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Gaius Julius Gratianus

Gaius Julius Gratianus

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 55| 3 March 20CE | Equite | Imperial Administration | Hetero | Original | Derek Jacobi


Derek Jacobi



If you had to pick a word to pick a word to describe Gratian (the name he styles himself) these days it would be jaded. He was worked in the Imperial administration since his early manhood and has seen it all. All manner of good and bad. Corruption and vice. As a young man he was merry and open but, over the years, has lost some of that spark. Worn down by the cares of running his office and the stresses of working for various, changing Emperors and serving their changing whims. Something of a workaholic, he enjoys palace intrigues but keeps above plotting and, in so doing, has preserved his position and life through several changes of regime. A wealthy man, he has long since ceased trying to stops his sons and wife from frittering away his money on luxuries. Less fastidious than he used to be (in his youth, he embraced a form of rough Stoicism and rejection of luxury and indulgence), he now gives in to pleasures but does so in an almost self-destructive way: gambling, compulsion spending, heavy drinking. After a lifetime spent serving the State, he is now turning his attentions to wondering what his legacy will be.


Gratian is a short man. Having never lived a military life, his body is less rugged than some and, even if it were, age is turning lean to gentle fat. Years spent hunching over a desk have massively hurt his back, which now requires the daily ministrations of a masseuse to bring even a small form of relief. The cares of office have left his face etched with worry lines and he stares with a squint with his fading eyesight struggling with small writing. He likes to dress well, although not in a gaudy fashion. He keeps himself neat and tidy as he is regularly in attendance at Imperial consilia and government meetings.


Father: Gaius Julius Favonius (34BCE - 42CE), imperial freedman, raised to equite order.

Mother: Valeria Gratiana (2BCE - 71CE), daughter of low level equite.

Siblings: Marcus Julius Valerianus (26CE - ); Sextus Julius Favonius (28CE - ); Julia Favonia (31CE - ), married to Lucius Herrenius Balbus (21CE - )

Spouse: Aurelia Secunda (29CE - )

Children: Gaius Julius Gratianus Minor (51CE - ); Sextus Julius Aurelianus (55CE - ); and Julia Gratiana (55CE - )

Extended family:

Children of Marcus Julius Valerianus: Marcus Julius Valerianus Minor (49CE - ); Julia Valeriana (54CE - ); Julia Secunda (58CE -)

Children of Sextus Julius Aurelianus: Julia Aurelia (59CE-)

Children of Julia Favonia: Lucius Herrenius Favonius (60CE-); Sextus Herrenius Balbus (63CE-)


Gratian's father was a slave of Augustus. After starting his career in the lowly position of the Princep's gardens, through good work and much academic skill, he was able to work his way up from the soil and into the sprawling network of offices on the Palatine from which the day to day administration of the Empire was undertaken. In the reign of Tiberius he received his freedom and was kept on, raised now to a senior managerial position within the office of the Imperator's correspondence bureau. Through fair and foul means, his father was able to amass a sizeable fortune, sufficient for him to be enrolled in the order of the equites and to which he burnished his nouveau riche credentials by marrying a woman from an old equite family which was now so hard up that essentially selling off one of their many daughters (without a dowry) to a freedman seemed an appealing idea. The couple purchased a small but prestigious townhouse on the lower slopes of the Palatine, where his father spent most of his days and nights anyway.

From his very youth, Gratian was brought up in the looming shadow of the Imperial palace and the huge machinery of Imperial government. His father was desperate that his eldest son follow in his footsteps. He was schooled in the Palatine school for slaves and the sons of freedmen, an unofficial creche for the next generation of imperial administrators. A bright boy, he was marked out by his teachers for his capacity with language and fine head for numbers. When he was old enough, his father decided to burnish his son's academic credentials by paying for him to undertake three years of further education (from the age of 18 to 21). Two years were spent in Athens, studying philosophy and rhetoric at a range of colleges there, as well as polishing his written and spoken Greek, which he now speaks as easily as Latin. His final year was spent in the educational establishments for budding orators on Rhodes, made famous by Tiberius studying there in his earlier days.

When he returned to Rome, his father used his connections within the palace bureaucracy (together with spending suitable bribes on the necessary persons) to have his son elected on the vigintiviri, being selected for those serving as junior officials at the Treasury. Here his skill with numbers was noted by his superiors.

However, instead of embarking on the military or gubernatorial positions on an equestrian's cursus honorum, Gratian's father pulled strings so that his son was given a junior management post in the Scrinium Epistularum. This was a branch of the imperial administration which dealt with the Emperor's correspondence. This may seem like a mundane task but then consider quite how many letters are sent out each day either by the Emperor directly or by those acting in his name. There are hundreds of letters going to each governor and procurator of each province. Letters to the commanders of legions. Letters to petitioners. Letters to the Courts, handing down imperial judgments. Letters to foreign princes. Then there are the letters the Caesar sends in his private capacity. The sheer volume of letters coming in and going out keeps a whole scriptorium of scribes busy day after day and long into each night.

I wish I could say that Gratian's career was varied. It has been in the sense of the number of senior officials and Emperors he has served with and under. The good, the bad and the mad. Through good work, obedience and an ability to trim and turn to the way the wind is blowing, Gratian was able to rise until he was appointed, Magister, that is to say the Department Head, as it were. As Magister, he is a regular frequenter of the imperial consilia, responsible for taking notes from the Imperator and bringing to him each day, a summary of his correspondence, with the Imperator able to read the full copies of the letters the Imperator believes require his attention, done in conjunction with any Procurator Ab Rationibus (the Imperator's private secretary) who may happen to be appointed at the time. What actions he wishes to do he dictates to Gratian who, in turn, delegates these down to have the orders draw up. Similarly, Gratian is to give regular attendance to the Praetorian Prefect and other prominent officials to do likewise.

The closest he came to disaster was during the short, bloody reign of Clemens when he was almost purged for his relationship with the previous imperial house. The only reason he kept his head on his shoulders was that the Imperator was saving him for later and he needed someone to run the Imperial scriptorium in the meantime. Fortunately Clemens was carried off before he carried off Gratian's head.

Alexander Augustus kept Gratian in his post on account of his lengthy heritage of good work and the fact he was not seen as a threat. So long had he worked in the Imperial administration that he was almost a fixture of the place.

Gratian married a younger woman with an equite heritage far longer than his and who is ready to make disparaging comments about her husband frequently. A loveless marriage, it has still produced three children, all of whom have grown up to be disappointments to their father. He would have liked one of his sons to follow in his footsteps but neither seem inclined. None have learned the value of money or hard work. Facing such disappointment, Gratian drinks more these days than he should and wonders why he has been so thrifty and hardworking if it is all for nothing? He holds hopes of being appointed to the valued position of Procurator Ab Rationibus or other higher administrative office.


Lauren | GMT  | PM or Discord



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