The Info List - Gordian I

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Gordian I
Gordian I
(Latin: Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus Augustus;[5] c. 159 – 12 April 238) was Roman Emperor for 21 days with his son Gordian II
Gordian II
in 238, the Year of the Six Emperors. Caught up in a rebellion against the Emperor Maximinus Thrax, he was defeated by forces loyal to Maximinus before committing suicide.


1 Early life 2 Rise to power 3 Legacy 4 Sources

4.1 Primary sources 4.2 Secondary sources

5 References 6 External links

Early life[edit] Little is known on the early life and family background of Gordian. There is no reliable evidence on his family origins.[6] His family were of Equestrian rank, who were modest and very wealthy.[7] Gordian was said to be related to prominent senators.[8] His praenomen and nomen Marcus Antonius suggest that his paternal ancestors received Roman citizenship under the Triumvir
Mark Antony, or one of his daughters, during the late Roman Republic.[8] Gordian’s cognomen ‘Gordianus’ suggests that his family origins were from Anatolia, especially Galatia
and Cappadocia.[9] According to the Augustan History, his mother was a Roman woman called Ulpia Gordiana and his father Roman Senator Maecius Marullus.[3] 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).[8] Romana erected this undated funeral inscription to her husband (whose name is lost) who died as a praetor-designate.[6] 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.[4] It seems therefore that the person who was related to Herodes Atticus
Herodes Atticus
was Gordian I's mother or grandmother and not his wife.[8] Also according to the Augustan History, his wife was a Roman woman called Fabia Orestilla,[1] born circa 165, whom the Augustan History
Augustan History
claims was a descendant of Roman Emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
through her father Fulvus Antoninus.[1] Modern historians have dismissed this name and her information as false.[6] With his wife, Gordian had at least two children: a son of the same name (Gordian II)[10] and a daughter, Antonia Gordiana (who was the mother of the future Emperor Gordian III).[11] 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
Antoninus Pius
and wife Annia Galeria Faustina or Faustina the Elder.[4] Gordian climbed the hierarchy until he entered the Roman Senate. His political career started relatively late in his life[6] and probably his early years were spent in rhetoric and literary studies.[8] As a military man, Gordian commanded the Legio IV Scythica
Legio IV Scythica
when the legion was stationed in Syria.[8] He served as governor of Roman Britain
Roman Britain
in 216 and was a Suffect Consul sometime during the reign of Elagabalus.[6] Inscriptions in Roman Britain
Roman Britain
bearing his name were partially erased suggesting some form of imperial displeasure during this role.[12] While he gained unbounded popularity by the magnificent games and shows he produced as aedile,[13] his prudent and retired life did not excite the suspicion of Caracalla, in whose honour he wrote a long epic poem called Antoninias.[14] Gordian certainly retained his wealth and political clout during the chaotic times of the Severan dynasty, which suggest his personal dislike for intrigue. Philostratus dedicated his work Lives of the Sophists to either him or his son, Gordian II.[15] Rise to power[edit] During the reign of Alexander Severus, Gordian (who was by then in his late sixties), after serving his suffect consulship prior to 223, drew lots for the proconsular governorship of the province of Africa Proconsularis[6][16] which he assumed in 237.[17] However, prior to the commencement of his promagistrature, Maximinus Thrax
Maximinus Thrax
killed Emperor Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
at Moguntiacum in Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior
and assumed the throne.[18]

Gordian I
Gordian I
on a coin, bearing the title AFR, Africanus.

Maximinus was not a popular emperor and universal discontent roused by his oppressive rule culminated in a revolt in Africa in 238.[7] The trigger was the actions of Maximinus’s procurator in Africa, who sought to extract the maximum level of taxation and fines possible, including falsifying charges against the local aristocracy.[7] A riot saw the death of the procurator, after which they turned to Gordian and demanded that he accept the dangerous honor of the imperial throne.[2] Gordian, after protesting that he was too old for the position, eventually yielded to the popular clamour and assumed both the purple and the cognomen Africanus on 22 March.[19] 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 (...).[20]

Due to his advanced age, he insisted that his son, Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian II), be associated with him.[2] [21] A few days later, Gordian entered the city of Carthage
with the overwhelming support of the population and local political leaders.[22] Meanwhile, in Rome, Maximinus' praetorian prefect was assassinated and the rebellion seemed to be successful.[23] Gordian in the meantime had sent an embassy to Rome, under the leadership of Publius Licinius Valerianus,[24] to obtain the Senate’s support for his rebellion.[23] The senate confirmed the new emperor on 2 April and many of the provinces gladly sided with Gordian.[25] Opposition would come from the neighbouring province of Numidia.[26] Capelianus, governor of Numidia, loyal supporter of Maximinus Thrax, and who held a grudge against Gordian,[25] 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.[27] Gordian II, at the head of a militia army of untrained soldiers, lost the Battle of Carthage
and was killed,[25] and Gordian took his own life by hanging himself with his belt.[7] The Gordians had reigned only 21 days.[6] Gordian was the first emperor to commit suicide since Otho
in 69 during The Year of the Four Emperors. Legacy[edit] 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.[20] But they were more interested in intellectual pursuits, possessing neither the necessary skills nor the 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, and appointed Pupienus
and Balbinus, as joint emperors.[26] Nevertheless, by the end of 238, the recognised emperor would be Gordian III, his grandson.[28] Gordian and his son were deified by the Senate.[29] Sources[edit] Primary sources[edit]

Herodian, Roman History, Book 7 Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus Joannes
Zonaras, Compendium of History extract: Zonaras: Alexander Severus to Diocletian: 222–284 Zosimus, Historia Nova

Secondary sources[edit]

Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (2004) [1994]. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome: Updated Edition. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-5026-0.  Birley, Anthony (2005), The Roman Government in Britain, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-925237-4  Canduci, Alexander (2010), Triumph & Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors, Pier 9, ISBN 978-1-74196-598-8  Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
(1888) Meckler, Michael L., Gordian I
Gordian I
(238 A.D.), De Imperatoribus Romanis (2001) Potter, David Stone, The Roman Empire at Bay, AD 180–395, Routledge, 2004 Settipani, Christian, Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque impériale, 2000 Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001 Syme, Ronald, Emperors and Biography, Oxford University Press, 1971


^ a b c Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 17:4 ^ a b c d Southern, pg. 66 ^ a b c Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 2:2 ^ a b c d Settipani, "Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque impériale" ^ Encyclopædia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/239047/Gordian-II ^ a b c d e f g Meckler, Gordian I ^ a b c d Canduci, pg. 63 ^ a b c d e f Birley, pg. 340 ^ Peuch, Bernadette, "Orateurs et sophistes grecs dans les inscriptions d'époque impériale", (2002), pg. 128 ^ Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 17:1 ^ Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 4:2 ^ Birley, pg. 339 ^ Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 3:5 ^ Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 3:3 ^ "Grant, The Roman Emperors", pg. 140 ^ Herodian, 7:5:2 ^ Birley, pg. 333 ^ Potter, pg. 167 ^ Herodian, 7:5:8 ^ a b Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, Ch. 7 ^ Adkins, Lesley and Adkins Roy A., Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome: Updated Edition, p. 27: Gordian II
Gordian II
was "Proclaimed co-emperor on 22 March 238" with Gordian II ^ Herodian, 7:6:2 ^ a b Potter, pg. 169 ^ Zosimus, 1:11 ^ a b c Potter, pg. 170 ^ a b Southern, pg. 67 ^ Herodian, 7:9:3 ^ Southern, pg. 68 ^ Historia Augusta, The Three Gordians, 16:4

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gordianus I.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gordian". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 247. 

Regnal titles

Preceded by Maximinus Thrax Roman Emperor 238 Served alongside: Gordian II Succeeded by Pupienus
and Balbinus

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: 3274737 LCCN: nb2010015083 ISNI: 0000 0000 7981 4218 GND: 119166291 BNF: cb16691877x (dat