Aurelian’s War against Tetricus (273–274)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Rome vs. Gaul
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Gaul (France), Britain, and Spain
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Rome sought to
reestablish its control over Gaul.
OUTCOME: Gaul was reunited with the Roman Empire.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (c. 215–275), an Illyrian general
of great ability, was proclaimed Emperor Aurelian in
270 and resolved to reverse the decline of the Roman
Empire, especially its holdings in Gaul, Britain, and northern
Spain. This region was now under the control of its
own emperor, Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus (d. c. 276) and
by 273 was the only major region of the Roman Empire in
which dissidence was the leading note.
Aurelian understood that the grasp of Tetricus was, at
the moment, weak. He had endured mutinies within his
forces and was continually battered by Gothic invasions
from the north. Determined to exploit the dissident
emperor’s vulnerability, Aurelian led his legions over the
French Alps and into Gaul. In 273 at Châlons (Châlonssur-
Marne), he met Tetricus in battle. Surprisingly, Tetricus
offered only half-hearted resistance. His army quickly
folded, and he himself fled the field, turned coat—on himself!—
and defected to Aurelian. Together they defeated
the remnants of what had been Tetricus’s army.
With Tetricus out of the way, Aurelian stormed across
the rest of Gaul and the other two territories, successfully
rejoining them to the empire. Although Aurelian then
returned to Rome with Tetricus in tow, a humbled prisoner
forced to march in the emperor’s triumph, Aurelian
subsequently named him to govern southern Italy.
See also ROMAN-GOTHIC WAR, THIRD.
Further reading: Alaric Watson, Aurelian and the
Third Century (London: Routledge, 1999); John F. White,
Restorer of the World: The Roman Emperor Aurelian (Stapelhurst,
U.K.: Spellmount Publishers, 2004).