Constantius II

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Solidus with the portrait of Constantius II, struck in 344 in Siscia with the inscription CONSTANTIVS P (ius) F (elix) AVG (ustus) on the front and GLORIA CONSTANTI (i) AVG (usti) SIS (ciae) on the back.

Constantius II. ( Ancient Greek Κωνστάντιος Β ' Kōnstántios , full name Flavius ​​Iulius Constantius ; *  August 7, 317 in Illyria , probably in Sirmium ; † November 3, 361 in Mopsukrenai / Cilicia ) was a son of Constantine the Great and after his death 337 Emperor in the east of the Roman Empire . In the other parts of the empire two of his brothers had initially become emperors; after her death and the forcible removal of a usurper since 353 he was the only Augustus in the entire Roman Empire. After his death in 361, power passed to his cousin Julian , who had ruled Gaul since 355 as Caesar (lower emperor), but had usurped in 360 .

His reign was marked by an ongoing defensive struggle on the borders, while civil wars broke out repeatedly inside . In the area of ​​religious policy, too, serious problems arose which he was unable to permanently solve. In contemporary sources, he is often judged to be a "weak emperor", whereas modern research also highlights his achievements.

Contemporary history background

Bust of Constantius II

The Roman Empire went through a profound change at the beginning of the 4th century. Constantius' father Constantine the Great had prevailed as sole ruler until 324 in the succession struggles that broke out with the end of the tetrarchy founded by Emperor Diocletian in 306, thus establishing the Constantinian dynasty , which was to rule until 363. Constantine's reign was important primarily for two reasons: On the one hand, he relocated the central power with the new capital Constantinople to the eastern part of the empire, which had already become more and more important. On the other hand, he promoted Christianity and thus initiated the Christianization of the Roman Empire (the so-called Constantinian turn ). Although the traditional cults - of individual cases like the one with temple prostitution connected Aphrodite - Astarte -Kult in Aphaka and Heliopolis apart - have not been abolished, were them nevertheless privileges revoked, making it increasingly lost its power and influence.

Not least because of foreign policy considerations, Constantine decided in favor of the new capital, because Constantinople was roughly equidistant from the threatened borders of the empire on the Danube and Euphrates . However, while the situation on the Danube was largely secured on the eve of the Huns' storm and the Great Migration , the situation in the east remained dangerous, as the Persian Sassanids went on the offensive again after a restless peace towards the end of the reign of Constantine under Shapur II . Constantine himself had planned a Persian campaign, which was only prevented by his death. Both the threat from the Persians and unresolved religious questions - especially the question of the "nature" of Christ ( Arian dispute ) - were to occupy Constantius II during his entire reign.

Partition of the Roman Empire after the death of Constantine the Great in 337: Listed from west to east: Constantine II (orange), Constans (green), Dalmatius (light yellow), Constantius II (turquoise). After the assassination of Dalmatius, his territory was divided between Constans and Constantius II.


Youth and ascent to Augustus of the East

Constantius II on an early follis from 325

Constantius was born in 317 as the son of Constantine I and his wife Fausta . His siblings were the later emperors Konstantin II. And Constans as well as the two girls Helena and Constantina . Constantius was appointed Caesar (lower emperor) by his father on November 8, 324 (according to epigraphic evidence on November 13), at the age of seven , and was probably entrusted with the administration of the eastern part of the empire. Due to his young age, Constantius was initially unable to fill this position. In addition, unlike later child emperors, he did not yet have his own court. Almost nothing is known about his childhood and upbringing. It was crucial that, like his brothers , he was raised in a Christian way . This would shape Constantius' actions throughout his life. These years were overshadowed by the events of 326, when Emperor Constantine had his wife Fausta and his son Crispus , who came from an earlier connection, killed under circumstances that have not yet been clearly clarified. In 335 Constantius married a daughter of his uncle Julius Constantius .

After Constantine's death on Whitsun in 337, there were a number of murders : the military killed several members of the Constantinian family, so that in the end only the sons of the deceased emperor and their relatives Constantius Gallus and Julian (the latter had been spared due to their youth). The background to the crime cannot be clearly clarified due to the problematic sources. It is unclear whether the military acted independently in a “forward-looking manner” or whether they were asked to do so by the sons of Constantine. Many scholars have identified the main culprit in the person of Constantius, but this is not undisputed and is more likely to be blamed on Constantius' bad reputation in the sources. In 337 or 338 the three brothers Constantine II, Constans and Constantius II accepted the title of August at the Viminacium conference and from then on shared the rule.

