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Battle of Adrianople, 378

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Emperor Flavius Valens versus Fritigern: A Gothic army under Fritigern fights for not only its own but its families’ lives as well against a Roman army under Valens. Can Fritigern delay Valens long enough for his cavalry to turn the tides? Click on images below to view; first image opens video presentation and second image opens PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 

 
A battle that makes Western historians shiver for it accelerated the fall of the Roman Empire and all the order it represented.
 
Valens was so outgeneraled that it is arduous to consider how he could have won. He should have ensured the battle was decided by infantry, which the Romans always held an advantage, and assaulted the Gothic hill immediately. He did not and Fritigern was able to delay the attack further and wear down the Romans by spreading fire in the fields.
 
 
This battle widely varies in its numbers and events. Unfortunately, my honest nature requires I point out that my original sources for animating this battle were relatively unreliable, all of which being websites or books describing over seventy battles. Well, maybe I should not knock the reliability of websites, considering I am using the website medium for educational purposes. Regardless, I would not keep an erroneous animation on the site if I did not truly believe it was accurate and dependable as a source of its own. I compared my original sources to more professional sources when they became available to me and can say that this animation portrays a probable account of this battle.
 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted
 
Black, Jeremy. The Seventy Great Battles in History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
 
Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
 
Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
 
“The Battle of Adrianople (Hadrianopolis)” Illustrated History of the Roman Empire. http://www.roman-empire.net/army/adrianople.html (accessed Jan. 27, 2008).
 
United States Military Academy History Department. “Atlas for Ancient Warfare.” United States Military Academy. http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/atlases/AncientWarfare/index.htm (accessed Jan. 27, 2008).
 
Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. London: Salamander, 1980.
 
Zentner, Joe. “Adrianople: The Last Great Battle of Antiquity.” Military History October 2005, http://www.historynet.com/adrianople-last-great-battle-of-antiquity.htm (accessed Jan. 27, 2008).
 
Images

Emperor Flavius Valens: http://www.livius.org/va-vh/valentinian/gratianus.html
 
Gothic cavalry: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?page=9&t=87324
 
Gothic infantry: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?page=9&t=87324
 
Roman cavalry: http://www.angelfire.com/pe/ATSTOYSOLDIERS/AXXS/ITALERI.html
 
Roman infantry: http://www.legionarybooks.net/the_imperial_legions
 

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  1. 8 Comments to “Battle of Adrianople, 378”

  2. I think the numbers and impact of the Gothic cavalry are highly inflated…see writing of T.S Burns as opposed to Oman. Nice animation though.

    By Brian on Sep 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm

  3. There is actually a number of sources that suggest all numbers of “barbarian” enemies the Romans faced are highly inflated. This is based on the theory that man for man, fighters from less civilized armies were more aggressive, violent and overall more effective in combat than the Romans who were constrained by norms of society.

    I obviously do not have the knowledge of anthropology to decide if this theory is correct or not. In most cases, I use the lower numbers but for this battle, it seems plausible that a great number of Gothic cavalry must have been present to overcome such a strong Roman force.

    By Jonathan Webb on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  4. the roman army which were terminated here was the last important roman army. as i know.

    in the battle of chalons in 451, the army of aetius included many gothic warriors

    By Burak on Jan 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm

  5. Ammianus suggests the Roman infantry (Legions) died hard, surrounded and hemmed in on all sides…what a disaster!!!! Valens was fool hardy to have under estimated his opponents who were after all merely seeking living space within the confines of the Empire. Evidence suggests that their (Goths) had actually been forced from their own territory by the movement of the Huns so this may well have left them with little choice other than to seek refuge for their families elsewhere. This is part of the ‘mover’ arguement promoted by some modern Roman historians.

    Certainly Adrianople was a battle NOT sought by the Goths since they sought to negotiate rather than fight. It seems that Valens was spoiling for a fight in order to teach the miscreant Goths a harsh lesson in the realities of life…..basically to make them heel. He should have waited for the Western army, which was being brought forward by his cousin and Western counter-part Gratian. His army’s additional strength would have been telling and might well have made the Goths reluctant to fight.

    This was, as Ammianus tells us a calamity to rival Cannae…..the flower of the Roman Eastern Comitatenses was destroyed and was never to again be such a force……truly a disaster for the Empire.

    By khorrumg on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

  6. This helped me a lot. Its a great article!!! I would love to read more.

    By Katelynn M. on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

  7. Thanks Katelynn!

    By Jonathan Webb on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:01 am

  8. Thanks for the animation. I am looking at the disputes between the Christian Arians and the Christian adhering to the Nicene creed. With the death of Valens, an Arian, the dispute shifted and inclined Christians to accept the Trinitarian theology.

    By Harry on Aug 22, 2011 at 12:23 am

  9. I hate so much these barbarians.

    By Spider man on Jan 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

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