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Rome's Barbarian Mercenaries - history's great warning on multicultural outsourcing
Rome's Barbarian Mercenaries
Surrounded by enemies, the Romans increasingly relied on barbarians to fill their legions’ depleted ranks—with disastrous consequences.
By David G. Frye
For Sidonius Apollinaris and his beloved native city of Clermont, the year 471 could hardly have brought more misery. Goths surrounded the proud Roman city. Morale was low. Defeat seemed inevitable. Then, quite literally, the cavalry arrived. A small group of men—just nineteen—charged across the plain to scatter the Gothic host. The sheer audacity of the surprise attack must have stunned the besieging army. The Goths, who are said to have numbered in the thousands, suffered heavy losses, and the city was delivered.
In the aftermath, the townspeople watching from behind the broken walls thronged to greet their plucky rescuers. It was an especially joyous reception because the leader of the the tiny cavalry contingent was one of their own, a certain Ecdicius, who had grown up in Clermont before returning to relieve the town with a private army he had raised entirely through his own exertions. Grateful townsfolk now kissed the dust off Ecdicius’ armor and fought for the honor of embracing their victorious native son.
Sidonius, the city’s bishop, was ecstatic. But the affair had been a close one for both Clermont and Sidonius. In his writings Sidonius might well have been justified in asking how a city in the great Roman Empire could have been left so defenseless. Ecdicius’ raid should have been unnecessary. Where was the Roman army? Sidonius never did pose that question because he already knew the answer: The Roman army had been there all along, made up of Goths.
How the “Roman” army came to be composed of barbarian troops of an often renegade nature is in many ways the story of Rome’s fall. It is the story of a people who seemingly lost confidence in themselves, a government that lost control of its army, and an army that lost control of its soldiers. It is a story of ambition, but also of miscalculation and finally failure.
In its heyday, the Roman army was composed of citizens and subjects—legionaries were recruited from the ranks of citizens, and subject states contributed the auxiliaries. Roman politicians commanded both types of soldiers, and the army represented a Romanizing force in the empire. All soldiers learned Latin, and those troops from the more barbarous subject states learned the civil ways of Rome. Excavations in northern England have revealed that even Rome’s most distant auxiliaries, Batavians, had adapted to the imperial style. They wrote letters in Latin and built forts that served as makeshift facsimiles of Roman urban life, complete with public baths.
But even while the imperial army Romanized its troops, the Romans themselves professed an ironic longing for the
barbarism of their enemies. Long before the barbarization of the late Roman army, Roman writers expressed admiration for the uncouth warriors who battled their legions. In the eyes of Tacitus, or even Julius Caesar, civilization made men soft. The fiercest fighters were those deemed least civilized.
Perhaps as a consequence of this conviction, Rome often deviated from its standard recruiting policies. For example, no close reader of Caesar could fail to observe that the legendary general was repeatedly saved, even at Alesia, by mounted German mercenaries whom he had hired for his war against Vercingetorix. Subsequently, Augustus established an imperial bodyguard, the custodes, composed entirely of Germans. Army recruitment took a similar path. Whereas Italy still supplied 65 percent of legionary troops during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula, by the mid-second century the contribution of the Italian heartland had dwindled to less than 1 percent. Rome had begun recruiting its soldiers from the least civilized areas of the empire—a policy that would remain in place in late Roman times. Recruiters seem to have believed that the best soldiers, the real fighting men, could only be found outside the cities.
During the third century, the empire experienced a series of invasions and civil wars. These crises intensified Rome’s dependence on uncivilized and, increasingly, foreign troops. The late third- and early fourth-century emperors Diocletian and Constantine essentially remade the army, doubling its size and dividing it into two types of forces: the limitanei, or frontier troops, stationed along the borders of the empire, and the comitatenses, or mobile field forces, held in reserve for major conflicts. The army now swelled to some six hundred thousand men, which created severe recruitment pressures.
