Name: Flavius Gratianus Augustus
Dates: Birth: 18 April 359; Death: 25 August 383; Rule: 367-383
Parents: Valentinian I and Marina Severa
Wife: Constantia, daughter of Constantius II; Laeta
Gratian ruled as (western) Roman emperor from A.D. 367-383. The son of Emperor Valentinian I, he was born in Sirmium [see Pannonia in this Map of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire] on April 18, 359. He was killed in Lyons on August 25, 383, by Andragathius who was the usurper Maximus' general.
From 364 to November 17, 375 Gratian shared the rule with his father; from 364-378, he shared the rule with his uncle, Valens.
When Valentinian I died at Brigetio [also in Pannonia], Gratian became senior Augustus in the West. Under military duress, but without rancor, he appointed his four-year-old half-brother, Valentinian, co-ruler (Valentinian II), with Gratian ruler of Gaul, Britain, and Spain, and his brother, a minor under the care of the prefect Probus, in charge of Illyricum, Africa, and Italy.
Gratian was fighting against the raiding Alamanni -- whom his father had earlier defeated at the Battle of Solicinium [see Table of Roman Battles] -- when the eastern ruler, his uncle Valens, needed him, and only arrived too late to help in the fight against the Goths at the disastrous August 9, 378, Battle of Adrianople [see section He (Thrace) in Map of the Roman Empire in 395].
Some blame the defeat on Gratian. Maybe he delayed too long. Maybe he could have gotten there sooner. Since this event was a pivotal point in the rise of the power of the barbarian groups, Gratian belongs in a list of emperors who could have contributed to the fall of Rome. His anti-pagan actions may have contributed further to earn him a place on the list.
After Valens was killed as a result of the battle, Gratian appointed the 33-year-old Theodosius Augustus in the East, on January 19, 379. This may have been another appointment secured by the military that the emperor acquiesced to. [See the Accession of Theodosius.] Theodosius controlled the provinces of Thrace, Asia, and Egypt, and the dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia.
Gratian then returned to the West.
In 381, Gratian moved the capital of the western Roman empire from Trier to Milan.
In 383, Gratian went to Gaul to intercept Magnus Maximus who had been appointed emperor in Britain. Gratian's troops deserted him, so he fled to what is now Lyons and was then Lugdunum. Andragathius who was Maximus's magister equitum, killed him August 25, 383.
ChristianityIn 379, Gratian, an orthodox Christian, recalled those bishops whom the Arian emperor Valens had expelled from the East. Because of his Christian beliefs, Gratian repressed paganism, eliminating "Pontifex Maximus" from his imperial title -- possibly in 379 or as late as 383, but in connection with receiving a senatorial (pagan) embassy in Milan. This title had been held by all preceding emperors from the time of Augustus to Valentinian. He also refused the robe of the office. On the prompting of (saint) Ambrose, Galen removed the altar of Victory from the Roman forum.
"On the Burial Places of the Valentinian Dynasty"
Mark J. Johnson
Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte
Vol. 40, No. 4 (1991), pp. 501-506
"Gratian's Repudiation of the Pontifical Robe"
The Journal of Roman Studies
Vol. 58, Parts 1 and 2 (1968), pp. 96-102
The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, Volume 3, by Edward Gibbon
Fasti romani: The civil and literary chronology of Rome and Constantinopole, from the death of Augustus to the death of Justin II, by Henry Fynes Clinton
Some Primary Sources on Gratian:
- Ammianus Marcellinus
- Paulus Orosius
- Sextus Aurelius Victor