THE TETRARCHS & IMPERIAL CLAIMANTS
Last updated: 3 September 2017
I employ the Imperial name forms
used in the RIC headers by Sutherland throughout this
page. The following depiction includes the alternate
name forms frequently used by collectors, dealers and
authors of historical texts and reference
DIOCLETIAN ........................ (no other names commonly used)
MAXIMIAN HERCULIUS ...... Maximianus, Herculius
CONSTANTIUS .................... Constantius I, Constantius Chlorus
GALERIUS MAXIMIAN ......... Galerius
SEVERUS ............................. Severus II,
MAXIMINUS .......................... Maximinus II, Maximinus Daia, Daza
CONSTANTINE ..................... Constantine I, Constantinus
MAXENTIUS .......................... (no other names commonly used)
LICINIUS ................................ Licinius I, Licinius Licinianus
Note: Caution should be exercised when attributing the coins of Galerius Maximian & Maximian Herculius due to the similarity of their titulature. Galerius Maximian was both Caesar and Augustus during this time period whereas Maximian Herculius was always only Augustus. Therefor, coins bearing the titulature MAXIMIANVS and NOBIL CAES, NOB CAES, NOBIL C, etc.can only be those of Galerius Maximian. There is a special problem with Galerius as Augustus coins: The titulature is exactly the same as that of Maximian Herculius and frequently the only way to differentiate between the two is by the portraiture on the coin obverse.
The First Tetrarchy & London Mint Coinage Exemplars
Diocletian - Caius Aurelius Verus Diocletianus - has come down in history as an astute politician, accomplished administrator and a stalwart leader. Upon assuming the Imperium as Augustus in 284 Diocletian determined to bring an end to the social and political chaos that had pervaded the Roman Empire for over fifty years by instituting several radical reforms. He was the driving force in reorganizing the Imperial Governmental System and reforming the coinage.
In 285 he appointed Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, a close friend and a renowned General like himself, as his Caesar elevating him to co-Augustus a year later. Diocletian subsequently divided the Empire geographically with himself as Augustus of the East and Maximian as Augustus of the West (thereby instituting a Dyarchy).
IMP C DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG ................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG ................ GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
In 293 Diocletian finalized the Institution of a Tetrarchy -- government of the Empire by four interacting rulers -- two Augusti assisted by two subordinate Caesars, which each Augustus would personally select. Diocletian emphasized his status as Senior Augustus by adopting Jovius as his Protector-God and assigning Herculius to Maximian. The two Caesars, chosen because of their proven leadership abilities, assisted the Augusti with civil administration and command of the armies. Caius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (Galerius Maximian) was chosen by Diocletian to be his Caesar of the East and Flavius Valerius Constantius (Constantius) was chosen by Maximian Herculius to be his Caesar of the West. Inasmuch as Constantius was instituted as Caesar at an earlier date than Galerius, he was designated senior in the Imperial hierarchy. The Empire was divided into four geographical areas of governance: Diocletian and Galerius Maximian maintained their eastern headquarters at Nicomedia and Thessalonica respectively, while Maximian Herculius and Constantius maintained their western headquarters at Milan and Trier respectively.
FL VAL CONSTANTIVS NOB C ................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
MAXIMIANVS NOBIL C .......................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
In 303 the two Augusti announced their intention to simultaneously abdicate and retire (Maximian Herculius somewhat reluctently), their titles and authority to be assumed by the Caesars, who in turn would appoint new Caesars thus perpetuating the system. Diocletian fell severely ill in 304 followed by a lengthy recovery. Diocletian and Maximian Herculius did in fact abdicate and retire in 305 to become Seniores Augusti.
Commemorative Abdication coinage -
Seniore Augustus (Senior=retired):
DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSIMO SEN AVG
PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG
DN MAXIMIANO BEATISSIMO SEN AVG
PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG
Coin related information is in red in
Chronology of Events:
* Diocletian institutes the Tetrarchy -- two Augusti assisted by two Caesars selected by them.
* Diocletian adopts Jovius (senior) as his Protector-God.
* Maximian adopts Herculius as his Protector-God.
* Galerius Maximian is selected by Diocletian to be his Caesar of the East.
* Constantius is selected by Maximian Herculius to be his Caesar of the West.
* Constantius, Caesar of the West, invades Britain (April)
* Constantius defeats the Usurper Augustus, Allectus - restores Britain to the Empire.
* The official London Mint is established by Constantius
* Initial folles weight range is 11 to 9 grams which prevails until mid 307.
* Silver content is approx. 4% to 3%.
* Initial production folles are marked LON in the exergue of the coin reverse.
* Subsequent production folles are unmarked.
* Diocletian and Maximian Herculius announce their intention to abdicate and retire.
* Diocletian becomes severely ill followed by a lengthy recovery.
* Joint abdication and retirement of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius on 1 May.
* Obverse legend reflects status of Diocletian & Maximian Herculius as Seniores Augusti.
The Second Tetrarchy & London Mint Coinage Exemplars
In May of 305 Constantius succeeded Maximian Herculius as Augustus of the West and Galerius Maximian succeeded Diocletian as Augustus of the East, as planned. Flavius Valerius Severus (Severus), a close friend of Galerius Maximian, was appointed Caesar of the West by Constantius and Galerius Valerius Maximinus Daia (Maximinus) was appointed Caesar of the East by Galerius Maximian. The second Tetrarchy was thus created.
Constantius died at Eboracum (York) in Britain during a campaign against the warlike tribes of the North on 25 July 306. Before he died, Constantius conferred Imperium on his son, Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine).
RIC VI, Londinium, No. 47, Constantius as Augustus:
IMP CONSTANTIVS PIVS FEL AVG ........... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
RIC VI, Londinium, No. 42, Galerius Maximian as Augustus:
IMP C MAXIMIANVS P F AVG .................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
SEVERVS NOBILISSIMVS CAES .............. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
MAXIMINVS NOBILIS C ....................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
Chronology of Events:305 AD
The Third Tetrarchy & London Mint Coinage Exemplars
Before he died in July of 306, Constantius had
conferred Imperium on his son, Constantine.
Although the army of Constantius wanted to proclaim
Constantine Augustus, Galerius Maximian, the now
de-facto senior Augustus, proclaimed him Caesar of the
West and elevated Severus to Augustus of the West (in
accordance with the rules for succession) thereby
creating the Third Tetrarchy.
On 28 October 306, the Citizens of Rome revolted against oppressive taxation and petitioned Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius (Maxentius), son of retired Augustus Maximian Herculius, to assume Imperium. This he did, initially adopting the appellation of Princeps. The army at Rome subsequently proclaimed him Augustus and Maxentius persuaded Maximian Herculius to come out of retirement in order to serve as his "colleague Augustus". Galerius Maximian, the de-facto Augustus, rejected these actions as illegal and instructed Severus (because Rome was in his sphere of authority) to engage Maxentius and depose him.
Early in 307 Severus commanded an army that marched south into Italy to engage Maxentius as instructed by Galerius Maximian. Severus was not well served by this army that maintained loyalties to its previous commander, Maximian Herculius, and indeed many soldiers deserted Severus. The forces of Maxentius quickly defeated those of Severus who was captured and subsequently executed in Rome. Later Galerius Maximian himself led an army against Maxentius but he was no more successful than Severus had been and eventually withdrew leaving Maxentius in control of most of Italy, North Africa and Spain. In April Maximian Herculius travelled to Gaul seeking an alliance with Constantine. The alliance was duly consummated and cemented when Constantine married the daughter of Maximian Herculius, Fausta Flavia Maxima (Fausta). Constantine assumed the title and powers of Augustus later in the year (not recognized by Galerius Maximian) after affirmation by Maximian Herculius and the Diocletian Tetrarchic System of Government by two Augusti and two Caesars selected by them effectively came to an end.
The following coin issue depicts Constantine as Caesar after being recognized by Galerius Maximian in 306.
RIC VI, Londinium, No. 89b, Constantine as Caesar
FL VAL CONSTANTINIVS NOB C ................... GENIO POP ROM (PLN)
Unreduced -- 9.3g
Constantine as Caesar -- draped laureate bust, Genius with head towered and loins draped.
The following coin was issued shortly after Maximian Herculius married his daughter, Fausta, to Constantine in 307, the obverse titulature reflecting his status as Senior Augustus emerged from retirement.RIC VI, Londinium, No. 90, Maximian Herculius as Augustus (Senior):
DN MAXIMIANO PFS AVG ....................... GENIO POP ROM (PLN)
Chronology of Events:306 AD
End of the Tetrarchy, Imperial Claimants & London Mint Coinage Exemplars
In the spring of 308 Maximian Herculius had a falling out with his son, Maxentius, and left to join his now son-in-law, Constantine, in Gaul. In the autumn of 308 Galerius Maximian organized and convened a conference at Carnuntum consisting of himself, Diocletian and Maximian Herculius to discuss and resolve the "Augusti problem". Diocletian was but a shadow of his former self, both mentally anf physically, due to the severe illness that befell him in 304 and consequently Galerius Maximian "ran the show" -- he was now the dominant force in the Tetrarchy. Galerius Maximian did not recognize either Constantine or Maxentius as Augustus, proposing instead that his old friend and comrade, Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius (Licinius) be appointed Augustus of the West to replace the deceased Severus and he obtained the concurrence of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius in this maneuver. Maxentius was declared an enemy of the state by the conferees and Maximian Herculius once more went into retirement. Galerius Maximian proposed that Constantine be recognized as Caesar, although Constantine did not acquiesce.
Constantine was incensed at his proposed "demotion" to
Caesar subservient to Licinius as was Maximinus at the
elevation of Licinius to Augustus, and so Galerius
Maximian designated both of them Filius
Augustorum: "son of the Augustus" -- a somewhat
empty title of convenience and compromise -- in an
attempt to mollify them.
There now followed a struggle between the Imperial Claimants: Maximian Herculius, who had again emerged from retirement as a self-proclaimed Augustus, and evidently with intentions to usurp Constantine, was defeated in battle by Constantine in 309 and committed suicide in 310. Maximinus was proclaimed Augustus by the troops of his army in the same year.
Galerius Maximian, the last surviving original Tetrarch, was afflicted with a fatal urinary/reproductive tract disease in 308 and died a painful death on 5 May 311.
Maximinus and Maxentius formed a Military Compact early in 312 but Maxentius was defeated and killed by the forces of Constantine during a famous battle at Milvian bridge outside Rome later that year. The forces of Maximinus were defeated by those of Licinius in 313, Maximinus committing suicide later that year. Constantine and Licinius were subsquently proclaimed co-Augusti, bringing down the curtain on this Historical Period.
The following coin depicts Maximinus after assuming the title of Augustus in 310.RIC VI, Londinium, No. 209b, Maximinus as Augustus:
IMP MAXIMINVS PF AVG .............................. GENIO POP ROM
The following coin depicts Constantine after adopting SOL, the invincible Sun God, as his protector in 310.RIC VI, Londinium, No. 234, Constantine as Augustus:
CONSTANTINVS PF AVG .............................. SOLI INVICTO COMITI
IMP LICINIVS PF AVG .............................. GENIO POP ROM
Chronology of Events:
Research and Reference resources: