Antonia Gordiana

Antonia Gordiana (201 - ?) was a prominent, wealthy and noble Roman woman who lived in the troubled and unstable 3rd century. She was the daughter of Roman Emperor Gordian I; sister to Roman Emperor Gordian II and mother to Roman Emperor Gordian III. Gordiana’s mother may be the granddaughter of Greek Sophist, consul and tutor Herodes Atticus.

Augustan History names her as Maecia Faustina, however modern historians dismiss her name as false. She was most probably born in Rome. Along with her elder brother were raised and spent their childhoods in the house that Roman Republican General Pompey had built in Rome. Previous owners included Roman Triumvir Mark Antony and Roman Emperor Tiberius.

After 214, Gordiana married an unnamed Roman Senator. Augustan History names her husband as Junius Balbus, however modern historians dismiss his name as false. She bore her husband a son, Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius (known as Gordian III), born 20 January 225. The birth name of Gordian III is unknown and his birthplace is unknown. The name of Gordian (as we know him) he assumed when he became Roman Emperor. Her husband had died before 238.

After the deaths of the brief reigns of her father and brother, the Roman Senate in April appointed Balbinus and Pupienus as joint emperors. During the brief reign of Balbinus and Pupienus, her son became popular with Roman citizens and the joint emperors were forced to adopt her son as their heir. On July 29 238, Balbinus and Pupienus were both murdered by the Praetorian Guard and later that day her son became the new Roman Emperor. There is a possibility that Gordiana might have bribed the various Guards to murder the joint emperors, so that her son could become emperor.

To keep in the favor of the Roman Senate, Gordian III assumed the name of his maternal grandfather and maternal uncle. The political fractions that supported Gordiana’s father and brother, also supported her son. Through them, she was able assist her son in directing affairs and create reformed policies in administration, fiscal affairs and Roman Army. Effects were made to limit the charges against the Roman wealthy and notable. Attention was made to strengthen defences along the empire’s borders and Roman Governors were prosecuted if they abused Roman taxes and power of the provinces.

In 241, her son had appointed the able and efficient Timesitheus as prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Later, in May of that year, Gordian would marry Timesitheus’ daughter Tranquillina, who became Roman Empress. Timesitheus died in 243, and Gordian appointed the ambitious Philip the Arab as the new prefect. In February 244, Gordian died of unknown causes. Gordian either died in battle or was possibly murdered on the orders of Philip; however, Philip was proclaimed the new emperor. Gordian’s wife and daughter survived him. The fate of Gordiana after her son’s death is unknown.

Nerva–Antonine family tree


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