People - Ancient Rome: Gordianus
Born Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus, he was Roman Emperor for one month with his son Gordian II in
238, the Year of the Six Emperors.
Gordiānus in Harpers Dictionary
Marcus Antonīnus Africānus. A Roman, born during the reign
of the first Antonine, of one of the most illustrious and
wealthy families of Rome, and who made himself very popular
during his quaestorship by his munificence, and the large
sums which he spent in providing games and other amusements
for the people. He also cultivated literature, and wrote
several poems, among others one in which he celebrated the
virtues of the two Antonines. Being intrusted with the
government of several provinces, he conducted himself in
such a manner as to gain universal approbation. He was
proconsul of Africa in A.D. 237. When an insurrection broke
out in that province against Maximinus, on account of his
exactions, and the insurgents saluted Gordianus as emperor,
he prayed earnestly to be excused, on account of his age,
being then past eighty, and to be allowed to die in peace;
but, the insurgents threatening to kill him if he refused,
he accepted the perilous dignity, naming his son Gordianus
as his colleague, and both made their solemn entry into
Carthage amid universal applause. The Senate cheerfully
confirmed the election, proclaiming the two Gordiani as
emperors, and declaring Maximinus and his son to be the
enemies of their country. Meantime, however, Capellianus,
governor of Mauritania, collected troops in favour of
Maximinus, and marched against Carthage. The younger
Gordianus came out to oppose him, but was defeated and
killed, and his aged father, on learning the sad tidings,
strangled himself. Their reign had not lasted two months
altogether, yet they were greatly regretted, on account of
their personal qualities.
Gordian in Roman Biography
Gor'di-an, [Fr. Gordien, goR'de-aN' ; Lat. Gordia'-
nus, (Mar'cus Anto'nius Africa'nus,)] a Roman emperor,
born about 160 A.D., of an illustrious family. He
was appointed proconsul of Africa in 237, and was declared
emperor by the insurgents who rebelled against Maximinus.
His son Gordian was associated with him in the
empire, and their election was confirmed by the Roman
senate. Soon after this, Capellianus, Governor of Mauritania,
assembled an army in favour of Maximinus, and
attacked Carthage. In the combat that ensued, the
younger Gordian was slain ; and his aged father, on
hearing of his fate, strangled himself, in 238 a.d. Gordian
was distinguished for his love of letters, and was
the author of several poems. He spent a great part of
his immense wealth in procuring games and amusements
for the people. His reign lasted but six weeks.
See Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
Gordianus in Wikipedia
Gordian I - Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus (c. 159 – 12 April 238), commonly known as Gordian I, was Roman Emperor
for one month with his son Gordian II in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors.
Early life -
Little is known on the early life and family background of Gordian. There is no reliable evidence on his family origins. His family were of
Equestrian rank, who were modest and very wealthy. Gordian was said to be related to prominent senators. His praenomen and nomen Marcus
Antonius suggest that his paternal ancestors received Roman citizenship under the Triumvir Mark Antony, during the late Roman Republic.
Gordian’s cognomen ‘Gordianus’ suggests that his family origins were from Anatolia, especially Galatia and Cappadocia.
According to the Augustan History, his mother was a Roman woman called Ulpia Gordiana and his father Roman Senator Maecius Marullus. While
modern historians have dismissed his father's name as false, there may be some truth behind the identity of his mother. Gordian's family
history can be guessed through inscriptions. The name Sempronianus in his name may indicate a connection to his mother or grandmother. In
Ankara Turkey, a funeral inscription has been found that names a Sempronia Romana, daughter of a named Sempronius Aquila (an imperial
secretary). Romana erected this undated funeral inscription to her husband (whose name is lost) who died as a praetor-designate. Gordian
might have been related to the gens Sempronia. French historian Christian Settipani gives as his parents Marcus Antonius (b. ca 135), tr.
pl., praet. des., and wife Sempronia Romana (b. ca 140), daughter of Titus Flavius Sempronius Aquila (b. ca 115), Secretarius ab epistulis
Graecis, and wife Claudia (b. ca 120), daughter of an unknown father and wife Claudia Tisamenis (b. ca 100), sister of Herodes Atticus. It
seems then that who was related to Herodes Atticus was Gordian I's mother and not his wife.
Also according to the Augustan History, his wife was a Roman woman called Fabia Orestilla, born circa 165, who the Augustan History claims
was a descendant of Roman Emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius through her father Fulvus Antoninus. Modern historians have dismissed
this name and her information as false, as they believe his wife was the granddaughter of Greek Sophist, consul and tutor Herodes Atticus.
With his wife, Gordian had at least two children: a son of the same name (Gordian II) and a daughter, Antonia Gordiana (who was the mother
of the future Emperor Gordian III). His wife died before 238. Christian Settipani gives as her parents Marcus Annius Severus, who was a
Suffect Consul, and wife Silvana, born circa 140, daughter of Lucius Plautius Lamia Silvanus and wife Aurelia Fadilla, daughter of Antoninus
Pius and wife Annia Galeria Faustina or Faustina the Elder.
Gordian climbed the hierarchy until he entered the Roman Senate. His political career started relatively late in his life and probably his
early years were spent in rhetoric and literary studies. As a military man, Gordian commanded the Legio IIII Scythica when the legion was
stationed in Syria. He served as governor of Roman Britain in 216 and was a Suffect Consul in the reign of Elagabalus. Inscriptions in Roman
Britain bearing his name were partially erased suggesting some form of imperial displeasure during this role.
While he gained unbounded popularity by the magnificent games and shows he produced as aedile, his prudent and retired life did not excite
the suspicion of Caracalla, in whose honour he wrote a long epic poem called Antoninias. Gordian certainly retained his wealth and political
clout during the chaotic times of the Severan dynasty, which suggest his personal dislike for intrigue.
Rise to Power -
During the reign of Alexander Severus, Gordian (who was by then in his late sixties) was made Consul in 223 and threw the lots to the
dangerous honours of government in Africa in 238. In the middle of his promagistrate, Maximinus Thrax killed emperor Alexander Severus in
Germania Inferior and assumed the throne.
Maximinus was not a popular emperor and universal discontent roused by his oppressive rule culminated in a revolt in Africa in 238. Gordian
yielded to the popular clamour and assumed both the purple and the cognomen Africanus on March 22. According to Edward Gibbon:
An iniquitous sentence had been pronounced against some opulent youths of [Africa], the execution of which would have stripped them of far
the greater part of their patrimony. (…) A respite of three days, obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was employed in
collecting from their estates a great number of slaves and peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, and armed with the
rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The leaders of the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the audience of the procurator, stabbed him with
the daggers concealed under their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumultuary train, seized on the little town of Thysdrus, and
erected the standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman empire. (...) Gordianus, their proconsul, and the object of their
choice [as emperor], refused, with unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous honour, and begged with tears that they should suffer him to
terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his feeble age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the
Imperial purple, his only refuge indeed against the jealous cruelty of Maximin (...).
In respect to his advanced age, he insisted that his son, Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian II), be associated with him. A few days later,
Gordian entered the city of Carthage with the overwhelming support of the population and local political leaders. Meanwhile in Rome,
Maximinus' praetorian prefect was assassinated and the rebellion seemed to be successful. The senate confirmed the new emperor on 2 April
and most of the provinces gladly sided with Gordian.
Opposition would come from the neighbouring province of Numidia. Capelianus, governor of Numidia and a loyal supporter of Maximinus Thrax,
renewed his alliance to the former emperor and invaded Africa province with the only legion stationed in the region, III Augusta, and other
veteran units. Gordian II, at the head of a militia army of untrained soldiers, lost the Battle of Carthage and was killed, and Gordian took
his own life by hanging himself with his belt. The Gordians had reigned only thirty-six days.
Gordian had deserved his high reputation by his amiable character. Both he and his son were men reported to be fond of literature and
achieved great accomplishments, publishing voluminous works. But they were rather intellectual voluptuaries than able statesmen or powerful
rulers. Having embraced the cause of Gordian, the senate was obliged to continue the revolt against Maximinus, and appointed Pupienus and
Balbinus, as joint emperors. Nevertheless, by the end of 238, the recognised emperor would be Gordian III, his grandson. Gordian and his son
were deified by the Senate.
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