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There were three Roman emperors of this name, who reigned between A.D. 237-44, and all of whom met with violent deaths.
The first, Marcus Antonius Africanus Gordianus, descended on the father's side from the Gracchi and on the mother's from Trajan, was chosen emperor in Africa in opposition to the usurper Maximin, and the choice was confirmed by the Senate. On account of his advanced age, his son was associated with him in the purple. Their reign lasted only thirty-six days, the son being slain in battle by Maximin's lieutenant, Capellianus, and the father putting an end to his own life (July, 237).
M. Antonius Gordianus Pius, the grandson of the elder and nephew of the younger Gordian, a boy of thirteen, was appointed to the dignity of Caesar under the joint-emperors Maximus and Balbinus. These latter were massacred in 238 by the Praetorian guards, and the youthful Gordian became sole emperor. After being for a time under the control of his mother's eunuchs, he married the daughter of Misitheus, his teacher of rhetoric. Misitheus proved to be a capable politician and general, and stirred up his young charge to march in person against the Persians. At first the expedition met with success, but the death of Misitheus put an end to Gordian's prosperity. His soldiers mutinied, at the instigation of Philip, the successor of Misitheus, and slew him (244).
Under the Gordians the Church enjoyed peace. Their rival, Maximin, had been a fierce persecutor of the Christians; hence they naturally cultivated the goodwill of those who had every reason to oppose his rule.
T. B. Scannell.