- For the 4th-century Roman usurper under Valentinian I, see Firmus (4th-century usurper). For the saint and martyr, see Saint Firmus and Saint Rusticus. For the energy company, see Firmus Energy
Life of the historical Firmus
Firmus was a businessman from Seleucia, with business interests ranging from India to Egypt. He was associated with Zenobia of the Palmyrene Empire. After the Emperor Aurelian defeated the Palmyrans, Firmus staged an uprising in Alexandria in Egypt, interrupting the grain supply on which Rome depended. Aurelian was obliged to defeat and kill Firmus.
Firmus never proclaimed himself emperor, but fought to support the second Palmyrene uprising against Aurelian. It is possible that Firmus was actually the name of the general sent by Aurelian to suppress the revolt, as Egyptian papyri of the time have the presence of one Claudius Firmus, corrector. Another possibility is that the author of the Historia Augusta — the only source to name Firmus — invented this figure in parallel with another Firmus, an African usurper under Valentinian I.
Historia Augusta account
According to Historia Augusta ("Firmus"), Firmus was a man of great wealth. He had his house fitted with square panels of glass, and owned a huge library. His commercial relationships involved Blemmyes, Saracens, and India. He had two elephant tusks, which later Aurelian projected to use as a basis for a statue to Jupiter and which were actually given as a present by Carinus to a lover of his. Physically, Firmus was noteworthy, being huge and very strong. He ate and drank a lot.
Even in this account, however, the importance and threat of Firmus revolt is related to the interruption of grain supply to Rome, caused by this rebellion in the very granary of Rome, Egypt.
- "Firmus Saturninus Proclus et Bonosus" 3-6, Historia Augusta
- "Aurelianus" xxxii.2‑3, Historia Augusta'
- Zosimus i.61.1
- "Firmus", s.v. "Aurelian", De Imperatoribus Romanis site