Get to Know the Battle of Adrianople
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There is always a decisive battle that marks a turning point in every war. The Battle of Adrianople was a turning point in the Roman battle against Gothic forces. It changed the direction of social, political, and religious life in antiquity. Scholars consider this moment the beginning of the end for the Western Roman Empire.
About the Battle
The key players were Germanic Visigoths, led by Fritigern, and the Roman army, led by the emperor Valens. He governed the eastern half of the Roman Empire after his brother Valentinian took the throne. Valens was ultimately defeated and killed in the battle.
Fritigern was a Thervingian Gothic. He played a key leadership role overall in the Gothic War. He led the fight against Lupicinus at the Battle of Marcianople, which resulted in a Roman defeat. Little more is known about this Gothic chieftan.
Estimates vary on the size of the Roman and Gothic forces. The size of the Roman army had dwindled significantly between 350 and 369. Defeat after defeat reduced the number of Roman soldiers who were able to protect civilians and refugees in the region. By the time of The Battle of Adrianople, the strength of the Roman Army was between 15,000-30,000 men.
Location of the Battle
The Battle of Adrianople took place near to Adrianople (modern-day Edirne). Adrianople was located in the modern-day Turkish province of Edirne. This area is close to the modern-day border with Bulgaria and Greece.
The actual location of the battle is uncertain. Various modern scholars have theorized that it took place either north or northeast of the city. These theories assume that Valens marched directly from the Adrianople city walls.
The Battle of Adrianople took place on August 9th, 378. Valens and his army marched from Adrianople to the location of the Gothic camp. By the time Valens arrived with his troops at noon, he and his troops were weak and dehydrated. This exhaustion and lack of focus contributed to the Romans’ ultimate defeat.
Victory and Defeat
The Romans expected an easy victory and jumped immediately into battle. The Gothic forces were organized into a circle of wagons. The Gothic army was on the outside and their possessions and families were inside. Fritigern and his forces worked to distract the Romans by burning the surrounding fields.
A Gothic cavalry, returning from a foraging expedition, arrived. They surrounded the Roman troops and began to attack. Valens was abandoned by his bodyguards and killed in the fight. His body was never recovered.
The Battle of Adrianople gave the Goths confidence that they could succeed in Roman territory. They attempted to take the city of Adrianople but were unsuccessful. However, the Battle of Adrianople was still a signal that the Goths were a force to be reckoned with. The defeat worsened the recruitment crisis that the Romans were already experiencing.
Theodosius I (the next Eastern emperor) later negotiated a peace agreement with the Goths, but this did not last.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston