Europe 253: Battle of Barbalissos

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 12 Aug 253 (The Crisis of the Third Century: Battle of Barbalissos), showing the following events: Shapur I’s conquest of Armenia; Aemilian’s Gothic campaign; Quinquegentiani; Revolt of Aemilian; Uranius Antoninus; Battle of Barbalissos.

Following Decius’ death at Abritus, Trebonianus Gallus became Emperor, but lasted just two years (251–53) before being overthrown by Aemilian, commander of the Danube legions. Meanwhile, Shapur I of Persia had annexed Armenia in 252 and soon afterwards launched his second invasion of the Roman Empire, destroying the defending Roman army at Barbalissos in Syria.

[It is uncertain whether Barbalissos was fought in 252 or 253, or even which Roman emperor was in power at the time. However, it seems most likely that it occurred towards the end of Trebonianus Gallus’ reign. The map places it in August 253 to coincide with Aemilian’s invasion of Italy.]

Main Events

252 Shapur I’s conquest of Armenia

In 252 Shah Shapur I invaded Armenia, finally bringing an end to the reign of Tiridates II (217–252). Fleeing the kingdom, Tiridates was given amnesty in Rome—in violation of the 244 Roman agreement not to interfere in Armenian affairs—and thereby granted the Persians a casus belli against the wikipedia

253 Aemilian’s Gothic campaign

When Trebonianus Gallus became Emperor, he placed Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus (Aemilian) in command of the Danube frontier. Aemilian soon angered the Goths by refusing to pay the tribute agreed to by Gallus, inciting them to launch a renewed invasion of Moesia. However, Aemilian was ready, defeating the Goths in a number of battles and driving them back across the wikipedia

253–262 Quinquegentiani

In 253 the Quinquegentiani (“five peoples”), a confederation of Berber tribes in the highlands of Kabylia, revolted against Roman rule in Mauretania Caesariensis and began attacking Roman settlements as far as Numidia. The threat from these tribes forced Valerian to reform the Legio III Augusta (it had been disbanded in 238 for supporting Maximinus Thrax). Despite this, the war lasted for almost a decade and it was not until the early 260s that order was restored in the wikipedia

253 Revolt of Aemilian

Buoyed by Aemilian’s victories over the Goths, the Danube legions proclaimed him as Emperor in 253. After gathering all the forces in the region, Aemilian marched on Rome. Panicked Trebonianus Gallus called for the support of Valerian, commander of the legions in wikipedia

253–254 Uranius Antoninus

In 253, possibly in the aftermath of the Battle of Barbalissos, a certain Uranius Antoninus seized power in Emesa, where he ruled as a priest-king in the name of the god Sol Invictus. Uranius successfully halted the Persian advance against his city, but after that appears to have placated Shapur I by agreeing to become a Persian vassal. He was deposed in 254, probably after Valerian arrived in wikipedia

253? Battle of Barbalissos

In 252 or 253 Shah Shapur I of Persia invaded Roman Mesopotamia, using allegations of Roman interference in Armenia as a pretext. An army of as many as 60 thousand Roman troops gathered to defend Syria, but was defeated and destroyed by the Persians at Barbalissos, leaving the Roman provinces in Asia wikipedia