Gordia'nus I. or Gordia'nus Africanus
1. M. Antonius
Gordianus, surnamed AFRICANUS, the son of Metius Marullus and Ulpia Gordiana, daughterof Annius Severus, traced his descent by the father's side from the Gracchi, by the mother's from the emperor Trajan, and married Fabia Orestilia, the great grand-daughter of Antoninus. His ancestors had for three generations at least risen to the consulship, a dignity with which he himself was twice invested. His estates in the provinces were believed to be more extensive than those of any other private citizen: he possessed a suburban villa of matchless splendour on the Praenestine way, and inherited from his great grand-father the house in Rome which had once belonged to the great Pompeius, had afterwards passed into the hands of M. Antonius, and still bore the name of the Domus Rostrata, derived from the trophies captured in the piratical war, which decorated its vestibule when Cicero wrote the second Philippic. Gordianus in youth paid homage to the Muses, and among many other pieces composed an epic in thirty books, called the Antoninius,
the theme being the wars and history of the Antonines.
In maturer years he declaimed with so much reputation that he numbered emperors among his audiences ; his quaestorship was distinguished by profuse liberality; when aedile he far outstripped all his predecessors in magnificence, for he exhibited games every month on the most gorgeous scale at his own cost; he discharged with honour the duties of a praetorian judge; in his first consulship, A. D. 213, he was the colleague of Caracalla; in his second of Alexander Severus; and soon afterwards was nominated proconsul of Africa, to the great joy of the provincials. Nor was his popularity unmerited.
In all things a foe to excess, of gentle and affectionate temper in his domestic relations, he expended his vast fortune in ministering to the enjoyment of his friends and of the people at large, while his own mode of life was of the most frugal and temperate description, and the chief pleasure of his declining years was derived from the study of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Virgil.
The spirit of resistance excited in every region of the empire by the tyranny of Maximinus was first kindled into open rebellion in Africa by the flagrant injustice of the imperial procurator, who sought to gain the favour of his master by emulating his oppression. Some noble and wealthy youths of Tisdrus, whom he had condemned to pay a fine which would have reduced them to indigence, collecting together their slaves and rustic retainers, sent them forwards by night to the city, commanding them to mix with the crowd, so as not to excite suspicion, while they themselves entered the gates at day-break, and boldly repaired to the presence of the officer of the revenue, as if for the purpose of satisfying his demands. Seizing a favourable moment, they plunged their daggers into his heart, while the soldiers who rushed forwards to the rescue were instantly assailed by the peasants, and destroyed or put to flight.
The conspirators, feeling that their offence was beyond forgiveness, determined to identify some one of conspicuous station with their enterprise. Hurrying to the mansion of the venerable Gordianus, now in his eightieth year, they burst into his chamber, and before he could recover from his surprise, invested him with a purple robe, and hailed him as Augustus. While the ringleaders were explaining the event of the morning, and bidding him choose between death upon the spot and the imperial dignity accompanied by distant and doubtful danger, the whole city had assembled at his gates, and with one voice saluted him as their sovereign. Gordianus, perceiving that resistance was fruitless, yielded to the wishes of the multitude; and all the chief cities of Africa having ratified the choice of Tisdrus, he was escorted a few days afterwards to Carthage in a sort of triumphal procession, and saluted by the title of Africanus. From thence he despatched letters to Rome, announcing his elevation, inveighing at the same time against the cruelty of Maximinus, recalling those whom the tyrant had banished, and promising not to fall short of the liberality of his predecessors in largesses to the soldiers and populace.
The senate and all Rome received the intelligence with enthusiastic joy, the election was at once confirmed, Gordianus and his son were proclaimed Augusti.
The hatred long suppressed now found free vent, Maximinus was declared a public enemy, his statues were cast down, and his name was erased from all public monuments. Italy was divided into districts, twenty commissioners were appointed to raise armies for its defence, and the most energetic measures were adopted to secure the co-operation of the distant provinces. Meanwhile, affairs at Carthage had assumed a very unexpected aspect.
A certain Capellianus, procurator of Numidia, who had long been on bad terms with Gordianus, and had been recently suspended by his orders, refused to acknowledge his authority, and collecting a large body of the well-trained forces who guarded the frontier, hastened towards the capital.
The new prince could oppose nothing except an effeminate crowd, destitute alike of arms and discipline. Such a rabble was unable for a moment to withstand the regular troops of Capellianus.
The son of Gordianus, after vainly attempting to rally the fugitives, perished in the field; and his aged father, on receiving intelligence of these disasters, died by his own hands, after having enjoyed a sort of shadow of royalty for less than two months.
The elder Gordianus was a man of ordinary stature, with venerable white hair, a full face rather ruddy than fair, commanding respect by his eye, his brow, and the general dignity of his coun tenance, and is said to have borne a strong resemblance to Augustus in voice, manner, and gait.
Eckhel is very angry with Capitolinus for expressing a doubt whether the Gordians bore the appellation of Antonius
It is certain that the few medals and inscriptions in which the name appears at full length uniformly exhibited the former; but when we recollect that Fabia Orestilia, the wife of the elder, was a lineal descendant of Antoninus, and that the virtues of the Antonines were celebrated both in prose and verse by her husband, it does not appear improbable that, in common with many other emperors, he may have assumed the designation in question during the brief period of his sway.