The Rise of Constantius III – Michael Kulikowski


The elevation – and subsequent domination – of the late Roman Empire by Constantius III came about within the context of the power vacuum generated by the execution of the Roman generalissimo Stilicho. Successful in several campaigns in Spain and Gaul, Constantius for a time managed to restore Roman power-projection in both domains. Later, he shared power with Honorius as co-emperor.


“Disease had rid Honorius of one of his chief tormentors, but it was a new arrival in the regime who delivered him from the still more pressing challenge of Constantine in Gaul. Flavius Constantius, who would dominate the next decade of western Roman history in much the same way that Stilicho had the last, was a native of Naissus.

“He played no documented role in the chaos before and after Stilicho’s execution, and emerges on the scene only in 410, perhaps as comes domesticorum, when he orchestrated the second fall of Olympius and had him clubbed to death. Constantius was then elevated to the magisterium utriusque militiae, senior commander of the praesental army.

“In places where the imperial superstructure was restored, as it was in much of Gaul and Spain, the period of local autonomy looked like an unfortunate interlude; in places where it was not, it was remembered as a popular revolt against Rome.

“For a very brief moment, Honorius was the sole person claiming the western throne. That was in itself a triumph at this point, but the successive proclamations in most of the western dioceses revealed a pattern of entrenched warlordism that would characterise the rest of the fifth century.

“Constantius had every reason to be well pleased. He was now clearly the dominant power in the state, and the fact that we know so little about the court factions surrounding him suggests that there was none that could challenge his predominance.

*All excerpts have been taken from Imperial Tragedy: From Constantine’s Empire to the Destruction of Roman Italy, AD 363-568, Profile Books Ltd.