Between 260 and 274 CE, a series of generals ruled over the Gallic Empire. What about the Roman Empire, you are thinking? The Gallic Empire was a breakaway state that controlled the former (and future) Roman provinces of Germania, Gaul, Britannia, and for a time Hispania. It had five emperors in 14 years, printed it own coins, elected two consuls each year, and likely even had its own senate.
The Gallic Empire was a symptom of the Crisis of the 3rd Century, when Roman power was seriously challenged and breakaway states including the Gallic Empire and the Palmyrene Empires sprung up. Both were reconquered by the militarily capable Roman emperor Aurelian in 273 and 274, but the crisis did not really end until Diocletian took the purple in 284 CE.
The the spring in Isokyrö, Finland, produces something unusual: human remains. Over 98 different peoples' bones have been recovered from the spring since the 1800s. It used to be a full-sized lake, and when it was, it was the site of unusual water burials of mainly women and children.
One recent analysis looked at the remains of four individuals, and found that they were interred between 800 BCE and 400 CE. A second, separate analysis of other remains utilized DNA and dating methods and looked to see which modern populations they might be related to. Its findings suggests the Isokyrö region was inhabited by Sámi people in ancient times – according to carbon datings of the bones which belonged to individuals that had died from 500 to 700 CE. The lake was far from any human settlements at the time so why it was chosen, and why mainly women and children were buried there, remains unsolved.
In autumn of 284 CE, the Roman army returned home after a successful campaign against the Persian Empire. Unfortunately, their emperor Carus had died while the army was returning west. The army was now led by Carus' son, Numerian. But Numerian was mysteriously missing. His attendants claimed he had an eye infection which he had to protect "from the wind and sun." But the soldiers became suspicious, especially when an increasingly strong smell was coming from the coach supposedly carrying Numerian. When the army reached Nicomedia on November 20th it all came out. Numerian was found dead, and some said he was murdered, possibly by his own father-in-law Aper!
The soldiers "fell upon Aper, whose treachery could no longer be hidden, and they dragged him before the standards in front of the general's tent" the Historia Augusta tells us. The army assembled and a tribunal was held. By this point, the man proclaimed by the army was almost certain to be the emperor. So the army was deciding two questions: who could avenge Numerian, and whoever that was, could they be given the empire as a good emperor?
The solution was a 40-year-old officer from Dalmatia, Diocletian. He was already prominent, having commanded Numerian's household troops. After the tribunal was over, Diocletian stepped forward, and drew his sword. History tells us he then pointed at Aper and proclaimed loudly enough for the troops to hear "It is he who contrived Numerian's death!" Diocletian then sunk his sword into Aper's chest. Diocletian's reign marked teh end of the Crisis of the Third Century, stabilizing the empire after he defeated Carus' other son Carinus.
Archaeologists have recently rediscovered remains of a trading and religious center of Aksum. Aksum, a kingdom principally located in today's Ethiopia, thrived from the 1st to 8th centuries CE, and was the state which saw the region converted to Christianity. It traded with the Roman Empire and India, minted its own coins, and took over the declining kingdom of Kush which had long rivaled ancient Egypt. The newly found city lay between the capital (also called Aksum) and the Red Sea.
The city has been renamed Beta Samati, which means "house of audience" in the local Tigrinya language. It was discovered in 2011, hiding more than 10 feet below the surface, in Ethiopia's Yeha region. The remains are already changing what we think we know about Aksum. It had previously been believed that societies in the region collapsed in the period before the rise of the Aksum Kingdom. But Beta Samati continued through the period of supposed abandonment just fine, functioning as a major connection on trade routes linking the Mediterranean and other cities which would end up under Aksum control.
Cyrus the Great, the founder of the first Persian Empire, conquered the millennia-old city of Babylon on October 12th, 539 BCE. Local inscriptions tell us it was without a fight, or even a siege. This was probably because local rulers recognized all was lost and decided to give in and hope for a good settlement.
But Greek historian Herodotus tells a more exciting version. According to him, the city’s walls crossed the river Euphrates. Unable to get past the walls, Cyrus had sappers drain the river upstream into a nearby lake, until the river’s level fell “about to the middle of a man’s thigh.” As the Babylonians celebrated a religious festival the Persians simply walked -- dripping -- into a dancing city.
Whether it was surrendered or it was captured, Babylon would belong to the Persian Empire and Cyrus’ descendants for the next 200 years.
Some archaeological finds have to be seen to be believed, and the discovery of the 2,200-year-old grave of a male Celtic warrior in England has experts very excited indeed – as you'll understand once you take a peek at the haul. Read the full article on the find here.
Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 - 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor's personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power -- and his life.
The Sasanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE), which was a contemporary of the Roman and later Byzantine Empires, was once a great power. And like other great powers it built great walls to mark and control its borders. These included the Wall of the Arabs (in the southwest), Walls of Derbent (in the northwest at the Caspian Mountains) and Great Wall of Gorgan (in the northeast). Remains of the Sasanian border walls still exist, particularly in Derbent where they are a UNESCO world heritage site.
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!