312



7 January: Saint Lucian of Antioch suffers martydom at Nicomedia under the persecution of Maximinus Daia, and receives subsequent burial at Drepanum.

Summer: Constantine begins his campaign against Maxentius with a military force of 40,000 men. The cities of Segusio (Susa), Augusta Taurinorum (Turin), Milan and Verona presented Constantine little resistance on his way to Rome, and subsequently all of northern Italy was on his side.

27 October at night: A dream evokes Constantine to place a sign of Christ upon the shields of his soilders before they enter battle.

28 October: Maxentius offers battle with Constantine outside the gates of Rome near the Milvian Bridge. Maxentius suffers total defeat, himself drowning in the Tiber. Henceforth, Constantine believes in the power of the Christian God.

29 October: Constantine victoriously enters Rome.

The Roman Senate decrees Constantine senior Augustus, which makes him undisputed master of the western Empire.

end of 312: Constantine founds the Lateran basilica, subsequently called after him the Basilica Constantiniana, has it decorated and endows it with furnishings and landed property.

Helena takes up residence within the palatium Sessorianum at Rome.


chronology of San Giovanni in Laterano
197-203
Dedications in the Castra Equitium Singularium found below the nave of the basilica on an Ionic capital.

297-298:
Fragmentary inscriptions referring to Diocletian and Maximian found in excavations, 1934-8, inside the remains of the Castra Equitium Singularium.

end of 312 (?):
Constantine founds the Lateran basilica, subsequently called after him the Basilica Constantiniana, has it decorated and endows it with furnishings and landed property.

9 November 312 or 9 November 318:
«Quinto idus nov. Romae dedicatio basilicae Salvatoris», referring either to its founding, in that case November 312 or to its consecration, 318; these being the only years in the reign of Constantine and Sylvester when November 9 falls on Sunday, as customary for church dedications.
Richard Krautheimer, Corpus basilicarum Christianarum Romae: Le basiliche cristiane antichi di Roma (sec. IV-IX) (Cittá del Vaticano: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1937-).


"[referring the Basilica Constantiniani] Construction need not have taken many years. The huge Basilica Nova [another building] with its time-consuming vaulting system was built and completely decorated in four or five years; and we shall see that at St. Peter's construction and interior decoration were presumably completed in the course of six to eight years. The Lateran basilica, being smaller than St. Peter's, might well have been built and finished within five or six years. Dates given for the consecration are numerous, varying from 315 to 324, but they are never based on any sources. The Martyrologium Romanum gives November 9 as the feast day of the basilica, "Romae dedicatio Basilicae Salvatoris". However, as pointed out by Lauer, the date occurs first in the second version of the Descriptio Ecclesiae Lateranensis, 1153-1154: "Cuius dedicatio per totum orbum quinto idus novembris...celebratur...". By that time, then, the tradition was well established, but we do not know how far back it went. It is certainly older than the twelfth century, but it does not occur in the early sacramentaries and martyrologia dating from the fifth to ninth century. Is it, then, the date of a reconsecration after the rebuilding by Sergius III (904-911)? This is possible, but it is equally possible that the tradition springs from a fourth century root. We leave the question open. In any event, no year is given. However, it is curious that in the reigns of Constantine and Sylvester, November 9 falls on a Sunday--since the Middle Ages the customary day for church consecrations--only four times: 312, 318, 329, 335. The last two dates can be dispensed with: the period of construction [beginning from] 313 or 314 would be too long. However, 318 would be a very plausible date for the consecration of the church. Or should we stress the choice of the word dedicatio, rather than consecratio, by the sources? Dedicatio in Roman legal language is the act of handing over or ceding--dedere--an object, be it real estate or something else, to a deity; the act of consecratio follows, once the object has been installed or the shrine, temple or whatever, has been built. Is it possible, then, that November 9, 312, not quite two weeks after his conquest of Rome, was the day Constantine ceded to Christ the terrain on which the basilica was to be built and made the endowment for its future maintenance, in servitio luminum?"
Richard Krautheimer, Corpus basilicarum Christianarum Romae: Le basiliche cristiane antichi di Roma (sec. IV-IX) (Cittá del Vaticano: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1937-), p. 90.

