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Constantine: Emperor of Rome



(click here for the beginning of Constantine's story) In 293 the Roman Empire was divided into the Tetrarchy: four prefectures each ruled by a senior emperor, or Augustus, seconded by a junior emperor and designated successor, a Caesar, ruling part of their Augustusí prefecture. The Augustus Maximian ruled the Western Empire: Italy (Rome) and North Africa; and his Caesar, Constantius Chlorus, ruled Gaul: France, Germany, Britain and Spain. The Augustus Diocletian ruled the Eastern Empire: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey and Egypt; and his Caesar, Flavius Valerius Severus ruled Illyricum: Greece and the Balkans. To stabilize relationships between the co-rulers, Maximian placed Constantiusí son Constantine in Diocletianís capital, Nicomedia (50 miles east of Constantinople), as his captive guest. The understanding was that should Constantius ever attempt to be sole ruler, his son would be killed.

In 305 when Maximian and Diocletian abdicated, Constantius Chlorus was promoted to Augustus over Rome and Galerius to Augustus in the East. Two new Caesars were appointed to second them: Flavius Valerius Severus as Caesar to Constantius, and Maximinus as Caesar to Galerius. Constantius then formally requested that his son be released. Planning to renege the following morning, Galerius outwardly agreed. That night, however, Constantine furtively embarked on the longest continuous horseback ride recorded in the ancient world: 1600 miles from Galeriusí court in Turkey to his father on the northeast coast of France. Each relay of post horses was supposedly left maimed to inhibit pursuit. Constantine arrived in Boulogne just in time to join his father setting sail for Britain. Galerius supposedly wept when he awoke the following noon and discovered his captiveís escape.

When Constantius died in 306, Constantine was proclaimed Augustus by his fatherís soldiers; but at the same time Galerius promoted Severus to that very position. Maximianís son, Maxentius, resenting having been left out, defeated Severus and had him murdered. By 308 there were four contenders to the rank of Augustus: Constantine, Galerius, Maximian and Maxentius. Maximian, who had been forcibly retired by Diocletian, double-crossed both his son and Constantine. Constantine had Maximian strangled in 310, next year Galerius died, and the struggle was on. (click here to end this story)

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