Valens

(328?-378)
   Arian Christian Roman emperor (r. 364-378), whose career is noteworthy for his disastrous defeat by the Visigoths at the Battle of Hadrianople, Valens was co-emperor with his brother Valentinian I (r. 364-375); Valens ruled in the eastern capital of Constantinople. His reign was marked by successes against the Visigoths and Persians as well as against pretenders to the throne before his final, tragic defeat.
   Valens was promoted to the imperial throne on March 28, 364, when he was elevated to the dignity by his brother Valentinian following the death of Emperor Jovian (r. 363-364). He was faced almost immediately by a rebellion, but managed to suppress it and execute its leaders. After defeating his rival for the throne, Valens turned his attention to the defense of the imperial frontiers against pressures from the Goths. In 367 and again in 369, Valens crossed the Danube River, leaving imperial territory, to attack the Goths. He successfully laid waste to Gothic territories and then returned to Constantinople to celebrate his victory and assume the title Gothicus. Although the raids did not yield any long-term benefits, they did promote the status of the emperor and force the Goths to come to terms. Valens and the Gothic leader Athanaric agreed to a treaty in September 369, meeting on boats in the middle of the Danube. As part of the agreement, the Romans sealed off the border from Gothic trade with the empire. Valens may also have sought to exploit the intratribal struggles that existed between the Gothic leaders Athanaric and Fritigern by forging a treaty with Fritigern.
   Valens's early success against the Visigoths was not, however, repeated later in his reign. With the arrival of the Huns, new pressures were placed on the Roman frontiers and the barbarian peoples living along those frontiers. The Huns were recognized as a major threat by the Visigoths and seriously undermined the authority of Athanaric, who had previously struggled with the Romans and persecuted the Christians in his midst. The weakness of Athanaric and the enormity of the threat of the Huns inspired a large faction of the Goths, led by Fritigern, to petition Valens for entry into the empire as foederati (federated allies) in 376. The request was not unprecedented, but the size of the population involved, some 80,000, was. Despite the great number of people involved, Valens agreed to allow the Goths to cross the boundary and settle in Roman territory, a fateful decision that had a great influence on the subsequent course of events.
   Valens had allowed the Goths to enter, and he made promises of food, territory, and administrative help. But none of this came, and in fact the Goths were harassed by local Roman administrators rather than helped. The poor treatment and general suffering caused the Goths to revolt against the Romans, and Valens himself decided to lead the army against the rebels. After some negotiation and poor decision making by Valens, the battle was fought on August 9, 378, at Hadrianople (in modern Turkey). The Romans were overwhelmed and annihilated by the Goths, and Valens died during the battle. The Goths were allowed to settle in the empire by Valens's successor, Theodosius the Great.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Ammianus Marcellinus. The Later Roman Empire (a.d. 354-378). Trans. Walter Hamilton. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1986.
 ♦ Bury, John B. The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians. New York: W. W. Norton, 1967.
 ♦ Cameron, Averil. The Later Roman Empire, a.d. 284-430. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
 ♦ Ferrill, Arthur. The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986.
 ♦ Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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