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Clodius Albinus

(c. 150 - 19 February 197 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Clodius Albinus

Decimus Clodius Septimus Albinus

Ruled as

Imperator Caesar Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus


196 – 19 February 197 CE


c. 150 CE


19 February 197 CE

Coin of Clodius Albinus

Clodius Albinus (or Clodius Albin) was born around 150 CE. as Decimus Clodius Septimus Albinus. Clodius was the governor of Britain and later the Roman emperor in the years 196-197 CE. The changeling was appointed by troops in Gaul and Spain.

Clodius was born in Hadrumetum in the province of Africa Proconsularis (now Sousse, Tunisia). He was a member of the Roman aristocratic family of Ceionia. Following the wishes of his father, Ceionius, he was given the name Albinus due to the unusual whiteness of his body.
From a young age, he showed a will to participate in war campaigns. He quickly climbed the ranks of his military career. It showed itself, especially during the rebellion of Avidius Cassius in 175 CE against the emperor Marcus Aurelius. His merits were recognized by the Emperor himself, who in two writings called Albinus “African” and emphasized his experience and the seriousness of his character. Aurelius further stressed that without Albinus’ actions, the legions in Bithynia would probably have passed over to the usurper. Therefore, he promised him the post of consul.

Albinus continued his military and political career after the death of the “emperor-philosopher”. During the reign of Commodus, he was the governor of Dacia and the consul. Then the emperor handed over to him the province of Gallia Belgica, where he defeated the Germans across the Rhine. Later he took the governorship of Britain. There also appeared a false rumour that Emperor Commodus had died. Accordingly, Albinus condemned the man to his troops in Britain, calling him a tyrant and arguing that it would be best for the Roman Empire to restore the senate’s former dignity and strength. The Senate was extremely pleased with the opinion of a high-ranking figure. However, the emperor himself had a different opinion and sent Junius Severus to Britain to replace Albinus in the position. Despite everything, Clodius Albin remained in office until the death of Commodus in 193 CE.

On January 1, 193 CE, immediately after the murder of Commodus, the perfection of Rome, Pertinax, was proclaimed emperor. This one, however, was murdered by the praetorians after three months, on March 28 of the same year. The imperial title was bought by Didius Julian, who promised each of the praetorians 25,000 sesterces. Hearing about this, the provincial armies proclaimed their commanders as emperors: the Syrian Pescennius Niger and the Danubian Septimius Sever. Both armies moved to Rome. There was another civil war in the history of Rome. Clodius Albin had an alliance with Septimius Severus.

When Septimius Severus arrived near Rome on June 1, 193 CE, Didius was also murdered. The result was the dissolution of the Praetorian cohorts by Severus and the appointment of legionaries in their place. After his triumphant entry into the city, Severus deification (deification) of Pertinax, believing that he had avenged the murdered emperor in this way, and then moved east in the first days of July, because the army of Pescennius Niger took Byzantium. It was then that Clodius Albin received from Severus the title of Caesar, i.e. the younger co-ruler. In addition, he made Clodius famous.

In 194 CE Septimius Severus defeated the army of Pescennius, who died in Antioch. In December 195 CE Severus’ troops captured Byzantium, and he himself became ultimately and undeniably the sole ruler of the Empire. At that time (autumn 196 CE), the Gallic and Spanish legions proclaimed Clodius Albinus the emperor. Due to the new situation, Severus had to stop the campaign in the east. Septimius sent a messenger to Albinus with orders to murder the new usurper. This one, however, miraculously escaped death. Seeing the threat from his rival, Albinus headed an army that was to have nearly 150,000 soldiers.

Clodius Albin decided to transport part of his army (three British legions) to Gaul, along with which he then defeated legate Severus – Virius Lupus. Clodius made Lugdunum (today Lyon, France) his capital and recruited new legionaries to the army. Soon, troops from Spain and the Jordan River joined Albin. Only the Rhine legions did not support the usurper. At that time, Severus’ army moved west towards Viminatium (present-day Belgrade, Serbia). In the summer of 196 CE, these forces reached Gaul.
The final battle between Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus took place on February 19, 197 CE, when the two armies met at Lugdunum.

Albin’s army consisted of 60,000 men, while the enemy had a more numerous army of 70-90,000 soldiers. The battle was fierce and initially, neither side was successful. In the centre, Albin’s soldiers had the advantage, of pushing the enemy back, even forcing Severus himself to run away on horseback. The latter, while escaping the chase, fell off his horse, but was not recognized. When it seemed that the victory would fall to Albin’s legionaries, Severus’ reinforcements, led by Letus, appeared and flanked. Strengthened unexpectedly with fresh forces, Severus’ troops in the centre attacked again, forcing Albin’s army to flee. Soon the chase after the escaping enemy turned into a real slaughter. Severus’ men raided Lugdunum, which was looted and burned. Albinus died in the city.

He died on February 19, 197 CE. The captured Albinus had his head cut off and taken to Severus. According to another version, Albin committed suicide. His body was thrown to the dogs to be eaten, and his head was sent back to Rome. Albin’s supporters were sentenced to death with their property confiscated.
In June 197 CE Severus triumphantly entered Rome, and his dynasty ruled the country for the next 38 years.

  • Iwaszkiewicz Piotr, Łoś Wiesław, Stępień Marek, Władcy i wodzowie starożytności. Słownik, Warszawa 1998
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzowych Rzymu, Warszawa 2001
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004

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