Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6.: THE TWO EASTERN EXPEDITIONS OF STILICHO AND HIS ILLYRIC POLICY — ( P. 122 , 144 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5
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6.: THE TWO EASTERN EXPEDITIONS OF STILICHO AND HIS ILLYRIC POLICY — ( P. 122 , 144 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 5.
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THE TWO EASTERN EXPEDITIONS OF STILICHO AND HIS ILLYRIC POLICY — (P. 122, 144)
An unwary reader of Gibbon might fail to realise that on two separate occasions Stilicho came, an unwelcome helper, to the assistance of Arcadius in the Illyric peninsula. As there has been a difficulty about the dates, and as Zosimus inverts the order of events, it is important to grasp this clearly. On the first occasion ( 395) Stilicho started from Italy in spring (Claudian, in Rufin. 2, 101), came up with Alaric in Thessaly, and was then commanded to return, before he had accomplished anything, by an order of Arcadius. Gainas and the Eastern troops went to Constantinople, and Rufinus met his fate; while Stilicho returned to Italy. In the following year ( 396), when Alaric was in southern Greece, Stilicho again, came to help the realm of Arcadius, landed at Corinth, blockaded Alaric in Pholoe, and allowed him to escape. (Zosimus, v. 7, places the blockade of Pholoe before the death of Rufinus. The charge of Zosimus that Stilicho indulged in debauchery in Elis cannot safely be pressed; for the phrase he uses is borrowed from Julian’s Misopogon. See Mendelssohn, ad. loc.)
395. Claudian represents Alaric as shutting himself up in a fortified camp on the news of Stilicho’s approach (in Ruf. 2, 124-9). Stilicho arrives in Thessaly (implet Thessaliam ferri nitor, l. 179) and prepares to attack the enemy. If he had been permitted to do so, the invasion of Greece would have been averted (186 sqq.), but alas! regia mandata arrive from Arcadius, and he has to sacrifice the “publica commoda” to the duty of obedience. This must have been about the beginning of November, if Rufinus was slain on 27th November (as Socrates states, vi. 1; cp. Chron. Pasch. ad ann.). Thus the advance of Stilicho from Italy to Thessaly would have occupied more than six months. What was the cause of this delay? It is significant that the charge brought against Rufinus by Claudian of having incited the Visigoths to the invasion of Greece is uttered only as a suspicion by Socrates (loc. cit., δόξαν ε[Editor: illegible character]χεν ὡς κ.τ.λ. “was supposed to have,” &c.); in the following century the suspicion has developed into a positive statement in the chronicle of Count Marcellinus ad ann. (Alaricum . . . infestum reipublicae fecit et in Graeciam misit).
396. (Gibbon wrongly places the events of this year in 397. It is not clear why he deserts the guidance of Tillemont.) Stilicho landed at the Isthmus (Zosimus, 5, 7), and is said to have had Alaric at his mercy at Pholoe. Three views have been held as to the escape of Alaric: (1) he out-witted Stilicho, who was culpably negligent (cp. Zosimus); (2) the suggestion of Claudian (B.G. 516) that Arcadius and his ministers, jealous of Stilicho’s intervention, treated with Alaric and secured his retreat, might be supported by the circumstance that Arcadius created him Master of Soldiers in Illyricum soon afterwards; (3) Stilicho is supposed to have made a secret treaty with Alaric, and permitted his retreat, for purposes of his own.
It is certain that Stilicho’s assertion of the unity of the Empire by appearing with armed forces in the Prefecture of Illyricum was viewed with suspicion and distrust at Constantinople. The feeling at the court of Arcadius is aptly expressed in words which Claudian has put into the mouth of Rufinus (in Ruf. 2, 161): —
It is certain too that Stilicho afterwards, if not in 396, made it the aim of his policy to detach Illyricum from Arcadius and add it to the realm of Honorius. This is stated in so many words by Zosimus (v. 26), and it was doubtless Stilicho’s object from the beginning. This is the view of Jung (Römer and Romanen, p. 188: ich sehe darin vielmehr die consequente Verfolgung der durch Stilicho von Anfang an beabsichtigten Politik), who has some good remarks on the geographical importance of Illyricum; the unsatisfactoriness of the line of division of 395 which cut off Dalmatia from the rest of the Balkan peninsula (p. 186); and the circumstance that all northern Illyricum belonged to the Latin-speaking part of the Empire.
After the first invasion of Italy, Stilicho intended to use the help of Alaric for this purpose, and established him on the borders of the territory on which he had designs; but the execution of the plan was continually deferred, on account of other events which claimed the care of Stilicho. Alaric during this time was playing his own game, between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople. His object was to obtain permanently Dalmatia, Noricum, Istria, and Venetia, with a regular grant of money from the Empire. This was what he asked in 410 (Zos. v. 48), and his aim throughout was doubtless a settlement of this kind.
The certainty that from 402 forward Stilicho made use of Alaric for his Illyric designs rouses the suspicion that he was playing with Alaric, with the same intent, in 395 and 396. The famous words of Orosius (vii. 37): Alarico rege cum Gothis suis saepe victo saepe concluso semperque dimisso, are strikingly true of Pollentia, of Verona, and of Pholoe; I suspect that they are also true of the campaign of 395, and that the unaccountable delay between Stilicho’s start in the spring and his return to Italy in Oct.-Nov. was due to diplomatic dallyings with Alaric. Of course nothing would be said of that by Claudian.
While Stilicho aimed at annexing eastern Illyricum, the court of Constantinople aimed at the acquisition of Dalmatia. Olympiodorus says that Stilicho employed Alaric to defend it (fr. 3). The object was pursued in the reign of Theodosius ii. and was finally attained at the marriage of Eudoxia with Valentinian iii., when the boundary was changed to the advantage of the East. Compare Cassiodorius, Var. ep. 1, Güldenpenning, das oström. Reich, p. 310. But even as early as 414-15 there is epigraphic evidence suggesting the conclusion that at that time Salonae was under the government of Constantinople. See Jung, op. cit. p. 187 note.
It is possible to regard (with Keller; Stilicho, p. 27) Stilicho’s special Illyric policy and his relations with Alaric as part of a larger policy which had two chief aims: to maintain the unity of the Empire, under two emperors, and to infuse new blood into it by absorbing barbarians. Stilicho’s policy has been generally misunderstood. A monograph appeared in the year 1805 with the curious title: Flavius Stilicho, ein Wallenstein der Vorwelt (by C. F. Schulz).