Gratian (usurper)

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Usurper of the Western Roman Empire
Reign 407
Predecessor Marcus
Successor Constantine III
Died 407
Full name

Gratian or Gratianus[1] (died 407) was a Roman usurper (407) in Roman Britain.


Following the death of the usurper Marcus, Gratian was acclaimed as emperor by the army in Britain in early 407.[2] His background, as recorded by Orosius, was that he was a native Briton and one of the urban aristocracy.[3] His rule coincided with a huge barbarian invasion that had afflicted Gaul, possibly with the connivance of Stilicho,[4] the Emperor Honorius’s magister militum, who was concerned about the British usurpers.[5] On the last day of December 406, an army of Vandals, Alans and Suebi (Sueves) had crossed the frozen Rhine.[6] During 407, they spread across northern Gaul towards Boulogne, and Zosimus wrote that the troops in Britain feared an invasion across the English Channel.[7]

The army wanted to cross to Gaul and stop the barbarians but Gratian ordered them to remain.[8] Unhappy with this, the troops killed him after a reign of four months[9] and chose Constantine III as their leader.[10]

Geoffrey of Monmouth describes a similar character, named Gracianus Municeps, who is likely the same figure.[11]


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

In literature[edit]

Gratian is a major character in Alfred Duggan's 1951 novel The Little Emperors.


  1. ^ Jones, pg. 518
  2. ^ Jones, pg. 519
  3. ^ Orosius, 7:40:4
  4. ^ Bury, pg. 138
  5. ^ Bury, pg. 139
  6. ^ Bury, pg. 138
  7. ^ Zosimus, 6:3:1
  8. ^ Canduci, pg. 152
  9. ^ Zosimus, 6:2:1
  10. ^ Jones, pg. 519
  11. ^ Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae, 6:1