PhilipArabFamily Gordian_III_Wife _Banner

21. Anarchy in the Empire

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MaximinusThrax Gordian1Gordian2 BalbinusCombo PupienusBustCoin GordianIII TrebGallusFamily JuliusMarinusCoin MaxThraxFamilyCoin

Gordian I (coin right above) and his son Gordian II (bust and coin). Made co-emperors in Africa by young land-owning nobles angry at Maximinus Thrax’s confiscation of their property; their reign lasted twenty-two days.

Short-lived joint-Augusti at loggerheads: Balbinus (above) and Pupienus (right) allowed mutual suspicion to plague their government.


Right: an idealized physique and pose characterize this bust of Gordian III—a new hope for the empire. Below, coins of Gordian III and his wife Furia Sabinia Tranquillina, daughter of his praetorian prefect Timesitheus.

Portrait busts and coins of Philip I the Arab, his wife Marcia Otacilia Severa, and their son Marcus Julius Severus Philippus (Philip II),

co-Augustus from 247, when still short of ten years old

MAPShapurWar ShapurICoin

Right; Shapur I, son of Ardashir I, ruled the Sassanian empire from 241 until his death in 272, and was a bellicose thorn in the side of a Rome shaken by Gothic incursions and internal strife.

His greatest coup would come in 259–60,

when he captured Valerian, the first Roman

emperor to suffer this ignominy.

Left: a coin depicting Philip the Arab's father, Julius Marinus.

AemilianusWifeCoin Usurpers DeciusFamily HerenniusEtruscusCoin

Five usurpers of Philip the Arab's throne, top to bottom:

1. Claudius Marinus Pacatianus

4. Sponsianus

5. Silbannacus

3. Lucius Aurelius Sulpicius Uranius Antoninus

Decius, his wife Herennia Cupressenia

Etrusca, and their

two sons: Herennius Etruscus (coin below) and the younger Hostilianus (below right).


Herennius fell with his father by the treachery

of Trebonianus Gallus. Hostilian became

co-Augustus to Trebonianus Gallus

for three months in

251 before being

felled by the plague ravaging Rome.

2. Iotapianus

Trebonianus Gallus (bust and coin above) and his son Volusian (coin) made first Caesar then co-Augustus with his father in 251.

Right: Aemilius Aemilianus and his wife C. Cornelia Supra. His short reign was ended by his own troops who were weary of civil war, and quickly disillusioned of his chances of success.

Of humble origins, Maximinus Thrax was a soldier through and through, and had worked his way up the ranks. He was noted for his great physical strength, and is said to have towered a barely believable 8ft. 2in. (2.5m) in height.


Right: coins of Maximinus, his wife Caecilia Diva Paulina, and their son Gaius Julius Verus Maximus, who was elevated to Caesar in 236.


Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean    © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England