Ancient History & Civilisation


Making and Shaping a Dynasty

Beyond the Tetrarchy

According to Lactantius’ visceral narrative On the Deaths of the Persecutors,1 the ultimate downfall of Maximian Herculius, the former co-Augustus with Diocletian, lay in a heinous act of family betrayal. Previously styled an “impious father and treacherous father-in-law” (pater impius, socer perfidus: Lactantius, 29.8) to Maxentius and Constantine, respectively, by Lactantius, Maximian’s unfaithfulness sunk to new depths in a plot to murder Constantine that implicated his own daughter, Fausta, who was also Constantine I’s wife. Lactantius placed this plot immediately after Maximian’s failed attempt to overthrow Constantine, his son-in-law, in a military coup during the summer of 310 in Gaul. Following his disgrace in Masillia, Maximian was brought before Constantine, and after an imperial chiding, his life was spared in an act of clemency by the emperor. However, an ungrateful Maximian conspired once more to take Constantine’s life.

Calling his daughter Fausta to him, he urged her with a mixture of entreaty and cajolery to betray her husband, promising her another who would be worthier of her. He asked her to allow their bedroom to be left open and only carelessly guarded. She promised she would do this, and then promptly reported the matter to her husband. A scene was then set up to ensure that he would be caught in the act of committing the crime. A worthless eunuch was planted in the emperor’s room to die instead of him. Maximian rose at the dead of night and saw that all conditions were ideal for this plot. The guards were few and were some way away; he told them that he had just had a dream which he wished to relate to his son. He entered the room armed, killed the eunuch, and then rushed out exultantly proclaiming what he had done. Suddenly Constantine revealed himself on the other side with a band of armed men. The corpse of the victim was brought out from the bedroom, and the murderer, caught red-handed, stood rooted to the spot and speechless as if he ‘were a hard flint or a block of Parian marble’; he was rebuked for the impiety of his crime, and finally given a free choice as to the manner of his death; ‘and he bound the noose for an unseemly death from a lofty beam.’2

Many commentators have judged the passage to be entirely fictional, an instance of the propaganda emanating from the Constantinian court intended to defame Constantine’s former colleague in the period after his death3: A particularly gossipy episode based appropriately enough in the emperor’s own bedchamber.4 Timothy Barnes regards the episode as a response of the house of Constantine to the efforts by Maxentius, the son of Maximian and his rival in the west, to utilise the memory of his father as divus Maximianus pater to serve his own claims for imperial legitimacy.5 Liz James has offered an interpretation of the episode which endeavours to understand the role played by Fausta – the daughter of Maximian, the wife of Constantine I, and the mother of Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans – in exercising a choice between either complicity in her father’s crime, or remaining loyal to her husband and his virtues. As James notes, the narrative sees Fausta overturn the core principle of patria potestas in betraying Maximian’s plan to Constantine, not in order to be subversive, but rather to illustrate that the former Augustus could be undone by his own daughter, which in its own way served as judgement on Maximian’s egregiousness.6 Julia Hillner has taken this interpretation a stage further in her analysis of the life-size frescoes which adorn a fourth-century corridor extension on an imperial residence beneath the Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza, west of the Lateran basilica. The frescoes portray a procession of the Constantinian family, led by Constantius I, in which Constantine I is followed by Fausta. A Valentinian-era source (Optatus’ polemic against the Donatists, 1.23) associated the residence with Fausta (domus Faustae), and the property may have been transferred to Maximian’s daughter following his death in 310.7 With regard to Faustus’ inclusion in the family, Hillner suggests:

If the house under [the Istituto] and the domus Faustae mentioned in Optatus’ text can be deemed identical, promoting the Constantinian family within this space would have made a powerful statement. This was true not the least for Fausta, whom the frescoes depict as letting a new paterfamilias into her inherited space, annihilating her birth family, Maximian and Maxentius.8

Indeed, the episode bristles with ambiguity. An alternative reading of the passage involves foregrounding its dynastic features. For instance, Fausta’s choice precipitates the absolute end of the relationship between Constantine and Maximian as a type of political arrangement emblematic of the Tetrarchy. However, the symbol of that arrangement, namely the marriage between Constantine and Fausta, is preserved. In this context, Fausta is also seen to reject Maximian’s promise to find her a more worthy partner (alium digniorem virum pollicetur: Lactantius, 30.2). Is this suggestive of the idea that in Constantine’s dynasty, there would be little or no room for pragmatic succession? The episode may very well be an attempt to promote a distinctively Constantinian understanding of dynasty. Intrigue is central to the episode and as such it conveys the widely held suspicion that the matter of promotion and succession within the imperial family was a frequently murderous affair. It highlights the fact that building a dynasty – here defined as “a loose yet convenient label for sequences of rulers linked by ties of blood, marriage, adoption or co-rulership”9 – was often more of a destructive rather than a creative act. The dynastic machinations of fourth-century emperors – exemplified in the “blood bath”10 of the relatives of the deceased Galerius which was engineered by Licinius in 313, followed by the murders of members of the Constantinian family orchestrated by Constantine during his reign, and then by the actions of his sons during the summer months of 337 in pruning away of their rivals under the guiding hand of Constantius II – illustrate that familial slaughter was just as important to the foundation of dynasty as the arrangement of marriages and the production of offspring. This chapter introduces the dynasty into which Constantine’s sons were born, beginning with the imperial framework of succession (the “Tetrarchy”) into which their grandfather and father, Constantius I and Constantine I, first came to prominence in the public life of the empire, and ending with the symbolic dissolution of the dynastic plans of succession devised by the sons themselves in the wake of their father’s death with the demise of Constantine II in April 340. In the following discussion of evidence contemporaneous with the demise of Maximian in 310, this section of the chapter examines the response of Constantinian media to the fall of the co-founder of the Tetrarchy in the early years of Constantine’s reign in order to trace the origins and development of Constantine’s “dynasticism”.11

While the Tetrarchs operated as a hierarchy of rulers – referred to by modern commentators as an imperial college12 – where dynastic links appear to have been downplayed or rejected outright13 – famously, for example, in the initial exclusion of Constantine from the position of Caesar following the abdications of Diocletian and Maximian as Augusti in May 306, and also the exclusion of Maxentius at the same time14 and later in 308 after the so-called Conference of Carnuntum, in addition to the absence of Constantius I’s and Theodora’s sons from any Tetrarchic settlements15 – dynastic claims and language, together with modes of succession (for example, marriage and adoption), nevertheless continued to be utilised by those both within and outside the Tetrarchic model. The Tetrarchy was certainly “meritocratic” (following the assessment of Jean-Michel Carrié and Aline Rousselle16) but as a system based around a college of rulers, it was riven with complex dynastic claims and rivalries during its brief existence.17 The recent study by Oliver Hekster (Emperors and Ancestors) demonstrates the continued importance of dynasty in the claims of Constantine and Maxentius; the very fact that both were initially overlooked in the transition to the so-called Second Tetrarchy (the imperial college following the retirement of Diocletian and Maximian in May 305) meant that when opportunities for advancement arose, both men promoted themselves according to their paternal heritage. Hekster’s work pays close attention to the way in which dynastic links were advertised by both sons from the point of their respective accessions (Constantine in July 306, and Maxentius in October 306) through to the death of Maximian in 310 and its aftermath, when the political situation changed dramatically.18 Prior to this event, the formalising of relations between Constantine and the family of Maximian (Constantius I’s Augustan predecessor in the west) through marriage heralded a resurgence of traditional dynastic language and ideology. As Hekster notes, between the years 307 and 310, commemoration coins (consecratio-type) for Constantine’s biological father, styled divus Constantius (“divine Constantius”), increased, and on milestones from his territory Constantine was nepos (grandson) of Maximian and filus of the divine Constantius.19 Constantine’s paternity was therefore enhanced further by the role accorded to Maximian in framing relations between biological father and son in the Constantinian family. Constantine’s nascent imperial persona was thus promoted according to his descent from Constantius and importantly via his connection with Maximian as his grandfather (as a result of Maximian’s adoption of Constantius I20), and father-in-law (as a result of Constantine’s marriage to Fausta).21

These concerns abound in a panegyric delivered in Trier during 307 in the presence of both emperors in order to commemorate Constantine’s elevation to the rank of Augustus22 and his marriage to Fausta. This panegyric composed in Latin is one in a collection of twelve other speeches ranging from 100 AD to 389 AD known as the XII Panegyrici Latini. The majority of speeches date from the Tetrarchic and Constantinian period (nine in total date from 289 to 321, with two further speeches from 362 (to Julian) and 389 (on Theodosius I)); those from this time were composed by rhetoricians associated with the schools of rhetoric in Gaul.23 As a collection of texts, they were regarded as model speeches and were utilised across Gaul as “examples of the best products of the Gallic Schools of rhetoric”.24 There is an ongoing discussion concerning the nature of panegyrists’ associations with the imperial centre in terms of evaluating the extent to which panegyrics conveyed “imperial programmes and policies” emanating from the emperor and his court.25 In this regard and in light of the discussion previously in Chapter 3 of this study, the cautions offered by C.E.V. Nixon regarding the propaganda role of the Gallic speeches from the late third and early fourth century are worth repeating. Nixon makes the important point that these panegyrics were unlikely to have been the initial medium for announcing important messages from the imperial centre: “Imperial programmes and policies may have been announced ‘publicly’ in this fashion, but we cannot assume that there is any such announcement in [the Gallic] collection”.26 Therefore, panegyric certainly engaged with prevailing imperial themes and topics, although they were ideas which – with the one or two exceptions noted below – were already in circulation.

The panegyrics composed for Constantius I, Maximian and Constantine are valuable sources for appreciating the shifting tangle of competing collegiate and dynastic interests prior to Constantine’s emergence as the sole ruler following the defeat of Licinius in 324. However, the degree to which authors referred to family connections varied and appears to have been influenced by the restraints of panegyric as a genre that viewed lineage and ancestral achievement as comparative aids for judging the achievements of the speech’s addressee. In a small number of instances, ancestral and family matters are writ large because the immediate circumstances required favourable treatment from the panegyrist. For example, the speech of 307 conveyed the efforts to legitimise Constantine through his union with Maximian via marriage to Fausta at the point in time when Maximian and his son Maxentius were attempting to establish a new collegiate arrangement in opposition to Galerius and Maximinus Daia27 (the son of Galerius’ sister)28; and the speech of 310 announced the reconfigured dynastic arrangements of the house of Constantine in light of the humiliating death (execution?29) of Constantine’s father-in-law (this speech being one clear instance where the orator was announcing something new and revelatory by drawing on information from the imperial centre30). In both instances, these panegyrics add depth and subtlety to our understanding of dynastic politics in the period.

The subtlety of these panegyrics on dynastic matters may surprise some in relation to a body of evidence that historically at least has tended to be viewed in largely negative terms.31 On this matter, Oliver Hekster judges the Gallic panegyrics to convey “a subtlety that formal nomenclature, sculpture and coinage could not reach”.32 The speech of 307 in particular is characterised by a pronounced dynastic tone, which indicates that the panegyrist was very much “on message” with regard to the prevailing propaganda of both courts.33 With regard to this marriage, Roger Rees notes:

Thus, in the marriage of Constantine and Fausta, the axis between the houses of Constantius and Maximian was secured for the second time; having married one daughter to Theodora to Constantius, Maximian now married another (by a different wife) to Constantius’ son.34

The speech itself is a type of epithalamium in which Fausta, the bride, is all but ignored by the orator,35 while terminology pertaining to “alliance” and “generation” is transposed from the bridal chamber onto the union between Constantine and Maximian36:

… you [both emperors] have been so closely united, that you have so joined not only your right hands, but also your feelings and your thoughts, that, could it be done, you would each wish to enter in each other’s hearts.

The dynastic ambitions of both emperors – harmonised, as it were, in the act of marriage – are thus a central theme of the speech:

And so we give you the most heartfelt thanks in the public name, eternal princes, because in rearing children and wishing for grandchildren you are providing for all future ages by extending the succession of your posterity, so that the Roman state, once shaken by the disparate characters and fates of its rulers, may at last be made strong through the everlasting roots of your house, and its Empire may be as immortal as the offspring of its Emperors is perpetual … For you are propagating the State not with plebeian offshoots but with imperial stock, so that that thing which we were congratulating you on finally coming to pass in the thousandth year after the foundation of the city, that is, that the reins of our common safety not be handed down, subject to change, through new families, may last through all the ages, Emperors forever Herculian.37

Here then is the stability of imperial succession promised by the Tetrarchic system but recast in traditional dynastic guise. The speech reinforces the impression of stable rule by making reference to a circularity of dynastic relationships: Thus, the parameters of Maximian’s and Constantine’s alliance (adfinitas) arising from this marriage repeat those first established between Maximian and Constantius I, Constantine’s deified father, from Constantius’ marriage to Maximian’s daughter, Theodora.38 The divus Constantius, who features at prominent points in the speech39 (thus, in line with his appearance on other Constantinian media, as outlined by Hekster), appears in its closing in a paean of imperial renewal:

Although [the Fates] begrudged us you [Constantius], [they] could not, however, deprive your house of anything. For neither does Maximian lack a son such as you were, nor Constantine a father. On the contrary, in order that your relationship be renewed in every way, this man is again a father-in-law, this man again a son-in-law, so that the most blessed Emperor [Maximian] may always be enriched by descendants from your stock.40

Clearly, therefore, the members of the Tetrarchic college were not inclined towards being “anti-dynastic”. As Maximian’s side-lining of his grandson Valerius Romulus (b. c. 294–d. 30941) by Maxentius and Valeria Maximilla (Galerius’ daughter) demonstrates, dynastic arrangements were conditioned by existing political alliances.42 Indeed, the rupture which modern commentators claim to find between collegiate (non-hereditary) succession and dynasty was in all likelihood not as greatly pronounced as they believe it to have been during the first two decades of the fourth century. The lack of favour shown to Maximian by Galerius at this time coupled with the hostile relationship between the latter and Maxentius, which meant that the rising Constantine represented Maximian’s most secure chance for the consolidation of his position in 307. As Hekster notes, panegyrics represented, “individual responses to whatever may have been the official line at the time”,43 and in a few short years, Constantine’s response to family would change once again.

Ancestral ties shifted again with the demise of Maximian in the summer of 310. Maximian had been the author of Constantine’s imperial authority (referred to as the auctor imperii). However, he had turned against his son-in-law (as well as his own son) in an opportunistic effort to reassert his authority in the west,44 while Constantine was occupied subduing the Franks mid-way through the year.45 In light of these events, Constantine’s imperial lineage required a further boost. The panegyric delivered in Trier soon after the death of Maximian reveals one local response to the changed political circumstances of 310. The death of Constantine’s father-in-law in murky circumstances was no doubt “embarrassing” for Constantine.46 The event could not be ignored by the orator who (dramatically it seems) turned to the emperor in the course of the speech to seek his approval to raise Maximian’s fate.47 Previous discussions of this panegyric have tended to compartmentalise its various features. It is perhaps best known for its disclosure of Constantine’s “vision” of Apollo Grannus, in addition to the revelation that Constantine’s ancestor was the enigmatic Claudius II Gothicus, a third-century emperor who reigned for two years (r. 268–270), and who was nonetheless well-known to the citizens of Gaul and in particular to the residents of Autun during the time of the sectarian Gallic Empire (although his failure to relieve the city during its siege of 269 was a moot point for panegyrists).48 The disparaging of Maximian’s actions in the panegyric of 310 – for example, the contrast it makes between Maximian’s irrational grab for power versus Diocletian’s honourable retirement (Pan. Lat. 6(7)15–16) – together with the revelatory disclosure of Constantine’s dynastic origin in the deified Claudius and the introduction of Constantine’s new divine patron in the figure of Apollo (thereby supplanting of the Tetrarchic Herculius) collectively represent an attempt to reshape the presentation of Constantine and his family in a world where the possibilities for reviving the old Tetrarchic associations had come to an end. The boldness of the assertion regarding Claudius has led many modern commentators to the conclusion that the orator had been well-briefed about this fictional link, and that in addition to its other aspects, this panegyric was a medium for disseminating “hot” propaganda.49

It is arguable, however, that the most significant feature of the oration lies not in its revelations concerning Claudius II or indeed the vision of Apollo. Rather, the orator’s presentation of how the house of Constantine had begun to formulate the matter of its legitimacy appears to be the overriding preoccupation of this panegyric. Hereditary succession is thus advanced as the primary justification for Constantine’s right to rule, a principle which is made all the more potent by the not-so-veiled criticisms of the panegyrist towards previous (Tetrarchic) practices of imperial advancement along militarily meritocratic lines. Constantine’s imperial rank (fortuna) is said to have descended from Claudius, the founder of the emperor’s family, a claim which “most people, perhaps, are still unaware”.50 Constantine’s father (Constantius I) thus became emperor as a result of this ancient privilege (vetus praerogativa). The orator then addresses Constantine as the “the third emperor after two rulers of your line”.

