Document: Letter 24
Date: c. 387
Addressee: Valentinian II
English Translation: FC 26.57-62
Summary of Contents: Report on the second mission to Maxima in behalf of the emperor

You have had such confidence in my recent embassy that no report of it was demanded of me. It was sufficiently clear from my having stayed some days in Gaul that I did not accept the terms favorable to Maximus or agree with those which favored his will rather than peace. Moreover, you would never have sent me on a second embassy unless you had approved the first. But, inasmuch as I was forced to the necessity of contesting with him on my arrival, I have determined to give an account of my embassy in this letter so that no one’s report will confuse the false with the true before, on my return, I make a clear and trustworthy account of the truth.

The day after I arrived at Trier I went to the palace. The grand chamberlain Gallicanus, a royal eunuch, 2 came out to me. I asked the privilege of entering; he asked if I had an imperial order from your Clemency. I answered that I did. He retorted that I could be interviewed only in the consistory. I replied that this was not customary for one of episcopal rank and, in fact, that there were certain matters of which I had to speak in earnest with the prince. In short, he went and consulted him, but maintained that the conditions would have to hold, so that it became clear that even his first remarks had been prompted by the other’s wishes. I remarked that it was not in keeping with my office, but that I would not fail the embassy entrusted to me. I was happy to be humbled, especially on your behalf and in the performance of a duty which involved the affection you bear your brother.

As soon as he was seated in the consistory, I entered; he arose to give me the kiss of greeting; I was standing with the members of the consistory. Some began urging me to step forward; he began summoning me. I said: “Why would you greet with a kiss one whom you do not know? If you knew me you would not see me here.” “Bishop,” he said, “you are greatly upset.” “Not by the insult,” I answered, “but by the embarrassment of standing in a place where I do not belong.” “You came into the consistory,” he said, “on your first embassy.” “That was not my fault,” I said, “but the fault of the one who summoned me; I merely came in answer to the summons.” “Why did you come?” he asked. “Because,” I replied, “at that time I was asking for peace for one who was weaker than you, but I do so now for one who is your equal.” “Equal by whose kindness?” he asked. “That of almighty God,” said I, “for He preserved for Valentinian the kingdom He had given him.”

At length he broke forth, saying: “You and that Bauton have tricked me. He wanted to get the power for himself under the figurehead of a child, and he sent barbarians against me! As if I do not have just as many thousands of barbarians in my service and in my pay whom I can call upon. Had I not been restrained from doing so at your coming, who would have been able to withstand me or my forces?”

To this I replied gently: “You need not be angry; there is no cause for alarm. Listen patiently to what I have to say to your remarks. You assert that while you trusted me I deceived you by coming and taking part in your first embassy a glorious accusation that I was safeguarding the emperor who was a mere child. Whom are we bishops to guard if not children? It is written: ‘Judge for the fatherless, and defend the widow, and free the one receiving harm’ And elsewhere: ‘Defenders of widows and fathers of orphans.’

“Still, I shall not censure Valentinian for services I rendered him. To say the truth, when did I prevent your legions from streaming into Italy? With what cliffs or battlelines or troops? Or did I block the Alps with my body? Would that I had the power! I would not have feared to lie in your way nor would I have dreaded your accusations. With what promises did I trick you into making peace? Did not Count Victor come to meet me near Mayence in Gaul, he whom you had sent to make peace? In what way has Valentinian played you false, for he was asked for peace before he asked it. How has Bauton played you false by showing his loyalty to the emperor? Because he did not betray his lord?

“How have I deceived you? On my arrival you said that Valentinian should come to you like a son to his father. I said it was unreasonable to expect a boy to cross the Alps with his widowed mother during the roughest part of winter. Moreover, was he to embark on the hazards of such a journey without his mother? I was sent on an embassy of peace, not to promise his arrival. It is clear that I could not promise what was not enjoined on me. At least I made no promise; therefore you said: ‘Let us wait and see what reply Victor will make.’ It is well known that he reached Milan while I was being detained [at Trier], and his request was refused. It was said that peace was the only issue, not the return of the emperor, who was not to be moved from there. I was present when Victor returned. How, then, did he influence Valentinian? The legates who were sent again and said that he would not come met me at Valence in Gaul. I found soldiers of both sides guarding the mountain heights. What armies of yours did I turn from you? What standards have I caused to leave Italy? What barbarians has Count Bauton brought against you?

“lf Bauton, who came from across the Rhine, had done so, would it have been strange? You yourself were threatening the power and boundaries of Rome with barbarian troops and squadrons, with men to whom the food supplies of the provinces went as tribute. Note the difference between these threats of yours and the mildness of the august child Valentinian. You were intent upon coming into Italy surrounded by troops of barbarians. Valentinian made the Huns and Alans who were approaching Gaul turn back to the lands of the Germans. What harm if Bauton had set barbarians against barbarians? While you were employing Roman soldiers and he opposing those attacking him on either side, the Juthungi were laying waste the Raetias within the very heart of the Roman Empire. For this reason he set the Huns against the Juthungi. Yet, because the Germans were already crushing and threatening Gaul with approaching ruin, he was forced to abandon his triumphs lest you have ground for fear. Compare your deeds and his. You made the Raetias subject to attack; Valentinian has bought peace for you with his own money.

“Look at the man on your right. Valentinian sent him back to you in honor, although he had the opportunity of avenging a personal wrong. He had him within his own country at the very moment when his brother’s death was announced, and he restrained his anger. He did not treat in the same manner one who is of different dignity but of the same relationship with you. Compare your conduct with his. You be the judge. He gave you back your brother alive; give him back his, even though dead. How can you refuse him his brother’s remains when he did not refuse those forces that were used against him?

“You say you fear to arouse the sorrow of the soldiers when the remains are returned. This is your excuse. Having abandoned him alive, will they now defend him when he is dead? Why fear one who is dead, whom you slew, although you could have saved him? I killed my enemy, you say. He is not your enemy, but you are his. He no longer puts up a defense, but consider why. If someone began plotting here today to rob you of your lands, would you say, I ask, that you were his enemy or he yours? If I am not mistaken, the usurper brings war; the emperor protects his rights. Then why refuse to part with the remains of one you should not have slain? Let Emperor Valentinian have his brother’s remains as a pledge of your peace. And how can you keep alleging that you did not give the order to slay him if you do not allow him to be entombed? Will people be able to believe you did not grudge him life, when you grudge him burial?

“But to get back to myself. I hear that you are charging that the people who were with Emperor Valentinian went over to Emperor Theodosius. What did you expect would happen when you demanded that refugees be punished and captives slain, while Theodosius enriched them with favors and granted them honors?” “Whom did I put to death?” he asked. “Vallio,” I answered. “What a man, and warrior, besides! Was it a just cause for his murder that he was faithful to his emperor?” “I did not order him to be killed.” he said. “We heard,” said I, “that such orders were given.” “But,” said he, “if he had not destroyed himself, I did order that he be dispatched to Chalons and there burned alive.” “True,” said I, “this is the reason you are thought to have killed him. Who would expect to be spared when such a vigorous warrior, so loyal a soldier, so useful a count, had thus been slain?” I then’ departed so that he might say he would consider the matter.

Translation from FC 26.57-62, adapted by SMT

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