Roman emperor A. D. 425-455.
Honorius, emperor of the West, died in August, A. D. 423, and Joannes, the Primicerius, or first of the secretaries, assumed the imperial dignity at Rome. Joannes sent to the emperor Theodosius II. to ask for his consent to his usurpation; but the emperor's answer was not favourable, and Joannes sent the general Aetius to the Huns, to seek their help. Joannes, wishing to secure the support of this able commander, gave him the rank of Curopalates, as the mayor of the palace was afterwards called. Theodosius (A. D. 424) sent Ardaburius, and his son Aspar with a powerful army against the usurper. They were accompanied by Placidia, and her young son Valentinian, who, pursuant to the orders of Theodosius, was invested with the title of Caesar at Thessalonica by Helion, the Magister Officiorum, and the emperor also betrothed to him his daughter Eudocia, who was born A. D. 422. Valentinian was now between five and six years of age. Valentinian was the son of Constantius III. by Placidia, the sister of Honorius, and the daughter of Theodosius I.
In A. D. 425, Theodosius II. was consul for the eleventh time, with Valentinianus Caesar for his colleague. Aspar, accompanied by Valentinian and Placidia, arrived in Italy before the usurper expected them, and took possession of Aquileia. Ardaburius came with a fleet, but a storm having arisen in the Hadriatic, he was separated from his fleet, and with two galleys fell into the hands of the soldiers of Joannes, who took him to the usurper at Ravenna. Joannes treated the general kindly, in the hope of securing him as a friend, but Ardaburius made use of his opportunity to gain over the officers of Joannes, and sent his son Aspar instructions to approach Ravenna. Aspar arrived with his cavalry, and being conducted across the marshes by a shepherd, or, as Socrates says, by an angel, found the gates of Ravenna open, and took possession of the place without any difficulty. Joannes was seized and sent to Aquileia, where he was ignominiously put to death. Little is known of this usurper, but it is certain that the ecclesiastics were his enemies, for he attempted to destroy the privileges of the church; and as an instance, he compelled all ecclesiastics to submit to the jurisdiction of the civil judge.
In the meantime Aetius entered Italy with the Huns, and there was a bloody battle between him and Aspar, which was followed by a peace.
The barbarians retired at the instance of Aetius and by the stronger persuasion of money; and Aetius was pardoned and raised to the dignity of Comes.
The first measure of Valentinian, or rather of Placidia, who acted in his name, was to restore to the ecclesiastics all their privileges of which the usurper had deprived them.
The same edict excluded Jews and Heathens from the practice of the law, and from all military rank. Manichaeans and other heretics and schismatics and astrologers were driven out of the towns. Placidia was zealous for the church.
On the 23rd of October, A. D. 425, Valentinian, who was then probably at Rome, received from his cousin Theodosius the imperial purple and the title of Augustus. Placidia also received the title of Augusta, and probably at the same time when her son was made Augustus.
In this year Theodoric, king of the Goths, took several places within the limits of the empire, and laid siege to Arelate (Arles) in Gaul, but on the approach of Aetius the Goths retired with some loss. In January A. D. 426, Valentinian was at Rome, as appears front the date of the imperial constitutions, which contained various provisions against informers (delatores), for the maintenance of the privileges of senators and magistrates, and other matters. Some constitutions of this year, dated from Ravenna, were intended to maintain the Christian faith : Jews and Samaritans were prohibited from disinheriting their children because they had turned Christians.
Bonifacius, comes of Africa, had assisted the cause of Placidia and her son by refusing to acknowledge the usurper Joannes, while Aetius had supported him; and Bonifacius had received from Placidia during a visit to Italy testimonials of her gratitude.
But on his return to Africa, Aetius, who was jealous of Bonifacius, accused him to Placidia of having a design to make himself independent in his province, and advised her to test his fidelity by summoning him to appear before her.
With double treachery, he at the same time warned Bonifacius not to come, because Placidia designed him no good, and Bonifacius, believing what he heard, disobeyed the summons of Placidia. Troops were sent against Bonifacius, and he called in to his aid (A. D. 428) the Vandals from Spain and their king Genseric.
The subsequent history of Bonifacius is told elsewhere. [BONIFACIUS.]
Aetius, who had stirred up an enemy in Bonifacius, was employed at the same time in fighting against the Franks, whom he defeated A. D. 428, and recovered from them those parts on the Rhine, where they had settled.
In the following year Aetius was made commander of the Roman armies, in place of Felix, and he defeated the Goths near Arles, and took prisoner their chief Ataulphus. he also defeated the Juthongi, a German tribe near Rhaetia, and reduced the tribes of Noricum, which had revolted. Aetius had with him in these campaigns Avitus, who was afterwards emperor. In A. D. 431 he also reduced the Vindelici, having the same enemies to contend against whom Tiberius and Drusus had subdued in the time of Augustus. In A. D. 432 Aetius was consul with Valerius; and in the same year apparently while Aetius was in Gaul, Bonifacius was recalled to Italy by Placidia, who had discovered the knavery of Aetius, and gave him the rank of master general of the forces.
As early as A. D. 430 Placidia and Bonifacius knew the treachery of Aetius and were reconciled; and Bonifaicius then attempted to check the formidable enemy whom he had invited.
After maintaining himself against the Vandals for some time in Hippo Regius and losing a battle, he retired from Africa and was welcomed at the court of Ravenna. On hearing of the promotion of his rival, Aetius returned to Italy, and the two generals settled their quarrel by a battle, in which Aetius was defeated, and Bonifacius received a mortal wound from the spear of Aetius, who fled to the Huns in Pannonia ; but he was soon pardoned and restored : he was too dangerous a man to make an enemy of.
In February A. D. 435 Valentinian made peace with Genseric; but at the same time disturbances broke out in Gaul, caused by the Bagaudae.
The name first occurs in the time of Diocletian, and appears to have been adopted by the peasants themselves, who rose in arms, as it appears, against the oppression of their governors. (Eutropius, 9.20
, and the note in Verheyk's edition.) The Bagaudae were put down again, but they were not destroyed, for to destroy them it would have been necessary to remove the causes that called forth these bands of armed peasants, and the cause was the evils tinder which they groaned, heavy taxation, and all kinds of oppression.
The picture of their sufferings, drawn by Salvianus, bears no small resemblance to the condition of the French peasantry before the revolution of 1789.
In this year is also recorded a defeat of the Burgundians on the Rhine by the Romans, under Aetius.
The Western empire had enemies on all sides. The Goths who had been settled in Aquitania and the bordering countries since A. D. 419, broke out in hostilities in A. D. 436, and besieged the ancient Roman colony of Narbonne thunder their king Theodoric, the son of Alaric.
The siege lasted some time, but the Goths finally abandoned the undertaking, when the town had received a supply of provisions through the vigor of some hunnish auxiliaries, headed by Comes Litorius.
At this time the western part of the Mediterranean and the shores of the ocean were infested by pirates, some of whom were Saxons.
On the 21st of October A. D. 437, Valentinian, being then eighteen years of age, came to Constantiople to celebrate his marriage with Eudocia, the daughter of Theodosius, who had been betrothed to, him in A. D. 424. Valentinian surrendered to his father-in-law the western Illyricium, which had been already promised to the Eastern emperor by Placidia.
He passed the winter with his wife at Thessalonica, and returned to Ravenna in the following year.
By this marriage Valentinian had two daughters, Eudoxia and Placidia.
In A. D. 439 the Gothic war still continued, and Litorius was besieging Theodoric in Toulouse, who asked for peace, which Litorius refused.
A battle ensued in which Litorius was defeated, and the Goths carried him a prisoner into the city which he had hoped to take. Notwithstanding this success, Theodoric concluded a peace with Aetius, who threatened with a formidable army to dispute the further conquests of the Gothic king.
The Western empire was gradually losing its extreme possessions. Merida in Spain was taken by Richila, king of the Suevi; and Genseric seized Carthage by surprise on the 9th of October A. D. 439.
This was the more unexpected as a treaty had heen made with him in A. D. 435.
The capture of Carthage, which had been in the hands of the Romans for near six hundred years, destroyed the Roman power in a large part of western Africa; but Valentinian still retailed the two, provinces of Mauritania, and some other parts.
Valentinian was at Rome in January and in March A. D. 440. as appears from the date of several Novellae.
In the month of June Genseric left Carthage with a great fleet.
He landed il Sicily, ravaged the country and laid siege to Palermo. Aetius was still in Gaul, where he restored tranquillity and set out for Italy.
It was about this time that Salvianus wrote his work on the Judgment of God, in which he shows that the Romans had brought upon themselves, by their sins, the calamities under which they were then suffering.
The grievous burden of taxation and the oppression of the powerful made the Romans prefer the form of servitude under the Franks, Huns, and Vandals, under which they enjoyed real liberty and paid no taxes, to the semblance of liberty under the Roman government whose exactions were intolerable.
The barbarians were in possession of a large part of Gaul and a still larger part of Spain; Italy had been ravaged several times, Rome had been besieged, Sicily and Sardinia devastated, and Africa was in the hands of the Vandals. Trèves had been several times sacked, and yet, says Salvianus, while the place was reeking with the blood of the slain, the citizens still eagerly called for the games, which were exhibited in their amphitheatre, the ruins of which still exist on the site of the ancient city of the Treviri.
By a constitution of the 20th of February A. D. 441, the emperor made some regulations for making the property of the great dignitaries of the church and of the city of Rome liable to equal taxation with other property, and also liable for the repair of the roads and the walls of the towns and all other imposts. In A. D. 442 Valentinian made peace with the Vandals, who were left in undisturbed possession of part of Africa.
