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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Valentinian I – The Last Great Western Emperor

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Early Life & Carreer

Valentinian was born in 321 year in the southern Pannonian city ​​of Tsibale in the family of the future committee of Britain, tribune Gratian the Elder, also a native of Tsibaly and comes from the middle layers. Valentinian, like his brother Valent, received almost no education.

In his youth ( 340 ), he accompanied his father to Africa, who was appointed to the post of committee there. Subsequently, when Gracian the Elder was transferred to Britain, Valentinian moved with him.

He was in Pannonia during the conflict, but it is not known whether he participated in the war between Magenitus and Constantius II. In the winter of 359, Valentinian was sent to the east, where he served as a senior officer ( lat. Tribunus militum ) of Mesopotamia, and also commanded a unit of spearmen. But in 362, Julian expelled Valentinian to Thebes because of his commitment to Christianity. The new emperor Jovian, returning Valentinian from exile, sent him to fight against the Gauls, where he won. Subsequently, he was appointed to the position of tribune of skutarians, infantry, separated from the guards in Ankira.

Imperial situation

In the spring of 363, the Roman emperor Julian II, the Apostate, marched from Antioch with a powerful army, and soon, joining the rest of the units, he crossed the Euphrates. His goal was to protect the eastern borders of the Roman Empire from the devastating Persian raids for as long as possible. Unlike his predecessor, Constance II, who because of conflicts with his brothers, usurpers, and later with the Germans could not ensure advancement in the east, Julian had all the resources for this.

At first the campaign was successful: it was possible to conquer several fortresses, to break up small Persian troops. But in Ctesiphon, the Persian capital, the situation has changed. Julian was unable to take a heavily fortified city, but he decided to move on. The Persians did everything possible not to allow the Romans to penetrate into the inner regions of the state, and therefore they set fire to the steppe, grain crops and settlements in those districts along which the Roman troops were to pass; this was complemented by the constant attacks of the Persian cavalry. As a result, the Romans were left without food and fodder in the middle of a scorched country. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the Roman-Armenian army, which concentrated on the banks of the Tigris, did not come to the aid of the army of Julian.

A battle took place at Marangi, in which Julian himself was killed. The council of commanders, consisting of Dagalife, Nevitta, Arinfeus, and Victor, decided to elect Jovian as emperor. A retreat was launched. Soon the Roman army reached the city of Dura, located on the banks of the Tigris, but could not move further, being surrounded by the Persian army led by Shapur II himself. Unable to either move further north or cross to the right bank of the Tigris, nor replenish food supplies, the Romans were in a critical situation. Knowing the situation in which Jovian and his army found themselves, Shapur II sent ambassadors to the emperor with a proposal for negotiations. As a result, the Persians were able to impose a peace treaty that was extremely unfavorable for the Romans to Jovian. After this, the Romans continued their retreat.

Election by the Emperor

Heading towards Constantinople, Jovian passed away in Dadastan. Then began the search for a new candidate for the throne. The army moved to Nicaea, where a gathering of civil and military officials nominated several candidates. There were two of them:

Then the meeting decided to elect Valentinian and sent him a message in Ankira. Pavel Deacon and Aurelius Victor claim that Valentinian was elected because of his father’s popularity in the army and that he refused the title offered to him. He arrived, and the next day, when he came out, ” he was clothed in imperial vestment, the crown was placed on him, and he was proclaimed Augustus with loud cries of praise to him, which usually throws off the charm of novelty “. But the soldiers decided to elect the co-regent of Valentinian. Then, according to Theodoret Kirrskogo, he said the following: “ When there was no king, it was up to you soldiers to entrust me with the reins of government; but as soon as I took power, it was already my, and not your business – to disassemble the affairs of the state ”. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the soldiers were struck by the bold behavior of Valentinian and his willingness to assume the imperial power. His decision to elect a co-emperor could also be interpreted as a step to calm any opposition among the population in the eastern part of the empire. The next day the army moved on. Arriving at the end of March in Constantinople, Valentinian convened a council, where he raised the question of appointing a co-ruler. On March 28, 364, despite the objections of Dagalife, he chooses Brother Valens as his co-ruler. They divided among themselves the empire, where Valens got the east, and Valentinian the west. Then Valentinian went to Mediolan, and Valent to Constantinople.

Alamanni Wars

One of the first problems Valentinian faced was the start of new military actions against the Alemanni. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Alamanni were unhappy that the new emperor sent them gifts that were much smaller than the gifts of previous emperors. And besides, the master of offices, Urzia, was rude to them. In response to this insult, the Alamanni invaded Gaul in 365. At the same time, a relative of Julian II Procopius began an uprising against Valens in the east of the empire. Valentinian received news of the Alemanni invasion and Procopius’s uprising on the same day, November 1, during a trip to Lutetia. He had to make a choice – go east to help his brother, or stay in Gaul to fight the Alemanni. Then Valentinian sent Dagalife to fight the barbarians, and he himself began to prepare to make a trip to the east and help Valens. After receiving many embassies from the main Gallic cities, who begged him to stay and protect Gaul, he decided to solve the problem of the invasion of the barbarians first. This step shows two things: firstly, that Valentinian did not want to subjugate the west to the east, besides, Valentinian was still not sure about the support of Gaul, a very important part of the West. There is no better way to win the support of the Gallic nobility, how to preserve peace by defeating the barbarians. This idea is vividly illustrated by coinage. Coins are minted with the following inscriptions: RESTITUTOR REIPUBLICAE, GLORIA ROMANORUM, TRIUMFATOR GENT BARB (Restorer of the Republic, Roman Glory, Triumafator over the Barbarians) on the mints in Trier, Lyon and Arles.

Valentinian arrives in Reims and sends two commanders, Severian and Harrietton against Alemanni. But they were defeated and their troops were killed. Then Dagalife was again directed against the enemy in 366, but his actions were ineffective. Soon he was replaced by Flavius ​​Iovina, who after several successful battles began to oust the Alemanni from the country. He was rewarded for his efforts with the title of consul the following year. Valentinian temporarily distracted from the problems of Gaul because of the uprisings in Britain. The defeat of Jovian did not stop the Alemanni, and they again invaded Gaul. They attacked and looted the Mogonziak at the end of 367 or the beginning of 368. Valentinian organized the assassination of the Alemannic leader Viticabius with his own bodyguard. The emperor was determined to once and for all deal with the barbarians. He spent the winter of 367/8 in gathering a huge army for the offensive, which he planned to start in the spring. He calls a Sebastian comit, who led the Italian and Illyrian legions, to connect with Jovin and the magister peditum North. Valentinian and his army also accompanies Gratian. In the spring of 368, the Romans crossed the Rhine. They met no resistance until they reached Solinicium, where they met a huge army of Alemanni. In this battle, the Romans won. After that, the legions returned to Trier for the winter.

In 369, Valentinian was engaged in the repair and construction of fortifications on the left bank of the Rhine. By his order, construction of a fortress was started on the right bank. The Alamanni sent envoys to protest the construction, but Valentinian rejected their request. As a result, they attacked the fortress when it was still under construction, destroyed it and killed all the soldiers who were there.

In 370, the Saxons resumed their attacks on northern Gaul. Komit Nannien, the commander of the troops in that area, withstood the first attack, but the emperor sent the commander of the North to his aid. North won a victory and made peace with the Saxons. They began to retreat, but the Romans ambushed and killed all the barbarians. At the same time, Valentinian decides to start the second campaign against the Alemanni. His goal was Alemansky king Makrian. The emperor tried to convince the Burgundians, who were the worst enemies of the Alamanni, to attack them. If the Alemanni try to escape, Valentinian will wait for them with the army. Negotiations with the Burgundians were thwarted when Valentinian refused to meet with the Burgundian envoys to personally assure them of the support of the Roman people in the proposed war. This event allowed Theodosius, magister equitum, to attack Alemanni from Retsii. Valentinian continues the campaign unsuccessfully for four years. In 372, Makrian barely escaped captivity. At the same time, the emperor continues to establish friendly relations with other Alemannic leaders. Soon the commander North defeated Makrian, and in his place was the Roman protege Fraomarius. In the year 374, Valentinian was forced to make peace with Makrian because of a possible war with the Sarmatians and Quads.
Rise of the Firm

In 372 Firm rebelled in Africa, the son of the Moorish prince Nubel. After the death of his father, Firm killed his half-brother Zammak. The Roman governor did not take the necessary measures to protect against attacks of African tribes on the city, which led to a deterioration of the situation in the region. It was then that Firm rebelled. He placed his brothers at the head of the local tribes. Emperor Valentinian directed against tyrant magister militum Theodosius to suppress the uprising. With the support of indigenous African tribes, the Firms fought long enough with the regular army of Theodosius. However, after a few years he was betrayed by one of his supporters and committed suicide. Paul Deacon differently describes the death of the Firm: “Valens, prompted by envy, ordered him to be killed; then he wished to receive baptism for the forgiveness of sins in Carthage, and, going to a glorious death, he himself put his neck to the executioner. ”

British campaign

In the year 367, Valentinian received news that the combined forces of the Picts and Attacks had killed Nectaris, the Comitant of the Seacoast, and Dux Fullloofd was ambushed by the enemy. At the same time, troops of the Franks and Saxons captured the northern regions of coastal Gaul. Valentinian, alarmed by these reports, sent a comite of the households of the North to Britain with an army. The North was unable to rectify the situation and returned to the continent, to the Valentinian headquarters in Amiens. Then the emperor sent Iovin to Britain and appointed the North to the position of magister peditum. Jovin returned from Britain without completing the task.

Valentian’s serious illness led to a struggle for the status of a successor between North and Rustik Julian, the master of the office of rescripts and a representative of the Gallic aristocracy. However, Valentinian soon recovered and appointed his son Gratian as co-regent in order to prevent similar conflicts in the future.

At the beginning of 368, Valentinian was determined to crush the Picts after the first victories over the Alemanni. He instructed the committee Theodosius to restore the integrity of the borders of Britain. North and Jovin were to accompany the emperor during his campaign to Germany. Theodosius arrived in the year 368 with troops consisting of the Batavians, Heruls, Iovias and Victors, landing in the harbor near Rutupia. He defeated the barbarian detachments and issued a decree in which he called on all deserters to return under his banner, promising impunity. In 369, Theodosius, relying on ambush tactics, began reconnaissance of areas north of London. During this period, he received news of a conspiracy by his vicar Maximin Valentin that was being plotted against him in Pannonia. The plot was uncovered, and Valentine was sent into exile in Britain, where he was executed. After that, Theodosius rebuilt the destroyed fortifications and restored the lost provinces to the Antonin rampart, forming the province named for Valentinian – Valencia. After his return in 369, Valentinian contributed to the appointment of Theodosius to the position of magister equitum instead of Jovin.

Religious Policy

Valentinian was embroiled in religious controversies of the time. Ammianus Marcellinus positively assessed the neutral position of Valentinian in religious affairs. He refused to take part in the disputes of the Arians of the East, when they sent Bishop Ipatian to him for help. At the same time, the emperor adopted a stern position regarding two heretical movements that had arisen during the 3rd century in Rome. In 372, he forbade the meeting of the Manicheans in Rome. Their leaders were executed, and property was confiscated from the rest. Valentinian also formally condemned the Donatist bishops in Africa in 373. Church sources of this period describe Valentinian from the positive side. Jerome speaks in ecstatic tones: “Valentinian was a good emperor, in character resembled Aurelius, but some people spoke of his excessive stinginess and greed”. Socrates Scholastic and Pavel Oroziy speak of him as a victim of paganism: after all, Valentinian was exiled to Thebes because of his commitment to Christianity. Sozomen writes that Julian did not like Valentinian for the case when, during a pagan rite, the future emperor cut off a piece of clothing that had oil on it. Also Socrates, Theodorit and Sozomen praised Valentinian for the appointment of Milano Ambrose as bishop, since the predecessor of the new cleric, Aksentius, was an Arian.

Valentinian was not always positive about Christianity. For example, he ordered Symmachus, the prefect of the city of Rome, to execute some Christians in 365 and confiscate their property. The whole negative religious policy of Valentinian was motivated by financial problems, not by disagreements with religious doctrine. The property of the executed Manichaeans fell into the treasury; the condemnation of the Donatists may be viewed as a condemnation of those who hinder the collection of taxes in African provinces. One example is the decree of Pope Damascius in the year 370, which forbade priests to marry widows. Also, Pope Damascius had extensive connections with the pagan aristocracy, which helped the emperor to overcome the intolerance towards paganism that was shown by other church leaders. On the other hand, Valentinian gave Christians special privileges. In 370, he supported the law of Constance II, which freed Nicene Christians in African provinces from municipal duties. A similar law was passed in the year 371, when clergymen were exempted from taxes. To make up for the money, Valentinian began collecting taxes from pagan senators, whose estates were in Africa. This decree expressed the dislike of the emperor to the senatorial environment. In 368, Valentinian introduced the post of “defender of the people” responsible for the proper collection of taxes.

” Under the influence of the growing strength of the disease, he felt that his last hour had come. He tried to say something or give orders, as shown by frequent trembling of the chest, gnashing of teeth and hand movements, similar to those performed by fist fighters in the fight, but exhausted, blue spots went through the body, and after a long struggle he gave up the spirit 55th year of life and 12th year without a hundred days of his reign ”

 Extracts about the life and customs of the Roman emperors
Marcellinus, Ammianus. Roman history  
Oroziy, Pavel. The story against the pagans 
Rufin Aquiley. Church history 
Theodoret of Kir. Church history  
Paul the Deacon. Roman history  
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