Flavius Victor. AR Siliqua, 1.99g. Trier. c 383 - 388 A.D. DN FL VICTOR PF AVG. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust of Victor to right / VIRTVS ROMANORUM Roma seated left on cuirass, holding globus and reverted spear, TRPS in exergue. RIC IX 84d.1. In fact, one cannot really write much about Victor, as there is almost nothing to say. Historical sources are few and fragmentary. One can tell Victor’s story only through that of his father, Magnus Maximus (c. 335 – 388). Maximus was a capable general of the Roman army, scoring victories in Africa and in Britain, where he defeated the Picts and Scots in 380. Seizing an opportunity while the Emperor Gratian struggled with popularity issues, Maximus accepted the position of emperor when proclaimed so by his army in Britain in 383. He marched into Gaul whence his forces soon met with and dispatched Gratian. After some political back-and-forth, Theodosius I recognized Maximus as emperor in the West. His dominion included Spain, Gaul, Africa, and of course Britain. But apparently not Italy. Now, that would likely chafe any Emperor’s nerves, and - predictably - he headed East with his army securing Milan before pushing his luck a wee bit too far. His forces were defeated by Theodosius I and Valentinian II; Magnus was executed in Aquileia in August 388. But this is supposed to be about Flavius Victor, right? Well Victor was the son of Magnus Maximus, this we know from a contemporary source. Paulus Orosius (c. 375 – c. 420) in his Historiarum Adversum Paganos writes, “After the destruction of Maximus and of his son Victor, whom Maximus had left among the Gauls as their emperor, Valentinian the Younger, now restored to his realm, passed over into Gaul.” (VII.35) This text suggests that Maximus specifically made Victor emperor of Gaul, instead of co-emperor of his entire territory. Whether Maximus intended to increase Victor’s share of power as he grew older, or whether he intended to divide his realm up among other heirs, is not clear. Fortunately we have corroborating sources about Victor’s status. Nennius, writing in the 9th c., tell us that “Maximus afterwards [after defeating Gratian] associated his son Victor in the government”, (Historia Brittonum, 29). This places the ascent of Victor after the death of Gratian in August 383. In this text we also read that, “in the same year [as Maximus’ death] also his son Victor was killed in Gaul by Arbogastes [a Frankish general], five thousand six hundred and ninety years from the creation of the world.” Nennius’ dating system notwithstanding, this puts Victor’s death shortly after August 388, so his reign as emperor was at most five years. Now it was of course traditional to make one’s heir Caesar before promoting him to emperor. To my knowledge there are no coins of Flavius Victor as Caesar. But we do have the following from Zosimus (fl. 390-510) writing about 100 years after the events, “Theodosius, having heard that when Maximus came from beyond the Alps he left his son Victor, whom he had dignified with the title of Caesar, he immediately sent for his general, named Arbogastes, who deprived the youth both of his dignity and life.” (Historia Nova. IV) This is a bit confusing though, as the coin above (and all other coins of Victor) refer to him as AVG, a title which must have been in place well before Theodosius had him assassinated. So it is possible that Zosimus just missed the Augustus part, or that he was using the term “Caesar” somewhat vernacularly. Personally, I think Victor was promoted directly to Emperor (of Gaul). Magnus Maximus had two rivals for the throne: Theodosius I, a powerful and relatively capable Emperor of the East, and Valentinian II (371 – 392), a child emperor. Valentinian II was four years old when he was made Augustus, twelve at the time of Maximus’ usurpation, and seventeen in the year of Victor’s death. Though we do not know the year of Victor’s birth, as Maximus was in his 50’s at the time of his death it is probable that his son Victor was at least as old as Valentinian II. There was certainly precent for Maximus to declare his youthful son Augustus, and I think his plan was to replace the young and fairly useless Valentinian II with Victor as soon as practical. Based on the number of coins of Flavius Victor extant, the number issued in his name must have been fairly large; certainly more than one would expect for an obscure young emperor of limited domain and probably no real power. So I think this coinage was likely part of a propaganda campaign to establish Victor as Emperor, and to provide legitimacy for him to replace the equally young if not younger Valentinian II. I’ll end this with the last contemporary account of Victor, and that is from Sulpicius Alexander, an historian of the late 4th c. His work has been lost but fragments are preserved in Gregory of Tours’ (538-594) Historia Francorum. Gregory quotes Alexander thus, “And when word was carried to Treves, Nannius and Quintinus the military officers to whom Maximus had intrusted his infant son and the defense of the Gauls, assembled an army and met at Cologne.” (I.9) I include this quote to complete the list of ancient sources on Victor, but also to highlight the phase “infant son”. One can find modern descriptions of coins of Flavius Victor which claim that Victor was a small boy at the time of his death, and the portrait on the coin – clearly of a teenager or young man – was artificially aged for some reason. I can only find this one reference in Gregory to an “infant son” so I assume the theory derives from this sole source. Personally I think “infant son” is potentially a mistranslation, as we are reading in English what Gregory of Tours wrote in Latin when quoting Sulpicius Alexander who wrote in Greek. It is also possible that “infant son” refers to another otherwise unattested child of Maximus. I just don’t find it plausible that a very small boy on the outskirts of the empire was awarded the title of Emperor of Gaul, had a large coinage issued in his name, and was enough of a threat after Magnus’ death to have him immediately assassinated. And if Victor was really a small child when he was murdered, I suspect the other sources would have noted that. Gregory of Tours leaves us with one final tantalizing comment, “And in the fourth book, when he [Alexander] tells of the killing of Victor, son of Maximus the tyrant,…” (I.9) which Gregory follows with some words about Valentinian II and leaves Victor in obscurity. So unless someone happens to have a 1500 year old copy of Sulpicius Alexander hidden away somewhere, this is probably all we will ever know of Flavius Victor.