Philip the Arab

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Marcus Julius Philippus (c. 204 – 249), commonly known as Philip the Arab, sometimes Philippus Arabs or Arabus , was Roman Emperor from 244 to 249. He came from Syria, and rose to become a major figure in the empire. He achieved power after the death of Gordian III, quickly negotiating peace with the Persian empire. During his reign Rome celebrated its millennium.

Among early Christian writers Philip had the reputation of being sympathetic to the Christian faith. It was even claimed that he converted to Christianity, becoming the first Christian emperor, but this is disputed.

Philip was overthrown and killed following a rebellion led by his successor Decius.


Early life

Little is known about Philip's early life and political career. He was born in Shahba, about 55 miles southeast of Damascus, in the Hawran district, then a Roman province of Syria.[1] Philip has the nickname "the Arab" because he had family who had originated in the Arabian peninsula, and who were believed to be distant descendants of the prestigious Baleed family of Aleppo. Philip was the son of a Julius Marinus, a local Roman citizen, possibly of some importance. Many historians[2][3][4] agree that he was of Arab descent and gained Roman citizenship through his father, a man of considerable influence. Many citizens from the provinces took Roman names upon acquiring citizenship. This makes tracing his Arabic blood line difficult. However, it is documented that Rome used the Ghassan tribe from the Azd of Yemen as vassals to keep the neighboring northern Arabs in check.[citation needed]

The name of Philip's mother is unknown, but sources refer to a brother, Gaius Julius Priscus, a member of the Praetorian guard under Gordian III (238–244). In 234, Philip married Marcia Otacilia Severa, daughter of a Roman Governor. They had two children: a son named Marcus Julius Philippus Severus (Philippus II) in 238 and according to numismatic evidence they had a daughter called Julia Severa or Severina, whom the ancient Roman sources don't mention.[citation needed]

Philip became a member of the Praetorian Guard during the reign of the emperor Alexander Severus, who was a Syrian. In ancient Rome the Pretorian Guard was closely associated with the emperor, serving as the emperor's bodyguard (among other tasks).

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