“ And in the red corner, all the way from Thrace...give a big hand and foot to Maximinus Thrax. Built like an ox, talks like an ox and smells like an ox...but he knows how to squash you. Brave Romans...look upon this man and despair.”
He stood seven foot tall in his socks and sandals . Maximimus Thrax - a.k.a. 'Max the Thrash' - was a terrifying sight to anyone who got near to him. This Thracian wrestler turned soldier could bend metal over his back and play air guitar with an enemy's backbone. If you crossed him , the advise was to borrow a shovel and dig your own grave because Maximimus didn't believe in 'going soft' with anyone.
It Started With A Bear
Maximinus was born in Thrace in around 173 A.D. in a miserable village that was too poor to even have a name. Maximinus said his father was the god Jupiter who had mated with a resident white bear known as Ursus Candidus Major . Others say his father was Caca Paganus and that he even claimed descent from Spartacus - the great slave leader. However it does seem Maximinus was also called 'Ursus Thrax' by others as he rapidly grew into a giant man.
His first jobs were the usual dead end professions like body building, nightclub security and throwing big rocks at parties. Still known as Ursus Thrax at this stage , Maximinus was rescued from obscurity when the Roman general Gaius Julius Maximinus decided to 'adopt' him into his legion as a barbaric mascot. But Maximinus got to like the beef mountain and made Ursus his legal son with the new name Maximinus Thrax. Old Maximinus had the tough Thracian smartened up and was given a weekend to learn Camp Latin' , a version of Classic Latin that sounded like man trying to swallow a ferret. At least the rapid education allowed Maximinus Thrax to be listened to , if not necessarily fully understood. In return , his legion buddies made Maximinus their wrestling mascot who could go up against other legions' champions.
It didn't take long for young Maximinus to squash the opposition in the ring so he had to go on military campaigns to find new opponents amongst the barbarian tribes living beyond the Roman frontier. Eventually even there he ran out of challengers so Maximimus thought about hanging up his wrestling jockstrap to start his own sports centre near the Roman city of Byzantium. His adopted father had also recently died so Maximinus named the centre 'Max Factorum'.
Don't Send a Boy to Do a Man's Job
Maximinus enjoyed his retirement and stayed long enough at home to father a son Max Junior by his wife Paulina. But he missed the sweat and stench in the wrestling ring and decided to come out of retirement and go body slamming again.
However his chance of a happiness was spoilt when a passing band of Goths came to his gym and thoroughly trashed it for an all night party of black candles and piercing each their wasted bodies with gold studs. Appalled by these particular barbarians, Maximinus and his son volunteered for military service and joined the Roman army that was being gathered near the Danube frontier. All they were waiting for was the arrival of emperor Severus Alexander and his mother Julia to lead them to battle.
Though Maximinus had thought of himself as a loyal Roman , he was full of contempt of the emperor . He saw Severus Alexander as an 'effeminate city type' and wondered why the empire had put up with such an uninspiring leader. So when Severus Alexander said he wanted to 'talk about peace' with the Goths, Maximinus lead the revolt and challenged the emperor to a winner-takes-all wrestling bout. The result wasn't in doubt and as the old emperor's corpse slipped under the mud, Maximinus was proclaimed emperor and announced he wasn't going to wash again until he had trounced the Goths . Only then would he go to Rome to make his expected imperial entry and celebrate with a huge triumphal toga party.
Maximinus immediately tore up any agreements with the Goths , killed their ambassadors and set off across the Danube to take on the black clothed horde. He also left his son Max Junior to run the Roman empire whilst he was gone.
In Rome the news that Severus Alexander was dead was greeted by dismay by the liberal educated Romans who were shocked that their new supreme leader was an ex-wrestler. However stories Maximinus's terrible reputation when it came to revenge made others unwilling to 'go for the purple' and so the emperor remained unchallenged for the moment.
For the next three years Maximinus spent all his time chasing Goths, Vandals , Football Hooligans and imperial draft dodgers as he tried to make the frontiers secure. This lead to a rise in taxes and a stream of complaints to Maximinus who dealt with troublemakers by catapulting them into the Carpathian Mountains. Eventually he got a message that the Roman Senate were going to ask him to 'step down' or he had to turn up in person in Rome within the next 30 days.
At first Maximinus lost his temper - head butting everyone and even his own wooden headquarters until his face was streaming with blood. Then his son Max Junior told his father that his old man looked more 'Ostia docker rough' than an emperor and said he and needed a make over. So Max Junior hired two fashion stylists called Trinny and Suey who had once worked with Boadicea on the Iceni fashion magazine. They arrived at the military camp where the emperor's army was located with their a selection of clothes , fashion accessories and a vat of expensive aftershave. Trinny spoke first.
Now Maxy baby..you just have to lose that look..it is so well last century isn't it. Let's choose something nice in Imperial chic..a nice well cut tunic , a silken toga , purple booties . What do you think Suey ?
He needs to lose a few pounds Trinny. Really Maximinus is hardly metrosexual is he ? New man - more like my old man.
But Maximinus was stubborn and despite their best efforts, he thought he looked best in wrestling trunks and set off for Rome. He also ordered Trinny and Suey be padlocked into an arrow chest and dropped into the Danube .
Maximinus and his son Max Junior got as far as Aquelia when he got the news that the Senate had already replaced him as emperor by two senatorial pen pushers called Pupienus and Balbinus. They had their own armies - and more importantly - held the wage packets for the Roman soldiers in Maximinus's army. Maximinus and Max junior were then arrested and beheaded for their peasant class impudence for claiming to be Roman rulers.
News of Maximinus Thrax's death was mourned only by his old wrestling ring friends. The Senate were so pleased they held a special day to celebrate their victory over Maximinus but the Roman
mob electorate distrusted the new set up. They had a new hero - a rude and Scottish-Egyptian chef by the name of Gordian.