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§4. Second Five Years.

This period was most momentous for the world’s history. Maxentius, seeking an excuse for war against Constantine, found it in a pretended desire to avenge his father (Zos. 2. 14), and prepared for war.30133013    Eusebius represents the occasion of Constantine’s movement as a philanthropic compassion for the people of Rome (V. C. 1. 26; H. E. 9. 9).
   Praxagoras (ed. Müller, p. 1) says distinctly that it was to avenge those who suffered under the tyrannical rule of Maxentius and Nazarius (Paneg. c. 19), that it was “for liberating Italy.” So, too, Nazarius (Paneg. [321] c. 27), Zonaras (13. 1), Cedrenus, and Ephraem (p. 22) speak of a legation of the Romans petitioning him to go.

   Undoubtedly he did pity them, and as to the legation, every Roman who found his way to Trèves must have been an informal ambassador asking help. The fact seems to be that he had long suspected Maxentius (Zos. 2. 15), and now, learning of his preparations for war, saw that his suspicions were well grounded. Whatever underlying motive of personal ambition there may have been, it is probable that the philanthropic motive was his justification and pretext to his own conscience for the attempt to rid himself of this suspected and dangerous neighbor. Zosimus being Zosimus, it is probable that Maxentius was the aggressor if he says so.
Like his father before him, however, he did not know his man. Constantine’s mind was prepared. He was alert and ready to act. He gathered all the forces, German, Gallic, and British (Zos. 2. 15) that he could muster, left a portion for the protection of the Rhine, entered Italy by way of the Alps (Paneg.), and marched to meet the much more numerous forces of Maxentius,—Romans, Italians, Tuscans, Carthagenians, and Sicilians (Zos. 2. 15).30143014    Constantine numbered, according to Zosimus, 90,000 foot, 8,000 horse; and Maxentius, 170,000 foot, and 18,000 horse. According to Panegyr. (313) c. 3, he left the major part of his army to guard the Rhine and went to meet a force of 100,000 men with less than 40,000 (c. 5). First Sigusium was taken by storm (Naz. Paneg. [321] c. 17 and 21; Paneg. [313] c. 5); then the cavalry of Maxentius was defeated at Turin (Naz. Paneg. [321] c. 22; Paneg. [313] c. 6). After a few days’ rest in Milan (Paneg. [313] c. 7) he continued his triumphant march, defeating the enemy again in a cavalry engagement at Brescia (Naz. Paneg. c. 25), and taking the strongly fortified Verona after a hard-fought battle before the walls (Anon. Vales. p. 473; Paneg. [313]; Naz. Paneg. c. 25–26). This had taken him out of his way a little; but now there were no enemies in the rear, and he was free to push on to Rome, on his way whither, if not earlier, he had his famous vision of the cross.30153015    See note on Bk. I. c. 28. He reached the Tiber October 26. Maxentius, tempted by a dubious oracle30163016    That “on the same day the enemy of the Romans should perish” (Lact. c. 44.). issued from Rome, crossed the Tiber, and joined battle. His apparently unwise action in staking so much on a pitched battle has its explanation, if we could believe Zosimus (2. 15), Eusebius (V. C. 1. 38), Praxagoras, and others. His object was, it is said, by a feigned retreat to tempt Constantine across the bridge of boats which he had built in such a way that it could be broken, and the enemy let into the river.30173017    The circumstance pronounced by Wordsworth “almost incredible” is witnessed to by Eusebius (V. C. 1. 38), Zosimus (2. 15), Praxagoras (ed. Müller, p. 1). The bridge certainly broke as mentioned by Lactantius (c. 44) and as represented on the triumphal arch, but whether the “plot” was an ex post facto notion or not is unclear. If it was a trick, he at least fell into his own pit. The dissipated soldiers of Maxentius gave way before the hardy followers of Constantine, fired by his own energy and the sight of the cross. The defeat was a rout. The bridge broke. Maxentius, caught in the jam, was cast headlong into the river (Anon. Val. p. 473; Lact. c. 44; Chron. Pasch. p. 521, &c.); and after a vain attempt to climb out on the steep bank opposite (Paneg. [313] c. 17), was swept away by the stream. The next day his body was found, the head cut off (Praxag.; Anon. Vales. p. 473), and carried into the city (Anon. Vales. p. 473) on the point of a spear (Paneg. [313] c. 18; Zos. 2. 17; Praxag. p. 1). Constantine entered the city 417in triumph amid rejoicings of the people,30183018    “Senate and people rejoiced with incredible rejoicing” (Vict. Cæs. p. 159). Cf. Euseb. V. C. 1. 39; Paneg. [313] c. 19; Naz. Paneg. c. 30; Chron. Pasch. p. 521, &c. exacted penalties from a few of those most intimate with Maxentius (Zos. 2. 17),30193019    It is said he put to death Romulus, son of Maxentius, but it lacks evidence, and the fact that Romulus was consul for two years (208–9) with Maxentius, and then Maxentius appears alone, seems to indicate that he died in 209 or 210 (cf. Clinton, under the years 208 and 209). disbanded the Prætorian Guards (Vict. Cæs. p. 159; Zos. 2. 17), raised a statue to himself, and did many other things which are recorded; and if he did as many things which are not recorded as there are recorded things which he did not do, he must have been very busy in the short time he remained there.30203020    For the churches he is said to have founded, compare note on Bk. I. ch. 42.
   The curious patchwork triumphal arch which still stands in a state of respectable dilapidation near the Coliseum at Rome, was erected in honor of this victory. It is to be hoped that it was erected after Constantine had gone, and that his æsthetic character is not to be charged with this crime. It was an arch to Trajan made over for the occasion,—by itself and piecemeal of great interest. Apart from the mutilation made for the glory of Constantine, it is a noble piece of work. The changes made were artistic disfigurements; but art’s loss is science’s gain, and for the historian it is most interesting. The phrase “instinctu divinitatis” has its value in the “Hoc signo” discussion (cf. notes to the V. C.); and the sculptures are most suggestive.

