Europe 410: Rescript of Honorius

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 19 Jun 410 (Theodosian Dynasty: Rescript of Honorius), showing the following events: Romano-British revolt; Armorican revolt; Alaric’s Second Siege of Rome; First Usurpation of Attalus; Attalus’ African campaign; Siege of Ravenna; Constantine III’s Italian expedition; Constans II vs Gerontius; Rescript of Honorius.

The advance of the Vandals, Alans, and Suebi across Gaul into Spain in 409 left Roman Britain vulnerable to Saxon attacks. Having lost faith in Constantine III’s Gallic regime, the Britons turned to Honorius in Italy for support. However, Honorius, already overwhelmed by the challenges posed by Alaric and his newly-picked emperor Attalus, could not spare any troops and advised the Britons to look after their own defenses, effectively ending Roman involvement in Britain.

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Main Events

409 Romano-British revolt

When Constantine III proved unable to help them in the face of large scale Saxon raids in 409, the people of Roman Britain broke with Constantine’s regime and, taking up arms, successfully drove off the invaders. Having freed their homelands from danger, these Romano-Britons then expelled Roman magistrates and officers, and established their own government. At about the same time, the cities of Britain sent letters to the Western Roman emperor Honorius in Italy, requesting his support. in wikipedia

409 Armorican revolt

In 409, while Roman Britain was being attacked by the Saxons, other raiders—probably also Saxons—invaded northern Gaul. Receiving no support from the emperor Constantine III, the region of Armorica came to the same conclusion as the Romano-British and, along with neighboring parts of Gaul, threw off Constantine’s rule and organized its own defenses. in wikipedia

??–Dec 409 Alaric’s Second Siege of Rome

In late 409 Alaric sent an embassy of Roman bishops to the Western Roman emperor Honorius, asking only for the Goths to settle in Noricum and be given an annual payment of corn, but the emperor firmly rejected these terms. In response, the Gothic king marched on Rome for a second time and, upon laying siege to the city, captured the vital harbor of Portus and much of Rome’s stores. Realizing that they now faced starvation, the Senate capitulated and agreed to accept Alaric’s demands. in wikipedia

Dec 409 First Usurpation of Attalus

In December 409, on Alaric’s command, the Roman Senate proclaimed the elderly praefectus urbi Priscus Attalus as emperor. Originally a pagan, the new emperor was baptized as an Arian Christian for his accession. Attalus then appointed Alaric and Alaric’s brother-in-law Athaulf as his military commanders, but gave the other positions in his new government to senators. in wikipedia

410 Attalus’ African campaign

When Heraclian, governor of Africa, rejected the authority of the usurper Attalus, Alaric suggested sending a contingent of Goths under Drumas against him, only to be overruled by Attalus himself, who instead dispatched a small number of Roman troops. Landing in Africa in early 410, this inadequate force was soon defeated by Heraclian and its general Constantine killed. After this, Heraclian cut the supply of African corn, oil, and other supplies to Rome, triggering a major famine in the city even more serious than that of Alaric’s first siege. in wikipedia

410 Siege of Ravenna

While they were awaiting the result of their African expedition (early 410), the Roman usurper Attalus and the Gothic king Alaric marched on Ravenna, where the alarmed Western Roman emperor Honorius offered to share his empire with Attalus. Attalus rejected this offer, demanding instead that Honorius be deposed and sent into exile, but at the last moment Honorius position was secured by the arrival of 4,000 troops from the Eastern Empire. Realizing that he could no longer take Ravenna and learning that the African expedition had failed, Alaric abandoned the siege and marched north and west into Aemilia and Liguria to secure those regions for Attalus. in wikipedia

410 Constantine III’s Italian expedition

When in early 410 Jovius, Honorius’ Praetorian Prefect of Italy, defected to the Gothic-backed regime of the usurper Attalus, Jovius’ court rival Allobichus called on Constantine III, by now Honorius’ co-emperor in Gaul, for support. In response, Constantine crossed the Cottian Alps in spring and soon reached the city of Liberona, near the Po river, but then learned that Allobichus had since been put to death for treason. Realizing that his aid was no longer welcome, Constantine abandoned his campaign and returned to Arelate. in wikipedia

410 Constans II vs Gerontius

After crossing the Pyrenees in late 409, the Vandals, Alans, and Suebi joined with the forces of the usurper Maximus and his magister militum Gerontius to attack and arrest the remaining supporters of Constantine III in Hispaniae. Large areas were pillaged and reduced to famine, most probably in Gallaecia, Lusitania, and Baetica—the provinces in which Gerontius allowed the barbarians to settle. Perhaps in response to this, Constans II, Constantine III’s son and co-emperor, attempted to invade Hispaniae in early 410, but was defeated. Disappointed, Constans returned to Arelate (Arles), which he reached just as his father arrived back from his equally unsuccessful Italian campaign. in wikipedia

410 Rescript of Honorius

In early 410, while the Gothic king Alaric was conquering northern Italy in the name of Attalus, letters from the cities of Britain reached the Western Roman emperor Honorius in Ravenna. Learning that the Britons had thrown off Constantine III’s rule, but unable to aid them due to his current circumstances, Honorius replied by advising them to look after their own defenses. This response is generally taken to mark the end of Roman rule in Britain. in wikipedia