[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Ch. 3
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of the Later Roman Empire

by J. B. Bury

published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Ch. 5, §§1‑4

Vol. I
Chapter IV


It was the mature judgment of the founder of the Empire that Roman dominion had then reached the due limit of its expansion, and it was a corollary of this opinion of Augustus that all the future wars of Rome should be wars in which defence and not aggression was the motive. His discernment was confirmed by the history of nearly fifteen hundred years. Through the long period of its duration, there were not many decades in which the Roman Empire was not engaged in warfare, but with few exceptions all its wars were waged either to defend its frontiers or to recover provinces which had been taken from it. The only clear exception was the conquest of Britain.1 For the motive of Trajan's conquest of Dacia and of the lands beyond the Tigris (which were almost immediately abandoned) was not the spirit of aggression or territorial greed or Imperial vanity, so much as the need of strengthening the defences of the Illyrian and eastern provinces. After Trajan there were few cases even of this kind. Diocletian's acquisitions on the Tigris were mainly designed for security, and if any war can be described as a war of self-defence it was that which carried Heraclius into the heart of Persia. There were, indeed, wars of conquest, in which the Roman government took the first step, but they were all to recover lands which had formerly belonged to Rome for centuries. If we regard unprovoked aggression against neighbours as the most heinous crime of which a state can be guilty, few states  p90  have a cleaner record than the later Roman Empire. But it was a crime which there was neither the temptation nor the power to commit. There was little temptation, because there was no pressure of population demanding more territory for expansion; and the Empire was seldom in a position to plan conquests, for all its available forces were required for self-preservation. As in the days of Augustus, there were perpetually two enemies to be faced:

hinc mouet Euphrates, illinc Germania bellum.

In the east, Parthian was succeeded by Persian, Persian by Saracen, Saracen by Turk. In the west, after the German invasions had reduced the Empire to half its size and the Teutonic kingdoms had been shaped, the Roman rulers had to confront the Frank after the Lombard, the Norman after the Frank, and then the Crusaders. But this was not all. New enemies appeared in the north in the shape of Asiatic nomads and Slavs.

In this chapter we will glance at the three enemies with whom the Empire had to reckon in the fifth century, the Persians, the Germans, and the Huns.

§ 1. Persia

When the Parthian power was overthrown by the revolution of A.D. 226, the Iranian state was renewed and strengthened under a line of monarchs who revived the glories of the ancient Achaemenids, of whom they considered themselves the true successors. Persia under the Sassanid dynasty was recognised by the Roman Empire as a power of equal rank with itself, a consideration which it showed to no other foreign state and had never accorded to the Parthian. The rise of the new dynasty occurred when the Empire was about to enter on a period of internal trouble which shook it to its foundations, and nothing shows more impressively the efficacy of the reforms which were carried out at the end of the third century than the fact that for the following three hundred years the Romans (notwithstanding the perpetual struggles which claimed their energy in Europe) were able to maintain their eastern frontiers, without any serious losses, against this formidable and well-organised enemy.

The two most conspicuous features of the Persian state were  p91  the hereditary nobility and the Zoroastrian church. The first was a point of sharp contrast, the second of remarkable resemblance, to the Roman Empire. The highest nobility were known as "the people of the Houses,"2 and probably all of them possessed large domains in which they exercised princely rights. But the soundest part of the nation seems to have been the inferior nobility, also landed proprietors, who were known as the Dikhāns. Relations of a sort which may be called feudal are supposed to have existed between the two classes of nobility, and the organisation of the army seems to have been connected with the feudal obligations. Some of the high offices of state were restricted by law to certain families, and the power of the great nobles was frequently opposed to the authority of the kings.

To admirers of ancient Greece and Rome one of the most pleasing features of their condition, compared with that of the subjects of the great Iranian monarchy which threatened them in the east, was the absence of a jealous religion controlled by a priesthood possessing immense power in the state and exerting an extreme conservative influence incompatible with the liberty which the city-states of Europe enjoyed. The establishment of Christianity brought Rome into line with Persia. Henceforward both states were governed by jealous gods. Both realms presented the spectacle of a powerful priesthood organised as a hierarchy, intolerant and zealous for persecution. Each district in a Persian province seems to have been under the spiritual control of a Magian high priest (corresponding to a bishop), and at the head of the whole sacerdotal hierarchy was the supreme Archi-mage.3 In some respects the Magian organisation formed a state within a state. The kings often chafed under the dictation of the priests and there were conflicts from time to time, but the priests generally had the moral support of the nobility behind them. They might be defied for a few years, but their power inevitably reasserted itself.

Although both governments discouraged private peaceable intercourse between their subjects, following a policy which reminds us of China or mediaeval Russia,a and the commerce  p92  between the two countries was carried on entirely on the frontiers, the influence of Persia on Roman civilisation was considerable. We have seen how the character of the Roman army was affected by the methods of Persian warfare. We have also seen how the founders of the Imperial autocracy imitated, in however modified a form, the royal ceremonial of the court of Ctesiphon; and from this influence must ultimately be derived the ceremonial usages of the courts of modern Europe. In the diplomatic intercourse between the Imperial and Persian governments we may find the origin of the formalities of European diplomacy.

It is a convention for modern sovrans to address each other as "brother," and this was the practice adopted by the Emperor and the King of kings.4 Whatever reserves each might make as to his own superiority, they treated each other as equals, and considered themselves as the two lights of the world — in oriental figurative language, the sun of the east and the moon of the west.5 When a new sovran ascended to either throne it was the custom to send an embassy to the other court to announce the accession,6 and it was consisted a most unfriendly act to omit this formality. The ambassadors enjoyed special privileges; their baggage was exempt from customs duties; and when they reached the frontier, the government to which they were sent provided for their journey to the capital and defrayed their expenses. At Constantinople it was one of the duties of the Master of Offices to make all the arrangements for the arrival of an ambassador, for his reception and entertainment, and, it must be added, for supervising his movements.7 For all important negotiations men of high rank were chosen, and were  p93  distinguished as "great ambassadors" from the envoys of inferior position who were employed in matters of less importance.8

Of the details of the procedure followed in concluding treaties between ancient states we have surprisingly little information. But a very full account of the negotiations which preceded the peace of A.D. 562 between Rome and Persia, and of the manner in which the treaty was drafted, has come down to us, and illustrates the development of diplomatic formalities.9

We may conclude with great probability that it was the intercourse with the Persian court that above all promoted the elaboration of a precise system of diplomatic forms and etiquette at Constantinople. Such forms were carefully adhered to in the relations of the Emperor with all the other kings and princes who came within his political horizon. They were treated not as equals, like the Persian king, but with gradations of respect and politeness, nicely regulated to correspond to the position which they held in the eyes of the Imperial sovran. This strict etiquette, imposed by Constantinople, was the diplomatic school of Europe.

In the fourth century the eastern frontier of the Empire had been regulated by two treaties, and may roughly be represented by a line running north and south from the borders of Colchis on the Black Sea to Circesium on the Euphrates.

Jovian had restored to Persia, in A.D. 363, most, but not all, of the territories beyond the Tigris which Diocletian had conquered;10 and the new boundary followed the course of the Nymphius, which flows from the north into the upper Tigris, then a straight line drawn southward between Nisibis and Daras to the river Aborras, and then the course of the Aborras, which joins the Euphrates at Circesium. Thus of the great strongholds  p94  beyond the Euphrates, Nisibis and Singara were Persian; Amida and Martyropolis, Edessa, Constantia, and Resaina were Roman.11

The treaty of A.D. 38712 between Theodosius and Sapor III, which was negotiated by Stilicho, partitioned Armenia into two client states, of which the smaller (about one-fifth of the whole) was under a prince dependent on the Empire, the larger under a vassal of Persia. The Roman client, Arsaces, died in A.D. 390, leaving the government in the hands of five satraps. The Emperor gave him no successor, but committed the supervision of the satrapies to an official entitled the Count of Armenia, and this arrangement continued till the sixth century.13

The Roman system of frontier defence, familiar to us in Britain and Germany, was not adopted in the east, and would hardly have been suitable to the geographical conditions. In Mesopotamia, or in the desert confines of Syria, we find no vestiges of a continuous barrier of vallum and foss, such as those which are visible in Northumberland and Scotland and in the Rhinelands. The defensive works consisted of the modern system of chains of forts. The Euphrates was bordered by castles, and there was a series of forts along the Aborras (Khabur), and northward from Daras to Amida.14

The eastern frontier of Asia Minor followed the Upper Euphrates (the Kara‑Su branch), and the two most important bases were Melitene in the south and Satala (Sadagh) in the north.15 Melitene was equally distant from Antioch and Trebizond,  p95  and it could be reached from Samosata either by a direct road or by a longer route following the right bank of the Euphrates. Beyond the Euphrates lay Roman Armenia (as far as a line drawn from Erzerum to the Nymphius), which in itself formed a mountain defence against Persia.

The great desert which stretches east of Syria and Palestine to the Euphrates, and the waste country of southern Mesopotamia, were the haunt of the Nabatean Arabs, who were known to the Romans as Saracens or Scenites (people of the tents). They had no fixed abode, they lived under the sky, and a Roman historian graphically describes their life as a continuous flight: vita est illis semper in fuga.16 They occupied all the strips of land which could be cultivated, and otherwise lived by pillage. They could raid a Roman province with impunity, for it was useless to pursue them into the desert. Vespasian used their services against the Jews. In the third century some of their tribes began to immigrate into Roman territory, and these settlements, which may be compared to the German settlements on other frontiers, were countenanced by the government. Beyond the frontier they remained brigands, profiting by the hostilities between Rome and Persia, and offering their services now to one power and now to the other. In the south many were converted to Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries, through the influence of the hermits who set up their abodes in the wilderness.17 These converts belonged chiefly to the tribe of Ghassan, and we shall find the Ghassanids acting, when it suited them, as dependents of the Empire; while their bitter foes, the Saracens of Hira,18 who had formed a powerful state to the south of Babylon, are under the suzerainty of Persia. These barbarians, undesirable either as friends or foes, played somewhat the same part in the oriental wars as the Red Indian tribes played in the struggle between the French and English in North America.

The defence of Syria against the Saracens of the waste was a chain of fortresses from Sura on the Euphrates to Palmyra, along an excellent road which was probably constructed by  p96  Diocletian.19 Palmyra was a centre of routes leading southward to Bostra, south-westward to Damascus, westward to Emesa, and to Epiphania and Apamea.20

The long fierce wars of the third and fourth centuries, in the course of which two Roman Emperors, Valerian and Julian, had perished, were succeeded by a period of 140 years (A.D. 363‑502) in which peace was only twice broken by short and trifling interludes of hostility. This relief from war on the eastern frontier was of capital importance for the Empire, because it permitted the government of Constantinople to preserve its European provinces, endangered by the Germans and the Huns. This protracted period of peace was partly at least due to the fact that on the Oxus frontier Persia was constantly occupied by savage and powerful foes.

§ 2. The Germans

The leading feature of the history of Europe in the fifth century was the occupation of the western half of the Roman Empire by German peoples. The Germans who accomplished this feat were not, with one or two exceptions, the tribes who were known to Rome in the days of Caesar and of Tacitus, and whose seats lay between the Rhine and the Elbe. These West Germans, as they may be called, had attained more or less settled modes of life, and, with the exception of those who lived near the sea-coast, they played no part in the great migrations which led to the dismemberment of the Empire. The Germans of the movement which is known as the Wandering of the Peoples were the East Germans, who, on the Baltic coast, in the lands between the Elbe and the Vistula, had lived outside the political horizon of the Romans in the times of Augustus and Domitian and were known to them only by rumour. The evidence of their own traditions, which other facts seem to confirm, makes it probable that these peoples — Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards,  p97  and others — had originally lived in Scandinavia and in the course of the first millennium B.C. migrated to the opposite mainland.

It was in the second century A.D. that the East German group began to affect indirectly Roman history. When the food question became acute for a German people, as a consequence of the increase of population, there were two alternatives. They might become an agricultural nation, converting their pasture-lands into tillage, and reclaiming more land by clearing the forests which girdled their settlements and which formed a barrier against their neighbours; or they might migrate and seek a new and more extensive habitation. The East German barbarians were still in the stage in which steady habits of work seem repulsive and dishonourable. They thought that laziness consisted not in shirking toil but in "acquiring by the sweat of your brow that which you might procure by the shedding of blood."21 Though the process is withdrawn from our vision, we may divine, with some confidence, that the defensive wars in which Marcus Aurelius was engaged against the Germans north of the Danube frontier were occasioned by the pressure of tribes beyond the Elbe driven by the needs of a growing population to encroach upon their neighbours. Not long after these wars, early in the third century, the Goths migrated from the lower Vistula to the northern shores of the Black Sea. This was the first great recorded migration of an East German people. In their new homes they appear divided into two distinct groups, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, each of which was destined to have a separate and independent history. How the Visigoths severed themselves from their brethren, occupied Dacia, and were gradually converted to Arian Christianity is a story of which we have only a meagre outline. They do not come into the full light of history until they pour into the Roman provinces, fleeing in terror before the invasion of the Huns, and are allowed to settle there as Federates by the Roman government. The battle in the plains of Hadrianople, where a Roman army was defeated and a Roman Emperor fell, foretold the nature of the danger which was threatening the Empire. It was to be dismembered, not only or chiefly by the attacks of professed enemies from without, but by the self-assertion of the barbarians  p98  who were admitted within the gates as Federates and subjects. The tactful policy of Theodosius the Great restored peace for a while. We shall see how soon hostilities were resumed, and how the Visigoths, beginning their career as a small federate people in a province in the Balkan peninsula, founded a great independent kingdom in Spain and Gaul.

Of the other East German peoples who made homes and founded kingdoms on Imperial soil, nearly all at one time or another stood to Rome in the relation of Federates. This is a capital feature of the process of the dismemberment of the Empire. Another remarkable fact may also be noticed. Not a single one of the states which the East Germans constructed was permanent. Vandals, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Gēpīds, all passed away and are clean forgotten; Burgundians and Lombards are remembered only by minor geographical names. The only Germans who created on Roman territory states which were destined to endure were the Franks and Saxons, and these belonged to the Western group.

It is probable that the dismemberment of the Empire would have been, in general, a far more violent process than it actually was, but for a gradual change which had been wrought out within the Empire itself in the course of the third and fourth centuries, through the infiltration of Germanic elements. It is to be remembered in the first place that the western fringe of Germany had been incorporated in the Germanic provinces of Gaul. Cöln, Trier, Mainz were German towns. In the second place, many Germans had been induced to settle within the Empire as farmers (colons), in desolated tracts of country, after the Marcomannic Wars of Marcus Aurelius. Then there were the settlements of the laeti, chiefly in the Belgic provinces, Germans who came from beyond the Rhine, and received lands in return for which they were bound to military service. Towards the end of the fourth century we find similar settlers both in Italy and Gaul, under the name of gentiles, but these were not exclusively Germans.22 Further there was a German population in many of the frontier districts. This was not the result of a deliberate policy; Germans were not settled there as such. Lands were assigned to the soldiers (milites limitanei) who protected the frontiers, and as the army became more and more  p99  German, being recruited extensively from German colons, the frontier population became in some regions largely German.

In the third century German influence was not visible. The army had been controlled by the Illyrian element. The change begins in the time of Constantine. Then the German element, which had been gradually filtering in, is rising to the top. Constantine owed his elevation as Imperator by the army in Britain to an Alamannic chief; he was supported by Germans in his contest with the Illyrian Licinius; and to Germans he always showed a marked favour and preference, for which Julian upbraids him. Thus within the Empire the German star is in the ascendant from the end of the first quarter of the fourth century. We notice the adoption of German customs in the army. Both Julian and Valentinian I were, on their elevation, raised on the shields of soldiers, in the fashion of German kings. Henceforward German officers rise to the highest military posts in the State, such as Merobaudes, Arbogastes, Bauto and Stilicho, and even intermarry with the Imperial family. An Emperor of the fifth century, Theodosius II, has German blood in his veins.

At the death of Theodosius the Great the geography of the German world, so far as it can roughly be determined, was as follows. On the Rhine frontier there were the Franks in the north, and the federated group of peoples known as Alamanni in the south. The Franks fell into two distinct groups: the Salians, the future conquerors of Gaul, who were at this time Federates of the Empire, and dwelled on the left bank of the Rhine in the east of modern Belgium; and the Ripuarians, whose abodes were beyond the middle Rhine, extending perhaps as far south as the Main, where the territory of the Alamanni began. Behind these were the Frisian coast dwellers, in Holland and Frisia; the Saxons, whose lands stretched from the North Sea into Westphalia; the Thuringians, in and around the forest region which still bears their name. Neighbours of the Alamanni on the Upper Main were the Burgundians.23 More remote were the Angles near the neck of the Danish peninsula, the Marcomanni in Bohemia, the Silings (who belonged to the Vandal nation) in Silesia, to which they seem to have given their name. The Asdings, the other great section of the Vandals, were still on the Upper Theiss, where they had been settled since the end of the  p100  second century, and not far from them were the Rugians. Another East German people, the Gēpīds (closely akin to the Goths), inhabited the hilly regions of northern Dacia. Galicia was occupied by the Scirians; and on the north coast of the Black Sea were the Ostrogoths, and beyond them the Heruls, who in the third century had left Sweden to follow in the track of the Goths.24 The Pannonian provinces were entirely in the hands of barbarians, Huns, Alans, and a section of the Ostrogoths, which had moved westward in consequence of the Hunnic invasion. Dacia was in the power of the Huns, whose appearance on the scene introduced the Romans to enemies of a new type, from whom European civilisation was destined to suffer for many centuries.

It must not be thought that the inhabitants of central and northern Europe were so numerous that each of the principal peoples could send a host of hundreds of thousands of warriors to plunder the Empire. "The irregular divisions and the restless motions of the people of Germany dazzle our imagination, and seem to multiply their numbers."25 Fear and credulity magnified tenfold the hosts of Goths and Vandals and other peoples who invaded and laid waste the provinces. A critical analysis of the evidence suggests that of the more important nations the total number may have been about 100,000, and that the number of fighting men may have ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.

The period of the invasions of the Empire by the East German peoples, from the middle of the fourth century till the middle of the sixth, was the "heroic age" of the Teutons, the age in which minstrels, singing to the harp at the courts of German kings, created the legendary tales which were to become the material for epics in later times, and passing into the Norse Eddas, the Nibelungenlied, and many other poems, were to preserve in dim outline the memory of some of the great historical chieftains who played their parts in dismembering the Empire.26 It has been the fashion to regard with indulgence these German leaders, who remade the map of Europe, as noble and attractive  p101  figures; some of them have even been described as chivalrous. This was the "propaganda" of the nineteenth century. When we coldly examine their acts, we find that they were as barbarous, cruel, and rapacious as in the days of Caesar's foe, Ariovistus, and that the brief description of Velleius still applies to them, in summa feritate uersutissimi natumque mendacio genus.

§ 3. The Huns

The nomad hordes, known to history as the Huns, who in the reign of Valens appeared west of the Caspian, swept over southern Russia, subjugating the Alans and the Ostrogoths, and drove the Visigoths from Dacia, seem to have belonged to the Mongolian division of the great group of races which includes also the Turks, the Hungarians, and the Finns.27 It is probable that for many generations the Huns had established their pastures near the Caspian and Aral lakes. It is almost certain that political events in northern and central Asia, occasioning new movements of nomadic peoples, drove them westward; and the rise of the Zhu‑zhu, who were soon to extend their dominion from Corea to the borders of Europe, about the middle of the fourth century, is probably the explanation. As rulers of Tartar Asia, the Zhu‑zhu succeeded the Sien‑pi, and the Sien‑pi were the successors of the Hiung‑nu. It is supposed that the name Huns is simply a Greek corruption of Hiung‑nu; and this may well be so. The designation (meaning "common slaves") was used by the Chinese for all the Asiatic nomads. But the immediate events which precipitated the Huns into Europe had nothing directly to do with the collapse of the Hiung‑nu power which had occurred in the distant past.28

The nomad life of the Altaic peoples in central Asia was  p102  produced by the conditions of climate. The word nomad, which etymologically means a grazer, is often loosely used to denote tribes of unsettled wandering habits. But in the strict and proper sense nomads are pastoral peoples who have two fixed homes far apart and migrate regularly between them twice a year, like migratory birds, the nomads of the air. In central Asia, northern tracts which are green in the summer supply no pasturage in winter, while the southern steppes, in the summer through drought uninhabitable, afford food to the herds in winter. Hence arises the necessity for two homes. Thus nomads are not peoples who roam promiscuously all over a continent, but herdsmen with two fixed habitations, summer and winter pasture-lands, between which they might move for ever, if they were allowed to remain undisturbed and if the climatic conditions did not change.29 Migrations to new homes would in general only occur if they were driven from their pastures by stronger tribes.

The structure of Altaic society was based on kinship. Those who lived together in one tent formed the unit. Six to ten tents formed a camp, and several camps a clan. The tribe consisted of several clans, and the highest unit, the il or people, of several tribes. In connexion with nomads we are more familiar with the word "horde". But the horde was no ordinary or regular institution. It was only an exceptional and transitory combination of a number of peoples, to meet some particular danger or achieve some special enterprise; and when the immediate purpose was accomplished, the horde usually dissolved again into its independent elements.

Milk products are the main food of most of these nomad tribes. They may eke out their sustenance by fishing and hunting, but they seldom eat the flesh of their herds. Their habits have always been predatory. Persia and Russia suffered for centuries from their raids, in which they lifted not only cattle but also men, whom they sent to the slave markets.

