Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Δευτέρα, 31 Δεκεμβρίου 2018

Battle of Frigidus 394 AD : The civil war of Roman Empire between Christians and Pagans and the dangerous role of Germanic mercenaries

The Battle of the Frigidus, also called the Battle of the Frigid River, was fought between 5–6 September 394, between the army of the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I and the army of Western Roman ruler Eugenius in the eastern border of Regio X in Roman Italia. Because the Western Emperor Eugenius (nominally Christian) had pagan sympathies, the war assumed religious overtones, with Christianity pitted against the last attempt at a pagan revival. The battle was the last serious attempt to contest the Christianization of the empire; its outcome decided the outcome of Christianity in the Western Empire, and the final decline of Greco-Roman polytheism in favour of Christianity over the following century. The defeat of Eugenius and his commander, the Frankish magister militum Arbogast, put the whole empire back in the hands of a single emperor for the last time until the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Theodosius passed the rule of the Western Empire to his younger son Honorius in the following year (with general Stilicho as regent).
The actions of Constantius II, who reigned from 337 till 361, marked the beginning of the era of formal persecution against paganism by the Christian Roman Empire, with the emanation of laws and edicts which punished pagan practices. From the 350s, new laws prescribed the death penalty for those who performed or attended pagan sacrifices, and for the worshipping of idols; temples were shut down, and the traditional Altar of Victory was removed from the Senate.There were also frequent episodes of ordinary Christians destroying, pillaging, desecrating, vandalizing many of the ancient pagan temples, tombs and monuments. The harsh imperial edicts had to face the vast following of paganism among the population, and the passive resistance of governors and magistrates. After the death of Julian, Jovian seems to have instituted a policy of religious toleration which avoided the relative extremes of Constantius and Julian. Under Valentinian I and Valens this period of religious toleration continued. Pagan writers praise both of these emperors for their liberal religious policies. Valentinian and Valens granted complete toleration for all cults at the beginning of their reign in 364. Valentinian, who ruled in the west, even allowed the performance of nocturnal sacrifices, which had been previously prohibited due to the attempt of some people to practice unlawful divination under the cover of the night, after the proconsul of Greece appealed to him.Valentinian also confirmed the rights and privileges of the Pagan priests and confirmed the right of Pagans to be the exclusive caretakers of their temples. Valens, who was ruling in the east, was an Arian and was too engaged with fighting against the Orthodox Christians to bother much with the Pagans. In both the west and east severe laws were once again passed prohibiting private divination. Due to the over zealousness of the populace to stop harmful divination, the haruspices and augurs began to be afraid to show themselves in public. This led the emperors to formally authorize the practice of official and lawful divination by law in 371. Despite the official policy, anti-pagan laws remained in force, and unofficial destruction of pagan holy sites was also tolerated. After the death of Valens, at the battle of Adrianople in 378, Gratian chose a Spaniard named Theodosius I to succeed his uncle. Gratian had been educated by Ausonius who had praised his pupil for his tolerance. Upon the death of his father, active steps to repress Paganism were taken. Gratian dealt Paganism several blows in 382. In this year, Gratian appropriated the income of the Pagan priests and Vestal Virgins, confiscated the personal possessions of the priestly colleges and ordered the removal of the Altar of Victory. The colleges of Pagan priests also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the Pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury. Pagan Senators responded by sending an appeal to Gratian, reminding him that he was still the Pontifex Maximus and that it was his duty to see that the Pagan rites were properly performed. They appealed to Gratian to restore the altar of Victory and the rights and privileges of the Vestal Virgins and priestly colleges. Gratian, did not grant an audience to the Pagan Senators. In response to being reminded by the Pagans that he was still the head of the ancestral religion, Gratian renounced the title and office of Pontifex Maximus, declaring that it was unsuitable for a Christian to hold this office.
The Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I began in 381, after the first couple of years his reign in the Eastern Roman Empire. In the 380s, Theodosius I reiterated Constantius' ban on Pagan sacrifice, prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, pioneered the criminalization of Magistrates who did not enforce anti-Pagan laws, broke up some pagan associations and destroyed Pagan temples. Between 389-391 he emanated the "Theodosian decrees," which established a practical ban on paganism; visits to the temples were forbidden, remaining Pagan holidays abolished, the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspicesand witchcrafting punished. Theodosius refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, as asked by Pagan Senators. In 392 he became emperor of the whole empire (the last one to do so). From this moment till the end of his reign in 395, while Pagans remained outspoken in their demands for toleration, he authorized or participated in the destruction of many temples, holy sites, images and objects of piety throughout the empire, and participated in actions by Christians against major Pagan sites. He issued a comprehensive law that prohibited any Pagan ritual even within the privacy of one's home, and was particularly oppressive of Manicheans. Paganism was now proscribed, a "religio illicita". He is likely to have suppressed the Ancient Olympic Games, whose last record of celebration is from 393.
