Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Flavius Iulius Nepos, Jun 7, 2018.
This could mean the war will not end with the next post, interesting...
Nor it means that Rome is going to cut relations with the tribes beyond the Danube once this war is over. Especially with the Avars and the Slavs looming in the North. But before that we’ll return to the empire, the war in Africa, the Plague and some other internal changes (but let me know if you think I forgot something I should address in the next updates).
Well, from the Avars to the Ungars there is still quite the time, so the Empire should be able to deal with the former and very much later with the latter... The Avars OTL were quite happy to stay in Pannonia, it may happen TTL as well, the difference of course would be if they cross or not the Danube this time. Anyway more for the Romans won't be good news for the Ostrogoths... Whenever should survive till then.
Hmmm maybe a note about what is happening among the Franks in the meanwhile?
What I can say here is that in OTL the Romans both directly and indirectly supported the rise of the Avars as the hegemonic power beyond the Danube, a decision they probably came to regret during the second half of the century. Without Justinian the Romans could play here the “Divide et Impera” card more effectively.
About the Franks I was planning to wait some “years” so that I could write a more meaty update that’s going to include the situation of Gaul and primarily of Hispania. But they are certainly going to play a role, especially after the Gothic war (and as a consequence of it).
This is going to be interesting but also a pretty evident outcome, that the Avars will fill up the vacuum the Ostrogoths will leave. Considering also they would likely absorbe the Lombards as well, they could become an important new player for some centuries. I wonder if they would be the ones to create the Regnum Pannonia I ventilated time ago as possibility. The Ostrogoths failed - well they even didn't think about it - but the Avars may succeed.
Actually I was thinking of another power to fill modern day Hungary and Transylvania though in this timeline they may be known with a different name. Also I was planning to have the Lombards survives and migrates somewhere else. What is left is to decide what to do with the Slavic migration and how it would interact with both a stronger empire and the remaining Germanic tribes at its borders. However its not over yet for Goths both in the Balkans and Spain.
Well the Visigoths would still have a lot to say in this TL. Interesting this mention over the Lombards. Aside the Gepids, who could come in the region then?
The dynamics set up in motion look really interesting. I have to admit it, I have a soft spot for the Lombards, and I am happy to see them possibly surviving. As for the rest... HungaroSlavia would be interesting, IMHO.
The Heruli, Rugii, Slavs, Bulgars, Huns (Kutrigurs and Utigurs) and Avars. Some of them will be involved in the Gothic war (or already are), some will pop up only in the aftermath of the war while more people could come later. This is a rather Mediterranean-centric timeline but every once in a while I’ll go back to central Europe.
Personally I don’t like them but as long as they don’t try to migrate to Italy I wont try to outright murder them.
For this you’ll have to wait and see…
The new Roman army and its commander Athalaric departed from Verona at the beginning of May. The orders were clear: to relieve the ailing Agricola of his command and bring the war into the enemy’s territory. Many at Ravenna believed this Gothic war a distant conflict at the far-flung end of the world, yet it took him and his army only 10 days to reach the war zone. Of course he had been informed about the disaster of Aemona and Arbitio’s death yet he surely didn’t expect to still meet the Heruli just outside the city nor he could believe that some of Arbitio’s men were still alive inside the city. The barbarians were vastly superior to the defenders and even Athalaric’s men were not enough to beat them numerically. On the other hand the blockade of the city was rather loose: many Heruli were busy plundering the countryside, not expecting any move from the weakened defenders of the city.
There was still a chance to save what was left of Arbitio’s army, even though that chance involved the possibility to risk his own men. Therefore Athalaric resolved to send ahead a contingent of cavalry to clear the path towards the city, rout any group of enemies wandering outside the eastern section of the city wall and warn the defenders about his arrival. Meanwhile he would send a messenger to Salona to explain the situation and demand enough reinforces to break the siege. According to his estimation it would take little more than one week for the message to reach Salona and two other weeks for the reinforces to arrive. And as he had foreseen the Herulian reaction to his arrival was slow and confused for they didn’t expect any external intervention. This way the Romans managed to get into the city while any barbarian too slow to get out of the way would be killed by the cavalry, which would also later protect the army’s rearguard as the Heruli were preparing a more coordinate counterattack. Once inside the city Athalaric would immediately discovery about the food shortage: prior to his arrival there was enough food to feed the people and the small survivors for little more than a month. But now that the number of inhabitants inside the city had almost doubled, starvation looked closer than ever. True was that Athalaric’s army had brought with itself enough food for the remaining days of the voyage and that the Illyrian army was expected to arrive before the city had run out of food yet from now, on Athalaric’s order, rations for the civilians would be halved while the soldiers would receive only two thirds of their normal ration.
The days kept flowing as the Heruli were awaiting for the defenders to run out of supplies. Then after 10 uneventful days, the defenders found out that the Heruli had left their camp leaving behind no sign of them. The idea that the reinforces were approaching the city was quickly dismissed as they were not expected to come before two more weeks. Yet for some reason they were now free to proceed to Salona and maybe during their march they would found out the cause of the Herulian disappearance. This reason would be pretty clear after less than half a day of march from Aemona when the Romans fell into another Herulian ambush. Total annihilation of the army was avoided thanks to Athalaric’s nerves, as he would personally lead the rearguard (including his personal retinue of Visigoths loyal to his cause) while marching back to Aemona. At the end of day, though the army was able to successfully reach the safety of the city once again, more than 1500 men were lost. Never again would Athalaric allow someone to fool him like that.
More days and weeks passed, including those where the reinforces were expected to arrive. Yet no sign of relief came. Rations were further decreased in an attempt to prolong the resistance of the defenders. Defenders who started to feel they energies gradually sapping. Worse was the situation for the civilians as hunger would start to reap its first victims among the weakest and youngest of them. Every new day the situation looked worse than the previous one, to the point that the loss of so many men in an ambush looked like a relief to the survivors, as they now had less mouths to feed. Soon the idea that the messenger never made to Salona started to sneak into the soldiers’minds, further weakening their resolution and morale. What was going to happen next? It was only 9 days after the expected arrival of the reinforces, that the same scene of the day of the ambush appeared once again before Athalaric’s eyes. The Heruli had abandoned the siege but this time he would not be fool enough to pursue them. Rather at the end of the day the garrisons of the city would greet the 8000-strong Illyrian army led by Anthemius Valens. Even though the messenger never made to Salona, the lack of signs or anything announcing Athalaric’s arrival worried many at Salona. Out of his own initiative, Valens had gathered as many soldiers as possible before setting out to look for them on the road they were expected to travel on. With them was a welcome load of supplies, which was immediately shared with the defenders of the city. The next day Athalaric and Valens departed from the city with the intention of avenging the two ambushes. Their oxcarts and everything else that could have slowed them down was left in the city as the Romans had to recover a long distance. Luckily for them the Heruli had their own booty, their own baggage train and the Roman cavalry sent after them by Valens to slow them down. It took the Romans two days to reach the barbarians and force them to give battle. A battle that would satiate Roman’s lust for revenge as 4000 of the 11000 barbarians would lay on the ground at the end of the day. As a sign that fate was once again smiling on the them, the Romans were also able to find among the defeated Heruli, Arbitio’s insignia.
Back to Salona one month later Valens had expected a festive welcome. Probably his last victory would not earn him great honors back in Rome but at least here, among these Dalmatians he was trying to protect, a triumphal greeting would not have hurt. Instead the mood inside the city was rather gloomy, to the point that he and his soldiers felt out of place there. As things were not already looking disappointing, his and Athalaric’s presence had been immediately requested by Agricola at Diocletian’s palace, outside the city. There he was subjected to the long waiting, people of power loved so much. Of course he was used to them, as in the past he had navigated into the much more intricate bureaucracy of the imperial palace. Occasionally he would too exploit these kind of expedients as a way to reaffirm his authority over those below him, yet he was the son of a Caesar and few could consider themselves above him, certainly not someone as Agricola, even though the man was the great-grandson of an emperor like him. All of these while all he wanted was to return to his quarter to get some rest. To his quarter and to Serena he added with a smile. She really had the ability to make his life in that remote province far more bearable than it would have been otherwise he thought. His flow of thoughts and his impatience were quickly wiped away once his gaze settled on the bust of the ruling emperor. A daily reminder to civilians and soldiers alike of who was the ruler of the known world and how his power could reach even the remotest corner of that world. Yet there was something wrong on that display of authority, something different that what he was used to see. Different and younger…
Good news for the Empire and most of Dalmatia, despite the war is yet to be closed, but the last paragraph is surely pretty ominous for future internal developments.
It surely is but "unfortunately" we still have many more updates about the Gothic (and maybe the African) war, before we can get the opportunity to know better the new emperor.
Oooh, that's quite the major spoiler...
That was a mistake on my part but I’m pretty sure most of you had all already guessed what was going on there.
Emperors and dynasties come and go, but Rome is eternal.
Wait... So I am the only one who got lost, here? PS: great update as always!
But sometimes they also make a comeback.
If you mean the “African war”, that refer to Belisarius’ attempt to stabilize to new Diocese and his conflict against the Berbers. However for the time being I prefer to focus on one conflict at time, as there are so many things going on right now (let’s not forget the Visigothic “situation”).
And thank you!
The emperor had died. Flavius Iulius Anicius Theodosius (III) was now the Augustus of the West. His father Marcianus passed away after a strong fever struck him. Thus Rome was now in the hands of a 20 years old boy with little experience on matter of war and politics. Given the circumstances it was quite expected that more experienced figures would rise behind him. Among them were his mother Anicia Eudoxia, his wife Eusebia and her uncle, the Praepositus Sacri Cubiculi Flavius Eleutherius . Nonetheless Rome’s commitment to the Gothic war remained unchanged, as none of the two sides was willing to seek a compromise yet. And while the objectives remained the same, new questions arose about the leadership and the methods of the war. Athalaric’s appointment to the rank of Magister Militum was rather awkward to say the least: not only the emperor responsible for this appointment was now dead, but the very reason for it had lost its validity as Agricola had now recovered from his illness. Furthermore, in the eyes of many, Athalaric was seen as the man responsible of almost a total disaster at Aemona and thus unfit for the command. For this reasons new instructions would be requested from the imperial court at Ravenna in order to end the dispute that was effectively crippling Rome’s ability to wage war against the Goths.
But Rome couldn’t afford to stay totally idle, not even without a leader, while its cities were falling prey to Amalaric’s lust for loot and prisoners. The reply to this difficult situation came from the only man whose rank and link to the imperial family, allowed him to act more autonomously than any other Roman commander. With only 2000 cavalrymen, mostly Bucellarii and soldiers loyal to his father, Valens left Salona for the enemy territory. With so few men there was little he could achieve against the enemy beyond minor raids and ambushes. Instead he proceeded further on, beyond the Danube, into the land of the Gepids. Here through distribution of generous gifts and prestigious titles to the king and his chieftains, Valens was finally able to bring to fruit the long negotiations already started by Agricola during the previous year. From now on the Gepids would actively move against the Goths and their allies while Valens would immediately be granted 3000 men for his own campaign. All of this in exchange for an hefty yearly tribute.
With his new army Valens moved back into Pannonia, where the city of Sirmium once stood. The city was now a shell of what it once was. Many of its inhabitants had died during the sack of the city while others had fled fearing the return of the Goths. Yet Valens was not there to relieve the survivors but to use the city as a base for his future campaign into the Gothic heartland. Both soldiers and civilians were therefore compelled to work together to repair the walls of the city while a militia would be conscripted among the adult male population of Sirmium. Finally at the end of August, one month and half after having departed from Salona, Valens received the news that the emperor had decided to reconfirm Agricola as supreme commander against the Goths. It took more than expected to get an official reply from Theodosius, as the emperor had decided to move again his court, this time to Mediolanum. This meant that another month had been wasted and with autumn now approaching, there was little the Romans could do before the end of the year beyond preparing for the next year’s campaign.
The new year would finally see the Romans go on the offensive. The intervention of the Gepids in the war and Valens’ attacks from Sirmium were enough to distract Amalaric’s attention for at least the next months. Precious months that Agricola would exploit to knock out of the war Amalaric’s allies, thus shortening the really extended battlefront. He would dispatch Athalaric and Iovinus to the north, with the aim of tracking down the Heruli while he would remain back in Dalmatia, where he would supervise the rebuilding of those same fortifications emperor Nepos wisely decided to build 50 years ago in the Dinaric Alps and along the Sava. In April, after more than a month of chase, Athalaric and Iovinus were finally able to force the Heruli and the Rugii into battle near the village of Celeia (halfway between Aemona and Poetovio). The battle was little more than a skirmish, with only a couple of hundred of losses on both sides. It was only a couple of days later, at Poetovio, that a more decisive battle took place. Here a combination of desertion of 1500 barbarians and the herulian leader’s escape from the battle after being charged by the Roman cataphracts, brought to the Heruli a crushing defeat, while the Rugii were able to escape their fate before their total annihilation. With this recent success both Iovinus and Athalaric could now carry on their attempt to isolate the Goths from their allies. But war was far from being over yet…
Note:  we already met him on chapter XLII. The internal development, plotting and intrigues of the Imperial palace will have their own updates after the end of the Gothic and African war, but Marcianus’ death and Theodosius’ rise surely are key events for the Western empire and the “Nepotians”, though it will take quite some time to see the full extent of their consequences.
This war was definitely the most heinous for the Empire since the victory of Nepos. Long and exhausting - albeit Italy was safe and sound and this still weights a lot for the fortunes of the West. The Imperial court looks stable enough even if there is a young new Emperor. The important is the internal stability will last till the end of the war.
Very interesting update, as always. I wonder, should Valens win this war, could we see a pro-Valens faction arise at court? Maybe someone could see him as a better candidate for the throne in these dire times of need...
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