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Carausius, Emperor of Britain (290-293)

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His Rise to Fame

Carausius, a Menapian of humble origins, first distinguished himself in the late 3rd century AD when he helped the Romans in their fight against the Bagaudae, brigands and rebels who were then plundering the coasts of Spain and Gaul.

Around 285 AD, Maximian, co-ruler of the Roman Empire with emperor Diocletian, had assembled a naval force to counter the threat of the Bagaudae. Being given command of this fleet based at Gesoriacum (modern Boulogne-sur-Mer), Carausius, a marine pilot, was successful in suppressing the Bagaudae.

His success in this campaign and his former occupation as a marine pilot led to him being appointed commander of the Roman fleet in the English Channel, charged with eliminating Frankish and Saxon pirates who had been raiding the coasts of Armorica and Belgica.

His Fall from Grace

Suspected of allowing pirates to carry out raids and then collecting loot for himself before attacking them, Carausius soon lost the favour of Rome, Maximian ordering his execution. Learning of this, in late 286 or early 287, Carausius escaped with his troops to Britain and declared himself Emperor of Britain and northern Gaul.

At that point, Carausius’ forces comprised:

  • his own naval fleet
  • new ships he had built
  • the three Roman legions stationed in Britain
  • a Roman legion he had seized in Gaul
  • a number of foreign auxiliary units
  • a levy of Gaulish merchant ships
  • several barbarian mercenaries attracted by the prospect of booty.

Training the local barbarians as sailors, Carausius soon controlled the western sea (i.e. the English channel and beyond) and ruled northern Gaul as far as Rotomagus ( modern-day Rouen).

Diocletian and Maximian failed in their several attempts to dislodge him but finally acknowledged him as ruler of Britain and northen Gaul in 290. However, this truce was short-lived and, in 293, Constantius I, a caesar of co-emperor Maximian, drove him from his European base in Gesoriacum. That same year he was slain by his finance minister, Allectus, who succeeded him for three years.

Menapian Origins

In 1762, under the title “The History of Carausius, or an Examination of what has been advanced on that Subject by Genebrier and Stukeley “, T. Becket and P.A. Hondt had printed in London a critique of earlier works on the History of Carausius .

In this work the authors present what they believe to be the most up-to-date information on the life of Carausius (aka Marcus Aurelius Mauseus Carausius),

In a footnote on p. 3. of “The History of Carausius …”, the authors point out that many places and countries, claim to be the birthplace of Carausius although there is no definitive proof to that effect. However, the authors acknowledge that he was Menapian and that, from earlier works, it is known that:

  • in Roman times, there was a Menapian colony settled in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta area (German-Belgian border area)
  • a few Menapians also settled in various parts of Britain , particularly in Wales, especially in the area of the City and Monastery of Menevia , now called St. David’s
  • there was also a Menapian colony settled in the southeastern part of Ireland. i.e. the Wexford area (see article on “Ancient Nolan Roots”)
  • that the Menapii in the Wexford area may have first called at the land of Menapia , Monopia , Menania , Mon or Moon in Wales (i.e. the island of Anglesey in Wales) before proceeding to Ireland

Roger Nowlan
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