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Goths’ emigration

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bas-relief on the sarcophagus showing the clash between Romans and Goths.  Dated to the 3rd century CE
Bas-relief on the sarcophagus showing the clash between Romans and Goths. Dated to the 3rd century CE

On August 9, 378 CE near Adrianopol (once Thrace, now the province of Edirne in Turkey) there was a great battle, the result of which Saint Ambrose summed up with the words: “the end of all humanity, the end of the world”. The goths who were admitted to the Roman lands defeated Valens army and directed the fate of the Roman Empire to decline.

Under Adrianopole, Roman troops numbering 40,000 (30,000 killed) were defeated by the larger army of Goths (about 100,000). THe Romn emperor died in the battle. However, the defeat was not only due to errors in command. It resulted largely from the policy of the Roman state.

Two years earlier, guests, being pushed as a result of the “great migration of peoples“, sought refuge within the Roman Empire. According to the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus in 376 CE the Goths were forced to leave their lands in Eastern Europe in favor of the Huns and look for new lands in the West. They decided that Thrace behind the Danube is the best place for a new home – the land is fertile, and the river will provide a favorable location relative to the aggressive Huns.

Goths were commanded by Fritigern. They settled in Mezia, in agreement with the Roman emperor Walens, in exchange for constant support of the Roman army with his troops. The Goth army was to be conscripted as foederati, and the people of the Goths were ready to cultivate the land in Mysia and provide supplies. In gratitude, Fritigern converted to Christianity.

The Alliance seemed to be a beneficial initiative for both sides and immigration effective. However, as Marcellinus recalls, the Goths crossed the river en masse, which led to numerous drowning and chaos. It was estimated that nearly 200,000 Goths settled in Moesia.

A huge number of barbarians in Roman territories have had a negative attitude towards greedy Roman officials and tax collectors. The lives of newcomers were deliberately obstructed and access to food hindered. Unfair treatment by Roman officials and famine led to rebellion and the outbreak of war with Rome.

After the victorious battle of Adrianopol, the furious Fritigern, at the head of the victorious troops, then devastated the Danube provinces and Greece, reaching as far as Constantinople. Rome was in decline.

  • Matthew Bunson, Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, New York 1994

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