Rome Split Into Three Empires Long Before It Split Into Two

The Crisis of the Third Century

Grant Piper

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(OpenAI)

The year 476 CE will always be associated with the Fall of Rome. It was this year that the Western Roman Empire crumbled for good, and the Roman torch passed forever to Constantinople in the East. However, Rome nearly collapsed two centuries earlier during the Crisis of the Third Century. This political crisis saw the Roman Empire break into three distinct pieces. Like the US Civil War, various states seceded from Rome and tried to form new states independent of Rome.

The Roman Empire split into three distinct states. The empire broke out into the Palmyrene Empire, the Gallic Empire, and the Roman Empire. The Palmyrene Empire and the Gallic Empire are largely forgotten, but their influence on Rome and the history that follows can still be seen and felt.

The Palmyrene Empire was based out of the city of Palmyra and contained most of the eastern lands, including Syria and the Holy Land. The Gallic Empire contained all of Roman Gaul, Britannia, and, for a brief time, Spain.

In a different world, this civil war succeeds, and Rome splits into various parts far sooner than it did in our reality. Instead, a massive military campaign and a tremendous force of will brought the empire back together with a slew of lasting changes.

Growing Instability

The crisis began like many political crises with the assassination of the emperor. In 235 CE, Emperor Severus Alexander was assassinated, plunging the empire into chaos. There would be twenty emperors between 235 CE and 270 CE. In 270, Emperor Aurelian took control and began to bring an end to the crisis. In the intervening years, numerous claimants rose and fell. Professional soldiers became highly sought after. The man with the most soldiers usually had the greatest claim to local power.

While the political crisis bloomed, the empire was beset by a series of other devastating issues. A horrible plague struck in 250 CE, and it depleted the valuable manpower of the empire. Bribes were rampant and in a bid to outbid their opponents, the currency was debased, leaving many Romans destitute. Barbarian raids and tribal migrations were rampant. The empire was under siege from…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.