Tetrarchy

The Battle of Actium. September 2, 31 BC.

The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic, a naval engagement between Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the promontory of Actium, in the Roman province of Epirus Vetus in Greece. Octavian’s fleet was commanded by Agrippa, while Antony‘s fleet was supported by the power of Queen Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt. Octavian’s victory enabled him to consolidate his power over Rome and its dominions. He adopted the title of Princeps (“first citizen”) and some years later was awarded the title of Augustus (“revered”) by the Roman Senate. This became the name by which he was known in later times. As Augustus, he retained the trappings of a ...

February 23, 303. The Diocletianic Persecution.

Christians had always been subject to local discrimination in the empire, but early emperors were reluctant to issue general laws against the sect. It was not until the 250s, under the reigns of Decius and Valerian, that such laws were passed. Under this legislation, Christians were compelled to sacrifice to Roman gods or face imprisonment and execution. After Gallienus‘s accession in 260, these laws went into abeyance. Diocletian‘s assumption of power in 284 did not mark an immediate reversal of imperial inattention to Christianity, but it did herald a gradual shift in official attitudes toward religious minorities. In the first fifteen years of his rule, Diocletian purged the army of Christians, condemned Manicheans to death, and surrounded himself with public opponents of Ch...

The Arch of Constantine. July 25, 315.

The Arch of Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge that took place on 28 October 312. The Battle took its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, his head paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle. According to chroniclers such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Chr...

Emperor Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. November 20, 284 AD.

After his rise through the ranks of military until he became the Roman Cavalry Commander to Emperor Carus, when Carus and his son Numerian died on campaign in Persia, Diocletian became emperor on November 20, 284. Of course, Carus surviving son, Carinus also claimed the title, but was defeated in the battle of Margus.  Diocletian´s rule put an end to the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocletian named his fellow officer Maximian co-emperor,  Augustus, in 286. Afterwards, in 293, he named caesars Galerius and Constantius, or heirs of the augustus title. This new regime was called the Tetrarchy, or “government of four”, and it meant the geographical division of the empire into four parts. Diocletian lead military campaigns against Sarmatians, Carpi, Alemanii, and the usurpers in Egypt, securin...

The Battle of the Milvian Brigde. October 28, 312 AD.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on October 28, 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber river. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle. According to chroniclers, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God.

Battle of the Margus River – July, 285 AD

The crisis of the Third Century nearly destroyed the Roman Empire through instability of the position of emperor and various rebel breakaway empires. When Probus was murdered in 282 AD, Marcus Aurelius Carus was elevated by the military from his appointed position of prefect of the Praetorian Guard to Augustus, in turn naming his sons Carinus and Numerian as co-Caesari. Also during this time, Diocles rose through the ranks to become commander of the elite cavalry assigned to the Imperial household. Instead of going to Rome, Carus remained on campaign, leaving Carinus in charge of the western part of the empire from Gaul and taking Numerian with him to deal with the Persians. Along the way, Carus and Numerian took back areas lost previously over the years by defeating the Quadi and Sarmatia...

Maximinus II vs. Licinius I – April 30, 313 AD

While the Tetrarchy was breaking down, with rival claimants to the throne of the Roman Empire assessing the power of the others, the emperor Galerius sent Licinius I in 307 AD to meet with Maxentius in Rome about his usurpation and occupation of the city. Maxentius accepted the title of Augustus from officers in Rome who promoted him in 306, since he was passed over for the title of Caesar, as was Constantine I (who was raised to Augustus in 305 after the death of his father, Constantius I), in favor of Severus II and Maximinus II Daia. But, Galerius then decided to put Licinius in charge of the eastern provinces and deal with Maxentius himself, after Maxentius defeated Severus II, whom Galerius first sent. The miscalculation Galerius made was many of the troops under Severus II first serv...

Wedding Bells – March 31, 307 AD

On March 31, 307 AD, the daughter of Maximianus, Flavia Maxima Fausta, married one of the caesars of the Tetrarchy – Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine the Great). The marriage was politically motivated, allying the rebels Maximianus and Maxentius in Italy with Constantine in Gaul, against Severus II for central Europe. Before the marriage to Fausta, the status of Constantine is unclear – he had a relationship of some kind with Minervina, the mother of Constantine’s son, Flavus Julius Crispus. Whatever the relationship was, Minerva and Constantine didn’t associate with each other after his new marriage. You will a Constantine Coins selection at the bottom of this post. Fausta and Constantine were wed during a tumultuous time in the Roman Empire, as the Tetrarchy was in upheaval. Co...

Christian Persecution – February 23, 303 AD

February 23, 303, saw the celebration of Terminalia in the Roman Empire – the day pagans boasted they would put an end to Christianity. During this festival, because of the encouragement of Galerius Caesar, the emperor Diocletian issued an edict ordering the destruction of the newly built Christian church in Nicomedia. The city prefect went to the church with many officers and assistants and forced open the doors, removed all of the sacred books and burned them, confiscated the treasury, then leveled the building itself, all while Diocletian and Galerius observed. Following this, a general edict was issued for the entire empire, commanding the destruction of all Christian churches and texts, along with naming all Christians as outlaws. In Nicomedia, all Christians were being rounded up and...

Maxentius, “the Rebel” – October 28, 306 AD

Born c.278 AD, Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius was the son of Maximianus and Eutropia. When his father was promoted to co-emperor of the Roman Empire by Diocletian in 285, it was assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps and eventually be declared emperor as well. However, when Diocletian and Maximianus retired and abdicated, Maxentius and Constantine I were passed over and the previous Caesars, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius became co-Augustii and promoted Severus II and Maximinus II Daia to co-Caesarii. Constantius Chlorus was the father of Constantine I and Galerius was the father-in-law of Maxentius, through the marriage of his daughter, Valeria Maximilla. After Constantius died in 306, Constantine I was promoted to Caesar. In later 306, the Tetrarchy was planning to disba...

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