emperor of the East A. D. 364-378, the brother of Valentinian [VALENTINIANUS I.], was born about A. D. 328.
The name of his wife was Albia Dominica, by whom he had a son and two daughters. Under Julian he was one of the Domestici.
He was made emperor of the East by his brother on the 28th of March A. D. 364, as is told in the article VALENTINIANUS.
Valens had in his service the Prefect Sallustius, and the generals Lupicinus, Victor, and Arinthaeus.
By a constitution of the 16th of December of this year, he forbade the practice of giving presents to those who carried to the provinces important news, such as the accession of an emperor or his assumption of the consulship : he allowed the carriers of such news to receive the presents which persons of property or condition might choose to give, but not to exact anything from those who were not in easy circumstances. The Goths are spoken of as having made their appearance in Thrace in this year, but they were induced to retire, probably by money. Valens left Constantinople in the spring of A. D. 365, for Asia Minor, and he was at Caesarea in Cappadocia in the month of July, when the great earthquake happened, which shook all the country round the Mediterranean.
The revolt of Procopius for a time rendered the throne of Valens insecure. Procopius assumed the imperial title at Constantinople, on the 28th of September, A. D. 365, and Valens received the intelligence as he was going to leave Caesarea. [PROCOPIUS].
After the death of Procopius, A. D. 366, Valens treated the partisans of the rebel with great clemency according to Themistius; but Ammianus and Zosimus say that he punished many innocent persons.
The fact of some persons being punished is certain : the nature and degree of their participation in the revolt may be doubtful.
The emperor had sworn to demolish the walls of Chalcedon for the share which it had taken in the insurrection, but at the prayer of the people of Nicaea, Nicomedia, and Constantinople, he satisfied his superstition by pulling down some small portion of the walls and rebuilding it. Probably about this time he did Constantinople the service of improving the supply of water by building an aqueduct.
The year A. D. 367 is memorable in the reign of Valens for an extraordinary event, the diminution of the taxes by one fourth, a measure which rarely happens in the history of a nation, the general rule being progressive taxation till people can pay no more.
The diminution was the less expected as a war with the Goths was imminent.
These barbarians had for some time hung on the northern frontier, and occasionally pillaged the Roman lands. Three thousand Goths, who had been sent by Athanaric to aid Procopius, were compelled to surrender after the death of the rebel, and were distributed in the towns along the Danube and kept under surveillance. The Gothic king, Ermenric, demanded these Goths back, but Valens refused then, and resolved on war, as he had nothing else to do.
Before undertaking the war, for which he made great preparation, Valens received the rite of baptism from Eudoxus, the chief of the Arians who was then seated in the chair of Constantinople. Thus, says Tillemont, " he began by an act which involved him in a thousand mishaps, and finally precipitated his body and his soul to death."
The emperor posted his troops on the Danube, and fixed his camp at Marcianopolis, the capital of Lower Maesia.
He was ably assisted by Auxonius, who was made Praefectus Praetorio in place of Sallustius, who was relieved of his office on account of his age. Valens crossed the Danube, and finding no resistance, ravaged the country of the enemy.
He was again at Marcianopolis in January A. D. 368, where he appears to have passed the winter.
An incursion of the Isaurians, who extended their ravages to Cilicia and Pamphylia, and cut to pieces Musonius, the Vicarius of Asia, and his troops, may perhaps be referred to this year.
The military events of the year A. D. 368 were unimportant. Valens was unable to cross the Danube, and he passed the winter again at Marcianopolis. On the 10th of October, the city of Nicaea was destroyed by an earthquake. On the 3d of May, A. D. 369, Valens left Marcianopolis for Noviodunum, where he crossed the Danube and entered the country of the Goths. The Goths sustained considerable loss; and Valens also defeated Athanaric, who opposed him with a numerous army.
He returned to Marcianopolis, intending to pass another winter there, but the Goths sued for peace, which was granted on the condition that they should not cross the Danube, and should only be allowed to trade at two towns on the river.
The treaty between Valens and Athanaric was concluded on vessels in the Danube, for Athanaric refused to set his foot on the Roman territory.
At the end of this year, Valens was at Constantinople.
The year A. D. 370 is memorable for the cruel punishment of eighty ecclesiastics. The Arians were persecuted by the Catholics at Constantinople, and the Catholics sent a deputation of eighty ecclesiastics to Valens, who was then at Nicomedia.
It is said that Valens ordered them to be put to death, and that his order was executed by Modestus, Praefectus Praetorio, by placing them in a vessel on the sea, and setting fire to it. "This inhumanity," observes Tillemont, "was punished by a famine which desolated Phrygia and the neighbouring country ;" but the pious historian does not explain how the sufferings of the innocent are to be considered as a punishment on the guilty.
Valens spent the early part of A. D. 371 at Constantinople, whence he moved to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he probably spent the winter. About this time he lost his only son. When the youth was taken ill, the emperor who had entertained a design of banishing Basilius, bishop of Caesarea, applied to him for his help, and the bishop promised that the boy should recover, if the emperor would allow him to be baptized by Catholic priests : "but Valens caused him to be baptized by Arians, and the child immediately died."
It was about this time also that Valens divided Cappadocia into two provinces, and made Tyana the capital of the second.
In A. D. 372 Modestus, the Praefect, and Arinthaeus were consuls. Arinthaeus, who was a man of extraordinary stature, and of perfect form, of great courage and superior military skill, had been employed both by Julian and Jovian, and he had served Valens well in the war against Procopius. On the 13th of April, Valens was at Antioch in Syria, whither he had gone to conduct the war against Sapor king of Persia. Sapor had made a treaty with Jovian, in which it seems that Armenia was comprehended. However this may be, Sapor had set his mind on getting possession of Armenia, and about A. D. 369, having prevailed on Arsaces, the Armeniian king, to come to an entertainment, he made him prisoner, put out his eyes, and finally ordered him to be executed.
He gave the government of Armenia to Cylax and Artabanus, two natives, and creatures of his. Olympias, the wife of Arsaces, escaped with her son Para and her treasures to a strong place, which Cylax and Artabanns with some Persian troops made an unsuccessful attempt to take : it is said that Cylax and Artabanus were treacherous to their Persian allies.
Para implored the assistance of Valens, who supported him at New Caesarea in Pontus, in a manner suitable to his rank, and he sent Comes Terentius to put him in possession of Armenia, but without conferring on him the insignia of royalty, which, it was supposed, might be taken as an infraction of the treaty with the Persians. On hearing of this Sapor sent troops into Armenia, who drove Para into the mountains. Sapor, not being able to seize Para, made a show of reconciliation and Para of submission, one of the tokens of which was the heads of Cylax and Artabanus, for which Sapor had asked, on the ground that they were rather the masters than the servants of Para. Valens upon this sent Arinthaeus into Armenia, who checked the approach of the Persian troops. Sapor complained, but Valens paid no attention to his complaints. The Persian king threatened an attack, but nothing was done this year, though Valens appears to have advanced into Mesopotamia.
In the following year A. D. 373, the Roman and the Persian armies met; the Romans, commanded by Comes Trajanus and Vadomarus, formerly a king of the Allemanni. (Amm. Marc. 29.1
.) Mesopotamia was apparently the seat of the war. Sapor was defeated, and retired to Ctesiphon after a truce was agreed on. Valens spent the winter at Antioch.
During this winter there was a conspiracy to assassinate Valens, to which some persons, said to be pagans, were encouraged by believing that some person whose name began with Theod, was destined to succeed Valens.
This was learned by the application of certain magical arts, and the person pointed out as the successor of the emperor was Theodorus, one of the notarii or secretaries of the emperor.
This affair is told at length by Ammianus (29.1). Theodorus and many other persons were put to death, some innocent and others guilty, for the existence of a plot appears probable enough. Sozomen says that all persons of rank who bore a name beginning with Theod were put to death, which is not credible.
He also assigns this as the cause of the death of Theodosiolus or Theodosius, a grandee of Spain, and it seems that he must mean Theodosius, the father of the emperor Theodosius, who was executed at Carthage, A. D. 376. However, many persons were executed who had dealt in magic ; Maximus, once the teacher of the emperor Julian, Simonides, Hilarius and others. Books of magic were diligently sought after, and all that could be found were burnt. Chrysostom, then a young man, who by chance found a book of magic, expected and feared to share the fate of those who had dealt in this wicked art.
The same year in which Gabinius in the West fell a victim to Roman treachery (A. D. 374), Para perished by the same shameful means. Pail, it appears, was established on the throne of Armenia, but Valens was for some reason dissatisfied with him, and sent for him to Tarsus under some pretext, leaving him to wait there, until Para, suspecting that it was intended to keep him prisoner, made his escape to Armenia. Valens commissioned Comes Trajanus, the commander of the Roman forces in Armenia, to put him to death, and Trajanus executed the order by inviting Para to a banquet and assassinating him.
Negotiations for peace were still going on with Sapor (A. D. 375), but they resulted in nothing.
The emperor spent this year at Antioch, taking little care of the administration, and allowing his ministers to enrich themselves by unjust means. Ammianus (30.4) has a chapter on these matters.
The pretext for these odious inquisitions was the vague charge of treason against the emperor.
The events of A. D. 376 were unimportant. Valens was consul for the fifth time with Valentinianus, junior, who with his elder brother Gratianus had succeeded their father Valentinianus I., who died at the close of A. D. 375. Valens was preparing for war against the Persians, and he assembled a great force, but there is no record of what was the result of all this preparation. Sapor made conquests in Iberia and Armenia, which Valens could not prevent. Valens sent Victor to Persia to come to terms with the Persian king, and peace was made on terms, as it appears, not advantageous to the Romans.
At this time the Romans became acquainted with the name of the Huns. The Huns, after attacking various tribes and the Alans, who inhabited the banks of the Tanais, fell upon the Goths called Greuthingi or Eastern Goths, and so alarmed them that Ermenric, their king, killed himself. Vithimis, his successor, fell in battle against the Huns, and Alatheus and Saphrax, the guardians of his son Vitheric, retreated before this formidable enemy, to the country between the Borysthenes and the Danube. Athanaric and his Goths attempted a useless resistance to the Huns on the banks of the Dniester. The Goths, and among them were some of the people of Athanaric, to the number of about 200,000, appeared on the banks of the Danube and asked for permission to enter the Roman territories. Valens was then at Antioch, and the Goths sent a deputation to him at the head of which was their bishop Ulphilas. Valens granted the request of the Goths, but ordered that their children should be carried over to Asia as hostages, and that the Goths should not bring their arms with them; but the last part of the order was imperfectly executed. Accordingly the Goths were received into Thrace and spread over the country on the borders of the Danube. Their chiefs were Alavif and Fritigern.
Valens was still at Antioch (A. D. 377).
It was the policy of the Romans to draw away the Goths from the immediate banks of the Danube, who bad not moved off, because they were not supplied with provisions, as the emperor had ordered. Lupicinus, Comes of Thrace and Maximus, who held the rank of Dux, are accused of irritating the barbarians by their treatment, and of driving them to arms. Lupicinus attempted to make the Goths leave the Danube, and employed for that purpose the soldiers who were stationed on the river; but as soon as the Greuthingi, under Saphrax and Alatheus, saw the banks unprotected, they crossed over, having previously been refused permission. The Greuthingi joined Fritigern and his Goths at Marcianopolis. Lupicinus invited Alavif and Fritigern to a feast, but instead of a reconciliation, this brought about a quarrel, and a battle, in which Lupicinus was defeated. Some Goths, who were already encamped near Hadrianople, were ordered to cross the Hellespont, but they asked for two days' delay and supplies for the journey.
The chief magistrate of the city, being irritated at some damage done by the Goths to a country-house of his, attacked them, and had the worst in the combat. These Goths soon joined Fritigern, who had advanced as far as Hadrianople, and they besieged the city. They could not take Hadrianople, but they were masters of all the country, which they pillaged.
Valens was at Antioch when he heard this news, and he sent forward Profuturus and Trajanus with the legions from Armenia to bring the Goths to obedience.
These two generals were joined by Ricimer, who brought some help from Gratian. The Romans found the main body of the Goths at a place called Salices or the Willows, supposed to be in the tract called Scythia Parva between the lower course of the Danube and the sea, where a great battle was fought, apparently with no advantage to the Romans, for they returned to Marcianopolis.
The further operations of this campaign led to no decisive result, and there was loss on both sides. The Goths appear to have spread themselves all over the country between the Danube and the Archipelago, and to have advanced even to the suburbs of Constantinople. Valens reached Constantinople on the 30th of May, A. D. 378.
He deprived Trajanus of the command of the infantry, which he gave to Sebastianus, to whom he entrusted the conduct of the war. " It was," says Tillemont, " worthy of an Arian emperor to entrust his troops to a Manichaean.
It was he who with the emperor determined on the unfortunate battle where they perished, against the advice of the most prudent, and principally Victor, general of the cavalry, a man altogether Catholic." Valens left Constantinople on the 11th of June, with evil omens.
A solitary named Isaac, whose cell was near Constantinople, threatened him with the vengeance of God. " Restore," he said, " to the flocks their holy pastors, and you will gain a victory without trouble : if you fight before you have done it, you will lose your army and you will never return."
The emperor encamped with a powerful army near Hadrianople. Trajanus, it appears, was restored to his command, or held some command ; but the advice of Sebastianus prevailed with the emperor over that of Victor and the other generals, and a battle was resolved on.
It was on the 9th of August, A. D. 378, and some few hours from Hadrianople, where the Romans sustained a defeat so bloody, that none can be compared with it in the Annals of Rome except the fight of Cannae. Ammianus (31.13) has given a laboured description of the battle, not particularly clear. The Theuringi under Fritigern, and the Greuthungi under Alatheus and Saphrax, destroyed two-thirds of the Imperial army. Trajanus, Sebastianus, Valerianus Comes Stabuli, and Equitius, fell. Valens was never seen after the battle.
He was wounded by an arrow, and, as some say, died on the field.
According to another story, he was carried to a peasant's house, to which the barbarians set fire without knowing who was in it, and Valens was burnt. Though the mode of his death is not certain, all authorities agree in saying that his body was never found.
The commentary of Orosius on the death of Valens is instructive (7.33) : "The Goths some time before sent ambassadors to Valens to pray that bishops (episcopi) might be sent to them to teach them the rule of Christian faith. Valens, through pestiferous depravity, sent teachers of the Arian dogma. The Goths retained the instruction in their first faith, which they received. Therefore by the just judgment of God the very persons burnt him alive, who through him even after death, are destined to burn on account of the vice of their error."
The reign of Valens is important in the history of the empire on account of the admission of the Goths into the countries south of the Danube, the commencement of the decline of the Roman power. the furious contests between the rival creeds of the Catholics and the Arians, and the persecution of the Catholics by Valentinian, also characterize this reign.
These religious quarrels, which we night otherwise view with indifference, are not to be overlooked in forming our judgment of this period, nor must we forget them when we attempt to estimate the value of the historians for this period.
The character of Valens is drawn by Gibbon and Tillemont; by Gibbon perhaps with as much impartiality as he could exercise, by Tillemont under the influence of strong religious convictions, with as much fairness as we can expect from one who condemned the persecutions of Valens, both as a man of humanity and a zealous Catholic.
The chronicle of Hieronymus terminates with the death of Valens, and here also ends the history of Ammianus, the last of the Roman historians. Eutropius, who does not deserve the name of historian, wrote his Breviariam Historiae Romanae
in the time of Valens, and by the order of the emperor, to whom his work is dedicated.
(Gibbon, cc. 25, 26; Tillemont, Histoire des Emrpereurs,
vol. v., where all the authorities are collected.)