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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.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Bust of Gordian III from Niederbieber. Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Gordian III from Niederbieber (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn)

8.6: Relief

[May 238] When the soldiers were informed of what had happened, they were to a man dumbfounded, but by no means all the troops were pleased about the assassination. The Pannonians and the barbarians from Thrace were especially angered, for these were the men who had actually placed the empire in Maximinus' hands. Since the deed was accomplished, they tolerated it, but unwillingly; they had no choice but to be hypocritical and pretend to be pleased with all that had happened. 

Then, laying down their arms, the soldiers came to the walls of Aquileia, this time in peace, and reported the assassination of Maximinus, expecting the Aquileians to throw open the gates and welcome as friends yesterday's enemies. The Aquileian generals, however, did not allow the gates to be opened to them; bringing forward the statues of [Pupienus] Maximus and Balbinus and Gordian Caesar, they cheered these rulers themselves and thought it appropriate that Maximinus' soldiers also acknowledge them and shout their approval of the emperors chosen by the Senate and the Roman people.

They informed the soldiers that the other two Gordians had gone to join Jupiter in heaven. And now the Aquileians set up a market on the walls, offering for sale a huge quantity of goods of all kinds, including ample supplies of food, drink, clothing, and shoes - in short, everything that a prosperous and flourishing city could provide for human consumption. 

At this the soldiers were even more amazed; they now realized that the Aquileians had enough of everything they needed even if the siege were prolonged, whereas they lacked all the necessities and would have perished to the last man before they captured a city so abundantly supplied. The army continued to remain in position around the city, while the soldiers purchased what they needed from the walls, each man buying as much as he chose. In the meantime, they discussed the situation among themselves. A state of peace and amity actually existed, even though the surrounded city appeared still under siege, with the army encamped on all sides.

This was the situation at Aquileia. The horsemen carrying the head of Maximinus to Rome made the journey at top speed; the gates of all the cities on their route were thrown open to receive them, and the people welcomed them with laurel branches. When they had crossed the marshes and shallows between Altinum and Ravenna, they found the emperor Maximus in Ravenna levying picked men from Rome and Italy.

The Germans sent to Maximus a large number of auxiliary troops; their goodwill toward the man was of long standing and resulted from his moderate governorship of their country. While he was preparing for war against Maximinus, the horsemen arrived with the heads of the emperor and his son and reported the victory. They informed Maximus that the army was in agreement with the Romans about the emperors and had sworn allegiance to the men elected by the Senate.

When these unexpected developments were announced, sacrifices were led to the altars, and all joined in celebrating a victory won without striking a blow. Finding the omens favorable, Maximus sent the horsemen on to Rome to report to the people what had happened and to display the heads of the two men. When the messengers arrived, they rushed into the city and raised on high the heads of their enemies impaled on a spear for all to see. No words can describe the rejoicing in the city on that day.

Men of all ages rushed headlong to the altars and temples; no one remained at home, but, like men possessed, the people congratulated each other and poured into the Circus Maximus as if a public assembly were being held there. Balbinus sacrificed a hecatomb, and all the magistrates and the entire senate shouted with joy, each feeling that he had escaped an ax suspended over his head. Messengers and heralds with laurel branches were sent around to the provinces.

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Online 2007
Revision: 25 July 2007
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