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Maxentius




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MAXENTIUS (Marcus Aurelius Valerius), son of Maximianus Hercules and Eutropia, was born in A.D.282. Diocletian wished to have him named Caesar but Galerius was opposed to it so, although granted senatorial rank and awarded Galerius' daughter Valeria Maximilla as a bride, he was not even given a consulship or a military command. This neglect, and the promotion of Severus and Maximinus Daza to the rank of Caesar, made him mal-content and he caused himself to be declared Emperor in a rebellion at Rome led by three military tribunes with the backing of the Praetorian soldiers, whose guard had been abolished by Severus II. Most of the ordinary inhabitants of Rome, too, were in favour of the revolt, because they resented a recent decree making them liable for taxation; the Senate assented and proclaimed his assumption of the purple, according to history, on 28th October, A.D.306. Most of Italy and Africa, the source of the capital's grain supply, backed Maxentius, but, apart from the reconstituted Praetorian Guard he had very few troops and northern Italy was loyal to Severus. Maxentiyus therefore proceeded with caution, displayed for example, by a coin issued at Carthage describing him only as CAESAR, while other types omitted the title AUGUSTUS, defining him as PRINC(eps) instead, He brought his father, Maximianus, back from retirement to re-ascend the throne and maintain him in the government of the Empire. On the orders of Galerius, Severus II marched on Rome but was forced to withdraw when the loyalty of his troops was undermined by agents of Maxentius. Maxentius now openly assumed the title of Augustus and was recognised as such by Constantine I. Galerius himself then proceeded to march on Rome but at Interamna he too was forced to withdraw for the same reasons as Severus before him. News of this success caused Spain to declare for Maxentius, and this alienated Constantine who regarded the province as his.
 When, in A.D.308, all the Augusti and Caesars met at Carnuntum, they pronounced Maxentius a public enemy. This resulted in the acting Praetorian Prefect in Africa, Lucius Domitius Alexander (Alexander Tyrannus), declaring himself emperor on his own account. The consequent stoppage of the grain supply to Rome caused famine in the capital and in A.D.311, Maxentius sent his other Praetorian Prefect, Gaius Rufius Volusianus, to Africa where Alexander was killed, Carthage burnt and it's mint transferred to Ostia. Maxentius celebrated a triumph and issued coins inscribed VICTORIA AETERNA.
 In A.D.312 Constantine invaded Italy across the Mont Genevre Pass, reputedly with an army of forty thousand men, and defeated an army sent against him by Maxentius at Augusta Taurinorum. Verona, Mutina and a large part of Italy were soon in Constantine's hands but Maxentius relied on the walls of Rome, which he had recently strengthened, as the enemy approached. Fear of treachery, however, caused Maxentius to send his generals to meet Constantine outside the city, himself following behind. After an initial engagement on the Via Flaminia, the final battle took place at the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber. Hemmed in by the river, Maxentius' soldiers were driven back in confusion; their bridge of boats collapsed and thousands were drowned, including Maxentius himself (28th December, A.D.312).
  Maxentius had a son, Romulus, who died before his father in A.D.309. He was deified by his father who struck coins depicting a circular temple and the legend AETERNAE MEMORIAE.
Maxentius' own coins have such obverse legends as MAXENTIVS NOB CAESAR, IMP MAXENTIVS P F AVG or MAXENTIVS PRINCeps INVICTvs. Several of the reverses are of historical interest.

Coin illustrated is from FORVM archive.


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