Theodosius and the Goths I

The psychological impact of Adrianople was immediate. Pagans at once interpreted the defeat as punishment for the neglect of the traditional gods. In distant Lydia, the pagan rhetor Eunapius of Sardis composed what has been termed an instant history, to demonstrate that the empire had headed inexorably towards the disaster of Adrianople from the moment of Constantine’s conversion. For Eunapius, it seems, the Roman empire itself had ended at Adrianople: ‘Strife, when it has grown, brings forth war and murder, and the children of murder are ruin and the destruction of the human race. Precisely these things were perpetrated during Valens’ reign’. From a distance of longer years, and with considerably greater penetration, Ammianus made the same argument, choosing the disaster as the terminal point for his history and loading it with coded venom towards the Christians on whom he, like his hero Julian, blamed the empire’s decline. No Christian response was immediately forthcoming, though Nicene Christians seem to have blamed Adrianople on divine punishment for the homoean beliefs of Valens, and Jerome ended his Chronicle in 378, just as Ammianus did his history. This dialogue of blame and excuse, the pagan side of which is now largely lost to us thanks to suppression by the Christian winners, went on throughout the fifth century, exacerbated by Alaric’s sack of Rome. After all, how could the barbarian scourge have stung so painfully if God or the gods were not murderously displeased?

For the modern scholar, too, the battle of Adrianople is a turning point of major importance, though we seek historical rather than divine explanations. As we saw in the last chapter, the causes of the disaster lay not in any single event but in a series of human errors. The aftermath of the battle, however, represents a new phase in the history of both the Goths and the Roman empire. In this new phase, the historian’s framework of analysis changes dramatically. We can sum up the core of the change quite simply: until 378, Gothic history was fundamentally shaped by experience of the Roman empire. The central fact of Gothic existence was the Roman empire looming on the other side of the frontier, and much of the political and social life of the Goths can be explained by reference to their relations with Rome. For the empire, by contrast, the Goths were one of dozens of barbarian neighbours, and by no means the most important. They were a marginal force even in the political life of the empire, and invisible to its social and institutional history. After 378, however, the Goths were a constant and central presence in the political life of the empire. Even though the material damage of Adrianople was repaired more rapidly than anyone at the time could have imagined possible, tens of thousands of Goths now lived permanently inside the Roman frontiers. In a very short time, that fact profoundly altered the way in which the imperial government dealt not just with the Goths, but with barbarian peoples more generally. Before long, imperial institutions from the army to the court changed in response to the challenges of the new situation, and the social world of many regions was profoundly altered. In many ways, the Gothic settlement in the aftermath of Adrianople laid the foundation of the new and changed world of the fifth century.

Julius and the Asian Massacre

Contemporaries found making sense of the disaster a slow and painful process, but practical responses could not wait. In the Balkans, the immediate aftermath of Adrianople was chaos, just as one would have expected. Gratian halted at Sirmium, where he was joined by those generals who had escaped the slaughter. He went no further east. The Goths laid siege to Adrianople itself without success, then pressed on to Constantinople where they were again repulsed, in part thanks to a troop of Arab auxiliaries so bloodthirsty that they terrified even the triumphant Goths. Not until 381, three years after the battle, did most of the Balkan peninsula again become safe for Roman travellers. In the interim, to those outside the region, Thrace produced nothing but rumour. So confused was the situation that, for the latter part of 378 and much of 379, the eastern provinces had basically to operate without reference to any emperor at all. Government ticked over in the hands of those imperial officials who were in place in August 378, and they were left to make their own decisions as best they could. Most of all, they had to decide how to stop the Balkan unrest spreading into the rest of the eastern empire.

This was a real possibility, as is demonstrated by events in Asia Minor. There, and perhaps in other parts of the East, riots broke out amongst native Goths in various cities. The exact outline of the episode, and the extent of it, has always been unclear, because Ammianus and Zosimus, the latter relying on Eunapius, give very different accounts. Ammianus says that in the immediate aftermath of Adrianople, the magister militum of the East, Julius, forestalled the eastward spread of the Balkan troubles by systematically calling up all the Gothic soldiers from the ranks of the army and having them massacred outside the eastern cities. Ammianus favoured this approach as the correct way of dealing with barbarians, but when he wrote – in the 380s – he may have been holding up the bracing harshness of Julius as a reproof of the emperor Theodosius’ Gothic treaty of 382. Zosimus tells a different story. According to him, when Julius found himself unable to contact the emperor or anyone in Thrace, he instead sought the advice of the Constantinopolitan senate, which gave him the authority to act as he thought best. With that licence, he lured the Goths of Asia Minor into the cities and there had them massacred in the confines of urban streets from which they could not escape. Zosimus, moreover, suggests that these slaughtered Goths were not soldiers, but rather the teenage hostages who had been handed over to the Roman government in 376 to guarantee their parents’ good behaviour. Finally, Zosimus dates the massacre not to the immediate aftermath of Adrianople, but rather to 379.

Although the patent contradiction between these accounts is often resolved by accepting Ammianus over Zosimus, additional evidence suggests an alternative. Two sermons of Gregory of Nyssa, the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea, mention depredations by Scythians in Asia Minor in 379. This corroboration of Zosimus points the way forward: Ammianus, for polemical purposes, has telescoped a long process into a single swift move by Julius, while Zosimus preserves the longer time frame and the sense of uncertainty that followed a battle which left no one in real control of the eastern empire. What probably happened is that Julius, knowing that there were Goths in the local army units as well as any number of young Gothic hostages of very nearly military age and prone like all teenage males to violence, decided to prevent any repetition of the Thracian debacle. He began with the forts in the frontier provinces – the castra mentioned by Ammianus – but his actions were either meant to, or interpreted as meaning to, prefigure a systematic massacre of Goths in the eastern provinces. As word spread, those Goths who were in a position to riot did so, and were killed in large numbers across Asia Minor and Syria.

The Accession of Theodosius

That so many – presumably quite innocent – Goths should have been done away with in this fashion emphasizes as nothing else can the scale of the dangers, and also the scale of the confusion. For us, looking back dispassionately and trying to work out what happened, it is easy to forget how hopeless of repair the whole situation must have seemed. But we can only explain the failure of Gratian and his generals to coordinate a systematic response if we remember the depth of the shock that Adrianople caused. Rather than system or coordination, survivors switched to habitual, automatic responses to deal with the crisis. We have seen this already with the response of Julius and, presumably, other eastern officials as well. Most of them carried on doing what they normally did, the state continuing to function without any clear notion of what it was continuing for. Gratian’s immediate reaction was a similarly conditioned response: with the Balkans in chaos and the Goths running riot, he turned not to the immediate problem, but rather to the Alamanni, a foe that was always worth fighting and against whom he had a reasonable chance of success. As we saw, some Alamanni had attacked Gaul the minute they heard that Gratian intended to march east. Given Valens’ catastrophic failure, Gratian must have felt it necessary to hurry back to the West lest equivalent disaster strike there.

Into this vacuum stepped Theodosius, a thirty-three-year-old Spanish aristocrat and the son of one of Valentinian I’s great generals, also named Theodosius. The younger Theodosius would go on to become augustus and, as with all emperors, our sources are coloured by retrospective judgements. Just as Valens was indelibly marked by the catastrophe of Adrianople, so Theodosius was forever after associated with the defence of Nicene orthodoxy and the suppression of paganism. In the ecclesiastical histories of the fifth century, Theodosius became Theodosius the Great, a name which he still bears in the casual usage of modern historians. The appellation was bestowed more for his pliability in theological matters than for any signal achievements in public policy, but the image of greatness seeped into every other corner of his reign as well. Thus a recent biography of Theodosius is subtitled ‘the empire at bay’, conjuring the image of a wounded empire, turning with its last strength to savage the attackers besetting it on all sides. However compelling that image might be as theatre, it is hardly in accord with the reality of an emperor who never won a major battle under his own command and who rarely campaigned at all after 381. However easy it is to let later ecclesiastical authors colour our impression of Theodosius’ greatness, the difficulties of his early reign are suggested by the darkness that shrouds his accession to the purple.

Theodosius had in the early 370s stood on the verge of a prominent military career: he was dux Moesiae, a rather senior post for so young a man, no doubt secured for him by his father’s influence. In 374, as dux, he had won a victory over the Sarmatians. In 376, however, the elder Theodosius fell victim to the palace intrigues that followed Valentinian’s death. His eponymous son chose prudent retirement to family estates in Spain, lest he too die by the hand of an executioner. Isolated in his Spanish exile, Theodosius was abandoned by most of his former friends, a man irrevocably damaged by his father’s disgrace, or so it seemed. It is thus very hard for us to imagine why Gratian should have chosen to call him out of retirement in this moment of crisis and send him to deal with the Balkan emergency. In fact, only one source – the ecclesiastical history of Theoderet of Cyrrhus – records this summons of Theodosius by Gratian, and its accuracy has correctly been impugned. Theoderet wrote his ecclesiastical history in the later fifth century, when the legend of Theodosius’ greatness and orthodoxy were firmly established as true. Part of his story of Theodosius’ accession is palpably fictionalized. Far more significant is the silence of nearly contemporary sources, particularly the orators Themistius and Pacatus, on the route by which Theodosius climbed to power. Had that path been clean and simple, both panegyrists – and particularly the propagandizing Themistius – would have trumpeted its details in full. Instead, they veil in a deep silence the relationship of Gratian and Theodosius in the immediate aftermath of Adrianople. A more plausible scenario, which makes good sense in light of the period’s confusion, has recently been suggested. Already in 378, when the extent of the Balkan violence and Gratian’s plan to march east were generally known, Theodosius and his remaining friends at court spotted an ideal opportunity to engineer his return to favour. Making much of his Balkan experience and his now-distant success as dux Moesiae, they secured his reappointment to that post either shortly before or immediately after Adrianople. Theodosius probably campaigned in the eastern Balkans during late 378, but achieved nothing decisive before his proclamation as augustus on 19 January 379.


Theodosius and the Goths II

Although that was only four months after Adrianople, it would take another two years before Theodosius gained control of the Balkans. Why the reconquest took so long is a matter of controversy, but it might be explained if Theodosius’ proclamation had not initially been intended. In fact, there are some grounds for thinking that his accession was the result of a quiet coup by the surviving Illyrian generals who wanted nothing to do with the regime of Gratian. Earlier successes of Theodosius could provide the necessary excuse, and might be magnified in the propaganda if that would make the point. Theodosius duly became augustus, but Gratian need neither have appreciated the move nor had anything at all to do with it. Rather than brand Theodosius a usurper and thereby worsen further the crisis in the eastern provinces, he decided to acquiesce. He received Theodosius’ imperial portrait with full respect and began to issue laws in their joint names. But he had no great cause to welcome his new colleague and never did much to help him. Instead, he consigned the Balkans to Theodosius as an insoluble mess, happy enough if the burden of inevitable failure fell squarely on the new emperor’s shoulders. The evident absence of western aid certainly helps account for the slowness with which Theodosius brought the Balkans back under imperial control.

Theodosius’ Gothic Campaigns

In the year and a half that followed his imperial accession, Theodosius made his base at Thessalonica. He did not enter Constantinople, the city he would transform from an occasional imperial residence into the capital of the Roman East, until November 380, nearly two years after his appointment as augustus. That in itself tells us a great deal about the continuing Gothic problem: Thessalonica had good access to the Balkan interior, but could if necessary be supplied entirely by sea. The city was therefore almost impervious to disturbances inland, and could serve as an imperial residence even when the interior was completely occupied by the Goths. The eastern army had been shattered by Adrianople. Sixteen whole units were wiped out without a trace and never reconstituted. One of Theodosius’ first concerns was therefore to provide himself with troops. Many of the army units known from the Notitia Dignitatum, a thorough but chronologically composite listing of the imperial bureaucracy that describes the eastern army as it existed in mid-394, were first raised by Theodosius between 379 and 380. Several imperial laws from the same years address recruiting problems, and the Syrian rhetor Libanius describes the calling up of farmers. Zosimus tells us that some of the new recruits were hired in from across the Danube, although they soon proved every bit as ineffectual as those raised locally. The new emperor also needed victories. In the decade after Adrianople, we have evidence for nearly half as many victory celebrations as are attested in the seven previous decades combined. That is a formidable statistic. It illustrates how desperately Theodosius needed to be seen to be dealing with the Gothic problem.