Constantius received the eastern part of the empire, with the Balkan peninsula formerly administered by his murdered cousin Dalmatius falling to Constans, who ruled the western part of the empire with Constantine II. However, Constantine II died in 340 in the battle against Constans, who now controlled the entire west, but had ceded Thrace with the capital Constantinople to Constantius in 339. Soon there was tension between Constans and Constantius. These intensified when Constans took action against the Arians (whom Constantius favored) and openly sided with Athanasius in this religious conflict ( see below ). However, there was no military confrontation. In 346 the two brothers officially reconciled, Athanasios returned to Alexandria from his exile in the west. However, it was still not possible to agree on a uniform confessional formula for the imperial church.

The usurpation of Magnentius and the first Persian war of Constantius

Constans himself fell victim to the usurper Magnentius , who had risen in Gaul in 350 . Constans had evidently made himself unpopular with his religious policy and his inept handling of the army, so that a group of his court officials intrigued against him. Constans' treasurer Marcellinus had introduced Magnentius, a high guard officer of Germanic descent, during a banquet in January 350, in an apparently planned act to the assembled officers of the Gallic army as the new emperor. They finally agreed enthusiastically. Constans was murdered shortly afterwards and Magnentius fell to the west of the empire without a fight. Magnentius, who himself was a pagan, allowed nightly sacrifices again. He made himself popular with the Christians through the support of the Niceaans, whom Constans had already favored.

Constantius had no choice but to let Magnentius have his way for the time being, especially since at least the Balkans were denied to him. There, namely the aged general had Vetranio for Augustus was proclaimed. In the background, Constantius' sister Constantina had pulled the strings: As time was pressing, she believed with this step that Magnentius was denying access to the battle-hardened Danube Army. Constantina also assured her brother that Vetranio was easy to manipulate and that there was no danger from him, which she should prove to be right. In 348 Constantius had also taken in a group of Christian Goths under Wulfila , which also meant a strengthening of the military forces for the empire. For the time being, however, Constantius could not turn to affairs in the west, since he was still bound in the east.

There the Persian Sassanid Empire under Shapur II remained a serious opponent during the entire reign of Constantius (cf. Roman-Persian Wars ). Constantius' father Constantine the Great had planned a campaign against the Sassanids shortly before his death. Shapur opened the fighting in 337/38 and invaded Armenia , where there had probably been internal power struggles that the great king was able to exploit. Armenian troops also took part in the Persian offensives that followed. In the end, however, Constantius succeeded in winning over the Armenian king Arsakes II , whom Shapur had initially driven out. This enabled him to put Armenia back on a pro-Roman course.

However, the main fighting between the Romans and the Persians took place in Mesopotamia , where Nisibis, besieged three times (338, 346 and 350), was appalled by the Romans. Constantius pursued a rather defensive strategy that ultimately relied on a wear and tear: the Persians were supposed to break at the Roman fortress ring that shielded the oriental provinces of Rome. At least once, however, there was a Roman advance into Persian territory. Constantius now also used Gothic formations and armored cavalry ( kataphraktoi ) based on the Persian model . The only major fighting took place at Singara , where the Romans under the command of Constantius suffered heavy losses at the last moment. The exact date of the battle, which represented the climax of Constantius' first Persian War and in which a Persian prince was killed, was disputed for a long time due to divergent sources in research; but it will have taken place in 344 rather than 348. Nevertheless, the emperor was largely able to hold the border with his strategy. It is worth mentioning the anonymous work entitled Itinerarium Alexandri , the purpose of which was to encourage Constantius to fight victoriously against the Persians.

The achievement of autocracy

Around 350 the Persians had to fight the Chionites even on their eastern border , which is why Schapur broke off the fighting against Rome for the time being. In 351 Constantius installed Constantius Gallus, one of his last remaining relatives, as sub-emperor in the east; in addition, he married Gallus to his sister Constantina, of whom we have already spoken. Constantius himself wanted to devote himself to affairs in the West, especially the usurper Magnentius, whom he now intended to eliminate. First Vetranio abdicated - he ended his life as a wealthy man on a country estate - and thus opened the way for Constantius to the west.

