Due to his advanced age, he insisted that his son 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. Gordian I sent assassins to kill Maximinus' praetorian prefect, Publius Aelius Vitalianus and the rebellion seemed to be successful. Gordian, in the meantime, had sent an embassy to Rome, under the leadership of Publius Licinius Valerianus, to obtain the Senate’s support for his rebellion. The Senate confirmed the new emperor on 2 April and many of the provinces gladly sided with Gordian.
Opposition came from the neighboring province of Numidia. Capelianus, governor of Numidia and a loyal supporter of Maximinus Thrax, held a grudge against Gordian and invaded the African 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 I took his own life by hanging himself with his belt. The Gordians had reigned only 21 days. Gordian was the first emperor to commit suicide since Otho in 69 during The Year of the Four Emperors.
Gordian's positive reputation can be attributed to his reportedly amiable character. Both he and his son were said to be fond of literature, even publishing their own voluminous works. While they were strongly interested in intellectual pursuits, they possessed neither the necessary skills nor resources to be considered able statesmen or powerful rulers. Having embraced the cause of Gordian, the Senate was obliged to continue the revolt against Maximinus following Gordian's death, appointing Pupienus and Balbinus as joint emperors. Nevertheless, by the end of 238, the recognised emperor would be Gordian III, Gordian's grandson.