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The Crisis of the Third Century, also known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (AD 235–284), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression. The crisis began with the assassination of Emperor Severus Alexander
Severus Alexander
by his own troops in 235, initiating a 50-year period during which there were at least 26 claimants to the title of emperor, mostly prominent Roman army generals, who assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire. The same number of men became accepted by the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
as emperor during this period and so became legitimate emperors. By 268, the empire had split into three competing states: the Gallic Empire, including the Roman provinces of Gaul, Britannia and (briefly) Hispania; the Palmyrene Empire, including the eastern provinces of Syria Palaestina and Aegyptus; and the Italian-centered and independent Roman Empire, proper, between them. Later, Aurelian (270–275) reunited the empire; the crisis ended with the ascension and reforms of Diocletian
Diocletian
in 284. The crisis resulted in such profound changes in the empire's institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion, that it is increasingly seen by most historians as defining the transition between the historical periods of classical antiquity and late antiquity.[1]

Contents

1 History

1.1 Dynasties

1.1.1 Gordian dynasty 1.1.2 Decian dynasty 1.1.3 Valerian dynasty 1.1.4 Caran dynasty

2 Economic impact

2.1 Breakdown of internal trade network 2.2 Increased localism

3 See also 4 Notes 5 Bibliography 6 Further reading

History[edit]

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Roman imperial dynasties

Crisis of the Third Century

Chronology

Barracks Emperors 235–284

Gordian dynasty 238–244

Valerian dynasty 253–261

Gallic Emperors 260–274

Illyrian Emperors 268–284

Caran dynasty 282–285

Britannic Emperors 286–297

Succession

Preceded by Severan dynasty Followed by Diocletian
Diocletian
and the Tetrarchy

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Crisis of the Third Century

Reign of Maximinus Thrax (235–238)

Death of Alexander Severus (235) Usurpation of Magnus (c. 235) Usurpation of Quartinus (235)

Year of the Six Emperors (238)

Gordian Revolt (238) Aquileia (238) Reign of Pupienus
Pupienus
and Balbinus (238) Invasion
Invasion
of the Carpi (238–239)

Reign of Gordian III (238–244)

Sabinianus Revolt (240) Resaena (243) Misiche (244)

Reign of Philip the Arab (244–249)

Invasion
Invasion
of the Carpi (245–247) Secular Games of 248 (248) Usurpation of Sponsianus (240s) Usurpation of Pacatianus (248) Usurpation of Jotapianus (249) Usurpation of Silbannacus (249 or 253) Decius' Rebellion (249)

Reign of Decius
Decius
and Herennius Etruscus (249–251)

Plague of Cyprian (250–270) Decian persecution (250–251) Gothic invasion of Cniva (250–251) Carpi invasion of Dacia (250) Beroe (250) Philippopolis (250) Usurpation of Titus Julius Priscus (251) Abritus (251)

Reign of Trebonianus Gallus (251–253)

Death of Hostilian (251) Mariades' Revolt (252) Nisibis (252) Gothic invasion (252–253) Barbalissos (253) Interamna Nahars (c 253) Death of Trebonianus Gallus
Trebonianus Gallus
and Volusianus (253)

Reign of Aemilianus (253)

Antioch (253) Assassination
Assassination
of Aemilianus (253)

Reign of Valerian & Gallienus (253–260)

Dura-Europos (256) Gothic invasion (256–257) Invasion
Invasion
of Shapur (258) Invasion
Invasion
of Alamannai (258–260 approx) Mediolanum (259) Scythian invasion (259–260) Edessa (260)

Reign of Gallienus (260–268)

Caesarea (260) Usurpation of Ingenuus (260) Usurpation of Regalianus (260) Usurpation of Macrianus Major (c. 259–261)

Reign of Postumus (260–269) (Gallic Empire)

Death of Saloninus (260) Roxolani
Roxolani
Invasion
Invasion
of Pannonia (260) Postumus' Campaign against the Franks (262) Postumus' Campaign against the Alamanni (263) Usurpation of Laelianus (269) Reign of Marcus Aurelius Marius (269)

