Battle of the Margus

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Battle of the Margus
Part of the Crisis of the Third Century
DateJuly 285
Result Diocletian victory
Diocletian Carinus

The Battle of the Margus was fought in July 285 between the armies of Roman Emperors Diocletian and Carinus in the valley of the Margus River (today Great Morava) in Moesia (present day Serbia).[1][2] The battle proved to be the tipping-point that led to the eventual resolution of the Crisis of the Third Century and the return of stability to the Empire.

Carinus led the larger force, but the loyalty of this army was definitely questionable. Carinus had allegedly alienated men whose support his success depended upon, including mistreating the Senate and its womenfolk and seducing the wives of his officers;[3] the exact circumstances of the battle are in doubt, but it is known for certain that Carinus was killed in the course of the battle, most probably by one of his own officers.[1][4]

Diocletian was then left in sole control of the Roman Empire; the tide of the battle may have tilted to Carinus at first, only to shift in Diocletian's favor after the defection of Carinus' Praetorian Prefect, Aristobulus. Some scholars suspect that Aristobulus was the officer responsible for the murder of Carinus, an argument that gains credibility in the fact that Diocletian afterward rewarded Aristobulus by confirming him in office as Praetorian Prefect and Consul for the remainder of 285.[5]

After his victory, Diocletian administered the oath of loyalty to Carinus' former troops, then turned his attention to the Danube frontier where the Marcomanni and Quadi were conducting raids across the border.

Aristobulus' rationale[edit]

Although the battle decisively decided the issue of Roman leadership in Diocletian's favor, it is likely that, with the eastern provinces behind him, Diocletian would eventually have outlasted Carinus even if he had found himself on the losing side at Margus.[according to whom?]


  1. ^ a b "Middle Imperial Romans (193-324 AD)(DBA II/65ab)". Archived from the original on 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
  2. ^ "Roman Emperors - DIR Carinus". Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  3. ^ Barnes, T.D. "Constantine and Eusebius" Harvard University Press (1981), p.5
  4. ^ Nischer, E. C. "The Army Reforms of Diocletian and Constantine and Their Modifications up to the Time of the Notitia Dignitatum" Journal of Roman Studies, The. Vol. 13, (1923), p.1
  5. ^ Southern, P "Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine" (2001), p.135