The History, 30.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 30.6 | Amm. 30.7 | Amm. 30.8 | About This Work »

7This is a seasonable opportunity to do as we have often done before, namely, to retrace from the original appearance of the father of this emperor down to the time of his own death, all his actions, just touching on them cursorily with a brief mention, not omitting to distinguish between his vices and his virtues, both of which his lofty position held up to the world; being a condition which naturally reveals the inward disposition of every man.

2The elder Gratian was born at Cibalæ, a town of Pannonia, of a mean family; and from his childhood he received the surname of Funarius, because, while still very young, while he was carrying about a rope (funem) for sale, he resisted the attempt of five soldiers who laboured with all their might to take it from him: thus rivalling Milo of Crotona, from whom no amount of strength could ever wrest an apple, whether he held it in his right or his left hand.

3Therefore, on account of his exceeding personal strength, and his skill in wrestling after the military fashion, he became well known to many persons, was promoted to the rank of an officer of the guard, then to the post of tribune: after this he was made count, and sent to command the forces in Africa: but there he was suspected of theft; and having quitted that province, he was some time afterwards sent to command the army in Britain, with the same authority which he had enjoyed in Africa. At length he received an honourable discharge from military service, and returned home; and while living there in quiet, he suddenly had all his property confiscated by Constantius, on the ground that, when the civil discord was at its height, he was said to have received Magnentius as a guest when passing through his land to carry his designs into execution.

4The merits of Gratian brought Valentinian into notice from his early youth; and, indeed, he was further aided by his own eminent qualities; so that he received the ornaments of the imperial majesty at Nicæa; when he also made his brother Valens his colleague, as one bound to him not only by his relationship as a brother, but also by the most perfect agreement—Valens, as we shall show at a suitable time, being made up almost equally of vices and of virtues.

5Therefore Valentinian, after having experienced many dangers and much distress as a private individual, as soon as he began to reign went to visit the towns and cities which were situated on the rivers; and repaired to Gaul, which was exposed to the inroads of the Allemanni, who had begun to recover their courage and to reassume an imposing attitude since they had heard of the death of the Emperor Julian—the only prince whom they had feared since the time of Constans.

6And Valentinian was deservedly dreaded by them because he took care to keep up the numbers of his army by strong reinforcements, and because also he fortified both banks of the Rhine with lofty fortresses and castles, to prevent the enemy from ever passing over into our territory without being perceived.

7We may pass over many circumstances, and many acts which he performed with the authority of an emperor whose power was fully established, and many of the reforms which he either effected himself, or caused to be carried out by his vigorous lieutenants. But we must record how, after he had raised his son Gratian to a partnership in the imperial authority, he contrived the secret murder of Vithigabius, the king of the Allemanni, and the son of Vadomarius, a young man in the flower of youth, who was actively stirring up the surrounding nations to tumults and wars; doing this because he found it impossible to procure his death openly. How also he fought a battle against the Allemanni near Solicinium, where he was nearly circumvented and slain by the manœuvres of the enemy; but where at last he utterly destroyed their whole army with the exception of a few who saved themselves by the aid of the darkness which assisted the rapidity of their flight.

8Amid all these prudent actions he also turned his attention to the Saxons who had lately broken out with extreme ferocity, making attacks in every direction where they were least expected, and had now penetrated into the inland districts, from which they were returning enriched by a vast booty. He destroyed them utterly by a device which was indeed treacherous, but most advantageous; and he recovered by force all the booty which the defeated robbers were carrying off.

9Nor did he disregard the condition of the Britons, who were unable to make head against the vast hosts of their enemies, who were overrunning their country; he revived their hopes of better fortune, and re-established liberty and steady tranquillity among them; routing their invaders so completely that scarcely any of them returned to their own country.

10With similar vigour he crushed Valentinus the Pannonian exile (who was labouring to disturb the general tranquillity in that province), before his enterprise could become dangerous. He also delivered Africa from great dangers at a time when it was thrown into confusion by an unexpected disaster: when Firmus, unable to bear the greediness and arrogance of the soldiers, was exciting the people of Mauritania to every kind of discord and disturbance. With similar resolution would he have avenged the disasters sustained in Illyricum, had he not left that important duty uncompleted, in consequence of being thus cut off by a premature death.

11And although these various achievements, which we have here recorded, were consummated by the assistance of his admirable generals, yet it is very notorious that he himself also performed many considerable exploits; being a man fertile in resources, and of long experience and great skill in military affairs: and certainly it would have been an admirable crown to his great actions if he had been able to take King Macrianus alive, who at that time was a very formidable sovereign; nevertheless he exerted great energy in attempting to do so, after he heard that he had escaped from the Burgundians, whom he himself had led against the Allemanni; and the certainty of his escape was to him a cause of great sorrow and indignation.

« Amm. 30.6 | Amm. 30.7 | Amm. 30.8 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents