Posted by: ken98 | March 12, 2010

The Roman Army Pulls Out of Britain, France, Germany Forever

Day 182 – Ken here (F)(3-12-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.30, pp.130-140)(pages read: 1230)

Not feeling so hot today, so a brief day.

We come to the long, slow and obvious decline of Rome in the West. It is 403/404 and the troops are moved out of Britain, never to return in strength, moved out of the frontiers of Gaul and Germany, and sent to Italy to defend Honorius, who moves the capital permanently to Ravenna (buried deep in the swamps and considered more defensible) and away from Rome forever. Skeleton forces are sent back, but the frontiers are undefended. From this point on the Dark Ages are already recognizable, and the new Europe is taking form. The empire is effectively gone, in the West, except on the law books.

The Story
 
Honorius flees from Alaric the Visigoth’s Invasion of Italy
 
  • Alaric invades Italy (after being made an official Roman General in charge of the Balkans). Honorius flees from Milan (403)
  • Rather than abandon Italy and flee to Gaul, Stilicho advises Honorius to wait while he flies over the Alps and strips the provinces of legions so that he can march them to Italy and to Rome and save the peninsula from the Visigoths
  • Stilicho strips Britain of troops (they never return to full strength), and strips the frontiers of Gaul and Germany (they never return to full strength) to march the paltry few legions left in the Late Antique Roman Army to Italy and Honorius
  • Stilicho returns and at the battle of Pollentia (3-29-403) the Goths are defeated, the Goths agree to leave Italy
  • Alaric decides to chance a battle again, and at Verona is beaten
  • Honorius celebrates the last victory ever held in Rome (404)
  • He gives games, but later outlaws gladiatorial combats – last gladitorial games in Rome (404)
  • Honorius moves the capital permanently to Ravenna, to hide behind the swamps. Previously Ravenna was known as the headquarters of the Roman fleet in the Hadriatic
  •  

    Hadrian's wall in England.  The last time this wall saw Roman soldiers was in late 403 when Stilicho's orders to abandon all of Britain and set sail for the continent came from Gaul.  No one knew it at the time, but unlike all the other civil wars etc that had temporarily drained Britain of its legions, the legions were never to return.  Roman military occupation of Britain was effectively over

    Hadrian's wall in England. The last time this wall saw Roman soldiers was in late 403 when Stilicho's orders to abandon all of Britain and set sail for the continent came from Gaul. No one knew it at the time, but unlike all the other civil wars etc that had temporarily drained Britain of its legions, the legions were never to return. Roman military occupation of Britain was effectively over

     

    The End of Roman Military Rule in Europe
     

    The end of an empire often goes out with a whimper rather than a thunderous clash of opposing armies. Romans left Northern Europe after 400 years of occupation and then, rule under the empire in an unlikely scenario no one would probably have expected. Italy, besieged by Visigoths, is “saved” by the great Roman General Stilicho (a Vandal by race, but Roman by culture) when Stilicho pulls all remaining Roman troops guarding the borders back down into Italy to create one last Roman army to deal with the Visigothic invader Alaric. The troops never made it back to their posts in strength. Troops had been pulled out before, especially during civil wars, but everyone always expected they would be sent back after the emergencies were over. It had to happen that one time, they wouldn’t. This is that time. They never went back. The frontiers were not defended. Effective military control of Britain, Northern France and Germany ended in 403/404. This is one milestone that can be identified on the journey from Roman Empire to States of Europe: the end of military occupation.

    This from GIbbon:

    The barbarians, perhaps some tribes of the Alemanni, respected the firmness of a chief who still assumed the language of command; and the choice which he condescended to make of a select number of their bravest youth was considered as a mark of his esteem and favour. The cohorts, who were delivered from the neighbouring foe, diligently repaired to the Imperial standard; and Stilicho issued his orders to the most remote troops of the West, to advance, by rapid marches, to the defence of Honorius and of Italy. The fortresses of the Rhine were abandoned; and the safety of Gaul was protected only by the faith of the Germans, and the ancient terror of the Roman name.

    Even the legion which had been stationed to guard the wall of Britain against the Caledonians of the North was hastily recalled, and a numerous body of the cavalry of the Alani was persuaded to engage in the service of the emperor, who anxiously expected the return of his general. The prudence and vigour of Stilicho were conspicuous on this occasion, which revealed, at the same time, the weakness of the falling empire. The legions of Rome, which had long since languished in the gradual decay of discipline and courage, were exterminated by the Gothic and civil wars; and it was found impossible without exhausting and exposing the provinces, to assemble an army for the defence of Italy.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.132)
     
     
     

    Last Word…
    The End of an Era – Enshrined in Law Books
     

    The Theodosian Code is a summary of edicts of Roman emperors, used for study and to provide a guide for judges and lawyers to decide points of law based upon the published laws of previous emperors. Each law is dated and is located by the city in which it was proclaimed. After 404, no laws are made anywhere in the empire except from Ravenna and Constantinople (not Milan, not Rome, not Thessalonica, not a castra or frontier camp, or any other provincial city). We have truly entered a new era, the old empire is gone, and the new has taken its place.

    This, from a footnote in Gibbon:

    Note 063
    From the year 404 the dates of the Theodosian Code became sedentary at Constantinople and Ravenna. See Godefroy’s Chronology of the Laws, tom. i. p. cxlviii., etc.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.141, fn.63)

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