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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Section 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 413 §2. The First Five Years of Reign.

The will of the father was promptly ratified by the soldiers, who at once proclaimed Constantine Augustus. 3004 Supported by them, and also by Erocus, king of the Allemanni (Vict. Epit. p. 49–50), he sent his portrait to Galerius, claiming the title of Augustus. This the emperor refused to grant, but, much against his will, allowed him to have the title of Cæsar (Lact. c. 25). Constantine did not insist on his right to the greater title, but waited his time, and in the interim contented himself with the lesser,—as the coins show. 3005 There was enough to do. After his father’s death he waged war against the Francs, and later against the Bructeri and others (Eutrop. 10. 3; Paneg. (307) c. 4; Eumen. Paneg. (310) cc. 10–12; Nazar. Paneg. (321) 18; Euseb. V. C. 1. 25, &c.; cf. Inscr. ap. Clinton 2. 93), and celebrated his victories by exposing his captives to the wild beasts (Eutrop. 10. 3; Eumen. Paneg. (310) c. 12; Paneg. (313) c. 23; cf. Nazar. Paneg. (321) c. 16).

Meanwhile affairs were marching at Rome, too. The same year (306) that Constantine was elected Augustus by the soldiers, Maxentius at Rome was proclaimed emperor by the Pretorian Guards (Eutrop. 10. 2; Vict. Cæs. p. 156; Anon. Vales. p. 472; Zos. 2. 9; Socr. 1. 2; Oros. c. 26, &c.; Lact. c. 26). He persuaded the willing (Eutrop. 10. 2) Maximian to resume the imperial purple (Lact. c. 26; Zos. 2. 10), but soon quarreled with him (Socr. 1. 2; Eutrop. 10. 3; Zos. 2. 11; Lact. c. 28). 3006 In 307 Constantine and Maximinus were named “sons of the emperors,” and the following year were reluctantly acknowledged as emperors by Galerius. Maximian, after he had quarreled with his son, betook himself to Gaul and made alliance with Constantine by giving his daughter Fausta in marriage (307). He proved an uncomfortable relative. The much-abused mother-in-law of fiction is not to be compared with this choice father-in-law of history. First he tried to supersede Constantine by corrupting his soldiers. At his persuasion Constantine had left behind the bulk of his army while he made a campaign on the frontier. As soon as he was supposably out of the way, the soldiers were won by largesses, and Maximian assumed the purple again. But he had reckoned without his host. Constantine acted with decisive promptness, returned by such rapid marches that he caught Maximian entirely unprepared (Lact. c. 29) and drove him into Marseilles, where the latter cursed him vigorously from the walls (Lact. c. 29), but was able to offer no more tangible resistance. The gates were thrown open (Lact. c. 29), and Maximian was in the power of Constantine, who this time spared his precious father-in-law. 3007 Grateful for this mildness, Maximian then plotted to murder him. The plan was for Fausta to leave her husband’s door open and for Maximian to enter and kill Constantine with his own hands. Fausta pretended to agree, but told her husband (Zos. 2. 11; Joh. Ant. p. 603; Oros. c. 28), who put a slave in his own place (but apparently did not “put himself in the place of” the slave), had the program been carried out, and catching Maximian in the act, granted him that supreme ancient mercy,—the right to choose how he would die (Lact. c. 30). 3008

Though in the midst of wars and plots, and liable at any time to have to run from one end of his province to the other to put down some insurrection, Constantine kept steadily at the work of internal improvement, organizing the interior, fortifying the boundaries, building bridges, restorp. 414 ing cities, building up educational institutions, &c. 3009 At the end of five years’ reign (July 24, 311) he had reduced the turbulent tribes, organized his affairs, and endeared himself to his people, especially to the Christians, whom he had favored from the first (Lact. c. 24), and who could hardly fail in those days of persecution to rejoice in a policy such as is indicated in his letter to Maximinus Daza in behalf of persecuted Christians (Lact, c. 37).



So Eusebius H. E. 8. 13; Lact. c. 25; Julian Orat. 1. p. 13. Eumenius (Paneg. 310, c. 7) says that he was elected “imperator,” but in cc. 8–9 speaks of him as having become Cæsar. Eutropius (10. 2) also uses the word “imperator.” Zosimus, on the other hand (2. 9), and Anonymus Vales. say he was elected “Augustus,” but was only confirmed “Cæsar” by Galerius (see below). The elevation was in Britain (cf. Eutrop. 10. 2; Eumen. Paneg. (310) c. 9; Soz. 1. 5, &c.).


See coins in Eckhel 8, p. 72, under the year. It is also expressly stated by Paneg. (307) c. 5.


It is said by many that the quarrel was a feigned one, and that it was wholly for the purpose of getting rid of Constantine in behalf of Maxentius that he betook himself to Gaul. That he went to Gaul with this purpose, at least, is mentioned by many (cf. Lact. c. 29; Oros. c. 28; Eutrop. 10. 2, “on a planned stratagem”). It seems curious, if he had attempted to supersede Maxentius by raising a mutiny (Eutrop. 10. 3), that he should now be working for him and planning to rejoin him (Eutrop. 10. 2), but it is no inconsistency in this man, who was consistent only in his unceasing effort to destroy others for his own advantage.


Compare on all this Lact. c. 29; Eumen. Paneg c. 14.


Socrates (1. 2) with many others (e.g. Zos. 2. 11) says he died at Tarsus, confusing him thus with Maximinus.


Notably at Autun. The city had been almost destroyed. Eumenius, whose oration of thanks in behalf of the people of Autun is extant, praises Constantine as the restorer, almost the founder. The work had been undertaken by Constantius, indeed, but was carried on by his son. Constantine’s work of internal improvement was in many ways distinctly a continuation of the work begun by Constantius. Compare Eumen. Paneg. (especially c. 13, 22, &c.) and Grat. act.

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