Over-life-sized marble bust in the Capitoline Museums, Rome

Emperor Probus: A Summary of His Reign

Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus, commonly known as Probus, reigned as Roman Emperor from 276 to 282 AD. Born around 232 AD in Sirmium (modern-day Serbia), Probus rose through the military ranks due to his exceptional skills and leadership. His military career was distinguished by numerous victories, which garnered him the support and respect of the army.

Early Career and Rise to Power

Probus began his career under the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, participating in campaigns across the empire’s borders. He served with distinction in the East, fighting against Persian incursions and in the West against Germanic tribes. Following the chaotic period of the so-called “Crisis of the Third Century,” marked by civil wars, invasions, and economic turmoil, Probus emerged as a stabilizing force.

After Emperor Tacitus’s death in 276 AD, the army proclaimed Probus its successor. Probus immediately set about securing his position, quelling rival claimants to the throne, and stabilizing the internal unrest within the empire.

Military Achievements and Internal Policies

Probus is best known for his military prowess and successful campaigns. He spent much of his reign on the front lines, defending the empire’s borders. He achieved significant victories against various Germanic tribes, including the Alamanni, Franks, and Vandals, restoring Roman control and stability to the provinces. His campaigns extended beyond the Rhine and Danube, demonstrating the military resurgence of the Roman Empire under his leadership.

One of Probus’s notable achievements was his approach to the defeated barbarian tribes. Instead of outright destruction, he often resettled them within the empire’s borders as allied troops, providing them with land in exchange for military service. This policy aimed to bolster the empire’s defenses and integrate these groups into Roman society.

In addition to his military efforts, Probus undertook significant internal reforms. He focused on rebuilding the war-torn provinces, restoring cities, and revitalizing agriculture. His reign saw the construction of numerous public works, including roads, bridges, and fortifications. Probus also encouraged viticulture, particularly in the provinces of Gaul and Pannonia, to stimulate economic recovery.

Downfall

Despite his successes, Probus’s reign was challenging. His rigorous military campaigns and strict discipline led to unrest among the soldiers. In 282 AD, while preparing for a campaign against the Persians, Probus faced a mutiny by troops in Pannonia. The disgruntled soldiers, weary of constant warfare, rebelled and ultimately assassinated him.

Emperor Probus Gold Aureus

Emperor Probus gold aureus

The gold Aureus of Emperor Probus is a fascinating example of Roman coinage, showcasing both the military prowess of the emperor and the religious significance of the period.

Link to Coin Page

 

Obverse: The military attire, spear, and shield emphasize Probus’s role as a strong and capable military leader and protector of the Roman Empire. His stern expression and the detailed rendering of his armor highlight his readiness to defend the empire from its enemies.

Reverse: The coin’s reverse depicts Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun god, standing and radiating light. Sol is shown with a radiate crown, symbolizing his connection to the sun and his invincible nature. In his extended hand, he holds a globe, representing his dominion over the world. The depiction of Sol Invictus signifies the emperor’s divine right to rule and his alignment with the sun god, emphasizing the idea of eternal power and protection over the empire.

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