Magnus Maximus at Trier

Towards the end of the fourth century, writes David Jones, a Spanish emperor from Britain and his Welsh empress held their spendid court in a city on the Moselle.

In A.D. 383 Magnus Maximus, the Governor of Roman Wales, was proclaimed Emperor by the legions occupying Britain. He crossed the Channel at the head of the army, accompanied by a personal bodyguard of Caernarvon men and a Welsh wife known to medieval legend as Helen of the Hosts. His invasion of Gaul led to the desertion of the Emperor Gratian’s troops, and Gratian himself was killed by his own men on August 15th.

In the following year Maximus was recognized as western Emperor by Theodosius, ruler of the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The usurper set up his court at Trier in Gratian’s palace, and surrounded himself with the leading figures of the western world. For three years this Spanish-born officer, who had risen to power in Britain entirely by his own military and administrative ability, presided over a brilliant circle of literary and clerical figures, which included the poet Ausonius and Martin, Bishop of Tours, the founder of western monasticism.

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