Northern Africa 397: Gildonic Revolt
In early 395 the Western Roman generalissimo Stilicho dismissed the Goths from his service, only for them to revolt under their leader Alaric while returning home across the Balkans. When Stilicho attacked the rebel Goths in Greece in 397, the Eastern Empire came out in support of the Goths by denouncing Stilicho as a public enemy and forced him to withdraw. At about the same time Gildo, Western commander in Africa, declared for the Eastern emperor Arcadius—threatening war between the two halves of the Empire—but was quickly suppressed by Stilicho in early 398.
395 Alaric’s rebellion▲
In early 395 Stilicho dismissed the Gothic troops and other foederati, allowing them to return home to the Balkans. Already resentful over the casualties they had suffered in the Battle of the Frigidus and over their perceived lack of rewards, these troops soon revolted and, marching on Constantinople, called for recompense and their leader Alaric’s promotion to a magisterium. However, their negotiations with Rufinus, guardian of the Eastern emperor Arcadius, soon broke down, persuading Alaric to turn southwest and begin plundering Macedonia.
??–Nov 395 Stilicho’s first Gothic campaign▲
In response to Alaric’s rebellion in 395, Stilicho—who still commanded both the Western and Eastern field armies after the Battle of Frigidus—marched into Macedonia and chased the Goths south into Thessaly. Here, he managed to surround them in the valley of the Pineus, when the Eastern emperor Arcadius, persuaded by his guardian Rufinus, ordered the recall of the Eastern field army. Stilicho promptly complied, then withdrew from the Balkans with the Western field army, leaving Alaric unopposed in the region.
395? Western Illyricum▲
As one of his first acts after the assassination of Rufinus in November 395, Eutropius arranged for the transfer responsibility over the Diocese of Pannoniae from the Eastern-governed Praetorian Prefecture of Illyricum to the Western-governed Praetorian Prefecture of Italy. Although the move may have placated Stilicho by providing the West with control of the eastern Alpine passes and a buffer zone against attacks from the Danube, it may also have allowed Rufinus to pull Eastern garrisons from Pannoniae for reuse elsewhere. Possibly as a result of this transfer, the diocese was renamed from Pannoniae to Illyricum by the early 400s.
397 Stilicho’s second Gothic campaign▲
In mid-397 the Western Roman generalissimo Stilicho sailed from Italy to Greece, in the Eastern Empire, with an army to confront Alaric and his Goths. Landing at Corinth, the Western Romans soon had Alaric surrounded on Mount Pholoe in the Peloponnese when the Eastern emperor Arcadius, rejecting Stilicho’s claim to act as a liberator, denounced him as hostis publicus (a public enemy). In response, Stilicho withdrew from the peninsula—which his angered troops pillaged as they departed—allowing Alaric to escape to Epirus.
397 Stilicho hostis publicus▲
Seeing Stilicho’s Western Roman campaign against Alaric in Greece in 397 as a threat to the regime in Constantinople, the powerful Eastern official Eutropius persuaded the Eastern emperor Arcadius to demand that the Western general withdraw. When Stilicho ignored this order, the Eastern Court took the next step and proclaimed him hostis publicus (a public enemy). This cemented the rift between the two empires, effectively turning Stilicho from a liberator of Greece to an occupier of Eastern territory.
397 Gildonic Revolt▲
In late 397 Gildo, Western Roman commander in Africa and brother to the rebel Berber prince Firmus (d. 375), declared for the Eastern emperor Arcadius. The Roman Senate promptly denounced Gildo as hostis publicus (a public enemy), after which Gildo cut the supply of African grain to Rome. This revolt occurred at around the time of the Eastern Empire’s denouncement of Stilicho’s campaign in Greece, although it’s uncertain as to how much these events influenced each other.