Rome’s Troubled Third Century and the Emergence of a New Equilibrium

Matthew P. Canepa

in The Two Eyes of the Earth

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780520257276
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944572 | DOI:
Rome’s Troubled Third Century and the Emergence of a New Equilibrium

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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After Severus Alexander's murder, Rome's relationship with the Sasanian empire scarcely figured in the imagery and ideology of his successors, who were largely preoccupied with holding the northern limes. The Roman empire's immediate ideological and propagandistic response to Šāpūr's success and claims was as weak as its military response. After his “submission” to Šāpūr I, Philip mustered only the feeble coin legend pax fundata cum persis to hide the shady dealings around his accession after Gordian III's death on campaign. A substantial response from Rome came only under Gallienus, Valerian's son. Despite his gestures toward Roman tradition, Gallienus focused on developing a charismatic, divinely inspired, even transcendent kingship. After the capture of Valerian, the theme of divine investiture and election reemerges en force in Gallienus's coinage, after an absence of more than two generations. This chapter looks at the role of Palmyra in the late third century as a mediating point between Rome and Persia. It also considers the competing images of sacral kingship in the arch of Galerius.

Keywords: Rome; Sasanian empire; Persia; Šāpūr I; Gallienus; Valerian; kingship; divine investiture; Palmyra; arch of Galerius

Chapter.  7455 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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