web counter







The death of Julian at the very crisis of his campaign against Sapor, King of Persia, was followed by events which illustrated in a striking manner the weakness of such an elective monarchy as the Roman Commonwealth had now become. The dead Emperor left no son, and the race of Constantine died with him. In these circumstances the right of the soldiers to choose the Imperator on the field of battle, a right which always existed in theory and which was only kept in practical abeyance by such expedients as the association of a son with his Imperial sire, now revived in full force. The position of the invading army on the eastern bank of the Tigris, cut off from its base of operations and deprived of the great leader whose courage had breathed confidence into every soul, was difficult but not desperate. It might have been thought that, from the mere instinct of self-preservation, soldiers in such a position would have selected the fittest soldier to lead them home victorious: yet never was a leader chosen more absurdly unfit to grapple with the responsibilities of his new position than he who actually assumed the diadem. There was jealousy between the two main divisions of the army, the Eastern and the Western; between the comrades who after Julian's victory over the Alamanni had proclaimed him Augustus at Paris, and the opponents who, but for the timely death of his colleague Constantius, would have found themselves actually fighting against the brilliant Apostate. During his lifetime, the genius and the popularity of Julian had smothered these discords; but now upon his death they were on the point of breaking out into a flame. Here, at the head of the Gaulish legions, stood Nevitta and Dagalaiphus —their very names told their barbarian origin; there, leading the debate on behalf of the legions of Constantius, were Victor and Arintheus. The discussion was so fierce between them that it might seem as if the horrors of civil war would soon be added to scarcity of provisions and all the other dangers of the Romans' position in the heart of the enemy's country. This peril was averted when both parties agreed to offer the diadem to Sallust, the Praetorian Prefect of the East, deservedly the most trusted of the military counsellors of the deceased Emperor. In an evil hour for the State, if wisely for his own tranquillity, Sallust refused the honour, pleading sickness and old age as sufficient reasons against taking the weight of empire on his shoulders. It was important that a choice should be speedily made, before the flame of dissension between East and West could flash up again; though one soldier of distinction proposed, with some show of reason, that the generals should consider themselves as lieutenants of the dead Julian till they had brought the troops safely back within the limits of the Empire, and then outside one of the cities of Mesopotamia “by the united suffrages of both armies elect a legitimate Emperor”. This proposal did not find favour, but someone suggested the name of Jovian, which was eagerly echoed by a few noisy partisans; and without reflection, almost without enquiry whom they meant by that name, Jovian was elected.

There were two men in the host, each of some little note in his way, bearing the name of Jovian. One, who held the rank of notarius, had been some months before a leader of the brave band of men who burrowed through the secret recesses of a mine under the walls of Maiozamalcha, and emerging suddenly in the middle of the city had slain all its defenders who came in their way, and opened the gates to the besiegers. Somewhat higher in rank, but less known for any deed of valour, was Jovian, the colonel of a regiment of the guards. He was son of Varronianus, a Count who had served the State with some credit and had recently retired into private life. He was tall, blue-eyed, of a cheerful countenance, fond of exchanging good-natured pleasantries with his comrades of the camp; but, except his handsome presence and his father’s respectable career, there seems to have been no reason whatever why he should have been chosen to rule. However, when the name of Jovian was mentioned, perhaps with a view to the elevation of the hero of Maiozamalcha, his messmates, interpreting it of their well-born and genial fellow-officer, hailed it with acclamations. He was soon robed in the purple, the only difficulty being that it was hard to find a robe of the Imperial colour large enough for his giant limbs, and was hurried along the four miles’ line upon which the soldiers were drawn up, with shouts from his new subjects of “Jovianus Augustus”. How little the mass of the army understood what they were doing was proved by the fact that misled by the similarity of name, many supposed that Julian was still alive and had recovered from his wound, and that it was he, their old commander, who was being hailed by these shouts of welcome. Only when, instead of the pale face and upright figure of the somewhat undersized Julian, they saw the tall stooping form and ruddy good-humoured countenance of his guardsman, did they fully comprehend the change which a few hours had wrought in the hand that was to guide the destinies of the Empire.

The whole story of Jovian’s election reminds us of one of those sudden changes of fortune and unexpected compromises which have often marked the proceedings of a Conclave assembled for the choice of a Pope. But the interests at stake were probably greater than have ever been involved in the discussions in the Vatican—the hastening or the delay of the downfall of the Roman Empire, a point to be gained or lost in the contest of thirty centuries between Europe and Asia. As soon as Jovian was robed in the purple, there began that unavowed competition between the interests of the State and the interests of the Dynasty with which our own generation, having witnessed the capitulation of Sedan (AD 1870) and the surrender of Metz, can so easily understand. The Imperial army was still formidable to the Persians, and whenever it met them in the field it inflicted severe losses upon them. The friendly province of Corduene was— so we are assured— only 100 miles distant to the North, and from that district there was reason to hope that another large division under Sebastian and Procopius was advancing to join the Roman host. Notwithstanding the great and undeniable difficulties of the commissariat, all these considerations pointed to a rapid northward march up the eastern bank of the Tigris. The river would at least supply them with water, and if the ranks of the soldiers were to be thinned, it was surely better that they should die fighting than starving. But at every suggestion of this kind the flatterers of Jovian whispered in his ear the terrible name of Procopius, who was not only one of the generals of the advancing army, but a kinsman of the just deceased Emperor and a most likely person to be selected by a mutinous soldiery as a rival claimant to the throne. Thus that very junction of forces which, from a military point of view, was the one thing supremely to be desired for the Roman army, was the one thing to be supremely dreaded by the Roman Imperator. In this state of affairs any proposals for peace coming, the death from the Persian camp were sure of a favourable reception. Sapor, who had been profoundly impressed and dispirited by the rapid and successful march of Julian, recovered his confidence on the receipt of joyful tidings from a Roman deserter. This deserter, a standard-bearer of the legion called Joviani, had carried on a kind of hereditary feud with Varronianus and his son, and now preferred exile in Persia to the perils which must impend over the enemy of the Emperor. He informed the King that the foe whom he so greatly feared had breathed his last, and that a crowd of horse-boys had raised to the shadow of Imperial authority a guardsman named Jovian, a man of soft and indolent disposition. Such was the aspect which the tumultuary election of a Roman Emperor might easily be made to wear. At the same time, other deserters from the Imperial host conveyed the terrible suspicion —one which could not be positively refuted though it entirely lacks confirmation— that Julian had fallen not by a Persian but a Roman javelin, hurled perhaps (but the historian does not himself suggest this) by a Christian hand.

Though elated by this welcome news, Sapor had enough of the fighting capacities of the Imperial army, even within the last few days, to make him desirous to build a bridge of gold for a retreating foe. Yet from the soft and inert Jovian he saw that it would be possible to wring terms of lasting advantage for Persia. He therefore sent to the Roman camp the general who bore the title of Surena and another noble of high rank to announce that from motives of humanity he was willing to spare the remains of the invading array, and permit them to return in safety to their own land if the following conditions were accepted by them. Five provinces on the upper waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, which had been won from Persia by Galerius, were now to be restored. The great city of Nisibis, which had with scarcely any interruption belonged to the Roman Empire since the time of Trajan and which had been the great entrepôt of the commerce of East and West, was to be surrendered to Sapor: and the cities of Singara and Castra Maurorum with fifteen fortresses were to share the same fate. Last and most ignominious condition of all, Arsaces, king of Armenia, who had dared to ally himself with Rome against Persia, was to be abandoned to the vengeance of the King of Kings.

Against such terms as these even Jovian struggled for four days, precious days, during which the provisions of his army were being rapidly consumed. Then he yielded, having obtained only one concession from the Persian, that the inhabitants of Nisibis and Singara might be allowed to depart from those cities, and the Roman garrisons to leave the fortresses before their surrender. The treaty was then signed, a treaty of peace for thirty years; hostages were given on both sides, and Jovian, being permitted to cross the Tigris without molestation, commenced his march across the wasted and waterless plains of Mesopotamia. After a journey of seventy miles, occupying six days, a time of terrible hardship both for the soldiers and their horses, the army received, at a city called Ur, a supply of provisions sent for their use by the generals Sebastian and Procopius. The facts that the two armies were within such comparatively short distance of one another, and that after all, famine, the great enemy of the retreating host, had to be encountered, just as if no treaty had been signed, seem to form the strongest possible condemnation of an arrangement, the real object of which was to secure the diadem for Jovian, at whatever cost to the Empire.

Before long the new Emperor and his army stood under the walls of Nisibis, Fame, swifter than the couriers whom Jovian had sent into all parts of the Empire to announce his accession, had divulged the humiliating terms of the treaty by which he had purchased an unmolested return. The citizens of Nisibis still cherished a faint hope that their prayers might prevail upon him to forego the execution of that article of the treaty in which they were concerned. But this hope grew fainter when they observed that Jovian remained in his camp, pitched outside the walls of their city, and although pressed, steadfastly refused to enter the palace which had been visited by a long line of his predecessors, from Trajan to Constantius. Men said then that he blushed to enter the gates of the impregnable city which he was about to surrender to the enemies of Rome.

