The Battle of the Frigidus from a military and political perspective

Název: The Battle of the Frigidus from a military and political perspective
Zdrojový dokument: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2024, roč. 29, č. 1, s. 5-29
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Článek
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This article argues that the Battle of the Frigidus was, from a military perspective, a far more important engagement than is usually assumed. The battle depleted the available military reserves of the empire to such an extent that, in the following years, the nascent Western empire found itself unable to conduct any large-scale military operations, or indeed to fend off attackers in its very core – Italy. On the other hand, the religious importance of the battle, traditionally highlighted in scholarly publications, should be downplayed. It can be argued that had the outcome of the battle been any different, no major religious changes to the empire would have occurred. While the political short-term outcome of the battle is obvious (Theodosius' reassertion of claim to power and the establishment of his dynasty), the long-term political changes resulting from this battle primarily involved the beginning of the decline of the Western empire and its ultimate demise. The article analyses the known data on Roman military strength, its organization, and especially the available operational reserves in the 4th century and compares them with the state of the Roman army at the beginning of the 5th century. Although our sources deny us any data on the strength or losses of either army at the Frigidus, a thorough analysis of all available information and a comparison with other internal wars in the late Roman empire seems to lead to an inescapable conclusion: the battle was a massacre that deprived the empire in its western part of its last hope of holding its entire territory in the following period.
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