About Albia Dominica
Domnica Empress of the East
Father Petronius of Rome
Marriage - Valens Emperor of the East
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Albia Dominica (Also referred to as Dominica, Albia Domnica, Domnica, or Domnica Augusta; c. 337 – after 378) was a Roman Augusta, wife to Emperor Valens. Valens, who ruled from 364-378, was emperor of the East and co-emperor with his brother Valentinian I.
Dominica was the daughter of the powerful and unpopular praetorian prefect Petronius, who was hated for his greed and cruelty. Her father's unpopularity was so great that it led to the rebellion of Procopius, a rival of Valens, in 365.
According to the account of Ammianus Marcellinus:"...Many who, since men are always discontented with present conditions, were finding fault with Valens, as being inflamed with a desire of seizing the property of others. To the emperor's cruelty deadly incentive was given by his father-in‑law Petronius, who from the command of the Martensian legion had by a sudden jump been promoted to the rank of patrician. He was a man ugly in spirit and in appearance, who, burning with an immoderate longing to strip everyone without distinction, condemned guilty and innocent alike, after exquisite tortures, to fourfold indemnities, looking up debts going back to the time of the emperor Aurelian, grieving excessively if he was obliged to let any one escape unscathed. Along with his intolerable character he had this additional incentive to his devastations, that while he was enriching himself through the woes of others, he was inexorable, cruel, savage and fearlessly hard-hearted, never capable of giving or receiving reason, more hated than Cleander[disambiguation needed],who, as we read, when prefect under the emperor Commodus, in his haughty madness had ruined the fortunes of many men; more oppressive than Plautianus, also a prefect under Severus, who with superhuman arrogance would have caused general confusion, if he had not perished by the avenging sword. These lamentable occurrences, which under Valens, aided and abetted by Petronius, closed the houses of the poor and the palaces of the rich in great numbers, added to the fear of a still more dreadful future, sank deeply into the minds of the provincials and of the soldiers, who groaned under similar oppression, and with universal sighs everyone prayed (although darkly and in silence) for a change in the present condition of affairs with the help of the supreme deity."
Petronius was probably a Pannonian. Her further ancestry is unknown. Various of her relatives held influentials positions. A possible relative is Domnicus, an officer of Valens mentioned in Oration II by Libanius. Procopius, prefect of Constantinople in 377, is mentioned by Zosimus as a relative of Valens by marriage. Suggesting he was also related to Dominica. According to Nicetas of Serra, Eusebius was her uncle and a praefectus urbi in the Diocese of Pontus. Nicetas was a commentator to the works of Gregory of Nazianzus and identified Eusebius with an otherwise unnamed figure mentioned in the works of Gregory. Eusebius is thus supposedly recorded in the funeral oration in honor of Basil of Caesarea. According to the account of Gregory:
"The same mischance is said to have befallen the prefect. He also was obliged by sickness to bow beneath the hands of the Saint, and, in reality, to men of sense a visitation brings instruction, and affliction is often better than prosperity. He fell sick, was in tears, and in pain, he sent for Basil, and en-treated him, crying out, "I own that you were in the right; only save me!" His request was granted, as he himself acknowledged, and convinced many who had known nothing of it; for he never ceased to wonder at and describe the powers of the prelate. Such was his conduct in these cases, such its result. Did he then treat others in a different way, and engage in petty disputes about trifles, or fail to rise to the heights of philosophy in a course of action which merits no praise and is best passed over in silence? By no means. He who once stirred up the wicked Hadad against Israel, stirred up against him the prefect of the province of Pontus; nominally, from annoyance connected with some poor creature of a woman, but in reality as a part of the struggle of impiety against the truth. I pass by all his other insults against Basil, or, for it is the same thing, against God; for it is against Him and on His behalf that the contest was waged. One instance of it, however, which brought special disgrace upon the assailant, and exalted his adversary, if philosophy and eminence for it be a great and lofty thing, I will describe at length."
"The assessor of a judge was attempting to force into a distasteful marriage a lady of high birth whose husband was but recently dead. At a loss to escape from this high-handed treatment, she resorted to a device no less prudent than daring. She fled to the holy table, and placed herself under the protection of God against outrage. What, in the Name of the Trinity Itself, if I may introduce into my panegyric somewhat of the forensic style, ought to have been done, I do not say, by the great Basil, who laid down the law for us all in such matters, but by any one who, though far inferior to him, was a priest? Ought he not to have allowed her claim, to have taken charge of, and cared for, her; to have raised his hand in defence of the kindness of God and the law which gives honour to the altar? Ought he not to have been willing to do and suffer anything, rather than take part in any inhuman design against her, and outrage at once the holy table, and the faith in which she had taken sanctuary? No! said the baffled judge, all ought to yield to my authority, and Christians should betray their own laws. The suppliant whom he demanded, was at all hazards retained. Accordingly, in his rage, he at last sent some of the magistrates to search the saint's bedchamber, with the purpose of dishonouring him, rather than from any necessity. What! Search the house of a man so free from passion, whom the angels revere, at whom women do not venture even to look? And, not content with this, he summoned him, and put him on his defence; and that, in no gentle or kindly manner, but as if he were a convict. Upon Basil's appearance, standing, like my Jesus, before the judgment seat of Pilate, he presided at the trial, full of wrath and pride. Yet the thunderbolts did not fall, and the sword of God still glittered, and waited, while His bow, though bent, was restrained. Such indeed is the custom of God.
"Consider another struggle between our champion and his persecutor. His ragged pallium having been ordered to be torn away, "I will also, if you wish it, strip off my coat," said he. His fleshless form was threatened with blows, and he offered to submit to be torn with combs, and he said, "By such laceration you will cure my liver, which, as you see, is wearing me away." Such was their argument. But when the city perceived the outrage and the common danger of all — for each one considered this insolence a danger to himself, it became all on fire with rage; and, like a hive roused by smoke, one after another was stirred and arose, every race' and every age, but especially the men from the-small-arms factory and from the imperial weaving-sheds. For men at work in these trades are specially hot-tempered and daring, because of the liberty allowed them. Each man was armed with the tool he was using, or with whatever else came to hand at the moment. Torch in hand, amid showers of stones, with cudgel's ready, all ran and shouted together in their united zeal. Anger makes a terrible soldier or general. Nor were the women weaponless, when roused by such an occasion. Their pins were their spears, and no longer remaining women, they were by the strength of their eagerness endowed with masculine courage. It is a short story. They thought that they would share among themselves the piety of destroying him, and held him to be most pious who first laid hands on one who had dared such deeds. What then was the conduct of this haughty and daring judge? He begged for mercy in a pitiable state of distress, cringing before them to an unparalleled extent, until the arrival of the martyr without bloodshed, who had won his crown without blows, and now restrained the people by the force of his personal influence, and delivered the man who had insulted him and now sought his protection. This was the doing of the God of Saints, Who worketh and changeth all things for the best, who resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. And why should not He, Who divided the sea and stayed the river, and ruled the elements, and by stretching out set up a trophy, to save His exiled people, why should not He have also rescued this man from his perils?"
The names Anastasia, Domnicus, Eusebius, Petronius and Procopius used by various family members are thought to be Greek in origin. Various scholars have suggested this could indicate the descent of Dominica and her relatives from Greek-speaking families of Sirmium, the initial capital of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum. Marriage into a Greek family could have helped solididy Valens' rule over the Hellenized Eastern Roman Empire.
She married Valens (c. 354) and bore two daughters, Anastasia and Carosa, before she bore a son and heir, Valentinianus Galates (366-370). According to Socrates of Constantinople and Sozomen both daughters were educated by Marcian, a former palatinus (paladin). Marcian had become a Novatianist presbyter. His continued service at court supposedly ensured that Valens held a more tolerant stance regarding Novatianists.
Religious Scandals and the Death of Galates
The history of the Christian Church in the early 4th century was marked by the Trinitarian controversy. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 had established the Nicene Creed, which declared that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all equal to each other and of the same substance. The theologian Arius, founder of Arianism, disagreed with this and believed that the three parts of the Trinity were materially separate from each other and that the Father created the Son. Dominica was already an Arian and is rumored to have persuaded her husband Valens to convert to the Arian sect. In about 367, according to Theodoret, Domnica convinced Valens to seek baptism from Eudoxius of Antioch, Archbishop of Constantinople. Eudoxius was one of the most influential Arians.
Valens was one of the few emperors of the century to favor the Arians. The empress is accused, with no proof, of having urged her husband to persecute the Trinitarian sect, including persecting many prominent bishops. Persecution was common throughout his reign. Valens imposed a series of “witch hunts” in 371-372, in which nearly all of the pagan philosophers in the Eastern empire were killed.
The young Valentinianus's early death was a great blow to his parents, surrounded by religious scandal and quarrels. According to Socrates, Dominica told her husband that she had been having visions that their son’s illness was a punishment for ill treatment of the bishop Basil of Caesarea. Basil was a prominent orthodox leader who opposed the emperor's semi-Arian beliefs. When asked to pray for the child, known as Galates, Basil is said to have responded by giving Valens’ commitment to orthodoxy as the condition for the boy’s survival. Valens refused to comply and baptize Galates Catholic. He instead gave his son an Arian baptism. Basil replied by saying that God’s will would be done, and Galates died soon after.
Defeat at Adrianople and the Death of Valens
Valens perished in battle against the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople on August 9, 378. The exact circumstances of his death are unknown. The Goths then continued to move east and attacked Constantinople. Because there was no emperor to lead the forces, the empress Dominica was forced to organize a counterattack. Dominica paid soldiers’ wages out of the imperial treasury to any civilian volunteers who were willing to arm themselves against the invaders.
After the death of her husband she ruled as de-facto regent and defended Constantinople against the attacking Goths until his successor, Theodosius I arrived. The date and circumstances of her death remain unknown. According to Socrates and Sozomen, Dominica recruited civilian volunteers to defend Constantinople from the Goths. She issued orders for their payment to equal that of a regular soldier. The expense was paid by the imperial treasury which she administered.