Key to Umbria

Maxentius (identified from coin portraits)

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Maximinus, Maximus Augustus

The death of Galerius in April/May 311 AD left the Empire in the hands of three ‘legitimate’ Augusti: Maximinus, who was now maximus augustus; Constantine; and Licinius.  Maxentius who controlled peninsular Italy and Africa and enjoyed the support of the Senate in Rome, was nevertheless considered to be a usurper in territory that belonged to Licinius.  However, his subsequent actions suggest that he was reasonably optimistic about his chances of winning acceptance within the ‘legitimate’ imperial college.

Consecration of Galerius (311 AD)

Carol Sutherland (referenced below) catalogued a consecration coin (RIC VI Rome 271) that Maxentius minted for Galerius:

Obverse: DIVO MAXIMIANO AUG: veiled bust of Galerius

Reverse: MEMORIA FELIX: lighted and garlanded altar, flanked by eagles.

The associated note observed that:

  1. “[This] reverse type seems to be anomalous for Rome, and the reverse [of the actual coin examined] has been tooled, though not necessarily so as to altar the mark of another mint [i.e. to make a coin that had been minted elsewhere look like it had been minted at Rome].”

If the coin type was as catalogued and had been minted at Rome, then it follows that Maxentius had used a standard consecration iconography (and, specifically, a precedent from Constantine’s earlier coins for divus Constantius) to commemorate the consecration of Galerius.  This implies that he moved quickly after Galerius’ death to consecrate his erstwhile enemy, who was now his late, lamented father-in-law.

Maximinus and Licinius also minted for divus Galerius (although Constantine conspicuously did not).  However, Maxentius had an important advantage over the Augusti: he could arrange for the formal consecration of Galerius in Rome, complete with the approval of the Senate:

  1. As argued below, Maxentius had refrained from minting for divus Constantius at Rome during his alliance with Constantine in 307-8 AD, despite the fact that he did  mint for divus Constantius at his northern Italian mints.  This was probably because the Senate had not formally approved Constantius’ consecration of his father. 

  2. It seems to me that this Maxentian coin for Galerius (if it is correctly catalogued and was minted at Rome) probably commemorated a formal consecration process held at Rome under the auspices of Maxentius shortly after Galerius’ death.

Maxentius’ Designation of Consuls (311 AD)

Maxentius had rejected Galerius’ consular designation and served himself as Consul in Rome (either alone or with his son Romulus) in every year from the time of the exile of his father (April 308 AD) until the end of 310 AD.   However, he had then changed his policy by refraining from making alternative designations to those of Galerius in 311 AD, presumably in the hope of some accommodation with him in the new political climate that had followed his reconstitution of the imperial college. 

Nothing came of this ‘olive branch’, but Maxentius nevertheless continued this policy for a few months after Galerius’ death, when Maximinus continued as sole Consul (with divus Galerius as his nominal colleague).  His his putative of Galerius  in Rome probably also took place in this period.

However the so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD recorded that:

ex mense Septembro [311 AD] factum est Rufino et [Volusiano]

Thus, in September 311 AD, Maxentius rejected Maximinus’ Consulate and instead designated two Senators as Consuls in Rome.   

Maxentius’ Relations with the Senate

Maxentius’s choice of non-imperial Consuls for the first time was presumably designed to further enhance his standing with the Senate in preparation for the struggle to come.  While the identifications cannot be certain, it seems likely that these were:

  1. Aradius Rufinus; and

  2. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus (whom the ‘Chronograph’ incorrectly named as Eusebius).

It was probably at this time and for the same reason that Maxentius consecrated Maximianus and Constantius at Rome, a move that further underlined his respect for the traditional rôle of the Senate. 

Maxentius subsequently felt confident enough to  revert to his traditional policy of designating himself as sole Consul for 312 AD, in opposition to Maximinus’ designations of Constantine and Licinius.  Nevertheless, he used other appointments in order to demonstrate his respect for the Senate, presumably in the hope of securing its continuing support.

Urban Prefecture

Robert Chenault (referenced below) elaborated on Maxentius’ changed attitude to the Urban Prefecture at this time: 

  1. “... beginning in [October 310 AD, Maxentius] made the Prefecture an annual office [that] began on his imperial anniversary [V Kal. Nov (28th October)] ....  By associating himself [in this way] with the most important official in the city, Maxentius simultaneously advertised his devotion to Rome and the support he received from the Senate.  The Emperor’s relationship with the Urban Prefect became a symbolic expression of the consensus between Emperor and Senate”.

This pattern of appointments is evident in the list of Maxentius’ Urban Prefects in the so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD:

        [310 AD]        V kal. Nov:            Rufius Volusianus 

        [311 AD]         V kal. Nov:            Iunius Flavianus

        [312 AD]         V idus Febr:         Aradius Rufinus

                                  VI kal. Nov:         Annius Anulinus (d. XXXIIII - for 34 days] 

Caius Ceionius Rufius Volusianus

Rufius Volusianus belonged to the important gens Ceionia.  According to Cristian Olariu (referenced below, at pp 276-7), this family:

  1. “... had its moments of glory in the age of the Principate, then [again] in late antiquity”. 

In this second incarnation:

  1. “Caius Ceionus Rufius Volusianus [was the] true founder of the new family of Ceionii Rufii.”

His early career is known from an inscription (CIL X 1655), in which he was commemorated as Corrector (governor) of Italy under the Emperor Carinus (283-5 AD). 

Rufius Volusianus’ later career is known from two inscriptions from Rome (CIL VI 1707, LSA-1415; and CIL VI 41319, LSA-1573), both of which date to his later period of office under Constantine and therefore omit his known offices under Maxentius.  The first of these inscriptions revealed that his term as Corrector of Italy had extended for eight years: Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1975, at p 46) suggested that this period had extended over the period ca. 282-90 AD, and speculated that he might have played a significant role in Diocletian’s rise to power in 285 AD. 

A fragmentary inscription that was reused in San Giovanni Laterano, Rome commemorated  seven men (in an unknown but somewhat erudite context):

Rufius Volusianus, v(ir) c(larissimus), XV[vir s(acris) f(aciundis)]

Rufius Festus, v(ir) c(larissimus), XV(vir) s(acris) f(aciundis)

Sebasmius philos[ophus ---]

[Aelius Dionysius?, v(ir) c(larissimus),?]  pon[tifex dei Solis?]

Brittius Praesens, v(ir) c(larissimus), p(ontifex) m(aior)

Evagrius philosopus [---]

Fl(avius) Atticus, v(ir) c(larissimus)

The first of these might be the Ceionius Rufius Volusianus discussed here.  The inscription can possibly be dated by the erased name in the surviving 4th line, which has been completed as that of Aelius Helvius Dionysius, who held (inter alia) the priesthood of Pontifex dei Solis (CIL VI 1673; EDR 137193): he had been Proconsul of Africa in 296-300 AD, but his name had been similarly erased from inscriptions there shortly afterwards.  If the suggested completion is correct, this would date the inscription above to ca. 300 AD.

Rufius Volusianus had then held the post of Proconsul of Africa in 305-6 AD.   Pierfrancesco Porena ( referenced below, at p 263) suggested that he had still held this post at the time of Maxentius’ coup, and that he had welcomed it:

  1. “The loyalty of the noble Volusianus to Maxentius is evidenced, without a shadow of a doubt, by the prestigious appointments that he received during the reign of the usurper ....” (my translation).

Rufius Volusianus held three important posts under Maxentius:

  1. As Praetorian Prefect, he was instrumental in putting down the African revolt in 310 AD. 

  2. Maxentius then conferred on him the considerable honour of appointment as Urban Prefect for the year of his quinquennalia (beginning on 28th October 310 AD). 

  3. He still held this post when he was appointed as Consul for the last four months of 311 AD.

A later inscription (CIL  VI 2153) identified Rufius Volusianus as a member of the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a prestigious college of 15 priests that guarded the Sibylline Books in Rome.  According to Noel Lenski (referenced below, at p 211, note 29)

  1. “The inscription dates to ca. 320 AD, but the quindecimvirate was a lifetime office and Rufius Volusianus, who was born in the late 240s, would probably already have held this priesthood by 312 AD, when he would have been in his sixties.”

Iunius Flavianus

Nothing is known about Iunius Flavianus, whose appointment as Urban Prefect ended on the non-canonical date of 9th February 312 AD (as noted above).  It has been speculated that this might have been connected with an account by Eusebius, who recorded the sad fate of a:

  1. “....woman of Rome who was truly the most noble and modest of all those whom the tyrant Maxentius ... endeavoured to abuse.  For, when she learned that those who served the tyrant in such matters were at the house (she also was a Christian), and that her husband, although a Prefect of Rome, would allow them to take and lead her away, having requested a little time for adorning her body, she entered her chamber and, being alone, stabbed herself with a sword” (‘Historia  Ecclesiastica’, 14: 16-7) .

André  Chastagnol (referenced below, at p 59) suggested that Flavianus might have been the compliant Urban Prefect, in which case his wife’s suicide might have led to his resignation (or even to his own suicide).

