Europe 175: Avidius Cassius’ Revolt
Marcus Aurelius defeated the Marcomanni and their allies in a series of campaigns from 171–5. Just as he was crushing the last of his enemies, rumors of Marcus’ death—allegedly fuelled by his wife Faustina—encouraged Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria, to proclaim himself emperor. However, as it became clear that Marcus was alive and marching south, the revolt collapsed and Cassius was murdered by his own men.
171–172 Marcomannic campaigns of 171–2▲
In 171 the Roman generals Pertinax and Valerius Maximianus chased the German tribes from the Empire, with Maximianus destroying Naristi cohesion by killing their chief in single combat. The next year Marcus Aurelius, accompanied by his 11-year-old son Commodus, led the Romans across the Danube and decisively defeated the Marcomanni. Forced to accept a punitive peace, the Marcomanni became Roman clients once again.
171–174 Mauri War of 171▲
In 171 Mauri raiders from the Atlas mountains landed on the coast of Baetica, in southern Spain. With only one legion in all of Spain—far off in Castra Legionis (León) in the northwest—the Mauri were able to raid into Tarraconensis and Lusitania before being expelled. Conflict with the Mauri seems to have continued, for in 174 Roman cavalry rode 400 km south from Mauretania in an apparent retaliatory expedition.
171 Vandal–Costoboci War▲
In 171 the Roman governor of Dacia, Sextus Cornelius Clemens, encouraged two Vandal tribes—the Hasdingi and the Lacringi—to attack and conquer the Costoboci. Jealous of Hasdingi gains, the Lacringi soon turned against and expelled their former allies, after which Clemens supported a Costoboci revolt against the Lacringi. Restored to their independence, the Costoboci agreed to become Roman allies.
172 Chauci War of 172▲
In 172 the Chauci, a Germanic tribe based in the Elbe, made a seaborne attack on Belgica via the North Sea coast. Mustering a force of auxiliaries, the governor Didius Julianus repelled the invaders in a short conflict.
172–173 Bucolic War▲
In 172 the Bucoli (herdsmen who lived in the Nile Delta) took up arms over a tax dispute and, under the leadership of the priest Isodorus, defeated a Roman legion sent against them. Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria, marched into Egypt to protect Alexandria from this threat, but refused to be drawn into battle against the numerous rebels. Instead he pursued a campaign of attrition and intrigue, gradually undermining Bucoli unity until, by late 173, the revolt collapsed.
?? 173–Jun 175 Danubian campaigns of 173–5▲
In 173 Marcus Aurelius repelled a Quadi–Iazygan invasion of Pannonia, catching and defeating the Iazyges as they retreated across the frozen Danube. The next year, he sent one army east against the Iazyges—who he defeated again when lightning apparently destroyed one of their siege engines—and one north against the Quadi—who were scattered when their encirclement of a sun-struck and thirsty Roman force was broken by the sudden onset of rain and hail. By early 175 the Romans were completely victorious on both fronts, with the Iazyges suing for peace just as news of Avidius Cassius’ revolt arrived.
? Apr–28 Jul 175 Avidius Cassius’ Revolt▲
In late April 175 Avidius Cassius, imperial legate of Syria and a hero of Lucius Verus’ Parthian War, responded to false reports that Marcus Aurelius had died of illness by proclaiming himself emperor (allegedly he had been misled by Marcus’ wife Faustina, who wanted to secure the position of her under-aged son Commodus). Cassius gained the support of the provinces of Egypt (which he made his base of operations), Syria, and Arabia, but was swiftly denounced by the Senate. When Marcus moved to invade Egypt with overwhelming force, one of Cassius’ own centurions turned against him in July, sending the murdered usurper’s head to Marcus as proof.