Overview

Licinius

(308—324)


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Roman emperor, born of peasant stock in (new) Dacia perhaps in the 260s ad, became a close friend and comrade-in-arms of Galerius, who at Carnuntum (308), when Diocletian refused to leave retirement, created him a second Augustus in the tetrarchic system (rule by four emperors). Rather than attack Maxentius in Italy, Alexander in Africa, or Constantine in Gaul, Licinius undertook the administration of the diocese (grouping of provinces) of Pannonia; it seems that he did not persecute Christians. On the death of Galerius (311) he and Maximin raced to acquire Galerius' territories; Licinius obtained those in Europe, and faced Maximin across the Bosporus, but war was averted by negotiation. Against Maximin, he formed an alliance with Constantine I. At Milan (February 313) he married Constantine's half-sister Constantia. His conference with Constantine was interrupted when Maximin invaded Europe. Licinius defeated him near Adrianople, taking over his Asiatic territories. Licinius and Constantine were now the only claimants to the empire. At Nicomedia on 15 June he informed his subjects that they had agreed on toleration for all religions, including Christianity, and that confiscated Christian property was to be restored. At the time Christian writers regarded Licinius as a Christian; though he prescribed a monotheistic prayer for use by the army, his later career shows that he was no convert. For obscure reasons he quarrelled with Constantine who defeated him (8 October 316) at Cibalae and then at Campus Adriensis, neither victory being decisive. After Cibalae, Licinius made the dux limitis (commander of a frontier army) Valens emperor, but Valens was executed before Licinius negotiated peace with Constantine early in 317. Licinius agreed to surrender all European territory except the diocese of Thracia. On 1 March 317 he made his infant son and namesake Caesar, and Constantine gave this title to his sons Crispus and Constantine II. Knowing that Constantine would never be happy until he was sole ruler, and suspecting that his own Christian subjects were disloyal, he embarked on a perfunctory persecution. The uneasy peace was broken when Constantine attacked in 324, won a decisive battle at Adrianople (3 July) and besieged Licinius in Byzantium. Licinius put up his magister officiorum (‘master of the offices’) Martinianus as emperor. Byzantium fell, and at Chrysopolis Licinius was defeated (18 September). He and Martinianus surrendered, and were sent to Thessalonica, where they were accused of plotting and executed in spring 325. Licinius' son was granted his life but executed in 326. A bastard son who had been legitimized and given high rank was enslaved.

Raymond Peter Davis

Subjects: Classical Studies.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.