tribes and his forces moved once more to the Germanic frontier to secure it from further attacks. Fortunately for him his defeat of Gallienus did have wider windfalls, the remaining Italian and African provinces west of Aegyptus proclaimed their loyalty to him which would help shore up the Gallican Empire’s position and not threaten trade lanes across the western sea. Unofficially during this time he removed the capital of the Gallican Empire out of both Treverorum and Rome, instead moving it to Lugdunum. The city had been host to Emperors before, even the birthplace of Emperor Claudius in 10 BC and had been for sometime a very prosperous and cosmopolitan city until in 197 AC where Septimus Severus had bloodily put down a usurper to his rule which had seen the city hobbled by the devastation. Postumus’ decision to move his capital to the city though would breathe new life into it - situated on the confluences of two major rivers it was the perfect spot for him to be able to exercise his control of Gaul, the Rhineland, and Italy itself. Though both Treverorum and Rome would continue to be important cities of the two it would be Rome that would steadily start to decline - which some scholars have attributed Postumus’ sack of the city as being the end of the Roman Empire.

After 265 the question if the Roman Empire was destroyed following this year is a source of argument by many historians. With Gallienus’ defeat a trend of regionalism would grow and grow in every corner of the empire as attested by the rise of the Gallican, Palmyrene, and Hellene centers of power which would continue to look to local affairs. The age of a single Emperor waging war from the shores of the Atlantic to the Euphrates’ river banks was over but Roman culture persisted in all of these places. The social structures, the government organizations, the titles, and so forth would persist rather than being abandoned by the regional powers they would be held onto and maintained as time would go on.
 
Hmm, Western, Central, and Eastern Roman empires?

To answer the question...sort of? Postumus has Rome so he is widely recognize as Augustus but there are pockets of hostile (Thessaloniki) and neutral (Egypt, Palmyra) factions. As we are seeing though the Roman Empire is developing 3-4 autonomous states...within the state itself.
 
nice work also if possible could you please thread mark your posts it would make it easer to read and to keep track of each post
 
To Defend the Rhine
As former governor of Germania Superior Emperor Postumus was no stranger to the region - the landscape, its people, how long it took to move an army through the area, and most importantly how to defend it.

Admittedly his strategy was copied from other generals and emperors contemporary to him, most recently even taken from Gallienus’ own defense of the Danube, but it stands as an a testament to his leadership that he was able to defend the Rhine as effectively as he did throughout his reign. From the mouth of the Rhine river where it met the Atlantic up the course of the river as it bent its way across the fertile Rhineland plains and up toward the Alps. Protecting not only the frontier provinces of Germania Superior, Germania Inferior, and Raetia but Gaul and even Italy proper from Germanic barbarians that sought to cross the river.

Along the banks of the river a series of effective forts and guideposts were established to house the frontier troops who would rather than act as the primary defense of the entire Rhine were more the watchmen to delay an incursion. From Aardenburg to Colonia Claudia (Cologne) to Argentoratum (Strasbourg) to as Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg). Behind this first set of defense more forts were constructed with cavalry units attached that could respond to threats, warned by way of speedy river cutters or signal messengers. It was in this multi-layered form of defense that protected the roads, such as the Via Belgica, that would allow the Gallican Emperors to move armies quickly to contain threats as well as let commerce flow to and from the border.

Treverorum was the heart of this defense network, and while Lugdunum and Rome were the de jure capitals of the Gallicans it was more often than not Treverorum that was the de facto headquarters owing to how much time was spent on the important border regions of the empire. Indeed, in later re-organizations of the cantons of Germania Superior the city gained status as an imperial holding. Rome would continue as the spiritual capital, and Lugdunum as the administrative capital for much of the Gallicans’ holdings.

It should be noted though that settlement of the Romans was not exclusive to the west bank as there were settlements that ranged from civil towns to forward forts. These villages were a hodgepodge mix of Gallo-Roman settlers and Romanized Germans. The settlers were encouraged to create farmsteads in the area, as a way to support the border forts and ‘tame the land’, were from either deeper in Gaul or from retired members of the legions that were stationed on the front. The Germans largely arrived in waves following successive defeats of tribal incursions, as he would do with the Franks and Alamanni, where prisoners were settled sparsely among larger Gallo-Roman populations leading to sustainable rates of assimilation. Toward the end of Postumus’ reign there was a small uptick as well in the number of immigrant Germans who accepted Gallic rule.

In a more diplomatic approach to his defense of the Rhine, Postumus was not above reaching across the river to the tribes that equally sought to cross the border to raid or trade. In particular his coin found receptive audiences in the Hermunduri tribes who applied pressure to the Alamanni helping in establishing security on the borders of Raetia. This also extended to within his own territories, as maintaining a good and strong relationship with the governors in Hispania was important for trade and securing his rear flank from issues that could bite him terribly. The Hispano-Romans there had loyalties to the line of Valerian but Postumus was able to secure them through his defeat of Gallienus and marrying one of their own, Empress Camilla.

So successful was Postumus’ defense of the region that he was able on multiple occasions launch assaults across the river to deal with hostile warlords before they could gather enough forces to become a threat. He was even able to complete this in 263 and 264 prior to his assumption of control over Rome which while was dependent on Gallienus’ attention being elsewhere was a show of what the Gallicans were able to do even without the support of the wider empire. The fact also that no major attempt to cross the river for another decade is a testament to the effectiveness of the Gallicans in holding the Rhine.

Following his capture of Rome, Postumus would send olive branches to the other major governors of the rest of the Empire. As mentioned the western provinces in North Africa west of Egypt would fall into his circle along with Sicily and the Italian peninsula. While Tacitus would refuse, Postumus would find fruit with Marius of Alexandria and Odaenathus of Palmyra. He would confer upon these men as Dux, Commanders of the Romans in Egypt and the East. While Marius had come to power only recently following the purge of Gallienus’ loyalists, Odaenathus had been the premier figure in the eastern empire for some years now - fighting even with the Emperor Valerian against the Sassanids and establishing a peace on this distant frontier. Much like Gallienus there was in practice not much Postumus could do about the man, already having evolved his own kingdom within the empire Odaenathus had claimed the title of ‘King of Kings’ which was more of a challenge to the Sassanids than to Postumus or even Tacitus. Satisfied with the formal loyalty of these men he would launch a push against the Alamanni in 266 to see them humbled for several years to come.
 
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Postumian Reforms: Religio
Though Postumus had managed to solidify his reputation and legitimacy with the capture of Rome he knew that more was still needed to be done in order to ensure that any mistake would not lead to usurpers or his own army turning against him. After all, Postumus had been proclaimed by soldiers of the XXII Primigenia and other legions following a spat over spoils of battle. In living memory many had claimed the purple or attempted to claim it, many such cases had led to destruction and regime changes. If Postumus’ rule and that of the northern provinces was to be stabilized much more had to be done. The so called “Postumian Reforms” were not all started or created by Postumus and not all began or even finished during his own reign. Scholars nonetheless refer to the series of policies aimed at stabilizing the Gallican Empire as the Postumian Reforms and break them down into several categories - such as administrative, legal, military, economic, religious and so forth.

The religious policies of Postumus were the most nebulous of his actions, as it is hard to say how many of these policies came straight from him or were encouraged at a grassroots level or were already moving forward even before his own ascension.

Christianity at this time had spread westward from the more populous East and had taken root primarily in Rome and in Lugdunum. The Roman Papacy had been established in Rome and the authority of a bishop had been in Lugdunum for close to a century by 265. The majority of Christians at this point were in fact Greek or Greek speaking - due to the influence of Greek culture in the East and that many who took the faith out of the region were merchants. The vast majority of the Gallican Empire’s inhabitants however were Deorumians (those who worship gods). Owing to the dominance of the Romans many of the gods of Rome had been carried outward by their legions and merchants and had co-mingled with the many, many local gods and cults - the Gallic provinces being no exception to this.

The Gallo-Roman rite had developed in Gaul and its neighboring regions even before official conquest by Julius Caesar about three centuries previously. Postumus, himself a Batavi, had grown up with the Gallo-Roman gods owing to the influence of Gallic culture over the Rhineland provinces. As such the Gallican government promoted the Gallic gods as part of an effort to instill divine legitimacy to Postumus and his council.

At the head of the Gallo-Roman faith was Jupiter Capitolinus, epitomized in Jupiter Best and Greatest (Iouí Optimó Maximó). This was Jupiter the all-mighty lord of the heavens and everything beneath them! An extremely popular deity of worship in particular by the soldiers stationed in the Rhineland. For it was Jupiter who was seen as the head of government and source of law and order in the Roman Empire. In particular Postumus associated his rule with Jupiter as the patriarchal head of the realm of the Romans and in later years his image and name would be associated as the “Jupiter of the Gallicans” with the emperors after him being reckoned as the “Hercules that followed.” In opposite standing of Jupiter was his beloved wife, Juno who stood as the caretaker of the domestic sphere, the household, through her influence of the Suleviæ or domestic spirits.
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Owing to their loves of horses, Jupiter was often depicted bestride a horse - a characterization wholly native to Gaul.

Hercules was yet another god, closely associated with Jupiter as he was, that was popular among the Gallicans and was used as a symbol of Gallican authority. Hercules for the Gallicans represented not just physical strength but also eloquence. Owing perhaps to syncretism with the Celtic god Ogimos, Hercules is often depicted with chains emerging from his mouth and connecting to the heads of enraptured listeners. Here, as Jupiter could be equated to the senior title of Augustus and Hercules to the junior title of Caesar, Hercules came to represent the strong personality of the Gallican Emperors whose lives were often portrayed as overcoming odds and completing great deeds for the people with strength of arms and persuasive tongue.



While the last two gods would primarily represent the Imperial primacy, the next two most popular gods in the Gallic Empire represented prosperity that was to flourish and
grow under their august rule.

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By far the most popular god among the Gallicans would be Mercury, a fact that is observed by Julius Caesar himself when he campaigned in Gaul.

“Of the gods, [the Gauls] most worship Mercury. They have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all the arts, they consider him the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions.”
—Julius Cæsar (summarizing Posidonius)

Mercury covered a wide range of domains and attributes that were ever important to Gallic society. Craftsmanship, safe travel, and good fortune. All things that would make life for most ordinary Gauls well lived - here Mercury would be promoted as the great provider of the fruits of Imperial security and he was not alone, as from the Gallic tradition he was often accompanied by another - his wife or companion, Rosemerta. Rosemerta is considered the dispenser of the good fortune that Mercury provides, from her horn of plenty, she prayed alongside Mercury.

There are many additional gods worshipped by the Gallicans - Epona, Sucellus Nantosuelta, Diana, Vulkan, and a whole host of regional gods - but it was these four in particular that would form the basis for a new sort of Capitoline Triad - a Galican Quartet - that would be the vehicle by which the Gallican Emperors would support their rule and influence the security of Deorumians in the West. Started by Postumus and taken up by succeeding Emperors was the continued patronage of Jupiter, Hercules, Mercury, and Rosemerta which produced well known sites of worship and artistic artifacts. Attempting to replace the gods of the College of Pontiffs in Rome was out of the question, but Postumus would order the construction of a temple in Treverorum that featured each of his favored gods which would be the center of many public festivals and oaths for years to come.

The funding and initiative for the Gallican Quartet's influence though would come at a more personal level, as the aristocracy saw it as in style to promote the gods with a wide variety of projects and actions. This, along with an edict banning Christians from obtaining any high office and army service, would lead to a push back against the budding influence of the Christians in the West. Leading to an increasing marginalization of Christians to certain urban social groups. Though as many scholars would note the fracturing of the Christian faiths and their division of power among many separate episcopal sees was the primary culprit to the lagging growth rates of Christians in the following centuries -in ways a mirror the fracturing of the wider Roman Empire.

(If you want to learn more about the Gallo-Roman Worship feel free to go to this website which has been my main source: http://www.deomercurio.be/en/dii.html )
 
Well this would certainly lock Gallo Emperors out of the Hellenic East. Would the Pantheon worshipped in Gallia Narbonensis and down in Italy be more orthodox then?
 
Well this would certainly lock Gallo Emperors out of the Hellenic East. Would the Pantheon worshipped in Gallia Narbonensis and down in Italy be more orthodox then?

I’d say probably closer to Italy proper. Narbonensis has plenty of examples of Sucellus Silvanus dedications so it was certainly in the sphere of influence of the Gallo-Roman gods.
 
Doing a bit more research before I make my next post but from what I’ve read it certainly looks like the Northern Provinces were on their way to becoming a separate monetary zone by themselves. According to a study of coinage during the era - namely the bronze based antoninanus - was common in the Northern provinces even though they were tariffs twice as much as silver denariis but were made of bronze. In more financially active and successful areas like North Africa the antoninanus was rare.

So the region was undergoing a financial crunch - definitely puts financial reform at the top of the list. I really wish I was still a student that way I could get access to “The Gallic Empire Separtism and Continuity in the North western provinces” by J. F. Drinkwater. It seems like you can’t buy it anywhere and literally the only places I’ve found it is in online research databases at University libraries (which you need to be a student or faculty to access).
 
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