Europe 218: Macrinus and Elagabalus
In 217 the unstable Caracalla was assassinated at the behest of his successor Macrinus, but Macrinus found it harder to resolve the financial problems Caracalla had created. When, just a year later, Caracalla’s aunt Julia Maesa pushed her grandson, the 14-year-old sun god priest Elagabalus, as his true heir, many troops, angered by Macrinus’ attempts to reduce their pay, sided with the usurper. The rebels swiftly defeated Macrinus near Antioch and Elagabalus became the new emperor.
11 Apr 217–? Jun 218 Principate of Macrinus▲
On 8 April 217 Caracalla was murdered by the soldier Justin Martialis; three days later the army proclaimed the 52-year-old praetorian prefect Macrinus as Emperor in his place. Forced to deal with Caracalla’s Parthian War and widely recognized as a conspirator in his predecessor’s assassination, Macrinus remained in the East with the Syrian army, becoming the first emperor acknowledged by the Senate never to visit Rome during his reign. Even so, Macrinus’ attempts to deal with the wars and fiscal problems Caracalla had created, by making unfavorable peace treaties and reducing the pay of new recruits, soon lost the support of the troops, and in June 218 he was overthrown by supporters of Elagabalus.
217 Battle of Nisibis▲
Following the assassination of Caracalla in 217, the Roman emperor Macrinus attempted to end the war with Parthia, but was rebuffed by Shah Artabanus IV. Invading Roman Mesopotamia, the Parthians defeated Macrinus in a three-day battle near Nisibis, although both sides suffered heavy casualties. Concerned by the bloodshed, Artabanus accepted peace in return for 200 million sesterces in reparations.
16 May 218 Elagabalus’ Revolt▲
In 218, in Emesa, Syria Phoenice, Caracalla’s aunt Julia Maesa publicly declared that her 14-year-old grandson Varius Avitus Bassianus—later called Elagabalus after the Syro-Roman sun god he served as a youth—was the illegitimate son of Caracalla, and therefore had a better claim to the imperial throne than the Roman emperor Macrinus. The local legion supported the claim and, at sunrise on 16 May, proclaimed Elagabalus as Emperor. Alarmed, Macrinus sent a contingent of troops to crush the revolt, only to have this force defect to Elagabalus.
8 Jun 218 Battle of Antioch▲
Concerned by Elagabalus’ revolt, Macrinus traveled to Apamea in late May 218 and tried to shore up his regime by proclaiming his nine-year-old son Diadumenian co-emperor. However, fearing the loyalty of the troops at Apamea, he panicked and fled north to Antioch, where he was defeated by Elagabalus’ general Gannys on 8 June. Escaping across Asia Minor in disguise, Macrinus was eventually discovered and executed at Chalcedon.