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Giant Roman emperor Maximinus Thrax

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Maksymin Trak
Maximinus Thrax

Ancient sources, both the unbelievable ones like “Historia Augusta” and those more sensible (Herodian), mention the Roman emperor Maximinus Thrax as a man of enormous size. According to “Historia Augusta”, his height was 250 cm.

Moreover, his thumb was reportedly so large that he wore his wife’s bracelet as a ring. Apparently, he also had an extremely large forehead, nose and jaw.

All these references may suggest – if this is of course true – that Maximinus may have suffered from an overgrowth. Some scientists agree with the statement that Emperor Maximinus may have had a disease caused by excessive secretion of growth hormone – the so-called acromegaly.

Some sources mention other characteristics besides his great stature: excessive brutality or strength. Apparently, Maximinus was able to pull the loaded wagon with his own hands; punch a horse’s teeth with his fist, even break his leg with a kick or crush the body. His superhuman strength made him nicknamed Hercules or Antaeus among the soldiers.

According to “Historia Augusta”, Maksymin was also supposed to drink about seven gallons of wine (about 21 litres) a day and eat 18 to 27 kg of meat, avoiding vegetables. Interestingly, Maximinus was also supposed to sweat unusually and could fill up to three vessels a day with drops of sweat.

Maximinus Thrax was the first emperor to begin his career as an ordinary soldier. It is possible that all the stories about his appearance and behaviour were intended to slander him. Herodian makes it clear that Maximine was a barbarian of low origin and was extremely brutal during his reign. He was to come from the Thracian mountains and join the local auxiliary units of the Roman army. Determination, military skills and popularity among soldiers elevated him to the throne during the competition for the Roman throne.

Herodian reports that Maximine was also to regard as his enemy the senators who, because of his low status, were to plot against his life to remove him from power. Eventually, death reached him after three years of rule (235-238 CE) at the hands of his own soldiers. Discouraged by the long siege of Aquileia, the legionaries from II Parthica murdered Maximinus, his son Gaius Julius Verus Maximus and the ruler’s henchmen in their camp. Their heads were cut off, piled and driven to Rome on horseback.

  • Herdian, Roman history, 7.1
  • Historia Augusta: MAXIMINI DVO
  • Wikipedia

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