Roman Empire
4th Century (301-400 A.D.)

Last update: Aug 31, 2007




Diocletion's maximum price edicts go into effect.


Diocletion persecutes the Christians in earnest.


Diocletian and Maximian abdicate the throne. Galerius and Constantius Chlorus co-Augusti


Death of the Emperor Constantius Chlorus in the city of Ebaracum. Constantine named Augustus in the West.


Emperor Fl. Valerius Severus revolts and invades Italy. His father Maximian comes out of retirement first in his support, then in favor of Constantine. Severus killed in Pannonia and Maximian recognized as co-emperor.


Marcellus is appointed as the new bishop of Rome.


The Conference of Carnutum, a meeting of all of the Caesars and Augusti, eventually setting off civil war.


The historian and Christian Eusebius is placed as the new bishop of Rome after opposition to Marcellus forces him into exile.


Death of Maximian after the siege of Masillia by Constantine.


Publication of the Edict of Toleration by the Emperor Galerius, ending Christian persecution, followed shortly by his death. Death of Diocletion.


Constantine leads his army from Gaul, investing several towns and winning the support of most of Italy. On the march to Rome, he claimed to have seen the sign of a cross of light, and the words "By this sign, conquer". This is the basis for speculation on Constantine's Christian conversion


Death of the emperor Maxentius after Constantine's victory at the battle of the Milvian Bridge. Constantine disbands the Praetorian guard.


Victory of Licinius over Maximinus Daia at the Hellespont is followed by reconciliation of Constantine and Maximinius. Edict of Milan is signed by Emperor Constantine the Great and the Emperor Licinius setting a tone for peace and Christian acceptance.


Peace is interrupted once again when armed conflict breaks out between the co-emperors. Periods of war and peace follow for ten years with Constantine increasingly victorious.


The arch of Constantine is erected in Rome.


Battle of Campus Ardiensis in which Constantine defeats Licinius.


Birth of Constantine II, in the city of Arelate.


Birth of the Emperor Constans, in the city of Constantinople.


St. Peter's Church is constructed in Rome.


Constantine drives the Goths out of Thracia.


Final victory for Constantine over Licinius atrianople and Chrysopolis. Constantine sole emperor.


The Council of Nicaea makes Christianity the religion of the Empire


Constantine executes his son, Crispus, followed by his wife Faustus a year later. She was boiled alive.


Constantine chooses Byzantium as the new capital of the Empire and renames it Constantinople.


Birth of the Emperor Valens, in the city of Cibalae.


Birth of the Emperor Julian the Apostate.


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built and dedicated in Jerusalem.


Constantine had himself baptized by Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia. Shortly before his death. Division of the empire between Constantine's three sons: Constantine II (west), Constans (middle), Constantius (east).


Birth of the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, in the city of Trier.


Civil war once again. Death of Constantine II against Constans at the battle of Aquileia.


Emperor Constans begins a successful campaign against the Franks.


The Emperor Constans campaigns against the Picts and Scots in Britannia, whom he successfully drives back into Caledonia.


Persian victory at Singara.


Birth of the Emperor Theodosius the Great, in the town of Cauca, Northwestern Spain.


Birth of Saint Jerome, the Christian writer.


Death of the Emperor Constans after a revolt broke out under Magnentius. The Persians invade and take Armenia.


Emperor Constantius II defeats the army of the pretender Magnentius in a battle near Mursa.


Battle of Mons Seleucus in which Contantius defeats Magnentius in a bloody engagement.


Julian defeats the Alemmani.


Sapor II invades Mesopotamia. Constantius goes to the east. Birth of the Emperor Gratian, in the town of Sirmium.


Julian's army proclaims him emperor and he marches east.


Death of Constantius II, Julian the Apostate takes over.


Julian outlaws the teaching of Christianity.


Battle of Ctesiphon, in which Julian defeats Shapur II, but Julian is killed in the battle. Jovian emperor.


The Augustan History is written in this period (363-381 A.D.). It is a Latin collection of biographies of Roman Emperors for the period 117 to 284 A.D. and their colleagues and usurpers. It presents itself as the work of six authors (the Scriptores Historiae Augustae), and written in the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine. But it uses later sources and adds elaborate fiction. Since it is the only continuous account for much of its period modern historians are understandably unwilling to abandon it despite its obvious untrustworthiness.

