That year, 235, Alexander himself led a great Roman army to the west bank of the Rhine opposite Germany. His mother, Julia Mamaea, accompanied him. The active role she took in the administrative affairs of the empire apparently extended even to the battlefield. She also controlled the purse strings. This domination by his mother the soldiers despised. They also held their emperor in contempt because he had pussyfooted it against the Persians, a war from which they had only recently returned. Now, against the Germans, he was showing the same timidity. And the soldiers, reports Herodian, "were not pleased by his action, for the time was passing without profit to them, and Alexander was doing nothing coura-geous or energetic about the war; on the contrary, when it was essential that he march out and punish the Germans for their insults, he spent the time in chariot racing and luxurious living."112
The malcontents began drawing disparaging comparisons be-tween the "effeminate" emperor and their "manly" giant commander, to whom they had become totally devoted. They soon reached the conclusion the empire would be much better off under Maximinus' rule. They therefore now plotted to kill Alexander and proclaim their fellow soldier and messmate emperor and Augustus. This decision they carried out one day during their regular assembly on the drill field. As Maximinus took his place, some soldiers approached him and threw a purple mantle over his shoulders. At first he declined the honor but finally assented. "After arousing great enthusiasm and goodwill among the troops," writes Herodian, "Maximinus doubled their rations, promised them lavish gifts, and revoked all sentences and punishments. He then marched out, for his camp was not far from the headquarters of Alexander and his companions.... When these developments were reported, Alexander, panic-stricken by the incredible nature of the message, was in complete confusion." As Maximinus and his armed men approached, the emperor ordered his guards to apprehend them. The guards hesitated, then backed away, allowing the assassins to enter and put to death both Alexander and his mother.113
Back in Rome a reluctant senate confirmed Maximinus as emperor. But the huge Thracian soon found himself hampered by pressing money problems. He not only faced a pinch in the revenues needed to prosecute the German war, but he also needed a lot more money to pay his soldiers the double pay he had promised them. To obtain these needed revenues, he first raised taxes across the empire and confiscated several estates of the wealthy. When even that failed to furnish enough, "he pillaged cities and temples, coined the statues of the gods into money, and confiscated the funds set apart for games and distributions. Citizens were cut down while endeavoring to defend the statues of their gods. A catastrophe was becoming inevitable."114
Although his elevation pleased many in the army, it disillusioned others. A few reacted against it. One such conspiracy involved some dissentient officers who saw a chance to overthrow Maximinus during one of his campaigns across the Rhine. Their plan was simple: knock down the bridge, strand the emperor on the other side, and elevate Magnus, a man of consular rank, to the throne. But word of the plot came to Maximinus' ears, and he ordered all the conspirators put to death. The corps of Osrhoenian and Armenian archers hatched a second plot. Loyal to Alexander, they sought to avenge the giant for his murder. These archers planned to place a purple robe on Quartinus, one of Alexander's friends, and proclaim him emperor. But their leader, Macedo, wavered at the last moment, and then, thinking to protect himself, he murdered Quartinus instead. The ungrateful Maximinus ordered Macedo executed anyway. "After these menacing disturbances," says Michael Grant, "Maximinus remained suspicious and embit-tered. All officers of senatorial rank were removed from the army, and replaced by professional soldiers whom he himself had promoted."115
On top of his burdensome new tax levies and appropriation of estates, which alone were enough to arouse his subjects to hatred, Maximinus added the offense of many murders. Anyone who opposed or insulted him he killed without hesitation. His contemporaries say that, in an attempt to erase the memory of his humble beginnings, he even caused the disappearance of many who had initially supported his rise to power, simply because they knew him when. . . . The public, reacting to all this, began to refer to Maxi-minus sneeringly as "the Cyclops,"116 "the Busiris,"117 and "the wild beast," and men openly desired his death.
Capitolinus writes that the public's hope for the giant emperor's death became widespread. It even inspired the following popular song, which the historian preserved for posterity:
He who cannot be killed by one is killed by many,
The elephant is a large beast, but he can be killed,
The lion is strong, and he can be killed,
The tiger is strong, and he can be killed,
Beware of the many, if you fear not one alone.
The song proved prophetic. In 238, while Maximinus was at Sirmium with the army, some landowners in the African province angered over his new taxesrevolted. Using the revolt as an excuse, the Senate deposed Maximinus and conferred the title of emperor upon Gordian. When he heard of his removal from power, writes Ivar Lissner, Maximinus "behaved like a huge, tormented bear. Convulsed with rage, he dashed himself against walls, threw himself on the ground, bellowed, lashed out at his servants, tried to claw his son's eyes out, and finally drank himself into a stupor."118 After sobering up, he assembled his troops, and, intent upon forcing a showdown, he started a march on Rome. But by the time they reached Aquileia, which the Senate had ordered to defend itself, Maximinus' troops had begun to show mutinous tendencies. An outraged body of the Praetorian guard finally decided to assassinate him. One day, while waiting for the right opportunity, they obliquely observed Maximinus and his son finish their midday meal. A short while after the two retired to their tent for their usual siesta, several guardsmen armed with swords and spears followed. Inside the tent they fell upon the mighty giant emperor and his son and spilled their blood. (See Jovian; Maximilian; also see Charlemagne)
In July, 1812, an Italian journal reported that in the valley of Mazara in Sicily the skeleton of a man ten feet and three inches in length was dug up. It was noted that several other human skeletons of gigantic size had previously been found in the same area.119
In the sixteenth century, a giant named Michael, who measured eight feet tall, served in the Court of Joachim, the Elector of Brandenburgh, a province in northeastern Germany.120
Miller, Maximilian Christopher
Maximilian Christopher Miller, born in 1674 at Leipzig, in Saxony, not only grew to a remarkable height but exhibited amazing strength. After touring several countries on the continent, he came to England about 1728, during the reign of George II. According to James Paris' manuscript at the British Museum, Miller appeared in November, 1732, at the Blue Post, as announced in the following handbill:
"This is to give notice to all gentlemen, ladies, and others. That there is just arrived from France, and is to be seen at the Two Blue Posts and Rummer, near Charing-cross, a giant, born in Saxony, almost eight foot in height, and every way proportionable; the like has not been seen in any part of the world for many years: he has had the honour to shew himself to most princes in Europe, particularly to his late majesty the King of France, who presented him with a noble scymiter, and a silver mace."
MAXIMILIAN CHRISTOPHER MILLER appears in this etching wearing his cap topped with a plume of feathers and the curved sword that Louis XIV presented to him.