Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Troops in Rome, AD408-410?
#1
Do we have any idea what sort of troops might have defended Rome during the Gothic sieges of AD408-410? Were there any military units in the vicinity, or would the citizens themselves have had to man the walls and gates?

(This is assuming that the city was actually defended - otherwise Alaric could simply have walked in and taken what he wanted straight away - although I suppose it's possible the Goths were more holding the city hostage than besieging it in the strict sense of the word...)
Nathan Ross
Reply
#2
The Goths did not have siege equipment or technology. In fact, they wouldn't for the next 50 years - not until after the Death of Aetius did they gain the capability of making anything more than ladders (which the Aurelian walls were too high to scale with.) The best they could do is starve cities out (an excellent case being the siege of Narbona in 436/437).

As for defending the city, the Romans really did not have to worry about any Gothic attempt to forcibly take the city, at least not until they were let in. The Goths couldn't scale the walls, let alone break them down. The Goths also were there to make a political statement, and for food, not to burn Rome to the ground.

Frankly, we don't know what defended the city. Possibly there may have been some Protectores Domestici in the city, and certainly the Urban Cohorts (the city's Vigilium) would have surmounted to its defense. The Vigilium were little more than peasants with shields and spears probably, but frankly, so were many of the Goths.

I should note I am not as informed on the siege of Rome as others are, and I'm sure someone more specialized in sieges (*cough cough* Dr. Campbell /*cough cough*) or in the era of Stilicho (*cough cough* Ian Hughes *cough cough*) could elaborate more.
Reply
#3
Quote: The Goths also were there to make a political statement, and for food, not to burn Rome to the ground.

Yes, that seems about right. So more a blockade than a siege, with the Goths stopping supplies entering the city. All the same, it does seem strange that for all that time they should make no attempt to capture the place - an undefended gate or wall, however formidable, wouldn't stop tens of thousands of determined men for long, and the wealth of Rome must have been sorely tempting...


Quote: certainly the Urban Cohorts (the city's Vigilium) would have surmounted to its defense.

I believe the urban cohorts were probably disbanded in the early fourth century, and the vigiles seem to have disappeared soon afterwards. A.H.M. Jones was of the opinion that the prefects of Rome had no armed forces under their control, and various 4th century riots and street fights seem to have gone unchallenged.

However, it does seem strange that no military forces had been sent to defend the city - Honorius had repaired the walls and gates in 401 and 404, presumably at some cost. Surely somebody would need to be there to control them?

Or might we imagine various city factions, collegia, armed slaves, privately-employed mercenaries and gladiators rising to the defence?
Nathan Ross
Reply
#4
Well the Praesental Army couldn't challenge the Goths, and the Gallic army was in revolt. The Illyrian army was in... Illyria and with Uldin being a Nuisance in 408 they couldn't afford to head into Italy.

I don't believe there were any troops stationed for Rome's defence. It just wasn't threatened, at least not until it was too late.


Quote:an undefended gate or wall, however formidable, wouldn't stop tens of thousands of determined men for long, and the wealth of Rome must have been sorely tempting

I can just imagine goths standing on each other's shoulders trying to get to the top of the wall. Like the three stooges. :lol:
Reply
#5
I've just been reading through Zosimus, Books 5 and 6, and he makes a few comments that suggest the Roman citizens were indeed prepared to defend their own city.

Book 5, as Alaric's men first surround the city and seal the gates, the Romans... resolved to persevere in their defence, expecting daily to receive auxiliaries from Ravenna.

A little later, after pestilence breaks out in the city, the citizens resolved on sending an embassy to the enemy, to inform him that they were willing to accept any reasonable conditions of peace, and at the same time were ready for war, since the people of Rome had taken up arms, and by means of continual military exercise were become well disposed for action.

...When Alaric heard it, and that the people having been exercised to arms were ready for war, he remarked, "The thickest grass is more easy to cut than the thinnest." Having said this, he laughed immoderately at the ambassadors...


