Europe 400: Coup of Gainas
The Eastern Empire’s concessions to Alaric helped fuel dissent in the army and in 399 the ethnically Gothic general Tribigild revolted in Asia Minor. Although Gainas—a prominent general and Tribigild’s relative—briefly secured peace, by early 400 he too had fallen out with the regime and together the two generals marched on Constantinople. Backing down in the face of this coup, Emperor Arcadius agreed to grant Gainas extensive military and political powers.
397 Alaric magister militum▲
In the wake of Stilicho’s campaign in Greece (397), Alaric and his Goths withdrew to Epirus, where they continued their pillaging. To appease him—and create a buffer against the Western Empire—the Eastern government of Eutropius appointed Alaric as magister militum per Illyricum, granting him military authority in Macedonia and Dacia. This seems to have satisfied the Goths, who would remain quiet until 401.
397?–398? Eutropius’ Hunnic campaign▲
In late 397 the eunuch Eutropius, the leading official in the court of the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius, marched east with an army to confront a body of Huns causing trouble in Asia Minor. It is uncertain whether these Huns were the tail end of the marauding forces which crossed the Caucasus in 395 or a new invasion attempt; either way, Eutropius gained a quick and decisive victory over them.
? Feb–31 Jul 398 Gildonic War▲
To deal with Gildo’s revolt in Africa, the Western Roman generalissimo Stilicho placed Mascezel—Gildo’s brother and bitter rival—in command of a number of the West’s best units and dispatched him from Pisa. Mascezel arrived in Africa in February 398 and by March had secured the capital of Carthage. Gildo rallied, meeting Mascezel’s 5,000 troops with some 7,000 of his own by the river Ardalio, near Theveste, but was decisively defeated when several of his units defected to his brother’s side. His cause lost, Gildo attempted to flee by sea to the East, but was captured and executed in late July.
398? Stilicho’s Pictish War▲
In around 398, at the time of the Gildonic War in Africa, the Picts, Saxons, and Scoti mounted an assault on Roman Britain. The invasion seems to have been defeated with the support of Roman troops from the continent and, at least according to the later traditions of Gildas and Bede, there was a failed attempt to restore the line of the northern Antonine Wall. Two years later, the Western generalissimo Stilicho apparently ordered any forces still in the north to withdraw to Hadrian’s Wall, which he ordered to be repaired with money raised during the African campaign.
? ??–17 Aug 399 Tribigild’s revolt▲
In 399 Eutropius took the consulship, provoking outrage across the Roman world that a eunuch could claim such an honored position and further offending an army that was already bitter at Eutropius’ promotion of the rebel Alaric. Dissatisfied with his own treatment, the Eastern Roman general Tribigild—also an ethnic Goth—rose in revolt in Phrygia and began raiding into the neighboring Asia Minor provinces of Lydia, Pisidia, and Pamphylia. Despite being checked by local forces near Selge, Tribigild killed Eutropius’ favorite general Leo in battle, provoking a crisis in Constantinople which was only resolved when Gainas—the East’s leading general and a relative of Tribigild—persuaded the emperor Arcadius to dismiss Eutropius in return for peace.
9 Jan 400–6 Oct 404 Co-reign of Aelia Eudoxia▲
In April 395 Aelia Eudoxia, daughter of the late, ethnically Frankish magister militum Flavius Bauto, had married the Eastern emperor Arcadius as part of the machinations of the powerful eunuch Eutropius. However, the young empress consort eventually turned against Eutropius—contributing to his downfall in August 399—and in January 400 she was crowned as Augusta, allowing her to wear the purple and appear on coins. The following year she gave birth to her only son, who, as Theodosius II, would become co-Augustus in 402 (and later reign in his own right until 450). Easily dominating her weak husband, Eudoxia remained one of the most powerful people in the Eastern court until her death in childbirth in October 404.
In c. 400 at least two Hunnic leaders established power bases away from the former Hunnic heartland of the Pontic Steppe, perhaps an indication of political fragmentation among the Huns. The first was a “Scythian king”—probably a ruler of the Onogur Huns—who gained control of the Kuban region on the east cost of the Black Sea and sent an embassy to the Romans, but is otherwise unknown. The second was Uldin—the first named Hunnic ruler whose historicity is undisputed—who secured the Muntenia region north of the Danube, where he would reign for about a decade.
Mar–Apr 400 Coup of Gainas▲
When Eutropius fell from power in Constantinople (August 399), the main beneficiaries were the conservative anti-German Flavius Aurelianus—who assumed Eutropius’ former position—and the empress Aelia Eudoxia. Displeased by this outcome, the prominent ethnically Gothic general Gainas united his forces with those of his rebellious relative Tribigild in Asia Minor and together the two advanced on the Bosporus and the Hellespont. In April 400 the emperor Arcadius relented, agreeing to dismiss Aurelianus and to make Gainas magister militum praesentalis and consul designate for 401. Gainas then entered Constantinople, deploying his troops throughout the city.