15. Unmitigated Gaul

418 CE to 456 CE

A senator by the name of Eparchius Avitus is dragooned into filling the imperial shoes left behind by the well-aimed brick that took out Petronius Maximus. His life gives a framework for discussing the place of southern Gaul within the Roman empire, and how the Visigoths were settling in.

And just like that I have unlocked another podcasting achievement: my first title pun. 

Last time, you will recall, we left off in June of 455 just as Gaiseric and his Vandals were loading the gold, silver, statuary, and captives from the sack of Rome onto their ships and sailing back to Carthage. The emperor, the venal and incompetent Patronius Maximus, had been killed by the Roman mob, and there was nobody around who was an obvious replacement. Enter a fellow by the name of Eparchius Avitus.

Who the heck is Eparchius Avitus, you ask? I’m going to assume you’re asking, and answer either way. Eparchius Avitus was a nobleman of Gaul who has actually been around the edges of our story for quite a while. And because he was a nobleman from Gaul his biography gives me a nice framework for talking about the region, and for catching up with what the Visigoths have been up to since we last left them.

Gaul has of course been the setting for quite a few of the important moments of our story, the invasion of the Vandal and Alans in 408, the ongoing conflicts with the bagaudae, the battle of the Catalaunian Fields in 451, and so on. But I haven’t really paused and talked about the region itself in any detail. So I think it’s high time to talk about Roman Gaul, right before it ceases to exist. This is exactly the kind of preparation and foresight my family has come to expect from me, so you are not alone, dear listener.

The Gauls had been very loosely connected Celtic tribes that inhabited the lands west of the Rhine and North of the Pyrenees; mostly France, but also including Most of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the westernmost parts of Germany. The lands of the Gauls had been a part of the Roman Empire literally since the beginning. The wealth that Julius Caesar amassed from their conquest allowed him to take control of Rome’s political apparatus and place the final nail in the coffin of the Republic, which Augustus would then finish driving in. Over the next three hundred years or so, Gaul had become completely and thoroughly Romanized. By the end of the fourth century, the cultural difference between a Gallic noble and an Italian noble would have been pretty much imperceptible. The Gallic nobility took an active role in the management of the empire, and could expect to move up the ranks of the government administration just as smoothly as any Italian, Spaniard, Illyrian, or anyone else.

Diocletian had reorganized the provinces, along with just about every other part of Roman government, in the 290s. He gathered provinces together into groups called diocese, which were further gathered into prefectures. The system was further refined by Constantine in the 320s. So why am I telling you this? Two reasons really, one because the patterns of this organization will partly determine the way Germanic tribes were settled in the empire and so they determine the pattern of the successor kingdoms, and second because quite a bit of this structure will survive even more directly in the organization of the church. 

So the governor of a province now reported to a vicarius, or vicar, who was in charge of the diocese, who in turn reported to the relevant prefect. The prefectures were massive, the prefecture of Gaul for example included all of Gaul, Britain, Spain, and a little bit of Africa. These were the offices held by great men of the highest rank, though they were entirely administrative units, divorced from the military apparatus. 

Gaul was divided into two diocese, Gallia in the north, and Viennensis in the South. I’m going to focus more on the South in this episode, and we’ll leave the north for later, when we finally talk about the Franks. 

Viennensis was also called Septem Provinciae, the seven provinces, no prizes for guessing why. The Romans, I have to say, were absolutely crap at naming things, the number of provinces that just get the same name as the one next door plus a number is appalling. It shouldn’t be surprising, I mean, look how they named their children, but the great example is the provinces of Viennensis, which were Aquitania Prima, Aquitania Secunda, Aquitania Tertia, Narbonensis Prima, Narbonensis Secunda, Viennensis, and Alpes Maritimae. Seven provinces, four names. Ridiculous. 

Anyway, I feel myself rambling, so let’s bring on our main man for the episode, Avitus. He was born around 390 in Clermont-Ferrand in Aquitania Prima. Another digression about place names beckons, but I shall resist. Avitus was born into a family of the very highest rank, and so received the best education available. 

