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Portrait of Balbinus on a Silver Denarius
Portrait of Balbinus on a Silver Denarius
Two Hands Shaking
Two Hands Shaking
AD 238
Balbinus and Pupienus were appointed jointly and died together, so we give below their joint history.

Balbinus and Pupienus

Born into a senatorial family in AD178, Decimus Caelius Balbinus was a reliable and trustworthy senator. He had governed several provinces during his career and was noted for his mild administration and sensible policies. Clodius Pupienus Maximus was born in more humble surroundings in approximately AD164. He joined the civil service and rapidly rose through the ranks. He was a clever and able administrator with a flair for leadership. Balbinus and Pupienus were chosen by the Senate to be joint-emperors in AD244 after the deaths of Gordian I and Gordian II. The usurper-emperor Maximinus Thrax ('the Thracian') was marching on Rome and the Senate needed to meet the threat immediately; Balbinus directed the administration of Rome while Pupienus gathered troops near Aquileia in Northern Italy.

Fortunately for the Senate, Maximinus and his son were murdered by his own rebellious troops but the situation did not improve for the two new emperors. Mistrustful of each other's motives, Balbinus and Pupienus became strict with the citizens and the army. They tried to eradicate the air of anarchy and lawlessness which was still prevalent in Rome after the political and military upsets of recent months. The Praetorian Guard were fearful that Pupienus would replace the Guard with his more loyal German bodyguard which had returned with him from Northern Italy. Pupienus realised that the two emperors were in danger and he tried to warn his colleague. Balbinus believed that Pupienus was trying to get rid of him and a violent argument broke out in the palace. A group of murderous Praetorian Guards heard the commotion and they burst into the imperial apartments to confront the emperors. The soldiers dragged the two emperors to their headquarters and after being violently assaulted, Balbinus and Pupienus were hacked to death, their joint reign having only lasted 98 days.

The joint-reign of the two senatorial emperors was a brief attempt by the Senate to try and bring peace and order to the deteriorating administration of Rome. Balbinus and Pupienus deserved a better fate but their attempts to restore order were too heavy-handed. They attempted too much, too soon and they paid the ultimate price.

Featured Coin
EF to Unc silver antoninianus of Roman Emperor Balbinus. Reigned jointly with Pupienus for 98 days. The reverse shows two clasped hands shaking, and the legend FIDES MUTUUS (mutual faith).

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