Europe 378: Battle of Adrianople
Determined to put an end to the threat of the Tervingi and Greuthungi Goths in Thrace, the eastern Roman emperor Valens and the western Roman emperor Gratian agreed to join forces to defeat them. However, when Valens reached Adrianople in August 378, he was led to believe that only half the Goths were nearby and decided to attack immediately, without waiting for Gratian. He was gravely mistaken—the rest of the Goths appeared soon after the fighting began—and in the ensuing battle, Valens and two-thirds of his army were slaughtered.
378 Manuel Mamikonian’s coup▲
In 374, following the assassination of King Pap, the Roman emperor Valens had installed Pap’s nephew Varazdat as client king of Armenia. Some four years later, Varazdat himself was overthrown by the general Manuel Mamikonian, who had served under Shah Shapur II on the Kushan front and claimed the position of sparapet (hereditary commander of Armenia’s armed forces). With the consent of the Persians, Manuel then took the position of regent on behalf of Pap’s widow Zarmandukht and son Arshak III. Meanwhile, Varazdat fled back to the Romans, who had him banished to Britain.
May 378 Battle of Argentovaria▲
Learning of a renewed incursion by the Lentienses in the spring of 378, the 19-year-old emperor Gratian reformed his Gallic army by hastily recalling troops he had dispatched for Pannoniae. Placed under the command of the generals Nannienus and Mallobaudes, this army repulsed an attack by the Lentienses near the fort of Argentovaria, then ran most of the invaders down as they fled into the woods. Encouraged, Gratian crossed the Rhine into Germania, where he chased the Lentienses into the mountains and eventually forced them to submit to Roman authority.
Jun–Aug 378 Gratian’s eastern march▲
Following his defeat of the Lentienses in May 378, Gratian marched east along the Danube, with the intention of supporting Valens in his war against the Goths. Traveling light, with his baggage train sent on by land, Gratian moved quickly from Lauriacum to Sirmium, but from there suffered delays when his army was struck with fever. He then marched on to reach Castra Martis, where he was further delayed when the Alans unexpectedly appeared and attacked his forces.
378 Sebastianus’ raid▲
At the end of May 378 Valens arrived in Constantinople and sometime after this dispatched his new magister peditum Sebastianus to investigate a Gothic raiding force returning from the Rhodope region to the vicinity of Beroea (Augusta Traiana). Sebastianus headed north through a wary Adrianople and from there attacked a party of Goths while they slept near the Hebrus (Maritsa) river, killing almost of all of them. He then returned to Adrianople with a vast quantity of booty, allegedly so great that it could not be contained in the city or the plain about it. Alarmed by this attack, the Tervingi Gothic leader Fritigern recalled all his raiding parties for fear that they would also be destroyed.
378 Final overthrow of Saurmag II▲
After the Roman assassination of Pap of Armenia in 374, Shah Shapur II of Persia proposed peace with the Romans on the condition that the Romans either withdraw completely from Armenia or agree to the reunification of Iberia under the Persian vassal Aspacures II. Valens rejected these terms and negotiations continued fruitlessly until 378, when the emperor was forced to march west to deal with the Goths. With no deal concluded, Shapur took advantage of Valens’ departure to retake parts of Armenia and depose the Roman client Saurmag (Sauromaces) II in Iberia.
9 Aug 378 Battle of Adrianople▲
Convinced by scouts that there were only 10,000 Goths in the vicinity, Valens marched with his army to Adrianople in early August 378 and decided to advance without waiting for the arrival of the western emperor Gratian. Just after noon the Romans encountered a Tervingi Gothic wagon circle under Fritigern and were in negotiations when some Roman archers prematurely opened fire. As fighting broke out, the Greuthungi Gothic leaders Alatheus and Saphrax suddenly appeared with their cavalry, overwhelming the surprised Roman cavalry and hemming in the Roman infantry. Although they fought on desperately, it was all over for the Romans, and by nightfall Valens and two-thirds of his army were dead.