Constantine

Byzantium, Nova Roma. May 11, 330.

Byzantium was the Greek capital city of Thrace, situated in the Western part of the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, actually Istambul. It has occupied an outstanding part in History since its founding, around 668 BC, according to Herodotus. Byzantium suffered, as did all Greece, Rome´s tutoring. The city entered a period of decline, although all of the Greek cities in this period were well supplied. During the Macedonian Wars, between Rome and Philippus V, Romans awarded Byzantium with the title of confederate city for their help. In 191 BC the city was a Roman ally and acknowledged as a free city, although it lost this status in 100 BC. Emperor Claudius reduced the city taxes to make up for its losses in the war against Thrace. Vespasian integrated Byzantium in the Roman province of Thr...

Empress Irene of Athens. April 19, 797.

On November 1, 768, a young and beautiful girl from Athens arrived to Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire. At the time she was one of the many applicants to marry Leo IV, future emperor. History nevertheless will remember her as one of the most powerful and controversial Byzantine Empresses, not only for her solo rule and her opposition to her son, but also for stopping, at least for some time, iconoclasm. Irene was unlikely to be chosen as Leo´s future wife for two reasons: first, she came from a noble family from Athens, not from Constantinople´s aristocracy. The second reason, even more significant, was that the Emperor Constantine V fiercely defended iconoclasm, while Irene supported, and possibly also professed veneration of icons. This was a pinp...

Minervina and Fausta. March 31,307.

Minervina was the first wife of Constantine the Great. Constantine either took her as a concubine or married her in 303 AD, and the couple had one son, Crispus, also known as Flavius Claudius Crispus and Flavius Valerius Crispus, who later would be a Caesar of the Roman Empire. Constantine served as a hostage in the court of Eastern Roman Emperor Diocletian in Nicomedia, thus securing the loyalty of his father Constantius Chlorus, Caesar of the Western Roman Empire. When Constantine wanted to strengthen his bonds with the other Tetrarchs, in 307 AD he set aside Minervina and married Fausta, daughter of Augustus Maximian. The marriage of Constantine to Fausta has caused modern historians to question the status of his relation to Minervina and Crispus. If Minervina was his legitimate wife, C...

Triumph in North Africa. March 10, 298.

  Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian’s military brawn. The man he appointed to police the Channel shores, Carausius, rebelled in 286, causing the secession of Britain and northwestern Gaul. Maximian failed to oust Carausius, and his invasion fleet was destroyed by storms in 289 or 290. Maximian’s subordinate, Constantius, campaigned against Carausius’ successor while Maximian held the Rhine frontier. The rebel leader was ousted in 296, and Maximian moved south to combat piracy near Hispania and Berber incursions in Mauretania. With Constantius’ victorious return after he expel...

Heraclius and Constantine. January 22, 613.

In 608, Heraclius the Elder renounced his loyalty to the Emperor Phocas, who had overthrown Maurice six years earlier. The rebels issued coins showing both Heraclii dressed as consuls, though neither of them explicitly claimed the imperial title at this time. Heraclius’s younger cousin Nicetas launched an overland invasion of Egypt; by 609, he had defeated Phocas’s general Bonosus and secured the province. Meanwhile, the younger Heraclius sailed eastward with another force via Sicily and Cyprus. As he approached Constantinople, he made contact with prominent leaders and planned an attack to overthrow aristocrats in the city, and soon arranged a ceremony where he was crowned and acclaimed as Emperor. When he reached the capital, the Excubitors, an elite Imperial Guard unit led b...

The Walls of Constantinople collapse. November 6, 447.

Like Severus before him, Constantine began to punish the city for siding with his defeated rival, but soon he too realized the advantages of Byzantium‘s location. During 324–336 the city was thoroughly rebuilt and inaugurated on 11 May 330 under the name of “Second Rome“. The name that eventually prevailed in common usage however was Constantinople, the “City of Constantine” (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoupolis). The city of Constantine was protected by a new wall about 2.8 km (15 stadia) west of the Severan wall. Constantine’s fortification consisted of a single wall, reinforced with towers at regular distances, which began to be constructed in 324 and was completed under his son Constantius II (r. 337–361). Only the approximate course of the wal...

The Vision of Constantine. October 27, 312.

Constantine was the son of Constantius, who had served as a Caesar (a junior emperor) of the Western Roman Empire under Maximian before succeeding Maximian as Augustus (senior emperor) in 305. Constantius’ death in 306 sparked a conflict over who would succeed him. Though Constantine had the support of his father’s army, he allowed Severus, his father’s Caesar, to become Augustus. Maxentius, the son of Maximian, was angered that he was passed over and declared himself Augustus. He defeated the Severus and Galerius, the Augustus of the East, in 306 and 307. In 311, Maxentius declared war on Constantine, the greatest threat to his power. In the spring of 312, Constantine led his army toward Maxentius in in Rome. After routing Maxentius’ forces in northern Italy, Constantine approached Rome i...

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...

December 10, 1041. The love of Zoe.

Zoë Porphyrogenita reigned as Byzantine Empress alongside her sister Theodora from 10 April 1042 to June 1050. She was also enthroned as empress consort to a series of co-rulers between 1028 and 1042. Zoë was born to a nominal co-emperor, Constantine VIII, but lived a life of relative obscurity until the age of 47. Her uncle Basil II then died, leaving the Byzantine throne entirely to her father. As he had no sons, Constantine hoped to continue the dynasty by marrying off one of his daughters and determined that the ruling house would be continued by one of them being married to an appropriate aristocrat. Romanos Argyros, the urban prefect of Constantinople, was the next to be considered as a match, after considering Constantine Dalassenos “too strong and difficult to manipulate”. Theodora...

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...

The Milan Edict. June 13, 313.

Ever since the fall of the Severan dynasty in 235 AD, rivals for the imperial throne had bid for support by either favouring or persecuting Christians. The previous Edict of Toleration by Galerius had been recently issued by the emperor Galerius from Serdica and was posted at Nicomedia on 30 April 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had “followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity”, were granted an indulgence. Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the commonwealth may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes. Their confiscated property, however, was not restore...

Constantine, co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire. January 22, 613.

  Constantine was crowned co-emperor by his father on 22 January 613 and shortly after was betrothed to his cousin, Gregoria, a daughter of his father’s first cousin, Nicetas. As they were second cousins, the marriage was technically incestuous, but this consideration must have been outweighed by the advantages of the match to the family as a whole. Furthermore, its illegality paled into insignificance beside Heraclius‘ marriage to his niece Martina the same year. In comparison, Constantine’s marriage was far less scandalous than that of his father’s. Constantine and Gregoria married in 629 or perhaps early 630 and in that year their first child, Constans II was born. Their second child was another son, Theodosius. They also had a daughter named Manyanh who lat...

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