Europe 379: Elevation of Theodosius I
After destroying Valens’ army at Adrianople (August 378), the Goths advanced as far as the gates of Constantinople, but were repulsed. Meanwhile, learning of Valens’ death, Gratian appointed the general Theodosius as emperor in the East.
10–11 Aug 378 Siege of Adrianople▲
At dawn on the day after the Battle of Adrianople, the victorious Goths rejected Fritigern’s warnings not to engage in siege warfare and advanced against the city of Adrianople, hoping to seize the imperial treasury that Valens had left there. Encircling the city walls, the Goths alternated between massed attacks and trickery in their attempts to break in, but were repeatedly repulsed by the garrison. In their final offensive, lasting from midnight to late afternoon on 11 August 378, the Goths launched an all-out assault on the gates until heavy casualties finally forced them to abandon the siege and retire in bitter discouragement.
Sep 378 Battle of Constantinople▲
Moving away from Adrianople in mid-August 378, the Goths pillaged the area around Perinthus before setting out for the eastern Roman capital of Constantinople. As they approached the city they were attacked by a newly arrived troop of Tanukhid Arabs—and allegedly frightened when one of the Arabs, clad only in a loin cloth, charged into a horde of Goths and, after killing one of them, sucked the blood spurting from his throat. When the Arabs pulled back, the Goths advanced to within sight of Constantinople itself, but were so shaken by its vast size and great walls that they abandoned all hope of taking it and withdrew from the region.
378–379 Massacre of the Gothic Garrisons▲
Upon learning of Valens’ death at Adrianople (August 378), Julius, the magister militum of the East, became suspicious of the Goths serving in the frontier garrisons and, enticing them to assemble in the principal cities in order to receive pay they had been promised, had them slaughtered. Alarmed by news of this massacre, other Goths in the region soon broke into rioting, but were brutally suppressed by the Romans.
19 Jan 379 Elevation of Theodosius I▲
Gratian was near the Danube when he learned both of Valens’ death in battle with the Goths at Adrianople (August 378) and of renewed troubles with some Germanic tribes on the Rhine. In order to deal with the Gothic situation, he agreed to the appointment of the successful 32-year-old local commander Theodosius as eastern emperor at Sirmium in January 379 and then headed back west to face the Rhenish tribes. Although he received little material support, Theodosius was also given temporary control over the Western imperial dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia.
19 Jan 379–17 Jan 395 Reign of Theodosius I▲
In 379, after Valens’ death at Adrianople, the western Roman emperor Gratian appointed Theodosius, the 32-year-old Spanish-born son of high-ranking general Count Theodosius, as new Augustus in the East. Theodosius secured peace with the Goths who had killed Valens in 382, then fought two civil wars to restore the Empire following Gratian’s overthrow by Magnus Maximus in 383. The last emperor to rule the entire classical Roman Empire, Theodosius was succeeded by two weak sons—Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West—when he died in January 395. His most enduring legacy would be his religious policy, which secured the position of the Nicene Creed and accelerated the end of Roman paganism.