A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

according to Victor, whose account is confirmed by Sidonius Apollinaris and Zonaras, was a native of Narbonne in Gaul; but Vopiscus professes to be unable to speak with certainty either of his lineage or birth-place, and quotes the conflicting statements of older authorities, who variously represented that he was born at Milan; or in Illyria, of Carthaginian ancestors ; or in the metropolis, of Illyrian parents. He himself undoubtedly claimed Roman descent, as appears from a letter addressed by him when proconsul of Cilicia to his legate Junius, but this is not inconsistent with the supposition that he may have belonged to some city which was also a colony. After passing through many different stages of civil and military preferment, he was appointed praefect of the praetorians by Probus, who entertained the highest respect for his talents and integrity. When that prince was murdered by the soldiers at Sirmium in A. D. 282, Carus was unanimously hailed as his successor, and the choice of the troops was confirmed by the senate. The new ruler, soon after his accession, gained a victory over the Sarmatians, who had invaded Illyricum and were threatening Thrace and even Italy itself. Having conferred the title of Caesar upon both his sons, he nominated Carinus, the elder, governor of all the Western provinces, and, accompanied by Numerianus, the younger, set out upon an expedition against the Persians which had been planned by his predecessor. The campaign which followed was most glorious for the Roman arms. The enemy, distracted by internal dissensions, were unable to oppose a vigorous resistance to the invaders. All Mesopotamia was quickly occupied, --Seleucia and Ctesiphon were forced to yield. But the career of Carus, who was preparing to push his conquests beyond the Tigris, was suddenly cut short, for he perished by disease, or treachery, or, as the ancient historians commonly report, by a stroke of lightning, towards the close of 283, after a reign of little more than sixteen months. The account of his death, transmitted by his secretary Junius Calphurnius to the praefect of the city, is so confused and mysterious that we can scarcely avoid the surmise that his end was hastened by foul play, and suspicion has rested upon Arrius Aper, who was afterwards put to death by Diocletian on the charge of having murdered Numerianus.

According to the picture drawn by the Augustan historian, Carus held a middle rank between those preeminent in virtue or in vice, being neither very bad nor very good, but rather good than bad. His character undoubtedly stood high before his elevation to the throne : no credit is to be attached to the rumour that he was accessary to the death of his benefactor, Probus, whose murderers he sought out and punished with the sternest justice, and the short period of his sway was unstained by any great crime. But the atrocities of Carinus threw a shade over the memory of his father, whom men could not forgive for having bequeathed his power to such a son. (Vopisc. Carus ; Aurel. Vict. Cues. xxxviii., Epit. xxxviii.; Zonar. 12.30 ; Eutrop. 9.12.)