‘The Last of the Romans’

Image result for images of stilicho

That was the nickname given to Stilicho by historian Edward Gibbon.

“The last of the Romans,” and commander of what was left of all the Roman armies in the West, Stilicho was half-Vandal and related by marriage to the imperial family. In 408 A.D. he was judicially murdered as the result of a coup within the imperial household. Two years later, Alaric and the Goths sacked Rome. That was the end of the Roman Empire in the West.

Stilicho won battle after battle with armies he was forced to scrape together at short notice, a small hard core of veterans, and barbarian allies who sometimes didn’t stay allies for long. He was the last Roman general to be awarded a triumph, in 402, after beating back another Gothic invasion of Italy. In 406 a confederation of several barbarian nations burst into Italy. Stilicho raised 30 “legions” totalling some 30,000 men and drove off the invaders. Once upon a time, a Roman legion was 6,000 men, plus allies and auxiliaries–for all practical purposes, ten thousand. For Stilicho, a legion was a single thousand.

But there were no legions available to defend the Rhine frontier. The confederation swarmed across the frozen river and ravaged the provinces of Gaul–which led also to a revolt in Britain.

Gibbon marveled at what Stilicho was able to do, militarily, with so little–a very far cry from the armies Rome placed at the disposal of Scipio or Augustus Caesar.

What ought to be remembered is this: Stilicho’s strength was stretched so thin, his resources of money and manpower so limited, that he could not afford to lose a battle: he could never lose and live to fight another day. His political enemies in Rome lived for that single defeat that would mean the end of Stilicho. When he was unable to stop the invasion of Gaul, they framed him on a trumped-up charge of treason and had him put to death. That was the reward he got for all his victories. That was the one defeat, the one failure, he was not allowed to suffer.

Does that remind you of any leader currently in office, in our own time?

 

 

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

8 responses to “‘The Last of the Romans’

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