Europe 260: Capture of Valerian

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 29 Jun 260 (Crisis of the Third Century (I): Capture of Valerian), showing the following events: Battle of Mediolanum; Sack of Tarraco; Shapur I’s third Roman War; Capture of Valerian; Principate of Gallienus.

In 260 Shapur I of Persia launched another major invasion of the Roman Empire. Valerian marched east to deal with this threat but was defeated and captured by Shapur at Edessa. This humiliation—the first time a Roman emperor had been taken prisoner—would prove disastrous for an empire already strained by plague, a currency crisis, and multiple invasions.

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Main Events

259 Battle of Mediolanum

In response to the invasion of Italy by the Alemanni and Juthungi in 258, the western Roman emperor Gallienus crossed the Alps with his army. The two forces met near Mediolanum, where Gallienus decisively defeated the invaders—Zonaras claimed 300,000 Alemanni fell in the battle—and drove them back towards the frontier. The victory further proved the importance of cavalry in Roman warfare, persuading Gallienus to set up a mobile field army composed mostly of cavalry, headquartered at Mediolanum and under the command of his general wikipedia

259?–260? Sack of Tarraco

In around 259/260 a force of Franks and possibly Alemanni invaded the Roman Empire, making their way to Spain. Here they sacked the city of Tarraco, with some Franks apparently commandeering ships to conduct pirate raids as far as Mauretania. However, their appetite for further raids was dampened in the summer of 260, when the Roman general Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus decisively defeated the Franks at Empel, Belgica. in wikipedia

260 Shapur I’s third Roman War

In 260 the Persian shah Shapur I launched his third major invasion of the Roman Empire, quickly overwhelming Mesopotamia and Osrhoene. After defeating and capturing the Roman emperor Valerian, Shapur rampaged across Syria Coele, Cilicia, Cappadocia, and Galatia, before returning home that same year with many slaves and much wikipedia

260 Capture of Valerian

In spring 260 Shapur I of Persia besieged Edessa and Carrhae, prompting the eastern Roman emperor Valerian to march against him. However, much of Valerian’s army fell in a outbreak of plague, allowing Shapur to easily defeat and capture his rival (some sources even claim that he was seized while attempting to negotiate a truce). The first Roman emperor to have been taken prisoner, Valerian was sent back to Persia with the remnants of his army and ended his life in wikipedia

?? 260–Sep 268 Principate of Gallienus

The capture of Valerian by the Persians in 260 left his 42-year-old son Gallienus as the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Already facing plague, currency collapse, and foreign invasions, Gallienus soon had to deal with multiple usurpers challenging his reign from all corners of the empire. Despite this, he held on for another eight years, ending his father’s persecution of the Christians and continuing to reform the army, until his assassination at Mediolanum in wikipedia