ROME-AGE OF THE ANTONINES.
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.