With the death of Constantine I in 337 AD, the empire was divided between his three sons from his marriage to Fausta. Constantine II received Gaul, Spain and Britain. Constantius II was given Asia Minor, Egypt and Syria. Finally, Constans I obtained Italy, North Africa and Illyricum. Constantine II resented his brothers for not respecting his seniority as the eldest, and therefore the senior Augustus. Unhappy over the distribution of the provinces, he invaded Italy in 340 AD, only to be killed in an ambush by Constans' troops. Constans now assumed control of all the western provinces of the empire.
Constans was particularly disliked by the legions, and in 350 AD, he was overthrown by a military conspiracy and killed while fleeing to safety. The army elevated a barbarian officer called Magnentius as the new western emperor, bringing him into conflict with Constantius, the sole remaining son of Constantine I.
Constantius marched westward to avenge the murder of his brother. Magnentius decided to invade Illyricum, and initially his army performed very well. The situation changed dramatically when his troops encountered Constantius' cataphract cavalry at the Battle of Mursa. Both sides suffered large numbers of casualties, but Magnentius lost and fled to northern Italy, while Constantius slowly regained control of Africa, Spain, and southern Italy. Finally choosing to deal with Magnentius in the north, Magnentius decided to withdraw into Gaul, and soon afterwards committed suicide when the people and the army rose up in rebellion.