Northern Africa 240: Sabinianus

Political map of Northern Africa on 23 Feb 240 (Africa and Rome in Crisis: Sabinianus), showing the following events: Battle of Carthage; Siege of Aquileia; Disbandment of Legio III Augusta; Sabinianus.

The usurpation of Gordian I was rejected by the African legions, who killed him and his son Gordian II at Carthage in April 238. However, one month later the Gordian dynasty prevailed when their rival Maximinus Thrax was killed while marching against Gordian I’s grandson, Gordian III. In reprisal for its actions at Carthage, the new emperor disbanded the African 3rd Legion—effectively abandoning the African limes—although discontent in Africa Proconsularis led to the short-lived rebellion of Sabinianus two years later.

Main Events

12 Apr 238 Battle of Carthage

When Gordian I assumed power, he attempted to dismiss governor Capellianus of Numidia, a strong supporter of Maximinus Thrax. Capellianus rejected this demand, instead rallying the Legio III Augusta—the only legion in Africa—and marching on Gordian’s base of Carthage. Gordian’s son, Gordian II, desperately led the citizens of Carthage out into battle, but was routed by Capellianus’ veterans. With his son killed in the fighting, the elder Gordian hanged wikipedia

? Apr–10 May 238 Siege of Aquileia

Upon hearing of the Senate’s rebellion in favor of the Gordians in April 238, Maximinus Thrax invaded Italy from Pannonia, only to discover that the local population had destroyed or taken all supplies and withdrawn to Aquileia. For many days, he attempted to break into Aquileia, but its garrison fought him off with incendiary weapons while the Senate blocked all supplies traveling to the region. By 10 May some of his troops—despairing with hunger and concerned that Maximinus might take his growing anger out on them—had had enough and marched on their emperor’s tent, killing him and his wikipedia

238 Disbandment of Legio III Augusta

In 238, following the victory over Maximinus Thrax, Gordian III ordered the disbandment of the Legio III Augusta due to its role in the deaths of his grandfather and uncle, Gordians I and II. The legionaries were either sent to the Rhine or dispersed among the African provinces. This left Africa without a legion, leading to the abandonment of the system of interior fortifications set up during the reign of Septimius wikipedia

240 Sabinianus

In 240 Sabinianus—probably the governor of Africa Proconsularis—revolted against Gordian III, proclaiming himself Emperor and attempting to rally the other African provinces behind him. However, the governor of Mauretania Caesariensis remained loyal to Gordian and, after dealing with local conspirators, marched into Carthage. Defeated, the rebels surrendered Sabinianus to the authorities in return for wikipedia