Roman Empire

Pupienus, Co-Emperor AD 238

RIC 4; BMC 46; RSC 22, Mint State

Rome. IMP C M CLOD PVPIENVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Pupienus right. Reverse: PAX PVBLICA, Pax seated left, holding olive branch and scepter.

Ex Gutekunst Collection (Roma VII, 22 March 2014), 1179; Tkalec (23 October 1998), 258

The aristocratic M. Clodius Pupienus—easily one of the most entertaining emperors to name out loud—was appointed to a committee of 20 senators charged with defending Rome against Maximinus Thrax until the Gordians could arrive from Africa. When it was revealed that Gordian I and II had been killed, on April 22, AD 238, the Senate proclaimed Pupienus and his colleague D. Caelius Calvinus Balbinus as emperors with the young Gordian III as their Caesar. Balbinus was left to manage the situation in Rome while Pupienus marched north to deal with Maximinus. When he returned flush with success (Maximinus was already dead) and a new Germanic bodyguard, Balbinus began to fear that Pupienus would have him killed in order to rule alone. Balbinus’ paranoia, whether justified or not, created a deep rift between the emperors and left them unprepared when disaffected elements of the Praetorian Guard finally came to murder them on July 29, AD 238. The hardened military men of the Guard were not pleased to be ruled by senatorial fops.