[Quintus?] Aradius Rufinus

The Chronograph’ of 354 AD recorded a man called Aradius Rufinus as Urban Prefect in 304-5 AD: this could be ‘our’ Aradius Rufinus, the Urban Prefect who replaced Iunius Flavianus on 9th February 312 AD, although Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1982, at p 115) suggested that he was more probably his father.  His relationship, if any, to Statius Rufinus, whom Maxentius had appointed as Urban Prefect immediately after his break with Maximian, is unknown. 

‘Our’ Aradius Rufinus was almost certainly the father of two men who were commemorated by a number of inscriptions that were found in the 16th century in the gardens of San Stefano Rotondo beside the church of Sant’ Erasmo, on the Caelian hill:

  1. Quintus Aradius Valerius Proculus (CIL VI 1684-9); and

  2. Lucius Aradius Valerius Proculus (CIL VI 1690, LSA-1396; CIL VI 1691, LSA-1397; CIL VI 1692; LSA-1398 and CIL VI 1693 LSA-1399).

This had long been the site of one of the houses of the gens Valeria: according to John Matthews (referenced below):

  1. “[Avianus] Symmachus, addressing Lucius Aradius Valerius Proculus, signo Populonius [in ca. 375 AD, in one of a series of epigrams addressing “the good men of [his] age”], ... praised his friend for his descent from the Republican Poplicolae; but by this time, the house [on the Caelian] where, in the 3rd century, Lucius Valerius Poplicola Balbinus Maximus had been honoured by his clients, had passed by marriage to the Aradii - a new family of the Empire, who perhaps came from Africa.”

Since the elder Aradius did not use the gentilicum Valerius, it was presumably he who had married into the gens Valeria, thereby achieving this impressive lineage for his sons.  One wonders whether he was instrumental in helping Maxentius to develop his claims for his own Valerian dynasty (discussed above).

As noted above, Aradius Rufinus had probably served as Consul (with Rufius Volusianus) in the last four months of 311 AD, just prior to his term as Urban Prefect (9th February 312 AD).  The circumstances in which he was relieved of this latter post, immediately before the fateful Battle of the Milvian Bridge, are discussed below. 

Like Rufius Volusianus, Aradius Rufinus quickly won Constantine’s favour after his defeat of Maxentius.  This perhaps reflected on his diplomatic skills: Avianius Symmachus, who was  writing in ca. 375 of “the good men of [his] age”, asserted that Aradius Rufinus had been:

  1. “Loved by all, protector of the fearful:

  2. -to the good leaders of [his] time [like Constantine], he skilfully applied the spur; and

  3. -to the tyrants [like Maxentius, he applied] the bit” ((Ep. 1:2:3).

The distinction made here between the bit and the spur is surely diplomatic hindsight: Aradius had clearly enjoyed a position of trust with both Maxentius and Constantine.  At least in the case of Maxentius, this trust might have been misplaced. 

[Caius (?)] Annius Anullinus

Maxentius dispensed with the services of Aradius Rufinus as Urban Prefect on 27th October, a day before the canonical date, which coincided with his fateful engagement with Constantine at the Milvian Bridge.  At this crucial moment, he appointed Annius Anullinus as the new Urban Prefect.  Maxentius died in battle on the following day, but Constantine kept Anullinus in post for a month (until 29 November 312 AD).

In order to identify this Anullinus, it is important to recognise that, as Timothy Barnes (referenced below, at p 116-7) pointed out:

  1. “ The Anullini of the 3rd and early 4th centuries AD present problems of identity that probably cannot be solved on the available evidence”. 

For example, in the period before Maxentius’ coup:

  1. an Annius Anullinus had served as one of the Consuls of 295 AD; and

  2. Caius Annius Anullinus had been widely documented as Proconsul of Africa in 303-5 AD, when he was very much involved in the persecution of Christians. 

Timothy Barnes (as above) argued that it would have been unusual for a former Consul to hold the lesser position of Proconsul of Africa.   Thus, it seems likely (although by no means certain) that these were two different men from the same family, possibly father and son. 

The family name is associated with two other posts at the time of the coup:

  1. Constantius had appointed an Annius Anullinus as Urban Prefect on the 19th March 306 AD and, when Constantius died in July of that year, he had retained his post under Severus.  Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 248) suggested that he was absent from Rome at the time of  the coup in the following October, probably because he had travelled to Severus‘ court to offer the city’s congratulations on his recent elevation.  According to Zosimus, during the coup:

  2. “[Maxentius and his supporters] murdered Abellius because he, being Prefect of the city, opposed their enterprise” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:9:3)

  3. In fact, Abellius was probably Anullinus’ vicarius (deputy): Anullinus himself subsequently returned to Rome and retained his position under Maxentius until 27th August 307 AD.

