Somerset and the Romans

In 2010 a huge hoard of Roman coins was unearthed in a field near Frome, Somerset. More than 750 turned out to have been minted during the reign of the ruler in question: Marcus Aurelius Carausius.

An upcoming talk from the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution next Tuesday, 25th July examines the dramatic story of this little-known leader in mid-3rd century AD Britain who challenged the might of Rome and established a new North Sea kingdom.

Author and historian Simon Elliott ( will be describing the spectacular rise and bloody fall of this fascinating late-Roman figure and shows how his legacy can still be acknowledged today.

The story begins in the mid-3rd century AD when Roman Britain’s regional fleet, the Classis Britannica, disappeared, never to return. Soon the North Sea and English Channel were over-run by Germanic pirates. 

The emperor Maximian turned to a seasoned naval leader called Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Valerius Carausius to restore order. He was so successful that Maximian accused him of pocketing the plunder he’d recaptured and ordered his execution. The canny Carausius moved first and, in 286, usurped imperial authority, creating a North Sea empire in northern Gaul and Britain which lasted until 296. 

Dubbed the pirate king, he initially thrived, seeing off early attempts by Maximian to defeat him. However, in the early 290s Maximian sent his new junior emperor, Constantius Chlorus (the father of Constantine the Great), to defeat Carausius. A seasoned commander, Chlorus soon brought northern Gaul back into the imperial fold, leaving Carausius controlling only Britain. Carausius was then assassinated and replaced by Allectus, his treasurer. Allectus was in turn defeated by Chlorus in AD 296 in the fourth Roman invasion of Britain, the caesar arriving just in time to prevent London being sacked by Allectus’ Frankish mercenaries. Once more Britain was part of the Roman Empire.

Carausius’s legacy includes an energetic building programme of fortifications and other structures as well as creating the first coin mint in London.


Mon 25 July 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm BST

Hybrid Event

£2.00 – £4.00