Magnus Maximus

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Solidus of Magnus Maximus.

Flavius ​​Magnus Maximus (* around 335 ; † August 28, 388 ) was emperor in the west of the Roman Empire from 383 until his death as a usurper .



Born in Hispania , served under Maximus Flavius Theodosius , the father of Theodosius I . A related relationship to Theodosius is unlikely, since Maximus was of lesser origin. Maximus was proclaimed emperor by his troops in the spring of 383 while commanding the Roman army in Britain . The reason for the rebellion was allegedly, among other things, the increasing annoyance of the military over the West Emperor Gratian , who had favored more and more Alan troops. The decisive factor, however, must have been that the Roman troops on the island, which were involved in constant, loss-making small wars with Picts, Scots and Irish, felt abandoned by the distant Gratian. It was typical of the Roman army that a fighting force always had a great desire to be “close to the emperor”. Since Gratian was not within reach, the British legions raised their leader Maximus. It is possible that the influential Germanic master Merobaudes defected to Maximus shortly afterwards .

Magnus Maximus as emperor

Siliqua of Magnus Maximus, on the reverse the deity Roma

Maximus first turned to Gaul . Gratian went against him, but his army ran over to Maximus near Paris , whereupon Gratian fled to Lyon , where he was slain on August 25, 383 . In 384 Maximus, along with Gratian's half-brother Valentinian II, was recognized by the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I as the second Augustus of the West and was henceforth responsible for the transalpine provinces, i.e. Britain, Gaul, Germania and Spain. He raised his son Flavius ​​Victor to Caesar . His ally Gildo ruled Africa .

Maximus took up his residence in Augusta Treverorum ( Trier ). He became a very popular emperor in Gaul, whose memory was held in high honor decades later by men like Sidonius Apollinaris . At the same time, however, he was also a tough persecutor of all heresy , such as the gnostically influenced ascetic movement of Priscillian in Spain and southern France. Through the execution of Priscillian - the first Christian who was killed by the now Christian Roman state for religious reasons - and the persecution of his followers, he brought himself into opposition to Ambrose of Milan . Maximus was able to secure the threatened Rhine border.

Defeat and death

During 386, tensions between Maximus and his fellow rulers grew. In 387 he finally moved across the Alps to Milan to add Italy and the Illyricum to his sphere of influence. To protect the Rhine border he left troops under General Nanninus , whose care he also entrusted to Victor, who was now elevated to Augustus . However, the Germanic tribes took advantage of the absence of larger troop formations. In 388, Nanninus had to repel heavy Frankish raids (see Marcomer ).

Against Valentinian II, however, Maximus was successful. Valentinian finally fled to his brother-in-law Theodosius I , who had been preparing for a campaign against Maximus for a long time. Theodosius defeated Maximus in two battles in the summer of 388 (near Siscia, now Sisak , and Poetovio , now Ptuj ). A little later Maximus was executed. Flavius ​​Victor was murdered shortly afterwards in Gaul, and Theodosius reinstated Valentinian II as emperor of the west.

Magnus Maximus in Welsh Legends

In the short story Breuddwyd Macsen ("Macsen's dream") Magnus Maximus is called "Macsen Wledig" (from Welsh "Gwlad": country, nation, so about "landowner"), married to Elen Luyddawg , the daughter of King Eudaf Hen from the Area around Segontium , today's Caernarvon . The story of Macsen Wledig and Helen is certainly unhistorical. It is also alleged that Magnus Maximus was responsible for the withdrawal of Roman troops from Wales twenty years before the rest of Britain was left to its own devices.

The fact is that Maximus' campaign in Gaul resulted in a large part of the Roman troops leaving the island to take part in the civil war against Theodosius; but since around 390 new units were relocated to Britain, which in 398 also carried out an offensive in the region of Hadrian's Wall , the task of the province cannot be safely combined with the usurpation of Maximus.

See also


See also the literature in the article Theodosius I.

Web links

Commons : Magnus Maximus  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Gratian Roman emperor
Valentinian II.