Our only real source for reconstructing the campaigns of 379–382 is the summary of Eunapius that survives in Zosimus’ New History. We have referred to Zosimus on more than one occasion in the course of our narrative, but his defects are particularly apparent here, where the abridgement of Eunapius is severe and nonetheless still includes confusing doublets. So far as we can tell, in 379, Theodosius and his generals concentrated on clearing Thrace itself and eliminating the immediate threat to Constantinople and Adrianople. The general Modares, himself a Goth in imperial service, won some sort of victory in Thrace before the end of the campaigning season, though its significance may not have been too great. By 380, the different Gothic groups had been driven westwards into Illyricum, but whether that constituted an improvement for anyone but the inhabitants of Thrace is debateable. In that same year, Theodosius suffered a severe setback. Some Goths, perhaps led by Fritigern, marched into Macedonia and confronted the emperor at the head of his new recruits. These promptly failed in their first combat, the barbarians amongst them going over to the victorious enemy, the others deserting en masse – no surprise, then, that Theodosius soon had to issue laws on desertion. With this signal success, the Goths were able to impose tribute on the cities of Macedonia and Thessaly, which is to say northern Greece and the southwestern Balkans. A failed Gothic attack on Pannonia even brought Gratian back east in the summer of 380, when we find him at Sirmium, making no effort at all to confer with Theodosius. By the end of the year, he had returned to Gaul, and Theodosius felt able to make his way to Constantinople for the first time in his reign. In 381, Gratian’s generals Bauto and Arbogast drove the Goths away from the frontiers of the West and back into Thrace. It must by now have been obvious to Theodosius that his western colleague, far from helping solve the Gothic problem, would do no more than bar the western provinces to the Goths while leaving the eastern Balkans to suffer.

The Peace of 382

Theodosius thus bowed to the inevitable. Seeing no point in throwing still more troops into what was clearly a losing battle, he opened peace negotiations that were finally concluded on 3 October 382. The fact that this peace might well have seemed disappointing, especially after four years of confidently predicted triumphs, was anticipated by such mouthpieces of the imperial court as Themistius. Already in 382, Themistius was arguing that it was better to fill Thrace with Gothic farmers than with Gothic dead, and that because of the peace, the Goths themselves gained so much that they could celebrate a victory won over themselves. He hammered the same point at inordinate length a year later in his thirty-fourth oration: this masterpiece of political spin rewrites the history of the previous half-decade in order to absolve Theodosius of any imputations of incompetence in failing to wipe the Goths out altogether.

Despite Themistius’ grandiloquence, actual evidence for the treaty is minimal. Synesius claims that the Goths were given lands, Themistius echoes the classic topos of swords being beaten into ploughshares and locates his Gothic ploughmen in Thrace, Pacatus claims that the Goths became farmers. This sort of rhetoric was routine in describing any agreement with barbarians, and permits no conjecture as to the mechanisms or location of the settlement. Perhaps the Goths paid, or were meant to pay, taxes: Themistius is studiedly ambiguous. Perhaps the Goths continued to live by their tribal customs: Synesius tells us as much twenty years later, but embedded in a hysterical diatribe against the imperial employment of barbarians, his assertion proves next to nothing. Theodosius surely welcomed the disappearance of the whole generation of Gothic leaders that had won the battle of Adrianople: after 380, neither Fritigern, nor Alatheus and Saphrax, nor Videric are ever heard from again. But that does not imply a deliberate policy to sideline or eliminate them, a task that was, moreover, beyond imperial abilities. All of which is to say that – unfortunately for the modern historian in search of answers and just as with Constantine’s treaty of 332 – we cannot work backwards from later events and assume that what did happen was intended to happen in 382. What little we know for certain can be summed up very simply: in 382, the Goths who had terrorized the Balkans since Adrianople ceased to do so, while Roman contemporaries all agreed that the Gothic threat was over.

In the decade that followed, many Goths were called up into regular units of the eastern field army. Others served as auxiliaries in the campaigns that Theodosius led against the western usurpers Magnus Maximus (r. 383–388) and Eugenius (r. 392–394). Many, though not necessarily all, of these Goths were survivors of the group that had won the towering victory at Adrianople and then led Theodosius on a merry chase round the Balkans for nearly three years. For the most part, however, we have little solid evidence for any of the Goths inside the empire until the immediate aftermath of the Eugenius campaign and Theodosius’ premature and entirely unexpected death in January 395. Beginning in that year, the young Gothic leader Alaric raised a rebellion that lasted for fifteen years and culminated in the sack of Rome, with which our story began.

Roman External Relations

Roman external relations were defined by territorial ambitions and interests on the part of the Roman state at different stages of its development. These relations shifted during Roman history as it evolved from a republican city-state based in Italy and eventually became a vast empire encompassing three continents.

Early in the republic, most of Rome’s relations were primarily with its Latin, Italic, Greek, and Etruscan neighbors in the Italian peninsula and were focused on guaranteeing its economic health and security in the region. However, Roman military and economic expansion into Europe, the Mediterranean littoral, and the Near East brought the Roman republic (and then the empire after the principate of Augustus) into direct contact and conflict with the Celts (Gauls), the Carthaginians, the Hellenistic kingdoms, and the Parthians, thus expanding its relations from the circumscribed world of the Italian peninsula. Later in the third and fourth centuries CE, in light of its declining military and political strength, the preservation of the Roman empire rested on maintaining friendly relations and alliances with Germanic ethnic groups in its European borderlands, which were characterized by vast German migrations from central Eurasia. Early in the republic, much of Rome’s inter- action with local Italian city-states in terms of trade, alliances, and warfare centered on Roman expansion vis-a-vis these entities. Growing Ro- man preeminence in the central Italian peninsula brought it into direct conflict with other Latin city-states (collectively referred to by historians as the Latin League). Direct military confrontation between Rome and the Latin League in the Latin War ultimately resulted in Roman victory in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 499 BCE. The Latin War ended with a formal treaty (foedus Cassianus) that established normal relations between the Romans and the Latin League and created an alliance for collective security. However, this diplomatic maneuver on the part of Rome was in response to the growing threat of migrations of Volsci and Sabines into Roman and Latin areas in the fifth century. Subsequent warfare with the Volsci and the Gauls made the alliance with the Latins pivotal to Italian security. However, in the midst of the Samnite Wars (the Saminites were erstwhile allies of the Romans) the Latin League grew suspicious of Ro- man hegemony, resulting in a revolt in 340 BCE. Upon the defeat of the Latin League, Rome pursued a policy of incorporating the Latin cities through intermarriage, citizenship, and growing economic bonds, thereby securing their hegemony in Italy. By the end of the Third Samnite War in 290 BCE, they too became incorporated as part of the Roman state, as did the Etruscans and Gauls in subsequent years.

