Emperor Valentinian is known as the last of the Warrior Emperors. He was born in AD 321 in Cibalis (Vinkovci). His father, Gratian, rose through the ranks of the army ending up as Comes Britanniae (Companion of Britain), before coming under a cloud and being stripped of his power and estates for his support of Magnentius.
Valentinian followed his father into the army, but he too was stripped of power by the Emperor Constantius, before returning to active service under the Emperor Jovian. When Jovian died on the 17th February 364 AD, Valentinian’s name was put forward as a potential replacement – although not as the first choice. He won the support of the army (who had marched to Nicaea) as the original candidates Aequitius and Januarius were dismissed as either too brutal (Aequitius) or too far away (Januarius).
Valentinian arrived in Nicaea on 24 February 364, the bisextile day (the Roman equivalent of a leap year), and – as it was considered unlucky to consider new business on this twice counted day – Valentinian held off until the 25th of February before accepting the Emperorship. He made his acceptance speech on the 26th, in which he calmed the army’s fear as to where his loyalties lie.
In a stunningly clever move, and in order to prevent a repeat of the chaos which followed the deaths of Julian (the last Neo-Flavian) and Jovian , Valentinian named a co-augustus (his brother Valens) on the 24th March, giving him day to day control over the eastern empire.
In 365 the Alamanni invaded Gaul and Procopius began his revolt against Valens. However, instead of going to his brother’s aid, Valentinian remained in Gaul; a move which cemented his support in the region.
It also set his reputation as a warrior; an emperor not afraid of conflict. It had to. There were conflicts in Britain, Africa and amongst the Quadi in Germany – all of which were dealt with successfully. Not surprisingly during this time, the senate lost power to the army and the Imperial Court became more of a military tribunal and vehicle for social mobility, than at any previous point in its history.
The jury is out on the reputation of Emperor Valentinian. On the plus side the fragmentation of the empire halted but on the down side, under his rule the empire fractured; society polarised and regionalism intensified. However, Valentinian is generally regarded as an exceptionally able emperor, who assumed the mantle of imperial rule with boldness. Certainly, he was an emperor determined not only to be in charge but be seen to be in charge.
Married twice: his first wife, Severa died in childbirth in 359 (his son Gratian survived), Valentinian, who died from a strokein 375AD, was survived by his second wife, Justina, mother of his other three children – Valentinian II and two daughters Galla and Justa.
Part of me can’t quite believe that Valentinian died after losing his temper. It’s too mundane for this lesser known, warrior emperor.
As for why is his post here and not on the other blog? Oh that would be telling 🙂