[Continuity or crisis?] [Links] [Contact]
The third century: crisis
The second half of the third century was a time of crisis
for the Roman Empire. The borders were
threatened: Goths and Alemanni attacked from the north and in
Persia a new dynasty (the Sassanids) pursued an aggressive
expansionist policy, resulting in war with
During the reign of Gallienus (260 - 268 AD) large parts of the empire broke away under independent
rulers: the Gallic Empire in the west and the Palmyrene Empire in the east.
Other problems were usurpations by pretenders to the throne, in some areas a drop in agricultural production and a
general decline of long distance trade. After 270 AD the silver coinage
contained hardly any silver at all and an unchecked inflation set in.
And yet, the
Roman Empire did not collapse. Modern research has shown that the
core of the empire was still vigorous at the time, and many areas did not suffer
from war or crisis but showed strong continuity. Also, some emperors deserve more praise
than we gave them a few decades ago. Gallienus reformed the administration
and the army, introducing a quick intervention corps of mobile cavalry, to be
deployed when and where needed.
This website will not
provide a comprehensive survey of third century history. I will discuss two
themes: coin circulation from 260 to circa 300 AD, and the context and functions
of Forum Hadriani in the Civitas
Cananefatium in present day the Netherlands. Both themes will be
found to illustrate the effects of the crisis. Both themes will also illustrate
the continuity I mentioned. The content of this website is formed by my publications in
various journals, with a summary of the research results and a synthesis, in
which the question 'Continuity or crisis?' will be discussed.