Europe 409: Gerontian Revolt

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 24 May 409 (Theodosian Dynasty: The West Besieged: Gerontian Revolt), showing the following events: Recognition of Constantine III; Rejection of peace with Alaric; Battle of Pisa; Neglect of the Fossatum Africae; Gerontian Revolt.

Tied up by Alaric’s invasion, the Western emperor Honorius felt compelled to recognize the Gallic usurper Constantine III in late 408. However, Constantine’s fortunes took a sudden turn for the worse just months later, when his general Gerontius revolted with much of his army in Hispaniae and proclaimed a rival emperor, Maximus.

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

Dec 408 Recognition of Constantine III

In late 408 Constantine III sent an embassy to Honorius in Ravenna, asking that he be accepted as co-emperor. His hands already full with Alaric’s Goths, Honorius relented and sent Constantine a purple robe and imperial regalia in formal acknowledgement of his accession. However, the move was never recognized in the East, where Theodosius II and his government continued to consider Constantine a usurper. in wikipedia

Jan 409 Rejection of peace with Alaric

In January 409 an embassy from Rome arrived in Ravenna, asking the Western Roman emperor Honorius to accept Alaric’s terms and agree to an exchange of hostages. However, Honorius, under the influence of his magister officiorum Olympius, rejected both this embassy and another one led by Pope Innocent I a few months later, opting instead for continued hostility with the Goths. To this end, Honorius sent for five regiments (up to 6,000 men) from Dalmatia to reinforce Rome, but this was intercepted by Alaric as it passed through Tuscany and only its leader Valens, the treasurer Attalus, and 100 men made it into the city. in wikipedia

Mar 409 Battle of Pisa

While Pope Innocent I’s embassy from Rome was in Ravenna in early 409, news reached Honorius that Alaric’s brother-in-law Athaulf had just crossed the Julian Alps into Italy with another Gothic army from Pannonia. Honorius’ magister officiorum Olympius quickly assembled a force including 300 Huns and intercepted the invaders at Pisa, but, despite allegedly killing 1,100 Goths for the loss of just 17, was unable to stop Athaulf from joining Alaric in Tuscany. This failure ended the career of Olympius, whose seven-month primacy had seen nothing but disaster, and soon afterwards he fled to Dalmatia. in wikipedia

29 Apr 409 Neglect of the Fossatum Africae

In April 409 the Western Roman emperor Honorius and the Eastern emperor Theodosius II wrote to Gaudentio, vicarius of Africa, demanding that he put work into the maintenance of the fossatum Africae, the ancient system of fortifications and trenches established in Africa by the Antonine emperors. Gaudentio was also warned that if he left the frontier in its current state of neglect, the Roman government would remove the borderlands from his authority and instead entrust them to allied local tribes. What Gaudentio did after this is uncertain, but stability would finally be restored to the African frontier by Bonifatius in 417–418. in wikipedia

409 Gerontian Revolt

In spring 409 Constantine III dispatched his son Constans—who he had by around this time elevated to co-augustus—back to Hispaniae with a general named Justus. Perhaps concerned that he was being replaced, the magister militum Gerontius, who was still in Spain, revolted and proclaimed his domesticus Maximus as emperor at Tarraco. Supported by most of the army, if not all the Spanish provinces, Gerontius quickly convinced Constans to return to Gaul. in wikipedia