Northern Africa 409: Gerontian Revolt

Political map of Northern Africa on 24 May 409 (Africa and Rome Divided: Gerontian Revolt), showing the following events: Alliances of the Barbarians; Didymus and Verinianus; Constans II vs Didymus and Verininaus; Mutiny at Ticinum; Death of Stilicho; Alaric’s First Siege of Rome; Recognition of Constantine III; Neglect of the Fossatum Africae; Gerontian Revolt.

Despite his control of Gaul, Constantine III’s grip on Hispaniae proved precarious. After suppressing one uprising there in 408, his general Gerontius revolted with much of Constantine’s army and proclaimed a rival emperor, Maximus, in spring 409.

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Main Events

407 Alliances of the Barbarians

When Constantine III invaded Gaul in 407, the Vandals, Alans, and Suebi seem to have withdrawn to the Rhine in the vicinity of Argentoratum (Strasbourg), where they were largely ignored by the warring Roman factions. Upon securing his hold over northern Gaul, Constantine made peace with these tribes—as well as the Burgundians and Alemanni—in order to add their manpower to his armies. As a result the Vandals, Alans, and Suebi remained quiet for over a year. in wikipedia

408 Didymus and Verinianus

In early 408 Didymus and Verinianus, two young and wealthy brothers related to the Western emperor Honorius, launched a revolt against Constantine III’s rule in the Diocese of Hispaniae. Probably orchestrated by Stilicho, the revolt faced no serious opposition and within a short space of time the brothers had secured Spain as far as the Pyrenees. in wikipedia

408 Constans II vs Didymus and Verininaus

In the summer of 408 the Western usurper Constantine III sent his eldest son Constans—elevated from a monk to Caesar—to across the Pyrenees to retake Hispaniae from the Honorian loyalist brothers Didymus and Verinianus. Although Constans quickly established his rule over most of the diocese, Didymus and Verinianus rallied, assembled an army of loyalists, armed peasants, and slaves, and defeated him in Lusitania. However, Constans was soon reinforced and in a second encounter defeated the brothers, who were then sent to his father in Gaul and executed. in wikipedia

13 Aug 408 Mutiny at Ticinum

Following the death of the Eastern emperor Arcadius in May 408, rumors soon began circulating in the West that the Western generalissimo Stilicho intended to replace Arcadius’ young son and successor Theodosius II with his own son Eucherius. That August, when the Western emperor Honorius arrived in Ticinum to inspect the army before its planned campaign against the usurper Constantine III, Olympius, one of the emperor’s officials, used the allegations to incite the troops into mutiny. Rioting, they killed all of Stilicho’s major officers in the area, including the magister militum of Gaul and the praetorian prefect of Gaul, but did not harm the emperor himself. in wikipedia

22 Aug 408 Death of Stilicho

Stilicho was at Bononia when he learned of the mutiny at Ticinum and, upon learning that the emperor Honorius was safe and headed for Ravenna, decided to travel there to meet him. Outside Ravenna, Stilicho—already faced with dissent among his own generals—discovered that Honorius had ordered his arrest as a public enemy and hastily took refuge in a church. However, after being promised that he would not be killed, he allowed soldiers to take him out of the church into custody, whereupon he was denounced for treason. Despite still being surrounded by many of his followers, Stilicho refused their offers to rescue him and submitted to decapitation, bringing an end to his 13-year primacy in the West. in wikipedia

Nov–Dec 408 Alaric’s First Siege of Rome

Following the death of Stilicho, Alaric asked the Western emperor Honorius for the payments he had been promised as well as a new exchange of hostages, but was rebuffed. Enraged, the Gothic king marched into Italy and, bypassing the secure imperial residence of Ravenna, besieged Rome in the winter of 408/409. Reduced to starvation, the Romans eventually capitulated, agreeing to provide Alaric with 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, and other valuables in return for the Gothic withdrawal. in wikipedia

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

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