In the matter of external affairs the brothers were forced to face a very severe struggle with the Germans. Valens died prematurely during his campaign with the Goths. Valentinian was succeeded in the West by his sons, Gratian (375-83) and the child Valentinian II (375-92). After the death of Valens (378), Gratian appointed Theodosius as Augustus of the East and Illyricum.
Disregarding the young and irresolute Valentinian II, an Arian adherent, who played no important role in the internal policies of the Empire, the government under Gratian and Theodosius quite definitely forsook the policy of religious toleration and manifested a decided inclination toward the Nicene Creed. Of particular significance in this respect was the policy of the eastern ruler, Theodosius, surnamed The Great (379-95), whose name is always associated with the triumph of Christianity. His decided preference for his chosen creed left no room for toleration of paganism.
The family of Theodosius came into the foreground in the second half of the century as a result of the efforts of the father of the Emperor, also named Theodosius, who was one of the brilliant army generals in the West during the reign of Valentinian.
I. Before his appointment to the high rank of Augustus, Theodosius was only slightly interested in Christian ideas; but in the year following his appointment he was baptized in Thessalonica by the bishop of the city, Ascholius, a Nicaean.
Theodosius has to face two difficult problems: (1) the establishment of unity within the Empire which was being torn asunder by the dissenting religious parties; and (2) the defense of the Empire against the steady advance of the German barbarians, the Goths, who at the time of Theodosius threatened the very existence of the Empire.
A History of the Byzantine Empire - Table of Contents
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