Herodian and the crisis of emperorship, 235-238 AD

Caillan Davenport, Christopher Mallan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines Herodian’s portrayal of the rise and fall of Roman emperors and usurpers in Books 7 and 8 of his History (covering the years 235-238 AD). Herodian’s narrative provides its readers with a perceptive account of the challenges faced by Rome’s rulers during the middle decades of the third century AD. Emperors had to defend the frontiers while cultivating the support of the army, the senate, and the people of Rome and the provinces. The historian explores how potential candidates for the purple were likely to succeed or fail based on the support, or lack thereof, of these key constituencies. He shows how even theoretically promising experiments in imperial rule, such as the joint reign of Pupienus and Balbinus, were ultimately doomed to fail because the emperors did not possess a deep and broad consensus among all elements of the Roman state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-440
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Early online date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Gordian I
  • Herodian
  • Maximinus
  • Pupienus
  • Roman historiography
  • third century AD


Dive into the research topics of 'Herodian and the crisis of emperorship, 235-238 AD'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this