Short URL for this page:
https://bit.ly/2ed1HODIHI4


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

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

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book I
Chapter 3

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London, 1892

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are 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!

next:

[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book I
Chapter 5

Book 1 (continued)

Vol. I
p234
Chapter IV

The last years of Valens

Authorities

Sources: —

Ammianus Marcellinus; Jordanes; previously described.

Zosimus (in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae. Edited by Bekker; Bonn, 1837).

The period during which Zosimus flourished cannot be accurately determined. He refers to a hymn composed by the philosopher Syrianus (about 431), and is himself referred to by the Church historian, Evagrius (about 591). These two landmarks give us an interval of 160 years in any part of which he might possibly have lived. One attempt has been made to fix his career to the very beginning of that period, and another to bring it down to the time of Anastasius (491‑518); but upon the whole, from about 450 to 480 seems the most probable time to which to assign his literary activity. In anticipating some future books of his history (never in fact written), he says (I.58), 'When I shall have come to those times in which the Roman Empire, being barbarised, has been reduced to a little space, and that filled with corruption,' and in another place (IV.59) 'The Empire of the Romans having been diminished till it has become the home of the barbarians, or else being altogether bereft of its inhabitants, has been brought into such a condition that the cities would not recognise the regions in which they once stood.' These read like the words of a man who has witnessed the destruction of Aquileia and the Fall of the Western Empire. But we must admit that they might have been written almost at any time between the sack of Rome (410) and the accession of Justinian (527). The title of the work says that Zosimus  p235 was Count and Ex‑Advocate of the Treasury. He therefore probably resided at Constantinople.

The history of Zosimus, which was divided into six books, was intended to trace the decline of the Roman power, as another Greek historian, Polybius, had traced its culmination. It begins with the death of Commodus and ends very abruptly in 410, just before Alaric's third siege of Rome. It will be seen therefore that it is not strictly a contemporary authority for any portion of the ground which it covers; but we are able to assert with some confidence who are the authors from whose works it is chiefly compiled. These are Dexippus, whom he has used for the greater part of his first book, Eunapius, upon whom the rest of the first and the whole of the four following books down to the twenty-fifth chapter of the fifth are founded, and Olympiodorus, for the scanty remainder of his work. Dexippus (cir. 254‑278) was described in the first chapter. Eunapius (cir. 347‑414) will be noticed in connection with the life of Theodosius, and Olympiodorus (between 400 and 450?) in a later chapter in this book. All three of the authors from whom Zosimus has thus drawn may be considered contemporary authorities of the first class, but it is important to remember that they, like himself, were heathens — Eunapius, a bitter and polemical heathen, and that Zosimus therefore always gives us that view of the history of the times which is least favourable to the Christian Emperors. One of the chief causes to which he attributed the downfall of the Empire, was the abandonment of the old religion and the withdrawal by Theodosius of the sums which had formerly been devoted to the heathen sacrifices (IV.59).

It is somewhat marvellous that the work of such a man who delights in maligning Constantine, Theodosius, and all the Imperial names that were dearest to the Catholic Church should have been preserved through the Middle Ages: but it is a fortunate chance, for this work is often of the highest interest to us as preserving the thoughts and arguments of the advocates of the lost cause, Paganism. A few sentences of Zosimus are probably the best motto that could be chosen for St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei, as explaining the thesis which the Christian apologist wishes to disprove.

His fondness for oracles, portents, and old mythological traditions  p236 is extraordinary, and often mars the artistic effect of his work. Thus, for instance, in the very crisis of Alaric's march into Italy (408), having mentioned the name of Aemona (Laybach),º he interrupts himself in order to repeat a wild story about the Argonauts sailing up the Danube and the Save, and then dragging the Argo fifty miles overland to the Adriatic. His love of the heathen-marvellous is so interesting a fact in the history of human thought, that I have ventured, at some risk of wearying the reader, to transfer some of these stories to my pages.

The ignorance of geography displayed by Zosimus is almost incredible. He confuses the Dniester and the Danube, Lugdunum (Lyons) and Singidunum (Belgrade) (IV.35), and he thinks that the Apennine mountains made the frontier of Pannonia and Noricum (V.29).

His style is often obscure, and it is extremely difficult to discover from his writings the true historical sequence of events. This defect is perhaps partly due to his following Eunapius, who as a professor of rhetoric speaks with unconcealed contempt of chronological accuracy which he leaves to bailiffs and astronomers, deeming it unworthy of an historian (p60, ed. Bonn). The bitterness and peevish temper of Zosimus contrast unfavourably with the generally calm and judicial tone of Ammianus. But such as he is, he is almost our only historian deserving of the name, for a space of twenty years (389‑409), and the darkness becomes dark indeed when his taper goes out.

By the premature death of Valentinian, his brother, the small-souled, unkingly-looking Valens, obtained the foremost place in the Empire of the world.

Valens at Antioch. Not unnaturally, considering the recent fateful encounter between the two monarchies, and the many great qualities of its ruler, Sapor, Persia was the country towards which at this time the eyes of all Romans, at least of all Eastern Romans, were turned with the most anxious apprehensions. Hence it was that, at any rate after the Gothic war was ended, Valens gave the largest share of his time and attention to the affairs of  p237 Armenia and Mesopotamia, and resided generally at Syrian Antioch rather than at Thracian Constantinople.

Arts of divination. As has been already hinted, the zeal shown by Valens in the persecution of those who practised unlawful arts was even fiercer than that of his brother in the West. This persecution raged furiously in the province of Asia and its capital Ephesus, where 'those which used curious arts' were compelled to 'bring their books together' by an influence very different from the persuasive teaching of the Apostle Paul, at the bidding of a fierce proconsul named Festus, who slew and banished relentlessly those suspected of such dark practisings with the infernal powers. Zosimus, IV.15. There is reason to fear that not only there, but over the whole Roman world, many books which would now be of priceless value, as illustrating the philosophy and theology of the classical nations, perished at this time.

One reason why the Emperors and the Provincial governors who did their bidding waged such fierce war against the professors of divination, doubtless was that their art was connected with a certain feverish anxiety as to the political future of the Empire. The one question of most intense interest to the reigning Emperors as well as to millions of their subjects was, 'How long shall we be Emperors, and who will succeed us?' Nor will the nervous interest both of governors and governed in this question seem unnatural, when we remember that the Emperor was the source of all promotion and of all legislation — a Prime Minister, as it were, appointed for life, unchecked by Parliament, and with a chance, but not a certainty, of transmitting his power to his son. Or, to go across the Atlantic for an analogy to his position, if the quadrennial election of  p238 the President of the United States raises to fever-pitch the passions of all the army of office-holders, past, present, and to come, much more would the dark possibilities and the dramatic surprises of a change in the Imperial dynasty, stir the hopes or rouse the fears of a population, among whom office of one kind or another was rapidly becoming the only barrier which separated the happy from the destitute.

Affair of Theodorus. A few years before the death of Valentinian,1 his younger brother was driven into an agony of cruel terror by the discovery of a meeting somewhat resembling a séance of modern Spiritualists, the object of which was to extort from the unseen powers the name of his future successor. There was a certain young man at Antioch, named Theodorus, descended from an ancient family in Gaul, highly educated, modest, self-controlled, one who had reached the important position of an Imperial notary, but who always seemed greater than his office, and marked out by Fate for some higher station than that to which he had already attained. So persons of rank and influence at Antioch met together, probably under cover of night, to consult the diviners as to the name of the future Emperor. A little tripod ('like a Delphic cauldron'), made of laurel wood and consecrated with mysterious songs and choral dances, was set in the middle of the house, which had  p239 been purified by the burning of Arabian spices. The tripod was placed upon a round dish made of diverse metals, and with the twenty-four letters of the alphabet marked upon its circumference. Thereafter entered a person clad in linen and with linen socks upon his feet, bearing in his hand branches of an auspicious tree, who, after again singing a magic song, leaned over the sacred tripod and shook up and down a flaxen thread, very fine, to which a ring was attached. As the ring danced up and down, it touched the letters of the metal dish, and thus words, and sentences, and even hexameter verses like those uttered by the priests of Apollo at Miletus, were delivered to the bystanders. The question was put, 'Who shall succeed the present Emperors?' The ring spelt out the letters ΘΕΟΔ (Theod.),2 and, without waiting for more, all the bystanders agreed that the high-born and accomplished Theodorus would be the future Emperor.

