The Info List - Petronius Maximus

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Petronius Maximus[1] (Latin: Flavius Anicius Petronius Maximus Augustus)[2] (c. 396 – 31 May 455[3][4]) was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III. Maximus was killed during the events culminating in the sack of Rome
by the Vandals
in 455.


1 Early career 2 Murder of Valentinian III
Valentinian III
and accession of Maximus 3 Reign and death 4 Sources 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

Early career[edit] Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
was born in about 396.[3] Although he was of obscure origin, it is now believed that he belonged to the Anicii family.[5] Related to later Emperor Olybrius, Maximus was the son of Anicius Probinus,[6] the son of Anicia Faltonia Proba and Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus,[7] who was Prefect
of Illyricum in 364, Prefect
of Gaul in 366, Prefect
of Italy in 368–375 and again in 383 and consul in 371. Maximus achieved a remarkable career early in life. His earliest known office was praetor, held about 411;[8] around 415 he served as a tribunus et notarius, which was an entry position to the imperial bureaucracy and led to his serving as Comes
sacrarum largitionum (Count of the Sacred Largess) between 416 and 419.[8] From January/February 420 to August/September 421 he was praefectus urbi of Rome, an office he held again sometime before 439; as praefectus he restored the Old St. Peter's Basilica. He was also appointed praetorian prefect sometime between 421 and 439; it was either while holding this post or during his second urban prefecture that he was appointed consul for the year 433.[9] From August 439 to February 441 he held the praetorian prefecture of Italy,[10] then a second consulship in 443. Between 443 (the year of his fourth prefecture and second consulship) and 445 (the year he was granted the title of Patrician) Maximus built a forum in Rome, on the Caelian Hill
Caelian Hill
between via Labicana and the Basilica di San Clemente.[9] During this year, he was briefly the most honored of all non-Imperial Romans, until the third consulate of Flavius Aëtius, generalissimo of the Western empire, the following year.[8] The enmity between Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
and the powerful Patricius and magister militum of the West Aëtius clearly led to the events that gradually brought down the Western Roman Empire.[11] Initially however, the principal beneficiary of this was Maximus, who came to the throne as a result of the murders of Aëtius in 454 and of the Western Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
Valentinian III
Valentinian III
on 16 March 455.[8] Murder of Valentinian III
Valentinian III
and accession of Maximus[edit] According to the historian John of Antioch,[12] Maximus poisoned the mind of the Emperor against Aëtius, resulting in the murder of his rival at the hands of Valentinian III. John’s account has it that Valentinian and Maximus placed a wager on a game that Maximus ended up losing.[8] As he did not have the money available, Maximus left his ring as a guarantee of his debt. Valentinian then used the ring to summon to court Lucina, the chaste and beautiful wife of Maximus, whom Valentinian had long lusted after. Lucina went to the court, believing she had been summoned by her husband, but instead found herself at dinner with Valentinian. Although initially resisting his advances, the Emperor managed to wear her down and succeeded in raping her.[8] Returning home and meeting Maximus, she accused him of betrayal, believing that he had handed her over to the Emperor. Although Maximus swore revenge, he was equally motivated by ambition to supplant "a detested and despicable rival,"[13] so he decided to move against Valentinian. According to John of Antioch, Maximus was acutely aware that while Aëtius was alive he could not exact vengeance on Valentinian, so Aëtius had to be removed.[8] He therefore allied himself with a eunuch of Valentinian's, the primicerius sacri cubiculi Heraclius, who had long opposed the general with the hope of exercising more power over the emperor. The two of them convinced Valentinian that Aëtius was planning to assassinate him and urged him to kill his magister militum during a meeting, which Valentinian did with his own hands, with the help of Heraclius, on September 21, 454.[8][14][15] Once Aëtius was dead, Maximus asked Valentinian to be appointed in his place, but the Emperor refused;[16] Heraclius, in fact, had advised the Emperor not to allow anyone to possess the power that Aëtius had wielded. According to John of Antioch, Maximus was so irritated by Valentinian’s refusal to appoint him as his magister militum that he decided to have Valentinian assassinated as well. He chose as accomplices Optilia and Thraustila, two Scythians
who had fought under the command of Aetius and who, after the death of their general, had been appointed as Valentinian’s escort.[8] Maximus easily convinced them that Valentinian was the only one responsible for the death of Aetius, and that the two soldiers must avenge their old commander, while at the same time also promising them a reward for the betrayal of the Emperor. On March 16, 455 Valentinian, who was in Rome, went to Campus Martius
Campus Martius
with some guards, accompanied by Optilia, Thraustila and their men.[8] As soon as the Emperor dismounted to practice with the bow, Optilia came up with his men and hit him in the temple. As Valentinian turned to look at his attackers, Optilia killed him. At the same moment, Thraustila killed Heraclius. The two Scythians
took the imperial diadem and robe and brought them to Maximus.[8] The sudden and violent death of Valentinian III
Valentinian III
left the Western Roman Empire without an obvious successor to the throne, with several candidates supported by various groups of the imperial bureaucracy and the military. In particular, the army’s support was split between three main candidates:[8] Maximianus, the former domesticus ("bodyguard") of Aëtius, who was the son of an Egyptian merchant named Domninus who had become rich in Italy; the future emperor Majorian, who commanded the army after the death of Aetius and who had the backing of the Empress Licinia Eudoxia; and Maximus himself, who had the support of the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
and who in the end, on 17 March, defeated his rivals and secured the throne by distributing money to officials of the imperial palace.[8] Reign and death[edit] After gaining control of the palace, Maximus consolidated his hold on power by immediately marrying Licinia Eudoxia, the widow of Valentinian III.[16] She only married him reluctantly, suspecting that in fact he had been involved in the murder of her late husband; and indeed Maximus treated Valentinian III's assassins with considerable favor.[8] The eastern court at Constantinople
refused to recognize his accession, so to further secure his position, Maximus quickly appointed Avitus
as Magister militum, and sent him on a mission to Toulouse
to gain the support of the Visigoths.[17][18] He also proceeded to cancel the betrothal of Licinia’s daughter, Eudocia, to Huneric, the son of the Vandal
king Geiseric. This infuriated the Vandal
king, who only needed the excuse of Licinia’s despairing appeal to the Vandal
court for help to begin preparations for the invasion of Italy.[19] By May, within two months of Maximus gaining the throne, news reached Rome
that Geiseric
was sailing for Italy. As the news spread, panic gripped the city and many of its inhabitants took to flight.[8] The Emperor, aware that Avitus
had not yet returned with the expected Visigothic aid, decided that it was fruitless to mount a defense against the Vandals, so he attempted to organize his escape, urging the Senate to accompany him. However, in the panic, Petronius Maximus was completely abandoned by his bodyguard and entourage and left to fend for himself.[8] As Maximus rode out of the city on his own on May 31, 455, he was set upon by an angry mob, which stoned him to death. (Another account has it that he was killed by "a certain Roman soldier named Ursus")[20] His body was mutilated and flung into the Tiber.[8][21] He had reigned for only seventy-five days. His son from his first marriage, Palladius, who had held the title of Caesar between March 17 and May 31, and who had married his stepsister Eudocia, was probably executed.[8][22] On June 2, 455, three days after Maximus’ death, Geiseric
captured the city of Rome
and thoroughly sacked it for two weeks. In response to the pleas of Pope Leo I, the Vandals
desisted from more destructive behavior that often accompanied the sack of a city – arson, torture, and murder. Nevertheless, Geiseric
eventually carried away a great amount of loot as well as the empress Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia
and her daughters Placidia
and Eudocia.[23] Eudocia married Geiseric's son Huneric
in 456 as had been originally intended.[citation needed] Sources[edit]

