The Gothic War 376-382

Apr 2018
726
France
I just reread Ferrill's account in The Fall of the Roman Empire the Military Explanation. After Stilicho entered the ERE to fight Alaric on the peloponnesus, Eutropius persuaded Arcadius to declare Stilicho a public enemy (for his unauthorized intrusion into eastern territory).
Zosimus wrote that Stilicho's troops were too busy plundering the gothic camp to prevent the escape of alaric and his troops. He didn't blame Stilicho himself. And he said Arcadius ordered Stilicho to withdraw.

Considering the great importance of north Africa to the WRE it was very important to suppress Gildo.

:lol:This was the fifth century not the second. But 400 CE at the latest, citizen recruitment was nowhere near what it once had been.

No, the problem was partly political--the ERE leadership hindered him--and there was also the poor discipline of his barbarian comitatenses.

No, the fifth century was just a lousy time to be a Roman general...
1. And what is Ferrill primary source? Stilicho was order to withdraw in the first expedition, not in the second. But you have not considered that Alaric was defeated also in Italy. Was him captured, killed, chased? No, he was prized. Really impossible to justify, all the events go in the same direction: Stilicho was a traitor.

2. Also the north was important, as demonstrated by history, but Stilicho unprotected it. So, it was not thinking to the empire but to his position.

3. Barbarian comitatenses? A contradiction in terms. Simply, Stilicho preferred to keep an army loyal to him instead to Rome. This is betrayal and trust badly placed.

4. True, but acting worse than Stilicho is pretty impossible. We should also consider Roman position before and after him. A total disaster :)
 
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starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,163
Connecticut
1. And what is Ferrill primary source? Stilicho was order to withdraw in the first expedition, not in the second. But you have not considered that Alaric was defeated also in Italy. Was him captured, killed, chased? No, he was prized. Really impossible to justify, all the events go in the same direction: Stilicho was a traitor.
I think the source is Zosimus. I note Heather also dismissed Eunapius's negative view of Stilicho.

2. Also the north was important, as demonstrated by history, but Stilicho unprotected it. So, it was not thinking to the empire but to his position.
He needed more troops to deal with Rsdagaisus and took them from an area that didn't seem under immediate threat as Italy was.

3. Barbarian comitatenses? A contradiction in terms. Simply, Stilicho preferred to keep an army loyal to him instead to Rome. This is betrayal and trust badly placed.
Barbarian recruits apparently formed most of the mobile army. The WRE had no good alternative source of troops, as events soon showed.

True, but acting worse than Stilicho is pretty impossible. We should also consider Roman position before and after him. A total disaster :)
Stilicho successfully countered a number of threats, including Gildo, and was hampered in his efforts to finish alaric--by poorly disciplined troops, ERE interference or both.
The Roman position deteriorated greatly after Stilicho's fall, and the alienation of his men by those responsible for it.
 

Theodoric

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Mar 2012
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Are you referring to the Tetrarchy of Diocletian, not Constantine? If not, what innovations are you referring to?

I agree the shortage of troops was the real problem. Circa 380, the Eastern Empire fought wars on the Danube and also with Persia. The problem wasn't too few leaders. The problem was too few troops to fight two wars simultaneously. Another example was in circa 410 when Alaric was besieging Rome there was also a civil war in Gaul. Honorius did not have enough troops for either of those crises, never mind both.
The creation of field armies in strategic locations. An example of lack of speed was when Valens decided to attack the Goths, but there was only enough time to bring the Thracian and the 2 Constantinople armies to the field when the plan was to have 6 armies total.
 

Theodoric

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Mar 2012
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Only at the very start, to c 408, prior to the disintegration of Stilicho's army. Aetius enjoyed some success afterwards but was dependent to a degree on Hun mercenaries, and could not crush the visigoths or fully control them.
Aetius only controlled a portion of the Roman army, specifically, Western field armies. Battles fought by Romans generally did not utilize the majority of their troops. In the late Empire, the appropriate field armies were used as the strike forces; and I don't think any battle ever utilized all of them, except perhaps in the prolonged Gothic wars of the 6th century which really saw the end of the core Roman region as an independent force.


They had both problems in the third century but in time mastered them.
The outside enemies of the third century were not as large as those of the fifth century. The "mastery" you speak of is addressed in my post. The development of larger field armies placed in strategic locations helped fix the problem temporarily... until outside forces became larger. It is clear they were still too slow to move those armies around.




The problem wasn't speed but lack of sufficient strength. Constantine III entered Gail around 407 and drove the barbarians south but just couldn't finish them. For two years the vandals were in southern Gaul before they moved to Spain. Obviously not enough was done about them in Gaul or in Spain. Judging by their actions the various rivals in the WRE had enough strength to deal with one another but not invaders.
An example of lack of speed is when Valens decided to attack the Gothic revolt. The plan was to utilize all 6 field armies of the region, but only the Thracian and the two Constantinople armies made it, while the two Illyrian armies, which were close enough by, weren't even able to make it on time for the battle.

Sure greater sized armies could have solved the problem, but at the end of Theodosius's reign in 395 with approximately 200,000 in the East and 150,000 in the West, this was already an extremely large force. The fact that they needed much larger than this indicates the Empire was probably oversized. When they "mastered" their size, that was also at the expense of the Roman economy since Diocletian and Constantine raised such massive armies; estimates range about 2-3 times larger than the 2nd-century army. So the reality, the issue with the size of the Empire hadn't been resolved.

Part of the issue is that despite having a very large army (the East maintained that 200,000, and perhaps more than that by the time of Justinian), there was so much land to cover that even combined numbers of forces at 350-450,000 troops, the Romans rarely could get more than a few tens of thousands of troops to a battlefield. If speed weren't an issue, they could have hammered their enemies with 250,000 troops and have been done with with it; but these troops were spread out from Portugal and England to Hungary and Egypt; and crossing those distances took a very very long time, especially when you factor in communications.
 
Jan 2011
166
Aetius only controlled a portion of the Roman army, specifically, Western field armies. Battles fought by Romans generally did not utilize the majority of their troops. In the late Empire, the appropriate field armies were used as the strike forces; and I don't think any battle ever utilized all of them, except perhaps in the prolonged Gothic wars of the 6th century which really saw the end of the core Roman region as an independent force.




The outside enemies of the third century were not as large as those of the fifth century. The "mastery" you speak of is addressed in my post. The development of larger field armies placed in strategic locations helped fix the problem temporarily... until outside forces became larger. It is clear they were still too slow to move those armies around.






An example of lack of speed is when Valens decided to attack the Gothic revolt. The plan was to utilize all 6 field armies of the region, but only the Thracian and the two Constantinople armies made it, while the two Illyrian armies, which were close enough by, weren't even able to make it on time for the battle.

Sure greater sized armies could have solved the problem, but at the end of Theodosius's reign in 395 with approximately 200,000 in the East and 150,000 in the West, this was already an extremely large force. The fact that they needed much larger than this indicates the Empire was probably oversized. When they "mastered" their size, that was also at the expense of the Roman economy since Diocletian and Constantine raised such massive armies; estimates range about 2-3 times larger than the 2nd-century army. So the reality, the issue with the size of the Empire hadn't been resolved.

Part of the issue is that despite having a very large army (the East maintained that 200,000, and perhaps more than that by the time of Justinian), there was so much land to cover that even combined numbers of forces at 350-450,000 troops, the Romans rarely could get more than a few tens of thousands of troops to a battlefield. If speed weren't an issue, they could have hammered their enemies with 250,000 troops and have been done with with it; but these troops were spread out from Portugal and England to Hungary and Egypt; and crossing those distances took a very very long time, especially when you factor in communications.
There's more to this part than meets the eye. These Illyrian forces, plus select Western legions, were being led to Thracia by Gratian. If they needed to, they could have reached Thracia in good time for the Battle of Adrianople, but they did not - spending time on various diversions, some reasonable, some surely not pressing enough to warrant the delay. As such, there is a question mark over Gratian's motives in being so 'dilatory' (as Gibbon puts it).
 
Oct 2017
186
United States
My thoughts are that it was a bunch of angry men from everywhere killing each other..


Theodoric was positively a saint and the ultimate classicist in that bar fight of nation cultures... compared to that I mean, and why they ended up proving later so influential in the region.


It's easy to forget how hard life could be at times in many areas of the world and for many groups... a few things go wrong and before you know it everyone takes up pitchforks.
 
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Jan 2011
166
My thoughts are that it was a bunch of angry men from everywhere killing each other..


Theodoric was positively a saint and the ultimate classicist in that bar fight of nation cultures... compared to that I mean, and why they ended up proving later so influential in the region.


It's easy to forget how hard life could be at times in many areas of the world and for many groups... a few things go wrong and before you know it everyone takes up pitchforks.
Thanks be to Mithras they didn't have Twitter ;)
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,163
Connecticut
Aetius only controlled a portion of the Roman army, specifically, Western field armies.
Yes the force in Gaul but he had to rely on Hun mercenaries. The regular Roman army didn't amount to much anymore. Things were no better in Spain and North Africa.

The outside enemies of the third century were not as large as those of the fifth century.
I think they were. There were massive gothic incursions, attacks by Franks, alamanni, vandals. In addition, the eastern or Sassanid front was much more of a problem in the third century than in the fifth.

Sure greater sized armies could have solved the problem, but at the end of Theodosius's reign in 395 with approximately 200,000 in the East and 150,000 in the West, this was already an extremely large force.
On paper yes....I was referring to the later period after the disintegration of Stilicho's army in 408.

If speed weren't an issue, they could have hammered their enemies with 250,000 troops and have been done with with it; but these troops were spread out from Portugal and England to Hungary and Egypt; and crossing those distances took a very very long time, especially when you factor in communications.
Nevertheless down to the late fourth century or so, the Romans were able to repel or expel invaders. They even succeeded at this in times of diminished resources like after the plagues of c 167 and 251 CE. I don't think the problem was speed. It was chronic weakness by c 400 CE.