Valentia (Roman Britain)

Valentia (Roman Britain)

Valentia was the name of a consular northern province of Roman Britain.

Count Theodosius set up Valentia in 369 AD as part of his reorganisation of Britain following the Great Conspiracy, and probably named it after the reigning emperors, Valentinian and Valens.

Ammianus tells of how the province had been earlier lost until Theodosius regained it and named it Valentia:

:" [Theodosius] restored to its former state a province which was recovered that he had previously abandoned to enemy rule. This he did to the extent that it had a properly-appointed governor, and it was from that time onwards known as 'Valentia' by decision of the emperor." (Ammianus, XXVIII. iii.)

Its exact location remains uncertain. The name's closeness to the Latin word for wall ("valens") has led to the suggestion that it straddled Hadrian's Wall, or entity between Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall.

This theory is supported by readings of the Notitia Dignitatum which lists two divisions of troops serving under the Dux Britanniarum in northern Britain in the later fourth century. One group covered the east of Britain whilst the second was a group of garrisons the Notitia lists in strict geographical order east to west along Hadrian's Wall and then in a more muddled fashion on the north west coast of modern England. From the number of later emendations to the Notitia it seems that more troop changes took place in the west and some unlisted forts in the west can be shown to have still been occupied while the document was current. These differences have been used to argue for the area now known as Cumbria to have been thoroughly overrun during the Great Conspiracy and therefore a prime candidate for reorganisation by Theodosius and deserving of its own separate military command.

Outside of the slim military evidence, Ammianus' account implies that Valentia was abandoned by Theodosius at first prior to it being regained and given a 'properly-appointed governor'. This suggests that whilst in Britain, Theodosius made a strategic withdrawal from the area before a change in policy permitted it to be retaken. That Valentia is described as a recovered province seems to suggest that it already existed as a separate entity but the Notitia lists it along with the older Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda, Maxima Caesariensis and Flavia Caesariensis, leaving little room for a fifth pre-existing province.

It may therefore be that there were five provinces in Roman Britain, perhaps from c. 315 AD onwards, the most exposed of which Theodosius did not expect to recover from the barbarians when he arrived in 367 AD. Evidence for the creation of the other four fourth century provinces primarily comes from the Verona List which dates to the early part of that century and a fifth province could have been created since then.

Another point is Ammianus' comment that the province was named by Valentinian "as if celebrating a minor triumph (velut ovans)". These minor triumphs were a Republican honour granted for unspectacular victories or defeats of slave revolts. A full Imperial triumph celebration would have been more appropriate for a defeat over the invading hordes and it is odd that the emperor was so restrained. One explanation is that full triumphs were never granted in victories over Roman citizens, the enemy had to be barbarian for a general to receive full honours. Possibly Valentia was a breakaway province. This suggestion is compounded by Ammianus' immediately preceding account, regarding an exiled but well-connected Roman named Valentinus. A friend of Maximinus, Valentinus had been sent to Britain as punishment for an unnamed but very serious crime for which he should have been executed. Valentinus fomented a rebellion in Britain, gathering support from other exiles and bribing the troops for support. Theodosius crushed the rebellion before it could begin however and the ringleaders were handed over to the dux, Dulcitius for execution. However, the number condemned was limited by Theodosius who forbade wider investigations in order to minimise recriminations, perhaps a sign that discontent was uncomfortably widespread. Although Valentinus' revolt was a failure, its story does show that there were other desperate exiles in the province who may have had more success.

Taken together this evidence suggests that Theodosius may have arrived in Britain to find the predecessor of Valentia in the hands of a Roman rebel administration rather than barbarian raiding parties. Perhaps the disarray of the Great Conspiracy provided a group of exiles with an opportunity to seize a province in defiance of Rome. It was swiftly regained by Theodosius but perhaps in order to maintain the impression of imperial authority, the reorganisation of the rebel province was undertaken in an unostentatious way.

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