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Valentinia'nus I.

Roman emperor A. D. 364-375, was the son of Gratianus, and was born A. D. 321, at Cibalis in Pannonia. [GRATIANUS.] He bore also the name of Flavius, which was common to all the emperors after Constantine. His first wife was Valeria Severa, by whom he became the father of the emperor Gratianus. Valentinian entered the army when young, and showed military talents; but the emperor Constantinus for some reason or other deprived him of his rank A. D. 357. Under Julian he held the office of tribune of the guard, or of the Scutarii, as Orosius terms the body (7.32), and in this capacity he was with Julian at Antioch, A. D. 362, and accompanied him to a heathen temple. Julian, it is said, commanded him to sacrifice to the idol, or resign his office; but Valentinian, who had been baptized in the Christian faith, refused. According to most of the historians, Valentinian was exiled for his adherence to his religion.

Jovian succeeded Julian A. D. 363, and Lucilianus, the father-in-law of Valentinian, took him with him to Gaul. Lucilianus lost his life in a disturbance at Rheims, and Valentinan only saved himself by flight. Returning to the East he was rewarded by Jovian with the office of captain of the second company of Scutarii. When Jovian died suddenly at Dadastana, on the borders of Galatia and Bithynia, on the 16th of February, A. D. 364, Valentinian was at Ancyra. For ten days the empire was without an emperor, but it was at last agreed by the officers of the army of Jovian, who were at Nicaea, that Valentinian should be the successor of Jovian. Valentinian came to Nicaea, and on the 26th of February he assumed the imperial insignia in the presence of the army in the plain of Nicaea.

Valentinian maintained the pure Catholic faith, though his brother Valens was an Arian. He forbade, under pain of death, all pagan ceremonials, magical arts and sacrifices by night; but this was a prudent measure of police, and nothing more. He restored the figure of the cross and the name of Jesus Christ on the Labarum or chief standard of the armies, for Julian had removed these Christian symbols. He also renewed and perhaps extended a law of Constantine, which forbade any judicial proceedings, or the execution of any judicial sentence on Sunday. However, Valentinian did not meddle with religious disputes, and either from in-difference or good sense, he said it was not for him, a layman, to deal with difficulties of that description. Though a Catholic, he did not persecute either Arians or heathens : he let every man follow his own religion, for which Ammianus Marcellinus (30.9) has commended him; and certainly his moderation in this respect must be considered a remarkable feature in his character. Though there were some enactments made by him against Manichaeans, Donatists and the other heretics, the general religious freedom which he allowed is undisputed (Cod. Theod. 9. tit. 16. s. 9), and the emperor set an example which even now is not completely followed in modern Europe. This is the most unequivocal evidence of the good sense and the courage of Valentinian. Ecclesiastical writers, like Baronius, as a matter of course blame that toleration which they suppose to be condemned by the religion which they profess.

Ammianus and other writers have spoken particularly of the personal merits and defects of Valentinian. He was robust and handsome; he had a natural eloquence, though he had no literary acquirements; he was neat in his apparel, but not expensive; and his chastity is specially recorded. He possessed good abilities, prudence, and vigor of character. He had a capacity for military matters, and was a vigilant, impartial, and laborious administrator. Ammianus sums up by saying that he had so many good qualities that, if every thing had been equal in him, he would have been as great a man as Trajan or Marcus Aurelius. Among his faults was that of having a very good opinion of himself, and he punished sometimes with excessive severity. Yet he is accused of behaving with too much lenity to the officers when they misconducted themselves ; and of enriching himself by arbitrary means, though the same authorities say that he endeavoured to alleviate the sufferings of the people. The truth is that the character of a man, who possesses supreme power, may be made to appear almost anything, according to a writer's temper and judgment. Many instances of the severity, and even of the cruelty of Valentinian are recorded; and Gibbon, following chiefly the authority of Ammianus, has made him a monster of cruelty. Yet Valentinian had feelings of compassion, when he was not in an angry mood, and he promulgated a constitution against the exposure of children (Cod. Just. 8. tit. 51. (52.) s. 2. A. D. 374); and he encouraged learning, though he was illiterate, by the foundation of schools. (Cod. Theod. 14. tit. 9.)

