In part 27 we continued to cover the decline of the Roman Empire, known as the Crisis of the Third Century, as it was threatened on several fronts while the Sassanid Persian Empire grew stronger.
While there was a lot of infighting between Roman Emperors, the Sassanid Empire had a friend in Philip the Arab, who not only paid them 500,000 gold pieces for damages, but also ignored their expansion during his reign in Rome from 244 AD to 249 AD (when he was killed and replaced by Roman General and politician Trajan Decius.)
Trajan Decius introduced an edict, disguised as a kind of persecution of Christians, where all inhabitants of the Roman Empire had to make sacrifices before the magistrates in honor to the Roman gods and the well-being of the emperor.
As Trajan was defeated by Goths in 251 AD and replaced by Gallus, we saw the alleged “Plague of Cyprian” as an excuse for people getting sick and dying from food shortages, malnutrition, poisoning, and trauma from the war-ridden Roman Empire.
As Emperor Valerianus and General Aurelian fought back and secured parts of the Roman borders in 257 AD, the war efforts took their toll on the Roman Empire and the amount of silver in the Roman currency of the denarius fell below 10% — from roughly 50% only 40 years earlier.
In 260 AD, Emperor Valerianus lost most of his 70,000 men against the Persian King Shapur I in the battle of Edessa, and he was taken prisoner.
In 261 AD, the new Emperor Gallienus intervened and defeated the invading Alamanni forces of more than 300,000 men as they reached Milan. Gallienus also repealed Valerian’s 258 AD edict, which prohibited Christianity, yet again allowing Christians within the Roman Empire.
In 265 AD, Gallienus was once again challenged by an usurper, Postumus, but did not succeed in capturing him. Postumus claims his territory south of Gaul and one of Gallienus’ best generals, Victorinus, defects to Postumus, all while Gallienus was kept busy repelling Goths in the Balkans.
In 266 AD, the new King Odaenathus of Palmyra, with the support and backing of Gallienus, invaded Persia to conquer the capital, Ctesiphon, but failed to take it. However, after his previous victories in the East, he pronounced himself with the title “king of kings.”
In 267 AD, the first major Gothic invasion took place. Goths from Scandinavia, together with the Sarmatians (from modern Iran,) invaded the Balkans and Greece. They ravaged Moesia and Thrace, and then proceeded, unchallenged, to sack the cities of Corinth, Argos, Sparta, and Athens.
After sacking Athens, the militia manages to push the Gothic forces to the north where they were intercepted and defeated by the Roman army under emperor Gallienus.
In the East, King Septimius Odaenathus of Palmyra made plans for a campaign in Cappadocia against the Goths, but was assassinated along with his eldest son, before he could march. His wife Zenobia succeeded him.
Meanwhile, Aureolus, charged with defending Italy, defeated the defector Victorinus (co-emperor of Gaul,) and was proclaimed emperor by his troops, and begins his march on Rome.
In 268 AD, Emperor Gallienus, aided by Aurelian, defeated a Gothic coalition of approximately 50,000 warriors near Naissus. However, the power struggle within the Roman Empire once again escalates, and Gallienus is killed by his senior officers at Mediolanum (Milan) while battling his new rival Aureolus. When Aureolus is relieved by the death of Gallienus and lowers his guard, he is in turn murdered by the Praetorian Guard. Most likely this was by orders from Claudius II, who became the new Emperor by removing the two people in head of him fighting for that title.
Later that year, Claudius II defeated the Germanic tribes of the Alamanni along the banks of Lake Garda.
In 269 AD, the second major Gothic invasion took place, as Scandinavian Goths and German tribes attacked towns on the coast of the Black Sea. According to legends, more than 2,000 ships and 320,000 men from the Danube entered Roman territory. However, Emperor Claudius II defeated the invaders and received the title of ‘Gothicus’ for his triumph. Many of the prisoners later served in the Roman legions.
Later the same year, the Germanic Heruli of Scandinavian descent, captured Athens and raided the Aegean Islands as far as Crete and Rhodes.
In the East, Queen Zenobia of the Palmyrene Empire conquered Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, parts of Mesopotamia and Egypt, giving her control of Rome’s grain supply. Also, the library at Alexandria was partly burned during a raid by Zabdas.
In 270 AD, Claudius II “Gothicus” fought a drawn-out campaign against the Gothic raiders in the Balkans. Fake historians claimed that most of the Goths died of the “plague,” which mystically seemed to have targeted only the Goths and ignored the Roman legions, when in truth many of the Goths died from starvation and trauma-induced fear of being totally cut-off and cornered by the Romans. The strong who survived were absorbed into the Roman legions.
Later that year, Claudius died of poisoning and was briefly succeeded by his brother Quintillus.
Aurelian, the cavalry commander who distinguished himself in the previous year at the Battle of Naissus, usurps power in Sirmium and marches against Quintillus in Aquileia. Quintillus commits suicide and Aurelian becomes the new official Emperor.
