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28 October 306 –
28 October 312

Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius (c. 278 – 28 October 312) was Western Roman Emperor from 306 to 312. He was the son of former emperor Maximian, and the son-in-law of Galerius, also an emperor.



Birth and early life

Maxentius' exact date of birth is unknown; it was probably around 278. He was the son of the emperor Maximian and his wife Eutropia.

As his father became emperor in 285, he was regarded as crown prince who would eventually follow his father on the throne. He seems not to have served in any important military or administrative position during Diocletian's and his father's reign, though. Early (the exact date is unknown) he married Valeria Maximilla, the daughter of Galerius. He had two sons, Valerius Romulus (ca. 295 – 309) and an unknown one.

In 305, Diocletian and Maximian resigned, and the former caesares Constantius and Galerius became Augusti. Although with Constantine and Maxentius two sons of emperors were available, they were left out from the new tetrarchy, and Severus and Maximinus Daia were appointed Caesars. Some sources (Lactantius, Epitome) state that Galerius hated Maxentius and used his influence on Diocletian that Maxentius be ignored in the succession; maybe Diocletianus also thought that he was not qualified for the military duties of the imperial office. Maxentius retired to an estate some miles from Rome.

When Constantius died in 306, his son Constantine was crowned emperor on July 25 and subsequently accepted by Galerius into the tetrarchy as Caesar. This set the precedent for Maxentius' accession later in the same year.


When rumours reached the capital that the emperors tried to subject the Roman population to the capitation tax, like every other city of the empire, and wanted to dissolve the remains of the Praetorian Guard which were still stationed at Rome, riots broke out. A group of officers of the city's garrisons (Zosimus calls them Marcellianus, Marcellus and Lucianus) turned to Maxentius to accept the imperial purple, probably judging that the official recognition which was granted to Constantine would not be withheld from Maxentius, son of an emperor as well. Maxentius accepted the honour, promised donations to the city's troops, and was publicly acclaimed emperor on October 28, 306. The usurpation obviously went largely without bloodshed (Zosimus names only one victim); the prefect of Rome went over to Maxentius and retained his office. Apparently the conspirators turned to Maximian as well, who had retired to a palace in Lucania, but he declined to resume power for the time being.

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