Northern Africa 193: Year of Five Emperors

Political map of Northern Africa on 19 Apr 193 (Rome and Northern Africa: Year of Five Emperors), showing the following events: Bucolic War; Avidius Cassius’ Revolt; Mauri War of 177; Principate of Didius Julianus; Pescennius Niger; Septimius Severus.

After the instability of the 170s—which also saw revolts in EgyptRoman Africa enjoyed relative peace until 193. That year Didius Julianus controversially bribed his way into power, prompting challenges by the usurpers Pescennius Niger in Syria and Egypt and Septimius Severus in the Danube provinces. Eventually the African-born Severus prevailed, leading to the foundation of the Severan dynasty.

Main Events

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 wikipedia

? 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 wikipedia

177 Mauri War of 177

In 177 the Mauri mounted another major raid on Roman Spain from North Africa, landing at Malaca (Malaga) in the province of Baetica and laying siege to the inland town of Singilia Barba (Antequera). However, they had been trailed from the Atlas mountains by C. Vallius Maximianus, the procurator of Mauretania Tingitana, who vanquished the invaders by setting his legion on them from wikipedia

28 Mar–1 Jun 193 Principate of Didius Julianus

On 28 March 193—the same day they assassinated Pertinax—the Praetorian Guard announced that the position of Emperor would be sold to the highest bidder. After several hours of bidding, Didius Julianus, former proconsul of Africa, won the title by offering 25,000 sesterces to each Praetorian. This corrupt path of accession provoked popular outrage in Rome and civil war in the Empire. Unable to stop Septimius Severus’ invasion of Italy, Julianus was denounced by the Senate and killed by a soldier in his palace on 1 wikipedia

9–19 Apr 193 Pescennius Niger

Soon after Didius Julianus became emperor, a short-lived popular uprising broke out in Rome, with the mob seizing control of the Circus Maximus and calling for Pescennius Niger and the Syrian legions to take the throne. Emboldened, Niger proclaimed himself emperor in April 193, receiving the support of the eastern provinces, and accepting embassies from Parthia and other countries across the continent of Asia. However, rather than marching on Rome immediately, he remained in Antioch and did not even order Egypt to cut the Roman grain wikipedia

11 Apr 193 Septimius Severus

Following the accession of Didius Julianus as emperor and receiving news of Pescennius Niger’s counter-claim, Septimius Severus, governor of both the Pannonian provinces, announced his desire to avenge the death of the emperor Pertinax. Rallying both the Danube legions and the Roman clients in Germania to his cause, Severus was proclaimed emperor in Carnuntum in April wikipedia