The Battle at the Milvian Bridge

After Galerius' death in 311 C.E., both Licinius and Maximin Daia raced to claim his territories. For different reasons—Licinius because he wanted Maximin Daia's territories and Constantine because he had no interest in the continued persecutions of Maximin Daia—Constantine and Licinius became allies. To cement their alliance, Licinius was betrothed to Constantine's half-sister Constantia. Meanwhile, Maxentius was losing control of Rome and had declared war on Constantine. The pretext was that he wanted to avenge the murder of his father Maximian, but in reality he had become more and more unpopular as his building program excessively taxed the Romans and the food shortages precipitated riots. He needed money, troops, and territory. He and Maximin Daia agreed to ally themselves against Constantine and Licinius. The tetrarchy had completely dissolved.

In the spring of 312 C.E., while Licinius and Maximin Daia remained in the east, Constantine crossed the Alps and took northern Italy in several difficult battles that required strategic acumen and daring leadership. Maxentius had remained fortified in Rome, which he had filled with supplies; to slow the approach of Constantine and his forces, he had cut all the bridges outside of the walls of Rome.

Complacent and overconfident, Maxentius was celebrating the anniversary of his accession when he received the news that Constantine was marching closer to Rome and could not be stopped. He ordered the Sibylline books to be consulted, to learn what the fortune of the day held: the haruspex read in the prophetic books that on that day the enemy of the Romans would perish. Interpreting the prediction of the haruspex to mean that Constantine was "the enemy of Romans" and would be defeated, Maxentius marched out to meet him. The date was October 28, 312 C.E., six years to the very day that Maxentius had proclaimed himself emperor.

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