VALENTINIAN III (Placidius Valentinianus)
Valentinian was born in Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius (who became Constantius III). His mother was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius.
When Valentinian was less than two years old, Honorius appointed Constantius co-emperor (Constantius III), a position he would hold until his death seven months later.
In either 421, Valentinian was given the title of Nobilissimus by Honorius, but which was not initially recognized in the eastern court of Theodosius II. After the death Constantius in 421, Valentinian's mother Galla Placidia was forced to flee to Constantinople with Valentinian and his sister Justa Grata Honoria.
In 423, Honorius died, and the usurper Johannes took the power in Rome. To counter this threat to his power, Theodosius belatedly recognised Valentinian's father as Augustus and nominated Valentinian Caesar of the West in October 23, 424. Theodosius also betrothed him to his own daughter Licinia Eudoxia (whom Valentinian would eventually marry in 437 when he came of age). on October 23, 425, after Johannes had been defeated, Valentinian was installed as Western Emperor in Rome, at the age of six.
Given his minority status, the new Augustus ruled under the regency of his mother Galla Placidia. Her regency lasted until 437, and she was effectively and in deed, the Western Emperor.
In 425, the court at Ravenna negotiated with the Huns who had accompanied Flavius Aëtius to Italy in support of Johannes. They agreed to leave Italy, and to evacuate the province of Pannonia Valeria, which was returned to the empire. There were significant victories over the Visigoths in Gaul in 426/7 and 430 and the Franks along the Rhine in 428 and 432.
Nevertheless, the Vandals in Hispania continued their incursions, and, in 429, they commenced their invasion of Mauretania Tingitana, which seriously impacted the state's ability to function.
In addition, the initial period of Valentinian's reign was dominated by the struggle between the leaders of the three principal army groups of the west - Felix, the senior Magister militum praesentalis, Bonifacius, the Magister militum per Africam and Flavius Aëtius, the Magister militum per Gallias.
In 427, Felix accused Bonifacius of being a traitor. He sent an army to capture him but was defeated, whereupon he was replaced by Aëtius and executed. Aëtius also tried to discredit Bonifacius, but after the latter failed to stop Gaiseric and his Vandals in North Africa and fled to Ravenna, Aëtius was replaced by Bonifacius. In the civil war that followed, Bonifacius defeated Aëtius at the Battle of Ravenna, but died of his wounds.
Aëtius fled to the Huns and with their help, was able to persuade the court to reinstate him to his old position of Magister militum praesentalis in 434. As a consequence, in 435, Valentinian was forced to conclude a peace with Gaiseric, whereby the Vandals kept all their possessions in North Africa in return for a payment of tribute to the empire, while the Huns were granted new territory in Pannonia Savia to occupy.
Galla Placidia's regency came to an end in 437 when Valentinian travelled to Constantinople to marry his fiancée, Licinia Eudoxia. On his return to Rome, he was nominally the emperor, but in truth power in the west was in the hands of Aëtius.
From 436 to 439, Aëtius was focused on the situation in Gaul with mixed success. Meanwhile the Vandals completely overran the remaining western African provinces, culminating in the fall of Carthage on 19th October 439.
Spain as well continued to slip away from imperial control during the early to mid 440s as the Suebi extended their control. By 444, all the Spanish provinces bar Hispania Tarraconensis had been lost to the Germanic tribe and even Tarraconensis was under pressure due to continued Bagaudic uprisings.
The Huns continued to pressure the Danubian provinces in the 440s. Sometime before 449, Valentinian granted the honorary title of Magister militum of the western empire upon their chieftain, Attila the Hun, and the western court was relieved when he concentrated on raiding the eastern empire's provinces in the Balkans. In 449, Attila received a message from Honoria, Valentinian III's sister, offering him half the western empire if he would rescue her from an unwanted marriage that his brother was forcing her into.
Attila had been looking for a pretext for invading the West and was allegedly bribed by the Vandal king Gaiseric to attack the Visigoths in Gaul. In 450, he invaded the Gallic provinces, after securing peace with the eastern court. In early 451, Attila crossed the Rhine and entered the Belgic provinces, capturing Divodurum Mediomatricum on April 7, 451, Aëtius gathered together a coalition of forces, including Visigoths and Burgundians, and raced to prevent Attila taking the city of Aurelianum, successfully forcing the Huns to beat a hasty retreat. The Roman-Germanic forces met Hunnic forces at the Battle of Châlons, resulting in a victory for Aëtius, who sought to retain his position by allowing Attila and a significant number of his troops to escape.
This allowed Attila to regroup, and, in 452, Attila invaded Italy. He sacked and destroyed Aquileia and took Verona and Vincentia as well. Aëtius was shadowing the Huns but did not have the troops to attack, so the road to Rome was open. Although Ravenna was Valentinian's usual residence, he and the court eventually moved back to Rome, where he was as Attila approached.
Valentinian sent Pope Leo I and two leading senators to negotiate with Attila. This embassy, combined with a plague among Attila's troops, the threat of famine, and news that the Eastern Emperor Marcian had launched an attack on Hun homelands along the Danube, forced Attila to turn around and leave Italy. The death of Attila in Pannonia in 453 and the power struggle that erupted between his sons ended the Hunnic threat to the empire.
Valentinian thereby felt secure enough to begin plotting to have Aëtius killed, egged on by Petronius Maximus, who was a high ranking senator who bore Aëtius a personal grudge. On 21st September 454. Aëtius was presenting some financial statement before the Emperor when Valentinian suddenly leapt from his throne and accused him of treason. Valentinian drew his sword and rushed at the weapon-less Aëtius, killing him on the spot.
On March 16th of the following year, the emperor himself was assassinated in Rome by two Hunnish followers of Aëtius. These retainers may have been put up to it by Petronius Maximus, who the day after the assassination had himself proclaimed emperor by the remnants of the Western Roman army after paying a large donative.
Robert Bridge (1904-1997) was a gifted linguist - fluent in German, Italian, and French - who found application for his talents in Britain's secret intelligence service. He spent WWII in military intelligence and after the war became Berlin station chief for MI6. Among his more interesting assignments can be mentioned his interrogation of the infamous Gestapo chief of Rome, Herbert Kappler, who was captured by the British while unsuccessfully trying to seek refuge in the Vatican. Berlin in the immediate post war period was a focal point for espionage, and in much later years Bridge would privately describe experiences that seem straight out of John le Carré - the secret station office entered through what appeared to be an ordinary shop, late night meetings in a cemetery with an eastern source, and his abiding anger toward one of the "Cambridge Spies" with whom he had worked and whom he blamed for many deaths.
Bridge was also one of the most prominent 20th century English collectors of Byzantine coins, and began collecting in earnest around the 1960s. Many coins from his collection are cited in MIB 1 and 2, and 18 of his coins are illustrated on the plates. In 1990, he donated to the British Museum 274 Byzantine coins previously unrepresented in the national collection (including a solidus of the revolt of Heraclius). Much of his remaining collection was sold in a 1990 Glendining's sale (catalogued by Baldwin's), Byzantine Coins from the R.N. Bridge Collection.