Your RDA of Irony

SPQR Illustrated

October 23, 425:  Valentinian III Becomes Emperor of What’s Left of the Roman Empire

He was six years old and would show consistent immaturity in the remaining 30 years of his reign. The Western Roman Empire was disintegrating while he was throwing a tantrum. At the start of his reign, he ruled over Iberia, Gaul and Italia. By the end, he still had Italia but tenuous patches of the rest. His idea of conquests was other men’s wives. Of course, Valentinian was assassinated but–surprisingly–not by any of the husbands.

His incompetence and debauchery were not unique; yet his name denotes a rare distinction among Roman Emperors. He was related to Valentinian I and Valentinan II; in fact, he was the fourth generation of a ruling dynasty.

We all know the stereotype of the Italian male. He can impregnate a woman with just a leer. That may have been true of the Renaissance Popes but not the Roman Emperors. During orgies they evidently were at the buffet table. The imperial sterility probably encouraged assassination. It is easier to seize the throne stepping over one body than an entire dynasty. Of course, the successful usurper was usually just as impotent. Were the Roman baths a little too warm?

However, Valentinian’s family was the second-longest ruling clan on the imperial throne: 91 years. Ironically, the most successful dynasty was the first: Augustus and the kids. They lasted 95 years, and if Nero hadn’t kicked to death his pregnant wife….

And let’s observe the other historic events of this week:

October 25:  The Battle of Agincourt

October 27:  The Calvinist Cookbook

October 28:  Marching on Rome




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