Previously: Revelation 6, the great earthquake symbolism
issuing the edict requiring conformity of religion, which resulted in
the severe persecution of the Christians under Diocletian, the emperor
became afflicted with a severe illness, which prompted him to abdicate
his throne in 305 ad. He forced his co- emperor to do the same, thus the two Caesars were elevated to Augustus.
Now Galerius was the Caesar under Diocletian, and was Diocletian’s son-
in- law. Diocletian favored this man above the other Caesar, who was
Constantius. Galerius was given three- fourths of the Empire, not
merely the East as Diocletian had originally arranged.
Galerius increased the persecution of the Christians after his father-
in- law stepped down. Only in the extreme West of the Empire, in the
little sliver ruled by Constantius did Christians escape censure, for
Constantius protected them. But he died in York in 306 ad.
His legions immediately proclaimed Constantine, his son, the successor
to the throne, which went against the reforms Diocletian had
implemented. However, Galerius raised his own Caesar, Severus, to
Augustus to take Constantius’ place, and accepted Constantine as
Severus’ Caesar, to appease the army.
But Maxentius, the
son of Maximian, Diocletian’s co-emperor (whom Diocletian had forced to
retire with him), chose this time to revolt. He assumed the imperial
accoutrements from Rome, and declared himself emperor in place of
Severus or Galerius. His father, coming out of his forced retirement,
joined him. Severus tried to crush the revolt, but failed, being
abandoned by his troops, and captured by those of Maximian. Severus was
compelled to commit suicide.
Constantine aligned himself
with Maximian and Maxentius in a sort of new triumvirate, ruling the
West. Galerius tried to restore his will from his central and eastern
provinces, but was forced to retreat before he could accomplish
anything. He proclaimed a new emperor to take Severus’ place, but this
man remained in the East with Galerius, unable to take his position in
the West due to the revolt. So there was established a new triumvirate
in the East as well; with Galerius, his Caesar, Maximin, and the new
powerless Augustus of the West, Licinius.
As with the first
triumvirates, these were doomed to fail, for one or two of the rulers
invariably begins plotting against the others, led on by the lust of
sole power. Maximian was not happy being merely one ruler of three,
having held the imperial rule before, and he quarreled with his son in
Rome, and then fled to Constantine. But then he plotted against
Constantine as well, so Constantine had him put to death. While these
intrigues were going on, Galerius had died a miserable death (as was so
often the fate of those who pursued persecutions against the
Christians). In the West, war broke out between Maxentius and
Constantine in 312 ad, and in the East between Licinius and Maximin.
his way to Rome and battle with Maxentius, the legend goes, Constantine
saw the vision of the brilliant cross appearing in the sky, surrounded
by the words, “In hoc sidno vinces,” which means, “By this sign
conquer.” Now Constantine’s army numbered 20,000 men, while Maxentius’
numbered 100,000. But Constantine was so moved by this vision that he
vowed to become a Christian if he won the day. Constantine did indeed
defeat Maxentius the next day at the battle of Milvian Bridge (313 ad);
in gratitude for the Lord’s deliverance, he ended Christian
persecutions by issuing the Edict of Milan, which established freedom
of worship in the West. Constantine also ended crucifixions, stating
that as Jesus Christ had sanctified the cross, they were to no more be
used as a form of execution. He also ended gladiatorial combats.
Constantine met with Licinius at Milan. Licinius agreed to enforce the
Edict of Milan in the East as well, if Constantine would support him in
his battle against Maximin. Constantine agreed, and secured the truce
by marrying his sister to Licinius.
a bigoted pagan and a cruel tyrant, who persecuted the Christians even
after Galerius’ death, was now defeated by Licinius, whose soldiers, by
his orders, had invoked the God of the Christians on the battlefield
(30 April, 313). Maximin, in his turn, implored the God of the
Christians, but died of a painful disease in the following autumn.”
Constantine, The Catholic Encyclopedia
of Diocletian’s dual emperor system only Licinius was left;
Constantine, of course, had never been a part of it, not being chosen
by either Diocletian or one of Diocletian’s successors. Licinius broke
the treaty between himself and Constantine, and proceeded to plot
against Constantine, and war resulted. Three major battles were fought,
in which Constantine prevailed in each instance. Licinius then shut
himself into Byzantium, and was beseiged there, but escaped on the
verge of defeat. He was pursued to Chrysopolis in Bithynia, and was
defeated a final time. Licinius was put to death in 324 ad, and Constantine became sole emperor over the entire Empire.
Diocletian’s dual emperor system was completely discarded, and his
chosen successors completely defeated in battle by the Christian
champion. The sun and the moon, we see, are indeed in total eclipse.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 6, the great earthquake: stars fall to the earth