In 271 AD, several battles took place with the new Emperor Aurelian emerging victorious. As precaution to all current threats, Aurelian began the construction of a new defensive wall to protect Rome, known as the Aurelian Walls. Aurelian also increased Rome’s daily bread ration to nearly 1.5 pounds and added pig fat to the list of foods distributed for free to the populace, as they understood the enormous importance of animal fats for keeping the people strong in times of war (and to keep them malnourished and subdued during times of peace.) However, meat, organ meats, and finer cuts of animal fat were always reserved for the upper class, the aristocrats, and the elite soldiers like the bodyguards and secret service agents of the Praetorian guard, to keep them strong in body and mind.
Aurelian then went on and defeated the Gothic armies in the Balkans and also invaded the Gothic homeland where he killed one of their most prominent leaders, Cannabas (or Cniva.)
In the East, Shapur I of the Persian Sasanian Empire died and was succeeded by his son Hormizd I.
In 272 AD, Aurelian successfully invaded the Palmyrene Empire to restore Roman rule in Egypt and take back control of the grain supplies out of North Africa.
In 273 AD, King Hormizd I of Persia died after a brief reign in which he had shown tolerance toward the growing ascetic Manichean faith. He was succeeded by his brother Bahram I.
In 274 AD, Aurelian invaded Gaul (western Europe, as in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of Switzerland, Germany, and Northern Italy,) and Britain once again. After heavy losses he succeeded to restore the old borders of the Roman Empire. On his return to Rome, Aurelian was greeted as Restitutor Orbis (“Restorer of the World”.)
Aurelian also reformed the Roman currency, replacing the denarius with a new version of the ‘antoninianus’ that had a slightly improved silver-to-copper ratio. This overhaul of the currency system caused hyper-inflation.
On December 25, Aurelian had the Temple of the Sun dedicated to Sol Invictus, the new Sun God based on Mithras (as in Lucifer, Saturn) celebrated on the third day after the solstice and the day of the rebirth of the Sun. This religion now became the state religion of Rome and dominated the late Roman Empire.
In 275 AD, Aurelian campaigned against the Germanic tribes in Gaul and against the Goths. At this time Aurelian had developed a reputation for punishing corruption with severity, and his secretary Eros was under suspicion. As a result, Eros, fearing for his life, forged a fake list of high-ranking officers marked for execution, fooling them into assassinating Aurelian to save their own lives. The officers and Eros then fled into Asia Minor to avoid the wrath of the soldiers. Left without any high-ranking officer, the imperial field army asked the Senate to choose a successor.
By September 25, Marcus Claudius Tacitus was proclaimed Emperor by the Senate and he immediately marched into Asia Minor to fight the Goths and track down the faction responsible for assassinating Aurelian.
In 276 AD, the new Emperor Tacitus doubled the silver content of the aurelianianus, and halved its tariffing. Meanwhile, Tacitus’ cousin Maximinus who administered Syria was assassinated by local men of power, who had joined in the conspiracy by the faction responsible for having assassinated Aurelian in the previous year. A few months later, Tacticus was murdered by the same faction.
Florianus then became Roman Emperor with the support of the Senate, but was usurped by Marcus Aurelius Probus and then assassinated by his troops in collusion with Probus. Probus, was then proclaimed new Emperor of Rome and he returned the aurelianianus to the tariffing of that of the previous emperor Aurelian.
Before the end of the year, Probus invited the faction responsible for the murders of Aurelian and Tacitus to a banquet, only to massacre them. He then arrested a surviving conspirator and had him burned alive – to tie up all lose ends.
In 280 AD, the power struggle continued and Emperor Probus executed usurper Proculus and Julius Saturninus, the governor of Syria who had fled to Alexandria.
Meanwhile, the Roman territories were now under constant threat of raids from the Franks, the Germanic people who lived near the Lower Rhine, on the northern frontier of the late Roman Empire.
In 282 AD, The praetorian prefect Marcus Aurelius Carus usurped power in Raetia. Probus attempted to organize a campaign against Carus but was murdered by his discontented troops in Sirmium.
Carus carried on and defeated the Quadi and Sarmatians on the Danube, and for his victories he was given the title Germanicus Maximus.
In 283 AD, exploiting the Persian civil war, Carus, accompanied by his younger son Numerian, invaded the Persian Sassanid Empire. They sacked Seleucia and the capitol Ctesiphon. For his victories, Carus received the title of Persicus Maximus.
However, his triumphs were short-lived, a classical theme of the emperors of the late Roman Empire. In the summer, Carus died during mysterious circumstances in the war against the Persians. Different sources claim he died of illness, was struck by lightning, or was killed in combat.
Carinus and Numerian succeeded their father Carus. Numerian, who had accompanied his father into the Persian Empire, led the army back to Roman territory. However, Numerian who travelled in a closed litter, was later found dead by his soldiers, leaving Carinus as sole Emperor of the Roman Empire.