Featured The Year of the Six Emperors: Balbinus and Pupienus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ancient coin hunter, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    The tumultuous year of 238 was one of the most chaotic in all of Roman history. The coins presented here are in my collection, with the exception of Gordian I and II. Balbinus and Pupienus I was fortunate to acquire in @John Anthony 's auction of last week.

    The emperor at the beginning of the year was Maximinus Thrax, who had ruled since 235. Later sources claim he was a cruel tyrant, and in January of 238, a revolt erupted in North Africa. The Historia Augusta states:

    "The Romans could bear his barbarities no longer — the way in which he called up informers and incited accusers, invented false offences, killed innocent men, condemned all whoever came to trial, reduced the richest men to utter poverty and never sought money anywhere save in some other's ruin, put many generals and many men of consular rank to death for no offence, carried others about in wagons without food and drink, and kept others in confinement, in short neglected nothing which he thought might prove effectual for cruelty — and, unable to suffer these things longer, they rose against him in revolt."



    Some young aristocrats in Africa murdered the imperial tax-collector and then approached the regional governor, Gordian, and insisted that he proclaim himself emperor. Gordian agreed reluctantly, but as he was almost 80 years old, he decided to make his son joint emperor, with equal power. The senate recognized father and son as emperors Gordian I and Gordian II, respectively.



    Their reign lasted for only 20 days. Capellianus, the governor of the neighboring province of Numidia, held a grudge against the Gordians. He led an army to fight them and defeated them decisively at Carthage. Gordian II was killed in the battle, and on hearing this news, Gordian I hanged himself.

    Meanwhile, Maximinus, now declared a public enemy, had already begun to march on Rome with another army. The senate's previous candidates, the Gordians, had failed to defeat him, and knowing that they stood to die if he succeeded, the senate needed a new emperor to defeat him. With no other candidates in view, on 22 April 238 they elected two elderly senators Pupienus and Balbinus (who had both been part of a special senatorial commission to deal with Maximinus) as joint emperors.





    This choice was not popular with the people however and mobs threw sticks and stones at the new emperors. Therefore, Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius, the thirteen-year-old grandson of Gordian I, was nominated as emperor Gordian III, holding power only nominally in order to appease the population of the capital, which was still loyal to the Gordian family.

    Pupienus was sent at the head of an army to face Maximinus, and Balbinus stayed in Rome. Meanwhile, Maximinus was also having problems. In early February, he reached the city of Aquileia, to find that it had declared for his three enemies. Maximinus besieged the city, but without success. By April, discontent due to this failure, the lack of success in the campaign in general, lack of supplies and the strong opposition of the senate, forced his legionaries to rethink their allegiance.

    Soldiers of the II Parthica killed Maximinus in his tent, along with his son Maximus (who had been appointed deputy emperor in 236), and surrendered to Pupienus in the end of June. Maximinus and his son's corpses were decapitated and their heads carried to Rome. For saving Rome from a public enemy, the soldiers were pardoned and sent back to their provinces.

    The co-emperor then returned to Rome, only to find the city in riot. Balbinus had not managed to control the situation, and the city had burned in a fire, resulting in mutiny. With both emperors present, the situation calmed down, but the unease remained.

    Coins from their reign show one of them on one side and two clasped hands on the other to show their joint power, yet their relationship was clouded with suspicion from the start, with both fearing assassination by the other. They were planning an enormous double campaign, Pupienus against the Parthians and Balbinus against the Carpians (Michael Grant says against the Goths and the Persians, respectively), but they quarreled frequently and could not agree or trust each other.

    It was during one of these heavy discussions, in May or on July 29, that the Praetorian Guard decided to intervene. They stormed into the room containing the emperors, seized them both, stripped them, dragged them naked through the streets, tortured and eventually murdered them. On the same day, Gordian III was proclaimed sole emperor (238-244), though in reality his advisors exercised most of his power. Together Pupienus and Balbinus had ruled for only 99 days.



    Gordians I and II were deified by the senate.

    Feel free to post coins of the emperors of 238 - I would love to see them. At the end of the Severan age, the historian Cassius Dio wrote "for our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust." And clearly over the next several decades this proved to be true.
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    He was mentioned so should be shown.
    Maximus Sestertius / PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS

    While Balbinus and Pupienus were alive, Gordian III served as Caesar. These coins are not common but do not carry the premium that their rarity would suggest because of the fact his later Augustus coins are so common.
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  4. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great historical write up ancient coin hunter, and congrats on have such lovely and scarce coins. I hope one day you can snag yourself a Gordian I & II.
  5. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    WOW!! Fantastic stuff!! (Including the writeup.) I have been Balbinusless these past 30 years as a collector of Roman coins, but I do have a mediocre Pupienus:

    Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 10.28.15 PM.jpg

    Also greatly envious of your Gordian III as Caesar, @dougsmit. These have commanded enough of premium in recent auctions that my several attempts to snag one have been resoundingly foiled.

    The obligatory roach (which I'm rather fond of):
    Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 10.33.25 PM.jpg

    You may be interested in Oxford professor Harry Sidebottom's series Throne of the Caesars, which covers exactly this period. Great books!
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  7. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Very nice Set @ancient coin hunter ! Tough ones to get, and yours all look great! Congrats!

    I have nary a GI or GII, but I can post my Year of 4/6ths Emperors!

    He-Man Thrax
    RI Maximinus Thrax 235-238 CE AR Denarius Victory stndg.jpg
    RI Maximinus Thrax 235-238 CE AR Denarius Victory stndg

    His Son!
    RI Maximinus Thrax Junior - MAXIMUS Caesar - son of Max Thrax 236-238 AE Sestertius Rome mint priestly emblems

    The Two Bickering Poop-Heads!

    RI Balbinus 238 CE AR Denarius 20mm 3.7g Rome Laureate draped cuirasses - Victory wreath palm RIC 8

    RI Pupienus AR denarius bust r Concordia throne patera dbl cornucopiae Seaby 6.JPG

    RI Pupienus AR denarius bust r Concordia throne patera dbl cornucopiae Seaby 6

    Babe in the Woods
    RI Gordian III 238-244 CE AE As 25mm Hercules S-C.jpg

    RI Gordian III 238-244 CE AE As 25mm Hercules S-C
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  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Technically I guess it could be 7 emperors if you count Maximus, son of Maximinus.
    Alegandron likes this.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Fine examples of the poop-heads @Alegandron !
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  10. dlhill132

    dlhill132 Member

    a c h, nice write-up and coins.

  11. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Supporter! Supporter

  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Is that a Gordian I @Julius Germanicus ? One can tell by the full hairline, whereas Gordian II (though younger) had a receding hairline.
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  13. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    I loved the writeup! Thanks for sharing!
  14. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, that´s the old man - the hairline is barely visible but it´s still there.
    Gordian I does not look like 79 years old on any of his coins, so it seems very likely that all the celators had in hand to create an official portrait style for him while he was away in Africa was a 20 year old bust or painting of him that his relatives had on display in the family villa.
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  15. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Interesting writeup and coins

    As many others I can't contribute with any of the two first Gordians, but here are the others

    Maximinus, Denarius Rome mint AD 236
    IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate and draped bust of Maximinus right
    PAX AVGVSTI, Pax standing left, holding an olive tree branch
    3.33 gr
    Ref : Cohen #31, RCV #8310

    Balbinus, Denarius Rome mint, AD 238
    IMP C D CAEL BALBINVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Balbinus right
    PROVIDENTIA DEORVM, Providentia standing left, holding rod and cornucopiae, globe at feet
    2.7 gr
    Ref : RIC # 7, RCV # 8490

    Pupienus, Denarius Rome mint, AD 238
    IMP C M CLOD PVPIENVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
    PM TRP COS II PP, Felicitas standing left, holding caduceus and sceptre
    3.08 gr
    Ref : RCV # 8527, Cohen # 26

    Gordian III, Denarius Rome mint, AD 240
    IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate and draped bust right
    DIANA LVCIFERA, Diana standing right, holding lighted torch in hands
    3,08 gr
    Ref : RSC # 69, RCV # 8673

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  16. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Nice Balbinus and Pupienus denarii @Cucumbor
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  17. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    Gordian III - Poseidon holding trident and dolphin on reverse. Berytus. GordPos O 001.jpg GordPos R 001.jpg
  18. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

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