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Where was the Roman Army in AD408?
#31
Marcellinus Comes mentions in 413 that the forces dispatched by Heraclianus to usurp Honorius (3000 men) were quickly crushed on their way to Rome, so whatever forces in Italy that were available in 413 were more than sufficient to defeat them.
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#32
(02-13-2017, 05:31 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Marcellinus Comes mentions in 413 that the forces dispatched by Heraclianus to usurp Honorius (3000 men)

That's an interesting suggestion. The original text seems a bit odd though: what do latinists make of it?

Heraclianus Africae comes cum septingentis et tribus milibus nauium mox ad urbem Romam egressus est. Occursu Marini comitis territus et in fugam uersus adrepta naue solus Carthaginem rediit ibique ilico interfectus est.

Gibbon takes issue with the numbers, at least: "The Chronicle of Marcellinus gives Heraclian 700 ships and 3000 men: the latter of these numbers is ridiculously corrupt; but the former would please me very much." (DFRE Vol.III, Footnote 1, p.268)

Gibbon also says that Orosius gives Heraclianus an armada of 3200 ships, apparently including everything from rowing boats upwards... Here again there seem to be interpretation problems though. The original text seems to be:

nam habuisse tunc tria milia septingentas naues dicitur (Orosius, ad pag. Book 7,42)

... which A.T. Fear (2010) translates at 3700 ships. The wording here seems to me sufficiently close to Marcellinus's septingentis et tribus milibus nauium to suggest (perhaps via a text corruption?) that he too was referring to number of ships and not the number of men...

Meanwhile, Hydatius claims that the resulting battle saw the death of 50,000 men! (Heraclianus movens exercitum de Africa adversus Honorium, Utriculo in Italia in conflictu superatus effugit in Africam, caesis in loco supra dicto L millibus armatorum.)

So something seems a bit shaky about all of these numbers, I would say. It does seem that Honorius's army was commanded by the comes Marinus, as Marcellinus says; Orosius says that this officer was later dismissed from the service after executing Heraclianus without orders. But we should remember that Honorius still had the 6 arithmoi from Constantinople - 4000 men - which on their own could have outnumbered Heraclianus's force, even if we accept the figure of 3000.
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#33
I was just having another look through Zosimus, and his note about the five tagmata sent from Dalmatia in 408/409 (mentioned earlier in this thread) caught my eye:

"The affairs of Rome being now in no better condition than before, the emperor sent for 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 (or, in Ridley's transation: "comprised six thousand men in all, whose daring and strength made them the best soldiers in the Roman army"). Their general was Valens, a person ready for the greatest and most hazardous enterprises." (New History 5.45.1)

Why would 'the flower of the whole Roman army' be based in Dalmatia at this point? The phrase suggests that these were the very elite of the western field army - presumably the Ioviani and Herculiani and other palatine legions, or the most senior units of the palatine auxilia.

Alternatively, Valens's command could have been the one allocated to the Comes Illyricum in the ND, which included several comitatenses legions. But why would these be considered the 'best soldiers in the army'?

One possibility (mentioned by Burns in Barbarians within the gates of Rome) might be that the force in Illyricum included the troops mentioned by Sozomen (HE 9.4.6): "Stilicho then [ie in early summer 408]... set out, at the head of four legions [tagmata? arithmoi?], to carry on war in the East."

Unfortunately it's not clear from Sozomen whether these 'four legions' actually got very far eastward on their mission or not; if they did, a number of palatine legions might indeed have formed a decent escort for Stilicho, and been accounted the 'flower of the army'. But how did four units turn into five?

Either way, it doesn't say much for whatever was left of the field army at Ticinum in 408 if a small number of units in Dalmatia were accounted so much better than them! What had happened to the 'thirty numeri' assembled there by Stilicho for his war against Radagaisus a few years before? Had all the best soldiers been defeated under Sarus?

Wherever they came from originally, Valens's six thousand men (whether four units or five - and does this figure include a cavalry component, or not?) were completely annihilated by Alaric before reaching Rome. It's a shame we don't know more about where this battle might have taken place, since it apparently saw the total destruction of the last best troops in the western Roman army!... somewhere in Tuscany, or perhaps on the Flaminian Way, might be the best guess I suppose.
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#34
(11-13-2017, 07:37 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Why would 'the flower of the whole Roman army' be based in Dalmatia at this point? The phrase suggests that these were the very elite of the western field army - presumably the Ioviani and Herculiani and other palatine legions, or the most senior units of the palatine auxilia.
[..]
What had happened to the 'thirty numeri' assembled there by Stilicho for his war against Radagaisus a few years before? Had all the best soldiers been defeated under Sarus?
[..]
Wherever they came from originally, Valens's six thousand men (whether four units or five - and does this figure include a cavalry component, or not?) were completely annihilated by Alaric before reaching Rome. It's a shame we don't know more about where this battle might have taken place, since it apparently saw the total destruction of the last best troops in the western Roman army!... somewhere in Tuscany, or perhaps on the Flaminian Way, might be the best guess I suppose.

I think that Stilicho considered his rivalry with Constantinople a far bigger threat that anything else. It was his downfall in the end, and the downfall of Rome.

Maybe most of them had been sent back? The Rhine defences had been depleted but the Rhine frontier was not immediately overrun. Also, invading groups in Gaul would have to be taken care of, so apart from the losses against Alaric, I assume that this army was broken up to perform a dozen or so defensive tasks.

I can't recall that battle? Maybe they just went over to Alaric after Stilicho's death?
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Robert Vermaat
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#35
(11-14-2017, 09:40 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: I can't recall that battle?

Zosimus mentions it directly after the quote above: "[Valens] disdained, therefore, to appear so cowardly as to march by a way that was not guarded by the enemy. Thus Alaric, delaying until he came up to him, and attacking him with all his forces, cut off all his troops, except a hundred, who with much difficulty escaped, together with their commander. He arrived in safety at Rome together with Attalus, whom the senate had sent to the emperor."

'A way not guarded by the enemy' could have referred to the route down the Adriatic coast from Ravenna and then directly across the Apennines from Pescara or somesuch. Alternatively, the Via Flaminia may not have been guarded - Alaric had sacked all the towns and fortresses the year before, but then pulled back into Etruria. I would guess that Valens decided to cross the mountains further north and march straight down through Etruria though, as a show of strength; Alaric could have intercepted him somewhere relatively close to Rome, perhaps; his forces at the time appear to have numbered about 40,000.

Anyway, if this battle really did see the destruction of 6000 men (or 5900!) of the best and strongest units in the Roman army at the time, it must have been fairly important!

I mentioned somewhere up above an inscription from Rome to the Cornuti Seniores (CIL 06, 32963: ...de numero cornutorum seniorum / dd(ominis) nn(ostris) Honorio Aug(usto) et Theodosio co(n)s(ulibus)...) - the 'consulate of Honorius and Theodosius' would make this either AD407, 409, 411, 415, 418 or 422, I think. The second date is presumably out of the question (unless our cornutus was one of the survivors of Valens's doomed expedition!); 407 could be plausible, as Honorius was in Rome in early 408 I think. But it does mean that the prestigious palatine auxilium of the Cornuti Seniores was still in existence around these dates.

This begs the question of what happened to all the other famous and prestigious units in the western army - the Ioviani and Herculiani, Bracchiati and Petulantes Seniores, etc. Could they really have just melted away in the conflicts and crises of the early 5th century?
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#36
(11-14-2017, 09:40 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: I think that Stilicho considered his rivalry with Constantinople a far bigger threat that anything else.

Pretty normal Roman attitude - your most dangerous opponents were other Romans, barbarians could wait until you had the time Tongue
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#37
(11-14-2017, 02:42 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: [quote pid='345989' dateline='1510652439']
Anyway, if this battle really did see the destruction of 6000 men (or 5900!) of the best and strongest units in the Roman army at the time, it must have been fairly important!

[..]

This begs the question of what happened to all the other famous and prestigious units in the western army - the Ioviani and Herculiani, Bracchiati and Petulantes Seniores, etc. Could they really have just melted away in the conflicts and crises of the early 5th century?

Zosimus does not actually tell us that the army has annihilated, only that Alaric cut them off? I mean, that could indicated that he came between Valens and his army. especially if they were crack troops, defeat would have induced more authors to write about it? It would also perhaps answer your second question.

I keep open the possibility that Valens was seperated from his army, which either pulled back (leaderless) and left Alaric alone, or joined him.
_________________________________
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#38
(11-16-2017, 03:45 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Zosimus does not actually tell us that the army has annihilated, only that Alaric cut them off?

I think 'cut off' in the bit I quoted above (which is from the old 1818, or earlier, translation) is rather antique English for 'defeated' or 'massacred' (as in Church and Brodribb's Tacitus Annals 14: "Those who were chained to the spot by the weakness of their sex, or the infirmity of age, or the attractions of the place, were cut off by the enemy"... [Image: wink.png] )

Ridley's more modern translation of Zosimus says "Valens lost all his men to the enemy save one hundred who barely escaped" - which is again rather unclear. Were they defeated, or did they just surrender? Perhaps somebody with access to the original text and knowledge of Greek could determine things better?


(11-16-2017, 03:45 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: left Alaric alone, or joined him.

This is interesting. I've been trying to avoid the difficult concept of 'barbarisation' so far - but if we're assuming that regular Roman units might simply have joined the barbarians, then surely they must have been to some extent 'barbarians' themselves?

It does seem perhaps unlikely, though, that Roman units (those in Italy anyway) who had participated so recently in the massacre of Gothic federates and their families would have been so eager to join the Goths...

Looking through the lists of inscriptions from Concordia, there do seem to be more than a few non-Roman or 'barbarian' names - and one, Gunthia, who proudly gives both his Germanic and his Roman name! This might suggest that the auxilia palatina units at this date* were quite heavily manned by non-Roman recruits.

(*CIL 05, 08768 is the only dated inscription from Concordia, to a soldier of the numerus Bructerorum - cons(ulibus) n(ostris) Arcadio / et (H)onorio (Au)g(u)st(i)s - which would have been either AD396 or AD402)

One idea, I suppose, might be that the troops from Dalmatia were considered to be the 'flower of the army' precisely because, unlike the field army in Italy, they had not received large numbers of barbarian recruits (together with conscripted slaves etc) during the Gothic wars of the earlier 400s. Is that at all likely?
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#39
Eh... maybe... Modern interpretation of foederati suggests that by the 420's they were more similar to what they were under Anastasius-Maurice than what they were in the 4th century. I argue in my book that the "settled" peoples of Gaul (they weren't settled actually, not until like the 450's) were essentially operating as and being paid as additional field armies. Germanics in Roman units were basically Roman soldiers and indistinguishable.
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#40
(11-18-2017, 01:40 AM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Eh... maybe... Modern interpretation of foederati suggests that by the 420's they were more similar to what they were under Anastasius-Maurice than what they were in the 4th century. 


I think that the recent view questions whether they ever were if fact "what they were in the 4th century" - assuming we can even call the view "recent" (I first encountered it in Burns' 1994 book "Barbarians Within the Gates of Rome").
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#41
The issue is Roman terminology which Lucas McMahon looks at in his master's thesis. The terms Symmachoi and Foederati/Phoideratoi aren't exactly specific.
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#42
(11-18-2017, 01:40 AM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Germanics in Roman units were basically Roman soldiers and indistinguishable.

And vice versa, perhaps?

I'm rather new to this area of Roman history, and I've probably been looking at the events of the early 5th century through the lens of the early-mid 4th; I should certainly read Burns more closely, for starters!

I did listen to a few episodes of Patrick Wyman's Fall of Rome Podcast over the weekend, though, which was very interesting - at one point Wyman suggests (following Burns, and Guy Halsall, I think) that, by the closing decades of the 4th century, 'barbarians' and 'Roman soldiers' had become almost indistinguishable, at least in the eyes of most Roman civilians: 'the Goths' were less a tribe or ethnicity than a Romano-Germanic military caste, most of whose members had been living within the empire for a generation or more.

This seems quite a persuasive view - and would explain why the bulk of the Italian field army was unable or unwilling to counter Alaric's invasion - but it does return to the initial question: if the Roman army in Italy in 408 was mainly (or 'entirely'?) composed of barbarian recruits, how did Olympius and others manage to turn the troops at Ticinum against Stilicho and his allies (and, by extension, his 'pro-barbarian' policies)? Who was it who massacred the wives and families of the Gothic federate troops in Italy, if the regular army was mainly 'barbarian'? Was this just a matter of one group of Romanised-barbarised-Romano-barbarians (!) being pitted against another?

And where, in all this, does a figure like Constantius III appear? He was apparently a Roman, from Naissus, and seems to have risen from the ranks of the army. How many other men like him were there serving in the army of the day? Would it still be possible for anybody to distinguish between 'Romans' and 'non-Romans' within the military ranks, and perhaps exploit the differences, or would this have been a meaningless distinction by the end of the 4th century?
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