Constantine II (emperor)

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Constantine II
Large statue of Constantine II
Statue of Emperor Constantine II on top of the Cordonata (the monumental staircase climbing up to Piazza del Campidoglio), in Rome
Roman emperor
Augustus9 September 337 – 340 (Gaul, Hispania, and Britain)
PredecessorConstantine I
SuccessorConstantius II and Constans
Co-emperorsConstantius II (East)
Constans (Italy and Africa)
Caesar1 March 317 – 9 September 337
BornFebruary 316
Arelate, Viennensis
Died340 (aged 24)
Aquileia, Italy
Flavius Claudius Constantinus[1]
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Claudius Constantius Augustus
FatherConstantine the Great
ReligionArian Christianity

Constantine II (Latin: Flavius Claudius Constantinus; February 316 – 340) was Roman emperor from 337 to 340. Son of Constantine the Great and co-emperor alongside his brothers, his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture led to his death in a failed invasion of Italy in 340.


The eldest son of Constantine the Great and Fausta, Constantine II was born in Arles in February 316[2] and raised as a Christian.


On 1 March 317, he was made Caesar.[3] In 323, at the age of seven, he took part in his father's campaign against the Sarmatians.[4] At age ten, he became commander of Gaul, following the death of his half-brother Crispus. An inscription dating to 330 records the title of Alamannicus, so it is probable that his generals won a victory over the Alamanni.[4] His military career continued when Constantine I made him field commander during the 332 campaign against the Goths.[citation needed][4]


Following the death of his father in 337, Constantine II initially became emperor jointly with his brothers Constantius II and Constans,[5] with the empire divided between them and their cousins, the caesars Dalmatius and Hannibalianus.[6] This arrangement barely survived Constantine I's death, as his sons arranged the slaughter of most of the rest of the family by the army.[7] As a result, the three brothers gathered together in Pannonia[4] and there, on 9 September 337,[1][7] divided the Roman world among themselves. Constantine, proclaimed Augustus by the troops[1] received Gaul, Britannia and Hispania.[8]

He was soon involved in the struggle between factions rupturing the unity of the Christian Church.[4] The Western portion of the empire, under the influence of the Popes in Rome, favoured Nicene Christianity over Arianism, and through their intercession they convinced Constantine to free Athanasius, allowing him to return to Alexandria.[9] This action aggravated Constantius II, who was a committed supporter of Arianism.[10]

Constantine was initially the guardian of his younger brother Constans, whose portion of the empire was Italia, Africa and Illyricum. Constantine soon complained that he had not received the amount of territory that was his due as the eldest son.[7] Annoyed that Constans had received Thrace and Macedonia after the death of Dalmatius, Constantine demanded that Constans hand over the African provinces, to which he agreed in order to maintain a fragile peace.[7][11] Soon, however, they began quarreling over which parts of the African provinces belonged to Carthage, and thus Constantine, and which belonged to Italy, and therefore Constans.[12]

Further complications arose when Constans came of age and Constantine, who had grown accustomed to dominating his younger brother, would not relinquish the guardianship. In 340 Constantine marched into Italy at the head of his troops[11] to claim territory from Constans.[10] Constans, at that time in Dacia, detached and sent a select and disciplined body of his Illyrian troops, stating that he would follow them in person with the remainder of his forces.[7] Constantine was engaged in military operations[5] and was killed by Constans's generals in an ambush outside Aquileia.[11] Constans then took control of his deceased brother's realm.

Family tree[edit]

Family of Constantine II (emperor)

Emperors are shown with a rounded-corner border with their dates as Augusti, names with a thicker border appear in both sections

1: Constantine's parents and half-siblings

HelenaFlavia Maximiana Theodora
  • Constantine I
  • 306–337
Flavius DalmatiusHannibalianusFlavia Julia Constantia
GallaJulius ConstantiusBasilinaLicinius IIEutropiaVirius Nepotianus
HannibalianusConstantinaConstantius Gallus

2: Constantine's children

  • Constantine I
  • 306–337
  • Constantine II
  • 337–340
HannibalianusConstantinaConstantius Gallus
Flavia Maxima Constantia



  1. ^ a b c Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 223.
  2. ^ Victor, 41:4
  3. ^ Victor, 41:6
  4. ^ a b c d e DiMaio Jr, Michael; Frakes, Robert (2 May 1998). "Constantine II (337–340 A.D.)". De Imperatoribus Romanis - Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors.
  5. ^ a b Eutropius, 10:9
  6. ^ Victor, 41:20
  7. ^ a b c d e Gibbon, Ch. 18
  8. ^ "Constantine II – Roman Emperor". Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ A. H. M. Jones, "The Later Roman Empire" (Baltimore, 1986), p. 114
  10. ^ a b Howard, Nathan D. (26 October 2012), "Constantine II", The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., doi:10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah05050, ISBN 9781444338386
  11. ^ a b c Victor, 41:21
  12. ^ Zosimus, 2:41–42


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Constantine II (emperor)
Born: 316 Died: 340
Regnal titles
Preceded by Roman emperor
With: Constantius II and Constans
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Roman consul
with Constantine I ,
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul
with Crispus
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul
with Constantine I
Succeeded by