He only served as emperor for three years, yet Maximinus Thrax was not quickly forgotten. He was proclaimed Emperor on this day in 235, and was the first foreigner to hold the Roman throne. From that moment forward, his reign was made from a number of relentless challenges. He holds the dubious honor of marking the starting point of the Crisis of the Third Century for the Roman Empire.
The Third Crisis (also called Military Anarchy or Imperial Crisis) is notable because the Roman Empire nearly fell into ruin. An insurmountable increase of invasions, civil wars, and plagues drew the empire into a dreadful, long-lasting economic depression.
Maximinus’ short rule accents the serious disarray the Roman Empire was steeped within; he died in Aquileia as the result of a Senatorial revolt. The dramatic scene involved the emperor marching from Rome to Aquileia, a prominent and populous ancient city that Maximinus thought about rebuilding (the location was a crossroads and changed hands several times over). It was just as well that he never attempted it; the city slammed its gates shut upon his arrival. Things went from bad to worse and disease and famine spread among his troops.
Those serving in his army had ample reason to be loyal. Near the onset of his rule, he generously doubled their wages. He also created a warfare tax, but this did not go over well with citizens already stifled by economic hardship. Tax-collectors made things worse by exploiting their positions of power. They emptied the plebeians of their money through force. This further grew the animosity already festering between the government classes and other citizens.
Controversy also stirred from an order Maximinus gave during his reign to have all church leaders be put to death. Some leaders left and went into exile. Maximinus was also bearing the burden of an African revolt that created a division in leadership. With cannons continuously to his left and to his right, it is surprising that he lived as long as he did during his short rule.
Maximinus was killed by assassins who sneaked into his camp in 238. They also murdered his son. Both their heads were balanced on long poles and transported by calvary back to Rome for the world to see.