1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gordian
GORDIAN, or Gordianus, the name of three Roman emperors. The first, Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus (A.D. 159–238), an extremely wealthy man, was descended from the Gracchi and Trajan, while his wife was the great-granddaughter of Antoninus Pius. While he gained unbounded popularity by his magnificent games and shows, his prudent and retired life did not excite the suspicion of Caracalla, in whose honour he wrote a long epic called Antoninias. Alexander Severus called him to the dangerous honours of government in Africa, and during his proconsulship occurred the usurpation of Maximin. The universal discontent roused by the oppressive rule of Maximin culminated in a revolt in Africa in 238, and Gordian reluctantly yielded to the popular clamour and assumed the purple. His son, Marcus Antonius Gordianus (192-238), was associated with him in the dignity. The senate confirmed the choice of the Africans, and most of the provinces gladly sided with the new emperors; but, even while their cause was so successful abroad, they had fallen before the sudden inroad of Cappellianus, legatus of Numidia and a supporter of Maximin. They had reigned only thirty-six days. Both the Gordians had deserved by their amiable character their high reputation; they were men of great accomplishments, fond of literature, and voluminous authors; but they were rather intellectual voluptuaries than able statesmen or powerful rulers. Having embraced the cause of Gordian, the senate was obliged to continue the revolt against Maximin, and appointed Pupienus Maximus and Caelius Balbinus, two of its noblest and most esteemed members, as joint emperors. At their inauguration a sedition arose, and the popular outcry for a Gordian was appeased by the association with them of M. Antonius Gordianus Pius (224-244), grandson of the elder Gordian, then a boy of thirteen. Maximin forthwith invaded Italy, but was murdered by his own troops while besieging Aquileia, and a revolt of the praetorian guards, to which Pupienus and Balbinus fell victims, left Gordian sole emperor. For some time he was under the control of his mother’s eunuchs, till Timesitheus, his father-in-law and praefect of the praetorian guard, persuaded him to assert his independence. When the Persians under Shapur (Sapor) I. invaded Mesopotamia, the young emperor opened the temple of Janus for the last time recorded in history, and marched in person to the East. The Persians were driven back over the Euphrates and defeated in the battle of Resaena (243), and only the death of Timesitheus (under suspicious circumstances) prevented an advance into the enemy’s territory. Philip the Arabian, who succeeded Timesitheus, stirred up discontent in the army, and Gordian was murdered by the mutinous soldiers in Mesopotamia.
See lives of the Gordians by Capitolinus in the Scriptores historiae Augustae; Herodian vii. viii.; Zosimus i. 16, 18; Ammianus Marcellinus, xxiii. 5; Eutropius ix. 2; Aurelius Victor, Caesares, 27; article Shapur (I.); Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, i. 2619 f. (von Rohden).