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Constantia (Wife of Licinius)

Hans A. Pohlsander

SUNY Albany

Coin with the

image of Constantia.

The emperor Constantius (Chlorus) I and his wife Theodora had six children: Flavius Dalmatius, Julius Constantius, Hannibalianus, Constantia, Anastasia, and Eutropia[[1]]. Constantia's full name was Flavia Julia Constantia. The date of her birth is not known; even the relative ages of the six siblings are unknown, so that any list is rather arbitrary in order. If one accepts 293 as the year of her parents' marriage --- that date, however, has been called in question [[2]] -- then one may assume that she was born at the very earliest in the following year. Nor is there direct evidence for her place of birth. But a good case can be made for Trier, since this city served as Constantius' principal residence during the years 293-306 [[3]], and here, too, she must have spent her childhood years.

Late in 311 or early in 312 Constantine I, Constantia's half-brother, betrothed her to his fellow-emperor Licinius[[4]]. She was then eighteen years old at most, while Licinius was more than twice her age[[5]]. The marriage took place some months later, probably in February of 313, on the occasion of Constantine's meeting with Licinius in Milan[[6]]. But the relationship between the two emperors was a strained one, and open hostilities, the bellum Cibalense, erupted in 316[[7]]. Constantia remained at her husband's side. In about July of 315 she bore him a son named Valerius Licinianus Licinius[[8]].

A second war between Constantine and Licinius took place in 324. Licinius. was defeated twice, on July 3 at Adrianople and on September 18 at Chrysopolis, and soon thereafter surrendered to Constantine. Constantia interceded with her half- brother for the life of her husband, and Constantine spared Licinius' life, ordering him to reside at Thessalonike as a private citizen[[9]]. A few months later, in the spring of 325, Constantine ordered Licinius to be executed, violating an oath which he had sworn to Constantia[[10]]. A year or so later, in 326, the younger Licinius also fell victim to Constantine's wrath or suspicions[[11]].

The loss of both husband and son must have been a severe blow to Constantia and must have strained her relationship to Constantine. Nevertheless she occupied a position of honor and influence at Constantine's court, held the rank of nobilissima femina[[12]], and received Constantine's loving attention[[13]]; Constantine was at her side when she died ca, 330[[14]], before reaching the age of forty. We do not know when, where, or how Constantia first embraced Christianity. We do know that Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia from ca. 317 on, wielded considerable influence at court. On one occasion Constantia exchanged letters with the other Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea[[15]]. Jerome, Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, while not in full agreement on some of the details, all report that she was a defender of the person and doctrine of Arius[[16]]. She also attended the Council of Nicaea, where she counseled the representatives of the Arian party[[17]].


Barnes, T.D. Constantine and Eusebius. Cambridge, 1981.

________. New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Cambridge, 1982.

Bruun, P. Roman Imperial Coinage 7: Constantine and Licinius A.D. 313-337. London, 1966.

Carson, R. A. G. Late Roman Bronze Coinage, A.D. 324-498. London, 1967.

Alexander Demandt. Die Spätantike: Römische Geschichte von Diocletian bis Justinian, 284-565 n. Chr. Munich, 1989.

Heinen, Heinz. Trier und das Trevererland in römischer Zeit. Trier, 1985.

________. Frühchristliches Trier. Trier, 1996.

Pohlsander, Hans A. "Constantia." Ancient Society 24 (1993): 151-67.

Seeck, O. "Anastasia(1)." RE 1.2: col. 2065.

________. "Basilina." RE 3.1: col. 98ff.

________. "Constantia (13)." RE 4.1: col. 958.

________."Eutropia (2)." RE 6.1: col. 1519ff.

________."Delmatius (2)." RE 4.2: col. 2455ff.

________."Hannibalianus (2)." RE 7.2: col. 2352.

________."Iulius Constantius (3)." RE 4.1: col. 1043ff.

Thümmel, Hans-Georg. "Eusebios' Brief an Kaiserin Constantia." Klio 66 (1984): 210-22.

Wightman, Edith Mary. Gallia Belgica. Berkeley, 1985.


[[1]] Eutropius 9.22.1; Euseb.-Hieron. Chron., Olymp. 267; Anonymus Valesianus, 1.1; Otto Seeck in RE I.2 (1894) 2065; IV.1 (1900) 958 and 1043-44; IV.2 (1901) 2455-56; VI.1 (1907) 1519; and VI I.2 (1912) 2352; PLRE I 58, 221, 226, 240-41, 316, and 407; Timothy D. Barnes, The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine, (Cambridge, MA, 1982), 37.

[[2]]Eutropius 9.22.1, Euseb.-Hieron., Chron., Olymp.267, Aurelius Victor, Caes.,39.25, and the Anonymus Valesianus 1.1 all imply that the marriage took place in 293 as a precondition of Constantius' advancement to the rank of Caesar. That the marriage had taken place already some years earlier is based on a questionable interpretation of a passage in a panegyric datable to 289: Pan. Lat. 10.11.4 (edd. Baehrens, Mynors) or 2.11.4 (ed. Galletier).

[[3]] Barnes, Empire, 60-61; Edith Mary Wightman, Gallia Belgica, (Berkeley 1985) 234-35; Heinz Heinen, Trier und das Trevererland in römischer Zeit, (2000 Jahre Trier I. Trier 1985), 220; Alexander Demandt, Die Spätantike: Römische Geschichte von Diocletian bis Justinian, 284-565 n. Chr., (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschatt, III.6, Munich 1989) 49; and Heinz Heinen, Frühchristliches Trier, (Trier 1996) 36 and 42.

[[4]] Lactantius, De Mort. Persec. 43.2; Zosimus 2.17, 2; Timothy D. Barnes,Constantine and Eusebius, (Cambridge, MA, 1981) 41 and 62; and Demandt, op. cit., 66.

[[5]] Licinius was probably born ca. 265; see PLRE I 509 and Barnes, Empire,43.

[[6]]Seeck in RE IV.1 (1900) 958; PLRE I 221 and 509; Barnes, Empire, 44 and 81.

[[7]] For this date, rather than the conventional date of 314, see Hans A. Pohlsander, "The Date of the Bellum Cibalense: A Re-examination," AncW. 26 (1995) 89-101.

[[8]]The approximate date of birth must be deduced from another date: on 1 March 317 this child, at the tender age of twenty months, was appointed Caesar: Aurelius Victor, Epit., 41.4; Zosimus 2.20.2; PLRE I 510. This son must not be confused with another son born to Licinius by a slave woman.

[[9]]Aurelius Victor, Epit. 41.7; Anonymus Valesianus, 5.28; Demandt, op. cit., 70.

[[10]]Eutropius 10.6.1; Euseb.-Hieron., Chron., Olymp. 275; Zosimus 2.28.2.

[[11]]PLRE I 510; Demandt, op. cit. 75.

[[12]]She is so styled in the legend of a commemorative coin issued between 330 and 333 at Constantinople: R. A. G. Carson, Late Roman Bronze Coinage, A.D. 324-498, (London 1960; repr. 1967) part I, no. 977; Patrick M, Bruun in RIC VII 571, no. 15, and pl. 18, no. 15.

[[13]]Rufinus, Hist. Eccl. 1.11 (ed. Migne) or 10.12 (ed. Mommsen); Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 2.2 (ed. Migne) or 2.3.2 (ed. Parmentier-Scheidweiler); Philostorgius, Hist. Eccl., ed. Bidez-Winkelmann (GCS XXI) 182; Alexander P. Kazhdan, "Constantin imaginaire," Byzantion 57 (1987) 196-250 at 201-202.

[[14]]Philostorgius, loc. cit. (n. 13), reports that she outlived Helena, but not by much. Helena's death, in turn, is best dated to 329.

[[15]] Hans-Georg Thümmel, "Eusebios' Brief an Kaiserin Constantia," Klio 66 (1984), 210-22.

[[16]]Jerome, Epist., 133.4; Rufinus, loc. cit. (n.13); Socrates, Hist. Eccl. 1.25; Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 2.27.2-5; Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 2.2 (ed. Migne) or 2.3.1-3 (ed, Parmentier-Scheidweiler).

[[17]] Philostorgius, Hist. Eccl. 1.9.

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