Battle of Cibalae

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Battle of Cibalae
Part of Wars of Constantine I
Head Constantine Musei Capitolini MC1072.jpg
Constantine, bronze head from a sculpture, Capitoline Museums, Rome
Date October 8, 314
Location Colonia Aurelia Cibalae (modern Vinkovci, Croatia)
Result Constantinian victory
Belligerents
Constantine I Licinius
Commanders and leaders
Constantine Licinius
Strength
20,000[1] 35,000[1]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 20,000[2]

The Battle of Cibalae was fought on October 8, 314 (or perhaps as late as 316, the chronology is uncertain),[3] between the two Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius. The site of the battle was approximately 350 kilometers within the territory of Licinius. Constantine won a resounding victory, despite being outnumbered.

Background

The hostilities were prompted by Constantine's appointment of his brother-in-law, Bassianus, as his Caesar. Bassianus was discovered to be intriguing against Constantine, perhaps at the prodding of his own brother Senecio, a close associate of Licinius. When Constantine demanded that Licinius hand over Senecio, Licinius refused. Constantine marched against Licinius, who responded by elevating another associate, Valens.[4] The date of Valens' elevation as emperor probably occurred after the Battle of Cibalae.

Battle

The Danubian Provinces of Rome. Cibalae is shown, located in the SE part of Pannonia.

The opposing armies met on the plain between the rivers Save and Drave near the town of Cibalae (now Vinkovci, Croatia). The battle lasted all day. The battle opened with Constantine's forces arrayed in a defile adjacent to mountain slopes. The army of Licinius was stationed on lower ground nearer the town of Cibalae, Licinius took care to secure his flanks. As the infantry of Constantine needed to move forward through broken ground the cavalry was thrown out ahead, to act as a screen. Constantine moved his formation down on to the more open ground and advanced against the awaiting Licinians[5] Following a period of skirmishing and intense missile fire at a distance, the opposing main bodies of infantry met in close combat. A fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued. This battle of attrition was ended, late in the day, when Constantine personally led a cavalry charge from the right wing of his army. The charge was decisive, Licinius' ranks were broken. As many as 20,000 of Licinius' troops were killed in the hard-fought battle. The surviving cavalry of the defeated army accompanied Licinius when he fled the field under the cover of darkness.[2]

Aftermath

Following the battle Licinius was forced to flee to Sirmium, and then, after collecting his family and treasury, to Thrace. Peace negotiations were initiated, but they broke down. A further battle was then fought, the Battle of Mardia, which proved to be indecisive. Heavy losses were suffered by both sides. Following the battle, in expectation of Licinius retreating on Byzantium, Constantine advanced in the direction of this city. However, Licinius had withdrawn northwards and this placed him across Constantine's lines of communication, Constantine also lost much of his baggage to Licinius.[2] A treaty highly-favorable to Constantine was subsequently negotiated; this included the ceding by Licinius of the greater part of the Balkan Peninsula and the elevation of Constantine's sons, Crispus (then about 14) and Constantine (who was only an infant), with Licinius' young son (Licinius the Younger), to the rank of Caesar. Licinius then deposed and executed his erstwhile co-emperor Valens.[6]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Lieu and Montserrat, p. 45.
  2. ^ a b c Odahl, p.164
  3. ^ For the consensus on dating of the battle of Cibalae in 316, see A.S. Christensen, L. Baerentzen, Lactantius the Historian, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1980, p.23, W. Treadgold, A history of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, 1997, p. 34, D.S. Potter, p. 378 and C. Odahl, p. 164. For the alternative dating at 314 see, among others, Ramsay MacMullen, Constantine, Routledge, 1987, p. 67 and A. H. M. Jones, Constantine and the Conversion of Europe, The English University Press, 1948, p. 127
  4. ^ Grant (1993), pp. 42-43. Gaius Aurelius Valerius Valens was raised by Licinius to the position of Augustus in 316, following his defeat Licinius appeased Constantine by deposing and executing Valens.
  5. ^ Taylor, p. 87
  6. ^ Stephenson, p. 166

References

  • Grant, Michael (1993), The Emperor Constantine, London. ISBN 0-7538-0528-6
  • Lieu, S.N.C and Montserrat, D. (Ed.s) (1996), From Constantine to Julian, London. ISBN 0-415-09336-8
  • Odahl, C.M., (2004) Constantine and the Christian Empire, Routledge 2004. ISBN 0-415-17485-6
  • Potter, David S. The Roman Empire at Bay AD 180–395, Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-10058-5
  • Stephenson, P. (2009) Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor, Quercus, London.
  • Taylor, D. (2016) Roman Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 31 B.C. to A.D. 565, Pen and Sword, Barnsley.

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