In 313 Constantine I and Licinius I had legalized the Christian faith with the Edict of Milan. Theodosius I had made it the official religion of the State with the 380 Edict of Thessalonica. Conflict simmered between the Roman Senate, many of whom were not Christian, and the emperors in Constantinople and Milan who officially subscribed to Christian teachings. The senators wrote letters and argued for a return to traditional Roman beliefs, often stressing the protection and good fortune the old Roman gods had bestowed upon Rome since her beginnings as a small city-state. For their part, the Christian emperors emphasized the primacy of Christianity, although not all did so to the same extent. This clash between the Roman world's two main religions was for the most part an academic debate, without threats of armed uprisings, although small-scale violence was widespread. However, on 15 May 392, the Western Emperor Valentinian II was found dead at his residence in Vienne, Gaul. Valentinian had continued the imperial policy of suppressing the interests of adherents of the old pagan religions while supporting Christians. This policy had resulted in increasing tensions between the emperor and the senators. Arbogast, was the magister militum, or military commander, of the Western Empire and its de facto ruler. After Valentinian's death he informed Theodosius, the Eastern Emperor that the young emperor had committed suicide. Tensions between the two halves of the empire were heightened further that summer. Arbogast made several attempts to contact Theodosius, but apparently none got further than the ears of the Eastern praetorian prefect, or chief minister, Rufinus. The responses that Arbogast received from Rufinus were unhelpful. Theodosius himself was slowly coming to the belief that Valentinian had been murdered, in no small part because his wife Galla was convinced her brother's death was caused by treachery. For his part, Arbogast had few friends in the Eastern court, although his uncle Richomeres was chief commander of the eastern cavalry. As it appeared increasingly likely that whatever course Theodosius decided upon would be hostile towards Arbogast, the Frank decided to make the first move. On 22 August Arbogast elevated Flavius Eugenius, the Western imperial court's magister scrinii, or senior civil servant, to the throne of the Western Empire. Eugenius was a well-respected scholar of rhetoric, and a native Roman, making him a far more acceptable candidate for the purple than the Frankish commander. His ascension was backed by the praetorian prefect of Italy, Nicomachus Flavianus the Elder, and by many of the pagan members of the Roman Senate.
Some senators, notably Symmachus, were uneasy with this action. After his elevation to emperor, Eugenius appointed several important pagan senators to key positions in the Western government. He also supported a movement to advance the traditional religion by granting it official recognition and by restoring important shrines such as the Altar of Victory and the Temple of Venus and Rome. These actions earned Eugenius withering criticism from Bishop Ambrose of Milan and did little to endear him to the Christian Theodosius. As a Christian, Theodosius was distressed by the apparent pagan revival that was occurring under Eugenius's reign. In addition there was the issue of Valentinian's death, which had never been resolved to his satisfaction. Furthermore, Eugenius had removed all the high civil officers left by Theodosius when he had given the Western half of the empire to Valentinian, so that Theodosius had lost control of the Western Roman Empire. When a party of Western ambassadors arrived in Constantinople to request that Eugenius be acknowledged as the Western augustus, Theodosius was noncommittal, even if he received them with presents and vague promises. Whether he had already decided on an offensive against Eugenius and Arbogast at this point is unclear. In the end, however, after declaring his son Honorius, then eight years old, as the western augustus in January of 393, Theodosius finally resolved to invade the West.
Over the following year and a half Emperor Theodosius the Great marshalled his forces for the invasion. The Eastern armies had atrophied since the death of the emperor Valens and most of his soldiers at the Battle of Adrianople. It fell upon the generals Flavius Stilicho and Timasius both to restore discipline to the legions and to bring them back up to strength through recruitment and conscription. At the same time another of Theodosius's advisers, the eunuch Eutropius, was sent out from Constantinople to seek the advice and wisdom of an aged Christian monk in the Egyptian town of Lycopolis. According to the accounts of the meeting given by Claudian and Sozomen, the old monk prophesied that Theodosius would achieve a costly but decisive victory over Eugenius and Arbogast. The Eastern army set out towards the west from Constantinople in May 394. The re-galvanized legions were bolstered by numerous barbarian auxiliaries including over 20,000 Visigoth federates and additional forces from Syria. Theodosius himself led the army; among his commanders were his own generals Stilicho and Timasius, the Visigoth chieftain Alaric, and a Caucasian Iberian named Bacurios Hiberios. Their advance through Pannonia until the Julian Alps was unopposed, and Theodosius and his officers must have had suspicions about what lay ahead when they discovered that the eastern ends of the mountain passes were undefended. Arbogast had, based on his experiences fighting against the usurper Magnus Maximus in Gaul, decided that the best strategy was to keep his forces united to defend Italy itself, and to that end he went so far as to leave the Alpine passes unguarded. Arbogast's forces consisted mainly of his fellow Franks and Gallo-Romans, plus his own Gothic auxiliaries. Thanks to Arbogast's strategy of maintaining a single, relatively cohesive force, the Theodosian army passed unhindered through the Alps and descended towards the valley of the Frigidus River to the east of the Roman port of Aquileia. It was in this narrow, mountainous region that they came upon the Western army's encampment within the Claustra Alpium Iuliarum in the first days of September.
Claustra Alpium Iuliarum was a defense system within the Roman Empire between Italia and Pannonia that protected Italy from possible invasions from the East. It secured the Postojna Gate, the land link between the eastern and western part of the empire, and thus the Claustra represented an inner border defense of the empire. Unlike a linear limes, the Claustra consisted of a series of interconnected fortifications. In the year 6 the Great Illyrian Revolt took place threatening the Roman heartland. Subsequently, in order to protect Italy, a series of walls and fortifications were gradually erected around the area of the strategic Postojna Gate. Most of the construction was done after 284 under Diocletian and Constantine I. Although this development was done subsequent to a major invasion of Northern Italy by the Alemanni in 271, Whittaker indicates that inner fortification lines were primarily aimed to secure the internal stability of the empire rather than keeping barbarians out. Castra Alpium Iuliarum saw a number of battles.
It is uncertain exactly where the battle took place. Though it has also been claimed that the location of the battle should be sought in the Upper Isonzo Valley, it has mostly been placed somewhere in the Vipava Valley. Whereas the "Frigidus" has been usually considered to be the Vipava River or Hubelj Creek and the battle to take place near Vrhpolje, recent research suggests that it actually took place some kilometers away, between Col and Sanabor in the so called Door to Roman Italia. Before the battle, Eugenius and Arbogast placed a statue of Jupiter on the edge of the battlefield, and had applied images of Hercules on the army banners. This way they hoped to repeat the victories of Rome in earlier days, when it had always relied on the old gods for support in battle. On the first day of battle the old gods seemed to be winning. Theodosius attacked almost immediately, having undertaken little to no prior reconnaissance of the field of battle. He committed his Gothic allies to action first, perhaps hoping to thin their ranks through attrition and lessen their potential threat to the Empire. The Eastern army's headlong attack resulted in heavy casualties but little gain: 10,000 of the Gothic auxiliaries are reported to have been slain, and the Georgian general Bacurius was among the dead. Day's end saw Eugenius celebrating his troops' successful defense of their position while Arbogast sent out detachments to close off the mountain passes behind Theodosius's forces. After a sleepless night, Theodosius was cheered by the news that the men Arbogast had sent to bottle him up in the valley intended to desert to his side. Buoyed by this favorable development, Theodosius' men attacked once again. This time nature was on their side as a fierce tempest apparently the bora, a regular occurrence in the region blew along the valley from the east. Other stories tell of Theodosius praying to God for a storm, which God subsequently granted. The high winds blew clouds of dust into the faces of the Western troops (legend also says that the fierce winds even blew the Western troops' own arrows back at them). Buffeted by the winds, Arbogast's lines broke and Theodosius gained the decisive victory that the Egyptian monk had prophesied. In the aftermath, Eugenius was captured and brought before the emperor. His pleas for mercy went unanswered and he was beheaded. Arbogast escaped the defeat and fled into the mountains, but after a few days' wandering, he concluded escape was impossible and committed suicide.
While the version of the battle in which a divine wind defeated the pagan enemies of Theodosius became popular in late antiquity, modern historians, most notably Alan Cameron, have disputed the reliability of this version of events. Cameron asserts that the idea that Eugenius and Arbogastes were pagans or supporters of pagans was created to justify Theodosius' campaign against them, and that other usurpers, such as Magnentius, were falsely branded as pagans after their defeat. The idea that Theodosius' enemies were pagans originates in the church historian Rufinus, and only the sources dependent on Rufinus mention this idea. In addition, the earliest source to mention the decisive bora wind was Ambrose of Milan, but he states in his sermon on Psalm 36 that the wind blew before that battle, and demoralized Theodosius' enemy before any fighting began. This idea was probably picked up by the poet Claudian, who, in his fanciful and propagandistic poetry for the Theodosian family, moved the wind to the decisive moment of the battle. Claudian seems to have been making a classicizing allusion to Silius Italicus, whose account of the Battle of Cannae mentioned a similar wind blowing spears and weapons back. From Claudian's poetry, which was popular in both eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire, the idea of the bora wind deciding the battle spread. It fit well with the other idea that the battle was one between pagans and Christians: Theodosius, as the Christian emperor, was aided by God in the form of the wind.
It had been a costly but total victory for Theodosius, and a total loss for Eugenius. The western provinces quickly submitted to Theodosius. A mere four months later he died, leaving the government in the hands of his young children Honorius and Arcadius. Most significantly, the battle has often been seen as the last attempt to contest the Christianization of the empire. According to Rufinus, the battle is on a par with the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in importance, for it was seen not only as a victory in a civil war, but a vindication of the Christian God and the triumph of Christianity within a generation the elite pagan families of Rome would give up any serious resistance to Christianity. However, the battle also accelerated the collapse of the Roman army in the west. The legions were already losing their effectiveness, due to reorganizations and a decline in the quality of their training and discipline. The losses at the Battle of the Frigidus weakened the western legions. This downturn in the capabilities of the Roman soldiers meant an increasing reliance by the Empire on barbarian mercenaries employed as foederati, who often proved to be unreliable, or even treacherous.
Foederatus was any one of several outlying nations to which ancient Rome provided benefits in exchange for military assistance. The term was also used, especially under the Roman Empire for groups of "barbarian" mercenaries of various sizes, who were typically allowed to settle within the Roman Empire. The sense of the term foederati and its usage and meaning was extended by the Roman practice of subsidizing entire barbarian tribes which included the Franks, Vandals, Alans, Huns and, best known, the Visigoths in exchange for providing warriors to fight in the Roman armies. Alaric began his career leading a band of Gothic foederati. At first, the Roman subsidy took the form of money or food, but as tax revenues dwindled in the 4th and 5th centuries, the foederati were billeted on local landowners, which came to be identical to being allowed to settle on Roman territory. Large local landowners living in distant border provinces (see "marches") on extensive, largely self-sufficient villas, found their loyalties to the central authority, already conflicted by other developments, further compromised in such situations. Then, as these loyalties wavered and became more local, the Empire began to devolve into smaller territories and closer personal fealties.
The first Roman treaty with the Goths was after the defeat of Ariaric in 332, but whether or not this treaty was a foedus is unclear. The Franks became foederati in 358 AD, when Emperor Julian let them keep the areas in northern Gaul, which had been depopulated during the preceding century. Roman soldiers defended the Rhine and had major armies 100 miles (160 km) south and west of the Rhine. Frankish settlers were established in the areas north and east of the Romans and helped with the Roman defense by providing intelligence and a buffer state. The breach of the Rhine borders in the frozen winter of 406 and 407 made an end to the Roman presence at the Rhine when both the Romans and the allied Franks were overrun by a tribal migration en masse of Vandals and Alans. In 376 AD, some of the Goths asked Emperor Valens to allow them to settle on the southern bank of the Danube river, and were accepted into the empire as foederati. These same Goths then rose in rebellion and defeated the Romans in the Battle of Adrianople in 378 AD. The critical ensuing loss of military manpower forced the Western Roman Empire to rely much more on foederati levies thereafter. The loyalty of the tribes and their chieftains was never reliable, and in 395, the Visigoths, this time under the lead of Alaric, once again rose in rebellion. The father of one of the most powerful late Roman generals, Stilicho, was from the ranks of the foederati.
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