Roman diplomacy shifted onto the great Mediterranean region with the defeat over Epirus in the Pyrrhic Wars and Carthage in the Punic Wars in the third and second centuries BCE. Rome and Carthage had maintained friendly relations prior to the Punic Wars, only insofar as they saw a com- mon enemy in the Greeks and Etruscans. However, with Roman incorporation of these regions, hostility against Carthage in Sicily, Spain, and North Africa resulted in the Punic Wars. In the midst of these wars, Rome garnered support and hostility from adjacent Hellenistic states (some were Carthaginian allies), bringing them into the orbit of Roman national interests. While there were Roman emissaries and what could be construed as diplomats and diplomatic institutions in the modern sense sent or exchanged with these kingdoms, the actual work of diplomacy was done through the Roman military and bureaucracy following orders from the Senate.

In the second to first centuries BCE, small Greek kingdoms, seeking greater autonomy from the Hellenistic kingdoms (that is, the empire of Alexander the Great and his generals), sought Roman support. Roman intervention in Greek affairs brought them into dynastic intrigues and regional disputes, resulting in Roman military actions against Macedon (200 BCE-197 BCE), Syria (190 BCE), and Greek city-states (particularly illustrative with the Roman sack of Corinth in 146 BCE). Rome gradually incorporated these Greek regions as Roman provinces as they were defeated. Roman acquisition of Pergamum in Asia Minor through the will of its last monarch in 133 BCE granted them substantial territory in the East as well. While friendly relations existed with Ptolemaic Egypt, the last of the great Hellenistic kingdoms, Roman political strife combined with Mark Antony’s alliance with Cleopatra also resulted in the conquest of that region by Octavian in 30 BCE.

The Roman empire, particularly during the principate, was a potent force in the ancient Mediterranean world, bringing it into contact with the Parthians in the East and with German cultural groups along its European borderlands. As Rome expanded into Britain, the Levant, and Mesopotamia, it was expedient to rule through client-kings in a form of indirect rule. However, due to revolts such as those in Judea by the Jews (particularly the Zealots) and in Britain by the Iceni in the first century CE, Roman authority was established through the direct incorporation of these regions as Roman provinces subject to direct political and military authority. Relations with Parthia were also characterized by the establishment of formal diplomatic recognition of this Persian kingdom as an equal through the exchange of hostages during times of peace. While wars did characterize this relationship, the inability of either power to force the other to complete capitulation forced this mutual recognition. However, as Rome’s military and political power declined in the third and fourth centuries CE, Rome was forced to develop a series of alliances with neighboring Germanic tribal states along its periphery for mutual defense by allowing Germanic settlement in Roman lands, for Germanic mercenaries, known as foederati, were crucial to Roman defense. In the midst of a massive migration of Germanic peoples coming from central Eurasia and exerting pressure on Roman borderlands, it was pivotal for Rome to establish such relationships to counter its weakening military. While some of these Germanic peoples became thoroughly Romanized and ad- opted Christianity, by the fifth century the Roman empire in the West was no more, having gradually evolved into a series of Germanic successor states. In the East, the Byzantine empire survived for another millennium but through most of its existence as primarily a Greek state based in Anatolia and the Greek peninsula.

Bibliography Eilers, Claude, ed. Diplomats and Diplomacy in the Roman World. Boston: Brill, 2008. Lee, A. D. “The Role of Hostages in Roman Diplomacy with Sassanian Persia.” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 40(3) (1991): 366-374. Mattern, Susan P. Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Scullard, H. H. A History of the Roman World: 753- 146 BC. 4th ed. New York: Methuen, 1980.

The Roman War Machine – Fifth Century BC

Roman infantry are described by Livy as organised into centuries by class, performing manoeuvres on the battlefield and frequently pressing their officers to provide more aggressive orders rather than charging disobediently. They are therefore classed as regular and the 1st class, equipped as armoured hoplites, as superior. The 2nd and 3rd class had the oval Scutum as their shield instead of the round hoplon or aspis and had only minimal armour. The 4th class are described by Livy as having spear and javelins but no shield, but by Dionyssos as also having shields. Livy describes the 5th class as slingers, Dionysios as slingers and javelinmen.

At the end of the fifth century BC, Rome was still, like the towns around her, emerging from an agricultural society driven by an agrarian economy. Rome was different because she became increasingly larger than her enemies and she was extraordinarily receptive to outside influences – melding the best facets and successful practices from friend and foe alike. Militarily, Rome had a facility for adapting tactically and developing weaponry and armour based on extensive combat experience. Every battle fought, even those she lost, was a lesson in military science for the Romans.

In early summer each year, the army was summoned and trooped out to the latest theatre of war. Every autumn, the army, or what was left of it, was discharged until the call to arms the following year. The armies were usually led by two consuls, or by consular tribunes, or by dictators in times of tumultus, times of dire crisis. These consuls usually operated in concert with each other, not always harmoniously. They often brought no experience in leading an army or prosecuting a campaign. Time spent in the army or navy was simply another rung on the ladder of the cursus honorum, the political career path of the elite Roman. The army, and war, came with the career, and the successful execution of the military element went some way to contributing to longterm glory and success. This, in turn, fostered a belligerent attitude amongst Roman politicians-cum-commanders. Victory in war meant success in politics; success in politics was often dependent on victory on the battlefield.

The lower ranks of the army, the heavily armed infantrymen known as classis, were self-financing and recruited from farmers. Below the classis was the infra classem, skirmishers with less and lighter armour which required a smaller financial outlay. Above the classes were the equites, patricians with some wealth who made up the majority of the cavalry, officers and staff. Their money often came from land ownership. Soldiers were unpaid in the early days, providing their own rations, arms and armour.

War was not kind to the classes. It usually meant that they were away from their lands, forced to neglect their very livelihood for increasingly long stretches of military service. Moreover, they suffered virtual ruin when their farms were depradated by enemy action. The longer they served, the greater the chance of being killed or badly wounded and disabled, rendering them unfit to work on their lands. A ready supply of slaves to work on the lands of the wealthy was fuelled by prisoners of war, reducing the Roman or Italian agricultural worker’s value in the job market to little better than slaves themselves. Military duty plunged some classes into debt and led to virtual bondage to patricians – an ignominious semi-servile arrangement, nexum, which forced a farmer or farm worker to provide labour on the security of his person. Defaulting led to enslavement. Richer landowners could bear losses better as they were the beneficiaries of this bond-debt process, which allowed them to procure yet more land and cheap labour at the expense of the classes and infra classes. In short, the rich just got richer, a process helped also by their favourable share of increasing amounts of booty. Once Rome had conquered the Italian peninsula, the poorer workers could not even be helped out by land distribution; after 170 BC, land distribution stopped altogether. This, of course, led to resentment, which was only assuaged by personal allocations from tribunes and generals. Land allocations overseas were not considered an option until the time of Julius Caesar.

Oakley has tabulated the number of prisoners of war captured and subsequently enslaved by Rome in the nineteen battles between 297 and 293 BC, and recorded in Livy: approximately 70,000. Even allowing for some exaggeration, this clearly illustrates the impact conquest had on the careers and employment prospects of many agricultural workers. It did not stop there, of course: when Agrigentum was captured in 262 BC, no less than 25,000 prisoners were reportedly taken, all swelling the already competitive job market.

Roman warfare was then inseparable from Roman politics and from Roman economics; land questions and the Conflict of the Orders provided a constant soundtrack to the early wars.

The soldier depended on the value of and income from his land for financial clout, the ability to qualify for service and pay for his armour and weapons. The Conflict of the Orders ran from 494 BC to 287 BC and was a 200-year battle fought by the plebeians to win political equality. The secessio plebis was the powerful bargaining tool with which the plebeians effectively brought Rome grinding to a halt and left the patricians and aristocrats to get on with running the city and the economy themselves – the Roman equivalent to a general strike. The first secessio, in 494 BC, saw the plebeians down weapons and withdraw military support during the wars with the Aequi, Sabines and Volsci. That year marked the first real breakthrough between the people and the patricians, when some plebeian debts were cancelled. The patricians yielded more power when the office of Tribune of the Plebeians was created. This was the first government position to be held by the plebeians, and plebeian tribunes were sacrosanct during their time in office.

Servius Tullius, Rome’s sixth king, may have gone some way to militarizing Rome when he divided the population into wealth groups – their rank in the army determined by what weapons and armour they could afford to buy, with the wealthiest serving in the cavalry due in part to the cost of horses. Servius was certainly responsible for changes in the organization of the Roman army: he shifted the emphasis from cavalry to infantry and with it the inevitable modification in battlefield tactics. Before Servius, the army comprised 600 or so horse reinforced by heavily-armed infantry and lightly-armed skirmishers; it was little more than a militia of landowning infantry wielding pilum, shield and sword (gladius), operating like Greek hoplites in phalanx formation. The rest were composed of eighteen centuries of equites and thirty-two centuries of slingers. (A century was made up of ten conturbenia, amounting to eighty or so men.) The Etruscans, and then the Romans, absorbed Greek influences when they adopted full body armour, the hoplite shield and a thrusting spear – essential for phalanx-style close combat warfare.

Men without property, assessed by headcount, capite censi, were not welcome in the army, in much the same way that debtors, convicted criminals, women and slaves were excluded. However, slaves were recruited in exceptional circumstances, notably after the calamitous battle of Cannae and the manpower shortage it caused. Servius also reorganized the army into centuries and formed the parallel political assemblies, reinforcing the inextricable connection between Roman politics and Roman military. His ground-breaking census established who was fit – physically and financially – to serve in the Roman army. Recruitment extended from between age 17 and 46 (iuniores), and between 47 and 60 (seniores), the more elderly constituting a kind of home guard. The lower classes were not required to report with full body armour; this led to the use of the long body shield, the scutum, for protection, instead of the circular hoplite shield.

‘The Whole North into Gaul’

A warrior Ostrogoth has just killed a Roman enemy on the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields. Behind you can see an archer Hun. In this battle the Ostrogoths (Eastern branch of the Cup tribe, from Ost goten, Goths of the East), who were a faithful contingent of Attila’s army. They came face to face their Visigoth cousins (from West Goten, Goths of the West), allied with the Romans.

As far back as the 370s when they were attacking Goths beyond the Black Sea, Huns were forcing others they had already subdued to fight alongside them. When they first attacked the Greuthungi, starting the avalanche that ended at the battle of Hadrianople, they were operating in alliance with Iranian-speaking Alan nomads. And whenever we encounter them subsequently, we find that Hunnic forces always fought alongside non-Hunnic allies. Although Uldin, was not a conqueror on the scale of Attila, once the east Romans had dismantled his following, most of the force they were left with to resettle turned out to be Germanic-speaking Sciri. Likewise, in the early 420s, east Roman forces intervening to curb Hunnic power west of the Carpathian Mountains found themselves left with a large number of Germanic Goths.

In the years preceding the rise of Attila, the process of incorporation continued apace. By the 440s, an unprecedented number of Germanic groups found themselves within the orbit defined by the formidable power of Attila the Hun. For example, his Empire contained at least three separate clusters of Goths. One group, dominated by the Amal family and their rivals, would later become central to the creation of a second Gothic supergroup: the Ostrogoths. Another Gothic group was led in the mid-460s by a man called Bigelis, while a third remained under the tight control of Attila’s sons until the later 460s. In addition, Germanic-speaking Gepids, Rugi, Suevi (left behind in 406), Sciri and Heruli were all by this point under direct Hunnic control, and a looser hegemony may also have been exercised over Lombards and Thuringians, as well as over at least some subgroups of the Alamanni and Franks. We can’t put figures on this vast body of Germanic-speaking humanity, but the Amal-led Goths alone could muster ten thousand-plus fighting men, and hence had maybe a total population of fifty thousand. And there is no reason to suppose that the other groups were much, if at all, smaller. Many tens of thousands, therefore, and probably several hundreds of thousands, of Germanic-speakers were caught up in the Hunnic Empire by the time of Attila. In fact, by the 440s there were probably many more Germanic-speakers than Huns, which explains why ‘Gothic’ should have become the Empire’s lingua franca. Nor do these Germani exhaust the list of Attila’s non-Hunnic subjects. Iranian-speaking Alanic and Sarmatian groups, had long been in alliance with the Huns, and Attila continued to grasp at opportunities to acquire new allies.

Every time a new barbarian group was added to Attila’s Empire, that group’s manpower was mobilized for Hunnic campaigns. Hence the Huns’ military machine increased, and increased very quickly, by incorporating ever larger numbers of the Germani of central and eastern Europe. In the short term, this benefited the embattled Roman west. The reason, as many historians have remarked, that the rush of Germanic immigration into the Roman Empire ceased after the crisis of 405–8 was that those who had not crossed the frontier by about 410 found themselves incorporated instead into the Empire of the Huns; and there is an inverse relationship between the pace of migration into the Roman Empire and the rise of Hunnic power.

