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Magnus Maximus

Magnus Maximus (Welsh: Macsen Wledig), also Maximianus, (c. 335July 28, 388) was emperor of the Western Roman Empire from 383 until his death in 388. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, he was also a king of the Britons following the death of Octavius and a nephew of King Coel through his brother Ioelinus. A Spanish Celt, Maximus was proclaimed emperor by his troops in 383, while serving with the army in Britain.

According to the Mabinogion, Magnus Maximus took as his wife Helen or Elen, daughter of a chieftain based at Segontium (Caernarfon). This agrees with the story Geoffrey tells that Octavius, the king of the Britons, wanted to wed his daughter to a powerful half-Roman, half-Briton and give the kingship of Britain as a dowry to that husband. Although the story of their meeting is undoubtedly fictional, there is some evidence for the basic facts. Caradocus, the Duke of Cornwall, supported the marriage between Octavius's daughter and Maximus. Maximus accepted and left Rome for Britain.

Geoffrey claims further that Maximus gathered an army as he sacked Frankish towns along the way. He invaded Southampton unintentionally and nearly fought the army of the Britons before a truce was made. Following further negotiations, Maximus was given the kingship of Britain and Octavius retired. Welsh legend also claims that he was responsible for the withdrawal of Roman troops from Wales, twenty years before the rest of Britain was left to govern itself.

Five years into his kingship, Magnus Maximus assembled a vast fleet and invaded Gaul leaving Britain in the control of Caradocus. Upon reaching the kingdom of Armorica, he defeated the king and killed thousands of inhabitants. Before departing, he summoned Conanus (Welsh: Kynan Meriadec, French: Conan Meriadoc), the rebellious nephew of Octavius, and asked him to rule as king of the land, which was renamed Brittany, or 'Little Britain.'

Following his destruction of Gaul, Maximus went out to meet his main opponent, Gratianus, who he defeated near Paris. Gratianus, after fleeing, was killed at Lyons on August 25, 383. Soon after, he managed to force Valentinian II out of Rome after which he fled to Theodosius I, the Eastern Roman Emperor. Maximus made his capital at Augusta Treverorum (Treves, Trier) in Gaul. He became a popular emperor, although also a stern persecutor of heretics.

Maximus was defeated, captured and executed by Theodosius I, along with his son. Valentinian II was restored to the emperorship of Rome while Dionotus, the brother of Caradocus, became king of the Britons.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 02:51:50
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04