Sorry for the long hiatus. Its difficult being a college student and dad. Quick Recap: The year is 397 AD. The Roman Empire is divided since the death of emperor Theodosius, who left the western half to his young son Honorius - a mere boy -, and the eastern half to his firstborn son Arcadius. The brothers were weak rulers and were controlled by powerfull regents. The Western regent was Stilicho, a general (magister militum) of Vandal-origin, who was married to Theodosius' niece Serena and had aspirations to extent his rule to the East as well. The East in the meantime was first governed by a man named Rufinus and after his violent death by the chamberlain and eunuch Eutropius. Faced with slow demographic and economic decline, civil wars and outer threats, the imperial army relied increasingly on Germanic foederati. Despite their important role in the military, these foederati did not enjoy the right of citizenship. Instead they were bound to Rome by a foedus, a treaty. After the death of Theodosius the Gothic foederati-leader Alaric rebelled against the Eastern emperor Arcadius, because he was denied a high-ranking military position. Alaric and his men pillaged the Greek cities and the Macedonian provinces. Macedonia was part of the East but the Western regent Stilicho nevertheless planned to intervene in the conflict. His goals were not completly clear but might have involved forcing Alaric into an alliance or enrolling the Goths into his own army. POD: Stilicho died of an infected wound before the planned departure of his army. Instead Varanes was hastily appointed magister militum and departed to Macedonia a few weeks later. His pursuit of the Goths ended in disaster because Alaric was well prepared and Varanes was not. Varanes was overthrown by his own officers and his army dissintegrated with many units joining the forces of Alaric. I.III. Eutropius and Gaudentius Dalmatian landscape © User: Boris Papes / Wikimedia Commons /CC-BY-SA-3.0 The court at Constantinopolis had watched Varanes’ campaign with suspicion. His predecessor Stilicho had claimed that the East should be subject to his authority, by claiming that the late emperor Theodosius had made him warden over both Honorius and Arcadius. Stilicho had showed that he meant what he claimed when he orchestrated the murder of the Eastern regent Rufinus. Despite this initial success Stilicho was unable to exert real power over the Eastern court. The Gothic commander Gainas, who had been sent to Constantinopolis by Stilicho, was instrumental in Rufinus’ downfall but had neither the manpower nor the will to enforce Stilicho’s rule in the East. The imperial grand chamberlain Eutropius became the de-facto regent of the East after the death of his rival Rufinus. Eutropius had been born into slavery and been castrated as a child but rose high in the hierarchy of the Eastern court. In defiance of the unremovable stains of eunuchary and former slavery, he was able to accumulate and wield such immense power that he was considered the true ruler of the East. Despite his humble origin and his advantaged age Eutropius was able to dominate the young and inexperienced emperor Arcadius. When Alaric marched pillaging through Macedonia, the Eastern court did not interfere, despite having plenty of capable commanders in its service. Eutropius had come to the same conclusion as Stilicho: a flat out war would only be bloody and wasteful. Most of the Eastern army was stationed far to the east near the border to Persia and those parts of the field army who were free to fight Alaric did not fully enjoy Eutropius’ trust. Many high-ranking commanders were of Gothic origin, like Tribigild or the aforementioned Gainas, who was involved in Rufinus’ downfall and murder and could pose a similar threat to Eutropius’ rule. Some Gothic commanders, but certainly not Gainas and Tribigild, were known for their devotion to the imperial cause. The foremost example of these dutiful servants of the emperor was the magister militum of the Orient  Fravitta. He commanded the easternmost forces of the empire, right along the important Roman-Persian border. Gainas and Tribigild were stationed closer to the marauding troops of Alaric and could have been sent to fight the rex of the Goths but Eutropius feared that they would join him instead. Instead he choose to stand by and wait for an opportunity to arise that would minimize the costs and risks for the East. Eutropius became more invested in the Gothic issue after it became apparent that Varanes’ would execute the campaign Stilicho had planned. What was planned as a quick campaign turned eventually into disastrous pursue of the Gothic rex. Alaric and Varanes led their armies through most of southern Macedonia. The Western advance deep into Eastern territory made Eutropius fear that Varanes’ anti-Gothic campaign was only a pretext to seize power in the East. He became increasingly concerned that the magister militum would try to fulfill the late Stilicho’s claim to guardianship over both emperors. Eutropius feared that Varanes might negotiate with Alaric, maybe offering him a lucrative military position, subsequently enrol the rex’ forces into his own army and eventually march against the Eastern capital. He misjudged the Western magister militum’s motivation and objective. Varanes’ goal was not to conquer the East by force but to establish hegemony over the Western army by winning a fast and decisive victory, proving that he indeed was the able and successful magister militum the West needed. A military confrontation with the East would have been extremely risky. Varanes could have been able to score early victories on the battlefield, maybe even taking the Eastern capital and ousting or killing Eutropius but the might of Fravitta’s army would shatter the Western expeditionary force sooner or later and open the door to usurpation in both parts of the empire. Witnessing the Western advance through Macedonia and misjudging Varanes’ motivation, Eutropius began sending gifts to Alaric in an attempt to convince him to prolong his military struggle against the Western army and eventually bring him back into the fold of the East. He established a regular correspondence with the Gothic rex during the campaign and promised him favourable terms should he be victorious in the conflict against Varanes, but was reluctant to make any concrete proposals. While arguably successful in stopping Alaric from swearing allegiance to the West, he failed to foresee Varanes’ incompetence and contributed to the strengthening of the renegade Gothic rex. Opposition against Varanes’ grew for every day the campaign continued. Many at the Western court disliked the concentration of power in Varanes’ hands and wanted to abolish the office of magister militum (also called magister equitum et peditum) and instead reestablish the two separate offices of magister equitum and magister peditum. The campaign also seemed increasingly wasteful: even a victory against Alaric would have little apparent worth for the West, while the absence of the magister militum allowed for strife and quarrel to grow at the court. It became clear that Varanes’ campaign would be futile and only lead to deteriorating relationships with the East - a situation Gildo, the commander of Africa, knew how to exploit. An increasing number of officials lobbied for the speedy return of Varanes expeditionary force but in the end his own officers overthrew him putting an end to his campaign. More shocking than the fall of Varanes was the behaviour of the conspirators who overthrew him. Alaric swiftly established correspondence with them and instead of awaiting a orders from mediolanum or elevating one of their own to the rank of magister militum they joined forces with Gothic rex. Despite the existence of an anti-Gothic party in both Western and Eastern politics and military, it would be wrong to belief that Varanes’ army disintegrated into Barbarians in favour of Alaric and Romans opposing him. Those who met with Alaric and those who did not want to have anything to do with him were both heterogenous groups, consisting of Romans as well as non-Romans. The men who did not want to negotiate with Alaric were not necessary more sympathetic towards Varanes than those who overthrew him, they simply despised the rex of the Goths more than they opposed the misguidedness of their own magister militum. Nearly half of Varanes’ former army went northwards after the general was overthrown. They did not want to associate with Alaric and instead tried to win Eastern support, but they did not receive any help from the court at Constantinopolis. Realising that no Eastern assistance was forthcoming and that Alaric was blocking their way back to the Macedonian shore, they pillaged the villages and towns to the south of the Haemus Mountains  afterwards they went northwards, to roam the plains of Moesia. The great host of dissatisfied Western soldiers descended upon the villages of the Danubian plain with the same furor the Goths had showed in the south. Leadership disputes soon drove some units away from the greater renegade host. Some of them found employment with the provincial troops, others turned towards banditry, still others sought conciliation with Alaric, but most tried to return to Western service. Weeks later, after Alaric had turned his attention away from them, the remaining Western renegades returned to the provinces of Macedonia and were able to send for a Western fleet, to take them back to the realm of child-emperor Honorius. Before he started his campaign of devastation through the East’s westernmost provinces, Alaric had hoped to receive the military command over the Illyrian prefecture, which consisted of the lands between the river Ister  in the north and Sparta in the south, but was denied such an important position. Now it seemed that his campaign of plunder had come to an end and that he would receive an official position corresponding to his actual power, but Eutropius was still not willing to award Alaric with an extensive command over areas in such close proximity to Constantinopolis. He realized