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Book I
Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London, 1892

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Book I
Chapter 4

Book 1 (continued)

Vol. I
p185
Chapter III

Valentinian the First

Authorities

Sources: —

Ammianus Marcellinus (Book XXVI to XXX). Very full, but somewhat discursive. This part of the history is perhaps hardly up to the level of those books in which he treats of the fortunes of his favourite hero Julian.

Zosimus (Book IV, 1‑17). Meagre, but apparently fair, and in the main agreeing with Ammianus.

Symmachus. Roman nobleman, official, and a man of letters, who will be more fully described in a subsequent chapter. Two orations delivered by him in praise of Valentinian were published by Angelo Mai in 1815 from a palimpsest discovered in the Ambrosian Library. They are of course highly laudatory, but throw a little light on the dealings of Valentinian with the barbarians.

Guides: —

Dr. Heinrich Richter's Das Weströmische Reich besonders unter den Kaisern Gratian, Valentinian II und Maximus (Berlin, 1865) gives some valuable hints as to the condition of the Empire under the dynasty of Valentinian. The employment of barbarian officers in the camp and council of the Emperor, and the universal religious toleration of Valentinian, are two points which are well illustrated by Richter. Unfortunately the arrangement of the book is ingeniously bad, and there is no Index nor adequate Table of Contents to guide us through the labyrinth.

Of the twelve years' reign of Valentinian, Emperor of the West, I do not propose to give more than an  p186 outline, since it has little direct connexion with our main subject, the invasion of the Empire by the Goths.

Character of Valentinian. The character of this Emperor is one which perplexed contemporary historians, and which at this distance of time it is perhaps impossible to paint correctly; so strangely were great virtues and odious vices blended in its composition. He was strong, he was chaste, he was diligent: not sparing himself in his labours for the Empire: desirous to rule his subjects justly: terrible to the enemies of Rome. But, on the other hand, he was cruel, with that delight in watching the infliction of suffering which reminds us of the Emperor Nero or a bullying schoolboy. He carefully husbanded the resources of the State, and did his best to lighten the burdens of the provincials: yet he often showed himself quite unscrupulous in the confiscations which he ordered or permitted. He seems to have honestly desired to be a terror to evildoers, yet some of his prefects displayed a wild license of injustice such as must have recalled the worst days of Commodus or Caracalla; and the deep terror which Valentinian had struck into the hearts of his subjects caused them to lie down and die in silence. Yet, for all this, so great a merit was strength in the supreme ruler that, more than a century after his death, when the Romans wished to praise their just sovereign, Theodoric the Ostrogoth, they likened him to two men, Trajan and Valentinian, and said that he had brought back to Italy their days of happiness.1

Association of his son Gratian in the Empire. In the year 367, when the Gothic war was just beginning in the East, Valentinian, who had recently  p187 recovered from a severe illness, determined to strengthen his dynasty by associating his son Gratian with him in the Empire. As the new Augustus was still but a boy,2 this so‑called association could evidently, for the present, bring the elder partner no relief from the cares of government. The account of the ceremony brings before us in an interesting way the process by which a theoretically elective was being converted into a hereditary monarchy. The scene was laid at Amiens. There by the banks of the Somme the legions were assembled, after they had been privately sounded as to the proposition which was about to be made to them. A high tribunal had been erected, upon which stood Valentinian and his son, surrounded by the heads of the military and civil administration of Gaul, in all the splendour of their official equipments. Taking the  p188 boy by his hand and leading him forth into the midst of the tribunal, the Emperor spoke to the soldiers in that vein of manly and simple eloquence which had served him so well in the assembly at Nicaea. 'Gratian,' he said, 'has played as a child with your children. He has not led from the very cradle that hard life which was my lot in infancy, nor is he yet about to endure the dust of Mars. But he comes of a stock which has won for itself some renown in feats of arms: in your companionship he will learn to bear the summer's sun, the winter's frost and snow, the toilsome watches of the night; he will aid in the defence of the camp should foes attack it; he will expose his own life to save the lives of his comrades; and he will regard it as the first of duties to cherish the Republic as his sire's and his grandsire's home.' At these words and even before the Emperor's speech was finished, the soldiers, each eager to be beforehand with the other in complying with the wishes of their chief, shouted 'Gratiane Auguste! Gratiane Auguste!' They clashed their arms together, and the trumpets sounded a long, full, harmonious strain. Rejoicing in the success of his appeal, Valentinian invested his son with the diadem and the purple robe, kissed the Imperial boy, and thus addressed him: 'Thou hast now, my Gratian, by my decision and that of my comrades, received in an auspicious hour those Imperial robes which we have all hoped to see thee wear. Now therefore begin to fortify thy soul to receive a share of the burden which weighs upon thy father and thine uncle. Prepare to cross with dauntless soul the Danube and the Rhine, made pervious by frost, to stand firm in the battle with thine armed friends, to shed thy blood and yield  p189 up thy breath for the defence of thy subjects, to think nothing an intrusion on thy cares which tends to the safety of the Roman Empire. So much I say to thee for the purpose: the rest as thou shalt be able to bear it. To your care, my gallant defenders, I commit the growing Emperor, and beseech you to keep him ever guarded by your faithful love.'

At these words Eupraxius, the Imperial Remembrancer3 (a Moor from Caesarea on the north coast of Africa), led the cheers, crying with loud enthusiasm, 'The family of Gratian deserves this at our hands.' Then the officers and soldiers broke up into little groups which began to celebrate the praises of the two Emperors, old and young, but especially of the princely boy, whose bright eyes, comely face and figure, and sweet disposition had already endeared him to their rough hearts, and seemed to promise a fairer future than truly awaited him in the chambers of destiny. No doubt the proclamation of the new Emperor was accompanied with a donative to the legions, at any rate to those stationed in Gaul, though we are not informed of its amount.

Gratian not Caesar but full Augustus. It was observed that Valentinian was departing from the maxims of state handed down from Diocletian in naming both his brother and now his little son, not Caesar, but Augustus. This was praised by servile orators as a mark of the generosity of the senior Emperor, who would make no distinction in outward seeming between his partners and himself.  p190 Considering the absolute devotion with which Valens 'like an orderly' obeyed the commands of the author of his greatness, and the interval of years which separated both from the child Gratian, we may well believe that Valentinian's supremacy was quite unaffected by the titles which he chose to bestow upon the associated Emperors; and the excuse for greater pomp and a more expensive court, in the exhausted state of the treasury, have been wisely avoided.

Valentinian's special work, the defence of Gaul. Valentinian's life as an Emperor was chiefly passed in the province of Gaul. Most of his laws are dated from Trier, some from Paris and Rheims, several from Milan, an exceedingly small number from Rome, which had practically at this time ceased to be an Imperial residence. The work to which he mainly discovered himself was the defence of the frontier of the Rhine and the Upper Danube, and this work he successfully performed. The barbarians, by whom the safety of Gaul had been chiefly threatened during the century preceding the accession of Valentinian, Confederacy of the Franks and of the Alamanni. were the two great confederacies of the Franks and the Alamanni, the former of whom were settled along the right bank of the Rhine from Rotterdam to Maintz, CHECK:and of the Alamanni. while the latter, having broken down the feeble barrier, whose ruins are now called the Pfahlgraben,4 settled themselves in the fertile Agri Decumates, where for something like two centuries the Roman civilisation had been dominant. Thus the Alamanni filled up all that  p191 south-western corner of Germany and Switzerland, which is naturally bounded by the Rhine, as it flows westwards to Bâle and then makes a sudden turn at right angles, northwards to Strasburg, Worms and Maintz. The territory of these two great confederacies is constantly spoken of by contemporary writers as Francia and Alamannia. We feel that we are standing on the verge of modern history when we recognise in these two names the France and the Allemagne of a French newspaper of to‑day. Though other elements have been abundantly blended with each confederacy, it is not altogether forbidden us to recognise in these two barbarous neighbours of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the ancestors of the two mighty nations which in our own day met in thunder on the plains of Gravelotte.

The Alamanni the chief enemies with whom Valentinian had to deal. Both of these Teutonic confederacies had for many years after the death of Constantine wasted the provinces of Eastern Gaul, but both had been effectually repulsed and driven back across the Rhine by the student-Emperor Julian. The Franks had taken the lesson to heart and remained till long after this time at peace with Rome. But the Alamanni, as was mentioned in the previous chapter, having rejected with scorn the meagre subsidies of Valentinian, crossed the Rhine soon after Procopius had donned the purple in Constantinople. They spread themselves though the north-eastern districts of Gaul, robbing and murdering, penetrated as far as Châlons-sur‑Marne and defeated an army that was sent against them. Dagalaiphus, the faithful counsellor of Valentinian, who was ordered to march from Paris to the seat of war, did not display his old energy against the  p192 barbarian invaders, but Jovinus, the Master of Horse, came up with them near the river Moselle, and hiding his own soldiers in an umbrageous valley watched the barbarians, who little suspected his approach. Some were bathing in the stream, some were anointing their hair with a pigment which was to give it a yet deeper dye than it had received from Nature, and some were quaffing from their deep horns of beer. The Romans rushed forth from their place of concealment, and before the foe could resume their arms, had wrought terrible havoc on the bewildered barbarians. The Alamanni driven out of Gaul. In a series of engagements of this kind, the Alamanni were forced back out of Gaul in the year 366. Jovinus took their king prisoner, and on his own authority condemned him to the gallows. The result of this campaign seems to have been to effectually deter the Alamanni from appearing on the left bank of the Rhine, or at any rate from penetrating far into the interior of the Gaulish province. Rando, one of their kings, did indeed surprise the city of Maintz, while the inhabitants, thrown off their guard, were celebrating one of the great festivals of the Church, and carried off a great number of male and female captives and a vast quantity of booty. Germany invaded by Valentinian. But this insult was avenged, when in the summer of that year Valentinian himself crossed the Rhine and, laying waste the territory of the barbarians with fire and sword, came up at length with their collected force at a place called Solicinium5 in the valley of the Neckar.

 p193  Battle of Solicinium. The barbarians had occupied a hill which rose abruptly on every side but one that which faced the north, where it sloped down gently to the plain. Count Sebastian was ordered to occupy this side of the hill with a strong body of troops, in order to cut off the retreat of the Alamanni. Gratian, who was present on the field, but was still too young for actual battle, was put in a place of safety in the rear, close to the standards of the household troops called Joviani. Then Valentinian started off with a small chosen band of followers to explore the base of the mountain, thinking that he could discover some better way than that on which the scouts had already reported. His somewhat too arrogant confidence in his own powers of investigation was doomed to meet with humiliation. Instead of discovering a surer road, he was attacked by a band of barbarians in ambush, and in his flight found himself floundering in the thick oozy mud of a marsh. With difficulty, by spurring on his steed, he extricated himself from the slimy morass, and succeeded in rejoining the legions. His chamberlain, who was following him, bearing his Imperial helmet richly adorned with gold and germs, was less fortunate than his master. He and his precious charge were swallowed up in that dismal swamp, and there in all probability they yet remain, awaiting the spade of the fortunate discoverer who shall rescue from its long entombment the helmet which once gleamed on the head of an Emperor of Rome.

A short interval of rest was given to the troops, and then they were summoned to the task of charging up the height by the paths which the scouts had revealed. A desperate undertaking truly, and one  p194 which reminds us of the terrible charge of the German troops up the heights of Spicheren in 1870. The fact that it was made, and that at length after a bloody struggle it was successful, shows that the soldiers of the Empire — no doubt many of them of barbarian extraction — had not lost all that stubborn courage which once animated the legions. The heights once gained, the superiority of the Roman arms over the rude weapons of the Alamanni soon asserted itself. The spear and the pilum wrought deadly havoc in their ranks. They turned to fly, and their backs and the calves of their legs were exposed to the storm of Roman missiles.6 Then Sebastian and his men came upon them from their northern ambuscade and intercepted their flight. The greater number of the barbarians seem to have perished, but a few escaped to the shelter of their woods. The Roman loss also, as their own historian admits, was very considerable; but it was as undoubted conquerors that Valentinian with his boyish colleague returned to winter-quarters at Trier.

Frontier-policy of Valentinian. In his wars with the barbarians, however, Valentinian did not show himself eager for their extermination. He knew, probably none better, how greatly the dwindling Empire was in need of men, and one of his favourite maxims was that it was better to rule the barbarians by military discipline than to drive them  p195 out of his dominions.7 For the purpose, however, of exercising this military discipline it was necessary to have a strong frontier, and Valentinian's one absorbing care was to strengthen his border all round by the erection of forts. Every stronghold that he could build to guard the frontier of the Danube or the Rhine was another clasp fastened in the robe of the Empire to prevent it from being rudely torn away by barbarian hands. Yet this passion for castle-building, however praiseworthy in itself, was in the case of Valentinian sometimes carried to excess,8 and then it involved the Empire in the very dangers which it was meant to avert.

His fortress on the Neckar. One of the strongest of these fortresses of Valentinian was erected on a hill overlooking the river Neckar. That rapid stream, however, threatened by its strong current to undermine the foundations of the castle, and the Emperor therefore determined to divert its course into another channel. Huge timber frames, probably filled with stones, were thrown into the river, which, time after time swept away these presumptuous obstacles to its career. But the Emperor of Rome was determined not to be beaten by a German river; and his  p196 resolution, seconded by the grand and patient obedience of the Roman soldiers (who had often to work standing up to their necks in water), at length prevailed. The channel of the stream was changed, and the castle was still standing and secure some years afterwards when the soldier-historian to whom we are indebted for these facts wrote his history.9 370 When, in the following year, Valentinian, in his palace at Trier, assumed for the third time the striped robe10 of a Roman consul, the courtly orator Symmachus introduced into the panegyric which he pronounced before him an allusion to his having thus bridled the Neckar: 'The Rhine,' said he, swollen by the Alpine snows, did not attack but softly flowed over the Roman territory, coming gently like a suppliant to adore her conqueror; and with her she brought the Neckar, offering this neighbour stream as a hostage for the "Roman peace," which the great river longed for.'11

The precise position of this stronghold on the Neckar erected by Valentinian is not described to us; but we may indulge the fancy, if it be nothing more, that it  p197 may have stood on the hill of Heidelberg; and we may imagine the contrast between the stern square fortress of the Pannonian soldier, and that glorious monument of the Renaissance, dear to the memory of so many travellers, which witnessed the pageants of the ill‑fated Frederick and Elizabeth of Bohemia, and whose ruins tell of the ravages of Louis XIV.

Valentinian's acts of kindness towards the barbarians. In Valentinian's dealings with the barbarian chiefs there was a singular mixture of kindness and perfidy. We have already seen that he thought it better to rule barbarians than to expel them. Symmachus praises him for not having ordered his soldiers to lay waste the humble hovels of the Alamanni with hostile fire, nor to drag the wild-looking mother from her bed before the dawn of day, but rather for having suffered them to flit away to the shelter of their forests, like timid deer across the lawns.12 So, too, we find an Alamannic king, Fraomar by name, whose district (pagus) had been wasted in a campaign, sent as tribune to command a regiment of his countrymen in the island of Britain.13 Bitherid and Hortar, nobles in the same clan, also received high military commands in the Roman army. All this looks like a certain degree of confidence and mutual understanding between the strong Pannonian Emperor, in whose own veins there probably ran a strain of barbarian blood, and his German  p198 antagonists. Coupled with gross perfidy. But then he also ordered or sanctioned the perpetration of some acts of disgraceful treachery towards them, such as must have been long remembered in the Teutonic folk-songs, and must have made it hard for the barbarians ever again to trust the word of a Roman Emperor. Case of Vithicab, the Alamannic king. Vithicab, the son of Vadomar (that Alamannic king whom we met with14 ruling Roman provinces, and upholding the standard of the legitimate Emperor against Procopius), had not followed his father's example, but preferred the rough independence of a Teutonic chieftain to the gilded servitude of a Roman official. His weak and sickly frame15 was animated by a heroic spirit, and he was ever on the watch for an opportunity to stir up his countrymen against the Empire. Many times was his life vainly sought in fair and open fight; and at length some butler or seneschal in his barbaric household was bribed with Roman gold to assassinate his master. When the crime had been perpetrated the murderer took refuge on Roman soil, and 'for a time the inroads of the enemy ceased.' The historian's unimpassioned recital shows us, on the one hand, how great a part German kinship played in successfully maintaining the struggle of the barbarians against Rome; and on the other, how utterly the Roman conscience — notwithstanding its nominal acceptance of Christianity — had become depraved since the glorious days of Aemilius and Fabricius.

Case of the Saxon invaders. Again, in the year 370, a multitude of Saxons, 'a race,' says Ammianus, 'which had often been gorged with Roman blood,' having safely steered through the  p199 waters of the German Ocean,16 fell upon one of the Gaulish provinces, probably in that part of the country which we now call Normandy and Picardy. Count Nannenus, the Roman governor, overmatched by the barbarians, and wounded in battle, applied to the Emperor for help, which was sent him under Severus, the Master of the Infantry. The approach of the Roman reinforcements, the glitter of the arriving ensigns and eagles, terrified the Saxons, who stretched out their hands and prayed for peace. Peace was granted them on condition that they should furnish a certain number of tall young recruits to the Imperial army, and should depart leaving their plunder behind them. The Saxons faithfully complied with these conditions, but the Romans with outrageous treachery fell upon them unawares as they were marching through a sequestered valley, and after meeting with a desperate resistance destroyed them to a man. The Roman historian does here condescend to remark that 'in weighing the whole transaction he would not take it amiss that so murderous a band of robbers was at length taken and destroyed when a suitable opportunity presented itself. '17

Case of Gabinius. Perhaps even worse than either of these crimes, as a violation of those rites of hospitality which even the most savage nations have held sacred, was the murder of Gabinius,18 king of the Quadi. His people  p200 were known to be already stirring in uneasy discontent, because of the erection of one of Valentinian's favourite fortresses in their territory. The young Marcellian, son of the Prefect Maximin, an evil scion of an evil stock, had recently by his father's influence been appointed Duke of the Pannonian provinces of Valeria, and anxious to distinguish himself by some striking exploit, when Gabinius came, modestly urging the grievances of his people, he with false courtesy invited him to a banquet. After Gabinius had partaken of his hospitality, and when, not suspecting guile, he was leaving the Praetorium, the caitiff Duke of Valeria caused him to be murdered. Deeds of foul treachery like this perpetrated by the officials of a civilised state upon its ruder neighbours are even greater follies than crimes. The fame of them spreads far and wide, wherever barbarians meet to exchange thoughts concerning the men of cities and of strange arts, beyond the great river. That instinctive belief in the higher morality of the more cultivated race which is part of the spiritual capital of civilisation, is foolishly frittered away. In its place comes a settled persuasion that craft and cunning are the natural weapons of these effeminate foes; and a spirit of contemptuous hatred is engendered which, should Fortune open a way for its gratification, will wreak a terrible revenge.

Valentinian's policy of religious toleration. Turning from the relations of the Empire with its barbarian neighbours to the internal policy of Valentinian, we find its most striking and noblest characteristic to have been his determination not to interfere as civil governor in the religious disputes of his subjects. After the fussy eagerness of Constantius to force his precise shade of heterodoxy on all his subjects,  p201 after the almost equally ridiculous anxiety of Julian to efface the worship of the Crucified One by that of Jupiter and Apollo, it must have been a relief to all reasonable inhabitants of the Empire, Christian or Pagan, to have at the head of the State a ruler who at the very outset of his reign declared that 'he gave free opportunity to every man for practising that form of worship which he had imbibed with his soul.'19 If there was some touch of hidden sarcasm in his reply to the orthodox bishops of Bithynia and Hellespont, when they sought his permission to call an Ecclesiastical Council — 'I am but a layman and have no right to interfere in such matters: let the bishops assemble where they please'20 — the sarcasm was easily borne for the sake of the liberty which it gave. Yet Valentinian, who had already, as we have seen,21 endured some loss of Court-favour in consequence of his Christianity, was not going to allow any of the anti-Christian edicts of Julian to remain on the statute-book. Julian's anti-Christian legislation repealed. 'The opinions,' says he, 'which prevailed in the last days of the late Emperor Constantius22 are still to prevail; nor are those things to have the sanction of a feigned authority  p202 which were either done or decreed when the minds of the Pagans were stirred up against our most holy law by certain depraving influences.'23 In other words, the whole of the legislation of the Imperial Apostate against the men whom he called in scorn 'Galileans,' was by this act abolished.

Sacrifices to the Hearth‑god permitted. But while thus abrogating all that had been done aggressively on behalf of the old religion of Rome, Valentinian could show himself tolerant towards superstition which he did not share. He had proposed that the ancient rite of nocturnal sacrifice to the Genius of the domestic hearth should be forbidden by law and stigmatised as a loathsome superstition. But when Vettius Praetextatus, the Proconsul of Achaia, a Roman noble of virtuous life and cultivated intellect, who adhered to the old superstitions, besought him to modify the edict as far as Greece was concerned, saying that 'life would be unliveable to the Greeks, it they were not allowed to celebrate after their ancient fashion these rites which knitted mankind together in one common bond of reverence to the gods,' Valentinian repented of his purpose and allowed the law to pass silently into oblivion.24

Heathen augurs protected. Again, when the Emperor was legislating against magical practices, which, as we shall shortly see, inspired him with something like the fury of a persecutor,  p203 he made an especial exemption in favour of the old heathen rite of augury, saying that 'neither this nor any other practice of the religion handed down from our forefathers is to be deemed a crime.' Those elaborate observations, therefore, of the flight of birds which, as we learn from the Eugubine Tables,25 had been practised by the races of Italy, perhaps for centuries before Rome was founded, and which still prevailed when Horace declared that he would pray that neither the woodpecker flying from the left nor a wandering crow should hinder the departure of his beloved, might still be practised even under a Christian Emperor.

Manicheans exempted from the general toleration. Two classes of persons seem to have been excepted from the general toleration, Manicheans and Mathematicians. In an age when Christian Theology was travelling further and further away from the facts of human consciousness, and entangling itself in a labyrinth of speculations as to the Essence and Substance of the Divine Being — speculations which could hardly be even expressed in any other language than that used by the subtle Greek — it is no wonder if many minds reverted to the older and more awful problems, old as the existence of a human soul capable of feeling the difficulties of the World in which we live. It is no wonder that such minds should have asked those questions which possess such a fascination for the brooding Eastern intellect, 'Is the All‑good indeed Almighty?' 'Is  p204 "Love creation's final Law," or is there not another dark Almighty warring for ever against the Lord of Love, and having had at least an equal, perchance a superior, share to His in the creation of the world?' Such were the questions asked by the followers of Manes, and answered by them in accordance with the principles of Dualism, questions doubtless far older than the Book of Job and yet new as modern Pessimism. We know from the Confessions of St. Augustine how great an attraction such speculations as these possessed for a keen and restless intellect, biassed by outward circumstances against a belief in the final triumph of righteousness. It was probably the conviction that Manicheism, whatever might be its pretensions to superior holiness, must in the end work against morality, which induced the sternly moral Valentinian to exempt its votaries from the general religious toleration, and to decree that wherever a meeting of this sect was discovered, the teachers were to be heavily fined, the disciples to be treated as outcasts from human society, and the places of assembly to be forfeited to the State.26

Punishments denounced against the Mathematicians. Even more severe was the sentence passed against the hapless Mathematicians. In words which would now carry terror through the pleasant places by the Cam, the Imperial brothers decreed: 'Let the discourse of the Mathematicians cease. For if in public or in private, by night or by day any one shall be caught [instructing another] in this forbidden error, both [teacher and taught] shall be sentenced to capital punishment. For it is no less a crime to teach than to learn forbidden arts.'27 By Mathematicians were  p205 doubtless here meant Astrologers: and the law was thus aimed at that morbid curiosity as to future events, especially future political events, of which, as we shall soon have occasion to remark, the Emperors of this dynasty had an equally morbid horror. But whatever the conventional, legal, meaning of the term Mathematicians, it is difficult not to believe that so sweeping a denunciation of their craft must, especially in the hands of ignorant and over-zealous officials, have often molested the innocent sons of Science.

Persecuting zeal of Valens on behalf of Arianism. The general toleration practised by Valentinian in the West was not imitated by Valens in the East. For this the elder brother, considering his powerful influence over the mind of the younger, must be held partly responsible. Valentinian was an adherent — though not apparently a very fervid adherent — to the creed of Nicaea, while Valens was a bigoted and acrid champion of that form of Arianism which was called the Homoion.28 The opportunity was a splendid one for passing a common act of amnesty for religious dissensions throughout the whole Empire, both East and West, for providing that the Arians should not be troubled at Rome, nor the Athanasians at Alexandria. But unfortunately the opportunity was not taken, and while Valentinian was upon the whole consistently pursuing his policy of religious toleration in the West, Valens  p206 continued in the East those petty and harassing persecutions against the Homoousian Bishops and Congregations which had been begun by Constantius.29 Still, notwithstanding this great and lamentable omission, Valentinian fairly deserves the fame of having made a greater and more successful attempt than any other Roman Emperor, so to use the power of the State as not to interfere with the inherent right of his subjects to worship God in that manner which each one in his own innermost conscience believed to be acceptable to Him. With his death the great experiment came to an end. It was again tried 120 years later, with equal singleness of purpose, by the Ostrogoth Theodoric, and for one generation it was signally successful. Then came Chaos and the thick Night of the Middle Ages. The very thought of a conscience free to decide for itself as to its relations to the unseen world, faded out of the minds of men; and it was not till  p207 the 16th, nay not till the 17th century, that it was again to assert its imprescriptible rights against the stern ecclesiastical domination alike of Rome and of Geneva.

Internal administration of Valentinian. The character of Valentinian as an administrator, described to us by contemporary historians, is such a mingled web of good and evil that, as has been already said, it is almost impossible to describe it except by a string of contradictory epithets. Just, yet tyrannical, willing to spare the pockets of his subjects, yet allowing them to be drained dry by rapacious governors, with a strong feeling of the duties of a ruler, yet delighting in deeds of cruelty — such are some of the paradoxes of this man's nature, paradoxes which, one fears, must be partly accounted for by the fact that the good in him gradually yielded to the evil, and that the longer he wielded the uncontrolled power of a Roman Imperator the more the inhuman element in his character prevailed. From one point of view we may see in him the strong, brave, chaste Illyrian peasant's son, endowed with absolute authority over the luxurious, demoralised Roman nobility, determined to correct their vices, to bring back the vigour and the purity of older days, and firmly applying the cautery to the social and moral sores of the Empire. This view of his character explains, and in a measure justifies, even some of the harshest deeds which Ammianus chronicles as having been done under his orders by stern Pannonian ministers like-minded with himself. But there are some stories told concerning Valentinian which will not fit in with this explanation, and which, unless we resort to the facile hypothesis of a strain of madness in his intellect, will force us to the conclusion that after  p208 all, the occupant of the Imperial throne was a barbarian at heart, with a barbarian's ungovernable temper and a barbarian's sensual pleasure in the sight of human suffering. The strangest of all these stories must be told in the very words of Ammianus, for it is not quite easy to understand how much he means us to infer from them.

The story of the bears. 'The mind shudders at the remembrance of all [his cruel deeds] and at the same time fears lest we should seem to be purposely seeking for the vices of a sovereign who was in other respects most useful to the State. But there is one thing which it would not be right to pass over in silence, that he had two fierce bears, devourers of men, named "Golden Darling,"30 and "Innocence," which he treated with such extraordinary fondness that he kept their cages near his own bed‑chamber, and gave them faithful guardians whose business it was, anxiously to provide lest by any chance the ghastly vigour of those wild beasts might be destroyed. "Innocence," at last, after many entombments of lacerated carcases, which the Emperor had himself witnessed, was sent unharmed back to the woods as having well deserved her freedom.'31

These pompous and obscure sentences may mean only that the Emperor regaled his favourite boasts on the flesh of men (presumably slaves or criminals) who were already dead; but perhaps it accords better with the general tenor of the passage to suppose that he enacted in his own palace on a small scale the  p209 bloody sports of the amphitheatre, and ordered his victims, perhaps his barbarian captives, to engage in deadly combat with Innocentia and Mica Aurea. On any interpretation of the passage, more than mere sternness, absolute inhumanity must be attributed to the sovereign of whom such tales could be told.

Instances of Valentinian's ferocity. Other stories were related of Valentinian's ungovernable temper. A page, stationed to watch some game, let slip too soon a Spartan hound that had sprung up and bitten him. The enraged Emperor ordered him to be beaten to death with clubs, and he was buried on the same day. A foreman in the Imperial workshops brought for the Emperor's acceptance a beautifully polished steel breastplate, which he had made to order. It wanted a little of the stipulated weight, and the too clever craftsman, instead of receiving even a diminished payment, was ordered off to instant execution. An eminent advocate, named Africanus, desired to be removed from one province, the affairs of which he had administered, to another, and Theodosius, the Master of the Horse, favoured his suit. The petition happened to be presented to the Emperor when he was in one of his surliest moods. 'Go,' said he, 'Count Theodosius, and change his stature by a head, who wants to change his province.' To this grim joke of the moddy sovereign was sacrificed the life of an eloquent man who was believed to be on the way to high office in the state. A ruler of this savage temper, even though desirous in the main to govern justly, was sure to be often ill served by the men to whom he delegated his power, and whose oppressions his subjects would be too terrified to reveal to him. Valentinian inclined to the employment of military officers in the great civil  p210 governments of the Empire, and he also showed a marked predilection for his own Pannonian countrymen as administrators. There was probably good reason for both preferences, as it is likely that the whole bureaucratic hierarchy under Constantius had become enervated and corrupt: but Valentinian seems to have been unfortunate in his choice of subordinates. Strong men they were, doubtless, those Pannonian vice-gerents of his, but also atrociously severe: and the soft citizens of Rome and Carthage trembled before them, as the subjects of James II trembled at the roar of Jeffreys.

Cruelty of Maximin and Simplicius. One of these cruel ministers of Valentinian was Maximin, born at the little town of Sopianae, now Fünfkirchen in Hungary,a who from a very humble station (his father was a clerk in the quarter-master's office) rose to the great positions, first of Vicarius, and afterwards of Praetorian Prefect and Prefect of the City of Rome. His assessor was Simplicius, who had formerly been a schoolmaster at Aemona (now Laybachb on the Save): and the two upstarts, master and man, seemed to vie with one another which could lay the heaviest hand on the ancient and noble families of Rome. But even the historian who execrates their cruelty shows by his history of the poisonings, peculations, adulteries which furnished the pretext for their outburst of violence, the deep demoralisation of the Roman aristocracy.

Prevalence of magical arts. The favourite topic of accusation against these Roman nobles and many of the humbler fellow-subjects, was the practice of unhallowed arts. Whether men's minds were in an unusually excited state on religious questions, owing to the recent duel between  p211 Heathenism and Christianity,32 — whether Neo‑Platonism, with its tendency to dabble in spells and incantations, had infected the minds of many of the upper classes, — whatever the reason may have been, it is clear that there was during this period an epidemic of witchcraft and poisoning on the one hand, and a yet fiercer epidemic of suspicion of these practices on the other. For instance, an advocate indeed Marinus was accused of having attempted 'by wicked arts' — magic — to bring about his marriage with a lady named Hispanilla. The proof offered was of the slenderest kind, but Maximin condemned him to death. Hymetius, Proconsul of Africa, a man of specially honourable character, was charged with having induced a celebrated soothsayer named Amantius to perform some unholy sacrifice for him. The soothsayer was tortured, but denied the accusation. In some secret place, however, in his house was found a letter in the writing of Hymetius begging him to perform some strange rites, whereby the gods might be prevailed upon to soften the hearts of the Emperors towards him. The end of the letter, so it was said, stigmatised Valentinian as a bloody and rapacious tyrant. Upon the production of this letter, and the establishment of some other accusations against him, Amantius the soothsayer was condemned to death by Maximin. Hymetius the proconsul was near meeting the same fate, but escaped by a well-hazarded appeal to the Emperor. Lollianus, the son of a prefect, a youth who had the first down of manhood on his cheeks, was convicted of having copied out a book of  p212 incantations. He, too, appealed to the Emperor, but in his case the appeal only ensured his condemnation, and he died by the executioner's hand.33 Thus lawlessly did law rage in the West. In the East, Festinus, an obscure adventurer from Trient (in the Tyrol), a friend and admirer of Maximin, having attained the high position of Proconsul of Asia, imitated but too successfully the cruelty of his patron. He had called in the services of a simple old woman to cure his daughter of intermittent fever, by a soft charm-like song which she was wont to sing. The spell succeeded, and the monster put the poor old creature to death, as a witch. A philosopher, named Coeranius, writing to his wife, had added a postscript in Greek, 'Take care and crown the gate with flowers.' This expression was generally used when some great event was about to happen. Coeranius evidently, in the judgment of the proconsul, was expecting a change in the government. He too must be put to death. In one instance the horrible and the ludicrous seem to meet together. A young man in the public baths was seen to be pressing his fingers alternately on the marble of the bath and his own chest, muttering each time one of the seven vowels in the Greek alphabet. The poor youth's real motive for this performance was that he imagined it would cure a pain in his stomach. Nevertheless he was haled away to the judgment-seat of Festinus, put to the torture, and slain by the sword of the executioner.34

End of Maximin. Maximin, notwithstanding the bitter hatred with which he was regarded by the people of Rome, succeeded in maintaining his hold on office, and on the  p213 Imperial favour so long as Valentinian lived. In 37335 apparently, he was made Prefect of Gaul, and about the same time he succeeded in obtaining the appointment of Duke of Valeria for his son Marcellian, whose foul murder of Gabinius, king of the Quadi, has been already described.36 Justice, however, was not finally defrauded either in his case or in that of his base tool Simplicius. Soon after the death of Valentinian both these tyrannical governors were put to death by the sword of the executioner.37

Tyrannical career of Romanus. Another instance of misgovernment, vainly protested against by its victims, was exhibited in the career of Romanus, Count of Africa. He was not a personal adherent of Valentinian, having been appointed to his office under the reign of one of his predecessors, but he had a friend at Court in Remigius, Master of the Offices, through whose hands all the reports prepared by the provincial governors, and all complaints against their rule, had to pass before they reached the Emperor. Remigius was connected by marriage with Romanus, and the Count of Africa, relying on his protection, plundered his subjects without mercy. At length, however, barbarian competitors in this trade of pillage appeared on the scene. Tripolis invaded by barbarians from the desert. The Austoriani, a people of the desert, taking advantage of the governor's indolence, broke in upon the province of Tripolis, whose long thin strip of fertile territory, lacking in its eastern portion the defence of the mountain chain which parted Numidia and the Carthaginian province from the interior, was always unusually  p214 difficult to guard.38 Goaded into fury by the punishment inflicted on one of their tribe who had been burned alive as a punishment for some lawless proceedings, they poured into the Tripolitan province, laid waste the country up to the walls of the strong city of Leptis, encamped for three days in the fruitful and highly cultivated suburban district, burned all the property which they could not remove, slew those of the peasants who had not had time to flee to the shelter of the caves, and then returned to their distant oases in the desert, carrying with them an immense mass of plunder and an important captive, a Senator of Leptis named Silva, whom they had the luck to find with his family at his villa in the country.

Romanus refuses to help the provincials of Tripolis. The citizens of Leptis naturally called on Count Romanus for help. He came with a sufficient body of troops: he calmly surveyed the ruin wrought by the barbarians: and he said, 'Prepare me so many thousand rations for my soldiers' (naming an enormous number) 'and a corps of 4000 camels, and then I will march against your enemies.' The citizens pleaded that in their distressed and devastated condition, such requisitions as these were hopelessly beyond their power to comply with. Count Romanus accordingly, having tarried for forty days in the Tripolitan territory, returned with nought accomplished for its deliverance.

The Tripolitans send a deputation to Valentinian. All this had occurred, apparently, during the short reign of Jovian, and was one of the many indications of the courage given to all the enemies of the Empire by the failure of the Parthian expedition. On receiving the news of the accession of Valentinian, the Tripolitan  p215 senate at its annual gathering,39 after passing a vote for the golden wreaths of victory40 which it was usual to present a new Emperor on his accession, determined to send their offering by the hands of two envoys who should be charged to lay before Valentinian the lamentable state of the Tripolitan province. Romanus, informed of their decision, despatched a swift messenger to warn his confederate Remigius, who took care to lay before the Emperor a report utterly different from that of the envoys. This diversity furnished an easy pretext for delay: Tripolis again invaded. and meanwhile the Austoriani again and again invaded the hapless province, laid waste the districts round Leptis and Oea41 with fire and sword, and shook the very walls of Leptis with their battering-rams, while a howl of terror went up from the women within, who had never seen an armed foe before. Again many of the wealthy decurions were caught in their pleasant country homes and slain. One unfortunate and gouty citizen-noble, deeming escape impossible, threw himself headlong into a well. He was drawn up by the barbarians with a rib broken, taken to the gates of the city, ransomed at a great price by his horror-stricken wife, and hoisted up by a rope over the battlements into the city, where he died two days afterwards. After eight days the besiegers found that they could not make any permanent impression on the defences of Leptis, and returned disappointed to their homes.

 p216  Commission of Palladius. Meanwhile there arrived in the province a notary of the Emperor42 named Palladius, with the double commission of distributing to the soldiers the donative to which they were entitled on the proclamation of Valentinian and his brother, and bringing back to the Emperor a report of the true state of the province of Tripolis. As soon as Romanus heard of the intended arrival of the commissioner, he gave a secret intimation to the officers in command of each legion stationed in the province, that they would do wisely for their own advancement by returning to this powerful servant of the Emperor part of the donative which he had brought for each of them. They complied with the advice; Palladius accepted the gift, and, thus unexpectedly enriched, proceeded on his way to Leptis. There could be no doubt as to what he saw there; the evidences of the misery and devastation of the province were patent to all men, and it needed not the eloquence of Erechthius and Aristomenes, two of the leading citizens of Leptis, to convince him that the Count of Africa had scandalously neglected the duty which he owed to these loyal subjects of the Empire. On his return to Carthage, Palladius told Romanus plainly what sort of report as to his sloth and incompetence he was about to make to Valentinian. 'And I too,' said Romanus in a towering passion, 'shall have my report to make to the Emperor. I shall have to tell him that his incorruptible notary has embezzled the greater part of the donative which was entrusted to him, and appropriated it to his own use.' Palladius saw that he was at the governor's mercy, and on his return to Court  p217 reported that the complaints of the provincials of Tripolis were all utterly devoid of foundation, and that Romanus was unjustly calumniated by them.

Anger of Valentinian against the Tripolitans. Then the wrath of Valentinian blazed forth against the men whom he honestly believed to be false accusers of a faithful servant. A second deputation from Tripolis had meanwhile visited his Court. One of the two envoys died on the road; the other was sent back in disgrace to Tripolis and forced to confess that he had been the messenger of falsehood. The cowed and trembling citizens disavowed the commission which they had entrusted to him. He and four other eminent members of the local senate were condemned to death: and Erechthius and Aristomenes, the orators who had pleaded the cause of Tripolis before Palladius, were sentenced to have their tongues cut out, but escaped from the executioners who were charged with this cruel mandate.

Tardy justice on Romanus and Palladius. So did the wrathful Emperor, with all his desire to deal justly, wreak cruel injustice on his unoffending subjects. Many years afterwards, when Palladius had received his dismissal, when the misgovernment of Romanus had reached its height, and when Count Theodosius had been sent to supersede him, he found among his papers the letter of a certain Meterius, which ended thus: 'Palladius the castaway salutes thee, who says that he is a castaway for no other reason than because he told lies to the sacred (Imperial) ears in the business of the Tripolitans.' This expression led to further inquiry; Meterius confessed the authorship of the letter. Palladius was arrested, but on the journey to Court escaped from his guards who were celebrating the vigil of some Christian festival, twisted a noose around his neck and hanged  p218 himself. The same fate overtook Remigius, who was now no longer Master of the Offices, but was living in retirement at Maintz. He too terminated his life with the cord to avoid a public execution. Romanus, the arch-criminal of all, seems to have escaped with his life, though deprived of office, but his later fortunes are wrapped in obscurity. The two eloquent Tripolitans, Erechthius and Aristomenes, emerged from their long hiding-place and the cruel sentence against them remained unexecuted. A full report was drawn up to the Emperor clearing the characters of all the Tripolitans, and the injustice that had been committed was, as far as possible atoned for. But much had been done that was irreversible.

Petronius Probus, Prefect of Illyricum. We have seen how Italy groaned under the tyranny of Maximin, how Africa was pillaged by its governor Romanus. Now we turn to Illyricum. There again, in the history of the administration of Probus (which connects itself with the closing scenes of the Emperor's life), we shall observe, not only the weakness of the Roman official aristocracy, but also the extreme difficulty with which even a sovereign who wished to rule righteously — and this with all his faults was the desire of Valentinian — escaped being made a partaker in the oppression of his subjects.

Petronius Probus, allied by marriage to the great Anician gens, one of the very few families which combined wealth, official distinction, devotion to Christianity, and a really ancient descent from ancestors conspicuous in the great days of the Republic, was himself a man marked out, in the constitution of the state as it then existed, for the frequent enjoyment of high office. Of vast wealth, with estates in almost every  p219 province of the Roman world, with his ancient lineage, his relationship to all the noblest families of Rome, and his reputation for orthodox faith, he had as strong a claim on Countships and Prefectures under the dynasty of Valentinian as the Spensers and Pelhams and other members of the great Revolution families had on Secretaryships and Lord Lieutenancies in the days of the early Georges. And these claims he was not slow to enforce. He had a vast tribe of dependents, his liberality to whom kept him needy, notwithstanding his enormous wealth, and whose misdeeds, though not himself a cruel or unjust ruler, he was all too ready to condone. Hence it came to pass that Petronius Probus, though neither soldier nor statesman, was almost perpetually in office, being translated from Africa to Italy, and from Italy to Illyricum; and, as Ammianus sarcastically remarks, in the short intervals when he held no prefecture he gasped and languished like one of the denizens of the deep expelled from its own element and laid upon the shore.43 This was the man who held the responsible post of Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum in the year 374, and who had to stem the torrent of barbarian invasion caused by the righteous indignation of the Quadi at the treacherous murder of Gabinius their king.44 Irruption of the Quadi. The enraged barbarians crossed the Danube, appeared suddenly among the unsuspecting Pannonians, who were engaged in the labours of the harvest, slew great numbers of them and drove back vast multitudes of sheep and cattle to their homes. They were very near carrying off a more splendid prize, and one the loss of which would have more deeply  p220 wounded the pride of Rome. The daughter of the late Emperor Constantius, the same whom as a child of four years old Procopius had so often exhibited to the applauding legions, was now on her way to Gaul where she was to be married to the young Emperor Gratian. She was resting at a post-house,45 about twenty‑six miles west of Sirmium, when the wandering bands of the Quadi were seen in the distance. Most fortunately Messalla, Duke of Pannonia Secunda, was near at hand, and hearing of her danger hurried to the post-house, placed the young bride on his official chariot, and lashing his horses to a gallop soon reached with his precious charge the friendly shelter of the walls of Sirmium.

Cowardice and incapacity of Probus. Barbarians, however, of various origin were now roaming over the desolate province. The Teutonic Quadi were mingled with the Sclavonic Sarmatians, and all brought terror to the subjects of Rome. Men and women were being driven off together with their cattle into the squalid servitude of barbarian homesteads. Many a spacious villa, the centre from which the Roman lord had issued his commands to the hundreds of coloni who cultivated his lands, was now laid in ashes, and its tessellated pavements dyed with the blood of its late inhabitants, while the savage invaders mocked at the trail of misery which they left behind them,46 and probably vaunted to one another that King Gabinius was now indeed avenged. All this time, in the Praetorium at Sirmium, which should have been the home of manly counsels and the centre of brave resistance, there was panic and bewilderment. To the middle-aged Probus this was a first experience of the terrors of war.  p221 He sat sighing in his palace, scarcely raising his eyes from the ground; and at last he made up his mind that when night fell he would escape with fleet horses from the city. Some faithful counsellor, however, informed him that, if he took flight, all the defenders of the city would inevitably follow his example, and that the disgrace of abandoning Sirmium, the first city of Illyricum, to the barbarians, would irretrievably ruin his career. Upon this he plucked up a little courage from necessity, cleared out the fosses which surrounded the city from the ruins that encumbered them, and repaired the breaches which in the long years of peace had weakened the circuit of the walls. Concentrating his whole attention on this work of rebuilding, and devoting to it a large sum of money which had been collected, but had fortunately not been expended, for the construction of a theatre, he before long was able to confront the barbarians with a circuit of lofty fortifications, perfect from base to summit. When the Quadi who had lingered too long over the congenial work of plunder at length appeared before the walls, they found them too strong to be taken by their rude appliances, and retreated, hoping to meet with and punish the general47 to whom they attributed the slaughter of their king. In their disorderly march two Roman legions came up with them and might easily have won a signal victory, but their first success was turned into defeat by the jealousies of the two bodies of troops and their want of concerted action. However, when things seemed at their worst for the cause of the Empire in the Illyrian provinces, a victory won over the 'Free Sarmatians'48  p222 by the brave young Duke of Moesia, Theodosius, restored the fortune of war, and together with the rumoured approach of legions from Gaul, caused the barbarians at last to sue for peace and to withdraw from the scene of their ravages.

Valentinian receives the news of the ravages in Pannonia. In his terror at the barbarian invasion Probus sent messengers to Valentinian to beg for assistance. The messengers found him in the neighbourhood of Bâle, where it need hardly be said that he was engaged in the construction of a fortress.49 The first impulse of the warlike Emperor was at once to march from the Rhine to the Danube in order to chastise the insolent barbarians who had dared to violate the Roman frontier. The advice of his trusty counsellors persuaded him to postpone the campaign of retaliation till next spring. They pointed out that the autumn was now far spent, that the plains, hardened by frost, would afford no pasture for the beasts of burden which accompanied the army, and that Macrianus, king of the Alamanni, an old enemy of the Empire, who had fought with Julian fifteen years before, was hovering, angry and menacing, on the frontiers of Gaul, and would certainly seize the opportunity of the Emperor's absence to make an inroad into the wealthy province, perhaps even to storm some of its cities.

Valentinian makes peace with Macrianus. Having decided to postpone his eastward march till spring, Valentinian determined to employ the interval thus left him in establishing a league of friendship with Macrianus. The Alamannic king, who had an  p223 unending quarrel with his Burgundian neighbours on the north, about the possession of the salt-springs on the Kocher,50 was not sorry to accept the proffered friendship of Rome. He came to meet the Emperor near Maintz, accompanied by a multitude of his countrymen, who clashed their shields and swords together with barbarous dissonance, while Macrianus stood by the swiftly-flowing Rhine, holding his head high, and swelling with pride, real or assumed, as if he were the arbiter of peace or war.51 On the side of the Romans appeared the great Augustus, moving slowly up the stream in the Imperial galley. Disembarking, he took up his station on the shore with the eagles and dragons of the legions glittering above his head, and the brilliantly accoutred officers of his camp, some of whom probably came from the plains of the Euphrates and others from beneath the shadow of the Pyrenees, all clustering round him. It was the meeting of Valens and Athanaric repeated, not on the Danube but on the other great frontier-stream of the Empire, and with a more lordly presence than that of Valens to represent the majesty of Rome. With a few well-chosen words and significant gestures Valentinian repressed the insolence of the barbarians, then discussed the mutual rights and wrongs alleged between them and the Empire, and finally exchanged the solemn oath of perpetual  p224 friendship with Macrianus. This treaty was not an empty form: the vanity of the Alaman had been flattered, his anger soothed, his self-interest enlisted on the side of peace with Rome. He faithfully observed the treaty to the end of his days, and finally perished, we are told, in 'Francia' (which at that time meant probably the country on the right bank of the Lower Rhine), having fallen into an ambush laid for him by the King of the Franks, the warlike Mallobaudes.

Valentinian marches to the Danube. After the treaty with Macrianus, Valentinian entered his winter-quarters at Trier, and with the early spring set out for Illyricum to put in order the things which had been disarranged by the feebleness of Probus. He marched quickly by the well-known military roads into his native province, and, when arrived there, was met by an embassy of Sarmatians who, falling at his feet, besought his favour and protested their innocence of any share in the barbarian inroads. 'That question,' said he, 'I shall settle after an accurate investigation on the scene of the outrages,' and dismissed them from his presence. Almost immediately after this interview he reached Carnuntum, once the great city of Pannonia and a colony, now represented only by the ruins of Petronell, on the Danube, about thirty miles below Vienna. Desolated by the barbarians, probably in their latest inroad, it had lost its importance as a station of the Danubian fleet and the head-quarters of the fourteenth legion, both of which had been transferred to Vindobona, now Vienna. Thus the world-wide fame of this latter city, the city of the Habsburgs, is derived by no doubtful ancestry from these movements of obscure barbarian tribes under the prefecture of Petronius Probus. Carnuntum, when Valentinian visited it,  p225 was still what our Saxon forefathers would have called 'a waste Chester,' lying in squalid loneliness by the sullen Danube; but the Emperor repaired it sufficiently to make it a place of arms, from whence he might sally forth to repel the incursions of the barbarians.

Enquiry into the mis­government of Probus. The arrival of Valentinian in the province of Pannonia struck terror into the hearts of the officials of that misgoverned province, and gave hope to the oppressed. Now at length, thought they, 'this stern but upright ruler will enquire into the whole series of tyrannical and cowardly acts by which this noble province has been brought to the brink of ruin. Unhappily, however, the Emperor had already begun to show signs of that weakness which often marks the later years of a monarch's reign — undue leniency towards great criminals, coupled with undue severity towards the little ones. No enquiry was instituted into the iniquitous murder of Gabinius, the source of all these later troubles; and it seemed as if even the mal‑administration of Probus would pass unchallenged. It was notorious that in his eager quest for money, to gratify the greed of his dependents and to prolong his own tenure of office, Probus had frequently driven rich citizens into crime, had multiplied taxes, and had increased their weight till in some cities the wealthier inhabitants had passed years in prison at the suit of the tax‑gatherer, while others had committed suicide to escape his extortions. All this was well known to the whole Roman world except the Emperor; but to him came deputation after deputation from one province of Illyricum after another, offering hollow congratulations, and thanking the Imperial providence for blessing them with such a ruler as Petronius Probus. At length,  p226 when the deputation from Epirus was announced, with Iphicles, rhetorician and philosopher, at its head, some fortunate chance led the Emperor to enquire 'Do you come of your own accord, on this errand of panegyric: do your fellow-citizens in their hearts think so well of the prefect?' 'No, indeed,' said the truthful philosopher, 'most reluctantly do I come from my groaning countrymen.' On this hint Valentinian acted. He enquired what had happened to the chief citizens of the Illyrian towns. He found that one wealthy burgess had fled across the sea; that another, the chief of his order, had perished under the cruel strokes of the plumbatae (the leaded scourge with which criminals were tortured); that another, renowned and beloved above his fellows, had hanged himself. All these discoveries kindled Valentinian's wrath against the avaricious governor, slack against the barbarian, and terrible only to his own countrymen, by whom Pannonia had been brought into such calamity. Probus had to face the anger of the terrible Emperor, and would probably have been ordered to lay down his prefecture in disgrace but for the event which soon after left the Roman world without its highest ruler.

Valentinian at Bregetio. Valentinian spent the three summer months at Carnuntum.52 In the autumn he moved his forces to  p227 Acincumc (close to the modern city of Buda), crossed the Danube on a bridge of boats, and laid waste the houses and lands of the Quadi with fire and sword. Winter came on early, and he took up his quarters at Bregetio on the Danube, close to the strong rock-fortress of Komorn, where the Hungarians in 1849 made their last gallant stand against the overwhelming and united armies of the Habsburg and the Czar. Evil omens. But now, in the dreary Pannonian winter days, the superstitious courtiers and officers of the camp began to whisper to one another all sorts of omens of impending calamity. Comets had trailed their portentous length along the sky; at Sirmium a flash of lightning had set the palace, the senate-house, and the forum on fire; at Sabaria,53 where the Emperor took up his residence for a time, an owl seated on the roof of the Imperial bath-house had given utterance to dismal hootings, and had remained unharmed and unterrified by all the arrows and stones which the soldiers had hurled at her. One night (the last, as it proved, of Valentinian's life) he saw in a dream his absent wife, the beautiful Justina, sitting with dishevelled hair and arrayed in mean attire as if some change in her fortunes were at hand. He rose next morning depressed and saddened by his dream, and with lowering brow ordered his horse to be brought round. The animal reared up on its hind legs; the right hand of the young groom who was helping his master to mount came somewhat roughly in contact with the Imperial person: in his rage Valentinian ordered the offending member to be cut off, but Cerealis, Tribune of the Imperial Stable and  p228 brother-in‑law of the Emperor, ventured to postpone for a little space the execution of the order, and thereby, as the event proved, saved the lad's limb and perhaps his life.

Death of Valentinian. A little later in the day came the long-expected embassy of the Quadi, and was admitted to an audience. The contrast was a striking one between the Emperor of the Romans,54 tall, erect, with limbs of admirable symmetry, with steel cuirass, and helmet adorned with gold and gems, a stern gleam in his blue-gray eyes, and 'looking every inch an Emperor,' and over against him the squalid forms of the ambassadors of the Quadi, with their breastplates of horn sewn upon linen jackets, so that the pieces overlapped one another like the feathers of a bird, shrinking, bending, seeking by every motion of their bodies to appease the anger of the terrible Augustus. 'They had not intended to declare war against the Empire. No assembly of the chiefs had been convened. Nothing had been done by the regular council of the nation. A few robber-hordes close to the river had done deeds which they regretted, and for which they must not be held responsible. But indeed that fortress (apparently one of Valentinian's many fortresses, erected on the left bank of the Danube) should not have been built upon their territory, and it stirred the clownish hearts of their people to frenzy to behold it.' At the mention of the fortress the Emperor struck in with terrible voice, upbraiding the barbarians with ingratitude for all the benefits of Rome. They continued to endeavour to soothe him. His voice faltered, but not from softened feeling. His attendants saw that he was  p229 about to fall, wrapped his purple round him, and bore him to an inner room, that the barbarians might not look upon the weakness of an Emperor. In the full torrent of his rage he had been seized with some sudden malady, probably apoplexy,55 and after a terrible struggle with death the strong, tempestuous man died, apparently before nightfall. He had lived fifty-four years, and reigned nearly twelve. His body was embalmed and taken to Constantinople, and there laid in the Church of the Apostles, now the recognised burial-piece of the Christian Emperors.

Family left by Valentinian. According to the system of partnership and succession which had been devised by Diocletian and accepted in a modified form by Valentinian, Valens and Gratian should now have peaceably taken up the sovereignty the chief share in which had fallen from the dead Emperor's hands. But there were complications, both in the Imperial family and in the camp by the Danube, which led to a strange result. Some seven or eight years before his death56 Valentinian had put away his wife, Severa, and married the beautiful Sicilian, Justina, widow of the usurper Magnentius, who lost both the diadem and his life in his struggle with Constantius (353).57 Justina had borne to her husband three  p230 daughters, one at least of whom when she grew up to womanhood reproduced the loveliness of her mother, and one son who, when his father gasped out his life in the tent at Bregetio, was a little child of four or five years old. The Empress and her children were not at the camp, but at a villa called Murocincta, a hundred miles distant from Bregetio, when the event occurred which made them a widow and orphans.

Uneasy feeling in the camp. In the camp there was an uneasy feeling stirring that the occasion was a good one to acclaim a new Emperor. Gratian, princely and popular, but after all only a lad of some sixteen years of age, was absent at distant Trier; Valens, disliked and despised, was at the yet more distant Antioch. Why should not the army proclaim some one of its own most trusted generals Imperator, and in so doing at once save the State from misgovernment by feeble rulers and enrich itself by the handsome donative which the new Emperor was sure to bestow on the authors of his greatness?

Probable competitors for the purple. There were three officers in high command in the Danubian army on one of whom the choice of the tumultuary electorate, if that electorate were assembled, seemed certain to fall. These were Sebastian, Aequitius, and Merobaudes. Count Sebastian, who had formerly held the high military command of Duke of Egypt, and had been, together with Procopius, in charge of the troops which were to co‑operate from the direction of Armenia in Julian's invasion of Persia,58 was now engaged in ravaging the country of the Quadi. The heathen historian, Ammianus, describes him as a man of even temperament and a lover of repose,59 but  p231 the Church historians charge him with the Manichean heresy and with the infliction of cruel tortures during the reign of Constantius on the confessors of the Catholic Church at Alexandria.60 Aequitius, whom we have already seen during the Procopian rebellion, faithfully holding the Illyrian provinces for the house of Valentinian,61 and who had shared the honours of the consulship in the preceding year with Gratian, was still apparently 'Magister Militum per Illyricum,' the highest military officer between the Rhine and the Danube. Merobaudes was probably a Frankish chief who had taken service under the Empire, and owing to his skill in military matters had risen to high command,62 and to the yet higher honour of an alliance by marriage with the Imperial house.63

But for his barbarian extraction the choice of the soldiery might very possibly have fallen on Merobaudes. Aequitius, whose surly temper had caused him to be rejected as a candidate for the purple eleven years before,64 had probably not grown less surly with advancing age. It was generally understood that the choice of the soldiers and of the inferior officers favoured Sebastian, and that if he appeared in camp he would be acclaimed Emperor.

Sebastian's elevation prevented. The elevation of Sebastian would probably have meant the depression, perhaps the ruin, of Aequitius  p232 and Merobaudes. Self-interest therefore co‑operated with loyalty to the family of Valentinian and dread of civil war to make them conspire against his election, and their measures were taken with much dexterity. Merobaudes was absent with Sebastian in the land of the Quadi when the great Emperor closed his eyes at Bregetio. A message was sent, as if in Valentinian's name, concealing the fact of his death to Merobaudes, commanding his immediate return. The keen-witted Frank, suspecting the real state of the case, announced to his soldiers that a barbarian invasion of Gaul necessitated their return to the banks of the Rhine. Having recrossed the Danube, and broken down the bridge of boats to prevent the Quadi from following him, he sent Sebastian, his inferior in command, on some errand which removed him far from the theatre of events. Then returning in haste to the camp, he caused the child Valentinian and his mother to be sent for with all speed from Murocincta. Appealing to that half-formed instinct of loyalty to the children of a dead Emperor, upon which Procopius had traded when he ostentatiously nursed the little Constantia in his arms, Valentinian II proclaimed Emperor. Merobaudes and Aequitius presented the beautiful Empress and her child to the assembled soldiery and obtained their acclamations for Valentinian II. Some fear was felt as to the manner in which the news of this further division of the Imperial heritage might be received at Trier and at Antioch; but whatever may have been the feelings of Valens, Gratian at all events recognised the loyalty to his house which had prompted the deed, welcomed his infant brother as a partner of his throne, and showed no disfavour to the authors of his  p233 elevation.65 In the division of the Empire Gratian reserved for himself the three great Dioceses of Britain, Gaul, and Spain; Justina, in the name of the little Valentinian, and with perhaps some undefined subordination to Gratian, governed Italy, Africa, and Illyricum. The share of Valens remained such as it had been in the lifetime of Valentinian.

Character of the transaction. The soldiers, of course, obtained their donative, as large a one doubtless as if they had strengthened the Empire by the election of a wise statesman or a valiant soldier. But the curious mixture of elective and hereditary right which characterised this 'family partnership in Empire' was certainly not producing beneficial results for the State. The one strong and capable ruler, Valentinian, having fallen, there were left at the head of affairs an incapable and undignified rustic, lately the lackey of his brother, a bright and winning lad in his teens, and a child under five years of age, necessarily in the leading strings of his beautiful but foolish and impetuous mother. These were not the kind of pilots that the vessel of the State required in the troubled and perilous waters which she was rapidly approaching.


The Author's Notes:

1 'Ut etiam a Romanis Trajanus vel Valentinianus, quorum tempora sectatus est appellaretur' (Anon. Valesii, 60).

2 According to the Descriptio Consulum Idatio adscripta, Gratian was born on the 18th April, 359, and was therefore only eight years old when he was 'elevated as Augustus on the tribunal at Amiens by his father on the 24th August, 367.' These dates are so precisely given by the Descriptio that one fears to question them, but I cannot resist a suspicion that Gratian was really older than he is here represented. Ammianus class him 'adulto jam proximum.' Would he so speak of a child eight years old? Zosimus' words are ὄντα νέον ἔτι καὶ οὔπω πρὸς ἥβην ἐλθόντα τελείαν. Ἥβη, according to the common acceptation of the word, began at fourteen. If Gratian were really thirteen instead of eight at the time of his association, his subsequent history would be somewhat easier to understand. According to the date of Idatius he was only sixteen at his father's death and twenty-four at the time of his own murder, having then been twice married. This doubt of mine is however a mere suggestion, as I do not feel that we have a right to unsettle on a conjecture like this the received chronology, resting as it does not only on the authority of the Descriptio Idatio adscripta, but also on that of the Chronicon Paschale. The entry in the last chronicle is very similarly worded to that in the Descriptio, but as the date does not precisely correspond (23rd May instead of 18th April) it cannot be directly copied from that source.

3 Magister Memoriae. This officer, who was head of the 'Scrinium Memoriae,' was subordinate to the Magister Officiorum. His functions are thus defined in the Notitia (Oriens, xix): 'Magister Memoriae adnotationes omnes dictat et emittit et precibus respondet.'

4 Extending in a course of more than 300 miles from the neighbourhood of Andernach on the Rhine to a point a little above Ratisbon on the Danube. (See the Archaeologia Aeliana, vol. IX, 73‑161, for a description of the Pfahlgraben by the present writer.)

5 The position of Solicinium has been much disputed, but it is now proved to be Rottenburg on the Neckar. See Colonia Sumlocenne by v. Jaumann, pp128‑136.º

6 'Postremo dum anheli currunt et fessi, pandebant sequentibus poplites et suras et dorsa' (Ammianus, XXVII.10.15). Compare Horace —

'Mors et fugacem persequitur virum,

Nec parcit imbellis juventae

Poplitibus timidoque tergo.'

7 'Sollertiae vero circa rem publicam usquam digredientis nemo eum [Valentinianum] vel obtrectator pervicax incusabit, illud contemplans, quod majus pretium operae forsitan regendis verius milite barbaris quam pellendis' (Ammianus, XXIX.4.2). I think we may fairly suppose that the maxim here expressed by Ammianus came originally from Valentinian. We find the same thought in Symmachus' second oration (cap. xx), 'Dicam quod nulla monumenta testantur; tibi incola vivit Alamanniae: quos ferro subtrahis addis imperio. Sat est quod mores gentium parcendo mutasti.'

8 Ammianus says (XXIX.6.2), 'Valentinianus . . . studio muniendorum limitum glorioso quidem sed nimio, ab ipso principatus initio flagrans.'

9 'Castra praesidiaris, inquietudine urgentis amnis exempta, nunc valida sunt' (Ammianus, XXVIII.2.4). This may have been written about 390.

10 Trabea.

11 '[Rhenus] aversatus est solum barbarum, totumque Principi agmen exposuit, more migrantium perfugarum. Non fuit ille, si credis, hostilis excursus: lento per aspera processu venit similis supplicanti. . . . Quod Nigrum fluvium quasi quoddam pignus accepimus, jam minus mirum est quod tibi regum liberi pro foederibus offeruntur. Nec Rhenus, ut ita dixerim, Romanâ pace gauderet nisi amnem convenam, velut obsidem, tradidisset' (Laudes in Valentinianum, II.9). It is somewhat audacious to make the Rhine's inundation of Gaul, however gentle, an act of homage from the river to the Roman Emperor.

12 Laudes in Valentinianum, II.19.

13 'Regem Fraomarium . . . quem paulo postea, quoniam recens excursus eundem penitus vastaverat pagum, in Brittannos translatum potestate tribuni Alamannorum praefecerat numero, multitudine viribusque eâ tempestate florenti' (Amm. Mar. XXIX.4.7). This is an important passage in favour of Dahn's theory that the German kings were originally 'Gau‑könige,' as the devastation of one pagus (= Gau) throws King Fraomar out of a situation.

14 See p150.

15 'Specie quidem molliculus et morbosus' (Amm. Mar. XXVII.10.3).

16 'Oceani difficultatibus permeatis' (Amm. Mar. XXVIII.5.1).

17 'Ac licet justus quidam arbiter rerum factum incusabit perfidum et deforme, pensato tamen negotio non feret indigne manum latronum exitialem tandem copiâ datâ captam' (Amm. Mar. XXVIII.5.7).

18 I do not think we can offer any explanation of this purely Roman name borne by the king of a barbarous tribe.

Thayer's Note: The Creek Indian chief Alexander McGillivray will occur to the student of American history as a possible parallel (Constance Skinner, Pioneers of the Old Southwest, pp254‑259 — and in my footnote on p256 see the portrait of him, drawn from life, in his hybrid costume: American brigadier general's uniform with Native American ornaments).

19 We do not apparently possess the original of this edict, but we may infer its contents from an allusion to it in Valentinian's law 'on Auguries' passed 29 May, 371, and referred to below. He therein appeals to the laws passed at the beginning of his reign, which we may, from this allusion to them, infer to have been faithfully adhered to during the seven years which had since elapsed. 'Testes sunt leges a me in Exordio imperii either datae, quibus unicuique, quod animo imbibisset, colendi libera facultas tributa est' (Cod. Theod. IX.6.9; Dat. Kal. Jun. Treviris Gratiano A. II et Probo Cos. [= 371]).

20 Sozomen, VI.7. Greek English

21 See p133.

22 Or possibly Constantine.

23 Cod. Theod. XVI.2.18, passed in the Consulship of Valentinian and Valens, i.e. apparently the Second Consulship (368), though the First (365) would have seemed to suit the purpose of the law better.

24 The curious history of this abortive legislation is given (of course from the heathen point of view) by Zosimus (IV.3). His sketch of the character of Praetextatus agrees with what we know of him from the letters of Symmachus (I.44‑55). The edict is to be found in the Theodosian Code, IX.16.7, and was passed in 364.

25 One of these tables, written in the all but lost language of the ancient Umbrians, begins with these words: 'Thus commence your prayer, having first observed the birds, when the sparrow-hawk and crow fly forwards, when the wood-pecker and magpie fly to meet you.' The coincidence with Horace's Ode, above referred to (III.27), is very striking.

26 Cod. Theod. XVI.5.3.

27 'Cesset Mathematicorum tractatus. Nam si qui publice aut privatim in die noctuque deprehensus fuerit in cohibito errore versari, capitali sententiâ feriatur uterque. Neque enim culpa dissimilis est, prohibita discere quam docere.' Prid. Id. Dec. (12 Dec.) Constantino­poli, Valentiniano et Valenti Augustis, Consulibus [365?]. Cod. Theod. IX.16.8. As the law is dated from Constantinople it perhaps emanated from Valens rather than from Valentinian.

28 'The Son is like unto the Father in such manner as the Scriptures declare.'

29 Yet there does not seem to be any evidence of a general and systematic persecution of the Orthodox party by Valens. The worst case recorded is that of the Church at Edessa (Socrates, IV.18; Sozomen, VI.18 Greek English). As for the alleged murder of eighty remonstrant ecclesiastics on board of a vessel in the Sea of Marmora, this seems to me to be an unproved and unprovable calumny. 'The sailors,' says Socrates (IV.16), 'were commanded to set the vessel on fire when out in the mid‑sea, so that their victims might even be deprived of burial. So it was done: when they reached the middle of the Astacian Gulf, the crew set fire to the ship and escaped from her in a small bark which followed them. The burning ship was driven by a strong easterly wind to the harbour of Decidizus, when she was utterly consumed with all on board of her.' No one who has carefully followed a trial for alleged fraud on the underwriters of a ship will accept this off‑hand settlement of the question of felonious intent on the part of the Imperial consignor. Accident, the strong wind that was blowing, and cowardice on the part of the crew, are quite enough to account for the catastrophe.

30 Mica Aurea.

Thayer's Note: Literally, "Golden Crumb"; mica, a crumb, grain, etc. Even today, in Italy, Briciolo, "Crumb", is a name not uncommonly given to dogs; I met one of them once, (nice photo).

Notwithstanding, there may instead be a connection with one of the locales in Rome known as "Mica Aurea" (see the article in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome) or with some other similar place elsewhere by the same name.

31 'Innocentiam denique post multas quas ejus laniatu cadaverum viderat sepulturus, ut bene meritam in silvas abire dimisit innoxiam' (Amm. Mar. XXIX.3.9).

32 May not the morbid condition of the public mind in England under the Stuarts with reference to witches be similarly referred to the then recent controversies of the Reformation?

33 Ammianus, XXVIII.1.

34 Id., XXIX.2.22‑28.

35 See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, V.691.

36 See p200.

37 Amm. Mar. XXVIII.1.57.

38 This is pointed out by Mommsen (Römische Geschichte, V.630).

39 'Adlapso legitimo die concilii, quod apud eos est annuum' (Amm. Mar. XXVIII.6.7). This is an important passage as showing that these 'concilia' were not held in all the provinces at the same intervals of time.

40 Aurum Coronarium.

41 Lebida and Tripoli.

42 The Notarii Principis were officials of high rank entitled to the same precedence as Consulares (Cod. Theod. VI.10.3).

43 Amm. Mar. XXVII.11.

44 See p200.

45 In publicâ villâ quam appellant Pistrensem.

46 Amm. Mar. XXIV.6.8.

47 Aequitius.

48 So called to distinguish them from the Servile Sarmatians (or Limigantes) who, according to tradition, were armed by their masters as auxiliaries against the Goths, and used their arms to expel their former lords.

49 Named Robur. Its site has not yet been clearly identified.

50 See Amm. Mar. XVIII.2.15 and XXVIII.5.11. The salt-springs were probably those of Schwäbische Hall and Niedern Hall in Würtemberg. 'Hall' in German geography frequently marks the presence of salt-works.

51 'Et venit inmane quo quantoque flatu distentus ut futurus arbiter superior pacis, dieque praedicto conloquii ad ipsam marginem Rheni caput altius erigens stetit, hinc inde sonitu scutorum intonante gentilium' (Amm. Mar. XXX.3.4).

52 During this time a certain Faustinus, nephew of a Prefect, was put to death by order of Probus, being accused of having killed an ass. 'To be used in magical rites' said his accusers. 'No, but in order to cure my premature baldness' was his reply. Both the accusation and the defence seem equally unintelligible to us. Another article of indictment was that when a certain Nigrinus had asked him to procure for him a notary's place, he had said in joke, 'Make me Emperor if you want to get that accomplished.' Nigrinus was put to death for this conversation as well as Faustinus.

53 Stein-am‑Anger in Hungary.

Thayer's Note: Now Szombathely.

54 Ammianus, XXX.9.6; XXIX.3.4; XXVII.10.11; XVII.12.2.

55 Ammianus' description seems to waver between apoplexy and haemorrhage of the lungs.

56 Before 369, in which year Constantian, brother of Justina and 'kinsman to Valentinian,' was slain by the robber bands in Gaul: but probably after 367, when Gratian, son of Severa, was associated in the Empire. (See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, V.50).

57 Accepting the positive statement of Zosimus as to Justina's widowhood I reject, as Tillemont is disposed to do, the story told by Socrates, as to her having been a maid of honour to Severa, who is represented as having incautiously praised her beauty to Valentinian and thus prepared the way for her own repudiation.

58 See p121.

59 Amm. Mar. XXX.10.3.

60 Socrates, II.28 (quoting Athanasius).

61 See p148.

62 Possibly that of Magister Militum, as Zosimus (IV.17) seems to imply.

63 This is supposed to be the meaning of Victor's phrase 'Merobaude propinquo' (Epitome 45).

64 See p130.

65 Richter discusses at considerable length (pp281‑295) the circumstances connected with the elevation of Valentinian II, but in some points his conjectural restoration of the history does not seem to be warranted by the authorities. He says more than the text of Ammianus justifies him in saying as to the unpopularity of the family of Valentinian, and especially of Gratian, with the soldiers at Bregetio; and though Gratian condoned the elevation of his brother, Merobaudes does not appear to have acted so entirely in Gratian's interest as Richter represents. He probably intended to exercise a considerable influence on the child-Emperor's government himself, and was in great measure 'fighting for his own hand' at Bregetio.


Thayer's Notes:

a Now Pécs.

b Now Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

c Now almost always written Aquincum.


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