Magnentius, Flavius Magnus

Magnentius, Flavius Magnus, a Roman general, for a short period emperor of the West, was born in Gaul about A.D. 300. Partly by courage and partly by flattery, he gained the confidence of the emperor Constans, and was entrusted with the command of the imperial guards, the famous Jovian and Herculean battalions. He afterwards, together with Marcellinus, chancellor of the imperial exchequer, conspired against Constans and caused himself to be elected emperor by the soldiers in 350. He was recognized as such by Italy, Spain, Brittany, and Africa, but the Illyrian legions elected Vetranio, who was soon joined by Constantius, brother of the late emperor. The war between Magnentius and Constantius ended in the defeat of the former at Mursa, Sept. 28, 352. As Magnentius saw that his soldiers would deliver him up to his enemies, he committed suicide at Lyons about the middle of August, 353. Zosimus, 2:54, represents him as overbearing in his prosperity, and weak and irresolute in adversity. He is shown to have been a Christian by the cross being stamped on his coins. The only part he took in ecclesiastical affairs was to prevent, for two years, Constantius from favoring Arianism. As for himself, he looked upon religion from a political stand-point; in order to conciliate the West, he gave more freedom to the heathen worship. He had relied on Athanasius to win over Egypt to his side, but in this he was mistaken, as Athanasius upheld the rights of the legitimate successor of Constans. — Herzog, Real-Encykl. 8:686; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol. 2:900.

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