that he had to offer the Gothic rex something if he wanted to keep Alaric from turning against him. The rex commanded more men than ever and did not need to worry Western opposition in Macedonia anymore. He finally reached a position where the Eastern court could either grant him a high-ranking military position, which he had desired ever since the war he and his men had fought for emperor Theodosius, or they could go to war with him. As news reached Constantinople that Varanes’ campaign had failed and that his troops had either defected to Alaric or left without a fight, tensions arose in the city. Many inhabitants believed that Alaric would soon turn against the capital of the East. Eutropius acted fast fearing urban riots as much as the strengthened army of Alaric. The presence of Alaric had become a threat to Eutropius who had nothing to win by a military confrontation, Roman troops were of more use securing the border regions of the empire than fighting for a pyrrhic victory in Macedonia, so he finally made a concrete offer. Envoys from Constantinople reached Alaric as he went north eastwards along the coast of the Ionian Sea near Thessalonica. The envoys, sent by Eutropius, offered the Goths a new foedus. They offered arable land deep in the Western part of the empire, the region around Vesontio in Gallia near the western edge of the Alps. In exchange the Goths were to reinforce and defend the border along the Rhenus  and install a Western regent handpicked by Eutropius. The East had no control over the land, which Eutropius was offering to Alaric, but the Eastern regent desired guardianship over the young Honorius and the Goths were to make sure that his will was to be fulfilled. Eutropius justified his actions by referring to the seniority of emperor Arcadius and the chaotic situation in the West. Stilicho, the Western guardian, was dead and just as the senior emperor had the prerogative to appoint junior emperors, he had to right to designate their guardians, should they be minors. The Western court was paralyzed by Varanes’ failure. Those who had remained supporters of Varanes throughout his campaign soon fell from grace and two factions began to take form: one who argued that Eutropius claims were outrageous, and another willing to accept his proposal. The anti-Eutropian faction, led by the military officer Gaudentius, enjoyed the support of Serena, the widow of Stilicho and older cousin of emperor Honorius. Despite her husband's unexpected death Serena remained in a position of power, due to her blood ties with the emperor she quickly established herself as a political player in her own right and in absence of Varanes became the real regent and guardian of her young cousin. Gaudentius was of barbarian extraction but married to an Italian noblewoman with whom he had a young son . He had remained at the court in Mediolanum when Varanes left for Macedonia and lobbied early on for a return of the magister militum. Now he was tossed into the front row of the political struggles of Mediolanum. His adversaries were those who feared war with Eutropius and were willing to accept his supremacy. They found themselves an influential supporter in bishop Simplicianus of Mediolanum. Simplicianus argued against further bloodshed but his pleas did not affect the young emperor who appointed Gaudentius magister militum. At Serena’s instigation bishop Chromatius of Aquileia, one of the empire’s most respected theologians, drafted letters to Honorius and the senate in which he condemned Eutropius for making common cause with “the murderous Alaric, a man of bad character and follower of heresy”, further aiding Serena and discrediting Simplicianus. Eutropius knew that his actions were leading the empire on the path of civil war but he was also aware that the West was weak. The moment seemed auspicious and Eutropius wanted to reverse Stilicho’s ambition and expand Eastern dominance to the West. The fortifications at the rivers Rhenus and Danubius were understaffed, Picts raided the north of Britannia and the field army had been greatly reduced in numbers by the civil war of Theodosius and the betrayal of Varanes’ officers. The grain supply of the city of Rome depended on the provinces of Africa which were firmly controlled by comes et magister militum Gildo, who was of noble Berber origin and ruled in Rome’s name with an iron fist. He had wealth and ambition and came from a long lineage of military commanders and tribal royalty. His friendly relations with Eutropius and his control over Rome’s food supply made him an even greater threat to the stability of the Western Empire, than the Goths of Alaric. Gildo already had a privileged position in the hierarchy of the empire. He withstood the attempts of Stilicho to centralise the Western military and kept the right to appoint his subordinates without interference from the court at Mediolanum. Despite Gildo’s reign being hated, it remained largely unchallenged, one of those who dared to oppose him was his own brother, Masceldelus, who had to flee Africa and whose