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Constantine III

Emperor A. D. 407 - 411

During the early Fifth Century, repeated barbarian invasions threatened the very existence of the Roman Empire in the West. Alaric ravaged Italy while Stilicho tried his best to marshal the troops needed to capture him or at least keep him at bay. For this reason, Roman legions were recalled from service on the Rhine frontier and from the faraway province of Britain. This left few soldiers to protect Britain from raids by the Picts and Saxons and even a major invasion by the High King of Ireland.

Naturally, the good Roman citizens of Britain were upset at being left so defenseless by the Roman government. Soon, however, a succession of leaders arose and were hailed as emperor by the British troops. they were just as quickly deposed and executed because they did not live up to the expectations of the soldiers.

The third one of these local strong men was an ordinary soldier by the name of Constantine. Elevated to the purple by the British legions in A. D. 407, he immediately led an invasion force across the English Channel and captured much of Gaul. Historians do not know whether he wished to make himself master of the Roman Empire or simply wished to attack a large force of German barbarians who were preparing to attack Britain. Constantine, now Emperor Constantine III, easily captured Arelate (Modern Arles), a major city in Gaul and made his capital there. Honorius, the legitimate Western emperor could do little about Constantine's invasion because he had his hands completely full dealing with Alaric. Honorius had foolishly been talked into permitting the murder of Stilicho by his jealous enemies in 408, thus robbing him of the one man who could really do something about the numerous invasions threatening Italy.

Constantine sent his son Constans and the able general Gerontius to invade Spain. Soon, he also cast his covetous eyes towards Italy, which he presumed to be weakly defended and therefore easy pickings. In 410, he recalled Constans from Spain and promoted him to the rank of Augustus.

Constantine was having little success in his invasion of Italy, and soon Gerontius revolted and murdered Constans at Vienne. In the meantime, another champion had appeared in Rome to take Stilicho's place as defender of the empire. This man was Constantius, soon to become the Roman emperor Constantius III. He led his army into Gaul and soon defeated Gerontius and besieged Constantine in Arelate. Constantine abdicated and took Holy Orders, thus becoming a priest in the hopes that Honorius would have mercy and spare him. Constantine was arrested and taken to Ravenna, but Honorius refused to receive him, having him murdered thirty miles outside the city.


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