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Magnus Maximus

British Usurper A. D. 383 - 388

It seems that throughout the history of the Roman Empire, the island province of Britain has often been ready to provide a challenger to imperial authority. Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni, revolted against oppressive Roman government officials in the First Century A. D. Many Roman emperors, including Hadrian, Septimius Severus, and Constantius I had to go there to personally take charge of Roman armies and lead them in crushing rebellions of native Picts and Scots who were harassing the settled citizens of the province. Carausius, Allectus, Constantine I, and Constantine III established their empires with the backing of rebellious British legions.

Magnus Maximus is just another in a long line of tough British generals who held part of the Roman Empire in their own name for a few years before being defeated and killed by legitimate Roman emperors at the head of large armies. A native of Spain, Maximus was set upon the throne by his British troops in A. D. 383 following to the age-old established pattern of insurrection. Immediately after his elevation to the throne, Maximus and his legions crossed the English Channel and invaded Gaul.

Gratian, the legitimate emperor of the West was not prepared to deal with a vigorous British usurper at the head of seasoned troops. Gratian was not so very popular with the army anyway and soon his troops deserted him and went over to the glamorous British rebel. Gratian was trapped near Lugdunum (Modern Lyons) in Gaul and killed a few months later on August 25, A. D. 383.

Maximus was now ruler of Britain, Gaul, and Africa. He held onto his gains for five years, but again began to become ambitious. Wishing to add Italy to his empire, he marched in the direction of Rome, causing the young emperor Valentinian II to flee to Constantinople. Finally, in 388, Theodosius I, emperor of the East in Constantinople, met Maximus at Poetovio near Aquileia with an army and defeated him. Maximus was later captured and executed on July 28th, A. D. 388.


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