|c. 250, Sirmium
|c. July 310 (aged around 60), Massilia
|Flavia Maximiana Theodora
Maximianus, also known as Herculius, was one of the most influential Roman emperors of the late third and early fourth centuries. He ruled as a co-emperor with Diocletian, who appointed him as his deputy in charge of the western half of the empire. Together, they reformed the administration, military and economy of the Roman world, and initiated the last and most severe persecution of Christians.
Maximianus was born around 250 AD in Sirmium, a city in the province of Pannonia Inferior (modern Serbia). He came from humble origins and joined the army as a young man. He rose through the ranks and became a trusted friend and officer of Diocletian, who became emperor in 284 AD. In 285 AD, Diocletian made Maximianus his Caesar (junior emperor) and gave him the task of suppressing a revolt in Gaul by a group of peasants and bandits called the Bagaudae. Maximianus succeeded in crushing the rebellion and was rewarded by Diocletian with the title of Augustus (senior emperor) on April 1, 286 AD.
From then on, Maximianus shared the imperial power with Diocletian, but always remained subordinate to him. He established his residence at Trier, but spent most of his time on campaign. He fought against various Germanic tribes that threatened the Rhine frontier, such as the Alemanni, the Franks and the Burgundians. He also faced a challenge from a usurper named Carausius, who declared himself emperor in Britain and northern Gaul in 286 AD. Maximianus tried to oust him, but failed to do so. He had to wait until 293 AD, when he appointed Constantius Chlorus as his Caesar, who finally defeated Carausius and his successor Allectus.
Maximianus also dealt with other problems in his domains, such as piracy in the Mediterranean Sea, Berber raids in North Africa, and civil unrest in Italy. He supported Diocletian’s reforms of the administration, which divided the empire into four prefectures and twelve dioceses, each governed by a vicar. He also backed Diocletian’s reforms of the military, which increased the size and mobility of the army and created a new cavalry force called the comitatenses. He also endorsed Diocletian’s reforms of the economy, which stabilized the currency, fixed prices and wages, and imposed heavy taxes.
One of the most controversial aspects of Maximianus’ reign was his participation in Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. In 303 AD, Diocletian issued four edicts that ordered the destruction of churches and scriptures, the prohibition of Christian worship and assembly, the confiscation of Christian property, and the imprisonment or execution of Christian clergy and laity who refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Maximianus enforced these edicts in his territories with zeal, although he seems to have been less interested in religious matters than Diocletian. Many Christians suffered martyrdom or exile under his rule.
In 305 AD, Diocletian decided to abdicate from power and retire to his palace in Split (modern Croatia). He persuaded Maximianus to do the same on May 1, 305 AD. They both resigned their titles and handed them over to their Caesars: Constantius Chlorus became Augustus in the West, while Galerius became Augustus in the East. They also appointed two new Caesars: Severus in the West and Maximinus Daia in the East. This was supposed to be a smooth transition of power, but it soon turned into chaos.
Maximianus did not enjoy his retirement. He missed his former glory and authority. He also resented his son-in-law Constantine, who had married his daughter Fausta and had become Caesar under Constantius Chlorus in 306 AD. He also feared for his son Maxentius, who had been excluded from succession by Diocletian’s scheme. When Constantius Chlorus died in 306 AD, Constantine was proclaimed Augustus by his troops in Britain. Maximianus saw this as an opportunity to reclaim his throne. He joined forces with Maxentius, who had rebelled against Severus in Italy.
In 307 AD, Maximianus returned to Rome as Augustus and tried to legitimize his position by marrying his daughter Theodora to Galerius