Key to Umbria

Maxentius (identified from coin portraits)

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

Events of 308 AD

Exile of Maximian (April)

The events that led up to Maximian’s exile from Rome were set out in the page on Maximian’s Herculean Dynasty).  In summary, Maximian had attempted to withdraw the rank of Augustus from Maxentius at a public meeting, apparently expecting that the army would support him.  When his expectation was confounded, he fled the city and took refuge at Constantine’s court in Gaul 

The so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD records the change in the consular designations that followed this event:

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

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

The Consuls were those chosen by [Maxentius and Maximian] 

From the 20th April, the consuls were Maxentius and Romulus 

In other words, although Maxentius had not recognised the designations of Diocletian and Galerius as the Consuls of 308 AD, he had not initially made alternative designations.  However, after Maximian’s abrupt departure, he named himself as Consul for the first time, with his young son Romulus as his colleague.

The goddess Roma now became Maxentius’ only auctor imperii (the source of his legitimacy as Augustus).  Thus, the series of magnificent gold multiples that he minted at this time included:

  1. one (RIC, p 372, 166) with the reverse legend CONSERVATOR VRB SVAE, in which he is depicted on the reverse in military attire, receiving a globe from the goddess Roma; and

  2. a second (unlisted in RIC, illustrated in this page of the website Forum Ancient Coins), which is identical except for its slightly different reverse legend, CONSERVATOR VRBIS SVAE.

Attius Insteius Tertullus

Attius Insteius Tertullus had replaced Annius Anullinus as Urban Prefect in August 307 AD, just before Galerius’ invasion of Italy.   Maxentius replaced him as Urban Prefect in April 308 AD.  The timing suggests that his decision might thus have been associated with Maximian’s rebellion in some way.  It might therefore be indicative of a rupture between Maxentius and at least some members of the senatorial élite who had owed their primary allegiance to his father.  If this is correct, is correct, then the survival of this inscription is surprising: perhaps it was hidden by others who shared his allegiance ??

Policy Towards Christians

According to Eusebius of Caesarea:

  1. “Maxentius ...  at first feigned our [Christian] faith, in ... flattery toward the Roman people. On this account he commanded his subjects to cease persecuting the Christians, pretending to religion that he might appear merciful and mild beyond his predecessors” (‘Historia  Ecclesiastica’, 14:1). 

Optatus recorded that, prior to the consecration of Caecilian as Bishop of Carthage in 311 AD:

  1. “The storm of persecution passed over, and subsided.  By the disposition of God, Maxentius sent pardon, and liberty was restored to Christians” (‘Against the Donatists’, 1:18).

Simon Corcoran (referenced below, 2000, at p 185, 21b) suggested that:

  1. “This [relaxation] could have taken place immediately after the first winter of Maxentius’ rule, although it is possible that formal cessation was only promulgated after the flight of Maximian from Rome ...”.

Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1981, p 38-9) summarised the troubled history of the papacy under Maxentius, when the Church in Rome was disrupted between those who had held fast during the previous period of persecution and those who had lapsed:

  1. Pope Marcellinus, who was probably elected in late 306 AD, was a rigourist whose policies caused rioting within the Christian community.  Maxentius banished him from Rome and he died in exile on 16th January 308 AD.

  2. Pope Eusebius, a moderate, was elected on 18th April 308 AD, at the time of the exile of Maximian (above).  Riots broke out once more, leading to the exile of both Eusebius and his leading opponent, Heraclius.  Eusebius died in exile on 21st October 308 AD.

  3. There was then a long vacancy until the election of Pope Miltiades on 2nd July 311 AD (below).

(Maxentius’ later policy towards Christians is discussed in the page on Policy towards Christians).

Revolt in Africa (June ?)

According to David Sear (referenced below, at p 360):

  1. “Perhaps fearing insurrection in the province [of Africa proconsularis, with its capital Carthage], Maxentius closed the mint [there] in the summer of 307 AD”.

The reasoning for this date is given in RIC p 419: the coins produced prior to the closure included none minted for Constantine as Augustus, the title that Maximian conferred on him in September of that year. 

An inscription (CIL VIII 10382) from Numida reads:

Domi(no) nos/tro Max/entio Au/gusto no/bilissim/o viro / consuli

Thus, Maxentius’ authority was still recognised in Africa after his designation as Consul in April 308 AD.  However, at some time thereafter, the mint at Carthage re-opened for the production of coins commemorating a usurper:


The fullest account of the revolt of ‘Alexander’ is given by Zosimus:

  1. “Maximianus Herculius endeavoured ... to recover the Empire by alienating the soldiers from Maxentius [in April 308 AD - see above].  ... Maxentius, having escaped this danger, and being of opinion that he was now well enough established in the Empire, sent persons into Africa, and in particular to Carthage, to carry his image about that country [presumably to advertise the fact that he was now the sole Augustus in Rome].  But the soldiers in that country forbade it, out of regard to Maximianus Galerius [sic], and the respect they had for his memory.  ... Maxentius, being disturbed at this, resolved to sail for Africa, and to punish the authors of the commotion.  But, [as] the soothsayers  ... [had] given him ill omens, he was afraid to go, not only because  [of these omens] but also lest Alexander, who was prefect of the court in Africa, should be his enemy.  To secure his passage thither from all doubt, he sent to Alexander, desiring him to send his son as an hostage.  But [Alexander] ... denied the request.  After this, ... the soldiers, having then got a favourable opportunity to rebel, conferred the purple robe on Alexander, though he was by birth not only a Phrygian [unlikely!] but a timid cowardly man, unfit for any difficult undertaking.  [He was also] of an advanced age” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:12).

A shorter account by Aurelius Victor adds some information in relation to Alexander’s more probable country of origin and his title prior to his usurpation:

  1. “... on Punic territory, Alexander, who was praefecto agens [the vicarius of the Praetorian Prefect] had foolishly usurped the supreme power, although he was enfeebled by old age [and] more dull-witted than his parents, who were Pannonian peasants ...” (De Caesaribus’, 40:17).

Zosimus associated it with Maximian’s exile from Rome and the disquiet that this excited among his erstwhile soldiers in Africa. (The copyist is almost certainly in error when he wrote that the soldiers acted out of regard for Galerius).  Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, at p 198) suggested that:

  1. “The date of the rebellion was probably about June 308 AD, although the literary sources are not precise here.”

The identity of ‘Alexander‘ is similarly unclear.  He might be the same person as Valerius Alexander, who  was documented in 307-8 AD n the inscription (Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania 464, LSA-2151) on the base of a statue of Maxentius that he dedicated at Lepcis Magna, at which point he was the ‘a(gens) v(ices) praef(ecti) praet(orio’.  Pierfrancesco Porena ( referenced below, at p 168) observed that:

  1. “The coincidence in chronology and titulature makes this highly likely” (my translation). 

Valerius Alexander had appeared in an inscription (AE 1942/3 0081) at Aqua Viva in Numidia in 303 AD as the ‘v(ir) p( erfectissimus) agens vic(em) praef(ectorum) praet(orio)’: this must have been the unknown Praetorian Prefect of Maximian, which might explain his later loyalty to Maximian rather than to Maxentius.

However, epigraphical evidence names the usurper as Lucius Domitius Alexander: if (as seems likely) he and Valerius Alexander were the same person, then he must have changed his name (or reverted to his original name) after his usurpation, presumably to distance himself from Maxentius’ Valerian dynasty.  The inscriptions also give an idea of the geographical extent of his area of control:

  1. An inscription for Africa proconsularis (CIL VIII 0231) commemorated:

  2. Imp(eratori) Caes(ari)/ L(ucio) Domit[io] / Alexand[dro]

  3. P(io) F(elici) Invicto/ semper /[Au]g(usto)

  4. (See also CIL VIII 22183, below)

  5. An inscription (CIL VIII 7004, LSA-2227) on the base of a statue at Cirta that had been  donated by Scironius Pasicrates, the governor of Numidia commemorated:

  6. D(omino) N(ostro) L(ucio) Do/mitio Alexan/dro

  7. P(io), T(elici), Inv(icto), Aug(usto)

  8. as the the restorer of public freedom and the propagator of the whole human race and  the name of Rome.

  9. A milestone from Sardinian commemorated:

  10. D(omino) N(ostro) Imp(eratori) L(ucio) / Domitio / Alexan/dro 

  11. P(io) F(elici) Inv(icto) / Aug(usto)

  12. together with Papius Pacatianus, the governor of Sardinia.

Conference at Carnuntum (November)

Maxentius’ isolation was reinforced at the conference of Carnuntum (as set out in as set out in the page on Galerius II (308-11 AD)), when Diocletian:

  1. ratified Galerius’ appointment of Licinius to replace Severus;

  2. prevailed upon Maximian to resume his retirement; and

  3. overturned Maximian’s designation of Constantine as Augustus.

Thus the ‘legitimate’ imperial college comprised:

  1. two Augustii: Galerius; and Licinius; and

  2. two Caesares: Maximinus; and Constantine.

The new Augustus Licinius, who was now based in Sirmium and had control of the mint at Siscia, assumed responsibility for the Danubia provinces and for the destruction of Maxentius.

Threat from Licinius

Although Galerius had been oddly inactive after his defeat in Italy in 307 AD, this must have seen likely to have changed after Licinius was confirmed as Augustus at the conference at Carnuntum in November 308 AD.  Thus, 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 difficulties in persuading Roman soldiers to march on Rome, and of the military difficulties of overcoming its formidable defences.  Even the fact that the food supply to the city must have been restricted by the revolt in Africa (above) was not enough to persuade Licinius to try a third direct invasion of Italy.

Licinius’ activity at this time is discussed in the page on Licinius (308-11 AD): Hrvoje Gračanin (referenced below) summarised the situation as follows:

  1. “Licinius began his task of suppressing Maxentius in the campaigning season of 309 AD.  Relying primarily on Italy, with no control over the outlying Illyrian provinces, Maxentius had no choice but to make a stand in Italy itself, which was [relatively] easily accessible for Licinius’ forces.  Maxentius recognised this by closing the norther Italian mints [see above] ..., 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 [at the head of the Adriatic].  But he had to postpone any further action because his presence was needed on the endangered middle Danube frontier ....”

Death of Romulus (309 AD)


RIC VI Rome 207 (ca. 309 AD)                   

Maxentius suffered what was probably a devastating blow when Romulus died during 309 AD, his second year as Consul.  An obnoxious remark made in a panegyric (Panegyric XII translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below) that was delivered at Constantine’s court shortly after his defeat of Maxentius in 312 AD throws light on the circumstances of Romulus’ death:

  1. “Sacred Tiber, ... you allowed neither the false Romulus [i.e. Maxentius’ son] to live for long nor [Rome’s] murderer [Maxentius]  to swim away [from the carnage after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD]” (18:1).

Thus, it seems that Romulus had died by drowning in the Tiber.  A second passage in Panegyric XII (as above) throws light on Maxentius’ family circumstances at the time of his defeat three years later:

  1. “[Maxentius had] already moved out of the palace two days before [the battle of 321 AD], and had voluntarily withdrawn his wife and son to a private house ....” (16:5)

Since this second son never seems to have featured in Maxentius’ dynastic propaganda, he was presumably still a baby at that time of Maxentius’  death.   Romulus was thus probably an only child at the time that he died.  Thus, apart from his personal loss, Maxentius also suffered a blow to his claim of dynastic legitimacy:

  1. his own father, Maximian, was now simply a retired Emperor living in exile in Gaul;

  2. his wife was still the daughter of a reigning Augustus, Galerius, but this had not been enough to give him a place in the ‘legitimate’ imperial college; and

  3. his only son, who had been the grandson of both Maximian and Galerius and thus of impeccable imperial descent, was dead.  

However, the tragedy also offered Maxentius an opportunity: Maxentius minted for ‘divus Romulus’ soon after his death, at the two mints (Rome and Ostia) that he still controlled.  The coins (described in my page Maxentius' Coins for Divus Romulus (309 AD)), one of which is illustrated above, commemorated the eternal memory of:

Divus Romulus, most noble man, twice Consul.

The fact that some of the coins were minted in Rome suggests that Maxentius had involved the Senate in the process of Romulus’ deification.  The deification of the son of an Emperor in these circumstances was by no means unprecedented: for example, in 284-5 AD, the embattled Emperor Carinus minted in Rome not only for his recently-deceased father and brother (divus Carus and divus Numerianus respectively) but also for a young child, divus Nigrinianus, who was probably his son.  In each case, an insecure ruler sought to strengthen his position in Rome  by involving the Senate in a process that implicitly recognised him as the head of a divinely-sanctioned ruling dynasty.  Maxentius behaviour was in stark contrast to that of Constantine, who had apparently deified his father Constantius three years before, without any reference to the Senate. 

Maxentius buried Romulus  in a mausoleum that he had built in the grounds of his villa on the Via Appia (described in my page on Maxentius' Complex on Via Appia).  It seems unlikely that this mausoleum was built specifically for Romulus: more probably it was intended for family burials more generally, and the tragic early death of Romulus meant that, completely unexpectedly, he was the first member of the family to be buried here.   It also seems that the upper storey of the mausoleum was devoted to the cult of divus Romulus.  In my page on Consecrated Tetrarchs: Mausoleum Coins, I suggest that the consecration coins minted for divus Romulus at this point depicted this mausoleum on their reverses.

Maxentius’ Mints

Maxentius opened a new mint Ostia at some time in 308-9 AD.  Sutherland and Carson (referenced below, at p 393-4) pointed to two factors that define the window within which this must have taken place:

  1. No coins were minted here for either Constantine or Maximian (at least during his lifetime).  Thus the mint probably opened after Maximian’s exile from Rome in April  308 AD.

  2. The first bronze coins minted at Ostia did not contain any for divus Romulus.  Thus, the mint must have opened before his death, which occurred at an unknown date in 309 AD (as discussed below).

