Philippus I., M. Ju'lius>
Roman emperor A. D. 244-249, was an Arabian by birth, a native of Trachonitis, according to Victor; of the colony of Bostra, according to Zonaras. Of his early history we know nothing, except that he is said to have been the son of a celebrated robber captain, and we are equally ignorant of the various steps in his military career. Upon the death of the excellent Misitheus [MISITHEUS; GORDIANUS III.], during the Persian campaign of the third Gordian, Philippus was at once promoted to the vacant office of praetorian praefect.
The treacherous arts by which he procured the ruin of the young prince his master, and his own elevation to the throne, are detailed elsewhere [GORDIANUS III.].
The senate having ratified the choice of the troops, the new sovereign proclaimed his son Caesar, concluded a disgraceful peace with Sapor, founded thecityof Philippopolis, and then returned to Roine.
These events took place in the early part of A.D. 244.
The annals of this period, which are singularly imperfect, for the history of Herodian ends with the death of Balbinus and Pupientus, and the Augustan history here presents a blank, indicate that the emperor was employed for two or three years in prosecuting a successful war against the Carpi, a Scythian or Gothic tribe, bordering on the Lower Danube, thus gaining for himself and son the titles of Germanicus Maximus
and Caspicus Maximus,
which appear on coins and public monuments. In 248, rebellions, headed by Iotapinus and Marinus [IOTAPINUS ; MARINUS], broke out simultaneously in the East and in Moesia. Both pretenders speedily perished, but Decius [DECIUS] having been despatched to recall the legions on the Danube to their duty, was himself forcibly invested with the purple by the troops, and compelled by them to march upon Italy. Philippus having gone forth to encounter his rival, was slain near Verona either in battle (Aur. Vict. de Caes.
xxviii.; Zosim. 1.23) or by his own soldiers (Aur. Vict. Epit.
xxviii. ; Eutrop. 9.3
); and although it does not appear that he had rendered himself odious by any tyrannical abuse of power, yet the recollection of the foul arts by which he had accomplished the ruin of his much loved predecessor, caused his downfal to be hailed with delight. if we can trust the Alexandrian chronicle, he was only forty-five years old at the period of his death.
The great domestic event of the reign was the exhibition of the secular games, which were celebrated with even more than the ordinary degree of enthusiasm and splendour, since the imperial city had now, according to the received tradition, attained the thousandth year of her existence.
The disputes and mistakes of chronologers with regard to the epoch in question can, in the present instance, be satisfactorily decided and corrected by the unquestionable testimony of medals, from which we learn that the festival was held in the third consulship of Philippus, that is, in the year A. D. 248; but unless we could ascertain the month, it is impossible to determine whether the solemnities were performed while the tenth century was yet current or after it was fully completed.
Many writers have maintained that Philippus was a Christian; a position which has given rise to an animated controversy.
It is evident from several passages in Eusebius, that such an opinion was prevalent in his day, but the bishop of Caesareia abstains from expressing his own sentiments with regard to its truth, except in so far as he remarks that the persecution of Decius arose from the hatred entertained by that prince towards his predecessor, and makes mention of certain letters addressed by Origen to Philippus and the empress, without calling in question their authenticity. Hieronymus again broadly asserts the fact, as do Vincentius Lirinensis and Orosius, who are followed by many later authorities.
It is certain, moreover, that a report gained general credit in the following century, that this emperor was not only a true believer, but actually performed a public penance, imposed, as has been inferred from a passage in St. Chrysostom, by St. Babylas, bishop of Antioch. On the other hand, we are reminded that he bestowed the title of divus
upon Gordian, that far from making any attempt to repress the rites of pagan worship, he took an active part in all the superstitious observances of the secular games, that he bestowed no marks of favour or encouragement, beyond simple toleration, on the professors of the true faith, and that a multitude of ancient writers unite in declaring that Constantine was the first Christian sovereign of Rome.
The student will find all the arguments stated with great candour and all the authorities arranged with great precision in Tillemont, and we have nothing to add. except that the inquiry is a mere matter of curiosity, for it is agreed on all hands that this conversion, if real, exercised no influence on the condition of the Church, which certainly could have had little reason to be proud of such a bloodstained and compromising proselyte. (Aur. Vict. de Caes.
xxviii.; Eutrop. 9.3
; Zosim. 1.23, 3.32 ; Zonlir. 12.19; Eckhel, vol. vii. p. 323; Euseb. H.E.
6.34, 39, 41, 7.10; Hieron. de Viris Ill.
100.54; Chrysost. in Gent.
vol. i. p. 658; Tillemont, Notes sur v Empereur Philippe,
in his Histoire des Empereurs,
vol. iii. p. 494)