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The Battle of Adrianople

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Salah View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02 Jun 2013 at 12:32
In August of 378 CE, a 'barbarian' army consisting predominately of Goths defeated the Roman Emperor Valens just outside Adrianople, in northern Greece. The Romans endured heavy casualties, including the Emperor himself - sources vary as to whether he was killed fighting, or burned alive by the Goths after the battle. The Goths followed up their victory by plundering within the Empire's borders, but their lack of cohesion and their inability or unwillingness to wage siege warfare limited their potential for destruction.

Few battles in Antiquity have been afforded more influence by popular history than Adrianople. It has often been claimed as a pivotal battle, because it witnessed the 'triumph' of cavalry over infantry and thus shaped the course of warfare in medieval Europe. In reality, both armies at Adrianople were similar in composition - outwardly, they probably bore a close resemblance to one another - the Goths simply won the battle. It was hardly the first time that even a 'barbarian' enemy had managed to defeat a legionary force, and there is no need for modern historians to suggest the Goths owed their victory to a cavalry-related tactical innovation.

Some, likewise, have claimed the Adrianople marked the 'beginning of the end' of the Roman Empire. Obviously, the battlefield death of an emperor and the defeat (and veritable massacre) of his legions was a disaster, not only in pratical terms but also to Roman prestige. But to blame the 'fall' of the Empire on this single, 4th Century battle, borders on ludicrous.
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Zagros View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jun 2013 at 21:14
It was not the first triumph of cavalry over infantry, and I am not sure that this is what decided the Gothic victory.

Some background on what lead to he conflict would be useful, namely, the abuses of the Romans against the Goths, who were in effect displaced refugees fleeing from the Huns.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jul 2013 at 17:17
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

It was not the first triumph of cavalry over infantry, and I am not sure that this is what decided the Gothic victory.

Some background on what lead to he conflict would be useful, namely, the abuses of the Romans against the Goths, who were in effect displaced refugees fleeing from the Huns.

Indeed, and we should remember that the condition of the Roman "legions" at this point was rather poor.  They were poorly equipped and trained as well as heavily reliant upon German federates.  It really was the battle that indicated to the Theodosian emperors that an adaptation to present military conditions in the Balkans was sorely needed.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2013 at 05:01
Originally posted by Salah Salah wrote:

In reality, both armies at Adrianople were similar in composition - outwardly, they probably bore a close resemblance to one another - the Goths simply won the battle.

I don't agree with your view on this one. The Gothic force was the antipode of the Roman one it met at this battle.Lets start by viewing the Goths and their situation.

The Gothic army was as you said a band of refugees encompassing the whole populace of varius tribes fleeing the Huns and only revolted because of Roman cruelty and they lacked sophisticated weaponry, armor and their organization was ad hoc. 
This happened because as a prerequisite for their entry in Roman lands south of the Danube, they had to give up all their weapons. A few rich enough managed to smuggle some weapons through by bribing the Roman officials.This means that only the nobles had some quality weapons and probably horses with them and the rest of the tribesmen were left with farming and working tools,so they were essentially unarmed.

They revolted when the Romans broke their promise to settle them to land as foederati and were left to starve to death,so not only essentially unarmed they were also starved.Albeit their suffering and the mass death toll of their loved ones did strengthen their resolve, their bond and unity.Also they were joined by many poor native Roman citizens suffering under the corruption of Roman administration and outraged against the acceptance of Arian beliefs by the "blashpemous" emperor.

  The Romans on the other hand were a professional force,namely the imperial army troops stationed in konstantinoupolis commanded directly by the emperor.They had the best arms available in the world at the time and were the best troops from the legions of the east. They were well disciplined, well paid and well fed. However they were weakened by the disaster of Julians campaign against Parthia in 363, the revolt of Procopius who managed to have controll of the capital for two years in 365 and 366, a punitive expedition north of the Danube against ,you guessed it ,the Greuthungi and Tervingi Goths from 367 to 369 becaused they suported Procopius for the throne, a war against Parthia in 370 to 371, a major revolt in the mountains of cilicia from 375 on and a general revolt of the middle east from Phoinicia to mount Sinai in 377.

To conclude we have an amalgam of peoples of eastern europe,Goths, Alans,Daci, Sarmatians etc., fleeing the Huns joined by Romans of the balkans.Whole tribes of refugees on the move speaking many languages, men, women, children, animals, all their possessions loaded on wagons, kind of resembling the pioneers in the wild west vs. the imperial army of the Capital.Professional soldiers,well organised, drilled in latin, homogeneously equipped with their retainers and their baggage train fighting in defence near their capital.

It's like pitting a UK tank corps stationed in Stonehenge headed by prince William to defend London against Afganian and African clandestine immigrants. A UK troop defeat and the death of the prince will be shocking news! of course it can not be the cause of decline, it is rather  the symptom of it.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_War_(376%E2%80%93382)
Books: "warfare in the classical world by john warry"
"a concise history of warfare by lord Montgomery"



Edited by aristeidis - 24 Aug 2013 at 05:06
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