Dessau (1889) proposed it was composed by a single author in the late 4th century, probably in the reign of Theodosius I. One section (on Septimius Severus) quotes the mid-4th century historian Aurelius Victor, while another (on Marcus Aurelius) uses Eutropius, the Pagan historian who accompanied Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) against the Persians, and composed the Breviarium, a history of Rome from its foundation until Emperor Valens (364-378 A.D.).

Of interest is a (false) letter quoted at length, from Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) in Egypt to his brother-in-law Servianus, which refers to the worship of Serapis by residents of Egypt who described themselves as Christians, and Christian worship by those claiming to worship Serapis. Some claim this suggests a great confusion of the cults and practices, but it may simply be an example of the author's sarcasm and political spoofing:

"The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-headed, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour.

There, those who worship Serapis are in fact Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are in fact devotees of Serapis!

There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, who is not also an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer.

Even the [Jewish] Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ."

- (Augustan History, Firmus et al. 8)

Servianus is saluted as consul, and Hadrian mentions his (adopted) son Lucius Aelius Caesar: but Hadrian was in Egypt in 130 A.D., while Servianus's consulship fell in 134, and Hadrian adopted Aelius in 136. The letter is said to have been published by Hadrian's freedman Phlegon (whose existence is mentioned nowhere except in the HA, in another suspect passage).

A passage in the letter dealing with the frivolousness of Egyptian religious beliefs refers to the Patriarch, head of the Jewish community in the Empire. This office only came into being after Hadrian put down the Jewish revolt of 132 A.D., and the passage is probably meant in mockery of the powerful late 4th-century Patriarch, Gamaliel. (See R. Syme, Emperors and Biography, pp. 21-24.)

These considerations bracket the work (in its present form) between 362 (Eutropius) and 389 A.D., when the worship of Serapis was effectively ended with the destruction of the Temple in Alexandria. Although as a forgery it is not a reliable guide to Alexandria in the early 2nd century, it may yet inform us of conditions there in the late 4th century.

- wikipedia, Augustan History, Serapis


Jovian reverses Julians anti-Christian edicts. Nominates Valentinian as his heir and dies. Valentinian makes his brother Valens eastern emperor and takes the west for himself. Permanent separation of the empire.


Valentinian defeats the Alemmani at Solicinium.


Valens at war with the Goths.


Peace with Goths


Huns invade Ostrogoth territory.


Theodosius drives invading Picts out of Britain once again.


Birth of the Emperor Valentinian II.


Theodosius the Great campaigns against the Sarmatians along the Danube.


Ambrose appointed bishop of Milan.


Death of Valentinian. Followed by Gratian who also promoted his infant brother Valentinian II at Milan. Gratian is the first emperor to refuse the office of Pontifex Maximus.


Theodosius the Elder is killed in Africa and his son, the Great retires from public service.


Emperor Valens and Emperor Gratian combine against Visigoth and Ostrogoth armies along the Danube. Goths move into Thracia. Birth of the Emperor Arcadius, in Spain.


Gratian defeats Alemanni. The Romans, under Valens are then defeated badly atrianople by Fritigern and the Goths. Perhaps the most terrible and unrecoverable defeat in Roman history. Valens killed.


Gratian nominated Theodosius (the Great) to replace Valens.


Theodosius the Great declares Christianity to be the sole religion of the empire.


Treaty of Theodosius with Visigoths.


Revolt of Maximus in Britain. Death of Gratian. Theodosius recognizes Maximus in the west and Valentinian II at Milan. Birth of the Emperor Honorius.


Emperor Theodosius signs a treaty with the Persian King Shapur III, giving Persia four fifths of Armenia, and Rome one fifth. He then crushed Maximus at Aquileia.


Birth of the Roman general Flavius Aetius.


Paganism is officially ended with edicts published by Emperor Theodosius.


Death of the Emperor Valentinian II. Eugenius replaces him, set up by the Germanic general Arbogast.


The last showing of the ancient Olympic Games is held in this year after it is banned by Emperor Theodosius the Great. There are no games again until 1896.


Theodosius and the Germanic Alaric defeat Arbogast at the River Frigidus.


Death of Theodosius the Great. His sons Honorius takes the west, and Arcadius the east. The Huns invade Armenia, Cappadocia and Syria.

395 - 397

Alaric invades the Balkans but is checked by Stilicho. Alaric set up as governor of Illyricum.


Ostrogoths invade and capture Galatia, Pisidia, and Bithynia.