Herodian 6.9

Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius 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.

Severus Alexander Killed

[6.9.1] [February 235] When these developments were reported, Alexander, panic-stricken by the incredible nature of the message, was in complete confusion. Bursting from the imperial headquarters as if possessed, weeping and trembling, he denounced Maximinus for his disloyalty and ingratitude, and listed all the favors he had done the man.

[6.9.2] He castigated the recruits for their recklessness and promised to give them everything they asked and to set straight anything that displeased them. The soldiers guarding the emperor on that day cheered his words; forming an escort, they promised to defend him to the death.

[6.9.3] When the night had passed, men came at dawn to report that Maximinus was approaching; they said that a cloud of dust could be seen in the distance, and the shouting of a huge throng was audible. Then Alexander came again to the drill field, summoned his troops, and begged them to fight to preserve the life of a man whom they had reared and under whose rule they had lived well content for fourteen years. After this effort to move the soldiers to compassion, Alexander ordered them to take up arms and go forth to battle.

[6.9.4] At first the soldiers obeyed him, but they soon left the field and refused to fight. Some demanded for execution the commanding general of the army and Alexander's associates, pretending that they were responsible for the revolt. Others condemned the emperor's greedy mother for cutting off their money, and despised Alexander for his pettiness and stinginess in the matter of gifts.

[6.9.5] For a time they did nothing but shout this barrage of charges. When the army of Maximinus came into view, the clamoring recruits called upon Alexander's soldiers to desert the miserly woman and the timid, mother-dominated youth; at the same time they urged his soldiers to join them in supporting a brave and intelligent man, a fellow soldier who was always under arms and busy with military matters. Convinced, Alexander's troops deserted him for Maximinus, who was then proclaimed emperor by all.

[6.9.6] Trembling with fear, Alexander was scarcely able to retire to his quarters. Clinging to his mother and, as they say, complaining and lamenting that she was to blame for his death, he awaited his executioner. After being saluted as emperor by the entire army, Maximinus sent a tribune and several centurions to kill Alexander and his mother, together with any of his followers who opposed them.

[6.9.7] When these men came to the emperor's quarters, they rushed in and killed him with his mother; they also cut down those whom he had honored or who appeared to be his friends. Some, however, managed to flee or to hide for the moment, but Maximinus soon rounded up these fugitives and put them to death.

[6.9.8] Such was the fate suffered by Alexander and his mother after he had ruled fourteen years without blame or bloodshed so far as it affected his subjects. A stranger to savagery, murder, and illegality, he was noted for his benevolence and good deeds. It is therefore entirely possible that the reign of Alexander might have won renown for its perfection had not his mother's petty avarice brought disgrace upon him.