As the Empire expanded, the role of the military became more important and more soldiers had to be recruited. In the third century, their job was no longer to expand, but to defend and maintain the borders of the Roman Empire against ongoing attacks.
Maximinus Thrax doubled the soldiers' pay and raised taxes to an oppressive level to finance fighting the Germans. He was so hated that he had to march on Rome itself to put down a revolt -- unsuccessfully.
Emperor Gallienus tried to reform the military by, among other measures, making it more mobile with extra cavalry units, but it wasn't enough. Frontiers were breached during the half century of military anarchy, especially in Syria and Asia Minor. The Marcomanni, Quadi, Iazyges, Sarmatians, Carpi, Roxolani and Vandals all attacked the Roman Empire. The Heruli and Maeotidae overran Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia and Cilicia. Roman troops abandoned Dacia to the invaders. In the west, the Franks invaded Gaul and Spain; the Allamani attacked northern Italy; and Saxons attacked the coasts along the English Channel.
Men given positions of power by the emperors wanted more. Gallienus (busy dealing with the revolt of Ingenuus whom Gallienus had once appointed to senior command in Pannonia) put Postumus in charge of the Roman armies on the Rhine and Gaul. Postumus revolted and had himself made emperor. Saturninus had been a close friend of the Emperor Probus, but that didn't stop him from accepting a competing title to Emperor in 281. Probus' Prefect of the Guard, Carus, also accepted the imperial purple.
After the half century of chaos, drastic measures had to be taken to straighten out the succession and government of the Empire. Diocletian brought this about by devising the four-part division of the Empire, known as the Tetrarchy.
Gallic emperors: Postumus (260-268)
- Laelianus (268)
- Marius (late 268-early 269)
- Victorinus (269-270)
- Tetricus (270-273)
Emperors of Palmyrene:
- Vaballathus (271-272)
- [Augusta] Xenobia (271-272)
- Carausius (286-293)
- Allectus (293-296)
Next Page: Chaos Emperors Table