Among all who share your majesty, I aver you have this distinction, Constantine, that you were (born) an emperor, and so great is the nobility of your lineage that the attainment of imperial power has added nothing to your honor, nor can Fortune claim credit for your divinity, which is rightfully yours without campaigning and canvassing.51

As Henning Börm – who, in his analysis of the panegyric, presupposes that the orator’s words derive directly from Constantine’s own strategy – has noted, the super-charging of Constantine’s lineage with two divi Augusti represented a noteworthy development in the evolution of hereditary succession as a legitimising principle.52 Börm regards the immediate context for the adoption of Claudius Gothicus to reside in Maximian’s death and the mobilisation of Maximian’s memory by Maxentius (like Constantine, the son of an emperor) – “it was opportune [for Constantine] to play the dynastic card yet again to trump Maxentius”53 – and yet it is also the case that these events permitted the argument to be made that the empire had become a type of patrimony. With a remarkable absence of ambiguity, the orator announces:

No chance agreement of men, nor some unexpected consequence of favour, made you emperor: it is through your birth that you merited the empire (imperium nascendo meruisti). Indeed this seems to me to be the first and greatest gift of the immortal gods, to enter upon life instantly blessed by Fortune, and to inherit as a family possession what others obtain with difficulty only as the result of the labors of a whole lifetime.54

Although the panegyric continues with an acknowledgement of Constantine’s (still budding) military experience in order one suspects to insinuate continuity with the credentials of recent (Tetrarchic) rulers, the speaker clearly enunciates that Constantine’s exalted position is a result of his family history.

For although it is a great and wonderful good fortune to climb to that pinnacle of majesty after serving one’s time in the ranks and passing through all the grades of the military hierarchy, and to attain such great measure of power solely by relying on foundations of valor – which indeed you, too, have accomplished, as far as your age has allowed – and although Fortune has placed you above all checks to the acquisition of glory, you wished to advance by serving as a soldier, and by confronting the dangers of war and by engaging the enemy even in single combat you have made yourself more notable among the nations, since you cannot become more noble; great, I repeat, as it is to start on one’s own and to attain the greatest heights, yet it is one thing to struggle over difficult ground and to make for the mountain peaks from the plain, another to occupy the pinnacle of fortune supported by the sublimity of one’s birth, and to possess supreme power rather than aspiring to it.55

The panegyric of 310 provides crucial evidence from this early period for the way Constantine’s family was beginning to formulate its public justification for rule according to a dynastic model of succession. In the period following Constantine’s death, Eusebius of Caesarea could speak of the emperor having received the empire from his father and as passing on the empire to his sons according to “the law of nature” as if it were a “paternal inheritance”.56 However, the neat tripartite division among Constantine’s three sons (by Fausta!) described by Eusebius was a long way off in 310. The most pressing issue for Constantine at the time remained the question of his lineage, and the necessity of filling the void left by the dissolution of the link with Maximian as the embodiment of former Tetrarchic glories.

Building Dynasties

The matter of paternity remained a live concern during the period of rising hostilities between Maxentius and Constantine with both figures exaggerating their filial piety at opportune moments.57 In a speech from 311 to mark Constantine’s five years as a ruler (his quinquennalia),58 and to thank him for recent tax remissions as part of those celebrations, an Autun-based orator addressed the emperor and his retinue in Trier. He noted that it was the deified Claudius “your ancestor” (tuum parentem)59 that the Aedui had called upon for assistance during the siege and subsequent sack of Autun by the “rebel Gauls” (i.e. by the soldiers of the Gallic Empire) between 269 and 270. Underlying these eulogistic claims, however, lay a series of dramatic shifts in the distribution of power during the years 311–313. Indeed, 313 represents something of a watershed in the emergence of new imperial relationships when Licinius, who had been appointed Augustus at the Conference of Carnuntum in 308,60 married Constantine’s half-sister, Constantia, in the February of that year.61 The meeting of Constantine and Licinius in Milan in February 313 followed the defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in October of the previous year. Licinius’ rivalry with Maximinus Daia, which a peace treaty had temporarily annulled,62 was reignited following Licinius’ marriage to Constantia.63 The principal source for these shifts in the configuration of the imperial families is again Lactantius’ On the Deaths of Persecutors. However, Lactantius’ reporting of such matters is frequently distorted by his prevailing agenda.64 For instance, it has been shown that he attenuated the hereditary claims of Constantine’s rivals Galerius and Maximinus in the context of the settlement of 305: The latter was the nephew of the former (as the son of Galerius’ sister); yet, he is referred to by Lactantius – in a short piece of invented dialogue (“a clumsy fiction”65) between Diocletian and Galerius – as “my relative by marriage” (meus adfinis).66 Lactantius thus wanted to delegitimise Maximinus Daia’s elevation in order to exaggerate the legitimacy of Constantine. Nonetheless, Maximinus’ claim was exceptionally valid in the context of Galerius’ own dynastic ambitions, as the work of Christopher S. Mackay has demonstrated.67 Licinius however recognised the continued threat to his own position posed by the dynastic plans of Galerius in the form of his nephew. Following the war between Licinius and Maximinus Daia in spring 313 and Maximinus’ death in Tarsus soon afterwards,68 Licinius – now in control of the eastern portion of the empire – set out to eradicate remaining rival claimants with a murderous coup that removed the wives and children of Galerius and Maximinus Daia. As detailed by Lactantius (On the Deaths 50.1–51.2), Licinius ordered the execution (“most particularly”: in primis) of Valeria,69 the daughter of Diocletian and widow of Galerius, along with her mother, Prisca,70 the widow of Diocletian (both women seem to have escaped their fate temporarily by fleeing across the provinces before being apprehended in Thessalonica).71 Galerius’ illegitimate son, Candidianus (born c. 296),72 who was at one time a candidate for the caesarship during his father’s reign,73 was also executed. Candidianus’ betrothed, an unnamed seven-year-old daughter of Maximinus Daia, together with Maximinus’ young son named Maximus were also executed; their unnamed mother, Maximinus’ unnamed wife, had been killed earlier, her body “hurled into the Orontes, where she had often herself ordered chaste women to be drowned”.74 Thus, the possibility of future claims to imperial positions from the intertwined families of Galerius and Maximinus Daia was terminated.75 Furthermore, Licinius also ordered the execution of Severus’ son, Severianus, who had served with Maximinus during his conflict with Licinius.76

Licinius’ murders were incontestably strategic. While such dynastic bloodshed was by no means unique in the annals of Roman history,77 the “blood bath”78 initiated by Licinius set a dangerous precedent for the strategic intrigues of his co-Augustus Constantine and more pertinently for the transfer of power from Constantine to his sons after their father’s death in May 337. Licinius’ intention was to remove the families of Galerius’ original nominees for the caesarships in 30579; his course of action in this regard no doubt was guided by the earlier cases of Maxentius and Constantine, whereby the offspring of former emperors had exerted strong claims for their own imperial advancement based on the imperium of their fathers.80 Licinius’ marriage to Constantine’s sister may have emboldened his course of action in this regard. This union resulted in the birth of a son, Licinianus,81 c. July–August 315. Constantine welcomed a nephew into the world; yet by this point in time, his marriage to Fausta remained childless. In his decennalian year, therefore, Constantine’s only child remained Crispus, the son born ca. 30282 from his marriage to Minervina.83

Inevitably then, tensions between the two families were heightened with the arrival of Licinianus. The important early source (likely dating from the end of Constantine’s reign84) known as the Origin of Constantine describes (somewhat opaquely) the details of a proposal by Constantine to Licinius regarding the elevation of Constantine’s brother-in-law, Bassianus, to the rank of Caesar with territorial jurisdiction over Italy (in the Origin’s description, serving “as a buffer between Constantine and Licinius, after the example of Diocletian and Maximian” (5.14)85). Bassianus had married Anastasia,86 the half-sister of Constantine from the marriage of Constantius I to Theodora. As presented by the author of the Origin, Constantine’s suggestion of Bassianus was frustrated by Licinius and Senecio,87 the brother of Bassianus, who incited the appointee to take up arms against Constantine (Origin 5.15). Bassianus, however, was “caught in the act” and executed on Constantine’s orders. Constantine demanded Licinius hand Senecio over to him as the “author of the plot”, but Licinius refused. Thus, “the agreement [between the two Augusti] was broken” (Origin 5.15).88 The episode smacks of “Constantinian propaganda”: As Barnes notes, the plot of Bassianus and Senecio reflects the story of the attempted assassination of Constantine in his bedchamber by Maximian narrated by Lactantius (see above).89 The Origin adds that the destruction of images and statues of Constantine in Emona – within Licinius’ territory of Illyricum90 – offered Constantine the casus belli he required, and hostilities between the two rulers began with the battle of Cibalae in October 31691 (Origin 5.16; Barnes 2011: 103–104). Hostilities in the first phase of the civil war continued until a settlement was reached between the two Augusti on 1 March 317.

Richard Burgess’ suggestion that the Origin likely represents “an epitome of a larger vita” of Constantine,92 possibly even an extended imperial biography also covering the reigns of the Diocletian and Maximian,93 reinforces the sense that the Origin represents a “time-capsule” of Constantinian propaganda from the period when Constantine was exploring a number of initiatives to secure his rule jointly with Licinius: Initiatives that were not preserved in later accounts of his reign, for example, in Eusebius’ later Life of Constantine. One related concern of the Origin was to cast Licinius as the aggressor in his wars against Constantine. Despite this propagandising,94 it seems to be the case that the promotion of Bassianus – “a member of an eminent Italian family”95 – represented Constantine’s response to the anticipated appointment of Licinius’ son to the imperial college at some point in the not-too-distant future. It is noteworthy that Constantine continued to call upon his half-siblings and their families in order to make strategic appointments: Moving from the marriage of his half-sister, Eutropia, to Licinius in 313, to incorporating Bassianus, the husband of his other half-sister, to a pre-eminent position in the imperial college, Constantine’s half-siblings proved exceptionally important in helping Constantine secure his position during precarious times.96 While this nascent initiative failed – it likely precipitated a counter-initiative on Licinius’ part with his appointment of Valens,97 the Dacian frontier commander (dux limitis: Origin 5.17), to the college during the conflict of 316 – the arrival of Flavius Claudius Constantinus,98 a.k.a. Constantine II, in August 316 meant that Constantine could reassert himself in dynastic terms.99

While the military outcome of the civil conflict of 316 appeared indeterminate,100 the settlement that emerged between the two Augusti on 1 March 317 in Serdica left Licinius at a noticeable disadvantage on two fronts.101 Constantine gained territorially by winning Licinius’ “European” territories (i.e. his Pannonian and Illyrian provinces): His jurisdiction now limited to (in the description of the Origin) “the East, Asia, Thrace, Lesser Moesia and Scythia”.102 The arrangement of 1 March was also capped by a new collegiate settlement whereby Constantine’s sons, Crispus and Constantine jnr., were made Caesars,103 together with Licinianus (the date for the Caesars’ investiture was unlikely to have been coincidental: It marked the dies imperii of Constantius I (and indeed Galerius!) in 293, with a span of twenty-five years connecting the elevation of grandfather and grandson to the position of Caesar104). Valens was duly removed from his position in the college, seemingly in a humiliating manner.105 The asymmetry in the imperial college highlighted Constantine’s apparent advantage in now having two Caesars as his successors to Licinius’ child.106 Furthermore, with Licinianus’ elevation, his father was reinforcing (in the words of Henning Börm) “the effectiveness of Constantine’s emphasis of consanguinitas107: A hard-won lesson for Licinius to learn in light of the removal of the seemingly unrelated Valens as Caesar. Indeed, evidence supplied by coins minted in Constantine’s territory seems to indicate that Crispus and Constantine II had been promoted by their father as Caesars some time prior to the Serdican settlement.108 At the time of their promotions to the caesarships, the sons of the Augusti varied in age: The youngest was Constantine jnr. aged c. seven months old, then Licinianus aged c. eighteen months, and Crispus who was c. fifteen years old. The infancy of Licinianus and Constantine jnr. demonstrated, therefore, that “direct descent from an emperor was perfectly sufficient for elevation to the rank of caesar”.109 The elder – although still teenage – Caesar Crispus was given the responsibility of governing Gaul and Britain, and made Trier his place of residence.110 He was assigned a Praetorian Prefect (Junius Bassus111) by his father to assist him in the management of his provinces,112 which may have been a comment on Crispus’ lack of experience but also highlighted Constantine’s ambitions for his son to become a proficient overseer of the administration of the Empire.113

The Trouble with Boys

Despite the new dynastic arrangement, considerable tensions nevertheless remained between Constantine and Licinius. Indeed, it was Constantine’s ambitions for the promotion of his own dynasty over Licinius’ family that likely lay behind the restive nature of relations between the two households during the years 317 and 319. Constantine’s assertiveness is once again evident in the promotion of his illustrious ancestors on coinage and in panegyrical poetry from the time. Bronze coins produced by mints in Constantine’s territories during 318–319 honoured the venerable paternal figures of the Constantinian household, namely Constantine’s father Constantius I, his father-in-law Maximian, along with the “invented” ancestor Claudius II Gothicus whose memory was again mobilised from 317 onwards in order to “supercharge” Constantine’s dynastic claims this time over Licinius.114 Claudius’ ancestral significance had previously been the solution to the dearth of the Constantinian family’s venerable ancestry following the inglorious removal of Maximian, the auctor imperii of both Constantius I and Constantine in 310. Indeed, the simmering rivalry between Licinius and Constantine even justified the rehabilitation of Maximian some eight years later. In an important article on the promotion of the Constantinian dynasty during the years 317–326, Wienand notes: “[Maximian] still possessed positive qualities that were useful to Constantine in many ways: Maximian was auctor imperii, father-in-law, and adoptive father of Constantius I, as well as auctor imperii, father-in-law, and adoptive grandfather of Constantine”.115

In addition to the evidence of the Constantinian coinage, the panegyrical poetry of Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius116 (hereafter, Optatian), the future Urban Prefect of Rome in 329 (7 September–8 October) and 333 (7 April–10 May),117 also illustrates the promotion of Claudius Gothicus and Constantius I as the military and civic bedrock of Constantine’s ancestry.118 Notably, Maximian was absent from this suite of ancestors in Optatian’s poems.119 Optatian’s figurative poetry, presented to Constantine by patrons of Optatian during the emperor’s time in Rome in 326 (to mark his vicennalia) in an effort to effect his recall from exile,120 represents a valuable source for comprehending the stylisation of Constantine’s dynasty in the period 317–326. As Wienand notes, the carmina of Optatian are “an exceptional contemporary witness … on the transformation of Constantine’s imperial self-conception during this decisive phase of development”.121 In addition to the promotion of Constantine’s ancestry, the carmina additionally reflect the dynasty’s ambitions for the future by portraying Constantine’s sons as conveyors of his virtues into the next generation and beyond.122 The carmina memorialise the meteoric rise of Crispus, Constantine’s eldest son by Minervina. Indeed, Crispus’ star was incontestably rising during this period. Two to three years (c. 319) after his elevation to Caesar, Crispus was credited by the orator Nazarius with a significant victory against the Franks, in a speech to honour Crispus and Constantine II’s quinquennalia:

Those very Franks who are more ferocious than other nations held even the coasts of Spain infested with arms when a large number of them spread beyond the Ocean itself in an outburst of fury in their passion to make war. These men were felled under your arms in such numbers that they could have been utterly wiped out, if you [sc. Constantine] had not, with the divine inspiration with which you manage everything, reserved for your son the destruction of those whom you had broken. For your glory, however, that nation which is fecund to its own detriment grew up so rapidly and was so stoutly restored that it gave the most valiant Caesar the first fruits of an enormous victory when it made battle not broken but whetted by the memory of the disaster it had sustained.123

Although unnamed, commentators agree unanimously that Crispus is the Caesar credited by Nazarius with this “enormous victory” (ingentis victoriae). As Nixon and Rodgers note: “Whether or not Crispus was actually in charge of military operations at the age of perhaps seventeen (?), he would have been given credit for it as ruler resident in Gaul”.124 Solidi and gold medallion issues from Trier125 commemorated the subjugation of the Alamanni and the Franks by the house of Constantine, celebrating Crispus’ victory of 319 while also indicating the Caesar’s pedigree as the latest “safe pair of hands” (following on from Constantius I and Constantine I) in the defence of the Rhine frontier.126 And yet, in spite of Crispus’ ascendency, the Constantinian dynasty seems to have kept a check on the one-sided promotion of its junior members. Johannes Wienand has argued in relation to the promotion of both Caesars on Constantine’s coinage from the time that an effort appears to have been made to equalise the statuses of Crispus and Constantine II. The most compelling instance supplied by Wienand refers to the gold issues produced by the mint in Trier to commemorate Constantine’s victory over the Samartians in 322: In these examples, the reverse legend PRINCIPIA IVVENTVTIS127 is accompanied with the inscription (in exergue) SARMATIA, with the obverse portrait depicting Constantine II and the legend, FL CL CONSTANTINVS IVN N C.128 Although Constantine was the victorious commander, it is the boy Caesar, Constantine jnr., who is commemorated in the issues:

The Caesar … had only just turned six years old at the time of the victory and cannot have had any influence on the course of events. And neither Constantine nor Constantinus resided at that time in the West, where the coins were issued.129

With the resumption of the civil war between Constantine and Licinius in summer 324, Crispus was granted the command of Constantine’s navy by his father (Origin 5.23). Prior to the final engagements between the forces of the two Augusti, Licinius appointed his Master of Offices, Martinian, as Caesar (Origin 5.25: Summarily executed by Constantine, Zosimus 2.28.2).130 Crispus repaid his father’s confidence by winning a major victory at Callipolis (Gallipoli), defeating Licinius’ senior admiral Amandus, and thereby contributing significantly to the final defeat of Licinius’ forces at Chrysopolis on 18 September 324.131 The significance of Crispus’ naval victory as an aspect of the lore surrounding Constantine’s foundation of Constantinople in 324 – i.e. the latter being made possible by the former – was represented on coin types minted towards the end of the 320s: A personified Constantinople on the obverse was accompanied on the reverse by Victory standing on the prow of a galley and the legend VICTORIA AVG (e.g. RIC 7 Rome: nos. 301, 303, 304).132 While Crispus’ specific role in this naval victory appears to have gone undocumented (or indeed unpreserved),133 Wienand notes the issuing of solidi from late 324 “almost exclusively for Crispus”,134 featuring portraits of Crispus on the obverse, with the reverse showing the young prince bearing down on a kneeling enemy (and the legend, VIRTVS CAESARI N, e.g. RIC 7. Thessalonica 136; Nicomedia 84). Crispus’ elevation in the poems of Optatian (Carmina 5, 9, 20a “which can be dated securely to the period after Constantine’s victory over Licinius”) is a further indication that Crispus was beginning to fashion his own self-representation in the dynasty.135 A dynastic marriage was also arranged for him to a certain Helena,136 a woman of aristocratic descent, linked either to Licinius (a daughter?), or to Helena the mother of Constantine (a granddaughter?).137 A baby girl was born to the couple in 322 as evidenced in a law of clemency preserved in the Theodosian Code (9.38.1).138

However, by the time of Constantine’s vicennalia in 326, Crispus – not yet in his mid-twenties and the ascendant star of the Constantinian family – had been executed following an executive order from his father. Fausta, Constantine’s wife and the mother of his remaining children – two of whom were serving Caesars – had also been struck from the public record.139 Like Crispus, Fausta also seems to have been subjected to memory sanctions (often rendered by the neologism, damnatio memoriae) and her name was erased from public inscriptions.140 Both were also excised from public speeches, for example, in the Tricennial Oration delivered by Eusebius before Constantine in July 336 to mark the thirtieth year of his reign. Neither were mentioned in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, published shortly after Constantine’s own death, and indeed Constantine jnr. is referred to there as the first and eldest son of Constantine.141

Regarding the fall of Crispus, this is an episode in the history of the dynasty in which the “facts” are few, but where rumours were (and remain) rife. Ammianus Marcellinus writing in the final decade of the fourth century reveals that Crispus was executed in Pola in Istria: The same location where the Caesar Gallus – the son of Constantine’s half-brother, Julius Constantius – was put to death in October 354. It appears that both killings were by imperial order.142 Barnes dates Crispus’ death to the late spring/early summer of 326 as the emperor was travelling to Rome to celebrate his vicennalia in the city.143 Aurelius Victor, the appointee of the emperor Julian to the governorship of Pannonia Secunda, wrote in his epitome On the Caesars from the early 360s, that Crispus “died on the orders of his father (iudicio patris occidisset) [and] the reason is uncertain …”.144 As Barnes notes, “[t]he only interpretation that can be placed on the word iudicio is that the emperor formally sat in judgment on his oldest son and condemned him to death”.145 Crispus’ death was not the only loss the family appears to have suffered during this time. Linking Constantine’s filicidal act to his position as sole Augustus, Eutropius in 369 recorded the killing of Crispus, Licinianus, Fausta and “numerous friends”.

At that time the Roman state was under one Augustus and three Caesars [Crispus, Constantine II, and Constantius II], which had never happened before, since the children of Constantine were governing Gaul, the East and Italy. But Constantine, made somewhat arrogant by his success, changed from his former agreeably mild temperament. First he persecuted his relatives and killed his son, an outstanding man, and his sister’s son [Licinianus, Constantia’s son], subsequently his wife and afterwards numerous friends.146

Another late fourth-century historical work, the Epitome de Caesaribus (c. 395147), conflated both deaths behind a claim that Fausta incited Constantine to turn against Crispus, her stepson, and put him to death. The Epitome states that Helena’s grief towards the loss of her grandson was so great that she reprimanded Constantine and he, as a result, “killed his own wife, Fausta, who was thrown into hot baths”.148 Deeply implicit in such gossip was the belief that dysfunctionality resided at the heart of Constantine’s family, and in particular a murderous animosity characterised relations between Fausta and Helena.

With the execution of Crispus and the death/disappearance of Fausta from public life,149 we encounter one of the more “gossipy” episodes in the dynastic history of Constantine’s reign.150 As Eutropius’ account reveals, the concentration of imperium in the Constantinian family alone served as a catalyst for a range of hostile judgements about Constantine. Always a valuable source because of his “insider” status, Julian in his satirical work the Caesars (from 361) made reference to Constantine and his sons’ involvement in “shedding the blood of their kindred”, an intentionally broad statement covering both Crispus’ execution and most likely also the murders of Constantine’s relatives in the period following his death in 337 (see below). At the Caesars’ close, Julian imagined an exchange between Constantine and his divine patronesses, Pleasure and Incontinence, who escorted him to Jesus who, in turn, proclaimed151:

“He that is a seducer, he that is a murderer, he that is sacrilegious and infamous, let him approach without fear! For with this water will I wash him and will straightaway make him clean. And though he should be guilty of those same sins a second time, let him but smite his breast and beat his head and I will make him clean again.” To him Constantine came gladly, when he had conducted his sons forth from the assembly of the gods. But the avenging deities none the less punished both him and them for their impiety, and exacted the penalty for the shedding of the blood of their kindred, until Zeus granted them a respite for the sake of Claudius [II] and Constantius [I].152

Towards the end of the fourth century then, a posthumous reputation for Constantine of a considerably hostile nature began to emerge in several camps. In an important article from 1994, Garth Fowden argued that the responsibility for this “oppositional version” of Constantine’s life lay in pagan intellectual circles, its genesis catalysed by the death of Sopater of Apamea, the foremost student of Iamblichus, a Neo-Platonist from Syria.153 Previously a leading light at Constantine’s court – as outlined in the biography written (c. 399154) by Eunapius of Sardis155 – Sopater fell from favour and was executed as a result of the intrigue of Ablabius, Constantine’s Praetorian Prefect who was later assigned to serve Constantius Caesar (see below). This alternative version, prompted no doubt to counteract the portrayal of Constantine as a pious figure untainted by any of the family or political murders during his reign as typified by Eusebius’ Life, offered an alternative explanation for Constantine’s endorsement of Christianity which initially focused on the events following the death of Crispus and in particular Constantine’s quest for absolution from the crime of murder.156 Julian’s judgement on Constantine and his attachment to Christianity in his Caesars and also in the infamous “myth” about Constantine and his sons in his Oration to the Cynic Heracleios (Or. 7: 227c–228d; composed in 362)157 served to consolidate perceptions of the absolutist, internecine character of the Constantinian monarchy on which this version depended. Sopater’s biographer, Eunapius, was also a central figure in the mediation of Constantine the penitent, a portrayal included in his now lost History (ca. 391–395 in its first edition158). Echoes of Eunapius’ condemnatory account of Constantine can be heard in a range of both pagan and Christian sources from the period.159 Thus, the link between familial murder and absolution grew closer as the fifth century dawned, and formed a compelling narrative in which the roles of Crispus, Fausta and Helena became increasingly prominent. Sozomen, the Nicene-leaning historian of the church (writing c. 443), noted that the death of Crispus was the focal point for pagan criticism of Constantine and his family: The emperor’s conversion to Christianity was reducible to this event alone. Fowden argues that Sozomen drew the following from Eunapius’ History:

I am aware that it is reported by the Hellenes that Constantine, after slaying some of his nearest relatives, and particularly after assenting to the murder of his own son Crispus, repented of his evil deeds, and inquired of Sopater, the philosopher, who was then master of the school of Plotinus, concerning the means of purification of guilt. The philosopher – so the story goes – replied that such moral defilement could admit of no purification. The emperor was grieved at this repulse, but happening to meet with some bishops who told him that he would be cleansed from sin, on repentance and on submitting to baptism, he was delighted with their representations, and admired their doctrines, and became a Christian, and led his subjects to the same faith. It appears to me that this story was the invention of persons who desired to vilify the Christian religion.160

Sozomen rebuts the Hellenes’ allegations by pointing out that Crispus died in the twentieth year of his father’s reign, whereas it is “universally admitted” that Constantine’s commitment to Christianity dated from before his war against Maxentius. Furthermore, Sozomen also rules out the possibility that an eastern philosopher could have had a relationship with an emperor who for most of his reign was based in the west. In addition, Sozomen disbelieves that a philosopher could have been ignorant of a parallel classical example according to which Heracles sought purification for murdering his family at Athens during the mysteries of Ceres. However, Sozomen’s defence of Constantine proved to be of little or no avail. By the time that Zosimus, who made measured use of Eunapius,161 wrote his New History at the turn of the sixth century, the associations between Constantinian autocracy, impiety and murder, together with the judgement about Christianity as the religion of absolution par excellence, had crystallised into a compelling narrative which offered a tendentious explanation for the emperor’s commitment to the Christian faith.162 Zosimus’ assessment brought together these various judgements about Constantine:

The whole empire now devolved on Constantine alone. At last he no longer needed to conceal his natural malignity but acted in accordance with his unlimited power. He still practised the ancestral religion, although not so much out of honour as necessity, and he believed the seers, since he had learned by experience that they prophesied the truth in all his successes, but when he came to Rome, he was filled with arrogance, and thought fit to begin his impiety at home. Without any consideration for natural law he killed his son, Crispus, on suspicion of having had intercourse with his step-mother Fausta. And when Constantine’s mother, Helena, was saddened by this atrocity and was inconsolable at the young man’s death, Constantine as if to comfort her, applied a remedy worse than the disease: he ordered a bath to be overheated, and shut Fausta up in it until she was dead. Since he was himself aware of his guilt and of his disregard for oaths as well, he approached the priests seeking absolution, but they said that there was no kind of purge known which could absolve him of such impieties. A certain Egyptian, who had come from Spain to Rome and was intimate with the ladies of the court, met Constantine and assured him that the Christian religion was able to absolve him from guilt and that it promised every wicked man who was converted to it immediate release from all sin. Constantine readily believed what he was told and, abandoning his ancestral religion, embraced the one which the Egyptian offered him.163

Fausta’s direct involvement in the downfall of Crispus is alleged elsewhere. The account in the epitome of Philostorgius (drawn from the Byzantine-era Life of Constantine from the Codex Angelicus 22 (ninth to eleventh century))164 portrayed Fausta as an over-sexed empress involved in the attempted seduction of her stepson,165 conveyed via an allusion to the myth of Phaedra and Hippolytus, with Constantine in the guise of Theseus: “Thus [Fausta] persuaded her own husband to kill his own son, making her illness his as well and pouring forth against him a varied and deceitful stream of words”.166 The epitome of Philostorgius, following Eunapius’ account of Fausta’s downfall, also revealed that Constantine’s wife was then implicated in an affair with a palatine cursor that led to her death by asphyxiation while bathing. Distinct in this regard is the tradition preserved by Zosimus in the passage cited above, but also earlier in the anonymous Epitome, where Fausta’s death arose from the direct intervention of Helena: Her inconsolable grief for the unjust murder of her grandson meant that she forced Constantine’s hand against his wife in an act of retributive justice.

Outrageous explanations for the fates of Crispus and Fausta evidently masked profound issues affecting the Constantinian dynasty at the point of Constantine’s ascendency as sole Augustus in the period after Licinius. The circulation and development of stories concerning the deaths of Crispus and Fausta that emphasised Constantine’s guilt and subsequent quest for absolution are signs that the events of 326, in the words of Jill Harries, “undermined the moral foundations of Constantine as emperor”.167 Such accounts evidently had an explanatory role: For example, the stories proposing sexualised palace intrigues offered digestible explanations – albeit of “make-believe” proportions – to account for seismic changes within the imperial family.168 In light of the tight policing of propaganda relating to the imperial family, there was likely considerable public interest regarding relations between different branches of the emperor’s family, and the overall configuration of imperial authority in light of these relationships. For example, both the Epitome and Zosimus raise the question of the nature of relations between Fausta and Helena.

At the interstice between ancient testimony and rumour, modern commentators have advanced various ideas to account for the tragic events of Constantine’s vicennalia. The more successful of these explanations foreground dynastic matters, for instance, rivalries over succession within the imperial family.169 Patrick Guthrie proposed that the death of Crispus arose because he was illegitimate: This, he judges, would have led to a problematic (if not bloody) scrabble for succession with the younger legitimate heirs.170 In itself, this explanation is unsatisfactory for the reason that Constantine had been married to Minervina – as judged on the evidence supplied by the Latin panegyric honouring the marriage of Fausta and Constantine from 307 (Pan. Lat. 7 (6) 4.1) – thereby making Crispus as legitimate an heir as the sons of Fausta. However, Guthrie’s attempt to move the analysis surrounding Crispus away from the salaciousness of the sources is commendable, as was his introduction of the question concerning the effect of Crispus’ presence on the succession of Fausta’s sons to power. A significant addition to the historical context for Crispus’ death was proposed in an article by Barnes from 1975.171 Here, Barnes associated – hypothetically, as he himself admits – the exile of the Roman aristocrat Ceionius Rufius Albinus (the son of C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus, the Urban Prefect of Rome in 313) with the trial and execution of Crispus in the context of some sort of palace crisis during April–May 326. This would also serve to offer an explanatory context for Eutropius’ peculiarly exact description (10.6.3) that “numerous friends” perished following the deaths of Crispus, Licinianus and Fausta.

In the most recent incarnation of this argument, Barnes suggests that Crispus was “at the instigation or through the agency of Fausta, accused of wild and outrageous behavior of the sort which so many sons of monarchs have perpetrated through the ages”.172 Crispus’ innocence and Fausta’s complicity were revealed soon after the Caesar’s execution, possibly by the guiding hand of Helena (thereby also accounting for the recall of Albinus from exile).173 It is of course entirely possible that Fausta manipulated Constantine to execute his son by Minervina on the basis of some trumped-up charge in order to ensure the succession of her own sons. Such an explanation, however, makes a number of assumptions about the extent of the Fausta’s authority as an empress which in broad terms have been problematised in the work of Liz James.174 Thus, it is necessary to believe that Fausta was personally inclined to remove her stepson in an initiative the outcome of which was uncertain (the untroubled succession of her sons was not guaranteed, given the existence of Constantine’s half-brothers, Flavius Dalmatius, Julius Constantius, Hannibalianus and their offspring), a decision which risks validating the evidently fabricated literary portrayal of Fausta as a scheming empress and the “power behind the throne”. As James notes:

The empress’s power is often described as ‘power behind the throne’, an unofficial power relying on contact with the emperor and personal influence. The term also carries a pejorative taint as if such power is not quite ‘real’ power. It is defined as a self-interested power, which is unaccountable and bad for the state. However, within the context of the late Roman and Byzantine empires, anyone’s official position and how much scope they had within that position depended on their personal relationship with the emperor.175

Therefore, Barnes’ explanation also entails believing that Fausta could influence Constantine with an accusation against his son which was nevertheless rapidly established as false.176 It is difficult to believe that the emperor and his advisers could be susceptible to an allegation on such an important matter of state regardless of the empress’ proximity to the Augustus.

Thus, an agnostic stance it seems is most appropriate in relation to engaging the rumours and insinuations arising from the events of spring 326. However, this is not to disregard the likelihood that tensions over issues of status and succession within the imperial family did not determine in some way the death of Crispus. In light of the speculation regarding Crispus’ downfall, Johannes Wienand offers a measured (yet admittedly still speculative) assessment that merits reproducing here.

The circumstances point rather to a political conflict between Crispus and Constantine: Diocletian had introduced the idea of automatic promotion to Augustus after ten years as Caesar, a precedent that a confident and successful Caesar could easily have cited. At the time of his decennalia, Crispus was about 24 years old and already had a four-year-old son with his wife Helena, while both his oldest half-brothers were only about 10 years old. Thus the time slot in which Crispus could realize his claims to higher rank within the Constantinian system, without having to take his half-brothers into consideration, was clearly limited. Moreover, Crispus’ half-brothers descended from Constantine’s marriage with Fausta, who had been raised to Augustus after the victory over Licinius. Crispus’ mother Minervina, in contrast, had not played any role in Constantine’s self-representation since 307 and (perhaps wrongly) appears in the late antique sources merely as a concubine. Crispus must surely have feared that further developments would slowly but surely cost him his prominent place in the Constantinian imperial college. The circumstances thus suggest that Crispus all too confidently strove for the rank of Augustus and perhaps even showed some preparedness to assume such illustrious status even against the emperor’s will.177

Wienand’s assessment represents a welcome attempt to reframe the affair along more responsible lines of investigation. Indeed, at the point when Crispus began to enjoy greater public acclaim for his involvement in defeating Licinius,178 it is apparent that Constantine was taking steps to mitigate his own autocracy by promoting the perception of diffused power across the imperial family, beginning with a series of initiatives in 324 promoting members of his immediate family to more public roles.

The Dynasty Reborn

By the close of 324, Constantine was the sole ruler of the Roman world. The occasion was marked by a series of activities and messages intended to cement the legacy of the Constantinian dynasty. Constantius, born to Fausta and Constantine on 7 August 317, was promoted to the rank of Caesar on 8 November 324 at the age of seven.179 On the day of Constantius’ succession, Constantine founded Constantinople, his new “Victory City” on the Bosphorus.180 In a speech given to mark the joint consulship of Constantius and Julian Caesar on the Kalends of January 357, Themistius noted the joint inauguration of city and Caesar by Constantine in the celebratory period after the defeat of Licinius: “[Constantine] clad the town with its circuit and his son with the purple”.181 The epitomised history of Philostorgius offers an account of Constantine’s lustrations around the perimeter of the newly established city. With spear in hand, Constantine marked the city’s revised boundary.

Now those following him thought that the area was being extended further than it ought, so one of them went up to him and asked, “How much farther, my lord?” He answered quite plainly, “Until the one who is in front of me stops,” thus making it evident that he was being guided by some heavenly power who was teaching him what to do.182

While certainly idealised, the prevailing sense of victorious optimism surrounding Constantine’s achievement was further reflected by the conferring on both Helena and Fausta of the exalted title Augusta (from their former title, nobilissima femina183), possibly at the same time as Constantius II’s elevation as Caesar.184 Both were clearly acts of dynastic consolidation and reinvention. In the victorious period following the defeat of Licinius and the eclipse of his family from imperial power, Constantinian propaganda presented both Helena and Fausta as the backbone of the state. Their maternal service to the dynasty and to the Roman people was stylised in several coin issues from the time. A quantity of both bronze and gold coins denote Fausta’s elevation as Augusta on their obverse legend, together with the reverse legends SPES REIPVBLICAE or SALVS REIPVBLICAE, with an attendant personification of the sentiment (“they should more likely be identified with the imperial personages of the obverses”185) cradling two children in her arms.186 Leslie Brubaker and Helen Tobler have noted, “the constellation of messages now conveyed by Fausta’s coins – fertility, security and dynastic stability – continued associations between imperial women and the well-being of the state that had long been a commonplace of Roman imperial imagery”.187 As the mother of Constantine’s children – to which incidentally should also be added Constans as the third and youngest child born to Fausta and Constantine in all likelihood in 323188 – the coinage celebrates her principal role – both within the family, but also in the mind of the Roman people – as providing Constantine’s legitimate heirs. In a closely related series of issues, Helena was commemorated as Augusta (obverse) with the attendant reverse legend SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (sic!), indicating that the state’s stability lay with Helena as the mother of Constantine: “[she] has provided for the security of the republic by providing her son as its ruler”.189 In addition, Patrick Bruun has noted the non-traditional series of dynastic issues from the mint at Antioch in bronze of Constantine and his sons (the Caesars Crispus, Constantine II and Constantius II) along with Fausta and Helena who are commemorated as Augustae,190 which may indicate Constantine’s visit to the city in late 324–early 325.191 The victorious dynasty – minus the imperial women on this occasion – was also commemorated on a series of solidi from the mint at Nicomedia in 325: The obverse of the Caesars’ coinage showing Victory personified advancing left with a wreath and palm branch.192

Victory, family and the apportioning of power among the Augustus’ youthful offspring were the predominant messages broadcast by Constantine and his court after the defeat of Licinius. As was to be expected, the upheaval caused by the trial and execution of Crispus Caesar, together with the avaunting of Fausta, did not register at all on imperial media. The continuation of bronze coin issues with the reverse legend PROVIDENTIAE CAESS (“the foresight of the Caesars”) which conveyed the message of the Empire’s future prosperity and security inherent in the reigns of the Caesars (with the attendant reverse image of the “Camp Gate”) continued unabated after 326, and represented one of the principal types for the public communication of the Caesars’ talismanic role in the dynasty in the later years of Constantine’s reign.193

On the surface, the forced removal of Crispus and the death/disappearance of Fausta appears not to have impeded Constantine’s dynastic plans. Indeed, following the appointment of Constans as Caesar on 25 December 333, Constantine began to refashion the dynasty in a form which looked – superficially at least – like a return to the blood and marriage ties of the Tetrarchy. This was achieved by bringing the sons and grandsons of Constantius I, Constantine’s father, from his second marriage to Theodora into the picture during the early 330s. The importance of the daughters from this marriage for Constantine has already been noted in his efforts to consolidate his grip on power after the death of Galerius. Constantia had married Licinius in February 313, and Anastasia had been married to Bassianus, the figure implicated with his brother Senecio and Licinius in the failed coup against Constantine in 315. Theodora’s third daughter, Eutropia – who carried the name of her maternal grandmother, the wife of Maximian,194 and who may have been married to Virius Nepotianus (consul in 336195) – became an important figure in the events of the early 350s following the usurpation of Magnentius during the reign of Constantius II, through the actions of her son, Nepotianus (see Chapter 6).

It took a lot longer, however, for Constantine’s half-brothers to see any sign of power. Three sons are traditionally designated to Constantius I and Theodora196: Flavius Dalmatius,197 Julius Constantius198 and Hannibalianus.199 Flavius Dalmatius and Julius Constantius lived in exile for much of their formative years.200 Dalmatius resided for some time in Tolosa (Toulouse), where his sons were trained by a Gallic professor of rhetoric (Exsuperius) from Narbonne.201 Julius Constantius lived in Corinth.202 Hannibalianus died early, it is assumed, before he could be co-opted into a state role.203 The ages of Constantius and Theodora’s children are unknown, although since their marriage was noted in passing in the panegyric from 289 (Pan. Lat. 10(2)11.4–5), the eldest male children could plausibly have been born in the first half of the 290s.204 Their appearance in public may have coincided with the political intrigues involving Crispus and Fausta in mid-to-late 326.205 Constantine’s mother, Helena, left for her visit to Palestine towards the end of 326,206 while in the same period, the future Caesar Gallus was born to Julius Constantius and his wife Galla (the sister of Neratius Cerealis and Vulcacius Rufinus, well-connected Constantinian loyalists both, about whom see Chapter 6207) in Etruria rather than in Corinth.208 In an address to Julian from 362, Libanius quoted from Julian’s letter to the Corinthians (written, like his Letter to the Athenians, in 361 to justify his “impromptu elevation” a year earlier in Paris209) which noted Julius Constantius’ attachment to Corinth. Julian in a consecutive clause refers to his father’s “wicked step-mother”, namely Helena, and how Constantius found repose (from her) in the city.210 It is fair to assume that Helena made the lives of Theodora’s children difficult (possibly) in order to secure her son and grandsons’ futures.211 Indeed, Constantine’s half-brothers appeared in public life only after Helena had died in 329. However, more plausible is the idea that the ambitions of Theodora’s sons could no longer be contained by the emperor and his immediate circle. In the evocative description of Paul Stephenson, “some big beasts prowled around” the imperial court, and Constantine needed to appease them.212

The first steps in reconciling Constantine’s half-brothers to power began in 333 with the appointment of Flavius Dalmatius (likely, the eldest of the three brothers) to the consulship for the year. He was also granted the archaic title of censor. This appointment marked a significant step in Constantine’s dynastic plans. Dalmatius Censor’s elevation was not tokenistic. While family ties clearly mattered to Constantine, it is also apparent that his decisions were in part also informed by memories of the Tetrarchy’s meritocratic culture. Dalmatius Censor was especially able, and he proved himself to be an effective military commander on the eastern frontier.213 For instance, he suppressed the revolt of Calocaerus – the majestically titled Master of the Camel-Herd – in Cyprus in 334214; and, while residing in Antioch, he had also been ordered by Constantine to initiate a judicial enquiry into the notorious, historic charges made against Athanasius by his Alexandrian opponents.215 The appointment of Julius Constantius to the consulship in 335 soon followed when he was also awarded the “obsolete title”216 patricius by the emperor.217

Once the senior members of the Theodora-Constantius line had been gratified, the rank of Caesar was conferred on Flavius Julius Dalmatius,218 the son of Flavius Dalmatius, on 18 September 335 (the anniversary of Licinius’ defeat at Chrysopolis219). Flavius Dalmatius censor’s other son, Hannibalianus,220 was made “King of Kings and of the Pontic Peoples” (Rex Regum et Ponticarum Gentium)221 in a move designed to counter the suzerainty of the Sasanian monarch, Shapur II, over Armenia (see Chapter 6).222 Four Caesars now stood alongside Constantine Augustus in a Tetrarchy plus one (a “Pentarchy”223). Constantine was evidently the senior partner in this new arrangement, although the innovation here was the division of imperial territory among the four Caesars. The Origin of Constantine again demonstrates its importance as a source by preserving details of these dynastic changes. Constantine’s territorial division between the four Caesars is given in a cursory description (6.35) which Daniëlle Slootjes has fleshed out according to the following allocations (as Slootjes notes, her choice of dioceses as the administrative unit of organisation is meant to reflect the reforms of Constantine I himself and to overcome the confusing mixture of terms employed by the ancient sources): Constantine Caesar received the dioceses of Brittanniae, Galliae, Viennensis, Hispaniae and the Alpe Cottiae; Constantius, the dioceses of Oriens, Asiana and Pontica; Constans, the dioceses of Africa, Pannoniae and Italia (excluding the Alpes Cottiae); and Dalmatius, the dioceses of Moesia and Thracia.224 Constantine Augustus duly assigned Praetorian Prefects to all his Caesars to assist in the governance of their newly acquired territories.225 The administrative necessity for such appointments should be clear enough. However, as Caillan Davenport has noted, the assigning of Praetorian Prefects to the Caesars also served the important role of conferring additional legitimacy on the junior emperors.226 A crucial piece of evidence for the Praetorian Prefecture as a college of senior administrators in the period prior to the appointment of Dalmatius in September 335 is given by a famous pair of inscriptions from Tubernuc (Tunisia) and Antioch which likely date from the time of the marriage of Constantine Caesar in the summer of that year.227 The inscription honouring Constantine Caesar (“the most brave and most noble Caesar”: Antioch inscription, Feissel 1985) is dedicated in the names of five Praetorian Prefects who were assigned to Constantine I and his (at this time) three Caesars with the exception of Valerius Felix228 who was Prefect in Africa.229

In 335, the Caesars were still young men: Constantine and Constantius were leaving behind their teenage years, while Constans was just entering his. Dalmatius Caesar’s date of birth is unknown, but since his father was likely the eldest son of Theodora and Constantius I, it is possible that Dalmatius jnr. could have been born as early as the 310s (when his father was in his twenties, taking as the basis the marriage of his parents by 289) in which case Dalmatius Caesar could have been around the same age as Constantine jnr. (b. August 316) and Constantius (August 317) in 335.230 The necessity for relatively junior Constans and Dalmatius in particular to have Praetorian Prefects by their side was clearly greater than Constantine Caesar and Constantius who, by 335, had at least some civil and military experience under their imperial belts (see Chapter 6).231 Dalmatius’ promotion to Caesar offers an important insight into the networks of influence operating in the reconfigured dynasty of the 330s. In a contentious passage from his On the Caesars (41.15), Aurelius Victor notes that the army “strongly supported” Dalmatius’ ascension.232 In thinking about how dynasticism functioned under Constantine, the army’s approval of candidates remained of central importance for appointments to the college. Regarding the credentials of Dalmantius Caesar, Moyses Marcos has expertly drawn out the military pedigrees of Dalmatius and his father, Dalmatius Censor.

The Roman military had long been accustomed to exercising a kind of primogeniture of talent and character of hopes and respect, from successful general to their sons and relatives. … There would appear to be a cause and effect relationship here, between Dalmatius, who was named after his father, and the military’s strong support of Dalmatius upon his investiture as Caesar.233

To reiterate: Dalmatius Censor and Dalmatius Caesar were the son and grandson, respectively, of the legendary Constantius I, whose own reputation with his soldiers had been of prime importance in the acclamation of Constantine in 306.234 Eutropius described the merit inherited by Dalmatius from his paternal line: “… Dalmatius Caesar, a man of exceptionally promising talent and very like his uncle”,235 namely Constantine. As Burgess has noted, the positive assessments of Dalmatius Caesar in the epitomators derive from the Kaisergeschichte, a fourth-century source of imperial biographies inferred from similarities shared between Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, the Historia Augusta and the Epitome de Caesaribus.236 These positive characterisations represent alternative opinions in a landscape of erased memories surrounding the families and associates of Constantine’s half-brothers following the dynastic upheavals less than two years later in the summer of 337. Indeed, it seems that Dalmatius’ leadership abilities as a commander together with his influence in the areas under his control contributed significantly to his downfall at this time. Marcos has highlighted Constantine’s dependence on his nephew in a number of campaigns, including the recovery of Dacia.237 Therefore, Dalmatius Caesar’s closeness to Constantine, particularly the support he appears to have received from the army, plausibly made him “a target of enmity by his cousins”.238 In 335, therefore, Dalmatius was not a naïve and untrusted prince – in contrast to Constans, who was “probably still too young to have displayed his mettle in actual combat at this time”239 – rather, he had the pedigree and ability to justify his promotion.

A series of marriages coincided with the changes to the reconfigured imperial college. Constantius Caesar was married during Constantine’s tricennial celebrations in 336 to an unnamed daughter of Julius Constantius (the consul prior for 335) and Galla, a daughter of the illustrious Neratii.240 Eusebius of Caesarea’s account of Constantius’ marriage (Life of Constantine 4.49) also reveals that Constantine jnr. had been married a short while earlier. No further details about this marriage are given by Eusebius or anyone else, although various candidates have been proposed, including a daughter of Flavius Optatus, the consul of 334.241 Constans was betrothed to Olympias, the daughter of Flavius Ablabius, the Praetorian Prefect of Constantius Caesar in the eastern empire, although this marriage appears not to have taken place.242 (Olympias was later married c. 356–358, to Arsaces II, the king of Armenia.) The sons of Julius Constantius were also duly married to the daughters of Constantine in the same period in order to strengthen links between the two halves of the family. Constantine’s eldest daughter, Constantina, was married to Hannibalianus, the regent of the Armenian Marches,243 and the suggestion that Dalmatius Caesar was married to Helena, Constantine’s other daughter, is entirely plausible although wholly unprovable.244 These endogamous, parallel cousin marriages – the marriage of children from two same-sex siblings – were not at the time all that common but Constantine likely found them necessary in order to manage the “political exigencies” in the final years of his reign.245

Barnes correctly views these marriages as a sign that Constantine was planning his succession.246 While the image promoted during the tricennalia year of 336 was one in which Constantine I remained in overall charge of his four Caesars – “the four valiant Caesars like colts beneath the yoke of an imperial chariot, he controls them with the reins of holy harmony and concord”247 – the coin issues of the time suggest that Constantine Caesar and Constantius Caesar were both promoted as senior to their younger colleagues, which has been read as a clear sign that Constantine I intended for his eldest sons to be elevated after his death to the rank of Augustus with seniority over the Caesars Constans and Dalmatius.248 The Tetrarchy redivivus! However, Constantine’s succession plans were never put into place. He died at his imperial villa in Charax close to Nicomedia on 22 May 337 without naming a successor.249 Indeed, the portrait of Constantine’s final months given by Eusebius in his Life, advisably to be taken with “a large pinch of salt”, is of a vigorous ruler whose plans included (finally) prosecuting war against the Sasanians (4.56–57): Certainly not the actions of a ruler who believed that his end was imminent. The significance of Constantine’s failure to nominate an heir or heirs left (in the words of Barnes), “the unprecedented situation where no emperor possessed the legal right either to promote any of the Caesars to the higher rank of Augustus or to issue general edicts and laws”.250 The reality of the situation was a power vacuum at the heart of the empire, and one which the children of Fausta rushed to fill following their father’s death.

