The Emperor Theodosius

David Jones profiles the man of whom Gibbon wrote: ‘the genius of Rome expired with Theodosius’.

On August 9th, A.D. 378, a great Roman army was cut to pieces by Gothic tribesmen outside the town of Hadrianople some 150 miles to the north-west of Constantinople. The Emperor Valens had been in personal command of the imperial forces; and after the battle he was never seen again. One member of his bodyguard survived, to bring the straggling remnants of the Roman army the news of Valens’ death. Rome had not suffered such a defeat since Hannibal’s great victory at Cannae, six centuries earlier.

Valens’ nephew and co-ruler, the nineteen-year-old Gratian, was already on his way across the Balkans with fresh troops from Gaul. Along the whole length of the Rhine and Danube frontiers barbarian armies threatened to break through and overwhelm a great part of the Empire.

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