When wealthy citizens of ancient Roman Africa were about to be taxed
into the poorhouse in A.D. 238, they did the only thing that made
sense to them — murder the procurator instead of making the payment.
Seeking rulers who could bridge the gap between the noblemen and the
state, and “desperate for a leader who could both sympathize with
their dilemma and assemble an army, the renegades implored the elder
Gordian to accept the title of emperor,” David
Vagi wrote in Coinage and History of the Roman Empire.
In a letter written in Carthage and sent to Rome, the joint rulers
declared their intentions to serve, and the uber-wealthy Gordian I and
his son were made co-emperors on March 22, 238, reportedly.
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“When news was posted in the Forum, the people rejoiced and there
followed several days of riots during which informers, officials and
tax collectors of Maximinus were slaughtered to the man,” Vagi wrote.
The reign of the two Gordians would be short, however; Gordian II
died April 12 in battle near Carthage and, soon after, his father
Despite a reign of only three weeks, their coinage is much more
abundant than expected, which is one reason historians (Vagi included)
believe that the plot to reject the pecuniary burdens introduced by
Maximus was likely begun weeks in advance in concert with key senators
The coinage of both men is very similar, and can be distinguished
only with careful study of the portraits.
“The elder Gordian has a full head of hair, a thin face, beak nose
and slightly recessed jaw,” according to Vagi. “The younger Gordian
has a receding hairline, a long, flat nose, a pronounced forehead,
heavy jaw and jutting chin, and is fleshier in appearance.”