To fill its ranks, the late Roman army resorted to unprecedented measures. Sons of soldiers were required to take up the vocation of their fathers. Foreigners served in record numbers. Some were drawn from defeated barbarian groups that had been settled as subject peoples on Roman lands. Not entirely free, these laeti had no choice but to supply soldiers to the Roman army, where they traditionally served under Roman commanders. Increasingly, however, the army filled its ranks by attracting volunteers from outside the empire. In the fourth century, huge numbers of Germans enlisted, and many of them attained high rank. The army itself—once the most powerful Romanizing force in the world—was rapidly becoming Germanized by its own recruits. German terminology and even German customs—such as the barritus, the old German battle cry—became widespread. Contemporary writers used the terms barbarus (barbarian) and miles (soldier) interchangeably.
The transition from a citizen’s army to a very nearly mercenary one did not go smoothly. To many Romans, the same barbarians so admired for their military prowess were also the enemy. Since the early third century, the empire had been locked in a violent and essentially continuous struggle against barbarian raiders. Rome’s citizens, especially in the frontier provinces, had seen cities burned by barbarians. They had seen their fields pillaged, their treasures plundered, and their neighbors killed. If they felt a certain distrust of barbarian soldiers, they came by it naturally.
By the mid-fourth century, that distrust had begun to manifest itself in an open xenophobia. Roman responses to raids assumed a more brutal and punitive cast. When the Roman general Arinthaeus crossed the Danube in 367, he put a bounty on Goth heads and massacred even women and children. Within the empire a new law of 370 banned intermarriage between Romans and barbarians. But the most dangerous manifestations of late Roman xenophobia came a few years later, after the Germanic Goths had emerged as a dominant presence in the Roman world.
Gothic raids had plagued the empire since the third century. In 243 Emperor Decius had been defeated and killed by Goths. Then, in the late 370s, the Goth problem spun completely out of control. In 376 huge numbers of Goth refugees crossed the Danube into the empire to escape the Huns. The Roman officers overseeing the situation had little sympathy for the newcomers. Charged with supplying food to the starving Goths, they sold dog carcasses to the refugees and forced Goth parents to sell their own children into slavery. Inevitably, the Goths took up arms against their hosts.
As word spread of this revolt by Goth refugees, the emperor recalled to duty another group of Goths, formerly settled on Roman land near Adrianople. The leaders of these barbarians, however, delayed setting out on the march until they had received money for their expenses. A tragic incident resulted.
The chief magistrate of Adrianople had no patience with his Goth guests. They had apparently pillaged some suburban property of his, and he wished to see them leave. Incensed at their lingering, he could restrain his anger no longer; he distributed arms to the lower-class townspeople and workers in the local arms factory. With this rabble, he menaced the Goths, demanding they depart immediately.
The Goths refused. The standoff led to angry words, an exchange of missiles, and finally a skirmish in which the Goths slaughtered the armed mob, which had attacked in a rash and disorganized manner. When the battle ended, the Goths took Roman equipment from the dead and marched to join their rebellious Gothic brethren.
Thus reinforced and resupplied, the growing Gothic host set off to plunder the province of Thrace. Everywhere they went, the Goths were joined by more barbarians whom they found settled on Roman lands, often as slaves. Many hungry Romans joined them as well. Those who didn’t suffered terribly. The fourth-century historian Ammianus described the Goths’ fearful passage over the land: “All places were ablaze with slaughter and great fires, sucklings were torn from the very breasts of their mothers and slain, matrons and widows whose husbands had been killed before their eyes were carried off, boys of tender or adult age were dragged away over the dead bodies of their parents.”
A Roman army now set out after the Goths, but deserters (Goths, perhaps?) alerted the Gothic host of its movements. The Goths themselves now formed a giant laager or “wagon city” for defense.
When the two forces finally faced off, a bloody battle ensued. Each side roared its battle cry, then launched their javelins before closing. Both armies fought similarly, with shields linked, until the Goths broke the Roman left wing. Goth cavalry then swept in to slash at any Roman attempting to flee. The outnumbered Romans fought courageously. In the end, they had inflicted such heavy losses on the Goths that the battle could only be scored a draw. In its aftermath, the Goths found themselves in dire straits, with no avenue of escape, until a Roman general decided it was better to allow them out of their strategic bottleneck.
Thus spared, the Goths resumed ravaging Thrace. But in the eyes of Roman military planners, the eastern Germanic barbarians now seemed vulnerable. Emperor Valens, anxious to match the glory won by other generals, marched out to meet them. Valens kept his troops in a square formation until they arrived at Adrianople, where they made a strong camp with stakes and a moat. There, they awaited reinforcements.
Then, in an act of hubris worthy of a Greek tragedy, Valens allowed his ego to overcome him. He elected to force battle on the Goths before other Roman generals could arrive to share in the glory. On a hot August morning in 378, his army marched briskly out of camp, leaving behind all its baggage. His men advanced at a hard pace over the uneven ground, suffering from thirst and hunger until finally coming within sight of the Gothic wagon city in the early afternoon.
The Romans immediately drew up in a line of battle, with cavalry pushed forward on the right wing and the infantry somewhat behind in reserve. The Goths, seeing the misery of the Roman soldiers, now played for time, suing insincerely for peace, while their soldiers stoked great fires, creating smoke that parched the lungs of the tired Romans.
A unit of Roman archers opened the battle but advanced too far too quickly and were forced to retreat. At that moment the Gothic cavalry arrived from pillaging to scatter the Roman unit.
The two battle lines now closed in a furious clash. The Roman left wing advanced farthest, nearly reaching the Goths’ wagons before greater numbers overcame it. The subsequent counterattack compacted the Roman infantry into a unit so crowded that soldiers could hardly wield their weapons. Clouds of dust obscured their vision, and a murderous rain of Goth missiles exacted a heavy toll.
More Goth fighters now poured forth from the laager, trampling the Roman troops, who had no room to retreat. Slain soldiers covered the ground. Their spears broken, the surviving Romans drew their swords to fight on without any hope of escape. Soon the ground was so drenched with blood that the dusty soil had become slippery and treacherous.
Soldiers from both sides climbed atop the slain to continue fighting. At last, the Roman line was completely broken, and they scattered in flight. Although some generals managed to escape, Valens was not among them. His body was never found. Only a moonless night brought an end to the slaughter of the Battle of Adrianople. It was, in the opinion of Ammianus Marcellinus, who chronicled many campaigns, the greatest Roman defeat since Cannae, when the Carthaginian Hannibal had annihilated a Roman army.
Huns and Halani now swelled the ranks of the victorious Goths. Unable to break the defenses of Adrianople, the Goths set out for the capital itself: Constantinople. They marched there in square formation, almost like a Roman army. When they reached the city, though, they were driven away in a turn of events so surreal as to symbolize the bizarre transformation of warfare in the topsy-turvy world of the later Roman Empire: A contingent of Saracens, not Romans, raced out to attack the Goths. One Saracen—wild, longhaired, and nearly naked—ran screaming into the Goth army. Wielding only a dagger, he killed a Goth soldier, then began to suck blood directly from his victim’s throat. The Goths were so horrified by this behavior, the likes of which they had never even imagined, they could no longer fight with any confidence. Constantinople’s defenders appeared to be too terrifyingly barbarous, even for the Goths. The Eastern capital was saved.
Despite the departure of the Goths, panic spread throughout the Roman army. Sealed orders were sent out to the commanders of Eastern Roman troops: They were to summon all Goth soldiers to a pay parade and then put them to death.
The 378 Battle of Adrianople and the resulting purge of the army set the stage for the confusion, distrust, and miscalculation that would ultimately destroy the empire. The new Eastern emperor, Theodosius, campaigned hard against the Goths for three years before finally bringing them to heel. During those three years, the Goths devastated the Roman countryside. Rarely had such an enormous and ravenous host been at large within the empire.
But Theodosius did not pursue a policy of annihilation against his enemies. In fact, he did not even force their complete submission. The foedus, or treaty, that Theodosius concluded with the Goths resembled many earlier contracts with barbarian peoples. The empire had often made treaties with barbarian states just outside its boundaries. Such allied states were deemed foederati (allies), and by defending themselves, they helped defend the empire. Theodosius’ deal with the Goths, however, introduced some key novelties. First, the Goths were to be paid yearly subsidies. In essence, they were being bought off. Second, the Goths were given land to defend within the empire. Thus, a dangerous barbarian enemy, still under the command of its native leaders, had been assimilated directly into Rome’s system of defense. The Goths had become a unit of the Roman army.
Theodosius’ army in no way Romanized the Goths. The barbarians were allowed to keep their own leaders, customs, language, and laws. The Goths were also allowed to fight as barbarians. This represented an important shift in Roman tactics and training. Before, the Roman army had done its best to turn barbarian recruits into Roman soldiers, arming and training them just like their Roman comrades. Although barbarians and Romans did battle in much the same way, relying heavily on spears both as missiles and as close-quarters weapons, the differences in equipment and training were significant.