  4. According to Zosimus, as Severus advanced on Rome shortly after the coup:

  5. “... Maxentius corrupted his troops and even the [Praetorian Prefect] Anullinus with money, and thereby defeated him with great ease” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:10:1)

  6. Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 250) argued that Zosimus was perfectly clear about the difference between the posts of Praetorian Prefect and Urban Prefect, so the suggestion that he simply mis-stated Anullinus’ position in this account can be discounted. 

Thus, we should assume that the Urban Prefect and the Praetorian Prefect mentioned here were different men called Anullinus, and that both deserted Severus to serve Maxentius after the coup.  André Chastagnol (referenced below, at p 47) suggested that they might have been brothers.  However, Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 251) pointed out that the Praetorian Prefect would have been an equestrian and; if so it is most unlikely that he was related to the Urban Prefect of the same name.  He observed (at p 253-4):

  1. “We do not know the fate of the Praetorian Prefect Anullinus, albeit that, after his defection, he would have had to remain in Italy.  We do not know therefore whether he might have subsequently been appointed as Maxentius’ (first) Praetorian Prefect” (my translation).

This brings us to the Annius Anullinus whom Maxentius appointed as Urban Prefect on the eve of his battle against Constantine.  There is no scholarly consensus as to his identity.  For example:

  1. Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1982, at p 116-7) suggested that he was the Praetorian Prefect who had defected from Severus to Maxentius at the time of the coup.  However, Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 251) thought that his equestrian rank would have precluded such an appointment.

  2. André Chastagnol (referenced below, at p 47) suggested that he was the Annius Anullinus who had remained as Urban Prefect for a few months after the coup.  Noel Lenski (referenced below, at p 200), who was of the same opinion, gave the likely reason for Maxentius’ appointment of him on the second occasion:

  3. “By returning the same Senator to the Urban Prefecture in his final hours, Maxentius clearly fell back on an old ally whose support in 306 AD  had helped ward off the threat of siege once before [i.e. during the siege of Severus in 307 AD].”

Maxentius’ Relations with the Church

Maxentius had ended the persecution of Christians in his territories early in his reign (as described in the page on Maxentius in Rome: (308-11 AD)).  That page also described the subsequent unrest within the Church in Rome, which led to a papal vacancy that began with the exile of Pope Eusebius, in 308 AD and ended with the election of Pope Miltiades on 2nd July 311 AD.

At this point, Maxentius facilitated the return to the Church in Rome of property that had been confiscated during the period of persecution that had preceded his coupThis is known from St Augustine’s defence of the posthumous memory of Pope Miltiades, which was preserved in his Breviculus collationis cum Donatistis’ (III:34) of ca. 411 AD.  Here, St Augustine reminded Miltiades’ Donatist critics that, far from betraying the Church,  he (Miltiades) had obtained from Maxentius and his Praetorian Prefect letters to the Urban Prefect that ordered him to put the into effect measure need for the restoration.  Miltiades had duly despatched two deacons to the Urban Prefect, armed with the letters, and the restoration had been duly made.

Given the timing, it seems likely that Maxentius was responding to the spirit of Galerius’ Edict of Toleration and, in particular, that of the supplementary letter that faciltitated the restoration of Christian property (as discussed in the page on Maximinus, Senior Augustus (311-2 AD).  In addition, he might have felt it expedient to secure good relations with Miltiades and his followers by giving them the same rights as those enjoyed by the Christians in Constantine’s territories.  However, in fairness to Maxentius, it is also entirely possible that the  internal problems of Church in Rome in the preceding period might well have precluded an earlier restitution.

Maxentius’ Imperial Dynasty

In the discussion above, I suggested that Maxentius arranged for the formal deification of Galerius in Rome soon after his death.  However, there was nothing overtly dynastic about the consecration coin that gave rise to this suggestion.  Maxentius was surely keen to remind his audience that he had been the son-in-law of divus Galerius, but this was not explicitly stated on the coins.

However, Maxentius subsequently issued a famous set of dynastic consecration coins that (I argue below) signalled his loss of patience with the ‘legitimate’ imperial college and asserted his own dynastic claim on imperial power.  I also argue that these coins must have commemorated formal consecration processes held in Rome  for Maximian and Constantius, following that for Galerius.

