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Plans to create provinces: Marcomania and Sarmatia

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Relief from Marcus Aurelius' column
Relief from Marcus Aurelius' column

Marcomannic Wars were fights in the years 166-180 CE between the Roman Empire and hostile barbarous tribes: the Quadi, the Iazyges and Marcomanni. According to the “Historia Augusta” account, Marcus Aurelius was ultimately seeking to create two new Roman provinces: Sarmatia and Marcomania, as evidenced by the medallion found in Cyprus dedicated to Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus, with the inscription PROPAGATORIBVS IMPERII, meaning “those who expanded the borders of the Empire”.

Marcomania and Sarmatia covered the areas of modern Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany. The creation of new provinces would significantly shift the northern border of the empire to the north (closer to the present Polish lands). These plans – if they were real – were finally abandoned by Commodus, who after the death of his father in 180 CE he withdrew from further fighting on the Danube, ordered the Roman legions to leave the conquered lands, and made peace. His father’s years of fighting were lost.

Cassius Dio clearly states that if Emperor Aurelius lived longer the entire region in which belligerent barbarians were located, he would be subordinated to Rome. In addition to building forts in new lands, Roman soldiers also constructed bathhouses, which proves their will to stay permanently.

Some historians (including Frank McLynn) suggest that Aurelius’s goal was to base the Empire’s northern border on mountains that are supposedly easier to defend than the Danube.

Sources
  • Michael Grant, The Antonines: The Roman Empire in Transition
  • John S. McHugh, The Emperor Commodus: God and Gladiator
  • Theodor Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire From Caesar to Diocletian

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