It was probably because the new Emperor perceived the murmurs of discontent which were excited in the army by the complaints of the people of Nisibis, that on the first night of his sojourn before the city he ordered a deed of cruelty to be committed which was little in accordance with his usual easy good nature. The other Jovian, the hero of Maiozamalcha, was said to have invited some of the officers repeatedly to his table, and at these repasts to have made indiscreet allusions to the fact that he too had been spoken of as a candidate for the purple. He was hurried away at nightfall to a lonely place, hurled down a dry well, and his body covered with stones. Next day Bineses, Sapor’s Commissioner, entered the City and displayed the banner of Persia from the citadel, a signal to all who wished to remain Roman citizens that the time had come when they must abandon their homes. With chaplets in their hands the inhabitants poured forth to the Imperial tent and besought the Emperor not to surrender them against their will to the power of Persia. They did not ask for assistance: with their own soldiers and their own resources they would fight for their ancestral homes as they had often done before. To this petition, which was urged in the name of the municipal Senate and people of Nisibis the Emperor would only reply that “he had sworn to the treaty and could not, to gratify them, incur the guilt of perjury”. Then Sabinus, president of the Senate of Nisibis, took up the discourse and spoke in somewhat bolder tone. “It is not right”, said he, “oh Emperor, to abandon us, nor compel us to make trial of barbarian customs after we have been for many centuries fostered by the Roman laws. In three wars with the Persians, Constantius was saved from ruin by the valour of our city, which resisted to the last extremity of peril on behalf of the Empire. He recognized the obligations which this constancy laid upon him. When the fortune of war went desperately against him, when he had to flee with a few followers to the insecure shelter of Hibita, when he had to live on a crust of bread offered to him by an old peasant woman, still he surrendered not a foot of Roman territory: while you, oh Emperor signalize the very commencement of your reign by the surrender of a city whose defences from of old have been inviolate by the enemy”. Still the Emperor refused to listen to the impossible petition, and pleaded, as he was bound to plead, the necessity of observing his plighted faith. He refused the crown which the citizens had brought him, but at length, overcome by their importunity, allowed it to be placed on his head, whereupon an advocate named Silvanus with a bitter taunt exclaimed, “So, oh Imperator, may you be crowned by all the other cities of your realm”. Jovian understood the sneer, and exasperated by the unwelcome fidelity of the citizens, would concede only the short space of three days within which those who refused to accept the condition of Persian subjects must leave the precincts of Nisibis.

Then one universal cry of misery went up from the despairing city. Matrons with dishevelled hair bewailed their hard fate in being compelled to abandon the ancestral hearths by which their infancy had been spent. Some, more unhappy, had to contemplate long separation from the husband or the children whom necessity forced to remain behind. Everywhere a weeping crowd filled the streets, touching with loving hands the very door-posts and thresholds of the houses which they had known so long and were never to revisit. Soon the roads were filled with the throng of fugitives carrying with them such part of their household furniture as their strength enabled them to remove, and sometimes leaving articles of great price behind, in order to transport some commoner possession which its associations had endeared to them. Most of the emigrants betook themselves to Amida, the nearest town on the Roman side of the new frontier : but she and all her sister-cities were filled with lamentation, all men fearing that they would be exposed, defenceless, to the raids of the Persians, now that the great barrier-city of Nisibis had fallen.

I have dwelt at some length on the circumstances attending the abandonment of this city of Nisibis, because they illustrate the nature of the connection which existed between the one great civilized World-Empire and its members. Here was a city erected upon the highlands of Mesopotamia; whose river, after a devious course, flowed into the Euphrates. From its walls Tigris could perhaps be descried gleaming upon the eastern horizon. It was doubtless essentially Asiatic in its character : its citizens spoke the Aramaic tongue of Hazael and Benhadad; those who were most closely connected with Europe and had the most successfully assimilated the Western civilization, might at the utmost be familiar with the Greek language which had been learned by the subjects of Seleucus and Antiochus. Yet these Orientals clung with passionate devotion to the name of Romans, and asked for nothing better from their rulers than to be allowed to fight for their connection with the far-off City by the Tiber. In the course of this history we shall often come across cruel cases of oppression by Roman governors; we shall often have to trace the desolating presence of the Roman tax-gatherer; we shall sometimes hear the suggestion that even subjection to the barbarian is better than the exhausting tyranny of Roman prefects. But this is not the abiding, the universal conviction of the subjects of the Empire. Their own old feelings of nationality have long ago been laid aside, and to them the Empire, or as they call it ‘the Commonwealth of Rome’, is home; loved, notwithstanding all its faults, and not to be abandoned without passionate lamentation.

As for Jovian, his action as Emperor scarcely extended beyond the cession of the five Mesopotamian provinces. With nervous haste he sent his messengers all over the Empire announcing his own accession and the salutary peace which he had concluded with Persia; and notwithstanding a mutiny at Rheims, in which his father-in-law and newly-appointed commander-in-chief, Lucillianus, was slain, his election was upon the whole tranquilly accepted by all the legions and provinces of the Empire. Procopius, who met him at the last stage before Nisibis, was charged to escort the dead body of Julian to Tarsus, and there to pay the last rites to the memory of his deceased kinsman. This done, he who well knew the suspicion with which he was regarded, discreetly vanished for a time from the eyes of men. Jovian entered Antioch, but stayed not long there, being terrified by omens and annoyed at the lampoons of the citizens. At Tarsus he visited and adorned the tomb of his predecessor. At Angora, which he had reached by the commencement of the new year, he exhibited himself to his subjects dressed in the robe of a Consul. By his side as his colleague sat his son Carronianus, a little child, whose screams as he was carried in the curule chair were deemed an evil augury for the new dynasty of Jovian. And in fact before seven weeks of the new year had passed, that short-lived dynasty perished. At the obscure town of Dadastana, in Bithynia, Jovian died suddenly in the night. Some said that the newly-plastered walls of his chamber in the road-side mansio caused his death; some, an over-heated stove; some, a too-hearty meal eaten on the previous evening. It is only certain that the inglorious life of the new Emperor was ended, in his thirty-third year, and that not even in that age of suspicion was any hint uttered that his death was due to the contrivance of an enemy.

Thus then the throne of the world was again vacant, and the act of election performed eight months before on the plain of Dura had now to be repeated in Bithynia, but this time in a more leisurely manner and with less danger of a mistaken choice. At Nicaea, the Capital of Bithynia, the city at which, thirty-nine years before, the great Parliament of Christianity had assembled, there were now gathered together the chiefs of the civil and military administration in order to discuss the all-important question of a successor to the vacant throne. All men felt that the crisis was a grave one for the Empire: but where there was so little to indicate upon whom the choice would fall, many went with high hopes which were doomed to disappointment. Sallust probably took the first place in the deliberating council. First was proposed the name of Aequitius, a man who held a somewhat similar position in the household troops to that of Jovian: but his rough and temper and clownish manners caused him to be rejected. Then Januarius, a relative of Julian, who was Marshal of the Camps in Illyricum, was suggested as a fit wearer of the purple : but to communicate with him in distant Illyricum seemed to involve too dangerous a delay. When the name of another guardsman, Valentinian, was proposed, it was hailed with unanimous approval, and the suggestion was greeted as the result of heaven-sent inspiration. It is true that even he was absent, at Angora, in Galatia: but ten days sufficed to take thither the news of his elevation and to bring him back to the camp. The day on which he returned being that on which the intercalation for Leap Year was made, was deemed unlucky by the superstitious Romans, and consequently no proclamation was then issued: but, on the following day, the army was drawn up on the plain of Nicaea, and beheld upon a lofty tribunal the stately form of the new Emperor.

Valentinian, like so many of the best and strongest rulers of Rome in the third and fourth centuries, like Claudius, Aurelian, Diocletian, and Constantine, came from the central (Illyrian) portion of the Empire, between the Danube and the Adriatic. He had no long line of noble ancestors to boast of. His father Gratian, born of obscure parentage at Cibalae on the Save, appeared when a lad in the army of some Roman general and offered a rope for sale. Five soldiers set upon him with the rough horse-play of the camp and tried to wrest his precious rope from him, but to their amazement he resisted them all. From that day Gratianus Funarius was a well-known name in the camp, and his extraordinary personal strength, combined with skill in wrestling, secured his rapid advancement in the military career. He became guardsman, tribune, and Marshal of the Camps, which latter high position he held in the province of Africa. Here however a suspicion of embezzlement led to his dismissal: but either the suspicion was unjust or his repentance procured his pardon, for at a later period he held the same office in the province of Britain. At the end of a long and generally honourable career he retired to his native town of Gibalae, where, however, he again fell into some degree of disfavour with the reigning Emperor (Constantius), owing to the hospitality which he afforded to the usurper Magnentius.

The son of Count Gratian possessed his father’s strength and heroic stature, and of course started in life with greater advantages than had fallen to that fathers share. In 357 Valentinian was a cavalry officer, holding an important command in Gaul, where the misunderstandings arising from Constantine’s jealousy of his cousin Julian for a short time, and most undeservedly, clouded his military reputation and caused him to receive an unwelcome furlough. With the triumph of Julian, if not before, his time of inactivity ended: but he again lost for a little while the favour of the Emperor, owing to the roughness with which he exhibited his Christian contempt for the somewhat fussy religiousness of his heathen master. At some ceremony in the temple of Antioch, at which military duty required his attendance in the train of the Emperor, a heathen priest sprinkled Valentinian the life-guardsman with the lustral water of the gods. He made a disdainful gesture, and cut off with his sword the part of his military cloak which had received the undesired aspersion. The philosopher Maximus (apparently) played the ignoble part of an informer, and Valentinian, for this contempt of the Emperor's religion, was for a few months deprived of his commission. Before long, however, he was again following the Imperial standards, the temporary hindrance to his fortunes being abundantly compensated by the luster which now attached to his name in the eyes of all believers, as, if not a martyr, at least a confessor of the Christian faith.

Such was the past history of the fortunate “Tribune of the second Schola of Scutarii”, or as we should say Colonel of the Second Regiment of Guards, who now, in the forty-fourth year of his age, was presented to the assembled troops on the plain outside Nicaea to receive the acclamations which would make him Emperor. His tall and sinewy frame, the light colour of his hair, the blue-gray tint of his sternly-glancing eyes, spoke probably of an admixture of Teutonic blood in the veins of the Pannonian peasant, his father : but there was also somewhat of classical beauty in his features. With all the many and grievous faults in his character which history reveal to us, Valentinian was a born king of men, and one who, when presented to an assembly of soldiers as their leader, was certain to win without difficulty their enthusiastic applause. The acclamations were duly uttered, the purple was hung around his shoulders, the diadem was placed upon his head, and the new Augustus prepared to harangue his soldiers. But even while he was in act to speak, a deep sound, an almost menacing murmur, rose from the centuries and maniples of the array, “Name at once another Emperor”. Some thought that the hint was given in the interest of one or other of the disappointed candidates; but it is more probable that the military parliament really aimed, in its own rough way, at promoting the good of the state, and wished to prevent the recurrence of such another disaster as that which, by the impact of one Persian javelin, had transferred the whole power of the Roman commonwealth from a Julian to a Jovian. At once, however, the high spirit of the new Emperor revealed itself, and the soldiers learned that they had given themselves a master. In few but well-chosen words Valentinian thanked the brave defenders of the provinces for the supreme honour which, without his expectation or desire, they had conferred upon him.

The power which but an hour ago was in their hands was now in his; and it behaved them to listen while he set forth what he deemed to be for the welfare of the state. The need of a colleague he felt, perhaps more strongly than any of them, but the absolute necessity of harmony between the rulers of the world weighed even more strongly upon his mind. It was by concord that even small states had grown to great strength, and without it the mightiest empires must fall in ruin. Such a colleague as would work in full harmony with himself he trusted that he might find, but he must not be hurried in the search, nor compelled at a moment's notice to utter the irrevocable word that would bind him to a partner whose disposition he would only begin to study when it was too late to turn the knowledge of his character to account.

The harangue produced its desired effect in the minds of the soldiers. Those who had been most eager in demanding the immediate association of a colleague admitted the reasonableness of the plea for delay. The eagles and the banners of the different legions clustered emulously round the new Emperor, and escorted him, already with the awful aspect of dominion in his countenance, to the Imperial palace.

The deliberations of the new Emperor with himself concerning his future colleague did not occupy many days. Already, it is probable those who were best acquainted with his temper saw to what conclusion his words about the necessity of harmony pointed. On the morrow after his elevation he called a council of the chief officers, and asked if they had any advice to give him as to the association of a partner in his throne. All the rest were silent, but Dagalaiphus, the brave Teuton from the Gaulish provinces, said : “If you love your own family, most excellent Emperor, you have a brother. If you love the State, seek for the worthiest and clothe him with the purple”. The Emperor showed that he was offended, but dismissed the assembly without disclosing his purpose. On the first of March, when the legions entered Nicomedia, he promoted his brother Valens to the dignity of Tribune of the Imperial Stables. Before the end of the month, (March 28, 365), at the building known as the Hebdomon he presented Valens to the troops, arrayed in purple and diadem, and declared him Augustus. The needful, the apparently unanimous, applause was given, for none dared face the stem glance of the elder Augustus, and the two brothers rode back to Constantinople in the same car of state.

Of Valens, the new occupant of the Imperial throne, there is but little to be said, except that he was one of those commonplace men whom a hard fate has singled out for a great position, as if on purpose to show the essential littleness of their souls. He possessed neither the manly beauty nor the soldierly qualities of his brother. Of moderate stature and swarthy skin, bandy-legged, somewhat pot-bellied, and with a slight cast in his eye, he could boast of nothing in his outward appearance which might compel the beholder to forget the meanness of his extraction. In action he was tardy and procrastinating, and yet, as we shall see, on one memorable occasion his ignorance of the elements of the problem before him led him to commit an act of almost inconceivable rashness. He was excessively tenacious of the dignity which he had so undeservedly acquired, and his suspicion of all whom he supposed to be plotting to deprive him of it, led him into a course of most cruel tyranny. Yet in the ordinary detail of government he displayed some praiseworthy qualities. He was a lover of justice towards all except the supposed pretenders to his throne. Though avaricious and by no means scrupulous as to the means of replenishing his treasury, he was also, by an unwonted combination of qualities, very careful of his subjects’ financial prosperity, never imposing a new tax, but relieving, whenever he could, the weight of the old imposts; so that Ammianus, who writes with no friendly feeling towards him, declares that “never in matters of this sort was the East more leniently dealt with than under his reign”. It should be added here, for it had an important bearing on the whole course of his reign, that he was a bigoted and sometimes a persecuting Arian, while his brother Valentinian held the Nicene faith, but refused to persecute either heretics or heathens.

The one chief merit of the public life of Valens was his unswerving loyalty to the brother who had raised the new him to the throne. “He attended to his wishes as if he had been his orderly”, says Ammianus, with a little contempt. Yet surely, in the circumstances of the Roman Empire, complete harmony between its rulers was a boon of the highest value, and the feebler, poorer, nature of Valens was right in leaning on the strong arm of Valentinian. The events which actually occurred caused the fraternal partiality of the elder brother to be in the highest degree disastrous to Rome. Yet it was a great matter to avert such terrible and exhausting wars as had been waged between Constantine and Licinius, as had been all but waged between Constantius and Julian. Had it not been for the accident of the premature death of Valentinian, the world might have had no cause to regret his association of Valens with himself.

Thus then was the whole Roman world subject to the two sons of the rope-seller of Cibalae, and they now proceeded to divide its wide expanse between them. Very soon after the ceremony of association they had both fallen sick of a dangerous fever, but having recovered from this illness (which was falsely attributed by some to the machinations of the friends of Julian) they left Constantinople near the end of April, and travelling slowly, reached, at the beginning of June, Naissus, now the Serbian city of Nisch. Here, or rather at the villa of Mediana, three miles out of the city, the brothers remained for a little over a fortnight, arranging the details of the great partition. The Gauls, Italy, and Illyricum were taken by Valentinian, the city of Milan being chosen as his residence in time of peace. The Gaulish army of Julian with its officers, among whom was the brave and outspoken Dagalaiphus, fell naturally to his share. On the other hand, the Prefecture of the East, which included not only Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, but the eastern half of Thrace and Moesia, was marked out as the portion of Valens, who ruled it from his capital of Constantinople, but who also often resided at Antioch, especially when there was danger of war on the Persian horizon.

The highest military officers Partition of Valens were Victor and Arintheus; his Prefect and chief adviser in civil matters the veteran Sallust, who, as we have seen, might easily have worn the diadem himself. There seems to have been much marching and counter-marching of the legions between East and West before all these arrangements were finally completed and before each Emperor had his own army satisfactorily quartered in his own dominions. Soon after the accession of Valentinian a deed of wickedness was wrought by his orders. The eyes of the hapless child Varronianus, his predecessor's son, were put out, as we are told, “from fear of what might happen in the future, though he had done no wrong”. A grievous illustration truly of the cruelty of which the new Byzantine statecraft could be guilty, notwithstanding its external profession of Christianity; and no less striking an evidence of the conflict in men's minds between the elective theory and the increasingly hereditary practice of the Imperial succession — a conflict which might cause even the infant son of a ten-months' Emperor to be hereafter a source of danger to the state.

This conflict of theories, and the miserable position of into which it often brought the relatives of a deceased sovereign, were the causes of an event which greatly occupied the minds of men in the early years of the new Emperors, and had an important bearing on the attitude of the Goths to Rome; namely, the rebellion of Procopius. This man, the descendant of a noble family in Cilicia, of unblemished character, who had attained to respectable if not pre-eminent rank both in the civil and military service of the state had now to live the life of a fugitive, like David when proscribed by Saul, hunted as a partridge on the mountains, simply because there were rumours, doubtful and obscure, that his cousin Julian had secretly presented him with a purple robe, or had named him, on his death-bed, as a suitable successor. After the death of Jovian of Maiozamalcha had shown to all men the jealous character of his Imperial namesake, Procopius, as has been already said, thought it safer to disappear for a time from the common haunts of men. He retired at first to his estates near the Cappadocian Caesarea, and when an order was sent to that place for his arrest he feigned submission to his fate, but obtained leave to see his wife and children before his departure. A sumptuous banquet was prepared for his captors, and in the night-time, while they were sleeping the sleep of drunkenness, Procopius contrived to escape with some of his followers and to reach the shore of the Euxine. Taking ship he sailed to the Crimea, and there lived for some months in poverty and wretchedness, probably on the uplands in the interior. Weary at length of this squalid mode of life, doubtful if the barbarians would keep his secret faithfully, and longing to hear again the civilized speech of Greece or Rome, he ventured forth from his hiding-place and came by devious roads to Chalcedon on the Bosphorus, where two faithful friends alternately permitted him to take shelter in their houses. From hence occasionally venturing to creep forth, effectually disguised by the changes which hunger and hardship had wrought in his face, he listened to the talk of the citizens, and learned their growing discontent. It was by this time the summer of 365. Valentinian and Valens had been for more than a year upon the throne, and in the Oriental Prefecture, at least there was deep dissatisfaction with their rule. The faithful Sallust had been thrust aside, and Valens had appointed his father-in-law, Petronius Probus, Prefect in his room. This man, suddenly advanced from an obscure to a lofty position, crooked in body and mind, and apparently delighting in the sorrows of his fellow-men, was, by his administration, spreading dismay through all classes of the community. The innocent and the guilty were alike subjected to judicial torture, and so remorseless was his vindication of the claims of the Exchequer that, as men said, he seemed as if he would go back a century to the days of Aurelian, to hunt for arrears of unpaid taxes .

To internal discontent was added the menace of the external invasion. All round the frontiers of the Empire, the tidings of the death of the mighty Julian and of the disgraceful peace concluded by his successor had profoundly stirred the hearts of the barbarians. The Alamanni, a great and strong confederacy who were dominant on the upper Rhine, had resumed their ravages in Raetia and Gaul; in Pannonia, the Sarmatiaus (a generic term for the Slavonic peoples) and the Quadi were roaming at their will; four barbarous nations, the Picts, the Scots, the Atacotti and the Saxons, were vexing the Romanized Britons with continual miseries; the incursions of the Moors into the province of Africa were more than usually destructive; lastly, and most important for our present purpose, the Goths, strong and prosperous after their long peace with Rome, and apparently disposed to consider that their foedus with the Emperor Constantine bound them no longer, now that strangers to his blood ruled at Milan and Constantinople, were overrunning the nearer parts of Thrace with their predatory bands. There was probably also some rumour of impending difficulty with Persia, and we find that Valens was marching in haste to Antioch, when the news of the Gothic inroad caused him to send back a sufficient force of cavalry and infantry to the places threatened by their attack.

Owing to these various causes there was great disorganization in the Eastern Prefecture, and the capital was bare of the regular troops upon whose Procopius, weary of his outcast life and thinking that death itself would be better than the hardships which he had recently endured, determined to make a throw of the dice for empire.

Two Gaulish legions, the Divitenses and the Junior Tungrians, were on their way to their quarters in Thrace, and had to spend two days at Constantinople. Probably there was already some dissatisfaction among these troops at being removed from their homes in the West in order to serve in a dangerous and profitless campaign on the banks of the Danube. However this may have been, the daring spirits among them were accessible to the lavish offers made by the desperate Procopius, and promised for themselves and their comrades to aid him in his designs upon the throne. The necessary and hurried interviews took place under cover of the night, a night so dark and still that the ministers of Valens had not the slightest hint of what was going forward, and that, in the daring language of a heathen orator “even Jove himself must be deemed to have slumbered”. When morning dawned there was a general concourse of the rebel officers and soldiers at the baths of Anastasia, and there the troops beheld the person whom they were to hail as the new Augustus. They saw a man of about forty years of age, tall of stature, but stooping (probably from his long-continued sedentary occupation), looking like a clerk rather than a general, and with the shy downcast glance of one who had been for years a hunted fugitive. There he stood, the pale and ghost-like pretender, with one thought uppermost in his mind: “Since my death is decreed, let me choose the steepest and shortest road, into the abyss”. The Imperial wardrobe was yet unransacked, and the only garments that could be procured were singularly unfitted to the majesty of an Augustus. In a gold-embroidered tunic which reached only to his knees, with purple buskins on his feet, and a spear in his hand from which fluttered a purple ribbon, he looked like a tragedy-king on the orchestra of a theatre. However, he forced a smile to his pallid and anxious face: with honeyed words he fawned upon the authors of his greatness; and donative, promotion, high office were promised lavishly to the various ranks of his supporters. He then marched through the streets of Constantinople, the soldiers around him forming a testudo of shields over his head to guard him from darts or stones that might be hurled from the house-tops. However, no attack was made; no sign of favour or opposition was given by the multitude, and through the strange silence of the streets Procopius and his satellites marched to the tribunal before the palace, from which the Eastern Emperors were wont to address their subjects. Here he long stood silent, chilled and awed by the silence of the populace. At length words came to his parched tongue, and he spoke of his relationship to the great Emperor who had fallen. Probably also he now began to ply the populace with the same kind of promises of material advantage which had proved effectual with the soldiers. Debts were to be abolished; lands were to be redistributed; all the demagogue’s easy generosity at others' expense was freely exercised. The bait took; the thin applause of the hired partisans was echoed at length by the hearty acclamations of the crowd, and Procopius could now truly assert that he had been hailed as Imperator by the people, or at least by the mob of Byzantium. After a somewhat discouraging visit to the Senate-house, from which all the noblest Senators were purposely absent, he entered the palace which had once been the abode of his cousin Julian, and which was to be his official residence for eight months from this time.

For in truth the elevation of Procopius, though viewed with disapprobation by the official classes and attended by some circumstances which moved the laughter of contemporary historians, was by no means a contemptible movement, but one which was very near attaining a signal success. The two great Praetorian Prefects, of Constantinople and of the East, appointed by Valens, were at once thrown into prison, and the Urban Prefecture and the important dignity of Master of the Offices were bestowed on two Gaulish officers, doubtless belonging to the mutinous legions which had placed Procopius on the throne. Troops were raised; the legions on their way to the Gothic war were stopped and easily persuaded to enlist under the new Emperor; and, more important of the Goths themselves were found willing to serve under the banners of one who held himself forth as the kinsman of their great ally the Emperor Constantine.

This tie of relationship to the great Flavian house, a tie of a very slender kind and which probably in truth connected him with none but Julian himself, was insisted upon by Procopius and his adherents on every possible opportunity. Constantius had left a widow named Fausta and an infant daughter named Constantia. Whenever he addressed the troops the new Emperor was accustomed to carry Constantia “his infant kinswoman” in his arms, and Fausta wearing the purple robes of an Augusta appeared by his side.

Meanwhile the tidiness of these strange and unexpected events reached the two brothers who were the rightful possessors of the sovereign power; and characteristically different was the manner of their reception. While all the hucksters and costermongers of Constantinople were rejoicing over the accession of the people's friend, a few of the more influential citizens who deemed that any turn of Fortune's wheel would be safer than the present strange condition of affairs, slipped out of the capital, and by hurried journeys sought the absent Emperor of the East. First of the fugitives to arrive was Sophronius, then only a notary, in after years Prefect of Constantinople. He found Valens at the Cappadocian Caesarea, about to depart thence to Antioch in leisurely ignorance of the danger to his crown. When he heard what had happened at Constantinople, stupefied with terror and bewilderment he turned aside into Galatia to await further tidings. For some weeks each post brought worse and worse reports from the capital; and Valens was reduced to such a depth of despondency that only the urgent entreaties of his nearest friends prevented him from resigning the purple and taking up that load of exile with its attendant dangers and hardships which Procopius had only just laid down. At length, however, braver counsels prevailed; and with two legions, the Jovian and the Victorious, he marched to Bithynia to meet his rival.

Valentinian was in Gaul, drawing near to the city of Lutetia Parisiorum, when, on a certain day near the end of October, two messengers from different quarters bearing evil tidings reached him at once. One informed him that the Alamanni had refused with indignation the gifts offered to their ambassadors, gifts smaller and cheaper than had ever been given them before, had cast them on the ground, and were in full career for the Gaulish frontier, breathing destruction and revenge. The other had to communicate a vague and uncertain rumour of the revolution effected a month before by Procopius at Constantinople. The tidings came from the brave and faithful Aequitius, Governor of Illyricum, the same who had been himself proposed as a candidate for the purple, whose staunch loyalty probably now saved the dynasty of Valentinian, since the Illyrian provinces, firmly held by him for his master, and with the three chief passes leading into the Oriental Diocese, strongly garrisoned, interposed an impenetrable barrier against the designs of the Procopians. But even this faithful servant had heard so dim and inaccurate a history of what had passed at Constantinople that his messenger could not say whether Valens were still alive or dead.

The first impulse of Valentinian was to march at once to the East to deliver or to avenge his brother. His nearest counsellors, however, ventured to represent to him the miseries which the barbarians during his absence on this expedition would inevitably inflict on the defenceless provinces of Gaul. The choice was a difficult one, and the matter was set in various lights by different advisers; but the strong, if stern and rigid, mind of Valentinian was arrested by this thought, to which he several times gave utterance, “Procopius is the enemy only of me and my brother, while the Alamanni are the enemies of the whole Roman world”. Not a single soldier —this was his conclusion— should leave the limits of Gaul. The spirit of the great days of the Republic, the spirit of Regulus and of Sulla was after all not yet dead in the hearts of Romans.

Thus it came to pass that Valens had to conduct the struggle with Procopius, unaided by Valentinian, and n through the autumn and winter of 365-6 the usurper, thus enabled to concentrate his force, was upon the whole so successful, that it seemed as if his revolutionary diadem might be transmitted to his descendants. We can with some effort discern what was the division of parties and interests between the two claimants for the Empire of the East, and what the rallying cry of each faction and the taunts which it hurled at its opponents. On the side of Valens seem to have been immovably ranged all his fellow-countrymen from the Pannonian provinces, and these probably included the best and bravest officers in the Imperial army. As before hinted, the senators and the official classes of Constantinople seem to have been for the most part ranged on the same side, dreading a civil war between East and West, and doubting Procopius’ power to consolidate his position.

The adherents of Procopius were to be found among the lower orders at Constantinople, attracted by his promises of a redistribution of property; among the sufferers from the unjust exactions of Petronius; among the officers of the two mutinous legions for whom his success was a matter of life and death; and among all those newly created Prefects, Counts, and Tribunes, whom, after the custom of revolutions, this sudden turn of the wheel had raised from nothingness to power.

We note with interest the names of two men of kingly origin who took sides in this civil strife of an Empire to which they were aliens. Vadomar, king of the Alamanni, having been deposed and made prisoner by Julian, had taken service under the Emperors of Rome, from whom he received the office —a singular one for a Teutonic chieftain— of Duke of Phoenicia: and he was now employed by Valens in an unsuccessful siege of Nicaea. On the other hand, the young Hormisdas, of the royal seed of Persia, whose father, an exile from his country, had visited Rome in the train of Constantius, and guided through Mesopotamia the cavalry of Julian, now received from Procopius the office of proconsul, and with his wife narrowly escaped capture by the soldiers of Valens.

The partisans of Valens were loud in their invectives against “the moody Cilician misanthrope who might have been satisfied to pass his life in the condition of a notary, and scribe, but who had left his desk and his ink-horn in order to take on himself the vast burden of the Empire of Rome” : while the adherents of Procopius were prepared with the easy retort that their opponents were fighting for a base-born Pannonian; and when Valens appeared under the walls of Chalcedon, its defenders assailed him with loud and bitter cries of “Sabaiarius” a word which by a slight anachronism we might translate “Bavarian-beer-drinker”.

The war was confined to Asia Minor, and chiefly to the north-western portions of it. Nicaea, as has been said, was in vain besieged by the troops of Valens, while Cyzicus, to which the soldiers of Procopius laid siege, and whose harbour had been closed by an iron boom, was taken by the valiant Aliso, who having ordered his men, standing and kneeling in their boats, to form a testudo, himself with a mighty blow of his axe cut the boom in sunder. Procopius at first showed considerable cleverness —of no very exalted kind— in playing the game of an usurper. Sham-messengers, dusty as if from a long journey, but really coming in from the suburbs of Constantinople, announced the death of Valentinian and the defeat of Valens. Sham-embassies from Persia, Egypt, Africa, proclaimed the alliance or the subjection of nations at the ends of the earth. When he met the troops of his rival drawn up for battle by the river Sangarius, he suddenly remembered, or feigned to remember, an old comrade in a certain Vitalianus, who was conspicuous in their ranks, and advancing to meet him with outstretched hand, uttered a short harangue recalling the glories of his kinsman Julian and pouring scorn on the degenerate Pannonian. The result of this well-played comedy was that the soldiers lowered their standards and their eagles, clustered round Procopius, and escorted him back to his camp, swearing by Jove (as from long habit Roman soldiers still swore) that Procopius should be forever invincible.

But success made Procopius idle: the falsehood of rumours as to Valentinian’s death before long became manifest, and soon after the beginning of 366 the tide, we cannot say of battle, but of treason, turned. Supplies were running short with the usurper. The populace of Constantinople complained that the annona or daily largess of bread, was not given with the accustomed liberality—a surer evidence than all the pretended ambassadors whom Procopius could parade—through the streets of the capital, that the great corn-producing province of Egypt was not on his side. The senators were loaded with grievous imposts, and advantage was taken of the turn of the year to collect two years' taxes in one month. And the usurper himself, instead of pushing forward to complete the victory achieved at Cyzicus, lingered in the cities of Asia, and held vague consultations with persons skilled in gold-mining as to the possibility of extracting from the bowels of the earth the gold which he needed for the war.

Military discipline and the reverence for tried and veteran officers began to assert itself more and more, even in the ranks of the mutineers. When the great commander Arintheus arrived at the Phrygian town of Dadastana he found the troops of the enemy at that place commanded by a certain Hyperethius, who had previously held no higher office than that of butler to the Marshal of the Camp. Disdaining to fight with such an adversary he strode forth between the two armies and in a loud voice commanded his former soldiers to bind the menial who dared to call himself their captain; and such was the old instinct of obedience to the voice of Arintheus that they obeyed. To this instinct Valens now determined to make a powerful appeal against the continually urged argument of Procopius' relationship to Julian. To the childish graces of the little Constantia, borne in the arms of her self-styled cousin, he determined to oppose the white hairs of the veteran Arbetio. This man who had risen from the condition of a common soldier to the highest commands in the army, had served with credit in the campaigns of Constantius and Julian. His military fame was eminent, though he was little better than a shifty intriguer in civil affairs. He had worn the robes of a consul in 355 and had even been accused under Constantius of aspiring to the Imperial purple. He had now retired from active service, but, in so great a crisis of the fortunes of the state, each party hoped that the sly old veteran would intervene on its side. Elated by his apparent prosperity Procopius foolishly showed his impatience at the delays and vacillation of Arbetio, and ordered his house at Constantinople, which was full of furniture of priceless value, to be burned. From that moment, as might have been expected, Valens had no more devoted adherent than Arbetio, who was the very man that was required to win back to military obedience the mutinous legions, disgusted with the promotion of butlers and copying-clerks to high commands in the army.

In the spring of 366 Valens, who had been reinforced by a large body of soldiers under the command of Lupicinus, his Master of the Horse, led his army from their quarters on the confines of Phrygia and Galatia, westwards through the defiles of Olympus into the province of Lydia. Here Arbetio joined him, and here before long on the plains of Thyatira, the two armies met in battle. The impetuous valour of Hormisdas threw the line of the army of Valens into confusion, and had all but won the day for Procopius. But the general on that side was Gumoarius or Gumohar, long ago seen through by Julian as a hoary old traitor, but whom Procopius had unwisely entrusted with one of the chief commands in his army. Gumohar had undoubtedly been gained over by Arbetio, though there is a slight divergence of testimony as to the precise means by which he carried into effect his treacherous designs. According to one account he suddenly raised the cry, Augustus! Augustus! The password was re-echoed by all the officers who were in the conspiracy, and all who thus shouted passed over, with shields reversed and spears shaken to and fro in sign of surrender, into the camp of Valens. The other story makes Arbetio the chief actor in the scene. Suddenly appearing before the rebel troops and claiming the hearing to which his high military rank and white hairs entitled him, he assailed Procopius with loud reproaches as an insolent intruder on the Imperial dignity, and besought the soldiers who had been led away by his artifices, the men who had been partners with himself in many toils and dangers, and who were dear to him as his own sons, to follow him, their parent, rather than that abandoned scoundrel who was already on the brink of ruin. The appeal was successful : the soldiers followed their old leader: Gumohar conveniently contrived to be taken prisoner, and the general, with the best part of the troops of Procopius, were soon quartered as friends in the camp of Valens.

Procopius fled, not to Constantinople but into Phrygia where there were still some legions following his standard. Agilo who commanded this portion of the army was an old comrade of Arbetio, and was easily persuaded to follow the example of Gumohar. The armies met near the city of Nacolia : the comedy of an appeal to old memories of common service was probably again enacted, and the remnant of the troops of Procopius entered the service of his rival. The revolution had begun with a military pronunciamento, and was ended by a movement of the same kind but in the opposite direction. Procopius fled from the field, not of battle but of surrender, to the mountains, and was accompanied by two officers, Florentius and Barchalba. The too early rising moon favoured the pursuers rather than the pursued, the hope of escape became desperate, and suddenly his two companions hoping to purchase their safety at his expense, sprang upon him and bound him with cords. At daybreak they brought him to the Emperor's camp, silent and with the old gloom upon his face deeper than ever. His head was at once severed from his body (May 27, 366)and it is with some satisfaction that we read that for want of adequate deliberation Florentius and Barchalba shared the same fate.

The rebellion of Procopius was thus at an end, but his kinsman Marcellus, an officer of the household troops, who appears to have been one of his most capable helpers and who commanded the garrison of Nicaea, assumed the purple and endeavoured to prolong an ineffectual resistance. He put to death Serenianus, one of the chief advisers of Valens, who had been taken prisoner and lodged within the walls of Nicaea. He also occupied Chalcedon, and began to negotiate with the Gothic leaders for the support of the 3000 men whom they had sent to the aid of Procopius. But before he could consolidate his forces, Aequitius, who had led an army out of Illyricum through the pass of Succi and who was busied with the siege of Philippopolis, sent a small but daring band of soldiers, who caught him, we are told, like a fugitive slave, and brought him into the presence of Aequitius. He was cruelly flogged and tortured and then put to death. The garrison of Philippopolis still continued stubbornly to defend that city, not believing the report of the death of Procopius, and it was only upon the actual sight of the head of the usurper, which was being borne in ghastly triumph to Valentinian in Gaul, that they most unwillingly consented to its surrender.

