Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Magnentius, Flavius Popilius, emperor
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Magnentius, Flavius Popilius, emperor
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Magnentius, Flavius Popilius, emperor, 350–353. He rose under Constantius to the rank of count; and Constans gave him command of the Jovian and Herculian legions embodied by Diocletian and Maximian I. On Jan. 18, 350, he was proclaimed emperor instead of Constans, then absent on a hunting expedition. Constans fled, but was murdered at Helena or Elve at the foot of the W. Pyrenees. Gaul and all the Western Empire, including Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Africa, submitted to the new emperor. Socrates (H. E. ii. 26) says that the general confusion of affairs now encouraged the enemies of Athanasius to accuse him to Constantius; and Athanasius indignantly disclaims any correspondence or connexion with Magnentius, in the apology to Constantius; some false charge of the kind may have been made (Athan. vol. i. pp. 603 seq. Migne).
On Sept. 28, 351, the battle of Mursa on the Drave was fought, which deprived Magnentius of nearly all his provinces excepting Gaul. His last centre of operations was Lyons, and he fell upon his sword in Aug. 353. His coins, as Tillemont says (Hist. des Emp. iv. p. 354), prove his profession of Christianity; and he employed bishops in his negotiations with Constantius (Athan. op. cit. p. 606). But his usurpation began an unbroken career of crimes, and Athanasius's somewhat pithy summary of him (ib. 603) as τὸν διάβολου Μαγνέντιον is confirmed after their fashion by Zosimus and Julian.