The Trials of Hymetius and Marinus
There were two trials in particular which “sounded the signal for the murder of citizens” under Maximinus. Both were of high-ranking men which the prefect used to test the water to see exactly how much he could safely get away with. The first case was that of Marinus in 371AD. Marinus was a public advocate who was accused of having used the ‘forbidden arts’ to gain a woman called Hispanilla as his wife. Maximinus made a pretense of examining the evidence and then immediately condemned him to death. This sentence left people in no doubt that truth and the legal niceties were not Maximinus’s top priority.
Having secured the removal of such a highly placed man, Maximinus moved on. The second case note was of Hymetius, a former Proconsul of Africa. Hymetius already had a black mark against his name. When Proconsul, he had sold grain intended for the Roman people to the Carthaginians who were short of food. However, he also ensured the grain was replaced once the harvest was in and placed all the profits from the sale straight in the imperial treasury. However, Emperor Valentinian believed Hymetius had shortchanged him. So he fined him part of his property and left him under a cloud.
Now Maximinus had his eye on the rest of that property. Hymetius was his perfect victim: wealthy and an already a marked man. It would not need much to take him down, thus lining Maximinus’s pockets and underlining his authority. A notorious soothsayer Amantius was suddenly and mysteriously betrayed because of some“secret evidence’ which implicated him and Hymetius in trying to bewitch the emperor. The evidence claimed that Hymetius had employed Amantius to perform a ritual to win back the emperor’s good opinion.
Amantius denied the charge, even under torture. In the meantime, his house was searched and papers were discovered reputedly in Hymetius’s writing. They begged Amantius to carry out a “solemn sacrifice” to “prevail upon the deity to make the emperors milder towards him.” Just in case the bewitchment of the emperor wasn’t enough, the papers finished off reproving Valentinian’ for his cruelty and greed. Amantius was executed and Hymetius only avoided death on a technicality by appealing to the emperor. Because of this, he was exiled instead. Both cases proved to Maximinus his methods would work- which eventually propelled him into the imperial court.
Similar opportunists in Valen’s eastern half of the Roman Empire swiftly copied these trials for their own ends.