Europe 414: Athaulf and Galla Placidia

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 13 Sep 414 (Theodosian Dynasty: The West Besieged: Athaulf and Galla Placidia), showing the following events: Death of Heraclian; Athaulf’s occupation of Narbona; Siege of Massilia; Marriage of Athaulf and Galla Placidia; Reign of Pulcheria; Second elevation of Attalus.

Heraclian’s revolt in Africa in 413 meant that Honorius could not ship grain to Gaul to repay Athaulf’s Goths for their support against Jovinus. Angered by Roman attempts to renegotiate the shipments, Athaulf occupied Narbona and then tried to improve his standing by marrying Honorius’ sister Galla Placidia (captured during Alaric’s sieges of Rome). In response, the Romans mounted a naval blockade against the Goths, prompting Athaulf to escalate the situation still further by proclaiming Alaric’s former puppet Attalus as emperor.

This map has in-depth notes in the Journal, exclusive to Patrons on Classical Tier and above. Find them in the events descriptions, marked with the Journal icon .

Akatziri and the “Scythian Kingdom” (Kuban Huns)

Little is known about the region north and east of the Black Sea in the first half of the fifth century, except that in c. 400 a “Scythian King” (almost always assumed to be a Hun) lived in the Kuban region and by the 440s a Hunnic people known as the Akatziri lived east of the Dniester. Although fragmented, the Akatziri were powerful enough that, when the Eastern Romans aligned with all but one of their kingdoms in 447, it took over a year for Attila’s armies to crush them and install his son as their king. After this, Attila contemplated invading Persia, implying that suppressing the Akatziri had bought the periphery of his empire close to the Caucasus. All this suggests that the Akatziri may have extended into the North Caucasus and that the “Scythian King” may have been part of the Akatziri, although this is of course conjecture.

Main Events

Jul 413 Death of Heraclian

On 5 July 413 Honorius denounced Heraclian, the recently defeated rebel comes Africae, as a public enemy and ordered his execution. The comes Marinus promptly embarked from Italy for Africa with a small force to enact his emperor’s justice, but by the time he arrived in Carthage, Heraclian was already dead, killed by his own troops in the aedes Memoriae (Temple of Memories). The revolt ended, Marinus assumed authority in Carthage, seizing Heraclian’s property in the name of Flavius Constantius. in wikipedia

Sep 413 Athaulf’s occupation of Narbona

Heraclian’s revolt in Africa in 413 meant that the grain that Honorius had promised to Athaulf and his Goths in return for their support against Jovinus could not be delivered. As a result Athaulf and Honorius reopened negotiations, with Honorius promising to deliver the grain when he could in return for the immediate return of his sister Galla Placidia. Refusing these terms and demanding more grain than was initially promised, Athaulf marched unopposed into Narbona (Narbonne) in September 413. With some apparent support from the famine-stricken Gallic populace, the Goths followed this move by establishing control in a number of other towns in the region, including Tolosa (Toulouse) and Burdigala (Bordeaux). in wikipedia

413 Siege of Massilia

In late 413 Athaulf and his Goths advanced on Massilia (Marseille) and attempted to persuade the citizens to open their gates. When they refused, Athaulf tried to storm the town but was beaten back by Roman defenders led by the comes Bonifatius, with Bonifatius himself allegedly throwing a missile that wounded the Gothic king. Defeated, the Goths withdrew to Narbona (Narbonne) for the winter. in wikipedia

1 Jan 414 Marriage of Athaulf and Galla Placidia

By January 413 the standoff between the Gothic king Athaulf and Honorius’ regime remained unresolved, with Honorius refusing to supply the Goths with grain and the Goths refusing to return Honorius’ sister Galla Placidia. Instead, on the 1st, Athaulf married Placidia at Narbona (Narbonne) in a magnificent traditional Roman ceremony complete with gifts from Alaric’s sack of Rome. As a further threat to Honorius’ regime, Placidia gave birth to a son, named Theodosius, later that year. in wikipedia

4 Jul 414–? Jul 453 Reign of Pulcheria

In mid 414 the 15- or 16-year-old Aelia Pulcheria, elder sister to the 12-year-old Eastern emperor Theodosius II, became her brother’s guardian and in July that year was proclaimed Augusta. Pledging herself to virginity, Pulcheria used her religious devotion and involvement in the ecclesiastical scene to exercise a strong, if fluctuating, influence over Theodosius’ regime until his death in 450, after which she married Marcian and continued on for another three years until her own death in 453. Her significant involvement in the theological development of the Christian Church would lead to her subsequent recognition as a saint by both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. in wikipedia

414 Second elevation of Attalus

In 414 Flavius Constantius advanced with a Roman army into Gaul and mounted a naval blockade against Athaulf’s Goths in Narbona (Narbonne). Facing famine but still unwilling to back down, Athaulf responded by proclaiming Priscus Attalus as Augustus in Burdigala (Bordeaux). However, Attalus’ second round as a Gothic puppet emperor soon proved even less effective than his first (under Alaric) and within a few months Athaulf decided to abandon Gaul—and Attalus—for Hispaniae. in wikipedia