Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius

By Themistius; Peter Heather et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
THEODOSIUS, GRATIAN, AND THE GOTHS:
THEMISTIUS ORATIONS 14–16

Orations 14, 15 and 16 comprise the first three speeches given by Themistius to the Emperor Theodosius, who, after a five-month delay, succeeded Valens as emperor of the eastern half of the Roman Empire in January 379. They were delivered at intervals between early summer 379 and January 383. For most of this period, much of the new emperor's attention was directed towards the foreign policy problem posed by groups of Goths loose on Roman territory, who had, indeed, been responsible for the death of Valens in the battle of Hadrianople in August 378. The speeches have much to say about the Gothic war, therefore, and the peace agreement which brought it to a close in October 382, and it is chiefly for this reason that they have been studied. They are also extremely revealing of the evolution of Theodosius' relations with his western colleague Gratian. In addition, Themistius reconsidered in all three speeches the reign of Theodosius' predecessor in the east, the Emperor Valens. To set these speeches properly in context, therefore, it is necessary to reflect upon the origins of the Gothic war, which Theodosius was called upon to fight. This also sheds further important light upon the relationship of Themistius with Valens, which had begun so promisingly in 364 (Chapter 3).


VALENS, THEMISTIUS, AND THE GOTHS (C. 376–8)

Sometime in the mid-370s, two main Gothic groups - the Tervingi under Alavivus and Fritigern and the Greuthungi under Alatheus and Saphrax - came to the lower Danube frontier of the Roman Empire to request asylum. Previously, and for the best part of a century, they had occupied lands north of the Black Sea, but stability in that region had been destroyed by nomadic Hunnic raiders. Local Roman commanders referred the matter to their emperor. Valens, however, was in Antioch, so matters rested where they stood for at least a couple of months, perhaps longer, while Gothic embassies were sent the thousand or so

-199-

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Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Translated Texts for Historians i
  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Abbreviations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter 1: Orator, Emperor, and Senate 1
  • Chapter 2: Themistius and Constantius 43
  • Chapter 3: After Julian 137
  • Chapter 4: Theodosius, Gratian, and the Goths 199
  • Chapter 5: Philosopher Prefect 285
  • Bibliography 335
  • Index 1 349
  • Index 2 357
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