(ANI'CIUS ?), Roman emperor, A. D. 455. His long and meritorious life as an officer of state forms a striking contrast with his short and unfortunate reign.
He belonged to the high nobility of Rome, and was a descendant, or at any rate a kinsman, of Petronius Probus, who gained so much power in Rome towards the end of the fourth century of our era; it is doubtful whether he was the son of a daughter of the emperor Maximus Magnus; nor is his title to the Anician name sufficiently established, although Tillemont says that there are two inscriptions on which he is called Anicius. Maximus Petronius was born about A. D. 388, or perhaps as late as 395.
At the youthful age of 19 he was admitted to the council of the emperor Honorius in his double quality of tribune and notary (407 or 414). In 415 he was comes largitionum, and in 420 he filled the important office of praefectus Romae, discharging his duty with such general satisfaction that, in 421, on the solicitation of the senate and people of Rome, the emperors Honorius and Arcadius caused a statue to be erected to him on the Campus Trajani. In 433 he was second consul, the emperor Theodosius II. being the first. During the years 439 till 441, and afterwards in 445, he was praefectus Italiae. In 443 he was again chosen consul, being the first: his colleague was Paterius. Valentinian III. held him in such esteem that he ordered a medal to be struck in honour of him, which represented on the obverse the head and name of the emperor, and on the reverse the name and image of Maximus dressed in the consular garb. Maximus was in every respect what we now understand under the French term, a "grand seigneur:" he was of noble birth, rich, generous, well educated, with a strong turn for literature, fine arts, and science, full of dignity yet affable and condescending, a professed lover and practiser of virtue, yet with a sufficient smack of fashionable follies and amiable vices to secure him an honourable rank among the gay companions of the corrupt Valentinian. Maximus found no scruple in secretly helping the emperor in his intrigues against Aetius, which ended in the murder of that great man in 454; but he was now to experience that while it is only dangerous to be disliked by men like Valentinian, it is at once dangerous and disgraceful to be liked by them, because their attachment is neither guided by principles nor ennobled by esteem. Maximus had a beautiful and virtuous wife of whom Valentinian was enamoured. One day, having lost a great deal of money to the emperor, while playing with him, he gave him his seal ring as a pledge for the debt. Valentinian sent this ring to the wife of Maximus in the name of the empress Eudoxia, with a request to join her and her husband at the palace.
The unsuspicious lady proceeded thither forthwith, and was ushered into a solitary room where, instead of her husband and the empress, she found the emperor, who began by a declaration of love. Meeting with an indignant repulse he forced her person.
The disgraced woman returned to her mansion, almost dying with shame, and accused Maximus of having had a hand in this infamous transaction.
The feelings of her husband need no description. His wife died soon afterwards.
He brooded revenge, and the numerous friends of the murdered Aitius being animated by the same feelings, he joined them joyfully. On the 16th of March 455, Valentinian was amusing himself in the Campus Martius; suddenly a band of armed men rushed upon him, and the emperor was murdered.
Maximus was now proclaimed emperor, and he accepted the crown, but never enjoyed it. On the very day of his accession he was a prey to grief and remorse, and, fully aware of the danger that surrounded the master of Rome, he compared his fate with that of Damocles. Anxious to secure himself on his bloody throne he appointed his friend Avitus commander-in-chief, and he contrived a marriage between his son Palladius and Eudoxia, the daughter of the late Valentinian.
He then forced Eudoxia, the widow of Valentinian, to marry him.
This proved his ruin. Eudoxia, twice empress, yet disdained her condition, and full of hatred against Maximus, entered into intrigues with Genseric, the king of the Vandals, at Carthage, the result of which was that the barbarian equipped a fleet for the conquest of Rome. Maximus was apprised of the fact, but did nothing to prevent the approaching storm: he was incompetent as an emperor. Suddenly news cane that the Vandals were disembarking at the mouth of the Tiber. Rome was in commotion and fear, and the trembling people looked up to Maximus for relief.
He advised flight to those who could fly, resigniation to those who could not, and then set out to abandon his capital and his people.
But he had not yet left Rome when he was overtaken by a band of Burgundian mercenaries, commanded by some old officers of Valentinian; they fell upon him, and he expired under their daggers. His body was dragged through the streets of Rome, mutilated, and then thrown into the Tiber. Three days afterwards Genseric made his entry into Rome and sacked the city.
The reign of Maximus lasted between two and three months, but there are great discrepancies regarding the exact number of days.
The reader will receive ample information on this point from not. xii. to page 628 of the 6th vol. of Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs.
(Procop. Bell. Vand.
1.4, 5; Sidon. Apollin. Ep.
1.9, 2.13; Panegyr. Aviti,
5.359, &c., 442, &c.; Prosper, Victor, Idatius, Marcellinus, Chronicv;
Evagr. 2.7; Jornand. De Reb. Goth.
p. 127, ed. Lindenbrog.)