After that, Constantius Magnentius was able to defeat in September 351 in the bloody battle of Mursa (today's Osijek ). 54,000 soldiers are said to have died. Constantius announced an amnesty from which only the soldiers who were involved in the murder of Constans were excluded. Magnentius retired to Gaul, where Constantius finally defeated him in 353 in the battle of Mons Seleucus . The usurper then committed suicide in August 353, with which Constantius II achieved de facto rule over the entire empire. Constantius celebrated his victories in the civil war by erecting triumphal arches, among other things. Even if the emperor was sharply criticized for this by the historian Ammianus Marcellinus , our most important source for this time (after all, these were not victories over barbarians, but over Romans), this gave Constantius considerable room for maneuver and also achieved what many Romans expected Imperial unity.

During the civil war, Franks advanced across the Rhine because Magnentius had stripped the local border fortifications from troops in order to use these elite groups against Constantius. The Franks bordered on the left bank of the Rhine slow walk, but the greatest danger was from the 352 in the Empire collapse in Alemanni from. The Rhine border had to be given up for the time being and Germanic tribes continued to plunder through Gaul for years . From 354 to 356 Constantius led campaigns against the tribes in the Breisgau and in the Lake Constance area, which were not entirely unsuccessful, but it was only Julian who managed to stabilize the situation on the Rhine in the medium term.

Conflicts with the lower emperors and the second Persian War

Constantius devoted himself to events in the east in 354, because there Constantius Gallus , who resided in Antioch on the Orontes , did not fulfill his tasks as the emperor had wished. On the contrary, Gallus turned the citizens of Antioch, one of the largest and most important cities of the empire, against him through his arrogant style of government. In addition, Gallus and his politically ambitious wife Constantina seem to have endeavored to achieve the greatest possible independence, for example in the administrative area, from the imperial court, which of course was in direct contrast to Constantius' ideas. This insisted, for example, that the respective Praetorian prefect, as the highest-ranking civil officer, was directly responsible to the emperor. Gallus, who even murdered the quaestor Montius and the prefect Domitianus , was finally lured west, removed from office and executed at the end of 354.

A problem also arose with the Franconian army master Silvanus , whom Constantius had entrusted with securing the Rhine border. Silvanus was driven into usurpation because of intrigues at the imperial court and had to be eliminated in a real "commando enterprise" 355. In the same year Constantius, who now wanted to take care of the problems in the eastern part of the empire himself, installed the half-brother of Gallus, Julian , as sub-emperor in Gaul. The appointment of a blood relative, despite the experience with Gallus, was also justified by the dynastic legitimation, which was important for many soldiers.

Dedication inscription for Attius Caecilius Maximilianus , who as Praefectus annonae during Constantius II's stay in Rome (April 28 - May 29, 357) was also responsible for supplying the imperial troops ( CIL 06, 41332 )

Constantius stayed in the West several times during these years. His visit to Rome in 357, about which Ammianus reports in great detail, was impressive. Ammianus mocked the fact that Constantius stood rigidly like a statue on his triumphal chariot when he visited Rome and showed practically no movement. But this as well as the increasingly strict court ceremony were related to Constantius' Christian-imperial self-image. Accordingly, the emperor was not just a person, but above all a symbol that was deliberately removed from people. The way to the “Byzantine Empire” begins with the rule of Constantius.

Julian, meanwhile, was very successful at war in Gaul. In 357 he defeated the Alemanni in the Battle of Argentoratum . He also made the Franks on the left bank of the Rhine ( Salfranken ) Roman federates and settled them in Toxandria, an area between the Schelde , Dijle and Maas . The Franks promised to take over the border protection. Julian threw the other Germanic tribes back over the Rhine border, which could now be secured again. It must be emphasized, however, that Julian probably operated by mutual agreement and not without the influence of Constantius. So the emperor had also the army master Marcellus , who had refused to support Julian during the siege of Senonae , replaced by general Severus. Despite claims to the contrary in the sources, Constantius was anxious to support his Caesar as much as possible, while on the other hand, due to his experience with Gallus, he was careful not to get Julian too cocky. However, the pre-existing tensions intensified over time. This was due to the fact that Constantius' wife Eusebia , whom he married in 352/53 and who is described as an outspoken beauty, died in 360. She is said to have had some influence on the emperor and probably also served as a mediator between Constantius and Julian, even if the more recent research is partly of the opinion that Eusebia acted more on behalf of her husband. In 359 Constantius recalled with Saturninus Secundus Salutius also Julian's most important support in the field of civil administration.

In the Balkans , Constantius fought against Quadi and Sarmatians from 357 to 359 , with several successes. In the east, however, the most serious threat continued to come from the Persians. At first there were negotiations with Shapur II, who had apparently dealt with the Chionites who had threatened the border of Persia in the east. Ammianus reports on the content of the conversations, whereby the traditional address of the two monarchs as brothers is quite remarkable:

I, King of Kings, Sapor, companion of the stars, brother of the sun and moon, offer all the best to Caesar Constantius, my brother.
Answer of the Roman emperor: I, victor at sea and on land, Constantius, always the exalted Augustus, offer my brother, King Sapor, all the best.
Amida's west gate with fortifications from late antiquity

In 358 Shapur asked Constantius to leave Mesopotamia and Armenia to the Sassanids, which the emperor refused. In 359 the Persian invasion began, for which the Romans were apparently not prepared. The Sassanids pursued a new strategy: They wanted to bypass the strong Roman border fortresses and break straight into the Roman province of Syria , especially since a Roman defector named Antoninus encouraged them to attack. Nevertheless, the Persians were forced to besiege the important Amida fortress , which fell after 73 days. Schapur's army of allegedly 100,000 men had also suffered heavy losses. The cities of Singara and Bezabde (today: Cizre ) were soon conquered . The entire east of the empire was in great excitement, the previous commander Ursicinus , who had previously been subordinate to the army master Sabinianus , was recalled and Constantius hurriedly gathered troops.

The uprising of Julian and the death of Constantius II.

The Roman army was still intact after the fighting against the Persians in 359/60, but the situation was so serious that Constantius gave the order to move additional troops from the west to the east in order to secure the border. Thereupon the troops revolted in Gaul in the spring of 360 and proclaimed Julian in Lutetia to be emperor. According to Ammianus, the troops acted on their own initiative, but it is much more likely that this was an act staged by Julian and a simple usurpation.

For the second time, after the rise and fall of Gallus, a structural problem in Constantius' system of rulership became noticeable: Due to the numerous hot spots and the size of the empire, it had meanwhile become inevitable to appoint "lower emperors" and to equip them with extensive powers. Like Gallus before him, Julian was not ready to play only the junior partner, but also wanted to be an equal co-emperor. Since Constantius denied him this, Julian made the decision to send his troops against the emperor. In the imminent military conflict, Constantius benefited from the fact that Shapur, who had not been able to penetrate into the core areas of Syria, had finally withdrawn. In addition, Constantius assured himself of the loyalty of the Christian kings of Armenia and Iberia.

Julian, who first had to take action against the Alemanni, advanced in the spring of 361 with his Gaulish troops in three army columns. They met hardly any resistance and soon reached the Danube. Sirmium, one of the most important Roman fortresses in this area, was taken by surprise. However, these successes were hardly decisive, because Constantius still had the powerful Eastern army at his disposal. Constantius died on November 3rd, 361 in Cilicia, weakened by the fever and the exertions of the past few years. Allegedly, the emperor had chosen Julian as his successor on his deathbed, but this is very controversial and rather unlikely. In order to preserve the form, Julian transferred Constantius with all honors to Constantinople, where the body was buried. Constantia , daughter of Constantius' third wife Faustina , would later become Emperor Gratian's wife .

Religious politics

The late antique emperors from Constantine onwards (apart from Julian, the last pagan emperor of the entire empire) had to fight time and again with theological disputes. The focus was on the question of the nature of Christ : the so-called Arian dispute had already broken out in the time of Constantine . Arius , a presbyter from Alexandria , had announced that there was a time when Jesus Christ did not exist. Jesus is not of the same nature (hom [o] ousios) with God the Father, as recognized by the majority of the church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 in the Confession of Nicaea , but only of the same nature (homoi [o] usios) . Arius' doctrine, condemned as heretical by the majority of the bishops, found little resonance in the west of the Roman Empire, but was quite popular in the eastern part of the empire, since the predominantly Origenistic theology there shared the hypostasis model and subordinatianism with Arius . In addition, the dispute also affected broad sections of the population, who were not least concerned about following the “right” direction for their souls.

Constantius, at first emperor in the eastern part of the empire for almost twenty years , initially stood firmly on the side of the theology of the East, which was influenced by Origenism: as early as 338 he had exiled the Nicean bishop of Constantinople, Paulus, and replaced him with the origist Eusebius of Nicomedia . The term "Arians" is problematic anyway, as it often encompasses very different religious currents in Christianity. Simply put, one can say that they rejected the Nicaenum , the confession of Nicaea.

The Imperial Synod of Serdica (342), which the two brothers Constans (emperor of the western part of the empire) and Constantius convened in Serdica, today's Sofia , in order to restore the unity of the church in the Roman Empire, became a fiasco. The bishops of the East refused to take part in joint sessions of the Imperial Synod as long as the deposed Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria and Markell of Ankyra, who had traveled with the participants from the western Roman part of the Empire, were present, since both had been condemned and deposed by synods be - Athanasius in 335 by the Synod of Tire , Markell in 336 by the Synod of Constantinople . The bishops of the West insisted that the two had been rehabilitated by a Roman synod in 341. The bishops from Constantius' eastern part of the empire therefore gathered in the imperial palace, while the western bishops had moved into the city church. After the news soon arrived at the synod that Emperor Constantius had won a battle against an army of the Sassanid ruler Shapur II , the eastern bishops broke off negotiations and left the synod and Serdica, while the western bishops were headed by Ossius of Córdoba simply to continue the Reich Synod. However, both groups had previously excommunicated each other .

In 350 Constans, the emperor of the west, was murdered by the usurper Magnentius . This was defeated in the subsequent war against Constantius II and after the suicide of the usurper in 353, Constantius became sole ruler and planned a new creed as a compromise formula for the whole church in the Roman Empire. Constantius convened councils in Arles (353), Milan (355) and Beziers (356), in which he enforced the condemnation of Athanasius under threat of violence.

At the third council of Sirmium (357) a confession was written which consistently represents the subordination of Jesus to the Father. Constantius finally favored the Homoeists , who came to an understanding with the Homeusians in May 359 at the 5th Synod of Sirmium , both currents in the tradition of Origenistic theology of the 'middle group' that the son is similar to the father according to the Holy Scriptures. The emperor decided against the "radical new Arians" (see Aetios and Eunomius ), the so-called heterousians, who emerged in the late 350s . But soon there was another argument between homeers and homeusians. At synods in Ariminum and Seleukia in Isauria and Constantinople (359), and finally in 360 in Constantinople under the direction of Constantius, Jesus finally became generally binding without further controversial details as similar to the Father ("homo i ousios"; with an additional iota ) as after the saints Fonts . However, especially in the West, this was interpreted as an intolerable coercive measure against which considerable resistance formed. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that at the time of Constantius, unlike the time of Theodosius the Great , no predominant Christian denomination had developed, which made the imperial religious policy considerably more difficult. Admittedly, when Constantius died, the “Homöer” occupied important bishoprics, but this was only apparently a success, because the emperor had forced it through threats and even the use of state violence.

In the west, however, Constantine II and Constans had supported the followers of the Nicaenum until their death, in the east the majority of the bishops again refused to recognize the primacy of Rome in questions of faith.

Icon of Athanasios, one of the sharpest theological opponents of Constantius II.

In this context there was also a conflict between the emperor and Athanasios , the militant but charismatic bishop of Alexandria, who took an energetic and sometimes ruthless position against all actual and supposed 'Arians' and had to repeatedly go into exile in the west of the empire but found supporters. In 346 Athanasios and Paulus were allowed to return after Constantius and Constans had reached a poor understanding; however, the fact that the Persians continued to cause problems on the eastern border also played a role. After Constantius had become sole ruler, troublemaker Athanasius was banished a third time in 355, who then had to flee to Egyptian monks and was only allowed to return under Julian.

