2. GRATIANUS AUGUSTUS., son of the emperor Valentinian, by his first wife Severa (or perhaps Valeria Severa), was born at Sirmium, in Pannonia, 19th April, A. D. 359, about five years before his father's accession to the empire. In A. D. 366, while yet nobilissimus puer, or heir apparent, he was made consul, and on 24th Aug. 367, he was raised by his father to the rank of Augustus, at Ambiani or Amiens, in Gaul.
This elevation is ascribed by Aurelius Victor to the influence of his mother, Severa, and his maternal grandmother.
In the following year he accompanied his father in the campaign against the Alamanni, in their own country, though he was not, on account of his tender age, exposed to the full hardships and dangers of the war. Great care was bestowed on his education; and the poet Ausonius [AUSONIUS], whom, in gratitude for his instruction, he after wards (A. D. 379) raised to the consulship, was his tutor.
On the sudden death of Valentinian, at Bregitio or Bergentio, now Bregenz, on the lake of Constance (17 Nov. A. D. 375), the troops there, at the instigation of some of their officers, elevated Valentinian II., a child of four years, half brother of Gratian, to a share in the empire.
The writers of best authority tell us that the good disposition and prudence of Gratian, or his advisers, prevented that prince from taking umbrage at this intrusion upon him of a partner in his power; but Theophanes and Zonaras say that lie punished the authors of his brother's elevation, and Zonaras adds that he severely rebuked the troops for their share in the transaction.
A division of the provinces of the West was made between the brothers, though the greater age of Gratian gave him pre-eminence.
As the eastern provinces remained subject to Valens, brother and colleague of Valentinian I., the part immediatety subject to the government of Gratian comprehended Gaul, Spain, and Britain.
But there is some doubt both as to the time when the provinces of the West were partitioned, and as to the authority, if any, which Gratian retained or exercised in the provinces of his brother. (See Tillemont and Gothofredus, Not. ad Cod. Theod.
16. tit. 9. s. 4, 5.) Treviri, now Trèves, seems to have been his usual residence.
In the early part of his reign hostilities were fiercely carried on along the Danubian provinces and in Illyricum, where Frigeridus, Gratian's general, defeated the Taifali; and Gratian himself was preparing to march into Thrace to assist his uncle Valens against the Goths, but was detained in the West by an incursion of the Lentienses, who formed part of the great confederation of the Alamanni.
The invading host, to the Number of 40,000 (some accounts, probably exaggerated, make them 70,000), was encountered and cut to pieces by the army of Gratian, under his generals Nannienus and Mellobaudes the Frank, who held the office of Comes Domesticorum at Argentovaria or Argentaria (at or near Colmar, in Alsace), about May, A. D. 378 or according to some authorities in 377. Whether Gratian was present at the battle does not appear; but he conducted his army in person across the Rhine, and compelled the Lentienses to submit.
He afterwards advanced towards or into the eastern empire, where the Goths, who had defeated and killed Valens near Adrianople (Aug. 378), were committing great devastation.
By the death of his uncle, Valens, the eastern empire had devolved upon him; but his consciousness of his inadequacy to this increased charge led him to send for Theodosius [THEODOSIUS I.] from Spain, and after appointing him in the first instance general against the Goths, he soon after (Jan. 19, 379), at Sirmium, raised him to be his colleague in the empire, and committed the East to him.
For some time after this the pressure of affairs compelled Gratian to exert himself.
He sanctioned the settlement in Pannonia and Upper Maesia of some German nations, who were pressing upon the frontier of the empire; perhaps thinking thus to repair the waste of population in the Gothic war, or to raise up a barrier against further invasion. His generals, the Franks, Bauto and Arbogastes, with their army, were sent to assist Theodosius ; and Gratian himself, if we may trust an obscure expression of Idatius, gained a victory over some hostile army, but of what nation is not said.
He also, during the illness of Theodosius, arranged or strengthened a treaty with the Goths.
After these transactions, which may be referred to the year 380 at latest, we hear little of any warlike or other transactions in which Gratian was engaged.
Historians, Pagan and Christian, are agreed as to the character of this prince.
In person he was well made and good looking; in his disposition gentle and docile; submissive. as a youth, to his instructors, possessed of a cultivated understanding and of a ready and pleasing eloquence. Even in the camp he cultivated poetry; and the flattering panegyric of Ausonius declares that Achilles had found in him a Roman Homer.
He was pious, chaste, and temperate; but his character was too yielding and pliant, it wanted force; and the influence of others led him to severities that were foreign to his own character.
By the instigation of his mother, he had, at the commencement of his reign, put to death Maximus, praefectus praetorio in Gaul, Simplicius, and others of his father's officers.
