Following his father's accession to the throne, Hostilian received the treatment of an imperial prince, but was always kept in the shade of his brother Herennius, who enjoyed the privileges of being older and heir. In the beginning of 251, Decius elevated his son Herennius to co-emperor and Hostilian succeeded him in the title of princeps iuventutis (prince of youth). These dispositions were made previous to an intended punishing campaign against king Cniva of the Goths, to punish him over the raids on the Danubian frontier. Hostilian remained in Rome due to his inexperience, and empress Herennia was named regent.
The campaign proved to be a disaster: both Herennius and Decius died in the battle of Abrittus and became the first two emperors to be killed by a foreign army in battle. The armies in the Danube acclaimed Trebonianus Gallus emperor, but Rome acknowledged Hostilian's rights. Since Trebonianus was a respected general, there was fear of another civil war of succession, despite the fact that he chose to respect the will of Rome and adopted Hostilian. But later in 251, an outbreak of plague stroked Rome and Hostilian died of the epidemics, being the first emperor in 40 years and one of only 13 to die of natural causes. His timely death also opened the way for the sole rule of Trebonianus.
Herennius Etruscus (251)
Trebonianus Gallus (251-253)