People - Ancient Rome: Constantine III Born Flavius Claudius Constantinus, he was a Roman general who declared himself Western Roman
Emperor in 407.
Constantine III in Roman Biography
Constantine (or Constantinus) III., (Flavius
Heraclius,) called No'vus, Emperor of the East, born
in 612 A.D., was the son of the emperor Heraclius and
Eudoxia. At the death of his father, in 641, he became a
partner in the empire with his half-brother Heracleonas.
After a reign of three months, he died, or was poisoned
by Martina, his step-mother. He left a son, Constans II.
See Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
Constantine III in Wikipedia
Flavius Claudius Constantinus, known in English as Constantine III (died 411 by 18 September) was a Roman general who
declared himself Western Roman Emperor in 407, abdicated in 411, and was captured and executed shortly afterwards.
On 31 December in 406 several tribes of Barbarian invaders, including the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Alans and the
Sueves, crossed the Rhine perhaps near Mainz, and overran the Roman defensive works in a successful invasion of the
Western Roman Empire. This was a mortal blow to the western empire, from which it never recovered. The Roman authorities
were never able to eject or destroy these invaders, most of whom eventually settled in Spain and North Africa, nor to face
the movements of the Franks, Burgundians and Visigoths in Gaul at the same time. Also, a contributing factor of major
importance was the disunity among the Romans themselves. A unified Empire with the full support of a loyal population
willing to make the necessary sacrifices to overcome invaders/settlers had shown in the past it was possible to keep the
Empire's borders secure.
At the time of this invasion, the provinces of Britain were in revolt, setting up and pulling down a series of usurpers,
which ended with the elevation of Constantine early in 407. A common soldier, but one of some ability, Constantine moved
quickly. He crossed the English Channel to the continent at Bononia and (historians have assumed) took along with him all of
the mobile troops left in Britain, thus denuding the province of any first line military protection and explaining their
disappearance in the early fifth century. Constantine's two generals Iustinianus and the Frank Nebiogastes, leading the
vanguard of his forces, were defeated by Sarus, Stilicho's lieutenant, with Nebiogastes being first trapped in, then killed
outside, Valence. However, Constantine sent another army headed by Edobichus and Gerontius, and Sarus was forced to retreat
into Italy, needing to buy his passage through the Alpine passes from the brigand Bagaudae, who controlled them. Constantine
secured the Rhine frontier, and garrisoned the passes that led from Gaul into Italy. By May 408 he had made Arles his
capital, where he appointed Apollinaris, the grandfather of Sidonius Apollinaris, as prefect.
Recognition as co-emperor -
In the summer of 408, as the Roman forces in Italy assembled to counterattack, Constantine had other plans. Fearful that
several cousins of the emperor Honorius in Hispania, which was a stronghold of the House of Theodosius and loyal to the
ineffectual emperor, would organize an attack from that direction while troops under Sarus and Stilicho attacked him from
Italy in a pincer maneuver, he struck first at Hispania. He summoned his eldest son Constans from the monastery where he was
dwelling, elevated him to Caesar, or co-emperor, and sent him with the general Gerontius towards Hispania. The cousins of
Honorius were defeated without much difficulty and two— Didymus and Theodosiolus—were captured, while two others—Lagodius
and Verianus—managed to escape to safety in Constantinople.
Constantine III portrayed on a siliqua. The reverse celebrates the victories of the Augusti
Constans left his wife and household at Saragossa under the care of Gerontius to return to report to Arles. Meanwhile the
loyalist Roman army mutinied at Ticinum (Pavia) on 13 August, which was followed by the execution of the patrician Stilicho
on 22 August. As a by-product of these events, the actions of an intrigue within the Imperial court, the general, Sarus,
abandoned the western army followed by his men; this left the emperor Honorius in Ravenna without any significant military
power, and also facing the problem of a Gothic army under Alaric roaming unchecked in Etruria. So, when Constantine's envoys
arrived to parley at Ravenna, the fearful Honorius eagerly recognized Constantine as co-emperor, and the two were joint
consuls for the year 409.
March on Italy -
That year was the high-water mark of Constantine's success. But by September, the tribes that had overrun the Rhine
defenses, and had spent the intervening two years burning and plundering their way through Gaul, had reached the Pyrenees,
where they broke through Constantine's garrisons and entered Hispania. While Constantine prepared to send his son Constans
back to deal with this crisis, word came that his general Gerontius had rebelled, raising his own man as co-emperor. Despite
Constantine's best efforts, his fear of an attack from Hispania did come to pass the following year, when Gerontius advanced
with the support of his barbarian allies.
About the same time Saxon pirates raided Britain, which Constantine had left defenseless. Obviously upset that Constantine
could no longer effectively defend them, the Roman inhabitants of Britain and Armorica rebelled and expelled his officials.
Constantine's response to this tightening circle of enemies was a final desperate gamble: he marched on Italy with the
remaining troops left to him, encouraged by the entreaties of one Allobich who wanted to replace Honorius with a more
capable ruler. But this invasion ended in defeat, with Allobich losing his life and Constantine forced to retreat into Gaul
in the late spring of 410. Constantine's position grew even more untenable; his forces facing the rebel Gerontius were
defeated at Vienne (411), where his son Constans was captured and executed. Constantine's Praetorian prefect Decimus
Rusticus, who had replaced Apollinaris a year earlier, abandoned Constantine, to be caught up in the new rebellion of
Jovinus in the Rhineland. Gerontius trapped Constantine inside Arles and besieged him.
Surrender and execution
At the same time a new general was found to support Honorius. The future Constantius III, who arrived at Arles, put
Gerontius to flight and then took over the siege of Constantine in Arles. Constantine held out, hoping for the return of his
general Edobichus who was raising troops in northern Gaul amongst the Franks, but on his return Edobichus was defeated by a
simple stratagem. Constantine's last slender hope faded when his last troops guarding the Rhine abandoned him to support
Jovinus and he was forced to surrender. Despite the promise of safe passage, and Constantine's assumption of clerical
offices, Constantius imprisoned the former soldier and had him beheaded in either August or September 411.
Although Gerontius committed suicide in Hispania, and Constantius later suppressed the revolt of Jovinus, Roman rule never
returned to Britain after the death of Constantine III: as the historian Procopius later explains, "from that time onwards
it remained under [the rule] of tyrants."
Constantine III is also known as Constantine II of Britain. He was remembered as a King of the Britons in the Welsh
chronicles and Geoffrey of Monmouth's highly popular and legendary Historia Regum Britanniae, where he comes to power
following Gracianus Municeps' reign, which had ended with his assassination. Geoffrey actually seems to have conflated the
historical Constantine III with an unrelated Cornish king of the same name, Custennin Gorneu (the Welsh name Custennin is
derived from Latin Constaninus; it is possible that Geoffrey picked up the name from a Welsh Arthurian genealogy resembling
those found in Bonedd yr Arwyr #30a and Mostyn MS 117 #5), which has led to much confusion among modern scholars; beyond
their names, Geoffrey's fictional Constantine does not resemble the historical one. Geoffrey states that Britain was in
civil crisis after the death of Gracianus, so the people called for help from their cousins in Brittany. The contemporary
king of Brittany, Aldroenus, did not wish to rule both Brittany and Britain, and so sent his brother to rule instead as
Constantine accepted the kingship and repelled the Huns and Picts who had invaded Britain. Geoffrey reports that co-leaders
Guanius and Melga, previously exiled to Ireland, had led an invasion force composed of Scots (Gaels), Picts, Norwegians,
Dacians and "others" into Britain. They had seized Alba as far as Hadrian's Wall and from there began their devastations in
the island. Constantine led an army of Britons to victory against them. He was then proclaimed king at a council held at
Silchester. Constantine reportedly married "a lady, descended from a noble Roman family". His unnamed wife was a former
student of Guidelium, Archbishop of London. The name has found its place in several modern genealogies. On the
other hand genealogist David Hughes has suggested the wife of Constantine III to be "Severa", an alleged daughter of
Honorius and niece of Theodosius I. This Honorius is identified by the poem "In Praise of Serena" by Claudian and the
"Historia Nova" by Zosimus to have been a brother of Theodosius I and father of Serena.
Geoffrey reports that Constantine and his wife were parents to Constans, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and Uther Pendragon.
Constans, the eldest, was delivered to the church of Amphibalus in Winchester to "take upon him the monastic order".
Aurelius and Uther were assigned to education under Guidelium. Constantine reigned for ten years before being assassinated
by an unnamed employee of his, identified only as a Pict. The Pict "under pretence of holding some private discourse with
him, in a nursery of young trees where nobody was present, stabbed him with a dagger." His death was reportedly followed
by a succession crisis. The nobility of the kingdom argued over who should follow him on the throne. "Some were for setting
up Aurelius Ambrosius; others Uther Pendragon; others again some other persons of the royal family." Vortigern, identified
in the text as the "king of the Gewisseans", instead offered the throne to Constans. Constans left monastic life and
travelled with Vortigern to London. Vortigern declared him King, "...though not with the free consent of the people.
Archbishop Guithelin was then dead, nor was there any other than durst perform the ceremony of his unction, on account of
his having quit the monastic order. However, this proved no hindrance to his coronation, for Vortigern himself performed the
ceremony instead of a bishop."
In some versions of the legend, Vortigern was Constantine's seneschal. This story was repeated in many retellings of the
Arthurian cycle, including Robert de Boron's Merlin and the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, though the narrative greatly contradicts
the known history of this period.
Constantinus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
A usurper who had himself proclaimed emperor in Britain during
the reign of Honorius and Arcadius, in A.D. 407, reigning for
four years and securing possession of Gaul and Spain, until
defeated in 411 by Constantius, the able general of Honorius.
By him Constantine was taken prisoner, carried to Ravenna, and
there put to death.