The Murders of 337

Soon after the death of their father, Constantine’s sons removed potential rivals from the Constantius-Theodora side of the family by murdering the sitting Caesar Dalmatius and his brother, Hannibalianus, the King of Kings and of the Pontic Peoples. These were the highest profile victims in a political purge that also included the murder of Constantine I’s half-brothers, Julius Constantius and Flavius Dalmatius (the father of the murdered monarchs), the eldest son of Julius Constantius, and four other cousins whose names are unknown. Senior administrators serving the dynasty, including Flavius Optatus, the consul of 334, and Flavius Ablabius, the Praetorian Prefect in Constantius II’s territories, were also killed along with other high profile administrators and educators.251 Formative assessments of this episode tend to stress a number of factors and while the speed and ruthlessness of the purge are not in doubt,252 the reasons for the purge are far from clear. Our sources say virtually nothing about the event itself let alone offering reasons for the massacre: “no source provides an account of the massacre and only a few say anything specific about it at all: we have no chronology, no context, no causes, no coherent narrative”.253 The version of the succession supplied by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine portrays the unimpeded transfer of power to Constantine’s sons; although, as Richard Burgess rightly suspects, Eusebius’ narrative inadvertently draws attention to the fact that the legitimacy of the sons’ position may have been challenged in light of the constitutional conundrum which they faced as a result of Constantine’s failure to nominate a successor at the rank of Augustus. In this regard, Eusebius’ version “covers all bases” required for acceptance as legitimate monarchs by devising the fiction of seamless assent from the army, the Senate and the people of Rome, all proclaiming the sons alone as the only rightful heirs of Constantine (Life 4.68–69). But a challenge of this type would relate only to the constitutional position of all the Caesars, including Dalmatius in the period immediately following Constantine’s death. The status of the sons and Dalmatius to succeed Constantine would never have been in doubt in light of their nominations by Constantine Augustus himself. Most recently, John Vanderspoel has raised the issue of the sons’ legitimacy in relation to the (un-)status of Fausta by arguing that her involvement with Crispus – “alleged or real, involuntary or voluntary” – led some to challenge the paternity of her children. “In short, Constantine’s condemnation of Fausta essentially forced his sons to eliminate any relatives who might try to question their legitimacy as their father’s sons”.254 This is an ingenuous argument particularly in light of the much older debate that proposed the illegitimacy of Constantine Caesar (b. 316)255; however, beyond the problems raised by the nature of those sources alleging the tryst (see above), the argument loads responsibility for the massacre on the shoulders of Fausta, which invites both ethical and historical reflection. Thus, while Vanderspoel’s argument correctly identifies albeit tacitly the importance of Fausta as a conduit for her sons’ imperium, a less reproving explanation is preferable. Comparative studies of kingship and dynastic succession note the frequent tendency for succession arrangements to spill over into bloodshed256:

Kings who founded their authority on descent and royal blood needed to accommodate their siblings; only rarely did they relegate them without further ado to the margins of society. Once in open conflict, kings could not shed royal blood with impunity, but they found alternative ways to silence their proximate rivals. A potential for conflict was always present, particularly among the males at the heart of any dynasty. Dynastic power carried within itself a permanent invitation to violence.257

Therefore, in light of the superior position that Constantine’s sons by Fausta found themselves in the immediate aftermath of their father’s death, it is difficult to judge this episode as being anything other than an exercise in murderous brutality that had only one goal: The untrammelled dynastic supremacy of the sons of Constantine.258 An iron fist in an iron glove. Undoubtedly, a myriad of justificatory narratives alleging jealousies, injustices, resentments and slights of both a contemporary and historic tone conditioned relations between Constantine’s sons and their cousins,259 uncles and advisers, but these are lost to us now. Instead, we are left with a dynastic-political purge that justifiably merits its characterisation as a “blood-bath”,260 but which does not look out of place in the landscape of violent episodes of imperial succession of the late empire (e.g. Licinius’ actions of 313).

Burgess’ immaculate reconstruction of events, which involves the reconciliation of numerous contradictions across a range of historiographical, legal and numismatic sources, has established beyond reasonable doubt the following features of the massacre.261 The majority of murders were committed in and around Constantinople during the month of June 337,262 with the exception of the murder of Ablabius who was killed sometime later (?) while he was visiting his Bithynian estate following his dismissal from office by Constantius Caesar.263 Indeed, the eastern Caesar emerges as the orchestrator of the purge, his direct involvement alleged in the works of implacable opponents, namely Athanasius (History of the Arians 69.1) and Julian (Letter to the Athenians 281b), but also indirectly by his proximity to Constantinople in the aftermath of Constantine’s death. Earlier sources, including historiographic narratives influenced by the Kaisergeschichte, hold a mutinous contingent of the army loyal to the House of Constantine as the party responsible for the murders, an explanation that reflected the “official” explanation which, in turn, was changed to incorporate Constantius’ awareness of, but not complicity in, the actions of the army.264 The allegations of Athanasius and Julian some twenty years or so after the episode strongly imply that the eastern army acted on the orders of Constantius Caesar, which then descended on the extended members of the Constantinian family in a brutal and swift coup. While the murders could very well have been planned as the family gathered in Constantinople to attend Constantine’s funeral in early June, the numismatic record reveals the negative attitude of the sons towards Dalmatius stretched back to the period following the Caesar’s appointment in September 335. Mints at the major imperial centres of Trier, Rome and Antioch (respectively, the “capitals” of Constantine II, Constans and Constantius) between September 335 and May 337 did not produce precious metal coins in the name of Dalmatius in contrast to prestige issues bearing his name produced elsewhere in the empire. This has correctly been viewed as a snub on the part of the three brothers towards their cousin and co-emperor:

from the very beginning, Constantine’s sons not only seem not to have fully accepted the legitimacy of Dalmatius and viewed him as an interloper, but also appear to have communicated with one another on this point and agreed on a common response.265

Whatever the reason for the sons’ refusal to accept the legitimacy of Dalmatius – Burgess speculates about the sons’ insecurities in light of pressure from their uncles Flavius Dalmatius and Julius Constantius – the succession was only finally resolved following a meeting of the three Caesars in Pannonia266 (Sirmium?267) in late summer which then led to their proclamation by army and the Senate in Rome on 9 September.268

The revised settlement that emerged in the early autumn of 337 following the negotiations in Pannonia saw the redistribution of Dalmatius’ territories to Constans who took over Moesia, and Constantius who took over Thracia.269 The eldest brother’s territorial area of authority remained as it had following the division of 335, and as such it is widely regarded that Constantine II “came off worse” in the revised arrangement. Later sources indicate that the cause of the civil war between Constantine II and Constans in April 340 concerned the territorial allocations arising from 337, specifically the “legal right to Italy and Africa” (Epitome de Caesaribus 41.21270: See below). Perhaps practical considerations held sway? In light of the medial position of Dalmatius’ territories between those of Constans and Constantius, Constantine II’s inheritance of his cousin’s regions would have proved an administrative headache, given his position in the western empire and is a reasonable explanation for Constantine’s apparent lack of gain from the negotiations in Pannonia. As such, Constantine probably gave his consent to the arrangement on the proviso that he retain his pre-eminence over his brothers which was his “right” as the longest serving emperor in the college following his appointment in 317. Recent analysis by William Lewis on the division of territory following Dalmatius’ murder and the subsequent reconfiguration of the dynasty raises the intriguing idea that Constantine II’s loss was nothing of the sort. Lewis argues that both Constantine and Constantius instead granted Constans’ elevation to the rank of Augustus – here following the model proposed by Heinrich Chantraine of implied Augustan seniority of the eldest brothers – in order to avoid future acrimony with the junior Caesar, his court and his armies. Furthermore, Lewis adds that they were perhaps also “conscious of the benefits of the juvenile Constans acting as a buffer between the older, more powerful brothers, and the balance of power that would be offered by having one Augustus per frontier army”.271 According to Lewis’ analysis, therefore, both older brothers lost out territorially but gained politically through the strategic dispersal of imperial power at the recognised “pinch points” of the empire. The following section considers these arguments in more detail.

The Road to Aquileia

In September 337, Constantine II had recently turned twenty-one, Constantius II had only just celebrated his twentieth birthday and Constans was around fourteen. The three Augusti had their own courts and administrations, including their own Praetorian Prefects originally assigned to them by Constantine I while they were still Caesars.272 However, it is apparent that there were tensions between the three brothers even after the purge of their rivals. The perception that the summit in Pannonia somehow settled the division of the empire is incorrect, since the evidence surveyed in the following sections strongly suggest that the precise parameters of imperial authority remained actively contested up to April 340, when they were resolved in a brief but devastating civil conflict. A sign of uneasy relations between the three brothers may be glimpsed in the choice of consuls for the years 338 and 339. In 338, the first ordinary consuls of the reigns of the new Augusti were not the emperors themselves, “as custom prescribed”,273 but two private citizens, Flavius Ursus (magister utriusque militae?274), and Flavius Polemius.275 Constantine I’s designated consul for that year had been Q. Flavius Maesius Egnatius Lollianus Mavoritus, the Proconsul of Africa, to whom Firmicus Maternus276 had dedicated his Mathesis, an astrological compendium dating to the months prior to Constantine’s death.277 In the Mathesis, Lollianus is addressed as “Proconsul, and Ordinary Consul designate”,278 indicating his upcoming role as consul for 338. However, it was not until 355 that Lollianus eventually became ordinary consul. Constantine’s death may explain why Lollianus was not eventually appointed; his decision overturned no doubt during the September conference when the question of the consuls for 1 January the following year was settled.279 While tradition dictated that the emperors themselves become consuls on 1 January following their appointment,280 the appointment of two private citizens suggests strongly that the three brothers failed to reach an agreement about which of them should be appointed to the consulate. Roger Bagnall’s suggestion that Constans could not be persuaded by Constantine II to “wait his turn” is plausible, especially in light of the deterioration of relations between the two brothers in the coming years. Indeed, Constans’ assertiveness would mark a break in the traditional designation of consuls whereby the judgement of the senior emperor (in this case Constantine II) would usually have been decisive.281 The appointment of Constantius and Constans as consuls for 339 presents another aberration, with the appointment of the senior Augustus to the consulate deferred for yet another year. With his death in 340, Constantine II was never to serve as consul during his reign as Augustus.282 In response to the argument of Bagnall et al who regard these instances as a sign of Constantine II’s inability to reconcile Constans, Benet Salway has lately suggested that the situation with the consulates of 338–340 was rather a sign of Constantine II’s magnanimity towards the junior Augustus.283

The concern in this section then will be to evaluate the possible causes, and the extent of these tensions but in a way that steers a cautious path around the established narrative – which likely derived from the court of Constans284 – that Constantine II was the continuously dominant figure in the imperial college whose attempts to exert his authority over the entire empire led eventually to the tensions between Constantine and Constans spilling over into civil conflict in April 340 close to Aquileia in the latter’s territory. This period has rightly been judged as “one of the darkest portions of the fourth century”285 as a result of its poor historiographic documentation but also because the sources that are extant are fragmentary (constitutions, laws) or confused (the extant historiography tends to be much later than the fourth century).

We begin with a very high profile example which, therefore, may not be typical of behavioural patterns and events in this period. During the interregnum, Constantine Caesar had begun to assert himself in a matter of especial importance to his paternal namesake. Athanasius refers to an ostensibly joint initiative of all three Caesars – “after the death of their father, [the three brothers]286 made everyone return to their own homeland and church” (History of the Arians 8.1) – whereby they recalled bishops exiled during Constantine’s reign to their home sees. The emperors also wrote letters to the communities of those bishops indicating the commuting of the sentences of exile. Based in Trier, Constantine Caesar wrote to the church of Alexandria on 17 June 337287 – in the territory of Constantius Caesar – expressing his wish that Athanasius be restored to his see in the city. Athanasius preserves the letter in his own apologetic writings in the (tendentious) context of advertising his status as an imperial favourite. Two features stand out in the letter. The first is Constantine Caesar’s promotion of the idea that he alone is the executor of his father’s wishes with regard to the fate of Athanasius:

Now seeing that it was the fixed intention of our master Constantine Augustus, my father, to restore [Athanasius] to his own place, and to your most beloved piety, but he was taken away by that fate which is common to all men, and went to his rest before he could accomplish his wish; I have thought it proper to fulfil that intention of the emperor of sacred memory which I have inherited from him.

(Apology against the Arians 87.6–7)288

Constantine Caesar’s intervention over Athanasius’ fate highlights a number of important features of the dynasty in the immediate aftermath of Constantine I’s death, and the Caesar’s invocation of his father’s memory as the basis for his intervention is the first to consider. All three sons of Constantine invoked his memory during their reigns in order to suggest continuity between themselves and their father: His reign serving the role of a legitimising “continuum” and a “fixed point of reference” that encouraged the unhesitating association of “the actions of the son with those of the father”.289 All three were highly adept in mobilising the memory of their father in order to augment their own imperial identities from an early period in their careers as senior Augusti. A dynastic perspective was evidently central in this regard. Solidi produced by Constantius II’s mint in Constantinople after the murders in and around the city,290 in the period following the sons’ proclamation as Augusti, featured an obverse portrait of a deified, veiled Constantine with the legend, DIVVS CONSTANTI-NVS AVG PATER AVGG (“Divine Constantine Augustus Father of the Augusti”), and on the reverse the image a charioteer (the emperor?) in a quadriga being raised skywards by a giant heavenly hand (notably RIC 8 Constantinople 446, 1). This is a fine representation of a consecratio issue – the conferral of divine status on a deceased emperor by decree of the Senate291 – which was also later produced in bronze by mints in the territories of Constantine II.292 In relation to Constantius II’s gold issue, Muriel Moser has drawn attention to the legend describing Constantine as the “Father of the Augusti” alongside the iconography of consecration in relation to the timing of the issue:

The solidi should therefore be seen as part of a move to rewrite the history of Constantine’s succession by Constantius after his acclamation by the senate: with this image, Constantius (under whose nose the murder of his dynastic rivals had taken place …) sought to claim legitimacy through reference to the notion of consecratio, which suggested an uncontested transmission of power to the new emperors The coin established a suitable version of the succession of Constantine and bolstered the claim of imperial continuity: when the deceased Constantine had gone to the gods at the moment of his consecration, he was already the father of the emperors.293

The invoking of the deified Constantine to legitimise an action that overturned the emperor’s own succession arrangement can only really be described as an abuse of memory.

Indeed, a pattern of this type is evident in the sons’ mobilisation of their father’s memory on other occasions and it is to be seen also in the private letter in the name of Constantine Caesar from mid-June. Barnes’ analysis of the events following Athanasius’ condemnation at the Council of Tyre in 335 and the bishop’s exile to Trier in the same year points out rightly that Constantine was unwilling to recall Athanasius to Alexandria because he was reluctant to overrule the decision of the council of bishops even though he challenged the partiality of some of the participants.294 Preserved in the Church History of Sozomen of Constantinople, the essence of Constantine’s response to a letter from Antony of Egypt, the renowned Christian ascetic, who lobbied for Athanasius’ return to Alexandria, highlights the emperor’s considerable reluctance to oversee the return of the bishop:

He replied to Antony, by stating that he ought not to overlook the decree of the synod; for even if some few of the bishops, he said, were actuated by ill-will or the desire to oblige others, it scarcely seems credible that so many prudent and excellent bishops could have been impelled by such motives; and he added, that Athanasius was contumelious and arrogant, and the cause of dissension and sedition. The enemies of Athanasius accused him the more especially of these crimes, because they knew that the emperor regarded them with peculiar aversion.295

The crimes in question focused on the allegation that Athanasius had looked to impede the grain fleet sailing out of Alexandria to Constantinople296 and Sozomen’s summary of Constantine’s reply exposes the fact that this was the emperor’s own “red line” preventing him from annulling the charges against the bishop. In light of the position taken by Constantine Augustus to Athanasius, therefore, Constantine Caesar’s commendation of Athanasius and the claim that he was looking to restore the bishop to Alexandria on the justification that it was done “to fulfil the intention of the emperor of sacred memory” is a startling abuse of Constantine’s imperial will and memory.

However, what appears to be Constantine Caesar’s boldness in June 337 in fact represents the earliest recorded attempt on his part to assert his imperial seniority over his brothers which it seems he continued to do following the appointment of all three as Augusti some three months later. With reference to Constantine’s letter to the Alexandrians, Lewis has noted:

Constantine II’s intervention in his brother’s territory was worrying in itself, both as an act and as a precedent … Having a bishop sent from Trier by a western emperor presented an alarming conflict of loyalties, and on this basis alone it is unsurprising that the emperor of the East ejected Athanasius only two years later.297

The territorial limits of the Caesars had been clearly demarcated by Constantine in the division of 335 and the only member of the dynasty at that stage who would have been able to exercise “supra-territorial authority comparable to that of Diocletian”298 was Constantine Augustus. The very fact that Constantine Caesar was attempting to usurp his father’s authority prior to any agreement between himself and his brothers is a clear indicator of where he saw himself in the hierarchy of leadership.

Constantine II’s seniority rested on two basic features: He was the eldest of the three brothers (born in August 316), and had been appointed as Caesar on 1 March 317 before his first birthday, over seven years before the appointment of Constantius to the same position. By virtue of his age, he had also acquired greater experience, and consequently a higher public profile, for his military exploits. He was portrayed early on as having “cut his teeth” against Rome’s enemies on the frontiers of its northern and central provinces, the traditional proving grounds for new Constantinian Caesars. Following a similar path to the one trodden by Crispus,299 the credentials of the junior Constantine were advertised to Rome’s establishment by the awarding of victories over the Sarmatians and Alamanni. During 328–329,300 the Caesar, now a youth aged around thirteen, was granted the victory title Alamannicus301 for a campaign against Rome’s Germanic enemy. A solidus with the reverse legend GAVDIVM ROMANORVM associated Constantine Caesar with the subjugation of the Alamanni, and thereby announced his youthful promise and fitness to rule to watchers in the military and imperial government.302 Constantine’s association with the Alamanni in particular played an important role in his promotion, although the extensiveness of these campaigns has been called into question by John Drinkwater.303 However, Constantine Caesar’s military credentials were not wholly fabricated. In 332, the then sixteen-year-old Caesar was credited with victories over the Sarmatians and the Goths, and granted the victory titles Sarmaticus and Germanicus maximus.304 The Caesar’s hand in this campaign, as noted by the Origin of Constantine, resulted in the capture of a Gothic chief named Ariaricus305 and noteworthy losses on the Gothic side.306 The panoply of opportunities for promotion also included the instituting of festival games in Rome in honour of the achievements of Constantine’s eldest son in these same barbarian campaigns: The “Sarmatian Games”, and the “Alammanic Games” became fixed points on the calendar as a perpetual reminder of the young Caesar’s genius and fitness to rule.307 Constantine’s appointment as Caesar during his infancy also meant that the year 335 marked his vicennalia,308 which was as Richard Burgess notes, “a milestone that none of the others reaching within Constantine’s lifetime”.309

The pre-eminence of Constantine II in the dynasty was readily intelligible to citizens across the empire as may be seen in “an exceptional monument”310 from Ulpia Augusta Traiana (modern-day Stara Zagora) in Thrace that was dedicated by the council and citizens of the city during the governorship of Flavius Palladius.311 The original dedication comprised a statue of the imperial dedicatee (no longer extant) on top of a base (extant) that bears a relatively well-preserved Greek inscription. The inscription refers to its dedicatee, Flavius Constantinus, as the most powerful (ton megiston), and “the champion of peace and chorus leader (ton eirēnēs promachon kai apasēs eudaimonias chorēgou) of all good fortune who renewed all victories from West to East without bloodshed (anaimōti)” (following Ulrich Gehn’s translation). Ignazio Tantillo’s exceptional analysis of this inscription highlights both the elevated style of the text and its author’s deep familiarity with the rhetorical markers of Constantinian emperorship. The inscription utilises both established and emergent concepts and phrases that had been employed previously to promote the imperial, martial persona of Constantine I. The portrayal of Constantine as the victor whose success stretched from west to east was, as Tantillo points out, a “topos of political language”312 that Constantine himself memorably employed in his letter to the provincials of Palestine, preserved in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine (2.28.2–9), from the post-Licinius period of the eastern empire. Eusebius had earlier employed the idea in the same work to promote Constantine’s achievement as one that excelled even the successes of Alexander the Great (Life 1.7.8–19) and which portrayed the emperor in the guise of the sun bringing the light of the true religion (Christianity) to the darkest territories of the oikumene (1.8.4).313 Another notable term with a long usage in biblical, classical and patristic works is the “chorus leader (chorēgos) of all good fortune”, where it was reserved almost exclusively to denote the blessing of the deity. As Tantillo points out, however, it is during the time of the Constantinian monarchy that the metaphor was extended to include the emperor as the “orchestrator of human happiness”, although this is with reference to Constantius II in Themistius’ Or. 3 (48c) at a point considerably later than the assigned date of the inscription from Traiana.314 Tantillo is quite correct to stress, therefore, the importance of this inscription to the developing political language of Constantine’s dynasty.

With regard to when the inscription was put up, Tantillo favours a date late in Constantine’s reign with a preference for the interregnum following May 337, or very soon after the confirmation of the sons of Constantine as Augusti in September 337.315 The reason for his choice of this period is the reference to the dedicatee, “guarantee[ing] the friendship (or name, prosēgorian = Tantillo, p. 75) of the emperors and eternal Augusti”. As Tantillo rightly points out, this appears to be a legitimising feature whereby Constantine is recalled to validate the legitimacy of his sons’ (= the Augusti) reigns. The inscription would, therefore, appear to be another instance where the posthumous memory of Constantine I was mobilised in order to legitimise the succession of his children. However, Ulrich Gehn has argued that the inscription’s reference to the governorship of Flavius Palladius places the dedication in the reign of Constantine II. Palladius is identified in this exact role from another statue base also from Traiana dedicated to Constans316 in which the names of three Praetorian Prefects appear (Antonius Marcellinus, Domitius Leontius, Fabius Titianus317), all of whom are known to have been in that role during 341. As Gehn notes, the tenure of the office of governor lasted on average no longer than a couple of years, in which case the inscription honouring Constantinus would date from c. 339 to 340 and the emperor identified as “the champion of peace and chorus leader of all good fortune” is Flavius [Claudius] Constantinus, namely Constantine II and not Constantine I. The promotion of Constantine II as the senior figure in the dynasty who “guarantees the friendship of the emperors and eternal Augusti”, as a plurality of rulers, is a more secure interpretation than regarding the reference to the sons of Constantine I as Augusti in the context of an interregnum date as an easily excusable error,318 especially given the inscription’s author’s familiarity with the prevailing Constantinian ideology of emperorship. The significance of Constantine II as the dedicatee lies in the strong penetration of the idea of seniority in the context of the dynastic college across the empire following the death of Constantine I since the statue base honouring Constantine II was located in the region of the northern Balkans that lay within the territorial jurisdiction of Constantius II. However, dedications of this nature are not all that unusual and there are a number of other notable inscriptions to emperors beyond their territories from the dyarchy of Constans and Constantius II.319 In the light of the decision of the council and citizens of Augusta Traiana in Constantius’ region to honour Constantine II as the foremost emperor in the college of three Augusti, Gehn and Ward-Perkins make a very valid point with regard to the broader context for the appearance of such dedications in the provinces of the Danube and north Balkans:

The Danube frontier was the region where the two halves of the empire came up against each other most obviously, with large concentrations of soldiery on both sides of the border. Governors and provincials in the region were understandably careful to foster the ideology of imperial harmony, and particularly careful to acknowledge the legitimacy of all the reigning emperors.320

The impression of imperial harmony in the minds of governors and provincials was certainly not groundless. While it was the case that the regions under the control of the three emperors operated autonomously in crucial areas such as the creation of new laws,321 the implicit principle of dynastic collegiality that seniority equals precedence could, when required, be practically restated. This is illustrated by a controversial constitution (a rescript) drawn from the Theodosian Code (12.1.27) which preserves a law issued at Trier on 8 January 339 that addresses the ongoing problem of the curial habit of evading their public responsibilities (see Chapter 5). The constitution is directed to the symbolic heart of Roman Africa, namely Carthage, and is addressed to the Proconsul of Africa, Aurelius Celsinus. However, Africa was in the territory of Constans. On the basis of the imperial reply, Celsinus had complained about the lack of participation in the Senate of Carthage, the absenteeism of the councillors and the tendency of such individuals to chase honours rather than fulfil their duties. How then are we supposed to interpret this response to Celsinus’ request for assistance (conquestus es) from Trier? Is it an example of Constantine II’s interfering in the governance of Constans’ territories,322 or something benign such as Constantine coming to the aid of a problem in the civil administration of a region under the control of his younger brother? The epistolary response of Constantine II (and this attribution is certainly secure323) to Celsinus may very well be a clear example of Constantine’s elevated position in the imperial college, although it is a position of seniority that should be approached not from Constantine’s side but from Celsinus’ who had taken the decision to approach to the court in Trier to solve his problems rather than the court of Constans. In the mind of Celsinus, Constantine II and not Constans was the emperor who could help. Constantine had form in this regard as his Caesarian-era recall of Athanasius to Alexandria in Constans’ territory demonstrates. However, as Cuneo has highlighted, Constantine II’s letter sits awkwardly alongside other measures taken against curial evasion. Indeed, it was not a concern that Constans had chosen to ignore as he had only recently informed Aconius Catullinus, the Vicar of Africa, about the punitive measures to be applied against those decurions who looked to “play the system” and evade their financial commitments to their communities, measures that are evident in a series of “subtly different versions”324 of the same constitution that are distributed across the Code.325 Leaving unanswered questions of motivation, Cuneo notes that Constantine’s direct reference to the issue of participation in the senatus of Carthage sets it apart from Constans’ earlier measures, and that its exceptionalness is inexplicable.326

Indeed, it is important not to overstate the apparent assertions of legislative dominance by Constantine II. The jockeying for prior position and the resultant brutal outcome of the deterioration in relations between Constantine and Constans should not cloud our understanding of the empire’s essential functionality between 337 and 340. While the brothers’ administrations may have failed one of the key “stress tests” of imperial unity, namely the nomination of the consuls for 338 and 339, the emperors’ legislative activities prior to April 340 promoted the idea of a unified regime. While the eradication of Constantine II’s legislative persona from the late antique law codes327 (with the exception of the Trier rescript) has disguised his contribution (e.g. Cod. Theod. 11.9.2 from 12 December 337 to the Governor of Baetica, Egnatius Faustinus328), it is still possible to glimpse the imperial college acting in unison over key issues such as attempting to rescue the civic effectiveness of provincial curiae, as briefly mentioned above. Importantly, these were some of the same areas where Constantine I had directed much of his legislative energy, and law remained a key area for stressing continuity with the previous emperor. However, the sons legislated according to the requests and demands of their own time: In some cases, they extended the legislative reach of Constantine I or, as Cuneo has noted, they even attenuated their father’s constitutions (e.g. Cod. Theod. 9.24.2, 9.17.1, 9.17.2).329

Between 337 and 340, Constantine’s heirs legislated both in response to requests from officials, and also (re-)established general principles of law historically applied and valid across the whole empire. The attribution of three fragments of a constitution regarding reforms to the drawing-up of testaments (CJ 6.9.9, 6.23.15, 6.37.21) is a long-standing controversy with the established position situating these laws during the reign of Constantine I, and (so the arguments go) forming part of his edict ad populum on marriage and testamentary law from 31 January 320 (issued from Serdica; cf. CJ 6.23.15).330 The subscriptions of the laws (dated according to the consular years of Constantius II and Constans) in the Codex of Justinian make it apparent that these versions of the constitution were published on 1 February 339. Against the established trend, Cuneo argues in favour of attributing these fragments to the three Augusti of the period: While she accepts that the original impetus to overcome testamentary formality had derived from Constantine (retrospectively articulated by Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.26.5–6), the evidence of the fragments indicates the important development achieved by his sons in advancing the concerns of the edict issued in 320.331 The law addressed to the Baetican Governor from 12 December 337, concerning the honouring of pledges of property (including slaves) seized in the process of recovering debts (Cod. Theod. 11.9.2), may represent Constantine II’s response to a specific request from Faustinus, although Cuneo argues that the law reinforced the general principle of firmitas of pledges enunciated as far back as Caracalla and may, therefore, have been applied by all the Augusti across the entire empire.332 Nevertheless, while the focus of scholarly attention is generally on the strained relations between the brothers, it is also clear that the daily business of government forced on the empire an administrative unity that required the emperors to address, among other things, the abuse of power, the running of the cities, the ringfencing of tax yields and the protection of the legal rights of citizens.

However, William Lewis’ recent attempt to link the rescript from Trier with the historiographic claim that Constantine II and Constans came to blows “on account of the legal right to Italy and Africa” (Epitome de Caesaribus 41.21) raises a number of important considerations about the role of Constantine II in the reconfigured dynasty. The historical significance of the conflict between Constans and Constantine II is frequently missed by commentators largely because the sources for the conflict are relatively late and replete with contradictory and/or confused details (the latter a consequence of the former).333 However, as Lewis has shown, there are some consistent features across these accounts. The earliest interpretation of the conflict is in fact very early – some six or seven years after the event – although since the source is a panegyric, the reference is suitably allusive. The oration addressed jointly to Constantius and Constans by Libanius (Or. 59; see Chapter 3) represents the starting point for the notion that Constantine II’s fate was brought about by his jealousy of Constans, specifically Constans’ territory:

… in former times a spirit of envy has become attached to all emperorships, and those who possessed the inferior provinces would plot against those who had obtained the more important ones, while those who benefited from the more important ones would begrudge those who drew small profits from their inferior positions.

(Or. 59.151)334

Libanius used the illustration to demonstrate the concordance between the two Constantinian emperors (“they are so far removed from smarting at each other’s prosperity that each withdraws from the first place in favour of the other”), although one suspects that the example was intended to bring to the audience’s mind the very recent conflict between Constans and Constantine and to cement the idea of Constantine II as a ruler who had fallen to the sword as a result of his envy for his brother’s territory.335 According to the fourth-century “playbook” of tyranny, Constantine II was thus assigned his place as a discredited ruler. Constans’ court had rushed to an identical judgement early as seen in the ruling that was given from Aquileia on 29 April 340 – in the same month of Constantine II’s death – which branded the senior emperor a “public enemy and our own enemy” (Cod. Theod. 11.12.1).

As Lewis notes, “many of the later sources continue the tradition of characterising 340 as a war over territory instigated by Constantine II”.336 Zosimus’ account also notes that the cause of the dispute between the brothers was “about Carthaginian Africa and about Italy”.337 Zosimus offers valuable but confused details about 340. According to him, the youngest Augustus waited until Constantine II had entered a province loyal to himself, and then under the pretence of sending relief troops to aid in the Persian war, he attacked and killed Constantine. If correct, Constans’ army would have been marching in the wrong direction, heading north-by-northwest away from the Persians, instead of travelling east towards Constantius’ territory and the frontier with the Sasanian Empire. Correcting Constans to Constantine would then make sense of Zosimus’ account: Thus, Constantine moved across Constans’ Italian territory under the cover of sending troops to assist Constantius II, but with the real motive of invading Constans’ territory. Constantine’s unhappiness with the partition of 337 is indeed plausible. As Bruno Bleckmann notes, Constans had already acquired high profile territories like Italy, including Rome, with accompanying resources, including the important Illyrian army that played a central role a decade later in the affairs of government. Following the dynastic coup of 337, Constans also received the diocese of Moesia, and the key imperial cities of Sirmium, Serdica and the ancestrally important Naissus.338 Zosimus’ reference to the war with Persia is particularly pertinent in light of the fact that, as Bleckmann also observes,339 Constantius II likely argued for a larger share of resources during negotiations in Pannonia in light of his military commitments in the east. Warmongering on both Roman and Persian sides reached fever-pitch around 340, its highest since the final years of Constantine’s life.340 Both Constantius and Constans thereby acquired strategically important provinces with significant military resources. Added to this, Constans resided during the early part of his reign in cities close to the border with Constantius’ territory. Constans’ presence in the western side of his territories is rarely attested for this period (he spent time in Savaria (modern-day Szombathely) from where in April 339 he issued a law to Eusebius, the comes rei privatae, to honour property grants issued by his father).341 Zonaras places Constans in Dacia342 at the time of Constantine’s invasion, meaning (following Bleckmann) the province in the diocese of Moesiae, the border of which pressed hard against Thrace. It is probably correct to surmise that Constans was there in anticipation of an escalation of hostilities with Persia,343 although Constans’ intent towards Constantius becomes more difficult to read in light of the strained relations between the two brothers in the early-to-mid 340s.344 (If so, we might be able to identify the original explanation that was garbled by Zosimus: Constans offered his troops to Constantius, and Constantine II took advantage of Constans’ depleted army to invade northern Italy via the Cottian Alps, which he retained following the Pannonian conference.)

A number of features in these sources stand out: The cause of the dispute was Africa and Italy (the anonymous Epitome, and Zosimus (2.41) in the early sixth century); that Constantine II criticised his brother and moved against him on the grounds that “their territories had not been divided properly and that [Constans] had appropriated most of the realm belonging to him” (the Passion of Artemius 9 from the eighth century, drawing on Philostorgius (3.1a)).345 The most extensive account of the actual conflict is given by Zonaras, the late era Byzantine author who, as we noted in the previous chapter, drew on a number of fourth- and fifth-century sources for his account of the Constantinian period. Zonaras wrote that:

Constantine, faulting the division of the territories and either demanding that he concede parts of the empire to him or seeking that both redistribute their realms, kept pestering Constans. Because he adhered to the existing distribution of the empire, was clinging to what had been allotted to him, and was not the least bit accommodating to his brother, Constantine took up arms against him and invaded Constans’ share. He was abroad in Dacia and, when he learned of Constantine’s action, he dispatched against him an army and generals, having himself promised to attack almost immediately with a larger army. Then indeed, when those who had been dispatched had come near Constantine, they set ambuscades and, after they had joined in battle with him, pretended to flee. When Constantine’s men pursued them, the men placed in ambush, who were now in their rear, set upon them from behind and, after those in flight had turned about, trapped them in between. Much of Constantine’s army and he, too, were destroyed. For when his horse had been wounded and, as a result of the wound, had thrashed about and bucked, Constantine fell from his seat and was killed after he had received many wounds, having failed to attain his desire and forfeited his life itself besides, and because he had been the instigator of injustices, also having lost his portion of the empire. Control of the western portion, too, came under one sovereign, Constans.