The Roman army was more disciplined and bureaucratic than any barbarian host. Roman soldiers were organized into ranks and units; they received special training; they marched in careful order, built fortified camps on every night of a march, and fought in formation. A Roman soldier stood for roll call every day, and his responsibilities were detailed in a daily duty roster. Barbarian armies possessed none of this elaborate organization. They were agglomerations of clans, with unranked chiefs leading their kin and retainers into battle.
Roman soldiers were also better equipped than barbarians. Although there was little difference in the quality of ironwork, the difference in quantity was telling. Rome, with the resources of a vast empire and dozens of arms factories, fitted out its soldiers with not only spears, swords, and shields but also heavy defensive armor. And the Roman army had whole units trained to fight as archers. By contrast, barbarian armies rarely used the bow, body armor seems to have been worn only by the very wealthiest, and even swords were rare.
If barbarians possessed any tactical advantage over the Romans, it was in the superiority of their cavalry. Not surprisingly, Rome drafted many of its barbarian recruits directly into cavalry units, perhaps to save on training. On the balance, however, it is clear that the Roman army possessed significant advantages over its barbarian enemies. Time and again, the better-organized and more heavily armed Romans defeated barbarian armies in open battle. Barbarian troops prevailed only rarely, and even then only by ambush and/or on difficult ground, such as woodland or marsh.
Thus, by “outsourcing” its defense to barbarians, the empire was abandoning certain longstanding military advantages. Its army, to the extent that it consisted of foederati, would no longer enjoy heavier armor or better organization than its barbarian enemies. But there were other problems still, and they proved to be of an even more dangerous nature.
Theodosius had not been the first emperor to draft whole barbarian peoples into the imperial army. Similar efforts, especially the attempts of the third-century emperor Probus to settle Germans in the provinces, had generally proven disastrous. But if the earlier influx of Germanic troops had brought some disruption, Theodosius’ massive settlement of Gothic foederati within the empire created problems that would finally bring down the empire itself.
A Roman nativist element began to assert itself in both the army and in politics. The year after Theodosius settled the Goths, his imperial partner, the Western emperor Gratian, was murdered. Gratian had apparently grown overly fond of his barbarian soldiers. One Roman author wrote of him: “While he neglected the army and preferred a few Alans to the old Roman soldiery, he was so taken by barbarian comradeship, if not even friendship, that sometimes he traveled in barbarian costume and roused the hatred of the soldiers against himself.” Theodosius also aroused considerable antibarbarian sentiment. He apparently developed such a fondness for his Goths that he allegedly massacred the population of Salonica to avenge the death of a single Goth officer.
The nativist reaction came swiftly. Theodosius’ own son, Honorius, issued several edicts banning the adoption of barbarian customs by Roman citizens. Between 397 and 416, he forbade the wearing of trousers, fur coats, and long hair. Roman writers became less effusive in their praise of the toughening aspects of barbarian life and more openly bigoted in their opinions toward all barbarians. Prudentius went so far as to assert “the Roman is as distant from the barbarian as the quadruped is from the biped or the mute from the speaking.”
A heterogeneous military now wrestled with increasingly complex issues of ambition, loyalty, and trust. Toward the end of the fourth century, a party of senators and high officers stridently opposed the growth of German influence in the military. Forthcoming events would compel them to take steps.
A barbarian leader named Trigibald, whose Ostrogothic foederati had been settled in Roman Phrygia by Theodosius, precipitated the crisis. In 399, Trigibald broke his word with the empire and led his Goths on a campaign of plunder. The Roman antibarbarian party demanded action.
The philosopher Synesius now came to Constantinople to lend his voice to the xenophobic chorus. Theodosius had been too lenient with the Goths, Synesius asserted, and they would interpret that leniency as weakness rather than compassion. The time had come to eradicate the German element from Rome altogether. Rome’s German soldiers had proven not watchdogs but wolves in disguise. They had to be sent back across the Danube if Rome was to remove the threat hanging over the state.
The Romans of the countryside required no such exhortation to rise up against the Goths. Landowners, peasants, and even slaves leagued together to ambush Trigibald’s marauders. But when the Roman army itself finally marched against the Ostrogothic band, the nativist party was in for a shock. The leader of the imperial troops—a Goth named Gainas—secretly conspired with Trigibald to ambush his own Roman-born soldiers. Gainas soon held effective power in the Eastern Empire. The worst fears of the nativists had been realized.
At first, Gainas contented himself with cowing the emperor into removing certain key nativist politicians from high office, but in 400 he moved more boldly. In that year, he and Trigibald entered the empire’s eastern capital, Constantinople, and for six months they ruled the state. The affair ended in the same sort of anger and confusion as it had begun. On the day that Gainas decided to remove his Gothic army from the capital, the loud praying of a Roman woman annoyed one of his soldiers. Before he could strike her down, a citizen stepped forward and slew the Goth. The incident quickly developed into a general melee. Raging townsfolk succeeded in closing the city gates, trapping thousand of Goths within the walls, where teeming mobs vastly outnumbered the barbarians. The last rump of Goths sought refuge in a church, but to no avail. Constantinople’s citizens, furious over the long period of occupation, removed the roof and rained stones down on them.
The Gothic troops who had escaped the city before the riot now embarked on another campaign of plunder, but they, too, were finally defeated—by another unit of Goths working for Rome. Their leader, Gainas, was beheaded by a Hun.
The revolt of Gainas clearly shook Constantinople, but the revolt of another Goth shook nearly the entire world. In 395, an especially large group of Goths—apparently angry over losses they had suffered in the service of Rome—elected as their new leader an openly anti-Roman nobleman named Alaric. Alaric had been passed over for a coveted high command in the Roman army, and he had no intention of serving the empire any longer. He led the Goths in revolt, and soon they were ravaging the districts of Thrace and Macedonia.
Alaric and his Visigoths troubled the empire for several years, and the only man who had any success in dealing with them was the half-Roman, half-barbarian general Stilicho. But in the swirl of accusations and fear that now riddled the Roman army, Stilicho’s position was insecure. The whisperers questioned why Stilicho had done nothing to stop the barbarian Vandals (his own people, on one side) from invading Gaul. In August 408 the emperor ordered Stilicho beheaded.
Stilicho’s fall widened into a dangerous riot of ethnic cleansing when Roman troops murdered the families of barbarian auxiliaries in Italy. Those auxiliaries, some thirty thousand in number, promptly abandoned their Roman standards, marched to join Alaric, and urged the Gothic leader to invade.
In the fall of 408 Alaric besieged Rome. Corpses soon filled the streets of the starving city. Alaric’s demand for gold, silver, slaves, and movable property agonized the Romans. “What will be left to us?” they asked. “Your lives,” was Alaric’s reply.
The Romans eventually satisfied Alaric’s demands, but he returned again the next year, and then again the year after that. Finally, in August 410, when Alaric’s negotiations with the emperor were interrupted by a surprise attack by another group of (pro-Roman) Goths, the barbarian leader led his troops into Rome to sack and pillage the Eternal City.
The sack of Rome was one of the most psychologically devastating moments in all of ancient history. Roma Aeterna, seemingly the center of all civilization, had been brought low by a band of barbarians and, worse still, by barbarians who were supposed to be defending the empire.
The Roman Empire did survive the brutal sack of its capital. But in the ensuing decades, the state came to rely even more heavily on barbarian foederati, despite their having proved such dangerous and unreliable allies. By the mid-fifth century, Frankish, Burgundian, Gothic, and other foederati supplemented the old Roman field armies (now composed primarily of barbarian auxiliaries).
In the late 420s, command of that motley defensive system fell to a remarkable man who would spend twenty years trying to hold it together: Flavius Aetius. Wielding a “Roman” field army made up almost entirely of Huns, Aetius was determined to hold his rebellious allies in line. He frequently did battle with troublesome Gothic and Burgundian foederati to force them to abide by their agreements. After a while, the ordinary Roman must have wondered who the good guys were. Aetius’ chief subordinate, Litorius, so needed his Hun mercenaries that he performed pagan ceremonies for them. And when Litorius campaigned against the Goths, his army ravaged the very Roman province it was supposed to be defending.
