Contents Introduction 7 Chronology 10 Background to war Controlling the empire 12 Warring sides Inside and outside the empire 19 Outbreak Creating crisis 27 The fighting Challenges to empire 34 Portraits of soldiers Brothers in arms 62 The world around war Impact of conflict 67 Portraits of civilians Notable individuals 77 How the war ended Making new boundaries 81 Conclusions and consequences Roman legacies 86 Further reading 92 Index 94
IntroductionIn the early third century AD the Roman the Balkans, with specific leaders emerging inEmpire stretched from Scotland to the Sahara certain areas: Bulgars in the north-east, Serbsand to the northern River Tigris - an enormous and Croats in the north-west. In Italy theimperial enterprise and the most powerful Lombard kingdom, based in the Po valley,state in the world. Four centuries later the fragmented authority in the peninsula, andEmpire had shrunk to consist of Anatolia, the so it remained until reunification in theAegean fringes of the Balkans and limited 19th century. Franks controlled Gaul, thoughterritories in Italy around Rome and Ravenna. it was usually split between different branchesStill strong in Mediterranean terms, it was of the ruling Merovingian dynasty. In theforced to confront and interact with a variety Iberian peninsula the Visigoths hadof new powers. To the east Arabs, inspired by established authority, sometimes tenuously,Islam, had overrun the Levant and Egypt, as over the groups who had settled during thewell as the Persian kingdom. More than a fifth century; however, their switch frommillennium of conflict between Islamic east Arian to Nicene Christianity in the seventhand Christian west was introduced as Arabwarriors pushed westwards through North The Emperor Theodosius and his family receive tokens of submission from barbarians while seated in theAfrica and into Spain and regularly raided imperial box at the hippodrome. From the base oftowards Constantinople. Slav tribes the obelisk at the Hippodrome in Constantinople.established themselves throughout much of (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Essential Histories • Rome at Warcentury provided a force for unity whichwould survive centuries of conflict withMuslim invaders. The British Isles presentedanother mosaic, with Saxons increasinglydominant in the south and east, Britonsholding on in the west, and rival Pictish andScottish kingdoms in control of southernScotland. Here again religion offered hope forfuture unity, with the Saxons progressivelyconverted through the Roman mission basedat Canterbury and the Celtic Church, whichwas dominant in Ireland, Scotland and thenorth-west, then reconciled with Romantraditions. By the end of the seventh century many ofthe important elements of the modernEuropean political landscape were in place, orat least in evidence, but the stages wherebyRoman hegemony fragmented are complex. Itis essential, above all, to remember that therewas nothing inevitable about this process:Europe did not have to be organised into theterritorial units and dominated by thenational groups with which we are familiartoday. Decline and fall has been a powerfulmodel for analysing this transition, from the Bronze head of Constantine with eyes characteristicallycomposition of Edward Gibbons masterwork gazing to heaven. (Ancient A r t and Architecture)in the late eighteenth century, and before. Butthe vitality of the Roman system - especially but the setback ushered in 140 years of almostwhen reinvigorated by Christianity - the unbroken peace in the eastern Empire. In 378commitment of peoples to the Roman ideal, the eastern emperor Valens was killed inand the sheer power of Roman arms also need battle at Adrianople in Thrace, and many ofto be stressed in opposition to this analysis. his Gothic opponents had to be allocated Identification of turning points is an lands for settlement, but thereafter successiveunderstandable temptation, and acceptable eastern emperors generally managed theprovided that the qualifications for each Gothic problem to their advantage. Whenparticular date are not forgotten. The the last sole Roman ruler Theodosius I died inconversion of Constantine to Christianity in 39S, the Empire was split between his youngAD 312 initiated the Empires transformation sons, and emperors ceased to campaignfrom polytheism to Christianity, and regularly in person, but such divisions hadprompted the development of the Church as occurred in the past, often beneficially, anda powerful and wealthy institution. For some there were advantages in withdrawing thescholars the Church was yet one more emperor from the battlefield. Immortalsubstantial group of idle mouths for Roman Rome was captured by Alarics Visigoths intax-payers to support, with unfortunate AD 410, but it had long ceased to be anlong-term consequences, but the Church also imperial capital, so the event was largely ofserved imperial goals beyond the frontiers and symbolic importance: Augustine in Africareinforced loyalties within. In 363 Julians wrote City of Cod to demonstrate thegrand invasion of Persia ended in death for superiority of the heavenly over the terrestrialhim and near disaster for the Roman army, city, but in Italy the Visigoths withdrew and
Introduction 9emperors continued to rule from Ravenna. In cumulatively they contributed to diminishingthe 440s Attila challenged imperial authority imperial authority, undermining the fiscal and- in both east and west, threatening even to military structures which permitted thereduce emperors to vassal status - but his imperial machine to function. By the late fifthHunnic federation disintegrated after his century an emperor had become irrelevant indeath in 453 so that within a decade his heirs the western Mediterranean, although thewere seeking Roman help. In 476 the last eastern ruler was accepted as a figurehead byRoman emperor in the western Empire was some. The eastern Empires continuing powerdeposed by a barbarian general, but the was revealed by its ability to organise theauthority of the eastern emperor was still reconquest of the Vandal and Ostrogothicacknowledged. A western consul was annually kingdoms, which extended to the recovery ofnominated to share the chief titular parts of Spain and the exercise of intermittentmagistracy with eastern colleagues, and under influence in Gaul. Even if the cumulativeTheoderic the Ostrogoth a regime, which impact of recurrent bubonic plague and thecarefully maintained a Gotho-Roman facade demands of western warfare left the Empiredominated the western Mediterranean from economically and militarily weaker in AD 600Ravenna. than it had been in AD 500, in comparative Individually the significance of each of terms it might have been stronger, since itsthese key dates must be qualified, but greatest rival, the Persian kingdom, also suffered heavily during a century of conflict; its then ruler, Khusro II, had only secured the One of the more accurate assessments of the throne with Roman help. In the early seventh Empires demise occurs in a conversation century internal dissension and foreign between lews in prison at Carthage in the invasion seemed to have forced the Romans 630s. They discuss the state of the Empire to the brink of destruction, symbolised by the and the news of a new prophet among the arrival of a Persian army on the Bosporus and Saracens in terms of the vision of Empire in its co-operation with the Avar Chagan in the the Book of Daniel (Doctrine of the AD 626 attack on Constantinople. But the city Newly-baptised Jacob 3.8). and its Empire survived: within two years Jacob asked him: "What do you think Heraclius had defeated the Persians, and of the state of Romania? Does it stand as overseen the installation of friendly rulers on once, or has it been diminished?" the Persian throne, including, briefly, the Justus replied uncertainly, "Even if it Christian Shahvaraz; and during the 630s the has been somewhat diminished, we hope Avar federation began to disintegrate as the that it will rise again." reduced prestige of its leader permitted But Jacob convinced him, "We see the subordinate tribes to assert their nations believing in Christ and the independence. For the eastern Empire the fourth beast has fallen and is being torn decisive blow came out of the blue when in pieces by the nations, that the ten the new religion of Islam transformed horns may prevail." long-standing manageable neighbours into a potent adversary.
Chronology226 Ardashir overthrows Parthian dynasty. 395 Death of Theodosius; Empire divided235 Murder of Severus Alexander by between Arcadius and Honorius. troops. 406 German tribes breach Rhine frontier.243/4 Gordian defeated by Shapur I of 408 Stilicho executed. Persia. 410 Sack of Rome by Alaric and Visigoths.251 Death of Decius in battle against 418 Establishment of Visigoths in Goths. Aquitania.260 Defeat and capture of Valerian by 429 Vandals cross into Africa. Persians. 445 Attila becomes sole ruler of Huns. Franks invade Gaul; Alamanni invade 451 Attila invades Gaul; defeated at Italy; revolts in Balkans. Catalaunian Plains (near Troyes).261-68 Odaenathus of Palmyra takes 453 Death of Attila. control of eastern provinces. 455 Vandals sack Rome.262-67 Goths invade Asia Minor. 476 Odoacer deposes Romulus Augustulus,271 Aurelian withdraws Romans from Dacia. the last western emperor. Circuit of walls built for Rome. 493 Theoderic captures Ravenna and kills272 Aurelian defeats Palmyra. Odoacer.275 Murder of Aurelian. 502 Kavadh invades eastern provinces and284 Accession of Diocletian. captures Amida (Diyarbakir).293 Tetrarchy with Maximian as co- 505 Truce on eastern frontier; Augustus and Constantius and construction of Dara starts. Galerius as Caesars. 507 Clovis and Franks defeat Visigoths at305 Abdication of Diocletian and Maximian. Vouillé.312 Constantine captures Rome after 527 Renewed warfare in east. Accession of battle of Milvian Bridge. Justinian.324 Constantine defeats Licinius and 532 Endless Peace with Persia. becomes sole emperor. 533 Belisarius defeats Vandals and337 Death of Constantine at start of recovers Africa. campaign against Persia. 540 Belisarius enters Ravenna and ends353 Constantius II defeats usurper Ostrogothic kingdom. Magnentius and reunifies Empire. Khusro I invades eastern provinces355 Julian co-opted by Constantius as and captures Antioch. Caesar. 542 Arrival of bubonic plague.357 Julian defeats Alamanni at Strasburg. 546 Totila recaptures Rome.361 Death of Constantius. 552 Narses defeats and kills Totila at Busta363 Julians invasion of Persia and death. Gallorum.376 Goths cross the Danube. 562 50 Years Peace with Persia.378 Defeat and death of Valens at 568 Lombards invade Italy. Adrianople (Edirne). 572 Justin II launches new war on eastern382 Theodosius settles Goths in Balkans as frontier. federates. 578/9 Avar invasions of Balkans start.394 Theodosius defeats usurper Eugenius 586/7 Slav raids reach Athens and Corinth. and reunifies Empire. 591 Termination of war with Persia.
Chronology602 Revolt of Balkan army and overthrow 632 Death of Muhammad. of Maurice. 636 Arabs defeat Romans at River Yarmuk.610 Heraclius captures Constantinople 638 Arabs capture Jerusalem. and kills Phocas. 639 Arabs attack Egypt.614 Persians capture Jerusalem. 642 Arabs capture Alexandria.622 Muhammad leaves Medina (Hijra). 651 Death of Yazdgard III, last Sassanid626 Avars besiege Constantinople, with ruler. Persian support. 661 Muawiyah becomes Caliph at627 Heraclius defeats Persians at Nineveh. Damascus.
Background to warControlling the empireMarking boundaries conquest of Gaul, although it was only a century later that the frontier stabilisedThe centuries of conflict covered in this along the river - once grander Romanvolume saw the Romans pitted against visions to incorporate Germania wereenemies in three main sectors: along the renounced. Temporary military installationsRhine against the Alamanni, Franks and were replaced in stone, permanent campsother Germanic tribes; on the Danube against attracted settlements of veterans, traders andfirst the Sarmatians and Goths, then the other camp-followers, and prosperous sitesHunnic tribes, and finally the Avars and were honoured with colonial status, formanifold Slav groups; in Armenia and example Colonia Agrippina (Cologne) andMesopotamia the Sassanid Persians; Moguntiacum (Mainz). Stability along theeventually, towards the end of the period, frontier required active defence, and thereArab tribes erupted from the Arabian were major campaigns commanded by anpeninsula to sweep through the Levant. Since emperor in the 90s (Domitian), 170s (Marcusthe Roman Empire was a military institution Aurelius) and 230s (Severus Alexander).whose widespread control had been imposed The Rhine provided a partial barrier toby force, there was naturally a long history of tribal movement which the Romans couldconflict in each sector, even if the preciseopponents were not always the same. Impressive defences reinforced Romes psychological The Romans first campaigned on the superiority along the frontiers. Taken from Trajans columnRhine in the 50s BC during Caesars in Rome. (AKG London/Hilbich)
Background to war I3Troops crossing a river by pontoon bridge, from a The second major European river frontier,section ofTrajans column. (AKG Berlin) along the Danube, was joined to the Rhine frontier by linear defences, which protected acontrol through naval squadrons and by triangle of territory to the south-east ofsupervising recognised crossing-points. Argentoratum (Strasburg), always a sensitiveBeyond the Rhine were numerous tribal area. The Romans had reached the upper andgroups whose relationship with the Romans middle Danube during the reign of Augustuswas not always hostile: tribesmen served in (31 BC-AD 14), confirming their control overRoman armies, Roman garrisons had the hinterland in the face of massive rebellionsconsiderable wealth (by local standards) to in Pannonia and Illyricum; furtherspend on slaves, furs or basic foodstuffs, downstream the Danube became the frontierwhile the Romans were a source of luxury during the first century AD. A process ofgoods such as wine or spices. A symbiotic consolidation similar to that on the Rhine gotrelationship could emerge: Romans wanted under way, but in this case the need totribal manpower and supplies, while tribal dominate the Dacian tribes of the lowerleaders relied on Romans for the wealth and Danube led to major campaigns across thedisplay goods to demonstrate superiority river under Trajan (98-117) in the early secondover their rank and file. A cyclical pattern to century and the creation of a new provincerelations on the frontier can be seen: the within the arc of the Carpathian mountains.Romans bolstered the authority of compliant In the eastern Empire the Romansleaders whose expanding following encountered the Parthians during the firstgenerated greater demands; when these century BC, experiencing one of their worstbecame excessive, conflict ensued between defeats in 53 BC when three legions wereRome and a major tribal grouping; thereafter annihilated at Carrhae (Harran) inthe cycle would begin again. Mesopotamia. Until the mid-first century AD,
Background to war 15small client kingdoms constituted buffer North Africa, which the Romans graduallystates for Roman territory in Anatolia and took over between the mid-second centurythe Levant. Thereafter the upper and middle BC and the mid-first century AD, resembledEuphrates provided a suitable line on which the southern portion of the eastern frontier.to base legionary positions - though, as Desert, supplemented on occasion by linearalong the European rivers, the Romans barriers, played a significant part in markingmaintained a keen interest in events beyond. the boundaries of Roman authority. TribalBetween the River Euphrates and the Arabian instability could pose threats, though, asGulf, desert offered a reliable buffer zone, along the European frontiers; outsiders werealthough tribes who knew how to operate in tied into the Roman system through militarythis inhospitable terrain troubled Roman service and economic exchanges. The Britishlands to the west intermittently. For the Isles, which the Romans invaded in the firstRomans the east was the prestigious area for century AD, stands in contrast to the otherconflict, ideally for expansion, with the major frontiers as a place where the Romansrenown of Alexander the Greats relied primarily on linear defences - theachievements luring successive western rulers walls of Hadrian and Antoninus - to separateto emulation: in the early second century the untamed tribes of Caledonia fromTrajan campaigned to the head of the Persian Roman areas.Gulf, briefly establishing a province in It is ironic that the best-studied RomanMesopotamia; in the 160s Lucius Verus defences - the salient between the Rhine and(161-9) fought energetically in lower Danube in south-western Germany and theMesopotamia, and in the 190s Septimius walls of north Britain - are not typical ofSeverus (193-211) again defeated the Roman frontier areas overall. As aParthians and annexed new territory. consequence, however, we may fail to understand how the frontiers operated. TheA view along part of Hadrians wall (showing Chesters traditional view is that frontiers werefort), another defensive structure which combined maintained to delimit and protect Romanprotection and propaganda. (Ancient Art and Architecture) territory by barring entry to foreigners. But
I6 Essential Histories • Rome at Warfrontiers are now seen as zones of contact, as maintain imperial control and ensure themuch as lines of exclusion: this is clearly smooth collection of taxation. Theytrue for the European river frontiers, and suppressed brigandage (which subsisted at aeven in the case of an apparent barrier, low level in many parts of the Empire),scrutiny of the installations along Hadrians regulated disputes between provincial citiesWall reveals its purpose was to control, but and ensured their internal stability, andnot prevent, movement. It is also argued that oversaw communications between thegenerals and emperors were more interested province and Rome, including thein the rewards of conquest than in routine important annual expressions of allegiancedefence of the Empires inhabitants, and that to the emperor.from the military perspective the provincesmore often required subjugation than Taxes and tradeprotection. Exchanges across frontiers, the Taxation was the lifeblood of the Empire,significance of military glory, and the which depended upon a regular cyclical flowpreservation of law and order are all valid of wealth. The areas of greatest consumptionconsiderations, but the ideology of pax were Rome - where the imperial court andRomana was also important: emperors were senatorial households spent lavishly - and thebelieved to have a duty towards the civilian frontier armies whose salaries had to be paidmembers of the Empire - or at least their to prevent the risk of mutiny. Most frontierperformance of this role was an issue which provinces could not support the full costs ofmight be picked up in speeches of praise or the legions based in them, and so taxdefamatory tracts. surpluses had to be transferred from interior Within the frontier Roman territory was regions, for example Spain or Asia Minordivided into provinces, of which there were where the inhabitants generated cash to meetabout 60 in the early third century AD. Most tax demands by selling produce: the Empireprovincial governors were drawn from the evolved quite a complex system which lockedsenate, the council made up of former different areas together. The two mostmagistrates, which had considerable important taxes were a poll tax and a land tax.authority but little real power. Governors of The former was simpler, although its coveragefrontier provinces with substantial armies and rate varied. The latter was based on anwere chosen from among former consuls assessment of land value as determined by(the most senior group within the senate) by agricultural use, for example arable as opposedthe emperor. In the interior provinces the to vineyard or pastureland, and was levied as agovernors primary functions were to fixed percentage of the valuation. These taxes were not progressive, which meant that financial burdens fell more heavily onA panel from Constantines arch at Rome showing theemperor distributing largesse. This victory monument small-holders than grandees, who would alsodepicts the emperors civilian virtues as well as his have greater influence to secure exemptions.military triumphs. (AKG London/Pirozzi) In addition there were customs duties at both
Background to war I7imperial and provincial boundaries, and a enriched both the imperial exchequer5 per cent tax for Roman citizens on through customs revenues and theinheritances and the freeing of slaves. middlemen whose profits were invested in Movement of produce, as both trade and Petra and Palmyra. The current view of thetax revenue, was an important aspect of the Roman economy, based in part on theEmpires economic system. Massive amounts increasing evidence from ship-wrecks, is thatof grain from Egypt and other parts of North trade played a minor but significant role inAfrica, and of oil and wine from Spain, were the Empires prosperity: trade in luxury itemstransported to supply Rome as taxation or was the tip of an iceberg of local, intra-the produce of imperial estates; similarly regional and inter-regional exchange whichsenators provincial estates supported their was greatly facilitated by the existence of thepalatial households in the capital. Supplies roads, ports and other installationsfor the army might also seem to be located established to service the crucial elements ofwithin this command economy and to an the imperial system, namely the capital andextent they were, but the Vindolanda writing the armies.tablets, which preserve correspondence of an Overall, the Empire was prosperous duringauxiliary cohort based in north Britain the first two centuries AD, as can be seenc. AD 100 reveal that army units were also from the archaeological remains of provincialsupported by their own supply networks. cities where local elites competed to beautify The best evidence for Roman trade their home towns. Wealth did flow out of theinevitably relates to the exceptional needs of Empire, but this was balanced by thethe elite, who had an enormous appetite foreastern luxuries: spices from eastern Africa, The colonnaded streets of Palmyra were evidence of theand silks, gems and spices from India. The wealth derived by the city from its trading activities.eastern trade was a substantial enterprise; it (Ancient A r t and Architecture)
18 Essential Histories • Rome at War substantial production of mines (such as thesilver mines of Spain), imperial properties Cassius Dio, historian, twice consul andwhich were exploited under the protection experienced provincial governor, writingof military units. In spite of the inflexibility about 230, assesses the change in theof the tax system, imperial revenue tended Empires fortunes in 180 (72.36).to exceed expenditure during peace time, [Marcus Aurelius] encountered a hostwhile wars could be supported, especially if of problems practically all through histhey were of limited duration and generated reign ... he both survived himself andsome booty: the agricultural production of preserved the Empire in extraordinarythe provinces sustained both the imperial and untoward circumstances. One thingmachine and the demands of local cities. alone marred his personal happiness: his On the other hand, there were already son [Commodus] ... our history nowominous signs of strain in the second falls away, as affairs did for the Romanscentury, the golden age of imperial of that time, from a realm of gold toprosperity. The purity of the basic silver one of iron and rust.coin, the denarius, was reduced from about90 per cent to 75 per cent, and then to50 per cent under Septimius Severus. The Empire functioned best when rulersProlonged warfare was expensive, especially survived for reasonably long reigns with thealong the European river frontiers where support of both senate and provincialbooty was unlikely to offset costs: troops armies, when conflicts remained localisedhad to be moved to the area of conflict, and did not coincide with challenges onimposing demands on communities along other frontiers, and when climatic and othertheir lines of march, and extra resources conditions permitted a reasonable level ofwere demanded to make good losses. Civil agricultural production. The accession ofwar was an even worse prospect, partly Septimius Severus in 193 provided a severebecause such conflicts were, at best, a jolt, since this was followed by three years ofzero-sum game (and at worst ruinously internal conflict across much of the Empire.expensive to ravaged provinces and all His son Caracalla, who succeeded in 211,who supported the losers), but more had to buy favour with the troops bysignificantly because any attempt to secure awarding a 50 per cent pay increase,the throne required lavish promises of financed by issuing a new (overvalued) silverdonatives and higher pay for armies, which coin and by doubling the 5 per centwould also be expanded to meet the crisis. inheritance tax: to increase the revenue fromThe plague brought back from the east by the latter, he gave Roman citizenship to allLucius Verus army in AD 167 was also a the free inhabitants of the Empire and sosignificant factor, and the consequences of brought them into the tax net. The Empirethe loss of agricultural population can be survived Caracalla, but if the balance oftraced in papyrus records of land leases in imperial prosperity was delicate during theEgypt: in some areas the impact seems to second century it now become precarious,have lasted for a generation, in others three with a major external threat or significantgenerations. internal upheaval likely to generate a crisis.
