MAXENTIUS (M. Aurelius Valerius Maxientius)
- Maxentius was probably born in Syria c. 293, son of the emperor Maximian and Eutropia.
- On 1st March 293, Diocletian adopted Galerius as son and Caesar, while Maximian did the same for his praetorian commander Julius Constantius.
- By 304, Diocletian was in poor health and decided to abdicate. He persuaded Maximian to do so as well, and on 1st May 305, they did so. Constantius and Galerius became the new senior emperors, while Maximinus Daia and Severus took their places as Caesars.
- When Constantius died at York on 25th July 306, his army proclaimed his son, Constantine, "Augustus", and senior emperor in the west in succession to his father. When Galerius heard this, he sent back a purple robe as recognition of Constantine as Caesar, not Augustus. He promoted Severus the rank of Augustus instead.
- Maxentius was disappointed in being passed over. When Galerius decided to extend taxation to Italy and Rome, which had previously been exempt, Maxentius saw his chance and proclaimed himself emperor at Rome on 28th October 306.
- Maxentius hoped for the co-operation of Galerius, but when it was not forthcoming, he declared himself Augustus (April 307) claiming control over most of Italy, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, and North Africa.
- He also called upon his father, Maximian to assume the rank of emperor for a second time.
- Severus was instructed by Galerius to crush Maxentius, who had too few troops to risk a decisive battle.
- Severus arrived before the walls of Rome but there his army deserted him, bribed by Maxentius. Severus fled to Ravenna but was captured, forced to abdicate, and killed, at Tres Tabernae near Rome on 16th September 307.
- Galerius himself now invaded Italy but had no success.
- Constantine married Fausta, Maxentius's sister, forming an alliance between them.
- In April 306 Maximianus tried to usurp his son's position, but when he failed, he fled to seek refuge with Constantine in Gaul.
- Diocletian was briefly brought out of retirement in November 308 for an imperial conference at Carnuntum near Vienna. The result was a new tetrarchy. Licinius, another Illyrian army officer and friend of Galerius, was appointed Augustus in the west, in place of Severus. Constantine and Maximinus were given the title of filius Augusti, Maxentius was declared a public enemy and Maximian, whom Maxentius had created co-ruler, was forced to resign. Under pressure from Constantine and Maximinus, Galerius promoted them to full Augustii, early in 309.
- Licinius was now challenging Maxentius for Italy and North Africa.
- For two years Maximian resided at Constantine's court, but in 310, while Constantine was campaigning against the Franks, Maximian went to Arles, where he proclaimed himself emperor for the third time, announcing that Constantine was dead. Constantine caught up with him and he fled to Marseilles. The inhabitants of Marseilles rejected him and opened the city gates. Maximian was captured and allegedly hanged himself.
- On 30th April 311, Galerius died.
- Licinius was now also fighting Maximinus Daia for control of the east.
- Constantine now turned on his erstwhile ally, and in 312 defeated Maxentius's forces at Turin and Verona.
- In 312, on the eve of the final battle against Maxentius, Constantine is supposed to have dreamed that Christ appeared to him and told him to inscribe the first two letters of his name (XP in Greek) on the shields of his troops. The next day he is said to have seen a cross superimposed on the sun and the words "hoc signo vinces" (see coin), "by this sign you shall conque".
- The armies met near the Milvian Bridge, to the west of Rome, 28th October 312, and Constantine's army, carrying the Christian sign, won a decisive victory. As Maxentius's troops fled back across the Milvian Bridge into Rome, it gave way beneath them and Maxentius drowned.