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Coin portrait of Licinius

Licinius (full name Licinianus Licinius , as the adopted son of Diocletian Valerius Licinianus Licinius ; * around 265, † 325 ) was Roman emperor from 308 to 324 .

Licinius was said to be of peasant origin, his family came from Dacia . He was born around 265 and served as an officer in the Roman army. He accompanied his friend, Caesar Galerius , on his campaign against the Sassanid Empire . The campaign was successful, the Sassanids had to cede several provinces east of the Tigris to the Romans in 298 in the Peace of Nisibis . After campaigns by the Western Emperor Severus and Galerius, who had meanwhile advanced to senior Augustus , against the usurper Maxentius , Licinius went to Rome as an ambassador in 307 , where Maxentius resided. He too failed, however, because Maxentius did not want to bow to the authority of Galerius.

After the death of Severus, who had been captured by Maxentius, Licinius was appointed Augustus of the West at the Imperial Conference of Carnuntum in November 308 and was entrusted with the rule over Thrace , Illyria and Pannonia . He gave up the fight against Maxentius and instead turned against the Sarmatians , whom he defeated before 310. After the death of Galerius in May 311, Licinius initially shared the eastern half of the empire with Maximinus Daia . The Balkans and the Danube provinces were administered by Licinius himself, the areas east of the Hellespont and the Bosporus ( Asia Minor , Syria , Egypt ) fell to Maximinus Daia.

In March 313 Licinius married Constantia , a half-sister of Constantine the Great , in Mediolanum ( Milan ) , with whom he entered into a strategic alliance. In Milan, both emperors also signed the so-called Milan Agreement (often incorrectly referred to as the Edict of Tolerance ). In this way, Christians, like all other religions throughout the empire, were guaranteed freedom of worship. On April 30, he defeated his co-emperor and rival Maximinus Daia at Herakleia Pontike and thus brought the entire east of the empire under his control. In the west, his brother-in-law Constantine, who had defeated his rival Maxentius at the end of 312, ruled.

Constantine and Licinius fell out when Constantine wanted to appoint his brother-in-law Bassianus arbitrarily as co-ruler over Italy and in this context raised claims to areas ruled by Licinius, into which he had his troops marched. When his activities became known, a civil war broke out in which Licinius was badly beaten twice - on the one hand at Cibalae in Pannonia on October 8, 314 or 316, on the other hand on the plain of Mardia in Thrace. Since Licinius nevertheless managed to put himself in a favorable position of defense, Constantine, whose army had also suffered heavy losses, first had to enter into negotiations. The peace treaty in the following December left Licinius Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, but he had to surrender all European territories to Constantine except Thrace.

Gold multiple of Licinius with his son

In 324, Constantine declared war on him again, this time because of his colleague's "advanced age and unpopular customs". He defeated Licinius' army on July 3 at Adrianople , whereupon the latter had to withdraw to Byzantion . The defeat of his fleet against Crispus , Constantine's eldest son, led to his retreat to Bithynia . In the decisive battle of Chrysopolis on September 18, 324 Licinius, who shortly before had named Martinianus as his co-emperor ( Augustus ), was finally defeated. Licinius and his son , who had held the title of Caesar since 317, were interned in Thessaloniki . Constantine took an oath to protect her, but he did not keep this oath for long: Licinius was executed the following year on the basis of an alleged treasonous correspondence with barbarian peoples; his son died a little later.

In the sources from Constantine times, Licinius is of course portrayed rather negatively. In Lactantius , who wrote his work before the final battle with Constantine, Licinius is represented quite positively. He initially pursued a tolerant religious policy; When it came to a conflict with Constantine later and apparently many bishops took his side, Licinius took at least partially tough measures, although the pro-Constantine sources (especially Eusebius of Caesarea in the Vita Constantini ) undoubtedly contain exaggerated descriptions Find. Modern research has doubts that Licinius was really a persecutor of Christians. The conflict with Constantine was primarily due to political power - while Licinius was still committed to the tradition of multiple empire, Constantine strove for sole rule in the empire.


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  1. ^ The Epitome de Caesaribus , 41.8, reports that Licinius was about 60 years old at the time of his death (325); he must therefore have been born around 265. Seeck, for example, in: RE , Vol. XIII, 1, Col. 222, who is described from a remark in Eusebius , Historia ecclesiastica 10,8,13, in which Licinius is in the “old age”, changes to a date of birth 250 closes.
  2. Cf. for example Bruno Bleckmann : Konstantin der Große . 2nd edition, Reinbek 2003, pp. 79ff.
predecessor Office successor
Severus and Galerius Roman emperor
Constantine I.