Europe 238: Year of the Six Emperors: Three vs Thrax
When the Roman Senate learned that Maximinus Thrax was still alive, it declared him an enemy of the state, persuading most of the provinces to recognize Gordians I and II. However, Numidia refused and invaded Africa, leading to the deaths of both Gordians on 12 April 238. Shocked by the news—and learning that the enraged Maximinus was marching on Rome—the Senate hastily appointed two senators, Pupienus and Balbinus, along with Gordian I’s 13-year-old grandson, Gordian III, as co-emperors. Maximinus, meanwhile, made it no further than Aquileia, where he was killed by his own troops in May during an unsuccessful siege.
Apr 238 Proscription of Maximinus Thrax▲
When it realized that Maximinus Thrax was still alive and that they were therefore in great danger for supporting the Gordians, the Senate declared him an enemy of the state. Embassies were immediately dispatched to all the provinces, urging their loyalty to the Senate and to Rome. Most of the provincial governors quickly rallied behind the Senate, although a few either killed the envoys or sent them to Maximinus to be tortured.
12 Apr 238 Battle of Carthage▲
When Gordian I assumed power, he attempted to dismiss governor Capellianus of Numidia, a strong supporter of Maximinus Thrax. Capellianus rejected this demand, instead rallying the Legio III Augusta—the only legion in Africa—and marching on Gordian’s base of Carthage. Gordian’s son, Gordian II, desperately led the citizens of Carthage out into battle, but was routed by Capellianus’ veterans. With his son killed in the fighting, the elder Gordian hanged himself.
22 Apr 238 Pupienus, Balbinus, & Gordian III▲
News of the death of Gordian I and Gordian II in April 238 left the Senate desperate to find new leadership before Maximinus Thrax could return from Pannonia. Gathering in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, they elected senators Pupienus and Balbinus by a majority vote. However, when these two patricians were proclaimed co-emperors, the populace of Rome rioted, prompting the Senate to immediately add the 13-year-old Gordian III, grandson of Gordian I, as a third co-emperor to appease them.
Apr 238 Riots of Balbinus▲
In late April 238 Pupienus led most of the soldiers of Italy north to face Maximinus Thrax, leaving his co-emperor Balbinus in charge of Rome. In these times a senator named Gallicanus galvanized the mob to attack the Praetorian guards—all discharged veterans—who were still in the city, claiming they were supporters of Maximinus. Releasing gladiators to join their cause—and ignoring Balbinus’ pleas for calm—the people mounted daily attacks on the Praetorians, but were unable to break into their camp. Eventually the guards struck back, killing large numbers of people and destroying much of the city in fire.
? Apr–10 May 238 Siege of Aquileia▲
Upon hearing of the Senate’s rebellion in favor of the Gordians in April 238, Maximinus Thrax invaded Italy from Pannonia, only to discover that the local population had destroyed or taken all supplies and withdrawn to Aquileia. For many days, he attempted to break into Aquileia, but its garrison fought him off with incendiary weapons while the Senate blocked all supplies traveling to the region. By 10 May some of his troops—despairing with hunger and concerned that Maximinus might take his growing anger out on them—had had enough and marched on their emperor’s tent, killing him and his son.