Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Caius Julius Verus Maximinus Thrax

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Caius Julius Verus Maximinus Thrax

by Karl Hoeber


Roman Emperor 235-8, son of a Goth and an Alanic mother. When the Emperor Septimius Severus was returning through Thrace in 202, Maximinus, a shepherd of enormous stature and strength, distinguished himself in a contest with the soldiers by such Herculean strength and bravery that the emperor enrolled him in the Roman body-guard. Refusing to serve under the worthless emperors, Macrinus and Heliogabalus, he withdrew from the army; but under the righteous Alexander Severus he was entrusted with the command of the newly raised Pannonian troops. These, desiring a real warrior at their head instead of the youthful and timid Alexander, who was entirely subject to his mother Julia Mamaea, invested him with the purple at Mainz, in March, 235, at the same time proclaiming his son Maximus co-regent. The adherents of the former Syrian dynasty and of the senate tried unsuccessfully to overthrow him. Maximinus taking the field with great energy and persistence against the Germans across the Rhine, regained the district of the Agri Decumates and then waged successful war against the Sarmatians and the Dacians on the Danube. Assuming the names of Germanicus and Sarmaticus, he proceeded with sentences of death and confiscation against the patrician Romans, who disliked him as a wild and uncultured barbarian; on the other hand he distributed the State revenues among the soldiers who were devoted to him. He had the bronze statues of the gods and their treasures melted down and coined; he plundered cities and temples, and caused so much discontent that a rebellion broke out in February, 238, among the peasantry in Africa. The procurator and octogenarian consul at Carthage were killed.

M. Antonius Gordianus and his son of the same name, were made co-regent emperors. The Roman senate willingly recognized them, because they promised, like the Antonines in former times, to govern according to its decisions; the people despising Maximinus, who had never once set foot in the capital of the empire, agreed with the senate. Maximinus was outlawed, and his death was rumoured, but he sent Capellianus, Procurator of Numidia, against the adherents of the Gordiani, and in the struggle, the younger Gordian lost his life whereupon the senior hanged himself in despair. Their reign had lasted little more than a month. The senate now decided to elect two emperors with equal authority, M. Clodius Pupienus Maximus who was to exercise the military power de facto, and Decimus Caelius Balbinus who was to direct the civil government in the capital. The Romans dissatisfied with this arrangement, for they had expected great advantages from the rule of the African emperors, raised to the rank of Caesar the elder Gordian's twelve year old grandson (afterwards Gordian III), then residing in Rome. Severe street fighting occurred in Rome between the veterans of Maximinus and the people. Owing to scanty commissariat Maximinus could only move his troops slowly from Pannonia. Meanwhile the senate levied troops, constructed arsenals, and by creating twenty military districts, placed Italy in a satisfactory defensive position. When Maximinus arrived in Upper Italy, he could not at once cross the Isonzo on account of the floods and his attacks on the stronghold of Aquileia were repulsed. Under the foolish impression that his officers were the cause of his misfortunes, he had several of them executed, thereby arousing discontent among the soldiers, especially in the Second Parthian Legion whose wives and children were in the power of the Roman Senate at Albano. A mutiny suddenly occurring, Maximin and his son were murdered. Pupienus, who hastened thither from Ravenna, rewarded the troops liberally and administered to them the oath of fidelity on behalf of the three senator emperors resident in Rome.

MOMMSEN, Romische Geschichte, V (Berlin, 1885); SCHILLER, Gesch. d. rom. Kaiserzeit, vol. I, pt. II (Gotha, 1883); DOMASZEWSKI, Gesch. der rom. Kaiserzeit, II (Leipzig, 1909).

KARL HOEBER