Europe 270: Wars of Claudius Gothicus
Claudius sent an expedition against the rival regime in Gaul in 269, apparently convincing the provinces of Spain to declare for him, but was forced to halt the campaign when hordes of Goths and their allies flooded into the Balkans, joining those already there. Although Claudius crushed the invaders at the Battle of Naissus, these continued distractions in Europe encouraged Odaenathus’ widow, Zenobia of Palmyra, to expand her realm in the East.
The rival Roman regime led by Postumus and his successors in Gaul (260–274) is often referred to as the Gallic Empire by modern historians. This term has no real historical basis; identity-wise, the Gallic emperors were simply Roman usurpers who successfully held out in Gaul for 14 years, but lacked the strength to take Rome.
The region controlled by the Palmyrene queen Zenobia in the name of her son Vaballathus (267–273) is often called the Palmyrene Empire by modern historians. This term was not used at the time and, despite her expansionism, Zenobia continued to officially recognize the authority of Rome—with her son as a king under the Roman emperor—up until Aurelian’s move against her domain in late 271. After this, Zenobia openly rebelled, declaring Vaballathus emperor and herself an empress, but here she was probably acting as a usurper challenging Aurelian rather than a secessionist attempting to create an independent empire.
269 Marcus Aurelius Marius▲
After Postumus defeated Laelianus and captured Mogontiacum (Mainz), his troops demanded to be able to sack the city. When Postumus refused, they mutinied and killed him. In his place, the simple soldier and former blacksmith, Marcus Aurelius Marius, was proclaimed Emperor.
269 Placidianus’ Gallic Campaign▲
The fall of Postumus (269) encouraged Claudius Gothicus to send an expedition against Gaul under the leadership of Julius Placidianus. Placidianus successfully captured Cularo (Grenoble), possibly persuading the Spanish provinces—which rejoined Rome at this time—to declare for Claudius. Soon afterwards, however, Claudius called a halt to the expedition to deal with a renewed Gothic offensive in the Balkans.
Within three days of Marius’ becoming Emperor at Mogontiacum (Mainz), Postumus’ prefect Marcus Piavonius Victorinus was proclaimed Emperor in Augusta Treverorum (Trier). Marius held on for several more months before being overthrown and killed, allegedly by a soldier armed with a sword the usurper had made in his days as a blacksmith.
269 Battle of Naissus▲
In 268/269 vast numbers of Goths, Gepids, Heruli, and other tribes, accompanied by their families, crossed the Roman border to join those already in the Balkans and by mid 269 they were threatening Thessalonica and Marcianopolis. In response, Claudius moved east with his army, luring the Goths into an ambush at Naissus and allegedly killing or capturing some 50,000. The survivors fled to Mons Haemus (the Balkan Mountains) where the Romans besieged them until famine and plague forced the remnant Goths to come to terms, accepting conscription into the Roman army or resettlement on Roman land.
269–270 Siege of Augustodunum▲
After the successes of Placidianus’ invasion of Gaul on behalf of Claudius (269), the town of Augustodunum Haeduorum (Autun), the center of the Aedui tribe, revolted against Victorinus in support of Claudius. However, Claudius, distracted by the Goths, was unwilling to provide Placidianus with the forces necessary to advance north in the town’s support. Victorinus swiftly descended on Augustodunum, recapturing and ruthlessly sacking it after a seven-month siege.
Apr–?? 270 Sack of Bostra▲
In the spring of 270 forces under Zenobia of Palmyra’s general, Zabdas, crossed into the Roman province of Arabia, defeating and killing the local commander Trassus near Bostra. The Palmyrenes then sacked Bostra, destroying the temple of Jupiter Hammon, before proceeding south to secure Petra. The emperor Claudius, who was still engaged with the Goths at this point, apparently made no response to this aggression.