Theodorus himself had not been present at this performance, but when he was informed of it by Euserius, a man of great literary attainments, and who had formerly been Prefect of Asia, his own earnest desire was at once to go and report the whole affair to the Emperor. In an evil hour for himself he was dissuaded from doing so: for as Euserius said to him, 'You are guiltless of any lawless desire to rule: and if Fate have ordained for you that great advancement, nothing that you can do within either help or hinder it.' However, there seems reason to think that the dazzling prospect which the dreams of these diviners opened before Theodorus did in some degree divert him from his duty as a subject,  p240 and that the capital sentence which was pronounced and promptly executed upon him was justified by real acts of laesa majestas.3 But when Valens discovered that many of the nobles, officials, and philosophers of Antioch had been engaged in speculations on the contingency of his death, his suspicious rage became almost madness. A perfect reign of terror followed. As Theodorus had been a heathen and a friend of the philosophers, the most eminent philosophers of Asia were put to death, the chief among these heathen martyrs being that same Maximus who, years before, had called the attention of his master Julian to Valentinian's contempt of heathen ordinances.4 A governor of Bithynia, an ex‑vicarius of Britain, a proconsul of Asia, two consuls related to the family of the Emperor Constantius, notaries, officers of the palace, and multitudes of smaller officials were accused, and not a few of them were put to death. According to one authority5 many absolutely innocent men, whose names began with the three fated letters, such as Theodorus, Theodotus, Theodosius, Theodulus, and the like, were sacrificed to the Emperor's fears: and many, to avoid the danger to which they found themselves suddenly exposed, changed the names which they had borne from infancy.

 p241  While the leaders in the spiritualistic adventure were suffering the torture6 to which even Roman citizens were now liable to be subjected when the safety of the Emperor was at stake, the taunting question was put to them, 'Did the divination which you practised foretell your present tortures?' Upon which they uttered some oracular verses which seem almost to have passed into a proverb7 clearly foretelling death as the penalty for those who like them had sought to pry into futurity, but also containing dark hints of retribution at the hands of the Furies, of fire and blood-stained garments awaiting the Emperor and his servants. The last three lines of the oracle gasped out by the groaning victims ran thus:

'Not unavenged our blood shall sink to the ground, for against you

Glooming Tisiphoné shall array portentous destruction,

All in the plains of Mimas when Ares rages around you.'

At the time of Valentinian's death, the fury of this persecution of the philosophers and the diviners had already abated, but, especially at Antioch, it had left a peculiar mental reaction behind it. The dwellers in the soft and licentious city by the Orontes seem to have settled down into a state of apathetic discontent, varied by anticipations, to themselves only half intelligible, of some terrible approaching doom. In after time, when the doom had fallen, men remembered what presages might have been drawn from the dismal cry of birds at night, from the howls of wolves, and the unusual mists which had so often blotted out the sunrise. Nay, the  p242 mouths of men, as on so many previous occasions of impending disaster to the State, had uttered unconsciously the plainest prophecies. Ammianus, XXXI.1.2. When any of the common people of Antioch imagined himself wronged, he would cry out in the meaningless slang of the streets, 'May Valens be burned alive [if I will put up with this]!' And as the Emperor had presented the city with one of those usual tokens of Imperial munificence, a magnificent range of Thermae (hot baths), one might hear every morning the voices of the town-criers calling to the people, 'Bring wood, bring wood, bring wood, to heat the baths of Valens.' Men looked back afterwards upon these and similar prestiges, and wondered that they had been so blind to the signs of coming woe.

Irruption of the Huns. 372 ? Meanwhile, in the steppes of Astrakhan, and on the northern slopes of the Caucasus, events were progressing among unknown and squalid barbarians, which, co‑operating with the internal rottenness of the Empire, were to bring about not only the violent death of Valens, but many another change of more enduring consequence. The Huns, a nation whom we may, with sufficient, if not with scientific accuracy, describe as a vast Tartar horde, allured or impelled from Asia by some unknown force, fell first upon the Tartar or semi-Tartar nation of the Alani, who dwelt between the Volga and the Don, slew many, and made vassal-confederates of the rest, and with forces thus swollen pressed on toward the broad domains of Hermanric, king of the Ostrogoths.

It will be necessary, when the descendants of these invaders in the third generation dash themselves upon the Roman legions, to consider their ethnological position somewhat more closely. At present the collision  p243 is only Hun against Goth, and therefore it is sufficient to learn from the pages of Jordanes what the Goth thought of these new and unexpected enemies. This is what he says in the twenty-fourth chapter of his book 'on Gothic affairs.'

Gothic tradition about the origin of the Huns. 'We have ascertained that the nation of the Huns, who surpassed all others in atrocity, came thus into being. When Filimer, fifth king of the Goths after their departure from Sweden, was entering Scythia, with his people, as we have before described, he found among them certain sorcerer-women, whom they call in their native tongue Haliorunnas (or Al‑runas), whom he suspected and drove forth from the midst of his army into the wilderness. The unclean spirits that wander up and down in desert places, seeing these women, made concubines of them; and from this union sprang that most fierce people [of the Huns], who were at first little, foul, emaciated creatures, dwelling among the swamps, and possessing only the shadow of human speech by way of language.

'According to Priscus they settled first on the further [eastern] shore of the Sea of Azof, lived by hunting, and increased their substance by no kind of labour, but only by defrauding and plundering their neighbours. Once upon a time, when they were out hunting beside the Sea of Azof, a hind suddenly appeared before them, and having entered the waters of that shallow sea, now stopping, now dashing forward, seemed to invite the hunters to follow on foot. They did so, through what they had before supposed to be trackless sea with no land beyond it, till at length the shore of Scythia [Southern Russia] lay before them. As soon as they set foot upon it, the stag that had guided them thus  p244 far mysteriously disappeared. This, I trow, was done by those evil spirits that begat them, for the injury of the Scythians [Goths]. But the hunters who had lived in complete ignorance of any other land beyond the Sea of Azof were struck with admiration of the Scythian land and deemed that a path known to no previous age had been divinely revealed to them. They returned to their comrades to tell them what had happened, and the whole nation resolved to follow the track thus opened out before them. They crossed that vast pool, they fell like a human whirlwind on the nations inhabiting that part of Scythia, and offering up the first tribes whom they overcame, as a sacrifice to victory, suffered the others to remain alive, but in servitude.

'With the Alani especially, who were as good warriors as themselves, but somewhat less brutal in appearance and manner of life, they had many a struggle, but at length they wearied out and subdued them. For, in truth, they derived an unfair advantage from the intense hideousness of their countenances. Nations whom they would never have vanquished in fair fight fled horrified from those frightful — faces I can hardly call them, but rather — shapeless black collops of flesh, with little points instead of eyes. No hair on their cheeks or chins gives grace to adolescence or dignity to age, but deep furrowed scars instead, down the sides of their faces, show the impress of the iron which with characteristic ferocity they apply to every male child that is born among them, drawing blood from its cheeks before it is allowed its first taste of milk. They are little in stature, but lithe and active in their motions, and especially skilful in riding, broad-shouldered, good at the use of the bow and arrow, with sinewy necks, and always  p245 holding their heads high in their pride. To sum up, these beings under the form of man hide the fierce nature of the beast.'

Historical importance of this Asiatic migration. Such was the impression made upon the mind of the European barbarian by his first contact with the Asiatic savage. The moment was an eventful one in the history of the world. Hitherto, since the great migration of the Aryan nations, Europe had arranged her own destinies, unmolested by any Asiatic invaders save the great armaments which at the bidding of Darius and Xerxes marched onwards to their doom. Now the unconscious prototypes of Zinghis Khan, of Timour, and of Bajazet had come from the steppes of Turkestan to add their element of complication to the mighty problem.

It need not be said that the narrative of Jordanes is not here offered as trustworthy history. The battles with the Alani must in all probability have been over before the Huns first saw the Sea of Azof, and the latter squalid tribe were no more descended from Gothic women than from demon-fathers. But the passage is worth reading, and even reading again, for the vividness with which it brings the new in‑comers into Europe before our eyes, and contrasts them with other tribes, like them in the deadliness of their onset against Rome, but unlike in all else.

Contrast between Goths and Huns. The fair-haired, fair-skinned, long-bearded and majestic Goth on the one hand; the little swarthy smooth-faced Tartar Hun on the other: here the shepherd merging into the agriculturist, there the mere hunter: here the barbarian standing on the very threshold of civilisation, there the irreclaimable savage: here a nation already in great measure accepting the faith of  p246 Christ and reading the Scriptures in their own tongue, there brutal heathens. Such was the chasm which separated the Goths and the Teutons generally from the Huns.

After the Alani of the Don8 were beaten down into subjection, the Huns with a sudden rush broke in upon the wide-spreading and comparatively fertile districts9 which owned the sway of Hermanric, king of the Greuthungi or Ostrogoths. The great king — the new Alexander, as his Greek neighbours called him, when they wished to propitiate his favour — was now in extreme old age, verging, if we may believe Jordanes, on a hundred years and ten. His rule over the nominally subject tribes around him was probably loose and ill compacted, and some of them eagerly caught at the opportunity afforded by the Hunnish invasion to break loose from his empire. Among the revolters was 'the faithless nation of the Rosomoni,'10 whose king seems to have deserted the Ostrogothic standard on the field of battle, perhaps in the first skirmish with the Hunnish invaders. In his rage Hermanric took a cruel and cowardly revenge. As the king had escaped from his power, he ordered Sunilda, his wife, to be torn in  p247 pieces by wild horses. Her brothers, Sarus and Ammius, took up the blood-feud, and though they failed to kill Hermanric, wounded him severely in the side. The wound prevented him from going forth to battle: his warriors everywhere yielded to the terrible Asiatics: the Visigoths came not to help their Ostrogothic overlord: in despair at having lived so long, only to see the ruin of his empire, Death of Hermanric. 375 ? the aged Hermanric escaped from his troubles by suicide.11 The power of the Ostrogoths was broken, and Balamber, king of the Huns, was now supreme in Scythia. Hunimund, son of Hermanric, was permitted to become king of the Ostrogoths, but on condition of accepting the over-lordship of the Huns: Overthrow of the Ostrogothic Empire. and for the following eighty years his people had no other position than that of a subject race in the great and loosely-knit Hunnish confederacy.12

 p248  There was, indeed, a small section of the community which chose Withimir (or Winithar) of the royal race of the Amals, but not a son of Hermanric, for their king, and under his leadership attempted a brave but hopeless resistance to the overpowering enemy.13 After much slaughter he was slain in battle, and the remnant of the people, under the nominal sovereignty of the boy Wideric, son of the late king, but really led by his guardians, Alatheus and Saphrax, made their way westwards to the Dniester, and joined apparently in the defence which their Visigothic kinsmen were making by that river.

Defeat of Athanaric by the Huns. 376 For the refusal of the Visigoths to answer the call of Hermanric had brought them no immunity from the attacks of the terrible invaders. The swarthy riders on their little ponies had soon swept across the plains traversed by the Dnieper and the Boug, and Athanaric found that he had to fight for his kingdom and his life against an enemy very different from the warily marching legions of Valens. He pitched his camp by the margin of the Dniester, and apparently fortified an earthen rampart which marked the confines of the Ostrogothic and Visigothic territory.14 He sent forward Munderic (who  p249 afterwards entered the Imperial service and was a general on the Arabian frontier) with a colleague named Lagariman and other Gothic nobles, to a distance of twenty miles, to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy, and meanwhile he drew up his army in battle-array. All was leisurely, calm, and apparently scientific in the movements of the Gothic 'Judex': but, unfortunately, he had to deal with an utterly unscientific foe. The Huns, cleverly conjecturing where the main bulk of the Gothic army was posted, avoided that part of the river, found out a ford at some distance, crossed it by moonlight, and fell upon the flank of the unsuspecting Athanaric before a single scout gave notice of their approach. The Goth, stupefied by their onslaught, and dismayed by the death of several of his chiefs, withdrew to the territory of his friendly neighbours, the Taifali, and began to construct a fortified position for the remnant of his army between the mountains of Transylvania and the river Sereth.15 The Huns pursued him for some distance; but, loaded with spoil and, perhaps, well-nigh sated with killing, they soon relaxed the eagerness of their pursuit.

Wide-spread terror of the Visigoths, Meanwhile, the tidings 'that a new and hitherto unknown race of men had fallen like an avalanche' upon the supposed invincible Hermanric and Athanaric spread far and wide throughout the region of 'Gothia,' and everywhere seems to have produced the same feeling, 'We must put the Danube between us and the  p250 foe.' It was one of those epidemics of terror which are sometimes found among half-civilised races, unworthy, certainly, of a brave and high-spirited people, but due in part to the superstitious imaginations described by Jordanes. A Visigothic chief, named Alavivus, was the leader of the new migration, but Fritigern was his second in command, and seems gradually to have obtained the foremost place. If the Goths were to obtain a footing on the Roman side of the broad and strong stream, watched as it was by the legions and ships of the Emperor, it could be only as the result of friendly negotiations with Valens; and who so fitting to commence these negotiations as Fritigern, the convert to Christianity, and the faithful advocate of the Roman alliance?

who flock to the Danubian frontier of the Empire. So now was seen by those who looked across from the Bulgarian to the Wallachian shore (from Moesia to Dacia, if we use the contemporary geographical terms) a sight the like of which has not often been witnessed in history since the dismayed armies of the Israelites stood beside the Red Sea. It is thus described by the contemporary historian Eunapius.16

'The multitude of the Scythians [Goths] escaping from the murderous savagery of the Huns, who spared not the life of woman or of child, amounted to not less than 200,000 men of fighting age [besides old men, women, and children]. These, standing upon the river-bank in a state of great excitement, stretched out their hands from afar with loud lamentations, and earnestly supplicated that they might be allowed to cross over the river, bewailing the calamity that had befallen them, and promising that they would faithfully adhere  p251 to the Imperial alliance if this boon were granted them.'

Debates at Antioch as to the reception of the Goths within the Empire. The authorities of the province to whom this request was made, answered, reasonably enough, that they could not grant it upon their own responsibility, but must refer it to the Emperor at Antioch, in whose council the question was long and earnestly debated. The statesmen of the Empire had indeed come, though they knew it not, to one of the great moments in the history of Rome, to one of those courses when a Yes or a No modifies the course of events for centuries. There was danger, no doubt, in keeping two hundred thousand warriors, maddened by fear and famine, at bay upon the frontiers of the Empire; yet, encumbered as they were by the presence of their wives and children, they would hardly have succeeded in crossing the river in the Emperor's despite.17 There was danger in admitting them within that river-bulwark: yet, for the greater part of a century, they had been the faithful allies of Rome; they recognised the binding force of a solemn covenant; they were rapidly coming under the influence of civilisation and Christianity. Bringing, as they proposed to bring, their wives and children with them, they gave some pledges to Fortune, and, if they had been justly dealt with, might probably in the course of years have become attached to the Moesian homes, and have formed an iron rampart for the Empire against further barbarian invasion. Or, if this attempt to constitute  p252 them armed defenders of the Roman soil were too venturesome, they might possibly, in that extreme need of theirs, have been constrained into peaceful pursuits, if the surrender of their arms had been made an indispensable condition of their entrance upon Roman territory.

