Constantine III (western emperor)

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Flavius Claudius Constantinus,[1] known in English as Constantine III (died 411 by 18 September) was a Roman general who declared himself Western Roman Emperor in Britannia in 407 and established himself in Gaul. Recognised by the Emperor Honorius in 409, collapsing support and military setbacks saw him abdicate in 411. He was captured and executed shortly afterwards.

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Background

On 31 December in 406 several tribes of Barbarian invaders, including the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Alans and the Sueves, crossed the Rhine perhaps near Mainz, and overran the Roman defensive works in a successful invasion of the Western Roman Empire.[3] This was a mortal blow to the western empire, from which it never recovered. The Roman authorities were never able to eject or destroy these invaders, most of whom eventually settled in Spain and North Africa, nor to face the movements of the Franks, Burgundians and Visigoths in Gaul at the same time.[4] Also, a contributing factor of major importance was the disunity among the Romans themselves. A unified Empire with the full support of a loyal population willing to make the necessary sacrifices to overcome invaders/settlers had shown in the past it was possible to keep the Empire's borders secure.[4]

At the time of this invasion, the provinces of Britain were in revolt,[5] setting up and pulling down a series of usurpers, which ended with the elevation of Constantine early in 407.[1] Fearful of a Germanic invasion and desperate for some sense of security in a world rapidly falling apart, the Roman military in Britain chose as their leader a man named after the famed emperor of the early fourth century, Constantine the Great, who had himself risen to power through a military coup in Britain.[6] A common soldier, but one of some ability,[7] Constantine moved quickly. He crossed the English Channel to the continent at Bononia[4] and (historians have assumed) took along with him all of the mobile troops left in Britain, thus denuding the province of any first line military protection and explaining their disappearance in the early fifth century.[8] Constantine's two generals Iustinianus and the Frank Nebiogastes, leading the vanguard of his forces, were defeated by Sarus,[9] and Stilicho's lieutenant, with Nebiogastes being first trapped in, then killed outside, Valence.[10] However, Constantine sent another army headed by Edobichus and Gerontius, and Sarus was forced to retreat into Italy, needing to buy his passage through the Alpine passes from the brigand Bagaudae, who controlled them.[11] Constantine secured the Rhine frontier, and garrisoned the passes that led from Gaul into Italy.[12] By May 408 he had made Arles his capital,[13] where he appointed Apollinaris, the grandfather of Sidonius Apollinaris, as prefect.[14]

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