In the longer term, however, the respite from assault was only illusory, and a succession of Hunnic leaders achieved something analogous to what the Sasanians had achieved in the Near East. For the first time in imperial Roman history, the Huns managed to unite a large number of Rome’s European neighbours into something approaching a rival imperial superpower.

The full ferocity of this extraordinary new war machine was felt in the first instance by the east Roman Empire, whose Balkan communities suffered heavily in 441/2 and again in 447. After the two defeats of the 447 campaign, the east Romans had nothing left to throw in Attila’s direction. Hence, in 449, their resorting to the assassination attempt in which Maximinus and Priscus found themselves unwittingly embroiled. Still Attila didn’t let Constantinople off the hook. Having refused to settle the matter of the fugitives and repeated his demands for the establishment of a cordon sanitaire inside the Danube frontier, he now added another: that the east Romans should provide a nobly born wife (with an appropriate dowry) for his Roman-born secretary. These demands, if unsatisfied, were possible pretexts for war, and his constant agitating shows that Attila was still actively considering another major assault on the Balkans.

In 450, the diplomatic mood was to change abruptly. A new Roman embassy followed the same path north that Priscus and Maximinus had trodden the previous year. This one comprised Anato-lius, one of the two most senior military commanders at the eastern court (magister militum praesentalis), and Nomus, the Master of Offices (magister officiorum). Anatolius was well known to Attila, having negotiated the interim peace deal that had followed the Hunnic victories of 447. It is hard to think of a grander ambassadorial duo – that he should treat only with the noblest had been one of Attila’s stipulations. The Roman view of what happened next is recorded by Priscus: ‘At first Attila negotiated arrogantly, but he was overwhelmed by the number of their gifts and mollified by their words of appeasement. . .’ In the end:

Attila swore that he would keep the peace on the same terms, that he would withdraw from the Roman territory bordering the Danube and that he would cease to press the matter of the fugitives . . . providing the Romans did not again receive other fugitives who fled from him. He also freed Vigilas . . . [and] a large number of prisoners without ransom, gratifying Anatolius and Nomus . . . [who were] given gifts of horses and skins of wild animals.

Rarely can an international summit have had such a satisfactory outcome. Back to Constantinople rode the jubilant ambassadors, bringing with them Attila’s secretary, who was to be found a suitable wife.

What quickly emerged, however, was that Attila had settled with Constantinople not because – as the stereotypical barbarian – he had been blown away by the wisdom of his east Roman interlocutors, but because he wanted a secure eastern front, having decided on a massive invasion of the Roman west.

As Priscus tells it, in launching this new attack Attila was motivated by his hunger for further and greater conquests, thereby playing out the destiny that the gods intended for him – as his finding of the sword of Mars proclaimed – to conquer the entire world. On his embassy to the Huns, Priscus had at some point in the summer of 449 witnessed Attila acting in what seemed to him an unreasonable manner towards some ambassadors from the western Roman Empire. Afterwards, the talk naturally turned to Attila’s character, and Priscus quotes with approval what one of the ambassadors had to say on the matter:

[Attila’s] great good fortune and the power which it had given him had made him so arrogant that he would not entertain just proposals unless he thought that they were to his advantage. No previous ruler of Scythia . . . had ever achieved so much in so short a time. He ruled the islands of the Ocean [the Atlantic, or west] and, in addition to the whole of Scythia, forced the Romans to pay tribute . . . and, in order to increase his empire further, he now wanted to attack the Persians.

Someone then asked how Attila proposed to get to Persia from central Europe, to which the reply was that the Huns remembered that, if you followed the north Black Sea coast all the way to the end, you could get there without having to cross Roman territory. True, of course, but going via the Caucasus would be an extremely long trek, and the last time the Huns had done this – in 395/6, as far as we know – they had been living north of the Black Sea, not on the Great Hungarian Plain so much further west. Ambitious plans of conquest, on the face of it, were being drawn up on the strength of half-remembered geography: here was pure lust for conquest aching to swallow up the known world.

But, as we know, Attila went west instead. The sources transmit a variety of reasons why he did so. According to one juicy piece of court gossip, he led his armies into the western Roman Empire because the sister of the western emperor Valentinian III, a high-spirited lady of considerable stamina by the name of Iusta Grata Honoria, offered him her hand in marriage with half the western Empire as her dowry. Supposedly, she sent him a brooch with her portrait on it, along with a letter, and this was enough to ensnare him. Honoria was the daughter of the formidable Galla Placidia who had a fondness for barbarians herself, having married and borne a son to Alaric’s brother-in-law Athaulf in the 410s. Placidia, with her Gothic bodyguard, had had what it took to play a major political role, until Aetius took over.

Having fallen pregnant, her daughter Honoria was caught in an illicit love affair with her business manager, a certain Eugenius. Eugenius was executed, and Honoria removed from public life and betrothed to a dull senator by the name of Herculianus. It was in her distress and frustration that she had written to the lord of the Huns and asked him to rescue her. But the story gives one pause. Even after it was discovered that she had written to Attila she escaped death, and was handed over to the custody of her mother; but before, irritatingly, breaking off in mid-sentence, the pertinent Priscus fragment hints that further escapades followed. Honoria’s antics are too well documented for there not to be some grain of truth in them, but I don’t believe that she was the reason why Attila eventually preferred the west Roman to the Persian option. Just consider the geography. As we will see in a moment, having decided to attack the west, Attila did not rush towards Italy, where Honoria was incarcerated, but first attacked Gaul. While no doubt sketchy, Attila’s knowledge of European geography was good enough for us to be sure he knew on which side of the Alps he was likely to find his putative bride. We don’t know what ultimately happened to Honoria. Heading west out of Hungary, the Huns turned right towards Gaul rather than left into Italy, and that’s enough in itself to relegate Honoria to a historical footnote.

The sources indicate that rescuing Honoria was only one of several reasons proposed for Attila’s invasion of the west. Another was the issue that had prompted his tantrum before the conversation in the summer of 449 in which his possible ambitions concerning Persia had been raised. That particular western embassy had been sent to answer the charge that a Roman banker by the name of Silvanus was in possession of some gold plate that was Attila’s by right of conquest. Trivial though the matter was, Attila was threatening war if it was not settled to his satisfaction. There are also vague, but quite convincing, hints of some kind of contact at this date between Attila and Geiseric, king of the Vandals, who is said to have bribed Attila to turn his armies westwards. Late in 450, Attila backed a different candidate for the recently vacant kingship of the Ripuarian Franks from the one Aetius had chosen to support. He had also recently given sanctuary to one of the leaders of a rebellion in north-west Gaul defeated by Aetius in 448. This suggests that Attila had in mind the possibility of using him to stir up trouble and to smooth the path of any Hunnic army operating in the west. Once his armies were on the move, in much the same vein the Hun sent out some mutually contradictory letters to different recipients, some of which claimed that the purpose of his campaign was to attack not the western Empire but the Visigoths of south-west Gaul, while others urged those same Visigoths to join him in attacking the Empire.

What emerges, therefore, is that Attila was simultaneously juggling with several possible pretexts for an attack on the western Empire in the years 449 and 450, as he prepared his next move. Whether an attack on Persia was ever seriously contemplated I doubt, but in 449 he still hadn’t decided whether to launch his next assault upon the eastern or the western half of the Empire; and he was not only stirring up trouble with the west, but also refusing to settle outstanding issues with Constantinople. The generous treaty he eventually granted Constantinople was the sign that he was ready to tie up loose ends in the east, having set his sights on the west.

In spring 451, Attila’s massive army surged westwards out of the Middle Danube, probably following the route taken by the Rhine invaders of 406. ‘It is said’ that the army consisted of a staggering half-million men, reported Jordanes, in his choice of words revealing that for once even he didn’t believe the figure; but there is no doubting the huge size of the force, or that Attila was drawing on the full resources of the Hunnic war machine. As Sidonius Apollinaris, a more or less contemporary Gallic poet, put it:

Suddenly the barbarian world, rent by a mighty upheaval, poured the whole north into Gaul. After the warlike Rugian comes the fierce Gepid, with the Gelonian close by; the Burgundian urges on the Scirian; forward rush the Hun, the Bellonotian, the Neurian, the Bastarnian, the Thuringian, the Bructeran, and the Frank.

Sidonius was writing metred poetry, and required names of the right length and stress to make it work. What he gives us here is an interesting mixture of ancient groups who had nothing to do with the Hunnic Empire (Gelonian, Bellonotian, Neurian, Bastarnian, Brauteran) and real subjects of Attila (Rugian, Gepid, Burgundian, Scirian, Thuringian and Frank), not to mention, of course, the Huns themselves. But, in essence, Sidonius was spot on. And we know from other sources that large numbers of Goths were also present.

No surviving source describes the campaign in detail, but we know roughly what happened. Having followed the Upper Danube northwestwards out of the Great Hungarian Plain, the horde crossed the Rhine in the region of Coblenz and continued west. According to some admittedly fairly dubious sources, the city of Metz fell on 7 April, shortly followed by the old imperial capital of Trier. The army then thrust into the heart of Roman Gaul. By June, it was outside the city of Orleans, where a considerable force of Alans in Roman service had their headquarters. The city was placed under heavy siege; there are hints that Attila was hoping to lure Sangibanus, king of some of the Alans based in the city, over to his side. At the same time, according to another pretty dubious source, elements of the army had also reached the gates of Paris, where they were driven back by the miraculous intervention of the city’s patron Saint Genevieve. It looks as if the Hunnic army was swarming far and wide over Roman Gaul, looting and ransacking as it went.

Ezio is an Italian masculine name, originating from the Latin name Aetius.

Aetius was still generalissimo of the west, and as we know from Merobaudes’ second panegyric, he had been anticipating the possibility of a Hunnic assault on the west from at least 443. When it finally materialized, nearly a decade later, he sprang into action. Faced with this enormous threat, he strove to put together a coalition of forces that would stand some chance of success. Early summer 451 saw him advancing north through Gaul with contingents of the Roman armies of Italy and Gaul, plus forces from many allied groups, such as the Burgundians and the Aquitainian Visigoths under their king Theoderic. On 14 June, the approach of this motley force compelled Attila’s withdrawal from Orleans. Later in the same month, Aetius’ men caught up with the retreating horde somewhere in the vicinity of Troyes, another 150 kilometres or so to the east.

On a plain called by different sources the Catalaunian fields or campus Mauriacus, which has never been conclusively identified, a huge battle took place:

The battlefield was a plain rising by a sharp slope to a ridge, which both armies sought to gain . . . The Huns with their forces seized the right side, the Romans, the Visigoths and their allies the left . . . The battleline of the Huns was so arranged that Attila and his bravest followers were in the centre . . . The innumerable peoples of diverse tribes, which he had subjected to his sway, formed the wings.

The Romans and Visigoths reached the ridge first and thwarted every attempt to dislodge them – so our main source tells us, but then lapses into rhetoric (though pretty good rhetoric it is):

The fight grew fierce, confused, monstrous, unrelenting – a fight whose like no ancient time has ever recorded . . . A brook flowing between low banks . . . was swollen by a strange stream and turned into a torrent by the flow of blood. Those whose wounds drove them to slake their parching thirst drank water mingled with gore.

Theoderic was killed in the fighting, either struck by a spear or trampled to death when he fell from his horse, but the accounts of his death are confusing. Again according to our main source, a total of 165,000 men died, but this figure is nonsense. At the end of the day’s fighting, Attila was distraught. Forced back inside a defensive wagon circle, for the first time ever his army had suffered a major defeat. His initial reaction was to heap up saddles to make his own funeral pyre. But his lieutenants persuaded him that the battle was only a tactical check, and he relented. A stalemate followed, with the two armies facing each other, until the Huns began slowly to retreat. Aetius didn’t press them too hard, and disbanded his coalition of forces as quickly as possible – a task made much easier by the fact that the Visigoths were keen to return to Toulouse to sort out the succession to their dead king. Attila consented to his army’s continued withdrawal and, tails between their legs, the Huns returned to Hungary. Although the cost to the Roman communities in the Huns’ line of march was enormous, Attila’s first assault on the west had been repulsed. Yet again, Aetius had delivered at the moment of crisis. Despite the limited resources available, he had put together a coalition that had saved Gaul.

Catalaunian Fields

Flavius Aetius (c.391–454)


SARDINIA – Second Punic War

In the war’s first years Sardinia had a small role to play. Its peoples had not taken kindly to Roman rule since 237 BCE. Once Roman forces went over in 235, several years of fighting and a good few consular triumphs were needed before peace more or less reigned. Even at the time, some Romans may have entertained suspicion that Carthage was behind the Sardinians’ unfriendliness to their new masters. Cato the Elder, born in 234, would later claim that several Punic treaty breaches occurred before 219 (though his details are missing); and, as noted earlier, the Gallic invasion looming in 225 sent Roman forces not only to Tarentum and Sicily but to Sardinia as well-a consular army, in fact.

