Immediately after Gratian's death, Ambrose went to the court of Magnus Maximus at Trier and began negotiations on behalf of Valentinian II. For sinister reasons, Maximus asked Ambrose to persuade Valentinian II to come to Trier. He promised to accept him as his own son, but Ambrose saw through the deceit. In response, he made excuses to delay such a meeting. He argued that it was too long a journey, the winter was too harsh, and that Valentinian II was too young to travel without his mother. Maximus grew impatient with the delaying tactics and dispatched Ambrose to Milan insisting that he try to work out the details of a conference. But while Ambrose had been purposefully impeding the negotiations with Maximus, Valentinian II had established his court in Milan and rallied his supporters, including Theodosius. Though he did not rush to avenge Gratian's murder, Theodosius reckoned rightly that he could only profit by supporting Valentinian II, a weak and younger coruler. Before he could set out from Constantinople, however, Valentinian II and Maximus reached an accord and subsequently ruled together, if uneasily, for three years. Though he led Maximus to believe that the young Valentinian II would come to Trier and assume the role of the lesser Augustus, Ambrose knew otherwise. He was working on behalf of Valentinian II and, foremost, he was looking to his own interests: he may have abhorred the murder of Gra-tian who had lately become a devout ally, but he also abhorred Justina, the Arian mother of Valentinian II. To Ambrose Magnus Maximus, a Nicene Catholic, was the lesser of two evils. He would promote orthodoxy.
Above all, Ambrose hoped to avoid alienating either ruler and keep the court in Milan, where he could continue to rule as an episcopal demagogue. For the same reason, the senate hoped to keep the court in Milan rather than Trier, to safeguard their own interests by holding on to their power. Whether that court was ruled by Magnus Maximus or Valentinian II was less important than that the aristocrats, both pagan senators and Christian bishop, retained their respective influence.
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