Gordian III

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Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius (20 January 225 – 11 February 244), commonly known as Gordian III, was Roman Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and an unnamed Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of emperor Gordian I and younger sister of emperor Gordian II. Very little is known on his early life before his acclamation. Gordian had assumed the name of his maternal grandfather in 238.

Contents

Rise to power

Following the murder of emperor Alexander Severus in Moguntiacum (modern Mainz), the capital of the Roman province Germania Inferior, Maximinus Thrax was acclaimed emperor, despite strong opposition of the Roman senate and the majority of the population. In response to what was considered in Rome as a rebellion, Gordian's grandfather and uncle, Gordian I and II, were proclaimed joint emperors in the Africa Province. Their revolt was suppressed within a month by Cappellianus, governor of Numidia and a loyal supporter of Maximinus Thrax. The elder Gordians died, but public opinion cherished their memory as peace loving and literate men, victims of Maximinus' oppression.

Meanwhile, Maximinus was on the verge of marching on Rome and the Senate elected Pupienus and Balbinus as joint emperors. These senators were not popular men and the population of Rome was still shocked by the elder Gordian's fate, so that the Senate decided to take the teenager Gordian, rename him Marcus Antonius Gordianus as his grandfather, and raise him to the rank of Caesar and imperial heir. Pupienus and Balbinus defeated Maximinus, mainly due to the defection of several legions, namely the II Parthica who assassinated Maximinus. But their joint reign was doomed from the start with popular riots, military discontent and even an enormous fire that consumed Rome in June 238. On July 29, Pupienus and Balbinus were killed by the Praetorian guard and Gordian proclaimed sole emperor.

Rule

Due to Gordian's age, the imperial government was surrendered to the aristocratic families, who controlled the affairs of Rome through the senate. In 240, Sabinianus revolted in the African province, but the situation was dealt quickly. In 241, Gordian was married to Furia Sabinia Tranquillina, daughter of the newly appointed praetorian prefect, Timesitheus. As chief of the Praetorian guard and father in law of the emperor, Timesitheus quickly became the de facto ruler of the Roman empire.

In the 3rd century, the Roman frontiers weakened against the Germanic tribes across the Rhine and Danube, and the Sassanid kingdom across the Euphrates increased its own attacks. When the Persians under Shapur I invaded Mesopotamia, the young emperor opened the doors of the Temple of Janus for the last time in Roman history, and sent a large army to the East. The Sassanids were driven back over the Euphrates and defeated in the Battle of Resaena (243). The campaign was a success and Gordian, who had joined the army, was planning an invasion of the enemy's territory, when his father-in-law died in unclear circumstances. Without Timesitheus, the campaign, and the emperor's security, were at risk.

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