Consecration Coins


                                 IMP MAXENTIUS,                                                       IMP MAXENTIUS, 

                         DIVO CONSTANTIO COGN/                                       DIVO ROMULO N V FILIO/

                           AETERNAE MEMORIAE                                             AETERNAE MEMORIAE

                                 RIC VI Rome 252                                                               RIC VI Rome 256


                                   IMP MAXENTIUS,                                                       IMP MAXENTIUS, 

                         DIVO MAXIMIANO PATRI/                           DIVO MAXIMIANO [GALERIUS] SOCERO/

                           AETERNAE MEMORIAE                                             AETERNAE MEMORIAE

                                    RIC VI Rome 251                                                             RIC VI Rome 255            

According to Mats Cullhed (referenced below, at p 76), after the death of Galerius:

  1. “... Maxentius went on to formulate ... his ambitions of supreme power by creating a new dynasty of Emperors of Rome ... For the first time since 307/8 AD, he coined for Emperors other than himself:

  2. but only for deceased rulers [to whom he was related]:

  3. -[the divi Galerius, Maximianus and Constantius, in addition to divus Romulus];

  4. completely ignoring:

  5. -[the living Augusti] Constantine, Licinius and Maximinus; and

  6. -[the living but retired] Diocletian ...”

Sabine MacCormack (referenced below, at p 112) described the minting of this series of coins as:

  1. “... the perfect numismatic example ...  of how the idea of consecratio could be used as a propaganda weapon, as a claim for legitimacy”.

Like Maxentius’ earlier series of consecration coins for divus Romulus of 309 AD (described in my page on Consecrated Tetrarchs: Mausoleum Coins), all these coins:

  1. were produced for each subject at both Rome and Ostia, the two mints in his territory that were still in operation;

  2. bore the reverse legend ‘AETERNAE MEMORIAE’ (expressed in the nominative ‘AETERNA MEMORIA’ on the coins from Ostia); and

  3. had reverse designs that depicted domed funerary structures (as evidenced by an eagle perched above, to symbolise apotheosis). 

However, unlike the funerary structures of the first series for divus Romulus, those of this second series were characterised by a facade of either four or six columns flanking the door.   (Examples of the coins with hexastyle reverses are illustrated above).  The 24 coin types in this second ‘AETERNAE MEMORIAE’ series are described in detail in my page on Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD).

Divus Maximianus

Maximian had died in Gaul, either by suicide or execution, following his failed rebellion against Constantine in 310 AD.  Once he was safely dead, Maxentius apparently found it expedient to ‘forgive and forget’ their past enmity, and to bask in the reflected glory of a deified father.  However, he only minted for divus Maximianus within the second  ‘AETERNAE MEMORIAE’ series, which suggests that he deferred his father’s formal consecration until after that of Galerius (discussed above). 

I think that this was the point at which Maxentius issued the four coin types in this second series that (unlike the other twenty) did not specify Maxentius’ dynastic tie to the deceased.  The commemorated: 

  1. Maximianus: DIVO MAXIMIANO SEN  AUG (RIC VI: Rome 250 and Ostia 24); and

  2. Galerius: DIVO MAXIMIANO IUN  AUG (RIC VI Rome, 246 and 253).

This putative consecration of Maximian constituted an assertion that Maxentius’ imperial legitimacy exceeded that of Maximinus, the maximus augustus, whose consecration coins for Galerius (eg. RIC VI Cyzicus 75) had proclaimed him:

DIVO MAXIMIANO: MAXIMINVS AVG FIL (divus Galerius: Maximinus, his son).

According to the legends on Maxentius’ coins, his father ‘outranked’ Galerius, his father-in-law Maximinus’ father by adoption. 

The consecration also represented an insult to Constantine, since it implied the exoneration (or perhaps the  denial) of Maximian’s treachery and thus the condemnation of Constantine’s action.   Timothy Barnes (reference) suggested that Constantine’s hardened attitude towards the memory of Maximian (below) was associated with:

  1. “.... a change in Maxentius’ attitude to his father.  After his death, he began to commemorate him [in his coinage] as ‘divus Maximianus pater’, and he accused Constantine of killing him ...”

Here he cited Zosimus:

  1. “Maxentius ... sought every occasion to make war on Constantine, ... pretending grief for his father's death, of which Constantine was the cause ...” (‘Historia Nova’ 2:14:11).

Lactantius also considered that Maxentius had:

  1. “... declared war against Constantine, as if to revenge the death of his father Maximian” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 43: 4).

It is possible that Maxentius’ consecration of Maximian precipitated Constantine’s damnation of Maximian’s memory.  Lactantius, the only source for this action, placed it explicitly after the death of Galerius:

  1. “At this time, by command of Constantine, the statues of Maximian Herculius were thrown down, and his portraits removed; and, as the two old Emperors [Diocletian and Maximian] were generally delineated in one piece, the portraits of both were removed at the same time. Thus Diocletian lived to see a disgrace which no former Emperor had ever seen ....” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 42:1-2).   

Since Diocletian probably died in December 311 AD (see below), Constantine’s damnation of Maximian’s memory apparently occurred  in the latter part of that year, quite possible after Maxentius’ consecration of Maximian. 

Constantine’s hardened attitude probably gave rise to the revised account of Maximian’s death that appeared in the work of Lactantius:

  1. “[After his capture at Marseille], the rebel Emperor [Maximian] ... was dragged into the presence of Constantine, to hear a recital made of his crimes.  He was divested of his imperial robe and, after this reprimand, obtained his life.  Maximian [however] ... grew impatient at his abased condition and ... formed new plots against Constantine.  He addressed himself to his daughter Fausta and ... solicited her to betray her husband.  ... Fausta undertook to do whatever he asked, but instantly revealed the whole to her husband.  A plan was laid for detecting Maximian in the very execution of his crime.  They placed a base eunuch to be murdered instead of  [Constantine].  At the dead of night Maximian ... went in armed [to Constantine’s bedroom], killed the eunuch, sprang forth exultingly and avowed the murder.  At that moment Constantine showed himself on the opposite side [of the room] with a band of soldiers ... [and] upbraided him for his impiety and enormous guilt.  At last Maximian obtained leave that the manner of his death should be of his own choice, and he strangled himself.  Thus  ... that most haughty man had his neck broken, and ended his detestable life by a death base and ignominious” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 29:8 - 30:6).

Timothy Barnes (referenced below. 2011, at p 74) suggested that Lactantius’ account reflected:

  1. “... Constantine’s propaganda, [at a time when he] started to paint Maximian in the blackest terms possible: hence the invention of the attempt at assassinating Constantine ..., which Lactantius doubtless heard constantly reiterated at  the court at Trier in 311/2 AD ...”.

Finally, Maxentius’ putative consecration of Maximian might well have had military consequences, since it constituted an invitation to those soldiers of both Constantine and Licinius who remained inherently loyal to Maximian to defect.  Thus, it is possible that Maxentius’ action precipitated the alliance between Constantine and Licinius (discussed below), albeit that the direction of causality is difficult to determine. 

Divus Constantius

As mentioned above, Maxentius had first minted for divus Constantius at Ticinum and Aquileia in 307 AD, at the time of his alliance with Constantine .  Significantly, at this point, he had not done so at Rome., and I suggested in my page on Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD) that this was because Constantine had not received ratification from the Senate for his unilateral deification of his father. If this is correct, then the coins that Maxentius minted at Rome for divus Constantius as part of his second ‘AETERNA MEMORIA’ series  - RIC VI: Rome 245 and 252; and Ostia 27, 28 and 29, which described him as Maxentius’ cognatus (blood relative) or, more accurately his adfinis (relative by marriage) - probably commemorated a consecration process he had now held for Constantius with the approval of the Senate. 

This putative consecration process for divus Constantius would have been particularly offensive to Constantine:

  1. according to Zosimus, Maxentius was apt to claim that Constantine was the “son of a harlot” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:9) and hence ‘only’ the illegitimate son of Constantius;

  2. by officiating at Constantius’ formal consecration in Rome, Maxentius now claimed him for his own dynasty; and

  3. by involving the Senate, Maxentius underlined his respect for Roman tradition, in stark contrast to the disrespect inherent in Constantine’s earlier consecration of his father.

This insult, combined with Maxentius’ consecration of Maximian discussed above, probably made war between Constantine and Maxentius inevitable. 

Dynastic Inscriptions

Two surviving inscriptions reinforce this picture of Maxentius claim to be the legitimate successor of the divi Maximian and Galerius:

  1. An inscription (CIL VIII 20989: LSA-2557) on the base of a statue of Maxentius from Mauretania Caesariensis (modern Algeria) read:

Filio divi Maximi/ani, genero divi/ Maximiani, felicis/simoru(m) Impp(eratorum)

Imp(eratori) to/tius orbis perpetuo

d(omino) n(ostro) M(arco) [A]ur(elio) Val(erio) Maxen/tio

Pio, Felici, Invicto/ et gloriosissimo sem/per Aug(usto)

Val(erius) Faustus/ v(ir) p(erfectissimus)

p(raeses) p(rovinciae) Maur(etaniae) Caes(ariensis)

devo/tus numini maiesta/tique eius.

To the son of divus Maximianus, son-in-law of divus [Galerius], most fortunate Emperors

forever Emperor of the whole world, our Lord Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius

pious, fortunate, unconquered and most glorious, forever Augustus

Valerius Faustus, of perfectissimus rank

governor of the province of Mauretania Caesariensis

devoted to his divine spirit and majesty [set this up]

  1. An inscription (CIL VI 1138) from what was probably the base of a statue to divus Romulus near the circus in Maxentius’ complex on the Via Appia (where Romulus was almost certainly buried), commemorated:

Divo Romulo n(obilissimae) m(emoriae) v(iro)

co(n)s(uli) or[d(inario) I]I

filio / d(omini) n(ostri) Maxent[ii] Invict(i) / [ac perpet(ui)] Aug(usti)

nepoti / [di]vi [M]axim[i]ani Sen(ioris) /


divi [Maximiani Iu]/[ni]oris

ac [ .... ]

To divus Romulus, man of most noble memory,

consul ordinary for the second time

son of our lord Maxentius the unconquered and perpetual Augustus

grandson of divus Maximianus senior [Maximian]


of divus Maximianus junior [Galerius]

and also ...

Political Alliances

Lactantius described the web of intrigue that he believed governed the relationships between the four contenders for power following Galerius’ death:

  1. “When [Maximinus] heard that [Constantia, the half- sister] of Constantine, was betrothed to Licinius, he apprehended that [Constantine and Licinius] ... meant to league against him; so he privily sent ambassadors to Rome, desiring a friendly alliance with Maxentius ...  The ambassadors were received courteously, friendship established, and in token of it the effigies of Maxentius and [Maximinus] were placed together in public view.  Maxentius willingly embraced this, as if it had been an aid from heaven; for he had already declared war against Constantine, as if to revenge the death of his father Maximian” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 43: 3-4).

As discussed in the page on Maximinus, Senior Augustus (311-2 AD):

  1. it is highly likely that Constantine and Licinius formed an alliance that was cemented by the betrothal of Licinius and Constantia in 311 AD; but

  2. the existence of an alliance between Maxentius and Maximian is most unlikely, given Maxentius’ rejection of Maximinus as Consul from September 312 AD; and the implied insult to Maximinus that was inherent in Maxentius’ dynastic coin series (above).

The key point here is that Maxentius had waited:

  1. almost a year after the death of his father before consecrating him; and

  2. about four months after Maximinus succeeded Galerius before rejecting Maximinus’ designation as Consul.

Both of these acts of subversion occurred in or about September 311 AD, and both must surely have been triggered by Maxentius’ realisation that he would never be accepted into the ‘legitimate’ imperial college. 

David Potter (referenced below, 2013, at p 135) suggested that the terms of the alliance between Constantine and Licinius:

  1. “... insofar as they can be reconstructed from later events, seem to have involved:

  2. -some sort of military demonstration by Licinius that would tie down some of Maxentius’ forces in northeastern Italy; followed by

  3. -a pledge of support from Constantine during what would be Licinius’ subsequent war against Maximinus”.

Mats Cullhed, referenced below, at p 83) was of a similarly of the view:

  1. “[An] alliance was sealed by the betrothal of Licinius to [Constantia] .... and it seems probable that the two Emperors, from the outset, agreed on a joint policy for the future division of the Empire between them, Constantine taking the western part and Licinius the eastern.  When Constantine invaded Italy in 312 AD, he occupied territory that Licinius had claimed for the preceding four years.  Yet this brought about no hostile reaction from Licinius, and their meeting at Milan in February 313 AD [during which the betrothal became a marriage] was held without any preliminary movements on either side.”

Constantine’s Invasion of Italy (312 AD)

Constantine marched into Italy in late 311 or early 312 AD (as discussed in the page on Constantine's Invasion of Italy (312 AD)).   The author of a panegyric (Panegyric XII,  translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below, which was delivered at Constantine’s court, probably at Trier shortly his victory) noted that:

  1. “With scarcely a fourth part of your army, you [Constantine] crossed the Alps against 100,000 [Maxentian] enemies in arms” (3:3).

The panegyrist noted that Constantine had had to leave part of his army to protect the Rhine frontier:

  1. “You left the Rhine secure with armies stationed along the whole border,  ... [favouring] our security rather than the war that you were undertaking” (2:6).

However, he touched on another reason for Constantine’s use of only a select body of men:

  1. “Severus had led a great army [against Rome in 307 AD], and when abandoned through treachery, he armed his own enemy [i.e. much of this army defected because it was inherently loyal to Maximian]; afterwards [Galerius had brought in a greater force but, weakened by [similar] desertions, had been fortunate to escape” (3:4).

The implication was that the loyalty of Constantine’s invasion force was more important than its size.  Unfortunately, a substantial part of his army had supported Maximian in his rebellion of 310 AD and, as noted above, Maxentius had subsequently honoured Maximian by consecration.  We can reasonably assume that Constantine had chosen men for the invasion force who would have been unswayed by this consideration.

The putative alliance between Constantine and Licinius discussed above probably explains why, when Constantine entered Italy from the northwest:

  1. Maxentius’ army was deployed to defend against an expected attack by Licinius from the northeast; while

  2. Licinius, in the event, sat on his hands. 

Thus, although Constantine lacked numbers, he had both surprise and mobility on his side.  He therefore rapidly took the garrison city of Susa (modern Segusa) and then defeated a contingent of Maxentius’ cavalry outside the walls of Turin.  From there, he marched on to Milan, which seems to have opened its gates and provided him with a base for his future operations. 