Thus then had fallen Procopius, “the Emperor of a winter” as he was now called in derision by the flatterers of success. Valens apparently soon returned to Constantinople, and here perhaps in the early months of 367, sitting in the Senate-house, he listened to the flattering harangue of the orator Themistius, to which we are indebted for much of our knowledge of the baffled revolution.

Though we know with what sycophancy in all ages power is worshipped, whether it reside in an autocrat or a mob, we could hardly have expected that Themistius would have ventured on some of the topics of praise which he has chosen, and which must have seemed like ridicule to those who knew the facts of the late campaign. He enlarges on the courage of Valens, who apparently never. met the foe in open fight; on his constancy and unshaken firmness, when but for the entreaties of his counsellors he would have resigned the purple; on the magic of his name, which at thirty furlongs distance caused the soldiers of his rival to desert to his standards, when that act of treachery was really due to the white hairs of Arbetio, and the machinations of Gumohar. Looking however beneath the surface we can discern some grains of perhaps unintended candour. He admits and seeks to excuse the long delay of Valens, he slightly alludes to his ignorance of philosophy, and he hints as gently as possible that the Emperor is not sufficiently prompt in the issue of an amnesty. Indeed, when we see how large a part of the oration is taken up with the praises of the Imperial virtue of clemency, we begin to understand the reason of its being uttered, and can almost forgive the baseness of its adulation. As far as we can form a judgement from the very contradictory materials before us, we should conclude that Valens showed at first great and unexpected moderation in the punishment of the Procopian faction. Having dealt thus leniently with the great offenders, Valens should have issued promptly a wide and general amnesty for the humbled crowd of his rival's followers. But this amnesty came not, and as the Eastern Augustus grew more secure in his seat, fear, the most cruel of passions, asserted itself more savagely in his deeds. A trifling circumstance, the discovery of a purple robe in the possession of Marcellus, which Procopius had given to him as Julian was said to have given a similar robe to Procopius, set the weak brain of Valens on fire. The base trade of the informer began again to flourish. The maxim, so unwise and so impossible to enforce after a time of successful revolt, that whosoever has heard of treasonable designs and failed to denounce them is guilty of treason was rigorously acted upon. Torture was freely applied, and men free from all crime, who would rather have died ten times over on the battlefield, were stretched upon the rack or felt the cruel stroke of the executioner's leaded scourge. The relations of Valens and the vile herd of informers were enriched with the estates of men thus forced by torture to confess uncommitted crimes. From all ranks and conditions of men went up a sorrowful cry that a just victory had been foully abused, and that civil war itself had been more tolerable than the daily horrors thus perpetrated under the forms of law.

The insurrection of Procopius had the effect, and this is its especial interest for us, of bringing the Empire into collision with the imperfectly organized Gothic communities north of the Danube. As soon as the civil war was ended, and when Valens was hoping that his troubles from foreign and domestic foes were over, his Ministers brought before him the perplexing question what was to be done with the Gothic auxiliaries of the late usurper. They had arrived apparently too late to assist Procopius in the field, but they were not disposed to return empty-handed to their own country. A fragment of the contemporary historian Eunapius furnishes us with an interesting picture of the outward appearance of these unwelcome visitors, as beheld by the officials of Byzantium. “These men were insufferably haughty and contemptuous of all that they beheld, insolent even to lawlessness, and treating all conditions of men with the same lordly arrogance. The Emperor at once ordered that the barbarians, caught as it were in a net, should be commanded to give up their arms. They did so, but even in doing it, showed by the very toss of their long locks their disdain for the Roman officials. They were then dispersed through the various cities and kept under guard, but without bonds. When the inhabitants of these cities were thus enabled to observe them more closely, they saw that their bodies though tall were not of a serviceable make, that their feet were slow and heavy, and that their waists were pinched in, as Aristotle says is the case with the bodies of insects. Thus making proof of their weakness they could not help laughing at the mistaken fear which they had formerly entertained of them”.

Possibly we may find that the Thracian citizens were laughing too soon at the discovered weakness of these wasp-waisted barbarians. But in the meantime, in the summer of 366, their presence and their detention in the Empire led to the mutual dispatch of embassies between Scythia and Romania. On the one hand Athanaric, the chief of the Visigothic Judges, demanded to know by what right the warriors of his nation, sent at the request of Procopius, Emperor of Rome, were now detained in captivity, having been distributed by Valens among the cities on the southern shore of the Danube. On the other hand, Victor, the most eminent general of the Eastern Empire, was sent to enquire wherefore the Goths, a nation friendly to the Romans and bound to them by the obligations of an honourable alliance, had given assistance to an usurper who waged war against the legitimate sovereigns of the Empire. The Gothic reply to Victor was the same as the ground-work of the Gothic complaint to Valens. They showed him the letters of Procopius, asserting that he had regularly succeeded to the Imperial dignity as the nearest representative of the family of Constantine, and they pleaded that if they had done wrong, they had, at the worst, only committed an error of judgement, for which no further punishment should be exacted from them.

Not thus, however, thought Valens and his counsellors. All the machinery of the law had been already set in motion against the domestic abettors of the Procopian revolution. Now the Roman legions should march in order to take vengeance upon its foreign supporters. In the spring of 367 an army was assembled at Daphne under the command of Victor, Master of the Cavalry, and Arintheus, Master of the Infantry. They crossed the Danube by a bridge of boats, such as may yet be seen depicted on Trajan's Column at Rome; and marched hither and thither without resistance over the Wallachian plains, the Goths having retired to the fastnesses of the Transylvanian Alps. Some of the families of the barbarians, slowly moving in their wagons towards the mountains, were over- taken and carried into captivity by the skirmishers of Arintheus. This trifling affair was the only event that marked the campaign of 367.

In the next year the scene of the war seems to have been shifted eastwards to the country near the mouths of the Danube, which is now known as the Dobrudscha. Marcianople was made the base of the Imperial operations, and here the active and honest Praetorian Prefect Auxonius contrived to collect a large magazine of provisions and to make arrangements for distributing them by capacious merchant-ships to the various bodies of troops stationed near to the mouths of the Danube. We have a valuable convergence of testimony to the point that all these measures were taken in a prudent and efficacious manner, and that, owing to the absence of corruption in the Prefect, the great expenses of the war were defrayed without adding to the financial burdens of the state, nay that on the very eve of the war the provincials found to their joy a considerable diminution made in the taxes.

Notwithstanding all these preparations however, the Campaign of 368 was not marked by any signal success against the barbarians. The reason of the failure of the Roman troops was to be found in the peculiar character of the theatre of war, intersected as it is by all the countless channels through which the Danube pours itself into the sea. Almost all of these channels were too shallow to be navigated by the war-ships of the Romans, though the little piratical barks of the Goths impelled by only one tier of oars could traverse them with ease. The intervening land was covered with a fine and fertilizing mud, through which the legions could not march. The innumerable islands afforded invaluable lurking places to the barbarians, while the Romans were continually losing their communication with one another in the flat, dyke-intersected country.

In order to remedy these evils and provide a safe base of operations and a secure watch-tower from which to observe the movements of the barbarians, Valens determined to re-erect a fortress in the very heart of the Dobrudscha which had been raised by one of the earlier Emperors (perhaps Trajan or Hadrian), but which had long since fallen into utter ruin, its very lines of fortification being barely discernible. It stood on a narrow promontory of hill overlooking the surrounding marshes. Stones bricks, lime, were none of them to be found on the spot, but all had to be brought a distance of many miles on the backs of numberless beasts of burden. The work however was well planned, the division of labour carefully arranged, and the common soldier saw with pleasure even the messmates of the Emperor bringing in their quotas of pounded tile as a contribution to the much-needed cement of the building. Thus, in a few months probably, or (as the Emperor’s flatterers said) swiftly and harmoniously as the walls of Thebes to the music of Amphion, arose the fortress which was intended to curb the lawlessness of the Goths of the Dobrudscha.

In the campaign of 369 all these elaborate preparations were crowned with success. The Emperor crossed the Danube by a bridge of boats at Novidunum and marching north-eastward through the country of the disheartened and dispersed Visigoths, reached and fought with their powerful kinsmen the Ostrogoths, though we do not hear of his having faced in battle the mighty Hermanric himself.

Along with the movements of the regular army there seems to have been practiced an irregular and somewhat discreditable warfare against those Goths who, lurking in their swamp-surrounded ambuscades, would not venture forth into open fight, but still continued their predatory excursions. Valens (according to Zosimus), while ordering his soldiers to remain in quarters, collected the sutlers and camp-followers and those who had charge of the baggage, and promised them a certain sum for every head of a barbarian that they might bring in. Stimulated by the hope of such gains they all plunged into the forests and morasses, fell upon any barbarians whom they might meet, exhibited their heads, and received the promised reward.

The result of this guerilla war, of the march of the legions across the Wallachian and Moldavian plains, and above all, of the entire cessation of that commercial intercourse upon which the Goths, as a nation emerging from barbarism, had begun to depend even for some of the necessaries of life, was that towards the close of 369 the Goths sent ambassadors humbly begging for the Emperor's pardon and for the renewal of the treaty with Rome. At first Valens, perhaps with feigned severity, refused to listen to these overtures, which however he appears to have communicated to the Senate at Constantinople. A deputation from that body, including the orator Themistius, advised that the petition of the barbarians should be listened to, and the Emperor acted on the advice which he may have himself suggested.

Victor and Arintheus, the successful generals in war, were successively sent to arrange the terms of peace, terms glorious for the Empire and decidedly humiliating for the barbarians. The gifts of gold, silver and raiment, which had been till now the almost invariable accompaniments of a treaty with barbarians, were with- held. Withheld too were the grain-largesses which had hitherto been granted in abundance to the chief men of Gothia and their followers. One exception only was made in this respect. The chief interpreter still received his rations, his services being rendered no less to the Romans than the Goths. The barbarians were forbidden to cross the great river.

There on the further shore were they collected, a humbled and tractable multitude, casting themselves on the ground in the attitude of suppliants and raising their voices in unanimous entreaty; so many thousands of Goths on whom for the first time the Romans could look without fear of their violence. Here upon the nearer shore stood the Roman army, drawn up in shining ranks, calm in the consciousness of irresistible strength.

 “Unlike the Eastern potentate who reclined in his tent overshadowed by a golden roof, to watch the battle with the Greeks, our Emperor showed himself able to endure hardship even in the act of concluding peace. For, standing there on the ship’s deck, in the full blaze of the sun at that time of the year when the sun burns most fiercely, he remained in the same attitude from dawn till late twilight. In the discussions of that day the Emperor, unaided by general, centurion, or soldier, was sole victor. His prudence, his subtlety, his flow of words, dignified yet gentle, and greater than I have ever observed even in an orator by profession, won for him an intellectual victory. Yet was his antagonist no contemptible foe. Athanaric is no barbarian in mind, though he is in speech, but is even more remarkable for his intelligence and prudence than for his skill in war. This is indicated by his refusing the title of king, and claiming that of judge, since the chief attribute of the former is power, of the latter wisdom. Yet this man, so renowned as a judge, failed ridiculously as an advocate for his nation. So great was his awe of the Emperor's presence that words altogether failed him, and he found the labour of speech harder than the toil of battle. Then looking upon him in his prostration and despair, the Emperor kindly proffered him his hand, raised him from the ground, made him by that act his friend, and sent him away with a storm of contending emotions in his soul, confident yet full of fear, despising his own subjects yet suspecting them of enjoying his humiliation, crest-fallen when he remembered his failure, yet elated by the thought that he had obtained the renewal of the treaty with Rome.

“By this war and this peace a complete change has been wrought in the relative position of the Empire and the barbarians. Heretofore, on account of the neglected state of our defences, the barbarians used to consider that peace and war depended on their pleasure. They saw our soldiers not only without arms, but even in many cases without decent clothing, and not less squalid and poverty-stricken in mind than in body. They saw that our prefects and centurions were hucksterers and slave-dealers rather than generals: their one business to buy and sell as much as possible, and claim a profit on each transaction : the number of garrison-soldiers dwindling, while these impostors drew the pay for soldiers who did not exist, and put it into their own pockets. They saw our fortresses themselves falling into ruin, and equally destitute of arms and men. Seeing all this, they naturally resorted with those predatory inroads which they glorified with the name of war.

“But now, along almost all the frontiers of the Empire, peace reigns, and all the preparation for war is perfect; for the Emperor knows that they most truly work for peace who thoroughly prepare for war. The Danube-shore teems with fortresses, the fortresses with soldiers, the soldiers with arms, the arms both beautiful and terrible. Luxury is banished from the legions, but there is an abundance of all necessary stores, so that there is now no need for the soldier to eke out his deficient rations by raids on the peaceful villagers.

“There was a time when the legions were terrible to the provincials, and afraid of the barbarians. Now all that is changed: they despise the barbarians and fear the complaint of one plundered husbandman more than an innumerable multitude of Goths.

“To conclude, then, as I began. We celebrate this victory by numbering not our slaughtered foes but our living and tamed antagonists. If we regret to hear of the entire destruction even of any kind of animal, if we mourn that elephants should be disappearing from the province of Africa, lions from Thessaly, and hippopotami from the marshes of the Nile, how much rather, when a whole nation of men, barbarians it is true, but still men, lies prostrate at our feet, confessing that it is entirely at our mercy, ought we not instead of extirpating, to preserve it, and make it our own by showing it compassion?

“The generals of old Rome used to be called Achaicus, Macedonicus, Africanus, to commemorate their victories over devastated lands and ruined nations. With far more right shall our Emperor be called Gothicus, since he has permitted so many Goths to live, and compelled them to become the friends of Rome!”

Notwithstanding the grossness of its flattery, some wise and statesmanlike thoughts were expressed in this oration, and the occasion of its delivery was one which might cause the heart of a loyal subject of the Empire to thrill with justifiable pride. The Goths under their 'most powerful Judge' had tried conclusions with the Romans under one of their least warlike Emperors, and had been ignominiously defeated. True, the victory was chiefly due to two great captains, Victor and Arintheus, formed in the school of Julian; but Valens had also shown respectable qualities as a strategist and a director of the efficiency of other men. Yet we, looking below the surface, and using the knowledge which subsequent events have given us, can see that there were two reasons why the war of 367-369 should not represent the final issue of the contest between Romania and Gothia.

1. The Goths, relaxed in their energies by a long peace and by close commercial intercourse with Rome, had lost, to a great degree, their feeling of national unity, and had lost altogether their institution of kingship which gave expression to that unity, and made them terrible to their foes. A loose tie of vassalage to the distant King of the Ostrogoths, Judges with ill-defined powers and ill-marked frontiers, full doubtless of mutual jealousies and suspicions, and ever on the brink of civil war : —this was no sufficient organization wherewith to face the mighty Empire of Rome; this was a miserable substitute for the compacted might of the irresistible Cniva. Yet should adversity once more harden the nation into a single mass, and should a king arise capable of directing their concentrated energies against the Empire, the result might prove to be something very different from the peace dictated by Valens to the crouching and moaning suppliants on the Danubian shore.

2. The hints let fall by Themistius as to the corruption of prefects and tribunes, the pay drawn for non-existent soldiers, the fortresses unarmed and crumbling into ruins, reveal the existence of a canker eating deeply into the life of the Roman state. By spasmodic efforts a Julian, or even a Valens, might do something towards combating the disease and repairing the ruin which it had caused. But could any Emperor, however wise, strong, and patriotic, permanently avert the consequences of widespread corruption, and the general absence of what we call ‘public spirit’ in the official classes of a bureaucratically governed Empire? That question has presented itself for answer on many subsequent occasions in the history of the world. It was an all-important question for the Roman Empire towards the close of the fourth century of our era.

The effect on the Gothic people of the unsuccessful war with the Empire was to deepen their divisions, and to intensify the bitterness of the religious discord which had already begun to reveal itself in their midst. We can imagine Athanaric on his return from that humiliating interview with Valens, growling over the growing degeneracy of his people, and swearing by all the dwellers in Walhalla that the worshippers of the crucified God of the Romans should be rooted out of his dominions. Scarcely had the peace with Rome been concluded when Athanaric began to persecute—as his predecessors twenty-two years before had persecuted—the Christians of Gothia, and continued that persecution certainly for two years, probably for six, until he himself became an exile and a fugitive.

Many have been the discussions and the controversies as to the exact theological position held by the Gothic martyrs in this persecution. The Catholic Church has naturally been anxious to claim them as her own sons; but the orthodox Church-historian Socrates candidly confesses that “many of the Arianising barbarians at this time became martyrs”. Probably the Christians upon whom fell the wrath of the moody Athanaric belonged both to orthodox and to heretical communions, and were chiefly recruited from three theological parties.

(1) In the first place, we are distinctly told that Ulfilas laboured at this time among the Gothic subjects of Athanaric as well as among those of a rival chief named Fritigern, on the barbarian side of the Danube. The great personal influence of the Apostle of the Goths, the perusal of his translation of the Scriptures, the persuasions of his loyal and devoted Gothi Minores, would certainly cause many of the barbarians to adopt his—the Arian—form of Christianity.

(2) There seems reason to think that the Church which had been formed in the Crimea, and which consisted of Goths professing the Nicene faith, exercised some influence on their countrymen north of the Danube, and contributed some soldiers to the noble army of martyrs under Athanaric.

(3) But besides these two elements, the Arian and the Orthodox, in the growing Christianity of Gothia, a third was contributed by one of those strange heretical sects which every now and then spring up, live their short life of contest and contradiction, and then wither away. This was the sect of the Audians, who first appear in Syria about the middle of the fourth century, and whom we might call the Covenanter-Mormons of their time. Like the Mormons, they held the marvellous opinion that the Almighty has possessed from all eternity a body, in shape like the body of a man, and fills only a certain definite portion of space. Like the Manicheans, they averred that He created neither darkness nor fire. Like the Quartodecimans, they celebrated Easter on the day on which the Jews kept the Passover. Like the Scotch Covenanters and the African Donatists, they utterly refused all religious association with those outside their own sect, alleging as the reason for their exclusiveness the corruption of faith and morals which had crept into the Catholic Church.

Audius their founder, a man of admitted zeal and piety, was banished in his old age by an emperor (possibly Constantius) to the regions of Scythia. He remained some years among the barbarians, penetrated to the innermost recesses of Gothia, and instructed many Goths in the Christian faith. The monasteries which he founded in that land were, by the confession of their orthodox adversaries, places of pure and holy living, except for the depraved custom of keeping Easter on the 14th of Nisan. But at length, in a persecution, which, as we are told, was commenced by “a Gentile king who hated the Romans because their emperors were Christians”, the great majority of the Audians, along with their fellow believers of other denominations, were driven forth from Gothia, so that there remained on the Gothic soil no root of wisdom nor plant of faith. Evidently the fantastic heresy of the Audians played an important part in the early development of Christianity among the Goths.

As to the manner of Athanaric’s persecution it was as fierce, stern, and brutal as we might have expected from that sullen votary of Wodan. Some Christians were dragged before the rude tribunals of the country, and, after making a noble confession of their faith, were put to death: while others were slain without even this pretence of a judicial investigation. The Pagan inquisitors are reported to have carried round to the tents of the Christians a statue, doubtless of one of the old Teutonic gods, to which the suspected converts were commanded to offer sacrifice, and on their refusal to do this they were burned alive in their tents. Men, women, and children fleeing from these inquisitors sought refuge in a church, which, however, proved to be no asylum from the fury of the oppressor, for the Pagans set fire to it, and all who were therein, from the old man to the babe at the breast, perished in the flames.

This deed of horror made a deep impression on the suffering Church. In an old Gothic Calendar, of which one or two fragments have been preserved, we find this entry:  “October (?) 29th. Remembrance of the Martyrs among the Gothic people who were burnt with priest (papa) Vereka and Batvin in a Catholic church”.


Life and Martyrdom of Saint Sabas (334-372)


A letter, apparently a genuine contemporary letter, from the Church which was in Gothia to the Church of Cappadocia, gives some interesting details concerning the martyrdom of St. Sabas, which took place on the 12th of April, 372. This Gothic saint, born in the year 334, had been, we are told, a Christian from his childhood. A sweet singer in the choir and an eloquent opponent of idolatry in the market-place, he led an austere and ascetic life and laboured to convert all men to righteousness. When the persecution broke out, the battleground between idolaters and Christians was, as it had been in the days of St. Paul, the question as to the eating of meats offered in sacrifice to idols. Some of the Goths who remained Pagans sought to save the lives of their Christian relatives by bringing them meat which had ostensibly been so offered, but which was really free from idolatrous pollution. This meat was eaten in the presence of the king's officers, and the apparent compliance saved the lives of the pusillanimous converts. St. Sabas, however, boldly protested against this dishonest artifice, and was accordingly hunted out of the village by the Pagans who had invented it. After a little lull the persecution broke forth again: and again the friendly Pagans interposed with their proffered oath, “There is no Christian in our village”. St. Sabas burst in with a loud voice, “Let no one swear on my behalf. I am a Christian”. Then the Pagan mediators were forced to modify their oath: “No Christian in our village save one, this Sabas”. He was brought before the prince, who asked the bystanders what property he possessed, and being told “Nothing save the robe which he wears”, drove Sabas scornfully from his presence. “Such a man”, said he, “can do neither good nor harm”.

A third time the persecution was set on foot, and now Sabas was keeping his Easter Feast with a presbyter named Sansala, just returned to Gothland, to whom he had been directed by a heavenly vision. While he was thus engaged Atharidus, son of King Khotesteus, broke in upon the village with a band of wicked robbers, dragged Sansala and Sabas from their beds, bound them, and carried them off to punishment. Sansala was allowed to ride in a chariot, but Sabas, all naked as he was, was dragged over the lately burned heather, his captors urging him onward with cruel blows.

When day dawned the saint said to his persecutors, “Have ye not been dragging me all night through thorns and briars, yet where are the wounds upon my feet? Have ye not been striking me with whips and cudgels, yet where are the wales upon my back?”. No trace could be found of either.

When the next night came he was laid prostrate on the ground with his outstretched hands tied to one shaft of the wagon, and his feet similarly fastened to the other. Near morning a woman, touched with pity, came and unbound him, but he refused to escape and assisted her in preparing breakfast for his captors. In the morning Atharid ordered him to be hung by his bound hands from a rafter in the room of a cottage.

The servants brought some meat offered to idols, saying, “See what the great Atharid has sent you that ye may eat and not die”. Sansala refused to eat and said that he would rather suffer death upon the cross. Sabas said, “Who has sent these meats?”. When the servant answered, “The lord Atharid”, he replied, “There is only one lord, the lord of heaven and earth. These meats are tainted and unholy like Atharid who has sent them”. At this, one of the servants, enraged at the insult offered to his master, struck him on the breast with the point of a dart. The bystanders thought he must be killed, but he said, “You think you have dealt me a grievous blow, but I felt it no more than a snow-flake”. Nor was there in fact any mark found on his body.

When Atharid heard of these things he ordered that Sabas should be put to death by drowning. As he was being hurried off alone to his execution he said, “What evil has Sansala done that he is not also to be put to death?”. “That is not your business”, said the officers of Atharid. "It is not for you to give us orders”. Then the saint gave himself up to prayer and to praising God, until they reached the banks of the river Musaeus. And now some relenting began to stir in the hearts of his persecutors. “Why should we not let this man go”, said they, one to another. “He is innocent, and Atharid will never know”. “Why are you loitering?” said the saint, “instead of doing that which is commanded you? I see that which you cannot see, those waiting on the other side who shall receive me to glory”. Still praising God he was thrown into the river, with his neck tightly bound to a beam, so that he seems to have been strangled rather than drowned. His body, untouched by beast or bird, was brought to Julius Soranus, the Roman Duke of Scytha, and by him sent as a precious gift to his native country of Cappadocia.

It is from the letter accompanying the relics that these details—almost our only indication of the manner of life led by the Goths in Dacia—have been taken. A somewhat later and less interesting document contains the history of the martyrdom of Nicetas, a young Gothic nobleman, who on account of his shapely body and his generous soul had obtained one of the foremost places in the nation. He is represented as having been a disciple of Theophilus, the Bishop of the Crimean Goths who subscribed the Acts of the Council of Nicaea; and he was therefore doubtless one of the Catholic, not one of the Arian converts to the new faith. “At length” says the record, “the blood-thirsty Athanaric broke out into cruel persecution of the Christians and urged those who were about him to do the same. Threatened by these enemies of God, Nicetas heeded them not, but continued to preach the true religion. At length, breaking forth into open violence they attacked him in the act of preaching, forcibly haled him away and ordered him to abjure his faiths He persistently confessed Christ, and honoured him as God, mocking at and scorning all their outrages. Having hacked his body with knives—ah what madness—they then flung him into the fire. Still through all these sufferings the saint ceased not to sing the praises of God and to confess his faith in him. Thus witnessing a good confession to the end, he, with many of his countrymen, received the crown of martyrdom, and gave up his spirit into the hands of God”. This execution took place according to the martyrologist when the pious and gentle Gratian was exercising hereditary rule over Rome.

It is plainly an error to speak of Nicetas as having himself subscribed those acts, since an interval of forty-four years intervened between the Council and Athanaric’s persecution, and the whole drift of the story implies that Nicetas was at any rate not an old man at the latter date. As we shall see in the next chapter, Gratian son of Valentinian was associated in the Empire in 369, and came into full possession of power on his father's death in 375. As far as this indication of time goes —we cannot attach to it any great authority— it would seem to show, what is not in itself improbable, that the persecution of the Christians, commenced by Athanaric in 369 or 370, was still raging in 375.

This outburst of zeal on behalf of the old idolatries by no means restored unity or peace to the Gothic Commonwealth. There was another Judge of the nation, named Fritigern, younger apparently than Athanaric, of noble, and what in a later age would have been called chivalrous, temper, probably imbued with some degree of Roman culture, and inclined to look favourably on the arts and the religion of the Empire. Whether the civil war which broke out between him and Athanaric was cause or effect of the persecutions we cannot now determine; probably the political and the religious motives acted and reacted upon one another. Fritigern, however, was defeated, and as his territory bordered on the Danube, he crossed that river and sought succour from his Roman friends. We are told that the troops of Valens defeated those of Athanaric and compelled him to seek safety in ignominious flight. The silence of Ammianus, who is our best authority, inclines us to doubt whether any such signal victory was gained by the Romans over the Goths; but the subsequent course of events shows that by the year 376 Fritigern was again ruling over Visigoths on the northern shore of the Danube, and apparently at peace with Athanaric.

But the condition of Gothia at the opening of that year certainly seemed to forebode but little danger to the peace of South-Eastern Europe. The Goths had made that movement which the prophetic soul of Julian foresaw, and had failed. Even civil war in the Empire had not enabled them to gain any firm footing within it. After three year’s fighting they had been fain to consent to an ignominious peace. Since that time, civil war among themselves, the contest of opposing faiths and civilizations, cruel persecutions inflicted and endured, had grievously weakened the Visigothic state. Even the far-away Ostrogoths had witnessed, and had apparently not avenged, the presence of the Roman eagles on their plains. To an accurate and impartial observer it must have been clear that at any rate from the Gothic race no danger need be feared by the mighty Empire of Rome. But the iron nature of that race had not yet been passed through the fire.