Late Roman Warlords

Late Roman Warlords

Late Roman Warlords

Late Roman Warlords

Synopsis

Late Roman Warlords reconstructs the careers of some of the men who shaped (and were shaped by) the last quarter century of the Western Empire. There is a need for a new investigation of these warlords based on primary sources and including recent historical debates and theories. The difficultsources for this period have been analysed (and translated as necessary) to produce a chronological account, and relevant archaeological and numismatic evidence has been utilised. An overview of earlier warlords, including Aetius, is followed by three studies of individual warlords and the regions they dominated. The first covers Dalmatia and Marcellinus, its ruler during the 450s and 460s. A major theme is the question of Marcellinus' western or eastern affiliations: usingan often-ignored Greek source, Penny MacGeorge suggests a new interpretation. The second part is concerned with the Gallic general Aegidius and his son Syagrius, who ruled in northern Gaul, probably from Soissons. This extends to AD 486 (well after the fall of the Western Empire). The problem of the existence or non-existence of a 'kingdom of Soissons' is discussed,introducing evidence from the Merovingian period, and a solution put forward. This section also looks at how the political situation in northern Gaul might throw light on contemporary post-Roman Britain. The third study is of the barbarian patrician Ricimer, defender of Italy, and his successors (the Burgundian prince Gundobad and Orestes, a former employee of Attila) down to the coup of 476 by which Odovacer became the first barbarian king of Italy. This includes discussion of the character andmotivation of Ricimer, particularly in relation to the emperors he promoted and destroyed, and of how historians' assessments of him have changed over time.

Excerpt

This book was written as a result of research undertaken for a D.Phil. thesis at the University of Oxford from 1992 to 1996. Its focus, within the context of the fifth-century western Roman Empire, is an examination of some of the individual, non-imperial, leaders of that period, who, as their political importance was based on military power, have been described by some historians of the period as warlords. Although I am not totally happy with this description (nor, hence, the title of this book) it has proved difficult to find a more accurate and pleasing one that is also as succinct.

The translations from Latin are mine, with a few exceptions, as indicated in the footnotes. My translations of the panegyrics of Sidonius Apollinaris are strongly influenced by those of Anderson, but I have endeavoured to produce a version close to the basic meaning but modern in language, at the expense of poetic style. For entries from Hydatius’ chronicle I use the numbering system from Burgess (1993). For all works written in Greek I have generally used and cited published translations in English. The translation of the fragments of Damascius is by John Matthews or Michael Whitby. Unlike the Latin texts, those in Greek are not given (with the exception of a few particularly important words). For the fragments from Priscus’ history I use the numbering system from Blockley (1983). While contributions from many other people have been incorporated into this work, the mistakes and infelicities are, of course, all my own.

I thank all those who have helped me produce this book and the thesis that preceded it, especially my doctoral supervisor Bryan Ward-Perkins, of Trinity College, Oxford. I am grateful for his invaluable assistance, kindness, and encouragement, particularly for extensive proof-reading and polishing of my translations for the thesis and, more recently, for helping to ensure the survival of this book. I also want to express my gratitude to John Matthews for his advice and guidance, especially on the Greek sections, and to John Drinkwater, who first . . .

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