Philip the Arabian (PHILIPPUS), Emperor of Rome (244-249), the son of an Arab sheik, b. in Bosra. He rose to be an influential officer of the Roman army. In 243 the Emperor Gordianus III was at war with Persia; the administration of the army and the empire were directed with great success by his father-in-law Timesitheus. Timesitheus, however, died in 243 and the helpless Gordianus, a minor, appointed Marcus Julius Philippus as his successor. By causing a scarcity of provisions Philip increased the exasperation of the soldiers against the emperor and they proclaimed Philip emperor. Philip now had Gordianus secretly executed. However, as he erected a monument to Gordianus on the Euphrates and deified him, he deceived the Senate and obtained recognition as emperor. He abandoned the advantages Timesitheus had won from the Persian King Sapor. He withdrew from Asia, and recalled a large number of divisions of the army from Dacia, Rhaetia, and Britain to northern Italy to protect it against incursions from the East. On account of invasions by the Capri he hastened to the lower Danube, where he was successful in two battles. Consequently on coins he bears the surname of Carpicus Maximus.
Philip gave high offices of State to his relations who misused these positions. He also made his son Philip, when seven years of age, co-ruler. The most important event of his reign was the celebration of the thousandth year of the existence of Rome in April, 248.
The insecurity of his authority in the outlying districts showed itself in the appearance of rival emperors proclaimed by the legions stationed there. The Goths sought to settle permanently in Roman territory; and as the army of the Danube could not defend itself without a centralized control, the soldiers, at the close of 248, forced Decius, sent to suppress the mutinies, to accept the position of emperor. Decius advanced into Italy, where he defeated Philip near Verona. Philip and his son were killed. During Philip’s reign Christians were not disturbed. The emperor also issued police regulations for the maintenance of public morality. A statement of St. Jerome’s caused Philip to be regarded in the Middle les as the first Christian Emperor of Rome.