Subject Area



In my thesis, I argue that the reign of Valentinian I (364-375) was marked by two main themes. First, as the founder of a new dynasty, Valentinian was obsessed with legitimizing his reign and safeguarding it for future generations. Second, because of poor subordinates and poor communication, he was unable to adequately govern the provinces leading to instability and chaos.

I worked to add two aspects to the scholarly discussion of Valentinian’s reign. Most scholars have individually pointed out that it was important for Valentinian to cement his legitimacy and budding dynasty. I show that this was not merely an important concern, but rather one of his central goals. Second, I demonstrate that their power was sharply limited in practice. Because of communication difficulties across a large empire, local magistrates were able to amass a tremendous amount of power.

I have split this study into three chapters. The first discusses Valentinian as emperor. How did his election come about and how did he conduct himself as emperor? How did he try to legitimize his new dynasty? Primarily, this chapter focuses on Valentinian himself and disregard much of what occurred in the provinces.

The second chapter looks at events in North Africa, a region which was rocked by two separate crises during Valentinian’s reign. The first was the struggle between the citizens of Lepcis Magna and the comes Africae Romanus at the court of Valentinian. Although mostly occurring during Valentinian’s reign, this was a long and drawn-out affair, beginning during the reign of Jovian and not concluding until after Valentinian’s death. Second was the revolt of Firmus, also sparked in part by Romanus, which forced Valentinian to send his best general, Theodosius, to North Africa with a substantial force to confront him.

The third chapter examines Valentinian’s religious policy, affairs in Rome, and Valentinian’s reception in his home province of Pannonia. Through this examination, I hope that I have presented old sources in new ways and generated new ideas for discussion within the scholarly community.


Providence College

Academic Year



Spring 2021