The History of Medieval Europe

By Lynn Thorndike; James T. Shotwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS: 378-511 A.D.

AT the time the Huns invaded Europe the Roman emperors were Valentinian I ( 364-375) and his brother Valens ( 364-378). Their father, a peasant ropeseller in Pannonia, had risen from the ranks in the legions to the command first in Africa and then in Britain. Valentinian by his military ability went on to win the imperial throne, and then made his less able brother his associate in the East. Valentinian found the western half of the Empire in great disorder and invaded in many places by barbarians. Most of his reign he spent in expelling the Alamanni and other Germans from Gaul and in strengthening the Rhine frontier. Meanwhile he dispatched Theodosius, a trusted lieutenant, first north into Britain and then south to Africa to restore order. The last year of his life Valentinian recovered the provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, situated along the Danube, from neighboring barbarians who had been devastating them. With stern face and imposing presence, often angry and sometimes cruel, Valentinian was the last strong emperor that the West was to have. Even he had all he could do to keep the Germans out of the Empire, and wherever he was not personally present misgovernment prevailed among his corrupt and oppressive subordinates. Henceforth, with the advent of the Huns, conditions were sure to grow steadily worse.

Valentinian, the last strong emperor in the West

The first appearance of the Huns struck the Germans with repugnance and terror. No one seemed able to stand before them. They rapidly conquered the Alani, who were probably not Germans, and most of the East Goths, who were Germanic; then they pressed on westward. Most of the West Goths decided to take refuge from the dreaded foe within the Roman Empire.

The battle of Adrianople, 378 A.D.

-75-

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