Gordian III - Roman Emperor: 238-244 A.D. -
Silver Antoninianus 21mm (4.36 grams) Rome mint 239 A.D.
Reference: RIC 19, C 199
IMPCAESMANTGORDIANVSAVG - Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
PMTRPIICOSPP - Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm.
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Roman mythology, Victoria was the personification/Goddess of victory.
She is the Roman version of the
Nike, and was associated with
Bellona. She was adapted from the
Vacuna and had
temple on the
Palatine Hill. Her name (in Latin) means victory. Unlike the Greek Nike, Victoria (Latin
for "victory") was a major part of Roman society. Multiple temples were erected
in her honour. When her statue was removed in 382 AD by emperor
Gratianus there was much anger in Rome. She was normally worshipped by
triumphant generals returning from war. Also unlike the Greek Nike, who was known for success in athletic games such
as chariot races, Victoria was a symbol of victory over death and determined who
would be successful during war. Appearing on Roman coins, jewelry, architecture, and other arts, Victoria is
often seen with or in a
example of this is her place upon the
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius (January
English as Gordian III,
Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of
Antonia Gordiana and his father was an unnamed Roman Senator who died before
238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor
and younger sister of Emperor
Very little is known on his early life before becoming Roman Emperor. Gordian
had assumed the name of his maternal grandfather in 238.
Following the murder of emperor
Alexander Severus in Moguntiacum (modern
capital of the
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,
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
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.
defeated Maximinus, mainly due to the defection of several
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
Pupienus and Balbinus were killed by the
Praetorian guard and Gordian proclaimed sole emperor.
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,
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
In the 3rd century, the Roman frontiers weakened against the
Germanic tribes across the
Danube, and the
Sassanid kingdom across the
increased its own attacks. When the Persians under
Mesopotamia, the young emperor opened the doors of the
Temple of Janus for the last time in Roman history, and sent a huge 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.
Marcus Julius Philippus, also known as
Philip the Arab, stepped in at this moment as the new Praetorian Prefect and
the campaign proceeded. In the beginning of 244, the Persians counter-attacked.
Persian sources claim that a battle was fought (Battle
of Misiche) near modern
and resulted in a major Roman defeat and the death of Gordian III.
Roman sources do not mention this battle and suggest that Gordian died far away,
upstream of the Euphrates. Although ancient sources often described Philip, who
succeeded Gordian as emperor, as having murdered Gordian at Zaitha (Qalat es
Salihiyah), the cause of Gordian's death is unknown.
Gordian's youth and good nature, along with the deaths of his
grandfather and uncle and his own tragic fate at the hands of another usurper,
granted him the everlasting esteem of the Romans. Despite the opposition of the
new emperor, Gordian was deified by the Senate after his death, in order to
appease the population and avoid riots.