|10 May 214
|January/April 270 (aged 55), Sirmium, Pannonia Inferior
Claudius II Gothicus was a Roman emperor who ruled from 268 to 270 CE. He is best known for his victories against the Germanic tribes and the Goths, who threatened the stability of the Roman Empire in the late 3rd century.
Claudius was born in May 214 CE, in either Dardania (modern Kosovo) or Dalmatia (modern Croatia), as a member of the Illyrian people. His father may have been Gordian II, a short-lived emperor who was killed in a revolt in Africa in 238 CE, but this is uncertain. Claudius had a distinguished military career, serving as a tribune under Decius, a general under Valerian and Gallienus, and a commander of the cavalry under Gallienus.
Claudius became emperor after the assassination of Gallienus in 268 CE, by a conspiracy of army officers who were dissatisfied with his rule. Claudius was one of the few who remained loyal to Gallienus, and he avenged his death by executing his murderers. He then faced several challenges to his authority, such as the usurpation of Aureolus in Italy and the secession of the Gallic Empire in the west. He managed to suppress Aureolus and to regain some control over the western provinces, but he could not reunite the empire completely.
Claudius’ main achievement was his successful defense of the empire against the barbarian invasions that plagued the 3rd century. He repelled an attack by the Alemanni in Italy, and then marched to the Balkans, where he confronted a massive Gothic army that had crossed the Danube and raided several provinces. In 269 CE, he won a decisive victory at the Battle of Naissus (modern Nis, Serbia), where he inflicted heavy casualties on the Goths and captured their king, Cannabaudes. He also defeated another Gothic force at Lake Benacus (modern Lake Garda, Italy), and secured the Danubian frontier.
Claudius was widely respected by his soldiers and subjects for his courage, justice, and generosity. He also initiated some reforms to restore order and stability to the empire, such as reorganizing the army, purging corruption, improving coinage, and promoting religious tolerance. He was given the surname Gothicus by the Senate, in honor of his victories over the Goths.
Claudius died in early 270 CE, at Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia), after contracting a plague that was ravaging the empire. He was succeeded by his brother Quintillus, who ruled for only a few months before being overthrown by Aurelian, one of Claudius’ generals. Claudius was deified by Aurelian and revered as one of the best emperors of his time.