Battle of Carthage (238)

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Battle of Carthage
Date12 April 238
Result Maximinus victory
Numidian forces loyal to Roman Emperor Maximinus Thrax Forces of Gordian I and Gordian II
Commanders and leaders
Capelianus Gordian II †
one legion
other veteran units
larger army of untrained militia

The Battle of Carthage was fought in 238 AD between a Roman army loyal to Emperor Maximinus Thrax and the forces of Emperors Gordian I and Gordian II.


Gordian I and II were father and son, both supported by the Roman Senate and based in Africa Province. The battle was part of a rebellion against Emperor Maximinus Thrax started by landowners who felt they had been overly and unfairly taxed. These landowners assassinated the procurator in Thysdrus and called on Gordian I and his son Gordian II to be their emperors.[1]

Capelianus was the governor of Numidia who had a previous grudge against Gordian I according to Herodian. Herodian says this grudge was developed after a lawsuit involving the two. Soon after being elected emperor, Gordian I sent a replacement to Numidia to replace his old enemy Capelianus. This action would eventually lead to his untimely demise.[2]

The battle[edit]

Gordian I marched from Thysdrus to Carthage, where news of the rebellion was welcomed.[3] Capelianus led the only legion in Africa, Legio III Augusta, in battle against the two emperors.[4]

The two armies met near Carthage. Gordian II personally led his army, consisting of militiamen without military training: he was defeated and killed. Upon learning of his son's death, Gordian I committed suicide.[3] The father and son's reign lasted a total of 28 days.[5]

Lasting effects[edit]

With the death of the two Gordians the Roman senate elected two new emperors that were not popular with the public. The senate then decided to turn to the 13-year-old Gordian III to become the new Caesar.[2][3]


  1. ^ Townsend, Prescott. The revolution of A.D. 238: the leaders and their aims. Yale Classical Studies. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Wasson, Donald. "Gordian Emperors". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Meckler, Michael A. (26 June 2001). "Gordian I (238 A.D.)". Die Imperatoribus Romanis. Salve Regina University. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  4. ^ Brent, Allen (2010). Cyprian and Roman Carthage. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 118.
  5. ^ Levit-Tawil, Dalia (July 1992). "The Sasanian Rock Relief at Darabgird-A Re-Evaluation". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 51 (3): 13. JSTOR 545542.