Key to Umbria

Porphyry bust of Galerius, from his palace in Romuliana (Gamzigrad)

National Museum Zaječar

Political Recovery (late 307 - late 308 AD)

Galerius must have felt humiliated by his failure to dislodge Maxentius from Rome in the autumn of 307 AD and to avenge the execution of Severus (as described in the page Galerius I (305-7 AD)).  A letter (preserved in an inscription AE 2002, 1293), in which he granted civic status to Heraclea Sintica in Macedonia, throws light on the dire political situation at this time: as Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2006) pointed out:

  1. “Only Galerius and Maximinus appear in the heading to the inscription.  This clearly indicates that, at this point..., Galerius regarded himself and Maximinus as the only remaining legitimate members of the imperial college ...., [a situation that] is reflected also in papyri, inscriptions and coinage. ...

  2. -Maxentius and Maximian ... were regarded as usurpers;  and

  3. -Constantine’s collaboration with them, including his investiture as Augustus by Maximian, whose daughter Fausta he also married, had revoked his own previously legitimate status as Caesar”.

Any semblance of a concordant Tetrarchy had disappeared:

  1. The Jovian Augustus and Caesar held sway in the ‘east’, which now included the Danubian provinces (where the mint at Siscia had passed to Galerius after Severus’ fall from power). 

  2. Galerius was still probably based at Serdica (modern Sofia, Bulgaria);

  3. Maximinus continued as before to administer the territories around the eastern Mediterranean; while

  4. Galerius took over what was left of Severus’ territories after his defeat by Maximian and Maxentius.

  5. Fortunately for them, the erstwhile Herculian alliance between Maximian, Maxentius and Constantine was soon to collapse.  Maximian broke decisively with Maxentius in April 308 AD, and although he lived as an honoured guest at Constantine’s court, his brief period of power and influence was at an end.

Galerius, who had returned to Serdica with his prestige in tatters in late 307 AD, now began the slow business of rebuilding the imperial college and reasserting his pre-eminent position within it.

Consuls of 308 AD

Galerius now played one of his few remaining trump cards by persuading Diocletian, who was living in retirement at Spalatum (modern Split, in Croatia), to serve as Consul for the 10th time in 308 AD, with Galerius himself as his colleague.  Such was Diocletian’s continuing prestige that Constantine chose to recognise these designations. 

At least initially and probably at the behest of Maximian, Maxentius did not make alternative designations.  Instead, he continued his policy of the previous year by continuing to make no designations at all.  Thus, the so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD records the Consuls of 308AD in Rome as:

consules quos iusserint D. D. N. N. Augusti

ex XII. kal. Mai. factum est Maxentio et Romulo 

The Consuls were those chosen by our masters the Augusti [Maxentius and Maximian] 

From 20th April, they were Maxentius and [his young son,] Romulus 

The change of policy on 20th April was associated with the growing tension between Maximian and Maxentius, which came to a head at that time, when (as set out in the page on Maximian’s Herculian Dynasty) Maximian tried to depose Maxentius.  When Maximian failed to win the loyalty of the army he was forced to flee to Constantine’s court.  In response, as note above, on 20th April he named himself and his young son Romulus as Consuls.

Events in Rome

Maxentius was now supreme in Rome but (since his break with his father in April 308 AD) was completely without allies.  His only claim to legitimacy was the support of the army, the people and the Senate in Rome.  Later in the year (probably in the early Summer), as set out in the page on Maxentius in Rome (308-12 AD)) Lucius Domitius Alexander, the vicarius of the Praetorian Prefect in the provinces of Africa, was acclaimed as Augustus there, which had the effect (inter alia) of restricting the vital food supply to Rome.  The consequent restriction on the food supply to Rome seems to have caused internal tensions which further undermined Maxentius’ position.

Events in Gaul

It seems likely that Constantine regretted his overt alliance with Maximian from the moment that he heard of Galerius’ defeat, when Maximian was still at his court at Trier: the whole purpose of the alliance had disappeared.   He continued to regard himself as Augustus, and received Maximian as his guest after his expulsion from Rome (above).  However,Maximian’s value as an  auctor imperii had been seriously undermined by his failure there.

Constantine claimed a second victory title of Germanicus maximus, which was associated with  a campaign against the Bructeri before the conference of Carnuntum (below), as set out in the page on Constantine in Gaul (308-12 AD)).  Simon Corcoran ( referenced below, 2006, at p 233 and note 13) pointed out that, while Galerius had shared Constantine’s first victory title against the Germans in 307 AD (as his 6th), he did not deign to associate himself with Constantine’s second victory.

Conference at Carnuntum (November 308 AD)

As noted above, Galerius had attempted to stabilise his position in 308 AD by persuading Diocletian to emerge from retirement at least to the extent of accepting the Consulship as his senior colleague.  Towards the end of the year, he decided to press this line of attack by persuading Diocletian to intervene with Maximian on his behalf.  There are two accounts of how the resulting meeting was convened, albeit that they exhibit significant disparities:

  1. According to Lactantius:

  2. “Then Maximian, ... after having made some stay in [Gaul], went to Galerius... so that they might confer together (as he pretended) about the settlement of the commonweal; but his true purpose was, under colour of reconciliation, to find an opportunity of murdering Galerius, and of seizing his share of the Empire, instead of his own, from which he had been everywhere excluded [by Maxentius and Constantine].  Diocles [i.e. the retired Diocletian] was at the court of Galerius when Maximian arrived ...” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 29: 1-2).

  3. According to Zosimus, who perhaps did not know about and certainly did not record Galerius’ presence at the meeting: 

  4. “[After his rift with Maxentius], Maximianus Herculius, who lamented the tumults which disturbed the public peace, came to Diocletian ... at Carnutum, a town of Gallia Celtica and endeavoured to persuade him to resume the Empire ... “ (‘Historia Nova’, 2:11). 

Location and Attendees

Zosimus (above) recorded that the meeting was held at “Carnutum, a town of Gallia Celtica”, but this is an almost certainly error: other sources point convincingly to the Roman garrison town of Carnuntum on the Danube (near modern Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Austria).  For example, the Chronicle of St Jerome recorded that, in the 4th year of the Christian Persecution (308 AD):

  1. “Licinius [see below, was] made emperor at Carnuntum by Galerius”.

In addition, the survival of an inscription (below) strongly suggests that the meeting was indeed held at the Danubian fortress town. 

Lactantius is surely correct that it was a trilateral meeting: had Maximian simply held a bilateral meeting with Diocletian (as Zosimus believed), he would presumably have travelled to Diocletian’s residence at Salonae (near modern Split in Croatia).  Instead, a location was chosen that was roughly half way between Serdica and Treviri (which were probably the respective residences of Galerius and Maximian), while still convenient for Diocletian.   None of the surviving early sources claim that any of Constantine, Maximunus and Maxentius attended, and this is almost certainly correct.

Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, 2009, at p 200) suggested that the location was chosen for Galerius’ convenience, since he had been campaigning on the Danube immediately before it.  This was based on the suggestion by Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1982, at p 64) that Galerius had won his 6th victory title Carpicus maximus in 308/9 AD.  However, Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2006, p 233-4) demonstrated that this victory is more probably that recorded in an inscription CIL III 5565 (discussed below), which was dated to 27 June 310 AD. 

Maximian’s Second Retirement



RIC VI Trier 788 

Lactantius suggested that the meeting had happened essentially by accident:  Maximian had visited Galerius, and Diocletian had simply happened to be there at the time.  However, given the location of the meeting, this is clearly incorrect.  A more likely scenario is that  (as suggested above) Galerius, had persuaded Diocletian to attempt to prevail upon Maximian to give up his political aspirations and to return to retirement. 

We can reasonably accept Zosimus’ account of Maximian’s counter-proposal and Diocletian’s response:

  1. “[At the meeting, Maximian] endeavoured to persuade [Diocletian] to resume the Empire.  But Diocletian refused to listen to him; for he wisely preferred his own quiet, and perhaps foresaw the troubles that would ensue, being a man well versed in matters of religion” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:11).

Diocletian’s apparent point of view was captured more memorably in an entry in the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ :

  1. “It was [Diocletian] who, when solicited by Herculius [Maximian] and Galerius for the purpose of resuming power, responded in the following way, as though avoiding some kind of plague: ‘If you could see at Salonae  the cabbages raised by our hands, you would surely never judge [the prospect of a return to power to be] a temptation’” (39:6).

Evidence that Diocletian succeeded in persuading Maximian to retire comes from an unlikely source: the reverse legend ‘Quies Augustus’ on the coin illustrated above, which Constantine minted for Maximian at Trier soon after the conference, celebrated Maximian’s repose.  Clearly, Constantine’s father-in-law had become an embarrassment and would be better seen but no longer heard.

Reconstituted Tetrarchy

The other important item on the agenda was the reconstitution of the  ‘official’ imperial college.  As noted above, since the death of Severus and the revolt of Constantine in September 307 AD, it had comprised only two members: Galerius himself and his Caesar, Maximinus.  Lactantius is the only surviving early source for the changes made at Carnuntum:

  1. “Galerius, meaning now to invest Licinius with the ensigns of supreme power in place of Severus, had lately sent for [Diocletian] to be present at the solemnity [of his formal designation].  So it was performed in the presence of both [Diocletian and] Maximian: and thus there were six who ruled the Empire [Diocletian and Maximian, albeit that both were retired, together with Galerius, Licinius, Maximinus and Constantine] at one and the same time” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 29:2).

Since Valerius Licinianus Licinius duly became Augustus in 11th November 308 AD (‘Chronica Minora’, 1.231), it seems likely that the meeting had indeed been called so that (inter alia) Diocletian could ratify his appointment.  He also apparently approved Constantine’ re-entry into the college as Licinius’ Caesar.

An altar in the Museum Carnuntinum (Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Austria) bears an inscription (CIL III 4413) that seems to have provided a postscript to this meeting:

D(eo) S(oli) i(nvicto) M(ithrae) / fautori imperii sui

Iovii et Herculii / religiosissimi / Augusti et Caesares

sacrarium / restituerunt

To the unconquered sun-god Mithras, protector of their Empire

the most religious Jovian and Herculian Augusti and Caesars

have restored the shrine

The restoration of this shrine of Mithras might well have been meant to impress the imperial legions, whose support would be essential to the success of the newly-designated Tetrarchy. 

But, who were these ‘Jovian and Herculian Augusti and Caesars’ who had acted in harmony, at least in the restoration of the shrine?  The short answer is that they were probably a figment of Diocletian’s imagination.

  1. The Balkans and east of the Empire were in the hands of the three Jovians:

  2. -the Augustii:  Galerius; and  Licinius (see the following page); and

  3. -the Caesar, Maximinus. 

  4. They continued to mint for Constantine as Caesar in the west, but he most conspicuously ceased to issue new coins commemorating anyone.

  5. The ‘Herculian’ branch of the imperial college had ceased to exist as a coherent entity:

  6. -Maximian’s break with Maxentius had constituted the first nail in its coffin;

  7. -his return to retirement imposed at Carnuntum now constituted the second; and

  8. -while he remained an honoured guest at Constantine’s court), Constantine was quick to recognise his imposed retirement (above).

  9. Meanwhile, Rome and its territories were in the hands of an outright usurper, in the form of Maxentius.

Imperial College Post Carnuntum


  GAL MAXIMIANUS P F AUG                                        VAL LICINIUS P F AUG

     GENIO AUGUSTII                                                      GENIO AUGUSTII

   RIC VI Thessalonica 30a                                              RIC VI Thessalonica 30b


             MAXIMINUS FIL AUGG                                          CONSTANTINUS FIL AUGG

          GENIO CAESARIS                                                        GENIO CAESARIS

            RIC VI Thessalonica 32a                                               RIC VI Thessalonica 32b

The appointment of Licinus as Augustus is surprising, since he had never served as Caesar but he now outranked two men, Maximinus and Constantine, who had already held the rank for some years.  Lactantius explained the choice as follows:

  1. “[Galerius had] had Licinius with him, a companion and tent-mate of old, his close friend from the beginning of his military service, whose advice he always sought in imperial affairs” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 20: 1).

It is certainly likely that the two man had enjoyed a long and close relationship.  However, Galerius’ specific reasons for the choice must have been that he expected him to be:

  1. more loyal than Constantine (who had, after all, just betrayed him); and

  2. more effective against Maxentius than Maximinus.

The so-called ‘Origo Constantini Imperatoris’ stressed that:

  1. “... Licinius ... was made Emperor by Galerius in order that he might take the field against Maxentius” (5:13).

Galerius also delegated responsibility for much of the Danubian frontier to Licinius, who now established his main residence at Sirmium and assumed control of the mint at Siscia.  Galerius transferred his main mint from Serdica to Thessalonica and (probably) took up residence again in his magnificent palace there.

Constantine brushed off his rejection for the post, which can hardly have been  surprise.  He simply continued to rule his own territories in exactly the same way that his father had when he had been senior Augustus.   However, Maximinus (who was technically senior to Constantine because he had been Caesar for longer) found himself in a more frustrating position.  According to Lactainius:

  1. “[Maximinus] was incensed at the nomination of Licinius to the dignity of Emperor, and he would no longer be called Caesar or allow himself to be ranked as third in authority.  Galerius, by repeated messages, besought [him] to ... acquiesce in his arrangement, to give place to age, and to reverence the grey hairs of Licinius.  But [Maximinus] became more and more insolent.  He urged that, as it was he who first assumed the purple, so ... he had right to priority in rank ... Galerius, at length, overcome by the obstinacy of [Maximinus], abolished the subordinate title of Caesar, gave to himself and Licinius that of the Augusti, and to [Maximinus] and Constantine that of filios Augustorum (sons of the Augusti)” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 32: 1-5).

The new designations constituted a not particularly convincing attempt to stress the right of each Caesar to succeed ‘his’ Augustus.  They seem to have received them only a few months after Carnuntum: a papyrus (P. Cair. Isidor. 90) of 2nd March 309 AD defined the year with reference to the Consuls Licinius and Constantine, the latter described as filius augusti (son of Augustus).  This suggests that the new titulature had been in place at the end of 308 AD, when the consular designations would have been published.  Galerius minted for the new Tetrarchy soon after (as illustrated above).

Neither Caesar ever seems minted for himself as filius Augustus:

  1. Constantine continued to mint for himself as Augustus; and

  2. as Sutherland and Carson (referenced below, at p 31) observed:

  3. “... Maximinus came to reserve [the title filius Augustus], by way of a derogatory mark, to Constantine”.

Consuls of 309 and 310 AD 

As noted above, a papyrus (P. Cair. Isidor. 90) of 2nd March 309 AD defined the year with reference to the Consuls

  1. Licinius augustus; and

  2. Flavius Valerius Constantinus filius augustorum

These designations were used across the territories of Galerius himself, Licinius and Maximianus.  However:

  1. Constantine made no designations, presumably in order to avoid the titulature that Galerius had attempted to impose on him; and

  2. Maxentius named himself and Romulus as Consuls for the second time.

In 310 AD, Galerius appointed non-imperial Consuls for the first time.  We know from Egyptian papyri that they were the serving Praetorian Prefects.  Thus, Benet Salway (referenced below, at p 284):

  1. “The Egyptian formula for 310 AD ... saw the first appearance of the addition of titles of office to the names of citizen Consuls.  In 15 out of 18 examples, Tatius Andronicus and Pompeius Probus are qualified as clarissimi viri [and] praefecti [praetorio].”

Again, these designations were used across the territories of Galerius himself, Licinius and Maximianus.  However:

  1. Constantine continued to make no designations; and

  2. Maxentius named himself Consul for the third time (his son, Romulus having died in the previous year)

Praetorian Prefects

Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below) demonstrated that, by this time, each ‘legitimate’ Augustus would have had his own Praetorian Prefect from the time that he obtained his imperium.  He addressed the likely terms of Tatius Andronicus and Pompeius Probus at pp 189-91: 

  1. As the first named of the Consuls of 310 AD, Tatius Andronicus was presumably Galerius’ Praetorian Prefect.  He might have held the post from the time of Galerius elevation on 1st May 305 AD.  However, the prefect Flaccinus, whom Lactantius had as the persecutor of Donatus in Nicomedia in 303 AD (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 16:4) could have been attached to either Diocletian or Galerius.  If the second alternative is the correct one, then Tatius Andronicus presumably succeeded him.

  2. Pompeius Probus was thus presumably Licinius’ Praetorian Prefect.  As noted in the page on Maxentius and Maximian in Rome (306-7 AD), Galerius seems to have sent Licinius and Probus to negotiate with Maxentius in 307 AD.  The likelihood is that Licinius they were close colleagues, and that Licinius had appointed Probus as his Praetorian Prefect in November 308 AD, immediately after his own elevation to the rank of Augustus.

Political Developments (3o8 -10 AD)

Galerius’ Victory Titles

Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2006) demonstrated that Galerius assumed the following victory titles in the period following his defeat in Italy:

  1. Aegyptiacus maximus and Thebaicus maximus: according to Corcoran (at p 234)

  2. “...these reflect the quelling of a revolt in the region of Coptos in the Thebaid in 293-4 AD”

  3. and their retrospective assumption in the late part of the reign reflected a change of policy (see p 235); and

  4. three titles that probably reflected the actions of his colleagues:

  5. Germanicus maximus VII; and

  6. Carpicus maximus VI;

  7. Persicus maximus III

Germanicus Maximus VII

This title for Galerius in not epigraphically attested.  However, Simon Corcoran ( referenced below, 2006, at p 233 and note 13) accepted the suggestion of Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1982, p 22 and 257) that Galerius probably adopted Constantine’s second victory title of Germanicus maximus.  This was probably associated with Constantine’s campaign against the Bructeri, which was described in a panegyric (Panegyric VI, translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below) that was delivered at his court at Trier, probably in the summer of 310 AD:

  1. “So that the monstrous power of the barbarians might be broken in every way, ..., you have made ... invincible Emperor [Constantine], a devastating raid on the Bructeri” (12:1).

The translator (at note 54) accepted the date of 308 AD, before the conference of Carnuntum.  

Carpicus Maximus VI

An inscription (CIL III 5565) on an altar dedicated to the goddess of victory, which had been commissioned by the dux (military commender) Aurelius Senecio at Bedaium in Noricum Ripense (modern Seebruck, in Bavaria), commemorated a victory won on the 27th June 310 AD (dated with reference to the Consulship of Tatius Andronicus and Pompeius Probus):

Victoriae Augustae / [sac]rum pro salutem

[d(ominorum)] n(ostrorum) Maximini et / [Con]stantini et Licini [se]mper Aug(ustorum)

Aur(elius) Senecio / [v(ir) p(erfectissimus)] dux templum numini

eius ex voto a novo fieri iussit / per instantiam

Val(eri) Sam/barrae p(rae)p(ositi) eq(uitibus) Dalm(atis) Aq/uesianis

comit(atensibus) l(aetus) l(ibens) m(erito)

ob victoria facta V K(alendas) Iulias / Andronico et Probo co(n)s(ulibus)

Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 2011, p 221, note 2 to Appendix B) accepted the suggestion of Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2006, p 233) that:

  1. “The epigraphically attested victory of 27th June 310 AD, won by Galerius or, if Galerius' illness had already become seriously disabling, by Licinius, must have generated the title Carpicus maximus VI, not [as previously suggested by Barnes himself] Sarmaticus maximus V.”

Note that, although the victory was apparently gained while Galerius was alive, he is not mentioned in the inscription.  Thus, it seems that the altar was dedicated shortly after his death (below) in the following year.

Persicus Maximus III

Galerius’ title ‘Persic(us) max(imus) tert(ium)’ was recorded in a fragmentary inscription (CIL III 6979) from Amisos (modern Samsun, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey) of 310 AD.  It was probably reflected in the victory titles of Constantine and Maximinus in a much-mutilated milestone from Africa proconsularis (found between Theveste and Thelepte) had an inscription (Inscriptions Latines de l'Algérie’, 1.3956)








This second inscription must date to the narrow window after Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius in October 312 AD (when he regained Africa and became Primi Nominis) but before his break with Maximinus in the following year.  Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2006, at p 238)

  1. “It is presumed ... that Maximinus may have won some form of Persian victory in 310 AD”.

Events in Rome

Maxentius must have expected Licinius to invade his territory from the time of his accession as Augustus.  He seems to have established a base in Istria and to have made incursions into northern Italy in 309-10 AD, but otherwise to have had little impact (as set out in the page on Licinius (308-12 AD)).  (Licinius might have been preoccupied on the Danube at this time - see the note on Galerius’ title of Carpicus maximus VI, above).

Maxentius was able to improve his position by defeating the usurper Lucius Domitius Alexander and regaining the African provinces in late 309 or early 310 AD (as set out in the page on Maxentius in Rome (308-12 AD)).  This eased to problem of supplying Rome with food, and enabled Maxentius to augment his military forces.

Events in Gaul

Constantine seems to have been busy on the Rhine in the summer of 310 AD when Maximian, who was still a guest at his court, attempted a coup.  Constantine captured him at Marseille and either executed him or encouraged him to commit suicide (as set out in the page on Constantine in Gaul (308-12 AD)). 

From this time, Constantine began to assert his dynastic credentials, not only as the son of divus Constantius but also as a descendent (allegedly) of divus Claudius II (as set out in the page on Constantine’s Flavian Dynasty).

Imperial College Reconstituted (late 310 AD)

According to Lactantius, the disgruntled Maximinus later took matters into his own hands:

  1. “ ... some time after, in a letter to Galerius, [Maximinus] took occasion to observe that he had been saluted by his army under the title of Augustus at the last general muster.  Galerius, vexed and grieved at this, commanded that all the four [members of the imperial college] should have the appellation of Augustus” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 32:5).

This change certainly occurred during 310 AD, because the Augusti Galerius and Maximinus were designated as the Consul of 311 AD.  Sutherland and Carson (referenced below, p 16) suggested that the acclamation of Maximinus might well have occurred on 1st May of that year, during the celebration of his quinquennalia.  As Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2012, at p 12) summarised:

  1. “This moment [when Galerius conceded the title of Augustus to each of the erstwhile Caesares] marks the formal constitutional end of the Tetrarchic system”.

Galerius’ capitulation in the face of lobbying by Maximinus probably also constitutes early evidence of the protracted illness that was to lead to his death in the following year (see below). 

Constantine now began minting again, at least for for himself and for Licinius and Maximinus, albeit that he did not on any significant scale for Galerius.  Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, 2009, at note 6, p 244) was of the opinion that:

  1. “This was personal, not political”.

Interestingly, this page in the excellent site ‘Numisology’ by Robert Bernobich illustrates a coin (his reference 204-401, under the tab 309-337 AD) that seems to have been minted by Constantine for Galerius at about this time as part of a series (RIC VI p 226) that included Maxminus (845a) and Licinius (845 b): if so, it is an exception that proves the rule. 

Consuls of 311 AD

Galerius now named himself as Consul for the 8th time, together with the newly elevated Maximinus, who became Consul for the 2nd time.  The fact that both Licinius and Constantine accepted these designations suggests that the measures Galerius had taken to reconstitute the imperial college had met with their approval.

Even Maxentius softened his position, by refraining from making alternative designations.  Thus, the so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD records the Consuls of 311 AD in Rome as:

consules quos iusserint D. D. N. N. AVG

ex mense Septembro factum est Rufino et [Volusiano]

This policy extended some months beyond the death of Galerius (below).  However, in September, Maxentius designated two leading members of the Senate as Consuls: Aradius Rufinus; and Ceionius Rufius Volusianus  (whom the ‘Chronograph’ incorrectly named as Eusebius).

Galerius’ Plans for Abdication (?)

According to Lactantius;

  1. “[On Constantius’ death, Galerius had hoped] to nominate [Licinius], in place of Constantius, to the dignity of Emperor, with the title of brother, while he himself might hold sovereign authority ...  After that, he meant to have solemnized the vicennial festival [which would begin on 1st March, 312 AD, on the 19th anniversary of his appointment as Caesar in 293 AD]; to have conferred on his son Candidianus ... the office of Caesar; and, in conclusion, to have resigned, as Diocletian had done.  And thus, Licinius and Severus being Emperors, and [Maximinus] and Candidianus in the next station of Caesars, he fancied that, environed as it were by an impregnable wall, he should lead an old age of security and peace.  Such were his plans; but God, whom he had made his adversary, frustrated all those imaginings” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 20: 3-5).

