Odaenathus’s Gothic Campaign (266)PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Odaenathus vs. Goth raiders
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Asia Minor
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Backed by his patron,
Rome’s emperor Gallienus, Odaenathus launched a
punitive expedition against the Goths.
OUTCOME: Odaenathus subdued the barbarian raids but
was soon afterward murdered.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
In the middle of the third century, the Goths took advantage
of Rome’s wars with Persia to ravage Asia Minor. Teutonic
“barbarians” of mixed Scythian and German stock,
though less Asian than the Sarmatians, they consisted of
two main groups: the Ostrogoths, or East Goths, from the
Dnieper-Don steppes, who were primarily horsemen, and
Visigoths, or West Goths, from the Carpathians, who
relied primarily on infantry. But the Goths also became a
seafaring people, and their most destructive raids into the
Roman Empire came by water, across the Black and
During the ROMAN-PERSIAN WAR (257–261), a Romanized
Arab, Septimus Odainath (or Odaenathus) (d. c.
267), prince of Palmyra, rose to prominence by effectively
defending the empire’s eastern provinces against Shapur I
(d. 272), who had captured the Roman emperor Valerian
(d. c. 261) in battle, and by defeating and executing one of
the “Thirty Tyrants” named Quietus (d. c. 261). After
Valerian died in captivity, the new emperor Gallienus (d.
268) graced Odaenathus with the title “Dux Orientus”
and made him a virtual coruler of the Eastern Empire.
Accompanied and aided by his wife, Zenobia (d. after
274), Odaenathus led the ARAB INVASION OF PERSIA in 262
and had recaptured Rome’s lost provinces east of the
Euphrates by 264.
Because he was already in the area, it was only natural
that Odaenathus take on the Goths then raiding throughout
Asia Minor. Backed by Gallienus and reinforced with
Roman troops, Odaenathus launched his army of light
foot soldiers and Arabian cavalry on a successful punitive
expedition against the Goths in 266. The expedition, however,
is mostly significant for its conclusion. Soon after
completing his last “mission” for Rome, the Dux Orientus
was murdered, at which point his title passed to his son,
Vaballathus (d. c. 273), but his power—over Palmyra and
the Eastern Empire—effectively passed to his widow, celebrated
for her beauty and her military acumen, but not
necessarily for her loyalty to Rome (see ZENOBIA’S CONQUEST
OF EGYPT and AURELIAN’S WAR AGAINST ZENOBIA).
Further reading: Peter Brown, The World of Late
Antiquity, A.D. 150–750 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989);
Richard Stoneman, Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia’s Revolt
against Rome (reprint, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan