Illyrian emperors

The Illyriciani or Illyrian emperors were a group of Roman emperors during the Crisis of the Third Century who hailed from the region of Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum (in the Balkan peninsula), of native Thraco-Roman or Illyro-Roman stock, and raised chiefly from the ranks of the Roman army (whence they are ranked among the so-called "barracks emperors").[1][2] In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Illyricum and the other Danubian provinces (Dacia, Raetia, Pannonia, Moesia) held the largest concentration of Roman forces (12 legions, up to a third of the total army), and were a major recruiting ground. The advance of these low-born provincials was facilitated by a major shift in imperial policy from the time of Gallienus (253–268) on, when higher military appointments ceased to be exclusively filled by senators. Instead, professional soldiers of humble origin who had risen through the ranks to the post of primus pilus (which also entailed admission to the equestrian order) were placed as heads of the legions and filled the army's command structure.

The Roman Balkans

Since Decius hailed from the senatorial background, the historical period of the Illyrian emperors proper begins with Claudius Gothicus in 268 and continues in 284 with the rise of Diocletian and the institution of the Tetrarchy.[3] This period was very important in the history of the Empire, since it represents the recovery from the Crisis of the Third Century, a long period of usurpations and military difficulties. All of the Illyrian emperors were trained and able soldiers, and they recovered most of the provinces and positions lost by their predecessors, including Gaul and the eastern provinces. Men of Illyrian or Thraco-Dacian origin however continued to be prominent in the Empire throughout the 4th century and beyond.

The later Valentinic-Theodosian dynasties (364–457 AD) also hailed from the Pannonia region.


The following emperors are counted as Illyriciani:[4]

See also List of Roman Emperors for more details.

  • High grade cavalry was also called[5] Equites Illyriciani

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Odahl 2004, pp. 36–40.
  2. ^ The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, pp. 261–263
  3. ^ The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes, 1996, p. 262-264
  4. ^ Wilkes 1996, pp. 262–67.
  5. ^ The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third by Edward N. Luttwak, page 178, "high-grade cavalry (equites Illyriciani)"


  • Wilkes, John (1996) [1992]. The Illyrians. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-631-19807-9.
  • Kuzmanović, Zorica; Mihajlović, Vladimir D. (2015). "Roman Emperors and Identity Constructions in Modern Serbia". Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 22 (4): 416–432.
  • Odahl, Charles Matson (2004). Constantine and the Christian Empire. Routledge. ISBN 0415174856.