A Portrait of Emperor Florian


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Florianus was

Preceded by Tacitus

Succeeded by Probus


  William Storage and Laura Maish
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The ancient historian Eutropias tells us of Florianus only that he reigned two months and 20 days, and that he did nothing worthy of mention. Two other ancient histories - both flawed and unreliable - are short enough that they can be quoted here rather than summarized:

Historia Augusta, The Life of Tacitus  (Loeb Classical Library. 1921)

  Florianus was own brother to Tacitus, and after his brother's death he seized the imperial power, not by authorization of the senate but on his own volition, just as though the empire were an hereditary possession, and although he knew that Tacitus had taken oath in the senate that when he came to die he would appoint as emperor not his own sons but some excellent man. Finally, after holding the imperial power for scarce two months, he was slain at Tarsus by the soldiers, who heard that Probus, the choice of the whole army, was now in command. So great, moreover, was Probus in matters of war that the senate desired him, the soldiers elected him, and the Roman people itself demanded him by acclamations. Florianus was also an imitator of his brother's ways, though not in every respect. For the frugal Tacitus found fault with his lavishness, and his very eagerness to rule showed him to be of a different stamp from his brother.  

Zosimus, New History, Book 1.64. (London: Green and Chaplin. 1814)

  An universal civil disturbance now arose, those of the east choosing Probus emperor, and those at Rome Florianus. The former of these governed all Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt; but the latter was in possession of all the countries from Cilicia to Italy; besides which the homage of all the nations beyond the Alps, the Gauls, Spaniards, Britons, and Africans was paid to him. When both therefore were ready for war, Florianus came to Tarsus, resolving to encamp there, leaving his victory over the Scythians at the Bosphorus unfinished, by which he gave them an opportunity of recovering themselves and returning home, though he had cut off their retreat. Probus protracted the time, because he came with less preparation for a battle. By these means it came to pass, that the weather, being exceedingly hot, a pestilential disorder broke out amongst the troops of Florianus, most of whom were Europeans, and consequently unaccustomed to such excessive heat, by which many were taken off. When Probus understood this, he thought it a proper time to attack the enemy. The soldiers of Florianus, attempting what exceeded their strength, fought some slight skirmishes before the city, but nothing being done worthy of notice, some of the troops of Probus deposed Florianus. Having performed this, he was kept in custody for some time, until his own soldiers said, that it was the will of Probus that he should share the empire. Florianus therefore assumed the purple robe again, until the return of those who were sent to know the true resolution of Probus. On their arrival they caused Florianus to be killed by his own soldiers.  

In addition to these two morsels, a footnote in the Loeb translation of HA identifies one additional ancient crumb: Zonaras reports that the senate recognized Florianus, and, like Zosimus, says that Florianus was acknowledged by the European and African provinces. Inscriptions bear this out.

The HA alone claims that Florianus was brother (or half brother) to Tacitus, his predecessor. Coin portraits do show similar facial features; but 3rd century trends in portrait style may account for all the similarity.

For other coins of Florianus, see the online reference at Wildwinds.com

The coin pictured here is from a private collection.        




Florian AE Antoninianus (2.78g. 21mm). RIC 10 variant -obv. inscription and angle of right arm rev. Ex Aegean.
IIMP C FLORIANVS AVG, radiate cuirassed bust right /
IMP C M AN FLORIANVS AVG, Providentia standing left holding a cornucopia and baton.