Northern Africa 379: Elevation of Theodosius I
After defeating Firmus in 373–5, Count Theodosius fell victim to court intrigues, but his son, also called Theodosius, went on to prove himself as a commander in the Balkans. When the eastern emperor Valens was killed fighting the Goths in 378, the western emperor Gratian appointed the younger Theodosius in his place.
373–375 Count Theodosius’ African Campaign▲
In 373 Valentinian responded to the collapse of Roman rule in much of Africa by sending his magister equitum Count Theodosius from Gaul to deal with the situation. Theodosius landed at Igilgili and marched on Sitifis—where he had the corrupt Count Romanus arrested—before turning west to relieve Tipasa and liberate Iol Caesarea. Having restored some degree of Roman authority in the region, he spent the following year campaigning in the mountains of North Africa as he hunted down the Numidian Berber leader Firmus, who ultimately hung himself in 375 to avoid falling into Roman hands. Theodosius was still in Africa when Valentinian died in November 375 and, probably as a result of the subsequent change in the political environment, was executed in Carthage in early 376.
375?–376 Hunno-Tervingian War▲
Learning that the defeated Greuthungi Goths, under Alatheus and Saphrax, had fled across the Dniester, Athanaric of the Tervingi Goths marched there with his forces, dispatching a contingent to observe the movements of the Huns. However, the Huns outsmarted him by crossing the Dniester at night and, in a swiftly attack on his main army, forced the Goths back to the mountains. Attempting to rally, Athanaric set to work on fortifications to block the Hunnic advance, but in early 376 he was surprised and decisively defeated by the Huns, who became so laden down with plunder that they called a halt to their pursuit.
376 Gothic Embassy to Valens▲
In 376 the Tervingi Goths of Fritigern and Alavivus, along with the Greuthungi Goths of Alatheus and Syphrax, decided to escape from the Huns by taking refuge in Thrace. Arriving on the Danube, probably near Durostorum (Silistra), they asked the local Roman commanders for permission to cross into the Empire. As this matter required the approval of the emperor, the Goths sent embassies to Valens, who was at that point in Antioch.
378 Mavia’s Revolt▲
In spring 378 Queen Mavia, widow of the late King Al-Hawari, led the Tanukhids and other Arab tribes in revolt against the Romans. Attacking from their desert bases, Mavia’s forces defeated a number of Roman armies while raiding Roman territory as far as Arabia, Palestine, and the edges of Egypt. Unwilling to commit any more troops to the region while the Goths were at large in Thrace, Valens agreed to Mavia’s demands to appoint the Nicene monk Moses as the first Arab bishop of the Arabs in return for Tanukhid support against the Goths.
378 Manuel Mamikonian’s coup▲
In 374, following the assassination of King Pap, the Roman emperor Valens had installed Pap’s nephew Varazdat as client king of Armenia. Some four years later, Varazdat himself was overthrown by the general Manuel Mamikonian, who had served under Shah Shapur II on the Kushan front and claimed the position of sparapet (hereditary commander of Armenia’s armed forces). With the consent of the Persians, Manuel then took the position of regent on behalf of Pap’s widow Zarmandukht and son Arshak III. Meanwhile, Varazdat fled back to the Romans, who had him banished to Britain.
9 Aug 378 Battle of Adrianople▲
Convinced by scouts that there were only 10,000 Goths in the vicinity, Valens marched with his army to Adrianople in early August 378 and decided to advance without waiting for the arrival of the western emperor Gratian. Just after noon the Romans encountered a Tervingi Gothic wagon circle under Fritigern and were in negotiations when some Roman archers prematurely opened fire. As fighting broke out, the Greuthungi Gothic leaders Alatheus and Saphrax suddenly appeared with their cavalry, overwhelming the surprised Roman cavalry and hemming in the Roman infantry. Although they fought on desperately, it was all over for the Romans, and by nightfall Valens and two-thirds of his army were dead.
19 Jan 379 Elevation of Theodosius I▲
Gratian was near the Danube when he learned both of Valens’ death in battle with the Goths at Adrianople (August 378) and of renewed troubles with some Germanic tribes on the Rhine. In order to deal with the Gothic situation, he agreed to the appointment of the successful 32-year-old local commander Theodosius as eastern emperor at Sirmium in January 379 and then headed back west to face the Rhenish tribes. Although he received little material support, Theodosius was also given temporary control over the Western imperial dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia.