- For other figures with this name, see Gratian .
(18 April/23 May 359 – 25 August
383), known usually by the anglicised
, was a Western Roman Emperor
from 375 to
He favoured the Christian religion against Roman polytheism
, refusing the traditional
polytheistic attributes of the emperors and removing the Altar of Victory
from the Roman Senate
was the son of Emperor Valentinian I
by Marina Severa, and was born at
Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) in Pannonia.
He was named after his grandfather
Gratian the Elder
. Gratian was
first married to Flavia Maxima
, daughter of Constantius
. His second wife was Laeta
marriages remained childless. His stepmother was Empress Justina
and his paternal half siblings
were Emperor Valentinian II
On 4 August 367 he received from his father the title of
On the death of Valentinian (17 November 375), the troops in
Pannonia proclaimed his infant son (by a second wife Justina)
emperor under the title of Valentinian
acquiesced in their choice; reserving for himself the
administration of the Gallic provinces, he handed over Italy, Illyricum and Africa to Valentinian and his mother, who
fixed their residence at Mediolanum.
The division, however, was
merely nominal, and the real authority remained in the hands of
The Eastern Roman Empire
under the rule of his uncle Valens
378 Gratian completely defeated the Lentienses, the southernmost branch of the
Alamanni, at the Battle of Argentovaria, near the site
of the modern Colmar.
year, Valens met his death in the Battle of Adrianopole on 9 August.
Valens refused to wait for
Gratian and his army to arrive and assist in defeating the host of
; as a result, two-thirds of the eastern Roman army
were killed as well.
In the same year, the government of the Eastern Empire devolved
upon Gratian, but feeling himself unable to resist unaided the
incursions of the barbarians, he promoted Theodosius I
on 19 January 379 to govern that
portion of the empire. Gratianus and Theodosius then cleared the
in the Gothic War
years Gratian governed the empire with energy and success but
gradually sank into indolence, occupying himself chiefly with the
pleasures of the chase, and became a tool in the hands of the
Frankish general Merobaudes and bishop St.
Ambrose of Milan.
By taking into his personal service a body of Alans, and appearing
in public in the dress of a Scythian
warrior, after the disaster of the Battle of Adrianopole, he
aroused the contempt and resentment of his Roman troops
. A Roman general named
took advantage of this
feeling to raise the standard of revolt in Britain
and invaded Gaul
with a large army. Gratian, who was then in Paris, being
deserted by his troops, fled to Lyon.
There, through the treachery of the governor, Gratian was delivered
over to one of the rebel generals, Andragathius, and assassinated
on 25 August 383.
Empire and religion
The reign of Gratian forms an important epoch in ecclesiastical
history, since during that period Orthodox Christianity
for the first
time became dominant throughout the empire.
influence of Ambrosius, Gratian prohibited Pagan worship at Rome; refused to
wear the insignia of the pontifex
maximus as unbefitting a Christian; removed the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the
pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues; forbade
legacies of real property to the Vestals;
and abolished other privileges belonging to them and to the
Nevertheless he was still deified
after his death.
Gratian also published an edict that all their subjects should
profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the
Nicene faith). The move was mainly thrust at the various beliefs
that had arisen out of Arianism
smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians
, were also