Failure of Empire is the first comprehensive biography of the Roman emperor Valens and his troubled reign (A.D. 364-78). Valens will always be remembered for his spectacular defeat and death at the hands of the Goths in the Battle of Adrianople. This singular misfortune won him a front-row seat among history's great losers. By the time he was killed, his empire had been coming unglued for several years: the Goths had overrun the Balkans; Persians, Isaurians, and Saracens were threatening the east; the economy was in disarray; and pagans and Christians alike had been exiled, tortured, and executed in his religious persecutions. Valens had not, however, entirely failed in his job as emperor. He was an admirable administrator, a committed defender of the frontiers, and a ruler who showed remarkable sympathy for the needs of his subjects.
In lively style and rich detail, Lenski incorporates a broad range of new material, from archaeology to Gothic and Armenian sources, in a study that illuminates the social, cultural, religious, economic, administrative, and military complexities of Valens's realm. Failure of Empire offers a nuanced reconsideration of Valens the man and shows both how he applied his strengths to meet the expectations of his world and how he ultimately failed in his efforts to match limited capacities to limitless demands.
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. The Pannonian Emperors
Chapter 2. The Revolt of Procopius
Chapter 3. Valen's First Gothic War
Chapter 4. Valens and the Eastern Frontier
Chapter 5. Religion under the Valentiniani
Chapter 6. Administration and Finance under Valentinian and Valens
Chapter 7. The Disaster at Adrianople
Noel Lenski is Associate Professor and Chair of Classics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
“Splendid book . . . Lenski offers an extraordinarily suggestive description . . . information is presented without fanfare, but with style and much good sense.”—Clifford Ando American Historical Review
“This book will be a hard act to follow.”—W. H. C. Frend Cambridge Univeristy Pres
“This book will be a hard act to follow.”—W. H. C. Frend, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“Splendid book . . . Lenski offers an extraordinarily suggestive description . . . information is presented without fanfare, but with style and much good sense.”—Clifford Ando, American Historical Review
“In this energetically reasoned and learned book, Noel Lenski links the imperial biography to the administrative, military, and religious history of the late Roman State…The result is a thought-provoking and enduring contribution to what we know about late antiquity: a book to be welcomed.”—Sabine MacCormack, author of The Shadows of Poetry: Vergil in the Mind of Augustine
“Failure of Empire
is exceptionally well organized: one gets the sense of a guiding intellect behind every paragraph…Lenski brings coherence to a reign that has long seemed to lack anything of the sort.”—Hal Drake, author of Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance
Outstanding Book Award for 2005, Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS)