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youthful Emperor was for a while directed by his mother, a woman not devoid

of craft and ambition. Under her influence some injudicious acts soiled the

reputation of the earlier years of his authority. The first serious

difficulty of the reign arose from the camp of the praetorians. Offended at

the restraints imposed upon them by Alexander, and charging the same to the

minister Ulpian, the mutinous guards burst into the palace, and the aged

lawyer was assassinated. For a short time the Emperor himself was in peril

of his life; but he presently brought the praetorians to submission, and

had Epagathus, the leader in the recent mutiny, executed for his crime.

Alexander also succeeded in quelling the legionaries who had rebelled

against their officers, bringing them to submission by Caesar's expedient

of addressing them as citizens.

The amiable Emperor was by no means a stranger to literary culture. Without

the great abilities of the elder Antoninus, he possessed talents

sufficiently great to appreciate and admire the works of the poets,

orators, and philosophers of Rome. Without becoming actively identified

with any of the philosophic schools, he chose a moderate eclecticism, as

furnishing the best refuge for thought and speculation. He is represented

as having possessed a profound admiration for the great religious teachers

of the world, and to have expressed his respect for the sages by setting up

in the palace the statues of Orpheus, Abraham, and the Christ. His reign

was free from persecutions, and a healthful and temperate spirit was

diffused from the throne throughout the Empire.

The later years of Alexander's reign were disturbed by a war in the East.

The star of Persia had again emerged from the clouds by which it had been

so long obscured. In A. D. 220 a certain Artaxerxes, claiming to be a

descendant of Darius Hystaspes, rose against the Parthians, called the

followers of Zoroaster to arms, and after a six years' conflict overthrew

their empire in the great battle of Hormuz. Thus on the ruins of the

Parthian power was established the great monarchy of the Sassanians. It was

with this new monarchy that the Romans were now brought into conflict.

Alexander made a campaign into Mesopotamia, and was reported by his

eulogists to have gained a great victory over the Persians; but the

subsequent narrowing of the borders of the Empire in the East indicates

that his alleged triumph must be accepted with many grains of allowance.

Returning to the West, the Emperor was called to the Danubian frontier to

resist the encroachments of the Germans and Sarmatians. But before he had

achieved any signal success in this quarter his life was, in A. D. 235,

taken in a mutiny of the soldiers. A certain Thracian peasant, named

Maximinus, a huge giant more than eight feet in stature, who wore his

wife's bracelet for a finger ring, whose modest appetite was satisfied with

forty pounds of meat a day, and who by great personal prowess and

distinguished bearing had risen to be an officer of the legion, and had won

the favor of the Emperor by his daring and activity, was proclaimed by the

admiring soldiers as successor to Alexander. The distinguished barbarian

accepted the trust and donned the Imperial purple.