(13.5.27–28: trans. Banchich and Lane 2009: 159)

It is correctly suspected that this account, as detailed and as helpful as it is, nonetheless is also influenced by the dominant interpretation of the conflict of 340 that ultimately derived from the victor’s side: Echoing the explanation that derived from its fourth/fifth-century source(s),346 it is Constantine II who as the aggressor and motivated by envy invaded his brother’s territory intent on seizing it. As Lewis notes, however, clues in Zonaras (Constantine’s army was defeated by a vanguard of Constans’ troops, ergo it cannot have been that large), together with the details from the Passion of Artemius that Constantine had earlier approached Constans, intent on challenging the distribution of territory (from September 337?),347 and the pattern of Constantine’s judicial oversight of affairs in Africa, suggest that Constantine’s appearance near Aquileia was not an invasion but something much less malign: A diplomatic expedition whereby Constantine sought to assert his seniority over Constans “more proactively”.348 Evidently, Constans was not prepared to accept this. Ammianus Marcellinus (21.6.2) adds further spice to the controversy by revealing that a certain Amphilochius,349 a tribune in Constans’ court, had “sown disagreement” between Constantine and Constans. This is corroborated by later sources which indicate that the still junior emperor was pushed to respond militarily against Constantine by ill counsel.350 This interpretation is in contrast to the argument of Bruno Bleckmann who proposes that Constantine II’s plan all along was to invade Constans’ territory by taking advantage of his possession of the Cottian Alps which facilitated an assault on northern Italy (as noted during the uprising of Silvanus in 355351). While Bleckmann correctly rejects the older idea that Constantine was Constans’ guardian and that his actions were mandated by this arrangement, he nonetheless views Constantine II as the aggressor whose motivation derived from the sense that the territorial holdings of his brothers left him at a distinct disadvantage both politically and militarily.352 Lewis’ conclusion is different: Constantine II as the senior emperor had claimed for himself “a kind of supra-territorial authority comparable to that of Diocletian”.353 Unlike the seniority of Diocletian (which went unchallenged), the evidence indicates clearly that Constantine’s seniority was quickly and fatally upended by Constans. However, perhaps the more valid feature of Lewis’ argument lies in his claim for the lasting legacy of the conflict of 340:

This little-known and neglected civil war proved to be a devastating turning point in the history of the Constantinian dynasty. The senior Augustus was dead, and imperial collegiality along with him. Constans had overextended his flank. The power imbalance of the 340s with the unification of the West made fertile ground for usurpation.354

Although the death of collegiality is perhaps overstated here, it is reasonable to claim that the western empire’s susceptibility to usurpation was heightened with the death of Constantine II. While the emergence of a figure like Magnentius in 350 was not inevitable, the fragmentation of collegial rule in 340 almost certainly made a challenge to Constantinian hegemony much more likely.


1. Composed c. 314–315: See Barnes 1973: 39; Creed 1984: xxxiii–xxxv. On the genre of Lactantius’ work, see now Paschoud 2012.

2. Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors 30.1–5. Translations are by Creed 1984: 47.

3. Cf. Creed 1984: 110–111.

4. On gossip and sensationalism about emperors, see Vout 2007: 1–51.

5. Barnes 2011: 73–74. Also, Hekster 2015: 295, and Maxentius’ association with Constantine’s father post-310.

6. James 2013: 106–107.

7. For the arguments, see Hillner 2017a: 81–83.

8. Hillner 2017a: 81.

9. Shepard 2008: 906.

10. Mackay 1999: 207, nt. 29.

11. Lenski 2016a: 60.

12. Cf. Barnes 1982: 3.

13. See the comments of Rousselle in Carrié and Rousselle 1999: 247–250. A more tempered assessment on the “anti-dynastic” nature of the Tetrarchy can be found in Corcoran 2012: 4–5.

14. See Lactantius’ jaundiced account of Galerius’ reasons for passing over Maxentius and Constantine, On the Deaths 18.9–10. As Corcoran 2012: 6 (together with nt. 25) argues:

If Maxentius and Galerius had had a different relationship with one another, history might have been different. After all, Maxentius was the son-in-law to Galerius, even as Galerius was to Diocletian. Galerius could look to the future succession of his own grandson, Romulus [the child of Maxentius and Valeria Maximilla, b. c. 294 d. c 309]. But Galerius and Maxentius were not compatible.

15. Barnes 1982: 37.

16. Carrié and Rousselle 1999: 146–147.

17. See esp. Corcoran 2012: 15.

18. Hekster 2015: 287–314.

19. Hekster 2015: 289–291; 308–309. See the index for the catalogue of Latin inscriptions for Constantine’s ancestral associations in Grünewald 1990: 272–274.

20. See Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 194, nt. 8.

21. On the priority of Maximian over Constantius I in legitimising Constantine, see Hekster 2015: 298.

22. Although with a clearly defined subordinate role: Pan. Lat. 7(6)14.1–2: “You, young man, it behoves to traverse the frontiers tirelessly where the Roman Empire presses upon barbarian peoples, to send frequent laurels of victory to your father-in-law, to seek instructions, and to report what you have accomplished”. Translations from the Latin panegyrics are by Nixon and Rodgers 1994.

23. See Nixon 1983.

24. Nixon 1983: 96.

25. Nixon 1983: 91.

26. Nixon 1983: 93.

27. On this form of the name of Galerius Valerius Maximinus, see Mackay 1999: 207–209.

28. Lactantius, On the Deaths 27.1–2. Hekster 2015: 293.

29. Cf. Pan. Lat. 6(7)14.5. See the comments of Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 246, nt. 88.

30. Nixon 1983: 228.

31. See the valuable survey by Rees 2012: 3–48.

32. Hekster 2015: 311.

33. Hekster 2015: 308.

34. Rees 2002: 165.

35. Cf. Pan. Lat. 7(6)6.1–2. On the issues raised by this passage in the speech, see Rees 2002: 168–171.

36. See esp. the comments on the term adfinitas (alliance/relationship by marriage)in Rees 2002: 172–173.

37. Pan. Lat. 7(6)2.2; 2.5.

38. Following the argument of Barnes 1982: 33–34, which proposes Theodora to be the daughter rather than step-daughter of Maximian.

39. Rees 2002: 174.

40. Pan. Lat. 7(6)14.6–7.

41. Consul with his father in 308, and 309: His absence from 310 suggests his demise: See Barnes 1982: 94.

42. Although Maxentius was busy promoting Romulus as noted by Hekster 2015: 294. See also the comments by Van Dam 2011: 240–241, cast in the judgement of Maxentius’ rejection of Tetrarchic principles and practice.

43. Hekster 2015: 301.

44. Cf. Leadbetter 2009: 198.

45. Pan. Lat. 6(7)13–14; see Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 237, nt. 60.

46. Warmington 1974: 376.

47. Pan. Lat. 6(7)14.1–2.

48. Cf. Eumenius, Pan. Lat. 9(4)4.1; see Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 154–155, nt. 12. For commentary, see Drinkwater 1987: 78–80.

49. See the corrective in Nixon 1983: 233. Also Hekster 2015: 227.

50. Pan. Lat. 6(7)2.1.

51. Pan. Lat. 6(7)2.5.

52. Börm 2015: 249.

53. Borm 2015. 249.

54. Pan. Lat. 6(7)3.1–2: Non fortuita hominum consensio, repentinus aliquis fauoris euentus te principem fecit: imperium nascendo meruisti. Quod quidem mihi deorum immortalium munus et primum uidetur et maximum, in lucem statim uenire felicem et ea quae alii uix totius uiae laboribus consequuntur iam domi parta suscipere.

55. Pan. Lat. 6(7)3.3–4.

56. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 1.9.2; also, 4.51.1–2. See Dagron 2003: 24–25.

57. For example, Maxentius seeking to avenge the murder of Maximian, On the Deaths 43.4. See Lenski 2006.

58. Barnes 1982: 233–234.

59. Pan. Lat. 5(8)2.5; 4.2.

60. Lactantius, On the Deaths 29.2.

61. On the Deaths 45.1

62. On the Deaths 36.2.

63. On the Deaths 45.1.

64. Concerning which see esp. Mackay 1999: 207.

65. Mackay 1999: 200.

66. On the Deaths 18.14. For Maximinus Daza as the son of Galerius’ sister, see Epitome de Caesaribus 40.1, 40.18; Zosimus 2.8.1.

67. Mackay 1999: 206–207.

68. On the Deaths 49.1–7. Barnes 2011: 97–98.

69. PLRE 1: 937 (Galeria Valeria).

70. PLRE 1: 726 (Prisca 1).

71. On the lives of both women, see James 2013.

72. PLRE 1: 178 (Candidianus 1).

73. On the Deaths 20.3–4.

74. On the Deaths 50.6.

75. On the matter of Maximinus Daza’s family link to Galerius, see Barnes 1999.

76. Concerning Severianus, see Barnes 1982: 38–39.

77. Analysed with the appropriate amount of black humour in Meijer 2004: passim.

78. Mackay 1999: 207, nt. 29.

79. On the Deaths 18.11–15.

80. For example, On the Deaths 18.8.

81. PLRE I: 509–510 (Val. Licinianus Licinius 4).

82. Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 195, nt. 10. Cf. Palanque 1938: 248 for a date of 303. Barnes 1982: 44, for a date “no later than c. 300”.

83. Concerning Minervina’s status, see Barnes 1982: 42–43.

84. See the summary discussion of dating issues, see Stevenson 2014: 2–6. Cf. Winkelmann 2003: 15–17.

85. Origin 5.14 (Stevenson 2014: 41): Post aliquantum deinde temporis Constantium Constantinus ad Licinium misit, persuadens ut Bassianus fieret Caesar…. See the suggestion of Barnes (2011): 212, n. 14, identifying this Constantius as Julius Constantius (PLRE 1: 226 (Constantius 7)), Constantine’s half-brother, brother of Anastasia and Constantia, and father of future Emperor, Julian II.

86. See PLRE 1: 58 (Anastasia 1). Also, Chausson 2007: 127–129.

87. See PLRE 1: 820 (Senecio 1). Also, Chausson 2007: 127–129.

88. Translations of the Origin are by Stevenson 2014.

89. Barnes 2011: 101.

90. Barnes 2011: 101.

91. For an overview of scholarship regarding the dating of the first civil war between Constantine and Licinius, see Di Maio, Zeuge, and Bethune 1990, which nonetheless argues for 314 as the date for its opening stages (i.e. the battle of Cibale). See also Barnes 1973: 36–37. I follow the treatments of Bruun 1961, and Barnes 1982 in dating the war’s beginnings to 316.

92. Burgess 1995: 367, nt. 38.

93. Stevenson 2014: 24–25.

94. Barnes 2011: 102.

95. Chausson 2007: 127–129.

96. Cf. James 2013.

97. See PLRE 1: 931 (Valens 13): Identified as Caesar in Origin V.17, and as Augustus on his coinage.

98. See Chausson 2007: 35–36 for a discussion of his nomenclature.

99. Accepting the legitimacy of Constantine’s eldest son by Fausta. For the arguments against his legitimacy and their rebuttal, see Guthrie 1966: 329–331. Cf. Harries 2012, 112, n. 35.

100. See esp. Potter 2013: 170–171.

101. Seemingly Licinius was absent from the negotiations in Serdica, Origin 5.19: Constantinus hoc cum Licinio absente constituit….

102. Origin 5.18. Cf. Zosimus 2.20.1: “… Constantine should rule Illyricum and all provinces beyond, while Licinius should have Thrace, the East and all beyond that…”. See Barnes 1982: 198.

103. On the significance of the title Caesar in the context of the Constantinian house, see McEvoy 2013: 4–5.

104. Wienand 2012b: 237.

105. Zosimus 2.20.1: Valens removed, “on the pretext that he was the cause of past evils”.

106. Barnes 1982: 44, for reference to Licinius’ bastard son born to him by a slave woman.

107. Börm 2015: 250.

108. RIC 7, 66 advances the argument that in response to Licinius making Valens Caesar, Constantine responded by conferring “princely rank” on Crispus and Constantine II prior to Serdica in 317, on the basis of coins minted in Trier, Arles, and Ticinum. The scarcity of coins minted at Rome for Licinius “points in the same direction” (RIC 7, 66, nt. 5). Cf. Barnes 1973: 37. Doubts cast on Bruun’s argument by Di Maio, Zeuge, Bethune 1990: 78–79, n. 114.

109. Börm 2015: 251.

110. See Barnes 2011: 104.

111. PLRE 1: 154–155 (Bassus 14).

112. See Barnes 1982: 129.

113. Crispus was consul in 318, 321, and 324: See Pohlsander 1984: 86–87, for the consulship as the bellwether for the strained relations between the two imperial houses.

114. See Hekster 2015: 227–233.

115. Wienand 2012b: 239–240.

116. For a biography of Optatian, see now Wienand 2017.

117. Chastagnol 1962: 80–82, 86.

118. See Wienand 2012b: 240.

119. Wienand 2012b: 240.

120. Wienand 2017: 122–123.

121. Wienand 2012b: 228.

122. Wienand 2012b: 242–243, for a discussion of Constantine’s grandchildren, viz. the child born to Crispus and his wife, Helena.

123. Pan. Lat. 4(10)17.1–2.

124. Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 362, nt. 77. See RIC 7, 145–146 for a brief discussion of the coins issued to commemorate the victory (-ies) of Crispus (e.g. Trier 185, nos. 237–241; and, Sirmium 471, nos. 23–24).

125. RIC 7 Trier 185, nos. 237–239; 240–241.

126. See esp. Drinkwater 2007: 196–197.

127. Struck originally as bronzes for Crispus, e.g. RIC 7 Arles 244, no. 113, to mark his appointment in 317. RIC 7, 49–50; Hebblewhite 2017: 17.

128. RIC 7 Trier 195, nos. 358–361.

129. Wienand 2012b: 246.

130. PLRE 1: 563 (Martinianus 2).

131. Crispus’ role in the second stage of the war is presented in the Origin 5.21–29; cf. the account in Zosimus 2.22–28. See Barnes 2011: 105–106.

132. See esp. Alföldi 1947: 11.Bruun 1966 (RIC 7): The portrait of Constantine II features on the obverse (CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C) with the reverse of Victory and the Galley, perhaps imputing the naval success to the elder Caesar in period after the death of Crispus.

133. Maraval 2013: 16 assumes that the absence of coins commemorating Crispus as victorious admiral was due to his “damnatio memoriae”following events in 326.

134. Wienand 2012: 248.

135. Wienand 2012: 248.

136. PLRE 1: 409 (Helena 1).

137. For Helena’s identity, see Tougher 2011: 187, 194, nt. 41. See also Chausson 2007: 121–122.

138. On the speculation surrounding the identity of Crispus and Helena’s daughter, see Barnes 1982: 44; and Chausson 2007: 104–105.

139. Fausta’s death is attested in a number of fourth-century sources, incl. Eutropius 10.6.3, and Jerome’s Chronicle whichplaces Fausta’s killing by Constantine in 327 (Chron. s.a. 327: Constantinus uxorem suam Faustam interficit (ed. Helm 1956: 232)).

140. For the “damnatio memoriae” of Crispus, see Varner 2004: 221–222. Crispus’ imperial palace in Trier was razed soon afterwards in a move that Stephenson 2009: 223 links to the destruction of the Caesar’s reputation. For Fausta, see Harries 2014; Vanderspoel 2020; cf. Tougher 2020. An example of the erasure of her name and designation as wife (of Constantine) can be seen in an inscription from CIL 10. 678 (= ILS 710) (Sorrento); see Guthrie 1966: 329–331 for the controversy regarding the reconstruction of this inscription. The idea of the completeness of memory sanctions against both Crispus and Fausta has been challenged most recently by Rebecca Usherwood in a monograph which appeared in print as I was preparing the final proofs of this book. The details are: Rebecca Usherwood, Political Memory and the Constantinian Dynasty: Fashioning Disgrace. Cham. Palgrave Macmillan (the relevant discussion is found across pp. 163–211).

141. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.49. See esp. Burgess 1999: 67–69.

142. Amm. Marc. 14.11.20.

143. Barnes 2011: 146. Also Wienand 2017: 128, nt. 27. Cf. Pohlsander 1984: 99.

144. Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus 41.11. All translations are by Bird 1994.

145. Barnes 2011: 146–147.

146. Eutropius, Breviarium 10.6.3.

147. See Cameron 2001.

148. Epit. de Caes. 41.11–12. Trans. Banchich 2009.

149. Noteworthy is Harries 2014, and her suggestion (p. 205) that “Fausta could have died naturally”. Cf. certainty of judgement by Drijvers 1992: 506. (“In the case of the executions of Crispus and Fausta historians should admit that they have a mystery which will never be solved”.)

150. Pohlsander 1984: 104.

151. See Smith 2013.

152. Julian, Caesars 336b. All translations from the Caesars are by Wright 1913.

153. PLRE 1: 846 (Sopater 1).

154. See Treadgold 2010: 82.

155. Eunapius, Lives of the Sophists 462–464 (Wright 1921).

156. Fowden 1994: 157–158.

157. See Marcone 2012.

158. Treadgold 2010: 82.

159. Fowden 1994.

160. Hist. eccl. 1.5.1. Translations from Sozomen are by Chester D. Hartranft, NPNF 2nd Series, Vol. 2 (1890).

161. See Blockley 1981: 2; and, Fowden 1994: 163–164.

162. “A confused text”, Fowden 1994: 164–165.

