April 22, 238

On April 22, 238 CE, the year 238 CE became known as the Year of the Six Emperors. It was on this date that the Roman Senate outlawed the current emperor Maximinus Thrax for being an overall, just unlikable, murdering swine and nominated Pupienus and Balbinus as co-emperors. I know, that only makes three so far and just like in a Doctor Who episode when it is named “The Five Doctors”, you expect there to be five Doctors and that the Doctors will save the Earth, or the universe, or even Time itself. Well, this is the Roman empire. Prepare to be disappointed. The other three Emperors were Gordian I, his son Gordian II, and his grandson Gordian III, rounding out all six. Before Pupienus and Balbinus were nominated, Gordian I became emperor when the people of his province have had enough of Maximinus Thrax’s shenanigans and asked him to proclaim himself as emperor and depose Maximinus Thrax. He decided he’d do that, but because he was 80 years old, he also named his son, Gordian II, as co-emperor. So, let’s start the count. We’re up to three. Thrax, Gordian I and Gordian II. Thrax, who was outlawed by the Roman Senate, still had an army and wasn’t about to relinquished control without a fight. Unfortunately, Gordian I and Gordian II didn’t even have enough time to make plans to fight Maximinus Thrax. Why? Because an old enemy, Capelianus, the Governor of the neighboring province Numidia showed up. He didn’t want the throne, he just didn’t want Gordian or his son getting it. Capelianus sent his army against the army of Gordian I and Gordian II and defeated it. Gordian II was killed during the battle and Gordian I became so distraught that he killed himself. In total, Gordian I and Gordian II didn’t even last 20 days as co-emperors. This left Maximinus Thrax as the outlawed emperor. The Roman Senate learned of this and on April 22, 238, the senators named Pupienus and Balbinus, both elderly men, as co-emperors. So now we’re up to five. Thrax, outlawed, Gordian I, dead, Gordian II, dead, and Pupienus and Balbinus, still alive. The people of Rome were not happy. They hated the two old geezers, Pupienus and Balbinus. To appease the disgruntled populace the Senate then appointed the thirteen year-old son and grandson of Gordian II and Gordian I, Gordian III, as co-co-emperor with Pupienus and Balbinus. And there you have it. Six Emperors, one year. One outlawed, two dead, two not dead, but shaking the bony hands of Death, and a thirteen year-old boy. It didn’t last long. The soldiers of Maximinus Thrax also get tired of his incompetence and killed him. So that left only Gordian III, Balbinus and Pupienus to run the Roman Empire. That also did not last long. Balbinus and Pupienus did not trust each other and were always bickering and sniping at one another instead of competently running the empire. The Praetorian Guard quickly got tired of it and took a hint from Maximinus’s army. During a rather contentious bitchfest between Balbinus and Pupienus, the Praetorian Guard drug them outside and killed them. This left Gordian III as sole emperor in 238 CE. And that was the year of the Six Emperors. There can be only one.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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