Yet Aetius preserved the state in the West, and he supplied the empire with its last great victory. In 451 the vast, mobile empire of Attila set its sights on Roman Gaul, and there seemed little hope that any Roman army could stop him. Aetius’ field force, itself composed primarily of Huns, stood little chance against Attila. The Roman commander would require the full force of the imperial defensive system, including the cooperation of his foederati, the Franks, the Burgunians, and, above all, the Goths.
The two empires, Hunnish and Roman, met on the Catalaunian Plains. Aetius, bolstered by the last-minute cooperation of the Visigoths, forced Attila to retreat.
Never again would the imperial army and all its allies work together as they did on the Catalaunian Plains. Just three years after the battle, Aetius was assassinated, and with him died the last man capable of holding together Rome’s multinational army. The foederati remained, scattered around the provinces of the Western Roman Empire, as did the last two field forces, one in Gaul, the other in Italy. But the centrifugal forces that had long tugged at the army now spun it apart.
Ultimately, it was not the barbarism of the soldiers but the ambition of their leaders that brought about the downfall of the Roman army. Foederati were, at best, nominally under the orders of the Roman high command. In reality, they followed only the orders of their own leaders, native kings who generally did not appreciate a feeling of subordination to the empire. In the late fifth century, four of those barbarian kings—Euric the Visigoth, Gundobad the Burgundian, Clovis the Frank, and Theodoric the Ostrogoth—effectively disassembled the Western Roman Empire to suit their ambitions.
Predictably, it was the Goths who acted first. Ever since the death of Alaric, the Goths had assassinated any leaders they felt were soft toward Rome. In Euric, they found a leader to their liking. Euric felt no obligation to defend the empire. His only goal was to seize as much of it as he could. It was his men who besieged the Clermont of Sidonius Apollinaris, and it was his men who wrested most of southern Gaul away from Rome. By the time of Euric’s death in 484, he had established an independent Gothic kingdom on erstwhile Roman lands. Such was his reputation that he received ambassadors from as far away as Persia.
Euric’s contemporary, Gundobad, took a different course. Like so many Germans, he originally pursued a career in the Roman army. By the early 470s, Gundobad had attained the office of patrician, high commander of all Roman troops. But when his father, the king of the Burgundians, died, Gundobad was forced to leave Rome to assume control over his people.
In many ways, the Burgundian kingship must have seemed a step down for Gundobad. The same man who had once strangled an emperor with his bare hands was now merely the leader of a group of foederati. But although he possessed an admiration for Rome all too lacking in Euric, Gundobad nevertheless hoped to achieve a similar ambition. Shortly after 474, he issued his people’s first written code of law, in Latin. Throughout these laws a short phrase repeatedly appeared: “This law applies equally to both Romans and Burgundians.” The impact of those words could hardly have been lost on the people of southeast Gaul. Gundobad was supposed to be commander of the Burgundians. He might issue laws for them as he saw fit. But he should have had no authority over the Romans, who were still governed, at least nominally, by the emperor. Thus, by asserting that his laws governed both Burgundians and Romans, Gundobad was effectively breaking the terms of his foedus. The Burgundians (who had, in fact, at one point helped defend Clermont from the Visigoths) were simply assuming control over the region they had been assigned to defend.
The surviving Roman field armies were all but powerless to resist these usurpations by the barbarian foederati. In Gaul, the field army broke off relations with Italy during the 460s. By the 480s, if not earlier, Gallo-Roman troops had begun calling their leader “King of the Romans”—rex Romanorum, a styling that had come to mean “emperor” in late Roman writing. But Rome’s days in the north were numbered, and even these last comitatenses, the successors of Aetius’ army, could not change the destiny of the empire. For a while, the Roman army in Gaul held its own against its barbarian “allies.” In 463, it even inflicted a severe defeat on the Goths. But in 486, Syagrius, king of the Romans, and his field army were crushed at Soissons by a force of Franks that had once been established in Gaul as foederati.
The Frankish leader at the Battle of Soissons was Clovis, arguably the most brutal of all the barbarian leaders. The ruthless Frank once split the skull of one of his own men, and diplomatic letters of the period portray him as a rogue element on the international scene. Clovis had Syagrius killed. Years later, the Frankish leader would play a bit at being Roman. He would establish diplomatic relations with the surviving Roman capital in Constantinople, and he would even accept the traditional Roman title of consul. It was all a sham. Clovis had established an independent Frankish kingdom in what had once been a Roman province. Like Gundobad and Euric before him, he issued laws for both Franks and Romans.
