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Rome's Disgrace at Adrianople

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My name isn't Coldrail.
Are you adressing me or Scylla? ;)

 

Listen up, both of you.

 

This nonsense stops NOW.

 

There will be no more baiting or little "digs" or belittlement or name-calling between either of you. You are both making UNRV look like a friggin' schoolyard, and it's getting pretty damn tiresome playing "teacher" with you both.

 

No one gives a crap how clever either of you may think you are.

 

Neil and I are in agreement that you both should be placed on moderated status if there is any more of this nonsense. Got it? I strongly advise you both to refrain from responding to each other in these topics, and definitely refrain from making passing references to each other that only serve to invite more of this.

 

Behave yourselves, for crapsake. You're both making me very cranky.

 

-- Nephele

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Talking for me, I have no particular interest in making anyone cranky, how clever may anyone think either of us is or a moderate status.

 

From now on, if Caldrail ever wants to ask me anything, he should have to PM me; I

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Talking for me, I have no particular interest in making anyone cranky, how clever may anyone think either of us is or a moderate status.

 

From now on, if Caldrail ever wants to ask me anything, he should have to PM me; I

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No evidence will ever be enough for some people; however, for any people that still prefer just the quoting from authorities instead of directly using the available evidence and logic, let me quote something relevant for this topic from an authority that excels in using both evidence & logic:

 

" Certainly any theory that the East was always much stronger than the West is demolished by the fact that it was the eastern field army that was defeated and massacred at Hadrianopolis in 378.

This defeat provoked a profound and immediate eastern crisis: the Balkans were devastated; Constantinople itself was threatened (though saved by the presence of some Arab troops); and Gothic soldiers within the Roman army were slaughtered as a precautionary measure.

The loss with all its equipment of perhaps two-thirds of the eastern field army took years of expenditure and effort to repair. Indeed, until the Goths under Alaric entered Italy in 401, it was the eastern emperors, not the western, who occasionally needed military help from the other half of the empire (in 377, 378, 381, 395, and 397).

Edited by sylla

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The decisive factor that weighed in favour of the East was not the greater power of its armies and their consequent greater success in battle, but a single chance of geography

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The comments above from Ward-Perkins mostly square with the two most recent books by Peter Heather and Adrian Goldsworthy, which explain how the Goths at this time were hapless at seige warfare. It wasn't just Constantinople, but other fortified towns in the Balkans that the Goths couldn't take. My understanding, from what Heather and Goldsworthy wrote, was that the Goths mainly preyed on rural targets like villas, where they could get supplies and booty more easily than from fortified cities. After they'd sacked the rural regions south of the Danube, of course they would follow the path of least resistance and head West.

 

I agree that Adrianople did not deal a decisive blow to the Roman Empire militarily, but it was the starting point of an unprecedented situation, wasn't it? There had never before been a group that had moved inside the empire, living under its own leaders, that was never brought to heel under the Roman yoke nor driven back across the frontiers. Yes, they allied with Rome from time to time, but they retained their sense of identity and independence enough to end up with their own kingdom in the end. It's still hard not see Adrianople as a historical moment of great symbolic significance.

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There are several issues involved in the fall of the Western and and the continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire. They all play a part to varying degrees at different times.

 

By the time of Adrianople, the physical city of Rome had lost its importance in the empire. The idea of Rome was what was important. Constantinople was now the most important city of the Empire.

 

The Georgraphy of Europe and Asia Minor played role in the fall of the Western Empires as well. The lines of defense in the west were long, and sparsely defended. According to previous posts, the legion sizes were now smaller. The importance of Constantinople in relation to Rome played a major role in the placement of the bulk of the army . The physical governmental offices and staff were primarily located there as well. Caucasus Mountians created a physical barrier and the Parthians a buffer zone.

 

The actual physical movements of various tribes either in an aggressive mode or on the run from other tribes behind them also played a role. The Huns approached from the east. Looking at the map of Europe, there was more room for the Barbarians (Goths, et al) to move west then south than directly south from the Hungarian plane. The push in Europe seems to have been east to west by successive tribes.

 

One of many major faults of the government of Rome was corruption. Officials, military personal often pursued their own ends to the detriment of the empire and welfare of the people of the empire. The treaties with 'barbarians' were not honoured.

 

This is just a few of the ideas swirling my head. Unlike others, I read, I swirl, and the ideas form. I apologize for not having concise references for my ideas.

 

I have read Ward-Perkyns, his is a wonderful antedote to the current attitude of benevolent peaceful incursion of 'Barbarians' into the Western empire,. Also Goldsworthy, parts of Peter Heather, Alesandro Barbero's book, and others.

Edited by Artimi

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" Certainly any theory that the East was always much stronger than the West is demolished by the fact that it was the eastern field army that was defeated and massacred at Hadrianopolis in 378.

This defeat provoked a profound and immediate eastern crisis: the Balkans were devastated; Constantinople itself was threatened (though saved by the presence of some Arab troops); and Gothic soldiers within the Roman army were slaughtered as a precautionary measure.

The loss with all its equipment of perhaps two-thirds of the eastern field army took years of expenditure and effort to repair. Indeed, until the Goths under Alaric entered Italy in 401, it was the eastern emperors, not the western, who occasionally needed military help from the other half of the empire (in 377, 378, 381, 395, and 397).

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Never never ever has History been black & white.

 

If by the battle of 394 you mean Frigidus, that battle was an internal conflict between a Roman usurper and a Roman Emperor (the latter won, by far the most common outcome), analogous to literally hundreds of them across centuries of the Roman Imperial history.

 

It was certainly not a conflict between Empires, not any more than let say Severus vs Niger at Issus; the contenders were just political factions, not regional movements for autonomy. In fact, Theodosius and many of his best units were themselves "westerners".

 

Mr. Ward-Perkins compared the performance of both halves of the Empire against external enemies; all internal conflicts were necessarily "overlooked" for the reasons stated above; I would think his balance couldn't have been more eloquent.

 

In any case, the relevant point for our present topic is that the bulk of (if not all) the negative impact of Adrianople was over the Eastern, not the Western half; it couldn't have been in any other way.

Edited by sylla

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The comments above from Ward-Perkins mostly square with the two most recent books by Peter Heather and Adrian Goldsworthy, which explain how the Goths at this time were hapless at seige warfare. It wasn't just Constantinople, but other fortified towns in the Balkans that the Goths couldn't take. My understanding, from what Heather and Goldsworthy wrote, was that the Goths mainly preyed on rural targets like villas, where they could get supplies and booty more easily than from fortified cities. After they'd sacked the rural regions south of the Danube, of course they would follow the path of least resistance and head West.

 

Actually, the Goths advanced towards cities and towns and threatened to lay them under siege if they didn't provide what the Goths wanted. Part of Theodosius' long-term strategy was to garrison these towns so that the Goths could not use this tactic.

 

I agree that Adrianople did not deal a decisive blow to the Roman Empire militarily, but it was the starting point of an unprecedented situation, wasn't it? There had never before been a group that had moved inside the empire, living under its own leaders, that was never brought to heel under the Roman yoke nor driven back across the frontiers. Yes, they allied with Rome from time to time, but they retained their sense of identity and independence enough to end up with their own kingdom in the end. It's still hard not see Adrianople as a historical moment of great symbolic significance.

 

I agree

 

 

The Georgraphy of Europe and Asia Minor played role in the fall of the Western Empires as well. The lines of defense in the west were long, and sparsely defended. According to previous posts, the legion sizes were now smaller. The importance of Constantinople in relation to Rome played a major role in the placement of the bulk of the army . The physical governmental offices and staff were primarily located there as well. Caucasus Mountians created a physical barrier and the Parthians a buffer zone.

 

This is going back to the point that only the Western periphery of the Eastern Empire was threatened on a regular basis. The first Hun raids were repulsed, which led to a long peace. The frontier with Persia remained reelatively stable, and the desert frontiers were also relatively quiet, so the East recovered after Adrianople.

 

One of many major faults of the government of Rome was corruption. Officials, military personal often pursued their own ends to the detriment of the empire and welfare of the people of the empire. The treaties with 'barbarians' were not honoured.

 

This is possibly more to do with the nature of the politics in the two halves of the Empire. The internal politics in the East was similar to that in the West, but the individuals concerned tended to make decisions based upon the welfare of 'The Empire'. In the West, the scale of individual ambition ceased to be 'The Empire' and tended to focus mainly on Italy and the person of the Emperor.

 

This is, however, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Eastern empire defeated the Western empire in battle in 394.

Not all black and white, then.

 

What most people tend to forget is that the civil war of 394 against Eugenius was preceded by the civil war of 388, when Theodosius and the East defeated the West under Magnus Maximus at the Battles of Siscia and Poetovi. All with the help of Gothic foederati enrolled under the agreement of 382.

 

The ramifications of the Battle of Adrianople colour all of the events from the battle itself through to the sack of Rome by the next generation of the Gothic victors in 410, and further to the establishment of the Visigothic Kingdom in Gaul.

Edited by sonic

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I agree that Adrianople did not deal a decisive blow to the Roman Empire militarily, but it was the starting point of an unprecedented situation, wasn't it? There had never before been a group that had moved inside the empire, living under its own leaders, that was never brought to heel under the Roman yoke nor driven back across the frontiers. Yes, they allied with Rome from time to time, but they retained their sense of identity and independence enough to end up with their own kingdom in the end. It's still hard not see Adrianople as a historical moment of great symbolic significance.

 

In 251 the Romans under Decius had a similar defeat at the hands of the Goths. Fortunatelly, the Goths were only interested in plunder, and they were content to go back to their homeland. What would have happened if they had decided to stay?

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Actually, the Goths advanced towards cities and towns and threatened to lay them under siege if they didn't provide what the Goths wanted. Part of Theodosius' long-term strategy was to garrison these towns so that the Goths could not use this tactic.

 

Everyone used such threats against what we would today call 'civilian targets'. Ever since the republic, the Romans had made it clear to settlements that if they didn't surrender and open the gates, they seriously were going to regret it later. In fact, Theodosius could not prevent the goths from threatening siege with garrison troops, although the garrison itself would tend to dissuade confrontations with smaller groups.

 

The point is, if a siege is laid, then the garrison is on the defensive (sallies notwithstanding) and if contained within the walls, they starve right alongside the populace, and quickly become much less of a threat to the besiegers. You are therefore left with a numbers game, and there the Romans had a distinct advantage. That said, dispersal of your troops in the ancient world in a vain attempt to stop sieges of your settlements is a policy liable to weaken your military strength - in the ancient world, you want as many troops as possible in one place, and the mobile army doctrine of the late empire period was intended to address this need, with sizeable formations able to march wherever they were needed to plug the gaps. In theory anyway.

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I agree that Adrianople did not deal a decisive blow to the Roman Empire militarily, but it was the starting point of an unprecedented situation, wasn't it? There had never before been a group that had moved inside the empire, living under its own leaders, that was never brought to heel under the Roman yoke nor driven back across the frontiers. Yes, they allied with Rome from time to time, but they retained their sense of identity and independence enough to end up with their own kingdom in the end. It's still hard not see Adrianople as a historical moment of great symbolic significance.

 

I agree

I think most of us essentially agree; IMHO the point is that Adrianople was just another brick on the wall; it was a symptom, not the disease(s); the diseases came from long ago.

 

As Kosmo pointed out, the Goths and other Barbarians had already crushed the legions and even killed emperors before; as Barca pointed out, the casualties were moderate even for the Eastern half of the Empire alone. As Ward-Perkins pointed out, the defeat was in the Eas, not the West (by a ling shot). The sack of Rome in 410 was in no way a direct consequence of a remote battle in the Balkans 32 years before; that would be like attributing the innasion of the Afrika Korps to Egypt in 1942 to the German East African campaign of 1918 (admittedly, the latter was a lapse of only 24 years!)

 

The symptom was not so much the defeat itself, but the lack of s definitive retribution, i.e. the utter annihilation of the Goths, irrespectively of the Hunnic factor; that was the real evidence for the long standing diseases of the Empire.

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Actually, the Goths advanced towards cities and towns and threatened to lay them under siege if they didn't provide what the Goths wanted. Part of Theodosius' long-term strategy was to garrison these towns so that the Goths could not use this tactic.

 

Everyone used such threats against what we would today call 'civilian targets'. Ever since the republic, the Romans had made it clear to settlements that if they didn't surrender and open the gates, they seriously were going to regret it later. In fact, Theodosius could not prevent the goths from threatening siege with garrison troops, although the garrison itself would tend to dissuade confrontations with smaller groups.

 

He couldn't prevent it, but the presence of even a small military force would have reinforced the desire of the inhabitants not to simply give away all of their food and wealth.

 

The point is, if a siege is laid, then the garrison is on the defensive (sallies notwithstanding) and if contained within the walls, they starve right alongside the populace, and quickly become much less of a threat to the besiegers. You are therefore left with a numbers game, and there the Romans had a distinct advantage.

 

Yes - especially as they had the majority of the food stores inside the cities. Furthermore, Fritigern (or whoever was leading the Goths at the time) knew that if he laid siege to any city the advantage of the initiative would pass to Theodosius. If that happened, the Goths would be in trouble.

 

That said, dispersal of your troops in the ancient world in a vain attempt to stop sieges of your settlements is a policy liable to weaken your military strength - in the ancient world, you want as many troops as possible in one place, and the mobile army doctrine of the late empire period was intended to address this need, with sizeable formations able to march wherever they were needed to plug the gaps. In theory anyway.

 

But the military treatises and the military reality went against the gathering of troops for a major battle. He had already attempted to give battle and been heavily defeated. Instead, Theodosius relied upon the maintainance of strongholds to store food supplies and weapons, which would then be available to his own troops and not to the Goths. Using these bases as strongpoints, he then manoeuvred the Goths into a weaker position from which they were forced to surrender.

 

Don't forget, although the Goths are always portrayed as one large military force, in reality they were a collection of 'tribes', each with its own leader and each with a large proportion of non-combatants. Theodosius used this to his advantage.

 

He knew that the Goths had neither the equipment, the knowledge or the time to besiege a city. Unless taken quickly, the Gothic families would quickly be placed under extreme duress, since one of the main reasons for the revolt in the first place was lack of food. Although they had won a battle, the Goths do not seem to have captured any city that could supply them with food for a substantial amount of time. As a result, a long siege would probably be more damaging to the Goths than the Romans in the city.

 

Furthermore, any attempt to storm a city was fraught with danger. Even a small garrison could inflict heavy losses on the Goths, which they couldn't afford. And a defeat would have severely weakened Fritigern's political position. Fritigern (or his successor) knew this and so did not attempt to actually lay siege to any city. Theodosius' policy of deploying garrisons was vindicated.

 

Finally, by using these tactics Theodosius managed to weaken the Goths' will to fight to such an extent that some of the smaller 'tribes' chose to make treaties with him and were shipped across the Hellespont to Asia Minor. As the strength of the remaining Goths weakened, they decided that a treaty was the best way out of their predicament.

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Interesting, but if the Goths were fundamentally unable to attack a walled settlement (no arguement there, they had no experience of siege warfare as such) why would Theodosius tie down so many troops in garrisons when clearly he knew better, and recent experience had proven the value of small unit tactics favoured by Sebastianus?

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