Majorian ruled for a comparatively lengthy four-year reign at the end of the Roman empire. Having been associated in his youth with Aetius, the commander slain by Valentinian III, his imperial title came at the disposition of the general Ricimer with whom he was also involved. Ricimer would have loved to make himself emperor but his barbarian blood prevented him from the post. His discretion in not forcing the issue meant he wouldn’t have to quell any revolts within Italy and his choice to appoint his friend Majorian would have been the next best thing.
Majorian himself appears to have had a commendable character. As of recently discontent had been rampant ever since tax collectors refused the legal tender of the day and instead demanded payment in money minted by second-century emperors! So in a bid to ease tensions in the moribund empire he nullified past debts owed to the state treasury. By resetting the public balance sheet Majorian could only have gained a good deal of popularity and perhaps this explains why his tenure as emperor lasted so long compared to his two immediate predecessors. However, his downfall was soon to come just at the height of his glory.
With the newfound unity among Romans, Majorian set out to reclaim the north African coast lost to the Vandals and which had been for the past 50 years its single biggest loss. Carthage and its adjoining provinces was Italy’s breadbasket and without it the Roman empire was slowly starving. Majorian and Ricimer devised a plan to drive the Vandals out of Africa by building a powerful new navy from scratch. As the army set sail by way of Spain someone double-crossed the two and the navy ships were ambushed while in port at Carthagena. Majorian and Ricimer’s grand scheme crumbled without a way to mount an invasion. Suddenly his formerly grateful subjects turned on him and threatened rebellion. Whether Ricimer let him resign or Majorian himself abdicated is unsure. Several days later he was found dead and although the historical references point to disease the timing seems to favor an alternate, more violent end.
RIC 2614, C 1 Solidus Obv: DNMAIORIANVSPFAVG – Helmeted, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right, holding spear pointing forward and shield bearing Christogram.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGGG Exe: R/V/COMOB – Majorian standing facing, holding long cross and Victory on globe, foot on man-headed serpent. c.457-461 (Ravenna).
AR Half Siliqua
RIC 2650 Half Siliqua Obv: DNIVLIVSMAIORIANVS – Helmeted, Diademed (pearls), cuirassed bust right holding spear and shield.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGG – Victory standing left, holding cross. $954 11/20/02.
RIC 2652 Half Siliqua Obv: DNIVLIVSMAIORIANVS – Helmeted, Diademed (pearls), cuirassed bust right holding spear and shield.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGG – Victory standing left, holding cross.
RIC 2646, LRBC 582 AE3 Obv: DNIVLMAIORIANVSPFAVG – Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGGG Exe: MD – Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm. 457-461 (Mediolanum). $1,350 1/16/02.
RIC 2616, LRBC 586 AE4 Obv: DNIVLMAIORIANVSPFAVG – Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGGG Exe: RV – Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm. 457-461 (Ravenna). $925 9/24/03.
Unlisted AE4 Obv: DNIVLMAIORIANVSPFAVG – Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: VICTORIAAVGG Exe: ? – Victory standing left, holding wreath and palm. [RIC has no listing for AE4’s with mintmarks or other markings in field for this emperor]. $467 2/4/02.