Warring sidesInside and outside the empireArmy of the Roman Empire were recruited into the legions, while non-citizens traditionally enteredThe Roman Empire depended on the the auxiliary units. Remarkably little ispower of its armies, which had always known about the process of recruitment:been composed of a combination of citizenand non-citizen troops. Before the universal Late Roman cavalry. Artwork by Christa Hook.extension of citizenship in AD 212 citizens (Osprey Publishing)
20 Essential Histories • Rome at WarLate Roman infantry. Artwork by Christa Hook. (Osprey Publishing)
Warring sides 21conscription was probably always a feature, a horseman equipped with a composite bowwith manpower needs being apportioned in to represent the ideal contemporary soldier.line with census records of citizens, but there But infantry remained the basis for mostwas also some element of hereditary service armies, and Roman foot-soldiers, whenas units drew on veteran settlements. At properly trained and led, were capable oftimes, perhaps often, military service offered defying all opponents.a reasonably good and quite safe career for Another development in the late Romanthe young provincials, especially if they army was that, from the fourth century,served close to home. distinctions were drawn, in terms of status In the later Empire it is often alleged that as well as rewards, between limitanei andthe balance of the armies changed, with troops of the comitatus, i.e. between morecitizens being outnumbered by foreigners, static provincial units and those whichthe traditional infantry backbone eclipsed accompanied the emperor or seniorby cavalry units, and frontier units generals. It is often claimed that limitanei(limitanei) relegated to an inferior status. became soldier-farmers, losing their militaryRomans were progressively demilitarised quality along with their professionalism,and the increasingly un-Roman armies but that misrepresents the nature of thedeclined in discipline and loyalty. These estates which helped to support them andtheories reflect developments in the later ignores their continuing use in conjunctionarmy, although they are all ultimately with mobile troops on major easternmisconceptions. campaigns. It is noticeable that the limitanei Roman armies did continue to rely on included more cavalry units than thesubstantial units of non-citizens, especially comitatus, a reflection of the usefulness ofwhen troops had to be recruited quickly, as horses for local patrolling and of the greaterin civil war and after military defeat, or for ability of infantry to retain fightingspecial expeditions. These outsiders were strength when required to move longoften excellent troops who provided reliable distances quickly.bodyguards for emperors and generals, There had been a gradual change in thewhose personal retinues of bucellarii deployment of Roman armies. In the early(biscuit-men) might represent the elite part empire legions were quartered in majorof an army. There were also several senior bases near the frontier (e.g. Cologne), butnon-Roman commanders who played military need dictated that units wereimportant political roles, especially during detached for specific duties as frontierthe fragmentation of the western Empire in garrisons or in the interior. Later this ad hocthe fifth century, but it is invalid to infer dispersal was consolidated so that troopsfrom their prominence that non-Romans were spread across provinces in numerousalso dominated the ranks of the army. forts and cities. Emperors, however, also Infantry had always been the particular needed mobile forces for more rapidstrength of the Romans, and it is true that deployment. In the east there came to becavalry units performed a more important two armies in the presence stationed nearrole in late Roman armies, but there is little Constantinople, and others in the Balkansevidence to support the popular notion and the east; in the west Gaul and Italy hadthat the Romans switched to reliance on their own armies until imperial authorityheavy-mailed cavalry, an anticipation of contracted from the former.medieval knights. The Romans had a few Overall, Roman armies changed betweenunits of mailed lancers (clibanarii or the third and seventh centuries, but theboiler-boys) in imitation of Parthian and majority of troops were drawn from thePersian units, but mounted archers on the Empires inhabitants. Specific uplandHunnic model were probably more common. regions had the reputation for producingThe sixth-century historian Procopius chose good recruits: the Balkan highlands,
22 Essential Histories • Rome at WarLate Roman parade helmet (AKG London) looked quite barbaric and undisciplined, but the same could often have been saidmountainous Isauria in southern Asia about early imperial armies.Minor, and Armenia. Goths, Germans and The size of late Roman armies is a complexHuns also made important contributions, game for which most of the pieces are missing.but such soldiers often came from groups In the third century army units probablywho had been accepted into the Empire and numbered upwards of 350,000, with a furthergiven lands with the explicit purpose of 40,000 in the navy. Numbers increasedproviding recruits. To educated observers significantly under Diocletian (284-305) andfrom the cities, the people who wrote most Constantine (306-37), so that the totalof our evidence, Roman armies undoubtedly military establishment exceeded 500,000 -
Warring sides 23perhaps even 600,000. But paper strength will Folio from the Notitia Dignitatum, depicting thealways have surpassed disposable strength, and responsibilities of the Master of Offices which included the imperial weapons factories (fabricae). (MS Canonmany troops were committed to particular Misc. 378, f. 141 r, Bodleian Library)assignments so that only a small proportion ofthe total establishment could be deployed forindividual campaigns. In the fourth century Empire, although it is probably correct thatan army of 50,000 was large, and by the sixth organisation, rather than basic military skill,century mobile armies rarely exceeded 30,000. increasingly emerged as the way in which In spite of complaints about discipline, Romans surpassed their opponents. TheRoman training appears to have remained Romans had the capacity to co-ordinate troopstough. A succession of military manuals over long distances to build up complexindicates that attention was devoted to armies, with artillery units as well as infantrytraining and tactics, at least in the eastern and cavalry, and then keep these supplied on
24 Essential Histories • Rome at Warcampaign: the infrastructure of roads,warehouses, granaries, arms factories and the The Greek historian Theophylact preservesbilleting arrangements generated a complex rare information on Persian militarybody of law, and enabled the Romans to move arrangements.(3.15.4)their men wherever thev were needed. For, unlike the Romans on campaign, Persians are not paid by the treasury, not even when assembled inPersian arrangements their villages; the customary distributions from the king, which theyOnly in the East did the Romans face an administer to obtain income, areenemy with a sophistication comparable to sufficient to support themselves untiltheir own. The Iranian Sassanids supplanted they invade a foreign land.the Parthian Arsacids during the 220s,imposing themselves as a new military eliteon a heterogeneous population, which Persian kings did not maintain a largeincluded substantial groups of Jews and standing army until at least the sixthChristians in densely populated lower century: there were garrisons in frontierMesopotamia. Persian armies are not clearly cities and fortresses, but for major campaignsunderstood, since almost all our knowledge kings instructed their nobles to mobilisecomes from Roman informants reporting provincial levies. Minor gentry of free statusPersian actions during the repeated conflicts. served as mounted warriors providing aOne important strategic point to bear in backbone, and they probably brought alongmind is that, from the Persian perspective, their own retinues. The system was feudal,their north-eastern frontier, the sector in with royal land grants carrying an obligationwhich they confronted the nations of central to serve or send troops on demand;Asia, took priority; we occasionally glimpse campaigns inside the Persian kingdom seemPersian action in this area, as when King to have been unpaid, on the assumption thatPeroz led his armies to disaster against the soldiers could support themselves from theirHephthalite Huns in the late fifth century, or estates, but payment was given for foreignduring the service of the Armenian Smbat expeditions. Feudal arrangements could beBagratuni in the early seventh, but there is extended to attract troops from outside thea substantial gap in our appreciation of kingdom - who worked for specific terms -Persian might. but mercenaries were also recruited, sometimes from the Hunnic and Turkic tribes beyond the north-east frontier, The career of Smbat sometimes from specific internal groups The Armenian Smbat, a member of the such as the Dailamites who inhabited the noble Bagratid house, commanded mountains south of the Caspian. cavalry for the Romans in the Balkans in Persian armies are often associated with the 580s, but was exiled to Africa for heavily mailed cavalry, but their most potent instigating revolt. In the 590s he element were mounted archers: Roman reappears in Persian service, being tactical writers advised that the Persians appointed provincial governor by King could not withstand a frontal charge, but Khusro II; he was trusted to suppress that any delay in engaging at close quarters awkward rebellions in the east and would permit them to exploit their received the nickname Joy of Khusro, superiority at archery. The Persians were but Khusro was reluctant to allow him heirs to a long Middle-Eastern tradition of to return to Armenia and Smbat was siege warfare and they had a formidable kept at court as an honoured advisor. capacity to organise sieges, dig mines and deploy a variety of engines to capture even
Warring sides 25the most strongly fortified positions. In the mobilise 10,000 warriors, and larger forces -sixth century there was a substantial such as those that confronted Julian atoverhaul of the tax system as well as a Strasburg in AD 357 - could be producedredistribution of land, which was intended through alliances. On rare occasionsto bolster royal power by permitting the German leaders commanded larger numbers -payment of some permanent units, an the Amal-led Ostrogoths fieldedimitation perhaps of the Roman comitatus. 25,000-30,000 warriors after subsuming aBut the feudal link between king and rival Gothic group in the Balkans - butnobility remained crucial, dictating that this was exceptional, the product of Romanmilitary prestige was essential for royal power which forced tribes to coalesce orauthority: kings might embark on foreign face defeat.campaigns to acquire booty and prestige for The most powerful Roman enemies wereinternal consumption. the supranational federations, represented by the Huns in the fifth century and the Avars in the sixth and seventh. These groupingsEnemies in Europe swallowed the variety of smaller tribal units within their sphere of action, with terror andThe personal prestige of the war leader was booty providing the cement; their existencealso vital for Romes various tribal enemies in required regular warfare, and their ruthlessEurope. These groups ranged from small war leaders had the manpower to overrun thebands from an extended family or single defences of even major cities. Both Huns andvillage, through more complex clan and Avars posed serious challenges to Romantribal bands into which the family units authority, but their inherent instability waswould be subsumed, to the occasional but their undoing: Attilas death in 453 led tomighty international federation. At the fatal dissension among his potential heirs,bottom of the scale were the Slav raiders who while the Avars never recovered from theircrossed the Danube in the sixth century; failure at Constantinople in 626, sincethese might operate in groups of 200 or weakness at the top permitted constituent300, perhaps accompanied by their families sub-groups to rebel. The image of the Huns isin wagons as they sought land for settlement. of nomadic warriors whose attachment to Most of the German and Gothic groups their horses was such that they couldwho challenged the Empire were collections scarcely walk, and it is true that the variousof such smaller clan or village units, united warrior elites will have fought as cavalry,under the authority of a king. The right to but all these groupings could also fieldlead depended ultimately on success, substantial infantry forces which wouldespecially in warfare; although leading have been provided by less prestigiousfamilies (such as the Gothic Balti and Amali) elements, for example the Slavs within theattempted to create dynasties, these could not Avar federation.survive the shock of prolonged failure or the Collectively Romes enemies rivalled, orabsence of a suitable war-leader. There was surpassed, its military strength, but thesome instability in these groups, and units - Romans could usually hold their own, partlysuch as the Carpi, who were prominent down through superior organisation and training,to AD 300 - might disappear permanently; partly through strong defences, but aboveothers such as the Lombards are absent from all by the strategy of trying to avoidour sources for several generations before re- simultaneous conflict on different frontiers.emerging in the sixth century. Such changes Along the Danube or Rhine tribal groupingsdid not represent the elimination of these might co-operate in the short term, butpeople but their subjection to a different elite Roman diplomacy was adept at exploitingwhich imposed its identity on its followers. potential splits. Wider collaboration wasPowerful German kings might be able to extremely rare, the only real instance
26 Essential Histories • Rome at War Movement of Goths across Europeoccurring in 626 when Persian troops which distinguished the Romans from allencamped on the Bosporus attempted to join their opponents, with the exception ofthe Avar attacks on Constantinople, only to Saxon raiders in the North Sea and thebe thwarted by the Roman fleet. Possession Vandal kingdom in North Africa which tookof a small but powerful navy was a factor over part of the western Roman fleet.
OutbreakCreating crisisAfter the murder of Severus Alexander in 235the Roman Empire experienced 50 years The Greek historian Herodian recordsof instability, commonly termed the demands of a Persian embassy to AlexanderThird-century Crisis, a period which marks the Severus in the 220s (6.4.5).transition to the later Empire. The crisis can The mission declared that by order ofbe viewed from a number of interlocking the Great King the Romans and theiraspects - frontier pressure, usurpers, religious ruler must abandon Syria and the wholechange, financial shortages - but it is of Asia opposite Europe, allowing Persianreasonable to begin from the frontiers: here rule to extend as far as Ionia and Cariadevelopments can be identified which then and the peoples within the Aegean-arguably prevented the Empire from Pontus seaboard. For these were thecontrolling change in other areas. traditional possessions of the Persians. Beyond the eastern frontier a new dynastywas inaugurated when the Sassanid Ardashirwas crowned in Ctesiphon in 226. The inevitable refusal. Gordians attempt tochange was significant since the Romans had discipline Ardashirs son Shapur I ended ingenerally dominated the Parthians, and humiliation in 244, with Gordian defeatedindeed repeated Roman successes had and murdered and his successor Philip thecontributed to undermining royal prestige, Arab forced to purchase the withdrawal ofbut the Sassanids propagated a dynamic his army. Shapurs invasions in 253 and 260nationalism, including links with the resulted in the capture of Antioch, the majorAchaemenids, who ruled Persia before city of the eastern provinces as well asAlexander the Greats conquests. Embassiesdemanded the return of their ancestral The ruined walls of Dura by the River Euphrates.property, with war as the consequence of the (Ancient A r t and Architecture)
28 Essential Histories • Rome at WarThe Valerian Wall at Athens, cutting across the agora. mouth; a decade later they swept across the(Authors collection) north-eastern Balkans, and Emperor Decius was killed and his army annihilated whilenumerous lesser places such as Dura on the trying to force them back across the DanubeEuphrates, and the transport to Persia of in 251. Further ravaging occupied the 250s,massive booty; Emperor Valerian was with the Goths commandeering shipping oncaptured in battle at Edessa (Urfa) in 260 and the Black Sea to cross to Asia Minor and sailtaken back to Persia. For the next decade into the Aegean where they sacked Athens inimperial authority in the east was limited, 268. Mining operations in Macedonia andwith the most effective resistance to the Thrace were inevitably disrupted.Persians being provided by the ruler of This great movement of Goths naturallyPalmyra, Odaenathus. The east had become displaced other peoples who might findan expensive military arena for the Romans, themselves squeezed against the Romanand the substantial tax revenues of its frontier; this process could trigger theprovinces were jeopardised. formation of substantial federations as The problem was compounded by events different tribes steeled themselves for theon the Danube, where the Romans also had ultimate challenge of attacking the Romans.to face a new enemy. Here change had been On the upper Danube the Vandals, Quadislow, the result of the gradual movement of and Marcomanni breached the frontier, andGothic peoples from northern Poland. The on the upper Rhine the Alamanni increasedfirst attested Gothic incursion came in 238, their strength to the extent that they twicewhen they sacked Istria near the Danube invaded Italy in the 260s. On the lower Rhine
Outbreak 29Porchester Castle. One of the late third-century Alexander, who had just campaignedSaxon shore fortifications, built to protect southern and unsuccessfully in the east, was overthrowneastern Britain from raids across the North Sea.(Ancient Art and Architecture) by the Rhine armies who feared his leadership. They proclaimed as their leader Maximinus the Thracian (allegedly anthe Franks gradually came to dominate uneducated peasant risen from the ranks).another large federation which threatened Maximinus made no attempt to conciliatefrontier defences during the latter half of the the senate, his control of the armies,century, and Saxon pirates began to raid especially those in the east, was shaky inacross the North Sea and down the Channel. spite of a promise to double military pay, Of the Roman world only Africa, the and the extensive confiscations needed toIberian Peninsula and, to a lesser extent, provide funds for his promises damaged hisBritain, were spared invasion. The reputation further. Maximinus survived untilcumulative nature of the frontier pressure is 238 when his failure to deal with rivalsevident, with emperors unable to divert supported or proclaimed by the senatetroops from one sector to another and caused his troops to mutiny. Seven emperorsinstead constrained to confront invaders in within one year, fighting in North Africa andconditions which led to defeat. The northern Italy, and disturbances in Romeconsequences for imperial prestige are were a foretaste of the anarchy to come; suchobvious, and by the late 260s the Empire was substantial internal upheavals naturallyvirtually split into three units which afforded external enemies a chance toattended separately to their own security. invade, which then increased the problemsTrouble began in 235 when Severus for whoever happened to occupy the throne.
30 Essential Histories • Rome at War The rapid turnover of emperors is best Romes foundation in spectacular fashion,illustrated by a simple list - with the proviso but the military reverses of the 250sthat it is difficult to include all the effectively split the Empire into three.shorter-lived local claimants to the throne. Odaenathus defence of the east fuelled ambitions for imperial authority, which were235-38 Maximinus inherited by his wife Zenobia in 268/9, while238 Gordian I & Gordian II in Gaul, the Rhine armies proclaimed their238 Balbinus & Maximus successful general Postumus. The air of crisis238 Pupienus generated apocalyptic literature in the east238-4 Gordian III (for example, the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle),244-19 Philip the Arab and a circuit of walls for Rome, 11.8 miles249-51 Decius (19 km) in length, was rapidly constructed in251-53 Trebonianus Gallus 271. The Empire was only reunited by251-53 Volusianus Aurelian in a series of energetic campaigns,253 Aemilianus which were helped by instability in Gaul253-60 Valerian following the murder of Postumus in 269253-68 Gallienus and by the death of Odaenathus; also, he268-70 Claudius II Gothicus was prepared to abandon the exposed270 Quintillus province of Dacia and redeploy Roman270-75 Aurelian troops along the lower Danube. Perhaps275-76 Tacitus most significantly, the energetic Shapur died276 Florianus in 270 and it was to be 50 years before the276-82 Probus Persians had a comparable leader. If military282-83 Carus failure guaranteed overthrow, success did not283-85 Carinus ensure survival: both Aurelian and Probus,283-84 Numerian who continued Aurelians re-establishment of the Empire, succumbed to plots in Each new emperor meant another military camps, and Cams died whiledonation to the troops; each bout of civil invading lower Mesopotamia, allegedlywar more loss of life, physical destruction struck by lightning.and distraction from the frontiers. Ironically,in 248 Philip celebrated the millennium of Aurelians wall at Rome. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
32 Essential Histories • Rome at WarCoin with legend Carausius et fratres, c.AD 286. Empire, it transpired that Pannonians, and(Ancient Art and Architecture) other officers of Balkan extraction, became prominent. These were professional soldiers, Another consequence of crisis was the at whom civilian intellectuals might sneermarginalisation of the senate and a for their lack of culture, but they provedprofessionalisation of military command. In to be solidly committed to the idea of238 the senate and armies had contested the Rome and its traditions, as well asimperial succession, but under Gallienus effective generals.senators were effectively removed from The crisis also had a religious impact, sincemilitary commands. This development a natural inference from repeated misfortunehad begun earlier, since the Severans was that the gods had to be placated. At firsthad sometimes preferred trustworthy this took the form of intensified supplicationnon-senators for important commands, but to traditional deities: in 249 Decius issued athe insecurity of emperors furthered the general instruction to all citizens to offerchange while troops also demanded reliable prayers and sacrifices on his behalf. Aleaders rather than aristocratic amateurs. consequence, probably unintended, of thisWhen Aurelian came to power with the order was that Christians were faced with thebacking of the upper Danube legions and choice of disobedience or apostasy; somethen used these troops to restore the abandoned the faith, many more probably
Outbreak 33Radiate coin of Aurelius (AD 270-275). (Barber Instituteof Fine Arts) A papyrus of AD 250 demonstrates the consequences of Decius demand for sacrifice:found means to evade or connive in the everyone needed a receipt to prove compliance.ruling, but there were enough martyrs to To those superintending theidentify Christians as traitors to the Empire. sacrifices of the village of Theadelphia,Persecution lapsed with Decius death, but was from Aurelia Bellias, daughter of Peteres,restarted in 257 by Valerian who specifically and her daughter Capinis. We havetargeted the Christians, with attention focused sacrificed to the gods all along, and nowon the priestly hierarchy; his defeat in battle in your presence according to orders Iterminated proceedings. The successful have poured a libation and offeredAurelian advertised his devotion to the sacrifice and eaten of the sacrificialtraditional divinities, especially Victoria, Mars, offering; we ask you to sign below toHercules and Jupiter who were all connected this. Farewell.with success in war, and to these he added a Signatures: We Aurelius Serenus andspecial devotion to the cult of the Aurelius Hermas saw you sacrificing.Unconquered Sun, Sol Invictus, after the defeat Signed by me, Hermas.of Palmyra in 273. Devotion to the correct Year 1 of the Emperor Caesar Gaiusdivinity did bring success, as Diocletian and Messius Quintus Traianus Decius PiusConstantine would continue to demonstrate Felix Augustus, Payni 27.in their different ways.