In A. D. 446, the Romans abandoned Britain. The Picts and Scots were ravaging the country, and the Britons in vain applied for help to Aetius who was then consul.
A revolt took place in Armorica in A. D. 448 which was however soon settled.
Ravenna was the ordinary residence of the emperor ; but he went to Rome early in A. D. 450 with his wife and mother, when by a constitution, dated the 5th of March, he remitted all the taxes that had become due up to the 1st of September A. D. 448; from which we may conclude that the people were unable to pay them. Sardinia and Africa were excepted from this indulgence.
The emperor spoke of the exactions of the commissioners who were sent into the provinces to prevent the exactions of others; they enriched themselves at the expence both of the tax-payers and of the Fiscus. Oppressive taxation is the symptom of vicious government and of the approaching ruin of a state.
Theodosius II. died on the 28th of July A. D. 450, and Marcianus succeeded hint without waiting for the approbation of Valentinian, who, however, confirmed his election. On the 27th of November in the same year, Placidia, the emperor's mother, died at Rome just when hostilities were going to break out between Valentinian and Attila, king of the Hunts.
The result of this war was the defeat of Attila by Aetius, near Châlons sur Marne in the former French province of Champagne, in A. D. 451. [AETIUS; ATTILA.] The history of Valentinian's unfortunate sister Honoria is connected with that of Attila. [GRATA, No. 2.]
The Western empire was in a deplorable state, overrun by barbarians who brought with then " the detestable heresy of the Arians with which they were infected." Italy however seems to have been free from barbarians, though it contained many Goths under the name of confederates; and they were Arians too. The Visigoths, whose capital was Toulouse, had a new king in consequence of the death of Theodoric who fell in the great battle at Châlons, fighting on the side of the Romans.
He was succeeded by his son Thorismond.
In A. D. 452 Attila made a descent into Italy and spread consternation. Aetius had returned to Italy, and he and Valentinian sent Pope Leo to Attila to sue for peace, and the barbarian retired after he had devastated the north of Italy. [ATTILA.] A constitution of Valentinian of this year, which a zealous Roman Catholic writer calls " a scandalous law and altogether unworthy of a Christian prince," declares that the law does not allow bishops and priests to have jurisdiction in civil affairs, and that they can only take cognizance of matters pertaining to religion; and it requires even bishops to appear before the ordinary judges in all suits to which they were parties, unless the other party consented to submit to the judgment of the church.
It also forbids ecclesiastics to traffic, or if they do, they are allowed no particular privilege.
Valentinian was relieved in A. D. 453 from a formidable enemy by the death of Attila, and in the same year Thorismond, king of the Visigoths, who was of a restless and warlike character, was murdered by his brothers, one of whom, Theodoric II., succeeded him.
The power and influence of Aetius had long excited the jealousy and fears of Valentinian, and the suspicious temper of the unwarlike and feeble emperor was encouraged by the calumnies of the eunuch Heraclius. Aetius was too powerful to be the subject of a contemptible master; and the betrothal of his son Gaudentius to Eudoxia, the daughter of Valentinian, may have excited his ambitious designs and awakened his treacherous disposition. His pride and insolence were shown in a hostile declaration against his prince, which was followed by a reconciliation and an alliance, the terms of which were dictated by Aetius.
After this insult he had the imprudence to venture into the emperor's palace at Rome, in company with Boethius, Praefectus Praetorio, and to urge the marriage of the emperor's daughter with his son.
In a fit of irritation the emperor drew his sword and plunged it into the general's body. Theslaughter was completed by the attendants of Valentinian, and Boethius, the friend of Aetius, also shared his fate. (A. D. 454.)
The principal friends of Aetius were singly summoned to the palace, and murdered. Thus the bravest man, the ablest commander of the age, the last great Roman soldier, perished by the treacherous hand of the most unwarlike of the Roman Caesars.
A grievous insult to Petronius Maximus is said to have been the immediate cause of Valentinian's death. Maximus had a handsome wife, who resisted the emperor's solicitations, but he got her within the palace by an artifice, and compelled her to yield to force what she had refused to persuasion.
The injured husband resolved on the emperor's destruction, and he gained over some of the domestics of Valentinian who had been in the service of Aetius. While he was amusing himself in the field of Mars with some spectacle, two of these men fell upon him; and, after killing the guilty Heraclius, despatched the emperor without any resistance from those who were about him, A. D. 455.
This was the end of Valentinian III., a feeble and contemptible prince, the last of the family of Theodosius.
He was ill brought up, and had all the vices that in a princely station disgrace a man's character. Even his zeal for the Catholic faith and the church is not allowed to have been sincere.
Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
100.33, &c.; Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs,