The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview

RIPA GOTHICA AND LITUS SAXONICUM

Evangelos Chrysos

In 335 AD Constantine the Great (re)divided the imperial power amongh is three sons Constantinus, Constantius and Constans and his two nephews Dalmatius and Hannibalianus. The short chronicle known as Anonymus Valesianus defines Dalmatius' area of jurisdiction with the following sentence: ripam Gothicam Dalmatius tuebatur.1 John C. Rolfe trans- lates this sentence as follows: “Dalmatius was to guard the Gothic coastline” and in an explanatory note he adds: “The name Gothica ripa was applied at that time to Thrace, Macedonia and Achaia.”2 Two comments are necessary. The first concerns the translation. Abundant references in Latin historiographical vocabulary suggest that ripa should be translated as 'bank' of a river rather than 'coastline' at the seaside. What is apparently meant is the bank of the Lower Danube, opposite the former province of Dacia, where in Constantine's time the Goths were settled. This is corroborated by Rolfe's own note about the region over which Dalmatius was to govern. As a matter of fact, according to the Epitome of Aurelius Victor, hi singuli has partes regendas habuerunt: Constantinus iunior cuncta trans Alpes, Constantius a freto Propontidis Asiam atque Orientem, Constans Illyricum, Italiamque et Africam, Dalmatius Thraciam, Macedoniamque et Achaiam, Annibalianus … Armeniam nationesque circum socias.3 if we connect the evidence of the two sources, we can equate the area which was assigned to Dalmatius with what later in the century would be known as praefectura praetorio per Illyricum Orientale, with Sirmium and Thessalonica as the two major cities and capitals. Thus, although it does not give any geographical description of the region, the elliptical reference in the Excerpta Valesiana mentions what was apparently the most important military task of Dalmatius, namely to take care of the defence of the Danube from Gothic attacks.

1Anonymus Valesianus 6, 35.

2Anonymus Valesianus 6, 35, pp. 529 ff.

3 Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitoma 41, 20; Cf. O. Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der
antiken Welt
4 (Stuttgart, 1922), p. 6 with note on p. 384; L. Voelkl, Der Kaiser Konstan-
tin, Annalen einer Zeitenwende
(München, 1957), p. 218.

-69-

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