Galerius, Roman Emperor

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Reigned 305 to 311; b. Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (Galerius Maximian), near Sardica, Illyricum, c. 250; d. 311. On March 1, 293, after a distinguished military career, he was chosen Caesar of the East by Diocletian. He was charged with the government and defense of the Danubian provinces, and was later sent against the Persian Narses. After an initial defeat at Carrhae, he achieved a complete victory (297) and was given command on the Danube. He went to Nicomedia early in 303, where he helped persuade diocletian to issue the first of his four edicts against the Christians. During Diocletian's illness in 304, Galerius increased the intensity of the persecution. On May 1, 305, Diocletian and Maximian abdicated, probably at the urging of Galerius. Constantius and Galerius succeeded them as the Augusti, while Severus and Maximinus Daia were named the new Caesars. When Constantius died in 306, Galerius reluctantly recognized his son constantine i as Caesar. After conferring the title of Augustus on Severus, he sent him against Maxentius in Rome. Severus was defeated, and Galerius himself had to retreat after an attempted invasion of Italy. In 308 a reorganization of the empire was effected at Carnuntum, where Licinius was named Augustus and Maxentius was declared a public enemy. In 310, Galerius was afflicted with cancer. One of his last acts, in April 311, was an edict issued in his own name and that of the other regents recognizing the failure of the persecution and allowing the Christians "to exist again and build the houses in which they used to assemble" (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 8.17.9). Galerius was by nature cruel and suspicious. His animosity toward the Christians may have been aroused by his mother, since she herself was known to have been extremely superstitious (Lactantius, De mort. persec. 11).

Bibliography: r. b. motzo, Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi, littere ed arti 36 v. (Rome 192939), 16:270. a. amore, Enciclopedia cattolica, ed. p. paschini et al. 12 v. (Rome 194954) 5:186768. w. ensslin, Paulys Realencyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft ed. g. wissowa et al. (Stuttgart 1893) 14.2 (1930) 251628.

[m. j. costelloe]