See also: the Constantinian basilica in The Life of Sylvester.

The Sessorium, a building known in later times as the palatium Sessorianum, was standing in the first century, when it is mentioned as being near the spot where the execution of criminals took place. The origin of the name is unexplained, but the building became an imperial residence in the fourth century and was a favorite home of Helena, the mother Constantine. Its site is known, for the Church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme occupies one of the halls of the ancient palace. This rectangular hall, 34 meters long, 21 wide, mad 20 high, resembled closely the templum Sacrae Urbis of Vespasian both in construction and scheme of decoration. It was converted into a church by Constantine, who added the apse at the east end, while the columns were not set up until the eighth century. North of the church, in the garden, are the remains of another hall of the Sessorium, consisting of an apse and the walls on each side. This hall was not destroyed until the sixteenth century.
Samuel Ball Platner, The Topography and Monumants of Ancient Rome (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1904), p. 448.


SESSORIUM: a building of unknown origin, situated at the extreme south-east of Region V, adjoining the amphitheatrum Castrense. It was earlier than the Aurelian wall which cut through it, but is not mentioned before that time unless the emendation Sesswvrion for Shstevrion in Plutarch, Galba 28, is admitted (Becker, de Romae veteris muris 120; De Rossi, Roma sotterranea iii.408). From the beginning of the sixth century it appears as Sessorium in the Excerpta Valesiana 69 (Mommsen, Chron. min. i.324: in palatio quod appellatur Sessorium), and in certain scholia (Pseudoacron. in Hor. Epod. 5.100; Sat. i.8.11, 14; Comm. Cruq. ad locc. citt.), where paupers and criminals are said to have been buried outside the porta Esquilina or on the Esquiline in qua est Sessorium, although this building was at least 1400 metres from the gate. That part of the building which was outside the Aurelian wall was destroyed, but the extensive inner section became an imperial residence by the beginning of the fourth century, and Helena, the mother of Constantine, lived here. Hence it was called palatium Sessorianum (LP. vit. Silves. 22; LPD i.179, 196, n75).
Constantine converted one of the halls of the palace into the church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, and placed in it the fragments of the true cross which Helena brought from Jerusalem. This hall was 34.35 metres long, 21.75 wide and 20 high, with five open arches on each side and windows above, and resembled closely the so-called templum Sacrae Urbis of Vespasian both in construction and scheme of decoration. Constantine walled up the arches and added the apse at the east end, but the columns were not set up until the eighth century. North of the church are the remains of another hall of the Sessorium, consisting of the apse with external buttresses, added almost immediately after its construction, and the start of the nave, probably belonging to the time of Maxentius (Ill. 49).



This hall was intact down to the sixteenth century and was erroneously called templum Veneris et Cupidinis (RA 147-152). In 1887 further remains of a building of about 100 A.D. were found on this spot (NS 1887, 70, 108; BC 1887, 100). For further description of the Sessorium, see LR 399; Ann. d. Inst. 1877, 371 ; Mon. L. i.490-492; HJ 249-250; LS iii.163-164; Arm. 795-800; Becker Top. 556-557; SR i.248; HCh 243; BC 1925, 278.
Samuel Ball Platner, The Topography and Monumants of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 488-89.


The area, which in Antiquity was called ad Spem Veterem (because it was near the temple of Spes Vetus — Old Hope — that commemorated a battle fought against the inhabitants of Veii), was topographically part of the Caelian and, because of its marginal and peripheral position with respect to the Palatine city, from the 9th century BC onwards it was mostly given over to funerary uses. From the 5th century BC onwards, the area between porta Maggiore and S. Giovanni became an important road nexus, crossed by major roads, subsequently referred to as the Labicana, the Praenestina and the Caelimontana. In addition, since it was one of the highest points in the city, as many as eight aqueducts converged there, and among them the Claudian, which, built on high arches in opus quadratum made of tufa, are among the oldest monumental remains in the neighborhood (AD 52). Between 42 and 38 BC, as part of a general city planning scheme for the Esquiline, Maecenas transformed this area into a residential quarter, where large villae and domus of the wealthiest families of the time were established. At the end of the 2d century AD, part of the gardens (horti) ad Spem Veterem became the property of the family of the Varii, from which the name horti Variani is derived, and, immediately afterwards, became part of the imperial domains: the emperor Elagabalus (AD 218-22), of the family of the Severi, modified the suburban villa of the Varii, transforming it into a new imperial residence, structured around key monumental buildings (an amphitheatre, a circus, and nymphaea) laid out in a vast park. The Baths of Helen belong to the time of the emperor Alexander Severus (AD 222-235): they may not have been part of the imperial villa and are so named because in the 4th century AD they were restored by Helen, the mother of Constantine. The Aurelian Walls (AD 271-275) redefined the extension of the complex, incorporating into it only those structures that were useful for defensive purposes. Under Constantine (AD 306-337), however, the complex, significantly altered, continued to function still as an imperial residence under the name of Sessorian Palace. With the work done in that period, the layout of the 3d-century villa was enriched with public and private structures and, inside, a room was transformed into a palace chapel dedicated to the cult of the cross of Christ, according to the wishes of Empress Helena. In subsequent years, while the center of political and imperial life had been transferred to Constantinople, Rome traversed a period of profound crisis and inexorable decadence, that culminated in the sack of the city by Alaric in AD 410 and the plague of AD 590. The area of S. Croce followed a fate similar to that of the other parts of the city, becoming gradually abandoned and given over to farming. While the Palace and the public and private buildings fell slowly into ruin, the church continued to exist, becoming a place of pilgrimage as well as an important center of life, around which an active and flourishing religious community developed, which then passed to the Cistercians.
The amphitheatre was built by the emperor Elagabalus (AD 218-222) inside the Severan residence of Horti ad Spem Veterem with evident monumental intent, as is clearly shown by its dominant position and the construction technique. The word Castrense derives from castrum, which in late antiquity also acquired the meaning of imperial residence. In amphitheatres, gladiatorial games (munera) and animal hunts (venationes) were held, which were the preferred spectacles of the ancient Romans. The building, the exterior of which is laid out in three floors or orders, was elliptical in shape, with the arena in the center and the tiers for the spectators (cavea); four entrances provided access to the seats and to the balcony reserved for the emperors (pulvinar). Constructed entirely of brickwork, the amphitheatrum Castrense had 48 arches on the exterior, with pilasters and engaged Corinthian columns. The second order had pilasters surmounted by travertine corbels designed to hold up the tent (velarium) that protected the spectators from the sun during the spectacles. The building, which was directly linked to the palace by a corridor usable by vehicles, was reserved to the imperial court and could seat about 3,500 spectators. Recent excavations have brought to light the structures of the arena (approx. 68 x 51 m), paved in part with movable wooden slabs and communicating directly with the underground service areas beneath, that are even now perfectly preserved, designed to hold the stage scenery and the animals. The Aurelian Walls, built between AD 271 and 275, incorporated the amphitheatre in their circuit and turned its use into one of a defensive stronghold. According to a recent hypothesis, the Vivarium, the building where the animals were trained for the spectacles, located by the historian Procopius near the present Porta Maggiore, is to be identified with the amphitheatrum Castrense, already no longer in use by the end of the 3d century AD. It was probably here that, in the 6th century AD, Vitiges' Goths broke thru the wall, without being able, however, to enter the city. The monument was drastically resized during the pontificate of Paul IV (1556-1557), when, for defensive reasons, it was cropped by taking down the second and third floors. Subsequent destructions occurred in the 18th century due to the expansion of the convent of Cistercian monks, who notably reduced the remains of the amphitheatre, which with the Colosseum is the only one preserved in Rome.
These texts are from two panels on the garden gate at Santa Croce im Gerusalemme in Rome. The text was translated and made available online by Alan Zelenznikar(?).


