Favourite Emperor of the Fourth Century (306-395)

Who are your favourite emperors from the years AD 306-395 (up to two choices)?

  • Constantine I

    Votes: 7 58.3%
  • Maxentius

    Votes: 1 8.3%
  • Licinius

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Maximinus II Daza

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Constantine II

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Constantius II

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Constans I

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Magnentius

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Vetranio

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Constantius Gallus

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Julian

    Votes: 5 41.7%
  • Jovian

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Valentinian I

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Valens

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Procopius

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Gratian

    Votes: 1 8.3%
  • Valentinian II

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Magnus Maximus

    Votes: 1 8.3%
  • Theodosius I

    Votes: 2 16.7%
  • Eugenius

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    12
#1
As with the previous three polls, you can choose an emperor because you admire them, because you find them interesting or for entertainment value.

You can choose up to two emperors.

I had to leave some emperors off the list due to the 20-option limit, but if someone wants to announce a vote for, say, Severus II, Domitius Alexander, Crispus or Nepotian, you can do so in the comments.
 
#2
I have voted for Constantine and Maxentius.

I appreciate the rulers who were very hands-on and made major changes to how the empire was run and functioned, thus my votes for Augustus and Diocletian in the previous polls. Constantine was very much of the same ilk.

As for Maxentius, he and his advisers were clearly very politically savvy, and I appreciate that. Maxentius (like Constantine) was the son of a Tetrarch who had not been allowed to succeed to the purple. Taking matters into his own hands, he used discontent in the city of Rome herself to seize power. The people of Rome and the senate were upset with the fact that the Tetrarchs had been mostly absent from the city, and they resented that Diocletian and Galerius had removed their tax privileges. Moreover, Diocletian and then Galerius were gradually disbanding and disbursing the praetorians, much to their chagrin. Maxentius used these discontented parties to take power in Rome, and he ended the persecution in Italy and Africa to gain Christian support as well. Maxentius' coins and building program then advertised him as the one true Roman emperor, the 'Preserver of His Own City' (Conservator Urbis Suae), in a world of Tetrarchs born on the empire's periphery and ruling from the provinces, especially using such claims after he lost the support of his father Maximian (whom he had brought out of retirement). Moreover, he survived two different military expeditions against himself and the city of Rome, the first by Severus II and the second by Galerius. The second by Galerius is especially impressive since Maxentius wasn't accompanied by his militarily-experienced father, and Galerius himself was the man who had avenged the Romans upon the Persians after the embarrassments of the mid-third century, a truly intimidating figure with the military mettle to match. As it happened, Maxentius used the walls of Rome, the propaganda value of representing Rome as well as bribery to defeat the invader. He then defeated his own father's attempt to oust him from power, all the more spectacular since his father had been emperor for more than twenty years. As Lactantius relates (On the Deaths of the Persecutors 28):

"After the flight of Galerius, Maximian, having returned from Gaul, held authority in common with his son; but more obedience was yielded to the young man than to the old: for Maxentius had most power, and had been longest in possession of it; and it was to him that Maximian owed on this occasion the imperial dignity. The old man was impatient at being denied the exercise of uncontrolled sovereignty, and envied his son with a childish spirit of rivalry; and therefore he began to consider how he might expel Maxentius and resume his ancient dominion. This appeared easy, because the soldiers who deserted Severus had originally served in his own army. He called an assembly of the people of Rome, and of the soldiers, as if he had been to make an harangue on the calamitous situation of public affairs. After having spoken much on that subject, he stretched his hands towards his son, charged him as author of all ills and prime cause of the calamities of the state, and then tore the purple from his shoulders. Maxentius, thus stripped, leaped headlong from the tribunal, and was received into the arms of the soldiers. Their rage and clamour confounded the unnatural old man, and, like another Tarquin the Proud, he was driven from Rome."

Unfortunately, when we think of Maxentius we tend to think of him as the man who lost to Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, a man who was framed as a tyrant by the victor. But a look at the Basilica of Maxentius, his Via Appia complex and his epic restorations to Hadrian's Temple of Venus and Roma provides modern testimony to the clever the game that this man was playing.
 
Sep 2013
604
Ontario, Canada
#4
Constantine I is an interesting figure to me, as much for becoming the sole ruler of a reunified Roman Empire as for advocating the spread of Christianity despite being himself pagan. Declared Emperor by his dying father's legions at York, he was a very able general and won many victories against a wide variety of foes, Roman rivals (Maxentius and Licinius) and barbarians (Franks, Alamanni, Goths, Sarmatians). Once he had control, he ruled well. He did crucial military (more mobile troops called comitatenses with border garrison called limitaei), economic (solidus), administrative (bureaucracy) and legal reforms (consistorium), stabilizing the social situation by declaring tolerance for Christianity with the Edict of Milan and then confirming the Nicene Creed. In particular his construction of Constantinople made possible the survival of the Eastern Empire for another millennium.

Theodosius I was the other Emperor I selected. The start of his reign was fraught with challenges, Adrianople had made most of the Eastern Army evaporate, but he was able to come to terms with a powerful enemy in the Goths. The treaties allowed him to rebuild the Roman Army and stabilize the situation, preventing further barbarian invasions with the help of his new allies. Although in doing so he sowed the seeds of the collapse of the West as Germanic chiefs would eventually rise through the Roman army ranks and administration to wield enormous power and influence in the 5th century. Also, the Empire was gripped with religious conflict at the time of his ascension, and he worked hard to promote unity of faith, ultimately closing the pagan temples and ending the Olympic Games. His final military victory (over Eugenius) made him the last Roman ruler who had complete control over the whole Empire, but unfortunately he died young, not even 50, and his successors proved not capable.
 
#5
Constantine I is an interesting figure to me, as much for becoming the sole ruler of a reunified Roman Empire as for advocating the spread of Christianity despite being himself pagan. Declared Emperor by his dying father's legions at York, he was a very able general and won many victories against a wide variety of foes, Roman rivals (Maxentius and Licinius) and barbarians (Franks, Alamanni, Goths, Sarmatians). Once he had control, he ruled well. He did crucial military (more mobile troops called comitatenses with border garrison called limitaei), economic (solidus), administrative (bureaucracy) and legal reforms (consistorium), stabilizing the social situation by declaring tolerance for Christianity with the Edict of Milan and then confirming the Nicene Creed. In particular his construction of Constantinople made possible the survival of the Eastern Empire for another millennium.

Theodosius I was the other Emperor I selected. The start of his reign was fraught with challenges, Adrianople had made most of the Eastern Army evaporate, but he was able to come to terms with a powerful enemy in the Goths. The treaties allowed him to rebuild the Roman Army and stabilize the situation, preventing further barbarian invasions with the help of his new allies. Although in doing so he sowed the seeds of the collapse of the West as Germanic chiefs would eventually rise through the Roman army ranks and administration to wield enormous power and influence in the 5th century. Also, the Empire was gripped with religious conflict at the time of his ascension, and he worked hard to promote unity of faith, ultimately closing the pagan temples and ending the Olympic Games. His final military victory (over Eugenius) made him the last Roman ruler who had complete control over the whole Empire, but unfortunately he died young, not even 50, and his successors proved not capable.
I am more inclined to view Constantine as someone who engaged in both paganism and Christianity as personal religions, which makes sense from the perspective of traditional Roman religion, since ancient polytheistic religions were syncretistic. For instance, Jupiter was Zeus and Baal, and Juno was Hera, Tanit and Amun-Re. Thus, Constantine appears to have identified the Christian God with Sol Invictus. By double-dipping, Constantine also made himself relatively palatable to both Christians and pagans. In any case, I like your choices.
 
May 2011
2,793
Rural Australia
#7
I think Constantine is over-rated. I voted for Julian and was pleasantly surprised to see he's polled at 50% score. Julian knew how to satirise Constantine and Jesus. His writings were censored, burnt or mutilated by the later Christian regime. Cyril writes that he is compelled to refute "the lies of Julian" and goes about the business in many books.

      • but none as went far as Julian,
        who damaged the prestige of the Empire
        by refusing to recognize Christ,
        dispenser of royalty and power.

        he composed three books against the holy gospels
        and against the very pure Christian religion,
        he used them to shake many spirits
        and to cause them uncommon wrongs.
 
#8
I think Constantine is over-rated. I voted for Julian and was pleasantly surprised to see he's polled at 50% score. Julian knew how to satirise Constantine and Jesus. His writings were censored, burnt or mutilated by the later Christian regime. Cyril writes that he is compelled to refute "the lies of Julian" and goes about the business in many books.

      • but none as went far as Julian,
        who damaged the prestige of the Empire
        by refusing to recognize Christ,
        dispenser of royalty and power.

        he composed three books against the holy gospels
        and against the very pure Christian religion,
        he used them to shake many spirits
        and to cause them uncommon wrongs.
I suspected this poll might become a competition between Constantine and Julian :) It's a shame some of his writings were censored. I love his satire of Constantine and Jesus at the end of The Caesars (336): 'As for Constantinus, he could not discover among the gods the model of his own career, but when he caught sight of Pleasure, who was not far off, he ran to her. She received him tenderly and embraced him, then after dressing him in raiment of many colours and otherwise making him beautiful, she led him away to Incontinence. There too he found Jesus, who had taken up his abode with her and cried aloud to all comers: "He that is a seducer, he that is a murderer, he that is sacrilegious and infamous, let him approach without fear! For with this water will I wash him and will straightway make him clean. And though he should be guilty of those same sins a second time, let him but smite his breast and beat his head and I will make him clean again." To him Constantinus came gladly, when he had conducted his sons forth from the assembly of the gods. But the avenging deities none the less punished both him and them for their impiety, and extracted the penalty for the shedding of the blood of their kindred, until Zeus granted them a respite for the sake of Claudius (Gothicus) and Constantius (I).'
 
Feb 2011
979
Scotland
#9
Tricky one- not a huge Constantine and family fan, but Gratian for being a fairly sensible and unlucky young chap who might have brought about a win at Adrianople if Valens had waited, and Magnus Maximus for having British connections (I nearly said Magnussen- no doubt Ill be challenged to provide full historical sources or be accused of supplying fake news). There's also Eugenius for being academic with an appropriate and slightly funny name.
 
#10
Tricky one- not a huge Constantine and family fan, but Gratian for being a fairly sensible and unlucky young chap who might have brought about a win at Adrianople if Valens had waited, and Magnus Maximus for having British connections (I nearly said Magnussen- no doubt Ill be challenged to provide full historical sources or be accused of supplying fake news). There's also Eugenius for being academic with an appropriate and slightly funny name.
The most British of the emperors was arguably Carausius - feel free to vote for him in the Crisis/Tetrarchic poll :) (now that I think about it, you may well be the one person who has so far voted for Carausius in that poll, although he does have his British fans). I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it, but Gratian is certainly interesting from the 'what if' of what if he was present at Adrianople.
 

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