The fightingChallenges to empireDiocletians stabilisation for Diocletian and Hercules his son for Maximian. After six years of joint reign,Aurelian reunified the Roman Empire, but rebellion in Egypt prompted Diocletian toDiocletian re-established imperial stability increase his imperial resources by appointingthrough a reign of 20 years which ended in two junior colleagues as Caesars, Galerius forplanned retirement. The secret of success was the east and Constantius for the west.an imperial college, since one factor Marriage between the Caesars and daughterspromoting earlier disunity had been the of the Augusti united the Tetrarchy.desire of major armies to have their own The energetic campaigning of Diocletianemperor. Power-sharing had worked in the and his colleagues is reflected in the victorysecond century when Marcus Aurelius titles which precede his Edict on Maximumco-opted Lucius Verus to command his Prices of 301:Parthian campaign, and was tried in the The emperor Caesar Gaius Aureliusthird century by the families of Valerian and Valerius Diocletianus, pious, fortunate,Carus. Family control might enhance loyalty, unconquered, Augustus, pontifex maximus,but perhaps at the expense of ability. Germanicus maximus six times, SarmaticusDiocletian elevated a long-standing maximus four times, Persicus maximus twocolleague, Maximian, to the rank of Caesar times, Britannicus maximus, Carpicusin 285 and dispatched him to Gaul to quell maximus, Armenicus maximus.an uprising of baccaudae, rebels who have Constantius was sent to recover Britain,been variously interpreted as Robin which permitted Maximian to leave the RhineHood-style brigands or supporters of local frontier and move to Africa to deal withwarlords. In 286 Maximian was promoted Moorish incursions. In the east the majorto Augustus, with the relationship between achievement was Galerius success against thethe Augusti represented by their divine Persians in 298, after initial defeat in thecompanions, Jupiter king of the gods previous year. The decisive action was Galerius capture of King Narses womenfolk, although he also ravaged lower Mesopotamia. An orator in Gaul addresses Maximian in Narses sued for peace and surrendered territory 289, praising his co-operation with Diocletia east of the Tigris to recover his women. (Latin Panegyrics 10.11). Almost as important as the victories was Your harmony has this result, Diocletians administrative overhaul, which invincible princes, that even Fortune doubled the number of provinces - where responds to you with an equally great governors were expected to keep closer measure of success. For you rule the control of their areas - and introduced State with one mind, nor does the great dioceses which grouped provinces and distance which separates you hinder you provided a judicial buffer between the from governing, so to speak, with right governor and the praetorian prefect at court. hands clasped. Thus, although your The tax system was reformed perhaps to doubled divinity increases your royal distribute the burdens of land and poll majesty, by your unanimity you retain tax more fairly, perhaps to improve the advantage of an undivided Empire. efficiency. Provision was made for regular reassessment; for the first time it was
The fighting 35theoretically possible to construct animperial budget. Diocletian also attempted to Diocletian explains the need to control prices.stabilise the coinage, with new issues of gold, (Preamble to Edict on Maximum Prices.)silver and bronze, but he seems to have Who does not know that whereverlacked the bullion to issue enough precious communal safety requires our armies tometal coins to convince people. As a result be sent, profiteers insolently and covertlyinflation continued, and in 301 Diocletian attack the public welfare, not only inissued an Edict on Prices, a law for display in villages and towns, but on every road?all towns and markets of the Empire on They charge extortionate prices forwhich was listed the maximum prices for a merchandise, not just fourfold orwide range of goods and services. In terms of eightfold, but so that human speechmilitary organisation, Diocletian may have cannot find words to characterise theirbeen less innovative than in other areas, profit and practices. Indeed, sometimesalthough the evidence for his actions is in a single transaction a soldier isindecisive. His concern for frontiers was stripped of his donative and pay.reflected in the strengthening of defensive Moreover, the contributions of the wholeinstallations, the construction of new roads - world for the support of armies fall asfor example the Strata Diocletiana which ran profits into the hands of thesefrom the Gulf of Aqaba to the Euphrates - plunderers, and our soldiers appear toand the deployment of troops near the bestow with their own hands the rewardsfrontiers. The army most probably increased of military service and their veteransin size during his reign, though there are no bonuses upon the profiteers.precise figures. Augustus of the west died at York in 306,Constantine and conversion his troops promptly acclaimed his son Constantine. Over the next six yearsDiocletian retired in 305, to a specially Constantine schemed and fought his way toprepared palace at Spalato (Split), but his mastery of the whole western Empire, asuccession arrangements faltered because process which culminated outside Rome atthey disregarded the soldiers strong dynastic the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312: hisloyalties: when Constantius the new opponent, Maxentius, son of Diocletians partner Maximian, deployed his troops onTowers at Constantina (modern Viransehir. Turkey). the north bank of the Tiber, but they wereThe large horseshoe towers of basalt date back to the routed and during the confused flight backfourth century. (Authors collection) to the city the wooden bridge collapsed. The
36 Essential Histories • Rome at Warmost significant aspect of the victory wasthat Constantines men fought under the Constantine writes to the king of Persiasign of Christ, whose inspiration (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.9-13).Constantine proclaimed; after the battle he With Gods power as ally 1 beganset about rewarding his new God. In some from Oceans shores and progressivelyways this marked a decisive change from raised up the whole world with sureDiocletian (who had initiated persecution of hopes of salvation ... 1 believe that I amChristians in 303) and Constantines not mistaken, my brother, in confessingconversion did eventually lead to the this one God the Author and Father ofChristianisation of the Empire and so of all, whom many of those who reignedEurope, but the underlying religious attitude here, seduced by mad errors, havewas the same: correct worship of the right attempted to deny. But suchdivinity provided victory. punishment finally engulfed them that all men saw that their fate superseded all other examples, warning those who A contemporary Christian teacher, attempt the same ends ... With these Lactantius, records how Constantine had persons - 1 mean of course the the chi-rho monogram (the first two Greek Christians, my whole concern is for letters of Christs name) painted on his them - how pleasing it is for me to learn soldiers shields (On the Deaths of the that the chief regions of Persia too are Persecutors 44.5-6). richly endowed! ... These therefore I Constantine was advised in a dream entrust to you, since you are so great, to mark the heavenly sign of God on putting their persons in your hands, the shields of his soldiers and then because you too are renowned for piety. engage in battle. He did as he was commanded and by means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent Christian population of lower Mesopotamia round, he marked Christ on their to raise hopes of liberation; he had already shields. Armed with this sign, the army written to the young Persian king Shapur II took up its weapons. to inform him of the benefits of Christianity and to warn him not to harm his Christian subjects. In the event Constantine For the next 12 years Constantine shared bequeathed the conflict to his successors,the Empire in uneasy partnership with since he died near Nicomedia in 337 at theLicinius in the east, but in 324 the two start of the march east.clashed in a decisive naval engagement in Although his accession disrupted thethe Bosporus, with Constantine emerging as Tetrarchy, Constantine was in most ways asole ruler of the whole Empire. This victory true heir to Diocletians purpose. For half hiswas marked by the construction of a new reign Constantine was involved in civilcapital - Constantinople - on the site of the conflicts, which diverted attention fromold city of Byzantium, which gained new frontiers: he reorganised the central forceswalls, a palace and the other appurtenances which accompanied the emperor, theof an imperial seat. Constantine now comitatns, and created two prestigiousinherited responsibility for the Danube and commands for cavalry and infantry, thePersian frontiers. During the 330s he magister eqiutum and magister peditum. Thecampaigned energetically against the Goths, praetorian prefect lost operational militaryto such effect that the area was quiet for the responsibility, but took overall charge ofnext generation. Towards the end of his administration, including military suppliesreign tension began to rise in the east, with and recruitment; in recognition of thisConstantine probably contacting the increased role, the Empire was divided into
The fighting 37four grand prefectures. At provincial level confrontation. Constantius was engaged onmilitary command was also separated from the Danube, when Shapur II planned tocivilian duties. Constantines greatest strike deep into Roman territory, for onceachievement was the establishment of a disregarding Nisibis. The Romansstable currency, based on gold solidi struck at implemented a scorched-earth policy and72 to the pound: the bullion gained from placed strong guards at the Euphratescivil war and confiscations of temple crossings, but the river was in flood and thetreasures underpinned this coinage. Persians turned northwards. At Amida Shapur attempted to overawe the defenders by a display of might, but a RomanThe eastern Empire artilleryman disrupted proceedings when a bolt aimed at the king struck a member ofThe Empire was divided between his entourage. Shapur felt obliged to punishConstantines three surviving sons, the city, which eventually fell after 73 daysConstantine II in Gaul, Constans in Rome, of determined resistance, but thewith Constantius II in the east inheriting the combination of delay and heavy casualtieswar against Shapur. Constantius II has terminated the Persian invasion.suffered historiographically, since most Civil conflicts as well as the demands ofChristian writers regarded him as heretical, other frontiers distracted Constantius,while the major contemporary secular especially after he became sole ruler in 353.author, Ammianus Marcellinus, Between 351 and 353 Constantius co-optedmisrepresented him because of his clash with his cousin Gallus to supervise the east, butthe pagan Julian. As a result his dogged he proved unsuitable. In 355 Constantiusconduct of 24 years of war with Persia is turned to Gallus younger brother, theunderrated, although he managed to intellectual Julian, and used him to controlpreserve the eastern frontier with only the west, with better results until in 360limited losses in the face of one of the most Julians troops - quite possibly with Juliansdynamic Persian rulers. There was only one encouragement - demanded imperialpitched battle during the conflict, outside equality for their commander. ConstantiusSingara in 344: the Romans had the stabilised the frontier before turning west toadvantage until a disorderly pursuit and confront his rival, but he died en route;attack on the Persian camp permitted the Julian inherited the Empire without a battle.enemy to recover so that the engagement Julian arrived in the empire of the east inended indecisively. Constantius strategy was 361 with a reputation as a successful generalto build new forts and rely on the major and a need to demonstrate that he couldcities of the frontier to hold up Persian surpass Constantius. A major factor in thisincursions, with Nisibis holding the key to was religion: Julian espoused the old godsadvances across upper Mesopotamia: Shapur and had renounced formal adherence tobesieged the city three times, bringing the Christianity when challenging Constantius.full might of Persian siege technology to Persia offered the great testing ground, wherebear, but the defences held, with divine Julian could prove the rectitude of his beliefssupport provided through the citys deceased and the pusillanimity of Constantiusbishop, Jacob, whose corpse was paraded policies. Preparations were made for a grandaround the ramparts as a talisman. Singara, invasion in 363: Julian himself would lead anhowever, was captured in 360 when a newly army down the Euphrates while a secondrepaired section of wall was undermined, army created a diversion in northernand Bezabde also fell that year. Mesopotamia. The campaign began well, The siege of Amida (Diyarbakir) in 359, of with Julian overrunning Persian forts alongwhich Ammianus was a fortunate survivor, the Euphrates and reaching the vicinity ofillustrates the dynamics of strategic the capital Ctesiphon in spite of Persian
38 Essential Histories • Rome at WarThe arch of Galerius. Thessaloniki, showing fighting supply ships which could not be hauledbetween Romans and Persians. (Authors collection) upstream. Treacherous guides led him astray and then Shapur, whose army had not beenattempts to thwart his advance by breaching tied down effectively in the north, began totheir irrigation canals. However, he now harass; Julian was mortally wounded in arealised that he had little chance of capturing skirmish, and his successor, the officer Jovian,the city, and resolved to march back up the could only extricate his army by surrenderingTigris; this entailed burning his fleet of territories to the east of the Tigris, plus
The fighting 39 Eastern frontier in the fourth centuryNisibis and Singara. Bitter opposition from experienced, a fact crucial for the easternthe inhabitants of Nisibis who pleaded to Empires survival during the fifth century.continue their battle with the Persians was There were moments of tension, and twooverruled, and they were resettled in Amida. brief conflicts, but no prolonged warfare Blame for the Roman reverse was until 502. Tension persisted for a time,allocated in accordance with religious primarily over control of Armenia, but thisloyalties: for pagans the heroic Julians was settled in 387 when the Armeniansuccess was squandered by the cowardly kingdom was suppressed and its territoryJovian, whereas for Christians Jovians piety partitioned between Rome and Persia. Inrescued the Romans from Julians folly. The 421/2 war was provoked by the behaviour ofloss of Nisibis rankled, and its recovery was Christian activists in Persia againststill on the imperial agenda two centuries Zoroastrian shrines; the Christians fled westlater, but the agreement of 363 ushered in and Theodosius II refused to surrender histhe most prolonged period of peace which co-believers. In 440-42 conflict flared again,the Roman eastern frontier had ever this time over Roman payments for the
40 Essential Histories • Rome at WarTne Baptistery at Nisibis with the lintels of the original position also became easier when doctrinaldoors just visible. Only a year after the buildings questions separated them from Romandedication Nisibis was transferred to Persian control by Christians. Attempts were made to regulateJovian (AD 363). (Authors collection) the transhumant Arab tribes of the frontier, construction of new fortresses was banned,defence of the Caucasus; the Romans once the defence of key fortifications in themore had the better of limited fighting. On Caucasus was accepted as a shared burden,each occasion the Romans were prompted to and trade was funnelled through specificagree peace because of Hunnic activity in the markets at Nisibis, Callinicum andBalkans, while the Persians also had Artaxata. Rome and Persia came to seedistractions on their north-eastern frontier. themselves as the two lights of the world, During these years there emerged a with a mutual obligation to help eachsystem of diplomatic arrangements, which other against disruptive and uncivilisedreduced the risks of disagreements spilling outsiders. There was even a story thatover into full-scale war. The rights of Emperor Arcadius appointed his Persianminority religions were recognised, which counterpart Yazdgard as guardian for hisprotected the Christians in Persia; their infant son Theodosius.
The fighting 41 (perhaps compounded by jealousies) Khusro appeals to Emperor Maurice, unravelled the strategy and the army of Italy recalling the tradition of collaboration was defeated near Basel. But in August Julian between their states. (Theophylact 4.11.2-3) confronted the Alamanni on the right bank God effected that the whole world of the Rhine near Argentoratum (Strasburg): it should be illumined from the very was a hard-fought struggle. Since Ammianus beginning by two eyes, namely by the described it in reasonable detail, it is one of most powerful kingdom of the Romans the few battles in late antiquity whose course and the most prudent sceptre of the can be reconstructed. Ammianus commented Persian state. For by these powers the that superior Roman discipline and training disobedient and bellicose tribes are overcame the Alamannis advantage in winnowed and mans course is physical size, which gave their intitial charge continually regulated and guided. such ferocity; it is also noticeable that the battle was won by the Roman infantry, whereas their cavalry, which included some heavy-armed cataphracts (suit of armour), wasEuropean frontiers in the forced to flee.fourth century After Jovians brief reign, the brothers Valentinian and Valens shared the Empire,After Constantines death, the crucial factor with the senior Valentinian taking charge ofin the west was civil war: Constantine 11 was the Rhine and upper Danube and Valenskilled while fighting Constans in 340; in 350 responsible for the lower Danube and east.Constans was overthrown by Magnentius, an On the Danube the stability established byofficer on his personal staff, who then Constantine was broken, the reason, as sodispatched a rival in Rome. Constantius, after often, Roman internal conflict. The Gothsseducing the troops of another usurper in relations with Constantius had moments ofIllyria, clashed with Magnentius at Mursa on tension, especially when imperially28 September 351 in one of the most sponsored attempts to promote Christianitydestructive battles of the century. Once provoked a backlash, but they remainedMagnentius was eliminated after a further allies of the house of Constantine to thedefeat in 353, the Rhine armies were again extent that when Procopius, Julians cousindisrupted when court intrigues pushed a (and hence distant relative of Constantine)Frankish general Silvanus into revolt in 354; revolted against Valens in 365, he was ablefinally Julian (who had been sent to Gaul in to secure help from the Tervingi, the main355 because internal conflict had permitted confederation on the Danube. ThereafterFranks and Alamanni to breach the frontier) Valens set about disciplining these rebels, butwas acclaimed Augustus at Paris in February severe flooding and the Goths ability to360; he marched his best troops east to disappear into the swamps and mountainsconfront Constantius. prevented a decisive encounter. When Valens Julians actions in Gaul are painted in rosy halted proceedings in 369, the Tervingicolours by Ammianus, whose surviving books secured better terms, which included aopen with the suppression of Silvanus, a reduction in their obligation to providedaring action in which Ammianus troops for the Romans. South of the riverparticipated. During 356 Julian campaigned Valens embarked on energetic fortification,energetically and re-established Roman while the Tervingi returned to persecution ofauthority along the Rhine. In 357 an Christians. Further west Valentinian wasambitious campaign was planned to take the engaged in similar operations against thewar into Alamannic territory, with the armies Alamanni, Quadi and Sarmatians, while hisof Gaul and Italy operating a pincer subordinates dealt with disturbances inmovement. Problems of co-ordination North Africa and Britain.
42 Essential Histories • Rome at War LEFT BATTLE OF ARGENTORATUM Battle of Argentoratum Phase I: I Alamanni infantry in ambush; 2 Main Alamanni infantry in wedge formation; 3 Alamanni skirmishes; 4 Alamanni cavalry; 5 Roman flank guard under Severus: 6 Roman light infantry; 7 Roman front line including Cornuti and Brachiati: 8 Roman second line including Batavi and Reges; 9 Roman reserve including Primni; 10 Julians personal guards; I I Roman cavalry; 12 Roman baggage and camp guards. Phase 2: 13 Alamanni infantry drives Roman light infantry behind front line; 14 Alamanni cavalry routs Roman cavalry on right wing; IS Alamanni ambush discovered and neutralised by Roman left wing, helped by Julians personal guard. Phase 3: 16 Alamanni break through Roman front line, but are held by second line; 17 Julian re-forms Roman cavalry and stabilises right wing; 18 Roman left wing pursues Alamanni ambush from field; 19 Alamanni drive back Roman lines to foot of hill where camp sited; 20 Roman reserve and camp guards push Alamanni back: 21 Alamanni flee towards Rhine, pursued by Romans. RIGHT BATTLE OF ADRIANOPLE Phase I: Roman army deploys from front line of march with cavalry on the right wing and light infantry in lead. I Gothic wagon circle defended by infantry; 2 Gothic light infantry; 3 Roman light infantry; 4 Roman cavalry on right wing (sagitatti and scutarii); 5 Roman heavy infantry; 6 Roman cavalry on left wing; 7 Roman reserves (Batavi); 8 Gothic cavalry (arriving late). Phase 2: While Goths try to delay the battle to allow their cavalry to return, the two armies come to blows. 9 Gothic infantry withdraws to laager during negotiations; 10 Sagitatti and scutarii repulsed; I I Main Roman infantry force attacks laager; 12 Part of cavalry on Roman left wing attacks laager; 13 Gothic cavalry returns, shatters Roman left wing; 14 Roman cavalry on left still forming up. Phase 3: 15 Most Roman cavalry driven from field; 16 Roman reserves withdraw; 17 Roman army trapped between Goths counterattacking from laager and Gothic cavalry. In the 370s the position on the frontiers changed. In the west Valentinian suffered a stroke while trying to overawe a delegation of Quadi, and was succeeded by Gratian, whose military experience was limited, and the infant Valentinian II. On the lower Danube masses of Goths arrived to pester Roman officials for the right to cross and settle peacefully. Their desperation was caused by the westward movement of the Huns, who had been displaced from further east and were now approaching the Black Sea with a
The fighting 43Battle of Adrianople
44 Essential Histories • Rome at Warconsequent domino effect on the tribes intervene against usurpers, first in 387 andthere. The most powerful Gothic group, the then in 394: the destruction of these battles,Greuthungi, who had been based between especially at the Frigidus River in 394,the Dneister and Dneiper, was destroyed and certainly weakened the Goths, but morethe Tervingi were the next to be threatened: importantly they destroyed the bestthe might of Rome appeared less daunting elements in the western armies. Whenthan the Hunnic scourge, and the Danube Theodosius died at Milan in AD 395 theseemed to offer safety. Roman attempts to Empire was divided between his young sons,control the Goths, by admitting only the Arcadius in the east and Honorius in Italy. ItTervingi and removing their leaders failed, was the east which was in a much strongerbut thereafter they managed to contain position, as can be seen from thethe Gothic threat quite successfully by increasingly desperate legislation onexploiting control of food and by harassing recruitment and other military mattersthe Goths as soon as they dispersed to issued by Honorius court over the nextseek supplies. dozen or so years. In 378 it appeared that the Romanswould crush the Goths as Valens returnedfrom Antioch and Gratian marched from Ammianus reports the recognition by thethe Rhine to co-operate against them. victor of Adrianople that his men could notHowever, Gratians arrival was delayed attack cities (31.6.4).when the Alamanni heard about his plans Fritigern realised that it was pointlessand decided to invade. Valens still felt for men without experience of siege-confident of defeating the Goths, and on works to fight at such a disadvantage.9 August 378 he led his army out of camp He suggested that the siege should beat Adrianople towards the Gothic position. abandoned and a sufficient force leftThe Romans probably outnumbered the behind to contain the enemy. He had noGoths, but their deployment from the line quarrel, he said, with stone walls, and heof march was confused and the battle was advised them to attack and pillage injoined haphazardly, with the result that the perfect safety rich and fruitful regionsRoman wings were driven back. At this which were still unguarded.moment the Gothic cavalry, which had Ammianus (16.2.12) made the samebeen absent foraging, returned and the point with regard to the Alamanni.combination of their flank attacks, the They avoided the actual towns as if theyheavy fire of Gothic archers, and the heat were tombs surrounded by nets.of the long day gradually wore down theRoman centre. Resistance was stubborn,but two-thirds of the army, includingValens, were killed. The Huns Adrianople is often seen as the turningpoint for the Roman Empire, but it is The Huns began to arrive along thenecessary to remember that the eastern Danube in the early fifth century, butforces survived the destruction of one of its until AD 395 their epicentre had beenfield armies and the Gothic victors were further east as they had raided across thesuccessfully managed by the new eastern Caucasus. In 408/9 a Hunnic chief UldinEmperor, Theodosius, who gave them lands crossed the lower Danube but his followersin Thrace in return for military service. They were seduced by Roman diplomacy. Bywere a major nuisance, but their inability to the middle of the next decade the Hunscapture walled cities limited their impact. were established on the Hungarian plains,Gothic help was fully exploited when and their approach should probably beTheodosius was drawn westwards to connected with the construction of a
The fighting 45 Defences at Diocletianopolis (modern Hissar. Bulgaria)The Greek historian Priscus, who served on showing the characteristic late Roman brick-banded rubble core of city walls. (Authors collection)an embassy to Attilas court, records Hunnicdemands, (fr.11) Edeco came to court and handed massive new set of walls for Constantinopleover Attilas letters, in which he blamed in 413.the Romans in respect of the fugitives. In the 420s Hunnic power expandedIn retaliation he threatened to resort to through subordination of neighbouringwar if the Romans did not surrender tribal groups and consolidation ofthem and cease cultivating the territory authority within a single ruling family,he had won, extending along the that of Rua, who was succeeded by hisDanube from Pannonia to Novae in nephews, Attila and Bleda. Rua extractedThrace; furthermore, the market in annual peace payments from the easternIllyria was not to be by the Danube as Empire, which were 700 pounds of gold inpreviously, but at Naissus, which he had the 430s increasing to 2,100 pounds inlaid waste and established as the border 447 (perhaps 5 per cent of total imperialbetween Scythian and Roman territory, revenue) at the height of Attilas power.it being five days journey from the During the 440s Attila ravaged the northernDanube for an unladen man. He ordered Balkans, sacking cities and driving off bootythat ambassadors come to him, not just to fuel Hunnic prosperity, but in 450 heordinary men but the highest ranking of turned westwards where Honoria, sisterthe consulars. of Emperor Valentinian III, offered herself in marriage.