Reign of Victorinus (269–271)

Augustodunum Haeduorum Usurpation of Quietus (261) Usurpation of Balista (261) Usurpation of Valens Thessalonicus (261) Usurpation of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (261) Usurpation of Macrianus Minor (261) Usurpation of Mussius Aemilianus (261–262) Campaigns of Odaenathus (260–267) Pannonian Rebellion (261) Revolt of Aemilianus (262) Ctesiphon (263) Scythian Invasion (265–266) Assassination
Assassination
of Odaenathus (267) Usurpation of Maeonius (266–267) Scythian Invasion (267–269) Heruli Raids (267) Usurpation of Manius Acilius Aureolus (268) Mainz Zenobia
Zenobia
Invasion
Invasion
of Egypt (269) Reign of Claudius II (268–270) Naissus (268/269) Lake Benacus ( 268
268
or 269) Capture of Athens (269) Palmyrene Empire (270–273) Zenobia
Zenobia
Campaign Against Probus (270) Vandal Invasion (270)

Reign of Aurelian (270–275)

Usurpation of Victorinus
Victorinus
Junior (271) Junthungi Invasion (271) Domitianus II (271) Tetricus I
Tetricus I
& Tetricus II (271–274) Rebellion of Felicissimus (270s) Placentia (271) Fano (271) Pavia (271) Tyana (272) Battle of Antioch (272) Immae (272) Emesa (272) Razing of Palmyra (273) Usurpation of Faustinus (c. 273) Châlons (274)

Further information: Alemanni § Conflicts with the Roman Empire The situation of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
became dire in 235
235
AD, when emperor Severus Alexander
Severus Alexander
was murdered by his own troops. Many Roman legions had been defeated during a campaign against Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
raiding across the borders, while the emperor was focused primarily on the dangers from the Sassanid Persian Empire. Leading his troops personally, Severus Alexander
Severus Alexander
resorted to diplomacy and paying tribute in an attempt to pacify the Germanic chieftains quickly. According to Herodian this cost him the respect of his troops, who may have felt they should be punishing the tribes that were intruding on Rome's territory.[2] In the years following the emperor's death, generals of the Roman army fought each other for control of the empire and neglected their duties of defending the empire from invasion. Provincials became victims of frequent raids along the length of the Rhine and Danube rivers by such foreign tribes as the Carpians, Goths, Vandals, and Alamanni, and attacks from Sassanids
Sassanids
in the east. Climate changes and a rise in sea levels ruined the agriculture of what is now the Low Countries forcing tribes to migrate.[3] Additionally, in 251, the Plague of Cyprian (possibly smallpox) broke out, causing large-scale death, and possibly weakened the ability of the empire to defend itself.[citation needed] After the loss of Valerian in 260, the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
was beset by usurpers, who broke it up into three competing states. The Roman provinces of Gaul, Britain, and Hispania
Hispania
broke off to form the Gallic Empire. After the death of Odaenathus
Odaenathus
in 267, the eastern provinces of Syria, Palestine, and Aegyptus became independent as the Palmyrene Empire, leaving the remaining Italian-centered Roman Empire-proper in the middle.[citation needed] An invasion by a vast host of Goths
Goths
was defeated at the Battle of Naissus
Naissus
in 268
268
or 269. This victory was significant as the turning point of the crisis, when a series of tough, energetic soldier-emperors took power. Victories by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus over the next two years drove back the Alamanni
Alamanni
and recovered Hispania
Hispania
from the Gallic Empire. When Claudius died in 270 of the plague, Aurelian, who had commanded the cavalry at Naissus, succeeded him as the emperor and continued the restoration of the Empire.[citation needed] Aurelian
Aurelian
reigned (270–275) through the worst of the crisis, defeating the Vandals, Visigoths, Palmyrenes, Persians, and then the remainder of the Gallic Empire. By late 274, the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
was reunited into a single entity, and the frontier troops were back in place. More than a century would pass before Rome
Rome
again lost military ascendancy over its external enemies, however, dozens of formerly thriving cities, especially in the Western Empire, had been ruined, their populations dispersed and, with the breakdown of the economic system, could not be rebuilt. Major cities and towns, including Rome itself, had not needed fortifications for many centuries, but then surrounded themselves with thick walls.[citation needed] Finally, although Aurelian
Aurelian
had played a significant role in restoring the empire's borders from external threat, more fundamental problems remained. In particular, the right of succession had never been clearly defined in the Roman Empire, leading to continuous civil wars as competing factions in the military, senate, and other parties put forward their favoured candidate for emperor. Another issue was the sheer size of the empire, which made it difficult for a single autocratic ruler to effectively manage multiple threats at the same time. These continuing problems would be radically addressed by Diocletian, allowing the empire to continue to survive in the West for more than a century and in the East for over a millennium.[citation needed] Dynasties[edit] Several emperors who rose to power through acclamation of their troops attempted to create stability by appointing their descendants as Caesar, resulting in several brief dynasties. These generally failed to maintain any form of coherence beyond one generation, although there were exceptions. Gordian dynasty[edit]

