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Constantine II
Porphyry statue of Constantine II
60th Emperor of the Roman Empire
Preceded by Constantine I
Succeeded by Constantius II and Constans
Personal details
Born February, 316
Arelate, Viennensis
Died 340 (aged 24)
Aquileia, Italia

Constantine II (Latin language: Flavius Claudius Constantinus Augustus)[1] (January/February 316 – 340) was Roman Emperor from 337 to 340. Son of Constantine the Great and co-emperor alongside his brothers, his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture led to his death in a failed invasion of Italy in 340.


Solidus of Constantine II

The eldest son of Constantine the Great and Fausta, after the death of his half-brother Crispus, Constantine II was born in Arles in February 316[2] and raised as a Christian. On 1 March 317, he was made Caesar;[3] at the age of seven, in 323, he took part in his father's campaign against the Sarmatians.[4] At age ten he became commander of Gaul, following the death of Crispus. An inscription dating to 330 records the title of Alamannicus, so it is probable that his generals won a victory over the Alamanni.[4] His military career continued when Constantine I made him field commander during the 332 campaign against the Goths.[5]

Following the death of his father in 337, Constantine II initially became emperor jointly with his brothers Constantius II and Constans,[6] with the Empire divided between them and their cousins, the Caesars Dalmatius and Hannibalianus.[7] This arrangement barely survived Constantine I’s death, as his sons arranged the slaughter of most of the rest of the family by the army.[8] As a result, the three brothers gathered together in Pannonia[4] and there, on 9 September 337,[1][8] divided the Roman world between themselves. Constantine, proclaimed Augustus by the troops[1] received Gaul, Britannia and Hispania.[5]

Division of the Roman Empire among the Caesars appointed by Constantine I: from left to right, the territories of Constantine II, Constans I, Dalmatius and Constantius II. After the death of Constantine I (May 337), this was the formal division of the Empire, until Dalmatius was killed and his territory divided between Constans and Constantius.

He was soon involved in the struggle between factions rupturing the unity of the Christian Church.[4] The Western portion of the Empire, under the influence of the Popes in Rome, favored Catholicism over Arianism, and through their intercession they convinced Constantine to free Athanasius, allowing him to return to Alexandria.[9] This action aggravated Constantius II, who was a committed supporter of Arianism.[5]

Statue of Emperor Constantine II as caesar on top of the Cordonata (the monumental ladder climbing up to Piazza del Campidoglio), in Rome.

Constantine was initially the guardian of his younger brother Constans, whose portion of the empire was Italia, Africa and Illyricum. Constantine soon complained that he had not received the amount of territory that was his due as the eldest son.[8] Annoyed that Constans had received Thrace and Macedonia after the death of Dalmatius, Constantine demanded that Constans hand over the African provinces, to which he agreed in order to maintain a fragile peace.[8][10] Soon, however, they began quarreling over which parts of the African provinces belonged to Carthage, and thus Constantine, and which belonged to Italy, and therefore Constans.[11]

Further complications arose when Constans came of age and Constantine, who had grown accustomed to dominating his younger brother, would not relinquish the guardianship. In 340 Constantine marched into Italy at the head of his troops.[10] Constans, at that time in Dacia, detached and sent a select and disciplined body of his Illyrian troops, stating that he would follow them in person with the remainder of his forces.[8] Constantine was engaged in military operations[6] and was killed in an ambush outside Aquileia.[10] Constans took control of his deceased brother's realm.

See also

  • Itineraries of the Roman emperors, 337–361


Primary sources

Secondary sources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jones, pg. 223
  2. Victor, 41:4
  3. Victor, 41:6
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 DiMaio, Constantine II (337–340 A.D.)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Canduci, pg. 129
  6. 6.0 6.1 Eutropius, 10:9
  7. Victor, 41:20
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Gibbon, Ch. 18
  9. A. H. M. Jones, "The Later Roman Empire" (Baltimore, 1986), pg. 114
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Victor, 41:21
  11. Zosimus, 2:41–42

External links

Constantine II (emperor)
Constantinian dynasty
Born: 316 Died: 340
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine I
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Constantius II and Constans
Succeeded by
Constantius II and Constans
Political offices
Preceded by
Constantine I,
Licinius II
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Constantine I ,
Licinius II
Succeeded by
Petronius Probianus,
Amnius Anicius Julianus
Preceded by
Acilius Severus,
Vettius Rufinus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Crispus
Succeeded by
Sextus Anicius Faustus Paulinus,
Valerius Proculus
Preceded by
Vettius Iustus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Constantine I
Succeeded by
Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus

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