Marcus Claudius Tacitus born AD ca 200 in the Danube Region. Consul AD 203. Became emperor Oct./Nov. AD 275. Died in Tyana in Cappadocia, July AD 276.
Tacitus was the immediate successor of Aurelian. With barbarian invasions befalling the empire on many fronts, Tacitus decided that it was the east which required most urgent attention and led his armies into Asia Minor (Turkey), where he alongside his brother Florian, defeated a large Gothic invasion force in spring AD 276. Though already by July of AD 276 Tacitus was dead, either due to natural causes or by assassination.
Marcus Annius Florianus became emperor July AD 276. Died at Tarsus, September AD 276.
Forian acceded to the throne immediately after his brother’s death, though within only two or three weeks Aurelian’s lieutenant Pobus, challenged his rule and soon after their armies marched on each other. Though Florian’s troops eventually mutinied, killed their leader and declared allegiance to Probus.
Marcus Aurelius Equitius Probus born on 19 August AD 232 at Sirmium. Consul AD 277, 278, 279, 281, 282. Became emperor in July AD 276. Died near Sirmium, September AD 282. Deified AD 282.
After the murder of Florian the senate found itself with no other alternative than to recognize Probus in AD 276.
Though matters should not be easy for the new emperor. the Persian king Sapor had died and the campaign against the Persians was abandoned. If the Goths were quieted, the Germans along the Rhine and the Raetian were growing increasingly active.
Probus, a most distinguished soldier, spent the six years of his reign in vigorous campaigns carried far across the Rhine, enlisting from the barbarians themselves large bodies of auxiliary troops in the service of Rome.
But no series of successes could disguise the fundamental dangers of the situation. While the emperor was constantly personally engaged on campaigns on one frontier, he could not give his attention to other regions of the great empire.
In the east the commander Saturninus was forced into revolt by his own troops. It collapsed before the advance of the imperial forces, as did one or two others still more futile.
The trouble was that such risings were possible even when the emperor was a soldier and statesman as able as Probus.
Still more worrying was that a leader so applauded by soldiers and civilians should suddenly be slain in a mutiny led by the praetorian prefect Carus (AD 282).
Marcus Aurelius Numerius Carus born AD ca. 224 at Narbo in Gaul. Consul AD 283. Became emperor in September AD 282. Died near Ctesiphon, July/August AD 283.
Carus, though advanced in years, was an able and experienced soldier. Leaving his elder son Carinus to rule the west, he himself too up the project of the Persian war. On the way eastward, marching through Illyricum, he inflicted a heavy defeat on a horde of Sarmatians, continued during the winter his advance through Thrace and Asia Minor (Turkey), and in AD 283 conducted a triumphant campaign in Mesopotamia and even beyond the Tigris.
Though he soon after met his death in mysterious circumstances, reports saying his tent was struck by lighting during a storm.
Carinus and Numerian
Marcus Aurelius Carinus born AD ca. 250. Consul AD 283. Became emperor in spring AD 283. Wives: (1) Magnia Urbica (one son; Nigrinianus), (2 to 9) unknown. Died near Margum, summer AD 285.
Marcus Aurelius Numerius Numerianus
born AD ca. 253. Became emperor in spring AD 283. Died near Nicomedia, November AD 284.
At Carus’ death, rule of the empire fell to his two sons, Carinus and Numerian.
The troops compelled Numerian to abandon the Persian expedition on which he had accompanied his father. He was credited with both character and ability, but his health had broken down under the hardships of the Persian campaign. Though he accompanied his army in its withdrawal westwards he was constantly confined to a sick-bed, where he was rarely seen by anyone else but Arrius Aper, the praetorian prefect. All state business passed through Aper’s hands, so too all communication with the outside world.
At length the general suspicion became intolerable. Soldiers forced their way to their emperor, and found not a sick man, but a corpse.
Aper was then led in chains before a new emperor Diocletian, who had been elected the new ruler from his post of commander of the imperial bodyguard, who executed Aper by his own sword.
A few months later the tyrannical Carinus was slain at the very point of victory in battle over Diocletian, by the dagger of one of his own officer’s whose wife he had seduced.