Front Page Titles (by Subject) 9.: ALARIC'S FIRST INVASION OF ITALY — ( P. 148 , 151 sqq. ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
9.: ALARIC’S FIRST INVASION OF ITALY — ( P. 148 , 151 sqq. ) - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ALARIC’S FIRST INVASION OF ITALY — (P. 148, 151sqq.)
That the battle of Pollentia was fought in 402 is now universally agreed by all competent historians; there is no conflict of evidence on the matter, and there is nothing to be said for 403.1 But there is still room for difference of opinion as to the date of Alaric’s entry into Italy, and possibly as to the date of the battle of Verona.
(1) We have to set the statements of two chronicles against each other. On one hand Prosper, sub ann. 400: Gothi Italiam . . . ingressi (see next Appendix). On the other, the Fasti Vindobonenses (Chronica Italica; see above, vol. iv. Appendix 5, p. 353) have, sub anno 401, the more precise notice: et intravit Alaricus in Italiam, xiv. kl. December.2
Pallmann (followed by Hodgkin) accepts the date of Prosper. Tillemont, also accepting Prosper, but putting (in spite of Prosper) the battle of Pollentia in 403, found himself driven to assume that Alaric having invaded Italy in 400 was driven out of it in 401 and returned in 402 — in fact a double invasion.
As there is little or nothing to choose between Prosper and the Fasti Vindobonenses — both being equally prone to error — we may be disposed to allow the argument of Seeck3 (approved by Birt) to determine us in preferring the date of the Fasti Vindobonenses. In describing the entry of the Goths Claudian speaks of constant eclipses of the moon among the terrors which preyed upon men’s minds: —
These data (cp. adsiduus) are satisfied by the two lunar eclipses which took place on June 21 and December 6, 401.
After Pollentia, there must have been another engagement at Asta (vi. cons. Hon. 203). Keller thinks that this took place before that of Pollentia. In any case Gibbon is wrong in supposing that Asta was the town in which Honorius was shut up, till delivered by Stilicho. Honorius was in Milan, as is clear from Claudian’s description (ib. 456 sqq.). To reach Asta Stilicho would have had to cross not only the Addua (488), but the Padus (which is not mentioned).
(2) That the battle of Verona did not take place later than 403 is proved by the fact that it is celebrated in the Panegyric composed by Claudian before the end of that year for the sixth consulate of Honorius, which began on Jan. 1, 405. That it took place in summer is proved by a line of that poem (our only source for the battle): —
sustinet accensos aestivo pulvere soles
(vi. cons. 215).
Those therefore who like Tillemont and Gibbon set Pollentia in spring 403 were obliged to set Verona in the summer of the same year. The question therefore arises whether, when we have moved Pollentia a year back, we are to move Verona along with it. Pallmann leaves Verona where it was in 403, and he is followed hesitatingly by Mr. Hodgkin. That the victory of Verona was won in 403, and that more than a year elapsed between the two battles, has, I think, been proved convincingly by Birt (Preface to ed. of Claudian, liv.-v.). The argument is that, if Verona had been fought in 402, the long interval of sixteen months would have stultified the whole tone of Claudian’s poem, which breathes the triumph of a recent victory. Such a line as
et sextas Getica praevelans fronde secures
is inconceivable on any save the first First of January following the victory. Cp. also lines 406, 580, 653. The transition in l. 201 is suggestive of a considerable interval between the two battles —
The resulting chronology is: —
[1 ]“The date 403 seems to have originally obtained currency from a simple mistake on the part of Baronius, a mistake fully acknowledged by Tillemont (v. 804).” Hodgkin, i. p. 736.
[2 ]The Additamenta to Prosper in the Cod. Havn. give the date: x. kal. Sept. (Mommsen, Chron. Min. i. p. 299).
[3 ]Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, 24, p. 182 sqq. (1884).