Name: Magnus Clemens Maximus
Birth: ABT 0340 in Galicia, Spain
ALIA: Macsen Wledig
Occupation: Roman Emperor
Note: Magnus Maximus (383-88) was a Spaniard. His early career was influenced by his relationship with Theodosius the Elder, magister militum per Gallias from 369. Maximus was possibly related to Theodosius, but more likely a client. When Theodosius was
Note: sent to stamp out the "barbarian conspiracy" in Britain from 367-69 Maximus was probably a non-commissioned officer in either the Heruli or Batavi legions. He also likely served with Theodosius in Raetia from 370-72 where Theodosius had been sent
Note: to fight the incursions of the Alamannic chieftain Macrianus.
Note: Maximus definitely served with Theodosius in Africa in 373. Theodosius had been sent by Valentinian I to put down an uprising of the Moorish rebel Firmus, and to investigate the criminal activities of Romanus, the commanding general in Africa.
Note: Maximus was assigned to work with Gildo, a brother of Firmus who was still loyal to the Romans. Their job was to arrest Vincentius, the vicarius of Africa who was suspected of being an accomplice of Romanus. This duty suggests that Maximus was a
Note: deputatus. These were officers hand-picked by the emperor to assist the various Roman generals in tasks such as arresting subversives. Maximus next known assignment was on the Danube in 376, where he was dux Moesiae secundae, and was assisting
Note: Lupicinus, the magister militum per Thracias, in settling Goths on Roman territory. Maximus may have been present at Adrianople in 378, but this is uncertain.
Note: Around 380 he was promoted to comes Britanniae, which is a general of the field army in Britain. In 381 he defeated an incursion of the Picts and Scots. In 383, he was acclaimed emperor by his troops and crossed into Gaul to confront the emperor
Note: Gratian. His reasons for revolting are not entirely clear. Most contemporaries say he was an unwilling emperor, but more than likely Maximus had hoped to win a position as Augustus due to his close relationship with Theodosius the Elder.
Note: Theodosius' son had become the eastern Augustus Theodosius I in 379. In January of 383, however, Theodosius I named his infant son Arcadius as his successor, effectively destroying any hopes that Maximus may have had of assuming a share of the
Note: imperial power legally.
Note: Once he had crossed to Gaul, he met the western emperor Gratian outside of Paris. They skirmished for five days until Gratian was betrayed, first by his Moorish cavalry, and later by the rest of his troops. Gratian fled towards Italy with his
Note: personal bodyguard of Alans. Maximus dispatched his magister equitum Andragathius to pursue Gratian. Andragathius caught and slew Gratian at Lyons on 25 August 383. These events illustrate Maximus' use of barbarians in his rise to power. He
Note: probably won the support of Gratian's Moorish troops through his earlier association with Gildo. Also Gratian had been fighting the Alamanni in Gaul just prior to Maximus' crossing. This is a possible indication that the Alamanni were Maximus'
Note: clients. He may have met them in Britain, where Valentinian I had sent Fraomar, an Alamannic chieftain, with his people to bolster the Roman defenses in Britain after 369. In addition, Maximus used Gratian's favoritism towards his Alan bodyguard
Note: to incite the troops in Britain to mutiny. Finally, Maximus' magister equitum was a Goth.
Note: After defeating Gratian, Maximus set up his court at Trier and sent ambassadors to Theodosius I and Valentinian II. It seems, however, that he had intentions of continuing on to Italy. He amassed a force composed mainly of his Alamanni clients,
Note: but was thwarted by the quick action of Valentinian II's general Bauto who came north and fought a delaying action until the bulk of his forces could fortify the Alpine passes. In addition, Theodosius I came west with an army. As a result of these
Note: two events, an accord was reached between Maximus, Theodosius I, and Valentinian II in 384, whereby Maximus was recognized as an Augustus in return for leaving Valentinian II in power. Sometime after this agreement, but still in 384, Maximus named
Note: his infant son Victor as Augustus and no longer recognized Valentinian II.
Note: Maximus' regime seemed to function smoothly. He ruled in Britain, Gaul, Spain, and Africa. He issued coinage, promulgated laws, and had an imperial bureaucracy. Maximus was a staunch Nicene Christian. He executed the Spanish heretic Priscillian
Note: sometime between 384-86, arousing the ire of Pope Siricius and other prominent members of the church. This was ostensibly over doctrinal issues, but was really a question of authority. In addition, he reorganized the provinces in Gaul, most
Note: notably creating Lugdunensis III and Lugdunensis Senonia, as well as giving his name to Maxima Sequania. His associate Gildo ruled Africa.
Note: In 387, Maximus decided to invade Italy and displace Valentinian II once and for all. Valentinian fled to Theodosius in the east and requested help. Theodosius mustered an army and marched west. After several battles in Illyricum at Emona, Siscia,
Note: and Poetovio, Maximus was captured and executed at Aquileia on 28 August 388. Maximus was important for several reasons. The trend of generals holding de facto power in the west had begun. His relations with the church began the long battle over
Note: secular rulers having power over the church. In addition his use of barbarians was another foreshadowing of the conditions prevalent in the west during the fifth century. Finally, Maximus was the last really powerful emperor in the west; his
Note: defeat all but insured that the center of the Roman empire was to become Constantinople.
Note: Select Bibliography
Note: I. Primary Sources
Note: Ammianus Marcellinus. Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt. J.C. Rolfe ed. and trans., Ammianus Marcellinus (3 vols.). London, 1964.
Note: Pacatus. Panegyricus Latini Pacati Deprani dictus Theodosio. C.E.V. Nixon and Barbara Saylor Rodgers eds., In Praise of Later Roman Emperors. Berkeley, 1994.
Note: Sulpicius Severus. Dialogi. C. Halm ed., CSEL 1. Vienna, 1866.
Note: ________. Vita Sancti Martini. C. Halm ed., CSEL 1. Vienna, 1866.
Note: Zosimus. Nova Historia. Ronald T. Ridley ed. and trans. Sydney, 1982.
Note: II. Secondary Sources
Note: Birley, Anthony R. "Magnus Maximus and the Persecution of Heresy." Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 66 (Autumn 1983): 13-43.
Note: ________.. The Fasti of Roman Britain. Oxford, 1981.
Note: Jones, A.H.M. The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey. 2 vols. Norman, 1964.
Note: Matthews, John F. "Macsen, Maximus, and Constantine." Welsh History Review 11 no.4 (1983): 431-449.
Note: ________.. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court A.D. 364-425. Oxford, 1975.
Note: Palanque, Jean-Remy. "L'Empereur Maxime." In Les empereurs romains d'Espagne, eds. A. Piganiol and H. Terrasse, 255-267. Paris, 1965.
Note: Piganiol, Andre. L'Empire chretien. Paris, 1972.
Note: Seeck, Otto. Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt. vol. 5. Stuttgart, 1966.
Note: Stein, Ernst. Histoire du Bas-Empire. Amsterdam, 1968.
Note: According to Welsh legend, the Emperor Magnus Maximus, known as Macsen Wledig (the Imperator), was a widowed senator living in Rome. Being a minor member of the Constantinian Imperial family, he felt it unjust that the Empire was ruled by the
Note: Emperors, Gratian & Valentinian, but there was little he could do about it.
Note: In about 365, Maximus was out hunting one day when he rested beneath a tree and fell asleep. He had a long dream about a palace far away. He entered the palace and encountered an ageing King and two young men playing chess. Turning, his eyes met
Note: the most beautiful woman he could ever have imagined, sitting on a golden throne. On waking, Maximus immediately sought out a local oracle who urged him to search out this beautiful maiden. So messengers were sent out across the Empire but,
Note: dispite exhaustive searches, all returned empty handed. There was no sign of Maximus' beauty.
Note: Meanwhile, at the edge of the Empire, High-King Eudaf Hen of Britain was getting very old. He decided it was time to appoint his official heir to the British Kingdom. His nephew, Cynan Meriadog, was perhaps the most obvious choice, though the
Note: King's direct heir was his only daughter, Elen. Eudaf's chief advisor, Caradog, the King of Dumnonia, advocated strengthening Roman links by marrying Elen to a man with Imperial connections. The two could then inherit the Kingdom together. He knew
Note: of such a steady young man in Rome who would make an ideal husband. Eudaf was intrigued. So had Caradog send his son, Meurig, to seek this Roman out.
Note: Meurig arrived in Rome at the house of Magnus Maximus, just as he had received the unfortunate news that his dream girl could not be found. Glad of the distraction and persuaded by Meurig's suggestion that he might find support in Britain for his
Note: Imperial claims, Maximus gladly agreed to return with him. Comes Theodosius' historical expedition to Britain in order to quell barbarian risings actually brought Magnus Maximus to these shores in 368. Legend tells how the arrival on the island of
Note: a large army of men caused quite a stir and, not realising who it was, Eudaf sent Cynan with an army to disperse them. Fortunately, Meurig persuaded all of their good intentions and Maximus was able to ride off to Eudaf's court at Carnarfon
Note: (Caer-yn-Arfon alias Caer-Segeint).
Note: Upon being introduced to everyone, Maximus was astounded to find that Eudaf was the old man in his dream and Cynan, one of the chess-players (some say the other was his son, Cadfan). He was then overjoyed to find that Eudaf's daughter, Elen, was
Note: his dream-girl. The two fell in love immediately and were married with great pomp and ceremony.
Note: Eudaf died soon afterward, and Maximus and Elen inherited his Kingdom. Cynan was extremely annoyed and rode north to gather an army of Picts & Scots to overthrow them. However, Maximus defeated him and, being magnanimous in victory, the two made
Note: peace. Cynan became Maximus' dearest friend and also his magister militum.
Note: At this point, we return to more historic details. News reached Britain that Maximus' relative, Theodosius had been elevated to the Eastern Imperial throne. Incensed, Maximus invaded the Western Empire, in 383, along with his son Victorius and
Note: Prince Cynan. They withdrew troops from Carnarfon (Caer-Segeint) & elsewhere in Britain and his men quickly proclaimed Maximus as Emperor. His armies marched across the continent, establishing his rule as they went. Cynan eventually killed the
Note: Western Emperor, Gratian, in battle (being given Brittany as a reward), and Maximus became sole ruler of the West.
Note: Maximus set up his capital at Trier and ruled well over Britain, Gaul & Spain for four years. He was baptised a Christian, and was recognised as Emperor by Theodosius who was occupied with his own troubles elsewhere. Eventually however, Maximus
Note: was forced to make a move against Gratian's younger brother, Valentinian, the Southern Emperor, who threatened his rule from Rome. He invaded Italy, took Milan and for a whole year besieged Rome, before Cynan arrived once more and finished the
Note: job. Unfortunately though, Valentinian escaped. He soon returned, backed up by the Roman Emperor of the East, Theodsoius. Maximus' forces were twice defeated at Illyricum, before he was finally killed, with his son, at Aquileia.
Note: Geoffrey Ashe (1990) Mythology of the British Isles.
Note: Gildas Badonicus (c.540) The Ruin of Britain.
Note: Peter C. Bartrum (1993) A Welsh Classical Dictionary.
Note: A.H.M. Jones (1964) The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey.
Note: Geoffrey of Monmouth (1136) The History of the Kings of Britain.
Note: Nennius (c.829) The History of the Britons.
Note: The Red Book of Hergest (14th c.) The Dream of Macsen Wledig .
Note: William Smith & Henry Wace (1877) The Dictionary of Christian Biography.
Note: The White Book of Rhydderch (14th c.) The Dream of Macsen Wledig.
Note: King of the Island of Britain
Note: SOURCE: Hereldric Visitations of the Counties of Wales, by Lewys Dwnn, vol. 1, p. 218, #1569
Father: Constans I b: ABT 0322 in Rome, Italy
Elen Lwyddog verch Eudaf Hen b: ABT 0340 in Ewyas (now Monmouth), Mid-Glamorgan, Wales
- Kystenin Vendigaid
- Gratianna verch Macsen b: ABT 0367 in Gwent (now Monmouth), Mid-Glamorgan, Wales