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Constantius II

Emperor A. D. 337 - 351

This emperor was the last surviving son of Constantine the Great. He was the second oldest of three sons of Constantine and his second wife, Fausta. After his father's death, the Roman Empire was divided up into three administrative regions and Constantius II got the entire Eastern half as his inheritance. Fifty years previously, Emperor Diocletian attempted to end the system of dynastic rule whereby fathers passed the throne to their sons. Now, with the Tetrarchy and rulers chosen by merit a thing of the past, dynasties and all their associated problems were back. The Tetrarchy only worked as well as it did because of the strong personality and competent governing hand of Diocletian. The predictable civil wars returned as well.

One of the first things the three brothers did was to get together and murder all of their relatives who were considered a threat to the security of their thrones. Their two younger cousins, Hanniballianus and Delmatius were amongst those killed. The brothers spared Julian, who actually did lead a revolt and become emperor.

Constantine II ruled for only three years before he became involved in a dispute with his younger brother Constans over the governing of Italy. Constantine led an army south to punish his brother but was killed in a fierce mountain battle near the city of Aquileia in A. D. 340. R. A. Lafferty in his entertaining little book titled The Fall of Rome gives us a few details of this interesting period in the history of the Roman Empire.

Constantius II spent much of his reign fighting the Persians. These ancient and bitter enemies of the Roman Empire had several strong and very capable kings ruling their empire during these unsettled days of the mid Fourth Century. When Magnentius rose up to lead a rebellion in Gaul and had Constans killed, Constantius II made a quick peace treaty with the Persians in 350 so he could go deal with this crisis. After much desperate fighting, Constantius recaptured the rebel territory in Gaul and Magnentius killed himself along with his brother Decentius.

In A. D. 360, Constantius II’s young cousin Julian led a revolt in Gaul. He was a highly competent soldier and a popular administrator as well. In 361, Constantius II led an army to deal with Julian but died while on the march. On his deathbed, Constantius II named Julian as his successor to the throne.

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