Gratian the Elder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gratian the Elder from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum

Gratian the Elder (/ˈɡrʃən/; Latin: Gratianus Funarius; Gratianus Major, "Gratian the Elder") was an Illyrian soldier of the Roman Empire who flourished in the 4th century. He was the father of Roman Emperors, Valentinian I and Valens, founders of the Valentinianic Dynasty.


Gratian originated from the town of Cibalae (Vinkovci), in southern Pannonia Secunda (modern Croatia), possibly in the 280s.[1] During his youth, he obtained the cognomen Funarius /fjˈnɛriəs/, meaning "the rope-man" because he was a rope salesman. Gratian joined the army and rose through the ranks to become protector domesticus during the reign of Constantine the Great.[2] A protector domesticus named "...atianus" is attested at Salona (Split) during this time, leading some to think Gratian could have been stationed there.[2] Gratian's first independent command was as a tribune, probably in the mobile field army of Constantine.[2] During the late 320's or early 330's he was made comes of Africa, possibly to supervise the frontier.[3] However, Gratian was soon accused of embezzlement and was forced to retire.[4] Gratian was recalled during the early 340s and was made comes of Britannia. He may have been recalled to command a unit of comitatenses under emperor Constans I during his campaign on the island in the winter of 342/3.[4] After his military career ended, Gratian returned to his birthplace and lived as a private citizen with good reputation.[5]

In Gratian's retirement, emperor Constantius II (reigned 337–360) confiscated all of his estates because of his suspected support of the usurper Magnentius. Nevertheless, he was still popular within the army; this popularity could have contributed to the successful careers of his sons. When his son Valens became emperor in 364, the Senate in Constantinople decreed a brass statue of him.

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ Lenski, Noel Emmanuel (2002). Failure of empire: Valens and the Roman state in the fourth century A.D. University of California Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-520-23332-4. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Tomlin, R. (1973). The Emperor Valentinian I. p. 2. 
  3. ^ Tomlin, R. (1973). The Emperor Valentinian I. p. 3. 
  4. ^ a b Tomlin, R. (1973). The Emperor Valentinian I. p. 4. 
  5. ^ Tomlin, R. (1973). The emperor Valentinian I. p. 5.