EXTREMELY RARE USURPER|
11336. MAXIMUS OF SPAIN, 409-411, Barcelona mint. Siliqua. Obverse: Draped and cuirassed bust with diadem right. Reverse: VICTOR A AAVGGG, Roma seated left on cuirass, holding Victory on globe in right hand and inverted spear in left; [SMBA]. RIC X 1601; King p. 291; RSC 1b. 0.82g. RRR. F. According to Philip Grierson (DOCLR, p. 219), there are only about twenty known coins of Maximus. Ex Hirsch 9/12, Lot 3076.
The fortune of Rome shifted incalculably downward on New Years Eve, 406, when the Rhine froze and several barbarian nations, including Vandals, Alans and Suebi crossed into Roman territory. It could not have happened at a more critical moment, for Honorius was fully occupied with the Visigothic king Alaric (who, in 410, would sack Rome). What followed in 407 and beyond was a mass devastation of the Western provinces: Germany and Gaul bore the brunt of the invasion, and Picts invaded Britain. Initially, Spain was spared these horrors due to its southerly position, but in 409 Vandals and other barbarians forced their way through the pass of the Pyrenees and laid waste to that land too. There was no government in Spain to speak of, and Honorius could not help; this left only the ephemeral presence of Constans II and his British prefect Gerontius. They had arrived in 408 to oppose the pro-Honorius militias that had been raised from the estates of Honorius relatives. Thus, even under these dire circumstances, Romans with competing loyalties still found reasons to clash with each other. Constans II and Gerontius overcame the local militias but failed to bring northern Spain into their ‘empire for long. Vandals and Germans soon poured from Gaul and into Spain. It is difficult to know whether Gerontius betrayed Constans II by coming to a secret arrangement with the invaders, but before matters got too far out of hand Constans II returned to Gaul. Meanwhile, Gerontius and the people of Spain were left to their own fate. As Salvianus of Marsielle reports in his De gubernatione Dei (52): "The Spaniards now began to burn in the same flames in which the Gauls had burned." Spain was looted by the invaders and a famine caused many who took refuge in walled cities to resort to cannibalism. The blame fell upon Gerontius, who then made a pact with the invading Vandals in which he hailed Maximus the emperor of Spain; he may have been Gerontius son, but more likely he was his senior household officer (domesticus). Nothing of substance is known of his reign except that it lasted until 411, by which time Honorius was in a position to recover the western provinces. In short order the rebels Constantine III and Constans II were killed and Gerontius was forced to commit suicide when his troops defected to Honorius general Constantius III. Maximus had apparently been in Gaul with Gerontius just before his suicide. The two-year reign of Maximus ended when he returned to Spain in 411 to seek asylum with his barbarian allies. He likely survived until about 418, but if he is the same Maximus tryannus who rebelled in Spain in about 420, we would have to extend his lifespan to 422, for that rebel was executed in the year of Honorius tricennalia. Commentary courtesy of NAC.