Aezanis, Temple of Zeus, 117-138 AD 
History/Medieval Studies 401
Conflict of Pagans and Christians
in the Roman Empire



 Book List 
 Reserve Readings

 Rise of Christianity

 Roman Names
 Evolution of Christian Message


1. Principate: 27B.C.-284A.D.
2. Dominate: 284-476A.D.
3. Division of East and Westen Empires: 394-476A.D.
4. Narrative of the Political History of 285-337A.D. (Civil War)

 I.  PRINCIPATE:  27 B.C.-284 A.D. 

    Julio-Claudian Dynasty 
      Augustus (27 B.C.-14 A.D.) 
      Tiberius (14-37) 
      Caligula (Gaius; 37-41) 
      Claudius (41-54) 
      Nero (54-68)
    Civil Wars:  Year of the Four Emperors 
      Galba (68-69) 
      Otho (69) 
      Vitellius (69)
    The Flavian Dynasty 
      Vespasian (69-79) 
      Titus (79-81) 
      Domitian (81-96)
    The "Adoptive" Emperors 
      Nerva* (96-98) 
      Trajan* (98-117)* 
      Hadrian* (117-138 A.D.)* 
      Antoninus Pius* (138-161)* 
      Marcus Aurelius* (161-180)* 
      Lucius Verus (161-169; co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius) 
      Commodus (180-192; co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius since 177) 

      *Emperors so marked are the "Five Good Emperors."

    Civil War 
      Pertinax (193) 
      Didius Julianus (193) 
      Pescennius Niger (193-194; recognized in East) 
      Clodius Albinus (195-197; recognized in Spain, Gaul, and Britain; initially accepted by Septimius Severus as Caesar in 193-195)
    The Severan Dynasty 
      Septimius Severus* (193-211) 
      Caracalla* (198-217; elevated Caesar in 196; joint emperor with his father Septimius Severus from 198; with his brother Geta from 209) 
      Geta* (209-212; Caesar from 198; joint emperor until murdered by Caracalla in 212) 

       Macrinus (217-218; Praetorian Prefect who murdered Caracalla) 
      Diadumenian (218; first Caesar and then co-emperor with father Macrinus) 

      Elagabalus* (218-222) 
      Severus Alexander* (222-235) 

      *Emperors so marked are members of the Severan family.

    The Crisis of the Third Century 
      Maximinus I Thrax (235-238) 
      Maximus (Caesar 235-238) 

      Gordian I Africanus (238) 
      Gordian II Africanus (238; joint emperors for twenty days, father and son, who headed a revolt in Africa vs. Maximinus) 

      Balbinus (238) and 
      Pupienus (238; joint emperors, elected by Senate, opposed to Maximinus and murdered by Praetorian Guard)

      Gordian III Pius (238-244; a grandson of Gordian I) 

      Philip I "the Arab" (244-249) 
      Philip II (Caesar 244-247; co-emperor with father Philip I from 247-249) 

      Pacatian, usurper in Upper Moesia (248) 
      Jotapian, usurper in Syria and Cappadocia (248) 

      Trajan Decius (249-251) 
      Herennius Etruscus (251) 
      Hostilian (251; last two co-emperors with father Trajan Decius) 

      Trebonianus Gallus (251-253) 
      Volusian (251-253; co-emperor with father Gallus) 

      Aemilian (253) 

      Valerian I (253-260) 
      Gallienus (263-268; co-emperor with father Valerian) 
      Valerian II (Caesar 253-255; son of Gallienus) 
      Saloninus (259/60; son of Gallienus; Caesar 255-259; Augustus in Gaul murdered by Postumus)

    "Seccessionist Emperors and Usurpers," 253-273 
    Gallo-Roman Emperors 
      Postumus (259-268) 
      Laelianus (268) 
      Marius (268) 
       Victorianus (268-270) 
      Tetricus I (270-273) 
      Tetricus II (Caesar 270-273 with father Tetricus I) 

      Aurelian in 273 restored West to central government

    Usurpers in East 
      Uranius Antoninus (253-254; priest king Sampsigeramus of Emesa in eastern Syria; organized resistance to Shapur) 

      Regalianus (258 or 260; rebel emperor in Pannonia) 

      Macrianus II (260-261) 
      Quietus (260-261; brothers and joint emperors proclaimed by eastern army after capture of Valerian by Shapur) 

      Vaballathus (271-272; son of Odenathus, dux and Prince of Palmyra in Syria; ruled East under guidance of mother Zenobia) 

      In 272 Aurelian restored East to the central government

    Legitimate Emperors of Rome, 268-284 
      Claudius II Gothicus (268-270) 
      Quintillus (270) 
      Aurelian (270-275)
    Interregnum:  275-276; army requested Senate to elect emperor after the murder of Aurelian. 
      Tacitus (275-276) 
      Florianus (276) 
      Probus (276-282) 
      Carus (282-283) 
      Numerian (283-284) 
      Carinus (283-285; last two co-emperors with father Carus) 
      Julian I (284-285), usurper in Pannonia 
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II.  THE DOMINATE (284-476) 
    The First Tetrarchy:  285-305 
      Diocletian (284-305) Maximianus (286-305) 
      Augustus in East Augustus in West 
      Galerius (293-305) Constantius I Chlorus 
      Caesar in East (293-305) Caesar in West
      Amandus (285-286), usurper in Gaul 

      Carausius (287-293), usurper of Romano-British Empire 
      Allectus (293-296), usurper of Romano-British Empire 
      Constantius I recovered Britain in 296 

      Domitius Domitainus (296-297), usurper in Egypt

    Second Tetrarchy:  305-306 
      Galerius (305-311) Constantius I (305-306) 
      Augustus in East Augustus in West 
      Maximinus II Daza (305-308) Severus II (305-306) 
      Caesar in East Caesar in West
    Renewed Civil War:  306-324 
      Constantine I, "the Great" (306-307), proclaimed emperor by army of West and unified empire in 324 

      Severus II (305-307), rival Western emperor to Constantine; created by Galerius. Captured and executed by Maxentius 

      Maxentius (306-312), son of Maximianus; declared emperor in Rome; defeated and slain by Constantine at Milvian Bridge. 

      Maximianus (306-308; second reign with son Maxentius; 310 third reign in revolt vs. Constantine) 

      Licinius I (308-324), created emperor of West at the Conference of Carnuntum; conquered East from Galerius and Maximinus II; defeated anddeposed by Constantine in 324 
      Licinius II (317-324), Caesar with father Licinius I 

      Maximinus II Daia (309-313), declared Augustus in East; defeated by Licinius I 

    The House of Constantine ("Second Flavian Dyansty") 
      Constantine I "the Great" (306-337) 
      Crispus (317-324, Caesar; executed) 
      Delmatius (335-337, Caesar and nephew of Constantine; executed) 
      Hannibalianus (335-337, Rex in Armenia, Pontus, and Cappadocia; nephew of Constantine; executed) 

      Constantine II (337-340; Caesar 317-337), emperor in Britain, Gaul, and Spain 
      Constans (337-350; Caesar 333-337), emperor in Italy, Africa, and Illyricum 
      Constantius II (337-361; Caesar 324-337). emperor in East who reunited empire

      Magnentius (350-353), usurper in West 
      Decentius (Caesar 351-353), brother of Magnentius 

       Vetranio (350), declared emperor to check Magnentius and   abdicated in favor of Constantius II 
      Nepotian (350), emperor in Rome 28 days, slain by Magnentius 

      Julian II "the Apostate" (360-363; Caesar 355-360) 

      Jovian (363-364), elected by eastern army

    House of Valentinian 
      Valentinian I (364-375), Augustus in West 
      Valens (364-378), Augustus in East 

      Procopius (365-366), usurper in Constantinople 

      Gratian (367-383) 
      Valentinian II (375-392; co-emperor with brother Gratian) 

      Magnus Maximus (383-388), usurper in West 
      Flavius Victor (387-388), usurper in Gaul

    House of Theodosius 
      Theodosius I, "the Great" (379-395), elevated as Augustus of East after the Battle of Adrianople; reunited the empire 

      Eugenius (393-394), usurper of West backed by Arbogast and the pagan Senate of Rome.

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    Western Roman Empire The Eastern Roman Empire
    Honorius (395-423) 
    Constantine III (407-411), 
              usurper in Britain 
    Constans (408-411), co-emperor 
              with father Constantine III 
    Maximus (409-411), 
              usurper in Spain 
    Priscus Attalus (409-410;414-415), 
              puppet emperor of Goths in 

    Jovinus (411-413), usurper in Gaul 
              backed by Burgundians 
    Sebastianus (412-413), co-emperor 
              with brother Jovinus 
    Constantius III (421), co-emperor 
              with Honorius; murdered 
    Johannes (423-425) 
    Valentinian III (425-455) 
    Petronius Maximus (455) 
    Avitus (455-456) 
    Majorian (457-461) 
    Severus III (461-465) 

    Interregnum:  465-467; eighteen 
               months Leo I sole emperor 

    Anthemius (467-472) 
    Olybrius (472) 
    Glycerius (473-474) 
    Julius Nepos (474-475), deposed by 
               Orestes, magister militum; 
               ruled in exile at Salona in 
               Dalmatia until 480; his territory 
               passed to Zeno. 
    Romulus Augustulus (475-476), 
               deposed by Odovacar who 
               ruled as  magister militum and 
               rex (476-491) in Italy and 
               Illyricum. The empire was 
               supposedly reunited, but Zeno 
               sent King Theodoric of the 
               Ostrogoths to destroy 

    Arcadius (393-408) 

    Theodosius II (408-450) 

    Marcian (450-457) 

    Leo I (457-474) 

    Leo II (473-474) 
    Zeno (474-491) 

    Basiliacus (475-476), usurper 
    Leontius (484-488), usurper 

    Anastasius I (491-518)

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Since the political history of the late third and early fourth century is extremely complex, it is best to give a brief narrative of the major events and imperial figures between 285 and 337.  Only in 324, after the Battle of CHRYSOPOLIS, did the emperor Constantine end civil war and reunite the empire. 

DIOCLETIAN (284-305), born of humble parents in Dalmatia in c. 245, rose to the rank of governor of Moesia under the emperor Carus (2883).  He later was appointed commander of the imperial bodyguard and, after the mysterious death of Numerian in 284 during the ab-ortive Persian expedition, the eastern legions proclaimed Diocle-tian emperor.  Civil war ensued because Numerian's elder brother Carinus (283-285) still reigned as the legitimate Augustus of the West.  Carinus, however, was murdered by his soldiers in the spring of 285 so that Diolcetian was left sole emperor. 

Diocletian ended a century of civil war and, through a series of decrees, he reformed the army, administration, finances, and society of the late Roman state which is henceforth called the DOMINATE.  Diocletian also realized that governing and defending the empire was too great a task for a single emperor so that in 286 he elevated to the purple his comrade MAXIMIANUS (286-305) as co-Augustus in the West.  Maximianus ruled the Western pro-vinces from his capital at Milan (Mediolaunum) in northern Italy, while Diocletian ruled the East from his residence at Nicomedia (Izmit, Turkey).  In 293 the two Augusti agreed to expand this partner-ship by the appointing two junior emperors, or Caesars, GALER-IUS, a tough and able soldier who ruled as Caesar of the East from Antioch, and CONSTANTIUS I CHLORUS, father of Constantine I, who ruled the West from Treveri (Trier) on the Moselle.  This imperial college is often termed by historians the TETRARCHY ("rule of four").  To strengthen ties among the four emperors, Constantius divorced his first wife HELENA (mother of Constan-tine I) and married THEODORA, step-daughter of Maximianus. Galerius also divorced his first wife and married the daughter of Diocletian GALERIA VALERIA. 

As Diocletian had anticipated, this formidable team dealt very effectively against usurpers and invaders.  In 296 Consta-ntius, the Caesar of the West, conducted a masterful campaign whereby he crushed the dangerous secessionist Romano-British state of CARAUSIUS (287-293) and ALLECTUS (293-296).  Galerius and Diocletian easily put down a major rebellion in Egypt under L. DOMITIUS DOMITIANUS (296-297) and in 299 they defeated and imposed a humiliating treaty upon the Sassanid Shah Narses, compeling him to surrender five strategic provinces beyond the Tigris. 

 On May 1, 305 Diocletian and Maximianus both abdicated and they were succeeded by their heirs Galerius (305-311) and Con-stantius I (305-306) as respective Augusti of the East and West. This second Tetrarchy lasted just over a year and, from the outset, it was unstable because the two new Caesars--SEVERUS II in the West and MAXIMINUS II DAIA in the East--were both appointees of Galerius.  In addition, the dynastic claims of CONSTANTINE (son of Constantius I and detested by Galerius) and MAXENTIUS (son of Maximianus and probably as inept as the sources depict him) were passed over. On July 26, 306 Constantius I died at York after repelling a Pictish invasion, and the Western army proclaimed CONSTANTINE I, "the Great," Augustus of the West.  Galerius was furious when he received the imago and news from Britain, but, to avoid civil war, Galerius elevated SEVERUS II (306-307) as Augustus of the West and he recognized Constantine as only Caesar in the West.  Galerius' efforts at compromise proved futile because shortly afterwards MAXENTIUS (306-312) organized a revolt in Rome and he was successively proclaimed princeps, Caesar, and Augustus.  All Italy defected to Maxentius and, what was worse, Maxentius invited his father Maximianus to come out of retirement and embark on a second reign. 

By the end of 306 the situation was a follows:  Galerius, Augustus in the East, and Maximinus II Daia, Caesar in the East, were ruling in accordance with the plans of Diocletian.  In the West, no one wished to be Caesar, but there were four men more than willing to offer their brilliant talents as Augustus of the West:  Constantine (control-ling Britain, Gaul, and Spain), Maxentius and Maximianus (con-trolling Italy and North Africa), and Severus II (controlling Illyricum and depending upon the support of Galerius). 

The second round of fighting opened in the spring of 307 when Galerius ordered Severus II to invade Italy and destroy Maxentius.  Bribery and desertion undermined Severus' army and this unfortunate Augustus fell into the hands of Maxentius and he was promptly executed.  (Delete one Augustus of the West.) Galerius was enraged and he began to organize his own invasion of Italy.  Meanwhile, Maximianus travelled to Gaul and he secur-ed an accommodation with Constantine by offering his daughter FAUSTA in marriage.  While Maximianus was still in Gaul, Galer-ius in the late summer of 307 invaded Italy, advancing unopposed to the walls of Rome.  Once again, however, Maxentius employed lavish bribes and Galerius, forced to retreat, had to allow his soldiers who remained loyal to plunder northern Italy and Pannonia. 

 Late in 307 Maximianus quarrelled with his son Maxentius and he withdrew to Gaul where he joined his new son-in-law Constantine.  Meanwhile Galerius had arranged to call a CONFERENCE AT CARNUNTUM (near modern Vienna) in the spring of 308 and he invited Diocletian to attend so that he could assist in clearing up the hopeless mess of the Tetrarchy.  The terms agreed upon at Carnuntum were as follows:  (1) Maximianus was forced to abdicate once more (delete another Augustus of the West), (2) Maxentius was declared a public menace and he was fair game for any legitimate ruler (delete on paper a third Augustus of the West), (3) Constantine was demoted to Caesar of the West (delete the fourth Augustus of the West), and (4) LICINIUS I (308-324) was created as the Augustus of the West inasmuch as all the other contenders were supposedly removed.  The settlement was obviously the work of Galerius, for Licinius was a colleague of Galerius.  The new arrangement, although it in theory restored the Tetrarchy, pleased no one save Galerius. Constantine and Maximinus II Daia resented the promotion of Licinius who had never held the rank of Caesar, and Constantine was particularly angry over his own demotion to Caesar.  By 309 both Constantine and MAXIMINUS II DAIA (309-313) declared themselves Augusti, ending round two of the civil war. 

In 309, there were in 309 five Augusti with varying degrees of legitimacy:  in the East Galerius and his former Caesar Maximinus (who were at war with each other), in the West Constantine (who controlled most of the Western army), Maxentius ruling in Italy (who was recognized by no one save Maxentius), and Licinius I (who controlled none of the West and depended upon Galerius' support). 

The third and final round opened in the spring of 310 when Maximianus blundered into making a third bid for the throne by staging a revolt in Massilia (Marseilles).  Constantine took the city and forced his father-in-law to commit suicide.  In the fol-lowing year, 311, Galerius died of a dreadful wasting disease-- sent by the Christian God, according to Eusebius and Lactantius, in punishment for his persecutions.  Licinius and Maximinus divided Galerius' possessions betweem them; Maximinus acquired the lion's share of Asia Minor and Syria.  In early spring 312 Constantine launched his long planned invasion of Italy which climaxed with his victory over Maxentius at the MILVIAN BRIDGE on October 28, 312.  Convinced that the Christian God had granted him victory, Constantine persuaded Licinius to publish jointly in early 313 the so-called "EDICT OF MILAN," proclaiming religious toleration.  As Constantine consolidated his hold over the West, Licinius in the spring of 313 defeated the army of Maximinus II, who had also been a fierce persecutor of Christians.  Maximinus, although he escaped the destruction of his army, soon afterwards died of a wasting illness at Tarsus in Asia Minor. 

By May 1, 313, only eight years after Diocletian had abdi-cated, just two Augusti ruled the Roman Empire:  Constantine in the West and his former rival Licinius in the East.  The emper-ors agreed to recognize each other's dynastic plans.  In 317 Licinius promoted his son LICINIUS II (317-324) to Caesar.  At the same time Constantine created as Caesars CRISPUS (317-324), his son by his first wife Minervina, and CONSTANTINE II (317--337), his three year old son by his second wife Fausta.  Fausta was so jealous of her step-son Crispus that she fabricated a plot in the name of the unsuspecting Caesar who was arrested and executed.  When the guilt of Fausta was soon afterwards unveiled, the furious Constantine had his wife executed by being thrown into boiling water. 

Tensions between Constantine and Licinius had led to war in 324.  Constantine defeated Licinius in two successive battles at HADRIANOPOLIS and CHRYSOPOLIS, and reunited the Roman world.  Prior to his death, Constantine made provisions for a new partition of the empire; his two youngest sons CONSTANTIUS II (324-337) and CONSTANS (333-337) were created Caesars, and in 335 he even appointed his two nephews DELMATIUS and HANNIBALUS with the respective imperial ranks of Caesar and rex.  Delmatius and Hannibalus were murdered shortly after the death of Constantine, and only the three sons of Constantine, Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius II, were proclaimed joint Augusti. 

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Dr. Kenneth W. Harl 
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 Tulane University
Last updated 03/19/98
by Annette Lindblom