In 418 when Avitus was in his late twenties, Theodoric I’s Visigoths were granted lands in Aquitania, especially along the Garonne valley between Bordeaux and Toulouse, and Theodoric set his capital in the latter city. The locals were in fact consulted. The council of nobles of the diocese was called by imperial decree to meet at Arles, in April of that same year, and it’s hard to imagine that settlement of the Goths wasn’t discussed. I can’t remember if I talked about this the last time it came up, in episode five, but the Goths hadn’t really finished the job fighting the vandals in spain when Constantius moved them into Aquitania, and it’s likely that in consultation with the council of Arles, it was decided that the Visigothic fighters were more urgently needed north of the Pyrenees.

I am aware that I haven’t done much to explain the nature of this relationship between the visigoths and the native population. There’s a good reason for that: it’s because I have a hard time getting a handle on it myself. I don’t feel bad about that, it seems everyone shares this difficulty, including observers at the time. Since no text of the agreement survives, we have to make do with what the commentators and historians tell us, and it’s just confusing. Traditionally, federates were bilited among the local population, as garrison troops and such, rather than given property of their own, a portion of the province’s tax revenue was then earmarked for their maintenance, and they were incorporated into the Roman military structure. 

But by the time of the settlement of the Visigoths though, that structure is almost entirely made up of federated troops, regular legions are rare, and that gives the federate’s leaders considerably more power than they once had. So regardless of whether the Visigoths were given land or not, their kings have a proper and regular court set up in Toulouse, and the question of where exactly they fit into the imperial hierarchy is extremely moot. Over the years it became almost customary that the king of the visigoths, whoever that was, would gather his army and march to Arles, to put pressure on the Vicarius and council to amend their foedus in one way or another. It also gave the young and the restless young fighting men something to do. These marches, as Herwig Wolfram puts it, take on an air of the rituals of collective bargaining, though with considerably more violence along the way, especially for bystanders. But when one Roman official suggested marching on Toulouse and destroying the Visigoths’ power once and for all, he was roundly shouted down by his colleagues – the Visigoths muscle was too important to the security of Gaul, most importantly to the security of the Gallic landowners, like Avitus’ family, to mess with.

Why, though? What threat are they facing that is so very scary? 

 The chaos in Spain was concerning, but did not spill over across the Pyrenees, it stayed around the Pyre-ankles; Aquitaine was out of the reach of the Sueves and remaining Vandals. Saxon pirates were apparently raiding down the Atlantic coast from bases in the Low countries and possibly Britain. (Don’t worry, eventually Britain will get an episode all its own), but of all the people who one would choose to meet a naval challenge, surely the Goths would be at the bottom of the list. Britain had also been the source of refugees and invaders into Brittany, which fell out of Roman control, but that was a long way from the Visigoths’ base as well. So the threat the Visigoths had been imported to meet was actually an internal enemy, as popular movements and the wonderfly ill-defined bagaudae took the general chaos as an opportunity to threaten the social order. The aristocratic families of the seven provinces, like the upper crust of most hierarchical societies, were horrified at the possibility of lower-class revolt. So in a tradition that stretches from the assasination of the Gracchi to the Pinkertons, they introduced a picked corps of enforcers to knock heads together and make sure everyone knew their place.

All of this was in its infancy when Avitus began the diplomatic career that eventually would lead him to the top of the imperial pyramid. Sometime before 421 he was sent by the Gallic nobility to ask Constantius (husband to be of Galla Placidia) for a tax cut, and he was successful. Not long after he visited a relative who was living as a hostage of Theodoric in Toulouse. Avitus ended up spending quite a bit of time there, and became acquainted with the king’s sons, in particular his second son, also named Theodoric. That was a relationship that would prove crucial in the fullness of time.

In the meantime, though, Avitus got on with his career. He joined the army and rose steadily up the chain of command, under our friend Flavius Aetius. Aetius was actively trying to keep the Rhine frontier under control, with campaigns against the Burgundians, which we’ve already heard about, as well as other west germanic tribes. And always the visigoths continued to do their job and work to extend their influence over more territory. One of Theodoric’s overarching goals was the acquisition of a Mediterranean port, which would allow them to participate in trade directly. But this was a concession both the native nobility and the powers in Italy refused to make. Around 425 Aetius found the winning formula, hiring Hun mercenaries to balance the power of the Visigoths within Gaul. This worked, though it did not endear Aetius to the Theodoric, and they faced off against each other in 425 and 430, and in 433 when Galla Placidia asked for their help in her power struggle with Aetius, Theodoric was happy to assist the Visigoth’s former queen. That one didn’t work out, and Aetius’ power grew. 

In the meanwhile, Avitus had reached the height of achievement in the army, being appointed as magister militum per gallias, meaning commander in chief of all the military forces in Gaul. the regular forces that is, for the federate forces like the goths, his command was nominal at best.

A large bagaudae rebellion shook the whole region in 435. Chaos reigned from the Loire to the Seine, and the Visigoths threw themselves into the fight and won themselves new privileges. The next year was the year that Aetius and the Huns destroyed the Burgundian kingdom, and Theodoric figured he could use the resulting reshuffle to snap up some territory for himself. He marched on Narbonne to finally force the issue of the Port, but was driven off by one of Aetius’ generals, a fellow named Litorius. This was the fiercest confrontation between the Visigoths and Romans since the settlement. Theodoric was unable to make any progress against Litorius, and by 438 Litorius stood outside Toulouse, ready to remove the Gothic poison from the Roman bloodstream. Efforts at negotiation failed, and Litorius fought on, until he was unexpectedly captured and killed, and Toulouse was saved. Relations between Theodoric and Aetius were at an all time low.

I am aware that I’m going through all this very quickly, but don’t worry, it won’t be on the test. I’m just equally aware that I rushed past all of this stuff in the build up to the Catalaunian Fields way back when, and it goes a long way towards explaining why Theodoric’s presence at that battle was such a big deal.

What’s interesting about the death and defeat of Litorius was the reaction of the Gallo-Romans at the time. They celebrated the Goths victory. Litorius was seen as a foreign occupier, an oppressor whose defeat was a victory for the Gallic cause. That Litorius had been a pagan didn’t help, but that his army had been so heavily composed of Huns was probably the bigger issue. Given the choice between Theodoric’s Goths and Aetius’ Huns, the locals appeared by and large to prefer the Germans. 

There was one more issue that was causing friction between Aetius and the Gallic nobility – that of jobs. Nobles expected to get jobs in the imperial administration, that was how the system worked, and that was what nobles were for. Especially since those jobs came with so many perks like tax breaks and tax breaks. But as the amount of land that needed administering shrank, along with the tax receipts, more and more of the really plum jobs were going to Italian nobles, and the gallics were being iced out. There was in fact a strain of xenophobia that was beginning to show itself among those italian nobles, as men from the provinces were viewed as outsiders and bumpkins, in spite of their long history within the empire. As the representative of the italian powers, Aetius was identified with them, even though he himself had been born in the Balkans.

There seems to have been a cultural reaction within Gaul to these snubs. The fifth century sees a flowering of Gallo-Roman poetry and letter writing, which feels a lot like a literary class trying to assert their Romanness. This has sometimes been interpreted as a consciousness among the nobility that the empire was nearing its collapse, but I think it has more to do with this sense of thwarted entitlement. We’re still 30 or 40 years from the empires end, and 40 years took as long to pass then as they do now. All politics being local, I think the big picture problem is still invisible to the people of the time. The best known and widely studied avatar of this literary scene was Sidonius Appolinaris, who was in fact Avitus’ son-in-law. Apparently a lot of these poems aren’t very good, they’re stilted in their diction, certainly nothing on the level of a Horace or Catalus. I’m not qualified to judge, personally, the amount I know about Latin poetry would fit on one of my eyelids, so I defer to the better informed. In spite of this hyperroman posturing though, it was becoming clear that the Gallic nobility had a new choice available when it came time to decide loyalties, as the Visigothic court grew in influence.

After the defeat of Litorius, Avitus moved over from the military side to the administration, and up to the theoretically exalted office of Praetorian prefect of Gaul, with nominal authority over the whole western edge of the empire. Given that Britain was lost, his part of Africa was poor, and Spain was in chaos, it probably didn’t seem like the glorious position that it once might have. Avitus’ first objective in the new job was to negotiate with Theodoric, and try to find some kind of balance between the king and Aetius. Amazingly, he was able to do just that.

The next decade passed relatively peacefully. There were campaigns against the Hispanic Sueves in partnership with the Romans. It gave the young men something to do, and provided the opportunity for plunder. But it didn’t stop Theodoric from marrying his daughter to the Suevic king Rechiar in 449, a wedding that took place in Toulouse. And Rechiar showed no hesitation in raiding Roman Tarraconensis on the way back, possibly with Gothic support. The relationship between the Goths and the Gallic Romans remained as complicated as ever. 

In the meanwhile, Avitus and his wife, whose name is not recorded, had three children, two sons who would both hold high office in later years, and a daughter named Papianilla, who later married a Gallic senator and poet, the aforementioned Sidonius Appolinaris. Apollinaris is one of our main sources for this period of Roman history, and of Avitus specifically. 

Apolinaris is an appealing character, and as imperfect as his poetry may be, he was an engaging letter-writer, and left vivid descriptions of life among the barbarians that increasingly dominated life in the province. Most famously he wrote to an acquaintance: “Why do you bid me to compose a song … placed as i am among long-haired hordes, having to endure German speech, praising often with a wry face the song of the gluttonous Burgundian who spreads rancid butter in his hair?” Apparently Sidonius had acquired a clutch of unwelcome houseguests, and they were impeding his muse. Also apparently the Burgundians used butter as pomade.

More positively and more relevant to us, Sidonius also described to a friend Theodoric II and his court in lively and admiring detail (almost every historian who mentions it uses the word “gushing” but I refuse to bend to such social pressure). I’ve pulled out some interesting chunks for us here. Oh, and I should mention that this is coming from my constant companion over these last six months, Herwig Wolfram’s History of the Goths. I believe he did the translation as well. I’ll post a link to the full text in the episode notes, though that translation is slightly different. So:

“You have often asked me to describe to you in writing his [Theodoric’s] appearance and the character of his life … Take first his appearance. His figure is well proportioned; he is shorter than the very tall, taller and more commanding than the average man…Every day he shaves the bristles that grow beneath his nostrils. His facial hair is heavy in the hollows of his temples, but on the lowest part of his face his barber constantly shaves it from the cheeks, which retain their youthful appearance.” Now I’m not sure whether to take that as meaning that Theodoric’s beard was well trimmed with sharp edges, or that he cultivated some really excellent sideburns. Whoever did the etching that illustrates his wikipedia article clearly went for the latter. Your thoughts? Send me an email. 

Sidonius continues: “You may want to know about his daily life, which is open to the public gaze. Before dawn he goes with a very small retinue to the service conducted by his priests, and he worships with great earnestness though – in confidence – one can see that his devotion is a matter of routine rather than conviction. Administrative duties of the kingdom take up the rest of the morning. Nobles in armor have places by the throne; a crowd of fur-clad guards is allowed in so as to be close at hand but is excluded from the presence so as not to disturb… Meanwhile deputations from various people are introduced, and he listens to a great deal of talk but replies briefly, postponing business he intends to consider, speeding that which is to be promptly settled…” A bit more orderly than Attila’s presence chamber, where we saw people clustered around the chief shouting their requests at him. This procedure has more in common with the Roman one, where the monarch is separated by a curtain from his subjects, and only those with business are permitted to approach. The court is a blend of Roman and Germanic customs coming together to make something new. As Sidonius himself says, “you can find there Greek elegance, Gallic plenty, Italian briskness, the dignity of state, the attentiveness of a private home, the ordered discipline of royalty.”

And this last extract, describing the king on a hunt, I found particularly amusing: “He considers it beneath his royal dignity to have his bow slung at his side; but if in the chase a bird or beast appears within his range, he reaches back and an attendant places the bow in his hand …He may urge you first to choose what you wish to have struck down: You choose what to strike and he strikes what you have chosen. If he ever misses your vision will be mostly at fault, and not the archer’s skill.” In spite of this apparently universal trait of aristocrats everywhere, Apollinaris notes that the king’s home life is largely the same as that of his people. Meals are elevated by the finesse of their preparation, not by expensive or exotic ingredients. Theodoric does not set himself apart in his dress, other than having clean clothes of the best quality, though several sources note that the Goths in general were very fond of fur. This is all in the Germanic tradition, where the king is a war leader who lives and fights with his warriors, the accept his authority, but he is still one of them. Primes inter pares; first among equals. 

The Visigoths seem to have assimilated, at least in their material culture, pretty thoroughly into their Gallo-Roman surroundings. As a result, it’s difficult bordering on impossible to differentiate Gothic graves in the cemeteries around Toulouse from any others of the time. That was less true in Spain, where a difference is evident into the sixth century. That’s probably not surprising, as daily life was more violent and unpredictable there, and so tribal markers would be more strongly adhered to.

The relationship between Gaul and Goth received its greatest test in 451. In that year Aetius called Avitus out of retirement to go to Theodoric again, and convince the now aged king to stand with his old enemy against the might of Attila. The result was, as discussed in episode five, victory, and the heroic death of King Theodoric the first. After the battle, Aetius subtly managed his germanic allies into not finishing the Huns off, and so we saw Thorismund set off immediately from Chalons back to Toulouse to ensure that none of his brothers seized the throne when they heard of their father’s death. Primogeniture, the automatic inheritance of the first son was not the Germanic way. The germanic rules of succession were that the king would be elected from a pool of candidates from the royal family, so there was a real risk that in his absence, someone else might beat Thorismund out for the top spot. He needn’t have worried, at least not right at that moment. He was acclaimed king of the Visigoths and ruled for two whole years before he was murdered by his younger brother in 453. I did say he didn’t need to worry at that particular moment.

The younger brother in question was Theodoric II, whom Avitus counted as a friend from those days spent in his father’s court. Avitus though was done with politics, the west had been saved, Attila and his host had vanished over the eastern horizon, and he himself was getting on a bit by now, at 63 years old or thereabouts. He went back to his villa in Aydat, which looks like a lovely spot by a lake, near his hometown of Clermont.

But the quiet life only lasted a couple of years for Avitus. Petronius Maximus seized the throne through the murder of Valentinian, which created a problem with the Visigoths, who still felt a certain kinship to the house of Theodosius, in spite of everything. So Maximus pushed Avitus to go and see his old friend Theodoric II and reaffirm Visigothic support for imperial rule. 

Who knows what Avitus thought of Maximus’ coup, but he did what he was told. Not long after he arrived in Toulouse, though, a messenger arrived with startling news. The vandals had declared war on Rome, sacked the city, and Maximus had been killed. There was no heir, and no one knew who the new emperor would be. Avitus related all this to Theodoric, who apparently looked at his friend with a raised eyebrow and said, “Well, why couldn’t it be you?”

Now there was a thought. There’s no way to know whether Avitus had considered such a possibility before. I suspect that every Roman of senatorial rank at some point, alone in his room, scribbled on a wax tablet: Imperator Rufus Ego Maximus over and over again. But he then scraped the tablet clear, well aware of the effect that kind of ambition could have on one’s life expectancy.

But now there was a genuine opportunity standing in front of Avitus, in the person of Theodoric and his army of hardened Gothic warriors. I know what I would have done, but then I’m not a Gallo-Roman aristocrat, which is at least part of the reason I am now a podcaster. Avitus decided to reach for the brass ring. The Visigoths hailed him as their emperor and marched with him to Arles, where the Council of the Seven Provinces was prevailed upon to acclaim him as well. I’m sure they were convinced by Avitus’ history of earnest hard work and sterling reputation, and were not at all influenced by the forest of shiny pointy spears that stood behind him.

You would think that the next step would be to get down to Ravenna, or maybe even to Rome if you could, and make sure that the Italians were on board. But no, Avitus stayed in Gaul for three months, making sure that he had the support of the local nobility and regular forces. This seems to have gone smoothly enough, the Gallic nobles knew Avitus, he was one of them, and they trusted him. And along the way, word arrived that the Roman senate had accepted him as emperor as well. Lastly, a quick march over eastwards was enough to bring Illyricum into line. So everything was looking rosy.

Finally the time came to head on down to Italy and make the thing official. Avitus was accompanied by a large force of Visigoths as his bodyguard. He swung through Ravenna, dropped off a garrison, and moved on to Rome. Once there, his son-in-law Sidonius recited a panegyric – a poem of praise – that he had composed for the occasion.

Avitus really was a competent administrator, and really was committed to restoring the empire’s authority over its old territory. But the deck was stacked against him from the beginning. Rome was still a city traumatized by the Vandals’ sacking. Food was in short supply, and Gaiseric was in firm command of Sicily and the other islands of the western Med. Avitus had to supply his Visigothic garrisons, which meant prioritizing food shipments to them, and leaving out the local population. Not a formula for general popularity. And he lost the support of the nobility, by attempting to balance the representation in government a bit, and giving jobs to Gallic aristocrats that the Italians felt belonged to them. Resentments grew.

The obvious first step in that reasserting control program was to take back the breadbaskets of Sicily and Sardinia. To that end Avitus dispatched armies south, under the command of a pair of generals named Majorian and Ricimer. 

Majorian was from a prominent family of Roman military officers, and a successful and reasonably famous commander, he had been one of Petronius Maximus’ rivals for the throne after Valentinian was killed. Ricimer’s background is more obscure. Sidonius tells us that he was half Sueve and half Visigoth, and so was excluded from any chance at the throne, but he too was certainly an able general. And while he and Majorian may or may not have been friends, they were certainly colleagues who knew each other and could work together. That would be helpful in the campaign against the vandals, less helpful to Avitus personally.

Initially the signs were good, the Vandals were defeated at least twice, once on land and once at sea, and these were enough of a setback to them that Avitus was able to threaten Gaiseric with invasion if he didn’t adhere to the terms of the old treaty. Attention then turned to Hispania.

The Sueves – remember, they had come to Hispania with the Vandals, but broke with them before the crossing to Africa, had raided into Tarraconensis in the northeast, the only province of the peninsula under firm Roman control. Avitus reacted by asking Theodoric to go and sort the situation out for him. Theodoric gathered his army, along with a company of Burgundians, and crossed the mountains. The Visigoths met the Sueves at a place called the Paramus fields, near Astorga. The Sueves were driven back from Tarraconensis, and back further as the Visigoths ravaged Galicia and captured their capital at Braga. Some sources say the Sueve kingdom was destroyed completely, but that’s not really the case. They were driven way back into Portugal to an area around their capital at Braga, and the whole peninsula sank into anarchy. Again. The visigoths remained in-country, pursuing the Sueves and whatever other advantages they thought they could take. They still maintained that they were acting as foederates of Avitus, but it was pretty clear that the only orders from him that they would be following were those that aligned with their own interests. 

Meanwhile back at the ranch, things were coming to a head. Popular protests against Avitus’ barbarian army were rising, and while slightly unfair, you can see their point. This population had just had a huge amount of their property removed by one bunch of barbarians, and now the emperor who was supposed to be protecting them was instead transferring what little they had left to another bunch of barbarians. In an effort to ease the tension, Avitus sent the Visigoths garrisons away. It was a bonehead move, but in Avitus’ defense, there probably weren’t any good moves open to him.

By the way, this is only one version of events that I’m relating. The actual chronology of Avitus’ reign is hard to unpick, because the sources are just not there for us. There are only a couple of confused chronicles, Hydatius, who was roughly contemporary, and John of Antioch, writing from the other side of the empire three centuries later. Other than a couple fragments of Jordanes and Priscus, and the panegyrics of Sidonius, that’s really all we’ve got. So I’m relating my understanding of how it went down pulled together from a couple of historians, but you will find other versions depending on who you read. Also, just because I don’t say it enough, I do have a page on the website where I list the sources for the podcast. There’s a link in the show notes. Okay. Moving on.

In the fall or early winter of 456, when the Vandals wouldn’t be able to sail, Ricimer and Majorian rebelled against Avitus’ rule. They murdered Avitus’ Gothic patrician and moved to secure control of italy. Avitus apparently was in Arles, though whether he had fled the rebellion or had moved there prior to isn’t clear. Either way, he gathered the loyal troops he could – probably quite a few of them were the Gothic garrison troops he’d just sent away – but he couldn’t call on Theodoric’s help, he was still in Spain. Nonetheless, Avitus and his troops marched over the Alps and met Ricimer and Majorian at Piacenza.

It didn’t go well. 

Avitus’ army was soundly beaten, and Avitus himself captured. In an odd touch, he wasn’t immediately killed. Instead he agreed to be ordained as the bishop of Piacenza. But a month later he was dead. Probably murdered, and in this case I’m a fan of Mike Duncan’s theory that the initial leiniency was about courting the approval of Constantinople for the usurpers. But we’ll never really know. Avitus was around 66 years old, and had been emperor of the Roman empire for around a year. I feel like he got a bum rap, and on that day in Toulouse when news came of Maximus’ death, he should have told Theodoric to stop talking nonsense and pour another cup of wine. But sic biscuitus disintegrat.

Avitus had tried to arrest the centrifugal disintegration of the empire. Being a Gaul himself, he took a Gallo-centric approach to the problem, correcting the imbalance in the imperial administration’s staffing in a way more favorable to him and his fellow Gauls. But the Vandal presence in Africa had made Italy into the front line, and it seems to me that the italians were developing a siege mentality, distrustful of outsiders. This had been going on for quite a bit longer than that, actually. Historian Guy Halsall suggests that the emperors’ move to Milan meant the senate, left senate behind in Rome,  had turned  inward and become less and less interested in the world beyond their own parochial concerns. It now fell to Majorian and Ricimer to take up the project of stitching up the empire’s wounds.

But in the next episode, I’m going to backtrack a little bit and do an episode that I’ve been thinking about since before I even thought of doing this podcast. I’m not quite ready to let go of the Theodosian women. So next time, I’m going to talk about the parallel lives of the two most impressive of Theodosius I’s descendents, Galla Placidia, and Aelia Pulcheria. I for one am looking forward to it. There were new reviews on apple podcasts, and a grateful shout out to Captain Teve and MB Frenchie for those. More ratings and reviews are always welcome, and remember to subscribe to the podcast as well, I try to release on a regular schedule, but don’t always manage it, and I’d hate for you to miss a new episode. 

I am trying to pick up the pace of episode production a bit, so hopefully the wait for that next one won’t be too long. Until then you can find me on twitter or instagram, I’m @darkagespod.  Take care.

The full text of Sidonius’ letter describing Theodoric.


Title Music:
“The Britons” by Kevin MacLeod at Free Music Archive
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Title Music:
“The Britons” by Kevin MacLeod at Free Music Archive
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: