Key to Umbria

Licinius (?)

Chiaramonti Museum, Vatican

Early Career

What little is known about his early life is summarised by  Timothy Barnes (referenced below, in 1982, at p 43-4).  The sources stress that his background was similar to that of Galerius, and that they were close associates.  Galerius had chosen him as one of the two men whom he had sent to negotiate with Maxentius in 307 AD, which led Timothy Barnes to suggest that he had at that time been Galerius’ Praetorian Prefect.  

Appointment as Augustus

As noted on the previous page, Licinius was appointed as Augustus on 11th November 308 AD (‘Chronica Minora’, 1.231), at the conference at Carnuntum.  He thus filled a gap that had existed in the imperial college since the execution of Severus in September 307 AD.  His  selection for this post is surprising: 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.

Licinius’ name now became Valerius Licinianus Licinius.  The evidence of his ‘Jovian’ affiliation includes the following:   

  1. The donative medallions that Galerius minted at Serdica after the conference at Carnuntum included two gold multiples and a silver  medallion of extremely high purity (illustrated in this page on the website of the Forum of Ancient Coins) that had had the common legends:


  3. As Sergey Torbatov (referenced below) pointed out, there is only a very short window in 308 AD, the year of Galerius’ 7th Consulship, in which he recognised a second Augustus (i.e. Licinius): the donatives must have belonged to the period between the designation of Licinius as Augustus (11th November) and the end of the year. 

  4. An inscription (CIL IX 6026) from Cannae (in modern Apulia) commemorated:

  5. D(omino) n(ostro) Iovio / Licinio In/victo sem/per Aug(usto)

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.

Praetorian Prefect

When Licinius had acted for Galerius as a negotiator with Maxentiusin Rome in 307 AD (above), he had been accompanied by a man called Probus.  Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below) identified him as Pompeius Probus, one of the two Consuls of 310 AD that were recognised in the east, each of whom was a Praetorian Prefect.  He suggested (at p 195) that Licinius had probably appointed Probus as his Praetorian Prefect immediately upon his designation as Augustus. 

Campaign against Maxentius (310 AD) ??

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).

However, Licinius seems to have adopted a cautious approach, presumably because of the failures on 307 AD: he was well aware of the reluctance of Roman soldiers to march on Rome, and of the military difficulties inherent in overcoming its formidable defences.  Even the fact that the food supply to the city must have been restricted by the revolt in Africa (discussed in the page on Maxentius in Rome (308-12 AD)) was not enough to persuade Licinius to try a third direct invasion of Italy.

Licinius seems to have established a base in Istria, perhaps as a prelude to an invasion of Italy.  His control of the region is evidenced by an inscription (CIL V 0330; LSA-1213)  on the base of a statue from the forum of Parentium (modern Poreč, on the coast of Croatia):

[[Imp(eratori) [Caes(ari) V]alerio]] / [[[Licini]ano]] / [[[Licinio]]]

pio, f(elici), / invicto Aug(usto), p(ontifici) /m(aximo)

trib(unicia) p(otestate) III, con(suli) ....

r(es) p(ublica) / Parentinor(um) / d(e)v(ota) nu(mini) mai(estati)/q(ue) eius

This recorded that the city (res publica) of Parentium, which was devoted to Licinius’ divine spirit and majesty, had commissioned the statue. 

A similar inscription (LSA-1209) on the base of a statue from Pola (modern Pula) some 60 km to the south along the Adriatic coast might well belong to the same period:

Imp(eratori) C(a)esa(ri) [[Val(erio)]] / [[Liciniano Lici]]/[[nio]]

pio, felici, / invicto Aug(usto)

res p(ublica) Pol(ensium) d(evota) n(umini) m(aiestatique) e(ius)

The inscription at Parentium can be dated: Licinius was Consul in 309 AD and his third year of tribunician power extended from the 11th December of that year until the 10th December 310 AD, the inscription is dated to 309/10 AD.  An attempt was made to erase Licinius’ name at some point,: Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 2011, at p 71) suggested that this:

  1. “... might indicate that Maxentius subsequently recovered the [Istrian] peninsula before losing it to Licinius [again] in 312 AD”.

However, it is also possible that Licinius’ name was erased during his later conflict with Constantine.

A large number of bronze coins that were discovered at Čentur, some 10 km from modern Koper  on the coast of Slovenia (which was some 60 km  to the north of Parentium, on the northern coast of the peninsular) have often been linked to a putative invasion by Licinius in the summer of 310 AD.  The site was close to the Via Annia, which linked Istria to Aquileia (at the head of the Adriatic).  The coins were discovered over a number of decades in five ceramic containers that had been buried at separate locations on the site:

  1. Hoard D: 1935;

  2. Hoard C: 1938;

  3. Hoard A: 1944 (which was by far the largest of the five hoards);

  4. an unlabelled hoard of some 3,000 coins, now completely dispersed: 1950; and

  5. Hoard B: 1962.

Unfortunately, the discoveries were poorly documented when they were made, and much important information has been lost.  In his recent and important analysis, Bruno Callegher (referenced below) estimated that over 4o,000 coins were originally recovered, of which some two thirds have been dispersed.  The great majority of the documented coins were minted by Maxentius, and of these, some 65% came from his mint at Aquileia.  It is usually asserted that the site was a Roman fortress and the hoards, which came from its treasury, had been hidden as Licinius’ army advanced (see for example, the paper by Rajko Bratož, referenced below, p 97 and notes 7 and 8).  However, Bruno Callegher pointed out that:

  1. there is not reliable archeological evidence for such a military camp in the area;

  2. it would have been difficult for five hoards of coins to be buried in separate locations within such a camp in circumstances in which survivors  could not have subsequently recovered them;

  3. there is no documentary or other evidence of a major battle here that might have been consistent with that scenario; and

  4. the latest coins in the hoards were minted by Licinius at Siscia in 310 AD.

In short, while these hoards are important in many respects, it is unlikely that they had belonged to Maxentius’ army.  Bruno Callegher suggested that:

  1. “The cause of the [hoarding] can be attributed more [probably] to a tax levy – made probably in the coastal towns of Trieste, Pola, Parenzo or in villages of Istria – rather than [to] an act of war for which there is no trace in the sources and in the archaeological finds in situ”.

Even more disappointing in this respect is a gold fibula in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, Munich (a replica of which is exhibited at the Koper Regional Museum): it is sometimes claimed as a part of a so-called Hoard E from Čentur, which was sold on the market in 1975.  It is inscribed:


and therefore probably dated to the period in which Maxentius and Romulus shared the Consulship in 308/9 AD.  This too is often claimed as evidence for the putative campaign of Licinius (as a possession of a Maxentian officer at the putative camp).  However, as Bruno Callegher pointed out:

  1. the ‘hoard’ also included an aureus minted by Licinius at Siscia in 309/10 AD (not apparently catalogued in RIC) ; and

  2. there is no certainty about its original place of burial309.

He therefore included it in his analysis merely for completeness.

In summary, there is evidence that Licinius extended his influence into the Istrian peninsula in 309/10 D.  As noted in in the page on Maxentius in Rome (308-12 AD), Maxentius never minted for divus Romulus at either Ticinum or Aquileia, which indicates that both mints were closed during 309 AD: this was part of a wider overhaul of his mints, and it probably indicates his concerns for the future security of his norther border.  Licinius made inroads into the Istrian peninsular, but there is no hard evidence for any major battles at this point.  The likely scenario was well-summarised by Hrvoje Gračanin (referenced below, at p 603):

  1. “Licinius began his task of suppressing Maxentius in the campaigning season of 309 AD. ...  Maxentius recognised [the danger] by closing the norther Italian mints ..., probably because they might fall into the hands of the enemy.  It appears that, in 309 AD, Licinius ... made [his first move] in a planned attack on Maxentius by seizing Istria.  But he had to postpone any further action because his presence was needed on the endangered middle Danube frontier ....”

Licinius on the Danubian Frontier (310 AD)

Evidence for a major campaign on the Danube is found in 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), and which 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)

It seems that Aurelius Senecio had used a cavalry unit designated as the Equites Dalmatae Aqueriani Comites, which was commanded by Valerius Sambarra and stationed at Bedaiumin, to build (or restore) a temple to the goddess Victoria commemorating what must have been a decisive battle agains barbarian tribes in which the unit had participated.  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.

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 [Galerius’ victory] title Carpicus maximus VI, not [as previously suggested by Barnes himself, that of] Sarmaticus maximus V.”

Whether the victory was won against the Sarmatians or the Carpi is a secondary issue here (although Corcoran’s analysis in favour of the latter is compelling).  This had clearly been an important victory secured against barbarians.  Although Licinius’ involvement cannot be proved conclusively, it is reasonable to assume that he had relieved Galerius of much of the responsibility for border security, and that he had indeed secured this victory commemorated in the above inscription.

Read more:

‘RIC’ - see Sutherland (1967) below

B. Callegher, “Un Milione di Denari sulla Collina di Čentur”, Testi e Studi di Storia Antica, 27 ( 2015) 141-61

R. Bratož, “Costantino tra l’ Italia Nordorientale e l’ Illirico (313-326)”, in

  1. G. Cuscito (Ed.), “Costantino il Grande, a 1700 anni dall' Editto di Milano” (2014) Trieste, pp 95-128

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

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

  1. N. Cambi et al. (Eds), “Diocletian, Tetrarchy and Diocletian's Palace on the 1700th Anniversary of Existence: Proceedings of the International Conference held in Split from September 18th to 22nd 2005”, (2009) Split, pp 597-607

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

S. Torbatov, “A New Silver Medallion of Galerius", Numismatic Chronicle, 156 (1996) 235-7

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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