sons were executed. Faced with the crisis of the West, Gildo saw a golden opportunity to both expand his power further and eliminate his brother, who had found refuge with the court at Mediolanum. As soon as news arrived that Gaudentius was made magister militum, Gildo demanded that the newly appointed general should come to Carthago, to renegotiate the price of African grain and the tax burden. Additionally Gaudentius was to return Masceldelus to Carthago. Gildo’s demands were obvious provocations, aimed at slowing down the Western war preparations. Such civil arrangements were neither the official business of Gildo nor of Gaudentius, who both were military officers. Gaudentius could either try to appease Gildo or meet him in battlefield. With the West’s military situation already precarious, he was inclined to postpone the conflict with Gildo by yielding to some of his demands. A letter signed by Honorius was sent to Carthago promising Gildo a senatorial delegation to negotiate about prices and taxes. Honorius promised furthermore to investigate the allegations which were brought forth against Masceldelus but also reminded Gildo of his duties as imperial subject and his ties with the emperor - Gildo’s daughter was married to Honorius’ and Arcadius’ cousin. Unimpressed by the letter Gildo threatened to cut Rome’s grain supply should Gaudentius not appear in person and deliver Masceldelus into his hands. It soon became apparent that all attempts to negotiate with Gildo would be futile, when without waiting for an answer Gildo sent an additional letter demanding Gaudentius abdication. The African comes acted in anticipatory obedience towards Eutropius, knowing full well that the Eastern court would soon declare Gaudentius enemy of the state. Summer was coming to an end, Alaric’s troops were leaving Macedonia westwards and grain ceased to reach the empire’s ancestral city. On the urging of Eutropius Gaudentius was declared enemy of the state by Arcadius in September of 397. Gaudentius had to both organise the defence of Italia and the offensive against Gildo. The grain supply to Rome was vital to the stability of Italia but the war against Gildo was stretching the capacity of the Western navy. Besides fighting the African navy of Gildo, Gaudentius also had to maintain a strong Western presence in the Adriatic Sea. There were two ways into Italia: by sea or by land. Alaric and his troops had crossed the mountains of Epirus and were close to the strait that connected the Adriatic with the Ionian Sea, and separated them from Italia. Eutropius did not dedicate a fleet to Alaric’s campaign, preferring to let Gildo bear the burden of naval warfare and spare his own navy. In the face of regional western naval supremacy and lacking support from the Eastern navy, Alaric had soon to abandon all hope of crossing the Adriatic by boat. He instead choose the overland route through Dalmatia. Despite being a Western province he could expect to march through it mostly unhindered. With the looming threat of the grand army of Alaric it needed little incentive from Eutropius for the governor of Dalmatia, a civil official in the rank of a praeses, to switch sides. The praeses ensured that Alaric’s march would not be met with organized resistance. The Pannonian provinces north of Dalmatia were home to a sizeable portion of the West’s border troops. In a desperate attempt to boost the numbers of his troops Gaudentius ordered most of these units to join him in Italia. His order amounted to a de-facto abandonment of the Pannonian provinces. The three duces (sing.: dux), who were in charge of the different parts of the Pannonian limes, were surprised by Gaudentius order. The two duces stationed in the eastern and southern parts of Pannonia (Pannonia Valeria; respectively Pannonia Secunda and Savia) did ignore their magister militum, whereas their college to the west, who also was in charge of the Norican border, did reluctantly obey Gaudentius and began preparations to lead most of his soldiers to the Italia. Another force loyal to Gaudentius were the remaining Western expeditionary forces in Macedonia, which had not joined Alaric. After Varanes’ fall they were in a state of anarchy and rampaged Moesia before returning south. Here at the coast of the Aegean Sea they hoped for a Western fleet to take them back west, but found themselves soon in a similar position to their adversary Alaric: without naval assistance. The West did control the Adriatic Sea but the Aegean was firmly in Eastern hands, making an operation to retrieve these troops risky. After having lost hope that a Western fleet would arrive in the near future, they marched into southern Epirus - Alaric was at the same time leaving the province for Dalmatia - and pillaged the city of Nicopolis, close to site of the ancient sea battle of Actium, before continuing to the central parts of Epirus, where they set up a winter camp. They were now close to the Adriatic but Gaudentius’ navy was busy preparing an invasion of Africa to re-establish the grain supply to the city