Solidus depicting Valens, marked:
d·n· valens p·f· aug·
|Roman emperor in the East|
|Reign||28 March 364 – 9 August 378|
|Predecessor||Valentinian I (East and West)|
|Western emperors||Valentinian I (364–375)|
Valentinian II (375–378)
Cibalae (Vinkovci, Croatia)
|Died||9 August 378 (aged 49)|
Battle of Adrianople
unknown, killed in battle near Hadrianopolis (Edirne)
|Issue||Valentinianus Galates, Anastasia, Carosa|
|Father||Gratian the Elder|
Flavius Valens (328 – 9 August 378) was Roman emperor from 364 to 378. He was the younger brother of the emperor Valentinian I, who gave Valens the eastern half of the Roman Empire to rule. Before 364, Valens had a largely unremarkable military career. In 378, Valens was defeated and killed at the Battle of Adrianople against the invading Goths, which astonished contemporaries and marked the beginning of barbarian encroachment into Roman territory.
As emperor Valens continually faced threats both internal and external. He defeated, after some dithering, the usurper Procopius in 366, and campaigned against the Goths across the Danube in 367 and 369. In the following years, Valens focused on the eastern frontier, where he faced the perennial threat of Persia, particularly in Armenia, as well as additional conflicts with the Saracens and Isaurians. Domestically, he inaugurated the Aqueduct of Valens in Constantinople, which was longer than all the aqueducts of Rome. In 376–77, the Gothic War broke out, following a mismanaged attempt to settle the Goths in the Balkans. Valens returned from the east to fight the Goths in person, but lack of coordination with his nephew, the western emperor Gratian (Valentinian I's son), as well as poor battle tactics, led to Valens and much of the eastern Roman army dying at a battle near Adrianople in 378.
Although Valens is described as indecisive, impressionable, a mediocre general and overall "utterly undistinguished", he was also a conscientious and capable administrator, and a notable achievement of his was to significantly relieve the burden of taxation on the population. At the same time, his suspicious and fearful disposition, and excessive concern for personal safety, resulted in numerous purges and executions, which heavily stained his reputation. Valens was a fanatic Arian Christian – the last Roman emperor to profess this denomination – and discriminated against Catholics while interfering little in the affairs of the pagans.
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Valens and his brother Valentinian were both born in Cibalae in southern Pannonia (now Vinkovci in Croatia) into an Illyrian family in 328 and 321 respectively. They had grown up on estates purchased by their father Gratian the Elder in Africa and Britain. While Valentinian had been distinguished in an active military career prior to his election, Valens, though already 35 years old, had not participated in either the civil or military affairs of the empire previous to his selection as augustus by his brother.
Appointment as emperor
In February 364, the reigning Emperor Jovian, while hastening to Constantinople to secure his claim to the throne, died in his sleep during a stop at Dadastana, 100 miles east of Ancyra. Valentinian, a tribunus scutariorum, who owed his advancement to the deceased, was elected by the legions to succeed Jovian. He was acclaimed augustus on 26 February, 364. It was the general opinion that Valentinian needed help to handle the cumbersome administration, civil and military, of the large and unwieldy empire, and, on 28 March of the same year, at the express demand of the soldiers for a second augustus, he selected his brother Valens as co-emperor at the Hebdomon, before the Walls of Constantinople. Both emperors were briefly ill, delaying them in Constantinople, but as soon as they recovered, the two augusti travelled together through Adrianople and Naissus to Mediana, where they divided their territories. Valentinian then went on to the West, where the Alemannic wars required his immediate attention.
Valens obtained the eastern half of the Empire: Greece, the Balkans, Egypt, Anatolia and the Levant as far as the border with the Sasanian Empire. Valens was back in his capital of Constantinople by December 364. Valens inherited the eastern portion of an empire that had recently retreated from most of its holdings in Mesopotamia and Armenia because of a treaty that his predecessor Jovian had made with Shapur II of the Sasanian Empire. Valens's first priority after the winter of 365 was to move east in hopes of shoring up the situation.
Revolt of Procopius
By the autumn of 365 he had reached Caesarea in Cappadocia when he learned that a usurper – Julian's maternal cousin Procopius – had had himself acclaimed augustus in Constantinople. Procopius had commanded an auxiliary northern contingent of his relative's army during the Persian expedition and had not been present when Jovian was named his successor in the camp beyond the Tigris. Though Jovian, aside from depriving him of his command, took no further measures against this potential rival, Procopius fell immediately under the suspicion of Valentinian upon the latter's election.
After narrowly escaping arrest, he went into hiding but reemerged some time later at Constantinople where he was able to convince two Gallic legions passing through the capital to proclaim him emperor on 28 September 365. Though his early reception in the city seems to have been lukewarm, Procopius won favor quickly by using propaganda to his advantage: he sealed off the city to outside reports and began spreading rumors that Valentinian had died; he began minting coinage flaunting his connections to the Constantinian dynasty; and he further exploited dynastic claims by using the widow and daughter of Constantius II to act as showpieces for his regime. This program met with some success, particularly among soldiers loyal to the Constantinians and eastern intellectuals who had already begun to feel persecuted by the Valentinians. Valens' dismissal shortly before of Julian's popular minister Sallustius contributed to the general disaffection and to the acceptability of a revolution.
Valens, meanwhile, faltered. When news arrived that Procopius had revolted, Valens considered abdication and perhaps even suicide. Even after he steadied his resolve to fight, Valens's efforts to forestall Procopius were hampered by the fact that most of his troops had already crossed the Cilician gates into Syria when he learned of the revolt. Procopius quickly gained control of the provinces of Asia and Bithynia, winning increasing support for the insurrection. However, Valens recovered, reappointed Sallustius, and dispatched the available legions under veteran generals, Arinthaeus and Arbetio, to march on Procopius.
In the spring of 366 Valens' lieutenants encountered and routed Procopius at the battle of Thyatira, and again shortly after at Nacoleia. On both occasions, Procopius was deserted by his own following in fear of their Imperial adversaries' formidable commanders. Procopius was delivered to justice by members of his own escort, and executed on 27 May. His head was sent to Valentinian in Trier for inspection.
War against the Goths
During Procopius's insurrection, the Gothic king Ermanaric, who ruled a powerful kingdom north of the Danube from the Euxine to the Baltic Sea, had engaged to supply him with troops for the struggle against Valens. The Gothic army, reportedly numbering 30,000 men, arrived too late to help Procopius, but nevertheless invaded Thrace and began plundering the farms and vineyards of the province. Valens, marching north after defeating Procopius, surrounded them with a superior force and forced them to surrender. Ermanaric protested, and when Valens, encouraged by Valentinian, refused to make atonement to the Goths for his conduct, war was declared.
In spring 367, Valens crossed the Danube and attacked the Visigoths under Athanaric, Ermanaric's tributary. The Goths fled into the Carpathian Mountains, and the campaign ended with no decisive conclusion. The following spring, a Danube flood prevented Valens from crossing; instead the Emperor occupied his troops with the construction of fortifications. In 369, Valens crossed again, from Noviodunum, and by devastating the country forced Athanaric into giving battle. Valens was victorious, Athanaric and his forces were able to withdraw in good order and pleaded for peace.
Fortunately for the Goths, Valens expected a new war with the Sasanid Empire in the Middle East and was therefore willing to come to terms. In early 370 Valens and Athanaric met in the middle of the Danube and agreed to a treaty that ended the war. The treaty seems to have largely cut off relations between Goths and Romans, confining trade and the exchange of troops for tribute.
Conflict with the Sassanids
As mentioned before, among Valens' reasons for contracting a hasty and not entirely favorable peace in 369 was the deteriorating state of affairs in the East. Jovian had surrendered Rome's much disputed claim to control over Armenia in 363, and Shapur II was eager to make good on this new opportunity. The Persian emperor began enticing Armenian lords over to his camp and eventually forced the defection of the Arsacid Armenian king, Arshak II (Arsaces II), whom he quickly arrested and incarcerated. The Armenian nobility responded by asking Valens to return Arshak's son, Papas (Pap). Valens agreed and sent Pap back to Armenia, but as these events took place during the war with the Goths he could not support him militarily. In response to the return of Pap, Shapur personally led an invasion force to seize control of Armenia. Pap and his followers took refuge in the mountains while Artaxata, the Armenian capital, and the city of Artogerassa along with several strongholds and castles were destroyed. Shapur sent a second invasion force to Caucasian Iberia to drive out the pro-Roman king Sauromaces II, and put his own appointee, Sauromaces's uncle Aspacures II on the throne.
In the summer following his Gothic settlement, Valens sent his magister peditum (Master of Foot) Arinthaeus to support Pap. The following spring a force of twelve legions were sent under Terentius to regain Iberia and to garrison Armenia near Mount Npat. When Shapur counterattacked into Armenia in 371, his forces were bested by Valens' generals Traianus and Vadomarius and the Armenian sparapet (general) Mushegh Mamikonian at Bagavan and Gandzak. Valens had overstepped the 363 treaty and then successfully defended his transgression. A truce settled after the 371 victory held as a quasi-peace for the next five years while Shapur was forced to deal with a Kushan invasion on his eastern frontier.
Meanwhile, troubles broke out with the boy-king Papas, who began acting in high-handed fashion, even executing the Armenian bishop Narses and demanding control of a number of Roman cities, including Edessa. Pressed by his generals and fearing that Papas would defect to the Persians, Valens made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the prince and later had him executed inside Armenia. In his stead, Valens imposed another Arsacid, Varasdates (Varazdat), who ruled under the regency of the sparapet Mushegh Mamikonian, a friend of Rome.
None of this sat well with the Persians, who began agitating again for compliance with the 363 treaty. As the eastern frontier heated up in 375, Valens began preparations for a major expedition. Meanwhile, trouble was brewing elsewhere. In Isauria, the mountainous region of western Cilicia, a major revolt had broken out in 375 which diverted troops formerly stationed in the East. Furthermore, by 377, the Saracens under Queen Mavia had broken into revolt and devastated a swath of territory stretching from Phoenicia and Palestine as far as the Sinai. Though Valens successfully brought both uprisings under control, the opportunities for action on the eastern frontier were limited by these skirmishes closer to home.
On 17 November 375, Valens' older brother Valentinian died of a burst blood vessel in his skull in Pannonia. Gratian, Valentinian's son and Valens' nephew, had already been associated with his father in the imperial dignity and was joined by his half-brother Valentinian II who was elevated, on their father's death, to augustus by the imperial troops in Pannonia.
Valens' plans for an eastern campaign were never realized. A transfer of troops to the Western Empire in 374 had left gaps in Valens' mobile forces. In preparation for an eastern war, Valens initiated an ambitious recruitment program designed to fill those gaps. It was thus not entirely unwelcome news when Valens heard of Ermanaric's death and the disintegration of his kingdom before an invasion of hordes of barbaric Huns from the far east. After failing to hold the Dniester or the Prut rivers against the Huns, the Goths retreated southward in a massive emigration, seeking new settlements and shelter south of the Danube, which they thought could be held against the enemy. In 376, the Visigoths under their leader Fritigern advanced to the far shores of the lower Danube and sent an ambassador to Valens who had set up his capital in Antioch, and requested asylum. 
As Valens' advisers were quick to point out, these Goths could supply troops who would at once swell Valens' ranks and decrease his dependence on provincial troop levies—thereby increasing revenues from the recruitment tax. However, it would mean hiring them and paying in gold or silver for their services. Fritigern had enjoyed contact with Valens in the 370s when Valens supported him in a struggle against Athanaric stemming from Athanaric's persecution of Gothic Christians. Though a number of Gothic groups apparently requested entry, Valens granted admission only to Fritigern and his followers. Others would soon follow, however.
When Fritigern and his Goths, to the number of 200,000 warriors and almost a million all told, crossed the Danube, Valens's mobile forces were tied down in the east, on the Persian frontier (Valens was attempting to withdraw from the harsh terms imposed by Shapur and was meeting some resistance on the latter's part). This meant that only limitanei units were present to oversee the Goths' settlement. The small number of imperial troops present prevented the Romans from stopping a Danube crossing by a group of Ostrogoths and yet later on by Huns and Alans. What started out as a controlled resettlement might any moment turn into a major invasion. But the situation was worsened by corruption in the Roman administration, as Valens' generals accepted bribes rather than depriving the Goths of their weapons as Valens had stipulated and then proceeded to enrage them by such exorbitant prices for food that they were soon driven to the last extremity. Meanwhile the Romans failed to prevent the crossing of other barbarians who were not included in the treaty. In early 377 the Goths revolted after a commotion with the people of Marcianopolis, and defeated the corrupt Roman governor Lupicinus near the city at the Battle of Marcianople.
After joining forces with the Ostrogoths under Alatheus and Saphrax who had crossed without Valens' consent, the combined barbarian group spread out to devastate the country before combining to meet Roman advance forces under Traianus and Richomeres. In a sanguinary battle at Ad Salices, the Goths were momentarily checked, and Saturninus, now Valens' lieutenant in the province, undertook a strategy of hemming them in between the lower Danube and the Euxine, hoping to starve them into surrender. However, Fritigern forced him to retreat by inviting some of the Huns to cross the river in the rear of Saturninus's ranged defenses. The Romans then fell back, incapable of containing the irruption, though with an elite force of his best soldiers the general Sebastian was able to fall upon and destroy several of the smaller predatory bands. By 378, Valens himself was ready to march west from his eastern base in Antioch. He withdrew all but a skeletal force—some of them Goths—from the east and moved west, reaching Constantinople by 30 May, 378. Valens' councillors, comes Richomeres, and his generals Frigeridus and Victor cautioned Valens to wait for the arrival of Gratian with his troops from Gaul, fresh from defeating the Alemanni, and Gratian himself strenuously urged this prudent course in his letters. But meanwhile the citizens of Constantinople were clamouring for the emperor to march against the enemy whom he had himself introduced into the Empire, and jeering the contrast between himself and his co-augustus. Valens decided to advance at once and win a victory on his own.
Battle of Adrianople and death of Valens
After a brief stay aimed at building his troop strength and gaining a toehold in Thrace, Valens moved out to Adrianople. From there, he marched against the confederated barbarian army on 9 August 378 in what would become known as the Battle of Adrianople. Although negotiations were attempted, these broke down when a Roman unit sallied forth and carried both sides into battle. The Romans held their own early on but were crushed by the surprise arrival of Visigoth cavalry which split their ranks.
The primary source for the battle is Ammianus Marcellinus. Valens had left a sizeable guard with his baggage and treasures depleting his force. His right cavalry wing arrived at the Gothic camp sometime before the left wing arrived. It was a very hot day and the Roman cavalry was engaged without strategic support, wasting its efforts while they suffered in the heat.
Meanwhile, Fritigern once again sent an emissary of peace in his continued manipulation of the situation. The resultant delay meant that the Romans present on the field began to succumb to the heat. The army's resources were further diminished when an ill-timed attack by the Roman archers made it necessary to recall Valens' emissary, comes Richomeres. The archers were beaten and retreated in humiliation. Returning from foraging to find the battle in full swing, Gothic cavalry under the command of Alatheus and Saphrax now struck and, in what was probably the most decisive event of the battle, the Roman cavalry fled.
From here, Ammianus gives two accounts of Valens' demise. In the first account, Ammianus states that Valens was "mortally wounded by an arrow, and presently breathed his last breath" (XXXI.12). His body was never found or given a proper burial. In the second account, Ammianus states the Roman infantry was abandoned, surrounded and cut to pieces. Valens was wounded and carried to a small wooden hut. The hut was surrounded by the Goths who put it to the torch, evidently unaware of the prize within. According to Ammianus, this is how Valens perished (XXXI.13.14–6).
A third, apocryphal, account states that Valens was struck in the face by a Gothic dart and then perished while leading a charge. He wore no helmet, in order to encourage his men. This action turned the tide of the battle which resulted in a tactical victory but a strategic loss.
The church historian Socrates likewise gives two accounts for the death of Valens.
Some have asserted that he was burnt to death in a village whither he had retired, which the barbarians assaulted and set on fire. But others affirm that having put off his imperial robe he ran into the midst of the main body of infantry; and that when the cavalry revolted and refused to engage, the infantry were surrounded by the barbarians, and completely destroyed in a body. Among these it is said the Emperor fell, but could not be distinguished, in consequence of his not having on his imperial habit.
When the battle was over, two-thirds of the eastern army lay dead. Many of their best officers had also perished. What was left of the army of Valens was led from the field under the cover of night by comes Richomeres and general Victor.
For Rome, the battle incapacitated the government. Emperor Gratian, nineteen years old, was overcome by the debacle, and, until he appointed Theodosius I, unable to deal with the catastrophe, which spread out of control.
"Valens was utterly undistinguished, still only a protector, and possessed no military ability: he betrayed his consciousness of inferiority by his nervous suspicion of plots and savage punishment of alleged traitors," writes A. H. M. Jones. But Jones admits that "he was a conscientious administrator, careful of the interests of the humble. Like his brother, he was an earnest Christian." He diminished the oppressive burden of the taxes which had been instituted by Constantine and his sons, and was humbly deferential to his brother in the latter's edicts of reform, as the institution of Defensors (a sort of substitute for the ancient Tribunes, guardians of the lower classes). His moderation and chastity in his private life were everywhere celebrated. At the same time, continuous proscriptions and executions, originating in his weak and fearful disposition, disgraced the dozen years of his reign. "An anxious regard to his personal safety was the ruling principle of the administration of Valens", writes Gibbon. To have died in so inglorious a battle has thus come to be regarded as the nadir of an unfortunate career. This is especially true because of the profound consequences of Valens' defeat. Adrianople spelled the beginning of the end for Roman territorial integrity in the late Empire and this fact was recognized even by contemporaries. Ammianus understood that it was the worst defeat in Roman history since the Battle of Edessa, and Rufinus called it "the beginning of evils for the Roman empire then and thereafter."
Valens is also credited with the commission of a short history of the Roman State. This work, produced by Valens' secretary Eutropius, and known by the name Breviarium ab Urbe condita, tells the story of Rome from its founding. According to some historians, Valens was motivated by the necessity of learning Roman history, that he, the royal family, and their appointees might better mix with the Roman senatorial class.
Struggles with the religious nature of the Empire
During his reign, Valens had to confront the theological diversity that was beginning to create division in the Empire. Julian (361–363), had tried to revive the pagan religions. His reactionary attempt took advantage of the dissensions among the different Christian factions, and a largely Pagan rank and file military. However, in spite of broad support, his actions were often viewed as excessive, and before he died in a campaign against the Persians, he was often treated with disdain. His death was considered a sign from God.
Valens was baptised by the Arian bishop of Constantinople before he set out on his first war against the Goths. While the Nicene Christian writers of his time identified Valens with the Arian faction and accused him of persecuting Nicene Christians, modern historians have described both Valens and Valentinian I as primarily interested in maintaining social order and have minimized their theological concerns. Although Athanasius was impelled, under his reign, to briefly go into hiding, Valens maintained a close dependency on his brother Valentinian and treated St. Basil mildly, both of whom supported the Nicene position. Not long after Valens died the cause of Arianism in the Roman East was to come to an end. His successor Theodosius I would favor the Nicene Creed and suppress the Arians.
- Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 931. sfn error: no target: CITEREFJonesMartindaleMorris (help)
- Martindale, John R.; Jones, A. H. M.; Morris, John, eds. (1971). "Domnica". The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume I, AD 260–395. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 265. ISBN 0-521-07233-6.
- Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 930. sfn error: no target: CITEREFJonesMartindaleMorris (help)
- Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press. p. 505. ISBN 978-0-521-84026-2.
- Kienast, Dietmar (2017) . "Valens". Römische Kaisertabelle: Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie (in German). WBG. pp. 316–317. ISBN 978-3-534-26724-8.
- Nicholson, Oliver, ed. (2018). "Valens". The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8.
- New Catholic Encyclopedia, "Valens"
- Oxford Classical Dictionary, 'Valens'
- Encyclopædia Britannica, "Valens"
- Lenski, Noel Emmanuel (2002). Failure of empire: Valens and the Roman state in the fourth century A.D. University of California Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-520-23332-4. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Edward Gibbon, The History of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. XXV., p. 848
- Gibbon, pp. 844–847
- Gibbon, p. 847, 848
- An Encyclopedia Of World History, (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1952), chap. II., Ancient History, p. 120
- Gibbon, Ibid. 849
- Noel Emmanuel Lenski, Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D., University of California Press, 2002
- Gibbon, p. 850
- Gibbon, pp. 850–852
- Gibbon, p. 852, 853
- Gibbon, p. 853, 854
- Gibbon, p. 890, 891
- Gibbon, p. 892
- Gibbon, Ibid. p. 892, 893
- Hughes, Ian, Imperial Brothers, pp. 86–88.
- Hughes, Ian, Imperial Brothers, p. 95.
- Gibbon, p. 893, 894
- Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.9.
- Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.10–11.
- Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.13.
- Hughes, Ian, Imperial Brothers, pp 102–106.
- Gibbon, chap. XXVI., pp. 920–923
- Gibbon, p. 925
- Gibbon, p. 925
- Gibbon, Ibid.. p. 926
- Gibbon, p. 927, 928
- Gibbon, p. 931, 932
- Gibbon, p. 935
- Gibbon, p. 934, 935
- Gibbon, p. 935, 936
- Historiae, 31.12–13.
- The Ecclesiastical History, VI.38, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.ii.vii.xxxviii.html
- Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin, The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1986), p. 139.
- Gibbon, chap. XXV., p. 859
- Gibbon, p. 858
- Gibbon, p. 857
- Eutropius, Breviarium, ed. H. W. Bird, Liverpool University Press, 1993, p. xix.
- Gibbon, Chapter 25. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGibbon (help)
- Day et al. 2016, p. 28f.
- Gibbon, pp. 861–864
- Day, J.; Hakola, R.; Kahlos, M.; Tervahauta, U. (2016). Spaces in Late Antiquity: Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-05179-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Martindale, John R.; Jones, A. H. M.; Morris, John, eds. (1971). "Flavius Valens 8". The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume I, AD 260–395. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 930–931. ISBN 0-521-07233-6.
- Lenski, Noel (1997). "Valens (364–378 A.D)". De Imperatoribus Romanis.
- Lenski, Noel (2003). Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23332-8.
- Media related to Valens at Wikimedia Commons
- Laws of Valens
- This list of Roman laws of the fourth century shows laws passed by Valens relating to Christianity.
ValensBorn: 328 Died: 9 August 378
| Roman emperor
With: Valentinian I, Gratian, and Valentinian II
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian I
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian I
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian I
Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian I
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian II
| Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian II
Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius