15 April 2019

The "first Brexit"

From the years 286 to 296, a crew of Roman dissidents reigned over a Britain severed from the rest of the Roman Empire. The revolt was instigated by Carausius, but he didn’t see it through to the end: His own finance minister, Allectus, offed Carausius in 293, and took over until the independent outpost fell three years later.

Little is known about Allectus, but traces of his brief reign can still turn up in the most unexpected of places. Just last month, in a field in the southeastern English county of Kent, an amateur metal detectorist stumbled upon a gold coin bearing the ancient emperor’s face. (The opposite side depicts two figures kneeling to the god Apollo.) He found it near an ancient Roman road, after 45 minutes of a search that turned up only “bits of old tractors and shotgun cartridges,” according to the anonymous detectorist... Certifiably ancient, the newly discovered Aureus—or gold Roman coin—will... sell for between £70,000 and £100,000...

Nearly two intervening millennia notwithstanding, the coin is a timely find. Last month, Moorhead gave a lecture at the British Museum “on Carausius, Allectus and the first Brexit,” so-called for the emperors’ efforts to disentangle Britain from greater Rome.
More at Atlas Obscura.

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