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Locked in a Gilded Cage

Valentinian II (AD 375-395). AV solidus (21mm, 4.44 gm, 6h).  Constantinople, AD 391-393, D N VALENTINI - ANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right / CONCORDI - A AVGGGS, Constantinopolis, helmeted and with head right,  seated facing on throne, holding scepter and globe; right foot on prow. In exergue, CONOB. C 9. RIC 69a. Depeyrot 41/2. Needle-sharp strike on a broad flan. Choice Extremely Fine.

The younger son of the mighty Valentinian I by his second wife Justina, Flavius Valentinianus was only four years old when his father died campaigning against the Germans.  Although his 16-year-old brother Gratian was already Augustus and should have succeeded smoothly, the Empress Justina feared a loss of influence and induced a cabal of senior officers to proclaim Valentinian II as co-emperor five days later. Gratian reacted charitably to this illegal elevation and agreed to share power with his little brother. At Gratian's suggestion, Valentinian took jurisdiction over western Illyria, Italy and Africa, while Gratian took charge of the more threatened provinces of Gaul, Germany, and Britain. Things took a serious turn in AD 383, when Gratian was overthrown and killed by the Count of Britain, Magnus Maximus. At first, the usurper made no move against the weak regime of Valentinian in Milan. But in 387, Maximus invaded Italy, forcing Valentinian and his mother to flee to Thessalonica and seek protection from Theodosius I, Emperor of the East. A lightning campaign in AD 388 defeated Maximus and restored Valentinian's authority, now over the entire Western Roman Empire. Valentinian was now 17, but still untried, so Theodosius appointed the Frankish general Arbogast as his military mentor.  Valentinian came to resent Arbogast's authority  and,  in AD 392, he handed Arbogast an order for his dismissal. Arbogast merely smiled and tore it up. He, in turn, placed Valentinian under comfortable detention at a palace in Vienna. Locked in a gilded cage, the 21-year-old emperor despaired and hung himself, igniting yet another spasm of civil war. Having never truly ruled, his abilities and character are  difficult to assess his abilities, but one can readily sympathize with his predicament. 

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Auction Dates
January, 2013
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