Europe 216: Caracalla’s Parthian Campaign

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 30 Jul 216 (The Severan Dynasty: Caracalla’s Parthian Campaign), showing the following events: Caracalla’s Dacian War; Antoninian Gallaecia; Caracalla’s Armenian Crisis; Alexandrian Massacre; Caracalla’s Parthian Campaign.

Following his Germanic War, Caracalla headed east to campaign against Parthia, now splintered between Shah Vologases VI, the usurper Artabanus IV, and the insurgent Sasanians. After Vologases agreed to cede political refugees to him and Artabanus agreed—or refused, sources vary—to give him his daughter in marriage, Caracalla attacked Artabanus and seized the city of Arbela, the proposed site of the wedding.

Main Events

213?–217 Caracalla’s Dacian War

In late 213 Caracalla proceeded east along the Danube, antagonizing the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Hasdingi Vandals with his actions along the way. Sometime after this, the ‘Dacians’ (presumably the Hasdingi and/or their neighbors) attacked Roman Dacia, ravaging parts of the province and demanding the return of hostages Caracalla had taken from them in an attempt to enforce their allegiance. The war was still in effect in 217, when Macrinus appeased these tribes by returning Caracalla’s wikipedia

214? Antoninian Gallaecia

In c.214 Caracalla separated the regions of Lucus and Bracara from Tarraconensis to create a new province, which he named Hispania Nova Citerior Antoniniana after himself (Caracalla’s real name was Antoninus). This move may have been to reduce the power of Tarraconensis and/or to improve the administration of a region rich in mines. The new province was renamed Hispania Superior Gallaecia after Caracalla’s death and then reincorporated into Tarraconensis some time after wikipedia

214–217 Caracalla’s Armenian Crisis

In an attempt to gain control of Armenia, Caracalla had King Chosroes and his family detained in Rome in 214, but the move simply encouraged the Armenians to reject Roman authority altogether. Caracalla responded by sending in the army the following year, only to suffer a humiliating defeat. Roman–Armenian relations were finally restored in 217 when, after the death of Chosroes and then Caracalla, Chosroes’ son Tiridates II was declared King of wikipedia

215 Alexandrian Massacre

In the 210s Caracalla heard that the inhabitants of Alexandria—where his murdered brother Geta remained popular—were widely mocking his reign. He responded by visiting Alexandria en route to Parthia and persuading all the city’s young men to form an unarmed phalanx in honor of his hero Alexander. When they were thus gathered, Caracalla suddenly unleashed his troops on them, slaughtering the young men and executing the leading citizens. He then plundered and partially destroyed the city wikipedia

27 May 216–8 Apr 217 Caracalla’s Parthian Campaign

In 215 the Roman emperor Caracalla demanded Shah Vologases VI of Parthia hand over some political refugees. When Vologases obliged, Caracalla turned to his brother and rival, Artabanus IV, and offered to accept his daughter’s hand in marriage early the next year. Sources differ on whether or not Artabanus agreed; regardless, Caracalla took the opportunity to seize Arbela, capital of the Parthian client state Adiabene and proposed site of the wedding, and cause terror among the population. Artabanus withdrew to gather forces east of the Tigris, but was saved from a renewed invasion by Caracalla’s assassination in April wikipedia