Italy had exerted little influence to stem the loss of the Western provinces. The leaders of the Italian field force had become so preoccupied with playing kingmaker that they finally brought about the end of the very state they were sworn to defend. In 476, the barbarian general Odoacer capped a long series of assassinations and usurpations by deposing the boy emperor Romulus Augustulus. From that time on, the throne sat vacant. There would be no more Roman emperors in the West.
Odoacer’s military rule over Italy lasted several years before an Eastern emperor elected to do something about it. Zeno, the emperor in Constantinople, commissioned the leader of yet another group of Goths (Ostrogoths) to invade Italy. It must have seemed a masterstroke of strategy—in one inspired move Zeno was ridding the East of its Gothic plague and eliminating an unwanted rival in the West.
Theodoric led the Ostrogoths against Odoacer and substituted his own rule for that of the latter. The Ostrogothic leader was more successful at playing Roman than Clovis or even Gundobad. He rebuilt aqueducts and walls. He put on games in the circus. He reestablished the old bread dole. He even attempted to mediate between the warring kingdoms of the West, when the aggressive Clovis began to expand at the expense of the Burgundians and Visigoths. But he was not a Roman emperor, nor was he entirely under one, and so it should come as no surprise that a sixth-century Eastern emperor, Justinian, felt compelled to “reconquer” Italy for the empire.
By the sixth century, the Western Roman Empire survived only as a phantom. The army’s dependence on foreign troops had brought down the once great state—but not so much because of a loss of competence as because of a loss of clarity. For even as ethnic distinctions had become more sharply drawn in later Roman times, political distinctions had hopelessly blurred. To the average Roman, such as Sidonius Apollinaris, it was not at all clear whom to turn to for protection or whom to trust. By the end of his life, Sidonius’ hometown had been bartered away to the Visigoths in a fruitless act of a
This article was written by David G. Frye and originally published in the Spring 2007 issue of MHQ Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to MHQ magazine today!
Last edited by Petr : 07-07-2007 at 08:25 PM.
Outsourcing is more akin to the Latifundia.
The Mexican invasion and the barbarian invasion are much closer. Good article though.
Quite transparently Trump has been compromised by the FSB. That's why the Russians went so far out of their way to help him.
Who knows, by the time this is over, it might take another Orange Revolution in the USA to settle this and kick the Kremlin out of Washington, and you guys might all have fled to Russia for sanctuary.
- Okie, delusional lunatic
I've already posted the CNN narrative, and I consider it pretty much accurate.
City-life takes a heavy psychological toll on young men.
Every Legion raised even up into late empire was mustered in Italy from mostly Italian volunteers (for pay) and then moved to destination where after stationing it started to fill its gaps with local recruits. Up until the last days these troops mostly kept being fiercily loyal to Rome and were proud to call themselves romans even when not forgetting their own ethnic group.
The custom of rasing foreign auxiliary contingents was hardly a late empire move but came right along with the first manipulñar legions of the Republic. From the first fights within Italian nations like Samnites, Lucanians, Marisans, etc...For every Legion of true Latin troops you would find double that amount of auxilairies.
Rome conquered its empire on the shoulders of these attached troops which at their time were as roman as the germanic auxiliary in the fifth century.
When in 91-87 BC Italy errupted into a veritable civil war in most of rome´s Italian subject nations revolting against not having roman citizenship while having fought for rome´s grandeur for centuries, Rome fought against them with more auxiliaries it brought from north africa, Cisalpine Gaul and Iberia.
While romanization turned these auxiliaries into eventual fine romans everything went fine. When this changed rome ended up changing into trouser wearing citizens.
"Murió de los que no saben morir; muerte docta; hasta muriendo fue maestro, pues enseñó a morir de vergüenza a los que viven de miedo. Enterraron con su cuerpo el valor y la experiencia militar de España"
"Died one of those who did not know how to; Wise death; even in dieing he was a master, for he taught to die of shame those who live in fear. With his body they burried the bravery and military experience of Spain"
Epitafio de Quevedo a Ambrosio de Spinola
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