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(328 – 9 August 378 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Flavius Honorius or Valens

Flavius Iulius Valens

Ruled as

Flavius Iulius Valens Augustus


28 March 364 CE – 9 August 378 CE


328 CE


9 August 378 CE

Coin of Valens

Flavius ​​Julius Valens was born in 328 in the Croatian town of Vinkovci (southern Pannonia), to a family of Illyrian patricians. He was the younger brother of Emperor Valentinian I (321-375).

The father of the later emperors was the Roman soldier Gratian the Elder, who raised his children in estates in Africa and Britain.

Little is known about Walens’ youth and education, ie before 364. The wife of the later emperor was Albia Dominika (born around 337 – died after 378), with whom Valens had three children: two daughters and a son, who died in childhood, Valentinian Galates (366 – 370).

Election of Emperor and Procopius’ Rebellion

In February 364, while returning from Mesopotamia, the last representative of the Constantinian dynasty, Emperor Jovian, died under unclear circumstances. On February 26, 364, brother Valens – Valentinian was proclaimed emperor by the legions stationed in Asia. The popular belief at that time that Valentinian needed a second emperor for the efficient management of the empire led to the appointment of Valens as co-emperor on March 28, 364. It was also agreed that Valentinian would be the emperor of the West, while Valens would remain in Constantinople and would rule over the East. Shortly thereafter Valentinian travelled west to repel the Aleman raid. At the time of his accession to the throne, Valens had no political or military experience, and his election as emperor was due to the pressure that Valentinian was subjected to and the popular belief that two rulers were necessary for the efficient management of an empire.

Valens’ first goal was the strengthening of the eastern border with Persia, after the humiliating peace that Jovian was forced to conclude. The emperor and the Aami went east, wherein the city of Caesarea he learned about the rebellion of Jovian’s cousin – Procopius. Procopius gained the support of two Gallic legions and on September 28, 365 he proclaimed himself emperor. The revolt quickly spread, and Procopius himself gained the support of the old supporters of the House of Constantinople, and in a short time managed to conquer Constantinople and the provinces of Bithynia and Asia. One of the reasons for the rapid spread of the uprising was the unpopular management of Constantinople by the Emperor’s father-in-law, Prefectus Petronius, who was known for his cruelty and greed. The prefect was to be famous for the ruthless confiscation of the property of many of the city’s wealthy inhabitants.

In the first period, the rebellion took Valens by surprise. The emperor considered abdication and even suicide at that time, however, after a brief period of hesitation, his troops moved towards Constantinople. During the war with Procopius, there were two battles, at Thyatira and at Nakoleja. Both ended in victory for Valens’ allies, and Procopius himself was captured and executed on May 27, 366.

Wars with the Persians and the Goths

In 363, Emperor Jovian made a humiliating peace with the Persians on by virtue of which Rome had renounced large areas in the Persian frontier. From that time on, the Persian Shah Shapur II sought to extend his rule to the territory of Armenia, whose local rulers were dependent on Rome. Dynastic fights in Armenia between the Armenian king Arshak and his son Papas led to the intervention of Valens and the installation of Papas on the throne of Armenia. This movement triggered Szapur’s retaliatory expeditions in CE 370 and 371, which were inconclusive. As a consequence, a truce was concluded for 5 years (371). In the years that followed, Valens attempted to organize a large expedition eastward to recapture the territories given to the Persians in 363, but local uprisings in Cilicia and Palestine prevented any large-scale military action against the Persians.

In 375, his brother suddenly died suddenly. Valens, Emperor Valentinian, leaving two underage sons as co-emperors of the west – Gratian and Valentinian II. In such a situation, Valens had to give up his plans to invade Persia and head west to ward off the growing threat from the Goths.

In the middle of the 4th century, the nomadic Hun tribe began to leave their Asian headquarters and move westwards. pushing the tribes inhabiting eastern and central Europe closer and closer to Roman borders. In 376, the Gothic king Ermanaryk died, and the Huns crossed the Dniester and Prut lines. Faced with the threat, the Goths led by Fritygern sent ambassadors to Valens, who was then in Antioch, to obtain asylum in the territory of the empire. The agreement that was concluded contained provisions regarding the settlement of Goths in the territories of the empire, which would be assigned to them by the Roman administration and the support of Valens’ army by Gothic warriors. It is estimated that about a million people, including two hundred thousand Gothic warriors, crossed the Danube in 376.

Aqueduct of Valens in Constantinople

From the very beginning of the settlement of the Goths in the Empire, there were conflicts between them and the Roman administration. The Romans were to show exceptional brutality in disarming the Goths, and the Roman administration refused to issue grain and supplies to new allies. In 376, the Goths’ uprising broke out and began to plunder the Roman provinces on the Danube. After several months of spreading the rebellion, Valens decided to return to Constantinople, which he reached on May 30, 378.

On August 9, 378, there was a battle called the Battle of Adrianople, in which the Roman army suffered a crushing defeat and Emperor Valens himself lost his life. His body has never been found, although several accounts of Walens’ death have survived. According to one of them, Valens was killed by an arrow from a bow, according to another story, Valens was wounded and transferred to a small house, where he was killed by the Goths. According to yet another version, Valens was captured and burned alive by the victors.

One of the main causes of the Roman defeat of Adrianople in 378 was the haste and disagreement with the emperor of the west, Gratian. Jealous of his nephew, Valens decided to set off against the Goths without waiting for reinforcements led by Gratian.

The defeat at Adrianople led to the collapse of the empire and a long devastating war with the Goths, which ended Valens’ successor Theodosius I.

Attitude towards Christianity

The reign of Valens was marked by the strengthening of Nicene Christianity at the expense of its Arian version and old Roman beliefs. In the period 361-363, Emperor Julian the Apostate made a final attempt to strengthen the old traditional Roman religions. The imminent death of Julian and the fall of the Constantine dynasty strengthened the position of Christianity.

Like his brother, Sam Valens tried to stay aloof theological disputes and not to engage the apparatus of power to settle disputes within Christianity. As an adult, he was baptized in the Arian rite by the Bishop of Constantinople, and from that time he was in conflict with the Bishop of Caesarea, Basil the Great. According to a message from Socrates of Constantinople, in 370 CE, when Valens’ only son Valentinian Galates became fatally ill, Empress Albia Dominica had a vision that her son’s illness was a punishment for mistreating Basil. Basil, whom the emperor asked to pray for the boy, was to demand a departure from Arianism and joining the Nice version of Christianity. The emperor refused to comply with the bishop’s request, and the boy died after a serious illness.

Author: Piotr Baran (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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