The successive immigrations of nomads into Europe, of the ancient Scythians, of the Huns, and of all those who came after them, were due, as has already been intimated, to the struggle for existence in the Asiatic steppes, and the expulsion of the  p103  weakest. Those who were forced to migrate "with an energetic Khan at their head, who organised them on military lines, such a horde transformed itself into an incomparable army, compelled by the instinct of self-preservation to hold fast together in the midst of the hostile population which they subjugated; for however superfluous a central government may be in the steppe, it is of vital importance to a conquering nomad horde outside it."30 These invading hordes were not numerous; they were esteemed by their terrified enemies far larger than they actually were. "But what the Altaian armies lacked in numbers was made up for by their skill in surprises, their fury, their cunning, mobility, and elusiveness, and the panic which preceded them and froze the blood of all peoples. On their marvellously fleet horses they could traverse immense distances, and their scouts provided them with accurate local information as to the remotest lands and their distances. Add to this the enormous advantage that among them even the most insignificant news spread like wildfire from aul to aul by means of voluntary couriers surpassing any intelligence department, however well organised."31 The fate of the conquered populations was to be partly exterminated, partly enslaved, and sometimes transplanted from one territory to another, while the women became a prey to the lusts of the conquerors. The peasants were so systematically plundered that they were often forced to abandon the rearing of cattle and reduced to vegetarianism. This seems to have been the case with the Slavs.32

Such was the horde which swept into Europe in the fourth century, encamped in Dacia and in the land between the Theiss and Danube, and held sway over the peoples in the south Russian steppes, the Ostrogoths, Heruls, and Alans.33

For fifty years after their establishment north of the Danube, we hear little of the Huns. They made a few raids into the Roman provinces, and they were ready to furnish auxiliaries, from time to time, to the Empire. At the time of the death of Theodosius they were probably regarded as one more barbarian  p104  enemy, neither more nor less formidable than the Germans who threatened the Danubian barrier. We may conjecture that the organisation of the horde had fallen to pieces soon after their settlement in Europe.34 No one could foresee that after a generation had passed Rome would be confronted by a large and aggressive Hunnic empire.



The question of the numbers of the German invaders of the Empire is so important that it seems desirable to collect here some of the principal statements of our authorities, so as to indicate the character of the evidence. These statements fall into two classes.

(1) Large numbers, running into hundreds of thousands.

α. Eunapius appears to say that the fighting forces of the Visigoths when they crossed the Danube in A.D. 376 numbered 200,000, fr. 6, De leg. gent. p595. The text of the passage, however, is corrupt.

β. The mixed host of barbarians who invaded Italy in A.D. 405‑406 is variously stated to be 400,000 , 200,000 , or more than 100,000 strong. See below, Chap. V § 7. It is to be observed that the lowest of these figures is given (by Augustine) in an argument where a high figure is effective.

γ. Two widely different figures are recorded for the number of those who fell (on both sides) in the battle of Troyes in A.D. 451, 300,000 and 162,000. See below, Chap. IX § 4.

δ. 150,000 is given (by Procopius) as the number of the Ostrogoths who besieged Rome in A.D. 537. This can be shown, from the circumstances, to be incredible. See below, Chap. XVIII § 5.

ε. The Franks are made to boast, in A.D. 539, that they could send an army of 500,000 across the Alps (Procopius, B. G. II.28, 10). Then they were a great power and had many subjects. A few months before, one of their kings had invaded Italy with 100,000 men (ib. 25, 2); but the number is highly suspicious.

(2) Small numbers.

α. It is difficult to forgive Ammian, who was a soldier and well versed in military affairs, for not stating the number of the forces engaged on either side in the battle of Hadrianople in A.D. 378. The one indication he gives is that the Roman scouts by some  p105  curious mistake reported that the Visigothic forces numbered only 10,000. It is difficult to believe that this mistake could have been made if the Goths, with their associates, had had anything like 50,000 to 100,000 men (Hodgkin's estimate for the army of Alaric), much less the 200,000 of Eunapius. So far as it goes, the indication points rather to a host of not more than 20,000.

β. After Alaric's siege of Rome in 408, it is stated that his army, reinforced by a multitude of fugitive slaves from Rome, was about 40,000 strong. See below, Chap. VI § 1.

γ. The total number of the Vandal people (evidently including the Alans who were associated with them), not merely of the fighting forces, is stated to have been 80,000 in A.D. 429 (see below, Chap. VIII § 2). They were then embarking for Africa and it was necessary to count them in order to know how many transport ships would be needed. This figure has, therefore, particular claims on our attention.

δ. The facts we know about the Vandalic and Ostrogothic wars in the sixth century, as related by Procopius, consistently point to the conclusion that the fighting forces of the Vandals and the Ostrogoths were to be counted by tens, not by hundreds, of thousands. Procopius does not give figures (with the exception of one, which is a deliberate exaggeration, see above, (1) δ), but the details of his very full narrative and the small number of the Roman armies which were sent against them and defeated them make this quite clear.

ε. The total number of the warriors of the Heruls, who were a small people, in the sixth century was 4500 (Procopius, B. G. III.34, 42‑43).

Intermediate between these two groups, but distinctly inclining towards the first, is the statement of Orosius, Hist. VII.32.11, that the armed forces of the Burgundians on the Rhine numbered more than 80,000. If the figure has any value it is more likely to represent the total number of the Burgundian people at the beginning of the fifth century.

Schmidt has observed (Gesch. der deutschen Stämme, I.46 sqq.) that certain numbers in the enumerations of German forces by Roman writers constantly recur (300,000,  100,000,  60,000, etc.) and are therefore to be suspected.

Delbrück (Gesch. der Kriegskunst, II.34 sqq.) discusses the density of population in ancient Germany and concludes that it was from four to five to the square kilometre.

The Author's Notes:

1 Yet in this case too the motive was that the complete Romanisation of the Celts of Gaul could not be accomplished so long as the Celts of Britain, with whom they were in constant communication, remained free.

2 Or "of the seven Houses." On the seven families, which included the royal, see Nöldeke, Excurs 3 to Tabari, p437.

3 The Magian high priest was called Mobedh; the supreme head, Mobedhan-mobedh.

4 Amm. Marc. XVII.5.10 victor terra marique Constantius semper Augustus fratri meo Sapori regi salutem plurimam dico. Cp. Kavad's letter in John Mal. XVIII. p449; etc. The Empress Theodora addressed the Persian queen as her sister (ib. p467). The Emperor never gave the title βασιλεὺς βασιλέων (shahan-shah) to the king; always simply βασιλεὺς. The king called him Kaisir i Rūm.

5 Malalas, ib. p449. Cp. Peter Patr. fr. 12, De leg. gent. ὡσπερανει δύο λαμπτήρες. Theophylactus Sim. IV.11. See Güterbock, Byzanz und Persien, for a detailed study of the diplomatic forms.

6 Κατὰ τὸ εἰωθός, Menander, fr. 15 De leg. Rom. p188. Several particular instances are recorded.

7 The arrangement for the journey from Daras to Constantinople and the reception ceremonies in the sixth century are described by Peter the Patrician (apud Const. Porph. De Cer. I.89, 90). The journey was very leisurely, 103 days were allowed. Five horses and thirty mules were placed at the envoy's disposal, by an agreement concluded "in the Praetorian Prefecture of Constantine" (ib. p400). Perhaps this refers to Constantine who was Pr. Pr. in A.D. 505.

8 Cp. ib. p398; Menander, fr. 13 De leg. Rom. p200; etc.

9 See below, Vol. II. Chap. XVI.

10 There has been a confusion in the identification of the provinces recorded to have been conquered (Peter Patr.) and those recorded to have been surrendered (Amm. Marc. XXV.7, 9). The question has been recently discussed by Adonts, Armeniia v epokhu Iustiniana, pp43, 44. Diocletian conquered the five provinces Arzanene, Zabdicene, Corduene, Sophene, and Ingilene (or Angilene). The first three were restored, the last two retained, in 363. The two districts which Ammian enumerates as also restored, Moxoene and Rehimene, were portions respectively of Arzanene and Zabdicene. Sophene means Little Sophene (NW of Anzitene), and is to be distinguished from Great Sophene = Sophanene (SE of Anzitene), of which Ingilene was a portion.

11 It will be convenient to enumerate here the following identifications of places mentioned in the eastern campaigns: Amida = Diarbekr; Apamea = Kalaat al‑Mudik; Batnae = Seruj; Beroae = Aleppo; Carrhae = Harran; Chalcis = Kinnesrin; Constantia = Uerancher; Edessa = Urfa; Emesa = Hims;º Epiphania = Hama; Hierapolis = Kara Membij; Marde = Mardin; Martyropolis = Mayafarkin; Melitene = Malatia; Resaina (Theodosiopolis) = Ras al‑Aïn; Samosata = Samsat; Singara = Sinjar; Theodosiopolis (in Armenia) = Erzerum.

12 Faustus, VI.1. The correct date has been established by Güterbock (Römisch-Armenien, in Festgabe of the Juristic Faculty at Königsberg in honour of J. Th. Schirmer, 1900). It is accepted by Baynes and Hübschmann. For the circumstances and the history of Armenia between 363 and 387, see Baynes, "Rome and Armenia in the Fourth Century," in E.H.R. XXV, Oct. 1910. This article proves the value and trustworthiness of the history of Faustus.

13 Procopius, De aed. III.1; C. J. I.29.3. Cp. Chapot, La Frontière de l'Euphrate, p169.

Thayer's Note: For a sharply different Armenian viewpoint, see Vahan Kurkjian's History of Armenia, Ch. 19, p130 and note 4.

14 The best account of the defences of the eastern frontier will be found in Chapot, op. cit.

15 Roads from Melitene led westward (1) to Arabissus (Yarpuz), (2) to Caesarea (Kaisariyeh), and (3) to Sebastea (Sivas). Roads from Satala: (1) westward to Sebastea and Amasea; (2) northward to the coast; (3) eastward to Erzerum; while Colchis was reached by the Lycus (Chorok) valley.

16 Amm. Marc. XIV.4.1. He describes them as nec amici nobis umquam nec hostes optandi.

17 Socrates IV.36, Sozomen. VI.38. Duchesne, Eglises séparées, 336 sqq.

18 Hira was close to the site of the later Arabic foundation of Kufa.

19 Diocletian organised a systematic defence of the frontier from Egypt to the Euphrates. John Mal. XII. p308.

20 From Apamea a north road followed the valley of the Orontes to Antioch; while the north road from Epiphania ran by Chalcis and Beroea to Batnae (Chapot, 332 sqq.). From Batnae an east road reached the Euphrates at Caeciliana (Kalaat al‑Najim) via Hierapolis. In north Syria the principal east highway was that from Antioch to Zeugma. Another led via Cyrrhus (Herup-Pshimber, cp. Chapot, op. cit. p340) to Samosata.

21 Tacitus, Germ. c14.

22 See above, p40.

23 Somewhere in this neighbourhood too were a portion of the Silings.

24 A portion of them migrated to the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine, where they appear in A.D. 286. In the following century they furnished auxilia to the Roman armies on the Rhine. Schmidt, Deutsche Stämme, I.344.

25 Gibbon, Decline, c. ix. ad fin. The evidence as to the numbers is discussed in an appendix to this chapter.

26 The facts are collected, ordered, and illuminated in Chadwick's The Heroic Age, 1912.

27 Cp. the classification of the Ural-Altaic languages in Peisker's brilliant chapter, "The Asiatic Background," in C. Med. H. I. p333. The Uralic group includes the three classes, (1) Finnish: Fins,º Mordvins, etc.; (2) Permish; (3) Ugrian: Hungarians, Voguls, Ostyaks; the Altaic includes (1) Turkish, (2) Mongolian, (3) Manchu-Tungusic. Peisker's chapter, to which I would refer, supersedes all previous studies of the Altaic nomads.

28 Our knowledge of these revolutions is derived from the Annals of China; De Guignes, Histoire des Huns, 4 vols., 1756‑1758; E. H. Parker, A Thousand Years of the Tartars, 1895 (cp. his article on the "Origin of the Turks" in E.H.R. XI.1896); L. Cahun, Introduction à l'histoire de l'Asie, 1896; F. Hirth's article in S.-B. of Bavarian Academy, Phil.-Hist. Kl. II.245 sqq., 1899; Drouin, notice sur les Huns et Hioung‑nu, 1894 (he dates the destruction of the Hiung‑nu empire by the Sien‑pi to c. 221 A.D.).

29 Peisker (op. cit. 327‑328) shows that "the main cause of the nomad invasions of Europe is not increasing aridity but political changes."

30 Peisker, op. cit. p350.

31 Ib.

32 Op. cit. p348.

33 Also over the Scirians in Galicia; probably over the Slavs in the Pripet region; perhaps already over the Gepids; and presently over the Rugians, who soon after 400 occupied the regions on the Upper Theiss vacated by the Asdings (cp. Schmidt, op. cit. p327).

34 It is uncertain whether Uldin, the Hun king whom we meet in the reign of Arcadius, was king of all the Huns or only of a portion.

Thayer's Note:

a . . . or, to make it much more present to the modern reader, the United States and the Soviet Union over much of their history.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Nov 08