Posted by: ken98 | March 25, 2010

Murder, Rape, Pillage – More Foolish Pride and Roman Guerrilla Warfare

Day 195 – Ken here (Th)(3-25-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.31 pp.220-230)(pages read: 1320)

A short day – not feeling so well, hopefully I won’t leave too much out of a very interesting period in the life of Europe, the extremely remote and subtle beginnings of Spain and France rising out of the ruins of provincial Roman Hispania and Gaul.

We continue with the character of Constantius III, general, and emperor for 7 months with Honorius, his killing of the usurper Constantine (lots of guys with Const-prefixes to their names in the 4th-5th centuries – hard to keep straight sometimes), more usurpers (Honorius had 7 – all of which were defeated – BY BARBARIAN-GENERALS – was no one noticing this pattern yet? – Honorius may have reigned for 30 years – a long reign indeed – but he never ruled), the multiple invasions of Spain, the death of Adolphus (the Gothic king – murdered), and the sacking and pillaging of Gaul by the now legally acknowledged barbarian “hospites” (that is “guests” of the Roman Empire – living under their own laws, taking Roman land, but acknowledging the emperor and delivering taxes sometimes from Roman landlords, but mostly keeping it for themselves).

All in all a sad state of affairs – and a sad, but interesting day of reporting from the Gibbon-world

The Story
Character of the General Constantius – later Constantius III
  • Constantius was born a Roman – a unique thing in this day and age for a general to have been
  • He was made famous by his rapid destruction of pretenders to the throne of Honorius
  • He launched and won lightning campaigns against the Alemanni and Franks – although, in the end they did little to stop much of anything, but however would recommend him to Honorius as an eventual companion, invited to the purple, of the West

    Death of the Usurper Constantine
  • Constantius attacks, defeats, and delivers the usurper Constantine to Honorius – Constantine is killed in before he reaches the palace in Ravenna

    Rise and Fall of usurpers Jovinus, Sebastian, Attalus
  • Jovinus and his son Sebastian rise up in Spain (411-416), Gaul, and give the barbarians vast tracts of land in return for their military service in unseating Honorius and becoming the new emperors of the West
  • No one seems particularily upset at the loss of Gaul to Jovinus, except for an unfortunate choice of generals on Jovinus’s part – he calls on Sarus – the mortal enemy of the royal house of the Goths, and so brings destruction on himself as Adolphus leads the entire Gothic nation to avenge past misdeeds by Sarus – Adolphus gets Sarus and destroys Jovinus almost as a side-affect of the entire process – Honorius rewards Adolphus with his trust and a license to re-conquer Spain for the Romans
  • Attalus is raised again, then degraded, he tries to escape as a private citizen, is caught, and paraded in Rome by Honorius, then (after having 2 fingers cut off his right hand – so he can’t handle a sword, or reign again – is comfortably exiled to the isle of Lipari

    Invasions of Spain – 1st, the Vandals, Suevi, Alani (11-13-409)
  • The Germans who crossed the Rhine, move on down to pillage Spain – they take it and reduce the rich, 400-year protected province to a wasteland – they are rebuffed at first by the native Spanish troops, but when the usurper Constantine’s troops take over the frontiers of the Pyrenees protecting Spain, the barbarians move in easily
  • Guerilla warfare and refusal to bow down to the barbarians continues in Gallicia (far NW corner of Spain)
  • Many feel the light yoke of the barbarian preferable to the heavy taxes and laws of Imperial Rome

    Adolphus and the Goths march in and take over Spain (414)
  • Adolphus goes to Spain to “win it back” for Honorius
  • Unfortunately he brings along a former high-lieutenant of Sarus’s – who murders Adolphus later in revenge for Sarus (August 415)

    Adolphus Murdered, Goths Seek, Give up on Africa, Totally Conquer Spain for the Goths (415-418) under Wallia, new king of Goths
  • The Goths elect a leader Singeric who kills all relatives of Adolphus, then himself is killed 7 month later – Wallia is elected next – the Goths (again) look longingly at the peaceful fruitful fields of North Africa but are turned back by fear of ocean travel
  • Wallia goes on to wipe out many Germanic races, many slide into other tribes after defeat – Spain is not Gothic

    Goths legally established in Aquitaine, the Burgundians in Burgundy, the Franks in Upper France
  • The Goths move on to Aquitaine – south-western France – and “legally” occupy it (419)
  • The Burgundians get “legal” rights to a couple of provinces of Gaul (First of Upper Germany)- by the usurper Jovinus’s grant, confirmed by Honorius!!! – they become the Duchy or County of Burgundy
  • The Franks get Second or Lower Germany as well as their original homelands oustside of the empire

    State of Locals Under the Barbarian “Guests”
  • The barbarians take land, but sometimes give (poor) money compensation for it
  • They maintain “legal” armies by taking the imperial titles (given BY the emperors) of Master Generals of the Armies
  • Barbarians and Romans live side by side – often under completely different laws – Roman and barbarian


    Photo of teh Pyrenees - Cirque de Gavarnie & Grande Cascade, 'Pyrénées-Mont Perdu'  (World Heritage Site)  Hautes Pyrénées / France.  This is the natural (though not very high or impregnable) boundary that blocks easy movement from France into Spain.  It was given over by imperial treachery during the Germanic Invasions of 409.

    Photo of the Pyrenees - Cirque de Gavarnie & Grande Cascade, 'Pyrénées-Mont Perdu' (World Heritage Site) Hautes Pyrénées / France. This is the natural (though not very high or impregnable) boundary that blocks easy movement from France into Spain. It was penetrated by the Vandals, Seuvi, and Alani through Roman Imperial treachery (and stupidity) during the Germanic Invasions of Spain in 409.

    How The Empire Fell – In the End Just a Few Legions Make All the Difference

    Spain was a totally un-ravished set of Roman provinces in the early 400’s and had been for 400 years. Not that Spain was un-warlike , it was protected by its remoteness and its natural frontier in the Pyrenees and the protection (most importantly) by its own native troops who guarded the borders. How did it fall eventually, and so easily in 409? The native troops were replaced by imperial legions (who were mostly mercenary, almost barbarian at this point, and not particularly interested at all in dying for the sake of Roman Hispania or the concept of the Roman Empire even if it came to that). Constantine (the usurper) re-assigned the border (the Pyrenees) to his own “crack” imperial troops, then sped off to Arles to defend his life. Unsurprisingly, when the Alanic, Suevic, and Vandalic hordes descended upon the Spanish peninusula, instead of finding a fierce contest (which may have spared Spain for a generation possibly), they found pliable, buy-able, treasonous imperial troops who opened the doors wide open and brought the war to every city, field, and village in Roman Spain – thus destroying the economy, and breaking the back of Spanish prosperity for centuries.

    This from Gibbon:

    The arts and sciences flourished under the protection of the emperors; and if the character of the Spaniards was enfeebled by peace and servitude, the hostile approach of the Germans, who had spread terror and desolation from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, seemed to rekindle some sparks of military ardour.

    As long as the defence of the mountains was intrusted to the hardy and faithful militia of the country, they successfully repelled the frequent attempts of the barbarians But no sooner had the national troops been compelled to resign their post of the Honorian bands in the service of Constantine, than the gates of Spain were treacherously betrayed to the public enemy, about ten months before the sack of Rome by the Goths. The consciousness of guilt, and the thirst of rapine, prompted the mercenary guards of the Pyrenees to desert their station; to invite the arms of the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Alani; and to swell the torrent which was poured with irresistible violence from the frontiers of Gaul to the sea of Africa. The misfortunes of Spain may be described in the language of its most eloquent historian, who has concisely expressed the passionate, and perhaps exaggerated, declamations of contemporary writers.

    The irruption of these nations was followed by the most dreadful calamities: as the barbarians exercised their indiscriminate cruelty on the fortunes of the Romans and the Spaniards, and ravaged with equal fury the cities and the open country. The progress of famine reduced the miserable inhabitants to feed on the flesh of their fellow-creatures; and even the wild beasts, who multiplied, without control, in the desert, were exasperated by the taste of blood and the impatience of hunger boldly to attack and devour their human prey. Pestilence soon appeared, the inseparable companion of famine; a large proportion of the people was swept away; and the groans of the dying excited only the envy of their surviving friends. At length the barbarians, satiated with carnage and rapine, and afflicted by the contagious evils which they themselves had introduced, fixed their permanent seats in the depopulated country.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.224)


    Modern photo of Subinilla, Galicia Spain.  In the early 400's these remote, mountainous, sea-valleys were the strongholds of guerilla warfare - as they would be for centuries to come for conqueror after conqueror.  A land of very independent people

    Modern photo of Subinilla, Galicia Spain. In the early 400's these remote, mountainous, sea-valleys were the strongholds of guerilla warfare - as they would be for centuries to come for conqueror after conqueror. A land of very independent people

    Last Word…
    Galicia – the Guerilla Stronghold

    Galicia, the far North-Western coast of Spain, was the relatively inaccessible stronghold of Spanish loyalists who did not want to be the “subjects” of the new Vandal, Suevi, Alani horde pillaging Hispania at the time. Not that they particularily wanted to pay Roman taxes again either.

    This from Gibbon:

    The ancient Gallicia, whose limits included the kingdom of Old Castille, was divided between the Suevi and the Vandals: the Alani were scattered over the provinces of Carthagena and Lusitania, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean; and the fruitful territory of Baetica was allotted to the Silingi, another branch of the Vandalic nation.

    After regulating this partition, the conquerors contracted with their new subjects some reciprocal engagements of protection and obedience: the lands were again cultivated; and the towns and villages were again occupied by a captive people. The greatest part of the Spaniards was even disposed to prefer this new condition of poverty and barbarism to the severe oppressions of the Roman government; yet there were many who still asserted their native freedom, and who refused, more especially in the mountains of Gallicia, to submit to the barbarian yoke.(158)

    and this in the footnote:

    Note 158
    Mariana de Rebus Hispanicis, 1. v. c. 1, tom. i. p. 148. Hag. Comit. 1733. He had read in Orosius (1. vii. c. 41, p. 579) that the barbarians had turned their swords into ploughshares; and that many of the provincials preferred inter Barbaros pauperem libertatem, quam inter Romanos tributariam solicitudinem, sustinere. (…preferred impoverished liberty among the barbarians rather supporting Tributes and Special Taxes among the Romans.)

    (DEF II, v.3, p.225, fn.158)

    Map of Galicia - in the far Northwest corner of Spain - a remote a beautiful country - even today

    Map of Galicia - in the far Northwest corner of Spain - a remote a beautiful country - even today

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