The Invasion of Europe
by the Barbarians
Gaul, Spain, and Africa in Transition
Wallia did not live to see the arrangements which he had made for his people carried into effect. He died a few months after the conclusion of the compact, and a grandson of Alaric was elected to the throne, Theodoric I. (A.D. 418). Upon him it devolved to superintend the partition of the lands which the  Roman proprietors were obliged to surrender to the Goths. It must have taken a considerable time to complete the transfer. The Visigoths received the lion's share. Each landlord retained one-third of his property for himself and handed over the remaining portion to one of the German strangers. This arrangement was more unfavourable to the Empire than arrangements of the same kind which were afterwards made in Gaul and in Italy with other intruders (as we shall see in due course). For in these other cases it was the Germans who received the third, the Romans retaining the larger share. And this was the normal proportion. For the principle of these arrangements was directly derived from the old Roman system of quartering soldiers on the owners of land. On that system, which dated from the days of the Republic, and was known as hospitalitas, the owner was bound to give one-third of the produce of his property to the guests whom he reluctantly harboured. This principle was now applied to the land itself, and the same term was used; the proprietors and the barbarians with whom they were compelled to share their estate were designated as host and guest (hospites).
This fact illustrates the gradual nature of the process by which western Europe passed from the power of the Roman into that of the Teuton. Transactions which virtually meant the surrender of provinces to invaders were, in their immediate aspect, merely the application of an old Roman principle, adapted indeed to changed conditions. Thus the process of the dismemberment of the Empire was eased; the transition to an entirely new order of things was masked; a system of federate states within the Empire prepared the way for the system of independent states which  was to replace the Empire. The change was not accomplished without much violence and even continuous warfare; but it was not cataclysmic.
The problem which faced the imperial government in Gaul was much larger than the mere settlement of the Gothic nation in Aquitania. The whole country required reorganisation, if the imperial authority was to be maintained effectively as of old in the provinces. The events of the last ten years—the ravages of the barbarians, and the wars with the tyrants—had disorganised the whole administrative system. The lands north of the Loire—Armorica in the large sense of the name—had in the days of the tyrant Constantine been practically independent, and it was the work of Exuperantius to restore some semblance of law and order in these provinces. Most of the great cities in the south and east had been sacked, or burned, or besieged. We saw how imperial Treves, the seat of the praetorian prefect, had been captured and plundered by the Vandals: since then it had been, twice at least, devastated by the Franks with sword and fire. The Prefect of the Gauls translated his residence from the Moselle to the Rhone, and Arles succeeded to the dignity of Treves.
What Constantius and his advisers did for the restoration of northern Gaul is unknown, but the direction of their policy is probably indicated by the measure which they adopted in the south, in the diocese of Septimania. On April 17, A.D. 418, Honorius issued an edict enacting that a representative assembly was to meet every autumn at Arles, to debate questions of public interest. It was to consist of (1) the seven governors of the seven provinces, of (2) the highest class of the decurions, and of (3) representatives  of the landed proprietors. The council had no independent powers; its object was to make common suggestions for the removal of abuses or for improvements in administration, on which the praetorian prefect might act himself or make representations to the central government. Or it might concert measures for common action in such matters as a petition to the Emperor or the prosecution of a corrupt official.
Such a council was not a new experiment. The old provincial assemblies of the early Empire had generally fallen into disuse in the third century, but in the fourth we find provincial assemblies in Africa, and diocesan assemblies in Africa and possibly in Spain. Already in the reign of Honorius, a praetorian prefect, Petronius, had made an attempt to create a diocesan assembly in southern Gaul, probably in the hope that time and labour might be saved if the affairs of the various provinces were all brought before him in the same month of the year. The Edict of A.D. 418 was a revival of this idea, but had a wider scope and intention. It was expressly urged that the object of the assembly was not merely to debate public questions, but also to promote social intercourse and trade. The advantages of Arles—a favourite city of Constantine the Great, on which he had bestowed a name based on his own or that of his eldest son, Constantina—and its busy commercial life are thus described in the Edict: "All the famous products of the rich Orient, of perfumed Arabia and delicate Assyria, of fertile Africa, fair Spain, and brave Gaul, abound here so profusely that one might think the various marvels of the world were indigenous in its soil. Built at the junction of the Rhone with the  Tuscan sea, it unites all the enjoyments of life and all the facilities of trade."
It must also have been present to the mind of Constantius that the Assembly, attracting every year to Arles a considerable number of the richest and most notable people from Aquitania Secunda and Novempopulana, would enable the provincials, surrounded by Visigothic neighbours, to keep in touch with the rest of the Empire, and would help to counteract the influence which would inevitably be brought to bear upon them from the barbarian court of Toulouse.
In Spain there were two, viz.: (1) the Suevians in the north-west—Gallaecia. (2) The Vandals, in whom the Alans had been merged, in the south, in Baetica. Three of these five were East Germans; the Visigoths, Burgundians, and Vandals. Two were West Germans; the Salians and Sueves.
In what we may call the second period of the process of dismemberment, in which the Empire had to defend itself against the hostilities and covetousness of all these German dependencies, it was the Vandals, who had now established themselves at the western sea gate of the Mediterranean, who played the most prominent part and most seriously affected the fortunes of Rome.
Africa—far from the Rhine and Danube, across which the great East German nations had been pouring into the Roman Empire—had not yet been violated by the feet of Teutonic foes. But the frustrated  plans of Alaric and Wallia were intimations that the day might be at hand when this province too would have to meet the crisis of a German invasion. The third attempt was not to fail, but it was not the Goths to whom the granaries of Africa were to fall. The Vandal people, perhaps the first of the East German peoples to cross the Baltic, was destined to find its last home and its grave in this land so distant from its cradle.
We saw how the Vandals settled in Baetica, and how King Gunderic assumed the title of "King of the Vandals and the Alans". He conquered New Carthage and Hispalis (Seville), and made raids on the Balearic Islands and possibly on Mauretania Tingitana. He died in A.D. 428 and was succeeded by his brother Gaiseric, who had perhaps already shared the kingship with him. About the same time events in Africa opened a new and attractive prospect to the Vandals.
To understand the situation I must briefly explain what happened in Italy after the death of Honorius. Constantius, the great general who was supreme in conducting the government during the second half of the reign of Honorius, was, as we saw, responsible for settling the two federate kingdoms in Gaul—Visigoths and Burgundians—and also for settling Spain. He had married the Emperor's sister, Ataulf's widow, Galla Placidia, and had been afterwards crowned Augustus, and elevated to be the colleague of Honorius, but had died before he had been a year on the throne (421). When Honorius died two years later, Galla Placidia and her two infant children, a boy and a girl, were at Constantinople. The boy's name was Valentinian, the girl's Honoria. Valentinian was the natural  claimant to the succession, as Honorius had had no children of his own. But meanwhile in Italy a certain civil servant, named John, was proclaimed Emperor, and it was necessary for Galla Placidia, supported by the armies of her nephew Theodosius II., who was reigning at Constantinople, to fight for the throne. John was defeated and executed, after which the child Valentinian was crowned Augustus at Rome towards the end of 425. Thus it came about that for some twelve years, i.e. so long as Valentinian III. was a minor (425-437), western Europe was governed by Galla Placidia (formerly queen of the Goths), as regent for her son.
Now during the struggle between the usurper John and Galla Placidia two military men had been prominent, and had taken opposite sides. One was Boniface, the other Aetius. Boniface had supported Placidia; while Aetius had enlisted a contingent of Huns to fight for John. The Huns arrived too late; John had already been captured; but Aetius was able to make terms with the regent and was given a command in Gaul, where he did good work in defending the south against the Goths and the north against encroachments of the Franks.
As for Boniface, who was the military commander in Africa, his conduct laid him open to the suspicion that he was aiming at a tyranny himself. It had been a notable part of his policy, since he assumed the military command in Africa, to exhibit deep devotion to the Church and to co-operate cordially with the bishops. He ingratiated himself with the famous Augustine, bishop of Hippo, and a letter of Augustine casts some welcome though dim light on the highly ambiguous behaviour of the count in these fateful  years. Notwithstanding his professions of orthodox zeal, and hypocritical pretences that he longed to retire into monastic life, Boniface took as his second wife an Arian lady, and allowed his daughter to be baptised into the Arian communion. This apostasy shocked and grieved Augustine, but it was a more serious matter politically that, instead of devoting all his energies to repelling the incursions of the Moors, he was working to make his own authority absolute in Africa. So at least it seemed to the court of Ravenna, and Galla Placidia—doubtless by the advice of Felix, who had been appointed Master of Soldiers—recalled him to account for his conduct. Boniface refused to come, and placed himself in the position of an "enemy of the Republic". An army was immediately sent against him under three commanders, all of whom were slain (A.D. 427). Then at the beginning of A.D. 428 another army was sent under the command of Sigisvult, a Goth, who seems to have been named Count of Africa and commissioned to replace the rebel. Sigisvult appears to have succeeded in seizing Hippo and Carthage, and Boniface, despairing of overcoming him by his own forces, resorted to the plan of inviting the Vandals to come to his aid.
Their king Gaiseric stands out among the German leaders of his time as unquestionably the ablest. He had not only the military qualities which most of them possessed, but he was also master of a political craft which was rare among the German leaders of the migrations. His ability was so exceptional that his irregular birth—his mother was a slave—did not diminish his influence and prestige. We have a description of him, which seems to come from a good source. "Of medium height, lame from a fall of his horse, he had a deep mind and was sparing of speech. Luxury he despised, but his anger was uncontrollable and he was covetous. He was far-sighted in inducing foreign peoples to act in his interests, and resourceful in sowing seeds of discord and stirring up hatred." All that we know of his long career bears out this suggestion of astute and perfidious diplomacy.
The unhappy population of the Mauretanian regions were left unprotected to the mercies of the invaders, and, if we can trust the accounts that have come down to us, they seem to have endured horrors such as the German conquerors of this age seldom inflicted upon defenceless provinces. The Visigoths were lambs compared with the Vandal wolves. Neither age nor sex was spared, and cruel tortures were applied to force the victims to reveal suspected treasures. The bishops and clergy, the churches and sacred vessels, were not spared. We get a glimpse of the situation in the correspondence of St. Augustine. Bishops write to him to ask whether it is right to  allow their flocks to flee from the approaching danger, and for themselves to abandon their sees. The invasion was a signal to other enemies, whether of Rome or of the Roman government, to join in the fray. The Moors were encouraged in their depredations, and religious heretics and sectaries, especially the Donatists, seized the opportunity to wreak vengeance on the society which oppressed them.
If Africa was to be saved, it was necessary that the Roman armies should be united, and Galla Placidia immediately took steps to regain the allegiance of Boniface. A reconciliation was effected by the good offices of a certain Darius, of illustrious rank, whom she sent to Africa, and he seems also to have concluded a truce with Gaiseric, which was, however, of but brief duration, for the Roman proposals were not accepted. Gaiseric was determined to pillage, if he could not conquer, the rich eastern provinces of Africa. He entered Numidia, defeated Boniface, and besieged him in Hippo (May to June A.D. 430). The city held out for more than a year. Then Gaiseric raised the siege (July A.D. 431). New forces were sent from Italy and Constantinople under the command of Aspar, the general of Theodosius; a battle was fought, and Aspar and Boniface were so utterly defeated that they could make no further effort to resist the invader. Hippo was taken soon afterwards, and the only important towns which held out were Carthage and Cirta.
In the meantime, during this obscure struggle for power, the Vandals were extending their conquests in Numidia. In spite of his wonderfully rapid career of success, Gaiseric was ready to come to terms with the Empire. Aetius, who was fully occupied in Gaul, where the Visigoths and Burgundians were actively aggressive, saw that the forces at his disposal were unequal to the expulsion of the Vandals, and thought that it was better to share Africa with the  intruders than to lose it entirely. Gaiseric probably wished to consolidate his power in the provinces which he had occupied, and knew that any compact he might make would not be an obstacle to further conquests. Hippo, from which the inhabitants had fled, seems to have been reoccupied by the Romans, and here (February 11, A.D. 435) a treaty was concluded. The Vandals were to retain the provinces which they had occupied, viz. the two Mauretanias and a part of Numidia, but were to pay an annual tribute, thus acknowledging the overlordship of Rome.
Aetius had now firmly established his power, and Galla Placidia had to resign herself to his guidance. Valentinian was fifteen years of age, and the regency could not last much longer. The presence of the Master of Soldiers was soon demanded in Gaul, where the Visigoths were again bent on new conquests and where the Burgundians were invading the province of Upper Belgica (A.D. 435). Against the Burgundians he does not appear to have sent a Roman army; he asked his friends the Huns to chastise them. The Huns knew how to strike. It is said that 20,000 Burgundians were slain, and King Gundahar was one of those who fell (A.D. 436). Thus came to an end the first Burgundian kingdom in Gaul, with its royal residence at Worms. It was the background of the heroic legends which passed into the German epic—the Nibelungenlied. The Burgundians were not exterminated, and a few years later the Roman government assigned territory to the remnant of the nation in Sapaudia (Savoy) south of Lake Geneva (A.D. 443).
Narbonne was besieged by Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, in A.D. 436, but was relieved by Litorius,  who was probably the Master of Soldiers in Gaul. Three years later the same commander drove the Goths back to the walls of their capital Toulouse, and it is interesting to find him gratifying his Hun soldiers by the performance of pagan rites and the consultation of the auspices. These ceremonies, however, did not help him. Fortune turned against him. He was defeated and taken prisoner in a battle outside the city. Avitus, the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul, who had great influence with Theodoric, then brought about the conclusion of peace. In these years there were also troubles in the provinces north of the Loire, where the Armoricans rebelled, and Aetius or his lieutenant Litorius was compelled to reimpose upon them the "liberty" of imperial rule.
In A.D. 437 Aetius was consul for the second time, and in that year Valentinian went to Constantinople to wed his affianced bride, Licinia Eudoxia the daughter of Theodosius. Now assuredly, if not before, the regency was at an end, and henceforward Aetius had to do in all high affairs not with Galla Placidia, who distrusted and disliked him, but with an inexperienced youth. Valentinian was weak and worthless. He had been spoiled by his mother, and had grown up to be a man of pleasure who took no serious interest in his imperial duties. He associated, we are told, with astrologers and sorcerers, and was constantly engaged in amours with other men's wives, though his own wife was exceptionally beautiful. He had some skill in riding and in archery and was a good runner, if we may believe Flavius Vegetius Renatus, who dedicated to him a treatise on the art of war.
From the end of the regency to his own death, Aetius was master of the Empire in the west, and it  must be imputed to his policy and arms that imperial rule did not break down in all the provinces by the middle of the fifth century. Of his work during these critical years we have no history. We know little more than what we can infer from some bald notices in chronicles written by men who selected their facts without much discrimination. If we possessed the works of the court poet of the time we might know more, for even from the few fragments which have survived we learn facts unrecorded elsewhere. The Spaniard, Flavius Merobaudes, did for Valentinian and Aetius what Claudian had done for Honorius and Stilicho, though with vastly inferior talent.
The position of Aetius in these years as the supreme minister was confirmed by the betrothal of his son to the Emperor's daughter Placidia, an arrangement which can hardly have been welcome to Galla Placidia, the Augusta. With Valentinian himself he can hardly have been on intimate terms. The fact that he had supported the tyrant John was probably never forgiven. And it cannot have been agreeable to the young Emperor that it was found necessary to curtail his income and rob his privy purse in order to help the state in its financial straits. Little revenue could come from Africa, suffering from the ravages of the Vandals, and in A.D. 439, as we shall see, the richest provinces of that country passed into the hands of the barbarians. The income derived from Gaul, too, must have been very considerably reduced, and we are not surprised to find the government openly acknowledging in A.D. 444 that "the strength of our treasury is unable to meet the necessary expenses".
Meanwhile the treaty of A.D. 435 was soon violated by Gaiseric. He did not intend to stop short of the  complete conquest of Roman Africa. In less than five years Carthage was taken (October 19, A.D. 439). If there was any news that could shock or terrify men who remembered that twenty-nine years before Rome herself had been in the hands of the Goths, it was the news that an enemy was in possession of the city which in long past ages had been her most formidable rival. Italy trembled; for with a foe master of Carthage she felt that her own shores and cities were no longer safe. And, in fact, not many months passed before it was known that Gaiseric had a large fleet prepared to sail, although its destination was unknown. Rome and Naples were put into a state of defence; Sigisvult, Master of Soldiers, took steps to guard the coasts; Aetius and his army were summoned from Gaul; and the Emperor Theodosius prepared to send help. There was indeed some reason for alarm at Constantinople. The Vandal pirates could afflict the eastern as well as the western coasts of the Mediterranean; the security of commerce was threatened. It was even thought advisable to fortify the shores and harbours of the Bosphorus. The Mediterranean was no longer a Roman lake.
[A New Menace to the Empire]