Gordian I

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Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus (c. 159 – 12 April 238), commonly known as Gordian I, was Roman Emperor for one month with his son 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.


Early life

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.[10] It seems therefore that the person who was related to Herodes Atticus was Gordian I's mother or grandmother and not his wife.[8]

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