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Key information:


Birthdate: 248/249 CE

(Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3.46)

Birthplace: Drepanum (city in the province of Bithynia, modern-day Turkey).

(Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 2.2.5) (Procopius, On Buildings, 5.2.1-5)

Reign: Helena was the mother of Constantine I, who ruled as emperor from 306-337 CE.

(Eutropius, Short History of the Roman Empire, 10.2 & 10.8)

Marriages: Helena had a relationship with Constantius Chlorus, a future emperor of Rome, between 270 and 290 CE. The nature of their relationship is not clear. Some sources refer to Helena as his wife, while others call her a concubine.

Constantius Chlorus (270-290 CE)

(Zosimus, New History 2.8.2) (Eutropius, Short History of the Roman Empire, 10.2)

Children: Helena and Constantius Chlorus had one child together – a son named Constantine. After Constantius Chlorus’ death in 306 CE, his troops declared Constantine emperor.

Constantine I (son by Constantius Chlorus)

(Zosimus, New History 2.8-9)

Death: Helena died of natural causes in 328/329 CE in Rome, Italy. She lived to be 80 years old, and her son Constantine was present at her deathbed.

(Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3.46)

Seated Statue of Helena, Musei Capitolini, , Rome, November 2018
Possibly the Head of Helena, NY Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen, September 2018
Inscription to Helena, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, May 2017

Famous facts and dates

Despite being a Roman empress, Helena had humble beginnings. Multiple sources state that she was born to the working class, and Ambrose of Milan calls her a stabularia (inn-keeper).
(Eutropius, Short History of the Roman Empire, 10.2) (Ambrose, On the Death of Theodosius, 42)

(RIC III Marcus Aurelius 676)

Constantine was devoted to his mother and the two shared a deep bond. During his life, Constantine granted Helena several prestigious titles such as Nobilissma Femina (noblest woman) and Augusta.
Like her son Constantine, Helena converted to Christianity. In 326 CE, she traveled to the holy land to find and protect Christian relics. She is credited with building the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and discovering the True Cross. For these acts, she was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
(Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 1.17) (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3.41-43)

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “HelenaAncient Rome Live. Last modified 5/9/2022.


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