Constantine’s intrusion had certainly upset any such plans in 306 AD.  Nevertheless, it is possible that Galerius’ changes to the imperial college in late 310 AD had secured for him a situation conducive to this putative plan of abdication.

The most compelling evidence for Galerius’ planned retirement is in the form of the palace he built at Felix Romuliana (near modern Gamzigrad in eastern Serbia).  As Bill Leadbetter  (referenced below, 2010) pointed out:

  1. “This complex, in many respects, mirrors the palace of Diocletian at Split.  Just as Diocletian’s retirement home was constructed at his birthplace, so too, the Romuliana palace was built where Galerius was born and had his youth.  The farm upon which his family had settled after their removal from Dacia was rebuilt as a fortified villa [from] the late 290s AD. 

  2. -The first stage of building at the site seems to have been undertaken after Galerius’ Persian victory, and the construction was by military architects since it is clear from brick stamps recovered at the site that the actual builders were from the V Macedonica ... detachments [of which] had been with Galerius in Egypt and [possibly elsewhere] in the east. ....

  3. -Soon after he became Augustus [in 305 AD], a second phase of building commenced at Romuliana with greater and more elaborate fortifications.  Unlike the fortifications at Split, which were largely for show, these were for real.  Romuliana was far closer to the frontier, and Galerius far less trusting of his friends for it to be otherwise”.

For a detailed description of the excavations of the site, see D. Srejovic and C. Vasic, referenced below.

Bill Leadbetter (as above) concluded:

  1. “If [Diocletian’s palace at] Split was intended to be a working villa, [Galerius’ palace at Romuliana was much more like an armed camp for the protection of a more remote and less secure ruler.  Diocletian built a home; Galerius built a fortress.  Nevertheless, this distant rural fortress indicates Galerius’ own intention to abdicate”.

It was certainly his intended place of burial, as described below.  At least in this respect, his long-term plan was realised.

However, any such plans were defeated by the onset of Galerius’ final illness, signs of which must have been appearing (at least to him) during much of 310 AD.  Lactantius published a gloating account of Galerius’ sufferingat this time, which I have reproduced here without many of its gratuitously offensive elements:

  1. “ ... when Galerius was in the 18th year of his reign, God struck him with an incurable [and devastating disease]. ... famous physicians were brought in from all quarters; but no human means had any success.  Apollo and Aesculapius were besought [to no avail].  ... Stung to the soul, he bellowed with the pain ... [His suffering continued for] the course of a complete year ...” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 33).

Edict of Toleration (April 311 AD)

At the height of what proved to be a terminal illness, Galerius issued from Thessaloniki or perhaps Serdica an edict that mandated the toleration of Christian religion throughout the Empire.  According to Lactantius:

  1. “This Edict was promulgated at Nicomedia on the day preceding the kalends of May, in the 8th consulship of Galerius, and the 2nd of [Maximinus], [ i.e. on 30th April 311 AD].  Then, the prison-gates having been thrown open, [many imprisoned Christians] were set at liberty....” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 35: 1-2).

Eusebius published a translation into Greek of the Edict, as he presumably saw it in Caesarea.  The new policy was outlined as follows:

  1. “... we are wont to extend pardon to the [Christians] ... ; that they may ... rebuild the conventicles in which they were accustomed to assemble, on condition that nothing be done by them contrary to discipline.   In another letter we shall indicate to the magistrates what they have to observe.  Wherefore, on account of this  indulgence of ours, they ought to supplicate their God for our safety, that of the [Roman] people, and their own, so that the public welfare may be preserved in every place and that they may live securely in their ...  homes” (‘Historia Ecclesiastica’, 8:17: 9-10).

Lactantius also produced a version of the Edict (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 34).

Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, 2009, at p 224-5) provided a useful gloss on the content of the Edict:

  1. “In his text, Galerius justifies the instigation of the Persecution by the claim the Christians had abandoned [Roman] ancestral practices and the traditional rules of community, and were instead inventing laws for themselves.  He  ... [admitted] that many [Christians] had suffered and died, but to no purpose, since, rather than returning to the temples and time-honoured practices, [they] had ceased to worship at all.”

He pointed out that:

  1. “The conclusion of the Edict has long gone unremarked, although Galerius here does far more than simply order a cessation of the Persecution.  [He] now orders the restoration of places of [Christian] worship [that had been confiscated during the period of persecution].... and the Edict concludes with a clear injunction to Christians to pray to their God on his behalf and that of the Empire.”

This is probably not quite correct: as Stephen Mitchell (referenced below, at p 113) suggested:

  1. “The text [of the Edict] mentions a further letter, whose details are nowhere recorded, [which was] to be sent to judges instructing them what rules to observe.  It is likely that this [letter, rather than the Edict itself] would have contained advice on the vexed question of the restoration of Christian property.”

Galerius died within weeks (if not, days) of the publication of the Edict, and it seems that neither Licinius (initially) nor Maximinus put in place the administrative framework that was needed to facilitate the restoration of confiscated property (below).

