|31 March c. 250, Dacia Ripensis
|25 July 306 (aged c. 56), Eboracum, Britania
|Helena (disputed) and Theodora
|Constantine I the Great
Flavia Julia Constantia
Constantius I Chlorus was a Roman emperor who ruled from 305 to 306 CE. He was one of the four original members of the Tetrarchy, a system of co-rulership established by Diocletian to stabilize and reform the empire. He was also the father of Constantine the Great, who would become the first Christian emperor and unify the Roman world under his sole authority.
Constantius was born around 250 CE in Naissus, a city in the province of Dacia Ripensis, near the Danube frontier. He had a humble origin and a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of governor of Dalmatia. In 289 CE, he divorced his first wife Helena, who was the mother of Constantine, and married Theodora, the stepdaughter of Maximian, one of the two senior emperors. This marriage secured his political alliance with Maximian and Diocletian, who appointed him as Caesar, or junior emperor, in 293 CE.
As Caesar, Constantius was assigned to rule Gaul and Britain, where he faced several challenges. He successfully defeated two usurpers, Carausius and Allectus, who had seized control of Britain and part of Gaul. He also fought against various barbarian tribes, such as the Franks and the Alamanni, who threatened the security of the Rhine frontier. He restored order and stability in his provinces, and improved the administration and defense of the empire.
Constantius was also tolerant towards Christianity, unlike Diocletian and Galerius, who initiated a severe persecution of Christians in 303 CE. Constantius complied with their edicts by ordering the destruction of some churches, but he did not execute or torture any Christians in his domain. He may have been influenced by his first wife Helena, who was a devout Christian and later became a saint.
In 305 CE, Diocletian and Maximian abdicated their positions as Augusti, or senior emperors, and elevated Constantius and Galerius to their rank. Constantius became the senior emperor in the West, while Galerius ruled the East. Constantius then launched a campaign against the Picts, a fierce people who lived beyond Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain. He achieved a decisive victory over them in 306 CE, but he fell ill and died shortly after in Eboracum (modern York).
Before his death, Constantius may have nominated his son Constantine as his successor, or at least expressed his wish to do so. The army in Britain immediately proclaimed Constantine as emperor, bypassing the official succession system that required the approval of Galerius. This act triggered a series of civil wars among rival claimants to the imperial throne, which lasted until 324 CE when Constantine emerged as the sole ruler of the Roman Empire.
Constantius I Chlorus was a capable and generous emperor who contributed to the stability and reform of the empire. He was also an important figure in the history of Christianity, as he was the father of Constantine, who legalized and promoted Christianity as the official religion of Rome. His legacy was continued by his descendants, who formed the Constantinian dynasty that ruled until 363 CE.