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Where was the Roman Army in AD408?
#46
(11-20-2017, 01:02 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: we can't really determine (with Elton here) to whaich extent the standing army was manned by non-Romans

Yes, although I think Elton is maybe erring too much on the 'Roman' side in his analysis. His list of individual soldiers and their origins - particularly the ones from the Concordia inscriptions - appears to be largely determined by their names. I mentioned 'Gunthia' above - if Flavius Silvimarus hadn't helpfully noted that he also had a Germanic name, we would have assumed he was entirely Roman! - likewise with the earlier Silvanus, son of the Frank Bonitus, and the same might be true of many of the other 'Roman' names on Elton's list.

In fact, Elton's 'probable Roman' soldiers might more accurately be called 'indeterminate' - which would alter the balance of 'Roman' to 'Non-Roman' considerably...


(11-20-2017, 01:02 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: So indeed, the palatine regiments may have been filled with non-Roman warriors, loyal to a man and less to a state

Which sounds rather like the situation in the late Republic, with Caesar's legions...

I notice that even those historians most keen to play down the differences between 'Roman' and 'Germanic' soldiers in this era still have to fall back on phrases like 'the regular Roman army' and 'Roman troops' when discussing, for example, the anti-Stilicho mutiny at Ticinum in 408, or the massacre of the Gothic families which followed. This 'regular Roman army' seems to be a bit of a chimera, appearing at one moment and vanishing the next!


(11-20-2017, 01:24 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: namely the Notitia. The West still had tens of thousands of men available as field forces.

Bearing all of the above in mind, I find it hard to believe that the Notitia can possibly have been an accurate record of the military situation in the west at the time it was supposedly composed (or last updated...) Unless the field army of Italy, for one, was a sort of paper tiger - all those gloriously-titled 4th century palatine and comitaneses units actually worn down to a few hundred new recruits, conscripts or 'barbarian' soldiers - it's difficult to see how such a massive force could melt away for several years during Alaric's sojourn in Italy, only to reappear again some time later.

While we do know that at least some of the palatine auxilia units from the ND - the Cornuti Seniores, and the units of Batavi, Bracchiati and Heruli etc from Concordia - existed during this period, we have no way of knowing quite what sort of state they might have been in, or what kind of men might have served in them.

So 'tens of thousands' might be a stretch, when we consider that marching 6000 men down from Dalmatia provided a stronger and more disciplined force than relying on units much closer at hand.


(11-20-2017, 01:52 PM)nikgaukroger Wrote: the suppression of Magnus Maximus... the border forces "raided" for their manpower to replenish the field forces, which probably happened again after Eugenius was defeated...

Yes, the defeat of Maximus, and then the very gruelling two-day battle at the Frigidus, must have severely depleted the field armies of both Italy and Gaul. They're both presented as victories - for Theodosius, of course - but could equally be seen as massive defeats for the military manpower of the Roman west, which may never again have recovered.
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#47
(11-20-2017, 01:24 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Which is absolutely contrary to the primary source evidence, namely the Notitia. The West still had tens of thousands of men available as field forces.

IF all units mentioned in the ND were at full strength, indeed the army in the West would have had tens of thousands of troops available. IF.
However, you misunderstand the nature of the source. Whereas Zosimus or Ammianus mention the number in a battle, an army or a unit, the ND is a list of commands and never mentions numbers. It also does not mention if these commands were even manned by more than a skeletal staff, or even if they were manned at all. The ND is not a roster for the ministry of defence, it's a blueprint for the administration of the state.
Therefore it's impossible to take the list of units mentioned in the ND, combine that with a theory about general unit strength and combine both to arrive at a number for the Roman army based only on those two elements. That is the nature of the source evidence.


(11-20-2017, 01:52 PM)nikgaukroger Wrote: I suspect that the cumulative effect of this, withdrawing men and units, is why there are few troops on the Rhine in the Notitia.

And why most of these are not the units you'd expect, but mostly units named after their towns/garissons/regions, and therefore most likely limitanei or even local militias turned into army units.


(11-20-2017, 06:04 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I think Elton is maybe erring too much on the 'Roman' side in his analysis.
[..]
In fact, Elton's 'probable Roman' soldiers might more accurately be called 'indeterminate' - which would alter the balance of 'Roman' to 'Non-Roman' considerably...

If I recall correctly, Elton was primarily concerned with a reaction against the (Gibbon-inspired) opinions of historians that the Roman army was 'barbarised from top to bottom', painting a picture of bearded uncontrollable warriors (my exaggeration) against the former disciplined Roman legions. Elton realised full well that the evidence was scarce, but based on that he was of the opinion that no historian could make a hard case for a barbarised Roman army. Of course names are no hard evidence either, and under every Flavius there could be hiding a Gunthamund. But on the other hand, we don't know that either, and the fact that Gunthamund even bothered to call himself Flavius would for me be a good sign that the army was far more Roman than some think it was.

(11-20-2017, 06:04 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Which sounds rather like the situation in the late Republic, with Caesar's legions...
[..]
This 'regular Roman army' seems to be a bit of a chimera, appearing at one moment and vanishing the next!

I think your Caesarian analogy is a good one. The 4th century had seen an army and even non-Roman federates who had been loyal to the ruling dynasty, and this model had vanished by the time we enter the 5th century, changing to personal loyalties. When the troops mutinied against Stilicho I doubt that these men were only the Roman-born soldiers, but the majority of the units who have fought endless battles and may have looked for an easier future. I'm of the opinion that Stilicho was far too ambitious and fought wars to gain power over the Eastern Empire, which brought on the rivaly with Alaric and very possibly the mutiny of the army.

(11-20-2017, 06:04 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Yes, the defeat of Maximus, and then the very gruelling two-day battle at the Frigidus, must have severely depleted the field armies of both Italy and Gaul. They're both presented as victories - for Theodosius, of course - but could equally be seen as massive defeats for the military manpower of the Roman west, which may never again have recovered.

Theodosius took the best units that Maximus brought along and defeated what Arbogast brought later. Indeed that may have been the end of the army of the West as a campaigning force, no matter the units still on the borders. But the revolt of Constantine III may have ended much of that as well.
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#48
(11-21-2017, 09:42 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: no historian could make a hard case for a barbarised Roman army... the fact that Gunthamund even bothered to call himself Flavius would for me be a good sign that the army was far more Roman than some think it was.

And I suppose the fact that Gunthamund, or his fellow soldiers at Concordia anyway, were buried with inscriptions in good, if formulaic, Latin is a further sign pointing in that direction!

I've been reading Burns's Barbarians within the Gates of Rome recently (or trying to - it really is one of the most poorly-written books I've come across: garbled, repetitive, prolix and a real struggle to get through - which is a great shame, as the material Burns covers is really interesting. Has anyone else had a problem with it? But I digress...)

While arguing for the continuation of traditional Roman miliitary practices re barbarian recruitment before and after Adrianople, Burns appears to be highlighting the quite dramatic increase in this recruitment from around AD380 onwards. 

I do wonder whether a lot of our oppostion to the idea of 'barbarisation' stems from the popular assumption that this was a facet of the entire later Roman era, from Diocletian onwards. There certainly were increasing numbers of Germanic recruits, particularly from Constantines era, and particularly in 'elite' units, it seems (or they're just more visible there). But while military culture may have taken on new Germanic and other influences, the army surely remained overwhelmingly 'Roman' in outlook and allegiance throughout this period.

While we don't necessarily need to believe Zosimus's stories of Goths and others in the 380s wandering freely in and out of the empire, and of the ranks of the army, it does seem that something was changing - perhaps gradually - after this date, and the Roman state was struggling to absorb the comparatively large numbers of new arrivals within the borders. The army had traditionally been the mechanism that Rome used to process barbarians and turn them, so to speak, into Romans; clearly this was still going on c.400, but did supply exceed demand at some point?

I haven't yet read what Burns has to say about the events of 408 onwards, so I'll be interested to discover his views on the state of the army at that time, and why they were apparently unable to oppose Alaric's invasion.*

*EDIT - I've now read that chapter. Burns suggests (p.228) that the army at Ticinum, assembled to invade Gaul, just 'disintegrated and disappeared' - which isn't terribly helpful...!
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#49
Quote:Bearing all of the above in mind, I find it hard to believe that the Notitia can possibly have been an accurate record of the military situation in the west at the time it was supposedly composed (or last updated...) Unless the field army of Italy, for one, was a sort of paper tiger - all those gloriously-titled 4th century palatine and comitaneses units actually worn down to a few hundred new recruits, conscripts or 'barbarian' soldiers - it's difficult to see how such a massive force could melt away for several years during Alaric's sojourn in Italy, only to reappear again some time later.

While we do know that at least some of the palatine auxilia units from the ND - the Cornuti Seniores, and the units of Batavi, Bracchiati and Heruli etc from Concordia - existed during this period, we have no way of knowing quite what sort of state they might have been in, or what kind of men might have served in them.

So 'tens of thousands' might be a stretch, when we consider that marching 6000 men down from Dalmatia provided a stronger and more disciplined force than relying on units much closer at hand.

There's a pretty solid argument in that it was tied up billeting towns and unable to be mobilized without effective leadership. We see the Roman army reappear again under Constantius III and Aetius when Italy wasn't under threat, but then redistributed across Italy again when the Vandals take Africa.
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