Browne, Robert William (1859). A history of Rome
from A.D. 96 to the fall of the Western empire. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.  Cameron, Averil; Ward-Perkins, Bryan; Whitby, Michael (2001). The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 14: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, A.D. 425–600. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521325912.  Canduci, Alexander (2010). Triumph & Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors. Pier 9. ISBN 978-1-74196-598-8.  Drinkwater, John; Elton, Hugh (2002). Fifth-Century Gaul: A Crisis of Identity?. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52933-6.  Gibbon, Edward. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I.  Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin; Martindale, John Robert (1992). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire
Roman Empire
volume 2. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20159-4.  Mathisen, Ralph (1999). " Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
(17 March 455 – 22 May 455)". De Imperatoribus Romanis.  Norwich, John Julius (1989). Byzantium: The Early Centuries. Penguin. 

See also[edit]

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire


^ Jones & Martindale, pg. 749 ^ Drinkwater, pgs. 117-118 ^ a b Drinkwater, pg. 118 ^ Norwich, J, pg. 162 ^ Drinkwater, pg. 117 ^ Drinkwater, pg. 120 ^ Drinkwater, pg. 112 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Mathisen ^ a b Jones & Martindale, pg. 750 ^ Norwich, pg. 160 ^ Cameron, pg. 18 ^ John of Antioch, fragments 200–201; translated in C.D. Gordon, The Age of Attila: Fifth-Century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor, 1960), pp. 51ff ^ Gibbons; chapter 35 ^ Cameron, pg. 473 ^ Canduci, pg. 160 ^ a b Jones & Martindale, pg. 751 ^ Canduci, pg. 161-163 ^ Cameron, pg. 20 ^ Cameron, pg. 125 ^ Brown, p. 350 ^ Canduci, pg. 161 ^ Cameron, pg. 21 ^ Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, pg. 162

External links[edit] Media related to Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
at Wikimedia Commons

Petronius Maximus Theodosian dynasty Born: 396 Died: 31 May 455

Regnal titles

Preceded by Valentinian III Western Roman Emperor 455 Succeeded by Avitus

Political offices

Preceded by Flavius Aetius, Flavius Valerius Consul of the Roman Empire 433 with Imp. Caesar Flavius Theodosius Augustus
XIV Succeeded by Flavius Ardaburius Asparus, Flavius Areobindus

Preceded by Flavius Dioscorus, Flavius Eudoxius Consul of the Roman Empire 443 with Flavius Paterius Succeeded by Imp. Caesar Flavius Theodosius Augustus
XVIII, Caecina Decius
Aginatius Albinus

v t e

Roman and Byzantine emperors

Principate 27 BC – 235 AD

Augustus Tiberius Caligula Claudius Nero Galba Otho Vitellius Vespasian Titus Domitian Nerva Trajan Hadrian Antoninus Pius Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
and Lucius Verus Commodus Pertinax Didius Julianus (Pescennius Niger) (Clodius Albinus) Septimius Severus Caracalla
with Geta Macrinus
with Diadumenian Elagabalus Severus Alexander

Crisis 235–284

Maximinus Thrax Gordian I
Gordian I
and Gordian II Pupienus
and Balbinus Gordian III Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
with Philip II Decius
with Herennius Etruscus Hostilian Trebonianus Gallus
Trebonianus Gallus
with Volusianus Aemilianus Valerian Gallienus
with Saloninus and Valerian II Claudius
Gothicus Quintillus Aurelian Tacitus Florian Probus Carus Carinus
and Numerian

Gallic Emperors: Postumus (Laelianus) Marius Victorinus (Domitianus II) Tetricus I
Tetricus I
with Tetricus II
Tetricus II
as Caesar

Dominate 284–395

(whole empire) Diocletian
(East) and Maximian
(West) Diocletian
(East) and Maximian
(West) with Galerius
(East) and Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
(West) as Caesares Galerius
(East) and Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
(West) with Severus (West) and Maximinus II (East) as Caesares Galerius
(East) and Severus (West) with Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great
(West) and Maximinus II (East) as Caesares Galerius
(East) and Maxentius
(West) with Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great
(West) and Maximinus II (East) as Caesares Galerius
(East) and Licinius
I (West) with Constantine the Great (West) and Maximinus II (East) as Caesares Maxentius
(alone) Licinius
I (West) and Maximinus II (East) with Constantine the Great (Self-proclaimed Augustus) and Valerius Valens Licinius
I (East) and Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great
(West) with Licinius
II, Constantine II, and Crispus
as Caesares (Martinian) Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great
(whole empire) with son Crispus
as Caesar Constantine II Constans
I Magnentius
with Decentius as Caesar Constantius II
Constantius II
with Vetranio Julian Jovian Valentinian the Great Valens Gratian Valentinian II Magnus Maximus
Magnus Maximus
with Victor Theodosius the Great (Eugenius)

Western Empire 395–480

Honorius Constantine III with son Constans
II) Constantius III Joannes Valentinian III Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
with Palladius Avitus Majorian Libius Severus Anthemius Olybrius Glycerius Julius Nepos Romulus Augustulus

Eastern/ Byzantine Empire 395–1204

Arcadius Theodosius II Pulcheria Marcian Leo I the Thracian Leo II Zeno (first reign) Basiliscus
with son Marcus as co-emperor Zeno (second reign) Anastasius I Dicorus Justin I Justinian the Great Justin II Tiberius
II Constantine Maurice with son Theodosius as co-emperor Phocas Heraclius Constantine III Heraklonas Constans
II Constantine IV
Constantine IV
with brothers Heraclius
and Tiberius
and then Justinian II as co-emperors Justinian II
Justinian II
(first reign) Leontios Tiberios III Justinian II
Justinian II
(second reign) with son Tiberius
as co-emperor Philippikos Anastasios II Theodosius III Leo III the Isaurian Constantine V Artabasdos Leo IV the Khazar Constantine VI Irene Nikephoros I Staurakios Michael I Rangabe
Michael I Rangabe
with son Theophylact as co-emperor Leo V the Armenian
Leo V the Armenian
with Symbatios-Constantine as junior emperor Michael II
Michael II
the Amorian Theophilos Michael III Basil I
Basil I
the Macedonian Leo VI the Wise Alexander Constantine VII
Constantine VII
Porphyrogennetos Romanos I Lekapenos
Romanos I Lekapenos
with sons Christopher, Stephen and Constantine as junior co-emperors Romanos II Nikephoros II Phokas John I Tzimiskes Basil II Constantine VIII Zoë (first reign) and Romanos III Argyros Zoë (first reign) and Michael IV the Paphlagonian Michael V Kalaphates Zoë (second reign) with Theodora Zoë (second reign) and Constantine IX Monomachos Constantine IX Monomachos
Constantine IX Monomachos
(sole emperor) Theodora Michael VI Bringas Isaac I Komnenos Constantine X Doukas Romanos IV Diogenes Michael VII Doukas
Michael VII Doukas
with brothers Andronikos and Konstantios and son Constantine Nikephoros III Botaneiates Alexios I Komnenos John II Komnenos
John II Komnenos
with Alexios Komnenos as co-emperor Manuel I Komnenos Alexios II Komnenos Andronikos I Komnenos Isaac II Angelos Alexios III Angelos Alexios IV Angelos Nicholas Kanabos (chosen by the Senate) Alexios V Doukas

Empire of Nicaea 1204–1261

Constantine Laskaris Theodore I Laskaris John III Doukas Vatatzes Theodore II Laskaris John IV Laskaris

Eastern/ Byzantine Empire 1261–1453

Michael VIII Palaiologos Andronikos II Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos
with Michael IX Palaiologos
Michael IX Palaiologos
as co-emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos John V Palaiologos John VI Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos
with John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos
and Matthew Kantakouzenos as co-emperors John V Palaiologos Andronikos IV Palaiologos John VII Palaiologos Andronikos V Palaiologos Manuel II Palaiologos John VIII Palaiologos Constantine XI Palaiologos

Italics indicates a co-emperor, while underlining indicates an usurper.

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 122232697 LCCN: nb20100165