Fatima Comments On Valens.

by Daniel Russ on June 30, 2012

Post image for Fatima Comments On Valens. Alaric The Goth Alaric The Goth

In my post about Adrianople , a reader named Fatima responded. This is fascinating.

Valens was a suprisingly good administrator, and no better or worse than most of his generation of “Romans” at generaling, but by the time of Adrianople, the Roman army, especially the Balkan units, was a poorly organized hodgepodge of differently equipped and trained mercenaries from half a dozen different cultures. The Goths, on the other hand, were the only traditionally organized Romans on the field. They had been the redheaded stepson of northern Europe for generations, bullied, beaten, and chased by everyone from steppe nomads to Gaulish militia. Finally, they got permission to settle in Roman territory, and did a wonderful job as trained heavy infantry, with a small minority going on to become crack cavalry, equal (except for archery skills) to the Byzantine cataphractii. They wanted nothing but to become Romans, and do the best job they could for the empire that had taken them in. Unfortunately, that empire no longer had a clue, and, after several generations of abuse, the Goths were forced choose between rebellion and starvation, with those surviving starvation often being sold into slavery. The real heroes of the battle were the Goths, who, after three or more generations in the Roman army were disciplined, competent, and honorable. Why Valens thought he could beat what were essentially tough Roman regulars with an army composed mostly of support troops (light infantry skirmishers, Spanish archers trained specifically for siege war, conscript cavalry) is beyond me. Even if the Gothic cavalry hadn’t returned from it’s chevauchie of the countryside in time to roll up his flank, the battle would have been lost. Valens might have gotten away, but in the tradition of the times, he almost certainly would have been whacked by his own officers. Conversely, the Byzantines treated the Goths with the respect they deserved, and got centuries of brave and honorable service from them. The Goths and their Frankish cousins deserve more from history than their typical depiction as smelly, hairy savages wrapped in grease and bearskins. They were professionals, almost the last of their kind in the west, and the only real continuation of what was best in the old Roman army. They also differed from the decadent Romans of their day in thinking an oath was a sacred, binding thing, more important than life, rather than a momentary agreement used for short term advantage. Kind of the difference between a kid from middle America nowadays who enlists, as versus someone from a liberal urban area who thinks the enlistee is at best a useful idiot, at worst a sociopathic danger to be reeducated. Hurray for the “Badguys”.

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