The Revolt of Magnus Maximus

During this same time (late 382 to early 383 C.E.), Magnus Maximus, the commander of the army in Britain, revolted and established a second western court. By mid-383 C.E., he had crossed the channel to Paris and forced a confrontation. Gratian redirected his campaign away from the Alamanni nation on the German frontier and headed toward Paris. For a variety of reasons, his army defected to Maximus and by August 383 C.E., Gratian had been murdered. To some Roman senators, no doubt, Gratian's defeat seemed like divine justice for his abandoning of the traditional Roman gods.

The boldness of Magnus Maximus in revolting against Gratian was, at least in part, due to Theodosius' independence. Remember that in the spring of 381 C.E. he had convened the bishops in the east in anticipation of the bishops' council in Aquileia that Gratian had announced. And, as Magnus Maximus must have anticipated, he did not immediately respond to Gratian's murder by moving west to confront the usurper. In addition, already in January of383 C.E., Theodosius had proclaimed his son Arcadius, then only five, as his co-Augustus. With good reason Ambrose feared that with Gratian dead his own power would be compromised if the center of power shifted east to Theodosius' court. Together with the Roman aristocracy, who above all wanted the center of imperial power to remain in Italy to ensure the benefits of their patronage, Ambrose joined the machinations that led to the accession of Valentinian II.

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