However, Alaric seems to have made no attempt to attack the city. Some time later, after the initial Gothic withdrawal, Honorius sent five regiments of soldiers, who were quartered in Dalmatia, to guard the city of Rome. These regiments consisted of six thousand men, who for strength and discipline were the flower of the whole Roman army. (Interesting evidence here for a late 'legion' being 1200 men; a little later six 'regiments' of auxilia arrive at Ravenna from the east numberign 6000).

These troops, commanded by one Valens, were attacked on the march and almost completely destroyed; Valens himself, together with ambassador Attalus and 100 surviving men, reached Rome. After Attalus had been proclaimed emperor by Alaric, he gave the command to Alaric and Valens, who formerly commanded the Dalmatian legions... He then proceeded towards the palace, attended by an imperial guard (Book 6). This implies that the 100 surviving soldiers of Valens were still in the city, and perhaps formed Attalus's 'guard'.

Is there any further evidence, that anyone knows of?
Nathan Ross
Reply
#6
Quote:The Goths did not have siege equipment or technology. In fact, they wouldn't for the next 50 years - not until after the Death of Aetius did they gain the capability of making anything more than ladders (which the Aurelian walls were too high to scale with.) The best they could do is starve cities out (an excellent case being the siege of Narbona in 436/437).

As for defending the city, the Romans really did not have to worry about any Gothic attempt to forcibly take the city, at least not until they were let in. The Goths couldn't scale the walls, let alone break them down. The Goths also were there to make a political statement, and for food, not to burn Rome to the ground.

Frankly, we don't know what defended the city. Possibly there may have been some Protectores Domestici in the city, and certainly the Urban Cohorts (the city's Vigilium) would have surmounted to its defense. The Vigilium were little more than peasants with shields and spears probably, but frankly, so were many of the Goths.

I should note I am not as informed on the siege of Rome as others are, and I'm sure someone more specialized in sieges (*cough cough* Dr. Campbell /*cough cough*) or in the era of Stilicho (*cough cough* Ian Hughes *cough cough*) could elaborate more.

I'm afraid its not true that the Goths did not have siege equipment. During the Crisis of the 3rd Century the Goths employed siege engines and equipment to storm various cities. The day after the Battle of Adrianople the Goths attempted to storm Adrianople itself and came equiped with siege ladders. I admit that they appear to have lost either the siege equipment from the previous century or the knowledge of how to build them. They did acquire the knowledge of building ditch and bank defences from the Romans as Claudian stated.

Nathan, have you checked Zosimus? Bk V, 45 states five legions were despatched from Dalmatia ti defend the city. They totaled 6000 men and were led by Valens. I would add the Michael (Renatus) has kindly had the original Greek translated as I queried this passage in the past. The five legions are actually 'banda' in the Greek original text. We have no idea what Banda in this context means, other than five units of infantry totalling 6000 men were sent. As it goes those units did not reach Rome as Alaric attacked them with his whole army and wiped them out, Valens managing to escape the carnage. Would the ND not show what units were supposed to be stationed there?
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
Reply
#7
Quote:Would the ND not show what units were supposed to be stationed there?

Thanks Adrian - I posted something about Zosimus above, presumably as you were writing yours! It's possible that the five units of the 'Dalmatian' army came from the command of the Comes Illyricum, listed in the ND and presumed to be a creation of the first decade or so of the 5th century. The 100 men who reached Rome would most likely be from Valens's own bodyguard, since he got to the city himself, although a mixed band of other survivors might be plausible.
Nathan Ross
Reply
#8
There are 5 legions, 12 A. Palatina, and 3 Pseudocomitatenses, plus the Valentinianenses (possibly Valentinianenses Iuniores from Gaul) and the Catarienses (probably Pseudocomitatenses listed under the Dux Pannonia.)

Five Banda could easily have been these 5 Legions, and is probably the basis for such hypothesis as you mentioned above.

Tertiani (ie. Tertiani Italica, a legio comitatenses unit)
Tertia Herculea (a legio comitatenses unit)
Pacatianenses (a legio comitatenses unit)
Mauri cetrati (a legio comitatenses unit)
Propugnatores iuniores (a legio comitatenses unit)

Presumably these were the units destroyed.

Ueda Sarson suggests that " The forces given above rather seem to bear the hallmarks of being the forces that took finally over Illyricum under Guneridus in 409 AD after Stilicho's death."

The Illyrian Command was established in 409, and if Guneridus took command in that year it would coincide with the defection of Valens who must have been Comes Illyricum just prior.
Reply
#9
Zosimus used the word tagmata, not banda.

The words of Zosimus are :

"Five of the tagmata in Damatia" and "these tagmata were manned with 6,000 men"

Tagma is the usual term for legion (although it is also used by many authors as a general term for unit) along with telos, both used by Zosimus in multiple instances.
Macedon
MODERATOR
Forum rules
George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Reply
#10
Quote:Zosimus used the word tagmata, not banda.

The words of Zosimus are :

"Five of the tagmata in Damatia" and "these tagmata were manned with 6,000 men"

Tagma is the usual term for legion (although it is also used by many authors as a general term for unit) along with telos, both used by Zosimus in multiple instances.

I stand corrected. I think the fact that most people use the Latin translation without consulting the original Greek causes some of the problems. I am particularly keen to know how the Greek version of Zosimus account of the Battle of Adrianople differs from the Latin version.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
Reply
#11
I was just thinking about this phrase, from the Zosimus excerpt I quoted above:

...the people of Rome had taken up arms, and by means of continual military exercise were become well disposed for action...

The 'taking up arms' bit was presumably illegal, before the prohibition was relaxed by Valentinian in 440. So it appears that the citizens of Rome were to an extent taking the law into their own hands and looking to their own defence, rather like the citizens of Britain did shortly afterwards...

I was wondering, though, who might have trained them in this 'continual military exercise' if there were no soldiers about? Gladiators, perhaps? (there were still games in Rome at that point, so presumably gladiators).

Alternatively, the most experienced warriors in Rome at that date may have been slaves - thousands of Goths had been captured in the wars of the preceding decades. We know that many of these slaves later deserted and joined Alaric; might the Romans themselves have armed their slaves prior to this, and used them to train the civilians of the city in the use of arms? An ironic situation if so, with the Roman people being trained to fight by their own Gothic slaves, to resist a Gothic besieging army!
Nathan Ross
Reply
#12
The law of 364 that banned the right to bear arms was one likely never followed, and impossible to enforce anyways.

It's most likely one could be witnessing the guards of the estates and properties of the landlords taking up arms in defense of their masters. Another possibility, as you have mentioned, is that Gladiators were pressed to train citizens, or to guard the city themselves (I believe the last gladiatorial games were held either in 411 or some time under Valentinian III, although animal hunts continued for some time).
Reply
#13
Could it be the case that the citizens were armed from funds provided by State officials or even private citizens? This happened after Adrianople when Fritigern led the Goths to attack Constantinople. Valens wife, Dominica, provided arms to the citizens of Constantinople by using her own funds and money from the State coffers. Emergency situations demand emergency measures one would have thought.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
Reply
#14
Or how about private guards, bucellarii? Many a wealthy man had an armed guard, no matter the laws against this practise. The numbers of these bands would grow until by the 6th century they had become quite large (e.g. in the case of Belisarius) and later they even became a sort of regular regiment.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Reply
#15
Quote:Or how about private guards, bucellarii? Many a wealthy man had an armed guard, no matter the laws against this practise. The numbers of these bands would grow until by the 6th century they had become quite large (e.g. in the case of Belisarius) and later they even became a sort of regular regiment.

I just mentioned that above, private retainers of landlords is likely, but actual Bucellarii had only just come into use under Stilicho; they did not yet seem to be widespread.

Also, the Vigilium of Rome is mentioned in ND Occ. IV 4
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Where was the Roman Army in AD408? Nathan Ross 48 9,032 11-28-2017, 03:14 PM
Last Post: Flavivs Aetivs

Forum Jump: