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Clodius Albinus - Caesar: 193-195 A.D. Emperor: 195-197 A.D.
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Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus (ca. 150 - February 19, 197) was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal Pertinax.
Albinus was born into an aristocratic family at Hadrumetum in Africa. According to his father, he received the name of Albinus because of the extraordinary whiteness of his body. Showing great disposition for a military life, he entered the army at an early age and served with great distinction, especially during the rebellion of Avidius Cassius against the emperor Marcus Aurelius in 175. His merits were acknowledged by the emperor in two letters in which he calls Albinus an African, who resembled his countrymen but little, and who was praiseworthy for his military experience and the gravity of his character. The emperor likewise declared that without Albinus the legions (in Bithynia) would have gone over to Avidius Cassius, and that he intended to have him chosen consul.
The emperor Commodus gave Albinus a command in Gallia Belgica and afterwards in Britain. A false rumor having been spread that Commodus had died, Albinus denounced the man before his soldiers in Britain, calling Commodus a tyrant, and maintaining that it would be useful to the Roman empire to restore to the senate its ancient dignity and power. The senate was very pleased with these sentiments, but not so the emperor, who sent Junius Severus to relieve Albinus of his command. At this time Albinus must have been a very distinguished man, which we may conclude from the fact that some time before Commodus had offered him the title of Caesar, which he declined. Notwithstanding the appointment of Junius Severus as his successor, Albinus kept his command until after the murders of Commodus and his successor Pertinax in 193.
After Pertinax was assassinated, the praetorian prefect Aemilius Laetus and his men, who had arranged the murder, "sold" the imperial throne to wealthy senator Didius Julianus, effectively crowning him emperor, but a string of mutinies from the troops in the provinces meant the next emperor was far from decided. Immediately afterwards, Pescennius Niger was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Syria; Septimius Severus by the troops in Illyricum and Pannonia; and Albinus by the armies in Britain and Gaul.
In the civil war that followed, Albinus was initially allied with Septimius Severus, who had captured Rome, and accepted the title of Caesar from him; the two shared a consulship in 194. Albinus remained effective ruler of much of the western part of the empire with support from three British legions and one Spanish.When Didius Julianus was put to death by order of the senate, who dreaded the power of Septimius Severus, the latter turned his arms against Pescennius Niger. After the defeat and death of Niger in 194, and the complete discomfiture of his adherents, especially after the fall of Byzantium in 196, Severus resolved to make himself the absolute master of the Roman empire. Albinus seeing the danger of his position, prepared for resistance. He narrowly escaped being assassinated by a messenger of Severus, after which he put himself at the head of his army, which is said to have consisted of 150,000 men.
Albinus declares himself emperor
In autumn 196, Albinus proclaimed himself emperor (Imperator Caesar Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus), crossed from Britain to Gaul, bringing a large part of the British garrison with him. He defeated Severus' legate, Virius Lupus, and was able to lay claim to the military resources of Gaul. And although he made Lugdunum the headquarters of his forces, he was unable to win the allegiance of the Rhine legions.
On February 19th, 197, Albinus met Severus' army at the Battle of Lugdunum.After a hard-fought battle, with 150,000 troops on either side recorded by Dio Cassius, Albinus was defeated and killed himself, or was captured and executed on the orders of Severus. His body was ill treated by Severus, who sent his head to Rome, and with it an insolent letter, in which he mocked the senate for their loyalty to Albinus. The town of Lugdunum was plundered and destroyed, and the adherents of Albinus were cruelly prosecuted by Severus.
Albinus was a man of great bodily beauty and strength; he was an experienced general; a skillful gladiator; a severe, and often cruel commander; and he has been called the Catiline of his time. He had one son, or perhaps two, who were executed with their mother, by order of Severus. It is said that he wrote a treatise on agriculture, and a collection of stories, called Milesian.
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