46 Essential Histories • Rome at War
The fighting 47 Hunnic power depended upon the northern and central Balkans were repeatedlypersonal authority of their leader, his ability crossed by Gothic groups in search of landto dominate all members of his federation. and safety, while the Romans reverted toThis was achieved partly through the exercise reliance on fortifications and control of foodof patronage and the disbursement of the supplies, plus the incentive of imperialrewards of military victory, but even more by military titles with their accompanyingthe exercise of sheer terror: Attila repeatedly salaries, to hold the balance. The Gothsdemonstrated that it was impossible to escape recognised the Roman strategy of playing offhis grasp, and potential rivals were painfully different groups, and on occasions tried tokilled. As a result the Romans could not counteract this, but the incompatibleoperate their traditional diplomatic strategy ambitions of Gothic leaders played intoof divide and subvert: they were required to Roman hands. Only the opportune death ofhand back Huns, who were probably refugees one powerful leader permitted his main rivalfrom Attilas power, and so were denied the Theoderic the Amal to unite most of thechance to cultivate alternative leaders. Attila Balkan Goths into an army whose strengthwas also a skilled diplomat, with a wide was such that the Emperor Zenoknowledge of the international scene: he commissioned them to invade Italy andknew the invasion routes into Persia, timed reassert imperial control there.his attacks on the Balkans to coincide withan eastern military expedition to Africa, andexploited tensions between Goths, Franks Two Gothic leaders (Theoderic Strabo - sonand Romans in the west; his reception of of Triarius - and Theoderic the Amal)Roman envoys was a masterful reproach each other for playing into Romandemonstration of psychological pressure. As hands. (Malchus, fr. 18.2.30-38)his federation expanded he came to control But the son of Triarius kept riding upvast military resources, which it was in his to the others camp, insulting andinterest to exploit. His armies, spearheaded reproaching him and calling him aby Hunnic cavalry, were capable of rapid swearer of useless oaths, a child and amovement to anticipate defences, while the madman, an enemy and betrayer of hismasses of expendable subordinates could be own race, who did not know thethrown at Roman walls to supplement the Romans mind or recognise theirHuns considerable skill at siegecraft. The intentions. "For they remain at peace,threat was such that Constantinople was while the Goths wear each other down.provided with a further set of fortifications, Whichever of us loses, they will be thethe Long Walls, which stretched from the winners without effort."Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. Salvation for the Romans lay in the factthat the Hunnic federation could not standstill: military success and booty were regular Loss of the westrequirements, and any interruption createdtensions within the international In 395 the young Honorius succeededconglomeration. Attilas attacks on the west Theodosius, but the west was controlled byproduced only limited success, and this jolt Stilicho, a general of Vandal descent. Stilichowas compounded by his death: his sons claimed that the dying Theodosius had alsofought over the succession, and subordinate instructed him to protect the eastern emperortribes rebelled: in 454 the Gepids and then Arcadius, and that two Balkan provincesthe future Ostrogoths, Lombards, Heruls plus should be transferred to western authority.others emerged from the shadow of Hunnic This rivalry drew Stilicho into Balkan affairs,control to confront the Romans along the where imperial competition permitted theDanube frontier. For the next generation the Goths (who had been weakened bv casualties
Essential Histories • Rome at War Edict of Arcadius and Honorius addressed to the provincials (February 406) pleads for more recruits (Theodosian Code 7.3.17). On account of our pressing necessities, by this edict we summon to military service all men who are aroused by the innate spirit of freedom. Freeborn persons, therefore, who take arms under the auspices of the country shall know that they will receive 10 solidi each from our imperial treasury when affairs have been adjusted. (who had abandoned Milan for the greater security of Ravenna), established his own emperor, and on 24 August 410 captured Rome. This brief sack of Rome was of symbolic significance; of greater importance were Honorius imperial rivals in Gaul and Spain whose ambitions permitted the invading tribes to exploit Roman divisions. Honorius had already demonstrated his inability to protect his subjects in his desperate military legislation of the previous decade. Inevitably local protectors appeared who had to exploit the available military manpower, which was often roaming tribal bands: incompatibleIvory plaque depicting Stilicho as defender of the state. objectives emerged, with the policy of(Ancient Art and Architecture) crushing invaders at odds with a desire to preserve their manpower for future use.in Theodosius service) to demand a better Alaric died while trying to reach Africa,deal. Alaric, a Gothic commander under and his followers, whom it is now convenientTheodosius, emerged as leader of a force to call Visigoths (west Goths), moved tocapable of withstanding an imperial army, but Spain where they helped to subdue thehe still struggled to secure lasting benefits: Sueves and Vandals. In 418 they eventuallysuccess only came after other tribal groups settled in the Garonne valley in south-westbreached the western frontiers. Gaul, where Honorius granted them estates On 31 December, 406 Vandals, Alans and with their revenues; in return they were toSueves swarmed across the Rhine, triggering campaign for Honorius, who sent them backthe proclamation of local commanders as to Spain. Theoderic (417-51) gave essentialemperors. Stilichos authority crumbled, and stability: he challenged the Romans inhis family - which had been trying to marry southern Gaul whenever they seemed weak,into the imperial house - was eliminated; and expanded his power in Spain by buildingwith it disappeared the main Roman army in links with the Sueves, while appearingnorthern Italy, since many of Stilichos co-operative when it suited his interests.Gothic troops chose to join Alaric. Alaric One consequence of Visigothicfailed to obtain concessions from Honorius involvement in Spain was the Vandal crossing
The fighting 49to Africa, although the precise cause was, daughter (Galla Placidia - the widow ofnaturally, internal Roman conflict: Boniface, Athaulf), but died in 421. At Honorius deathgovernor of Africa, invited the Vandals to help in 423, Constantius widow appealed tohim to resist pressure from rivals at Ravenna. Constantinople on behalf of her infant son,The Vandals arrival in 429 condemned the Valentinian while a usurper at Ravennawestern Empire: within a decade they had sought help from the Huns. Valentinian IIItaken over the north African provinces, was installed in 425, but the dispute broughtcaptured Carthage (in 439) and withstood the Huns into western empire affairs.eastern empire attempts to repulse them. North Aetius emerged as the new patrician. HisAfrica was the most prosperous part of the greatest achievements were in Gaul, wherewest, and its wealth had escaped the impact of he contained the Visigoths - often with helptribal invasion; its loss decisively reduced the from the Huns whom he also used to crushresources on which emperors at Ravenna could the Burgundians. Aetius had been a hostagecall and, to compound the problem, the with the Huns and so was well connected,Vandals used Roman ships at Carthage to but the culmination of his successes was thedominate Sicily and Sardinia and to ravage repulse of Attilas invasion in 451 at theItaly; they sacked Rome in 455, a much more battle of the Catalaunian plains, with thedestructive event than Alarics entry in 410. help of an improbable coalition of Franks, From the Roman perspective the priorities Burgundians and Visigoths (whose kingwere to restore battered imperial authority, Theoderic died heroically). When Attilastabilise the tribal groups, and then gradually turned to northern Italy in 452, Aetius couldweaken their independence. In the latter part not prevent the loss of northern citiesof his reign Honorius relied on the general including Aquileia. He could harass the HunsConstantius, who was granted the title of but without bringing the Visigoths across thepatrician, which thereafter became the Alps he dared not attack directly - insteaddesignation for the senior westerncommander. Constantius married Honorius The King of the Visigoths marries a captured imperial princess in 414 in a The Gallic chronicler Hydatius describes the ceremony intended to signal a loss of Spain (Chronicle, 17). rapprochement between Romans and Goths When the province of Spain had been (Olympiodorus, 24). laid waste by the destructive progress of Athaulf married Placidia at the disasters just described, the Lord in his beginning of January in the city of compassion turned the barbarians to the Narbo at the house of Ingenuus, one of establishment of peace. They then the leading locals. There Placidia, dressed apportioned to themselves by lot areas of in royal raiment, sat in a hall decorated the provinces for settlements: the Vandals in Roman fashion, and Athaulf sat by took possession of Gallaecia and the her side, wearing a Roman generals Sueves that part of Gallaecia which is cloak and other Roman clothing. Amidst situated on the very western edge of the the celebrations, along with other Ocean. The Alans were allotted the wedding gifts Athaulf gave Placidia 50 provinces of Lusitania and handsome young men dressed in silk Carthaginiensis, and the Siling Vandals clothes... Then nuptial hymns were Baetica. The Spaniards in the cities and sung, first by Attalus, then by Rusticius forts who survived the disasters and Phoebadius. Then the ceremonies surrendered themselves to servitude under were completed amidst rejoicings and the barbarians, who held sway celebrations by both the barbarians and throughout the provinces. the Romans amongst them.
The fighting 5IPope Leo was deployed to encourage Attila Mosaic in S. Apollinare Nuovo. Ravenna, depicting the palace of Theoderic. (Ancient A r t and Architecture)to leave. Like Stilicho and Constantius before him,Aetius schemed to link his family to theemperor by marriage, but this contributed to An appreciative assessment by a Latinhis downfall. In September 454 Valentinian author of Theoderic the Ostrogoths regimepersonally assassinated Aetius, only for in Italy (Anonymus Valesianus 59-60).Aetius bodyguards to take revenge in March Theoderic was a man of great455. For the next two decades control was distinction and of good-will towards allcontested between the different power blocks men, and he ruled for 33 years. Italy forwith interests in the western state: the 30 years enjoyed such good fortune thatVisigoths, Vandals, the eastern Empire and his successors inherited peace, forthe Italian army under the patrician Ricimer, whatever he did was good. He sobacked a rapid succession of rulers. The governed two races, Romans and Goths,problems are illustrated by the reign of that although he was an Arian, heMajorian (457-61), Ricimers appointee, who nevertheless did not attack the Catholiccurbed Vandal raiding in central Italy and religion; he gave games in the circus andreasserted Roman authority in Gaul and amphitheatre, so that even by RomansSpain; he appears to have been too successful he was called Trajan or Valentinian,for when an attack on Africa was foiled, whose times he took as a model; and byRicimer had him executed. the Goths, because of his edict in which One final attempt to crush the Vandals he established justice, he was judged inand restore western resources was made in all respects to be their best king.468 when a massive naval expedition was
52 Essential Histories • Rome at Warsent from Constantinople, but this was various fortresses and finally, after a fiercethwarted by Vandal fireships. Failure was siege, Amida. The origins of the outbreak layruinous for the eastern state - which spent much further east in Persian dealings with64,000 pounds of gold (more than a years the Hephthalites of central Asia, who hadrevenue) - and fatal for the western state: in helped Kavadh regain his throne; they were476, after a rapid turnover of rulers, the now demanding subsidies and Kavadh askedarmy of Italy under Odoacer deposed the the Romans for financial help but theyoung Romulus, who was derisively eastern emperor Anastasius refused, perhapsnicknamed Augustulus (little Augustus), reviving the issue of Persian control ofand returned the imperial insignia to Nisibis or perhaps just reluctant to build upConstantinople. Odoacer controlled Italy Persian strength.until Theoderic the Amal took Ravenna in The Roman response was slow since491 and established the Ostrogothic (east Bulgar Huns were ravaging the Balkans inGoth) kingdom. Theoderic in his long 502, but the position slowly stabilised, inreign (491-526) created a successful spite of dissension between RomanRomano-Gothic realm during which commanders; by 505 Kavadh was distractedItaly prospered and a ruler at Ravenna by another Hephthalite invasion andsecured considerable power in southern agreed a truce for seven years. AnastasiusGaul and Spain and intermittent influence interrogated his generals about theirin Vandal Africa. problems, and the lack of a secure base near the frontier was identified as a key. Therefore a site was chosen at Dara and constructionSixth-century wars of a massive new fortress was undertaken; financial responsibility was entrusted toWhile the western Empire floundered Bishop Thomas of Amida. By 507 he hadtowards disintegration, the eastern Empire raised the walls to a sufficient height toprospered, in spite of repeated destruction in disregard Persian protests that the Romansthe Balkans, since the eastern frontier was had breached the agreement to ban newquiet and the rich provinces of Asia Minor, frontier fortifications.Syria and Egypt generated surpluses. Eastern In spite of this tension the truce persistedrulers attempted to help the west, especially for a further 20 years, although competitionin the struggle against the Vandals, whosemaritime raiding threatened to affect the The southern watergate at Dara showing the full heighteastern Mediterranean, but to no avail. of the wall (the upper half has now fallen), part of aConflict resumed with Persia in 502 when tower and the arches of a bridge over the stream.King Kavadh invaded Armenia, capturing (The Bell Collection, University of Newcastle.)
The fighting 53between the two superpowers of the ancient The southern Watergate at Dara. from inside the city,world continued on the fringes of their showing the two stages of the construction of the circuit wall. The first stage. 30 feet (10 m) high, wasspheres of influence, in sub-Caucasia and constructed by Anastasius, while the thinner arcadedArabia where religious factors exacerbated superstructure is Justinianic. (The Bell Collection,tensions. But the occasion for renewed University of Newcastle.)conflict in 527 came from an incident whichreflected the continuing strength of the fifth-century traditions of peaceful co-operation:the elderly Kavadh asked Emperor Justin to An example of the international linksadopt his son Khusro and so guarantee his constructed by Theoderic, who here writessuccession in a mirror image of Arcadius to the Burgundian king to accompany theappeal to Yazdgard over a century before; gift of a clock and urge the benefits ofJustin was persuaded that full adoption civilisation. (Cassiodorus, Variae 1.46)might compromise the Roman succession Therefore I greet you with my usualand so offered Khusro a lesser form of friendship, and have decided to sendadoption. you by the bearers of this letter the The war began badly for the Romans with time-pieces with their operators, toreverses in Armenia and upper Mesopotamia, give pleasure to your intelligence ...but Justinian, who succeeded his uncle in Possess in your native country whatautumn 527, reorganised eastern defences by you once saw in Rome. It is proper thatcreating a new military command for your friendship should enjoy my gifts,Armenia, initiating major defensive works at since it is also joined to me by ties ofkey sites, and appointed a new general for the kinship. Under your rule let Burgundyeastern command, Belisarius. (Procopius, the learn to scrutinise devices of highestmain historian for Justinians wars, joined ingenuity and to praise the inventionsBelisarius staff). In 530 the Persians were of the ancients. Through you it laysdefeated in Armenia and Belisarius overcame aside its tribal way of life and, in itsthe Persian army outside his base of Dara, but regard for the wisdom of its king, itthese victories were offset in 531 when properly covets the achievements ofBelisarius was defeated at Callinicum on the the sages.Euphrates. Justinians main concern
54 Essential Histories • Rome at War Eastern campaigns in the sixth century and Heraclius campaigns against the Persiansthroughout had been to stabilise the situation The Vandals came first: they were theon the eastern frontier, and negotiations were more obnoxious to eastern Christiansnow pursued to achieve the Endless Peace to because some mutilated refugees from theirwhich the new Persian king Khusro agreed in intermittent persecutions had reached532: Justinian paid 11,000 pounds of gold, Constantinople. There had been two easternand agreed to withdraw the Roman expeditions against them during the fifthcommander and his troops from Dara. century, and the prospects for diplomacy From the start of his uncles reign in 518 were better in Ostrogothic Italy. In 533 anJustinian had been interested in western expedition sailed in 500 transports escortedaffairs and had rapidly rebuilt links between by 92 warships and comprised 15,000the Eastern Church and the Pope at Rome. Roman soldiers, 1,000 foreign allies andThis caused strain in Ostrogothic Italy where Belisarius retainers, his bucellarii. Thethe Goths, in spite of their heretical status, Vandal king, Gelimer, was distracted byhad sustained good relations with the papacy rebellion on Sardinia whereas Belisariusbecause of tensions between Rome and received help with supplies from theConstantinople. The death of Theoderic the Ostrogoths in Sicily, and the Romans landedAmal in 526 and the struggle of his daughter without encountering the Vandal fleet.Amalasuintha to retain the throne for her Belisarius advanced on Carthage, defeated ason Athalaric upset the international scratch army raised by Gelimer, and capturedbalances which had developed in the west the city; later that year, when their troopsduring the previous generation. Peace with had returned from Sardinia, the VandalsPersia provided Justinian with the attempted to recapture Carthage but theyopportunity to advance his grand idea. were heavily defeated just outside the walls.
