Origo Constantini Imperatoris
 

Constantine the Great

The Anonymus Valesianus

First Part

The Lineage of the Emperor Constantine
 

Diocletian ruled with Herculius Maximianus for twenty years.




    Constantius, grandson of the brother of that best of emperors Claudius, was first one of the emperor's bodyguard, then a tribune, and later, governor of Dalmatia. With Galerius, he was appointed Caesar by Diocletian; for he put away his former wife Helena and married Theodora, daughter of Maximianus, by whom he afterwards had six children, brothers of Constantine. But by his former wife Helena, he already had a son Constantine, who was later the mightiest of emperors.
 

    This Constantine, then, born of Helena, a mother of very common origin, and brought up in the town of Naissus, which he afterwards splendidly adorned, had but slight training in letters. He was held as a hostage by Diocletian and Galerius, and did valiant service under those emperors in Asia. After the abdication of Diocletian and Herculius, Constantius asked Galerius to return his son; but Galerius first exposed him to many dangers. For when Constantine, then a young man, was serving in the cavalry against the Sarmatians, he seized by the hair and carried off a fierce savage, and threw him at the feet of the emperor Galerius. Then sent by Galerius through a swamp, he entered it on his horse and made a way for the rest to the Sarmatians, of whom he slew many and won the victory for Galerius. Then at last, Galerius sent him back to his father. But in order to avoid meeting Severus as he passed through Italy, Constantine crossed the Alps with the greatest haste, ordering the post-horses to be killed as he went on; and he came up with his father Constantius at Bononia, which the Gauls formerly called Gesoriacum. But his father Constantius, after winning a victory over the Picts, died at York, and Constantine was unanimously hailed as Caesar by all the troops.

    In the meantime, two other Caesars had been appointed, Severus and Maximinus; to Maximinus was given the rule of the Orient; Galerius retained Illyricum for himself, as well as the Thracian provinces and Bithynia; Severus received Italy and whatever Herculius had formerly governed. But after Constantius died in Britain, and his son Constantine succeeded him, Maxentius, the son of Herculius, was suddenly hailed as emperor by the praetorian soldiers in the city of Rome. By order of Galerius, Severus took the field against Maxentius, but he was suddenly deserted by all his followers and fled to Ravenna. Thereupon Galerius, with a great army, came against Rome, threatening the destruction of the city, and encamped at Interamna near the Tiber. Then he sent Licinius and Probus to the city as envoys, asking that the son-in law, that is Maxentius, should attain his desires from the father-in law, that is Galerius, at the price of requests rather than of arms. Galerius' proposal was scorned, and having learned that through Maxentius' promises many of his own men had been led to desert his cause, he was distressed and turned back; and in order to furnish his men with whatever booty he could, he gave orders that the Flaminian Road should be plundered. Maximianus took refuge with Constantine. Then Galerius made Licinius a Caesar in Illyricum, and after that, leaving him in Pannonia, returned himself to Serdica, where he was attacked by a violent disease and wasted away so completely, that he died with the inner parts of his body exposed and in a state of corruption a punishment for a most unjust persecution, which recoiled as a well-merited penalty upon the author of the iniquitous order. He ruled for nineteen years.
 

    Severus Caesar was low both in character and in origin, given to drink, and hence a friend to Galerius. Accordingly, Galerius made Caesars of him and Maximinus, without Constantine having knowledge of any such step. To this Severus were assigned some cities of Pannonia, Italy, and Africa. Through this chance, Maxentius became emperor; for Severus was deserted by his men and fled to Ravenna. Summoned to support his son Maxentius, Herculius came to Ravenna, deceived Severus by a false oath, gave him into custody, and took him to Rome in the condition of a captive; there he had him kept under guard in a villa belonging to the state, situated thirty miles from Rome on the Appian Road. When Galerius later went to Italy, Severus was executed; then his body was taken to a place eight miles from the city, and laid in the tomb of Gallienus. Now Galerius was such a tippler that when he was drunk he gave orders such as ought but to be obeyed; and so, at the advice of his prefect, he directed that no one should execute any commands which he issued after luncheon.
 

    Meanwhile Constantine, after defeating the tyrant's generals at Verona, went on to Rome. When he had reached the city, Maxentius came out and chose a plain above the Tiber as the place to do battle. There the usurper was defeated, and when all his men were put to flight, he was prevented from escaping by the crowd of fugitives, thrown from his horse into the river, and drowned. On the following day his body was recovered from the Tiber, and the head was cut off and taken to Rome. When his mother was questioned about his parentage, she admitted that he was the son of a Syrian. He ruled for six years.
 

    Now Licinius was a native of New Dacia, and was of somewhat common origin. He was made emperor by Galerius, in order that he might take the field against Maxentius. But when Maxentius was overthrown and Constantine had recovered Italy, he made Licinius his colleague on condition that he should marry Constantine's sister Constantia at Mediolanum. After the celebration of the wedding Constantine went to Gaul, and Licinius returned to Illyricum. Some time after that Constantine sent Constantius to Licinius, to persuade him to confer the rank of Caesar on Bassianus, who was married to a second sister of Constantine (named Anastasia), to the end that, after the manner of Maximianus, Bassianus might hold Italy and thus stand as a buffer between Constantine and Licinius. But Licinius thwarted such an arrangement, and influenced by Bassianus' brother Senicio, who was loyal to Licinius, Bassianus took up arms against Constantine. But he was arrested in the act of accomplishing his purpose, and by order of Constantine was condemned and executed. When the punishment of Senicio was demanded as the instigator of the plot and Licinius refused, the harmony between the two emperors came to an end; an additional reason for the break was, that Licinius had overthrown the busts and statues of Constantine at Emona. Then the two emperors declared open war. Their armies were led to the plain of Cibalae. Licinius had 35,000 infantry and cavalry; Constantine commanded 20,000. After an indecisive contest, in which 20,000 of Licinius' foot soldiers and a part of his mail-clad horsemen were slain, he himself with a great part of his other cavalry made his escape under cover of night to Sirmium. From there, taking with him his wife, his son, and his treasures, he went to Dacia and appointed Valens, who was commander on the frontier, to the rank of Caesar. Then, having through Valens mustered a large force at Hadrianopolis, a city of Thrace, he sent envoys to Constantine, who had established himself at Philippi, to treat for peace. When the envoys were sent back without accomplishing anything, the war was renewed and the two rivals joined battle on the plain of Mardia. After a long and indecisive struggle, the troops of Licinius gave way and night aided them to escape. Thereupon Licinius and Valens, believing that Constantine (as turned out to be the case), in order to follow up his advantage, would advance farther in the direction of Byzantium, turned aside and made their way towards Beroea. As Constantine was eagerly pushing on, he learned that Licinius had remained behind him; and just then, when his men were worn out from fighting and marching, Mestrianus was sent to him as an envoy, to propose peace in the name of Licinius, who promised to do as he was bidden. Valens was ordered to return again to his former private station; when that was done, peace was concluded by both emperors, with the stipulation that Licinius should hold the Orient, Asia, Thrace, Moesia, and Lesser Scythia. Then Constantine, having returned to Serdica, arranged with Licinius, who was elsewhere, that Crispus and Constantinus, sons of Constantine, and Licinius, son of Licinius, should be made Caesars, and that thus the rule should be carried on in harmony by both emperors. Thus Constantine and Licinius became colleagues in the consulship. In the regions of the Orient, while Licinius and Constantine were consuls, Licinius was stirred by sudden madness and ordered that all the Christians should be driven from the Palace.
 

    Soon war flamed out again between Licinius himself and Constantine. Also, when Constantine was at Thessalonica, the Goths broke through the neglected frontiers, devastated Thrace and Moesia, and began to drive off booty. Then because of fear of Constantine and his check of their attack they returned their prisoners to him and peace was granted them. But Licinius complained of this action as a breach of faith, on the ground that his function had been usurped by another. Finally, by using sometimes humble entreaties and sometimes arrogant threats, he aroused the deserved wrath of Constantine. During the interval before the civil war began, but while it was in preparation, Licinius gave himself up to a frenzy of wickedness, cruelty, avarice and lust; he put many men to death for the sake of their riches, and violated their wives. Now peace was broken by consent of both sides; Constantine sent Crispus Caesar with a large fleet to take possession of Asia, and on the side of Licinius, Amandus opposed him, likewise with naval forces. Licinius himself had covered the slopes of high mountain near Hadrianopolis with a huge army. Hither Constantine turned his march with his entire force. While the war went on slowly by land and sea, although Constantine's army had great difficulty in scaling the heights, at last his good fortune and the discipline of his army prevailed, and he defeated the confused and disorganised army of Licinius; but Constantine was slightly wounded in the thigh. Then Licinius fled to Byzantium; and while his scattered forces were on the way to the city, Licinius closed it, and feeling secure against an attack by sea, planned to meet a siege from the land-side. But Constantine got together a fleet from Thrace. Then Licinius, with his usual lack of consideration, chose Martinianus as his Caesar. But Crispus, with Constantine's fleet, sailed to Callipolis, where in a sea-fight he so utterly defeated Amandus that the latter barely made his escape with the help of the forces which he had left on shore. But Licinius' fleet was in part destroyed and in part captured. Licinius, abandoning hope on the sea, by way of which he saw that he would be blockaded, fled with his treasures to Chalcedon. Constantine entered Byzantium, where he met Crispus and learned of his naval victory. Then Licinius began a battle at Chrysopolis, being especially aided by the Gothic auxiliaries which their prince Alica had brought; whereupon the army of Constantine was victorious, slaying 25,000 soldiers of the opposing side and putting the rest to flight. Later, when they saw Constantine's legions coming in Liburnian galleys, the survivors threw down their arms and gave themselves up. But on the following day Constantia, sister of Constantine and wife of Licinius, came to her brother's camp and begged that her husband's life be spared, which was granted. Thus Licinius became a private citizen, and was entertained at a banquet by Constantine. Martinianus' life was also spared. Licinius was sent to Thessalonica; but Constantine, influenced by the example of his father-in law Herculius Maximianus, for fear that Licinius might again, with disastrous consequences to the State, resume the purple which he had laid down, and also because the soldiers mutinously demanded his death, had him assassinated at Thessalonica, and Martinianus in Cappadocia. Licinius reigned nineteen years and was survived by his wife and a son. And yet, after all the other participants in the abominable persecution had already perished, the penalty he deserved would surely demand this man also, a persecutor so far as he could act as such.
 

    In commemoration of his splendid victory Constantine called Byzantium Constantinople after his own name; and as if it were his native city, he adorned it with great magnificence and wished to make it equal to Rome. Then he sought out new citizens for it from every quarter, and lavished such wealth on the city, that thereon he all but exhausted the imperial fortunes. There he also established a senate of the second rank, the members of which had the title of clari. Then he began war against the Goths, rendering aid also to the Sarmatians, who had appealed to him for help. The result was that almost a hundred thousand of the Goths were destroyed by hunger and cold through Constantinus Caesar. Then he also received hostages, among whom was Ariaricus, the king's son. When peace with the Goths had thus been secured, Constantine turned against the Sarmatians, who were showing themselves to be of doubtful loyalty. But the slaves of the Sarmatians rebelled against all their masters and drove them from the country. These Constantine willingly received, and distributed more than three hundred thousand people of different ages and both sexes through Thrace, Scythia, Macedonia, and Italy.
 

    Constantine was also the first Christian emperor, with the exception of Philippus who seemed to me to have become a Christian merely in order that the one-thousandth year of Rome might be dedicated to Christ rather than to pagan idols. But from Constantine down to the present day all the emperors that have been chosen were Christians, with the exception of Julian, whose disastrous life forsook him in the midst of the impious plans which it was said that he was devising. Moreover, Constantine made the change in a just and humane fashion; for he issued an edict that the temples should be closed without any shedding of pagan blood. Afterwards he destroyed the bravest and most populous of the Gothic tribes in the very heart of the barbarian territory; that is, in the lands of the Sarmatians.
 

    Constantine also put down a certain Calocaerus, who tried to achieve a revolution in Cyprus. He made Delmatius, son of his brother of the same name, a Caesar; Delmatius' brother Hannibalianus he created King of Kings and ruler of the Pontic tribes, after giving him his daughter Constantiana in marriage. Then it was arranged that the younger Constantine should rule the Gallic provinces, Constantius Caesar the Orient, Constans Illyricum and Italy, while Dalmatius was to guard the Gothic coastline. While Constantine was planning to make war on the Persians, he died in an imperial villa in the suburbs of Constantinople, not far from Nicomedia, leaving the State in good order to his sons. He was buried in Constantinople, after a reign of thirty-one years.
 
 

This  translation is from  the Loeb Classical Library, which was  first published in 1939.

This translation came from this site