Ultra-rare Roman coin minted by ‘rogue emperor’ to aid rebellion and create breakaway empire found during A14 roadworks


A RARE Roman coin stamped with the face of a rebel emperor who only reigned for two months has been found during roadworks on the A14.

It is only the second coin depicting the usurper Roman emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus to ever be discovered in England and provides further evidence of his reign and his betrayal of Rome and the Gallic Empire.

This rare coin was found underneath the A14 and the trident crown on the emperor’s head is clear on the left hand image

The coin shows Emperor Laelianus wearing a radiate crown, which is supposed to look like sun rays shining from his head.

Laelianus ruled a breakaway rival Roman empire for a short time in the 3rd Century but he only managed to take over two areas

He was a usurper against the rule of Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus but his revolt only lasted from late February to early June 269.

Legend states that he was murdered by his own men, but Postumus was also slain during a siege of an area that Laelianus had taken because he would not let his men rob the city of its goods.

Laelianus seized two Roman military towns
This is only the second coin of its kind to be found in England

Archaeology lead for the A14 on behalf of Highways England, Dr Steve Sherlock, said: “Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare.

“This is one of many coins that we’ve found on this exciting project, but to find one, where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor, really is quite significant.”

“I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project help us better understand our past.”

The emperor can be seen more clearly here on this well preserved coin
Wikimedia Commons

Coin expert Julian Bowsher said: “Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins. Laelianus reigned for just two months which is barely enough time to do so.

“However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania. The fact that one of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain, demonstrates remarkable efficiency, and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”

The archaeologists working on the A14 project unearthed a small Roman farm and found the Laelianus coin in an ancient ditch.

An even older coin was found on the project recently, which dated back to 57BC, meaning it could have been minted to fund the resistance to Julius Caesar’s rule.

Construction to upgrade 21 miles of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon reached the half way mark in November 2018.

The project is Britain’s biggest ever road upgrade and has cost £1.5billion.

Lots of big digging projects like this require a team of archaeologists who are responsible for preserving any artefacts and documenting the history that is discovered.

The A14 project has already uncovered lots of other archaeological wonders including a woolly mammoth skull.

Who was Emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus?

Here's what you need to know about the rogue Roman emperor…

  • Little is known about Roman Emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus apart from the fact he tried to take power from Emperor Postumus in 269AD
  • Some scholars think he was of Spanish descent
  • He is thought to have been a senior military officer for Postumus but betrayed him by declaring himself emperor of two Roman military towns after he successfully defended them from a Germanic invasion
  • The towns were called Argentoratum and Mogontiacum and are situated inbetween modern day France and Germany
  • His rebellion only lasted about two months and he was reportedly murdered by his own soliders when Postumus’ troops seized one of his cities
  • Laelianus is listed among the Thirty Tyrants in the Historia Augusta, an anicent biographical text of all the Roman emperors


In other archaeology news, the lost bones of ‘Queen Emma’ who ruled England 1,000 years ago found hidden in Winchester Cathedral.

A new study has claimed that cannibal human ancestors would kill and eat each other because it was ‘more cost-effective’ than catching animals.

And, we’ve put together a list of some of the most gruesome ancient burial sites in the world.

Do you have a favourite Roman emperor? Let us know in the comments!

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