The military chose Claudius Gothicus as Roman Emperor during perilous times. A conspiracy murdered his predecessor, the empire had splintered three ways, barbarian incursions continued, and political generals threatened insurrection. Gothicus hoped to reunite the empire, but had to deal with the barbarians first. He managed a dramatic and decisive victory against the Goths, then broke the Alamanni, but then died of the plague.
Emperor Gallienus presided over the Roman Empire’s breakup. The Gallic and Palmyrene Empires splintered off the Roman core. Gallienus worked to combat both foreign and domestic invasions and hoped to unify the empire. However, a conspiracy emerged to remove the emperor. Gallienus was betrayed and murdered. In response, the military turned the Claudius Gothicus.
Gothicus spent his life in the military and rose through the ranks on merit. Gallienus appointed him the commander of a Roman special cavalry force. The military knew and trusted the cavalry commander. So, they appointed Gothicus emperor to replace Gallienus.
The new emperor had to secure his power, defeat several barbarian incursions, and reintegrate the Gallic and Palmyrene Empires within the Roman Empire. In 268, Gothicus defeated a massive Gothic army in modern Serbia. The victory at the Battle of Naissus earned Claudius his surname. Gothicus means “conqueror of the Goths.” The Romans broke the Goths and took thousands of prisoners.
The emperor could not rest on his laurels after Naissus. The Alamanni tribe invaded Northern Italy after crossing the Alps. Gothicus met them at Lake Benacus in late 268. Once again, the emperor won a dramatic victory. The Senate awarded him the title “Germanicus Maximus” for his effort.
Gothicus proved an able and successful military commander against nomadic tribes. He defeated the immediate threats posed by the Goths and Alamanni and moved on the Gallic Empire in the west. The emperor retook Spain and moved into Gaul. He slowly pushed the Gallic pretenders back. Gothicus never finished his conquest of the Gallic Empire.
In late 269, the emperor moved back to the east to counter the Vandal invasion of Pannonia. This province was located in modern Hungary and Austria. Gothicus caught the plague and died in January 270. He named his cavalry commander, Aurelian, as successor on his death bed. However, his brother, Quintillus, grabbed the throne for a couple months before his death. The sources are unclear on the cause of Quintillus’ death. It could have been murder, suicide, or death in battle. Afterward, Aurelian assumed full power.
Claudius Gothicus was an able military commander. He led two dramatic victories over barbarian invaders, reconquered Spain and lower Gaul, but then passed away. The plague cut his reign short. Based on his successes, Gothicus probably would have unified the Roman Empire and expunged the foreign and domestic threats.