A Barracks emperor
was a Roman Emperor
who seized power by virtue of his command of the army. Barracks emperors were especially common in the period from 235 through 284, during the Crisis of the Third Century
. There were approximately fourteen barracks emperors in 33 years, producing an average reign of a little over two years apiece. The resulting instability in the imperial office and the near constant state of civil war and insurrection threatened to destroy the Roman Empire from within and left it vulnerable to attack from without.
Style of the 3rd century barracks emperors
Unlike previous emperors who had seized power in military coups d'état
and Septimius Severus
, both from traditional middle-class Equestrian
stock), the barracks emperors tended to be low-class commoners (often from outlying parts of the empire); the first barracks emperor, Maximinus Thrax
, had begun his military career as an enlisted soldier. A barracks emperor could not boast of a distinguished family name or a successful career as a statesman or public servant; rather, he had only his military career to recommend himself, and his only influence was the points of his soldiers' swords.
Some of these soldier emperors were members of the equestrian class who had worked their way up to a sufficient position of influence within their legion that the soldiers would support a bid for the purple, although this was a risky undertaking because the soldiers could withdraw their support at any... Read More