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Lightning strike kills Roman Emperor

A lightning strike killed the Emperor Carus
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The Emperor Probus lost the confidence of his troops. They assassinated him and then elevated the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Marcus Numerius Carus, to the imperial purple. Carus served an eventful year in office before his death. The emperor defeated the Sassanid Empire, sacked their capitol, and helped restore some stability to the empire before succumbing to a lightning strike.

Probus promoted Carus to prefect of the Praetorian Guard in 282 A.D. The emperor defeated barbarians and usurpers alike in his brief reign. However, he angered the military by making them work. They felt their job to fight as opposed to planting vineyards. The legions declared Carus the new emperor and murdered Probus. Carus did not seem to want the job, but had little choice in the matter.

The Roman Senate confirmed Carus’ promotion, but many suspected the new emperor murdered his predecessor. In response, Carus dealt harshly with Probus’ assassins. Despite this, rumors persisted about Carus’ involvement in Probus’ assassination. Afterward, Carus anointed his sons with the title Caesar and established his succession. Then, he placed one son, Carinus, in charge of the western empire. His other son, Numerian, marched eastward with his father.

Carus wished to engage the Sassanids and eliminate their threat along Rome’s border. His soldiers conquered Mesopotamia with little resistance. The Sassanids were busy fighting in Afghanistan leaving their empire open to invasion. The Romans occupied and sacked the Sassanid capitol. The Senate awarded Carus the title Persicus Maximus for his campaign.

The emperor made plans for further conquest, but death intervened. Unlike many of his immediate predecessors, Carus’ died of natural causes. The army seemed to like the emperor after his amazing success in the east. They had no reason to eliminate Carus. Instead, the emperor was struck by lightning. Some took it as a sign that the gods did not support the emperor. However, that did not prevent Carinus and Numerian from ascending to the throne. Their ascension without argument from the politicians or military helped stabilize the empire following nearly a century of turmoil.

Carus served about a year in office. The Roman Emperor dealt with Probus’ assassins, conquered the Sassanid Empire, and created a short-lived dynasty that helped end the Crisis of the Third Century. His efforts were cut short by a bolt from the blue. Lightning killed Carus, ended his reign, and moved the empire closer to the end of a century of instability.