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Gratian, Roman emperor

Flavius Gratianus Augustus, who was known simply as Gratian, was a Roman emperor who was in power for a relatively long tenure, beginning in the year 375 AD, stretching up to his death by assassination in the year 383 AD. At the height of his long and productive reign as leader of the Roman Empire, he would have sole jurisdiction over virtually the entire Western territories.

Early on in his political career, it became quite evident to many political observers that Gratian heavily favoured the advancement of the Christian religion in direct contrast against the teachings of the Pagan faith.

This favouritism on the part of Gratian, (which the entire Christian faith no doubt benefited greatly from) was no better exemplified by his refusal to take on many of the trappings that those in the Pagan faith afforded their chosen leaders. He would also take on the further radical step of removing the Altar of Victory from the grounds of the Roman Senate.

Gratian was thought to have been born in the year 359 AD, but reports vary wildly as to the exact date of his birth. Some written accounts that have been dated from that period place the exact date of his birth at April the 18th, while others point to May the 23rd as the real date of the future emperor's birth. In any case, it has been confirmed that he was born at Sirmium in Pannonia as the son of Emperor Valentinian I and Marina Severa. He would be given the name Gratian to revere the memory of his grandfather of the same name, Gratian the Elder.

The date August 4th, 367 AD would be particularly significant to Flavius Gratianus Augustus as this would be the date when he was granted the title of Augustus by his father. The emperor Valentinian would later die (on November 17th, 375 AD to be exact), and upon his passing his infant son (born to his second wife Justina) who was also given the name Valentinian ascended to the throne as Valentinian II.

While Gratian presented no real objection to this proclamation, the truth of the matter was he held considerably more power in his hands that it would seem at first. In the course of the negotiations that followed the proclamation of Valentinian as emperor, Gratian was granted sole jurisdiction over the Gallic provinces, while the management of Italy, Illyria and Africa was left to the responsibility of Valentinian and his mother. In truth however, this division was only on paper and Gratian continued to retain administrative power and continued to do so for quite some time.

The Eastern Roman Empire however was another matter entirely; this territory remained under the rule of his uncle Valens. During an encounter at the southernmost branch of the Alamanni, in what was later known as the battle of Argentovaria, (which was near what is now the site of modern Colmar), Valens refused to wait for armed support from Gratian and subsequently suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of his enemies.

Gratian died on August 25th, 383 AD.

Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors:
M.A.Harris
Updated On:
22/07/2008



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