An interesting episode is the "Orient Mission", which was undertaken in the 1940s: the missionary Theophilus was sent east by Constantius, probably also with the aim of reviving the trade connections to India that had been interrupted by the Sassanids . It reached southern Arabia, perhaps even as far as the Indian suburbs, and finally returned to the empire via Aksum . In Aksum, with whose Negus Ezana Constantius was even in contact, Christianity spread just as it did among the Goths : Wulfila made a Gothic translation (the so-called Wulfilabibel ) into Gothic, for which he created his own script using Greek letters.

In relation to paganism , Constantius, who apparently took the Christian faith seriously, took a negative position, which can be seen from the prohibition of night sacrifices, the prohibition of pagan cults and the closure of the pagan temples. Temples were also partially destroyed, but these were not ordered by Constantius, but instead were attributed to local governors or bishops. After his visit to Rome, the emperor weakened his policy in this regard, even if, for example, the Victoria Altar was removed from the Senate. His attitude towards the pagans was in many ways more reactive than aggressive, especially since the pagan cults themselves increasingly lost their appeal. Under Constantius, pagans could also hold high positions. Constantius was baptized by the Arian bishop Euzoius on his deathbed .


The reign of Constantius was often rated very negatively, especially against the background of the portrayal of Ammianus Marcellinus, who loses much of his other objectivity with regard to Constantius (such as Joseph Bidez in his well-known Julian biography). However, this picture has been questioned and partially corrected. When choosing his employees, Constantius had not always made the right decision. The chief chamberlain, Eusebius , gained great influence at court and was involved in several court intrigues. In some cases the emperor proceeded with extreme severity against conspiracies. However, whether Ammianus' assertion that the emperor listened too much to courtiers and women, such as the empress Eusebia , is so correct, cannot be answered unequivocally. He was certainly not a helpless puppet, but the court played a central role in the emperor's government work. It is uncertain whether Constantius really, as reported by Ammianus, increased taxes drastically. This accusation fits the topos of the tyrant more than Ammianus wanted to see the emperor - not least to put Julian, whom Ammianus admired, in an even better light. The fact that Ammianus is our main source for the reign of Constantius is of little help in this context.

Constantius' religious policy was ultimately unsuccessful, but in foreign policy the emperor succeeded in largely stabilizing the borders, especially since he was unable to dispose of the troops from the western part of the empire for most of his reign. The emperor avoided military adventures and preferred a defensive strategy in the east. If one compares this with Julian's offensive policy, which was rather preferred by Ammianus, which ended in the catastrophe of the Persian campaign in 363 and the subsequent loss of peace, this was probably the wiser approach. In addition, the interpretation of the emperor as emperor christianissimus , for example in terms of court ceremonies or the role of the emperor in questions of religion, which largely goes back to Constantius, should serve as a model for the future. Furthermore, Constantius increased the prestige of the Senate of Constantinople, whose members now enjoyed the same privileges as the senators in Rome. The University of Constantinople was also sponsored by the emperor.

Constantius was certainly not a visionary, but he wanted to preserve the unity of the empire. His religious policy should also be assessed in this context. The fact that he was unable to achieve all of his goals and suffered severe setbacks often enough should not hide the fact that Constantius was a thoroughly capable emperor, permeated and considered by the dignity of his office. Even when Julian rose, Constantius did not panic; and it is by no means certain whether Julian would have won a fight against the Eastern Army. Ammianus, too, had to admit that the emperor proceeded cautiously when assigning offices and dignities and did not neglect the military. Even more: where Julian is not involved and the emperor does not pursue his defensive policy towards the Persians, Ammianus is even willing to recognize Constantius' military skills, as the example of the Sarmatian campaign of 358 shows.

Constantius had already taken over the most difficult part of the empire when he took office, which was not only threatened by the Persians, but also quarreled internally. Confronted with numerous external aggressors, usurpations and theological disputes, Constantius II was not without success despite all adversities and was not as weak as a ruler as some sources describe him.


The most important narrative source (from 353) is Ammianus Marcellinus , who among other things took part in the battles in Mesopotamia as an officer and gives detailed information about the battles against the Persians as well as the events in the West, although not always without prejudice to Constantius . In addition, the Epitome de Caesaribus , Aurelius Victor , Festus , Eutrop , Zosimos , some church historians (including the Arian Philostorgios ) and several Byzantine authors (e.g. Johannes Zonaras , who in some cases referred to sources that are now lost) report on the reign of the Constantius. Likewise, in the speeches of Libanios , Themistius and Julian's there are in part references to events from this period. The depiction of the emperor in church histories is usually not very favorable, since Constantius, as mentioned above, adhered to "Arianism". Overall, the emperor is portrayed rather negatively in the sources (even if not consistently), an assessment that modern research (see above) no longer shares for the most part.

  • Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363) . Routledge, London 1991 (several NDs), ISBN 0-415-10317-7
    (English-translated source excerpts . Of particular importance with regard to the Roman-Persian fighting.)

The Kerch rider's bowl found in the Crimea in 1891 shows the emperor as a triumphant on horseback.


  • Nicholas J. Baker-Brian, Shaun Tougher (Eds.): The Sons of Constantine, AD 337-361. In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian. Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2020.
  • Pedro Barceló : Constantius II and his time. The beginnings of the state church . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-94046-4 .
    (Basic work, as it is the first biography of Constantius II.)
  • Roger C. Blockley : Ammianus Marcellinus on the Persian Invasion of AD 359 . In: Phoenix 42 (1988), pp. 244-260.
  • Steffen Diefenbach : Constantius II. And the “Reichskirche” - a contribution to the relationship between imperial church policy and political integration in the 4th century. In: Millennium 9, 2012, pp. 59–121.
  • Richard Klein : Constantius II and the Christian Church (impulses of research 26). Scientific Book Society , Darmstadt 1977, ISBN 3-534-07542-0 .
  • Hartmut Leppin : Constantius II and paganism . In: Athenaeum 87 (1999), pp. 457-480.
  • Jacques Moreau : Constantius II . In: Yearbook for Antiquity and Christianity . Vol. 2 (1959), pp. 160 ff.
  • Muriel Moser: Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II: Maintaining Imperial Rule between Rome and Constantinople in the Fourth Century AD . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018.
  • Karin Mosig-Walburg: To the battle of Singara . In: Historia 48 (1999), pp. 330-384.
  • David S. Potter: The Roman Empire at Bay. 180-395 . Routledge, London / New York 2004.
  • Klaus Rosen : Julian. Emperor, God and haters of Christians . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-608-94296-3
    (Extensive biography of Julian, in which, however, Constantius II is also discussed.)
  • Otto Seeck : Constantius 4 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume IV, 1, Stuttgart 1900, Sp. 1044-1094.
  • Ernst Stein: History of the late Roman Empire . Vol. 1, Vienna 1928 (French 1959; partly outdated, but extremely factual and source-based representation).
  • Michael Whitby : Images of Constantius . In: Jan W. Drijvers u. a. (Ed.): The late Roman world and its historian. Interpreting Ammianus Marcellinus . Routledge, London 1999, pp. 77-88, ISBN 0-415-20271-X .

Web links

Commons : Constantius II.  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. The inscription VOT / XX (Votis Vicennalibus ie congratulations on the 20th anniversary) in the labarum indicates the 20th anniversary of the Caesars and thus the year of issue 344 (324 + 20).
  2. Cf. Richard Klein , The struggles for the succession after the death of Constantine the Great , in: Richard Klein, Roma versa per aevum. Selected writings on pagan and Christian late antiquity ( Spudasmata 74) , edited by Raban von Haehling and Klaus Scherberich , Hildesheim, Zurich, New York 1999, pp. 1-49, from Constantius.
  3. ↑ On this, for example, Werner Portmann, The political crisis between the emperors Constantius II. And Constans , in: Historia 48, 1999, pp. 301–330.
  4. Zosimos 2.42.
  5. See Joseph Bidez , Kaiser Julian , Hamburg 1956, p. 45.
  6. Basically: Mosig-Walburg, Zur Schlacht bei Singara ; on the identity of the Persian prince see Dies., On speculations about the Sasanian 'heir to the throne Narsê' and his role in the Sasanian-Roman disputes in the second quarter of the 4th century AD , in: Iranica Antiqua 35 (2000), p 111-157. In general on the battles between Romans and Persians in the reign of Constantius II. Dodgeon and Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars , pp. 164ff.
  7. Mark Humphries: The Memory of Mursa. Usurpation, Civil War, and Contested Legitimacy under the Sons of Constantine. In: N. Baker-Brian, S. Tougher (Eds.): The Sons of Constantine, AD 337-361. In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian. New York 2020, pp. 157-183.
  8. ^ For general information on the usurpation of Magnentnius, see John F. Drinkwater, The revolt and ethnic origin of the usurper Magnentius (350–353), and the rebellion of Vetranio (350) , in: Chiron 30 (2000), pp. 131–159. On Vetranio, see Bruno Bleckmann , Constantina, Vetranio and Gallus Caesar , in: Chiron 24 (1994), pp. 29-68. Otto Seeck , Geschichte des Untergang der antiken Welt , Vol. 4, 1920, pp. 92ff, provides a detailed report .
  9. Ammian 21:16, 15.
  10. Cf. on this Bruno Bleckmann, Constantina, Vetranio and Gallus Caesar , in: Chiron 24 (1994), pp. 29–68 and Pedro Barceló : Caesar Gallus and Constantius II., A failed experiment? , in: Acta Classica XLII (1999), pp. 23-34.
  11. Ammian 16:10. See also Richard Klein, Emperor Constantius II's visit to Rome in 357 , in: Richard Klein, Roma versa per aevum. Selected writings on pagan and Christian late antiquity ( Spudasmata 74), edited by Raban von Haehling and Klaus Scherberich, Hildesheim – Zurich – New York 1999, pp. 50–71.
  12. See Shaun Tougher, The Advocacy of an Empress. Julian and Eusebia , in: The Classical Quarterly New Series 48 (1998), pp. 595-599. From the large number of Julian biographies, the current one by Klaus Rosen is recommended: Rosen, Julian. Emperor, God and Christian haters, some of whom Julian rates quite critically.
  13. Ammian 17.5. Translation taken from: Ammianus Marcellinus, Das Römische Weltreich vor dem Untergang. Library of the Old World , translated by Otto Veh, introduced and explained by Gerhard Wirth , Zurich and Munich 1974.
  14. Ammianus was present himself during the fighting and the fall of Amida and only barely escaped. He left us a detailed account of the fighting: Ammian 18.7ff. and 19.1ff. See also John F. Matthews: The Roman Empire of Ammianus . London 1989, p. 57ff.
  15. See among others Klaus Rosen, Observations on Julian's Survey 360-361 AD. , in: Richard Klein (Ed.), Julian Apostata , Darmstadt 1978, pp. 409-447; Joachim Szidat, The Usurpation of Julian. A special case? , in: François Paschoud and Joachim Szidat (eds.), Usurpationen in der Spätantike , Stuttgart 1997, pp. 63–70.
  16. Franz Dünzl: Brief history of the Trinitarian dogma in the old church. Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2006, p. 90; Pedro Barceló: Constantius II and his time. The beginnings of the state church . Stuttgart 2004, p. 84; Stefan Klug: Alexandria and Rome. The history of the relationship between two churches in antiquity . Münster / Westphalia 2014, p. 203.
  17. ^ Wolf-Dieter Hauschild , Volker Henning Drecoll : Textbook of Church and Dogma History. Volume 1. Old Church and Middle Ages . 5th, completely revised new edition. Gütersloh 2016, p. 93.
  18. See Timothy D. Barnes , Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire , Cambridge / Mass. 1993.
  19. Codex Theodosianus 16,10,15
  20. Codex Theodosianus 16,10,6.
  21. On Constantius' religious policy cf. Klein, Constantius II and the Christian Church . For the policy towards the pagans see above all Leppin, Constantius II and the paganism .
  22. See for example Arnold Hugh Martin Jones , The Later Roman Empire , Vol. 1, Baltimore 1986 (ND 1964), pp. 116-118. See also Pedro Barceló, Constantius II and his time . See also the corresponding Plekos review .
  23. Ammian 21:16, 16.
  24. Ammian 21:16, 17. See Timothy D. Barnes, Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality , Ithaca 1998, p. 134.
  25. Ammian 21: 16,1f. For the negative characterization of the emperor cf. Barnes, Ammianus Marcellinus , pp. 132-138, and Whitby, Images of Constantius .
  26. Ammian 17: 12f.
predecessor Office successor
Constantine I. Roman emperor
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