Stories Of How Servius Tullius, Maximinus Thrax, Justinian I Came To Power

Fareeha Arshad
Bust of Maximinus Thrax at Capitoline Museum, RomePublic Domain, Source: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro/Wikimedia Commons

We often believe that only someone with a Royal background could achieve some power in the Kingdom, and someone with no influence could never hold any political power. The stories about commoners rising to power and becoming a King have always been assumed to be a thing of fairy tales. However, throughout history, there have been many instances when a pauper could become a prince.

1. The Ruler Of Rome: Servius Tullius (607 — 535 B.C.)

Though there is very little data on Servius Tullius, most sources suggest that he was a slave by birth. Growing up, he impressed people with his leadership qualities and persona. Because of his growing popularity since a young age, the words of his wisdom reached the ears of the Queen of Rome at the time, Tanaquil, who was the wife of King Tarquinius Priscus.

Tanaquil was a very famous ‘expert’ in future predictions. She even foretold the great legacy Servius would leave behind as the successor of the Roman Empire. Wanting to be a part of the great future under the rule of Servius, she married her daughter to him and hatched several plans to help him become the sole heir to her husband’s throne. Despite having several real blood heirs to the throne, Tanaquil coaxed everybody into believing that the old King had appointed Servius as the next ruler of Rome.

As predicted by the mother-in-law, Servius ascended to the throne and ruled for more than four decades. During his rule, several reforms and developments took place in the country. Soon after coming into power, he first defeated the Etruscans and instructed the first Roman census. Servius continued to be attributed to good fortune for the country and was a well-known Roman reformer throughout history.

2. The Emperor Of Rome: Maximinus Thrax (173–238 A.D.)

Born in 173 A.D., Maximinus Thrax was as tall as wide — possessing a body eight feet in length with bulging muscles covering each inch made him well-known among the people of his town for the incredible strength he had. During his early days, he tended sheep. However, the extent of his power soon reached the ears of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who summoned him to join his army.

Because of the great valour Thrax displayed on the battlefield, soon he became the commander of the army, where his fellow mates adored him. Not much later, when Severus was murdered, the Rhine army declared him as the new leader of Rome. During the short three years of his reign, Thrax focused on protecting the Rhine and Danube Rivers borders.

However, not everybody wanted Thrax as their new empower. A small group of wealthy landlords and farmers declared another empower, Gordian I, who promised them that he would help lower their taxes and rebel against Emperor Maximinus Thrax. Unexpectedly, Gordian lost his beloved son was killed in a battle against Numidia. Struck with grief, Gordian I committed suicide and thus ended his three weeks rule. Yet, the Roman senate didnt give up. They still resited Thrax’s rule and appointed Pupienus and Balbinus as co-rulers. However, Gordian III forced them out and established himself as the sole heir to the throne.

The series of resistance and revolts against Maximinus Thrax continued across the country, forcing his supporters to turn their backs on him. Eventually, in 238 A.D., Thrax was murdered by his troop members — the ones who had declared him as their Emporer.

3. The Byzantine Emperor: Justinian I (483–565 A.D.)
A mosaic of Justinian I.Public Domain, Source: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro/Wikimedia Commons

Justinian I was born in 483 A.D. to a Latin speaking Illyrian peasant family. His birth name was Petrus Sabbatius, and he changed it to Justinian to honour his uncle, Justin. The latter was a leader of the palace guards under the rule of Emperor Anastasius. He was also the first from his family to arrive at Constantinople. After the king died unexpectedly, leaving the throne without any heir, Justin was ‘forced’ to become the new ruler of Rome. This could have been because he was the only remaining commander who led an effective militia within the city and was very good at it.

Because Justin had no former education about ruling a vast land, nor did he receive any formal education, he depended on his friends and family to guide him throughout his leadership. During this time, Justinian became an advisor to his uncle and partook and most decision-making for the Empire. Needless to say, after his uncle, Justinian ascended the throne at the age of forty-four and successfully ruled the kingdom for the next thirty-eight years.

During his long reign, Justinian made several significant reforms and expanded his kingdom to include Italy, Rome, Sicily, and Northern Africa. His campaigns were focused on reestablishing the Roman influence over the western Mediterranean land, because of which he was able to boost the Byzantine economy by several folds. In addition, he ordered the uniform rewriting of the Roman Law, Corpus Juris Civilis, that continues to influence the civil laws in many parts of the modern world, even today.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

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