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The Year of the Six Emperors - 238 A.D.

The Year of the Six Emperors refers to the year 238 A.D. in which the Roman Empire was ruled by six emperors: Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I and Gordian II, Pupienus and Balbinus with Gordian III, and finally Gordian III.

The first emperor of 238, Maximinus Thrax, had ruled since 235. However, in January 238, a revolt arose in North Africa and the imperial tax collector was killed by young aristocrats. The aristocrats then insisted that the regional governor, Gordian, proclaim himself emperor. The 80-year-old reluctantly agreed and gave his son equal power as joint emperor. The Senate recognized the pair as joint emperors, Gordian I and Gordian II. Their reign would last only 20 days. The governor of neighboring Numidia, Cappellianus, led an army against the Gordians and Gordian II was killed in battle. His father committed suicide on hearing the news.

Maximinus began a march on Rome to reclaim his place as emperor and the Senate sought a new emperor to defeat him. On April 22, 238, the Senate elected two elderly men from their ranks, Pupienus and Balbinus, as joint emperors. The pair proved unpopular and, Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius, the 13-year-old grandson of Gordian I was nominated as caesar.

Meanwhile, Maximinus suffered a series of setbacks in northern Italy and was eventually assassinated along with his son, Maximus, by his demoralized soldiers. The soldiers surrendered to Pupienus at the end of June and the joint emperor returned to Rome.

Pupienus and Balbinus often fought amongst themselves to such a degree that the Praetorian Guard eventually intervened in one of their disputes and killed them both. Gordian III was proclaimed emperor and he reigned until his death at the age of 19 on 11 February 244. Gordian I and Gordian II were deified by the Senate.


"Year of the Six Emperors." Wikipedia. Retrieved on August 7, 2011.
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