The Lives of the Two Valerians


Historia Augusta


1

1

. . . to Sapor, the King of Kings or, in fact, Sole King: "Did I but know for a certainty that the Romans could be wholly defeated, I should congratulate you on the victory of which you boast.

2

But inasmuch as that nation, either through Fate or its own prowess, is all-powerful, look to it lest the fact that you have taken prisoner an aged emperor, and that indeed by guile, may turn out ill for yourself and your descendants.

3

Consider what mighty nations the Romans have made their subjects instead of their enemies after they had often suffered defeat at their hands.

4

We have heard, in fact, how the Gauls conquered them and burned that great city of theirs; it is a fact that the Gauls are now servants to the Romans. What of the Africans? Did they not conquer the Romans? It is a fact that they serve them now.

5

Examples more remote and perhaps less important I will not cite. Mithradates of Pontus held all of Asia; it is a fact that he was vanquished and Asia now belongs to the Romans.

6

If you ask my advice, make use of the opportunity for peace and give back Valerian to his people. I do indeed congratulate you on your good fortune, but only if you know how to use it aright."


2

1

Velenus, King of the Cadusii, wrote as follows: "I have received with gratitude my forces returned to me safe and sound. Yet I cannot wholly congratulate you that Valerian, prince of princes, is captured; I should congratulate you more, were he given back to his people. For the Romans are never more dangerous than when they are defeated.

2

Act, therefore, as becomes a prudent man, and do not let Fortune, which has tricked many, kindle your pride. Valerian has an emperor for a son and a Caesar for a grandson, and what of the whole Roman world, which, to a man, will rise up against you?

3

Give back Valerian, therefore, and make peace with the Romans, a peace which will benefit us as well because of the tribes of Pontus."


3

1

Artavasdes, King of the Armenians, sent the following letter to Sapor: "I have, indeed, a share in your glory, but I fear that you have not so much conquered as sown the seeds of war.

2

For Valerian is being sought back by his son, his grandson, and the generals of Rome, by all Gaul, all Africa, all Spain, all Italy, and by all the nations of Illyricum, the East, and Pontus, which are leagued with the Romans or subject to them.

3

So, then, you have captured one old man but have made all the nations of the world your bitterest foes, and ours too, perhaps, for we have sent you aid, we are your neighbours, and we always suffer when you fight with each other."


4

1

The Bactrians, the Hiberians, the Albanians, and the Tauroscythians refused to receive Sapor's letters and wrote to the Roman commanders, promising aid for the liberation of Valerian from his captivity.

2

Meanwhile, however, while Valerian was growing old in Persia, Odaenathus the Palmyrene gathered together an army and restored the Roman power almost to its pristine condition.

3

He captured the king's treasures and he captured, too, what the Parthian monarchs hold dearer than treasures, namely his concubines.

4

For this reason Sapor was now in greater dread of the Roman generals, and out of fear of Ballista and Odaenathus he withdrew more speedily to his kingdom. And this, for the time being, was the end of the war with the Persians.


5

1

This is all that is worthy of being known about Valerian, whose life, praiseworthy for sixty years long, finally rose to such glory, that after holding all honours and offices with great distinction he was chosen emperor, not, as often happens, in a riotous assemblage of the people or by the shouting of soldiers, but solely by right of his services, and, as it were, by the single voice of the entire world.

2

In short, if all had been given the power of expressing their choice as to whom they desired as emperor, none other would have been chosen.

3

Now in order that you may know what power lay in the public services of Valerian, I will cite the decrees of the senate, which will make it clear to all what judgement concerning him was always expressed by that most illustrious body.

4

In the consulship of the two Decii, on the sixth day before the Kalends of November, when, pursuant to an imperial mandate, the senate convened in the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and each senator was asked his opinion as to the man to whom the censorship should be offered (for this the Decii had left in the power of the most high senate), when the praetor had first announced the question, "What is your desire, Conscript Fathers, with regard to choosing a censor?" and then asked the opinion of him who was then the chief of the senate in the absence of Valerian (for at that time he was in military service with Decius), then all, breaking through the usual mode of giving the vote, cried out with one voice: "Valerian's life is a censorship.

