Constantius II

Constantius II

Overview
Constantius II 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 361. The second son of Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 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...

, he ascended to the throne with his 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 Constans
Constans
Constans , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 350. He defeated his brother Constantine II in 340, but anger in the army over his personal life and preference for his barbarian bodyguards saw the general Magnentius rebel, resulting in Constans’ assassination in 350.-Career:Constans was the third and...

 upon their father's death.

In 340, Constantius' brothers clashed over the western provinces of the empire. The resulting conflict left Constantine II dead and Constans as ruler of the west until he was overthrown and assassinated in 350 by the usurper
Usurper
Usurper is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally...

 Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

.
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Timeline

351   Constantius II elevates his cousin Gallus to Caesar, and puts him in charge of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.

351   Battle of Mursa Major: the Roman Emperor Constantius II defeats the usurper Magnentius.

355   Claudius Silvanus, accused of treason, proclaims himself Roman Emperor against Constantius II.

355   Roman Emperor Constantius II promotes his cousin Julian to the rank of Caesar, entrusting him with the government of the Prefecture of the Gauls.

 
Encyclopedia
Constantius II 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 361. The second son of Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 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...

, he ascended to the throne with his 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 Constans
Constans
Constans , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 350. He defeated his brother Constantine II in 340, but anger in the army over his personal life and preference for his barbarian bodyguards saw the general Magnentius rebel, resulting in Constans’ assassination in 350.-Career:Constans was the third and...

 upon their father's death.

In 340, Constantius' brothers clashed over the western provinces of the empire. The resulting conflict left Constantine II dead and Constans as ruler of the west until he was overthrown and assassinated in 350 by the usurper
Usurper
Usurper is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally...

 Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

. Unwilling to accept Magnentius as co-ruler, Constantius marched against him. Magnentius was defeated at the battles of Mursa Major
Battle of Mursa Major
The Battle of Mursa Major was fought in 351 between the Eastern Roman army led by Constantius II and the western forces supporting the usurper Magnentius.The action took place along the valley of the Drava River, a Danube tributary in present day Croatia....

 and Mons Seleucus
Battle of Mons Seleucus
The Battle of Mons Seleucus was fought in 353 between the forces of the legitimate Roman emperor Constantius II of the line of Constantine I the Great and the forces of the usurper Magnentius. Constantius' forces were victorious, and Magnentius later committed suicide.It took place in today's...

, committing suicide after the latter. This left Constantius as sole ruler of the empire.

His subsequent military campaigns against Germanic tribes were successful: he defeated the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 in 354, and campaigned across the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 against the Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

 and Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 in 357. Contrastingly, in the east, the two decade old war against the Sassanids continued with mixed results.

As a consequence of the difficulty of managing the entire empire alone, Constantius elevated two of his cousins to the subordinate rank of Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

. Constantius Gallus
Constantius Gallus
Flavius Claudius Constantius Gallus , commonly known as Constantius Gallus, was a member of the Constantinian dynasty and Caesar of the Roman Empire . Gallus was consul three years, from 352 to 354.- Family :...

, the eldest surviving son of Constantius' half-uncle, Julius Constantius
Julius Constantius
Julius Constantius was a politician of the Roman Empire and a member of the Constantinian dynasty, being a son of emperor Constantius Chlorus and his second wife Flavia Maximiana Theodora, a younger half-brother of emperor Constantine I and the father of emperor Julian.- Biography :Julius...

, was promoted in 351, but executed three years later for his supposedly violent and corrupt nature. Constantius then promoted Gallus' younger half-brother, Julian, who was Constantius' last surviving cousin and the man who would ultimately succeed him, in 355.

However, the actions of Julian in claiming the rank of Augustus
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

 in 360 led to war between the two. Ultimately, no battle ever took place as Constantius became ill and died late in 361, though not before naming his opponent as his successor.

Early life



Constantius was born in 317 at Sirmium
Sirmium
Sirmium was a city in ancient Roman Pannonia. Firstly mentioned in the 4th century BC and originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts, it was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC and subsequently became the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. In 294 AD, Sirmium was...

, Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

. He was the third son of Constantine the Great, and second by his second wife 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...

, the daughter of Maximian
Maximian
Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian's military brawn. Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent...

. Constantius was made Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

 by his father on 13 November 324.

When his father died 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:...

 on 22 May 337, Constantius was the nearest of his sons to that city. Although on campaign in the eastern provinces, he immediately returned to the city to oversee his father's funeral.

The role of Constantius in the massacre of his relatives descended from the second marriage of his paternal grandfather Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
Constantius I , commonly known as Constantius Chlorus, was Roman Emperor from 293 to 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great and founder of the Constantinian dynasty. As Caesar he defeated the usurper Allectus in Britain and campaigned extensively along the Rhine frontier, defeating the...

 and Theodora
Flavia Maximiana Theodora
Flavia Maximiana Theodora was the stepdaughter of Maximian. Her parents were Flavius Afranius Hannibalianus and wife, divorced before 283, Eutropia, later wife of Maximian. Theodora's father was consul in 292, and praetorian prefect under Diocletian...

) is unclear. Eutropius, writing between 350 and 370, writes that Constantius merely sanctioned “the act, rather than commanding it”. However, Eutropius was hostile to Constantius – he was a friend of Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 – Constantius’ cousin and ultimately his enemy. Constantius, his older 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...

, his younger brother Constans
Constans
Constans , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 350. He defeated his brother Constantine II in 340, but anger in the army over his personal life and preference for his barbarian bodyguards saw the general Magnentius rebel, resulting in Constans’ assassination in 350.-Career:Constans was the third and...

, and three cousins Gallus
Constantius Gallus
Flavius Claudius Constantius Gallus , commonly known as Constantius Gallus, was a member of the Constantinian dynasty and Caesar of the Roman Empire . Gallus was consul three years, from 352 to 354.- Family :...

, Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 and Nepotianus
Nepotianus
Iulius Nepotianus , commonly known in English as Nepotian, was a member of the Constantinian dynasty who reigned as a short-lived usurper of the Roman Empire...

 were left as the only surviving male relatives of Constantine the Great.

Meeting at Sirmium not long after the massacre, the three brothers proceeded to divide the Roman Empire among them, according to their father's will. Constantius received the eastern provinces, including Egypt, Syria, Thrace, and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. Constantine II received 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...

, 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....

, 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....

, and Mauretania
Mauretania Tingitana
Mauretania Tingitana was a Roman province located in northwestern Africa, coinciding roughly with the northern part of present-day Morocco. The province extended from the northern peninsula, opposite Gibraltar, to Chellah and Volubilis to the south, and as far east as the Oued Laou river. Its...

. Constans, though initially under the supervision of Constantine II, received Italy, Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

, Illyricum
Illyricum (Roman province)
The Roman province of Illyricum or Illyris Romana or Illyris Barbara or Illyria Barbara replaced most of the region of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern north Albania to Istria in the west and to the Sava river in the north. Salona functioned as its capital...

, Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

, Macedonia
Macedonia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Macedonia was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last Ancient King of Macedon in 148 BC, and after the four client republics established by Rome in the region were dissolved...

, and Achaea
Achaea (Roman province)
Achaea, or Achaia, was a province of the Roman Empire, consisting of the Peloponnese, eastern Central Greece and parts of Thessaly. It bordered on the north by the provinces of Epirus vetus and Macedonia...

.

Reign in the East



There are few details of the early years of Constantius' sole reign in the eastern provinces. He spent most of his time defending the eastern border against invasions by the aggressive Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 under king Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

. These conflicts were mainly limited to Sassanid sieges of the major fortresses of Roman Mesopotamia, including Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 (Nusaybin), Singara
Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

, and Amida
Diyarbakir
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

 (Diyarbakir
Diyarbakir
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

). Although Shapur seems to have been victorious in most of the confrontations, the Sassanids were able to achieve little. However, the Romans won a decisive victory at the Battle of Narasara, killing Shapur's brother, Narses. Ultimately, Constantius was able to push back the invasion, Shapur failing to make any significant gains. Meanwhile, his brother Constantine desired to retain control of Constans' realm – leading Constantius' two brothers into open conflict. Constantine was killed in 340 near 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...

 during an ambush. As a result, Constans took control of his deceased brother’s realms and became sole ruler of the Western two-thirds of the empire. This division lasted until 350, when Constans was assassinated by forces loyal to the usurper
Roman usurper
Usurpers are individuals or groups of individuals who obtain and maintain the power or rights of another by force and without legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third century onwards, when political instability became the rule.The...

 Magnentius
Magnentius
Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

.

War against Magnentius


This new state of affairs was unacceptable to Constantius, who felt that as the only surviving son of Constantine the Great, the position of 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...

 was his alone. He was determined to march west across the empire to fight the usurper. However, feeling that the east still required some sort of imperial presence, he elevated his cousin Constantius Gallus
Constantius Gallus
Flavius Claudius Constantius Gallus , commonly known as Constantius Gallus, was a member of the Constantinian dynasty and Caesar of the Roman Empire . Gallus was consul three years, from 352 to 354.- Family :...

 to Caesar of the eastern provinces. As an extra measure to ensure the loyalty of his cousin, he married the elder of his two sisters, Constantina
Constantina
Constantina , and later known as Saint Constance, was the eldest daughter of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and his second wife Fausta, daughter of Emperor Maximian...

, to him.

Before facing Magnentius, Constantius first came to terms with Vetranio
Vetranio
Vetranio , born in the province of Moesia in a part of the region located in modern Serbia, is sometimes but incorrectly referred to as Vetriano. He was an experienced soldier and officer when he was asked by Constantina, the sister of Roman Emperor Constantius II, to proclaim himself Caesar...

, a loyal general in Illyricum
Illyricum (Roman province)
The Roman province of Illyricum or Illyris Romana or Illyris Barbara or Illyria Barbara replaced most of the region of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern north Albania to Istria in the west and to the Sava river in the north. Salona functioned as its capital...

 who had recently been acclaimed emperor by his soldiers. Vetranio immediately sent letters to Constantius pledging his loyalty, which Constantius may have accepted simply in order to stop Magnentius from gaining more support. These events may have been spurred by the action of Constantina, who had since traveled east to marry Gallus. Constantius subsequently sent Vetranio the imperial diadem and acknowledged the general‘s new position as Augustus. However, when Constantius arrived Vetranio willingly resigned his position and accepted Constantius’ offer of a comfortable retirement in Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

.

The following year, Constantius clashed with Magnentius in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

 with a large army. The ensuing Battle of Mursa Major
Battle of Mursa Major
The Battle of Mursa Major was fought in 351 between the Eastern Roman army led by Constantius II and the western forces supporting the usurper Magnentius.The action took place along the valley of the Drava River, a Danube tributary in present day Croatia....

 was one of the largest and most bloody battles between two Roman armies in Roman history. The result was a victory for Constantius, but a costly one. However, Magnentius himself managed to survive the battle and, determined to fight on, withdrew into northern Italy. Rather than pursuing his opponent, Constantius then turned his attention to securing the Danubian border, where he spent the early months of 352 campaigning against the Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 along the middle Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

. After having achieved his aims in that region, Constantius finally advanced on Magnentius in Italy. This action leading the cities of Italy to switch their allegiance to him and eject Magnentius’ garrisons. Again, Magnentius withdrew, this time to southern 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....

.

In 353, Constantius and Magnentius met for what would be the final time at the Battle of Mons Seleucus
Battle of Mons Seleucus
The Battle of Mons Seleucus was fought in 353 between the forces of the legitimate Roman emperor Constantius II of the line of Constantine I the Great and the forces of the usurper Magnentius. Constantius' forces were victorious, and Magnentius later committed suicide.It took place in today's...

 in southern Gaul, and again, Constantius emerged the victor. Soon after, Magnentius, realizing the futility of continuing his position, committed suicide on 10 August 353.

Sole ruler of the empire


Constantius spent much of the rest of 353 and early 354 on campaign against the Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 on the Danube frontier. The campaign was successful and raiding by the Alamanni ceased temporarily. In the meantime, Constantius had been receiving some disturbing reports regarding the actions of his cousin Gallus. Possibly as a result of these reports, Constantius concluded a peace with the Alamanni, and traveled to Mediolanum
Mediolanum
Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was an important Celtic and then Roman centre of northern Italy. This article charts the history of the city from its settlement by the Insubres around 600 BC, through its conquest by the Romans and its development into a key centre of Western Christianity and capital...

 (Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

).

Once there, he decided to first call Ursicinus
Ursicinus (Roman general)
Ursicinus was a senior military officer, holding the rank of "master of cavalry" in the Eastern Roman Empire c. 349–359.In 351 or 352 he was entrusted with the suppression of the Jewish revolt against Caesar Constantius Gallus...

, Gallus’ magister equitum, to Mediolanum for reasons that remain unclear. Constantius then requested the presence of Gallus and Constantina. Although at first Gallus and Constantina complied with the order, when Constantina died in Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

, Gallus began to hesitate. However, after some convincing by one of Constantius’ agents, Gallus continued his journey west, passing through 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:...

 and Thrace
Thracia (Roman province)
Thracia was the name of a province of the Roman empire. It was established in AD 46, when the former Roman client state of Thrace was annexed by order of emperor Claudius ....

 to Poetovio (Ptuj
Ptuj
Ptuj is a city and one of 11 urban municipalities in Slovenia. Traditionally the area was part of the Lower Styria region. The municipality is now included in the Podravje statistical region...

) in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

.

In Poetovio, Gallus was arrested by the soldiers of Constantius under the command of Barbatio
Barbatio
Barbatio was a Roman general of the infantry under the command of Constantius II. Previously he was a commander of the household troops under Gallus Caesar, but he arrested Gallus under the instruction of Constantius, thereby ensuring his promotion on the death of Claudius Silvanus...

. He was then moved to Pola
Pula
Pula is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia, situated at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula, with a population of 62,080 .Like the rest of the region, it is known for its mild climate, smooth sea, and unspoiled nature. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing,...

, and interrogated. Once there, Gallus claimed that it was Constantina who was to blame for all the trouble that had been caused while he was in charge of the eastern provinces. At first, this so greatly angered Constantius that he immediately ordered Gallus' execution. Soon after however, he changed his mind and recanted his order. Unfortunately for Gallus, this order was delayed by Eusebius
Eusebius (praepositus sacri cubiculi)
Eusebius was a high-ranking officer of the Roman Empire, holding the position of praepositus sacri cubiculi for all the rule of Emperor Constantius II .- Biography :...

, one of Constantius‘ eunuchs, and as a result Gallus was executed.

More usurpers and Julian


On 11 August 355, the magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 Claudius Silvanus
Claudius Silvanus
Claudius Silvanus was a Roman general of Frankish descent, usurper in Gaul against Emperor Constantius II for 28 days in 355.- Origin and career :...

 revolted in Gaul. Silvanus had surrendered to Constantius after the Battle of Mursa Major
Battle of Mursa Major
The Battle of Mursa Major was fought in 351 between the Eastern Roman army led by Constantius II and the western forces supporting the usurper Magnentius.The action took place along the valley of the Drava River, a Danube tributary in present day Croatia....

. Constantius had made him magister militum in 353, with the purpose of blocking the German threats, a feat that Silvanus achieved by bribing the German tribes with the money he had collected. A plot organized by members of Constantius' court led the emperor to recall Silvanus. After Silvanus revolted, he received a letter by Constantius that recalled him to Milan, but which made no reference to the revolt. Ursicinus
Ursicinus (Roman general)
Ursicinus was a senior military officer, holding the rank of "master of cavalry" in the Eastern Roman Empire c. 349–359.In 351 or 352 he was entrusted with the suppression of the Jewish revolt against Caesar Constantius Gallus...

, who was meant to replace Silvanus, bribed some troops, and Silvanus was killed.

However, Constantius realised that too many threats still faced the Empire, and he could not possibly handle all of them by himself, so on 6 November 355, he elevated his last remaining relative, Julian, 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...

. A few days later, Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 was married to Helena
Helena, wife of Julian
Helena was the wife of Julian, Roman Emperor in 360–363. She was briefly his Empress consort when Julian was proclaimed Augustus by his troops in 360. She died prior to the resolution of his conflict with Constantius II.-Family:...

, the last surviving sister of Constantius. Not long after Constantius sent Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 off to Gaul.


Constantius spent the next few years overseeing affairs in the western part of the empire primarily from his base at Mediolanum. In 357 he visited Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 for the first and only time in his life. The same year he forced Sarmatian
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 and Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

 invaders out of Pannonia and Moesia Inferior
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

, then subsequently led a successful counter-attack across the Danube against the enemy.

In the winter of 357–8, Constantius received ambassadors from Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 who demanded that Rome restore the lands surrendered by Narseh
Narseh
Narseh was the seventh Sassanid King of Persia , and son of Shapur I ....

. Despite rejecting these terms, Constantius still tried to avert war with the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 by sending two embassies to Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

. As a result of Constantius' rejection of his terms, Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 launched another invasion of Roman Mesopotamia. In 360, when news reached Constantius that Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 had destroyed Singara
Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

, and taken Kiphas
Hasankeyf
Hasankeyf is an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey. It was declared a natural conservation area by Turkey in 1981...

 (Hasankeyf
Hasankeyf
Hasankeyf is an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey. It was declared a natural conservation area by Turkey in 1981...

),
Amida
Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

, and Ad Tigris
Cizre
Cizre is a town and district of Şırnak Province in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, located at the border to Syria, just to the north-west of the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi tripoint....

 (Cizre
Cizre
Cizre is a town and district of Şırnak Province in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, located at the border to Syria, just to the north-west of the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi tripoint....

), he decided to travel east to face the re-emergent threat.

Usurpation of Julian and crises in the east


In the meantime, Julian had won some victories against the Alemanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

 tribe, who had once again invaded Roman 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....

. However, when Constantius requested reinforcements from Julian’s army for the eastern campaign, the Gallic legions revolted and proclaimed Julian Augustus.

However, on account of the immediate Sassanid threat, Constantius was unable to directly respond to his cousin’s usurpation other than by sending missives by which he tried to convince Julian to resign the title of Augustus and be satisfied with that of Caesar. By 361, Constantius saw no alternative but to face the usurper with force; and yet the threat of the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 remained. Constantius had already spent part of early 361 unsuccessfully attempting to re-take the fortress of Ad Tigris. After a time he had withdrawn to Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 to regroup and prepare for a confrontation with Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

. However, the campaigns of the previous year had inflicted heavy losses on the Sassanids and they did not attempt another round of campaigns that year. This temporary respite in hostilities allowed Constantius to turn his full attention to facing Julian.

Death


Constantius immediately gathered his forces and set off west. However, by the time he reached Mopsuestia
Mopsuestia
Mopsuestia , later Mamistra, is the ancient city of Cilicia Campestris on the Pyramus river located approximately 20 km east of ancient Antiochia in Cilicia .The founding of this city is attributed in legend to the soothsayer, Mopsus, who lived before the Trojan war, although...

 in Cilicia, it was clear that he was fatally ill and would not survive to face Julian. Apparently, realising his death was near, Constantius had himself baptised by Euzoius
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...

, the Semi-Arian
Semi-Arianism
Semi-Arianism is a name frequently given to the Trinitarian position of the conservative majority of the Eastern Christian Church in the 4th century, to distinguish it from strict Arianism....

 bishop of Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, and then declared that Julian was his rightful successor. Constantius II died of fever on 3 November 361.

Marriages and children


Constantius II was married three times:

First to a daughter
Daughter of Julius Constantius
-Family :She is mentioned in the "Letter To The Senate And People of Athens" by Julian the Apostate to have been a sister of Constantius Gallus. When mentioning the execution of Gallus by orders of Constantius II, Julian lists the several ways the two men were related...

 of his half-uncle Julius Constantius
Julius Constantius
Julius Constantius was a politician of the Roman Empire and a member of the Constantinian dynasty, being a son of emperor Constantius Chlorus and his second wife Flavia Maximiana Theodora, a younger half-brother of emperor Constantine I and the father of emperor Julian.- Biography :Julius...

, whose name is unknown. She was a full-sister of Gallus and a half-sister of Julian. She died c. 352/3.

Second, to Eusebia, a woman of Macedonian
Ancient Macedonians
The Macedonians originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios...

 origin from the city of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

, whom Constantius married before his defeat of Magnentius in 353. She died in 360.

Third and lastly, in 360, to Faustina
Faustina (empress)
Faustina was an Empress of the Roman Empire and third wife of Emperor Constantius II. The main source for her biography is the account of historian Ammianus Marcellinus. Her origins and other names are unknown.-Marriage:...

, who gave birth to Constantius' only child, a posthumous daughter named Flavia Maxima Constantia
Flavia Maxima Constantia
Flavia Maxima Constantia was the first Empress consort of Gratian of the Western Roman Empire.-Family:According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Constantia was a posthumous child of Constantius II by his third wife Faustina. Her paternal grandparents were Constantine the Great and Fausta.Her paternal...

, who later married Emperor Gratian
Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

.

Religious issues


Constantius seems to have had a particular interest in the religious state of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. As a Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 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...

, Constantius made a concerted effort to promote Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 at the expense of Roman polytheism
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

 (‘paganism’). As such, over the course of his reign, he issued a number of different edicts designed specifically to carry out this agenda (see below). Constantius also took an active part in attempting to shape the Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 church.

Paganism


In spite of the some of the edicts issued by Constantius, it should be recognised that he was not fanatically anti-pagan – he never made any attempt to disband the various Roman priestly colleges or the Vestal Virgin
Vestal Virgin
In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins , were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be...

s, he never acted against the various pagan schools, and, at times, he actually made some effort to protect paganism. In fact, he even ordered the election of a priest for Africa. Also, he remained pontifex maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

 until his death, and was deified by the Roman Senate after his death. The relative moderation of Constantius' actions toward paganism is reflected by the fact that it was not until over 20 years after Constantius' death, during the reign of Gratian
Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

, that any pagan senators protested their religion's treatment.

Pagan-related edicts issued by Constantius (by himself or with others) included:
  • The banning of sacrifices;
  • The closing of pagan temples;
  • Edicts against soothsayers and magicians.

Christianity


Although often considered an Arian
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...

, Constantius ultimately preferred a third, compromise version that lay somewhere in between 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...

 and the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

, retrospectively called Semi-Arianism
Semi-Arianism
Semi-Arianism is a name frequently given to the Trinitarian position of the conservative majority of the Eastern Christian Church in the 4th century, to distinguish it from strict Arianism....

. As such, during his reign, Constantius made a concerted attempt to mold the Christian church to follow this compromise position, and to this end, he convened several Christian councils during his reign, the most notable of which were one at Rimini
Council of Rimini
The Council of Rimini was an early Christian church synod held in Ariminum ....

 and its twin at Seleuca
Silifke
-Antiquity:Located a few miles from the mouth of the Calycadnus River, Seleucia was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in the early 3rd century BCE, one of several cities he named after himself. It is probable that there were already towns called Olbia and Hyria and that Seleucus I merely united them...

, which met in 359 and 360 respectively. "Unfortunately for his memory the theologians whose advice he took were ultimately discredited and the malcontents whom he pressed to conform emerged victorious," writes the historian A.H.M. Jones. "The great councils of 359–60 are therefore not reckoned ecumenical
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

 in the tradition of the church, and Constantius II is not remembered as a restorer of unity, but as a heretic
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...

 who arbitrarily imposed his will on the church."

Christian-related edicts issued by Constantius (by himself or with others) included:
  • Exemption from compulsory public service for the clergy;
  • Exemption from compulsory public service for the sons of clergy;
  • Tax exemptions for clergy and their servants, and later for their family;
  • Clergy and the issue of private property;
  • Bishops exempted from being tried in secular courts;
  • Christian prostitutes only able to be bought by Christians.

Judaism


Judaism faced some severe restrictions under Constantius, who seems to have followed an anti-Jewish policy in line with that of his father. Early in his reign, Constantius issued a double edict in concert with his brothers limiting the ownership of slaves by Jewish people and banning marriages between Jews and Christian women. A later edict issued by Constantius after becoming sole emperor decreed that a person who was proven to have converted from Christianity to Judaism would have their entire property confiscated by the state. However, Constantius' actions in this regard may not have been so much to do with Jewish religion as Jewish business; apparently, it was often the case that privately-owned Jewish businesses were in competition with state-owned businesses. As such, Constantius may have sought to provide as much of an advantage to the state-owned businesses as possible by limiting the skilled workers and the slaves available to the Jewish businesses.

Jew-related edicts issued by Constantius (by himself or with others) included:
  • Weaving women who moved from working for the government to working for Jews, must be restored to the government; Jews may not marry Christian women; Jews may not attempt to convert Christian women;
  • Any non-Jewish slave bought by a Jew will be confiscated by the state; if a Jew attempts to circumcise a non-Jewish slave, the slave will be freed and the Jew shall face capital punishment; any Christian slaves owned by a Jew will be taken away and freed;
  • A person who is proven to have converted from Christianity to Judaism shall have their property confiscated by the state.

Reputation


Constantius II is a particularly difficult figure to judge properly, mainly as a result of the hostility of most sources that mentions him. A.H.M Jones writes that Constantius "appears in the pages of Ammianus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 as a conscientious emperor but a vain and stupid man, an easy prey to flatterers. He was timid and suspicious, and interested persons could easily play on his fears for their own advantage." However, Kent & M. and A. Hirmer suggest that Constantius "has suffered at the hands of unsympathetic authors, ecclesiastical and civil alike. To orthodox churchmen he was a bigoted supporter of the Arian heresy, to Julian the Apostate and the many who have subsequently taken his part he was a murderer, a tyrant and inept as a ruler". They go on to add, "Most contemporaries seem in fact to have held him in high esteem, and he certainly inspired loyalty in a way his brother could not". In the military sphere, the campaigns of Constantius and his subordinates on the Rhine and Danube frontiers in the late 350s restored stability to those regions after the troubles caused by Magnentius' revolt.

Ancient sources


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    • Epistula encyclica (Encyclical letter). Summer 339.
  • Atkinson, M., and Archibald Robertson, trans. Encyclical letter. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Online at New Advent and Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed 15 August 2009.
    • Apologia Contra Arianos (Defense against the Arians). 349.
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    • Apologia ad Constantium (Defense before Constantius). 353.
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    • Historia Arianorum (History of the Arians). 357.
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    • De Synodis (On the Councils of Arminium and Seleucia). Autumn 359.
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    • Historia acephala. 368 – c. 420.
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      Dominic Montserrat
      Dominic Alexander Sebastian Montserrat was a British egyptologist and papyrologist.- Life :Montserrat studied Egyptology at Durham University and received his PhD in Classics at University College London, specializing in Greek, Coptic and Egyptian Papyrology. From 1992 to 1999 he taught Classics...

      , 164–205. London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0-415-09336-8
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      Theophanes the Confessor
      Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

      . Chronicle.
    • Zonaras
      Joannes Zonaras
      Ioannes Zonaras was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary to the emperor, but after Alexios' death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his...

      . Extracts of History.
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Modern sources


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  • Gaddis, M., There is No Crime for Those who Have Christ (University of California Press, 2005).„
  • Hunt, Constantius II in the Ecclesiastical Historiansorians, Ph.D. diss. (Fordham University, 2010), AAT 3431914.
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  • Salzman, M.R., The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire (Harvard University Press, 2002)
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External links