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Aurelian (Roman Emperor)

Born 215

Died 275

Ruled 270 - 275

Known as Restorer of the world, Aurelian, achieved more than most of his predecessors within the five short years of his rule as emperor.

At the age of twenty, Aurelian entered the military service, in which, because of exceptional ability and remarkable bodily strength his advancement in rank was rapid. Upon the death of Claudius (Claudius died of the Plague) Aurelian was proclaimed Emperor by the army at Sirmium, and became sole master of the Roman dominions upon the death of his rival Quintillus, Claudius' brother who reigned no longer than six months between Claudius' death and Aurelian’s ascent to the throne.

Aurelian, as ruler, immediately set out to restore the unity of the Roman Empire, which was teetering on the brink of collapse. He stabilized the Danube frontier, expelling all the barbarians who threatened the Empire. He encircled Rome with a massive wall that can still be seen today.

He was no doubt a competent soldier, but he was also a reformer. During his brief but eventful reign, he inaugurated major reforms of the currency, religion, and administration. It was Aurelian who laid the foundation for the autocratic emperorship of the late Roman Empire. He attempted to reform the silver coinage, debased for more than 40 years, but was met with only limited success.

He erected a magnificent temple to Sol at the Campus Agrippae and chose December 25th, in 274 to dedicate the new temple in an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement and elevate the sun god to a higher status among the divinities of Rome, while seeking to subordinate the divergent religions of the empire to the cult of the unconquered son (Sol Invictus).

Early in 275, while marching to open a campaign against Persia, Aurelian was murdered by a group of officers who had allegedly been misled by his secretary into believing themselves marked for execution. The government was continued in the name of Aurelian’s widow, Ulpia Severina, until, after six months, the Senate appointed the elderly Marcus Claudius Tacitus to the throne.

For more information on Aurelian, here are some helpful links:

The Collector

Connected study article: December 25: Christian Or Pagan Origin?

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