Author Topic: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero  (Read 2170 times)

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Offline Alisdair

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At the Basel coin fair a few weeks ago, I was happy to find a pair of coins from one of the lesser known Roman emperors of the Fourth century: Magnus Maximus. They may not look like much, but the gratifying research it stimulated subsequent to their acquisition might serve to illustrate my interest for numismatics...

I wrote a little overview of all the things I dug up, from both historical sources, as well as Welsh folklore and pseudo history...If any of you have other interesting suggested material, I'd be happy to know about it!

http://www.lateromanbronzecoins.com/macsen-wledig-or-magnus-maximus-roman-usurper-and-welsh-folk-hero
« Last Edit: March 17, 2015, 04:56:56 AM by Alisdair »

Offline Victor

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2015, 10:11:50 AM »
The most important primary source of the period was written by Ammianus Marcellinus who has nothing good to say about Maximus. In A.D. 376 Maximinus was second-in-command to Lupicinus. They were in charge of settling the Goths in Roman territory. Marcellinus (31:4) wrote that -

"The critical situation resulting from the opening of our frontier and in the eruption of armed men from the barbarian lands like lava from Etna called for generals of the highest distinction, but by some unfavourable dispensation of providence men of flawed character were collected and put in command. At their head were Lupicinus and Maximus, the one commander in Thrace and the other a disastrous general, both equally reckless. Their sinister greed was the source of all our troubles."

Marcellinus said that one crime in particular was most loathsome. The Goths were starving so Lupicinus and Maximus traded them dogs, to be used for food, in exchange for tribesmen, who were to be slaves. Some of the people traded for food were even "the sons of leading men."


Basically, Marcellinus blamed Maximus (and men like him) for agitating the Goths and pushing them towards rebellion and setting into motion the events which ultimately led to the Battle of Adrianople and the death of Valens.

Offline Alisdair

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2015, 11:47:38 AM »
Thanks for that, Victor! I hadn't considered that, seeing as Ammianus Marcellinus' works only go as far as 378...but that's very interesting.

That being said, it's can't have been too fashionable to be kind to Magnus Maximus after his defeat!

I'd like to look up Orosius, Pacatus, Prosper of Aquitaine...any other suggestions?

Offline Alisdair

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2015, 03:14:34 PM »
...Sulpicius Severus

Offline Victor

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2015, 03:58:31 PM »
Most of those writers are concerned with Church history, but Pacatus wrote a panegyric for Theodosius I which has some info on Maximus. A great book to have is In Praise of Later Roman Emperors by Nixon and Rodgers. It contains the speech by Pacatus and includes lengthy notes which have other sources that talk about Maximus, like the Church historians Socrates and Sozomen.

Offline Alisdair

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2015, 05:20:03 PM »
Thanks, I've dig up a few extra bits and bobs...I need to lay my hands on Pacatus' text.

Offline Alisdair

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Re: Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus : Roman usurper and Welsh folk hero
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2015, 07:56:51 AM »
So, I've done some more digging, thanks to Victor:

http://www.lateromanbronzecoins.com/magnus-maximus-more-sources/

As far as sources are concerned, I've seen the following:

Early sources (fourth and early fifth century):

Ammianus Marcellinus – Rerum Gestarum Libri Qui Supersunt XXXI.4.9
Orosius – Historium adversum paganos VII.34
Pacatus – Panegyricus Latini Pacati Deprani Dictus Theodosio
Prosper (Tiro) of Aquitaine Chronicon
Socrates Scholasticus – Historia Ecclesiastica V.8; V.11
Sozomen – Historia Ecclesiastica VII.13
Sulpicius Severus – Dialogi II.6
Sulpicius Severus Dialogi III.11
Sulpicius Severus Historia Sacra II.49-51
Sulpicius Severus Vita Sancti Martini XX



Later sources

Historia Nova, Book IV, Zosimus c. 500
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, Gildas c. 540
The Pillar of Eliseg, 9th century
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, Bede, c. 731
Historia Brittonum, Nennius, c.828
Breuddwyd Macsen, The dream of Macsen Wledig, 11th century
Historia regum Britanniae, Geoffroy de Monmouth, c. 1136
The five royal tribes of Wales and The fifteen tribes of Gwynedd, 15th century
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 08:00:50 AM by Alisdair »