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office

Gordian I CAESAR MARCVS ANTONIVS GORDIANVS SEMPRONIANVS AFRICANVS AVGVSTVS c. 159 AD, Phrygia? Proclaimed emperor, whilst Pro-consul in Africa, during a revolt against Maximinus Thrax. Ruled jointly with his son Gordian II, and in opposition to Maximinus. Technically a usurper, but retrospectively legitimised by the accession of Gordian III March 22, 238
238
AD – April 12, 238
238
AD April 238
238
AD Committed suicide upon hearing of the death of Gordian II 21 days

Gordian II CAESAR MARCVS ANTONIVS GORDIANVS SEMPRONIANVS ROMANVS AFRICANVS AVGVSTVS c. 192 AD, ? Proclaimed emperor, alongside father Gordian I, in opposition to Maximinus by act of the Senate March 22, 238
238
AD – April 12, 238
238
AD April 238
238
AD Killed during the Battle of Carthage, fighting a pro-Maximinus army 21 days

Pupienus
Pupienus
(non-dynastic) CAESAR MARCVS CLODIVS PVPIENVS MAXIMVS AVGVSTVS c. 178 AD, ? Proclaimed joint emperor with Balbinus
Balbinus
by the Senate in opposition to Maximinus; later co-emperor with Balbinus April 22, 238
238
AD – July 29, 238
238
AD July 29, 238
238
AD Assassinated by the Praetorian Guard 3 months and 7 days

Balbinus
Balbinus
(non-dynastic) CAESAR DECIMVS CAELIVS CALVINVS BALBINVS PIVS AVGVSTVS ? Proclaimed joint emperor with Pupienus
Pupienus
by the Senate after death of Gordian I
Gordian I
and II, in opposition to Maximinus; later co-emperor with Pupienus
Pupienus
and Gordian III April 22, 238
238
AD – July 29, 238
238
AD July 29, 238
238
AD Assassinated by Praetorian Guard 3 months and 7 days

Gordian III CAESAR MARCVS ANTONIVS GORDIANVS AVGVSTVS January 20, 225 AD, Rome Proclaimed emperor by supporters of Gordian I
Gordian I
and II, then by the Senate; joint emperor with Pupienus
Pupienus
and Balbinus
Balbinus
until July 238
238
AD. Grandson of Gordian I April 22, 238
238
AD – February 11, 244
244
AD February 11, 244
244
AD Unknown; possibly murdered on orders of Philip I 5 years, 9 months and 20 days

Decian dynasty[edit]

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office

Trajan Decius CAESAR GAIVS MESSIVS QVINTVS TRAIANVS DECIVS AVGVSTVS

with Herennius Etruscus c. 201 AD, Budalia, Pannonia Inferior Governor under Philip I; proclaimed emperor by Danubian legions then defeating & killing Philip in the Battle of Verona; made his son Herennius Etruscus
Herennius Etruscus
co-emperor in early 251 AD September/ October 249 AD – June 251 AD June 251 AD Both killed in the Battle of Abrittus
Battle of Abrittus
fighting against the Goths 2 years

