Valerian ]

Valerian (Publius Licinius Valerianus), d. after 260, Roman emperor (253–60). He held important posts, both civil and military, under the emperors Decius and Gallus. After the short reign of the former general Aemilianus, Valerian was proclaimed emperor. In 257 he organized a general persecution of the Christians. Although not an incapable man, he was nevertheless unsuited to rule in such a critical time, for N Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor were falling to the barbarians and to the Persians. Appointing his son, Gallienus, as coregent, Valerian undertook a campaign in the East against Shapur I of Persia, who destroyed the Roman army and took (260) the emperor prisoner. Valerian died in captivity and was succeeded by Gallienus

Publius Licinius Valerianus was born around 193 AD, a member of the old plebian clan Licinia. In his late teens or early twenties he married Egnatia Marciniana and together they had 2 sons, Publis Licinius Egnatius Gallienus in 213 AD and Publius Licinius Valerianus (about whom, little is known).

Little is known about his early life, he served as Consul under Severus Alexander and was a Senator for a significant number of years. It is interesting to note that during his 60+ years of life he saw no less that 23 emperors (and usurpers) come and go. The fact that he managed to survive the reigns of Caracalla, Elagabalus and the crisis of the Gordiani says a lot for his ability to survive.

It was in 250 that he really came into his own when Trajan Decius appointed him as Censor of Rome. A position of almost unlimited power to keep the peace and uphold the law of the emperor in his absence. Decius died in June or July of 251 in one of the greatest defeats of the roman army since Varus and the Teutoburg forest. He has the dubious distinction of being the first emperor to be killed by a foreign enemy.

After the death of Trajan Decius events moved quickly. The new emperor Trebonius Gallus sent Valerian to the frontier to recruit soldiers, but had to recall him to meet a new threat. The general Aemilian, fresh from his victory against the Goths, had been declared emperor by his legions and was advancing on Rome.

Valerian was still enroute when the news reached him that Gallus was dead, killed by his own soldiers before the battle, and Aemilian had been confirmed as emperor. With this news, Valerian's legions declared him emperor to oppose Aemilian. Valerian accepted the role and marched his own army towards Rome to do battle. A seemingly minor battle took place between the two forces near Spoleto during the fall of 253 and soon after Aemilian was murdered by his soldiers. A curious repeat of the fate of Gallus.

Meanwhile, Gallienus waited in Rome for word of his father...... When word of Aemilian's demise reached an anxious Senate, they quickly appointed Gallienus as Caesar. Upon Valerians arrival, his elevation to Augustus was confirmed and a new emperor ascended the throne.
Valerian became Augustus in 253 AD and one of his first acts was to raise Gallienus to equal status as his co-emperor. It is said that Gallienus played an active role as co-emperor. Valerian also proceeded to deify his deceased wife Mariniana. A pity she did not live to see her husband's rise to power.

All was not well within the empire. To the north, German tribes were on the move and a serious threat to many provincial cities. In the east, the Goths had taken to the sea to raid and pillage coastal towns. Nicomedia and Nicaea were put to the torch and the grain supply from the area seriously threatened. Further east, Shapur I was once again on the march, for the third time in 2 decades. In this incursion, he overran Armenia and Cappadocia and boasted of capturing 37 cities (including poor, often plundered Antioch). However, after looting and pillaging, Shapur retired back to Persia and relative peace returned to the area.

With external threats on opposing sides of the empire, in 256 AD, Valerian decided to divide the responsibility of the empire into 2 spheres, the European frontier for Gallienus and the east for Valerian. A smart move since no single emperor could have dealt with simultaneous problems so far apart.

Valerian's Folly

Valerian's first move was to head east to deal with the barbarian pirates. The expedition was less than successful due to the arrival of a new enemy, the plague. His army was hit and temporarily rendered ineffective. But the greater threat of Shapur again on the march, now materialized. In 259 he was forced to move his army to Mesopotamia to deal with Shapur and try relieve the beseiged city of Edessa.

Valerian apparently won the battle of Edessa, but his losses in battle and to the plague forced him to take shelter in the city. At this point the unfortunate emperor was between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he could not withdraw his army, to do so would have given Shapur the free run of Mespotamia nd beyond. Nor could he afford to bring Shapur to a decisive battle, his sick and depleted army was in no shape for a battle. The final alternative, to remain in Edessa, was also unpalatable for fear of being beseiged. With no other alternative, he decided to attempt a negotiated peace. Envoys were sent in April or May of 260 and soon returned with a request for a personal meeting. Valerian set out with a small staff for the meeting. But if he was depending on Shapur having a 'Roman' sense of honor and honoring his temporary truce, he was badly mistaken. Valerian was captured and sent back to Persia, the first Roman emperor to ever be captured alive by a foreign enemy.
Accounts of what happened after his capture vary somewhat. One recurring theme is that Shapur kept Valerian around for use as a footstool when mounting his horse. The thought of continually placing his foot on his former enemies neck must have been appealing to him. We do not know how long Valerian lasted in captivity. On his death (at least we hope he was dead first) his corpse was skinned, the skin preserved and by some accounts dyed vermillion. It was then stuffed with straw to look approximately human and hung in either the Persian palace or a major temple. It was kept on display for years and shown to roman envoys as a reminder of Persian superiority.

And so ends the promising reign of Valerian I. His son went on to reign for another 8 years before meeting his own end. But that is another story.

With Phillp the Arab on his knees and Valerian the Roman Emperor captured, Shahpour I recorded his Triumph over the Romans, (AD 259 at Edessa defeating a force of 70,000) here at Nagsh-i Rostam

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