The Gothic War 376-382

#1
A short outline of events after the Goths' entry into the ERE in 376 AD:

Timeline of the Gothic War - Gordon Doherty - Writer

Some say this struggle was the catalyst for the Western Empire's fall. There is a plausible chain reaction theory to back that up (autonomous Goths living in empire post-382->Alaric->Visigothic identity->overreliance on 'foederati'), but I wondered what other people thought?

(Yes, I'm selling a book, but hope the blog content is of use/stokes debate)
 
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Likes: thegreathoo
Nov 2010
7,590
Cornwall
#2
Looks quite good.

The actual speed of these movements basically motivated by the Huns is quite impressive.

From Adrianople in 378 to Greece, then Italy (for the Visigoths) and Rome in 410, then Aquitania. By 416 Valia's army was fighting for Rome in La Betica, nowadays Andalusia

The Vandals and Alans (and others) basically moved from the very east of Europe, crossed the Rhine in 406, by 409 were in the west of Hispania and by 429 the whole remnants were established in North Africa.

Extremely turbulent times indeed,
 
#3
Looks quite good.

The actual speed of these movements basically motivated by the Huns is quite impressive.

From Adrianople in 378 to Greece, then Italy (for the Visigoths) and Rome in 410, then Aquitania. By 416 Valia's army was fighting for Rome in La Betica, nowadays Andalusia

The Vandals and Alans (and others) basically moved from the very east of Europe, crossed the Rhine in 406, by 409 were in the west of Hispania and by 429 the whole remnants were established in North Africa.

Extremely turbulent times indeed,
I never quite viewed it like that before (in terms of timescales right through to the African Vandalic Kingdom). That's quite breathtaking: entire peoples blazing a path across Europe and into another continent in just over 50 years - leaving a broken husk of an empire behind them. And to think that the worst (the Huns) was still to come!
 
#5
A testament to the weakness of the WRE.



In a sense it was already broken by about 400. The invaders just took advantage of this.
Quite. I'd say the West was largely sound until about 383. The rise of Magnus Maximus drained Britannia of many troops and triggered the civil wars which and pitched West and East into costly campaigns against one another that they really could not afford. In the aftermath of the Battle of the Frigidus, the West must have been nicely softened up!
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,027
Connecticut
#6
Quite. I'd say the West was largely sound until about 383. The rise of Magnus Maximus drained Britannia of many troops and triggered the civil wars which and pitched West and East into costly campaigns against one another that they really could not afford.
There had been awful civil wars before like in 351 but they don't seem to have permanently affected the army, which still strong in Julian's time.


In the aftermath of the Battle of the Frigidus, the West must have been nicely softened up!
I think it was already softened up by 382. The inability to throw out the goths then or even get them under full control, contrasts greatly with what was achieved in the third century, and testifies to pathology.
I think citizens were no longer willing to serve or if forced, no longer willing to fight, so the State began to rely more on barbarians for its own regular (mobile) army (comitatenses). They served well under Stilicho but after they were alienated, the WRE was chronically short of forces of its own.
 
Nov 2010
7,590
Cornwall
#7
I never quite viewed it like that before (in terms of timescales right through to the African Vandalic Kingdom). That's quite breathtaking: entire peoples blazing a path across Europe and into another continent in just over 50 years - leaving a broken husk of an empire behind them. And to think that the worst (the Huns) was still to come!
A testament to the weakness of the WRE.

In a sense it was already broken by about 400. The invaders just took advantage of this.
All correct. It's thought that, because of the various pretenders in WRE/Gaul/Hispania, the 'barbarians' crossing of the Pyrenees was invited and the passage through Gaul at least 'smoothed'

All to do with Constantine III, his passage from Britannia to Gaul, the rivals in Spain, all that sort of thing
 
#8
I think it was already softened up by 382. The inability to throw out the goths then or even get them under full control,
That was a failing of the ERE though (pre-382). Around this time, the WRE was holding its own and still demonstrating the old ability to repel large-scale invasion (the Alemanni/Lentienses incursion in 377/78 was colossal - estimates of up to 40k invaders - but the Western armies routed them). The WRE also defeated a wing of the Goths who tried to rove westwards, near Sirmium in 380, and it was the Western legions who finally marched into Thracia and forced (debatable, I know) the Goths into a peace treaty.
Of course, none of that proves the WRE was perfect or not yet in decline.

Accounts of the Battles of the Save and the Frigidus make for horrible reading and I can't help but feel that this must have knocked a critical amount stuffing out of both halves of the empire - particularly the WRE (because they lost).

I think the Gothic situation in Thracia in the late 370s AD that possibly triggered all this was the first of its kind - they weren't in imperial territory to raid or rampage, they were there en-masse as refugees with no intention of returning to their abandoned homeland.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,027
Connecticut
#9
That was a failing of the ERE though (pre-382). Around this time, the WRE was holding its own and still demonstrating the old ability to repel large-scale invasion (the Alemanni/Lentienses incursion in 377/78 was colossal - estimates of up to 40k invaders - but the Western armies routed them). The WRE also defeated a wing of the Goths who tried to rove westwards, near Sirmium in 380, and it was the Western legions who finally marched into Thracia and forced (debatable, I know) the Goths into a peace treaty.
Of course, none of that proves the WRE was perfect or not yet in decline.
I wonder how much of the 370s western forces were composed of barbarian recruits. Probably a lot. Enrolling them may have been symptomatic of the loss of martial spirit among citizens, but they were still satisfactory soldiers, down to Stilicho's time.

Accounts of the Battles of the Save and the Frigidus make for horrible reading and I can't help but feel that this must have knocked a critical amount stuffing out of both halves of the empire - particularly the WRE (because they lost).
But the army of Stilicho was still effective to c 408.

I think the Gothic situation in Thracia in the late 370s AD that possibly triggered all this was the first of its kind - they weren't in imperial territory to raid or rampage, they were there en-masse as refugees with no intention of returning to their abandoned homeland.
From what I've read in the book on Aurelian, already by c 269 the goths intended to stay in the balkans. They didn't enter just to plunder. The key difference of course was that the third century army could still crush them or throw them out. Evidently the late 4rth and 5th century army could neither crush them nor even control them on a continuing basis.
 
#10
I wonder how much of the 370s western forces were composed of barbarian recruits. Probably a lot. Enrolling them may have been symptomatic of the loss of martial spirit among citizens, but they were still satisfactory soldiers, down to Stilicho's time.
It'd be great to get a grasp of how Roman or semi-Roman the likes of the Heruli/Celtae/Cornuti were. They were names after the tribes who formed them but then they had been around since the time of Constantine, so it'd unlikely they'd still be 'tribal' in appearance and customs... or maybe they would have retained a degree of these things to distinguish themselves (like the Cornuti feather/wings on their helms)


But the army of Stilicho was still effective to c 408.
Stilicho's army was an eastern army until post-Frigidus but yes indeed they must have helped 'plug' the gap left after that war when they became wardens of the west.


From what I've read in the book on Aurelian, already by c 269 the goths intended to stay in the balkans. They didn't enter just to plunder. The key difference of course was that the third century army could still crush them or throw them out. Evidently the late 4rth and 5th century army could neither crush them nor even control them on a continuing basis.
Interesting, I didn't know that. The intent might have been there in 269 but the differentiating factor in the 370s though was the Huns - the Goths were slightly more motivated to make the Balkans their own because of the steppe hordes (and no wonder) lurking back over the Danube.
 

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