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Florianus: another temporary emperor (276 A.D.)

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Emperor Tacitus died a few months into his reign. He had elevated his brother Florianus to praetorian prefect in the struggle against the Goths. The military acclaimed Florianus emperor upon Tacitus’s death. However, the pronouncement was not unanimous. Florianus faced a rebellion by units that supported Marcus Aurelius Probus. Eventually, Florianus’ support dithered and the emperor replaced by Probus.

Tacitus died in office of natural causes. The army decided to support his brother Florianus for the purple. The former praetorian prefect went campaigning against the eastern barbarians when news reached him that Probus had launched a rebellion. The two men moved to face each other in Anatolia.

Florianus held the advantage at this point. He had a larger army and widespread support against the usurper. On the other hand, Probus was an experienced general and realized his situation. The rebel decided to avoid a direct confrontation against a superior force. Probus allowed the dry, hot climate to work on his opponent’s men and then struck. The two fought an inconclusive engagement, but the underdog Probus survived with his smaller force. As a result, Probus was viewed the victor.

The army lost confidence in Florianus. The emperor held all the advantages, but could not defeat the smaller, weaker Probus. His troops turned on him almost immediately and assassinated him. Florianus held the imperial purple for nearly three months and left no impact on the empire or throne. Probus’s reign would last six years.

Florianus ruled for 88 days before his assassination. Probus launched an insurrection against the emperor that seemed to have little chance of success. However, Florianus could not defeat the pretender and lost his army’s confidence. In the end, they assassinated him for being too weak.

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