Constantine was now sole emperor in the West, and the emperors were reduced to three. History was making fast. After a very brief stay in Rome he returned to Milan (Lact. c. 45), where Licinius met him (Anon. Vales. p. 473; Lact. c. 25; Vict. Epit. p. 50; Zos. 2. 17, &c.). It had become of mutual advantage to these emperors to join alliance. So a betrothal had been made, and now the marriage of Licinius to the sister of Constantine was celebrated (cf. refs. above Lact.; Vict.; Zos.; Anon. Vales.). At the same time the famous Second Edict or Edict of Milan was drawn up by the two emperors (Euseb. H. E. 10. 5; Lact. c. 48), and probably proclaimed.30213021    It has been maintained that there were three edicts of Constantine up to this time: 1. Galerius, Constantine, and Licinius in 311; 2. Constantine and Licinius in 312 (lost); 3. Constantine and Licinius in 313 (cf. Keim, p. 16 and 81–84; Zahn, p. 33). So Gass in Herzog, p. 201, Wordsworth (Ch. Hist.), and others. But, like most certain things, it seems to have been disproved. The “harder edict” seems to have been a product of Eusebius’ rather slovenly historical method, and to refer to the first, or Galerian edict. Constantine then returned to Gaul (Anon. Vales. p. 473; Zos. 11. 17), where he was forced into another sort of strenuous warfare—the ecclesiastical, taking a hand somewhat against his will in trying to settle the famous Donatist schism.30223022    The appeal of the Donatists to Constantine was first met by the appointment of a “court of enquiry,” held at Rome, Oct. 2, 313. The result was unsatisfactory, and Constantine ordered an examination on the spot, which took place at Carthage, Feb. 15, 314 (Phillott). The Donatists still urging, the Council of Arles was called, Aug. 1, 314, and some progress seemed to be made, but progress more satisfactory to the orthodox than to the schismatics, who urged again that Constantine hear the matter himself, as he finally did, November, 316 (Wordsworth; cf. Augustine, Ep. 43, ¶20). He confirmed the previous findings, and took vigorous but ineffective measures to suppress the Donatists, measures which he saw afterwards could not be carried out, and perhaps saw to be unjust. Compare Augustine, Ep. 43, ch. 2, and elsewhere, also various documents from Augustine, Lactantius, Eusebius, Optatus, &c., collected in Migne, Patrol. Lat. 8 (1844), 673–784. Compare also Fuller, Donatism, Phillott, Felix,—articles in Smith and W. Dict. &c.; and for general sources and literature, cf. Donatist Schism, Hartranft, in Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 4 (1887), 369–72; Völter, Ursprung des Donatismus, 1883; and Seeck in Brieger’s Zeitschrift f. Kirchengeschichte, 10 (1889), 505–508.

Licinius had a more critical problem to meet. Maximin thought it a good time to strike while Licinius was off in Milan engaged in festivities (Lact. c. 45); but the latter, hastily gathering his troops and pushing on by forced marches, met near Heraclea and utterly defeated him (Lact. c. 46). Maximin fled precipitately, escaping the sword only to die a more terrible death that same summer (Lact. c. 49; Euseb. V. C. 1. 58; cf. Zos. 2. 17).30233023    According to Lactantius (c. 49), an attempt at suicide by poison was followed by a wretched disease, bringing to a lingering and most painful death. The death of Maximin cleared the field still farther. Through progressive subtractions the number of emperors had been reduced to two,—one in the East and one in the West.

They, too, promptly fell out. The next year they were at war. Causes and pretexts were various; but the pretext, if not the cause, was in general that Licinius proved an accomplice after the fact, at least, to a plot against Constantine.30243024    Bassianus, who had married Anastasia, sister of Constantine, was incited by his brother, who was an adherent of Licinius, to revolt against Constantine. The attempt was nipped in the bud, and Constantine demanded from Licinius the author of the plot. His refusal, together with the throwing down of the statues of Constantine, was the direct occasion of the war (Anon. Vales. p. 473). Compare Eusebius, V. C. 1. 50–51, and Socr. 1. 3, where Licinius is charged with repeated treachery, perjury, and hypocrisy. Zosimus, on the other hand (2. 18), distinctly says that Licinius was not to blame, but that Constantine, with characteristic faithlessness to their agreement, tried to alienate some of Licinius’ provinces. Here, however, notice that Zosimus would not count any movement in behalf of Christians as a proper motive, and sympathy for them was undoubtedly one of the underlying reasons. Whatever the immediate cause, it was one of 418the inevitabilities of fate. Another vigorous campaign followed, characterized by the same decisive action and personal courage on the part of Constantine which he had already shown, and which supplied his lack of soldiers.30253025    Constantine at Cibalis had 20,000 Licinius 35,000 (Anon. Vales. p. 473). First at Cibalis in Pannonia (Oct. 8),30263026    Zos. 2. 18; “by a sudden attack” (Eutrop. 10. 4); “by night” (Vict. Epit. p. 50). Cf. Orosius, c. 28. then in a desperate battle at Mardia, Licinius was defeated and forced to make peace (Anon. Vales. p. 474; Zos. 2. 19–20). The world was re-divided between the affectionate brothers-in-law, and Constantine took Illyrium to his other possessions.30273027    After the battle of Cibalis the Greeks and the Macedonians, the inhabitants of the banks of the Danube, of Achaia, and the whole nation of Illyrica became subject to Constantine (Soz. 1. 6; cf. Anon. Vales. p. 474; Zos. 2. 20; Oros. c. 28, &c.). After this battle and the re-division there was a truce between the emperors for some years, during the early part of which (in 316 or 315) the Decennalia of Constantine were celebrated (Euseb. V. C. 1. 48).

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