Invitation to the online conference

The Rebellion of Florus and Sacrovir against Rome

on 10-11 December 2021

organised and moderated by

Dr Holger A. Müller (Universität Stuttgart, holger.mueller(at)

and Prof. Dr Jürgen Zeidler (Universität Trier, celtic(at)

supported by

Arbeitskreis Historische Keltologie e.V.

2021 marks the 2000ᵗʰ anniversary of the uprising of the Treveran Iulius Florus and the Aeduan Iulius Sacrovir against the Roman Empire in AD 21. We take this date as an opportunity to rethink and discuss the events of that time, the backgrounds and the larger cultural-historical context.

After the rebellion had long been considered a quasi-“national” uprising of Gaul to liberate herself from Roman rule (Mommsen, Jullian, Thévenot et al.), economic and financial causes came to the fore in research following the analysis of Albert Grenier (1936). According to the generally accepted view today, the ringleaders, themselves Roman citizens, in no way intended to win their freedom from Rome, but sought to protest against the heavy tax burden and arbitrary exercise of power. The conflict is considered to have been focused on the “political and economic distribution of power within the civitas” and in particular on the participants’ “personal” motives (Urban 1999: 43 f.). Some even dismiss these events as a “regrettable operational accident” (Herz 1992: 93).

Since only Tacitus describes the revolt in detail, there have been repeated attempts to scrutinise its credibility, particularly on the points of its topicality and rhetoric as well as the author’s intention (most recently e.g. Poulsen 2018; van Broeck 2017; Grant Couper 2016; Woolf 2011; Hausmann 2009; Gerlinger 2008). Another approach is to tap into other sources for the assessment of events. Recent years have seen in-depth approaches like Jared Kreiner (2021), who re-evaluated the tax burden on the Gallic hinterland in the wake of the Germanic campaigns, with the result that Gallic tribal leaders “probably weighed their options and determined it was not worth the risk, or some were simply waiting to see if those rebels would be successful before possibly joining” (MS p. 33). This would give much greater weight to the assumption of a latent danger of the rebellion. Emmanuel Arbabe’s (2017; 2015) thesis, which is supported by the contemporary witness Velleius Paterculus, aims in a similar direction: Sacrovir, as princeps Galliarum, played a more important role in the provincial assembly in Lyon than he is today usually given credit for. Reason enough, then, to take another look at the subject.

We would like to take up the discussion about the rebellion of AD 21 with three questions in mind. Firstly, we are concerned with the reconstruction of the historical events and, in this context, with the problems of source criticism, topicality and rhetoric, the reliability and credibility of the sources, especially the “chief witness” Tacitus.

Secondly, we want to include the debate about the Triumphal Arch of Orange, traditionally dated to the time of Tiberius, but today placed in the era of Augustus and said to have been merely been restored or rededicated during the reign of his successor (Stilp 2017; Fellague 2016). One of the Gallic shields within the weapon reliefs displays the name Sacrovir(us). The question remains whether this could be a reference to the rebel of AD 21, despite, e.g., PIR² VII 268 noting that “certe non ad eum pertinet t[itulus] clupei alicuius arcus Arausione errecti [CIL] XII 1231 (Sacrovir)”. Further epigraphic, onomastic and archaeological evidence provides additional insight (e.g. Hartmann 2017).

And thirdly, the reasons for the uprising should again be questioned and the events placed in a larger cultural-historical context. Were the financial reasons mentioned by Tacitus pivotal? Or was it an attempted coup by two ambitious leaders? What was the relationship between the rebellion and the rapidly pro­gressing Romanisation? Was the rising the result of resistance to Romanisation in principle or merely concerning how it was conducted? This might also prompt a discussion about the extent to which the demonstrable “Roman Object Revolution” (Pitts 2019) shaped intellectual culture, or whether we might have to reckon with a greater resilience of pre-Roman traditions.

If you are interested in contributing to our conference with a 20-minute presentation followed by a discussion, please provide us with an abstract of 100–200 words in English, French or German by 31 August 2021 via E-Mail to sacrovir(at) The meeting will be held online, regardless of developments in the course of the pandemic.