Gothic King and Roman General
August 23, 406: Radagaisus is executed. He was a Gothic king and led an invasion against Roman Italy in late 405 and early 406. He was a committed Pagan and had plans to sacrifice the Christian Senators of the now-Christian Roman Empire to his own gods and to burn Rome to the ground. He led a force of about 20,000 fighting men who were often accompanied by their families and other noncombatants. The overall size of the group led by Radagaisus may have been close to 100,000. Little is known of the Goth king prior to his incursion into Italian territory. It is assumed he was pressured by invading Huns. It is known that he approached Italy via the Balkans and his origins were somewhere on the Great Hungarian Plain west of the Carpathian Mountains.
His forces were met by those led by Flavius Stilicho (sometimes written as Stilico) who was a high ranking general of the Roman army. He was half Vandal and married to the niece of Emperor Theodosius. For a time, he was the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire due to his many victories against both internal and external enemies. For this battle, he led about 15,000 men from the Italian field army and these were accompanied by a second group of Roman troops which may have been recalled from the frontier. He was aided by help from Gothic foederati (barbarian mercenaries) under Uldin. Alaric I remained outside the conflict due to treaty restrictions.
Radagaisus had besieged Florentia which was on the verge of surrender when Stilicho’s army arrived. The Gothic army retreated to the hills of Fiesole, about 5 miles away and Radagaisus tried to escape, leaving his troops behind. He was captured by the Romans. His attempt to save himself may have been spurred on by an army revolt. After his capture, he was executed on this day. About 12,000 of his higher ranking fighters were drafted into the Roman army. Some of the others were dispersed but most of the remainder of his followers were taken as slaves and with such an influx, the slave market temporarily collapsed.
Many of the men were eventually able to join forces with Alaric I who launched his own attack against Rome in 410. Alaric’s first appearance as a leader came in 391 but he, too, was stopped by Stilicho. Alaric led a force of about 20,000 allied with Eastern Emperor Theodosius to defeat a Frankish usurper in 394 but received little recognition. He continued to campaign in the region of Constantinople and eventually into Greece (Athens). He invaded Italy in 401 and was again defeated by Stilicho. When the great general died in 408, it was possible to move more freely and in 410, Alaric was able to sack Rome. While they plundered the city, they were humane towards the inhabitants and burned only a few buildings. Alaric died later in the year.
Conquest is the missionary of valor, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world. – Walter Bagehot
The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. – Joseph Conrad
Wars of conquest are negative, the subjugation and oppression of other nations is negative, economic exploitation is negative, colonial enslavement is negative, and so on. – Josip Broz Tito
Also on this day: The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.
French Wars of Religion – In 1532, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres began.
Stockholm Syndrome – In 1973, a Swedish bank was robbed.