Ancient Rome in crisis

After 250 years of stability, the third century AD saw the Roman empire descend into an era of chaos – and, says Harry Sidebottom, its rulers only had themselves to blame...

Bust of Emperor Alexander Severus

This article was first published in the September 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

On a spring morning in AD 235, a column of dust on the horizon signalled the approach of Maximinus Thrax’s mutinous troops. On the parade ground in what is now Mainz in Germany, the young emperor Alexander Severus begged his soldiers to fight for him against these rebels. In spite of their promises, renewed the day before, the troops refused to take up arms. They shouted various complaints: against the cowardice of the emperor’s commanders and household, against the rapacity and miserliness of his mother.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now