Flavius Valentinianus (371 – 15 May 392), commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.
Early Life and Accession (371–375)
Flavius Valentinianus was born to Emperor Valentinian I and his second wife, Justina. He was the half-brother of Valentinian’s other son, Gratian, who had shared the imperial title with his father since 367. He had three sisters Galla, Grata and Justa. The elder Valentinian died on campaign in Pannonia in 375. Neither Gratian (then in Trier) nor his uncle Valens (emperor for the East) were consulted by the army commanders on the scene. Instead of merely acknowledging Gratian as his father’s successor, Valentinian I’s generals acclaimed the four-year old boy augustus on 22 November 375. The army, and its Frankish general Merobaudes, may have been uneasy about Gratian's lack of military ability, and so raised a boy who would not immediately aspire to military command.
Reign from Milan (375–387)
Gratian, forced to accommodate the generals who supported his half-brother, governed the trans-alpine provinces (including Gaul, Hispania, and Britain), while Italy, part of Illyricum, and Africa were under the rule of Valentinian. In 378, their uncle, the Emperor Valens, was killed in battle with the Goths at Adrianople, and Gratian invited the general Theodosius to be emperor in the East. As a child, Valentinian II was under the influence of his Arian mother, the Empress Justina, and the imperial court at Milan, an influence contested by the Catholic bishop of Milan, Ambrose.
Justina used her influence over her young son to oppose the Nicean party which was championed by Ambrose. In 385 Ambrose, backed by Milan's populace, refused an imperial request to hand over the Portian basilica for the use of Arian troops. In 386 Justina and Valentinian received the Arian bishop Auxentius, and Ambrose was again ordered to hand over a church in Milan for Arian usage. Ambrose and his congregation barricaded themselves inside the church, and the imperial order was rescinded. Magnus Maximus used the emperor’s heterodoxy against him, and even his eventual protector, Theodosius, cast aspersions on his Arianism. Valentinian also tried to restrain the despoiling of pagan temples in Rome. Buoyed by this instruction, the pagan senators, led by Aurelius Symmachus, the Prefect of Rome, petitioned in 384 for the restoration of the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, which had been removed by Gratian in 382. Valentinian, at the insistence of Ambrose, refused the request and, in so doing, rejected the traditions and rituals of pagan Rome to which Symmachus had appealed.
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