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The name of three Emperors of the West

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Valentinian, the name of three Emperors of the West.

VALENTINIAN I (FLAVIUS VALENTINIANUS), 364-75, b. at Cibalis (probably Mikanovici), Pannonia, Hungary, of humble parents, in 321; d. at Bregetio, near Pressburg, November 17, 375. He entered the army early, became a tribune of the scutarii about 360, and accompanied Julian the Apostate to Antioch, whence in 363 he was exiled to Gaul for refusing to honor idols. On Jovian’s death Valentinian was proclaimed emperor (February 26, 364), and at once he appointed his brother Valens ruler of the East. In 365 he went again to Gaul to stop the inroads of the Alammani and Burgundians; the former were defeated at Charpeigne and Chalons-sur-Marne, but in 367 captured Mainz. A little later they were overthrown by Valentinian at Solicinium, but with heavy Roman losses. In 374 Valentinian concluded a treaty with their king Macrianus. In 368 the Picts and Scots were driven back from Britain, and the province of Valentia formed. While in Gaul Valentinian repudiated his first wife Valeria Severa, or at least he married a Sicilian, Justina, who became the mother of Valentinian II. In June, 374, the emperor was called to Illyricum by the incursions of the Quadi and Sarmatians; he made his headquarters at Bregetio, where during the negotiations with the Quadi he died from apoplexy. He was buried at Constantinople.

Though a sincere Christian, Valentinian generally abstained from interfering in religious questions, unless public interests forced him to act; probably in his endeavors to observe impartiality, he bestowed more favors on the Arians and heathens; his conduct contrasted strongly with that of Valens who ardently supported the Arians. Valentinian revoked Julian’s edict, which forbade Christians to teach. He prohibited nocturnal sacrificial practices and magic, probably because they were causes of public disorder, for at the request of Preetextatus, proconsul of Achaia, he tolerated the mysteries of Eleusis and in 371 declared haruspicia legal. Constantius had formerly applied the property of the pagan temples to Christian churches, and Julian had given the church property to the temples, but Valentinian claimed all this transferred property, possibly from a desire of wealth, as well as from a wish to be impartial to all religions and also to reduce public taxation. He restored the cross and the name of Christ to the labarum from which Julian had removed them, supported Pope Damasus against Ursinus in the dispute concerning the papal election, forbade judicial proceedings on Sundays, exempted Christian soldiers from guarding pagan temples, or Christians from being made gladiators. On the other hand, he increased the privileges of the provincial priests of paganism (as the old Roman religion now began to be called), restricted the right of asylum, forbade the Christian clergy to receive legacies from Christian women unless they were their heirs; though no corresponding restriction was placed on pagan priests. Moreover, lest the wealthy should become clerics to enjoy clerical immunity, he prohibited them from receiving orders unless they first renounced their patrimony; but he ordered bishops to be tried by their peers. The Manichieans he considered political disturbers and in 372 forbade their meetings at Rome, confiscated their houses, and punished their teachers. He supported the Arian Bishop of Milan, Auxentius, when excommunicated, believing him to be orthodox; however, he confirmed the decrees of the Synod of Illyria (375) against the Pneumatomachians and addressed a special letter to the bishops of Asia, ordering the homousian doctrine of the Trinity to be taught, notwithstanding, as he said, the example and practice of Valens; but his untimely end prevented him from enforcing his instructions on this point. Valentinian was affable and kind, but vain; he was a courageous, skillful soldier, and was ready to profess his faith openly when called upon; he wished to restore matters to the condition in which Constantine had left them, but in doing so abstained from emphasizing his own views; his legislative activity was very great, not the least interesting of his edicts being one in 368, by which he appointed fourteen physicians at Rome to care for the poor at the public expense.

Valentinian II

(FLAVIUS VALENTINIANUS), 375-392, b. in Gaul about 371, murdered at Vienne, Dauphiny, Gaul, May 15, 392, son of Valentinian I and his second wife Justina. He was never much more than a merely nominal ruler, for while Gratian ruled in the East, most of the West was under the control of Magnus Maximus, Italy was all that was left to him, and even there the real ruler was his mother Justina, with whom he resided at Milan. In 387 Maximus, who had usurped the northern provinces in 383, invaded Italy and Justina and Valentinian fled to Thessalonica to seek the aid of Theodosius, Emperor of the East. Maximus was defeated, but Justina soon died, and Valentinian fell under the evil influence of Arbogast, who had him assassinated later. Valentinian was weak, but just, and loved peace. Justina was opposed to the orthodox party; she endeavored to set up an Arian bishop at Milan and to procure a church for his followers, but was thwarted by St. Ambrose, who protested that the churches belonged to the bishop not to the emperor. And when the Roman senate attempted in 384 and 391 to restore the altar of victory and the pagan rites, it was St. Ambrose again who triumphed. On January 23, 386, Valentinian published an edict protecting the Arian supporters of the Council of Ariminum, but this was overruled by Theodosius. On the other hand he supported Pope Damasus against his enemy Ursinus. With Gratian he reaffirmed the exemption of the clergy from the jurisdiction of the civil tribunals in religious matters. In 386 he issued an edict for the erection of the Basilica of St. Paul and directed Sallust, the prefect of Rome, to cooperate with Pope Siricus in this matter. The basilica was consecrated in 390. After Justina’s death Valentinian abandoned Arianism, became a catechumen, and invited St. Ambrose to come to Gaul to administer baptism to him, but was not spared to receive it. His body was brought to Milan, where the saint delivered his funeral oration, “De obitu Valentiniani consolatio”, in which he dwells on the efficacy of baptism of desire (P.L., XVI).

Valentinian III

425-55, b. at Ravenna, July 3, 419; d. at Rome, March 16, 455; son of Constantius III and Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius, succeeded Emperor Honorius. In 437 he married his cousin Eudoxia at Constantinople. During his reign the Western Empire hastened to decay. Britain was abandoned in 446, Aetius failed to hold Gaul against the Franks, Burgundians, and Huns, while Africa was lost in 439 by Boniface, who was defeated by the Vandals under Huneric, later married to Valentinian’s daughter Eudoxia. On July 17, 425, all schismatics were ordered to leave Rome; in the same year the immunity of the clergy from civil jurisdiction was reaffirmed, though Valentinian abrogated this privilege later in 452; on April 8, 426, the Jews were forbidden to disinherit their children who became Christians. Valentinian was a strong adversary of the Manichieans and in 445 declared them guilty of sacrilege, forbade them to reside in cities, and pronounced them incapable of performing any judicial acts. When appealed to by Leo I in the dispute with St. Hilary of Poitiers concerning the latter’s metropolitan rights, he addressed a constitution to Aetius, Governor of Gaul, strongly supporting Leo. In it he emphasized the papal supremacy, founded on the position of St. Peter as head of the episcopacy, and pointed out the necessity of one supreme head for the spiritual kingdom, and ordered the civil authorities to bring to Rome any bishop who refused to come there when called by the pope. In 447 he issued an edict to prevent the violation of sepulchres. He was at Rome, with his wife and mother, in February, 450, for the celebration of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, and after consultation with Pope Leo took active steps for the calling of a general Council, which met at Chalcedon in October, 451. Valentinian presented Xystus III with 2000 lbs. of silver to construct a tabernacle in the Lateran basilica, and in addition with a large golden ornament representing Christ and His Apostles, for the Confessio of St. Peter. As he grew older Valentinian displayed a vindictive, feeble, hesitating character; his training seems to have been purposely neglected by his mother, the real ruler. On the approach of Attila he fled from Ravenna, his imperial residence, to Rome, which was saved later, as is known by Pope St. Leo. After his mother’s death (450), he gave way to his passions. In 454 he caused Aetius and his friends to be murdered; at last he was assassinated while attending the chariot races in the Via Labicana, Rome, near the tomb of St. Helena, at the instigation, it is said, of a Roman senator, Petronius Maximus, whose wife he had wronged.


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