Valentinian, after being declared emperor on the 26th of February, moved to Nicomedia on the 1st of March, where he conferred on his brother Valens the dignity of Constable, that is, he made him chief of the stable; and on the 28th of March, being then at Constantinople, he declared him Augustus in the Hebdomon, or field of Mars, in the neighbourhood of that city. The two brothers confirmed to the town of Nicaea, when Valentinian was declared emperor, the title of Metropolis, and raised it to equal rank with Nicomedia. In the early part of this year the two emperors left Constantinople, and passed through Hadrianople, Philippopolis, and Sardica, to Naesus in Dacia, in the neighbourhood of which they remained some days to arrange the affairs of the empire. Valentinian kept Jovinus general of the troops in Gaul (magister armorum), to which rank he had been promoted by Julian, and Dagalaephus (militiae rector), who owed his promotion to Jovian. Victor and Arinthaeus were attached to the service of Valens. Zosimus, indeed, states (4.2) that the two emperors were hostile to all the friends of Julian, and that all those who had been promoted by Julian were deprived of their offices, except Arinthaeus and Victor; but Zosimus may be mistaken here, as in other cases. The provinces of the empire were also distributed between the two brothers. Valens had the East, comprising Asia, Egypt, and Thrace; Valentinian had the West, comprising Illyricum, Italy, the Gauls, Britain, Spain, and Africa. After this partition Valens set out for Constantinople to govern the East, of which he knew not even the language, and Valentinian for Italy.

Valentinian went to Milan, where he arrived some time in November, and he stayed there till the beginning of A. D. 365.

Volusianus, prefect of Rome, was succeeded in this year by Symmachus, the father of the orator, to whom some constitutions of Valentinian are addressed, by which the emperor endeavoured to secure the provisioning of Rome, and provided for the repair of the buildings. A constitution of this year enacted that the governors of provinces must not sit in judgment in matters civil or criminal, in private, but that judicial proceedings must be held with open doors.

The nations on the Roman frontiers were disturbing the provinces, and the vigilance of Valentinian was required to protect his empire. Romanus, who had been made comes of Africa under Jovian (A. D. 363), instead of protecting the country, which he was sent to govern, plundered the people worse than the border tribes. On the accession of Valentinian, the people of Leptis sent their presents to the new emperor, and at the same time represented to him the wretched condition of their country. In the mean time, a barbarous tribe, called Austuriani, were threatening Leptis and plundering the country, and Valentinian sent Palladius to inquire into the state of affairs in the province of Africa. But Palladius, who was corrupted by Romanus, reported that the people of Leptis and the rest of the province had nothing to complain of. The result was, that those who had complained of Romanus were punished (Amm. Marc. 28.6).

It appears from various constitutions, that Valentinian visited several places in North Italy during the year A. D. 365. A constitution of this year appears to be the earliest in which the Defensores are spoken of, and it is addressed to " Seneca Defensor" (Cod. Just. i. tit. 55). In the month of October Valentinian left Italy for Gaul, and he was at Paris about the end of the month. His presence was required by an irruption of the Allemaimi, who had ravaged the country west of the Rhine. Valentinian sent Dagalaephus against them, and he went himself as far as Rheims; but the Allemanni had retired, and Valentinian returned to Paris, where he appears to have remained the following year A. D. 366. In the beginning of A. D. 366 the Allemanni again entered Gaul during a severe winter, defeated the Roman troops and killed Charietto, who was comes of the Two Germanies. Dagalaephus, who was sent against the Allemanni by the emperor, was tardy in his movements, and he was replaced by Jovinus the master of the horse (magister equitum), who defeated the Allemanni in several engagements. One battle was fought at Scarponna between Metz and Toul, and another in the neighbourhood of Chálons-sur-Marne with a body of Allemanni which had penetrated as far as this place. Jovinus announced his victory to the emperor at Paris, who at the same time received the head of the usurper Procopius, which had been sent to him by his brother Valens. Valentinian appears to have passed the close of the year and the winter at Rheims. At this time he built forts on the Rhine to stop the incursions of the Germans, and he recruited his armies for the defence of this frontier. His measures secured tranquillity on that side of the empire during the rest of his reign.

The residence of Valentinian at Rheims to the month of June A. D. 367, is proved by the constitutions which he promulgated. One of the 18th of August is dated from Amiens, and addressed to Praetextatus, prefect of Rome. During this time he was suffering so much from illness that there was talk about his successor; but Valentinian recovered, and, on the 24th of August, his son Gratianus, then little more than eight years of age, was declared Augustus at Amiens in presence of the army. About this time Valentinian divorced his wife Severa or Valeria Severa, and married Justina, a Sicilian woman, by whom he became the father of Valentinian II. and of three daughters, one of whom, Galla, was afterwards the wife of Theodosius I. Justitna was an Arian, but she concealed her heresy as long as her husband lived.

At the close of A. D. 367 the Allemanni, under Randon, surprised and pillaged Moguntiacum (Mainz) during a festival which the Christians were celebrating. The Romans retaliated by gaming over an Allemann to assassinate his king Vithicabus, a man who in a feeble body possessed a great spirit, and had caused the Romans no small trouble. While the emperor was on his road from Amiens to Trèves on the Mosel, he heard of the ravages which the Picts and other barbarians were committing in Britain. The conduct of this war was finally entrusted to Theodosius, the father of the first emperor Theodosius. [THEODOSIUS.]

To the year A. D. 368 probably belongs a constitution of Valentinian addressed to Olybrius, then praefect of Rome (Cod. Theod. 2. tit. 10. s. 2 ; Cod. Just. 2. tit. 6. s. 6), for the regulation of the conduct of advocates, who were forbidden to use abusive language, or to say anything which might injure the reputation of the party to whom they were opposed, unless it was necessary to maintain the case of their client. The constitution contains other regulations. By another constitution he ordered that there should be a physician appointed for each of the fourteen regions of Rome, to look after the health of the poor. In the autumn of this year Valentinian left Trèves for an expedition against the Allemanni, whom he drove with great loss from a mountain where they had fortified themselves. This place called Solicinium has been conjectured to be Sulz, near the source of the Necker. The emperor returned with his son to Trèves, which he entered in a kind of triumph.

In A. D. 369 Valentinian was occupied with building forts on the left bank of the Rhine, from its mouth to the country of the Rhaeti; and he also constructed some forts on the other side of the river. Mannheim, at the junction of the Necker and the Rhine, is supposed to be one of these positions. His residence was chiefly at Trèves during this year, but he made excursions to various places on the Rhine. A story recorded in the Alexandrine Chronicle, and also in Zonaras, of the emperor's severity seems hardly credible. An eunuch named Rhodanus, an attendant on Valentinian, had been convicted before Sallustius of defrauding a widow, and he was ordered to make restitution. Instead of doing this he appealed from the judgment, and the widow was advised to present her petition to Valentinian when he was seated in the Circus. The eunuch was near his master, when the widow presented her petition, and the emperor immediately ordered the eunuch to be seized, to be carried round the Circus while proclamation of his crime was made, land then to be burnt alive in the presence of the spectators.

In A. D. 370 Valentinian was still at Trèves, or near it, as appears from the constitutions promulgated in this year. The Saxons now broke loose on the Roman territory, where they plundered all before them; but they were alarmed by the appearance of Severus, commander of the infantry (peditum magister), who made place With them on condition of their retiring. But the Romans treacherously laid an ambuscade, and destroyed the Saxons on their march back, at a place called Deuso, according to Hieronymus, which may be Dentz, opposite to Cologne. Ammianus (28.5) considered this treachery justifiable under the circumstances. A constitution of this year addressed to Damasus, bishop of Rome (Cod. Theod. 16. tit 2. s. 20), was intended to check the greediness of the clergy. It is commented on by Gibbon with his usual relish for scandal against the clergy, against whom, however, we have the evidence of the imperial constitution, and that of Hieronymus. Damasus, the bishop of Rome, was himself a man of dubious character, and the virtuous Praetextatus, a pagan, told him that he would turn Christian himself if he could secure the see of Rome, " a reproach," observes Gibbon, " in the form of a jest."

Ammianus (28.1) gives an account of the cruelties exercised at Rome by Maximinus, who held the office of the Vicaria Praefectura, against persons who were accused of magical arts. Maximinus put many persons to the torture, and even to death, upon the charge of using magic. Maximinus was punished by Gratian, the successor of Valentinian, for all his misdeeds. Magic, or whatever is meant by the term, was a great abomination in the eyes of Valentinian : he permitted all the arts of the Roman aruspices to be practised, and every other ceremonial of the ancient religion, provided no magic was practised. He even maintained the Pontifices in the provinces in all their privileges, and allowed them the same rank as Comites. This-was going even beyond toleration, and further than a wise policy can justify. He relieved from all civil duties such ecclesiastics as devoted all their time to the service of the church, and had entered the clerical body before the commencement of his reign; but as to others, they were liable to discharge all civil duties like any layman. These and other constitutions of the first half of A. D. 371 were promulgated at Trèves, the favourite residence of Valentinian, which he left for a short time to conduct operations against the Germans in the neighbourhood of Mainz. He was again at Trèves in December, and he appears to have passed the year A. D. 372 there or in the neighbourhood. The emperor did nothing this year that is recorded, except to promulgate a constitution against the Manichaeans, who were always treated with great severity.

The year A. D. 373 was the fourth joint consulship of the two Augusti, Valentinian and Valens, and Valentinian spent a great part of this year in Italy. Maximinus was made Praefectus (of Gaul, as Tillemont shows), and this brought about the ruin of Remigius, once Magister Officiorum, who had been a partner of Comes Romanus in his maladministration. Remigius had resigned his office and retired to the pleasant neighbourhood of his native Mainz to cultivate the land. Maximinus, who was somewhere near, which is confirmatory of Tillemont's conjecture that he was in this year prefect of Gaul, put to the torture one Caesarius, who had served tinder Remigius, in order that he might discover what Remigius had received from Romanus. Remigius, being informed of these proceedings against him, hanged himself (Amm. Marc. xxx, 2). Palladius, who had deceived his master in the affair of Comes Romanus, was also arrested by order of Valentinian; and he too pronounced his own sentence, and executed it by hanging himself. Romanus, the chief criminal, was put in prison by Theodosius, when he was sent against Firmus [THEODOSIUS], and proof was found of his knavery in the affair of Leptis. The historian, however, has not the gratification of finding any evidence of the punishment of Romanus, either under the reign of Valentinian or that of his successor.

Valentinian passed the winter of A. D. 373 at Milan, but he was again at Trèves in May and June of the following year A. D. 374. He was upon the Rhine, probably in the neighbourhood of Bâle, when he received intelligence of the Quadi invading Illyricum : the cause was this. As the emperor was anxious to protect the frontiers, he ordered some forts to be built north of the Danube, in the country of the Quadi. The Quadi complained of this encroachment to Equitius, master-general of Illyricum, who consented to suspend the works till the emperor had signified his pleasure. But Marcellinus, the son of Maximinus, was made dux of Valeria, a province of Illyricum, by his father's interest, and he continued the fortifications without troubling himself about the Quadi. The king of the Quadi, Gabinius, came to remonstrate with Marcellinus, who received him civilly and asked him to eat; but as the king was retiring after the entertainment, the Roman treacherously caused him to be assassinated. The Quadi, joined by the Sarmatians, crossed the river into the Roman province, which was destitute of troops, and destroyed the grain which was ready for the harvest. Probus, Praefectus Praetorio, though much alarmed, prepared to defend Sirmium; but the barbarians did not disturb him, and preferred running after Equitius to whom they attributed the death of their king. The barbarians destroyed two legions, and the province would have been lost, but for the vigour and courage of a young man, who was afterwards the emperor Theodosius.

Valentinian heard of this incursion of the Quadi at his royal residence of Trèves, but he deferred his campaign against the Quadi to the following year, and in the mean time he employed himself in securing the friendship of Macrianus, king of the Allemanni, with whom he had an interview near Mainz. Macrianus accepted the terms which the Roman emperor came to offer, and became the ally, or at least not the enemy of Valentinian. The emperor spent this, his last winter at Trèves, which he did not quit till the month of April, A. D. 375, to march towards Illyricum. He took with him his wife Justina and his second son Valentinian. Gratian was left at Trèves.

The emperor fixed his head-quarters at Carnuntum, which was probably on the Danube, and below the site of Vienna. His first care was to inquire into the conduct of Probus, the praefect, who was charged with oppressing the people; but Valentinian did not live long enough to come to any decision about Probus. After preparing for the campaign the emperor crossed the Danube, but his operations were not very decisive, and at the approach of winter he re-crossed the river, and fixed himself at Bregetio, probably near Presburg. While giving an audience to the deputies of the Quadi, and speaking with great heat, he fell down in a fit and expired suddenly on the 17th of November, after a reign of twelve years, all but a hundred days. His body was embalmed and carried to Constantinople to be interred.

Gibbon's sketch of the reign of Valentinian and Valens (100.25) has great merit : it is rapid, exact and instructive Tillemont (Histoire des Empereurs, v.) is painfully minute as usual; but his authorities are always valuable, and his judgment, when not biassed by his peculiar way of thinking, is generally sound. The reign of Valentinian is worth a careful study in his extant legislative enactments. His many great qualities entitle him to a place among the most distinguished of the illustrious Romans.


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    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 30.9
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 28.6
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