Posted by: ken98 | October 1, 2009

Maximin the First Barbarian Emperor

Day 18 Ken here

The Maelstrom

With the murder of Alexander (222-235) by his legions – for apparently no reason except general dislike of Alexander, we begin the fifty years of chaos known as The Crisis of the Third Century (although I’m sure no one around at that time particularily sensed that things were about to go out of control). It is March 19, 235, Alexander is just back from Persia, having won a cease-fire in a new war which (unbeknownst to him) is going to be a World War that lasts for the next 400 years between Rome and the Sassanids (Persians). Alexander’s most trusted associate, Maximin Thrax (the Thracian), half-Alani, half-Goth (German barbarian tribes) is organizing the troops in what would one day be Austria for a war against his fellow Germans. Then the legions acclaim Maximin and kill Alexander.

This begins the Cuisinart years for Emperors, raised by the legions, and cut down by the legions, in extraordinarily rapid succession. A very confusing time – all the more so for us because our sources dry up (as has been noted before) to mostly one unreliable literary text – the Augustan Histories.

Maximin Thrax

<strong>Maximin Thrax</strong>

Maximin Thrax

The Augustan Histories and Gibbon intersect unfortunately in many areas, the one reinforcing the reactionary views of the other. Gibbon is merciless when describing the low birth and low manners of Maximin – as merciless as the Augustan Histories are with any non-senatorial (non-noble) official. Being from Thrace (kind of like being from backwoods West Virginia) doesn’t help in the Augustan Histories, but Maximin can do no right apparently. Although, even Gibbon points out the hostility might be misdirected when he notes Maximin waited to attack Italy for half a year in order to fight the Germans first.

Maximin is known for being the first emperor never to set foot in Italy (and therefore Rome), and the first barbarian to be emperor. He looks like a well-to-do German burgher in his bust at right, and not Satan incarnate as Gibbon suggests – but then again, what bust would Satan have had made of himself?

A short digression on the relative superiority of hereditary monarchies over democracies and dictatorships begins the new Chapter 7.

Maximin Thrax

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