Solidus of Gratian marked:
d·n· gratianus p·f· aug·
|Augustus||24 August 367 – 17 November 375 (under Valentinian I)|
17 November 375 – 25 August 383 (after Valentinian I)
|Co-emperors||Valens (East, 375–378)|
Theodosius I (East, 379–383)
|Born||18 April 359|
Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia)
|Died||25 August 383 (aged 24)|
|Spouse||Flavia Maxima Constantia|
Gratian (//; Latin: Flavius Gratianus; 18 April 359 – 25 August 383) was Roman emperor from 367 to 383. The eldest son of Valentinian I, Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers and was raised to the rank of augustus in 367. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian, took over government of the west, while his half-brother Valentinian II was also acclaimed emperor in Pannonia. Gratian governed the western provinces of the empire, while his uncle Valens was already the emperor over the east.
In 378, Gratian's generals won a decisive victory over the Lentienses, a branch of the Alamanni, at the Battle of Argentovaria. Gratian subsequently led a campaign across the Rhine, the last emperor to do so, and attacked the Lentienses, forcing the tribe to surrender. That same year, the eastern emperor Valens was killed fighting the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, which led to Gratian elevating Theodosius to replace him in 379. Gratian favoured Nicene Christianity over traditional Roman religion, issuing the Edict of Thessalonica, refusing the office of pontifex maximus, and removing the Altar of Victory from the Roman Senate's Curia Julia.
In 383, faced with rebellion by the usurper, Magnus Maximus, Gratian marched his army towards Paris. After a five-day skirmish, near Paris, his army deserted him, he fled to Lyons, and was later murdered.
Gratian was the son of Emperor Valentinian I by Marina Severa, and was born 18 April 359 at Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) in Pannonia. He was named after his grandfather Gratian the Elder. Gratian was first married to Flavia Maxima Constantia, daughter of Constantius II. His second wife was Laeta. Both marriages remained childless.
On 24 August 367 he received from his father the title of Augustus. When his father died on 17 November 375, Gratian's reign as western augustus began. Days later, Gratian's half brother Valentinian II, Valentinian's four-year old son, was also proclaimed augustus by troops in Pannonia.
Gratian's reaction, to Valentinian's elevation, has been recorded as gracious, annoyed, and vindictive. Despite Valentinian being given authority over Italy and Illyricum, and Africa, Gratian ruled the entire western Roman empire.
By 377, Gratian was marching his army east to assist Valens in the suppression of the Goths. When a Germanic tribe, the Lentienses, were made aware the Roman army was marching east, they started raiding across the Rhine. Gratian beat back these raids with two units of auxilia palatina. Undeterred, the Lentienses crossed into Roman territory with 40,000 men. Gratian sent his general Nannienus who defeated the Lentienses in May 378 at the Battle of Argentovaria. Afterward, Gratian counter-attacked across the Upper Rhine into the territory of the Lentienses. After initial trouble facing the Lentienses on high ground, Gratian blockaded the enemy instead and received their surrender. The Lentienses were forced to supply young men to be levied into the Roman army, while the remainder were allowed to return home.
Gratian's uncle Valens, returning from a campaign against the Sasanian Empire, had sent a request for reinforcements against the Goths. The forces Gratian sent never reached Valens due to its commander feigning illness. Weeks later, Gratian had arrived in Castra Martis with a few thousand men, by which time Valens was at Adrianople. It was here that Gratian sent his comes domesticorum (count of the household), Richomeres, to Valens explaining his delay. Aware that Gratian's forces were not going to arrive, Valens attacked the Gothic army and as a result thousands[a] of Romans died in the battle along with the emperor.
Following the battle of Adrianople, the Goths raided from Thrace in 378 to Illyricum the following year. By 380, the Greuthungi tribe of Goths moved into Pannonia, only to be defeated by Gratian. Consequently, the Vandals and Alemanni were threatening to cross the Rhine, now that Gratian had departed from the region. Convinced that one emperor alone was incapable of repelling the inundation of foes on several different fronts, Gratian, now senior Augustus following Valens death, appointed Theodosius I Augustus on 19 January 379 to govern the east.
Revolt and death
Gratian alienated the army by his favoritism towards his Alan deserters whom he made his body-guard and gave them military commands. This favoritism of former enemies and their paganism angered his Christian army. Consequently, on 19 January 383, Theodosius elevated his 5-year-old son, Arcadius, to Augustus, which Gratian refused to acknowledge. By 383, Magnus Maximus, a Roman general, raised the standard of revolt in Britain and invaded Gaul with a large army. Gratian, in the midst of campaigning against the Alemanni, marched his army toward Paris. At Paris, after a five-day skirmish, Gratian's troops deserted and he fled to Lyon. Maximus sent Andragathius who hunted Gratian down and killed him on 25 August 383.
It would not be until 387, possibly even after the death of Magnus Maximus, that Gratian's remains were interred at Mediolanium in the Imperial mausoleum.
Empire and Christianity
At Sirmium Gratian, under the tutorage of Ausonius, passed the Edict of Tolerance in 378. The edict restored bishops exiled by Valens and ensured religious freedoms to all religions. Under the influence of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, took active steps against pagan worship. On 27 February 380, Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica. This edict made Nicene Christianity the only legal form of Christianity and outlawed all other forms of religion. This brought to an end a period of widespread religious tolerance that had existed since the death of Julian.
In 382, Gratian issued edits that removed the statue of the winged goddess Victory from the Senate floor, removed the privileges of the Vestals, and confiscated money designated for sacrifices and ceremonies. Gratian declared that all of the pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury. This resulted in protests from the Roman Senate, led by Symmachus, which in turn was counter-protested by Christian senators, led by Pope Damasus.
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- Media related to Gratian at Wikimedia Commons
- Flavius Gratianus (AD 359 – AD 383)
- This list of Roman laws of the fourth century shows laws passed by Gratian relating to Christianity.