Battle of Mardia

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Battle of Mardia
Part of Wars of Constantine I
Datelate 316 or early 317
the basin of Ardas River, Greece or Harmanli, Bulgaria
Result Constantinian victory
Constantine Licinius
Commanders and leaders
Constantine I Licinius, Valerius Valens
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
unknown unknown

The Battle of Mardia, also known as Battle of Campus Mardiensis[1] or Battle of Campus Ardiensis, was most likely fought at modern Harmanli (Bulgaria) in Thrace,[2] in late 316/early 317 between the forces of Roman Emperors Constantine I and Licinius.


Open civil war between Constantine and Licinius broke in 316 when the former invaded Licinius' Balkan provinces. After his crushing defeat at the Battle of Cibalae on October 8, 316,[3] (some historians date it in 314),[4] Licinius fled to Sirmium then further south to Adrianople where he collected a second army, under the command of an officer named Valerius Valens whom he raised to the rank of Augustus. Simultaneously, he tried to negotiate with Constantine but the latter, insulted by the elevation of Valens and confident from his recent victory, rejected the peace offer.[5]

The battle[edit]

In the meantime, Constantine had moved through the Balkan mountains and established his base at Philippi or Philippopolis.[6] Then he led the bulk of his army against Licinius. In the ensuing fierce battle, both sides inflicted heavy injuries on each other until darkness interrupted the indecisive struggle. Reportedly, Constantine decided the issue by sending a force to attack Licinus in the rear, forcing him to retreat. However, his well-disciplined troops kept ranks, withdrawing in good order, and both sides suffered heavy losses as Constantine brought his forces to bear, hoping to crush the enemy.[7] During the night, Licinius managed to keep his army from disintegration and retreated north-west towards Beroe/Augusta Traiana.[8] Thus, Constantine was again victorious but not decisively [9]

Another possible location for the battle place is a few km west-southwest of Adrianople (modern Edirne), at the basin of Ardas River[8] (ancient Harpessos[10]), a tributary of Maritsa River.


Portrait bust of Constantine I

Constantine, thinking that Licinius was fleeing to Byzantium in order to retreat to his Asian base, headed to that direction, unintentionally placing Licinius between himself and his communication lines with the West, it seemed that his aggressiveness had turned against him this time. However, both belligerents had reasons to come to terms since Licinius was still in precarious position, so he sent a certain Mestrianus to negotiate with Constantine.[11] Even then, Constantine delayed the discussions until he was made sure that the outcome of the war was indeed uncertain. A critical point might be when he received news of a sudden enemy raid that captured his baggage and the royal entourage.[12]

According to the peace finalized at Serdica on 1 March 317 (a date chosen deliberately by Constantine because it was the anniversary of his father's elevation[2]), Licinius recognised Constantine as his superior in government,[11] ceded to him all European territories except for Thrace and deposed and executed Valens. Constantine named himself and Licinius consuls while his two sons Crispus and Constantine II as well as Licinius' son were appointed Caesars;[9] the peace lasted for about seven years.


  1. ^ Anon. Valesianus, 17 : "Quibus frustra remissis, iterum reparato bello, in campo Mardiense ab utroque concurritur et post dubium ac diuturnum proelium Licini partibus inclinatis profuit noctis auxilium."
  2. ^ a b N.E. Lenski 2006, p.74
  3. ^ For the consensus on the new dating of the battle of Cibalae in 316, see D.S. Potter 2004, p.378, C. Odahl 2004, p.164, W. Treadgold 1997, p.34, A. Cameron, S.G. Hall 1999, p.41. Also see A.S. Christensen, L. Baerentzen, Lactantius the Historian, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1980, p.23
  4. ^ See, for instance, 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
  5. ^ D.S. Potter 2004, p.378 and C. Odahl 2004, p.164
  6. ^ Anonymous Valesianus, Origo Constantini, 17. See C. Odahl 2004, 164, for the interpretation of "Philippos" as "Philippi". On the other hand, N.C. Lieu, D. Montserrat 1996, 46, interpret it as "Philippopolis"
  7. ^ Edward Gibbon, The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), ch. XIV., p. 373
  8. ^ a b C. Odahl 2004, p.164
  9. ^ a b D.S. Potter 2004, p. 378
  10. ^ Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Princeton University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-691-03169-X, map 51, G1
  11. ^ a b C. Odahl 2004, 165
  12. ^ Petrus Patricius, Excerpta de legationibus ad gentes at N.C. Lieu, D. Montserrat, pp.57-58


Coordinates: 41°56′N 25°54′E / 41.933°N 25.900°E / 41.933; 25.900