Galerius’ Motivation

Scholars have long speculated on the reason for Galerius’ sudden change of heart.  It is possible that he had begun to wonder whether the Christian God had mandated his suffering, or at least whether He might intervene with fate on his behalf. 

However, his motivation might have been political: the old idea that the traditional gods had chosen and protected the Emperors, empowering them to choose their successors, had demonstrably lost traction: Galerius had been unable to exclude Constantine from the imperial college, to expel Maxentius from Rome and to prevent the promotion of the erstwhile Caesars, Maximinus and Constantine, the the rank of Augustus.  Unlike Diocletian, he would struggle to use his own Jovian credentials in determine the future pattern of power.  He must have known that the four contenders (Maximinus, Licinius, Constantine and Maxentius) would fight it out between them.  In this context, continued persecution of Christians in the east would have been an unnecessary complicating factor that would have increased the already high probability of civil war. 

Maximinus’ Response

Stephen Mitchell (referenced below, at p 116) justly observed that, even allowing for the bias in the accounts of Christian writers such as Lactantius and Eusebius:

  1. “... it seems beyond dispute that religious and political convictions led Maximinus to pursue anti-Christians measures more vigorously than his fellow rulers.”

Graeme Clarke (referenced below, at p 655-6) summarised the ‘charge sheet’:

  1. “... the narrative of Eusebius’ ‘Martyrs of Palestine’ records  for Palestine gruesome martyrdoms for every year [of the period 306-8 AD] under the governorships of Urbanus and then of Firmilianus.  Eusebius then records ‘a short relief and calm’ from persecution ...,lasting, it would appear, from summer 308 until autumn 309 AD, whilst Maximinus was embroiled in imperial politics, only to be broken without warning by further orders sent down byMaximinus ... In a valuable aside Eusebius remarks that even the heathens regarded these latter, provocative, measures as ‘harsh and unnecessary’.  Nevertheless Eusebius can go on to record a whole series of martyrdoms culminating in the horrific scene of 4th May 311 AD when Silvanus, bishop of Gaza, along with 39 other confessors (deemed too old or infirm to continue working usefully in the copper mines of Phaeno) were executed by decapitation on a single day”.

Stephen Mitchell (referenced below, at p 112, paragraphs F and G) also summarised Maximinus’ persecutions over this period.  However,  Graeme Clarke (as above) noted that, almost immediately after the martyrdom of Silvanus and his colleagues:

  1. “Persecution [by Maximinus] ceased, for a few days earlier the dying emperor Galerius in the name of all his imperial colleagues (includingMaximinus), had issued [the Edict of Toleration]”

As translated by Eusebius (above), the issuers of the Edict were actually Galerius himself, Constantine and Licinius.  However, as Graeme Clarke (referenced below, at 656, note 162) pointed out:

  1. “Although, in our extant versions, [Maximinus’] name (later subject to damnatio memoriae) does not appear, it is clear that [the Edict] was issued by Galerius on behalf of [all] his imperial colleagues.”

Maximinus might well have received it only after Galerius himself had died.  Nevertheless, he duly promulgated it.  Thus, Eusebius reluctantly conceded:

  1. “[Galerius’] Edict of recantation, ... was posted in all parts of Asia and in the adjoining provinces.  After this had been done, Maximinus, ... being by no means satisfied  with its contents, instead of sending [it] to the governors under him, gave them [only] verbal commands to relax the war against us.  For, since he could not in any other way oppose the decision of his superiors by keeping the law that had been already issued secret, ... he gave an unwritten order to his governors that they should relax the persecution against us.  They communicated the command to each other in writing.  Sabinus, at least, who was [Maximinus’ Praetorian Prefect], communicated the will of the Emperor to the provincial governors in a Latin epistle [which Eusebius then translated into Greek]” (‘Historia Ecclesiastica’, 9:1: 1-3).

The Christians were clearly exhilarated:

  1. “... those who a little while before had been driven in bonds from their native countries under a most cruel sentence, returning with bright and joyful  faces to their own firesides; so that even those that had formerly thirsted for our blood, when they saw the unexpected wonder, congratulated us on what had taken place” (‘Historia Ecclesiastica’, 9:1:11).

Constantine’s Response

As noted in the page on Constantine's Accession (306 AD), Lactantius claimed that, immediately on his acclamation by his father’s army, Constantine immediately and formally ended the persecution of Christians

  1. “Constantine Augustus, having assumed the government, made it his first care to restore the Christians to the exercise of their worship and to their God; and so began his administration by reinstating the holy religion” ((‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 24:9).

However, as Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 1996, at p 185, 21a) observed:

  1. “This may not have entailed much action, since the mild attitude of Constantius meant that the persecution had had little effect in his provinces, except perhaps in Spain, which he only took over in 305 AD from Maximian”.

Thus, it is unlikely that Constantine needed to do anything in order to give effect to Galerius’ Edict in the territories that he controlled.

Licinius’ Response

As Torben Christensen (referenced below, at p 187) pointed out:

  1. “we have no reliable evidence that Licinius persecuted Christians when he was given Pannonia as Augustus: those few accounts of martyrs that claim to originate from there are of such a dubious quality that they cannot be used as a basis [to claim otherwise].  On the other hand, this does not mean that Licinius had started to pursue friendly policies towards the Christians.  He has not gone down in history  ... as a persecutor of Christians probably [because] the Christians formed such a small minority in Pannonia that it was easy for them to escape the attention of the authorities

Licinius probably promulgated Galerius’ Edict as soon as it was released.  However, like Maximinus, he does not seem to have facilitated the restoration of confiscated Christian property (as discussed in the page on Maximinus, Senior Augustus (311-2 AD)).

Death of Galerius  (311 AD)

Lactantius died very shortly after the publication of the Edict of Toleration.  As Lactantius gloated:

  1. “Galerius ... did not, by publication of this Edict, obtain the ... forgiveness [of the Christian God].   A few days after, he was consumed by the horrible disease that [had afflicted him for so long].  ... This event was known at Nicomedia before the end of the month.  His vicennial anniversary was to have been celebrated on the ensuing kalends of March [i.e. on 1st March 312 AD]” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 35: 3-4).

The likelihood is that Galerius still had his main residence at Thessalonica in the last months of his life.  However, according to the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’:

  1. “He was ... buried where he was born, in Dacia Ripensis, [in] a place which he had called Romulianum [modern Gamzigrad, in Serbia] from the name of his mother, Romula” (40:16). 

Romulianum was the site of what seems to have been Galerius’ planned retirement palace, and the archeological evidence suggests that he was indeed buried there.  Thus he must have attempted a painful journey of some 550 km (via Serdica at roughly the halfway point) in order to reach it.  The scant sources suggest that he failed in this heroic attempt: Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, 2009, at p 242) cited evidence from the so-called he so-called ‘Chronograph’ of 354 AD that he actually died in Dardania (rather than Dacia Ripensis), and suggested that:

  1. “Perhaps weakened by his journey, Galerius died en route [to Romulianum, where he had hoped to die].”

Licinius had caught up with him by this time: as Lactantius  recorded:

  1. “Dying, [Galerius] recommended his wife and son to Licinius, and delivered them over into his hands” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 35: 3).

Leadbetter suggested that:

  1. “The cortege then moved on to Romuliana.  It may well have been Licinius (as was appropriate in the circumstances) who oversaw Galerius’ funeral rights and interment in the mausoleum there.” 

The interment and consecration of Galerius are discussed in the page on Consecrated Tetrarchs (306-11 AD).

Read more:

‘RIC’ - see Sutherland (1967) below

S. Corcoran, “Grappling with the Hydra: Co-ordination and Conflict in the Management of Tetrarchic Succession”, in

  1. G. Bonamente et al. (Eds), “Costantino Prima e Dopo Costantino”, (2012) Bari, pp. 3-15

T. Barnes, “Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire”, (2011) Chichester 

W. Leadbetter, “Galerius, Gamzigrad and the Politics of Abdication”, Australasian Society for Classical Studies, 31 (2010) [online] 

W. Leadbetter, “Galerius and the Will of Diocletian”, (2009) London

B. Salway, “Roman Consuls, Imperial Politics, and Egyptian Papyri: the Consulates of 325 and 344 CE”, Journal of Late Antiquity, 1:2 (2008) 278-310

S. Corcoran, “Galerius, Maximinus and the Titulature of the Third Tetrarchy”, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 49 (2006) 231-40

G. Clarke, “Third Century Christianity” in:

  1. A. Bowman et al. (Eds), “Cambridge Ancient History,Volume 12: The Crisis of Empire, 193-337 AD”, (2005, 2nd edition) pp. 589-671

P. Porena, “Le Origini della Prefettura del Pretorio Tardoantica”, (2003) Rome

C. E. V. Nixon and B. S. Rodgers, “In Praise of Later Roman Emperors: The Panegyrici Latini”, (1994) Berkeley

D. Srejovic and C. Vasic, “Emperor Galerius' Buildings in Romuliana (Gamzigrad, Eastern Serbia)”, Antiquité Tardive, 2 (1994) 123-41

S. Mitchell, “Maximinus and the Christians in AD 312: A New Latin Inscription”, Journal of Roman Studies, 78 (1988), 105–24.

  1. (Link to this article in this page of Constantinethe

T. Barnes, “New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine” (1982) Harvard

C. Sutherland, “Roman Imperial Coinage: Volume VI: From Diocletian’s Reform to the Death of Maximinus (294-313 AD)”, (1967, reprinted 1973) London

Galerius as Augustus II (308-11 AD)     Licinius (308-11 AD)     

Maxentius in Rome: (308-11 AD)   Maxentius' Public Works

Maxentius' Complex on Via Appia     Maxentius' Coins for Divus Romulus (309 AD)

Constantine in Gaul (308-11 AD)     Constantine, Divus Claudius and Sol Invictus

Consecrated Tetrarchs (306-11 AD)     Consecrated Tetrarchs: Mausoleum Coins

Literary Sources : Diocletian to Constantine (285-337 AD)

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