Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography


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Biography of Constantine the Great

Numerous introductory studies of Constantine have been written since the s, some of which are still of use. Some of these are listed in Framing the Debate. More recent studies include Bleckmann for German readers, Marcone for readers of Italian, and Pohlsander for readers of English.

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Lenski offers broader coverage but is divided into thematic chapters, each of which is easily digestible. Bleckmann, Bruno. Konstantin der Grosse. Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany: Rowohlt. The most incisive of the many introductory volumes on Constantine in German. Lenski, Noel, ed. The Cambridge companion to the Age of Constantine. Intended as an introduction to all aspects of Constantine and his reign. Includes sections on political history, religion, art and architecture, social and legal history, and foreign policy. Marcone, Arnaldo.

Costantino il Grande. Rome: Editori Laterza. The best introduction in Italian, with extensive discussion of political and military history in addition to careful treatment of religious issues. Shows broad familiarity with debates in the secondary literature. Pohlsander, Hans A. The Emperor Constantine. London and New York: Routledge.

DOI: Very brief introduction focused primarily on political history that offers a solid narrative in sparing prose. Well researched and documented for an introductory volume. Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login. Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions.

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Constantine - Classics - Oxford Bibliographies

By now Constantine decided to eliminate the tetrarchy and establish one emperor basing his right to the throne on the claim that he was a descendant of emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Upon this both Licinius and Maxentius also claimed imperial backgrounds, with Maxentius' assertion the better one since he was the son of Maximian.

Of the two, Maxentius posed the biggest threat to Constantine as he also ruled North Africa where in he successfully ended an uprising. In Galerius passed away and Maxentius, to counteract the closer ties between Constantine and Licinius Licinius married Constantine's half-sister 20 , joined forces with Maximinus II Daia. In , Constantine came down from the Alps and began attacking the northern Italian cities. Maxentius ordered his praetorian prefect to fortified those cities.

Constantine is believed to have had at his disposal around 90, infantry and 8, cavalry, however Maxentius greatly outnumbered him. Milan, Brescia, Verona where the praetorian prefect was killed , Modena and Aguileia fell. By Mid-October the road to Rome lay open. Problem was, Maxentius was still there and in control of a heavily fortified city. Nevertheless, believing that good omens favored him, Maxentius left the safety of the fortified city to confront the invaders. The decision proved disastrous.

The engagement took place near the Milvian Bridge, destroyed by Maxentius but hastily replaced with one made of boats. The battle ensued and Maxentius left flank was turned. The weight of too many soldiers sank the bridge and countless drowned. One being Maxentius himself. His body was recovered, his head removed, then mounted on a lance and paraded triumphantly by Constantine's men.

Not long after, in , Licinius fought Daia and defeated him- Daia died during the engagement. Licinius then assumed lordship over the entire eastern Roman Empire. Moving closer to Constantine's border, Licinius took with him a combined force of 35, infantry and cavalry against 20, for Constantine. Around October , Constantine struck first, during the night, and forced Licinius to retreat. Licinius headed east with Constantine on his heels. A second engagement took place; Licinius was again defeated and escaped, moving away from the city of Byzantium. Constantine captured the city and the war came to an end.

After agreeing to a peace treaty Constantine ruled most of the Roman Empire.

Licinius however, controlled a large segment of the army and the wealth of the East, making him a formidable opponent Under the agreement between Constantine and Licinius, their respective first sons were name Ceasar: Crispus and Licianianus. The main reason for his conversion to Christianity had been his desire to bring unity to the Roman world and to do it by having just one religion, closely subordinated to the state. However, to his great disappointment- and the greatest of his life, Christianity broke up into several ideological groups.

Two of those groups were the Donatists and the Arians. Persecution continued until May of the following year when Constantine put an end to it. Violence failed to stop them and they flourished, outliving Constantine. Constantine issued several public statements in and in an effort to unite the Christian church. The main item on the agenda was Arianism. Arius, refusing to accept the divinity of Jesus Christ or the equality of Father and Son, was excommunicated. In , during the Second Council of Nicaea, Arius and his supporters were readmitted; to the detriment of the Bishop of Alexandria- Athanasius, who supported the orthodox view.

He launched several campaigns against the Visigoths in , and , after which they surrendered. Constantine and Licinius later employed many Visigoths as warriors in their respective armies. After conquering both groups, he allowed them to settle in his territories. The Sarmatians immigrated in large numbers, approximately , For Constantine there were several reasons for letting these tribes into Roman territory: more land was cultivated, the military was re-stocked with fresh recruits, and potential enemies were disarmed.

Hostilities resumed around This time Licinius had at his disposal , infantry and 15, cavalry, while Constantine employed , infantry and 10, cavalry. On July 3rd both forces engaged in combat and again Licinius was defeated.


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It is estimated that he lost 34, men. Licinius then moved to Byzantium and prepare the city for a siege. Crispus, Constantine's son, defeated Licinius naval force and the way to Byzantium was opened. Licinius abandoned the city and in mid-September the last battle was fought in Chrysopolis. This time Licinius lost between 25, and 30, men. His wife, Constantia-half sister of Constantine, persuaded Licinius to surrender.

He did and was promptly sent to exile in Thessalonica. A year later he and his son were executed. Now Constantine had sole, unchallenged control of the whole empire. Taxes were raised to shore up the river fleet on the Rhine and to built several fortresses along the Roman side of the river. Several years of peace followed due in part to the conflicts among the Germanic tribes and to Constantine's fortifications.

The limitanei guarded the frontiers, while the comitatenses remained in the rear. Some historians have criticized this division for precipitating the downfall of the western empire as the limitanei were too weak to resist Germanic invasions and the comitantenses infuriated and interfered with the general population.

One task Diocletian started was the separation of military positions from civilian ones and Constantine continue to improve on it. Provinces were reduced in size and as a result there were more of them. Separating governors and generals made them weaker and unable to mount rebellions against the emperor. Praetorian prefects could no longer command troops and were now in charge of fiscal, judicial and administrative tasks. The grand chamberlain, as well as most members of the imperial bodyguard, was a eunuch. A majority were landowners and earned their income from their properties.

The sacrum consistorium was the emperor's personal advisory council with close ties to other officials, but always controlled by the emperor himself. As a result, taxes- very high during the reign of Diocletian, rose even higher. The collatio lustralis, also known as the chrysargyron the gold and silver tax- it could be paid with either metal was the most severe. Manufacturers and merchants carried the brunt of this tax and were assessed not only on their own person, but their family, staff and capital equipment as well.

Many were tortured, imprisoned or both trying to pay it. Tradesmen in the cities raised fees and the rural population, unable to afford their goods and services, were reduced to extreme poverty. First he cancelled some overdue taxes. Second he disallowed the use of torture and those sentenced to prison should be taken to spacious and well ventilated cells. And finally, he established the office of the peraequator census to hear appeals on tax liability.


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  7. It was used to pay senior officials, five-year bonuses for the troops, and to payoff the barbarians. The rest of the population had to live with the much-devalued bronze coins, pushing inflation ever higher. They were forced to remain in their occupations, whether butcher or farmer, and severely punished if they escaped. As a result, more and more chose to get involve in criminal acts, mainly toward the empire. Judges were bought, superiors cheated on soldiers, provincial governors sold jobs, postal administrators exploited travelers, and church offices were available to the highest bidder.

    Constantine passed several edicts against corruption, but for the most part they were ignored. His selection of the old city of Byzantium was twofold: its strategic location and the place where he finally defeated Licinius in Old Byzantium was not only easily defended by land and sea, but also centrally located to the cultural and industrial centers of Asia Minor.

    Furthermore, the grain supplies from Egypt where within easy reach. Constantine not only spent large sums on both secular and religious buildings, but also on land grants and food rations to encourage immigration to the new capital. Many were Christian churches, with no new pagan temples built or repaired. The basilica was the most popular style chosen. These buildings were oblong, with side-aisles and divided off from the central nave by arched colonnades. Many of these features were copied from former pagan basilicas. Architects, engineers and surveyors enjoyed special privileges as there were few of them and the emperor hoped that these privileges would encourage more people to join the professions.

    Constantine believed he ruled by the grace of God and as God's representative on Earth any disobedience to him was sacrilege.

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    Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography

    Aside from his affection for God, he was also afraid of him if he did the wrong thing. This affection did not cross over to Jesus, as he took little interest in him. To him the cross was more a magic symbol confirming his victories than one of suffering.

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    Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography
    Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography
    Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography Constantine the Great General: A Military Biography
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