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Stone of Carausius

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Stone of Carausius
Stone of Carausius | Photo: Alistair Tosh

Stone of Carausius is a preserved stone from the end of the 3rd century CE, on which the name of the usurper Carausius was engraved. Interestingly, at the other end of the stone is the name of Emperor Constantine. After the fall of Carausius, his name was removed from public places (damnatio memoriae), and the stone was simply turned over and his inscription was hidden.

Carausius was a Roman commander who separated Britain and part of northern Gaul from the Roman state and concentrated power in his hands for almost 10 years (286-293 CE), destabilizing the Empire in the north. Carausius was probably a capable leader, but according to sources, he proclaimed himself emperor in Britain after he fled Gaul in 286 CE before his arrest and execution (he was accused of amassing the spoils taken from the pirates he fought with), by order of Emperor Maximian.

The inability to quickly suppress the rebellion by Augustus in the west – Maximian – meant that Carausius could probably receive the unofficial title of the provincial governor. The temporary lack of threat from the legal rulers allowed Carausius to reforms in Britain – including defensive (numerous forts were built on the south-eastern coast) and economic (mainly coinage developed). The self-declared man focused on minting coins and propaganda – coins with his image are found to this day.

With the stabilization of the endangered limes in the Empire, another expedition against the rebel was commissioned; this time the Roman army was commanded by the experienced commander Constantius Chlorus (father of the later emperor Constantine), who was appointed emperor in the west and deputy of Maximian. Constantius recaptured the lands of what is now northern France under Carausius. This led to the betrayal of Britain and the death of Carausius in 293 CE, who was replaced by Allectus; this one, however, only lasted 3 years. In 296 CE, after an impressive and swift campaign, Constantius regained the province.

The object is located at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle, Northern England.

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