Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.

   GRATIANUS, the son of Valentinian I and Val. Severa, was born at Sirmium, in Pannonia, in A.D. 359, whilst his father was still a private citizen. In A.D. 367, when eight years old, he was declared Augustus at Ambianum (Amiens), having for colleagues his father Valentinian I and his uncle Valens. Gratianus was sixteen years of age when his father died in A.D. 375.----He immediately acknowledged as his colleague Valentinianus (Valentinian II), his natural brother, whom on the death of his father the legions had proclaimed Augustus, though he was scarcely five years old. The empire was then so divided between them, that Gratianus had for his share Hispania, the Galliae and Britain, and Valentinian II Italy, Illyricum, and Africa, but under the regency of his brother, while Valens retained the East. He was victorious over the Lentiani Alamanni, a people inhabiting Rhaetia (the Tyrol), in a memorable battle fought at Argentovaria, or Argentaria (at or near Colmar, in Alsace). He went to reinforce Valens, who was hard pressed by the Goths in Thrace, but arrived only in time to find him overpowered and slain, in A.D. 378. The barbarians completely overrunning and devastating this region, he recalled Theodosius from his exile in Hispania, and for his services against those tribes on the Ister, gave him the title of Augustus, at the beginning of the year 379, and appointed him governor of the eastern provinces held by Valens. Having set out on an expedition against Magnus Maximus, a man of energy and reputation (who, elected by the legions in Britain, had assumed the purple in that island, and invaded Gallia), he found himself abandoned by his troops near Paris, at the moment of his being about to attack the usurper’s army, who put him to death in his flight near Lugdunum (Lyon), in A.D. 383, in the 24th year of his age.
    “Historians, Pagan and Christian (says an able writer in Dr. Smith’s Biographical Dictionary, ii. p. 302), are agreed as to the character of Gratian. In person he was well made and good looking; in his disposition gentle and docile----possessed of a cultivated understanding and of a ready and pleasing eloquence, he was chaste and temperate, but too yielding and pliant, the influence of others leading him to severities foreign to his own character. His piety and his reverence for ecclesiastics, especially Ambrose of Milan, rendered him too willing a party to the persecutions, which the Christians, now gaining the ascendancy, were too ready to exercise, whether against the heathen, or against heretics [the Arians especially] of their own body. Whilst by these excesses of religious zeal, he cooled the attachment of those of his subjects who were exposed to his severity, his constant engagement in archery, field sports, and other amusements, to the neglect of more serious matters, incurred contempt, and rendered him unpopular with both the army and the people.”
    Eckhel says of him----“He was a prince of many good qualities, by which he distinguished himself at the commencement of his reign, though towards the close of his career, he was deficient in the discretion and energy so indispensably requisite for managing the affairs of an empire, vast in extent, and involved in such difficulties and dangers as pressed upon it at the critical epoch, in which his lot was cast among the rulers of the Roman world. With regard to his attachment to the Christian religion, as he was detested by the pagans, so was he regretted by the orthodox.”----D. N. V. viii. 137.
    Gratian, in A.D. 378, married Constantia, daughter of Constantius II and Maxima Faustina, who was born in A.D. 362, and died some years before her husband.
    The coins of this emperor in second and third brass are common; nor are his gold and silver of the usual size very rare. But the few medallions extant in gold are of extreme rarity. On these he is styled D. N. GRATIANVS AVG.----D. N. GRATIANVS P. F. AVG.----One of his coins bears round the head D. N. GRATIANVS AVGG. AVG. Of this singular legend various interpretations have been given, which may be seen in the “Remarques” of Bimard (see Jobert’s Science des Medailles, edit. 1739, T. ii. p. 324).----See also the observations of Eckhel, Doctr. Num. Vet. Viii. 158.

    GOLD MEDALLIONS.----GLORIA ROMANORVM. Rome seated. Engraved in Steinbuchel’s notice of the Vienna Medallions. (Mionnet values this at 600 fr. and another, with the same legend and type, at 800 fr.)----Same legend, Rome and a turreted woman seated (at 200 fr.)

    SILVER MEDALLIONS.----GLORIA ROMANORVM. Emperor with globe and hasta.    (Mt. 30 fr.)----VICTORIA AVGG. Gratian and Valentinian jun. (Valentinian II) seated.    (Tovey sale, 1 pound 6s.     Mt. 50 fr.)----VIRTVS EXERCITVS.    (15s. Thomas. Engraved in Akerman, ii. p. 324).----VOTIS V. MVLTIS X.----VOTIS XV. MVLTIS XX.    (Mt. 30 fr. each).

    GOLD.----CONCORDIA AVGGGE. (sic.) Rome helmed and seated. In exergue CONOB.     (Mt. 24 fr., Brumell, 13s.)----VICTORIA AVGVSTORVM. Victory seated and writing VOT. V. MVLT. X. (Mt. 24 fr.)----VICTORIA AVGG. The emperor and his father Valentinian I seated. Struck A.D. 367. (Brought only 17s. at Campana sale).----GLORIA NOVIS (sic.) or NOVI SAECVLI. Emperor stands in a military dress, supporting a victoriola on a globe, and holding the labarum, adorned with the monogram of Christ.    (Mt. 30 fr.)----PRINCIPIVM IVVENTVTIS.    RESTITVTOR REIPVBLICAE.----VOTA PVBLICA.    (Mt. 30 fr. each.)

    SILVER.----GLORIA NOVI SAECLI. (sic.)    The emperor holding the Christian labarum.----VOTA PVBLICA. Hercules stands with right hand upon the mouth.    (Mt. 24 fr.)
    VRBS ROMA. Rome seated, holding the hasta and a victoriola.----Obv. D. N. GRATIANVS P. F. AVG. Diademed head of the emperor.----(See wood-cut at the head of this article).

    BRASS MEDALLION.----VRBS ROMA.    (20 fr.)

    SMALL BRASS.----VOTA PVBLICA. Isis holding the sistrum.----Same legend. Isis in a car drawn by two mules.----Same legend. Anubis standing, with caduceus and branch.
    [It is curious, as an evidence either of imperial inconsistency, or of monetal carelessness, that whilst the sacred symbol of Christianity adorns so many of Gratian’s gold and silver coins, his small brass are paganised not only with Greek but with Egyptian mythology----Hercules with club and lion’s spoils; Isis with her sistrum, and Anubis with dog’s head.]

View whole page from the |Dictionary Of Roman Coins|