of Rome. If the coming winter would be harsh and the grain supply would not be restored, riots would break out in the city. Gaudentius regime would collapse. The Western military could not afford a large scale invasion; Gaudentius hoped instead to end the rule of Gildo with a smaller operation aimed directly at Carthago. The troops dedicated to this operation were led by Gildo’s brother Masceldelus. With Masceldelus in control of Africa’s chief-city Gaudentius believed that Gildo’s troops and his allies would desert him. The plan was ambitious but not impossible: Gildo ruled by fear and his troops were not known to be the most disciplined. After helping to capture Carthago the fleet was to transport the Western forces in Epirus to Italia where they would await Alaric’s army. Gaudentius main line of defence were to be the eastern Alpine passes, which separated Italia and Dalmatia. The Goths in the meantime spent the autumn months in the valleys of Dalmatia, steadily advancing north-westwards. Alaric was determined to invade Italia before the first winter snow. During the winter months his army could impossibly cross the Alps. An invasion in autumn would hit Gaudentius in his preparation phase, whereas an invasion in the following spring of 398 would give him more time to organize the Western defence. Winter would also either bring a success or failure of the African expedition. A failure would seal Gaudentius fate but also make Gildo the clear winner of the conflict, overshadowing Alaric’s own campaign. The ambitious Goth had no intent to let someone else win his war for him. His campaign through Dalmatia was hurried and harsh on both his own people and especially the local population. The people of Dalmatia were starving so that Alaric could feet his horses. The army resorted to extortion and pillaging to support itself during the campaign. They lived from the land and took the local grain supplies, which affected especially undefended villages and towns. Many of the inhabitants fled to nearby cities or hid in the forests, which covered the hills and mountains of Dalmatia. In the following winter thousands died of starvation. In the midst of a two-day long storm an Eastern delegation reached Alaric. The rex had been notified about the delegation by Eutropius in advance, so that he could arrange for an appropriate reception of the high ranking official who led it. The man was named Leo, a friend of Eutropius, and had been chosen to become the new magister militum of the West. The future regent was followed by his rather large entourage of civil officials which nearly outnumbered the retinue he had brought with him as well. Alaric accepted Leo as his future superior, but the reception was rather underwhelming. According to later writings of the contemporary church historian Philostorgius, who is greatly biased in favour of Alaric, Leo expected constantinopolitan lavishness when he arrived in the midst of the rainy Dalmatian autumn scenery. Philostorgius wrote: “His attitude seemed bewildering to many of the soldiers, who knew the harsh life of war but not the sweet luxuries of the East. Together with his companions he indulged in worldly amenities, whereas Alaric lived off same ration as a common soldier.” Leo, as future regent, demanded control over Alaric’s troops, to which the rex paid lip service without actually relinquishing his command. Alaric treated Leo’s orders as pieces of advice. The Eastern retinue alone could not match the size of Alaric’s troops and Leo could not count on support from Alaric’s subordinate officers, who ridiculed Leo for his corpulence and lack of experience. Philostorgius claimed that Leo stayed passive because Alaric knew how to flatter and appease his de jure superior. He described him as an incompetent tool of Eutropius, who could be easily swayed by others but remained . Other authors have attributed Leo’s subordinate role to the fact that Alaric controlled the bulk of the army and the food supply. Because he had no base of support, any attempt to seize power from the rex would have led to Leo’s immediate downfall. Once they were in Italia and Gaudentius would be defeated, Leo’s would be in a more comfortable position. As a friend of Eutropius he was sure to enjoy Gildo’s support, which meant that he could prevent Alaric from seizing power for himself by threatening to cut of Rome’s grain supply. On the initiative of Leo a delegation to the Vandals of Godigisel. Leo hoped to gain further allies in the West, enabling him to act more independently from Alaric but also from Gildo and Eutropius. He concealed his towards towards Alaric by arguing that the Vandals would help to fill the gap in the border defence left by the dux of Pannonia Prima and Noricum, who had moved most of his forces to Italia. Alaric figured that Leo had ulterior motives when he proposed a treaty with Godigisel and that he sooner or later would try to free himself from the influence of the rex, but he also knew that the Vandals could pose a threat to the planned invasion of Italia. If instead Gaudentius and Godigisel were to reach an agreement, the Vandals could attack Alaric’s army from the rear and together with the Western troops deal a fatal blow to both Leo’s and Alaric’s ambitions. When the sky was coloured in a cold shade of blue, a small group of Eastern Roman and Gothic officials crossed the mountains of Dalmatia seeking contact with the Vandals near the Danubius. Leo and Alaric sent them to Godigisel and his Hasdingi Vandals, to offer a foedus in the provinces of Pannonia should the Goths be successful in installing Leo as magister militum in the West. They were guaranteed an annual share of the revenue of Pannonia in form of gold and silver and an annual ration of grain; in exchange they were to guard the Pannonian limes and accept Leo’s suzerainty. A latent rivalry had tainted the relationship between the Vandals and the Goths which was the near-natural result of the want for dominance over the lands beyond the borders of the Roman world. In the face of the Hunnic rise to power and Alaric’s campaign inside the Roman Empire the relationship between the Goths and Vandals had to adapt. Alaric aspired to be a part of the empire, which his forefathers had once fought, and true to this ambition he put the interests of the empire before the antiquated rivalries of the steppe. The Vandals were to be of strategic importance not only in winning the war against Gaudentius, but also in securing the border of the Western empire once the war was won. As a result of destructive civil wars and a stagnating population grow the Roman limes of Pannonia, Germania and the alpine provinces along Rhenus and Danubius was understaffed. That Alaric sent Gothic nobles as part of the delegation across the hills of Dalmatia and the plains of Pannonia to meet with the men of Godigisel was a symbol of a new era of cooperation, but it also revealed the poor state of the Western army, when Leo, the future regent of the West, and the ambitious Alaric had to ask the Vandals to guard the Pannonian limes. Both Alaric and Leo knew that if the West was to survive on its own it had to seek the help of the tribes that were beyond the Danubius river, they were to play an important role in regaining the strength the West had lost. At the Western court reports differed about the exact route Alaric and Leo were taking and about how far they had advanced. The reports coming from Dalmatia were not only inaccurate, imprecise and contradictory, some were even and fabricated by the province’s praeses. It was not known to Gaudentius, Serena, Honorius or anyone at the Western court that the praeses of Dalmatia was serving Eutropius in secret. The reports differed so widely that Gaudentius soon understood that some had to be wrong. The uncertainty obstructed his preparations further and lead him to believe that Alaric had not come as far as he had in reality. Due to the praeses’ reports he believed that the rex had decided to spend the winter in Dalmatia. In fact Alaric was further to the north near the upper reaches of the Savus river  and headed straight for the Alpine passes. Believing Leo and Alaric would rest for the winter Gaudentius prepared to meet them in battlefield the following spring and concentrated instead on the African campaign. Masceldelus had successfully taken Carthago by surprise and Gildo’s coalition showed first cracks, but his brothers reign continued despite the loss of the city. Some of the Berber tribes joined forces with Masceldelus but it became apparent that the two brothers had to meet in battlefield to decide the fate of Africa. Gaudentius prepared to commit further troops to Masceldelus’ campaign, hoping to restore the grain supply before the end of the upcoming winter. In late autumn of 397, one week before the first snowfall, the army of Alaric and Leo crossed the mountain pass of Frigidus which separated Dalmatia and Italia. Alaric knew this area well; less than four years ago the Goths fought together with Theodosius against the troops of the usurper Eugenius and won him the civil war. The battle of the Frigidus in 394 was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Roman Empire but it gave Alaric the possibility to study the weaknesses of the Alpine defence line that now separated him and his troops from the centre of the Western Empire. The garrisons guarding the passes surrendered without a fight. Gaudentius was shocked when news reached him that, in the words of bishop Chromatius of Aquileia: “The Goths treated Venetia like a wolf treats his prey.” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  magister militum of the Orient (literally “of the east”) The military leader for the Asian part of the empire and Egypt  Haemus OTL Balkan Mountains  Ister The name for the lower parts of the Danube River.  Rhenus The River Rhine.  The son of Gaudentius IOTL Gaudentius’ son, Aëtius, would later become a successful general who defeated Attila in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plain.  Savus The River Save in OTL Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.