2000.11.09 27 October 312
On the eve of 27 October 312 Constantine saw a sign (of the Cross?) in the sky that he later attributed as a sign from the Christian God that brought about his 'miraculous' victory over Maxentius the next day at the Milvian bridge just north of Rome.
The 27 October 312 event has come down to us (because Constantine said so under oath) as the moment of his conversion to Christianity. [Please do your own reading/research on the Battle of the Milvian Bridge to get a fuller picture. I'm only calling out this date as the beginning of a Christian imperial regime specifically within the city of Rome, a regime, moreover, very much still existing within the realm of Roman Paganism.]
Constantine was at that time Augustus of the Western half of the empire, and Maxentius was the usurptive ruler of Italy and North Africa. Maxentius was both Constantine's brother-in-law and uncle because Constantine was married to his father's second wife's sister Fausta, the sister of Maxentius and the sister of Theodora, the second wife of Constantius I, the father of Constantine. [By this time Constantine had already caused of death of Maxentius' father, Maximian, who was at his death an ex-Augustus that wanted to be back in power.]
Maxentius died on 28 October 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge which happened to also be the anniversary of Maxentius' own rise to power in Rome on 28 October 306.
Constantine marched triumphantly into Rome on 29 October 312, but he did not end his procession at the (Pagan) Temple of Jupitur on the Arx.
I purposely mention the intricate familial relations of Constantine because there are two matirarchs that survive throughout most of Constantine's reign, namely Helena, the mother of Constantine and first wife of Augustus Constantius I, and Eutropia, the mother-in-law of Constantine and wife of Augustus Maximian. Eutropia is especially interesting because not only is she the grandmother of Constantine's latter five childern [the mother of Constantine's first born Crispus was Minervina, not Fausta], but she is also the grandmother of Constantine's five half brothers and sisters. Furthermore, it is interesting that Eutropia survived given the fact that Constantine was the cause of death for both her husband (Maximian) and her son (Maxentius).
[Contrary to all history so far, I speculate that Helena and Eutropia were secretly Christian believers well before 27 October 312, and, moreover, that Christianity was what bonded Helena and Eutropia. I'll return to this towards the end of my posts.]
The first Constantinian Christian basilica in Rome was erected at the Lateran palace, which according to sources originally belonged to Fausta, Constantine's wife. It is thus historically surmised that Fausta was indeed born in Rome when her father Maximian was Western Augustus. In any case, it would seem that the Maximian/Eutropia side of Constantine's family knew Rome very well, while Constantine and Helena themselves were new comers to Rome.
It is not hard to imagine the confusion of emotions that very likely ran through Constanitne's family after the fall of Maxentius. The very question of who was now safe had no definite answer. And it is to the issue of safety first that brings me to my 'theory' of why the Lateran became the first imperially sanctioned Christian site in Rome (as opposed to the site of an apostle's or martyr's burial which is where all subsequent Constantinian basilicas in Rome occurred). It seems reasonable that there were still factions in Rome loyal to Maxentius, let alone against Christianity, and thus the threat to Constantine's family and now also his religious beliefs was indeed extant. As historically recorded, the Lateran palace became the official residence of the then reigning Pope Silvester. The Basilica Constantiniani (which is what St. John Lateran was first called) was built on the grounds of equestrian guards quarters adjacent to the Lateran palace. I speculate that not only did Pope Silvester come to live in the Lateran palace, but that Fausta and her childern by Constantine born thus far came to live there as well, plus Eutropia. Thus the imperial family was secure (and removed from the center of Rome) and the Papacy was now officially protected as well, and furthermore, the new Constantinian regime in Rome presented a united Imperial-Christian front to the rest of Rome.
Helena's first residence in Rome may well also have been the Lateran palace, but, if that is the case, she later moved to the Sessorian palace literally down the street from the Lateran, which is today the site of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
Steve Lauf
Next I'll list the earliest dates of all the Constantinian basilicas in Rome and compare them to where in the empire Constantine was at that time. Constantine spent very little time in Rome itself.

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