The fighting 55Justinianic defences at Martyropolis (modern Silvan, Vitigis, who moved to besiege Rome inTurkey) built when the city became the base for the February 537; in spite of shortages of troopsnew general of Armenia. (Authors collection) and supplies Belisarius defended the massive circuit, and gradually harried the besiegers soJustinian reorganised the province, restoring that they were suffering as much as theurban fortifications which the Vandals had defenders when the siege was ended inslighted, reconstituted frontier defences, and winter 537/8. The arrival of reinforcementsreturned property to the Catholic Church. permitted Belisarius to take the offensive andBelisarius sailed to Constantinople with he secured Liguria, Milan and Rimini, butseveral thousand Vandal captives, who were disagreements between Roman commanders,enrolled in the eastern armies, and was especially those involving Narses, who didpermitted to celebrate a triumph, the first not recognise Belisarius seniority, led tonon-imperial triumph for over 500 years. disaster when an invading army of An opportunity now presented itself in Burgundians sacked Milan; allegedlyItaly where Athalaric had died and 300,000 of its male inhabitants wereAmalasuintha, imprisoned by her cousin massacred. Narses was recalled toTheodahad, was killed. Justinian protested, Constantinople, and in 539 Belisarius droveand sent expeditions to Dalmatia and Sicily. the Goths out of all Italy south of the PoNegotiations with Theodahad about valley and began to close on Ravenna,accepting Roman suzerainty broke down, whose surrender was negotiated in 540.and Belisarius was ordered to invade Italy, So far the reconquest had been aeven though he had been sent to Sicily with spectacular success since with limited forcesonly 7,000 Roman soldiers, 500 allies and his the eastern Romans had eliminated twobucellarii: he captured Naples by siege - powerful western kingdoms, in spite of the although some inhabitants supported the distraction of regular incursions into the Goths - and then marched into Rome from Balkans by Bulgars and Slavs, and ofwhich the garrison had withdrawn. problems with mutinies and raiding MoorsTheodahad had now been replaced by in Africa. The key was peace in the east, but
56 Essential Histories • Rome at WarThe walls at Edessa (Urfa.Turkey) which withstood in defended cities until mobile units werethree Persian sieges during the sixth century. sent from Constantinople.(Authors collection) In 541 Khusro switched his attention to Lazica in the north, while Belisarius, whoin 539 this was breaking down at the time had been recalled from Italy to handle theKhusro, perhaps already jealous of Justinians situation, raided into upper Mesopotamia. Inwestern victories, received an embassy from 542 Khusro intended to move on Palestine,Vitigis urging him to act before Justinian but was dissuaded by improvements in became too powerful. A quarrel over grazing Belisarius army. Another factor may have rights between allied Arabs gave Khusro an been bubonic plague, which was raging inexcuse to attack, and in 540 he marched up the Roman Empire. In 543 plague haltedthe Euphrates to seek booty or protection Persian moves in the north, but in 544 money: cities on his route were stormed or Khusro returned to Mesopotamia with theintimidated into buying protection, and specific target of Edessa. Religion appears toAntioch was captured after a fierce siege; it have been the main cause, because Edessawas systematically ransacked to the extent was believed to have received a guarantee ofthat marbles and mosaics were transported protection from Christ in the form of a letterto Persia, while the surviving inhabitants which was engraved over the city gates.were marched off to found a city of New Khusro therefore deployed all the resourcesAntioch near Ctesiphon. During his return of Persian siege technology, only to beto Persia more cities were pillaged or coerced thwarted, and the story emerged that hisinto buying safety. Khusros successes are great siege mound had been destroyedoften cited as proof that Justinian neglected through the intervention of a miraculousmilitary matters, but the truth is that, icon of Christ - the start of the fame of thealthough Roman defences were in a Mandylion of Edessa, the future Shroud ofreasonable state, scattered garrisons had no Turin. In 545 Khusro agreed a truce for fivechance of opposing a Persian royal army; years, in return for 5,000 pounds of gold andthere was little to be done except to hold out the provision that operations could continue
The fighting 57 The Greek historian Menander records the agreements had been entered in ratification of peace with Persia in 561/2 the records they were compared to (fr.6.1.304-19). establish the identity of their contents When these and other matters had and wording. been thoroughly debated, the 50-year The first clause was written that treaty was recorded in Persian and in through the pass at the place called Tzon Greek, and the Greek was translated into and the Caspian Gates the Persians Persian speech and the Persian into should not admit either Huns or Alans Greek. Those of the Romans who ratified or other barbarians to gain access to the the concordats were Peter the Master of Roman realm, and that the Romans Offices and Eusebius and others, while of should not in that region or in other the Persians Yazdgusnasp the Zikh and parts of the Median frontier send an Surenas and others. When each sides army against the Persians.in Lazica; the truce was extended in 551 and they chose a new leader. Totila proved toagain in 557 before a peace agreement for be a dynamic commander: Roman forces50 years was signed in 561/2. The treaty initially outnumbered him, but these werecontained very detailed provisions about dispersed and their individual commandersfrontier relations, as well as a guarantee from failed to co-ordinate their actions. As aKhusro that he would not persecute his result Totila recovered much of southernChristian subjects. Italy in 542 and starved Naples into In Italy the Roman position soon submission in 543. Belisarius returned indeteriorated. The Goths believed thatBelisarius had tricked them into surrender Mosaic of Justinian accompanied by Bishop Maximian,by appearing to agree to become their ruler civilian dignitaries and bodyguards. From S.Vitale.and so, although they had lost Ravenna, Ravenna. (Ancient A r t and Architecture)
58 Essential Histories • Rome at War544 to confront the crisis, with 4,000 new One criticism of Justinians grandrecruits but little money, but he was unable reconquest is that it overstretched east Romanto engage the Goths. Totila captured Rome resources, so that his successors struggled toin 546 and, though Belisarius recaptured it cope with the various challenges of the latethe next year, his lack of resources led him sixth century. If hindsight makes thisto request a recall. When Totila regained apparent, the contemporary perspective needsRome in 550 and threatened Sicily, to be remembered: Justinian pacified the eastJustinian was eventually prompted to act. to the best of his ability before embarking onNarses was sent to end the war, having his western ambitions and, even thoughdemanded the resources which he deemed Khusro broke the peace agreement, thenecessary. In 552 and 553 he twice defeated frontier was again stabilised after the losses ofthe Goths; he then had to deal with a 540; bubonic plague exacerbated Romanhorde of Franks and Alamanni who had problems, but the prosperity of Africa in thetaken the opportunity to invade Italy, but late sixth century illustrates that peace couldin 554 peninsular Italy was firmly under have brought long-term dividends.Roman control and at peace. Narses wasleft in charge of the reorganisation of the Fortifications at Dara showing main horseshoe towerscountry with combined civilian and and smaller intermediate square towers.The citadel ismilitary authority. visible in the middle distance. (Authors collection)
The fighting 59 Invasion of the Balkans in the sixth centuryJustinians successors about Roman dignity: he dismissed Avar requests for subsidies and then provoked warUnfortunately a new threat emerged in the with Persia. His bellicose behaviour was notlate 550s, when Avar envoys contacted the complete folly, since he believed that theRoman commander in the Caucasus. Like the Turks in central Asia would co-operate byHuns, the Avars were the former elite of a attacking the Persians on their north-easterncentral Asian federation who had been forced frontier, and a revolt of the Christianto flee westwards, and they shared the Huns aristocracy of Persian Armenia suggested thatgrand ambitions and ruthless purpose. Once Khusro had further distractions: Justinthey occupied the Hungarian plain the asserted that he could not abandon hisBalkans, a military backwater under Justinian, co-believers and refused to make the annualbecame a serious problem again; the threat of payments agreed under the 50-year peace.Avar domination prompted the Lombards to Justins ambitions were not matched bymigrate to Italy where they overran Roman action and in 573 the Persians captured Darapositions in the Po valley. Justin II, who had after a six-month siege: the shock sent Justinsucceeded his uncle in 565, had grand ideas mad, and the Romans were compelled to
60 Essential Histories • Rome at Warseek a truce. In 576 Khusro campaigned into homeland on the Hungarian plains. ButArmenia, but failed to take any cities and constant fighting gradually took its toll, andwas outmanoeuvred in the mountains; the in 602 the army, already discontented overroyal baggage was captured and many changes to military pay (which reduced thePersians were drowned when escaping across cost of equipment and horses) mutiniedthe Euphrates. Thereafter the Romans when it was ordered to stay north of thegenerally contained Persian attacks while Danube for winter campaigning. A march onravaging their territories so that Khusro and Constantinople toppled Maurice andhis successor Hormizd (578-90) were installed the officer Phocas in his place.prompted to pursue negotiations. These, Phocas accession would inevitably havehowever, foundered on the Roman insistence reduced the intensity of Roman activity inon recovering Dara and peace was only the Balkans, but it had more seriousrestored in 591: Hormizd was overthrown consequences: Khusro II seized the excusefollowing disagreements with his leading provided by the overthrow of his protector,general Vahram, and his son Khusro II fled Maurice, to attack the Romans in order toto the Romans when Vahram approached recover the possessions and prestige he hadCtesiphon to beg for help. The Romans lost in 591. During Phocas reign (602-10)restored him to power, in return for the Persians gradually captured the Romanconcessions in the sub-Caucasian positions east of the Euphrates, often afterprincipalities and the restoration of Dara and prolonged sieges. In 609/10 Heraclius, theother places captured in the war. son of the governor of Africa, revolted Eastern campaigns traditionally took against Phocas, whose regime inprecedence over other theatres for the Constantinople had become increasinglyRomans, and during the 570s and 580s the unpopular and violent; the distraction ofBalkans and Italy were neglected: the main civil war once more proved the Romansimpediment to Lombard progress were their undoing. Heraclius captured Constantinopleown disputes, while in the Balkans Tiberius in 610, but was not fully in control of thehad few troops with which to repel the Avars east until 611/12, by which time the Persianswhen they turned their attentions south in had pushed on to Antioch and Caesarea579. For the next decade the Romans had to (Kayseri) in Cappadocia.rely on increased peace payments and urban Heraclius was no more successful thandefences, which the Avars - like the Huns Phocas in stemming their advance: in 614before - captured. In the early 580s Slav Jerusalem fell to a Persian siege, itsbands pushed south - partly in conjunction inhabitants and the relics of Christs passionwith the Avars and partly to escape their being taken into Babylonian captivity; Egyptdomination - ravaging Athens and Corinth, was invaded in 616 and captured completelyapproaching the Long Walls of in 619, depriving Constantinople of its foodConstantinople in 584, and attacking supply and the Empire of its richestThessalonica in 586. province. In 622 Heraclius in desperation Maurice, who succeeded Tiberius in 582, borrowed the wealth of thecould do little until the eastern peace Constantinopolitan Church and embarkedpermitted him to transfer troops. Thereafter on a series of campaigns which assumed thehe embarked on an energetic series of aspect of a crusade: Khusro II, who hadcampaigns which gradually stabilised the flirted with conversion to Christianity inDanube frontier from the Delta to 590/1, now showed himself to be anSingidunum (Belgrade) and permitted the intelligent enemy of the orthodox, since heRomans to reassert their authority in the favoured the Jews and tolerated heretical andinterior. The war was carried north of the dissident Christian groups. At least Heracliusriver, first in attacks on the Slavs across the could legitimately present himself aslower Danube and then into the Avar defender of the faith. Heraclius abandoned
The fighting 61attempts to defend Roman territory andinstead took the war into Persia, basing This message from Heraclius announcinghimself in Armenia and the sub-Caucasian the overthrow of Khusro II was read out inprincipalities, ravaging Azerbaijan, and the Church of S. Sophia at Constantinopleavoiding the Persian armies which attempted (Chronicon Pashale p.728).to trap him. Let all the earth raise a cry to God; War in the east had again led to neglect of serve the Lord in gladness, enter intothe Balkans, and in the first quarter of the his presence in exultation, andseventh century Slavs and Avars took control recognise that God is Lord indeed. It isof much of the north and the centre. he who has made us and not weHeraclius had no troops to oppose their ourselves. We are his people and sheepadvance, and he had come close to capture of his pasture.himself in 623 when organising a diplomatic And let all we Christians, praisingreception for the Avar Chagan near the Sea and glorifying, give thanks to the oneof Marmara: apparently Heraclius was forced God, rejoicing with great joy in his holyto scamper back to Constantinople with his name. For fallen is the arrogantcrown under his arm. Escalating peace Chosroes, opponent of God. He is fallenpayments were the only solution, but these and cast down to the depths of thedid not work in the face of growing Roman earth, and his memory is utterlyweakness. In 626 the Avars besieged exterminated from earth; he who wasThessalonica and then turned their attention exalted and spoke injustice in arroganceto Constantinople, which was subjected to and contempt against our Lord Jesusfierce bombardment by massed siege engines Christ the true God and his undefiledand waves of Slav attackers. A Persian army Mother, our blessed Lady, Mother ofencamped on the Bosporus liaised with the God and ever-Virgin Mary, perished isChagan, and an attempt was made to ferry the profaner with a resounding noise.Persian soldiers to reinforce the assault, buttheir crossing was disrupted by the Romannavy. Roman ships were also instrumental in central Persia led to a palace coup againstbreaking up a Slav attack across the Golden Khusro, with his son agreeing to peace withHorn, and the Avar Chagan was forced to Heraclius in return for support. This usheredwithdraw with his prestige badly dented; in a period of extreme instability at thestories soon emerged about the divine Persian court with a succession of short-livedprotection which the Virgin Mary gave the rulers, including a Christian general incity which housed several of her relics. Khusros service. From this chaos Heraclius Heraclius had declined to return to extracted the return of Roman territories andprotect his capital, and his decision to focus the spoils taken from Jerusalem, includingon the eastern war was justified. First, with the relic of the Holy Cross, which Heracliusthe assistance of Turkish allies he ravaged reinstalled in its rightful place in a grandPersian territory extensively and then, after ceremony at Easter 630. The Roman worldthe Turks withdrew beyond the Caucasus, he appeared to have been put to rights and adefeated the Persians in battle outside period of consolidation and recovery couldNineveh in December 627. The threat to begin.
Portraits of soldiersBrothers in armsAbbinaeus, commander of Alaric, Roman officer and tribalprovincial garrison warlordFlavius Abbinaeus joined the army in Alaric was born in about 370 into the Balthi, a304/5 and served for 33 years in the leading family among the Gothic Tervingi. As acontingent of Parthian Archers based in youth he probably participated in the Danubemiddle Egypt; this was a mounted unit crossing of 376 and observed the subsequentwhose name indicates that it was originally encounters with imperial forces; at some stageraised for service on the eastern frontier, or he became an Arian Christian, the standardfrom captives taken on that frontier, but creed among the Goths. By the early 390s hewhich was later recruited in the normal way had emerged as leader of a warband in thefrom Roman provincials. In 337/8 Balkans who opposed Emperor Theodosius, butAbbinaeus, now a non-commissioned in 394 he commanded tribal allies inofficer, escorted an embassy of Blemmyes Theodosius expedition against the western(tribesmen from the southern Egyptian usurper Eugenius. Disenchanted by inadequateborder) to Constantinople, where he was recompense for his contribution to victory atpromoted to protector by Constantius, a the Frigidus River and the heavy casualtiesstep which included the honour of being suffered by his followers, he proceeded toallowed to kiss the purple imperial robe. ravage the central and southern Balkans,Protectors operated as a group of junior staff taking advantage of tensions between Romeofficers who undertook a variety of imperial and Constantinople. By 399 he had securedbusiness, and Abbinaeus was detailed to one major wish, the senior Roman commandescort the embassy home; after three years of General of IHyricum, which provided himamong the Blemmyes, Abbinaeus returned with salaries and provisions for his followers.to Constantius, who was then in Syria, In 401 he invaded Italy and besieged theand received promotion to command the western emperor Honorius in Milan, but wascavalry squadron at Dionysias. defeated by the western generalissimo Stilicho; Back in Egypt Abbinaeus faced he was forced to withdraw to the Balkans as hiscompetition for this position since others men suffered from heat and poor food. Healso had secured letters of appointment remained in the north-eastern Balkans,through patronage. Abbinaeus appealed to attempting to secure a permanent territory,Constantius and had his post confirmed, until 407 when he was appointed general bybut in 344 he was dismissed by the local Honorius as part of a western attempt to annexCount; his position was ratified on appeal. the Balkans. The planned campaign wasHe then remained in office until after 351. cancelled, relations between Alaric andThe desirability of Abbinaeus command is Honorius deteriorated, and Alaric invaded Italyrevealed by a collection of papyri which again to secure payment for his contractedillustrate the vicissitudes of his career, the services. While negotiating with Honorius atinteraction of his troops with the local Ravenna about territory, alliance, andpopulation, and his soldiers close payments of gold and corn, Alaric besiegedinvolvement in the maintenance of law Rome. Honorius procrastinated, but in 409 theand order and the extraction of imperial threat of starvation forced the senate at Romerevenues from their district. to agree terms; Alaric had the senator Attalus
Portraits of soldiers 63proclaimed emperor and Attalus appointed the Visigothic kingdom was established inAlaric as senior Roman general. Aquitania. Tensions between Attalus and Alaric, plusfurther unsuccessful negotiations withHonorius, resulted in Alaric returning to Theoderic, Ostrogothic kingRome, which was easily captured on 24 August410. Occupation of the city for three days may Theoderic was born in the mid-fifth centuryhave relieved Alarics frustrations, but did not into the Amal family which led one of thesatisfy his followers needs for territory. Gothic groups in the northern Balkans. InThereafter he led his forces south, with North 461/2 he was sent as hostage toAfrica as his probable goal, but was thwarted Constantinople, where he remained forwhile trying to cross to Sicily; as he withdrew 10 years, receiving his education. Afternorthwards he became ill and died. His succeeding his father in 474, he spentbrother-in-law Athaulf took over the army, 15 years attempting to establish a base forwhich he led into southern Gaul in 412 where his people in the Balkans, either through negotiation with or intimidation of the eastern emperor Zeno. Theoderics successesTheodorics mausoleum at Ravenna. Constructed fromIstrian marble, with the dome formed from a single block were marked by appointments as Romanweighing 300 tons, this projected Theoderics ambition to general in 476/8 and again 483-87, whencreate a lasting regime. (Ancient A r t and Architecture) Zeno employed him against other tribesmen
64 Essential Histories • Rome at Warin the Balkans as well as Isaurian rebels in Theoderics 33-year reign (493-526) camethe east. Rebuffs resulted in the sacking of to be regarded as a golden age in Italy,cities, such as Stobi in 479, or the ravaging especially in contrast to the fighting of theof provinces, for example Macedonia and 540s, and his first two decades were highlyThessaly in 482. successful. Marital diplomacy built links with the main tribal groups in the west, and from 507 brought the Visigothic kingdom in Spain Theoderic writes to Emperor Anastasius under his control. The senate and Pope at protesting his loyalty; the letter illustrates a Rome were courted by special treatment and tribal warlords attachment to the ideal of the carefully crafted Roman image of the Rome (Cassiodorus, Variae 1.1). new regime; religious divisions between Our royalty is an imitation of yours, Rome and Constantinople facilitated this modelled on your good purpose, a copy rapprochement. For Goths Theoderic of the only Empire; and in so far as we remained the war leader, but this was now follow you do we excel all other nations. only one facet of his complex public image. Often you have exhorted me to love the Theoderics last decade was less rosy. The senate, to accept cordially the laws of absence of a son, and the early death of his past emperors, to join together in one son-in-law raised the issue of succession, all the members of Italy. How can you while Anastasius death in 518 brought separate from your august alliance one religious reconciliation between Rome and whose character you thus try to make Constantinople and so made Theoderic more conformable to your own? There is suspicious of leading Romans. Theoderics moreover that noble sentiment, love for death in 526 rapidly brought to the surface the city of Rome, from which two the tensions within his kingdom, which princes, both of whom govern in her Belisarius invasion was to exploit. name, should never be disjoined. Narses, imperial eunuch and The death of his main Gothic rival, trusted generalTheoderic Strabo, in 481 allowed Theodericto unite most Balkan Goths under Amal The eunuch Narses originated from the Persianleadership, but he was still unable to achieve part of Armenia but was brought up in thehis main goal of acquiring a secure and palace at Constantinople in the late fifthproductive territory. In 488 Zeno agreed that century. He advanced through the grades ofTheoderic should move to Italy to attack servants of the Bedchamber, reaching theOdoacer (who had ruled since deposing the position of treasurer and senior official inlast western emperor in 476): if successful, 530/1; in this capacity he provided money toTheoderic could rule on behalf of Zeno. Persarmenian deserters, and travelled to theTheoderic forced Odoacer back into east to secure valuable booty. In 531/2 heRavenna; after three years of blockade the became imperial sword-bearer, and onrivals agreed to share power, but Theoderic 18 January 532 his distribution of bribes wassoon accused Odoacer of treachery and had crucial in undermining the cohesion of riotershim killed. Zenos death in 491 complicated in Constantinople whose violence wasTheoderics position, but in 497 Emperor threatening to topple Emperor Justinian. InAnastasius recognised him as ruler of Italy; 535 he undertook another delicate mission,to his Gothic followers Theoderic was king, this time for Empress Theodora, to reinstateeven sometimes Augustus (emperor), the Bishop Theodosius at Alexandria and exile hisstatus to which he clearly aspired, although opponents; for over a year Xarses remained inhe was careful to protest his subservience in Alexandria, conducting a virtual civil wardealings with Constantinople. against Theodosius opponents.
Portraits of soldiers 65The Barberini ivory probably showing Emperor Justinian. reinforcements to Belisarius in Italy. NarsesAbove Christ blesses the emperor who is honoured by a criticised Belisarius conduct, and theirvictory to his left while a defeated easterner standsbehind his spear and other easterners offer gifts below. rivalry led to the loss of Milan. Narses wasTo one side a general offers a statue of victory and recalled to Constantinople, to be followed byEarth displays her bounty beneath the horses hooves. the allied contingent of Heruls, who refused(AKG London/Erich Lessing) to remain without him. In 541/2 Narses was again employed on sensitive business, first to In 538, at nearly 60 years old, Narses spy on an alleged plot that involvedembarked on what was to prove a highly Justinians senior financial minister and thensuccessful military career by leading to investigate unrest in Constantinople. In
66 Essential Histories • Rome at War545 his contacts among the Heruls were Shahvaraz, Persian generalexploited to persuade their leaders to enrol and usurperfor service in Italy. Narses big chance came in 551, after Farrukhan was a Persian Christian, nicknamedBelisarius had failed to stabilise the military Shahvaraz, wild boar, by King Khusro II forposition in Italy and Justinians first choice as his energy in attacking the Romans. In 614 hereplacement (his nephew Germanus) had died. overran Palestine and captured Jerusalem afterNarses was now appointed supreme a bloody siege; he dispatched the survivingcommander in Italy, a post he accepted on Christian population into captivity incondition that he was provided with the men Babylonia, along with the relic of the Trueand money needed to finish the war. Assembly Cross, although other lesser relics such as theof troops and other preparations detained Holy Sponge and Lance were presented toNarses in the Balkans, and he did not arrive in Emperor Heraclius. Over the next three yearsRavenna until 6 June 552 after outmanoeuvring he organised the capture of Egypt, and thenGothic contingents blocking the main routes. from 622 campaigned in Asia Minor asLater that month Narses marched against the Heraclius marshalled the Roman counter-Goths leader Totila, whose various attempts at offensive. Heraclius had the better of theirdeception he outwitted and whom he then manoeuvring and engagements, but in 626crushed in battle through intelligent tactics. In Shahvaraz advanced to the Bosporus where heJuly Narses rapidly recaptured Rome before attempted to assist the Avars attack onconfronting the Goths near Naples. Clever Constantinople. Roman naval powerplanning again secured victory, although prevented him from crossing to Europe, butcontemporaries also gave credit to Narses after the Avar withdrawal he remained atdevotion to the Virgin Mary. Chalcedon. Apparently Khusro tried to have For the next decade Narses was occupied in him assassinated at this time, but the plan wasreducing Gothic strongholds in central and uncovered (allegedly with Heraclius help) andnorthern Italy and defeating Frankish Shahvaraz refused to commit his army againstinvasions. Meanwhile he was entrusted by the Romans.Justinian with the massive task of returning In 628 Shahvarazs sons supported theItaly to civilian rule, as well as ensuring overthrow of Khusro, but in 630 he securedadherence to the emperors preferred religious Heraclius support for a coup against thedoctrines. By 559 he had received the title of young Ardashir. Shahvaraz, whose army waspatrician, the Empires highest honour, and by still occupying the eastern provinces, agreed565 he had also become honorary consul, a to withdraw from Roman territory anddemonstration of his place in the traditional return the relic of the Holy Cross. ShahvarazRoman hierarchy. Justinians death in 565 only survived for two months as king beforecomplicated Narses last decade, as his being murdered. His son Nicetas, whoserelations with Justin II were naturally less close. name suggests an attachment to the familyThe migration of Lombards into the Po valley of Heraclius, commanded Roman troopsfrom 568 posed new military challenges, against the Arabs in Syria in the 630s, butbut he remained in post until his death in was executed by the caliph Umar in 641 after573/4, at the age of almost 95. offering to subdue Persia for the Arabs.
The world around warImpact of conflictAdministration and then Constantines three sons, needed their own officials, with the result that theProlonged warfare was not a novelty for the praetorian prefecture split into regionalRomans; indeed during their expansion they units.had almost prided themselves on the Administrative units were also dividedregularity of their involvement. But repeated because of pressure from below. In the thirdcampaigning inside the Roman Empire, century the financial problems caused bywith the consequent ravaging of estates, repeated invasion and rapid imperial turnoverdestruction of cities, and death or capture of meant that new ways had to be devised tocivilians was unusual: before the frontier pay and supply the armies. As the value andproblems of the mid-third century, the regularity of traditional sources of tax revenuecivil wars of AD 69-70 and 193-97 had declined, so it seems that armies werebeen the only serious instances; Hannibals increasingly encouraged to take affairs intoinvasion of Italy in the late third century BC their own hands and secure necessaryis the nearest parallel for such damage supplies and other resources: instead ofbeing inflicted by a foreigner. The new monetary taxation being extracted fromsituation affected the Empires organisation, provinces and delivered to the legions, whoeconomic and social structures, and systems would then return much of it to theof belief. provinces through purchase of commodities, Military need prompted a fundamental the armies short-circuited the process bychange in government, from a single taking what they needed in kind whileemperor to the collegiate rule which leaving provincials to offset this against taxemerged under Diocletian. Subsequent liabilities. Under Diocletian the state caughtemperors who had the opportunity to up with this process and acted torule alone, for example Constantius II institutionalise it.and Valentinian I, chose to appoint a There had also been a long-termcolleague to share the burden of command: tendency for legions to be divided intoregional armies and provincial populations smaller operational units whose separatehad greater confidence when an emperor existence gradually solidified as theywas on hand. However, having multiple became accustomed to campaigning andrulers could create tensions, as happened being quartered away from their parentbetween Constans and Constantius II or legions. Dispersal of concentrations ofArcadius and Honorius; the most serious legions and the attachment of units tocase of full-blown conflict between provincial cities also facilitated problemsaccepted colleagues, after Julians of supply, while this distribution of troopsproclamation in 360, was averted by also offered wider security when frontierConstantius death. Even in the fifth defences no longer excluded invaders.century, when the greater problems and These developments meant that soldiersclearer separation of the two halves might had closer and more regular interactionhave reduced co-operation, the east sent with civilians, while the logistics of the taxhelp to the west when possible. Imperial system became more cumbersome asproliferation had administrative agricultural produce had to be gatheredconsequences: Diocletians three colleagues, and stored.
Essential Histories • Rome at War for local aristocrats further undermined the A law of the early 370s illustrating some of latters authority and contributed to the the problems in accounting for official cycle of decline mentioned above. supplies (Theodosian Code 7.4.16). Provincial cities - one of the glories of If the military accountants should the early Roman Empire whose extensive not deliver at once at the end of a remains still dominate our perception of the period of 30 days their original classical Mediterranean world - came under requisitions, they shall be compelled to increasing threat as their governing class restore from their own property, either became less interested in exercising local to the soldiers themselves or to the fiscal control. Leading locals could secure more storehouses the supplies which they power for themselves by entering the central failed to withdraw from the fiscal stores administration, whose expansion at all levels or which they omitted to issue to the from the provinces to the imperial courts service units whose accounts they kept. required more educated participants. Instead of competition for municipal office, service to individual cities often became a chore for The traditional system of provincial local aristocrats whose performance wasgovernment, which relied heavily on the bolstered by frequent imperial legislation;participation of local urban elites, could not where this failed, tasks had to be overseen bycope. This was partly because of the appointees of the provincial governor, acomplexity of the changes, but more further extension of central power andimportantly the position of local elites was erosion of local pride. Ironically one factorbeing undermined by the economic and which contributed to the continuedmilitary developments which surrounded importance of cities was military insecurity,them. Inflation and the decline in value of since urban defences provided refuge for thecoinage meant that they had less wealth to inhabitants of the surrounding countryside,spend in their cities, while invasion and civil but this offered only a partial balance. If thewar might destroy the agricultural prosperity threat became too intense or persisted tooon which aristocrats and cities alike long, the cities would be in danger ofdepended; in the worst cases even fortified succumbing and the local population,cities might be sacked. The vitality of cities inevitably led by their richest, and hencedeclined and their elites, who remained most mobile members, contemplated flight.wealthy through possession of land, might The desertion of parts of the Empiredecide that it was better to withdraw to their emerged as a problem during the thirdestates rather than spend limited resources century when repeated invasionson sustaining an urban lifestyle. There was depopulated considerable regions along thean interlocking cycle of urban Rhine and Danube frontiers. The moreimpoverishment and decay, so that it was fortunate inhabitants would have slippedharder for cities to play their expected part away southwards, thereby contributing toin imperial government at the very moment the increased prosperity in late antiquity ofwhen administrative demands were south-western Gaul and the southernbecoming greater. Balkans, but the majority either perished or One result was an increase, approximately were captured. These developmentstwofold under Diocletian, in the number of contributed to the Empires tax problems,provinces: if provincial elites could not since certain areas produced little orperform their traditional functions, it was nothing, while it took time to recognise thenecessary for governors to be more closely increased potential of other areas. In theory,involved in supervising tax collection and the process of regular censuses to update taxlocal justice. This encroachment of imperial registers instituted by Diocletian should havegovernors on customary spheres of operation coped with such movements, but the
The world around war 69 occupations, and in the countryside agricultural tenants were repeatedly decreed to be tied to their estates, although the frequent need for legislation suggests that the process was not all that easy. Warlords However complex the economic and administrative problems which protracted warfare caused, the Empire managed to survive the crisis of the third century to flourish for much of the fourth century. In the east this prosperity continued into the sixth century, but the western Empire relapsed into a cycle - ultimately fatal - of shrinking revenues and declining power during the fifthFolio from the Notitia Dignitatum showing the office of century. Invaders ravaged and depopulatedthe Count of the Sacred Largesses, displaying, in addition large areas, but this time the damageto the standard letter of appointment, different forms extended much deeper into the Empire. Theof wealth for distribution. (MS Canon Misc. 378, f. I42v,Bodleian Library) inability of the imperial government to repel groups such as the Visigoths led to their settlement, with official agreement, inthorough reassessment of even one province productive provinces: south-western Gaul,was such a major undertaking that the much of Spain and finally, and most crucially,crucial lists could not remain accurate. In North Africa, passed out of Roman control.practice the easiest way to make up for In some cases, such as the allocation ofshortages in revenue was to squeeze south-west Gaul to the Visigoths, the Empireaccessible producers harder, both through in theory gained a powerful contingent ofincreasing the standard tax demand and by soldiers; in practice this resource could onlyimposing supplementary superindictions. be used when it suited the Visigoths In some parts of the Empire the tax themselves, as for example in a series ofburden at times was probably excessive, campaigns into Spain which ultimatelywhich encouraged people to try to evade benefited the Visigoths, and on othertheir dues. The richest and most powerful occasions emperors had to act against theircould ignore demands, while waiting for an nominal allies.emperor to announce one of the periodic One important consequence of reductionscancellations of arrears. The poor and weak in imperial power, perceived as well as real,did so either by placing themselves under was the emergence of local warlords whothe protection of a rich neighbour who would control and defend particular areasmight (in return for payment or service of against external pressures, both central andsome sort) exercise his powers of foreign. On occasions this happened withobstruction for these new clients, or by imperial consent: in the fifth century westernmoving to a new region to escape official emperors relaxed legislation against thenotice. These developments prompted carrying of arms by private individuals, animperial legislation that attempted to tie admission that taxation no longer boughtpeople to their places of work: thus many safety. The Roman withdrawal from thetypes of urban craftsmen and shopkeepers British Isles in 410 was probably such anbecame, in legal theory, hereditary incident, with the removal of the last official
70 Essential Histories • Rome at War Roman troops being accompanied by an exhortation to the Romano-British provincials Charietto came to prominence in theto attend to their own defence. More often early 350s as a tribal supporter of thesuch developments occurred despite imperial western usurper Magnentius, but afterwishes. At worst a powerful provincial warlord the latters defeat and death he had tomight come to be regarded as emperor, as was sustain himself as a brigand. In 355the case with Odaenathus of Palmyra, the Julian, the newly appointed westernseparate Gallic emperors of the later third Caesar, decided it was best to reach ancentury, and Carausius in Britain; from the accommodation with him. Chariettoperspective of the imperial centre, these men became a feared defender of the Rhinewere usurpers who had to be crushed when frontier, surviving Julians departure toconditions permitted. When Roman rule was the east to die in action against invadingdisintegrating similar rulers, such as Syagrius Alamanni in 365, by which time he heldin northern Gaul in the 460s, could be seen as the rank of count.resolute champions of Roman authority. Most warlords were less powerful and morelocal than such grand figures. They provide strength in attempts to discipline them.one plausible way of understanding the Many of the most important figures in thephenomenon of bacaudae, peasant brigands, Empire had their personal retinues ofwho are said to have dominated parts of Gaul supporters, most visibly in the form of theand Spain for limited periods between the bucellarii who surrounded leading generals,third and fifth centuries. Rather than being but also in the monks or other ecclesiasticalclass warriors keen to overthrow their attendants in the entourage of major bishopslandlords and the Roman state, they were and the lance-wielding guards for Anatolianprobably an alliance of different inhabitants estate owners whose misdeeds Justinian triedof a particular region ranging from poor to regulate. These developments entailedtenants to local aristocrats, with the latter that emperors did not have a monopoly ofproviding leadership. Such groups could easily violence: a bishop of Alexandria couldmove in and out of formal attachment to the intimidate a general church council andEmpire, as illustrated by the Isaurians, prevent imperial officers from achievinginhabitants of the mountains of southern their wishes, while at home his supportersTurkey. In the fourth century they revolted might dismember a rival bishop and overaweintermittently, probably when the ties imperial troops attempting to restore order.binding local Isaurian leaders to the cities of Legislation was meant to restrict suchneighbouring regions broke down. In the fifth behaviour, but compromise was often easier;century Isaurians came to be recognised as a we find estates in Egypt which maintainedprecious military resource, being recruited their own groups of bucellarii and had privateinto imperial service by Zeno, an Isaurian gaols. It was cheaper to uphold imperialwho became consul, senior general and authority in collaboration with such people,patrician. In the next generation, through even if this effectively reduced the overalltheir domination of the imperial bodyguard, supremacy of the individual emperor.their leader, another Zeno, became son-in-law The leaders of tribal groups whoof Emperor Leo and eventually his successor.Their fall from favour after Emperor Zenos established themselves in Roman provincesdeath in 491 prompted a return to regional could be placed in this category of warlords,revolt, with even an attempt to proclaim a effective military protectors whose authorityrival emperor. gradually came to be accepted by remaining Roman inhabitants, even aristocrats, as well Emperors had to strike a balance between as their tribal followers. Visigothic andtolerating the existence of such powerful Ostrogothic kings had to maintain twolocal barons and dissipating their own contrasting images, as civilised dispensers of
The world around war 71 allegiance and discipline of the armies, as In response to the Vandal conquest of Africa, illustrated by the calendar of religious Valentinian relaxed the ban on private sacrifices from Dura Europus (the Roman individuals carrying weapons (June 440) outpost on the Euphrates): the life of military (Valentinian III, Novel 6.2.3). units was organised around a series of As often as the public welfare sacrifices, in which commemoration of demands we consider that the solicitude important imperial anniversaries was of all must be summoned in aid ... we prominent, while images of the current admonish each and all by this edict emperor or emperors were placed between the that, with confidence in Roman legionary standards so that they shared the strength, if the occasion should so fierce loyalty which the eagles attracted. The demand, they shall use those arms major persecutions of Christians in the third which they can, but they shall preserve century were triggered by imperial demands the public discipline and the to sacrifice for the safety of the Empire. moderation of free birth unimpaired. The religious world changed, at least in outward appearance, when Constantine adopted the Christian God as his divinelaws whose ability to uphold local peace companion and granter of victory, a movejustified their appropriation of properties justified by successes at the Milvian Bridgewhich had once been Roman and of tax and then over Licinius. Thereafter therevenues, and as effective war leaders who Christian God assisted his servants, whethercould still circulate gifts to their entourages. in civil war as at Mursa in 351 whenLatin rhetoric, as seen through the writings Constantius victory was signalled by theof Cassiodorus, and Roman law as in the appearance of a cross in the sky at Jerusalem,Code of Euric underpinned the former or in foreign adventures as in Justiniansaspect. On the other hand, the continuing reconquest of Africa, which was guaranteedimportance of military prowess contributed by a bishops dream and Christian omens.to a militarisation of the Roman elements in Emperors might consult prominenttheir kingdoms: in Merovingian France and Christians about future campaigns, as whenVisigothic Spain in the sixth century the Zeno visited Daniel the Stylite, who hadsurviving Roman cities maintained their own taken up residence on a column near themilitias which could be quite effective, if Bosporus, to ask his advice about ansmall, military units. expedition to fight the Vandals. The Church became involved in victory celebrations to the extent that the victorious entry ofChristianity Justinian to Constantinople in 559 culminated in prayers at the altar of S. Sophia. Imperial warfare might even take onWar fundamentally affected the Empire in a crusading overtones: Constantines finalvariety of ways, but perhaps the campaign against Persia was accompanied bydevelopment of greatest long-term propaganda about the liberation ofsignificance was its impact on religious Christians in Mesopotamia, and in the 620sbeliefs; war and victory underpinned the Heraclius mobilised the rump of his Empireexplosion of Christianity as the Empires to ward off Persians and Avars by presentingdominant religion. In the third century the the Romans as the beleaguered children oftraditional Graeco-Roman gods oversaw the Israel with a mission to crush the heathensalvation of the Empire, aided in accordance and recover the relic of the Holy Cross fromwith individual preference by a variety of Babylon.other local or imported deities such asMithras or the Unconquered Sun. Worship In contrast to such successes, non-was an important factor in ensuring the Christians were spectacularly unsuccessful:
72 Essential Histories • Rome at WarAnkara citadel. (Authors collection) command than the secular fields in which they usually operated. Within months of hisJulian the apostate led a massive army to victory at the Milvian Bridge, Constantinedisaster in Persia, while his own death in a was invited to adjudicate in the Donatistskirmish was attributed by some to the dispute - which originated in challenges tomiraculous intervention of St Mercurius; the the legitimacy of North African clergy whopagan usurper Eugenius was overwhelmed by had not stood up to persecution in the thirdthe orthodox Theodosius at the Frigidus century - and a year after defeating LiciniusRiver; and Constantinople was delivered and acquiring the eastern Empire he presidedfrom the threat of an alleged Gothic plot by at the universal council of Nicaea, whichthe intervention of an angel. Heretical attempted to resolve the Arian dispute aboutChristians might be as unsuccessful: Emperor the relationship of God the Father andValens, an opponent of Nicene Christianity, Christ the Son. In each case the dispute wasdied after the catastrophe of Adrianople. still unresolved a century later. Everything conspired to demonstrate the Emperors used their full military mightpower of the true Christian God and the and political power to uphold their authorityimportance of correct worship, an issue over the Church, but it was difficult towhich had already exercised Constantine: he achieve the intended results. Justinian hadurged the importance of Christian unity to Pope Vigilius brought to Constantinople andachieve efficacious supplications to God and then forcibly wrenched from the altar whereprovided support for clergy attached to the he had taken refuge to attend a churchcorrect, orthodox, group. As a result, council in 553, but the Emperors doctrinalemperors became closely involved in the statement which resulted was not widelyagreement and enforcement of what was accepted in the west for over 50 years. Indoctrinally right, and in ecclesiastical Constantinople occasional tensions betweendiscipline, although these areas of belief emperor and bishop exacerbated theproved much more resistant to Imperial perennial problems of maintaining order in
The world around war 73 major conurbations: when Arcadius had to settle in the city and removed the keys Bishop John Chrysostom arrested in 404, from the imperial prefect to entrust them tothe attendant rioting resulted in the burning the bishop; in 594 the bishop of Asemusof S. Sophia and the Senate; Bishop near the Danube prevented the local Chrysostom died in exile in 407, but a militia from being conscripted into thegeneration later he was accepted as one of mobile army commanded by Emperorthe pillars of the Greek Church. Maurices brother. Alexandria was even more out of control, Communities might come to look tosince the citys bishops financed an living saints or relics as well as bishops toenormous clerical establishment, including protect them in the absence of imperialhundreds of monks in the nearby desert who help. In the fragmenting western Empire ofcould be brought into the city and mobilised the fifth century, St Genevieve was creditedas needed. Emperors did not regularly keep with saving Paris from Attila, while atenough troops in Egypt to confront this Clermont Ferrand in the 470s Bishoppotent combination of force, bribery and Sidonius introduced new devotions topatronage, and it was easier to come to an sustain local morale during a protractedaccommodation with the preferred leader of blockade. The development of the story ofthe Egyptian Church. Even when emperors Christs protection for Edessa inresolved to intervene, the authority of their Mesopotamia has already been noted (seeecclesiastical nominees rarely extended page 56). Thessalonica is another placebeyond the city of Alexandria, and their where one can see the local churchopponents were always awaiting the developing its supernatural assistants whenopportunity to strike back: Proterius was imperial protection was lacking. In the earlysustained as bishop with Emperor Marcians seventh century the citys bishop produced abacking, but on Marcians death he was collection of miracles performed by thedragged from the baptistery of his church citys patron saint Demetrius, whichand publicly dismembered by supporters of particularly stressed his ability to save hishis rival, Timothy the Cat. city from capture by Avars and Slavs; the Although Christianity often confirmed collection was designed for public recitationimperial prestige, the Church could not fail during a renewed bout of Avar pressure.to be involved also in the fragmentation of Later in the century, when the city wasauthority in the Empire. This was partly virtually cut off from Constantinople andbecause of the power of the bishop in local imperial support, the collection wassociety. The bishop of Alexandria was expanded with further examples ofexceptional in absolute terms, but in most Demetrius miraculous intervention in siegesof the Empires cities the local bishop was a and blockades. Demetrius was capable ofleading property owner and patron, as well humbling imperial prefects who did notas a person of education. As such they were recognise his superior authority or attend tooften trusted to represent their cities: in 481 the interests of his city, and of challengingthe bishop of Heraclea in Macedonia saved the emperor by redirecting food supplieshis people by providing food for Theoderics bound for Constantinople.Goths; during Khusro Is invasion of Syria in As long as the Empire flourished the close540 bishops attempted to negotiate limits to connection of Christianity and warPersian depredations; and requests to an strengthened imperial authority, and evenemperor for tax remission after a natural the occasions of tension when secular powerdisaster might well be articulated by the was fragmenting reflected rather thanbishop. This authority, however, could also caused imperial decline. There are, however,threaten imperial interests: at Thessalonica ways in which the Church has beenin 481, the inhabitants rioted at a rumour criticised for contributing to the Empiresthat Emperor Zeno intended to allow Goths collapse, through the appropriation of
74 Essential Histories • Rome at WarThe walls of Nicaea, (modern Iznik,Turkey); the precious resources and the inculcation of ancolumn bases and other reused material at the bases unwarlike or defeatist spirit.of the towers reflects their rapid construction. The Church did require the service of(Authors collection) numerous clergy, and the growing monastic
The world around war 75 The importance of the secular role of bishops is illustrated in the explanation for the choice of a new bishop at Antioch in 527, shortly after the city had been struck by a massive earthquake (Evagrius, Ecclesiastical History 4.6). At the very moment of despair God raised up Ephrem, the Count of the east, to assume every care that the city of Antioch should not lack any necessities. As a consequence the Antiochenes, in admiration, elected him as their priest and he obtained the apostolic see as a reward for his especial support. importantly, as a recipient of benefactions individual churches accumulated massive wealth in precious metal. How far these developments drained secular resources depends in part on the costs of religious activities in the period before the triumph of Christianity, but there is likely to have been an increase. In a crisis monks and clergy might be made liable to conscription, and ecclesiastical treasures were often deployed to ransom captives or save cities from being sacked; in the 620s Heraclius financed his campaigns through a compulsory loan of the wealth of the church at Constantinople. This might suggest that these resources were not completely alienated from secular use, but the question must remain as to whether they might have been employed more effectively if they had been available to finance regular military expenditure. With regard to attitudes towards war it is essential not to impose modern views: for us Christianity might be a religion of peace, but Constantine had chosen the Christians deity as an Old Testament God of Battles. There was, however, a negative side to Christianitys ability to sustain Roman morale, since the belief that God rewarded his virtuous servants with victory alsomovement in the fifth century removed provided an explanation for defeat in termsmany more from secular activities. As a of sin or incorrect worship. In the easternmassive property owner, the Church reduced empire during the sixth century athe area liable to taxation and, more long-running dispute about the composition
76 Essential Histories • Rome at Warof Christ, how the divine and human Walls of Thessalonica, the fourth-century defences ofelements were fused within his single being Galenus capital. (Authors collection)without undermining the integrity of eitherelement, resulted in the alienation from more complex in the 630s when HeracliusConstantinople of many of the inhabitants attempted to impose a doctrinal compromiseof the eastern provinces. Emperors were which most Christians found unacceptable:regarded as heretical, and attempts to coerce the emperors descent into heresy providedunity as persecution. As a result imperial the perfect explanation for the contemporarymisfortune came to be expected, or at successes of the Arabs. Nothing was likely toleast accepted by the populations of Syria, be achieved until the emperor turned back toEgypt and Armenia who did not share the God and worshipped correctly, so nothingemperors views. The situation became even should be done.
Portraits of civiliansNotable individualsAmbrose, Bishop of Milan sermons gained a following among educated imperial officials, people of similar backgroundAmbrose (bishop 374-97), son of a praetorian to him. His secular career gave him the skillsprefect, pursued an official career and became to manipulate councils into supporting hisgovernor of the province of Aemilia in 372/3, views, and the experience to stand up towith his seat at Milan, the western imperial emperors, first Valentinian II, who demandedcapital. The Church at Milan was dominated a church for Arian worship, then, twice,by Arians with imperial support when Theodosius over his attempt to punish zealousAmbrose got involved, somewhat improperly, Christians in Syria who had destroyed ain the election of a new bishop for the synagogue and his massacre of civilians insupporters of the Council of Nicaea. Ambrose Thessalonica; on the last occasion the emperorwas chosen, though he was not yet baptised, performed public penance. Ambrose, however,so that he progressed to the bishopric one also used Christianity to uphold imperialweek after formally joining the Church. power, being responsible for linking the legend Ambrose energetically promoted his brand of the discovery of the True Cross toof Christianity, building churches and Constantines mother, Helena: Ambrosediscovering relics to underpin their sanctity,promoting female piety, encouraging hymn Stylised woodcut showing a scene from the life ofsinging and patronising scholarship. He was Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. (Ancient Art andan accomplished orator, whose intellectual Architecture)
78 Essential Histories • Rome at Warproposed that the incorporation of nails fromthe Cross into the imperial helmet and bridle The historian Evagrius records an occasionsymbolised Christianitys support for enduring in the 580s when the senior general in thesecular military authority. After his death in east asked to use Symeons relics (1.13).397, Ambroses reputation was rapidly I saw his holy head when Philippicusconsolidated through a biography by his requested that precious relics be sent forsecretary, but the bishopric of Milan lost its the protection of the eastern armies.special importance when the court moved to And the extraordinary thing was thatthe greater safety of Ravenna. the hairs which lay upon his head had not been corrupted, but are preserved as if he were alive again. And the skin onSymeon, ascetic and saint his forehead was wrinkled and withered, but still it is intact, as are the majoritySymeon Stylites (390-459) was one of the most of his teeth, except for those forciblyinfluential of eastern holy men. After a decade removed by the hands of devout men.in various Syrian monasteries where his fierceasceticism provoked unease, Symeon moved toa hillside near Telneshin where he lived in a 295 feet (90m) from north to south, and thesmall hut; fame brought pilgrims whose site remained a popular focus for pilgrimage.attentions prompted Symeon to transfer first toone column, and then to a taller one of about60 feet (20.4m) where he remained for the last John the Lydian, eastern30 years of his life. The power of his prayers civil servantand curses was famous and attracted visitorsfrom the west and beyond the Empires John was born in 490 at Philadelphia inborders. Symeon berated Emperor Asia Minor, from where he moved toTheodosius II for legislating to protect law- Constantinople to find a post in the palaceabiding pagans and Jews, and Emperor Leo secretariat. While awaiting an opening heconsulted him in 457 about sensitive studied philosophy, but then jumped at theecclesiastical issues. opportunity provided by the elevation of a Symeons death on 2 September 459 fellow-townsman to the praetorian prefectureprovoked competition for his body and relics: in 511. He was allocated a senior position withhis companions feared that local villagers or a substantial income from semi-official fees,nomadic Arabs might steal his corpse for their and rewarded for a panegyric of his patron withown benefit. Martyrius, patriarch of Antioch, one gold coin per line. John had an excellentand Ardabur, the senior general in the east, knowledge of Latin, which was being used lesscame to the column with Gothic soldiers who commonly in the eastern Empire, even thoughescorted the corpse to Antioch, where the it was the language of law, and for a time heinhabitants wanted it as a talisman against was very busy preparing legal materials in theearthquakes; Symeon, too, looked after himself prefecture while also maintaining an alternativeby freezing Martyrius hand when the latter career path by working in the palace. After hisattempted to remove a hair from his beard. patron left office, Johns career reverted to aSymeons dirty leather loincloth was offered to more normal trajectory whereby length ofEmperor Leo, but ended up in the possession service determined promotion.of Symeons spiritual son, the stylite Daniel, Johns literary talents continued to attractwho took up his station on the Bosporus. attention, and he was asked by Justinian toDuring the 480s a massive monastic complex present a panegyric in front of aristocrats fromwas constructed at Qalat Seman around Rome and then to compose a history of theSymeons empty column, the main church Persian campaigns including the Roman victorybeing 328 feet (100m) from east to west and at Dara in 530. He secured one of the public
Portraits of civilians 79professorships in Constantinople, probably in patriciate in the 530s; even after the start ofthe 540s, and combined this with work in the the Justinianic reconquest he continued toprefecture until his retirement after 40 years serve as praetorian prefect, organising suppliesand four months of service in 551/2. He is best for Ostrogothic forces. With the collapse of theknown for his work On Magistracies, which Ostrogothic regime he embraced the religiousincluded a study of the praetorian prefecture life, and was in Constantinople in 550,that aired his own jaundiced views on probably as a refugee from the war-torn chaosadministrative innovations and the declining of Italy. In the mid-550s he returned to foundimportance of traditional qualities, such as a monastery at Squillace in his native Calabria,literary ability and skill at Latin. where he lived until his death in about 580. He was a prolific writer. Apart from the 12 volumes of letters which underpin ourCassiodorus, Roman in knowledge of the Ostrogothic kingdom, heOstrogothic service composed panegyrics on King Theoderic and his son-in-law, accepted a royal request to writeThree generations of Cassiodori had been a history of the Goths which proclaimed theimportant public officials in Italy for Roman antiquity of the Gothic race and the rulingand tribal rulers when the young Flavius Amal family, and produced severalMagnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator was philosophical and religious works. At hisselected by his father, the praetorian prefect, as monastery he hoped that secular learningadvisor in 503-07. Thereafter he regularly could be sustained as an aid to religiousserved the Ostrogoths at Ravenna as legal understanding; to this end he compiled twoexpert and composer of official correspondence books of Divine and Human Institutes, worksin elegant Latin, along the way securing the on grammar, etymology and figures of speech,honours of a consulship in 514 and the which were intended to assist his monks in their role as scribes, and commentaries on theFolio from the Notitia Dignitatum showing the office of Psalms and other books of the Bible. Inthe praetorian prefect with ceremonial four-horse carriage, addition he commissioned other works, suchink stand, candlesticks, and imperial letter of appointment. as a Latin translation of the main Greek church(MS Canon Misc. 378, f. 90, Bodleian Library) historians of the fourth and fifth centuries. His monastery scarcely survived his death, but his writings had a profound influence on the direction of western monasticism and its role in the preservation of classical learning. Antonina, wife of general Belisarius Antonina was born probably about 484, into a family of entertainers, her father being a charioteer in Constantinople and her mother an actress. She had at least one husband before marrying Belisarius, sometime in the early 520s when he was bodyguard for the future Emperor Justinian; if one believes the historian Procopius (who disliked Antonina) she had previously had several lovers and betrayed Belisarius by pursuing an affair with his godson.
Essential Histories • Rome at War Promotion for Belisarius and friendship preferences. When Belisarius was disgraced inwith Justinians wife, Empress Theodora - 542/3 Antonina worked to recover imperialanother product of the entertainment world - favour, and then accompanied him on hisbrought Antonina considerable influence; at reappointment to Italy in 544. She returned tosome point she was granted the exalted Constantinople to plead for reinforcements,patrician rank. She accompanied Belisarius on but the death of Theodora in 548 persuadedhis western campaigns, helping to improve the her to press instead for Belisarius recall; sheexpeditions water supply on the voyage to also terminated the marriage of her daughterAfrica in 533, organising a fleet and supplies to Theodoras grandson to prevent thefor Belisarius during the siege of Rome in 537, imperial house from acquiring the familysand allegedly dominating her husband. On wealth. She may have outlived Belisarius, whobehalf of Theodora she helped to oust Pope died in 565.Silverius in 537, secure the downfall ofJustinians former financial officer John the Ravenna mosaic of Theodora, wife of Justinian I, with herCappadocian in 541, and persuade Pope entourage. Mosaic from the Basilica of S.Vitale. Ravenna.Vigilius to espouse Theodoras theological (Ancient Art and Architecture)
How the war endedMaking new boundariesDisintegration of the Empire the River Yarmuk. Roman resistance was broken and over the next few years theA period of war lasting four centuries and major cities of Palestine and Syriainvolving several different regional conflicts surrendered, while in 640 the Arabs tookis unlikely to have a clear end, but three over Roman Mesopotamia and campaignedmajor developments can legitimately be into Armenia, Cilicia and Anatolia. In 639considered to signal the conclusion of the attacks on Egypt began and by 642 thiscampaigns of the late Roman period: in the province too was captured; in less than aeastern empire and North Africa the decade all the richest areas of the Romansweeping victories of Islamic Arabs; in the Empire had fallen under Arab control.Balkans the progressive occupation of What is most striking about thisterritory by Slav tribes, who eventually achievement - apart from its speed andgenerated identifiable governing elites; and complete surprise - is that at the same timein the west the consolidation of tribal Arab armies were dismantling the Persiankingdoms in spite of Justinians massive Empire. Admittedly the Sassanid dynasty hadeffort at reconquest. been in turmoil since Khusro IIs overthrow In the east while Heraclius had been in 628, but the accession of Khusroslocked in his desperate struggle with the grandson Yazdgard III in 632 had broughtPersians, events of enormous importance some stability; however, Persian armies werewere unfolding in the Arabian peninsula. At unable to withstand this new challenge. ByMecca a 40-year-old trader received a divine the early 640s Yazdgard had been forced tomessage from the angel Gabriel. For the next abandon all the royal cities in lowerdozen years or so Muhammad stayed in Mesopotamia and seek refuge in north-Mecca, receiving more messages, and eastern Iran; in 651 Yazdgard was undergradually built up a following, although this pressure even there when his assassinationsuccess increased tensions with the terminated the Sassanid dynasty andpolytheists who remained the majority confirmed Muslim rule over the whole ofcommunity. In 622 Muhammad and his the Middle East.followers moved north to Yathrib (Medina), By 700 the Arabs had wrested all Northan event (the hijra) which marked the start Africa from Roman control, and had startedof the Islamic era. to conquer the Visigoths in Spain. The one By Muhammads death in 632 he had direction in which they failed to makeasserted his control over Mecca as well as lasting progress was in Anatolia, wheremuch of the northern part of the Arabian Roman resistance gradually hardened. Afterpeninsula, and under his successors the capturing Alexandria the Arabs developed aArabs pushed into Palestine and Syria. In 633 powerful navy, which brought control ofand 634 there was a series of limited Cyprus and endangered the southernvictories, which permitted the Arabs to coastline of Asia Minor and the Aegeanenter Damascus. In 636 a major Roman islands. On land, repeated raidingcounter-offensive, commanded by the impoverished vast tracts of inland AsiaEmperor Heraclius brother Theodore who Minor, and resulted in the destruction orhad assembled most of the military resources desertion of many of the major cities:of the eastern provinces, ended in disaster at refugees streamed away from the invaders in
Essential Histories • Rome at Warsearch of safety in the mountains, while in the east. We have no detailed knowledgerepeated disaster challenged the stability of of the sequence of events after Mauricesreligious convictions. At Constantinople, death in 602, when Roman authority hadhowever, in the 670s, the Arabs eventually been superficially restored over much of thestumbled decisively: the capitals substantial peninsula. Phocas and Heraclius both gavewalls and the Roman navy (with its secret precedence to eastern campaigns; troopsweapon of Greek fire) were underpinned by were progressively removed from thethe citys divine defenders, among whom the Balkans, which permitted Slav groups toVirgin was prominent through the relics of move unhindered across the countryside.her robe and girdle, and the Arabs were The Avars occasionally invaded to extendcompelled to retreat. their authority over the Slavs and surviving Over the next generation a new order was Romans, but even their humiliation outsidecreated in Roman territory: the old social Constantinople in 626 brought no lastingsystem based on the grand provincial cities respite. As the Avar federation disintegrated,had been swept away so that villages and smaller tribal groups emerged to dominaterural markets came to the fore, while particular areas, the Bulgars in theadministrative organisation was directed north-east, and Croats and Serbs in thetowards sustaining the military units north-west. By the latter part of the seventhresponsible for frontier defence. Only century only the hinterland ofConstantinople survived as a recognisable Constantinople and isolated enclaves atcity, and even its population had probably Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and othershrunk to a tenth of what it had once been. places accessible by sea remained underContinued failure to reverse Arab successes Roman authority.contributed to religious upheaval: for much In the western state, the deposition of theof the eighth century the rump of the last Roman emperor in 476 had brought oneeastern Empire was riven by disputes about sort of end, with Vandals in control ofthe validity of images in Christian worship, Africa, Visigoths in Spain and southern Gaul,with iconoclast emperors supporting the Merovingian Franks in northern Gaul andMuslim view that images were idolatrous. the Ostrogoths soon to arrive in Italy. In the Balkans the Romans experienced Justinians reconquest threatened to turnlosses which, if less spectacular in terms of back the clock, but in the later sixth centurymilitary action, were almost as complete as it was the Romans who were being squeezed by the arrival of the Lombards in Italy and the reassertion of Visigothic power in Spain. At Pergamum in 716 the defenders resorted The west was even lower down the list of to desperate measures, intended to avert an imperial priorities than the Balkans, and apocalyptic scourge (Theophanes, little could be done to influence events: in Chronographica p.390). 578 Emperor Tiberius had recognised this Maslamah ben Abd al-Malik came to when he returned the gold which the Roman Pergamum, which he besieged and senate had sent as a gift for his accession captured by Gods dispensation, through with the advice that they should use this to the Devils machinations. For at a purchase allies among the newly arrived magicians instigation the citys Lombards. By the 590s Roman rule in Italy inhabitants procured a pregnant woman was confined to Ravenna in the north, and cut her up; after removing the infant which was precariously joined to another and cooking it in a pot, all those about to area around Rome, and from there to larger fight dipped the sleeves of their right arm enclaves of the extreme south and Sicily. In in the loathsome sacrifice. Accordingly the seventh century even the visit to Rome they were delivered to the enemy. of Emperor Constans II did not conclusively re-establish Roman authority. Eventually a
How the war ended 85 from the south. These victories were accompanied by the conversion of their King Clovis, significantly to Catholic Christianity rather than the Arian beliefs which other Germanic tribes espoused; but partitive inheritance between competing branches of the family then disrupted the kingdoms unity. During the sixth century Clovis successors had on various occasions intervened in Italy, on both sides of the Roman reconquest, contemplated a grand alliance of tribes to challenge Constantinople, resisted Avar encroachments in southern Germany, and weathered attempts from Constantinople to destabilise the dynastic balance between different parts of the kingdom. A graffito scratched by one of the defenders of Sirmium during its three-year siege by the Avars in 579-82. Lord Christ, help the city and smiteDome of the Rock, Jerusalem a symbol of Islamic the Avars and watch over Romania andpower at the centre of Christian and Jewish faiths. the writer. Amen.(Ancient Art and Architecture)combination of religious hostility to After the 630s Merovingian rulers wieldediconoclast developments in the east, lack of little real power, which increasingly slippedrespect for the absent and unsuccessful into the hands of the royal stewards, theemperors, and resistance to tax demands most powerful being the family of Pippin. Byterminated east Roman control over Rome the late seventh century the Pippinids hadand Ravenna; the Roman Empire survived in effectively displaced the Merovingians and itSicily and parts of the south, but had ceased was the Pippinid Charles Martel who rolledto be a significant element in Italian affairs. back the Islamic invaders at Ioitiers in 732. The most important events for the future Thereafter his grandson Charles the Great -of the west occurred in France. By the early Charlemagne - reunited Frankish Gaul andsixth century this had been largely united conquered the Lombards in Italy.under the Merovingian Frankish dynasty Charlemagnes visit to Rome in 800 and hiswhich had first suppressed Roman warlords coronation in St Peters sealed the creationin the north and then driven the Visigoths of the Holy Roman Empire.
Conclusions and consequencesRoman legaciesThe four centuries of war during which the Rhomaioi. This beleaguered state, which sawRoman Empire was torn apart provided the itself as the guardian of the Roman political,basis for a new political map of Europe, the religious and cultural inheritance, found theMiddle East and North Africa. Instead of a resources to survive the intense Arab pressurecollection of provinces whose different of the late seventh and early eighth centuriespeoples, cultures and traditions were and then to embark on substantialgradually transformed through contact with reconquests in the Balkans and Asia Minor inRoman power so that acceptance of a central the tenth. Although the arrival of the Seljukauthority was accompanied by a display of Turks in the eleventh century curtailed itssome common features, a fragmented world resources and power again, the fabled wealthemerged; in different areas diverse elites of the east attracted Viking mercenaries tocame to the fore, a process whose results still travel south through Russia, and then thedominate the modern map. treacherous Fourth Crusade sacked The Roman Empire did not end, since the Constantinople in 1204. But a Roman staterump of the eastern provinces continued to survived on the Bosporus until Ottomanbe ruled from Constantinople by emperors artillery blasted its way through the Romanwho regarded themselves and their people as walls of Constantinople in 1453. In the Middle East, however, aThe walls of Ankara showing the pentagonal tower. millennium of control by Greeks and(Ancient A r t and Architecture) Romans terminated and the region changed
Conclusions and consequences 87to leadership by a Semitic race. A visible sign Trapian silver in unreconstructed state.was the reversion of many cities to their pre- (National Museum of Scotland)Hellenistic local names - Urfa for Edessa,Membij for Hierapolis, Baalbek for In north-western Europe Roman controlHeliopolis, Amman for Philadelphia - the ebbed most quickly and decisively. In thesurvival of Alexandria and Antioch (Antakya) British Isles the Saxons gradually pushed thewere exceptional. The centre of gravity of the Romano-British into the far west andnew power was also significant. For centuries established their own competing kingdomsthe Romans had faced an eastern rival whose in much of England; the process contributedcapitals lay in lower Mesopotamia and the to the creation of popular stories of ArthurIranian plateau, whereas the new Arab and strengthened ties between Cornwall andEmpire was usually based much closer to the Brittany, but otherwise helped to confirmMediterranean world: in Syria under the that Britain would develop separately fromUmmayads and Egypt under the Fatimids. the continent. In France the consolidation ofRomes Parthian and Sassanid enemies had Pippinid or Carolingian control created therarely had access to the Mediterranean, first post-Roman supranational politicalwhereas the Arabs occupied a number of entity, the Holy Roman Empire, anmajor ports and rapidly developed a institution which could challenge easternpowerful navy. The Mediterranean ceased to Rome in terms of religious authority bybe our sea, mare nostrum, and became an area manipulating the papacy and as true heirs toof conflict and threat. imperial Rome by the use of Latin and Arab control of North Africa extended cultivation of Roman practices.this threat west, and initiated a structural One area for competition between Holydivide between the northern and southern Rome and eastern Rome was the Balkans,shores of the Mediterranean: whereas which long remained the most chaotic partRoman Egypt and Africa had been tied of former Roman territory. Much had beenclosely into the Empire - socially, as the overrun by groups of Slavs, but these hadlocation of lucrative estates for the been slow to generate their own ruling elites.senatorial elite, and economically, as the As Constantinoples power gradually revivedmajor food providers for Rome and in the eighth century, it proved possible toConstantinople - the Barbary Coast was a expand its authority in peninsular Greecepiratical scourge for Christian Europe. In and the south-eastern Balkans from theSpain the Arabs remained the most powerful islands and coastal enclaves still in itspolitical force for 500 years, an object for possession, but large parts of the northerncrusade by the northern Christian enclaves and north-western interior were ruled bybut also a stimulus for intellectual and whatever tribal group had managed tocultural fertilisation. dominate the local Slavs and any survivors
Essential Histories • Rome at Warof the Roman population. The most The struggle to define orthodoxy generatedimportant units to emerge were the Bulgar important excluded groups. In the fourthkingdom in the north-east, and the Serb and century Christians loosely associated with theCroat kingdoms in the north-west. In each views of Arius (that the Son was subordinatecase the ruling elite developed a complex to the Father) had converted Germanic tribesrelationship with Constantinople, eager for north of the Danube. These tribes hadthe benefits (cultural as well as economic) of remained unaffected by the final triumphRoman recognition, but also wary of too within the Empire of Nicene over Arianclose a dependence upon a potential Christianity in the 380s; as a result theimperial master. Constantinoples authority successor kingdoms of Visigoths, Vandals andwaxed and waned, and the best Ostrogoths all subscribed to Arian views andcharacterisation of the region is as a were regarded as heretical by Catholics.commonwealth: its members acknowledged In the east the identification in the 420s ofstrong ties, but there were also rivalries the Nestorian heresy, over the status of thebetween potential rulers and the ruled, while Virgin Mary and the place of the divine inthe existence of alternative sources of Christ, had led to a rift: expulsion of Nestorianssupport such as Holy Rome ensured that from the Empire had helped them totensions thrived. consolidate their domination in Sassanid Persia, where they became accepted as the national Church with their own spiritual Slavs attempt to encourage the Avars to leader, catholicus, whose appointment usually assist in an assault on Thessalonka required royal sanction. Nestorian missionaries (Miracles of St Demetrius §197). exploited Sassanid diplomatic and trading They said that all the cities and networks to make converts in India, central regions in its vicinity had been Asia and China. An inter-related dispute about depopulated by them, and that it alone Christs nature generated the Monophysite held out in their midst, while it had schism in the eastern Empire from the mid- received all the refugees from the fifth century. Attempts at reconciliation failed, Danubian regions, and Pannonia, Dacia, partly because doctrinal concessions to eastern Dardania and the remaining provinces Monophysites provoked disagreements with and cities. Rome and the western Church, partly because intermittent coercion served to harden attitudes; the textual bases for the arguments became swamped by propaganda, and theirReligious divisions precise distinctions vanished because of the difficulty of translating complex argumentsCompetition for religious allegiance was one accurately between the languages involved -of the disrupting factors in the Balkans as Latin, Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian. In theRome and Constantinople vied to convert mid-sixth century a separate Monophysitedifferent groups, and systems of belief are hierarchy of bishops emerged to control muchone of our major inheritances from the of Egypt, Syria and Armenia. After the Arabperiod of late-Roman warfare. The emergence conquests a new division of Christianity crys-of Christianity as a world faith was the first talised, with the orthodox or Chalcedoniansand most obvious, since it was through dominant within the Roman Empire, whilewarfare that Christianity triumphed within Nestorians and Monophysites were the mainthe Empire. But the Roman Empire also groups in areas ruled by Arabs, where theshaped the nature of Christianitys limited numbers of Chalcedonians came to bedevelopment and helped to ensure that this known as Melkites, or emperors men.universal religion existed in a variety of Inside the Empire Rome and Constantinoplecompeting guises. emerged as the two centres of religious power.
Conclusions and consequencesDoctrinal dissension almost generated civil war the Christian message stimulated purists toin the 340s, over the exile of Bishop Athanasius seek a more authentic response to the Gospel:of Alexandria, and eastern attempts to resolve in different parts of the Empire individualsthe Monophysite issue produced schisms in the attempted to pursue a more rigorous regime,late fifth, the mid-sixth, and for much of the and some of these ascetics, or trainees, came toseventh century. Successive emperors believed be organised into groups of monks. During thethat they had the right to determine what was fourth century rules of conduct were developedcorrect doctrine, and then the duty to see this in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor and these soonaccepted throughout their realm. Popes, whose spread west, so that by the time the Empire inindependence was encouraged by Romes the west was faltering in the mid-fifth centurydecline as an imperial capital, saw themselves monasteries were sufficiently established toas the true guardians of Christian belief and transmit Roman religious and cultural traditions.relished occasions when eastern bishops Jews, however, were a victim of Christianappealed to the west for decisions. Emperors zeal. In the pre-Christian Empire, Jews hadwere prepared to use force to secure papal usually been tolerated as an eccentric butobedience, but this could only work if Rome acceptable group whose religious commitmentitself was safely under eastern control. The was hallowed by antiquity, whereas forbasis for a split between Greek and Latin Christians they were the murderers of Christ.Christianity was established in late antiquity. In the third-century persecutions, emperors had respected Jewish beliefs and not required sacrifice. In theory Jews continued to be The church historian Evagrius laments the protected by imperial legislation, but in narrow disagreement between practice this could not be upheld against Chalcedonians (in two natures) and enthusiastic Christian mobs: synagogues were Monopyhsites (from two) which bitterly destroyed, graveyards ransacked and divided the Church (2.5). congregations even forcibly converted. Such The envious and God-hating Devil pressures produced a backlash and on occasions thus wickedly devised and misinterpreted Jews sided with the Empires enemies, most a change of a single letter, so that, whereas notoriously after the Persian siege of Jerusalem the utterance of one of these absolutely in 614. Suspicions against Jews increased and thereby introduces the other, by most popular anti-Semitism came to be reinforced people the difference is considered to be by official tolerance and legislation. great and their meanings to be in outright The other great religious change, generated antithetical opposition and to be exclusive by the wars of late antiquity, was Islam, which of each other. For he who confesses Christ spread over the Near East and North Africa in two natures openly declares Him to be through armed conquest. Holy war, jihad, from two, in that by confessing Christ spurred expansion, while the privileged position jointly in Divinity and humanity he of warriors in the early conquest communities declares in confessing that He is composed in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, coupled with extra tax from Divinity and humanity. burdens on unbelievers, encouraged conversion. The Arab capture of Jerusalem and the Holy- Land placed the sacred places of both Christians Christianitys triumph eliminated pagan and Jews under alien authority and created abeliefs at a formal level, but numerous desire for retaliation. The east-west politicalpre-Christian practices were subsumed into rivalry of Sassanids and Romans had now beenthe new religion in the process in spite of some complicated by a potent religious factor.condemnation. Christianitys secular power Such far-reaching political and religiousalso caused contamination as episcopal office developments were accompanied byin the right city became a desirable route to significant social and cultural changes. Thepower and wealth. The consequent dilution of corner-stone of the Roman Empire had been
90 Essential Histories • Rome at WarS. Sophia (Hagia Sophia), Istanbul, Turkey. (Ancient Art centuries. Population centres naturally sufferedand Architecture) severely, since plague-bearing fleas needed a reasonable density of hosts in order tothe city, which functioned as the centre for flourish; cities were particularly hard hit, butdiffusing government, the religious focus for so were armies, and even rural areas such asan area, and the social magnet for the local Palestine (which supported a dense network ofelite. In the same way as the growth of villages). For the rich, also, the obligations ofimperial prosperity was followed by the urban life had already begun to outweigh thespread of urban institutions, so the retreat of benefits. As a result cities became depopulated.Empire was accompanied by their shrinkage In some areas, such as the north Balkans, thereor disappearance. During the fourth and fifth was a vertical move away from exposedcenturies rural wealth and urban vitality had lowland sites to the fortified hill-tops used bycontracted away from the northern and the pre-Roman inhabitants. Elsewhere thewestern provinces, so that by the sixth remnants of urban populations clusteredcentury the most thriving cities were located around a place of refuge, perhaps a church orin Asia Minor and Syria. The Arab conquests monastery, or a fortification built out ofundermined urban institutions in those areas one of the massive remains of a Roman citywhich remained under Roman control. such as a theatre or amphitheatre. Paradoxically perhaps, cities continued toflourish under Arab authority as diverse,commercial social, and intellectual Cultural changescommunities. By contrast, in the survivingEmpire and the post-Roman west there had These shrunken settlements were nowbeen a substantial fall in population levels, dominated by their clergy, and perhaps a fewdue to a combination of warfare, general powerful local families, but it was the Church,insecurity, and disease. Bubonic plague had above all, which gave stability to thesestruck the Mediterranean in the 540s, and societies and determined their priorities. Thisthen returned with regularity for two is particularly evident in the case of education,
Conclusions and consequences 91which had been an important unifying badge important principles of Roman law were trans-for the elite of the Roman world. In the west mitted to medieval western kingdoms, and hencemonasteries became the guardians of knowledge to serve as the base for much European law. as other sources of learning faded away, while Diplomacy was another area of continuingin the east the clerical establishment in development, driven by practical concerns. InConstantinople provided the best opportunities the early Roman Empire there had been nofor advanced study within the Empire. tradition of systematic acquisition and As a result the balance of what was known compilation of information about neighboursinevitably shifted, with the priorities of the and possible threats, but this had begun toChurch dominating: some aspects of the change as the Empire came under increasingstandard classical education in grammar and pressure. In the fifth century, when Attilasrhetoric survived, since clerics still had to Huns were threatening the eastern Empire,participate in debates on doctrine and Constantinople developed a system fordiscipline, but the broad knowledge of the regulating relations with Sassanid Persia in anclassical literary tradition possessed by leading effort to ensure stability, and also appreciated thewriters in the fourth century had slipped, and advantages of detailed knowledge about otherthe intellectual speculation encouraged by neighbours. In the sixth century these practicesphilosophical study also ceased. Of practical continued, so that eastern rulers were presentedimport was the decline in knowledge of with information about the rulers of Axum inlanguages, which meant that very few in the Ethiopia and the Turks in central Asia, all as partwest outside Byzantine Italy could understand of Roman competition with Persia. The abilityGreek and there were shortages of Latin to play off possible enemies against each otherspeakers in the east. The intellectual centre of became a hallmark of Byzantine diplomacy, asthe Mediterranean world transferred to the the progressively weaker Empire relied more onlands conquered by Arabs: they ruled non-military means to secure its survival.Alexandria, the most important universitycity of the Roman world, there was sufficient Emperor Theodosius as a lawgiver. Frontispiece fromwealth in other cities to encourage families to Visigoth recension of the Codex of Theodosianus.finance the expense of higher education, and (Ancient A r t and Architecture)there was a curiosity to unlock the secrets ofHellenistic learning. Greek texts, especially ofmedicine, logic and philosophy, were translatedinto Arabic and studied, and in some cases itwas the Islamic schools in Spain which actedas the conduit for the western rediscovery ofthis knowledge - Latin translations were madeof Arabic versions of the Greek originals. One aspect of ancient learning thatcontinued to develop was law. In the 430sTheodosius II had presided over a majorcompilation of imperial law, and a centurylater Justinian had overhauled the law codeand texts for legal education. Organised lawscould contribute to the more effective exerciseof power, and even the publication of a codebolstered authority. It is noticeable that rulersof post-Roman states in the West saw theadvantages in publishing their own codeswhich combined Roman and Germanic law indiffering proportions; this ensured that
Further readin*Bachrach, B.S., Merovingian Military Cameron, A.M., Ward-Perkins, B, & Whitby, Organization 481-751, Minneapolis (1972) L.M., (edd.) The Cambridge Ancient HistoryBarnwell, P.S., Emperor, Prefects & Kings, the XIV AD 425-600, Cambridge (2000) Roman West, 395-565, London (1992) Campbell, J.B., The Emperor and the RomanBarnwell, P.S., Kings, Courtiers and Imperium. The Army 31 BC-AD 235, Oxford (1984) Barbarian West, AD 565-725, London (1992) Collins, R., Early Medieval Spain, Unity inBlockley, R.C., The Fragmentary Classicising Diversity 400-1000, New York (1983) Historians of the Later Roman Empire II, Collins, R., Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000, Cambridge (1985) London (1991)Blockley, R.C., The History of Menander the Corcoran, S., The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Guardsman, Cambridge (1985) Imperial Pronouncements and GovernmentBlockley, R.C., East Roman Foreign Policy, AD 284-324, Oxford (1996) Formation and Conduct from Diocletian to Cormack, R., Writing in Gold: Byzantine Society Anastasius, Cambridge (1992) and its Icons, London (1985)Bowersock, G.W., Brown, P., Grabar O., (eds.) Crump, G., Ammianus Marcellinus as a Military Late Antiquity; A Guide to the Postclassical Historian, Wiesbaden (1975) World, Cambridge, MA (1999) Dodgeon, M.H., & Lieu, S.N.C., The RomanBrown, P.R.L., The World of Late Antiquity: From Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, AD Marcus Amelius to Muhammad, London 226-363, London (1991) (1971) Donner, F., Early Islamic Conquests, PrincetonBrowning, R., The Emperor Julian, London (1981) (1975) Drinkwater, J., & Elton H., (edd.) Fifth-centuryBurns, T.S., ,4 Histoir of the Ostrogoths, Gaul: a Crisis of Identity?, Cambridge (1992) Bloomington (1984) Evans, J.A.S., The Age of Justinian, theBury, J.B., Histoir of the Later Roman Empire, Circumstances of Imperial Power, London from the death of Theodosius I to the death of (1996) Justinian (1923) Ferrill, A., The Fall of the Roman Empire, theCameron, A., Circus Factions, Blues and Greens Military Explanation, London (1986) at Rome and Byzantium, Oxford (1976) Fowden, G., Empire to Commonwealth,Cameron, A., & Long, J., Barbarians and Politics Consequences of Monotheism in Late at the Court of Arcadius, Berkeley (1993) Antiquity, Princeton (1993)Cameron, A.M., Procopius and the Sixth Century, Frank, R.I., Scholae Palatinae: the Palace Guards London (1985) of the Later Roman Empire, Rome (1969)Cameron, A.M., The Later Roman Empire, New Garnsey, P., & Humfress, C, The Evolution of York (1993) the Late Antique World, Cambridge (2001)Cameron, A.M., The Mediterranean World in Goffart, W., Barbarians and Romans Late Antiquity, London (1993) AD 418-584: The Techniques ofCameron, A.M., (ed.) The Byzantine and Early Accommodation, Princeton (1980) Islamic Near East III, States, Resources, Annies, Greatrex, G., Rome and Persia at War, 502-532, Princeton (1995) Leeds (1998)Cameron, A.M., & P. Garnsey (eds.) The Greatrex, G., & S.N.C. Lieu, The Roman Cambridge Ancient History XIII AD 337-425, Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars II, Cambridge (1997) AD 363-630, London (2002)
Further reading 93Haldon, J.F., Recruitment and Conscription Matthews, J.F., Western Aristocracies and in the Byzantine Army c.550-950, Imperial Court AD 364-125, Oxford (1975) Vienna (1979) Millar, F., The Roman Near East, 31 BC -Haldon, J.F., Byzantium in the Seventh Century, AD 337, Cambridge, MA (1993) the Transformation of a Culture, Cambridge Moorhead, J., Theoderic in Italy, Oxford (1992) (1990) Nicasie, M.J., Twilight of Empire: the RomanHarries, J., Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Army from the Reign of Diocletian until the Rome, Oxford (1994) Battle of Adrianople, Amsterdam (1998)Heather, P.J., Goths and Romans 332-489, Nixon, C.E.V., & Rodgers, B.S., In Praise of Oxford (1991) Later Roman Emperors, The PanegyriciHeather, P.J., The Goths, Oxford (1996) Latini, Berkeley (1994)Holum, K., Theodosian Empresses: Women and Obolensky, D., The Byzantine Commonwealth, Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity, London (1971) Berkeley (1982) OFlynn, J.M., Generalissimos of the WesternIsaac, B., The Limits of Empire, The Roman Roman Empire, Edmonton (1983) Army in the East, Oxford (1990) Rich, J., and Shipley, G., War and Society in theJames, E., The Origins of France: from Clovis to Roman World, London (1993) the Capetians 500-1000, London (1983) Southern,P., & Dixon, K.R., The Late RomanJames, E., The Franks, Oxford (1988) Army, London (1996)Jones, A.H.M., The Later Roman Empire Thompson, E.A., Romans and Barbarians, the 284-602, A Social, Economic and decline of the Western Empire, Madison Administrative Survey, Oxford (1964) (1982)Jones, A.H.M., Martindale, J.R., & Morris, J., Thompson, E.A., The Huns, Oxford (1995) (eds.) The Prosopography of the Later Roman Treadgold, W., The Byzantine Army, Stanford Empire 1, Oxford (1971) (1995)Kaegi, W.E., Byzantine Military Unrest, 471-843: Treadgold, W., A History of the Byzantine State An Interpretation, Amsterdam (1981) and Society, Stanford (1997)Kaegi, W.E., Byzantium and the Early Islamic Van Dam, R., Leadership and Community in Conquests, Cambridge (1992) Late Antique Gaul, Berkeley (1985)Lee, A.D., Information and Frontiers, Roman Watson, A., Aurelian and the Third Century, foreign relations in late antiquity, Cambridge London (1999) (1993) Whitby, L.M., The Emperor Maurice and HisLiebeschuetz, J.H.W.G., Barbarians and Bishops, Historian, Theophylact Simocatta on Persian Army, Church and State in the Age of Arcadius and Balkan Warfare, Oxford (1988) and John Chrysostom, Oxford (1990) Whittaker, C.R., Frontiers of the Roman Empire,Luttwak, E.N., The Grand Strategy of the Roman a Social and Economic Study, Baltimore Empire from the First Century AD to the (1994) Third, Baltimore (1976) Whittow, M., The Making of OrthodoxMacMullen, R., Soldier and Civilian in the Later Byzantium, 600-1025, London (1996) Roman Empire, Cambridge, MA (1963) Wickham, C, Early Medieval Italy, Central PowerMacMullen, R., Corruption and the Decline of and Local Society 400-1000, London (1981) Rome, New Haven (1988) Williams, S., Diocletian and the Roman Recovery,McCormick, M., Eternal Victory, Triumphal London (1985) Rulership in Late Antiquity, Byzantium and Williams, S., & Friell, G., The Rome That Did the Early Medieval West, Cambridge (1986) Not Fall: the survival of the East in the FifthMango, C.A., Byzantium: The Empire of New Century, London (1999) Rome, London (1980) Wolfram, H., History of the Goths, BerkeleyMartindale, J.R.(ed.), The Prosopography of the (1988) Later Roman Empire II—III, Cambridge Wood, I.N., The Merovingian Kingdoms, (1980, 1992) 450-751, Harlow (1994)
In the early third century AD the Roman Empire was a force to be reckoned with, controlling vast territories and wielding enormous politicalEssential HistoriesA multi-volume history of war seen from political,strategic, tactical, cultural and individual perspectivesRead them and gain a deeper understanding of warand a stronger basis for thinking about peace.Professor Robert ONeill, Series Editor
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