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Valens and the Battle of Adrianople



Valens and the Battle ofAdrianople


Supreme wealth, power and drastic revenge for someone are the commonreasons for the existence of various epic wars over the pastcenturies. Most of these wars have been written in the history of theancient world, while some were only sketched at the minds of ourgreat historians and would never be transferred anymore to thepresent generation of the modern world. While some great wars wereintended for the deciding factor of supremacy and power, the Battleof Adrianople, for example, were much beyond those basic reasons forthe occurrence of war and chaos. Emperor Valens and the Battle ofAdrianople has a deeper reason for such event to happen and thatmarks a very epic battle in the history of Roman Empire.


The Gothic War is the name given toa Gothic revolt in theeastern Roman Empire in theBalkan territory from 376 -382 A.D. For six years of battle, the war, and in particular theBattle of Adrianople, was amajor turning point in the history of the Roman Empire, beingconsidered as the first barbarian invasion in a series of events overthe next century that would see the collapse of the EasternRoman Empire on the hands of Emperor Valens.In 376 A.D., Emperor Valens made a wrong decision of allowing theVisigoths to cross the Danube and live along the imperial territoryalong the Danube. He failed to assure that the new arrivals in theempire were properly treated and due to mistreated and exploited actsthat they were shown to the Visigoths, they rose in rebellion againstthe Roman army, threw off the Roman Empire,and killed several Romanarmies as well as Emperor Valens in the battle of Adrianople, alsoknown as the Gothic War. Moreover, Emperor Valens` greatest mistakefor the downfall of the Roman Empire against the Goths was probablyhis decision to fight the Goths without the help of the western Romannation ruled by Emperor Gratian. However, even if they would still bevictorious in the battle, they would still have a similar defeat inthe future as the nature of Roman military legions had significantlyaltered and become obsolete enough to be defeated by a merebarbarian.

The Battle of Adrianople was nomore than the rebellion of the Goths. It marked a certain statementin the Roman history where military initiative should be conquered bythe barbarians, or the Goths themselves, and should never be regainedagain by the Roman Empire. Moreover, the Battle of Adrianople markedthe world history of the possibility of shifting great power and rulefrom the Roman Army itself to barbarian natives. Whereas knowing thevery depths of the kind of government that the Romans had during theRoman Empire, there are generally two conflicting reasons for thedownfall of Emperor Valens and the Roman Army.

The first major reason for Emperor Valens` decision to fought backthe barbarians is that the Roman officials tookadvantage of the barbarian Goths, afterthey have been pushed out of theirhomelands by the Huns. Thus,it led the Gothsto rebel against the Roman Army and letthem settle the dispute through a battle.As what Marcellinus mentioned in his book, &quotThe Goths,bewildered by this unexpected ill-treatment, and alarmed by theprospect of an attack by the citizens more impromptu than deliberate,stood stock still, till at last a storm of curses and abuse,accompanied by an occasional missile, drove them into an open revolt.They killed a large number who had been misled by their own rashnessinto launching an assault, and compelled the rest to retire woundedin all sorts of ways&quot (1986). Throughout the battle, many Romanwarriors were killed as &quotthey lost some men of outstandingvalour whom they were unable to revenge&quot (Marcellinus, 1986).

The second reason for the downfall of Roman Empire was EmperorValen`s personal issue, after learning ofSebastian`s success against the Goths, and of Gratian`s victory overthe Alamanni, Valens was more than ready for a victory of his own. Heis too much believing in himself that he can win even without thehelp of Emperor Gratian and the Western Army. Hechose to fight against thebarbarians without waiting any militarysupport, for his own selfish reason ofcalling him a victor of his own battle. TheRoman Army was no longer a deadly machine that it had before to fightthe Goths. Moreover, discipline and morale were no longer as good, asEmperor Valens` leadership was no more of help to the Roman Empire(Marcellinus, 1986).


By summarizing the harm being inflicted by the Battle of Adrianopleto the Roman Empire, the true reason that led Emperor Valens to fight thebarbarian Goths is the bad,corrupting monarchial rule and governmentat that time. Moreover, theirdownfall was also due to massive changesof the entire army, the alternationof different policies providing the empireto experienceeconomic instability and potential socialconflicts, aswell as Roman officials being judged fortheir disciplinary attitude, whereas the RomanEmpire is so eager tobuild his own victory to secure the throne.The lesson was not lost onother tribes, as well as the Goths themselves, who would not remainpeaceful for long. Within a hundred years, the Western Empire wouldcollapse under the pressure of continued invasions as the Empire wascarved up into barbarian kingdoms.


Marcellinus, A. (1986). The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378.USA: Penguins Book Limited.

Roman Empire (2014). The Battle of Adrianople (Hadrianopolis). RomanEmpire. Retrieved fromhttp://www.roman-empire.net/army/adrianople.html