Northern Africa 171: Mauri raids on Spain

Political map of Northern Africa on 09 Jul 171 (Rome and Northern Africa: Mauri raids on Spain), showing the following events: End of Himyar–Saba Union; Hadrami Qataban; Lucius Verus’ Parthian Campaign; Antonine Plague; First Marcomannic War; Mauri War of 171.

Hadrian ushered in a period of relative peace for the Roman Empire, which experienced almost fifty years with no major external threats. This ended in the mid 160s, when plague and invasions by Rome’s northern neighbors plunged the empire into crisis. Taking advantage of the situation, Mauri raiders from North Africa landed in southern Spain and plundered the countryside. Mauri attacks continued until at least 177, prompting at least one Roman counterattack into Africa (in 174).

Main Events

140? End of Himyar–Saba Union

Sometime around 140 the old personal union between the Ḥimyarite Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saba’ seems to have broken, restoring Saba’s independence. Following this, the two kingdoms became increasingly hostile to each other, fighting wars on several occasions over the next 120 years. The breakup of this union may also have ended Roman influence in Ḥimyar, which stopped producing coins depicting the likeness of Augustus by the mid 2nd wikipedia

160? Hadrami Qataban

In the mid-2nd century the Kingdom of Ḥaḑramawt invaded Qatabān, destroying its historical capital Timna. This brought an end to the Kingdom of Qatabān, which had been in steady decline for over two wikipedia

??–Dec 165 Lucius Verus’ Parthian Campaign

In 165 two Roman armies under Avidius Cassius and Marcus Claudius Fronto invaded Parthia through the kingdoms of northern Mesopotamia. Defeating the Parthians at Dura-Europos, Cassius advanced to capture and sack both the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon and the great commercial city of Seleucia in December. The Romans then marched to the Persian Gulf, just as Trajan had done half a century wikipedia

Dec 165–?? 180? Antonine Plague

During the siege of Seleucia in 165, Roman legions became infected with an unknown disease (most likely smallpox), which quickly spread throughout the Empire. Described in some detail by the Greco-Roman physician Galen, the disease claimed approximately five million lives over fifteen years. The army was hardest-hit, severely compromising the capabilities of the Roman legions over the coming wikipedia

?? 166–Jun 175 First Marcomannic War

In the winter of 166–167 the Langobards invaded the Roman Empire, beginning a series of attacks by almost all of Rome’s Germanic and Sarmatian neighbors. Although the Romans defeated all of these efforts, incursions by the Marcomanni reached Aquileia in Italy in 167, while a Costoboci raid across the Balkans in 170 managed to make it as far as Greece. Eventually Marcus Aurelius was able to mount a counteroffensive, crossing the Danube to subjugate the Marcomanni and their allies in 171– wikipedia

171–174 Mauri War of 171

In 171 Mauri raiders from the Atlas mountains landed on the coast of Baetica, in southern Spain. With only one legion in all of Spain—far off in Castra Legionis (León) in the northwest—the Mauri were able to raid into Tarraconensis and Lusitania before being expelled. Conflict with the Mauri seems to have continued, for in 174 Roman cavalry rode 400 km south from Mauretania in an apparent retaliatory wikipedia