After Hannibal’s opening victories in the war, it again made sense to send a legion to the island as a precaution against the Carthaginians. No doubt it helped too with enforcing the heavy payments of tribute and grain that Rome imposed on the locals. These demands naturally increased Sardinians’ discontent. After Cannae, restive chieftains led by one Hampsicora invited Carthage to aid them in a planned rebellion. As some communities stayed loyal to the Romans, based at Carales on the south coast, while the folk of the island’s mountainous interior were largely independent, and as the rebels’ main stronghold was Cornus on the west coast, the rebellion may have arisen in that region. Old Phoenician colonies there such as Cornus, Tarros, and Othoca probably kept in touch with their former hegemon more easily than others nearer Carales could. Hampsicora’s contact at Carthage was an aristocrat named Hanno, influential enough to win the city’s backing for the revolt and no doubt a Barcid supporter, though not a kinsman. He and one Mago, who was related to Hannibal, were appointed lieutenants to Hasdrubal ‘the Bald’, who with about 12,000 troops sailed for Sardinia in 215.

Everything went wrong. Their fleet was so thoroughly deranged by a storm that it fetched up in the Balearic Isles 500 kilometers away, needing repairs. Hampsicora’s rebellion could not wait, but Titus Manlius Torquatus (the first consul to campaign in annexed Sardinia, twenty years before) had already landed at Carales with reinforcements and soon inflicted a defeat on the Sardinians. When Hasdrubal finally arrived and joined them for another effort, Manlius smashed the combined armies. Hampsicora’s son Hostus was killed, all three Carthaginian leaders were taken prisoner, and with Hampsicora’s own suicide and the fall of Cornus the rebellion collapsed. The island continued to be garrisoned by Roman legions (two until 207, a single one thereafer) but caused no further alarm except in 210, when an enterprising commodore named Hamilcar raided first Olbia’s countryside on the northeast coast and then Carales’s, to sail home laden with plunder.


In Sardinia, the Roman presence was small and its control of the island was tottering. A certain local magnate, Hampsicora, was stirring up revolt and beckoning to Carthage. Hasdrubal the Bald was sent there with a force of about 12,000 foot and 1,500 horse, but the fleet was damaged and they were delayed by bad weather. On the other side, the Romans sent 5,000 foot and 400 horse under Titus Manlius Torquatus, who now controlled a total force of 22,000 foot and 1,200 horse. He marched upcountry and encamped near the position occupied by Hampsicora. Shortly afterwards Hasdrubal arrived, causing Manlius to withdraw to Carales [Cagliari], Hasdrubal joined forces with Hampsicora and together they advanced toward Carales but were met and engaged by Manlius. The action lasted for four hours during which numerous Sardinians were either killed of fled. The Carthaginians put up a stiffer resistance but eventually they too turned and started to flee, only to find that their retreat was cut off by the Roman wing which had routed the Sardinians. What followed was butchery. The enemy lost a total of 12,000 men killed and 3,700 captured. Among the prisoners were Hasdrubal himself and two other commanders, Hanno and Mago. Hampsicora, learning that his son was dead, killed himself.


Roman Frontier: The River Euphrates

The fort at Hân al-Manqoûra (Syria) from the air.


Map of the northern section of the eastern frontier in Cappadocia and Syria.

To turn from the Occident to the Orient is to enter a new world. Here, Rome took over long-established kingdoms and inherited their frontiers. Equally significantly, she faced a dangerous foe, the only other major power which bordered the empire, Parthia. Much of Rome’s relationship with her neighbour was governed by peace treaties and a wary understanding of each other’s power. The route to Parthia lay across and down the River Euphrates, and for most of the first and second centuries this river formed the boundary between the two states.

The point where the two empires were conjoined was comparatively narrow. In the time of Augustus and for the next 200 years, Rome and Parthia met for a distance of only about 260km (155 miles) along the River Euphrates from Armenia to the north to the Syrian Desert to the south. In the desert there was little room for manoeuvre so the frontier remained static, but to the north, there was a continuous tussle to control the strategically located kingdom of Armenia lying to the north of the Parthian empire and east of the Roman province of Cappadocia.

Following the conquest of the Seleucid kingdom based on Syria and later Egypt, legions were maintained in the new provinces. Troops stationed in Judaea were concerned with internal security rather than with any external threat, as in Egypt. Syria was a different matter. It was the bulwark against Parthia. Augustus based four legions, supported by auxiliary units, within the province, including at the capital Antioch, athwart the main route into – and out of – Parthia. The area between Roman Syria and the Black Sea was left to be controlled by the resident client kings who undertook the work of defence on behalf of the empire. They defended not only their section of the frontier but, on demand, supplied troops to operate with the Roman legions, as attested from Augustus to Vespasian. These client kingdoms, however, were gradually incorporated into the empire as their kings died or Roman emperors decided. By the time of Trajan the process was complete. The legions were all now on the River Euphrates, and spread more evenly than in previous years along the frontier, yet still controlling the access routes to Parthia. Two legions lay in Syria, at Zeugma/Belkis and Samosata/Samsat facing Parthia and two in Cappadocia to the north, at Melitene/Malatya and Satala/Kelkit opposite Armenia. The southern three guarded routes across the river, routes which allowed passage not only for caravans but also for armies, while the fourth lay at the southern end of the Zigana Pass leading to the Black Sea. While the Euphrates might have formed the frontier, it cut through the mountains of Cilicia and in places the resulting gorge was 3,000m (10,000ft) deep, a formidable obstacle in its own right.

There is little more that can be said about this frontier. At least fifteen auxiliary regiments are known to have been based in Cappadocia in the middle of the second century and about twice that number in Syria, but the bases of these units are generally not known.

This frontier came under significant threat from the Parthians in the second century, as will be discussed below. The Upper Euphrates from Melitene/Malatya to Satala/Kelkit and thence northwards to the Black Sea remained the frontier, but further south Rome pushed forward into the desert, and this will also be considered below. The Euphrates remained a significant line of communication and on its southern bank sat the great oasis city, and Roman garrison, of Dura-Europos. Excavations between World Wars I and II led to the identification of the military quarter in the city, the only eastern site where this arrangement has been recognized and planned.