Gordian III Bronze Medallion Colosseum
238 – 244 AD
Gordian III Bronze Medallion, Colosseum, Fine Style, 47.83g.
In early AD 238, the infamous Year of the Six Emperors, the highly respected but octogenarian Gordian I and his son Gordian II led a revolt in North Africa against the unpopular military emperor Maximinus Thrax. While they were recognized in Rome by the Senate, the two Gordiani were slain after a reign of only 20 days. Nevertheless, still desirous of capitalizing on their respectable backgrounds and popularity, the Senate named Gordian III, the thirteen-year-old grandson of Gordian I as Augustus alongside the senators Pupienus and Balbinus. As elder statesmen, the latter were to protect the interests of the Senate while Gordian III served as a figurehead, but Pupienus and Balbinus were deeply unpopular and on 29 July AD 238, the Praetorian Guard murdered them and made Gordian III sole Augustus.
During his time in power, Gordian III was fortunate enough to oversee the conclusion of the restoration of the Colosseum that had begun under Elagabalus (218-222). Alexander Severus carried out of work of restoring the Colosseum after a fire in 217 caused the collapse of the upper structures. The Colosseum reopened in 222, but it wasn’t fully restored until under Gordian III and thus, the issuing of this medallion.
The cuirassed obverse portrait type presents the young Gordian III as a new Alexander the Great poised to inflict defeat on the Persians yet again. The reverse type features a remarkably detailed representation of the Colosseum with a wild animal fight. Combined with the reverse legend referring to the “Generosity of Gordian Augustus,” the type almost certainly refers to games celebrated either in the context of the Persian victories of the preceding year or of the New Year festivities that looked forward to new successes in the East.
An illuminating view into the outlook of the Roman empire during this era – this medallion was likely struck as a beacon of hope and unbridled possibility. A young Emperor having just recently made a great miliary victory – celebrating his historic Empire’s greatest venue – it’s truly awe-inspiring and rightfully deserving of being one of the seven wonders.
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