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Updated: May 23, 2021
The reign of Constantius II has been overshadowed by that of his titanic father, Constantine the Great, and his cousin and successor, the pagan Julian. However, as Peter Crawford shows, Constantius deserves to be remembered as a very capable ruler in dangerous, tumultuous times.
When Constantine I died in in 337, the twenty-year-old Constantius and his two brothers, Constans and Constantine II, all recieved the title of Augustus to reign as equal co-emperors. In 340, however, Constantine II was killed in a fraternal civil war with Constans. The two remaining brothers shared the Empire for the next ten years, with Constantius ruling Egypt and the Asian provinces, constantly threatened by the Sassanid Persian Empire. However, Constans in turn was killed by the usurper Magentius in 350. Constantius refused to accept this fait accompli, made war on Magentius and defeated him at the battles of Mursa Major and Mons Seleucus, leading him to commit suicide.
Constantius, was now sole ruler of the Empire but it was an empire beset by external enemies. Constantius campaigned successfully against the Germanic Alamanni along the Rhine and the Quadi and Sarmatians across the Danube, as well as against the Persians in the East, though with more mixed results. In 360 he elevated his cousin Julian to the rank of Caesar (effectively deputy emperor) and left him to govern the West, while he concentrated on the Persian threat. Julian defeated the Alamanni in battle but was then proclaimed Augustus by his troops. Constantius was marching back to meet this threat to his rear when he fell ill and died. Having done so much to defend and preserve the empire, his dying act was to attempt to avert further civil war by declaring Julian his rightful heir.
Rome Seizes the Trident
Seapower played a greater part in ancient empire building than is often appreciated. The Punic Wars, especially the first, were characterized by massive naval battles. The Romans did not even possess a navy of their own when war broke out between them and the Carthaginians in Sicily in 264 B.C. Prior to that, the Romans had relied upon several South Italian Greek cities to provide ships in the same way as its other allies provided soldiers to serve with the legions. The Romans were nevertheless determined to acquire a navy that could challenge that of Carthage. They used a captured galley as a model, reverse engineered it, and constructed hundreds of copies. The Romans used this new navy to wrench maritime superiority from the Carthaginians, most notably at the Battle of Ecnomus where they prevailed through the use of novel tactics. Although not decisive on its own, Rome's new found naval power was, as Marc De Santis shows, a vital component in their ultimate victory in each of the three Punic Wars.
Four Days in September
Four Days in September examines the Battle of Teutoburg (also known as the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest), one of the most famous battles of ancient history. In late September of 9 AD, three Roman legions were attacked in a prolonged four-day battle with the Germanic barbarians, and were eventually defeated by the rebel German leader Arminius. The defeat was a crushing blow to both Rome's military and its pride. This new revised edition of Four Days in September thoroughly examines the ancient sources, looks at new facts, analyses the hypotheses of modern scholars, and puts forward hypotheses of its own in order to get the clearest picture on the dynamics of the prelude to the battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath.