Valens (Greek: Ουάλης, translit. Ouálēs; 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.

Golden coin depicting man with diadem facing right
Solidus depicting Valens, marked:
d·n· valens p·f· aug·
Roman emperor in the East
Reign28 March 364 – 9 August 378
PredecessorValentinian I (East and West)
SuccessorTheodosius I
Western emperorsValentinian I (364–375)
Gratian (375–378)
Valentinian II (375–378)
Cibalae, Pannonia Secunda (modern-day Vinkovci, Croatia)
Died9 August 378 (aged 49)[1]
Battle of Adrianople
(modern-day Edirne, Turkey)
unknown, killed in battle near Hadrianopolis
(now Edirne, Turkey)
Valentinianus Galates[1]
Flavius Valens[a][b]
FatherGratianus Funarius

As emperor Valens continually faced threats both internal and external.[9] 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,[10] and a notable achievement of his was to significantly relieve the burden of taxation on the population.[11] At the same time, his suspicious and fearful disposition, and excessive concern for personal safety, resulted in numerous treason trials and executions, which heavily stained his reputation. In religious matters, Valens favored a compromise between Nicene Christianity and the various non-trinitarian Christian sects,[8] and interfered little in the affairs of the pagans.[12][11][13]

Early life and military careerEdit

Marble bust possibly representing Valens or Honorius (Capitoline Museums)

Valens and his brother Valentinian were born, in 328 and 321 respectively, to an Illyrian family resident in Cibalae (Vinkovci) in Pannonia Secunda.[14][15] Their father Gratianus Funarius, a native of Cibalae, had served as a senior officer in the Roman army and as comes Africae.[16] The brothers grew up on estates purchased by Gratianus in Africa and Britain.[17] Valens served in the protectores domestici under the emperors Julian (r. 361–363) and Jovian (r. 363–364). According to the 5th-century Greek historian Socrates Scholasticus, while serving as a protector domesticus, Valens refused pressure to offer pagan sacrifices during the reign of the polytheistic emperor Julian.[15]

Valens's elder brother Valentinian also joined the protectores, rising to tribunus in 357;[16] he served in Gaul and in Mesopotamia during the reign of Constantius II (r. 337–361).[16] According to the Chronicle of Jerome and the Chronicon Paschale, Valens's eldest nephew Gratian was born in 359 at Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) to Valentinian's wife Marina Severa.[18][19]

In late 364, the reigning emperor Jovian, who had been a protector domesticus under Constantius II and Julian and a primicerius domesticorum from 363, had on 27 June 363 been acclaimed augustus by the army at Maranga on the Tigris during Julian's Persian War, was hastening to Constantinople to secure his claim to the purple.[20] According to one of Themistius's orations, on 1 January 364 Jovian staged a consular entry into Ancyra (Ankara) for the beginning of his first consulship, an honour he shared with his son Varronianus.[20] He died during a stop at Dadastana.[20] The emperor died on 17 February according to the Latin historian Eutropius, but on the 19 February according to the According to Eutropius, Jovian was deified by consecratio as Latin: Divus Iovianus, lit.'the Divine Jovian'.[21] Valentinian, a tribunus scholae secundiae scutariorum, owed his advancement to the deceased.[22]

In the history written by Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Valentinian was summoned to Nicaea by a council of military and civil officials who acclaimed him augustus.[16] According to the Consularia Constantinopolitana and the Chronicon Paschale, the date of his elevation was 25 February 364.[23]

According to the 5th-century Greek historian Sozomen, Valentinian was a Nicene Christian.[16] Valens, on the other hand, was an Arian Christian (a "Homoean").[15]

Solidus of Valens showing Valentinian and Valens on the reverse, marked: victoria augg· ("the Victory of Our Augusti"). They hold together the orb, a symbol of power.


Valentinian appointed his brother Valens tribunus stabulorum (or stabuli) on 1 March 364 and both brothers became Roman consul for the first time.[16][21] According to the Consularia Constantinopolitana, Valentinian raised his brother Valens to be his co-augustus on 28 March 364, at Constantinople.[16][15][21]

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 Constantinian Walls.[24][25]

A solidus of Valens with a pearl diadem and a roseate fibula
Reverse of a solidus of Valens, marked: restitutor reipublicae ("the restitutor of the Republic") and showing the emperor holding a vexillum and a globe supporting a Victory, who crowns him with a laurel wreath

Early reignEdit

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.[26][27]

Valens began his consulship in Constantinople and Valentinian took up his consulship in Mediolanum (Milan).[16][21] Valens's wife Domnica may have become augusta in 364.[21]

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.

In the summer of 365, the 365 Crete earthquake and ensuing tsunami caused destruction around the Eastern Mediterranean.

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.[citation needed]

Usurpation of Procopius (365–366)Edit

With Valens absent from the imperial city, Procopius, a maternal cousin of Julian, the last emperor of the Constantinian dynasty, was acclaimed augustus on 28 September 365.[21] Valens was at Caesarea in Cappadocia (Kayseri) when he discovered this.[28] According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Procopius was from Cilicia.[29] Under Constantius II (r. 337–361), Procopius had been tribunus et notarius from 358, and under Julian he had become comes primi ordinis.[21] According to the 5th-century Greek historian Zosimus, Procopius may have been intended as Julian's successor.[29] 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.[30] According to the Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus, in the brief reign of Jovian (r. 363–364) Procopius had withdrawn from office and lived as a private citizen.[21] 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.[30] Like his predecessor Constantius II, Valens was a devout Arian and did not hesitate to exile Nicaeans.

As part of his claim to legitimacy Procopius ensured he was always accompanied by the posthumous daughter of Constantius II, Constantia, still a child, and her mother Faustina, the dowager empress.[31] Constantia had been born after her father's death to Faustina, the late emperor's third wife.[32][33] Procopius was unpopular, being compelled to increase taxes.[29] Valens' dismissal shortly before of Julian's popular minister Salutius contributed to the general disaffection and to the acceptability of a revolution.[34]

Valens, meanwhile, faltered. When news arrived that Procopius had revolted, Valens considered abdication and perhaps even suicide. Even after he determined 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 his insurrection. However, Valens recovered, reappointed Salutius, and dispatched the available legions under veteran generals, Arinthaeus and Arbitio, to march on Procopius.[35]

Valens sent an army against Procopius, but according to Ammianus Marcellinus, before they reached Constantinople they defected to Procopius, whose use of his Constantinian hostages had met with some success.[31][29] According to Ammianus Marcellinus and the later Greek historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen, Valens eventually prevailed after eight months and had Procopius executed and subjected to damnatio memoriae on the 28 May 366, after defeating his forces at the Battle of Thyatira and again at the Battle of Nacoleia at Nacoleia (Seyitgazi) on 27 May.[21][29] On both occasions, Procopius was deserted by his own following in fear of their adversaries' formidable commanders. Procopius was put on trial by members of his own escort, and executed on 27 May.[36] According to Ammianus Marcellinus, a relative of Procopius', a former protector domesticus named Marcellus, was proclaimed emperor in Procopius's place in Chalcedon, but according to Zosimus he was swiftly captured and executed.[21] Valens then had to face the threat from the Sasanian Empire and the Goths.[15]

Solidus of Valentinian I showing Valentinian and Gratian on the reverse, marked: victores augusti ("the Victors Augusti"). A palm bough is between them and Victory crowns each with a wreath

Formation of the Valentinianic dynastyEdit

According to the Consularia Constantinopolitana, Valens's son Valentinianus Galates was born on 18 January 366.[21] The same year, Valens's nephew Gratian was appointed consul in 366 and was entitled nobilissimus puer.[18] After Valentinian recovered unexpectedly from an illness in 367, the emperor raised his eight-year-old son to imperial rank, elevating him to his co-augustus on 24 August at Civitas Ambianensium (Amiens), without having first appointed him caesar.[19][18][23] Gratian's tutor was the rhetor Ausonius, who mentioned the relationship in his epigrams and a poem.[18]

Currency reformsEdit

Medal of Valens showing the nimbate emperor on horseback, marked: gloria romanorum ("the Glory of the Romans") Later set in a pendant and found in the Șimleu Silvaniei, a hoard from the second quarter of the 5th century (Kunsthistorisches Museum)

Beginning between 365 and 368, Valentinian and Valens reformed the precious metal coins of the Roman currency, decreeing that all bullion be melted down in the central imperial treasury before minting.[16][15] Such coins were inscribed ob (gold) and ps (silver).[16] Valentinian improved tax collection and was frugal in spending.[16]

Coin of Valens after his quinquennalia on 25 February 369, showing the three reigning emperors on the reverse marked: spes r p ("the hope of the Republic")

First Gothic War: 367–369Edit

In 368 Valentinian and Valens were consuls for the second time.[23][21] Valens successfully attacked the Goths in the and according to the contemporary orator Themistius and the late 5th/early 6th-century Greek historian Zosimus, a treaty was swiftly arranged after the Goths sought peace.[15]

During Procopius's insurrection, the Gothic king Ermanaric, who ruled a powerful kingdom north of the Danube from the Euxine to the Baltic Sea,[37] 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.[38]

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.[39] The treaty seems to have largely cut off relations between Goths and Romans, confining trade and the exchange of troops for tribute.[40]

In summer 368, Valentinian's armies warred against the Alamanni a second time, while in autumn the Franks and Saxons were defeated.[23] Gratian accompanied his father on these campaigns.[19] Valentinian and Valens were both awarded the victory names of Germanicus Maximus, Alamannicus Maximus, and Francicus Maximus.[23][21] The former two titles were also accorded to Gratian at the same time.[19]

In 369 Valens received the victory name Gothicus Maximus and celebrated his quinquennalia.[21] Valentinian and celebrated his quinquennalia on 25 February 369 and likewise received the honour of Gothicus Maximus, as did Gratian, who also received the title Francicus Maximus the same year.[23][19]

Death of Valentinianus Galates from the 9th-century Paris Gregory (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Middle reign: 369–373Edit

In 369, Valentinianus Galates was made consul for the first time; he is also known to have been titled nobilissimus puer.[21] However, Valens's son died in Caesarea in Cappadocia (Kayseri) around 370.[21]

Valentinian and Valens were consuls for the third time in 370.[41] On the 9 April 370, according to the Consularia Constantinopolitana and the Chronicon Paschale, the Church of the Holy Apostles adjoining the Mausoleum of Constantine in Constantinople was inaugurated.[21]

Around 370, Valens's sister-in-law Marina Severa died and was interred in the Church of the Holy Apostles and Valentinian married again, wedding Justina.[23] In autumn 371, Valens' second nephew, also called Valentinian, was born to Justina, possibly at Augusta Treverorum (Trier).[42][43] Gratian, who was then 15, was married in 374 to Constantius II's 13-year-old daughter Constantia at Trier.[18][19] This marriage consolidated the dynastic link to the Constantinians, as had his father's second marriage to Justina, through her family connections.[31]

Valens celebrated his decennalia on 29 March 374.[21] In 375, the Baths of Carosa (Latin: Thermae Carosianae) – named for Valens's daughter Carosa – were inaugurated in Constantinople.[21] Valens headed east after defeating the Goths, and began to prepare an attack on Persia, which threatened Armenia, in 375.[15] Valens was distracted from his campaign against the Sasanians by wars against the Saracens and the Isaurians.[15]

Portrait head of Valens, or his brother, on a modern bust historically mislabelled as Constantine (Uffizi)

Persian War: 373Edit

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).[44] 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.[44] In response to the return of Pap, Shapur personally led an invasion force to seize control of Armenia.[45] 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.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47] 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.

Aqueduct of Valens in Constantinople, capital of the eastern Roman Empire
Detail from a drawing of a medal of Valens showing the nimbate emperor in a seiuga and crowned by victories holding palm boughs on the reverse, marked: d·n· valens victor semper aug· ("Our Lord Valens, Ever-Victor Augustus") Later set in a pendant and found in the Șimleu Silvaniei, a hoard from the second quarter of the 5th century (Kunsthistorisches Museum)
Obverse of a medal of Valens, set in a later pendant and found in the Șimleu Silvaniei, a hoard from the second quarter of the 5th century (Kunsthistorisches Museum)

Later reign: 373–376Edit

Valens became the senior augustus when his older brother Valentinian died at Brigetio (Szőny) on 17 November 375 while on campaign against the Quadi in Pannonia.[21][16][15][18] He may have died of stroke.[16][15] His body was prepared for burial and started its journey to Constantinople, where it arrived the following year.[31] Gratian was then the only augustus in the western empire, though certain among Valentinian's generals promoted his four-year-old second son Valentinian II, whom the army on the Danube acclaimed augustus at Aquincum (Budapest), despite Gratian's existing prerogatives.[18][43] Valentinian's courtiers and his Arian Christian widow Justina still had been holding great influence.[43] Valens and Valentinian II were consuls for the year 376, Valens's fifth consulship.[21]

The late augustus Valentinian's body arrived in Constantinople on 28 December 376, but was not yet buried.[23]

Second Gothic War: 376–378Edit

Migrations of the Huns began to displace the Goths, who sought Roman protection.[15] Valens allowed the Goths led by Fritigern to cross the Danube, but the Gothic settlers were abused by Roman officials and revolted in 377, seeking help from the Huns and the Alans and beginning the Gothic War (376–382).[15]

Valens's sixth consulship was in 378, again jointly with Valentinian II.[21] Valens returned from the east to campaign against the Goths.[15] Gratian fought a war with the Alamanni in early summer 378.[19] Valens asked for assistance from his nephew and co-emperor Gratian against the Goths in Thrace, and Gratian set out eastwards, though Valens did not wait for the western armies to arrive before taking the offensive.[15][18]

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, i.e. Roman lands, which they may have 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.[48]

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 conscription from provinces—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.[49]

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.[49] Meanwhile, the Romans failed to prevent the crossing of other barbarians who were not included in the treaty.[50] 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.[51]

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,[52] 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.[53] 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 Roman 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.[54] Valens decided to advance at once and win a victory on his own.[55]

Detail from a drawing of the obverse of a medal of Valens showing the three reigning emperors: Valens (C), Gratian (R), and Valentinian II (L) and marked: pietas d·d·d·n·n·n· augustorum ("the Piety of Our Lords Augusti") set in a later pendant and found in the Șimleu Silvaniei, a hoard from the second quarter of the 5th century (Kunsthistorisches Museum)

Battle of AdrianopleEdit

According to the Latin historians Ammianus Marcellinus and Paulus Orosius, on 9 August 378, Valens and most of his army were killed fighting the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, near Hadrianopolis in Thrace (Adrianople, Edirne).[15][18]

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.[56] 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.[57]

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.

J. B. Bury, a noted historian of the period, provides a specific interpretation on the significance of the battle: it was "a disaster and disgrace that need not have occurred."[58]

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.

The total defeat lost the administration important precious metal resources, as bullion had been centralized with the imperial court.[15] Valens was deified by consecratio as Latin: Divus Valens, lit.'the Divine Valens'.[21]


"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."[59] 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).[60] His moderation and chastity in his private life were everywhere celebrated.[61] 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.[62] 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.[63]

Religious policyEdit

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 Christian God.

Valens was baptised by the Arian bishop of Constantinople before he set out on his first war against the Goths.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66] Not long after Valens died the cause of Arianism in the Roman East was to come to an end. His successor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the state religion of Rome and suppressed the Arians.


  1. ^ From the fourth century onwards, emperors and other high-profile men bore the name "Flavius", the nomen adopted by the Constantinian dynasty. It was used only as a status marker,[3] but it's still often included as part of late emperors names.[4]
  2. ^ His full name is sometimes given as "Iulius Valens",[5] but this is not corroborated by ancient nor modern sources.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 931.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Cameron, Alan (1988). "Flavius: a Nicety of Protocol". Latomus. 47 (1): 26–33. JSTOR 41540754.
  4. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 930.
  5. ^ Ermatinger, James (2018). The Roman Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-Clio. p. 243. ISBN 9781440838095.
  6. ^ Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press. p. 45054. ISBN 978-0-521-84026-2.
  7. ^ "a semi-Arian Homoian" – Lenski 2003, p. 5
  8. ^ a b Errington (2006). Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius (2006), pp. 176, 186–187
  9. ^ Nicholson, Oliver, ed. (2018). "Valens". The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8.
  10. ^ New Catholic Encyclopedia, "Valens"
  11. ^ a b Oxford Classical Dictionary, 'Valens'
  12. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, ancient Rome – The reign of Valentinian and Valens
  13. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Valens "
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Bond, Sarah; Darley, Rebecca (2018), Nicholson, Oliver (ed.), "Valens", The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662778.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8, retrieved 24 October 2020
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bond, Sarah; Darley, Rebecca (2018), Nicholson, Oliver (ed.), "Valentinian I", The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662778.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8, retrieved 24 October 2020
  17. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 848.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bond, Sarah; Nicholson, Oliver (2018), Nicholson, Oliver (ed.), "Gratian", The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662778.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8, retrieved 25 October 2020
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Kienast 2017, pp. 319–320, "Gratian".
  20. ^ a b c Kienast 2017, pp. 312, "Jovian".
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Kienast 2017, pp. 316–318, "Valens".
  22. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 844–847.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Kienast 2017, pp. 313–315, "Valentinian I".
  24. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 847–848.
  25. ^ An Encyclopedia Of World History, (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1952), chap. II., Ancient History, p. 120
  26. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 849.
  27. ^ Noel Emmanuel Lenski (2002). Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D.. University of California Press.[full citation needed]
  28. ^ Lenski, Noel Emmanuel; Lenski, Noel Emmanuel (2002). Failure of empire: Valens and the Roman state in the fourth century A.D. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23332-4.
  29. ^ a b c d e Bond, Sarah; Haarer, Fiona (2018), Nicholson, Oliver (ed.), "Procopius", The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662778.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8, retrieved 28 October 2020
  30. ^ a b Gibbon 1932, p. 850.
  31. ^ a b c d McEvoy 2013.
  32. ^ Kienast 2017, pp. 300–308, "Contantius II".
  33. ^ Martindale, John R.; Jones, A. H. M.; Morris, John, eds. (1971). "Constantia 2". The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume I, AD 260–395. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-521-07233-6.
  34. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 850–852.
  35. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 852–853.
  36. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 853–854.
  37. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 890–891.
  38. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 892–893.
  39. ^ Hughes, Ian, Imperial Brothers,[full citation needed] pp. 86–95.
  40. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 93–94.
  41. ^ Kienast 2017, pp. 316–318, “Valens”.
  42. ^ Kienast 2017, pp. 321–322, "Valentinian II".
  43. ^ a b c Bond, Sarah (2018), Nicholson, Oliver (ed.), "Valentinian II", The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662778.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8, retrieved 25 October 2020
  44. ^ a b Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.9.
  45. ^ a b Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.10–11.
  46. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 27.12.13.
  47. ^ Hughes, Ian, Imperial Brothers,[full citation needed] pp. 102–106.
  48. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 920–923.
  49. ^ a b Gibbon 1932, p. 925.
  50. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 926.
  51. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 927–928.
  52. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 931–932.
  53. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 935.
  54. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 934–935.
  55. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 935–936.
  56. ^ Historiae, 31.12–13.
  57. ^ The Ecclesiastical History. Vol. VI.38.
  58. ^ Bury, John Bagnell. "The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians". Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  59. ^ Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin, 1986, The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, p. 139.
  60. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 856.
  61. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 858.
  62. ^ Gibbon 1932, p. 857.
  63. ^ Eutropius, Breviarium, ed. H. W. Bird, Liverpool University Press, 1993, p. xix.
  64. ^ Gibbon, Chapter 25.
  65. ^ Day et al. 2016, p. 28f.
  66. ^ Gibbon 1932, pp. 861–64.


  • 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.
  • Gibbon, Edward (1932) [1789]. "Chapter XXV–XXVI". The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The Modern Library. OCLC 564699495.
  • Kienast, Dietmar (2017) [1990]. Römische Kaisertabelle: Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie (in German). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. ISBN 978-3-534-26724-8.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • McEvoy, Meaghan A. (2013). Child Emperor Rule in the Late Roman West, A.D. 367-455. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-966481-8.

External linksEdit

  •   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.
Born: 328 Died: 9 August 378
Regnal titles
Preceded by Roman emperor
With: Valentinian I, Gratian, and Valentinian II (West)
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Roman consul
with Valentinian I
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul II
with Valentinian I
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul III
with Valentinian I
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul IV
with Valentinian I
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul V
with Valentinian II
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul VI
with Valentinian II
Succeeded by