Constans

Constans

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Constans (c.323–350), was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 337 to 350. He defeated his brother Constantine II
Constantine II (emperor)
Constantine II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 340. Co-emperor alongside his brothers, his short reign saw the beginnings of conflict emerge between the sons of Constantine the Great, and his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture ended up causing his death in a failed invasion of...

 in 340, but anger in the army over his personal life and preference for his barbarian bodyguards saw the general Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

 rebel, resulting in Constans’ assassination in 350.

Career


Constans was the third and youngest son of Constantine the Great and Fausta
Fausta
Fausta Flavia Maxima was a Roman Empress, daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximianus. To seal the alliance between them for control of the Tetrarchy, in 307 Maximianus married her to Constantine I, who set aside his wife Minervina in her favour. Constantine and Fausta had been betrothed since...

, his father's second wife. He was educated at the court of his father at Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 under the tutelage of the poet Aemilius Magnus Arborius
Aemilius Magnus Arborius
Aemilius Magnus Arborius was the gallo-roman author of a poem in ninety-two lines in elegaic verse, titled Ad Nympham nimis cultam, which contains a great many expressions taken from the older poets, and bears all the traces of the artificial labour which characterizes the later Latin poetry. It...

.

On 25 December 333, Constantine I elevated Constans to the rank of Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

at Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. Prior to 337, Constans became engaged to Olympias, the daughter of the Praetorian Prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

 Ablabius, although the marriage never came to pass. With Constantine’s death in 337, Constans and his two brothers, Constantine II
Constantine II (emperor)
Constantine II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 340. Co-emperor alongside his brothers, his short reign saw the beginnings of conflict emerge between the sons of Constantine the Great, and his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture ended up causing his death in a failed invasion of...

 and Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 divided the Roman world between themselves, after first disposing of virtually all of the relatives of their father who could possibly have a claim on the throne. The army proclaimed them Augusti on September 9, 337. Almost immediately, Constans was required to deal with a Sarmatian invasion in late 337, over whom he won a resounding victory.
At first, Constans was under the guardianship of Constantine II, and the original settlement saw Constans receiving the praetorian prefectures of Italy and Africa
Praetorian prefecture of Italy
The praetorian prefecture of Italy ) was one of four large Praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided. It comprised the Italian peninsula, the Western Balkans, the Danubian provinces and parts of North Africa...

. Constans was unhappy with this division, and so the brothers met at Viminacium
Viminacium
Viminacium was a major city and military camp of the Roman province of Moesia , and the capital of Moesia Superior. The archeological site occupies a total of 450 hectares. Viminacium is located 12 km from Kostolac, was devastated by Huns in the 5th century, but rebuilt by Justinian...

 in 338 to revise the boundaries. Constans managed to extract the prefecture of Illyricum
Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium , and, after 379, Thessalonica...

 and the diocese of Thrace
Diocese of Thrace
The Diocese of Thrace was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the eastern Balkan Peninsula The Diocese of Thrace was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the eastern Balkan Peninsula The Diocese of Thrace was a diocese of the later...

, provinces that were originally part of what was meant to be ruled by his cousin Dalmatius
Dalmatius
Flavius Dalmatius , also known as Dalmatius Caesar, was a Caesar of the Roman Empire, and member of the Constantinian dynasty.Dalmatius was son of another Flavius Dalmatius, censor, and nephew of Constantine I...

 as per Constantine I’s proposed division of the Empire after his death. Constans’ brother, Constantine II, soon complained that he had not received the amount of territory that was his due, stemming from his position as the eldest of Constantine’s sons.
Annoyed that Constans had received Thrace and Macedonia
Diocese of Macedonia
The Diocese of Macedonia was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, forming part of the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum. Its capital was Thessalonica....

 after the death of Dalmatius, Constantine demanded that Constans hand over the African provinces, which, in order to maintain a fragile peace, he agreed to do. Soon however, they began quarrelling over which parts of the African provinces belonged to Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, and thus Constantine, and that which belonged to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and therefore Constans. This led to growing tensions between the two brothers, which were only heightened by Constans finally coming of age and Constantine refusing to give up his guardianship. The end result was that in 340, Constantine II invaded Italy. Constans, at that time in Dacia
Dacia
In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians or Getae as they were known by the Greeks—the branch of the Thracians north of the Haemus range...

, detached and sent a select and disciplined body of his Illyrian troops, stating that he would follow them in person with the remainder of his forces. Constantine was eventually trapped at Aquileia
Aquileia
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso , the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times...

, where he died, leaving Constans to inherit all of his brother’s former territories – Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

, Britannia
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

 and Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

.

According to the sources, Constans began his reign in an energetic fashion. In 341-2, Constans led a successful campaign against the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 and in the early months of 343 visited Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. The source for this visit, Julius Firmicus Maternus
Julius Firmicus Maternus
Julius Firmicus Maternus was a Christian Latin writer and notable astrologer, who lived in the reign of Constantine I and his successors.-Life and works:...

, does not give a reason for this but the quick movement and the danger involved in crossing the channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 in the dangerous winter months, suggests it was in response to a military emergency of some kind, possibly to repel the Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 and Scots
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

.

Regarding religion, Constans was tolerant of Judaism but promulgated an edict banning pagan sacrifices in 341. He suppressed Donatism in Africa and supported Nicene orthodoxy against Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, which was championed by his brother Constantius. Although Constans called the Council of Sardica
Council of Sardica
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sofia and Plovdiv is a Roman Catholic diocese of the Latin Rite, which includes the whole southern part of Bulgaria. The remainder of Bulgaria is comprised in the Diocese of Nicopoli. The seat of the episcopal see is in Plovdiv. The diocese is immediately subject of...

 in 343 to settle the conflict, it was a complete failure and by 346 the two emperors were on the point of open warfare over the creedal dispute. The conflict was only resolved with an interim agreement that allowed each emperor to support their preferred clergy within their own spheres of influence.

Death


In the final years of his reign, Constans developed a reputation for cruelty and misrule. Dominated by favourites, offended by his homosexuality and openly favouring his select bodyguard, he lost the support of the legions. In 350, the general Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

 declared himself emperor at Augustodunum with the support of the troops on the Rhine frontier - and later the western provinces of the empire. Constans was enjoying himself nearby when he was notified of the elevation of Magnentius. Lacking any support beyond his immediate household, he was forced to flee for his life. Trying to reach either Italy or Spain, Magnentius' supporters cornered him in a fortification in Vicus Helena in the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

, southwestern Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

, where he was killed by Magnentius' assassins after seeking sanctuary in a temple.

Primary sources

  • Zosimus
    Zosimus
    Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

    , Historia Nova, Book 2 Historia Nova
  • Aurelius Victor
    Aurelius Victor
    Sextus Aurelius Victor was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire.Aurelius Victor was the author of a History of Rome from Augustus to Julian , published ca. 361. Julian honoured him and appointed him prefect of Pannonia Secunda...

    , Epitome de Caesaribus
  • Eutropius, Breviarium ab urbe condita

Secondary sources

  • DiMaio, Michael; Frakes, Robert, Constans I (337–350 A.D.), in De Imperatoribus Romanis (D.I.R.), An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
  • Jones, A.H.M., Martindale, J.R. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I: AD260-395, Cambridge University Press, 1971
  • Gibbon. Edward Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1888)

External links