It is difficult to determine how far he is answerable for the death of Count Theodosius, father of the emperor, who was put to death at Carthage soon after Gratian's accession, unless we could ascertain whether the partition of the western provinces had then been made; and if so, whether Gratian retained any authority in the provinces allotted to his brother. His piety and reverence for ecclesiastics, especially for Ambrose of Milan, rendered him too willing a party to the persecutions which the Christians, now gaining the ascendancy, were too ready to exercise, whether against the heathens or against heretics of their own body. Valentinian I. had wisely allowed religious liberty ; but under Gratian this was no longer permitted. (Cod. Theod. 16. tit. 9. s. 4, 5, with the notes of Gothofredus.)
He refused to put on the insignia of Pontifex Maximus, on the plea that a Christian could not wear them; and herein he only acted consistently. Tillemont, on the authority of Ambrose, ascribes to him the removal of the Altar of Victory at Rome, and the confiscation of its revenues ; and the prohibition of legacies of real property to the Vestals, with the abolition of their other privileges, steps of which the justice is more questionable. Ambrose also ascribes to him the prohibition of heathen worship at Rome, and the purging of the church from all taint of sacrilegious heresy -vague expressions, but indicative of the persecuting spirit of his government. The Priscillianists indeed are said to have obtained readmission into the church by bribing the officers of his court; and during the short time after Valens' death that he held the Eastern empire, he contented himself with relieving the orthodox party from persecution, and tolerated the Arians, probably from the conviction that in the critical period of the Gothic war, it would not do to alienate so powerful a body. The Eunomians, Photinians, and Manichaeans were not, however, tolerated even then. (Suidas, s. v. Γρατιανός
, and notes of Gothofredus to Cod. Theod. l.c.
) Sulpicius Severus intimates that at one time he issued an edict for the banishment of all heretics; but it is difficult to believe that this could have been effected or even attempted.
The religious meetings of heretics were, however, interdicted by him. (Cod. Theod. l.c.
) After these indications of his zeal, we do not wonder that Ambrose addressed to him his treatise De Fide.
While these persecuting measures were cooling the attachment of those of his subjects who were exposed to his severity, his constant engagement in field sports, to the neglect of more serious matters, incurred contempt.
The indulgence and flattery of his councillors and courtiers allowed and induced him to devote himself to amusement. Night and day, says Aurelius Victor, he was thinking of nothing else than arrows, and considered that to hit the mark was the greatest of pleasures and the perfection of art. So sure was his aim. that his arrows were said to be endowed with intelligence. He associated with a few of the Alans, whom he made his friends and followers, and travelled habited in their garb.
This deportment excited the contempt of the army. While thus unpopular, a competitor for the empire suddenly appeared in the person of Maximus, a man of energy and reputation, who was elected by the legions in Britain, and at once crossed over into Gaul, and defeated Gratian somewhere near Paris. Deserted by his troops, and, according to some, betrayed by his general, Mellobaudes, or Merobaudes, Gratian fled in the direction of Italy, but being excluded by the inhabitants of the cities in his route, was overtaken and slain apparently near Lugdunum or Lyon, by Andragathius, whom Maximus had sent in pursuit of him. (25 Aug. 383.)
In his last extremity he called upon the name of Ambrose. Zosimus places his death near Singidunum, now Belgrade, on the borders of Pannonia and Maesia. Maximus refused to give up his body to his brother Valentinian for burial; but subsequently, probably on the overthrow of Maximus, it was removed and interred at Milan. Sozomen and Socrates, followed by Theophanes, describe the stratagem by which Andragathius succeeded in killing him, and though their story is improbable enough, it perhaps originated in some treachery actually employed.
Gratian was twice married. 1. About A. D. 374 or 375, to Flavia Maxima Constantia, daughter of the emperor Constantius II., by whom he appears to have had a son, of whom nothing is known. Constantia died about six months before her husband. 2. To Laeta, of whom little is known, and who survived him. (Amm. Marc. 27.6
; Aurel. Vict. Epit.
100.45, 47, 48; Oros. 7.32
; Zosim. 6.12, 19, 24, 34, 35, 36; Zonar. 13.17
; Marcellin. Prosper Aquit., Prosper Tiro, Chronica;
and Fasti ;
vol. i. pp. 85-106, ed. Bonn; Socrat. H. E.
4.31, 5.2, 11; Sozom. H. E.
6.36, 7.1, 13; Rufinus, H. E.
11.13, 14; Sulpic. Severus, Histor. Sacra,
2.63; Themist. Orat.
xiii.; Auson. Epigr.
1, 2, Gratiarum Actio pro Consulatu ;
Ambros. De Fide Prolog. Epistolae
11, 17, 21, Consolatio de Obitu Valentin.
100.79, ed. Benedictin.; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp.
vol. v.; Gibbon, ch. 25, 26, 27 ; Eckhel, vol. viii. p. 157.)