Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus, known as Tetricus I and somewhat less commonly as Tetricus the Elder, was the emperor of the Gallic Roman Empire from 271 to 274. The Gallic Roman Empire was a secessionist region of the Roman Empire that included the Roman provinces of Gaul, Britannia, and for a short time Hispania. It emerged during a period known as the Crisis of the Third Century (235-284), a time when the Roman Empire teetered on the verge of collapse facing military conflicts, civil war, plague, and economic depression. It operated independently as a separate state from 260 to 274 closely fashioned on the structure of the Roman Empire with an emperor and senate.
In 273, Tetricus I elevated his son, Tetricus II or Tetricus the Younger, to the rank of Caesar. It is believed, but debated, that in 274 Tetricus II was named Augustus and co-ruler of the Empire.
Tetricus I was the fifth and final emperor of the breakaway Gallic Roman Empire, facing what would turn out to be insurmountable challenges. Germanic tribes were becoming increasingly aggressive, launching raids across the Rhine and eventually pushing Tetricus I to withdraw troops and abandon forts. More significant was the determination of Roman emperor Aurelian to regain control of the region, a determination which culminated in Tetricus I’s surrender at the Battle of Châlons in 274.
Tetricus I continued production at two mints he inherited from his predecessor Victorinus, one in Trier and one in Cologne. The variety of coins minted during this time was limited and the quality was somewhat erratic. The erratic quality made it difficult to distinguish authentic currency from crude imitations (known today as Barbarous Radiates) that were produced in “irregular mints” and circulated widely.
One of the most notable aspects of coin production under Tetricus I was the steady debasement of the currency due to a shortage of precious metals. The silver content of circulating antoniniani was a small fraction of earlier Gallic issues. The low intrinsic value of the coins led to an inflationary cycle which forced Tetricus I to produce ever more coins of lower quality and less silver content, ultimately as low as 1% silver. For collectors, the millions of antoniniani minted at this time means that there exists a large population of well-preserved, affordable examples available.