Anarchy and Crisis Coins [Part 1] (217 - 238 AD)
The short reign of Macrinus was spent entirely in the East where he proved unable to maintain the influence gained in the region by the campaigns of Caracalla. He promoted his son, Diadumenian, as Caesar and, later, as Augustus to rule with him; but events overtook them both. Macrinus was defeated in battle in June AD 218 by the forces of Elagabalus, a distant cousin of Caracalla, outside Antioch in Syria. Macrinus and Diadumenian were hunted down and killed by troops loyal to the new emperor.
Elagabalus, (official name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), took the name of the Syrian sun god of Emesa: Heliogabal. Elagabalus was the high priest of this god and he actively promoted his beliefs in Rome after becoming emperor. His mother, Julia Soaemias, was a niece of Septimius Severus and this family link made Elagabalus the ‘last of the Antonines’. Elagabalus was a sex-crazed pervert who repeatedly shocked Roman society with his depraved behaviour. He alienated both the senate and the army by his antics, and he was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard in March AD 222. Elagabalus and his mother were hacked to pieces, dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown into the Tiber.
The Guards chose Alexander Severus, the 17-year old cousin of Elagabalus, as the next emperor. His mother, Julia Mamaea was a niece of Septimius Severus. Alexander’s mother and grandmother, Julia Maesa, in fact held the reigns of power for the young emperor, who was regarded as a puppet-emperor by the army. Described as a ‘good’ man who attempted to re-establish the rule of law, Alexander did try to re-introduce a sense of respect for the senate. However, he lived in chaotic times when the frontiers of the Empire were under permanent threat. Alexander had some success against the Germans and Persians. However, just before the launch of a Roman attack across the Rhine in AD 235, Alexander tried to come to terms with the Germans. The troops were furious and they short-sightedly murdered Alexander and his mother.
The three years from 235 to 238 witnessed no less than six emperors and several usurpers. The army rapidly promoted then destroyed a succession of contenders for the purple. Men such as Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I, Gordian II, Balbinus and Pupienus tried to uphold imperial authority in these chaotic times against a background of increasing anarchy and crisis. James R. Wadman B.A., M.A. [History and Archaeology] for TimeLine Originals