Home > B. The Living Artifact > The Crisis of the Third Century, Part 2: The Gallic Empire

The Crisis of the Third Century, Part 2: The Gallic Empire

File:KölnFromTheISS.jpg

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Perhaps the oddest piece of the puzzle known as The Crisis of the Third Century is the Gallic Empire, which lasted from AD 260 to 274. This empire’s political legacy is negligible: a single emperor of any note, Postumus, who founded the empire and made Cologne its capital. He set up a political structure based on the Roman Republic’s: a dual consulship and senate and ruled for ten years before being murdered by his own troops. His several successors were ineffectual, and the empire was reconquered by Aurelian in 274.

Here’s what makes the Gallic Empire significant: its cultural context. After Postumus declared himself emperor, he was swiftly recognized throughout western Europe: Gaul, including its Germanic borders, Britain, and Spain all accepted the new emperor’s authority. It seems clear enough that they were disenchanted with Roman rule and, after a couple of centuries of incorporation into the Roman Empire, still formed a cultural unit. No surprise, here: the Gallic lands had been allowed to keep their indigenous beliefs (minus human sacrifice). They clearly admired Rome’s political structure, but life as second-class provincials had grown burdensome–and this in spite of Caracalla’s decree (AD 212) declaring all free men in the Empire Roman citizens. Caracalla, one of the most brutal emperors, apparently extended citizenship only in order to raise tax revenues.

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And still the question remains unanswered: how did Aurelian manage to reunite the Roman Empire amid such disaffection? Stay tuned, folks: Part 3, featuring exotic Palmyra, is on its way…  RT

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RT’s Related Posts: 1) What if? Palmyra and The Crisis of the Third Century 2) The Crisis of the Third Century–Part 1, Rome

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Photo“Köln (Cologne), Germany. The old city street patterns fanning from the Rhine, visible from space.”

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