Roman emperor (A. D. 307-324), whose full name was PUBLIUS FLAVIUS GALERIUS VALERIUS LICINIANUS LICINIUS, was by birth a humble Dacian peasant, the early friend and companion in arms of the emperor Galerius, by whom, with the consent of Maximianus Herculius and Diocletian, after the death of Severus [SEVERUS, FLAVIUS VALERIUS] and the disastrous issue of the Italian campaign [MAXENTIUS], he was raised at once to the rank of Augustus without passing through the inferior grade of Caesar, and was invested with the command of the Illyrian provinces at Carmentum, on the 11th of November, A. D. 307. Upon the death of his patron, in 311, he concluded a peaceful arrangement with Daza [MAXIMINUS 11.], in terms of which he acknowledged the latter as sovereign of Asia, Syria, and Egypt, while he added Greece, Macedonia, and Thrace to his own former dominions, the Hellespont, with the Bosporus, forming the common boundary of the two empires. Feeling, however, the necessity of strengthening himself against a rival at once ambitious, unscrupulous, and powerful, he entered into a league with Constantine, and after the termination of the struggle with Maxentius, during which he had acted the part of a watchful spectator rather than of a sincere ally, received in marriage (A. D. 313) Constantia, the sister of the conqueror, to whom he had been betrothed two years before. Meanwhile, Maximinus, taking advantage of the absence of his neighbour, who was enjoying the splendours of the nuptial festivities at Milan, placed himself at the head of a for midable army, and setting forth in the dead of winter succeeded, notwithstanding the obstacles offered to his progress by the season, in passing the straits, stormed Byzantium in April, and soon after captured Heracleia also.
But scarcely had he gained possession of the last-named city when Licinius, who had hurried from Italy upon receiving intelligence of this treacherous invasion, appeared at the head of a small but resolute and well-disciplined force to resist his further progress.
The battle which ensued was obstinately contested, and the result was long doubtful, but the bravery of the troops from the Danube, and the great military talents of their leader, at length prevailed. Maximinus fled in headlong haste, and died a few months afterwards at Tarsus, thus leaving his enemy undisputed master of one half of the Roman empire, while the remainder was under the sway of his brother-in-law Constantine.
It was little likely that two such spirits could long be firmly united by such a tie, or that either would calmly brook the existence of an equal. Accordingly, scarce a year elapsed before preparations commenced for the grand contest, whose object was to unite once mote the whole civilised world under a single ruler.
The leading events are detailed elsewhere [CONSTANTINUS, p. 834], and therefore it will suffice briefly to state here that there were two distinct wars; in the first, which broke out A. D. 315, Licinius was compelled by the decisive defeats sustained at Cibalis in Pannonia, and in the plain of Mardia in Thrace, to submit and to cede to the victor Greece, Macedonia, and the whole lower valley of the Danube, with the exception of a part of Moesia.
The peace which followed lasted for about eight years, when hostilities were renewed, but the precise circumstances which led to this fresh collision are as obscure as the causes which produced the first rupture.
The great battle of Hadrianople (3rd July, A. D. 323) followed by the reduction of Byzantium, and a second great victory achieved near Chalcedon (18th September), placed the eastern Augustus absolutely at the mercy of his kinsman, who, although he spared his life for the moment, and merely sentenced him to an honourable imprisonment at Thessalonica, soon found a convenient pretext for commanding the death of one who had long been the sole impediment in his path to universal dominion.
However little we may respect the motives, and however deeply we may feel disgusted by the systematic hypocrisy of Constantine, we can feel no compassion for Licinius. His origin, education, and early habits might very naturally inspire him with a distaste for literature. although they could scarcely justify or excuse the rancour which he ever manifested towards all who were in any way distinguished by intellectual acquirements, and a life passed amidst a succession of scenes in which human nature was exhibited under its worst aspect, was by no means calculated to cherish any of the purer or softer feelings of the heart.
But while he had all and more than all the vices which such a career might produce, he had none of the frank generosity of a bold soldier of fortune.
He was not only totally indifferent to human life and suffering, and regardless of any principle of law or justice which might interfere with the gratification of his passions, but he was systematically treacherous and cruel, possessed of not one redeeming quality save physical courage and military skill. When he destroyed the helpless family of Maximinus he might plead that he only followed the ordinary usage of Oriental despots in extirpating the whole race of a rival; but the murders of the unoffending Severianus, of Candidianus the son of his friend and benefactor Galerius, who alone had made him what he was, of Prisca and of Valeria, the wife and daughter of Diocletian [VALERIA], form a climax of ingratitude and cold-blooded ferocity to which few parallels can be found even in the revolting annals of the Roman empire. (Zosim. 2.7, 11, 17-28; Zonar. 13.1
; Aurel. Vict. de Caes. 40, 41, Epit.
40, 41; Eutrop. 10.3
; Oros. 7.28