Europe 272: Battle of Immae
While traveling east to face Zenobia, Aurelian concluded that Dacia was indefensible and pulled the remaining legions from that province south of the Danube. He then crossed into Asia Minor in early 272 and, marching rapidly on Syria, defeated Zenobia at Immae a few months later.
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.
271? Dacia Aureliana▲
To cater for the migrants from Dacia, Aurelian formed a new province of Dacia south of the Danube, carved out of the exisiting provinces of Upper and Lower Moesia and from Thrace—which had all been depopulated by frequent barbarian raids. The capital of this new Dacia was Serdica (Sofia), where a mint was established in 272. A few years later, probably still during the reign of Aurelian, the province was split into two: Dacia Ripensis on the Danube and Dacia Mediterranea in the south.
271?–272? Abandonment of Dacia▲
The barbarian invasions of the Balkans in the 3rd century had devastated the region, helping persuade Aurelian to strategically abandon the province of Dacia – probably in the late summer of 271, when the Dacian legions were needed for his campaign against Palmyra. The province’s troops were relocated south of the Danube, along with those civilians who chose to move. Many people remained behind and continued to trade with Rome; these Daco-Romans may have been the ancestors of today’s Romanians, although this is still debated.
In either 271 or 272 a certain Urbanus proclaimed himself emperor in opposition to Aurelian. He was swiftly defeated. Little else is known about him, but some historians theorize that his revolt was in Dalmatia.
272 Palmyrene Empire▲
By January 272 Aurelian’s march to the east had reached Byzantium, where he began preparations for the invasion of Zenobia’s holdings in Asia Minor. In response, Zenobia and her son Vaballathus proclaimed themselves Augusta and Augustus (empress and emperor) in March or April 272, finally assuming a stance of open rebellion against Aurelian.
272 Siege of Tyana▲
In spring 272 Aurelian and his army crossed the Bosporus into Asia Minor, where Ancyra (Ankara) in Galatia submitted without a struggle. The first resistance was in Tyana in Cappadocia, which enraged Aurelian when it refused to open its gates to him. However, when the city was betrayed to him, Aurelian was merciful, although he had all the dogs killed to fulfil a vow he had made that he “would not leave even a dog alive” in the town.
May 272 Aurelian’s reconquest of Egypt▲
In spring 272 Aurelian sent a naval expedition under the command of M. Aurelius Probus—the future emperor Probus—from Byzantium to retake Egypt from Zenobia. Probus landed near Alexandria in early May and, despite some close fighting, captured that city by the end of the month with the aid of reinforcements. The rest of the province soon fell to his forces, once again securing the province’s vital grain supply for Rome.
272 Battle of Immae▲
Marching south from Tyana, Aurelian neared Antioch in late spring 272. East of this important city, the empress Zenobia and her general Zabdas assembled a force of archers and heavily armored cavalry to meet the Romans in battle. Although inferior in heavy cavalry, Aurelian harassed the Palmyrenes with light cavalry until they were exhausted and then crushed them. Defeated, Zenobia fled to Emesa.