Decimus Caelius Calvinus Balbinus was born in about 170AD. He was the son the Caelius Calvinus, a wealthy and powerful Roman at the time. He quickly rose in his political career, becoming consul in 203 and 213, and at various times was governor of 7 different provinces.
In 238, after the sudden death of the two Gordians, the senate realised their danger. With no emperor to defend them, Maximin was marching on Rome, and would almost certainly kill all those who supported Gordian. The 20 senators chosen to defend Rome met to select a new emperor. They chose Balbinus and Pupienus as joint rulers. Unlike joint emperors before them, they had equal power, rather than one being more important.
The new emperors, however, were not popular with the people. Pupienus was generally despised and the people disliked being ruled by wealthy senators. To please them, the new emperors appointed Gordian’s grandson Gordian III, who was very popular, to be their junior colleague. This also gave them access to Gordian’s great wealth, which they distributed among the people to gain popularity.
To combat Maximin, Pupienus was sent out with a large army, while Balbinus remained in Rome. Pupienus, however, never engaged Maximin in battle. Before that, Maximin, while he was trying and failing to storm Aquileia, was murdered by his own starving troops. Pupienus returned to Rome, only to find Balbinus in serious danger. Two senators, Gallicanus and Maecenas, had killed several members of the praetorian guard. Angered by this attack, the praetorian guard, seeking vengeance, tried to kill Gallicanus, who in turn protected himself with some gladiators. Confused fighting broke out, in which a fire started and many buildings were destroyed. Pupienus’s triumphant return did put an end to the violence for a short time. The two emperors, who now were not getting on very well with one another, decided to each go a campaign, Balbinus against the Goths, Pupienus against the Persians.
However, before they could set out, the praetorian guard, still angry at them, and fearing they would be replace by Pupienus’s new German bodyguard, decided to attack. After the Capitoline Games, they marched on the palace. Hearing of their approach, the two emperors, instead of trying to defend themselves, immediately started to suspect the other of betrayal. In their confusion, the praetorian guard easily managed to capture them. They stripped them naked and dragged them naked to their camp, where with the German bodyguard approaching, they brutally killed them.
Balbinus and Pupienus only ruled for 99 days, although they did succeed in deposing the merciless barbarian, Maximin. Their junior emperor, Gordian III continued a successful rule after their death.