Maxentius’ reasons for opening a second mint so close to Rome have been widely discussed.   The most general conclusion is that it seems to have been part of a response to the deteriorating political environment.  More specifically, according to Fred Albertson (referenced below, as summarised in the website of Ostia Antica):

  1. “... the establishment of the Ostia mint was part of the overall plan of Maxentius to centralise coin production near Rome and at the same time to carry on the production of gold and silver coinage in a more stable environment than that of the turbulent capital”. 

This suggestion arises from the fact that the minting of gold and silver coins was phased out at Rome once the mint at Ostia had opened.

The opening of the Ostia mint also reflected the situation at the other Maxentian mints.  Thus:

  1. according to Albertson:

  2. “The date of formation of the mint at Ostia [must have been] somewhere between the date of the closing of the mint at Carthage in 307 AD and the closing of the mints at Ticinum and Aquileia in 310 AD”.

  3. according to Sutherland and Carson:

  4. “Closure of the mint of Carthage ... would have thrown a burden on the mint of Rome.   And it must already have been evident to Maxentius that ... the activities of both Ticinum and Aquileia might be threatened [by Licinius] - by 309/10 AD, they ceased to work.”

In fact, since divus Romulus coins were never minted at either Ticinum or Aquileia, it seems likely that both were closed during 309 AD.

Relations with the Senate and the Plebs

Almost half of the short biography of Maxentius in the so-called “Chronograph” of 354 AD was devoted to famine, discord and high taxation in Rome: 

  1. “There was a great famine.  They [the people?] lynched the Romans of the soldiers of Moesia and 6,000 Roman men were killed by the soldiers [in reprisals of some kind?].  [Maxentius] ordered gold from every Roman, and they gave it”. 

A number of other sources take the same line:

  1. Zosimius:

  2. “At that time a fire happened at Rome ; whether it came out of the air or earth is uncertain. It broke out in the Temple of Fortune; and while the people ran to extinguish it, a soldier, speaking blasphemy against the goddess, was killed by the mob out of zeal, by which a mutiny was occasioned among the soldiers. They would have destroyed the whole city, had not Maxentius soon appeased their rage” (Historia Nova, 2:13).

  3. Aurelius Victor:

  4. “ ... [Maxentius] had oppressed [the Senate and the people] so much that, on one occasion, he permitted the Praetorians to massacre the common people.  [He] was the first, through a most reprehensible edict issued under the pretext  of obligatory State taxation, to compel the Senators and the farmers to contribute money for him to squander”  (De Caesaribus”, 40:24).

  5. Eusebius:

  6. “... on some trifling pretence, [Maxentius] exposed the populace to be slaughtered by his own bodyguard; and countless multitudes of the Roman people were slain in the very midst of the city by the lances and weapons, not of Scythians or barbarians, but of their own fellow citizens.  And besides this, it is impossible to calculate the number of Senators whose blood was shed with a view to the seizure of their respective estates...” (Vita Constantini1:35).

John Curran (referenced below, at page 66) linked these events to the high taxation that was needed to finance:

  1. the Praetorian Guard, which had been substantially augmented by soldiers who had defected from Severus and Galerius; and

  2. Maxentius’ extensive building projects (discussed in the page on Maxenius’ public works);

the effects of which would have been exacerbated by the food shortages caused by the revolt in Africa (above).

Death of Maximian (July 310 AD)

After his second retirement, which had been imposed upon hi at Carnuntum, Maximian had returned to Constantine’s court, where he resumed life as a private citizen.   In 310 AD, while  Constantine was engaged in building a bridge across the Rhine to connect the city at what is now Cologne, he had apparently had placed an army under Maximian’s command and sent it to protect his southern flank.  Timothy Barnes (referenced below, in 1981, at p 34) suggested that Constantine feared an attack by Maxentius in southern Gaul.  Whatever the nature of the perceived threat, it did not apparently materialise.  However, the experience of finding himself once more at the head of an army was apparently too much for Maximian to resist.

The subsequent events were recorded in a panegyric (Panegyric VI, translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below) that was delivered at Constantine’s court at Trier, while the memory of these events was still raw.  The panegyrist described how

  1. “[Maximian had appeared at Arles] clad in purple, [thereby claiming for a third time] imperial power twice laid down, [sending] dispatches to suborn [Constantine’s] army, [trying] to undermine the loyalty of the troops by a display of rewards, ... [contemplating using] an army that he had taught to have itchy palms” (16:1). 

When Constantine responded by leading a loyal contingent of his army against him, Maximian apparently abandoned Arles for Marseilles.  The panegyrist then made the best of what seems to have been a difficult confrontation there that was ended by negotiation, with at least some of the rebellious soldiers forgiven.  He suggested that Constantine allowed Maximian to live, but:

  1. “you [Constantine] cannot accomplish everything: the gods avenge you, even against your will” (20:4).

Earlier in the speech, he had asserted that:

  1. [Maximian] encountered a fate that could not be evaded, one that would bring an unjust end to many men and, finally, a voluntary death to himself” (14:5).

The suggestion seems to be that Maximian committed suicide, leaving the reader to imagine in what circumstances.  Timothy Barnes (1982, referenced below) places these events in ca. July 310 AD.

According to Zosimus:

  1. “Maxentius [now] sought every occasion to make war on Constantine and, pretending grief for his father's death, of which Constantine was the cause, he designed to go towards Rhaetia [a province that covered parts of modern Switzerland, Bavaria and Lombardy that was probably controlled by Licinius], which is contiguous both to [Constantine’s territory of] Gaul and [Licinius’ territory of] Illyricum.  For he imagined that he [would be able to] subdue Dalmatia and Illyricum, by the assistance of the generals in those parts and of the army of Licinius.  But thinking it better first to arrange affairs in Africa ...” (Historia Nova, 2:14).

It is not clear how Zosimus (or his sources) could have known what Maxentius had intended before he turned his attention to Africa (as described below).  However, his scenario is interesting: he might well have believed that soldiers in the armies of both Licinius and Constantine who had previously served under the recently executed Maximian would defect to him.  This, of course, is pure conjecture: as Zosimus notice, he decided to postpone these putative plans and turned his attention to Africa.

Recovery of the African Provinces


RIC Carthage 72

Licinius was very probably involved in campaigning on the Danube in the summer of 310 AD, as discussed in the page on Licinius (308-11 AD).  This probably provided Maxentius with an opportunity to turn his attention to the defeat of Domitius Alexander and the recovery of Africa (above), in order to restore the food supply to Rome.    

There are signs that Domitius Alexander hoped for an alliance with Constantine, and this could have been another factor in the timing of Maxentius’ attack:

  1. An inscription (CIL VIII 22183; EDCS-27600228) from Sidi Hamza in Africa proconsularis, commemorated:

L(ucio) Domitio Alexandro et Fl(avio) Constantino, Augg(ustii)

  1. This suggests that, at a minimum, Domitius Alexander had recognised Constantine as Augustus, even if the compliment had not been returned. 

  2. Alexander’s coins  began employing reverse legends that signalled an intention to move on Rome:

  3. -INVICTA ROMA FEL KARTHAGO’, with the goddess Roma on the reverse apparently implicated in the victory (RIC Carthage 62-3);

  4. -‘ROMAE AETERNAE’ (RIC VI Carthage 70, 71; 75, 76);

  5. -‘VICTORIA ALEXANDRI AUG N‘ (RIC  VI Carthage 73 and 74); and 

  6. -‘S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI’ (RIC VI Carthage 72, illustrated above) which Sutherland and Carson (referenced below, at p 420) characterised as making:

  7. “... a bold claim to represent the central will and favour of Rome, derived from Constantine’s gold type from Trier of ca. 310 AD [RIC Trier 815].”

Domitius Alexander could not have imagined that he could have succeed without allies in an attack on Rome, and the close similarities between his “S P Q R” coin and that of Constantine can hardly have been a coincidence. 

In the event, the attack seems to have faced little resistance (which makes one wonder why Maxentius had delayed so long).  Thus, according to Zosimus (who placed the attack shortly after Maximian’s death):

  1. “Maxentius ... raised an army, bestowing the command of it on [Caius Ceionius] Rufius Volusianus, [Praetorian Prefect], and sent  them into Africa.  He sent Zeno also along with Rufius, who was a person not only expert in military affairs, but esteemed for his courtesy and affability.  On the first charge, Alexander's troops retreated .....  Alexander himself was taken and strangled” (Historia Nova, 2:14).

Aurelius Victor had a similar account:

  1. “[Maxentius dispatched] Rufius Volusianus, the Praetorian Prefect, and some generals ... with a mere handful of cohorts, and they polished off [Domitius Alexander] in a minor skirmish” (De Caesaribus”, 40:18).

He also recorded that, after Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius in 312 AD:

  1. “....the city of Cirta, which had been ruined by the siege of Domitius Alexander, was rebuilt, embellished, and re-named Constantina”(De Caesaribus”, 40:28).

Thus, the rebellion seems to have ended with Domitius Alexander under siege at the naturally fortified city of Cirta.  The city was destroyed and (as Zosimus noted) Domitius Alexander was executed.  (The career of Ceionius] Rufius Volusianus is discussed below).

Pierfrancesco Porena ( referenced below, at p 262) suggested that:

  1. “The Maxentian coins from the mint at Ostia suggest a victory ... in Africa ... before the start of Maxentius’ quinquennalia, which was celebrated in Rome of 28th October 310 AD” (my translation).

The coins in question (RIC p 401, 8-10 and p 406, 60-4) have reverse legends of the type ‘VICTORIA AETERNA’ and, in the case of the last three, additionally ‘VOT XX FEL’, in anticipation of five more years of felicitous rule.

The reprisals taken by Maxentius after the victory seem to have been severe:

  1. According to Aurelius Victor:

  2. After his defeat [of Domitius Alexander], Maxentius, the inhuman beast ... ordered Carthage, the glory of the world, along with the loveliest parts of Africa, to be ravaged, pillaged and burned” (De Caesaribus”, 40:18-9).

  3. According to Zosimus:

  4. “The war being thus at an end, a good opportunity was afforded to sycophants and informers of impeaching all the persons in Africa, who had good estates, as friends to Alexander: nor were any of the accused spared, but some of them put to death, and others deprived of all their possessions. After this he triumphed at Rome for the mischief done at Carthage” (‘Historia Nova’, 2:14).

Two panegyrics (both translated into English in Nixon and Rodgers, referenced below) suggested that the problems of the people of the African provinces continued for some time after the fall of Domitius Alexander, and that this led to Maxentius’ huge unpopularity there:

  1. [As Maxentius prepared Rome against an anticipated siege by Constantine in 312 AD], all of Africa, which he had decided to destroy, had been exhausted ....[as] he amassed provisions for an unlimited length of time” (Panegyric XII: 16).

  2. “[After Constantine’s subsequent victory], the head of the tyrant [Maxentius] was sent to appease Africa, that after his destruction, [Maxentius] might give satisfaction to that place which he had afflicted while he lived” (Panegyric IV, 32:6).

Imperial College Reconstituted (late 310 AD)

According to Lactantius, Maximinus tired of complaining to Galerius about the seniority that had been given to Licinius at the conference at Carnuntum (above), and took matters into his own hands:

  1. “ ... 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).

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”.

Consuls of 311 AD

This elevation of the erstwhile Caesares certainly occurred during 310 AD, since Galerius now named himself as Consul for the 8th time for 311AD, 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. 

Maxentius might have sensed that the political climate was changing in a manner that could have opened up an opportunity for his own legitimisation.  He therefore softened his own position, to the extent that he refrained from making alternative Consular designations at the start of the year.  (He changed this policy in September 311 AD, as discussed below).

Maxentius’ Praetorian Prefects (310-2 AD)

Pierfrancesco Porena ( referenced below, at p 254) pointed out that:

  1. “Maxentius gave [the Praetorian Guard] a return to the tradition of having a Praetorian Prefect active in their barracks (the castra praetoria ) in Rome” (my translation).

He concluded (in his summary of a detailed analysis at p 282) that he employed one Praetorian Prefect at a time, and that each of these was a relatively short appointment.   The names of none of those from the early part of the reign are known (although Valerius Alexander (above) had been the vicarius or agent of one of them (‘a(gens) v(ices) praef(ecti) praet(orio’).   Porena deduced the dates of the three known Praetorian Prefects of Maxentius as:

  1. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus (active as Praetorian Prefect in Africa in 310 AD);

  2. Manilius Rusticianus (probably held office throughout Maxentius’ quinquennalia (28th October 310 - 28th October 311 AD); and

  3. Ruricius  Pompeianus (active in 312 AD), whose known career is discussed in the page on the Three Augusti and Maxentius (311-3 AD).

Caius Ceionius Rufius Volusianus

As noted above, during his tenure as Praetorian Prefect, Rufius Volusianus was in charge of the successful campaign that led to the recovery of the African provinces in 310 AD.  His success in this endeavour probably led to the considerable honour of his appointment as Urban Prefect for the year of Maxentius’ quinquennalia (28th October 310 - 28th October 311 AD) and his appointment as Consul for the last three months of that year.  These appointments  are discussed below.

Manilius Rusticianus

The early career of Manilius Rusticianus is known from an inscription (CIL XIV 4455; LSA-1661) on the base of a statue from Ostia, when he was Prefect of the Annona and vicarius of the Praetorian Prefects at Rome:

Manilio Rus[ticiano]/ v(iro) p(erfectissimo) praef(ecto) ann(onae)

a(genti) v(ices) pra[eff(ectorum) praetorio] emm(inentissimorum) vv(irorum)

curato[ri et p]atrono/ splendidissim(a)e col(oniae) Os[t(iensium)]

Ob eius fidem ac/merii  erga rem publicam

ordo/ et populus Ostiensium

[pro quo] civitas/ titulis administra[ti]onis eius/ fieret inlustr[ior], decrevit adq(ue)/ const[itui]t

To Manilius Rusticianus, of perfectissimus rank, prefect of the annona,

vicar of the Praetorian Prefects of most eminent rank

curator and patron of the most splendid colony of Ostia

On account of his trust and services towards the community

the council and people of Ostia, who by his administration were made more noble

decreed and set [this statue] up

Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 145) suggested that, at this time, he had represented the Praetorian Prefects of Diocletian and Maximian in Rome (as described in the page on the First Tetrarchy (293-305 AD). 

Evidence for his subsequent promotion to the post of Maxentius’ Praetorian Prefect comes from the inscriptions on the bases of two statues that he erected in Maxentius’ honour in the Foro Romano:

  1. One (CIL VI 36949; LSA-1365) remains where it was found, between the summa Sacra Via and the Palatine, in front of the Basilica of Maxentius:

  2. Domino nostro/ clementissimo/ et piissimo

  3. Maxentio/ invicto/ et providentiss(imo)/ semper Aug(usto)

  4. Manli(us) Rusticianus/ v(ir) em(inentissimus), praef(ectus) praet(orio)

  5. devotus n(umini) m(aiestati)q(ue) e(ius)

  6. To our lord, the most merciful and most pious

  7. Maxentius, unconquered and most foresighted, forever Augustus

  8. Manlius Rusticianus, of eminentissimus rank, praetorian prefect

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

  10. The other (CIL VI 40726; LSA-1429) was found during works in the Curia, during dismantling of church of Sant’ Adriano and which remains nearby:

  11. [Do]mino nostro/ [Impe]ratori Caesari/ [Marc]o Aurelio Valerio/ [Maxe]ntio

  12. pio, felici/ [in]victo, Augusto/ [consuli] saepius, p(atri) p(atriae), proconsuli

  13. Manili]us Rusticianus, v(ir) em(inentissimus)/ [praef(ectus) prae]t(orio)

  14. n(umini) m(aiestati)q(ue) eius semper/ [d]icatissimus

  15. To our lord, the Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius

  16. pious, fortunate, unconquered Augustus, often consul, father of the fatherland, proconsul

  17. Manilius Rusticianus, of eminentissimus rank, praetorian prefect

  18. most devoted to his divine spirit and majesty, [set this up]

Pierfrancesco Porena (referenced below, at p 278-80) suggested that these two later inscriptions coincided with the year of Maxentus’ third Consulship (311 AD) and his quinquenalia (28th October 310 - 28th October 311 AD).  This coincided with an economic revival following the restoration of the African provinces and a period of political stability as Constantine and Licinius concentrated on events in the east (below).

  1. “This seems to have been the phase in which Maxentius advanced his urban regeneration of the capital. ... We have seen that, before the usurpation, Rusticianus had had a successful administrative career linked to the city of Rome ... It is probable that Maxentius saw in him .... a Praetorian Prefect who could collaborate with him on the implementation of a major project of monumentalisation of Rome and its suburbs” (my translation).

This major programme of urban regeneration is described in the page on Maxentius’ Public Works.

Galerius’ Edict of Toleration (April 311 AD)

Galerius’ reconstitution of the imperial college (above) might well have been associated with the onset of his 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).

In 311 AD, as his suffering increased, Galerius issued an edict that mandated the toleration of Christian religion throughout the Empire.  According to Lactantius (who published an account of its contents at ‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 34):

  1. “This edict [which Galerius probably dictated at Thessaloniki or perhaps Serdica] 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. 30th April 311 AD].  Then the prison-gates having been thrown open, and [many imprisoned Christians] were set at liberty....” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 35: 1-2).

Bill Leadbetter (referenced below, 2009, at p 224-5) summarised the content:

  1. “ In his text, Galerius justifies the instigation of the Persecution by the claim the Christians had abandoned ancestral practices and the traditional rules of community, and were instead inventing laws for themselves.  He  ... [admitted] that many had suffered and died, but to no purpose, since, rather than returning to the temples and time-honoured practices, Christians 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 .... and the Edict concludes with a clear injunction to Christians to pray to their God on his behalf and that of the Empire.”

It seems that Maxentius delayed the restoration of confiscated property until the election o of Pope Miltiades on 2nd July 311 AD, possibly because this discord of the previous period had rendered such a policy untenable.  He now had an opportunity to respond to the promulgation in the east of Galerius’ edict.  His dispensation to Miltiades was recorded by St Augustine, in a letter that defended him from an attack by the African Donatists:

  1. "[Miltiades] was recorded to have sent deacons with letters from the Emperor Maxentius and from the Praetorian Prefect to the Urban Prefect [in Rome], that they [on behalf of the Church] might recover possession of what had been taken away in the time of persecution, and which [Maxentius] had ordered to be restored" (‘Breviculus Collationis Cum Donatistis’,  3: 34, translation taken from this page of

Lactantius then described Galerius’ death, which occurred shortly after the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration:

  1. “Galerius,  however, did not, by publication of this edict, obtain the ... forgiveness [of the Christian God].  In a few days after, he was consumed by the horrible disease that [had afflicted him for so long].  Dying, he recommended his wife and son to Licinius, and delivered them over into his hands.  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” (‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’, 35: 3-4).

The ‘legitimate’ imperial college now comprised the three surviving Augusti, Maximinus, Constantine and Licinius. 

Maxentius’ Urban Prefects (310-2 AD)

It seems that Maxentius needed to bolster the support he received from the Senate in the febrile climate following the African revolt.  Robert Chenault (referenced below) elaborated on one means by which he attempted to do so: 

  1. “... beginning in [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”.

The so-called Chronograph’ of 354 AD records the subsequent list of Maxentius’ Urban Prefects as follows:

        [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] 

Maxentius conferred the considerable honour of appointment as Urban Prefect for the year of his quinquennalia (beginning on 28th October 310 AD) on Rufius Volusianus, probably following his success as Praetorian Prefect during the recovery of the African provinces (above).  He was also appointed as Consul for the last three months of that year (as discussed below).

Nothing is known about Iunius Flavianus, whose appointment ended on the non-canonical date of 9th February 312 AD.  It has been speculated that this might have been connected with a record 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) referred to  this incident and the possibility that Flavianus was the compliant husband, in which case his wife’s suicide might have led to his resignation.

Aradius Rufinus, who replaced Iunius Flavianus on 9th February 312 AD, was also appointed as Consul for the last three months of that year (as discussed below).  Maxentius replaced him by Annius Anulinus a day before the canonical date, on the eve of Constantine’s invasion of Rome.  This odd behaviour is discussed in the page on the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD).

Annius Anullinus (Urban Prefect, October - November 312 AD)

As discussed in my page on Maxentius in Rome (306-8 AD),  Annius Anullinus (the Proconsul of Africa of 303-5 AD) became Urban Prefect in March 306 AD.  He had presumably been appointed by Constantius, and he had retained his post under Severus when Constantius died in July of that year.  He seems to have been away from the city at the time of Maxentius’  coup in the following October.  Maxentius retained his services until August 307 AD, replacing him just before Galerius’ invasion of Italy (below).

Maxentius appointed him in place of Aradius Rufinus on October 27th 312 AD, a day before the canonical date, and on the eve of Constantine’s invasion of Rome.

Consuls of September - December 311 AD

Despite Maxentius’ apparent policy of forging close ties with the Senate, it is interesting to note that he almost completely excluded its members from the Consulate.  The only exception to this policy occurred in late 311 AD, some months after Galerius’ death (above).  Maxentius had refrained from making Consular designations during the first none months of the year (as described above).  However, as 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 designated two Senators as Consuls.  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).

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, although Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1982, at p 115) suggested that this was more probably his father.  His relationship, if any, to Statius Rufinus, whom Maxentius appointed as Urban Prefect immediately after his break with Maximian, is unknown.  As noted above, Maxentius had appointed him him as Urban Prefect on on 9th February 312 AD, soon after his term as Consul had ended. 

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 S. Stefano Rotondo beside the church of S. 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 Valerii: 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 cognomen Valerius, it was presumably he who had married into the gens Valeria, thereby achieving this impressive lineage for his sons.  His link to the the gens Valerii presumably commended him to Maxentius.

Caius Ceionius Rufius Volusianus

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

“... 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”. 

The early career of Rufius Volusianus is known from an inscription (CIL X 1655), in which he was commemorated as Corrector (governor) of Italy under the Emperor Carinus.  His 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 revealed that his term as Corrector (governor) of Italy had extended for eight years: Timothy Barnes (referenced below, 1975, at p 46) suggested that this period of office 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. 

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 might still have 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).

As noted above, Rufius Volusianus served as Maxentius’ Praetorian Prefect, charged with putting down the African revolt in 310 AD.  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).  He still held this post when he was appointed as Consul.

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 Book in Romes.  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”.

Consuls’ Later Careers

Both Aradius Rufinus and Rufius Volusianus continued to prosper after Maexentius’ defeat by Constantine in October 312 AD.  This has given rise to speculation that they betrayed him, as discussed in the page on Constantine's Invasion of Italy (312 AD).

Read more:

‘RIC VI’ - see Sutherland (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. an, “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

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

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

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

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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