The Gordian dynasty, sometimes known as the Gordianic dynasty, was a
short-lived dynasty which ruled the
238–244 AD. The dynasty first achieved the throne in
238 AD, after
and his son
rose up against
Emperor Maximinus Thrax, and were proclaimed co-emperors by the Roman
was killed by the governor of Numidia, Capillianus,
killed himself shortly after, either 21 or 36 days after
he was declared emperor. On 22 April 238
and Balbinus, who
were not of the Gordian dynasty, were declared co-emperors, but the
was forced to make
a third co-emperor on 27
May 238 due to the demands of the Roman people. Maximinus attempted to
invade Italy, but he was killed by his own soldiers when his army
became frustrated. After this, the
and Balbinus, leaving
as the sole emperor. Gordian III
ruled until 244 AD, when he was either killed as a result of
betrayal by Philip the Arab, killed directly by Philip the Arab, or
killed at the Battle of Misiche. With him died the Gordian dynasty,
and after his death
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
rose to become emperor.
5 External links
A map of the
Roman Empire in this time period
Gordian dynasty rose in opposition to Maximinus Thrax, who had
been proclaimed Emperor by the army, but not the senate, and whose
reign, lasting from 235–238 AD, was characterized by tyranny
and brutality. Maximinus embezzled from the public treasury and
expropriated taxes collected by cities. He reversed the religious
reforms of Emperor Severus Alexander, which had increased tolerance
toward Christianity. During his reign, the popes Pontian and Anterus
were put to death, along with the antipope Hippolytus. There was a
vast amount of corruption during his rule, with his favored officials
prosecuting individuals on false charges and extorting huge fines.
His abuses towards the population led to an uprising in the province
of Africa in 238, where the people revolted and killed his tax
collectors. The movement gathered momentum rapidly, especially among
the army, who proclaimed the governor of Roman Africa, Gordian I, the
Emperor Maximinus Thrax.
A delegation of centurions was sent to
Rome from Africa, firstly to
assassinate Publius Aelius Vitalianus, the Praetorian prefect, and
secondly to spread a rumor that Maximinus had been killed while
campaigning against the Sarmatians. The
Roman Senate believed the
rumor, and proclaimed
Gordian I and his son
Gordian II as co-emperors
in 238. In the same year, Capillianus, governor of Numidia, invaded
Africa and succeeded in killing
Gordian II during the Battle of
Gordian I shortly thereafter hanged himself out of grief,
either 21 or 36 days after being declared emperor. Following the news
of both emperors' deaths, the
Roman Senate formed a committee of
twenty senators to elect the next emperor, resulting in the election
of two of the senators on the committee,
Pupienus and Balbinus, on 22
April 238. However, large crowds gathered in Rome, demanding
that a blood relative of
Gordian I also be made emperor. The Senate
acceded, and elected Gordian III, the son of Gordian I's daughter
Antonia Gordiana, as third emperor on 27 May 238. It was at this
point that the news of the Gordians' rebellion reached Maximinus, who
was still campaigning against the
Sarmatians in Pannonia. He took his
Pannonian Legions and immediately marched to Italy. He attempted to
gain the allegiance of the fortified city of Aquileia, but when that
failed, he laid siege to it. His troops became disaffected during
the unexpected siege, at which time they suffered from famine and
disease. In May 238, Maximinus' soldiers rose up and killed him, along
with his son, Maximus. Shortly thereafter, on 29 July 238,
Balbinus were also killed by the Praetorian Guard, who
Gordian III sole emperor.
Sassanids invaded the
Roman Empire in 241, occupying the
province of Syria and capturing
Antioch and Carrhae,
Gordian III sent
Timesitheus to counterattack. He successfully recaptured the cities
and won a decisive victory at Battle of Resaena. However, between 242
and 243, while leading troops across the Euphrates, Timesitheus fell
ill and died from what is believed to have been an intestinal
infection. Shortly after this, in 244,
Gordian III also died,
although the manner of his death is a matter of debate. There is
evidence that Philip the Arab, who had been deputy Praetorian prefect,
and who rose to the title of
Praetorian prefect after the death of
Timesitheus, actively undermined Gordian III's authority. Zosimus
Historia Augusta said that
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab conspired to have
him killed by intentionally introducing deficiencies in supplies, so
as to turn the army against him. Orosius, Festus, John of
Eutropius assert that
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab played a more direct role in
having him killed, beginning to conspire after
Gordian III won a great
victory in Persia.
George Syncellus and the
Epitome de Caesaribus say
that Philip began planning to betray him before the army had reached
Ctesiphon, and not after a great victory. Byzantine and Persian
Zonaras and Cedrenus, and the Persian King Shapur I, wrote
Gordian III died in the Battle of Misiche. Philip the Arab
claimed the throne for himself after
Gordian III died.
Emperor Gordian III
During the reign of
Gordian III multiple changes took place in Roman
numismatics. The Tetradrachm, a coin equivalent to four drachma, was
produced again, having not been minted since the reign of Elagabalus,
between 218–222, during which only two mints produced it, and not
having been widely minted since the reign of Macrinus, between
217–218. The production of Tetradrachms continued after Gordian's
death, being widely produced until 253, when the last
minted. The Antoninianus, equivalent to 20 Assēs, which had been
abandoned during the reign of Elagabalus, was brought back and rapidly
replaced the denarius, which was equivalent to 10 Assēs. After 240,
apart from two large issues struck under Gordian, the denarius was
only produced on a small local scale until it was later brought back
by Aurelian in 270.
During the reign of Gordian III, the issue of the lack of uniformity
in coin weight and quality became severe, with eastern mints
consistently creating heavier and purer coins. For example, the
Antoninianus' minted in
Antioch had an average silver fineness of
43.5%, whereas those of
Rome had only an average silver fineness of
36.8%. Because both coins were of similar average weight, this meant
that the Antiochian coins were 15% purer than those of Rome.
Antioch became an increasingly important mint under Gordian, striking
even gold coins, something previously only mints in the capital of
Rome did on a large scale. During the reign of Gordian, provincial
silver coins, produced from the important mints of Antioch, Caesaria,
and Alexandria, increasingly came to be used by the state for funding,
becoming roughly equal in use to that of the antoninianus.
Throughout the reign of Gordian III, coins were used to establish
Gordian III's legitimacy and his fitness to rule. During the early
reign, a large number of coins declaring the
Virtus (virtue) of
Gordian III were minted, but later coins bearing such a description
ceased to be minted. The reason for this is likely that Gordian III,
who was very young and had never had any military position, was
attempting to establish his virtus to the army in order to compensate
for his lack of experience. Late in his reign, coins depicted
Gordian holding a Victoriola, a statue which represents victory,
thereby declaring himself to possess 'victory' itself.
Gordian dynasty several reforms were made, mostly in
provincial administration, fiscal policy, and the army. Under Gordian
III, reforms were made to limit frivolous lawsuits. Focus was also
placed on strengthening the defences of the Roman frontiers and
punishing any abuses of power in the provinces. Despite the efforts of
the dynasty, this period was marked by political and economic
difficulty. Much of the state affairs during the late years of Gordian
III were controlled by his wife, Tranquillina. Gordian enacted a
rescript that removed the four year statute of limitation on seeking
restitution for soldiers and state officials. Of all the rescripts
issued by Gordian, 13% went to soldiers. During his reign, the
Roman Empire paid tribute to the
Goths systematically, in order to
Gordian dynasty reversed the policy of the persecution of
Christians, which had been put in place by Maximinus, and which was
largely focused on the prosecution of bishops and popes. Because
Gordian III ended all persecution of Christians during his reign,
Eusebius claims that
Gordian III himself became Christian and served
penance for the sins of Maximinus.
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