Antonia Gordiana

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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[edit]

  • (1) = 1st spouse
  • (2) = 2nd spouse (not shown)
  • (3) = 3rd spouse
  • Darker purple indicates Emperor of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty; lighter purple indicates designated imperial heir of said dynasty who never reigned
  • dashed lines indicate adoption; dotted lines indicate love affairs/unmarried relationships
  • small caps = posthumously deified (Augusti, Augustae, or other)

Q. Marcius Barea Soranus
Q. Marcius Barea Sura
Antonia Furnilla
M. Cocceius Nerva
Sergia Plautilla
P. Aelius Hadrianus
(r. 79-81)
Marcia Furnilla
Trajanus Pater
(r. 96–98)
Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus
Julia Flavia
G. Salonius Matidius
(r. 98–117)
P. Acilius Attianus
P. Aelius Afer
Paulina Major
L. Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Mindius
Libo Rupilius Frugi
L. Vibius Sabinus
Hadrian (r. 117–138)
Matidia Minor
Annius Verus
G. Fuscus Salinator I
Julia Serviana Paulina
Rupilia Faustina
Boionia Procilla
G. Arrius Antoninus
L. Caesennius Paetus
L. Ceionius Commodus
Appia Severa
G. Fuscus Salinator II
Arria Antonia
Arria Fadilla
T. Aurelius Fulvus
L. Caesennius Antoninus
Fundania Plautia
Ignota Plautia
G. Avidius
Antoninus Pius
(r. 138–161)
M. Annius Verus
Domitia Lucilla
M. Annius Libo
Lucius Aelius
Avidia Plautia
(r. 161–180)
G. Avidius Cassius
Aurelia Fadilla
(r. 161–169)
Ceionia Fabia
Plautius Quintillus
Q. Servilius Pudens
Ceionia Plautia
Cornificia Minor
M. Petronius Sura
(r. 177–192)
M. Annius Verus Caesar
T. Claudius Pompeianus (2)
M. Plautius Quintillus
Junius Licinius Balbus
Servilia Ceionia
Petronius Antoninus
L. Aurelius Agaclytus
Aurelia Sabina
L. Antistius Burrus
Plautius Quintillus
Plautia Servilla
G. Furius Sabinus Timesitheus
Antonia Gordiana
Junius Licinius Balbus
Furia Sabina Tranquillina
(r. 238-244)