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Flavius Valerius Constantinus, Constantine the Great, was the son of Helena and the First Tetrarchic ruler Constantius I. Constantine is most famous for his conversion to Christianity after the battle of the Milvian Bridge where he defeated emperor Maxentius. Before the battle, he saw the words "In Hoc Signo Victor Eris" (By this sign you shall conquer) emblazoned on the sun around the Chi Rho, the symbol of Christianity. After placing this Christogram on the shields of his army, he defeated his opponent and thus ruled the empire through divine providence. He also shifted the capital of the empire to Constantinople, establishing the foundation for an Empire that would last another 1000 years. He died in 337 and his sons divided the Roman territories
Also see: ERIC - Constantine I
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Bastien, P. Le monnayage de l'atelier de Lyon. De la réouverture de l'atelier en 318 à la mort de Constantin (318 - 337). Numismatique Romaine XIII. (Wetteren, 1982).
Bruun, P. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VII, Constantine and Licinius A.D. 313 - 337. (London, 1966).
Carson, R., P. Hill & J. Kent. Late Roman Bronze Coinage. (London, 1960).
Carson, R., H. Sutherland & J. Kent. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VIII, The Family of Constantine I, A.D. 337 - 364. (London, 1981).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 7: Carausius to Constantine & sons. (Paris, 1888).
Depeyrot, G. Les émissions monétaires d'Arles (4th -5th Siècles). Moneta 6. (Wetteren, 1996).
Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d'or de Dioclétien a Constantin I (284 - 337). (Wetteren, 1995).
Failmezger, V. Roman Bronze Coins From Paganism to Christianity, 294 - 364 A.D. (Washington D.C., 2002).
King, C. & D. Sear. Roman Silver Coins, Volume V, Carausius to Romulus Augustus. (London, 1987).
Milchev, S. The Coins of Constantine the Great. (Sophia, 2007).
Paolucci, R. & A. Zub. La monetazione di Aquileia Romana. (Padova, 2000).
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Website devoted to Constantine the Great - http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com/
Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
CONSTANTINUS (Flavius Galerius Valerianus) was the son of Constantius Chlorus, and of Helena, first wife of that prince, son in law of Maximianus Herculeus, and brother in law of Licinius. He was born at Naissus, in Dardania [Ni, in the former Yugoslavia], A.U.C 1027 (A.D. 274). His birthday is fixed by the calendar of Dionysius Philocalus, on the 3rd before the calends of March. When Diocletian, A.D. 292, sent his father with the title of Caesar into Gaul, he detained Constantine as a kind of pledge, and became greatly attached to him on account of his amiability and integrity of disposition. On the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, A.D. 305, Constantine, in the midst of his satisfaction at seeing his father raised from the Caesarian to the Imperial dignity, still found himself placed in a most precarious position, since Gal. Maximianus [Galerius], who succeeded to Diocletian, not only opposed his joining his father, but openly plotted against his life. He therefore made his escape from Nicomedia [having taken Galerius up on a drunken nighttime agreement to release, which he knew would be retracted when morning brought sobriety], after disabling the public horses [along the imperial transit system, whence he availed himself of fresh horses] in order to delay pursuit, and reached his father in Gaul shortly before his departure for Britain about the beginning of A.D. 306; and on the death of Constantius, which happened shortly afterwards at York, on the 25th of July, Constantine himself was on the same day proclaimed Augustus by the unanimous voice of the army. This choice, not daring openly to dispute, Gal. Maximianus (who in consequence of his being the successor to Diocletian, had arrogated to himself the supreme authority over the empire and even over its rulers), found himself compelled to acknowledge Constantine at least as Caesar, though with reluctance; and coins began forthwith to be struck with his name under that title.
A.D. 306. His father's provinces, Gaul and Britain, were assigned to Constantine. Galerius nominated Severus Caesar as Augustus, in the room of Constantius I deceased. Soon afterwards Maxentius [peeved at seeing others raised in rank while he, as son of Maximianus, was passed over] also assumed the imperial title at Rome, and restored the purple to his father Maximianus Herculeus, recalling him from Lucania. Constantine gained a victory over the Franci and the Bructeri [and had their captured leaders, and many others, killed by beasts in the arena. A pangyric praising Constantine's lack of clemency records the beasts as being tired by all the action], and commenced the building of a bridge over the Rhine, near Agrippina (Cologne).
307. Constantine this year entered on his first consulate, according to the records of the Fasti, confused as they are at this period. The same year Severus blockaded Maxentius in Rome, but being compelled to raise the siege [Rome being protected by the Aurelian wall, which Maxentius had further strengthened], and taken prisoner at Ravenna, he was put to death by order of Herculeus Maximianus. Herculeus, dreading the vengeance of Galerius for this act, went to Gaul, and there, in order to win him over to his cause, gave Constantine the title of Augustus, and his daughter Fausta in marriage. Galerius attempted to take Rome, but being repulsed by Maxentius, and driven out of Italy, created Licinius emperor in the room of Severus. In the same year also [as an outcome of the conference at Carnuntum, convened to bring some order back to the tetrarchy] Constantine and Maximinus Daza each received the title of Filius Augustorum
308. Maximinus Daza assumed the title of Augustus, at first against the wishes of Galerius, but afterwards with his assent, Constantine being admitted to a participation of the same honour. In this year, accordingly, Constantine began to be acknowledged as emperor throughout the entire empire. And thus there were at the same time, in addition to Maximianus Herculeus, five Augusti, viz. Galerius Maximianus, Constantine, Maximinus, Licinius, and Maxentius. Constantine, being informed of the plots organized against himself by Herculeus, besieged him in Massilia (Marseilles), and reduced him to a surrender, and the condition of a private citizen.
310. Maximianus Herculeus having been convicted of fresh plots, Constantine put him to death (FILIVS AVGG.)[other sources say he chose to take his own life]. The same year he proceeded with the war against the Alemanni.
311. Gal. Maximianus dying, Licinius and Maximinus took possession of his provinces. Constantine, on hearing that Maxentius had caused his statues to be thrown down at Rome, and was preparing hostilities against him in retaliation for his father's death, prepared for war [not really supported by the contemporary sources - Constantine seems to have been the aggressor here, having bided his time to gain control of the entire Western empire]. Under these circumstances, from motives of policy, he betrothed his sister Constantia to Licinius. According to Eusebius [bishop of Caesarea, writing in his "Vita Constantini" (Life of Constantine) http://homepage.mac.com/paulstephenson/trans/eusebius.html", a panegyric religious history of Constantine composed shortly after his death], having seen in the heavens the figure of the cross, with the words, "In hoc signo victor eris" ["In this sign you will be victorious", or "By this conquer" from Eusebius' Greek original], he openly adopted the Christian religion, and caused the sign of the cross to be displayed on the imperial standards and shields.
[Eusebius's Vita Constantini, (both by explicit claim, as well as adherence to formal structure) is a religious panegyric rather than an attempt at unadulterated history, and is rather misleading here. Lacantius, closer to Constantine by way of being personal tutor to Constantine's son Crispus, and writing closer to the time of events, records Constantine's "vision" as a dream rather than a reality. In his "De Mortibus Persecutorum" (On the deaths of Persecutors) http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-07/anf07-15.htm Lactantius describes in detail the "sign of Christ" that Constantine saw in his dream, and it appears to have been the Tau-Rho or Chi-Rho, not a cross. Others have connected Constantine's dream of 312 with a "vision of [the Sun god] Apollo" recorded in a panegyric of 310. ]
312. He defeated the Generals of Maxentius, first as Taurinus (Turin), and afterwards at Verona; and in a final action at the Pons Milvius [Milvian bridge], near Rome, vanquished Maxentius himself [a cavalry charge by Constantine routed Maxentius' troops, causing them to attempt to cross the river back to Rome over a booby trapped pontoon bridge that Maxentius had hoped to use to defeat Constantine. The pontoon bridge collapsed dumping Maxentius and others in the river where they drowned], and thus put an end to a bloody war. Immediately after this victory, Constantine entered Rome in triumph [with Maxentius' severed head displayed on a pike, with the head later shipped to Carthage as proof of his demise]. [As reward for his victory, the senate built Constantine a triumphal arch, built beside the Colosseum in Rome, and awarded him the title of MAXimus AUGustus which starts to appear on his coins at the same time as the dedication of the arch c. 314-315.]
313. Licinius defeated Maximinus Daza [as a result of Maximinus having invaded his territory and taken control of Heraclea], who died shortly after at Tarsus, and Licinius succeeded to the entire dominion of the East.
[ The Historia Numorvm 314 date of this war comes from an ancient source which dates it by noting that Constantine and Licinius shared the consulship for the last time in the year after the war - both COS IIII in 315. However the source appears to be wrong, and 316 is the modern accepted date, as may be confirmed by the coins RIC VII Alexandria 19-21 where Licinius' wartime co-Augustus Valens (d. 317) and the new Caesars (appointed in 317) are recognized on the same issue. ]
[317.] On the calends of March, Crispus and Constantine, the sons of Constantine the Great, and Licinius [son of Licinius], received the title of Caesar.
From A.D. 318 to A.D. 321, both inclusive, no record of any important transactions appears in the annals of the reign.
322. To this year is referred the war with the Sarmatae, of which mention is made also on coins.
323. Another furious war with Licinius commenced, from no other cause, apparently, than rivalry. Constantine was victorious over him, first near Hadrianopolis, on the 3rd of July, then in a naval engagement under Crispus, and lastly near Chalcedon, on the 18th of September. Licinius having surrendered at Nicomedia, Constantine sent him to Thessalonica, but shortly afterwards (as some say contrary to his pledged word [to his sister Constantia - Licinius' wife]), ordered him to be put to death.
325. Having now got rid of all his rivals at home, subdued his foreign enemies, and attained a state of sole responsibility, Constantine directed his attention to the suppression of paganism; razed the temples, and erected in their stead places of Christian worship. He [convened and] assisted at the Council of Nicea; entered into a discussion with the Bishops on the subjects of the divinity of our Savior [the Arian controversy], and the proper time for the celebration of Easter; and at the same time, according to Eusebius, solemnized his Vicennalia.
326. Constantine this year went to Rome [to continue his Vicennalia celebrations], and remaining there a few months, proceeded into Pannonia, destined never again to re-visit the "eternal city". He ordered his son Crispus, and his wife Fausta, to be put to death, as is generally thought most unadvisedly, and much to his discredit. [Fausta apparently plotting against Crispus in order to assure the succession of her own sons over her step-son. Contemporary rumor was that Fausta alleged Crispus to have made some type of sexual advances towards her, with Constantine reacting as expected, and then exacting his revenge on his wife when he discovered her duplicity. Crispus was sent away and poisoned, and Fausta was suffocated/boiled in an overheated bath.] The same year he commenced the building of Constantinople.
330. Constantine, with magnificent solemnities, dedicated the city of Constantinople, the building of which [i.e. expansion of the existing city of Byzantium] was begun four years before.
332. He conducted a campaign against the Goths, who were harassing the Samatae; and afterwards against the Sarmatae themselves, who he reduced to submission.
335. This year Constantine divided the empire amongst his sons and (nepotes ex fratre, says Eckhel), so as to give his oldest son, Constantine, the territory held by Constantius Chlorus; to Constantius, the East; to Constans, Illyricum, Italy and Africa; to his nephew Delmatius, whom he had this year created Caesar, Thrace, Macedon, and Achaia; to his brother Hanniballianus, Armenia Minor, Cappadocia, and Pontus, with the title of King.
The Vota Tricennalia (of paganism) were discharged this year. [Constantine had started issuing bronze vota susepta tricennalia coinage in 325, but issued gold vota soluta tricennalia coinage in 335.]
337. In his eighth consulate, and amidst preparations for a war, into which he had been provoked, against Sapor the Persian, Constantine fell sick and died, near Nicomedia, in Bithynia, on the 22nd of May, in the 32nd year of his reign, and the 64th of his age.