The Crisis of the Third Century

Definition

The Crisis of the Third Century (also known as the Imperial Crisis, 235-284 CE) was the period in the history of the Roman Empire during which it splintered into three separate political entities: the Gallic Empire, the Roman Empire, and the Palmyrene Empire. These breakaway empires, as well as the social turmoil and chaos which characterized the period, resulted from a number of factors: a shift in the paradigm of leadership following the assassination of the emperor Alexander Severus (222-235 CE) in 235 CE by his own troops, increased participation by the military in politics, lack of adherence to a clear policy of succession for emperors, inflation and economic depression caused by a devaluation of currency under the Severan Dynasty, increased pressure on the emperor to defend the provinces from invading tribes, the plague which heightened fears and destabilized communities, and larger armies which required more men and decreased the agricultural labor force.

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Timeline

  • 235 CE - 284 CE
    The Crisis of the Third Century in Rome; period of the Barracks Emperors.
  • 260 CE
    Postumus founds the "breakaway" Gallic Empire, seceding from Roman Empire.
  • c. 270 CE
    Zenobia breaks away from Roman Empire to found Palmyrene Empire.
  • 272 CE
    The Battle of Immae between the Roman forces under Aurelian and the Palmyrenes under Zenobia in which Rome triumphed.
  • 272 CE
    Aurelian defeats Zenobia at the Battle of Emesa; Palmyrene Empire falls to Rome.
  • 274 CE
    Aurelian defeats the forces of Tetricus I at the Battle of Chalons; Gallic Empire falls to Rome.
  • 284 CE - 275 CE
    Crisis of the Third Century resolved during the reign of Diocletian.
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