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Encyclopedia > Crisis of the 3rd Century

The "Crisis of the Third Century" (also known as the "Military Anarchy" or the "Imperial Crisis" ) is a commonly applied name for the crumbling and near collapse of the Roman Empire between 235 and 284 caused by the three simultaneous crises of external invasion, internal civil war and economic collapse. The changes in the institutions, society, economic life and eventually religion were so profound and fundamental, the "Crisis of the Third Century" is increasingly seen as the watershed marking the difference between the classical world and the early mediaeval world, or world of late antiquity. The Roman Empire is not the Holy Roman Empire (843-1806). ... Events Maximinus Thrax becomes Roman Emperor. ... For other uses, see number 284. ...


During this roughly half-century period, three crises, any one of which were a singular threat to the Empire, came together in a perfect storm: external invasions, internal civil wars and a runaway hyperinflation economy. The future viability of the Empire, by all reasonable standards, should have come to an end; only through a series of tough soldier emperors and the measures of Diocletian in 284 to split the empire in half and other reforms allowed it to continue, eventually entering a new phase known as the "Dominate," the "Tetrarchy," and the "Later Roman Empire". Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus ( 245- 313 AD/CE), born Diocles, was Roman Emperor from November 20, 284 to May 1, 305. ...


During this period, Rome was ruled by roughly 20 to 25 individuals, the exact number a matter of debate since so many claimed the title at the same time. Most of them were prominent generals who assumed Imperial power over all or part of the empire, only to lose it by defeat in battle, murder, or death, ruling on average only 2 to 3 years.


The troubles began in 235, when the emperor Alexander Severus was murdered by soldiers at the age of 27 after Roman legions were defeated in a campaign against Persia. As general after general squabbled over control of the empire, the frontiers were neglected and subjected to frequent raids by Carpians, Goths, Vandals and Alamanni, and outright attacks from Sassanids in the east. Events Maximinus Thrax becomes Roman Emperor. ... Alexander Severus Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander (October 1, 208- March 18?, 235), commonly called Alexander Severus, Roman emperor from AD 222 to 235, was born at Arca Caesarea in Palestine. ... See also Legion software and Legion forummer. ... Head of king Shapur II (Sasanian dynasty A.D. 4th century). ... General is a military rank, in most nations the highest rank, although some nations have the higher rank of Field Marshal. ... The Carpi or Carpians were a Dacian tribe that were originally located on the Eastern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, in what is now the Bacău county, Romania. ... This article is about the Germanic tribes. ... The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire, and created a state in North Africa, centered on the city of Carthage. ... The Alamanni, Allemanni or Alemanni, are a Germanic tribe, first mentioned by Dio Cassius, under the year 213. ... Head of king Shapur II (Sasanian dynasty A.D. 4th century). ...


Finally, by 258, the attacks were coming from within, when the Empire broke up in to three seperate competing states. The Roman provinces of Gaul, Britain and Hispania broke off to form the Gallic Empire, and two years later in 260, the eastern provinces of Syria, Palestine and Aegyptus became independent as the Palmyrene Empire (with Persian backing), leaving the remaining Italian centered Roman empire proper in the middle. Events Sun Xiu succeeds Sun Liang as ruler of the Chinese kingdom of Wu The Goths ravage Asia Minor and Trabzon Gaul, Britain and Spain break off from the Roman Empire to form the Gallic Empire Nanjing University first founded in Nanjing, China Births Emperor Hui of Jin China (approximate... A Roman province (Latin, provincia, pl. ... Gallia (in English Gaul) is the Latin name for the region of western Europe occupied by present-day France, Belgium, western Switzerland and the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine river. ... The word Britain is used to refer to the United Kingdom (UK) the island of Great Britain, which consists of the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales sometimes the Roman province called Britain or Britannia The word British generally means belonging to or associated with Britain in one of the... Hispania was the name given by the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula, and to two of the three provinces they created there: Hispania Baetica and Hispania Tarraconensis (the third being Lusitania). ... The Gallic Empire (in Latin, imperium Galliarum) is the modern name for the independent realm that lived a brief existence during the Roman Empires Crisis of the Third Century, from 259 to 274. ... Events Valerian I captured by the Persian king Shapur I; Gallienus becomes sole Roman emperor. ... The term Palestine may refer to: Palestine: A geographical region in the Middle East, centered on Jerusalem. ... This article is about the Aegyptus from Egyptian mythology. ... Head of king Shapur II (Sasanian dynasty A.D. 4th century). ...


An invasion by a vast host of Goths was beaten back at the Battle of Naissus in 268. This victory was significant as the turning point of the crisis, when a series of tough energetic soldier emperors took power. Victories by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus over the next two years drove back the Alamanni and recovered Hispania from the Gallic Empire. When Claudius died in 270 of the plague, Aurelian, who had commanded the cavalry at Naissus, succeeded him as emperor and continued the restoration of the empire. Host can mean: In general English, a host is a person, organisation, animal, cell, computer or similar that receives guests or intruders. ... Battle of Naissus Conflict Roman-Gothic war Date September 268 Place Nis, Serbia and Montenegro Result Roman victory The Battle of Naissus took place in September of 268 between the armies of the Goths and forces of the Roman Empire, led by Gallienus as emperor and the future Emperor Aurelian... Events The Alamanni invade Italy. ... Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus (May 10, 213/214 - January, 270) , more often referred to as Claudius II, ruled the Roman Empire for less than two years (268 - 270), but during that brief time, he was so successful and beloved by the people of Rome that he attained divine status. ... The Alamanni, Allemanni or Alemanni, are a Germanic tribe, first mentioned by Dio Cassius, under the year 213. ... Events Quintillus briefly holds power over the Roman Empire, and is succeeded by Aurelian Vandals and Sarmatians driven out of Roman territory Romans leave Utrecht after regular invasions of Germanic people. ... Bubonic plague is an infectious disease that is believed to have caused several epidemics or pandemics throughout history. ... Niš (Ниш, the Roman Naissus; see below) is a city in Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), 43. ...


Aurelian brought the empire through the worst of the crisis during his reign (270-275) by hammering, in succession, the Vandals, Visigoths, Palmyrenes (see Queen Zenobia), Persians, and then the remainder of the Gallic Empire. By late 274, the Roman Empire was reunited, and the frontier troops back in place. More than a century would pass before Rome again lost the upper hand on its external enemies. Events Quintillus briefly holds power over the Roman Empire, and is succeeded by Aurelian Vandals and Sarmatians driven out of Roman territory Romans leave Utrecht after regular invasions of Germanic people. ... Events Eutychian elected pope (probable date) September 25 - Marcus Claudius Tacitus appointed emperor by the senate Births Eusebius of Caesarea (approximate date) Saint George, soldier of the Roman Empire and later Christian martyr (or 280, approximate date). ... The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire, and created a state in North Africa, centered on the city of Carthage. ... The Visigoths, originally Tervingi, or Vesi (the noble ones), one of the two main branches of the Goths (of which the Ostrogothi were the other), were one of the loosely-termed Germanic peoples that disturbed the late Roman Empire. ... Zenobia (or Xenobia) is the name commonly used for the daughter of (= bat or bath) Zabaai ben Selim. ... Events The Gallic Empire (Gaul and Britain) is reconquered by Roman Emperor Aurelian With the conquests of the Palmyran Empire (272) and the Gallic Empire, the Roman Empire is united again Births Deaths Pope Felix I Cao Fang, emperor of the Kingdom of Wei Categories: 274 ...


Internally the empire faced runaway hyperinflation caused by years of coinage dilution. As each of the short-lived emperors took power they needed ways to raise money quickly to pay the military and the easiest way to do so was by simply cutting how much silver was in coins with less valuable metals. This had the predictable effect of causing runaway inflation and by the time Diocletian came to power the economy of the Roman Empire was nearly collapsed; the currency had almost no valuation and trade was by barter. Every aspect of the Roman way of life was affected. A 500,000,000,000 (500 billion) Serbian dinar banknote circa 1993, the largest nominal value ever officially printed in Serbia, the final result of hyperinflation. ...


Finally, although Aurelian had played a significant role in restoring the Empire's borders for the moment from external threat, more fundamental problems remained that had caused the crisis to begin with. In particular the right of succession had never been clearly defined in the Roman Empire leading to continuous civil wars as competing factions in the military, senate and other parties put forward their favoured candidate for Emperor. Another problem was the sheer size of the Empire making it difficult for a single autocratic ruler to effectively manage multiple threats at the same time. All of these continuing problems would be radically addressed by Diocletian allowing the Empire to continue for at least another 100 years, and in the east, for another thousand years.


See these articles for more information on the leading figures or events of this time period:

Coin (antoninianus) of Aurelian Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (214–275), known in English as Aurelian, Roman Emperor (270–275), was the second of several highly successful soldier_emperors who helped the Roman Empire regain its power during the latter part of the third century and the beginning of the fourth. ... Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus (May 10, 213/214 - January, 270) , more often referred to as Claudius II, ruled the Roman Empire for less than two years (268 - 270), but during that brief time, he was so successful and beloved by the people of Rome that he attained divine status. ... Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus ( 245- 313 AD/CE), born Diocles, was Roman Emperor from November 20, 284 to May 1, 305. ... Gallienus depicted on a lead seal. ... Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus was emperor of the Gallic Empire from AD 259 to 268. ... The Crisis of the Third Century marked the end of the Principate, the early phase of Imperial Roman government. ... Battle of Naissus Conflict Roman-Gothic war Date September 268 Place Nis, Serbia and Montenegro Result Roman victory The Battle of Naissus took place in September of 268 between the armies of the Goths and forces of the Roman Empire, led by Gallienus as emperor and the future Emperor Aurelian... The Battle of Lake Benacus was one of the decisive battles that marked the beginning of the Roman Empires emergence from the Crisis of the Third Century. ... Zenobia (or Xenobia) is the name commonly used for the daughter of (= bat or bath) Zabaai ben Selim. ...

References

  • Alaric Watson, Aurelian and the Third Century (Taylor & Francis, 2004) ISBN 0415301874
  • John F. White, Restorer of the World: The Roman Emperor Aurelian (Spellmount, 2004) ISBN 1862272506

  Results from FactBites:
 
April 11: Third-century Crisis (2235 words)
century crisis – the period from 235 to 282.
In the mid-3rd century, the Persians reconquered Dura-Europos, invaded the eastern Roman empire, and captured the emperor Valerian.
The third century crisis was next logical stage of a process we have talked about quite a bit - the entry of provincials into Roman public life.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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