Roman Emperor; son of Valentinian I; born at Sirmium, 359; died at Lyons, 383. Before he had attained his ninth year he received the purple robe and diadem, with the title of Augustus; and on the death of his father (375) he became Emperor of the West. His half-brother, Valentinian II, an infant, was associated with him in the title. He fixed his residence at Trier, and devoted himself to opposing the advance of the Alamanni, whom he routed in the great battle of Colmar (378). His colleague in the east, Valens, was, however, defeated and slain by the Goths in the same year at the battle of Adrianople. Gratian, feeling himself unequal to the task of governing the whole empire alone, assigned the eastern portion to Theodosius I . Up to this time he had shown himself to be a wise ruler and a brave and skilful general, but now he began to neglect his duties and to devote himself to hunting and other sports. A rebellion which arose in Britain under Maximus, one of his generals, spread into Gaul. Gratian, who was residing at Paris, fled to Lyons, and was there treacherously slain (25 Aug., 383). Gratian's reign marks a distinct epoch in the transition of the empire from paganism to Christianity. At the time of his accession (375) he refused the insignia of pontifex maximus, which even Constantine and the other Christian emperors had always accepted. At the instance of St. Ambrose , who became his chief adviser, he caused the statue of Victory to be removed from the senate house at Rome (382). In this same year he abolished all the privileges of the pagan pontiffs and the grants for the support of pagan worship. Deprived of the assistance of the State, paganism rapidly lost influence. Gratian did not go so far as to confer upon the Church the privileges and emoluments which he took from the pagans, but he gave proof of his zeal by undoing the effects of Valens's persecution, and by taking measures for the suppression of various forms of heresy. Though in general his policy was one of toleration, he made apostasy a crime punishable by the State (383). It was for Gratian that St. Ambrose wrote his great treatise "De Fide".
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online