Lucius Verus


Lucius Verus : biography

15 December 0130 – 169

A new king was installed: a Roman senator of consular rank and Arsacid descent, Gaius Julius Sohaemus. He may not even have been crowned in Armenia; the ceremony may have taken place in Antioch, or even Ephesus.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 280 n. 42; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. Sohaemus was hailed on the imperial coinage of 164 under the legend : Verus sat on a throne with his staff while Sohaemus stood before him, saluting the emperor.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 131; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 261ff.; 300 ff.

In 163, while Statius Priscus was occupied in Armenia, the Parthians intervened in Osroene, a Roman client in upper Mesopotamia, just east of Syria, with its capital at Edessa. They deposed the country’s leader, Mannus, and replaced him with their own nominee, who would remain in office until 165.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130, 279 n. 38; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163, citing Prosopographia Imperii Romani2 M 169. (The Edessene coinage record actually begins at this point, with issues showing Vologases IV on the obverse and "Wael the king" (Syriac: W’L MLK’) on the reverse).Millar, Near East, 112. In response, Roman forces were moved downstream, to cross the Euphrates at a more southerly point.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162.

On the evidence of Lucian, the Parthians still held the southern, Roman bank of the Euphrates (in Syria) as late as 163 (he refers to a battle at Sura, which is on the southern side of the river).Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 29; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. Before the end of the year, however, Roman forces had moved north to occupy Dausara and Nicephorium on the northern, Parthian bank.Fronto, Ad Verum Imperator 2.1.3 (= Haines 2.133); Astarita, 41; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. Soon after the conquest of the north bank of the Euphrates, other Roman forces moved on Osroene from Armenia, taking Anthemusia, a town south-west of Edessa.Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae ; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130. There was little movement in 164; most of the year was spent on preparations for a renewed assault on Parthian territory.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 131.

Invasion of Mesopotamia (165)

In 165, Roman forces, perhaps led by Martius Verus and the V Macedonica, moved on Mesopotamia. Edessa was re-occupied, Mannus re-installed.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163, citing Prosopographia Imperii Romani2 M 169. His coinage resumed, too: ‘Ma’nu the king’ (Syriac: M’NW MLK’) or Antonine dynasts on the obverse, and ‘King Mannos, friend of Romans’ (Greek: Basileus Mannos Philorōmaios) on the reverse.Millar, Near East, 112. The Parthians retreated to Nisibis, but this too was besieged and captured. The Parthian army dispersed in the Tigris; their general Chosrhoes swam down the river and made his hideout in a cave.Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 15, 19; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163. A second force, under Avidius Cassius and the III Gallica, moved down the Euphrates, and fought a major battle at Dura.Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 20, 28; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163, citing Syme, Roman Papers, 5.689ff.

By the end of the year, Cassius’ army had reached the twin metropolises of Mesopotamia: Seleucia on the right bank of the Tigris and Ctesiphon on the left. Ctesiphon was taken and its royal palace set to flame. The citizens of Seleucia, still largely Greek (the city had been commissioned and settled as a capital of the Seleucid empire, one of Alexander the Great’s successor kingdoms), opened its gates to the invaders. The city got sacked nonetheless, leaving a black mark on Lucius’ reputation. Excuses were sought, or invented: the official version had it that the Seleucids broke faith first.HA Verus 8.3–4; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163. Birley cites R.H. McDowell, Coins from Seleucia on the Tigris (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935), 124ff., on the date. Whatever the case, the sacking marks a particularly destructive chapter in Seleucia’s long decline.John F. Matthews, The Roman Empire of Ammianus (London: Duckworth, 1989), 142–43. Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163–64, says that the siege marked the end of the city’s history.