Coin showcasing Aemilianus

Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus was born around 207 in Girba, Africa. Little is known about his family history, but it is known that he was not fortunate enough to be born into an influential family.

Rise to Power

During the joint reign of Gallus and Volusianus, Aemilianus was appointed as army commander in the Balkans. The region had been constantly invaded by the Goths in recent years, and Aemilianus was tasked with keeping the invasions under control.

In 253, Cniva, king of the Goths, accused Gallus of not fulfilling the obligation of paying a yearly tribute. Aemilianus was eager to wipe out Cniva and his men, but his troops were in low spirits. The memory of defeat was still clear in the minds of Roman soldiers. Just a few years prior, Decius and Herrenius had become the first emperors to be killed by invaders. Aemilius fired up his troops’ confidence by reminding them not only of Roman honor, but also of booty to be had. With his troops fired up, Aemilianus annihilated the Goths, then had his troops storm Gothic territory and plunder it. In the thrill of victory, his troops proclaimed Aemilianus their emperor.

Aemilianus’ victory came as a shock to the empire. After being terrorized by the Goths in previous years, the Romans believed the invaders were becoming more powerful than they were. Now, Aemilianus has shown the people that he can end the Gothic menace.

Aemilianus swiftly took action. He marched with his army towards Rome, intent on seizing the throne from Gallus and Volusianus. Gallus called for Publius Licinius Valerianus, a commander on the Rhine, to come and help in the imminent battle. Valerianus never made it in time, though, and Gallus met Aemilianus at Interamna, near Rome. Gallus’ and Volusanius’ men, fearing that Aemilianus’ much larger army would butcher them, killed both their leaders.


Aemilianus was now the undisputed emperor of Rome, except that Valerianus, who was now nearing the city, also had his eyes on the throne. This time, it was Aemilianus’ men who felt they would be slaughtered by a much stronger army — they stabbed Aemilianus to death and hailed Valerian as the new emperor.

A damnatio memoriae was declared against Aemilianus after his death in 253, and official records bearing his name were destroyed.