Europe 405: Alaric and Stilicho

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 27 May 405 (Theodosian Dynasty: Alaric and Stilicho), showing the following events: Siege of Asti; Battle of Pollentia; Battle of Verona; Stilicho’s treaty with Alaric; Imperial Ravenna; Two Eyes of the World; Arbazacius’ Isaurian War; Uldin’s Thracian raid; Huns reach the Middle Danube.

After returning to Italy in spring 402, Stilicho defeated Alaric at Pollentia and Verona, but allowed the Gothic king to settle in Pannonia as a foederate of the Western Empire. Alaric remained there peacefully until early 407 when, during a period of East–West tension, he temporarily occupied part of Eastern Illyricum with Stilicho’s backing.

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Main Events

Mar 402 Siege of Asti

Advancing west towards the Cottian Alps after his defeat at Mediolanum (Milan), Alaric and his Goths reached Hasta (Asti) by late March 402. Here they fruitlessly assaulted the town walls before being forced to retire to avoid Stilicho’s pursuing Roman forces. The Goths then turned south towards Pollentia, possibly because troops from Britain and the Rhine—called in by Stilicho while he was in Raetia—were now arriving at the Cottian Alpine passes. in wikipedia

6 Apr 402 Battle of Pollentia

After being defeated at Hasta (Asti) in late March 402, Alaric camped by the Urba river, near Pollentia, where Stilicho and the Roman army caught up with him just before Easter Sunday. Possibly to avoid tarnishing his name by fighting on a holy day, Stilicho handed over the command to Saul—a pagan Alan—who attacked the Goths with his cavalry, catching them by surprise. Although Saul was soon killed in a Gothic counterattack, the Romans eventually prevailed, capturing Alaric’s camp, almost all of his plunder, many of his prisoners, and his wife. in wikipedia

Jun 402 Battle of Verona

In the wake of his defeat at Pollentia (April 402), Alaric seems to have come to an agreement with Stilicho and begun retiring east towards the Diocese of Illyricum. However, the Goths made slow progress and when, apparently suffering from the heat and bad food, they stopped near Verona, Stilicho attacked. In the ensuing battle, Alaric was almost captured and many Goths—including the leaders Sarus, Sigeric, and Ulfilas—deserted to the Romans, leaving the humbled Gothic king with no choice but to accept Stilicho’s terms. in wikipedia

402 Stilicho’s treaty with Alaric

Shortly after the Battle of Verona (June 402), Stilicho and Alaric entered into negotiations. According to what appear to have been Stilicho’s terms, Alaric then returned across the Julian Alps and settled in the Diocese of Illyricum with his remaining followers, occupying the border regions of the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia as foederati of the Western Roman Empire by the end of the year. in wikipedia

Dec 402 Imperial Ravenna

Alarmed by Alaric’s invasion of Italy in the winter of 401/402, the Western emperor Honorius considered moving the imperial court from Mediolanum (Milan) to Arelate (Arles) in Gaul, but was soon persuaded against the relocation by Stilicho. Instead it was decided to move to Ravenna, a location much more defensible than Mediolanum (on account of being surrounded by marshes) but still within northern Italy. Preparations for the transfer soon began and by December the imperial court was securely residing in Ravenna, where it would largely remain until the end of the Western Empire in 476. in wikipedia

403? Two Eyes of the World

A little before 404 an Eastern Roman embassy led by the comes sacrarum largitionum Anthemius and the Syrian bishop Maruthas arrived in Ctesiphon, where it won over the Sasanian Persian shah Yazdegerd I. As acts of friendship, Yazdegerd returned Roman captives who the Persians had rescued from the Huns, agreed to end the persecution of Christians in his empire, and declared that he would protect the infant Theodosius II should the emperor Arcadius die. Constantinople and Ctesiphon—‘the two eyes of the world’—then formed something of a defensive alliance against the Huns by agreeing to share the burden of defending the Caspian Gates (i.e. the Caucasus mountain passes, especially those at Darial and Derbent) against invaders from the steppes. in wikipedia

Jun 404–?? 409? Arbazacius’ Isaurian War

In 404, shortly after the exile of the controversial bishop John Chrysostom from Constantinople, news reached the Eastern Roman capital of renewed Isaurian banditry around the Taurus mountains. Marching into Pamphylia, the general Arbazacius drove the Isaurians back into their mountain strongholds but was soon recalled to Constantinople to face charges of embezzling plundered loot and, after sharing his spoils with the empress Aelia Eudoxia, retired. Left to their own devices, the Isaurians eventually extended their raids along the extent of the Asian Eastern Mediterranean coast—from Caria to Phoenicia—until their revolt was brought to an end later in the decade. in wikipedia

404–405 Uldin’s Thracian raid

In the winter of 404/405 Uldin led a force of Huns across the Danube into the Eastern Roman Empire and devastated the Diocese of Thraciae. Uldin—who had been considered an ally of the Eastern Empire before this raid—would soon transfer his allegiance to the Western Romans, supporting them against Radagaisus in 406. in wikipedia

405?–408? Huns reach the Middle Danube

In around 405, in their biggest expansion into Europe since the 370s, the Huns began pushing westwards past the southern Carpathian mountains into the Great Hungarian Plain north of the Middle Danube. This appears to have caused widespread disruption: most of the local tribes—the Transdanubian Goths, Vandals, Alans, Suebi, and Burgundi—underwent migrations during the following years; and those that remained soon came to terms with the invaders. By the early 410s the region had been transformed into a center of Hunnic power, and would remain so until after the death of Attila in 453. in wikipedia