The Invasion of Europe
by the Barbarians
The Clash of Roman and Barbarian
I EXPLAINED in the last lecture the general character of the military reforms of Diocletian and Constantine—the most important being the creation of a mobile army. We have now to consider what the strength of the whole military power of the Empire was, both the mobile army and the stationary forces which were arranged along the frontiers and in the most exposed and assailable parts of Roman dominion, and to see how they compared with the forces which were already threatening and were soon to become a very grave danger.
The question of the number of the army leads us to the general question of the population, for which very different figures have been reached. In old days the numbers of the ancient peoples in Greek and Roman times were immensely exaggerated. This was first pointed out in the eighteenth century by David Hume in an epoch-making essay, which showed the impossibility of a great many of the figures given by  ancient writers. Gibbon, who fully accepted the conclusions of Hume, made an estimate of the population of the Roman Empire in the first century A.D., and concluded that it was about 120 millions. Nobody now would put it quite so high. A modern computation has assigned the figure 54 millions, which is less than half Gibbon's. Now there is reason to believe that between the first century A.D. and the time of Constantine there was an increase of population, because the increase of town life and civilisation in the provinces of Gaul and Spain and the Danubian countries would naturally bring with it an increase in numbers. I am inclined to think that we shall not be extravagantly astray if we say that in Constantine's age the population was somewhere about 70 millions.
Now with this figure—which is a moderate one—you might expect that in wartime an army could be raised numbering many millions. In a modern state, which has conscription, it used to be calculated that if necessary one-tenth of the total population could be sent into the field, e.g. in the late war it used to be calculated that Germany—with a population of 65 millions or more—had 6 or 7 millions to draw on for her army in the field. But conditions in modern warfare are entirely different from those in ancient; because so many of the male population, who would otherwise serve in the actual fighting, are required for making munitions, etc. The conditions in ancient warfare were very different. No substantial portion of the able-bodied men of a country was needed for auxiliary services. Therefore a state of which the free population was, say, a million, could put in the field a far larger fraction than nowadays.
It might, therefore, seem surprising at first to find  that the total fighting forces of the Roman Empire (with a population of 70 millions—or even if you lower it and take as the very minimum 55 millions) never reached 1 million. To explain this the first thing to observe is that in the old civilised countries round the Mediterranean Sea the population had become quite useless for military service. They were too highly civilised, and not physically fit enough, on the average, to do hand-to-hand fighting with the uncivilised barbarians. Thus, large parts—and the most populous parts—of the Empire are practically withdrawn from our calculation, for they contributed almost nothing in the form of fighting men to the military strength of Home. So far did this go that in the end it may be said that the only provinces in the interior of the Empire which furnished a constant supply of recruits were the highlands of the Balkan peninsula and the mountainous regions of Asia Minor, for instance Isauria. Otherwise, the army was chiefly recruited from frontier provinces, where there was a population with a large barbarian admixture.
In the third century the army was very largely Illyrian. Diocletian and Constantine both belonged to families of the Balkan peninsula which had risen through military service. In old days foreigners used to be excluded from military service; it was confined to Roman citizens. But at the end of the third century this was given up; foreigners from beyond the limits of the Empire were freely admitted as recruits; while at the same time the principle of the universal liability of citizens was abandoned in practice.
When we examine the way in which the armies were recruited we find that there were four classes of recruits, i.e. four sources from which they were drawn.
 (1) The sons of soldiers: military service was hereditary and the son was bound to follow his father's profession.
(2) Serfs: it was a state burden on landed proprietors to supply a certain number of recruits from among their serf tenants.
(3) Barbarian settlers: some troops were supplied from the communities of foreign barbarians who were settled in some provinces, especially in east Gaul and north Italy.
(4) Adventurers: the most important source of supply was the numerous poor adventurers, both native and foreign, who voluntarily offered themselves to the recruiting officers. Of these adventurers the barbarian volunteers were the most useful and efficient. The Germans who came to enlist, attracted by the pay and the prospect of a career, gradually replaced the Illyrians as the predominant element in the army. Under Roman drill and discipline they became excellent soldiers and rose rapidly to officer rank. Very many of the soldiers who held the highest posts in the last part of the fourth century were of German origin. This is an exceedingly important point. There was in fact a process of Germanisation going on during that century, and it constituted a grave danger. Looking back we can see that the Emperors adopted too liberal a policy in allowing Germans to occupy posts of supreme command. This liberality was due to the desirability of attracting the best men to a career in the imperial service; the Emperor Constantine always showed marked favour to Germans, and Julian reproached him for pampering them. German customs (e.g. of elevating an emperor on a shield) made way in the army. The general result was that from  the end of the first quarter of the fourth century the German star was gradually rising.
I have now explained how it is that the actual population of the Empire has really no relation at all to its powers of resistance and defence against its enemies. Only a few parts of it made any considerable contribution to the military man-power of the state; and the men who could be got from the Balkan peninsula, the highlands of Asia Minor, the borders of Arabia and Africa, or the lowlands of Batavia had to be supplemented by the recruits who came in great numbers from beyond the Rhine and Danube. We may consider now the actual numbers.
The general result of inquiries into the size of the army after its radical reorganisation by Diocletian and Constantine is that its total strength was between 600,000 and 650,000. This includes both the comitatenses and the limitanei, the mobile army and the stationary forces who garrisoned the exposed provinces. Of this total strength it is estimated that about one-third (more than 200,000) were in the mobile army and the rest in the garrisons. When you consider the large frontiers which had to be defended, the line of the Rhine, the line of the Danube, as well as the north frontier of Britain in the west, the long frontiers of Africa in the south, the Euphrates, and the Syrian desert in the east, the numbers seem very small. Relatively to the lengths of the frontiers the greater proportion of troops was demanded for the defence of the eastern frontier; for there the enemy was a mighty, well-organised state—the Persian Empire. On the  western and northern frontiers the danger came from a number of independent barbarian peoples, who occasionally acted together, but were, even so, far outmatched by the Roman legions in discipline and drill. It has been commonly supposed, however, that this inferiority was more than balanced by their multitude, at least in the case of the East Germans, whose armies have been generally imagined to consist of hundreds of thousands. This idea is fundamentally erroneous, and it is one of the most important points to be quite clear about in studying the barbarian invasions. The enormous figures for the German armies given by many of the chroniclers of the time are absolutely untrustworthy: not only are they on a priori grounds impossible, but they are inconsistent among themselves and inconsistent with the statements of those who were most likely to know. When we compare together the figures which we have good reason to consider trustworthy we reach the conclusion that the total number of one of the larger East German nations varied from 80,000 to perhaps 120,000, while that of the smaller peoples varied from 25,000 to 50,000. Now from these totals, which included women and children, the Germans could put a much larger fraction in the field than a civilised state. The military age began somewhat earlier and lasted much longer. A German host could number a quarter or a fifth of the population. And so we find that an army of one of the big East German peoples like the Visigoths, or Ostrogoths, or Vandals, would be as a rule about 20,000 or 25,000, or at most 30,000. And so in most of the battles between imperial troops and East Germans from the fourth to the sixth century we find that the opposing numbers  were about 20,000 or so on either side. These facts put a different complexion on the whole history of the German invasions and conquests, and show that the problem of the military defence was not at all in itself hopeless or even superlatively difficult, and that if other elements had not entered in there was no reason why the Empire should have been dismembered. The numbers of the Germans did not make it inevitable.
I may add that a Germanic element had been filtering into the population of the Empire, in certain districts, in other ways. In the first place, we must remember that the western fringe of Germany had been incorporated with the Empire, in the two Germanic provinces of Gaul. The imperial towns of Cologne, Treves, Mayence, were German. In the second place, many Germans had been induced to settle within the Empire as farmers in desolated tracts of country, after the wars of Marcus Aurelius in the second century. And there were settlements in the Belgic provinces of Germans who had come  from beyond the Rhine and received lands in return for which they performed military service, and were organised in communities, and were technically called laeti. In many frontier districts there was a considerable German population; because lands were assigned to the soldiers who protected the frontiers (the limitanei), and as the army became more and more recruited from Germans, the population of a district on a military frontier might become largely German.
 Meanwhile among the Visigoths something of much more importance was happening than the erection of a transitory empire. A Goth of greater ecumenical significance than Hermanric was busy at work. The first introduction of Christianity among a German people outside the Roman Empire, and the first translation of the Bible into a German tongue, mark the beginning of a new era in the history of the Germanic world. The man who accomplished these tasks, and thus became a maker of history, was not of pure Gothic descent. He was sprung from a Cappadocian family which had been carried into captivity among the spoil secured in one of the Gothic raids in the time of Decius or Claudius. But he had been brought up as a Goth, speaking the Gothic tongue, bearing the Gothic name of Wulfilas. Born in the second decade of the fourth century, he was sent while a boy as a hostage to Constantinople, where he came under the influence of Arian Christians, was ordained as a lector, and when he was not more than thirty years of age was consecrated bishop by the great Arian leader, Eusebius of Nicomedia, for the purpose of spreading and organising a Christian church in Gothland. He worked in Dacia and made many converts; but the leaders of the Goths were hostile to Christianity, and their persecutions finally drove him to a course which earned for him from the Emperor Constantine the title of a new Moses. He led his band of Gothic converts out of the pagan land, across the Danube, within the borders of the Empire. They were permitted to settle in Moesia, not far from the ancient city of Nicopolis, and not far from the site where afterwards was to arise the Bulgarian city of Trnovo. They were known as  the Lesser Goths— Gothi Minores. The Arianism of Wulfilas is of great importance, for it determined the form in which the Goths ultimately accepted Christianity, a form which was, we may suspect, simpler for their intelligence than the difficult doctrine of Nicaea. Important as the work of Wulfilas was in actually making converts, it would have been of very much less moment if he had not achieved two great feats as a means for the accomplishment of his mission. One was the creation of a Gothic alphabet; the other was the translation of the Scriptures into Gothic. Of this Gothic Bible we possess some parts; more than half the Gospels, a great part of the Epistles, some small fragments of the Old Testament. By a strange chance the famous ancient manuscript which contains part of the New Testament, the oldest literary monument of the Teuton, is preserved in Sweden—in that island of Scanzia which the Gothic race remembered as its most ancient home.
The alphabet which Wulfilas invented was based on the Greek, but also partly on the runic alphabet; a fact which shows that the runes were in use among the Goths. But we have another highly interesting record of the use of runes by the Goths in their Dacian period. In 1838 a gold ring (now to be seen in the museum at Bucharest) was found at Petrossan in Little Walachia. It bears a runic inscription, of a dedicatory nature: the word hailag, 'holy' is clear, but about the other words there is doubt. The inscription has been interpreted variously as 'holy to the temple of the Goths' or 'Scythia is holy to Woden'. It is in any case a memorial of the pagan period of Gothic history, and of the Gothic period of the history of Dacia.
 The Goths were brought into serious collision with the Empire during the civil war which followed upon the death of the Emperor Jovian in A.D. 364. They furnished help to Procopius, the unsuccessful candidate for the Empire, and on the defeat of his cause they incurred the vengeance of his rival Valens, who sent an army against them, notwithstanding their wish to pacify him. The war ended in a complete triumph for the Empire and peace with honour; and it looked as if for many a long year the Danube frontier would be secure.
Meanwhile there was trouble among the Visigoths themselves. They were passing through that painful and exciting crisis which occurs when an old religion is striving to maintain itself against a new religion which is gradually spreading. With the exodus of bishop Wulfilas and his company, Christianity had not died out in Gothland, and the pagan chiefs, especially one of the most prominent, named Athanaric, were intent upon killing it. It made them indignant to see men of their folk withholding sacrifices from the national gods, insulting the images, even burning the sacred groves. And so the blood of martyrs flowed in Dacia. A religious test was instituted. On feast days statues were carried round the wooden dwellings in every village, and whosoever refused to worship was burned alive. You may read about this persecution in the Acts of the martyr Saint Sabas, which preserve a general picture of its character. Besides the religious strife, there was also political strife arising from the jealousy which flamed between the powerful Athanaric and another judge named Fritigern, whose name becomes prominent in the seventies of the fourth century.
The Huns belonged to the Mongolian division of the great group of races which also includes the Turks, the Hungarians, and the Finns. It may be called the Ural-Altaic race group, and is divided into two great sections, the Uralic and the Altaic. The Uralic section falls into three classes: (1) the Finnic, of which the Finns are the best known representative: (2) the Permian (3) the Ugrian, of which the Hungarians are the most important. The Altaic section falls into several classes, of which one is the Turkish and another the Mongolian. This classification is based on a comparison of the language of these peoples.
 It is probable that for many generations the Huns had established pastures near the Caspian and Aral Lakes. It may be considered almost certain that their westward movement into Europe was occasioned by political events in northern and central Asia which set in motion new movements among the nomad peoples. Now we know of a great political revolution in Asia in the fourth century which is the probable explanation of the movements of the Huns. Our knowledge, such as it is, of the early history of central Asia is derived from the annals of China. From these records we know that in the third and early fourth centuries the dominant people in these regions was the Sien-pi, and that towards the middle of the fourth century their power was overthrown by the Zhu-zhu, who succeeded them to the dominion of Tartar Asia, and finally founded a great empire extending from the coast of the North Pacific, from Corea to the borders of Europe. It may be supposed that it was events connected with the rise to power of the Zhu-zhu that disturbed the Huns and induced them to move westward.
The name Huns, Greek ounnoi, is generally supposed to be a corruption of the word Hiung-nu—the name, meaning common slaves, that was given by the Chinese to all the nomadic peoples of Asia. It is important to understand what nomad life meant in the proper sense of the word; for the word is often used in a loose and inaccurate way, as if it simply meant wandering or unsettled. Etymologically, of course, nomad means a grazer. In the strict and proper sense nomad peoples are peoples of pastoral habits who have two fixed lands far apart and migrate between them twice a year regularly like migratory birds. In central  Asia northern tracts which are green in summer supply no pasturage in winter, while the southern steppes, which in summer are not inhabitable on account of the drought, afford food to the herds in winter. Hence arises the necessity for two homes.
These nomads are not people who roam promiscuously over a continent. They are herdsmen with two fixed habitations, summer and winter pasture lands, between which they might move for ever, provided the climatic conditions did not change and they were allowed to remain undisturbed by their neighbours. Migrations to new homes would as a rule occur only if strange tribes drove them from their pastures. The successive immigrations of nomads into Europe—of the ancient Scythians; of the Huns; and of all those who come after them—were due, as has already been intimated, to the struggle for existence in the Asiatic steppes, and the expulsion of the weakest. As to those who were forced to migrate: "With an energetic Khan at their head, who organised them on military lines, such a horde transformed itself into an incomparable army, compelled by the instinct of self-preservation to hold fast together in the midst of the hostile population which they subjugated; for however superfluous a central government may be in the steppe, it is of vital importance to a conquering nomad horde outside it" (1) [Cambridge Mediaeval History, vol. i. p. 350]. These invading hordes were not numerous; they were esteemed by their terrified enemies to be far larger than they actually were."But what the Altaian armies lacked in numbers was made up for by their skill in surprises, their fury, their cunning, mobility and elusiveness, and the panic which preceded them, and froze the blood of all peoples. On their  marvellously fleet horses they could traverse immense distances, and their scouts provided them with accurate local information as to the remotest lands, and their distances. Add to this the enormous advantage that among them even the most insignificant news spread like wildfire from aul to aul by means of voluntary couriers surpassing any intelligence department, however well organised" (1) [Cambridge Mediaeval History, vol. i. p. 350]. The fate of the conquered populations was to be partly exterminated, partly enslaved, and sometimes transplanted from one territory to another, while the women became a prey to the lusts of the conquerors. The peasants were so systematically plundered that they were often forced to abandon the rearing of cattle and reduced to vegetarianism. This seems to have been the case with the Slavs.
Such was the horde which swept into Europe in the fourth century, encamped in Dacia and in the land between the Theiss and Danube, and held sway over the peoples in the south Russian steppes, the Ostrogoths, Heruls, and Alans. For fifty years after their establishment north of the Danube we hear little of the Huns. They made a few raids into the Roman provinces, and they were ready to furnish auxiliaries from time to time to the Empire. At the time of the death of Theodosius they were probably regarded as one more barbarian enemy, neither more nor less formidable than the Germans who threatened the Danubian barrier. We may conjecture that the organisation of the horde had fallen to pieces soon after their settlement in Europe. No one could foresee that after a generation had passed Rome would be confronted by a large and aggressive Hunnic Empire.
[The Visigothic Entry into the Empire]