THE TETRARCHS & IMPERIAL CLAIMANTS
Last updated: 19 July 2017
The First Tetrarchy
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 and Maximian Herculius did in fact abdicate and retire in 305 to become Seniores Augusti.
Abdication coinage - Seniore Augustus
DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSIMO SEN AVG
PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG
Chronology of Events:293 AD
The Second Tetrarchy
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) 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).
SEVERVS NOBILISSIMVS CAES .............. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
MAXIMINVS NOBILIS C ....................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
Chronology of Events:305 AD
The Third Tetrarchy
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 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, Maximian Herculius, No. 90
DN MAXIMIANO PFS AVG .................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
The following coin issue depicts Constantine as Caesar just prior to assuming the title and powers of Augustus in 307.RIC VI, Londinium, Constantine, No. 88b
FL VAL CONSTANTINIVS NOB C ............ GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
Chronology of Events:306 AD
Dissolution of the Tetrarchy: Imperial claimants
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 Hrculius to discuss and resolve the "Augusti problem". 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 and 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. 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, Maximinus, No. 209b
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, Constantine, No. 234
CONSTANTINVS PF AVG .............................. SOLI INVICTO COMITI
IMP LICINIVS PF AVG .............................. GENIO POP ROM
Chronology of Events:
Link to the Roman Imperial Coinage Directory