Maximinus was a Thracian tribesman “of frightening appearance and colossal size” who could smash stones with his bare hands and pull fully laden wagons unaided. Such feats impressed the emperor Severus who enlisted Maximinus into the imperial bodyguard whereupon he embarked on a distinguished military career. Eventually he achieved senior command in the massive Roman invasion of Persia in 232 AD, and three years later he became emperor himself in a military coup—the first common soldier ever to assume the imperial throne.
Supposedly more than seven feet tall (it is likely he had a pituitary disorder), Maximinus was surely one of Rome’s most extraordinary emperors. He campaigned across the Rhine and Danube for three years until a rebellion erupted in Africa and the snobbish senate engaged in civil war against him.
This is a narrative account of the life and times of the Thracian giant, from his humble origins up to and beyond the civil war of 238 AD. Replete with accounts of treachery, assassination, and civil war, Maximinus Thrax is written for enthusiasts of Roman history and warfare.
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SubtitleFrom Common Soldier to Emperor of Rome
AuthorBy Paul N. Pearson
Published23 May 2017
Dimensions6.13 x 9.25in.
Illustrations30 B&W illustrations.
—Philip Matyszak, author of Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual and Chronicle of the Roman Republic
“If Maximinus had not been a real flesh and blood character, Hollywood would probably have invented him—a physically massive man who rose from shepherd to emperor of Rome via the legions. In giving us the first modern biography of Maximinus, Paul Pearson delivers a lively and well-constructed account of a giant of a life, framed by the social, political and military upheavals of the age and informed by recent archaeological finds.”
—Stephen Dando-Collins, author of Legions of Rome, The Ides, and The Big Break
“With prodigious research and verve, Paul Pearson gives us the first modern biography of the giant soldier of Thrace who rose during turbulent times to become one of Rome’s least understood emperors.”
—Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates
“The Crisis of the Third Century—the Roman empire's near-death experience—deserves to be better understood by the general public. In telling the story of a literally larger-than-life emperor, Paul N. Pearson makes a strong case that Maximinus Thrax was a pivotal player in that crisis, as well as an intriguing figure in his own right.”
—Rob Goodman, author of Rome’s Last Citizen
“Impressively documented, written with insight and wry humor, and perfectly pitched for interested non-specialists, this lively biography describes the fascinating circumstances and significance of the career of a literal giant of the later Roman Empire. Displaying a scientific skill for sifting diverse evidence, Pearson shows how the short but eventful reign of Maximinus Thrax as Roman emperor is a linchpin for unlocking a historical mystery—the extended crisis of the third-century Roman Empire that changed the Western world.”
—Thomas R. Martin, Jeremiah O'Connor Professor in Classics, Holy Cross, author of Ancient Rome: from Romulus to Justinian
“A solidly researched and wide-ranging re-appraisal of a controversial figure in Roman history who is too often caricatured and cavalierly dismissed as a cruel, barbarian thug. Pearson’s book is written for the non-specialist, is appropriately critical in its assessments of conflicting source material, and does a fine job of contextualizing what little is actually known of the rise to absolute power of this extraordinary career soldier.”
—Jeremy B. Rutter, Professor of Classics Emeritus, Dartmouth College
“An enjoyable and accessible biography of a fascinating emperor. An excellent popular introduction to the third century crisis of the Roman Empire.”
—Harry Sidebottom, author of the Throne of the Caesars series
“Pearson has written a much-needed book on the emperor who was the first ‘low-born barbarian’ to rule Rome. Packed with information, this much-needed book sheds light on the beginning of what has become known as the ‘third-century crisis.’ Maximinus Thrax delves deep into this shadowy period of Roman history.”
—Ian Hughes, author of Patricians and Emperors: The Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire
“Maximinus Thrax is a welcome addition to the growing number of scholarly works on the crisis of the soldier-emperors in the third century CE. Although the author describes his work as a narrative of events, this description does not quite do it justice: Pearson’s discusses a multitude of topics in his book, ranging from the authorship of the Scriptores Historiae Augustae (one of our main sources for the reign of Maximinus Thrax) to recent archaeological discoveries which shed new light on the military campaigns undertaken by the emperor during his brief reign.”
—Christopher Epplett, author of Gladiators: Deadly Arena Sports of Ancient Rome
“In this first comprehensive biography, a work of extensive research, Pearson draws on ancient histories, coins, statues, and archaeology to create a commendably fluid narrative that will intrigue Roman history enthusiasts…. Steeped in his subject, Pearson successfully illuminates this long-overlooked Roman emperor.”