Roman Empire

Gordian I, Co-Emperor AD 238

RIC 1; BMC 1-3; RSC 2, Superb Extremely Fine

Rome. IMP M ANT GORDIANVS AFR AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian I right. Reverse: P M T-R P COS P P, emperor, togate, standing facing, head left, holding branch and short scepter.

M. Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus (Gordian I) was the proconsular governor of Africa when Maximinus Thrax seized the imperial purple. When Maximinus’ procurator in Africa was killed in a revolt against his heavy financial exactions the local elites begged Gordian I to claim the purple for himself and defeat the upstart military emperor. Despite his advanced age, Gordian I accepted on March 22, AD 238, with the condition that his son, Gordian II, also be named emperor. The Senate happily recognized the Gordians and many of the provinces threw their hopes behind them, but their reign was doomed to be very short. After a reign of only 21 days, on April 12, AD 238, Gordian II was killed in battle against the governor of neighboring Numidia who was both a supporter of Maximinus and a personal enemy of the Gordian family. Consumed with grief, Gordian I hanged himself with his belt, leaving both Africa and Rome at the mercy of the rapacious Maximinus. These father and son emperors hold the record for the shortest reign in the history of the Roman Empire.