It is the beginning of August of the year 378. For the last two months Flavius Julius Valens, Roman emperor of the East, patiently awaits reinforcements for his imperial troops stationed but a few kilometres from Constantinople. With the promised aid of his western counterpart, Valens hoped to finally put down the Gothic revolt that had been raging in the region for the last two years. But none could expect that the impending finale of the Roman peacekeeping campaign would soon become one of the most significant battles of late antiquity. Like the empires of antiquity, we at the channel, are looking to expand. But to do this we need allies and support. Your support! Today’s video is sponsored by our newest ally, Art of Conquest. Art of Conquest is a free to play mobile strategy game focusing on real-time multi-player pvp granting you, full control. 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For the last several years, the empire was led by the seasoned commander, Valentinian the Great, a rough yet effective ruler, who upon his election in 364 had to face the common view that such a broad and unwieldy state needed two Augusti to handle the empire’s administration, military and civil affairs. Thus Valentinian was essentially compelled to pick an overseer of the eastern part of the empire, and unsurprisingly, he had chosen his undistinguished younger brother – Flavius Julius Valens, who shortly became the imperial authority to the East. Certainly, appointing Valens wasn’t the best choice, as he simply lacked the necessary qualities and experience to become an emperor, but Valentinian seemed to value Valens’ loyalty which at least gave hope to maintaining the empire’s integrity. Soon after his accession, Valens had to face a revolt under Procopius, who bribed a couple of legions and proclaimed himself as emperor in Constantinople. Valens revealed his timid demeanour when upon hearing the news, considered abdication and even possibly committing suicide. But he was quickly sobered by his generals and loyalist forces cracked down on the rebellion. Following which, Valens had Procopius executed. Though it took some time to clean up the mess of the recent revolt and deal with the Gothic troops which were called to support Procopius’ insurrection (being late for the party and ravaging the Thracian countryside instead) Valens gained some acclaim thanks to the moderately successful Gothic campaign north of the Danube and his attempts to improve Rome’s position against the Sassanid Empire. In fact, since 370 he spent most of his days as Augustus on the Eastern frontier, and by the year 375 was sketching out a major campaign against the Persians. But Valens’ eastern expedition never came to fruition. In summer of the year 376 a large Gothic group led by a chieftain named Fritigern arrived at the northern bank of the Danube and requested permission to settle inside the Empire. In the 4th century the Gothic people were inhabiting lands north and west of the Black Sea, but during the reign of Valens they were already hard pressed by the expanding Hunnic tribes, and forced to either fall under Hunnic control or to migrate south, eventually reaching the line of the Danube. Valens, at the time was gathering troops in Antioch for the upcoming Persian campaign, and upon learning of Fritigern’s request, saw this more as a potential threat than an opportunity. Some of Valens’ legions were busy in the western part of the Empire, and the bulk of his mobile comitatenses units under Valens’ command were deeply embroiled in the eastern front. This meant, that the local governor of Thracia, comes Lupicinus had just a few thousand border limitanei troops at his command to supervise the migration. It was clear to Valens, that such a force was not sufficient to stop the Goths from crossing the river and with the majority of his forces already occupied; he seemingly had little choice than to give them permission to pass. Lupicinus was certainly not in a favourable position, as Fritigern’s group was far larger than expected, and additional Gothic parties crossed the river without permission. Barbarian migrations in general weren’t really a novelty for the Romans as they faced similar problems multiple times in the past, but in this instance, not only was the Gothic band a numerous one, but also the Roman governor simply lacked the manpower and resources to properly handle this potentially dangerous situation. Matters worsened for the Romans as they failed to properly disarm the migrating Goths during their crossing and with not enough food for the influx of refugees, malcontent started to spread. To counter this, Lupicinus pulled troops from the Danubian border to relocate the Goths to the Roman regional headquarters of Marcianople. But all this accomplished was allowing even more unchecked Greuthungi Gothic bands to cross the river and join the swelling number of immigrants. With the Greuthungi joining Fritigern’s Thervingi Goths and adding their voice to the outcry of Roman mistreatment and lack of food, Lupicinus tried an age-old yet poorly conceived manoeuvre. He invited the Thevingi leaders, including Fritigern to a feast and promptly seized them hoping to cut off the head of the now rebellious Goths. This however failed to quell the Goths as news spread that Fritigern had been killed by the Romans. Immediately, his kin made preparations to storm the city of Marcianople. Seeing that an attack was imminent, Lupicinus wavered and released Fritigern. But all this accomplished was open conflict as the Gothic leader now realised just how tenuous the Roman position was in the region. With his people starving, Fritigern led the Goths away from Marcianople in search of food and much needed supplies. In a last ditch effort to crush the rebellion, Lupicinus mustered his troops. But the ensuing battle spelt disaster for the Romans. The far more numerous Gothic troops overran the Lupicinus’ forces and more than half of his men were killed. Although Lupicinus survived by fleeing the massacre, this defeat meant that the Roman Empire now faced a serious problem within its borders thousands of starving Goths uncontrollably ravaging the Thracian countryside. Upon hearing the disastrous news, Valens had no other choice than to quickly conclude peace with the Sassanids and move his legions back to Thracia. This didn’t happen in the blink of an eye, as he had to make sure that the Persians would not attack the Roman eastern flank having been abruptly stripped of its defences. Valens also requested help from his western counterpart – emperor Gratian, son of the recently deceased Valentinian. Meanwhile, the Thracian countryside was set ablaze by the Goths. Those who were fortunate enough, sought refuge within walled cities, which were relatively safe, as Fritigern had no means to besiege walled towns and settlements. His numbers though, constantly rose, as various Gothic groups one by one joined the charismatic leader, who actually cared for the fate of his people. Following the defeat of Lupicinus’ contingent, Fritigern’s men gained some decent equipment and at last were well fed. Hastily assembled units from both parts of the empire attempted to contain the Gothic revolt from spreading throughout the year 377. But only one major, yet indecisive encounter occurred during that time. It was not until the following year, that the Gothic incursion came to its final culmination. Emperor Valens arrived with most of his troops in Constantinople at the end of May 378 and soon set a camp to the west, waiting for Gratian’s reinforcements. In an attempt to bolster the morale of his army Valens gave rousing speeches and made sure that his soldiers were well paid and supplied. But two summer months passed by, and there was no sign of the western army, and the Goths were still on the loose pillaging the countryside. Yet Valens was patient. In the beginning of August a letter from Gratian arrived detailing the young emperor’s victories on the Rhine and that he was already on the move to help his uncle. But Valens’ patience was vanishing, as his troops were becoming restless and a good part of the campaigning season was already behind him. Moreover he received reports that the Gothic army moving slowly towards the city of Adrianople counted about 10,000 men, substantially fewer than what Valens was expecting. This made him indecisive. His generals were divided as some advised caution while others urged boldness. It was indeed a good opportunity to gain immense popularity which would surely help Valens in his later reign, and he eventually yielded to his flattering courtiers, who urged him to make all haste, so that Gratian would not share in the victory which, as they assured, was already all but won. Trumpets sounded the advance of the imperial army marching towards Adrianople. A marching camp was constructed outside the city and Valens’ units moved about fifteen kilometres north, where the Goths were camping. Fritigern saw the Roman advance and made every attempt to delay the battle. He sent multiple groups of peace envoys and attempted to exchange hostages in order to slow Valens’ advance. Eventually, around noon of the 9th of August, the Roman force arrived in the vicinity of the Gothic camp and began deployment. Fritigern had set a largely defensive stance, using baggage carts to form a wagon fort along the hill guarded by Gothic infantry. His number of fighting men were more or less what Valens expected, but considering the mass of Gothic women and children hiding behind in the camp, it certainly looked more numerous than it was. As it was a hot day and the Roman forces spent the entire morning marching to the battlefield, Fritigern decided to make use of favourable wind conditions and set flames to the grasses, hoping that the fire and smoke would further decrease Roman endurance. Valens, who had around 20,000 men at his disposal, was still being harassed by Gothic envoys sent by Fritigern, when some of his mounted units on the right flank, without having been ordered to do so, surged forward and began skirmishing with the Goths. Seeing this, the cavalry of the other flank yearning for battle after months of waiting also rushed forward and engaged Fritigern’s infantry on the hill. The bulk of the heavy Roman infantry in the centre also moved forward to attack the Gothic centre. Battle raged. Roman cavalry on the right flank was pushed back, but mounted men on the other side managed to push the Gothic infantry straight into the wagon line, killing many defenders in the process. The struggle in the centre seemed to be even, at least in the beginning. Tightly packed Roman heavy infantry had a tough time trying to overcome the fierce Thervingi warriors led by Fritigern. Eventually, after some hours since the battle ensued, Valens realised why Fritigern was so eager to send multiple parleying offers and thus buy time. Several thousand Greuthungi and Alan cavalrymen had answered Fritigern’s call for aid and arrived on the battlefield, dashing towards the surprised Roman mounted troops fighting on both flanks. In a matter of minutes, Valens’ flanks were overwhelmed and routed from the battlefield, leaving the heavy corpus of the army isolated in the centre. The battle was certainly far from over, but the Romans were at a severe tactical disadvantage, soon facing full encirclement by the Gothic forces. It wasn’t an easy task for lightly armored Goths to crush well-disciplined and heavily equipped Roman legionnaires. The battle lasted until evening. Valens was aware, that there was no way out of this disastrous situation and only a miracle could save his army from destruction. But that miracle never occurred, and after eight hours of bloody struggle, the majority of the Eastern Roman army lay dead on the battlefield. Only about a third was able to escape the slaughter during the final phase of the battle. The body of the emperor was never found. Not only was Valens killed, by many of his generals, officers and even mid-level officials perished near Adrianople. It was a massive blow for the Roman state and one of the biggest defeats in Roman military history. As a result of Valens’ failed gamble, the Gothic revolt lasted for four more years, greatly weakening the already strained empire. Eventually, the barbarian threat in the Balkans was temporarily contained by Valens’ successor Theodosius, but that is a completely different story.