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Maximinus Thrax

Maximinus I, also known as Maximinus Thrax and Caius Julius Verus Maximinus, was Roman emperor in AD 235-238.

He was conspicuous as the first barbarian who wore the imperial purple, and as one of the emperors whose names are connected with the ten persecutions recorded by ecclesiastical historians.

Born in Thrace of a Gothic father and an Alan mother, eight feet high and of gigantic strength, he attracted the notice of Septimius Severus, and rose into favour with Alexander Severus. When that emperor lost the support of his troops, Maximinus seized his opportunity and organized a conspiracy which ended in the murder of Alexander and his mother at Mainz in 235. The Praetorian Guards elected him emperor, and their choice was confirmed by the Senate.

The hostility of Maximinus to his Christian subjects probably arose because of the favour they had enjoyed from the eclectic or syncretic sympathies of Alexander Severus. They would appear to him, as to other emperors, a secret, and therefore a dangerous, society, the natural focus of conspiracies and plots. The persecution was limited in its range, and probably was effectual chiefly in removing the restraints which the leanings of Alexander had imposed on the antagonism of the populations and governors of the provinces.

Pontianus, bishop of Rome, was banished with the presbyter Hippolytus to Sardinia, and died there in 235, and, according to Baronius (Ann. 137, 138), his successor Anteros met a like fate. Origen thought it expedient to seek safety with his friend Firmilianus, bishop of the Cappadocian Caesarea. That province was under the government of Serenianus, whom Firmilianus describes (apud Cyprian, Ep. 75) as "acerbus et dirus persecutor." Frequent earthquakes had roused the panic-stricken population to rage against the Christians as the cause of all disasters (Origen in Matt. xxiv. 9). This was all the more keenly felt after the comparatively long tranquility which they had enjoyed under Alexander Severus and his predecessors. From his retirement Origen addressed two treatises On Martyrdom and On Prayer to his disciple Ambrosius, a deacon of the church of Alexandria (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiatica vi. 28), and Protoctetus, a presbyter of Caesarea, both of whom were taken as prisoners to Germany (Origen Exhort. ad Mart. 41).

The tyranny of Maximin brought about the revolt in Mauritania, which for three months raised the two Gordians to the throne of the Caesars. At Aquileia Maximinus's troops, suffering from famine and disease, became disaffected. A party of Praetorian guards with him in his camp assassinated him, his son and the chief ministers of his rule. Their heads were cut off and exhibited on the battlements to the gaze of the citizens of Aquileia.

Initial text from Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography, 1911.

Preceded by:
Alexander Severus (222 - 235)
Roman emperors
Followed by:
Gordian I and Gordian II (238)

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