Chapter XXXVI.—Expedition against the Sarmatians; Death of Valentinian in Rome; Valentinian the Younger proclaimed; Persecution of the Priests; Oration of the Philosopher Themistius, on account of which Valens was disposed to treat those who differed from him more Humanely.
The Sarmatians 1507 having invaded the western parts of the empire, Valentinian levied an army to oppose them. As soon, however, as they heard of the number and strength of the troops raised against them, they sent an embassy to solicit peace. When the ambassadors were ushered into the presence of Valentinian, he asked them whether all the Sarmatians were similar to them. On their replying that the principal men of the nation had been selected to form the embassy, the emperor exclaimed, in great fury, “A terrible thing do our subjects endure, and a calamity is surrounding the Roman government, if the Sarmatians, a barbarous race, of whom these are your best men, do not love to abide by themselves, but are emboldened to invade my government, and presume to make war at all against the Romans.” He spoke in this strain for some time in a very high pitch of voice, and his rage was so violent and so unbounded, that at length he burst simultaneously a blood-vessel and an artery. He lost, in consequence, a great quantity of blood, and expired soon after in a fortress of Gaul. 1508 He was about fifty-four years of age, and had, during thirteen years, guided the reins of government with good results and much distinction. Six days after his death his youngest son, who bore the same name as himself, was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers; and soon afterwards Valens and Gratian, his brother, formally assented to this election, although they were at first irritated at the soldiers having transferred the symbols of government to him without their previous consent.
During this period Valens had fixed his residence at Antioch in Syria, and became more hostile to those who differed from him in opinion concerning the divine nature, and he vexed them more severely and persecuted them. The philosopher Themistius pronounced an oration in his presence, in which he admonished him that he ought not to wonder at the dissension concerning ecclesiastical doctrines, for it was more moderate and less than among the pagans, for the opinions among them are multiform; and that, in the number of dogmas leading to perpetual disputes, necessarily the difference about them makes more contentions and discussions; and accordingly it might probably be pleasing to God not to be so easily known, and to have a divergence of opinion, so that each might fear Him the rather, since an accurate knowledge of Him is so unattainable. And in the attempt to summarize this vastness, one would tend to conclude how great He is and how good He is. 1509