Bust of Carinus.
49th Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 282–283 (as Caesar of the west under Carus);
283 (together with Carus);
283-284 (together with Numerian);
284–285 (in competition with Diocletian)
Predecessor Carus
Successor Diocletian
Died July 285 (2016-12-08UTC12:19:18)
River Margus
Issue Marcus Aurelius Nigrinianus
Full name
Marcus Aurelius Carinus (from birth to elevation to Caesar);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Carinus (as Caesar);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Carinus Augustus (as emperor)
Father Carus
A Roman radiate produced in 283 depicting Emperor Carinus. From the collection of York Museums Trust.

Carinus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Carinus Augustus;[1] died 285) was Roman Emperor from 283 to 285. The elder son of emperor Carus, he was first appointed Caesar and in the beginning of 283 co-emperor of the western portion of the empire by his father. Official accounts of his character and career have been filtered through the propaganda of his successful opponent, Diocletian.


He fought with success against the Germanic Quadi tribes,[2] but soon left the defence of the Upper Rhine to his legates and returned to Rome, where the surviving accounts, which demonize him, assert that he abandoned himself to all kinds of debauchery and excess. More certainly, he celebrated the annual ludi Romani on a scale of unexampled magnificence.[3][4]

After the death of Carus, the army in the east demanded to return to Europe, and Numerian, the younger son of Carus, was forced to comply.[5] During a halt at Chalcedon, Numerian was found dead. Diocletian, commander of the body-guards, claimed that Numerian had been assassinated, and he was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers.[6][4]

Carinus left Rome at once and set out for the east to meet Diocletian. On his way through Pannonia he put down the usurper Sabinus Julianus and in July 285 he encountered the army of Diocletian at the Margus River in Moesia.[2][4]

Death in 285

Historians differ on what then ensued. At the Battle of the Margus River (Morava), according to one account, the valour of his troops had gained the day, but Carinus was assassinated by a tribune whose wife he had seduced.[2] Another account represents the battle as resulting in a complete victory for Diocletian, and Carinus' army deserted him. This account may be confirmed by the fact that Diocletian kept in service Carinus' Praetorian Guard commander, Titus Claudius Aurelius Aristobulus.[2][4]


Carinus has a reputation as one of the worst Roman emperors. This infamy may have been supported by Diocletian himself. For example, the (unreliable) Historia Augusta has Carinus marrying nine wives, while neglecting to mention his only real wife, Magnia Urbica, by whom he had a son, Marcus Aurelius Nigrinianus.

After his death, Carinus' memory was officially condemned in the Roman proceeding known as Damnatio Memoriae. His name, along with that of his wife, was erased from inscriptions.[7]


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

  1. In Classical Latin, Carinus' name would be inscribed as MARCVS AVRELIVS CARINVS AVGVSTVS.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Leadbetter, William. Carinus (283–285 A.D.).
  3. Spence, H. Donald M. (2003). Early Christianity and Paganism. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 391–392. ISBN 0-7661-3068-1.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm 1911.
  5. Southern, Pat (2001). The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. New York: Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 0-415-23944-3.
  6. Pohlsander, Hans A. (1996). Constantine. Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0-415-31938-2.
  7. Varner, Eric R. (2004). Mutilation and Transformation : Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 212. ISBN 90-04-13577-4.

In Literature

Media related to Carinus at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Magnia Urbica at Wikimedia Commons

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Numerian
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Probus ,
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Carus,
Numerian ,
Titus Claudius Aurelius Aristobulus
Succeeded by
Marcus Junius Maximus,
Vettius Aquilinus
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