The Roman emperor Valentinian III, who rose to the throne at the age
of 6, was assassinated on March 16, 455.
Flavius Placidus Valentinianus, the only son of Constantius III and
Galla Placidia, belonged to the Theodosian family thanks to his
mother, who would play a pivotal role in guiding the young ruler.
According to David Vagi, in Coinage And History of the Roman
Empire, “Though his political legacy lie in the West, he spent his
early years in exile in Constantinople with his mother.”
Connect with Coin World:
Hailed caesar on Oct. 23, 424, at Thessolanika after the overthrow
of Johannes, he took the throne when the eastern fleet defeated the
deposed ruler in May or June of the following year.
Trouble in the east arose when Valentinian III’s cousin, Theodosius
II, died in 450 and a soldier named Marcian was appointed his
replacement by Theodosius’s widow, without the consent of Valentinian
III. Although the appointment was flagrantly unconstitutional, there
was nothing the western ruler could do.
His reign was marked by the expansion of Vandals to North Africa,
which would eventually lead to their invasion of Italy and sacking of
Rome shortly after Valentinian’s death.
The other main adversary for Valentinian III was Attila the Hun,
“whose mounted warriors had unraveled Roman security in both the East
and the West,” wrote Vagi, before Attila died of natural causes in 453.
“Just when Valentinian had rid himself of Attila and had grudgingly
acknowledged Marcian, another foe emerged from within his ranks,”
according to Vagi.
Master of soldiers Aetius threatened Valentinian III and his
chamberlain, so the ruler personally murdered his prize soldier with a dagger.
Less than a year later, Valentinian III was assassinated, 1,561
years ago today, by two of Aetius’ former bodyguards to avenge their
This cleared the way for Petronius Maximus, who had either arranged
or encouraged both murders.
“Valentinian’s reign was yet another signpost in the decline of the
Western Roman Empire, and constituted the extinction of the Theodosian
line in the West,” wrote Vagi.