Front Matter The First Settlers Escape from the Burning City The Clever Trick The Boards Are Eaten The Wolf and the Twins Romulus Builds Rome The Maidens Carried Off Union of Sabines and Romans Death of Romulus Strange Signs of the Romans The Quarrel with Alba The Horatii and Curiatii Tarquin and the Eagle The Roman Youths The King Outwitted The Murder of Tarquin The Ungrateful Children The Mysterious Books Tarquin's Poppies The Oracle of Delphi The Death of Lucretia The Stern Father A Roman Triumph A Roman Triumph (Cont.) Defense of the Bridge The Burnt Hand The Twin Gods The Wrongs of the Poor Fable of the Stomach The Story of Coriolanus The Farmer Hero The New Laws Death of Virginia Plans of a Traitor A School-Teacher Punished Invasion of the Gauls The Sacred Geese Two Heroes of Rome Disaster at Caudine Forks Pyrrhus and His Elephants The Elephants Routed Ancient Ships Regulus and the Snake Hannibal Crosses the Alps The Romans Defeated The Inventor Archimedes The Roman Conquests Destruction of Carthage Roman Amusements The Jewels of Cornelia Death of Tiberius Gracchus Caius Gracchus Jugurtha, King of Numidia The Barbarians The Social War The Flight of Marius The Proscription Lists Sertorius and His Doe Revolt of the Slaves Pompey's Conquests Conspiracy of Catiline Caesar's Conquests Crossing of the Rubicon Battle of Pharsalia The Death of Caesar The Second Triumvirate The Vision of Brutus Antony and Cleopatra The Poisonous Snake The Augustan Age Death of Augustus Varus Avenged Death of Germanicus Tiberius Smothered The Wild Caligula Wicked Wives of Claudius Nero's First Crimes Christians Persecuted Nero's Cruelty Two Short Reigns The Siege of Jerusalem The Buried Cities The Terrible Banquet The Emperor's Tablets The Good Trajan Trajan's Column The Great Wall Hadrian's Death Antoninus Pius The Model Pagan Another Cruel Emperor An Unnatural Son The Senate of Women The Gigantic Emperor Invasion of the Goths Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra A Prophecy Fulfulled First Christian Emperor Roman Empire Divided An Emperor's Penance Sieges of Rome End of the Western Empire

Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

The Gigantic Emperor

The new emperor, Maximinus, was of peasant blood, and was a native of Thrace. He was of uncommon strength and size, and very ambitious indeed. As he found the occupation of herdsman too narrow for him, he entered the Roman army during the reign of Severus, and soon gained the emperor's attention by his feats of strength.

We are told that he was more than eight feet high, that his wife's bracelet served him as a thumb ring, and that he could easily draw a load which a team of oxen could not move. He could kill a horse with one blow of his fist, and it is said that he ate forty pounds of meat every day, and drank six gallons of wine.

A man who was so mighty an eater and so very tall and strong, was of course afraid of nothing; and you will not be surprised to hear that he was winner in all athletic games, and that he quickly won the respect of the Roman soldiers.

Maximinus was noted for his simplicity, discipline, and virtue as long as he was in the army; but he no sooner came to the throne than he became both cruel and wicked. He persecuted the Christians, who had already suffered five terrible persecutions under Roman emperors; and he spent the greater part of his time in camp. He waged many wars against the revolted barbarians, and we are told that he fought in person at the head of his army in every battle.

Christians and lions

Christians in the Arena.

The cruelty and tyranny of Maximinus soon caused much discontent, so his reign lasted only about three years. At the end of that time, his troops suddenly mutinied, and murdered him and his son while they were sleeping at noon in their tent. Their heads were then sent to Rome, where they were publicly burned on the Field of Mars, amid the cheers of the crowd.

Three emperors now followed one another on the throne in quick succession. All that need be said of them is that they died by violence. But the twenty-ninth emperor of Rome was named Philip, and during his reign the Romans celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of the founding of their beloved city. It had been customary to greet each hundredth anniversary by great rejoicings; and a public festival, known as the Secular Games, had been founded by Augustus.

Philip ordered that these games should be celebrated with even more pomp than usual, and had coins struck with his effigy on one side, and the Latin words meaning "for a new century" on the other. None but Roman citizens were allowed to take part in this festival, and the religious ceremonies, public processions, and general illuminations are said to have been very grand indeed.

The games were scarcely over, when Philip heard that a revolt had broken out among the Roman soldiers along the Danube River. To put an end to it as quickly as possible, he sent a Roman senator named Decius with orders to appease them.

Decius did his best to bring the soldiers back to obedience, but they were so excited that they would not listen to any of his speeches in favor of Philip. Instead of submitting they elected Decius emperor, much against his will, and forced him, under penalty of death, to lead them against Philip.

The army commanded by the unhappy Decius met Philip and defeated him. Philip was killed, and the new emperor marched on to Rome, where he soon began a fearful persecution of the Christians. Such was the severity used during the two years of this persecution, that the Romans fancied that all the Christians had been killed, and that their religion would never be heard of again.