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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
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Gordian I. Bardo Museum, Tunis (Tunisia). Photo Jan van Vliet.
Gordian (Bardo Museum, Tunis)

7.4: Revolt in Africa

[December 237?] For these reasons, and justifiably, the people were aroused to hatred and thoughts of revolt. Prayers were offered by all, and the outraged gods were invoked, but no one dared to start anything until, after Maximinus had completed three years as emperor, the people of Africa first took up arms and touched off a serious revolt for one of those trivial reasons which often prove fatal to a tyrant. The uprising occurred in this manner.

The procurator of Africa was a man who performed his duties with excessive severity; he handed down extremely harsh decisions and extorted money to win the emperor's favor. Maximinus always appointed men who subscribed to his way of thinking. The treasury officials at that time, even if they happened to be honest, which was rarely the case, since they foresaw their own risks and knew the emperor's avarice, acted as dishonestly as the rest, even if they did so against their will.

Then the procurator of Africa, who acted the tyrant with everyone, involved in lawsuits some young men of the wealthiest and most aristocratic local families and undertook to extort money from them and rob them of their inheritances. Angered by this, the youths promised to pay him the money, but requested a delay of a few days. Calling a meeting, they won the support of all who were known to have suffered an injury or feared that they might suffer one. They ordered the field laborers to come into the city at night armed with clubs and axes.

Obeying their masters' orders, the workmen entered the city in a body before daybreak, carrying arms for hand-to-hand fighting hidden under their clothes. A large number assembled; for Africa, which is a heavily populated province, has many farmers.

When dawn was approaching, the youths appeared and ordered the mob of workmen to follow them as if they were simply part of the crowd; they directed the workmen to take their assigned positions and, keeping their weapons hidden, to resist bravely if any of the soldiers or the people should attack them to avenge the deed they were plotting.

Carrying daggers under their robes, the youths approached the procurator as if to discuss the payment of the money; then, attacking him suddenly, they stabbed and killed him. When his bodyguards drew their swords in retaliation, the workmen from the fields pulled out their clubs and axes and, fighting for their masters, easily routed their opponents.

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Online 2007
Revision: 24 July 2007
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