Hostilian CAESAR CAIVS VALENS HOSTILIANVS MESSIVS QVINTVS AVGVSTVS Sirmium Son of Trajan Decius, accepted as heir by the Senate June 251 AD – late 251 AD September/October 251 AD Natural causes (plague) 4–5 months

Valerian dynasty[edit]

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office

Valerian CAESAR PVBLIVS LICINIVS VALERIANVS AVGVSTVS c. 195 AD Governor of Noricum
Noricum
and Raetia, proclaimed emperor by Rhine legions after death of Gallus; accepted as emperor after death of Aemilian October 253
253
AD – 260
260
AD After 260
260
AD Captured in Battle of Edessa
Battle of Edessa
against Persians, died in captivity 7 years

Gallienus CAESAR PVBLIVS LICINIVS EGNATIVS GALLIENVS AVGVSTVS

with Saloninus 218 AD Son of Valerian, made co-emperor in 253
253
AD; his son Saloninus is very briefly co-emperor in c. July 260
260
before assassination by Postumus October 253
253
AD – September 268
268
AD September 268
268
AD Murdered at Aquileia
Aquileia
by his own commanders 15 years

Caran dynasty[edit]

Portrait Name Birth Succession Reign Death Time in office

Carus CAESAR MARCVS AVRELIVS CARVS AVGVSTVS c. 230 AD, Narbo, Gallia Narbonensis Praetorian Prefect
Praetorian Prefect
to Probus; seized power either before or after Probus was murdered; made his son Carinus
Carinus
co-emperor in early 283 AD September/ October 282 AD – late July/ early August 283 AD Late July/early August 283 AD Natural causes? (Possibly killed by lightning) 10–11 months

Numerian CAESAR MARCVS AVRELIVS NVMERIVS NVMERIANVS AVGVSTVS ? Son of Carus, succeeded him jointly with his brother Carinus Late July/early August 283 AD – 284
284
AD? 284
284
AD Unclear; possibly assassinated 1 year

Carinus CAESAR MARCVS AVRELIVS CARINVS AVGVSTVS ? Son of Carus, ruled shortly with him and then with his brother Numerian Early 283 AD – 285 AD 285 AD Died in battle against Diocletian? 2 years

Economic impact[edit]

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Emperor Diocletian. With his rise to power in 284, the Crisis of the Third Century ended and gave rise to the Tetrarchy

Internally, the empire faced hyperinflation caused by years of coinage devaluation.[4] This had started earlier under the Severan emperors who enlarged the army by one quarter,[5] and doubled the base pay of legionaries. As each of the short-lived emperors took power, they needed ways to raise money quickly to pay the military's "accession bonus" and the easiest way to do so was by inflating the coinage severely, a process made possible by debasing the coinage with bronze and copper. This resulted in runaway rises in prices, and by the time Diocletian came to power, the old coinage of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
had nearly collapsed. Some taxes were collected in kind and values often were notional, in bullion or bronze coinage. Real values continued to be figured in gold coinage, but the silver coin, the denarius, used for 300 years, was gone (1 pound of gold = 40 gold aurei = 1000 denarii = 4000 sestertii).[citation needed] This currency had almost no value by the end of the third century, and trade was carried out without retail coinage. Breakdown of internal trade network[edit] One of the most profound and lasting effects of the Crisis of the Third Century was the disruption of Rome's extensive internal trade network. Ever since the Pax Romana, starting with Augustus, the empire's economy had depended in large part on trade between Mediterranean ports and across the extensive road systems to the Empire's interior. Merchants could travel from one end of the empire to the other in relative safety within a few weeks, moving agricultural goods produced in the provinces to the cities, and manufactured goods produced by the great cities of the East to the more rural provinces. Large estates produced cash crops for export, and used the resulting revenues to import food and urban manufactured goods. This resulted in a great deal of economic interdependence among the empire’s inhabitants. The historian Henry Moss describes the situation as it stood before the crisis:

Along these roads passed an ever-increasing traffic, not only of troops and officials, but of traders, merchandise and even tourists. An interchange of goods between the various provinces rapidly developed, which soon reached a scale unprecedented in previous history and not repeated until a few centuries ago. Metals mined in the uplands of Western Europe, hides, fleeces, and livestock from the pastoral districts of Britain, Spain, and the shores of the Black Sea, wine and oil from Provence and Aquitaine, timber, pitch and wax from South Russia and northern Anatolia, dried fruits from Syria, marble from the Aegean coasts, and – most important of all – grain from the wheat-growing districts of North Africa, Egypt, and the Danube Valley for the needs of the great cities; all these commodities, under the influence of a highly organized system of transport and marketing, moved freely from one corner of the Empire to the other.[6]

With the onset of the Crisis of the Third Century, however, this vast internal trade network broke down. The widespread civil unrest made it no longer safe for merchants to travel as they once had, and the financial crisis that struck made exchange very difficult with the debased currency. This produced profound changes that, in many ways, foreshadowed the very decentralized economic character of the coming Middle Ages. Large landowners, no longer able to successfully export their crops over long distances, began producing food for subsistence and local barter. Rather than import manufactured goods from the empire's great urban areas, they began to manufacture many goods locally, often on their own estates, thus beginning the self-sufficient "house economy" that would become commonplace in later centuries, reaching its final form in the manorialism of the Middle Ages. The common, free people of the Roman cities, meanwhile, began to move out into the countryside in search of food and better protection. Made desperate by economic necessity, many of these former city dwellers, as well as many small farmers, were forced to give up hard-earned basic civil rights in order to receive protection from large land-holders. In doing so, they became a half-free class of Roman citizen known as coloni. They were tied to the land, and in later Imperial law, their status was made hereditary. This provided an early model for serfdom, the origins of medieval feudal society and of the medieval peasantry. Increased localism[edit] Even the Roman cities began to change in character. The large, open cities of classical antiquity slowly gave way to the smaller, walled cities that became common in the Middle Ages. These changes were not restricted to the third century, but took place slowly over a long period, and were punctuated with many temporary reversals. In spite of extensive reforms by later emperors, however, the Roman trade network was never able to fully recover to what it had been during the Pax Romana (27 BC – AD 180). This economic decline was far more noticeable and important in the western part of the empire, which was also invaded several times during the century. Hence, the balance of power clearly shifted eastward during this period, as evidenced by the choice of Diocletian
Diocletian
to rule from Nicomedia
Nicomedia
in Asia Minor, putting his second in command, Maximian, in Milan. This would have considerable impact on the later development of the empire with a richer, more stable eastern empire surviving the end of Roman rule in the west. While imperial revenues fell, imperial expenses rose sharply. More soldiers, greater proportions of cavalry, and the ruinous expense of walling in cities all added to the toll. Goods and services previously paid for by the government were now demanded in addition to monetary taxes. The steady exodus of both rich and poor from the cities and now-unprofitable professions forced Diocletian
Diocletian
to use compulsion; most trades were made hereditary, and workers could not legally leave their jobs or travel elsewhere to seek better-paying ones. The decline in commerce between the imperial provinces put them on a path toward increased self-sufficiency. Large landowners, who had become more self-sufficient, became less mindful of Rome’s central authority, particularly in the Western Empire, and were downright hostile toward its tax collectors. The measure of wealth at this time began to have less to do with wielding urban civil authority and more to do with controlling large agricultural estates in rural regions, since this guaranteed access to the only economic resource of real value — agricultural land and the crops it produced. The common people of the empire lost economic and political status to the land-holding nobility, and the commercial middle classes waned along with their trade-derived livelihoods. The Crisis of the Third Century thus marked the beginning of a long gradual process that would transform the ancient world of Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
into the medieval one of the Early Middle Ages. See also[edit]

Bagaudae Sengoku period
Sengoku period
- a similar period in Japanese history Warring States period
Warring States period
and Three Kingdoms period
Three Kingdoms period
- similar periods in Chinese history

Notes[edit]

^ Brown, P, The World of Late Antiquity, London 1971, p. 22. ^ " Herodian says "in their opinion Alexander showed no honourable intention to pursue the war and preferred a life of ease, when he should have marched out to punish the Germans for their previous insolence" ( Herodian vi.7.10). ^ Southern, Pat (2011-02-17). "Third Century Crisis of the Roman Empire". BBC History, 17 February 2011. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/thirdcenturycrisis_article_01.shtml.[permanent dead link] ^ "This infographic shows how currency debasement contributed to the fall of Rome". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-10-20.  ^ Flichy, Thomas. Financial crises and renewal of empires.  access-date= requires url= (help) ^ H. St. L. B. Moss, The Birth of the Middle Ages, p. 1.

Bibliography[edit]

Olivier Hekster, Rome
Rome
and its Empire, AD 193– 284
284
(Edinburgh 2008) ISBN 978 0 7486 2303 7 Klaus-Peter Johne (ed.), Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser (Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2008). Alaric Watson, Aurelian
Aurelian
and the Third Century (Taylor & Francis, 2004) ISBN 0-415-30187-4 John F. White, Restorer of the World: The Roman Emperor Aurelian (Spellmount, 2004) ISBN 1-86227-250-6 H. St. L. B. Moss, The Birth of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
(Clarendon Press, 1935, reprint Oxford University Press, January, 2000) ISBN 0-19-500260-1 Ferdinand Lot, End of the Ancient World and the Beginnings of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
(Harper Torchbooks Printing, New York, 1961. First English printing by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1931).

Further reading[edit]

Crisis of The Third Century, Hugh Kramer. Map, University of Calgary. The Crisis of The Third Century, OSU.

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Ancient Roman wars

Wars of the Roman Republic

Roman–Etruscan Wars Roman-Aequian wars Roman–Latin wars Roman–Hernician wars Roman-Volscian wars Samnite Wars Pyrrhic War Punic Wars (First, Second, Third) Illyrian Wars (First, Second, Third) Macedonian Wars (First, Second, Third, Fourth) Roman–Seleucid War Aetolian War Galatian War Roman conquest of Hispania (First Celtiberian War, Lusitanian War, Numantine War, Sertorian War, Cantabrian Wars) Achaean War Jugurthine War Cimbrian War Servile Wars (First, Second, Third) Social War Sulla's civil wars (First, Second) Mithridatic Wars (First, Second, Third) Gallic Wars Caesar's invasions of Britain Caesar's Civil War End of the Republic (Post-Caesarian, Liberators', Sicilian, Perusine, Final)

Wars of the Roman Empire

Germanic Wars (Teutoburg, Marcomannic, Alemannic, Gothic, Visigothic) Wars in Britain Wars of Boudica Armenian War Civil War of 69 Jewish–Roman wars Domitian's Dacian War Trajan's Dacian Wars Parthian Wars Persian Wars Civil Wars of the Third Century Wars of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Military history of ancient Rome

v t e

History of Europe

Prehistory

Paleolithic Europe Neolithic Europe Bronze
Bronze
Age Europe Iron Age Europe

Classical antiquity

Classical Greece Roman Republic Hellenistic period Roman Empire Early Christianity Crisis of the Third Century Fall of the Western Roman Empire Late antiquity

Middle Ages

Early Middle Ages Migration Period Christianization Francia Byzantine Empire Maritime republics Viking Age Kievan Rus' Holy Roman Empire High Middle Ages Feudalism Crusades Mongol invasion Late Middle Ages Hundred Years' War Kalmar Union Renaissance

Early modern

Reformation Age of Discovery Baroque Thirty Years' War Absolute monarchy Ottoman Empire Portuguese Empire Spanish Empire Early modern France Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Swedish Empire Dutch Republic British Empire Habsburg Monarchy Russian Empire Age of Enlightenment

Modern

Great Divergence Industrial Revolution French Revolution Napoleonic Wars Nationalism Revolutions of 1848 World War I Russian Revolution Interwar period World War II Cold War European integration

See also

Art of Europe Genetic history of Europe History of the Mediterranean region History of the European Union History of Western civilization Maritime history of Europe Military

.