Front Page Titles (by Subject) 9.: THE TRAGEDY OF FAUSTA AND CRISPUS — ( P. 175 sqq. ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
9.: THE TRAGEDY OF FAUSTA AND CRISPUS — ( P. 175 sqq. ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 3.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE TRAGEDY OF FAUSTA AND CRISPUS — (P. 175sqq.)
The attempt of Gibbon to show that Fausta was not put to death by Constantine was unsuccessful; for the text on which he chiefly relied has nothing to do with Constantine the Great, but refers to an Emperor of the fifteenth century (see above, vol. ii. App. 10, p. 360); and from the subsidiary passage in Julian (p. 211, n. 25) no inference can be drawn. On the other hand, as Seeck has pointed out, the sign of the Constantinople mint appears on coins of Constantine I. and II., Constantius, Constans, Helena, Theodore, Delmatius and Hannibalianus, in short all the members of the imperial family who survived the foundation of the Capital (11th May, 330); but in the Fausta series as in the Crispus series the sign never appears, and in the Trier mint the latest coins of both belong to the same emission. Eusebius, the writer of the Anonymous Valesian fragment, and Aurelius Victor are silent as to the death of Fausta; but this proves nothing, on the principle, as Seeck observes, “im Hause des Gehenkten redet man nicht vom Stricke.”
The evidence as to the circumstances of the tragedy is investigated in a suggestive manner by Seeck, “Die Verwandtenmorde Constantins des Grossen,” in Ztsch. f. wiss. Theol. 33, 1890, p. 63 sqq. He distinguishes four independent testimonies. (1) Eutropius (on whom Jerome and Orosius depend) states simply that Constantine put to death his son and wife. (2) Sidonius Apollinaris mentions (Ep. v. 8) that Crispus was poisoned, Fausta suffocated by a hot bath. These kinds of death were suitable to avoid the appearance of violence. (3) Philostorgius (ii. 4) assigns causes. He says that Crispus, calumniated by Fausta, was put to death, and that she was afterwards found guilty of adultery with a cursor and killed in a hot bath. (4) A common source, on which the Epitome of Victor, the account of Zosimus, and that of John the Monk in the Vita S. Artemii (Acta Sanct. 8th October) depend, stated that Fausta charged Crispus with having offered her violence; Crispus was therefore executed; then Helena persuaded Constantine that Fausta was the guilty one, and induced him to kill her by an overheated bath. Then Constantine repents; the heathen priests declared that his deeds could not be expiated; Christianity offered forgiveness and he became a Christian. Seeck points out that this unknown source agrees with Philostorgius in three points: the manner of Fausta’s death; her guilt in causing the death of Crispus; her connection with a story of adultery. In the details (which Gibbon, p. 178-180, combines) they differ.
Seeck argues for the view that the drama of Fausta and Crispus was a renewal of that of Phædra and Hippolytus. It is certainly by no means impossible that this is the solution; the evidence for it is not absolutely convincing (especially as the Vita Artemii is of extremely doubtful value; cp. Görres, Z. f. wiss. Theol., 30, 1887, 243 sqq.). Seeck conjectures that Constantine’s law of 22nd April (C. Th. ix. 7, 2), which confines the liberty to bring accusations of adultery to the husband’s and the wife’s nearest relatives, and in their case converts the liberty into a duty, &c., was partly occasioned by the Emperor’s own experience.
But I cannot regard as successful Seeck’s attempt to show that the younger Licinius (1) was not the son of Constantia, but the bastard of a slave-woman whom Constantia was compelled to adopt, and (2) was not killed in 326, but was alive in 336; by means of the rescripts Cod. Theod. iv. 6, 2 and 3. Cp. the criticisms of Görres in the same vol. of Z. f. wiss. Theol. p. 324-327.