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The Empire at Bay

The main enemies in the eastern provinces were the Goths and the Persians. The Goths were the source of trouble for the Balkan provinces and Asia Minor from the 240s to the 270s. They conquered and murdered Emperor Decius in 251 at Abrittus, but they did not try to settle on the imperial frontier. The Persians established a new empire east of the Euphrates in the 220s by overthrowing their Parthian rulers. They also fought during the numerous assaults on Rome's eastern provinces from the 230s, climaxing in the great invasions of 253, when Antioch was sacked, and 260, when they took Emperor Valerian prisoner at Eclessa. Valerian's son, Gallienus, was also challenged by many rivals. Some had the ambition of gaining total power, while others formed breakaway states in the east and west.

The Goths broke through the western frontiers on many occasions, inflicting the most damage in 260 when they invaded Gaul when raiding parties reached as far as Tarraco in Spain. Major invasions in Italy took place in 259, 268, and 271. The Romans fought back triumphantly on all fonts, however, in a few years the Persians had been driven back beyond the Tigris and the Goths were taken back past the Danube. The empire had been reunited and its frontiers restored by the end of the 270s.