Lucius Verus : biography
War with Parthia, 161–66
- For details, see: Roman–Parthian War of 161–66. See also: Roman–Persian Wars
Origins to Lucius’ dispatch, 161–62
On his deathbed, Pius spoke of nothing but the state and the foreign kings who had wronged him.HA Pius 12.7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 114, 121. One of those kings, Vologases IV of Parthia, made his move in late summer or early autumn 161.Event: HA Marcus 8.6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121. Date: Jaap-Jan Flinterman, "The Date of Lucian’s Visit to Abonuteichos," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 119 (1997): 281. Vologases entered the Kingdom of Armenia (then a Roman client state), expelled its king and installed his own—Pacorus, an Arsacid like himself.HA Marcus 8.6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121.
At the time of the invasion, the governor of Syria was L. Attidius Cornelianus. Attidius had been retained as governor even though his term ended in 161, presumably to avoid giving the Parthians the chance to wrong-foot his replacement. The governor of Cappadocia, the front-line in all Armenian conflicts, was Marcus Sedatius Severianus, a Gaul with much experience in military matters. But living in the east had a deleterious effect on his character.Lucian, Alexander 27; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121.
Severianus had fallen under the influence of Alexander of Abonutichus, a self-proclaimed prophet who carried a snake named Glycon around with him, but was really only a confidence man.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121. On Alexander, see: Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 241–50. Abonutichus was father-in-law to the respected senator P. Mummius Sisenna Rutilianus, then-proconsul of Asia, and friends with many members of the east Roman elite.Lucian, Alexander 30; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121. Abonutichus convinced Severianus that he could defeat the Parthians easily, and win glory for himself.Lucian, Alexander 27; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121–22.
Severianus led a legion (perhaps the IX Hispana)Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 278 n.19. into Armenia, but was trapped by the great Parthian general Chosrhoes at Elegia, a town just beyond the Cappadocian frontiers, high up past the headwaters of the Euphrates. Severianus made some attempt to fight Chosrhoes, but soon realized the futility of his campaign, and committed suicide. His legion was massacred. The campaign had only lasted three days.Dio 71.2.1; Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 21, 24, 25; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 121–22.
Coin of [[Vologases IV, king of Parthia, from 152/53.]] There was threat of war on other frontiers as well—in Britain, and in Raetia and Upper Germany, where the Chatti of the Taunus mountains had recently crossed over the limes.HA Marcus 8.7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 122. Marcus was unprepared. Pius seems to have given him no military experience; the biographer writes that Marcus spent the whole of Pius’ twenty-three-year reign at his emperor’s side—and not in the provinces, where most previous emperors had spent their early careers.HA Pius 7.11; Marcus 7.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 103–4, 122. Marcus made the necessary appointments: Marcus Statius Priscus, the governor of Britain, was sent to replace Severianus as governor of Cappadocia.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123, citing A.R. Birley, The Fasti of Roman Britain (1981), 123ff. Sextus Calpurnius Agricola would take Priscus’ former office.HA Marcus 8.8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123, citing W. Eck, Die Satthalter der germ. Provinzen (1985), 65ff.
More bad news arrived: Attidius Cornelianus’ army had been defeated in battle against the Parthians, and retreated in disarray.HA Marcus 8.6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. Reinforcements were dispatched for the Parthian frontier. P. Julius Geminius Marcianus, an African senator commanding X Gemina at Vindobona (Vienna), left for Cappadocia with detachments from the Danubian legions.Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum –; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. Three full legions were also sent east: I Minervia from Bonn in Upper Germany,Incriptiones Latinae Selectae –; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. II Adiutrix from Aquincum,Incriptiones Latinae Selectae ; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. and V Macedonica from Troesmis.Incriptiones Latinae Selectae ; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123.