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The Tervingi, a history of immigration


Place: Roman Empire - Province of the Thrace (corresponding to actual Bulgaria and European Turkey) - City of Adrianopolis

Epoch: August 9 th 378 A.D.


In the spring of 376 Valens, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, being in Antioch of Syria, received a diplomatic mission of the Goths Tervingi, later on known with the name of Visigoths. They asked to settle in the lands of the Empire, in change they would be subdued to the Roman government and they would have furnished contingents to the imperial army.

Valens had been named Eastern emperor by his brother Valentinian I, great general who had been elected emperor by his army.

The prefect of the praetorium Modestus and the two ministers of the Department of Internal Revenue Fortunatianus and Tatianus appeared favorable to welcome the Tervingi as the immission of new human resources would have strengthened the army and the imperial treasure. In fact the availability of new recruits would have allowed land owners to replace the commitment to send effectives to the armed forces with a tribute in gold. The Tervingi would have been a necessary good for the Empire.

Valens, badly advised by his collaborators, welcomed the request of the Tervingi.

It began the ferrying of the Barbarians on the Danube. Some camps of first reception were organized. In a short time the camps were overcrowded.

The count Lupicinus and his colleague Maximus, who had been charged to handle the operation of immigration, took great care of their affairs selling the humanitarian helps at high prices and they worried very little to take care of life conditions of the Tervingi.

Fritigernus, the head of the Tervingi, dissimulated the anger, that was rising among the Barbarians, and he pretended to have benevolent intentions toward the Romans, on the contrary it seemed that he tried to calm the minds of his own people. Then he suddenly attacked Lupicinus, who was put to flight. The Tervingi began a systematic pillage of the Thrace and the Moesia.

Valens sent the general Sebastianus to oppose Fritigernus, who was defeated but not definitely. Then Fritigernus asked for help to the Greutungi, that were still on the other side of the Danube, and to other Barbarians.

Valens decided to intervene personally and asked for help to Gratianus, emperor of the Western Empire.

Near Adrianopolis the Roman camp was set. Ricomere, general of Gratianus, arrived with the vanguard of the army of west and he recommended to Valens to wait for the arrival of Gratianus. The general Sebastianus proposed to attack immediately: the Tervingi at that time were inferior of number.

Valens on the contrary began an absurd negotiation with Fritigernus, who was waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements. Fritigernus proposed a new treaty of peace and appeared even available to accept the presence of Roman troops to keep under control his restless people.

On August 9th 378 Fritigernus asked to Valens to send him in hostage some officials as a proof of good faith of the negotiation. In reality the Greutungi were near and Fritigernus still needed time to draw them up in the battlefield. Meanwhile the Alani were also arriving.

The general Ricomere, voluntarily offered himself as hostage, but Fritigernus sparked off the attack before the general could deliver himself in his hands.

The Roman cavalry reached almost of rush the hostile field, but then it was destroyed by the Greutungi and Alani troopers, led by Alateus and Safraces.

The Roman infantry was then surrounded, it fought bravely for many hours and was finally massacred by the allied strengths of the Tervingi, Greutungi and Alani. About 20000 men of the imperial army remained on the battleground. Valens died fighting and his body was never found. At nightfall Ricomere succeeded to rescue the survivors.

The Barbaric army began the march toward Constantinople.


Bibliographical references:

Williams S.


Williams S. - Friell G.

Teodosio - L'ultima sfida