5

Let him judge all, who is better than all. Let him judge the senate, who is free from guilt. Let him pronounce sentence on our lives, against whom no reproach can be brought.

6

From early childhood Valerian has been a censor. All his life long Valerian has been a censor. A wise senator, a modest senator, a respected senator. The friend of the good, the enemy of tyrants, the foe of crimes, the foe of vices.

7

He it is whom we all accept as censor, whom we all desire to imitate. Foremost in family, noble in blood, free from stain in his life, famed for his learning, matchless in character, a sample of the olden times."

8

When all this had been said repeatedly, they added, "All with one accord," and so they departed.


6

1

When this decree of the senate was brought to Decius, he called all his courtiers together and gave orders that Valerian, too, should be summoned. Then, having read the decree before this assemblage of the foremost men, he said:

2

"Happy are you, Valerian, in this vote of the entire senate, or rather in the thoughts and the hearts of the whole world of men. Receive the censorship, which the Roman commonwealth has offered you and which you alone deserve, you who are now about to pass judgement on the character of all men, on the character of ourselves as well.

3

You shall decide who are worthy to remain in the Senate-house, you shall restore the equestrian order to its old-time condition, you shall determine the amount of our property, you shall safeguard, apportion and order our revenues, you shall conduct the census in our communities;

4

to you shall be given the power to write our laws, you shall judge concerning the rank of our soldiers,

5

and you shall have a care for their arms;

6

you shall pass judgement on our Palace, our judges and our most eminent prefects; in short, except for the prefect of the city of Rome, except for the regular consuls, the king of the sacrifices, and the senior Vestal Virgin (as long, that is, as she remains unpolluted), you shall pronounce sentence on all. Even those on whom you may not pass judgement will strive to win your approval."

7

Thus Decius; but Valerian's reply was as follows: "Do not, I pray you, most venerated Emperor, fasten upon me the necessity of passing judgement on the people, the soldiers, the senate, and all judges, tribunes and generals the whole world over.

8

It is for this that you have the name of Augustus. You it is on whom the office of censor devolves, for no commoner can duly fill it.

9

Therefore I ask to be excused from this office, to which my life is unequal, my courage unequal, and the times so unfavourable that human nature does not desire the office of censor."


7

1

I could, indeed, cite many other senatorial decrees and imperial judgements concerning Valerian, were not most of them known to you, and did I not feel ashamed to extol too greatly a man who was vanquished by what seems a destined doom. Now let me turn to the younger Valerian.


8

1

Valerian the younger, the son of a different mother from Gallienus, conspicuous for his beauty, admired for his modesty, distinguished in learning for one of his years, amiable in his manners, and holding aloof from the vicious ways of his brother, received from his father, when absent, the title of Caesar and from his brother, so says Caelestinus, that of Augustus.

2

His life contains nothing worthy of note, save that he was nobly born, excellently reared, and pitiably slain.

3

Now since I know that many are in error, who have read the inscription of Valerian the Emperor on a tomb, and believe that the body of that Valerian who was captured by the Persians was given back again, I have thought it my duty, that no error might creep in, to set down in writing that it was this younger Valerian who was buried near Milan and that by Claudius' order the inscription was added: "Valerian the Emperor."

4

Nothing further, I think, should be demanded concerning either older or younger Valerian.

5

And since I fear to exceed the proper limit of a volume, if I add to this book Valerian's son Gallienus, concerning whom we have already said much, and perchance too much, in the life of his father, or even Gallienus' son Saloninus, who is called in the history of his time both Saloninus and Gallienus, let us now pass, as we are bidden, to another volume. For, indeed, we have ever submitted to you and to Fame, to whom we can make no refusal.