Mistaken policy of Valens. Unfortunately, in that supreme crisis of the Empire, the mediocre intellect and feeble will of Valens, guided by the advice of men who were accomplished only in flattery,18 decided upon a course which united every possible danger, and secured no possible advantage. His vanity was gratified by the thought that so many stalwart warriors did but crave permission to become his servants. His parsimony — the best trait in his character — discerned a means of filling the Imperial treasury by accepting the unpaid services of these men, while still levying on the provinces the tax which was supposed to be devoted to the hire of military substitutes for the provincials.19 His unslumbering jealousy of his young and brilliant nephew, Gratian, suggested that in the newly enlisted Goths might one day be found a counterpoise to the veteran legions of Gaul. Moved by these considerations, he decided to transport the fugitives across the Danube. At the same time he laid upon them conditions hard and ignominious, but which if once named ought to have been rigidly enforced; and he himself, by the necessity of the case, contracted obligations to them which it would have required the highest degree of administrative ability to  p253 discharge. All these details — and it was a case in which details were everything — he left in the hands of dishonest and incapable subordinates, without, apparently, bestowing on them a day of his own thought and labour; and those subordinates, as naturally as possible, brought the Empire to ruin. Notwithstanding the often-quoted saying about 'the little wisdom with which the world is governed,' the Divine Providence does generally, in administration as in other branches of conduct, reward human foresight with success: and it branded the haphazard blundering of Valens with signal and disastrous failure.

The conditions imposed on the Goths, The conditions upon which the Emperor permitted, and even undertook to accomplish, the transportation of the Goths to the territory of the Empire, were, first, that all the boys who were not yet fit for military service (that is, no doubt, all those whose fathers were men of influence in the Gothic host) should be given up as hostages, and distributed in different parts of the Empire; and second, that the weapons should be handed over to the Roman officials, and that every Goth who crossed the river should do so absolutely unarmed. Later and ecclesiastical historians have added, and laid great stress upon, a third condition, that they should all embrace Christianity, of course in its Arian form; but this stipulation, which is not mentioned by any contemporary authority, and is in itself unlikely, has been probably introduced from some confused remembrance of the previous dealings between Valens and Fritigern, dealings in which the weight of the Imperial name does seem to have been thrown into the scale of Christianity, as understood by the Arians. We may probably, however, conclude with  p254 safety, that the only Goths to whom liberty to cross the river was voluntarily conceded by the Emperor were these Christian clients of his, the followers of Fritigern.

but not enforced by the officers of Valens. The conditions which were imposed destroyed all the grace of the Imperial concession, wounded the home-loving, war‑loving Goth in his affections and his pride, and brought him, with a sense of injury in his heart, within the limits of the Empire. But having been imposed, these conditions should have been impartially enforced. As it was, the one stipulation which had now become all‑important was disgracefully neglected by the two officers, Lupicinus, Count of Thrace, and Maximus (probably Duke of Moesia),20 who had charge of the transportation of the barbarians. All day and all night, for many days and nights, the Roman ships of war were crossing and recrossing the stream, conveying to the Moesian shore a multitude which they tried in vain to number. But as they landed, the Roman centurions, thinking only of the shameful plunder to be secured for themselves or their generals, picking out here a fair-faced damsel or a handsome boy for the gratification of the vilest lust, there appropriating household slaves for the service of the villa or strong labourers for the farm, elsewhere pillaging from the waggons the linen tissues or costly fringed carpets which had contributed to the state of the late lords of Dacia21 — intent on all these mean or  p255 abominable depredations, suffered the warriors of the tribe to march west past them with swelling hearts, and with the swords which were to avenge all these injuries not extracted from their scabbards. This hateful picture of sensuality and fatuous greed is drawn for us, not by a Goth, but by two Roman historians;22 and in looking upon it we seem to understand more clearly why Rome must die.

Neglect of Commissariat. As the expressed condition on the part of the Goths — the surrender of their arms — was recklessly left unenforced, so the implied condition on the part of the Romans — the feeding of the new settlers — was criminally ignored. It did not require any great gift of statesmanship to see that so large a multitude, suddenly transplanted into an already occupied country, would require for a time some special provision for their maintenance. Cornº should have been stored ready for them in the centre town of each district, and those who could not buy, as many could have done, the food needful for their families, should have been permitted to labour for it at some useful work of fortification or husbandry. But everything was left to chance: chance, of course, meant famine; and, according to the concurrent testimony of Goths and Romans,23 even famine itself was made more severe by the 'forestalling and regrating' of Lupicinus and Maximus. These men sold to the strangers at a great price, first beef and mutton, then the flesh of dogs (requisitioned from the Roman inhabitants), diseased meat and filthy offal. The price  p256 of provisions rose with terrible rapidity. The hungry Visigoths would sell a slave — they evidently still possessed slaves — for a single loaf, or pay ten pounds of silver (equivalent to 40l. sterling) for one joint of meat. Slaves, money, and furniture being all exhausted, they began — even the nobles of the nation24 — to sell their own children. Deep must have been the misery endured by those free German hearts before they yielded to the cruel logic of the situation. 'Better that our children live as slaves, than that they perish before our eyes of hunger.'

Gothic discontent. Through the winter months of 376‑377, apparently, this systematic robbery went on, and still the Goths would not break their plighted faith to the Emperor. Even as in reading the ghastly history of the Terror in 1793 we are bound to keep ever in memory the miserable lot of the French peasant under the ancien régime, so the thought of this cold and calculated cruelty, inflicted by men who had agreed to receive them as allies, and who called themselves their brothers in the faith of Christ, should be present to our minds when we hear of the cruel revenges which in Thrace, in Greece, and in Italy, 'Gothia' took on Rome. At length murmurs of discontent reached the ears of Lupicinus, who concentrated his forces round the Gothic settlements. The movement was perceived and taken advantage of by the Ostrogothic chieftains, Alatheus and Saphrax, who, with the young King Wideric under their charge, after sharing in Athanaric's campaign against the Huns, had fled to the Danube shore and had asked in vain for the same permission that was  p257 accorded to the Christian Visigoths. Watching their opportunity, they made a dash across the Danube, probably lower down the stream than the point where their countrymen had crossed. Thus the peril of Moesia, already sufficiently grave, was increased by the arrival of a new and considerable host, who were bound by no compact with the Empire, and had given no hostages of their fidelity. Fritigern, who was not yet prepared for an open breach with the Romans, but nevertheless would fain fortify himself by an alliance with these powerful chiefs, slowly marched towards Marcianople,25 the capital of the Lower (or Eastern) division of Moesia. When he arrived there, with his comrade in arms Alavivus, an event occurred which turned discontent into rebellion, and suspicion into deadly hate. The story is thus told by Jordanes, with some added details from Ammianus.

Banquet at Marcianople. 'It happened in that miserable time that the Roman general, Lupicinus, invited the kings Alavivus and Fritigern to a banquet, at which, as the event showed, he plotted their destruction. But the chiefs, suspecting no guile, went with a small retinue to the feast. Meanwhile the multitude of the barbarians thronged to the gates of the town, and claimed their right as loyal subjects of the Empire to buy the provisions which they had need of in the market. By order of Lupicinus the soldiers pushed them back to a distance from the city. A quarrel arose, and a band  p258 of the soldiers were slain and stripped by the barbarians. News of this disturbance was brought to Lupicinus as he was sitting at his gorgeous banquet, watching the comic performers and heavy with wine and sleep. He at once ordered that all the Gothic soldiers, who, partly to do honour to their rank, and partly as a guard to their persons, had accompanied the generals into the palace, should be put to death. Thus, while Fritigern was at the banquet, he heard the cry of men in mortal agony, and soon ascertained that it proceeded from his own followers shut up in another part of the palace, whom the Roman soldiers at the command of their general were attempting to butcher. He drew his sword in the midst of the banqueters, exclaimed that he alone could pacify the tumult which had been raised among his followers, and rushed out of the dining-hall with his companions. They were received with shouts of joy by their countrymen outside; they mounted their horses and rode away, determined to revenge their slaughtered comrades.26

'Delighted to march once more under the generalship of one of the bravest of men, and to exchange the prospect of death by hunger for death on the battle-field, the Goths at once rose in arms. Lupicinus, with no proper preparation, joined battle with them at the ninth milestone from Marcianople, was defeated, and only saved himself by a shameful flight. The barbarians equipped themselves with the arms of the slain legionaries, and in truth that day ended in one  p259 blow the hunger of the Goths and the security of the Romans; for the Goths began thenceforward to comport themselves no longer as strangers but as inhabitants, and as lords to lay their commands upon the tillers of the soil throughout all the Northern provinces.'27

Sueridus and Colias driven into rebellion. After war had been thus declared, Fritigern, elated with his success, marched across the Balkans, and appeared in the neighbourhood of Hadrianople. There the incredible folly of the Roman officials, who seem to have been determined 'not to leave one fault uncommitted,' threw another strong Gothic reinforcement into his arms. There were two chieftains named Sueridus and Colias, possibly belonging to the 'Gothi Minores' of Ulfilas, who had long ago entered the service of the Empire, and who were now from their winter-quarters at Hadrianople placidly beholding the contest, without any disposition to side with their invading kinsmen. Suddenly orders arrived from the Emperor that the troops under their command were to march to the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles. The leaders prepared to obey, but made the perfectly reasonable proposal that they would receive an allowance for the expenses of the march, rations for the journey, and be allowed a delay of two days to complete their preparations. Some old grudge connected with depredations committed by the Goths on their property in the suburbs prompted the magistrates of the city to refuse the request; nay more, to arm  p260 the smiths, of whom there was a large number in Hadrianople, the chief arsenal of Thrace, to sound the trumpets, and to threaten Sueridus and Colias with instant destruction unless they immediately obeyed the Emperor's orders. The Goths at first stood still, unable to comprehend the meaning of this outburst of petulance, but when scowling looks were succeeded by taunting words, and these by actual missiles from the armed artisans, they willingly accepted the offered challenge and fought. Soon a crowd of Romans were lying dead in the streets of Hadrianople. According to the usual custom even of Roman warfare the Goths despoiled the corpses of their arms, and then they marched out of town to join their countryman Fritigern. The united forces attempted a siege of the city, but in vain; and with an exclamation from Fritigern, 'I do not make war on stone walls,' they broke up their camp and streamed westward and southward through the Rhodope valleys and over the rich province of Thrace.28 From every quarter the enslaved Goths hastened to the uplifted standard of 'the bravest of men,' eager to avenge upon their oppressors the insults and the blows which they had received since that shameful day of the passage of the Danube.

The Goths ravage Thrace. These, and some deserters from among the poorer Provincials,29 were of great service to the barbarian  p261 leaders in guiding them to the lurking-places of wealthy Romans, and the secret stores of corn and treasure. Pillage, conflagration, murder, were universal in all the country districts of Thrace. Little children were slain before the eyes of their mothers, and old men, stripped of all their wealth, lamenting their ruined homesteads, and crying out 'that they had already lived too long,' were dragged away into slavery among the barbarians.

Action taken by Valens. When the news of this disastrous issue of the Gothic migration reached the Emperor at Antioch, it naturally plunged him in the deepest anxiety. Yet he left the campaign of 377 to be fought out by his generals, and did not that year appear himself upon the scene. He at once patched up a peace with Persia, withdrew his troops from Armenia, and sent them straight to the field of action in Thrace under two generals, Profuturus and Trajan, whose self-confidence, we are told, was greater than their capacity. Gratian also spared some troops from Gaul, under the command of Richomer, who held the high office of 'Count of the Domestics,' but their numbers were considerably lessened by desertion before they reached the foe.

Ammianus blames the strategy of the generals of Valens, who, he thinks, should have avoided anything like a pitched battle with the Goths, and should have gradually worn them down by frequent and harassing encounters. But it is plain that they succeeded in clearing first the Rhodope country, and then the line  p262 of the Balkans, of the Gothic army (though detached bands of plunderers loitered in the south), and at last the three generals sat down before the barbarian camp at a place called 'The Willows' (Ad Salices), in the region which we now call the Dobrudscha, between the Danube and the Sea. That the tide of battle should have rolled so far northward seems to show that the Roman generals had not greatly failed in their campaign.

Drawn battle of 'Ad Salices.' A bloody but indecisive battle followed, of which Ammianus has given us a striking if somewhat turgid description. We see the Goths in their great round encampment of waggons which they themselves called 'carrago,' and with which their Dutch kinsmen in South Africa have lately made us familiar under the name of 'the laager camp.'30 Those fiery spirits hoped to win the battle on the previous evening. They now pass the night in sleepless excitement, varied by a prolonged supper. The Romans also remain awake, but rather from anxiety than hope. Then with the dawn of day the barbarians, according to their usual custom, renew to one another their oaths of fidelity in battle. The Romans sing a martial song, rising crescendo from the lower notes to the higher, which is known to their nation as the barritus. The barbarians, with less of harmony, make the air resound with the praises of their martial ancestors. (Would that the historian could have taken down for us from the mouth of some captive Goth a specimen of one of these ancestral songs!) Then the Goths try, but not with great success, to gain some rising ground from which they may rush down in fury on the foe. The  p263 missile weapons fly, the Romans, joining shield to shield, form the celebrated testudo, and advance with firm step. The barbarians dash down upon them their great clubs, whose blackened ends are hardened in the fire, or stab those who resist most obstinately with the points of their swords. Thus for a time they break the left wing of the Imperial army, but a strong support comes up, and the Roman line is restored. The hail of flying javelins rattles on unceasingly. The horsemen on both sides pursue the fugitives, striking at their heads and backs; the foot-soldiers follow, and hamstring the fallen to prevent their continuing their escape. So, while both nations are fighting with undiminished ardour, the sun goes down upon scenes whose ghastliness our historian describes with unnecessary minuteness, and after all the battle of the Salices is neither lost nor won. Next day the bodies of the chiefs on both sides are buried. Those of the common soldiers are left to the vultures, which at that time fed fat upon human flesh. Years after, Ammianus himself appears to have seen the heaps of whitened bones which still denoted the site of the great battle.31

After this indecisive battle the Goths remained 'in laager' for seven days. The Romans retired to Marcianople, but succeeded, owing to the inactivity of the  p264 barbarians, in shutting many detached parties of the Goths into sequestered valleys among the Balkans, where they perished of famine. Richomer, however, in the autumn returned to Gaul, which was believed to be in danger of invasion; and, perhaps in consequence of this diminution of the Imperial forces, before the close of the year, we find the Goths again holding the Balkan line against Saturninus, Master of the Horse, who had been sent to reinforce Trajan and Profuturus: and not only so, Coalition of Goths and Huns against Rome. but having sent invitations to some of their late enemies, the Huns and the Alani — for by this time the Roman was even more hateful than the Hun — they again burst into Thrace, where they committed a fresh series of outrages, the heightened brutality of which seems to be due to the presence of their Tartar auxiliaries.

In the mournful procession that followed in the train of the invaders might be seen mothers with their new‑born children in their arms, scarred by the lash of the slave-driver, tender and delicate women longing in vain for death to free them from foreseen dishonour, wealthy nobles hurried away from the smoking ruins of their villas and bewailing the caprice of Fortune, which in a moment had given them in exchange for lordship and luxury, the prospect of the barbarian torture-chamber, the ignominy of the barbarian master's scourge.

Success of Frigeridus. The Teutonic invaders, however, were by no means uniformly victorious. A general named Frigeridus (probably of Frankish extraction) had been sent by Gratian into the Thracian provinces, and had strongly entrenched himself near Beroea. He had shown hitherto but little energy, being, as his friends said, at times incapacitated by cruel attacks of gout, while his enemies insinuated  p265 that the gout was rather the consequence than the cause of his inactivity. Now, however, by one successful stroke he redeemed his military character. The Taifali, a satellite-tribe of the great Gothic confederacy, had crossed the undefended Danube, and under the leadership of a Gothic noble named Farnobius, were roaming over Thrace and Macedon, doing the usual work of devastation. Frigeridus waited till they came near his entrenchments, then sallied forth and inflicted upon them a well-aimed and successful stroke. Farnobius was slain, and the whole band of Taifali and accompanying Goths might have been cut to pieces. But Frigeridus, when they were at his mercy, granted their prayer for life, and sent them into Italy to cultivate as coloni the rich alluvial plains in the neighbourhood of Modena, Reggio, and Parma. We do not hear again of these involuntary emigrants, but the fact that such a settlement was desirable or even possible in the fertile valley of the Po shows what desolations had begun to reveal themselves even in the very heart of the Empire. After this victory Frigeridus, who seems to have thoroughly shaken off his former lethargy, set himself to work to fortify the passes of the Balkans, and especially that most important pass, then known as the pass of Succi, in later times as the Iron Gate or Trajan's Gate, over which runs the road from Sophia to Philippopolis. Could this wise defensive policy have been maintained, Thrace at any rate would have been kept clear from the Gothic ravagers, even if Moesia were abandoned to their devastation. But, apparently in the winter of 377, Frigeridus was relieved of the command of the Western troops, which was given to Count Maurus, a fierce, fickle, and corrupt officer, of whom history has nothing memorable  p266 to relate, except that seventeen years before this time he was at Paris, serving as one of the front-rank men in the legion of the Petulantes when Julian was proclaimed Augustus by the insurgent soldiery, and that he, when no diadem was at hand, and when the necklace of Helena, Julian's wife, and a horse's collar had both been proposed and rejected as unsuitable, took from his neck the torque which he wore as bearer of the dragon-ensign of the regiment, and placed it on the head of the new Emperor. Maurus appears to have been defeated by the barbarians at the pass of Succi,32 and fresh hordes of them probably poured southward into Thrace over the undefended barrier.

Campaign of 378 in the West; Still upon the whole, the campaign of 378 seems to have opened auspiciously for the interests of Rome along the whole line. In the West, Gratian, who had found his barbarians upon the Rhine and in the Tyrol perceptibly more restless and excited on account of the rumours of Rome's reverses on the Danube, succeeded in winning an important victory near Colmar in Alsace, and in reducing to obedience, after some operations of extraordinary difficulty, the Lentienses, a barbarous tribe who dwelt among the mountains of the Black Forest.

in the East. In the East, Sebastian, who had been so lately an unconscious candidate for the purple of Valentinian, was summoned from Italy at the earnest request of Valens and assumed the supreme command of the infantry in the room of Trajan. With a small and select detachment of troops33 he fell by night upon a large  p267 body of marauding Goths who had settled themselves to sleep by the banks of the river Hebrus (Maritza), and only a few nimble-footed ones among them escaped the slaying sword of the Roman general.

But these two victories were in fact not the precursors merely, but the causes, of a greater and far more terrible defeat. Valens at Constantinople. The Emperor Valens had now appeared upon the scene, having removed his court from Antioch to Constantinople. Deep down in that man's heart, the secret motive it may be believed of many of his worst and most unwise actions, was the conviction that he had been chosen by fraternal partiality for an office for which he was not fitted, and that all men, citizens, soldiers, generals, were ever reflecting upon that unfitness. The victory of his nephew, the gallant and brilliant Gratian, was gall and wormwood to his spirit, and he nourished a petulant and morbid craving for a triumph in which that nephew should have no share, and which Sebastian's success, somewhat magnified in the general's report of it, persuaded him would be an easy one.

The few days of the Emperor's stay at Constantinople had been clouded by an outbreak of popular sedition, partial indeed, and soon suppressed, but unpleasantly indicating the adverse judgment of the multitude on his recent policy. Valens withdrew in displeasure to his villa of Melanthias (eighteen miles from the capital), where, since he knew himself to be unpopular with the citizens, he set himself to gain the affections of the soldiery by the well-worn devices of donative and  p268 extra rations, and affable gossip with the men.34 In this way the early summer passed on, while Sebastian won his victory by the Maritza and Gratian his by the Rhine. Roused by these tidings, Valens set forth from his villa with a large and well-appointed army, containing no small number of veterans, and many experienced officers, among them Trajan, the late Master of the Soldiers. On his march an incident occurred, which at the time was probably remarkable only as furnishing an illustration of the lamentably devastated condition of the country, but to which later generations added a touch of the supernatural, and then beheld in it a portent.

Book IV, ch. 21. Portent which appeared to the army of Valens. 'The body of a man,' says Zosimus, 'was seen lying by the roadside, seeming as if it had been scourged from head to foot, and utterly motionless, except as to the eyes, which were open, and which it moved from one to another of the beholders. To all questions who he was, or whence he came, or from whom he had suffered these things, he answered nothing. Whereupon they deemed the sight to be somewhat in the nature of a portent, and showed it to the Emperor. Still, when he questioned it, it remained equally dumb: and you would have said that it could not be living, since the whole body was motionless, nor yet utterly dead, since it still had the power of vision. And while they were gazing, suddenly the portentous thing vanished. Whereupon those of the bystanders who had skill to read coming events, conjectured that the apparition foreshadowed the future condition of the commonwealth, which, like that man, should be stricken and scourged, and lie for a space like one who is about to give up the  p269 ghost, until at length by the vileness of its rulers and ministers it should be utterly destroyed. And this forecast, as one after another all these things have come upon us, is seen to have been a true one.'

After three days' march the army reached Hadrianople, where they took up their position in the usual square form of a Roman camp strengthened by ditch and vallum and palisade. The scouts who had seen the Gothic forces, by some incredible error brought back word that they only numbered 10,000 men.35 Before the battle was joined, the Emperor must have been undeceived on this point, but it is probable that to the last he under-estimated the strength of his foe. While they were still in camp Richomer, the Count of the Domestics, arrived with a letter from his young master Gratian, who had been detained by fever at Sirmium, stating that he was again on the road, and would shortly joining his uncle with powerful reinforcements. A council of war was held to decide between instant battle and a delay of a few days in order to effect a junction with Gratian. Sebastian, fresh from his easy victory by the Maritza, advised immediate action.36 Victor, Master of the Cavalry, a Sarmatian  p270 (Sclavonian) by birth, but an excellent and wary general, and true to Rome, advised delay. The absurd miscalculation of the enemy's forces, joined to the Emperor's unconcealed desire to within his victory without Gratian, carried the day, and it was decided to fight forthwith.

Negotiations commenced by the Goths. Scarcely had this resolution been arrived at when a singular embassy arrived from Fritigern. 'A presbyter of the Christian worship,' with other persons of somewhat humble rank,37 brought a letter, in which the Gothic king entreated that he and his people who were driven forth from their homes by the inroad of the savage Huns, might have the province of Thrace38 assigned to them for a habitation, with all the cattle and crops which yet remained in it. On this condition, which, as it may have been represented, was justified by the precedent of Aurelian's cession of Dacia, they promised to remain everlastingly at peace with Rome. According to a camp-rumour, which Ammianus believed, but which to a modern historian seems highly improbable, this same messenger brought confidential letters from the Goth to the Emperor, advising him apparently not to concede the terms openly asked for, but to hurry up his army close to the barbarian host, and thereby enable Fritigern to extract from his too arrogant followers terms more favourable to the Roman commonwealth.

 p271  Battle of Hadrianople, Aug. 9, 378. Such an embassy, with such a request, especially in the existing mood of the Emperor and his officers, was of course disregarded: and at dawn of the following day the Emperor and his army set forward, leaving their baggage, military chest, and the chief of the trappings of the Imperial dignity, under the shelter of the walls of Hadrianople.

It was not till about two o'clock in the afternoon that the waggons of the Goths, arranged in their usual circular form, were seen upon the horizon. The Romans drew up their line of battle, putting the cavalry, contrary to their usual custom, in front of the heavy-armed infantry. While this was going on, the barbarians, 'according to their custom,' says Ammianus, 'raised a sad and savage howl,' which however was probably meant for melody. Then followed, not the fight, but a perplexing series of embassies and counter embassies between Fritigern and Valens. The Goth seems to have had really some doubt as to the issue of the combat. His Ostrogothic allies, Alatheus and Saphrax, with the chief of the barbarian cavalry, were from some unexplained cause absent, but he knew that they were hastening to join him. He knew also that with the Roman troops, hot, exhausted, and thirsty after a long march under the noon‑day sun of August, and with their horses unable to graze — for the Goths had set the dry grass on fire and it was still blazing around them — an hour or two of delay would tell for him against the Emperor. Why Valens lingered is less easy to explain, unless, after all, he, though eager for a victory all his own, had little inclination for the fight.

The negotiations turned on the quality of the hostages who were to be exhibited in order that Fritigern  p272 might be sufficiently secure of peace to impose it on his followers. Aequitius, who held the high office of 'Cura Palatii,' and was a relation of Valens, was named: but Aequitius had before tasted the discomfort of captivity among the Goths, and having escaped — perhaps broken his parole, was not sure what kind of welcome he would be met with by the barbarians. Then Count Richomer nobly volunteered for the unpleasant task, and had actually started for the waggon-encampment, but before he reached it the impatience of the Roman soldiers put an end to this irritating suspense. Some light-armed troops (archers and shield-bearers) under the command of Bacurius the Armenian, came up to the Gothic rampart and actually engaged the enemy at the very moment when Richomer was starting on his mission. Doubtless, however, even then Fritigern would have found means to spin out again his interminable negotiations, had not his chief end already been attained. Alatheus and Saphrax were come, and their cavalry swept down upon the hot and hungry Roman soldiers 'like a thunderbolt.' The battle which followed is described with much minuteness but no great clearness by Ammianus. What the professional Roman soldier has failed to make clear, a modern and unprofessional writer may be excused from attempting to explain. Something is said about the right wing of the cavalry having reached the ground before the left, which straggled up in disorder by various roads to the field of battle. It has also been suggested39 that the Romans, in putting their cavalry before their infantry, showed that they intended to attack, and that the battle was necessarily lost when Fritigern by his crafty  p273 negotiations and by the well-timed charge of Alatheus and Saphrax wrested from them the offensive. The left wing of the cavalry actually pushed up to the Gothic waggons, and had they been supported by their comrades, would perhaps have stormed the camp, but isolated as they were from the rest of the army, they were powerless. Far behind them the maniples of the infantry were so tightly jammed together that they could scarce draw their swords or reach back a once-extended hand, and their spears were broken by the swaying to and fro of their unmanageable mass before they could hurl them against the enemy. There they stood, raging but helpless, an easy mark to the Gothic missiles, not one of which could fail to wound a Roman soldier, while the cavalry, which should have covered their advance, far forward on the battle-field, but separated from the main body of the army by an intervening sea of furious barbarians, stood for some time a brave but broken bulwark. At length, after hours of slaughter and after some hopeless charges over the heaps of slain, in which the Romans tried to get at the enemy with their swords and to avenge the destruction which they could not avert, the ranks of the infantry gave way and they fled in confusion from the field.

Where meanwhile was Valens? When the day was irretrievably lost, finding himself surrounded on all sides by scenes of horror, he rode, leaping with difficulty over heaps of slain, to where two legions of his guard40 still held their ground against the surging  p274 torrent of the barbarians. Trajan, who was with them, shouted out, 'All hope is gone unless a detachment of soldiers can be got together to protect the Emperor's person.' At these words a certain Count Victor41 rode off to collect some of the Batavian cohort, whose duty it was to act as a reserve to the Imperial Guard. But when he reached their station he found not a man there, and evidently deeming further efforts to save his master's life hopeless, he and Richomer and Saturninus hurried from the field.

Death of Valens. Trajan fell where he was fighting, and round him fell presumably the two still unbroken legions, while the miserable Valens wandered on between heaps of slain horses and over roads made nearly impassable by his dead and dying subjects. Night came on, a moonless night, and, when the dreadful day dawned, the Emperor was not to be found. Some said that they had seen him at twilight flying from the field, in the crowd of common soldiers, sore wounded by an arrow, and that he had suddenly fallen, faint from the loss of blood. Others told a more circumstantial tale. According to them, after he had received his wound, a small company of eunuchs and soldiers of the bodyguard who still surrounded him, bore him off to some miserable out‑house of timber, which they saw nigh at hand. There, while they were trying to assuage his pain, a company of Goths came by, ignorant whom they were pursuing, and demanded admission. As the door was kept tightly barred against them, and they were assailed by a shower of arrows from the roof, the barbarians,  p275 impatient at being so long hindered from their work of depredation, piled straw and logs against the cottage and set it on fire. One young guardsman alone escaped from the conflagration to tell the Goths what they had done, and of how great a prize they had defrauded themselves by their cruel impatience.

This last version of the story, though only half credited by Ammianus, is the one which obtained most currency with posterity. The ecclesiastical historian, in whose eyes the heresy of Valens was his greatest crime, were never tired of remarking that he who, by seducing the Gothic nation into Arianism, had caused so many of their number to burn eternally in hell, was himself, according to the righteous retribution of God, burned on earth by the hands of those same barbarians.

Upon the field of Hadrianople fully two‑thirds of the Roman army were proved to have perished. Among them were thirty-seven officers of high rank, besides Trajan and Sebastian. XXXI.13.19. 'Though the Romans,' says Ammianus, 'have often had experience of the fickleness of Fortune, their annals contain no record of so destructive a defeat since the battle of Cannae.' And we, after the lapse of fifteen centuries, can perceive that while even the terrible disaster of Cannae was reparable, the consequences of the battle of Hadrianople could never be repaired.42


The Author's Notes:

1 We get the account of this affair of Theodorus from Ammianus, XXIX.1, and Zosimus, IV.13‑15. Ammianus appears to date it to 371, but his narrative does not always strictly follow the chronological order. Tillemont, I know not why, fixes it in 374, and this date has been generally accepted by historians. But, as he himself points out, Themistius in his eleventh oration, uttered in 373, uses language as to a recently discovered conspiracy, which would fit very well this of Theodorus.

2 Ammianus makes the fatal letters only three, but Zosimus and Socrates agree in counting four.

3 'High Treason.' Both Ammianus and Zosimus seem to admit the justice of the execution of Theodorus. His son, Icarius, who was a poet of some reputation in his day, was apparently Comes Orientis after Proculus had been removed from that office (about 384). He wrote a poem in praise of the Emperor Theodosius (cf. Sievers: Das Leben des Libanius, p163).

4 See p132.

5 Socrates, IV.19.

6 'Fodicatis lateribus' (Amm. Mar. XXIX.1.33). This form of torture seems to have consisted in lacerating the sides of the victim with an iron claw (ungula)

7 'Versus illos notissimos' (Amm. Mar. u. s.).

8 'Halanorum quos Greuthungis confines Tanaitas consuetudo nominavit' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.3). Apparently, therefore, the Alani, like the Cossacks of later times, took a surname from the great river by which they dwelt.

9 'Ermenrichi late patentes et uberes pagos repentino impetu perruperunt' (Ibid.).

10 'Rosomonorum gens infida' (Jordanes, XXIV). All this story about Sunilda is peculiar to Jordanes, and is probably part of some old Gothic saga. Von Wietersheim has pointed out that a story somewhat similar to this is told in the Eddas, of Svanhild as the daughter of Sigurd Fafnisbane, her husband Jörmunrek (Hermanric), and her sons Sörli and Hamdie (Sarus and Ammius).

11 'Magnorum discriminum metum voluntariâ morte sedavit' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.3). Jordanes, though he cleverly contrives to avoid saying so much as this, not obscurely hints it.

12 The inclination of the German critics is to spread the 'Hunneneinfall' over five years, thus: '372, attack upon the Alani; 374‑375, overthrow of the Ostrogoths; 375‑376, defeats of Athanaric.' There is a good deal to be said in support of this view, and there can be little doubt that at least the wars with the Alani were over before the commencement of 376. Against any further extension of the time are to be set the strong expressions of Jordanes and Ammianus as to the rapidity of the Hunnish conquests ('ad Scythiam properant . . . . quasi quidam turbo gentium,' says Jordanes. 'Ermenrichi late patentes et uberes pagos repentino impetu perruperunt . . . . qui vi subitae procellae perculsus . . . . voluntariâ morte sedavit;' 'Cujus post obitum rex Vithimiris creatus restitit aliquantisper Halanis' are the words of Ammianus), and the entry in one of the Latin Chronicles (Descriptio Consulum Idatio Episcopo adscripta), which seems to assign the whole Hunno-Gothic campaign to the year 376 ('Valente Aug. V. et Valentiniano Juniore Augusto. His consulibus victi et expulsi sunt Gothi a gente Unorum et suscepti sunt in Romaniâ pro misericordiâ jussione Augusti Valentis'). I do not see that the point is one of much consequence. The really important event, the hurling of the Visigoths against the Danube frontier of the Empire, unquestionably took place in 376.

13 The Huns seem to have left the work of crushing this inconsiderable resistance to their confederates the Alani (see quotation from Ammianus in the preceding note).

14 'Castris denique prope Danasti margines ac Greuthungorum vallem (?) longius oportune metatis' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.3). I venture to suggest 'vallum' for 'vallem.' When so large a tract of country belonged to the Greuthungi, why should one valley be called 'Greuthungorum vallis'? 'Vallum,' on the other hand, gives a perfect sense.

15 Thus, as Von Wietersheim points out, we must probably correct the words of Ammianus, 'a superciliis Gerasi fluminis ad usque Danubium . . . muros altius erigebat.' It is almost certain that Athanaric would construct his line of defence westward to the mountains, not eastward to the Danube.

16 P48 (Bonn ed.).

17 Some of the bolder warriors did attempt forcibly to cross the Danube. Many were drowned, and those who effected a landing were cut to pieces by the Roman soldiers on the opposite shore. The officers who had taken upon themselves the responsibility of this resistance were cashiered by Valens, and narrowly escaped being themselves put to death (Eunapius, p49, and Amm. Mar. XXXI.4‑5).

18 'Eruditis adulatoribus' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.4.4).

19 'Et pro militari supplemento, quod provinciatim annuum pendebatur, thesauris accederat auri cumulus magnus' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.4.4).

20 Tillemont gives him this title, but I am not able to trace his authority for it. Ammianus calls him, I think, only 'dux exitiosus.'

21 Οἱ δὲ ταῦτα ἐπιτραπέντες ὁ μὲν ἐκ τῶν διαβεβηκότων ἤρα παιδαρίου τοὺς λευκοῦ καὶ χαρίεντος τὴν ὄψιν, ὁ δὲ ἠλέει γυναικὸς εὐπροσώπου τῶν αἰχμαλώτων, ὃς δὲ ἦν αἰχμάλωτος ὑπὸ παρθένου, τοὺς δὲ τὸ μέγεθος κατεῖχε τῶν δώρων, τά τε λίνα ὑφάσματα καὶ τὸ τῶν στρωμάτων ἐπ’ ἀμφότερα θυσιανοειδές (Eunapius, pp49, 50).

22 Zosimus and Eunapius.

23 Jordanes and Ammianus.

24 'Mancipia, inter quae et filii ducti sunt optimatum' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.4.11).

25 Marcianople corresponds to the modern Shumla. The strength of this position as commanding several of the Balkan passes, and near both to the Danube and the Euxine, has been sufficiently impressed upon us by recent events. It and Hadrianople were the great arsenals of Moesia and Thrace, respectively.

26 It seems possible that Alavivus was slain at the banquet. Ammianus, who has scrupulous mentioned his name with Fritigern's up to this point, now speaks of him no more.

27 Jordanes, cap. xxvi; Amm. Mar. XXXI.5. There are slight differences between the two narratives which make it not easy satisfactorily to combine them. Jordanes especially makes no mention of Alavivus.

28 For convenience sake I use Thrace in the classical sense, as representing the country between the Balkans and the Aegean. Official Thrace at this time reached northwards to the Danube.

29 Ammianus says that 'to these were joined several persons skilled in tracking out veins of gold, who were not able to bear the heavy burdens of the taxes, and being received with the willing consent of all, they were of great use to the invaders of an unknown country in pointing out the hidden stores of corn and the lurking-places of the fugitives' (XXXI.6.6). We learn from Vegetius (a contemporary writer on military affairs) that the Roman generals always endeavoured to have some of these very Thracian miners in their armies in order to conduct the subterranean operations of a siege (IV.24).

30 'Ad orbis rotundi figuram multitudine digestâ plaustrorum tamquam intramuranis cohibitum spatiis' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.7.5).

31 'Reliqua peremptorum corpora dirae volucre consumpserunt, adsuetae illo tempore cadaveribus pasci, ut indicant nunc usque albentes ossibus campi.' Compare Claudian (writing of these times but of a slightly different place) —

'Dicite, Bisaltae, vel quietus Pangaea juvencis

Scinditis, offenso quantae sub vomere putres

Dissiliant glebis galeae, vel qualia rastris

Ossa peremptorum resonent immania regum.'

In Prim. Cons. Stilichonis, I.134‑7.

32 This, which must have been an important engagement, is only mentioned incidentally by Ammianus in his account of Julian's coronation. 'Maurus nomine quidam postea comes, qui rem male gessit apud Succorum angustias, Petulantium tunc hastatus' (XX.4.18).

33 Only 300 according to Ammianus: Zosimus, who is less likely to be accurate, says 2000: but both agree that they were most carefully selected soldiers.

34 'Militem stipendio fovebat et alimentis et blandâ crebritate sermonum' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.11.1).

35 It is not very easy to understand Ammianus' account of the movements of the Goths. He says that Fritigern, after Sebastian's victory by the Hebrus, gathered all his people together and marched at once to Cabyle (in the north-east corner of Thrace, between the Balkan and the Euxine), for the sake of food, and to be safe from another surprise by Sebastian (XXXI.11.5). The Imperial scouts reconnoitred the Gothic forces at Nicé, about 30 miles East of Hadrianople. Apparently, therefore, Fritigern, having resumed the offensive, had marched southward by the Marcianople road which, near Nicé, joins the road coming from Sophia and Hadrianople.

36 Zosimus says that Sebastian advised Valens to avoid a pitched battle with the Goths, but Ammianus, from whom I have taken the account given above, is a better authority.

37 'Christiani ritus presbyter, ut ipsi appellant, missus a Fritigerno legatus cum aliis humilibus venit ad principis castra' (Amm. Mar. XXXI.12.8).

38 This would almost exactly correspond with the Western half of the modern province of Eastern Roumelia. A reference to the map will show that the Diocletianic province of Thrace was much smaller than the region generally known by that name.

39 By Pallmann (I.134).

40 The Lancearii and Mattiarii, both of which bodies of troops, named from the weapons which they employed, are mentioned in the Notitia Orientis (cap. v)º among the six Legiones Palatinae. The Batavi Seniores mentioned in the next sentence, head the list of the eighteen Auxilia Palatina.

41 Not the Master of the Cavalry mentioned p269.

42 After the battle of Hadrianople had been fought and the enemy had departed, it is said that a stone sepulchre was discovered on the plain with the name of a nobleman called Mimas carved upon it in Greek letters. Then was remembered the oracle repeated by the victims in the affair of Theodorus (p241) prophesying that they should be avenged —

Ἐν πεδίοισι Μίμαντος ἀγαιομένοιο Ἄρηος.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Aug 20