Sunday, April 20, 2008


One of the most important emperors as far as Antioch is concerned is also one of the lesser known (and later) players on the Roman imperial stage.

Flavius Iulius Valens was born 328 in the town of Cibalae (Vinkovci) 48 miles west of Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia), in the town. He was Roman Emperor (364-378), after he was given the Eastern part of the empire by his brother Valentinian I. Valens, sometimes known as the Last True Roman, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Adrianople on August 9, 378, which marked the beginning of the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Valens is relevant to Antioch for several reasons. He spent a large part of his reign (residing almost uninterruptedly in Antioch from 371 to 379) and making it his de facto capital. He is remembered for his construction of a forum (probably a reconstruction more than a new greenfield venture). This forum supposedly stood around (and maybe over) the course of the Parmenios torrent that ran through the central part of the city. The excavations of the 1930s sought to find it but funds and time run out.

Valens also has some relevance in discussions of the Imperial Palace complex. This is due to a story that Valens had a noctural conversation with a passing ascetic monk, Aphraates (of the Arian persausion), from the portico (or a window) of the Palace. It shows the sheer paucity of information on the Palace that scholars should concern themselves with this incident as a means of establishing the city's topography. According to some scholars this story goes to show that there was a road along (or under) the portico on the riverside frontage of the palace. A.F. Norman is one to posit this view. There is no evidence for a road there and the issue will probably never be resolved as the changing river course over time has almost certainly eliminated evidence of this side of the Palace complex. It seems more logical to us that the portico was actually on the front side of the Palace and the monk was on his nocturnal ramblings along one of the avenues that Libanius speaks of as being in front of the Palace.

Valens was urged to murder Aphraates by a servant, but shortly afterwards the servant was scalded to death. This gave the superstitious Valens pause to think and then Aphraates in a bizarre twist cured a sick horse of Valens and fell into the good graces of the Emperor.

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