Mediolanum Capital of the Western Empire
under Emperor Maximian 286–305 AD


Roman City Mediolanum

In 286 Diocletian moved the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rome to Mediolanum. He chose to reside at Nicomedia in the Eastern Empire, leaving his colleague Maximian at Milan. Maximian built several gigantic monuments, the large circus (470 x 85 metres), the thermae or "Baths of Hercules", a large complex of imperial palaces and other services and buildings of which fewer visible traces remain. Maximian increased the city area surrounded by a new, larger stone wall about 4.5 km long encompassing an area of 375 acres with many 24-sided towers. The monumental area had twin towers; one that was included in the convent of San Maurizio Maggiore remains 16,60 m high.


The emperors of the West resided at Mediolanum during the 4th century, until Honorius preferred Ravenna, and in 402 transferred his court there.



Republican walls

The oldest wall system was built when Milan (the Mediolanum) became a Roman municipium, in 49 BC. It was essentially square, each side about 700 m long. The walls had 6 main gates,

Maximian Walls

In the Imperial era, while Mediolanum was capital of the Western Roman Empire, Emperor Maximian enlarged the city walls; to the east, this was intended to include the Hercules' thermae (located in the surroundings of what are now Piazza San Babila, Corso Europa and Piazza Fontana); to the west, the new walls enclosed the arena. Overall, the new wall systems exceeded 100 hectares. Two gates where added, later referred to as "Porta Nuova" (in what is now the corner between via Manzoni and via Montenapoleone) and "Porta Tonsa"

The Maximian tower in the courtyard of the Archaeological Museum of Milan


A section of Roman wall 16 m high) with a 24-sided tower

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio



Stilicho and Aetius, who certainly knew each other, although they were from different generations, were responding to the specific, and vastly different, problems with which they were faced.

Is it a magnificent work of Early Christian art, it is one of the few surviving elements from Ambrose's original basilica. It still stands in the exact same place it has been since it was carved in 385 AD—the ambo was built around it. Moreover, it was carved during Ambrose's lifetime and its themes may have been suggested by the bishop himself.

The tomb was probably commissioned by and for a high military official, who appears with his wife on the north side of the sarcophagus and again in a roundel on the lid. Their identities remain unknown; the name of the sarcophagus dates from the 18th century and is based on an erroneous tradition that it was made for Stilichone, a general who died in 408 in the service of Emperor Honorius.

The sculptures on the sarcophagus are of exceptional quality, indicating they were carved by a Roman artist. The style of the work is called a "city gate sarcophagus" because of the prominent city walls and gates within the scenes. The south side (facing the nave) depicts the Traditio Legis, in which Christ hands the keys of Heaven to St. Peter. The other side shows Christ teaching the apostles, with the kneeling portraits of the patrons. The short sides have scenes from the Old Testament.



Emperor Constantine 306-337ad,
It was from Milan that the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, granting tolerance to all religions within the Empire, thus paving the way for Christianity to become the dominant religion of the Empire.

Constantine was in Milan to celebrate the wedding of his sister to the Eastern Emperor, Licinius. There were Christian communities in Mediolanum, which contributed its share of martyrs during the persecutions, but the first bishop of Milan who has a firm historical presence is Merocles, who was at the Council of Rome of 313. In the mid-fourth century, the Arian controversy divided the Christians of Mediolanum;

Constantius supported Arian bishops and at times there were rival bishops. Auxentius of Milan died 374 was a respected Arian theologian.