163. Zosimus, New History 2.29.1–4. Translations from Zosimus are by Ridley 1982: 36–37.

164. See Opitz 1934, and also Lieu 1998: 153–154.

165. The allegation of the adulterous affair between Fausta and Crispus has been resolutely debunked (characteristically) by Barnes 2011: 147: “… [I]t is difficult to suppose that Crispus and Fausta conducted a clandestine affair when he was residing in Trier, while Fausta was presumably with her husband and young children in the East”.

166. Philostorgius, Hist. eccl. 2.4a.

167. Harries 2014: 204.

168. For this line, see Harries 2014: 206.

169. Cf. Woods 1998, and the ingenious hypotheses that flow from his efforts to accept the truth of the allegations concerning Fausta and Crispus’ affair. For succinct criticism, see Harries 2014: 206.

170. Guthrie 1966.

171. Barnes 1975a; with an updated version of the argument in Barnes 2011: 148–149.

172. Barnes 2011: 149.

173. Barnes 2011: 149.

174. James 2001: 83–88.

175. James 2001: 84–85.

176. Barnes 2011: 149 claims that Fausta was exposed and forced to kill herself during Constantine’s stay in Rome between mid-July and mid-August 326.

177. Wienand 2012b: 250–251.

178. Wienand 2012b: 248, “… after the victory over Licinius, Constantine had to concede his oldest son significantly more options for his self-representation”.

179. 8 Nov. 324: PLRE 1: 226 (Constantius 8); Barnes 1982: 8; and, Barnes 2011: 111; cf. RIC 7, 69. Elsewhere, a date of 13 November 324 is preferred, e.g. DiMaio’s 1998 DIR entry for Constantius II, and most recently Crawford 2016: 20.

180. See Stephenson 2009: 192–194.

181. Themistius, Or. 4.58b; translation by Barnes 2011: 111.

182. Philostorgius, Hist. eccl. 2.9.

183. See Drijvers 1992a: 503.

184. See the comments on Augustae in Barnes 1982: 9.

185. Bruun (1966) 53.

186. RIC 7 Trier 205, nos. 459; 460 (Bronzes); RIC 7 Sirmium 475–476 no. 61 (Solidi). For a complete list, see Brubaker and Tobler 2001: 62, nt. 21.

187. Brubaker and Tobler 2000: 46.

188. See Barnes 1982: 45.

189. Brubaker and Tobler 2000: 47.

190. RIC 7 Antioch 686, nos. 52–62. Thus, Bruun, p. 669:

Now it should be noted that the dynastic series of Antioch comprised not only Constantine and his sons but also the two Augustae, and that the imperial ladies were absent from the corresponding series of all other mints. We are therefore entitled to attach particular importance to the Antiochene series.

191. RIC 7 668–669. For a recent discussion as to whether or not Constantine visited Antioch during this period, see Ramskold 2013.

192. RIC 7 Nicomedia 618–619, nos. 108–113.

193. See the explanatory note in RIC 7. 59; for examples of post-Crispus issues, see Trier 212, nos. 505–506; Rome 335, nos. 323–326; Siscia 454, nos. 216–217; Thessalonica 521, nos. 171–172; Heraclea 552, nos 83–84; 553, no. 88; 554, noa. 96–98; 556, nos. 107–108; Constantinople 572, nos. 20–21; 573, nos. 27–28; 574, nos. 39–40; Cyzicus 653, nos. 63–64; Alexandria 710 nos. 42–43, 46–47.

194. Chausson 2007: 117.

195. Barnes 1982: 108. Chausson 2007: 129–131.

196. Philostorgius, Hist. eccl. 2.16a. Cf. Chausson 2007: 117 ff.

197. PLRE 1: 240–241 (Dalmatius 6).

198. PLRE 1: 226 (Constantius 7).

199. PLRE 1: 407 (Hannibalianus 1).

200. As evidenced by the statement of Ausonius in his Professors 16.11–12. See Green 1991: 352–353 for comment.

201. Ausonius, Professors 17.9–10; see Green 1991: 54, and 354. For further commentary, see Barnes 1981: 251.

202. Marcos 2014 makes the important observation (pp. 752–753) that Julius Constantius’ “exile” was likely during a later date, e.g. between 325 and 330, since Corinth, being the seat of the proconsul of Achaia, marked “a sea change in status” from exile in Toulouse. Although Marcos doesn’t spell it out, his observation casts into doubt the exilic status of Julius Constantius in the period after Licinius’ death.

203. Cf. Chausson 2007: 122.

204. For this argument, see Barnes 2011: 39–41. Cf. Nixon and Rodgers 1994: 70–71, n. 38.

205. Barnes 1981: 221.

206. For details, see esp. Drijvers 1992b: 55–72.

207. On the lineage of Galla, see Chausson 2007: 123–126.

208. On the origin of Gallus, see Amm. Marc. 14.11.27.

209. On the letters written by Julian to justify his actions in this period, see esp. Humphries 2012.

210. Libanius, Or. 14.29–30 (To Julian on Behalf of Aristophanes: Translation by Norman 2003)

Just remind yourself, Sire, of the letter you sent to the Corinthians after embarking upon hostilities against your will, and when you had already gained your objective for the most part but without attaining it completely. There you explicitly name the Corinthians as your benefactors. I must here cite the exact words of part of your letter, since that is how we may better please our audience. “I have a hereditary friendship with you”, you wrote, “for my father lived among you and departed from among you, like Odysseus from the Phaeacians, after resting from his long wanderings”. Then, after a few words about his wicked stepmother, you went on, “Here my father found repose”.

See Barnes 1981: 251.

211. For this line of argument, see Burgess 2008: 8.

212. Stephenson 2009: 245.

213. Cf. PLRE 1: 241. See Barnes 1982: 105. See the important comments concerning Dalmatius Censor’s military ability in Marcos 2014: 758–760.

214. Aurelius Victor 41.11–12; Origin 6.35; Jerome, Chron. s.a. 334; Orosius 7.28.30. Concerning Calocaerus, see PLRE 1: 177.

215. Athanasius, Apology against the Arians. 65.1. See Barnes 1993: 21.

216. Barnes 2011: 164.

217. Barnes 1975b: 169.

218. PLRE 1: 241 (Dalmatius 7).

219. Marcos 2014: 763 goes further:

There was an additional reason [beyond commemorating the final victory over Licinius] why Constantine gravitated towards this date: it was the birthdate of the Emperor Trajan… By designating 18 September as the date to elevate Dalmatius, Constantine also was connecting himself and his dynasty to the optimus princeps.

Cf. Barnes 2011: 165–167

220. PLRE 1: 407 (Hannibalianus 2).

221. Origin 35; Epitome de Caesaribus 41.20. See Dodgeon and Lieu 1991: 155 (and 382, nt. 29:

[Hannibalianus’] title ‘King of Kings’ was appropriate for one who had to defend Roman interests in Armenia, Iberia and the Pontic region in general as the epithet had historically been part of the titulature of the kings of Pontus and of Armenia.)

222. Lenski 2006b: 81–82, and Barnes 2011: 166. Cf. Lightfoot 2005: 497.

223. Stephenson 2009: 244–248.

224. Slootjes 2020: 261–262.

225. See Barnes 2011: 164–165; also Barnes 1982: 134–139.

226. Davenport 2020: 225.

227. Barnes 2011: 162.

228. PLRE 1: 331–332 (Felix 2).

229. Barnes 1992a: 250; Barnes 2011: 161–162.

230. Cf. the calculations in Marcos 2014: 755–756.

231. As their itineraries and victory titles would seem to demonstrate, see Barnes 1982: 84–85.

232. Following Burgess’ rejection (2008: 15) of Mommsen’s emendation of obsistentibus valide militaribus for assistentibus valide militaribus. Also Marcos 2014: 758. Cf. Dufraigne 1975: 59, with the note for 41.15 on p. 59 regarding the variations in manuscripts.

233. Marcos 2014: 758.

234. Lactantius, On the Deaths 25.2; see Barnes 2011: 61–62.

235. Eutropius 10.9.1. Trans. Burgess 2008: 15.

236. Burgess 2008: 14–15. On the Kaisergeschichte, see Cameron 2011: 618–619.

237. Marcos 2014: 764–765; cf. Barnes 1982: 80.

238. Marcos 2014: 767. Cf. the celebration of Dalmatius’ virtus

239. Marcos 2014: 765.

240. On this marriage, see Chausson 2007: 123–127.

241. Barnes 2011: 172; cf. Tougher 2011: 187.

242. Amm. Marc. 20.11.3; see the note in den Boeft, den Hengst and Teitler 1987: 249.

243. Origin 6.35 records the marriage of Constantina (here spelt “Constantiana”) and Hannibalianus as part of the territorial settlement of 335.

244. Barnes 2011: 165.

245. See Shaw and Saller 1984: 435–436, in reply to the arguments of Goody 1983. Cf. the comments by Evans Grubbs 1999: 61, nt. 36.

246. Barnes 2011: 165.

247. Eusebius, In Praise of Constantine 3.4. Translation by Drake 1976: 87; see also Drake 1975.

248. Notably Chantraine 1992; Burgess 2008: 8–9, nt. 21 for a summary, and 43–45. See Woods 2011 for an alternative reading of the promotion of Constantine Caesar and Constantius Caesar.

249. See Burgess 1999a.

250. Barnes 2011: 167; also, Burgess 2008: 9.

251. Burgess 2008: 10 proposes also Aemilius Magnus Arborius (PLRE I: 98–99), Virius Nepotianus (PLRE I: 625 (Nepotianus 7)) and Flavius Felicianus (PLRE I: 330–331 (Felicinaus 5)).

252. For example, Guthrie 1966.

253. Burgess 2008: 10.

254. Vanderspoel 2020: 39.

255. See esp. Guthrie 1966: 329–331; Barnes 1982: 44–45. Cf. Constantine’s illegitimacy upheld by the editors of the PLRE (1: 223 (Fl. Claudius Constantinus 3)).

256. For example, Graeber and Sahlins 2017: 1–22; Duindam 2016: 87–155.

257. Duindam 2016: 87–88.

258. Although it is worth noting the hypothetical tensions between the sons and the Theodoran line proposed by Burgess 2008: 40–41.

259. See Burgess 2008: 40–41.

260. Guthrie 1966: 328.

261. Burgess 2008. Maraval 2013: 23–37 offers an effective synthesis of research on the episode.

262. N.b. the importance of the coinage here, see Burgess 2008: 33–35. Zosimus 2.40 – with Eunapius writing after 378 as his main source – lists the order in which the victims were killed: Julius Constantius was first, a sign that he may have posed the greatest threat to the sons’ positions.

263. Eunapius, Lives of the Sophists 464 (Wright 1921) alleges Ablabius’ murder in the context of his attempted usurpation, undoubtedly a residue of the “official” line promoted to justify his death. See Burgess 2008: 18.

264. Eutropius, Breviarium 10.9.1; Burgess 2008: 14.

265. Burgess 2008: 22. Cf. Woods 2011.

266. Valuably recorded by Julian, Or. 1.19a; 20c.

267. Burgess 2008: 38.

268. Chronica minora 1.235; Barnes 1982: 8.

269. See esp. Slootjes 2020.

270. Trans. Banchich 2009; also, Zosimus 2.41.

271. Lewis 2020: 59.

272. See Barnes 1982: 123–139; Barnes 1992a; Davenport 2020.

273. Barnes 1981: 262. Cf. CLRE 23–24; 211.

274. PLRE 1:989 (Ursus 4). Barnes 1981: 262.

275. PLRE 1:710 (Polemius 4).

276. On Firmicus Maternus, see Mace 2018.

277. See Barnes 1975a.

278. Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis 1. pr. 8.

279. Cf. CLRE 19, nt. 33, suggests that Lollianus fell out of favour with Constans. This is unlikely since Lollianus was to serve as Urban Prefect from 1 April to 6 July 342 during Constans’ tenure as the western emperor.

280. CLRE 23.

281. Salway 2008: 301.

282. He last served as Constantine Caesar in 329 as the consul for the eighth time.

283. Salway 2008: 301.

284. Notably, Lewis 2020.

285. Woudhuysen 2018: 163.

286. As Barnes 1993: 34, the imperial communication would also have been signed by Dalmatius Caesar.

287. That is, the fifteenth before the Kalends of July, Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 87.7.

288. Translations from the Apology are by Robertson 1892.

289. The evaluations of Woudhuysen 2018: 164.

290. In contrast to Kent’s proposal (RIC 8, 441) that the issues date from the time of Constantine I’s funeral; see Moser 2018: 149–153.

291. See esp. the important analysis by MacCormack 1981: 106–121.

292. For example, RIC 8 Trier 44, no. 68.

293. Moser 2018: 149–150.

294. Barnes 1993: 24–25.

295. Soz. Hist. Eccl. 2.31 (trans. Hartranft 1890); Barnes 1993: 25.

296. Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 87.1–2.

297. Lewis 2020: 69.

298. Lewis 2020: 60.

299. See Drinkwater 2007: 194–198.

300. Following the date proposed by Drinkwater 2007: 198–199.

301. CIL 3.7000; AE 1954, 158.

302. RIC 7 Trier, no. 535. See the comments by Drinkwater 2007: 197–199.

303. Drinkwater 2007, passim. Drinkwater’s thesis, that the Alamanni in particular played a vital role in Rome’s portrayal of the barbarian threat during the third and fourth centuries as “the power of nightmares, the politics of fear” (p. 12), is discussed in Chapter 8 of this study.

304. See the discussion in Maraval 2013: 20–21.

305. PLRE 1:102.

306. Origin 6.31. Jerome Chron. 233c. RIC 7: Trier, n. 532.

307. Salzman 1990: 135–138.

308. See e.g. RIC 7 Constantinople, nos. 116, 119–120.

309. Burgess 2008: 8–9, nt 21.

310. Gehn and Ward-Perkins 2016: 84; also Gehn’s translation and commentary for the inscription, LSA 1665.

311. PLRE 1: 661–662 (Fl. Palladius 17).

312. Tantillo 1999: 81.

313. Cf. Tantillo 1999: 81.

314. Tantillo 1999: 90–91.

315. Tantillo 1999: 83–87.

316. LSA 1112 with commentary by Gehn.

317. See Barnes 1992a: 251–252.

318. Tantillo 1999: 86.

319. Gehn and Ward-Perkins 2016: 84.

320. Gehn and Ward-Perkins 2016: 84.

321. See the assessment by Lewis 2020: 62–63.

322. Cf. Lewis 2020: 69.

323. Cf. the objections of Maraval 2013: 42; rebutted by Lewis 2020: 70–71.

324. Matthews 2000: 245.

325. For example, Cod. Theod. 6.22.2; Cod. Theod. 12.1.24; Cod. Theod. 12.1.25; Cod. Theod. 12.1.26; see Matthews 2000: 244–246; and more recently, Woudhuysen 2018: 162–163.

326. Cuneo 1997: 30.

327. Cf. Cuneo 1997: lxxviii–lxxix. The position of the Codex of Justinian on the memorialisation of the name of Constantine II is less straightforward. For example, the attribution of the law in the fragments CJ 6.23.15, 6.37.21, 6.9.9 to Constantinus could indicate their paternity in either Constantine I or Constantine II, depending on the arguments for the paternity advanced by scholars (for an overview of these, see Cuneo 1997: 32–36).

328. PLRE 1: 328.

329. Cuneo 1997: c.

330. For the debates, see Cuneo 1997: 31–36. Cf. Evans Grubbs 1995: 119–120; Corcoran 1996: 194.

331. Cuneo 1997: xcvii–xcix.

332. Cuneo 1997: 12.

333. On the sources and the issues raised by them, see esp. Bleckmann 2003: 244–250.; also Lewis 2020: 73–81.

334. Translations from Or. 59 are by Lieu and Montserrat 1996.

335. Cf. Malosse 1997: 522.

336. Lewis 2020: 77.

337. Zosimus 2.40.1.

338. CJ 5.17.7; Barnes 1982: 87, nt. 172. Also, Marcos 2014: 763–764.

339. Bleckmann 2003: 244–250.

340. Zonaras 13.5.

341. Cod. Theod. 10.10.6. Seeck 1919: 187; Barnes 1993: 224–225. Eusebius (Matttyocopa), PLRE 1:302.

342. Cf. Cod. Theod. 10.10.5; 12.1.29 place Constans in Naissus in late winter/early spring; DiMaio 1988: 240 prioritises the evidence of the Code over Zonaras.

343. Cf. Bleckmann 2003: 246–247.

344. See the comments by Lane Fox 1997: 244.

345. Translation by Amidon 2007: 38.

346. See the discussion in DiMaio 1988: 240–242; also Bleckmann 2003: 230–232.

347. Philostorgius, Hist. Eccl. 3.1a.

348. Lewis 2020: 89.

349. PLRE 1: 57 (Amphilocius 1).

350. See Bleckmann 2003: 245–246; Lewis 2020: 86.

351. Amm. Marc. 15.5.29; Bleckmann 2003: 247.

352. Bleckmann 2003: 247–250.

353. Lewis 2020: 60. Cf. the remarks by Corcoran 1996: 266–267.

354. Lewis 2020: 91.

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