Allectus (died 296) was a Roman-Britannic usurper-emperor in Britain
Gaul from 293 to 296.
Allectus was treasurer to Carausius, a Menapian officer in the Roman
navy who had seized power in Britain and northern
Gaul in 286. In 293
Carausius was isolated when the western Caesar, Constantius Chlorus,
retook some of his Gallic territories, particularly the crucial port
of Bononia (modern Boulogne), and defeated his Frankish allies in
Carausius and assumed command himself.
Medal of Constantius I capturing
London (inscribed as LON) after
defeating Allectus. Beaurains hoard.
His reign has left little record, although his coin issues display a
similar distribution to those of Carausius. They are found in north
western Gaul, indicating that the recapture of Bononia did not spell
the end of the rebel empire on that side of the English Channel.
Constantius launched an invasion to depose him in September 296. His
forces sailed in several divisions. Constantius led one division from
Bononia, but seems to have been delayed by bad weather. Another
division, under the praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus, took advantage
of fog to avoid Allectus's ships stationed at the Isle of Wight, and
landed near Southampton Water, where they burnt their ships.
Allectus's forces were forced to retreat from the coast, but were cut
off by another of Constantius's divisions and defeated. Allectus
himself was killed in the battle, having removed all insignia in the
hope that his body would not be identified. Archaeology suggests that
Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) was the site of his defeat or the area
surrounding the town. A group of Roman troops, who had been
separated from the main body by the fog during the channel crossing,
caught up with the remnants of Allectus's men, mostly Franks, at
Londinium (London), and massacred them. Constantius himself, it seems,
did not reach Britain until it was all over, and his panegyrist claims
he was welcomed by the Britons as a liberator.
Carausius had deliberately used his coinage for propaganda purposes,
and some of his slogans, such as a claim to have restored 'liberty',
were designed to appeal to British sentiment. Constantius answered
such claims in a famous medal struck on the morrow of his victory, in
which he described himself as redditor lucis aeternae, 'restorer of
the eternal light (viz. of Rome).'
Geoffrey of Monmouth included
Allectus in his legendary History of the
Kings of Britain (ca. 1136). Here,
Allectus is an officer sent with
three legions by the Romans to depose Carausius, a native British
king. He does so, but his rule proves oppressive, and he is in turn
deposed by Asclepiodotus, here the duke of Cornwall. The last of
Allectus's troops are besieged in London, and surrender on the
condition they are granted safe passage out of Britain. Asclepiodotus
agrees, but the surrendering soldiers are massacred, and their heads
thrown into the river Galobroc, by his allies the Venedoti.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Allectus.
^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Allectus". In William Smith. Dictionary
of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston: Little, Brown
and Company. p. 132.
^ Sheppard Frere, Britannia: A History of Roman Britain, third
edition, 1987, p. 330
^ Frere, Britannia p. 331
Panegyrici Latini 8:12-19; Aurelius Victor, Book of Caesars 39;
Eutropius, Abridgement of Roman History 21-22; Orosius, Seven Books of
History Against the Pagans 7:25
^ Geoffrey of Monmouth,
Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae 5.4
King of Britain