Constantine II
Large statue of Constantine II
Statue of Caesar Constantine II on top of the Cordonata (the monumental staircase climbing up to Piazza del Campidoglio), in Rome
Roman emperor
Augustus9 September 337 – 340 (Gaul, Hispania, and Britain)
PredecessorConstantine I
SuccessorConstantius II and Constans
Co-emperorsConstantius II (East)
Constans (Italy and Africa)
Caesar1 March 317 – 9 September 337
Arelate, Viennensis
Died340 (aged 24)
Aquileia, Italy
Flavius Claudius Constantinus[1]
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Claudius Constantinus Augustus
FatherConstantine the Great
ReligionArian Christianity

Constantine II (Latin: Flavius Claudius Constantinus; 316 – 340) was Roman emperor from 337 to 340. Son of Constantine the Great and co-emperor alongside his brothers, his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture led to his death in a failed invasion of Italy in 340.


The eldest son of Constantine the Great and Fausta,[a] Constantine II was born in Arles in 316 and raised as a Christian.[3]


On 1 March 317, he was made caesar.[3][1] In 323, at the age of seven, he took part in his father's campaign against the Sarmatians.[3] At age ten, he became commander of Gaul, following the death of his half-brother Crispus. An inscription dating to 330 records the title of Alamannicus, indicating that his generals won a victory over the Alamanni.[3] His military career continued when Constantine I made him field commander during the 332 winter campaign against the Goths.[3][4] The military operation was successful and decisive, with 100,000 Goths reportedly slain and the surrender of the ruler Ariaric.[5] He was married prior to 336, although his wife’s identity remains unknown.[6]


While Constantine I had intended for his sons to rule together with their cousins Dalmatius and Hannibalianus, soon after his death the army slaughtered almost all of their male relatives, including Dalmatius and Hannibalianus.[7] Burgess observed from numismatic evidence that Constantine II and his brothers “not only seem not to have fully accepted the legitimacy of Dalmatius and viewed him as an interloper, but also appear to have communicated with one another on this point and agreed on a common response.”[8]

He was soon involved in the struggle between factions rupturing the unity of the Christian Church.[3] The Western portion of the empire, under the influence of the Popes in Rome, favoured Nicene Christianity over Arianism, and through their intercession they convinced Constantine to free Athanasius, allowing him to return to Alexandria.[3][9] This action aggravated Constantius II, who was a committed supporter of Arianism.[10]

The three brothers were not named as Augusti until 9 September 337,[1] when they gathered together in Pannonia[3] and divided the Roman territories among themselves. Constantine received Gaul, Britannia and Hispania.[11][12] Unlike his younger brothers, he gained little from Dalmatius’ removal.[13]

In what seemed to be an attempt to distance themselves from the massacre,[14] the three brothers proceeded to print coins of Theodora, whom their murdered relatives had been descended from.[7] The evidence indicates that Constantine II was the one responsible for designing and producing the coinage at the start, as well as convincing his brothers to do the same.[15] Woods considered it to suggest that he was more sympathetic to Theodora’s memory than his brothers,[16] possibly because his wife may have been a granddaughter of Theodora.[6]

It appears that Constantine was left unsatisfied with the results of their meeting, as he soon complained that he had not received the amount of territory that was his due as the eldest son.[17][18] Annoyed that Constans had received Thrace and Macedonia after the death of Dalmatius, Constantine demanded that Constans hand over the African provinces, to which he agreed in order to maintain a fragile peace.[18][19] Soon, however, they began quarreling over which parts of the African provinces belonged to Carthage, and thus Constantine, and which belonged to Italy, and therefore Constans.[20] Even after campaigning against the Alamanni in 338, he continued to maintain his position.[9][21] The Codex Theodosianus recorded Constantine’s legislative intervention in Constans’ territory through issuing an edict to the proconsul of Africa in 339.[9][21]

In 340 Constantine marched into Italy at the head of his troops to claim territory from Constans.[9][3] Constans, at that time in Naissus,[9] detached and sent a select and disciplined body of his Illyrian troops, stating that he would follow them in person with the remainder of his forces.[17] Constantine was killed by Constans's generals in an ambush outside Aquileia.[9][22][b] Constans then took control of his deceased brother's realm, who seem to have been largely unaffected by their change in ruler.[25] After his death, Constantine was subjected to damnatio memoriae,[9] which his other brother Constantius II also followed.[21]

Family tree

See also: Constantinian dynasty

Family of Constantine II (emperor)

Emperors are shown with a rounded-corner border with their dates as Augusti, names with a thicker border appear in both sections

1: Constantine's parents and half-siblings

Flavia Maximiana Theodora
  • Constantine I
  • 306–337
Flavius DalmatiusHannibalianusFlavia Julia Constantia
GallaJulius ConstantiusBasilinaLicinius IIEutropiaVirius Nepotianus
HannibalianusConstantinaConstantius Gallus

2: Constantine's children

  • Constantine I
  • 306–337
  • Constantine II
  • 337–340
HannibalianusConstantinaConstantius Gallus



  1. ^ The PLRE’s statement that Constantine II was not Fausta’s son[1] is wrong.[2]
  2. ^ In a confused account, Zosimus does not say Constantine II invaded his youngest brother’s territory. He instead reported that Constans sent troops to Constantine on the pretext of assisting in the Persian war, but in reality to assassinate him by surprise. Constans’ troops would’ve been marching away from the Persians if they were heading to Constantine’s territory.[23][24] Modern historians, trying to make sense of Zosimus’ confusion, have suggested that instead it was Constantine who claimed to be assisting Constantius II.[9][21][23]


  1. ^ a b c d Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 223.
  2. ^ Barnes 1973, pp. 36–37.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i DiMaio Jr, Michael; Frakes, Robert (2 May 1998). "Constantine II (337–340 A.D.)". De Imperatoribus Romanis - Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors.
  4. ^ Crawford 2016, “Preparation for the Purple: Constantius’ Upbringing and Accession”.
  5. ^ Barnes 1981, p. 250.
  6. ^ a b Woods 2011, p. 195.
  7. ^ a b Hunt 1998, p. 3.
  8. ^ Burgess 2008, pp. 21–22.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Hunt 1998, p. 5.
  10. ^ Howard, Nathan D. (26 October 2012), "Constantine II", The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., doi:10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah05050, ISBN 9781444338386
  11. ^ "Constantine II – Roman Emperor". Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021.
  12. ^ Hunt 1998, p. 4.
  13. ^ Lewis 2020, p. 59.
  14. ^ Woods 2011, pp. 194–195.
  15. ^ Burgess 2008, p. 23.
  16. ^ Woods 2011, p. 194.
  17. ^ a b DiMaio 1988, p. 240.
  18. ^ a b Gibbon, Ch. 18
  19. ^ Victor, 41:21
  20. ^ Zosimus, 2:41–42
  21. ^ a b c d Crawford 2016, “Fraternal Civil War and the Usurpation of Magnentius”.
  22. ^ DiMaio 1988, p. 241.
  23. ^ a b Baker-Brian 2022, “Making and Shaping a Dynasty”.
  24. ^ Lewis 2020, p. 78.
  25. ^ Hunt 1998, pp. 5–6.


Primary sources

Secondary sources