6 Valerian vs Shapur


  1. Gallus and various sons

  • Decius on campaign north of Danube - Gothic invasion 
    • Don’t really know who Gothic groups were - generic group for barbarian tribes
    • Ethnicity in antiquity a matter of stereotypes and teleology 
    • Gothic groups generic term for foreigners - same for Scythians and Medes in Herodotus 
    • Comparison between these groups and those who take over the empire in the 5th century 
    • Viewed as initial members of groups which will eventually take over Rome
    • Search for continuity between groups discredited today - this scholarship originated in 18t/19th century - why?
    • Comparison between Medes in Herodotus and Gothic tribes in 3rd century Rome?
  • Faces major defeat in Thrace; trying to save face and kid killed with older son and co-ruler
  • 251: rest army proclaims governor Moesius Inferior emperor - Gallus
  • Sources for period heavily unreliable
    • e.g. Zosimus 
    • Reason why the period starts to look so fragmented
  • Rumour Gallus conspired with Goths unlikely - cf. Philip, likely a literary trope
  • Makes own son Caesar AND remaining son of Decius 
    • Part of affiliation with previous emperor (and deifies Decius)
  • Decius’ son dies very quickly (of plague?)
    • Zosimus hints at foul play, Historia Augusta thinks just plague
  • Gallus puts in place treaty with Goths but they come and go as they please over northern border WITHOUT response from central government 
    • Rome’s resources so stretched that increasingly it is not even fielding armies to combat raiding parties 
  • 252: Sapor’s second invasion (3 major invasions)
    • 5 years after Philips’ breaking of the treaty 
    • Sapor’s narrative, written from the east, the time is condensed and therefore legitimate
    • Rhetorical construction in eastern sources - own narrative created to legitimise invasion 
    • Second campaign devastates the eastern side of Roman Empire
    • Defence seems to come from local militia
      • Coins minted by local militia similar to those of Elagabalus
      • Failure of central response leading to local defence 
      • Unspoken contract - taxes are paid in turn for defence from threat
      • If empire ceases to uphold its end of the bargain, then what use is the empire? If it can’t defend its own borders, can it hold its own provinces?

2.Aemilians and Valerianus 

  • 253: Aemilianus declared emperor by troops
    • Ideology of buying into Herculean imagery, seen as successful despite literary sources mocking Commodus for it
  • Gallus and Volusianus die - own troops?
  • Aemilians dies - own troops?
  • Supposedly Gallus had called for reinforcements
    • True? Fits into Valerianus justification to state he was called to defend Gallus, puts him on the right side of history
  • Valerian prominent under Gordians - throwback emperor
    • Produces fairly traditional coinage - cf. Severans
    • Son Gallianus
  • Recognition that it is impossible for one emperor to be on both frontiers at once
    • Valerian tries to split the empire between himself and son 


3.  Sapor’s Third Invasion 

  • Spring 260? New invasion of Sapor
    • Why only now? Because Rome not only concern of Sapor
    • Rome a major player for Sapor, but also dealing with internal threats on his frontiers 
    • Rome-centric view not accurate
  • Major battle between Carrhae and Edessa
    • Valerian suffers heavy defeat - army thrashed trying to intercept invasion of “Scythians” 
  • Having been defeated, Valerian attempts negotiation and fails
    • First Roman emperor to be captured
    • Emperor enslaved to foreign magnate; spends rest of life in captivity
  • Valerian attempts second empire wide persecution of Christians
    • Explains delight in later Christian sources in his fate?
    • Lactantius - imaginative stories of what Sapor did with Valerian for the rest of his life 
      • Discussion of memory - misrepresentation of what’s going on, buried in a source which is almost definitely misrepresenting what happened 

4. Sapor’s Defeat

  • Why is this not the end for the Roman Empire?
    • Not much evidence that Sapor was concerned with expanding for territory, only raiding for resources
  • Sapor defeated… but not by Roman empire; a new alliance of local magnates
    • Macrianus - fiscal official
    • Callistus/Ballista - naval officer
    • Odaenathus - Lord of Palmyra
  • Macrianus revolts against Roman emperor, who is at this point by default, Gallienus
  • Aug 260: revolts but doesn’t declare himself emperor, but his two young sons as co-Augusti
    • Macrianus Junior and Quietus
    • Seem to be recognised as emperors in various parts of empire
      • Locals on ground in Egypt aware of turbulent matters in the east
      • Why are they aware of it? Why does it matter who is emperor? 
      • Matters because it determines what coins are accepted!
      • What happens to currency when emperor no longer emperor?
        • Difficult more so in this period because faster turnover of emperors
        • Nature of daily life in third century and how the crisis affected local populace


5. Gallienus’ inheritance

  • Gallienus had been co-emperor with Valerian almost immediately
  • Gallenius dies in 258 and replaced by Saloninus, Gallienus’ son
  • Large number of usurpations
  • Includes governor of lower Germany, Postumus
    • Defeats German raiding party
    • Postmus decides not to march on Rome, just stays in Gaul
    • Gallienus does nothing about it (can’t do anything about it; too many issues)
    • Postumus stays in power in Gaul with imperial command 
    • Postumus is in practice emperor in the west
    • Does he count as an emperor? Never confirmed by senate or invades Rome
    • Structures of imperial authority breaking down

2.Tripartite Empire

  • Partially solves eastern problem
    • Macrianus moves west
    • Beaten by Aureoles
    • Gallienus writes to Odaenathus - offers corrector totes Orients
      • Gives de facto control in the east - cf. Philips’ position for Julius Priscus
    • Callistus and Quietus captured and killed by own troops

    • Gallienus lost 12 and a half provinces in 18 months and practically only has control of central third of empire
    • In East, Gallienus technically in charge but all authority delegated to local Palmyrene king Odaenathus
    • Postumus stays in power in Gaul

    • We’ve seen increase in threats on northern frontier, increase in problems surrounding raising funds to pay armies, and Rome starting to lose battles
    • Discontent among local elites in provinces growing
    • Point at which Rome is incapable of defence, what is the point in empire?
    • Leads to problem of local magnates being proclaimed empire - which had always happened - but also capable of providing stable protection, and Rome not able/wanting to challenge claims
    • Valerian - imagery very powerful, but not the worst. Gallienus the real emperor who oversees breakdown of empire
    • How can empire recover from this fragmentation? Why did the Roman Empire not fall during this period? Interesting return to stability