According to the author of Panegyric XII (translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below), which was delivered at Constantine’s court at Trier shortly after the victory, Constantine then moved against:

  1. “... that miserable town, Verona ... [which] was held by a large [Maxentian] army, with ferocious commanders and the most stubborn of [Praetorian] Prefects, ....  Pompeianus ...” (7:8 - 8: 1)

Pompeianus managed to escape from Verona before it was completely surrounded.  Thus, Panegyric XII continued:

  1. “That wretched man [Pompeianus] was to lead back a greater army to perish with more companions in his destruction.  ... you [Constantine] preferred to engage him with lesser forces upon his return, [rather] than to interrupt the siege ...” (8: 3-4).

Thus it seems that Constantine was able to lead some of his army away from the siege in order to destroy the reinforcing army before it could reach the stricken city.  Constantine apparently participated in person in this battle, in which Pompeianus was killed and his army routed.  The besieged army at Verona then capitulated, and the city of Aquileia soon surrendered to Constantine without a fight.

[Note: Maxentius’s Praetorian Prefect, who is named as ‘Pompeianus’  here, is alternatively ‘named Ruricius’ in a later panegyric (Panegyric IV, translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below, at 25:4).  He is thus usually referred to as Ruricius Pompeianus.]

Constantine then ordered that the captured soldiers from Maxentius’ army should be:

  1. “.... seized and shackled, .... lest they scatter .... and [thus did not] merit being preserved a second time ... But from what source were so many fetters to come, which could restrain the hands of so [many] soldiers recently armed?  [To the consternation of his own soldiers, Constantine] commanded that double shackles for their hands [should] be made out of their [own] swords” (11:2-4).

Maxentius’ army was famed for its loyalty.  Constantine had no intention of allowing any survivors either to subvert his own men or to escape and rejoin their colleagues at Rome. 

The stage was now set for the battle of the Milvian Bridge (described in my page on the Battle of the Milvian Bridge), which led to Maxentius defeat and death.

Read more:

‘RIC VI’ - see Sutherland and Carson (1967) below 

C. Olariu, “Senatorial Aristocracy in the 4th Century; a Case Study: the Ceionii Rufii”, Classica et Christiana, 8:1 (2013) 271-85

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

F. Fraioli, “Regione IV: Templum Pacis”, in

  1. A. Carandini, “Atlante di Roma Antica”, (2012) Rome, Vol. 1 pp 298-9 and Vol. 2, Maps 19 and 20

D. Sear, “Roman Coins and Their Values” (Volume IV, 2011), London 

H. Gračanin, “The Role of Illyricum in the Tetrarchic Wars”, in:

  1. N. Cambj et al. (Eds), “Diocletian, Tetrarchy and Diocletian's Palace on the 1700th Anniversary of Existence : Proceedings of the International Conference held in Split, September 2005” (2009) Split

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

N. Lenski, “Evoking the Pagan Past: Instinctu Divinitatis and Constantine’s Capture of Rome”, Journal of Late Antiquity, 1:2 (2008) 204-57

S. Corcoran, “Divus Diocletianus?”, (2007) on-line abstract

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

S. Corcoran, “The Empire of the Tetrarchs: Imperial Pronouncements and Government, 284-324 AD”, (2000) Oxford  (The letter mentioned above is number 62, p 155)

J. Curran, “Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century”, (2000) Oxford

M. Cullhed, “Conservator Urbis Suae: Studies in the Politics and Propaganda of the Emperor Maxentius” (1994) Stockholm

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

F. Albertson, "Maxentian Hoards and the Mint at Ostia", American Numismatic Society: Museum Notes, 30 (1985) 19-41

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

T. Barnes, “Constantine and Eusebius” (1981) Harvard

S. MacCormack, “Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity”, (1981) Berkeley

T. Barnes, “Two Senators under Constantine”, Journal of Roman Studies, 65 (1975) 40–9

J. Matthews, “Continuity in a Roman Family: The Rufii Festi of Volsinii”, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 16:4 (September 1967) 484-509

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

A. Chastagnol, “Les Fastes de la Préfecture de Rome au Bas-Empire”, (1962) Paris

Maximinus, Augustus Maximus (311-2 AD)    

  1. Diocletian (died 311 AD ?)

  2. Maxentius in Rome: (311-2 AD)     Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD) 

  3. Maxentius' Rotunda on the Sacra Via      Maxentius and the Gens Valeria  

  4. Constantine's Invasion of Italy (312 AD)  

  5. Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD)

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

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