1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Constantine (Flavius Claudius Constantinus)

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CONSTANTINE [Flavius Claudius Constantinus], usurper in Britain, Gaul and Spain (A.D. 407–410) during the reign of Honorius, was a common soldier, invested with the purple by his comrades in Britain by reason of his alleged descent from Constantine the Great. He at once crossed over to Bononia (Boulogne), and with the support of the Gallic troops soon made himself master of the country as far as the Alps and Pyrenees, and established his capital at Arelate (Arles). In Spain two kinsmen of Honorius, who offered considerable resistance, were finally defeated by Constans, the son of Constantine. The downfall of Stilicho caused an alteration in the policy of Honorius, who, hard pressed by the barbarians, pardoned Constantine, recognized him as joint ruler, and permitted him to confer the title of Caesar upon Constans. This gave Constantine his opportunity. With a large army he marched into Italy, avowedly to assist Honorius, in reality with the intention of making himself ruler of the West. But his plans were upset by the revolt of Gerontius. This capable general, who had been appointed commander in Spain during the absence of Constans on a visit to his father, indignant at being superseded, set up one of his own adherents as emperor, invaded Gaul, and put Constans to death at Vienna (Vienne). He then besieged Constantine himself in Arelate, but the advance of an Italian army under Constantius and Ulfilas forced him to retire. The generals of Honorius themselves continued the siege and completely defeated a body of German troops on their way to assist Constantine. The latter, seeing that further resistance was useless, took refuge in a church, laid down the imperial insignia, took orders as a priest, and surrendered the city on condition that his life should be spared. He and his younger son Julian were sent to Honorius, by whose orders they were put to death on the way to Ravenna. The revolt of Constantine materially influenced the subsequent history of Britain, since the virtual abandonment by Honorius of any claim to sovereignty over it cleared the Way for the Saxon conquest of the island.

See Zosimus v. ad fin. and vi.; Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, ix. II foll.; Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, ed. J. B. Bury, pp. 272, 340, 502; E. A. Freeman, “Tyrants of Britain, Gaul and Spain” in English Historical Review, i. (1886); O. Seeck in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie, iv. pt. 1 (1900).