Hostilian (Latin: Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus Augustus, November 251) was Roman emperor from July to November 251. Hostilian was born to Decius and Herennia Etruscilla at an unknown date and elevated to Caesar in May 251 by Decius, the same month as his older brother, Herennius Etruscus, was raised to co-emperor. After Decius and Herennius Etruscus were killed at the Battle of Abritus, an ambush by the Goths, Trebonianus Gallus was proclaimed emperor by the legions. Almost immediately, he elevated Hostilian to co-emperor and his son, Volusianus, to Caesar. Hostilian died in November 251, either due to plague or being murdered by Trebonianus Gallus.

Marble figure of Hostilian, from the Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus
Emperor of the Roman Empire
ReignJuly–November 251 (with Trebonianus Gallus)
PredecessorDecius and Herennius Etruscus
SuccessorTrebonianus Gallus and Volusianus
Co-emperorTrebonianus Gallus
DiedNovember 251
Full name
Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus Augustus
MotherHerennia Etruscilla


Hostilian was born at an unknown date, to Decius, a Roman general who later became Emperor, and his wife Herennia Etruscilla. Decius became emperor after being sent to lead troops in the provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, where he was declared emperor by his troops in September 249, in opposition to Philip the Arab. He led his troops against Philip, their forces meeting in September 249, near Verona, Italy. Philip was killed in battle, after which the Roman Senate declared Decius emperor and honored him with the name Traianus, a reference to Emperor Trajan.[1][2][3]

Hostilian was elevated to caesar in May 251, by his father Decius.[1][4] The elevation came after the promotion of his older brother, Herennius Etruscus, to augustus in the same month, making Herennius Etruscus co-emperor, with Hostilian as the heir of either or both of them.[1][4][5] After Decius and Herennius Etruscus were killed by the Goths at the Battle of Abritus, an ambush in July 251, Trebonianus Gallus was declared emperor. To placate the public, Trebonianus Gallus elevated Hostilian to augustus almost immediately, making him co-emperor.[6][1][7] Hostilian was co-emperor until his death in November 251; the reason for his death is disputed.[1][7] Aurelius Victor and the author of the Epitome de Caesaribus say that Hostilian died of a plague. Zosimus claims that he was killed by Trebonianus Gallus.[8] After his death, Trebonianus Gallus made Volusianus, his son, co-emperor.[1]


The aurei of Hostilian fall into four types bearing the bust of Hostilian on the obverse, with the reverse showing: Mars walking to the right; priestly implements; Mercury standing; and Roma seated holding Victoria.[9]


Primary sources



  • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (1998). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195123326.
  • Bunson, Matthew (2014). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts On File. ISBN 9781438110271.
  • Chrystal, Paul (2015). Roman Women: The Women who influenced the History of Rome. Fonthill Media. ISBN 978-1781552872.
  • Friedberg, Arthur L.; Friedberg, Ira S.; Friedberg, Robert (2017). Gold Coins of the World - 9th edition: From Ancient Times to the Present. An Illustrated Standard Catlaog with Valuations. Coin & Currency Institute. ISBN 9780871840097.
  • Haas, Christopher J. (1983). "Imperial Religious Policy and Valerian's Persecution of the Church, A.D. 257-260". Church History. 52 (2). JSTOR 3166947.
  • Manders, Erika (2012). Coining Images of Power: Patterns in the Representation of Roman Emperors on Imperial Coinage, A.D. 193 - 284. Brill. ISBN 9789004189706.
  • Salisbury, F. S.; Mattingly, H. (1924). "The Reign of Trajan Decius". The Journal of Roman Studies. 14. doi:10.2307/296323. JSTOR 296323.
  • Varner, Eric R. (2004). Mutilation and Transformation: Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture. Brill. ISBN 978-9004135772.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Decius and Herennius Etruscus
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Trebonianus Gallus
Succeeded by
Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus
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