Trevor Palmer Challenges "Gunnar Heinsohn's Latest"
- The Chronology of Europe from the Reign of Septimius Severus to that of Maurice, according to Sources from the Fourth to the Ninth Centuries
- 1. The Chronology of the Roman Emperors during this period
- 2. The Chronology of Barbarian Europe between the Reigns of Theodosius and Maurice
- 2.1 Goths, Vandals, Lombards and Romans
- 2.2.1 The establishment of a Frankish kingdom in gaul
- 2.3 Popes of Rome
- Trevor Palmer
- (The First Millennium A.D. Chronology Controversy)
The Chronology of Europe from the Reign of Septimius Severus to that of Maurice, according to Sources from the Fourth to the Ninth Centuries
by Trevor Palmer
1. The Chronology of the Roman Emperors during this period
It is generally believed that, during the third century AD, the Roman Empire suffered a prolonged period of chaos. Emperor after emperor met violent deaths after brief reigns, and one civil war followed another. Was this just a time of social and historical confusion, or was it the origin of a major chronological anomaly? One who has argued for the latter scenario is Gunnar Heinsohn, who maintains that events at this time may have resulted in three phantom centuries being added to history. He has pointed out that Elagabalus, who died around AD 222, was the last Roman emperor to have constructed a new building on Palatine Hill. Furthermore, the last emperor to have been buried in Rome was Caracalla in AD 218, which was supposedly 258 years before the end of the empire in western Europe. Heinsohn noted that remains of the Theatre of Balbus had been found under a layer of mud around 10 metres thick on the Campus Martius in Rome, and suggested that this widespread mud layer could be evidence of a tsunami which wiped out imperial Rome, going on to draw attention to archaeological evidence from other countries, including Britain, which indicated catastrophic destructions of Roman cities. He suggested that this major catastrophic event during the 230s was the same as another which had supposedly occurred 300 years later, during the 530s. He went on to propose that the emperors who had reigned in Rome from AD 1 to AD 230 were in fact contemporaries of emperors who had reigned in the east, supposedly from AD 290 to AD 520. So, for example, Augustus was a contemporary of Diocletian, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius of Constantine the Great, Vespasian of Julian, Nerva of Theodosius I, Hadrian of Theodosius II, Marcus Aurelius of Marcian, Septimius Severus of Zeno and Caracalla, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus of Anastasius. In this scenario, the years between AD 230 and AD 290 were chaotic ones, marking the beginning of the Medieval period See here.
In the conventional view of the third century AD, there is a similar period of social and political turmoil, although this is believed to have started well before AD 230. It is also considered to have been a period when the empire was under serious threat from both the north and the east. The situation was then stabilised in AD 285 by Diocletian, who rose through the ranks of the army to become a strong emperor. Although hated by Christians because of his religious persecutions, Diocletian was highly regarded by other Romans, particularly those from the eastern part of the empire. Diocletian himself was from the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, the Dalmatian region of Croatia, and shortly after becoming emperor, he established Milan and Nicomedia, in Turkey, as the twin capitals of the empire. He based himself in Nicomedia, and appointed Maximian, from Pannonia (north of Dalmatia) as co-emperor to rule the western half of the empire from Milan. Later, Diocletian continued the process of devolution, appointing junior emperors to govern the northwest and northeast regions, from Trier on the Moselle and Sirmium in Pannonia. During his reign, Diocletian built a magnificent palace in Split, and he was eventually buried in a tomb within its precincts.
When Diocletian had been on the throne for two decades, in AD 305, he had a serious illness and decided to abdicate, forcing Maximian to do likewise. Galerius was then appointed eastern emperor and Constantius I Chlorus emperor in the west, both of these individuals coming from the Balkans region. Almost immediately, Constantinius led an army to Britain, to deal with problems being caused by the Picts and, although the campaign was a success, Constantius died in York. His son, Constantine, an experienced military officer who was with him when he died, was immediately acclaimed as his successor by the army. However, Galerius appointed Severus II, yet another army commander from the Balkans region, to succeed Constantius as western emperor and, to complicate matters further, Maxentius, son of Maximian, set himself up as emperor in Rome. Galerius ordered Severus to march from Milan and deal with Maxentius, but Severus was defeated and eventually killed. Licinius, who came from the same region as Severus, was appointed to succeed him, but Maxentius remained in control of most of Italy and also north Africa, for several years. Galerius then died in Nicomedia, and his eastern empire was divided between Licinius and Maximinus Daia, the former taking the Balkans and neighbouring areas, and the latter the regions south and east of the Bosporus. Shortly afterwards, Constantine, who had been allowed to govern territories in Britain, Spain and Gaul from Trier as a junior emperor, led his troops over the Cottian Alps to confront Maxentius. He was welcomed by the people of Milan, and then continued south. A great battle took place just outside Rome, with the victory going to Constantine, and as Maxentius and his defeated troops tried to escape back into the city across the Milvian bridge, its structure collapsed and Maxentius died in the Tiber. Thus, six years after first being acclaimed by his troops, Constantine I (the Great) had established himself by force as the western emperor, but he counted his regnal years from the death of his father Constantius I.
Constantine soon met with Licinius in Milan. While they were there, Licinius married Constantine’s half-sister, and the two emperors agreed to follow a policy of religious tolerance. Not long afterwards, Maximinus Daia launched an attack on the territory of Licinius, but he was heavily defeated, and fled to Tarsus, where he died, leaving Licinius in control of the eastern empire. He and Constantine made a pact to respect each other’s territories, but war broke out between them within a few years. Licinius was defeated, and eventually executed, after which Constantine was undisputed ruler of a united empire. He set about building a new capital, Constantinople, on the site of the old Greek city of Byzantium, not far from Nicomedia. Thirty years after being acclaimed emperor in York, Constantine died in Nicomedia and was buried in Constantinople.
Constantine became a Christian after his victory over Maxentius, although the precise nature of his beliefs has remained uncertain. His immediate successors were also Christians, but there was growing hostility at this time between orthodox Christians, particularly in the west, who, taking their lead from the popes in Rome, maintained a strong belief in the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and members of the Arian sect, who believed that Jesus, the Son of God, was separate from, and subordinate to, God the Father. This may have played a part in some subsequent conflicts.
Constantine left the empire to be shared between his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans I, and some other relatives, who were quickly eliminated. Constantine, the eldest son, then took Britain, Spain and Gaul as his territories, Constans received Italy, Pannonia, Dalmatia and north Africa, and Constantius became ruler of the eastern territories. Constantine soon began to demand some of the regions which had been allocated to Constans, and, after negotiations had failed to resolve the matter, he invaded Italy, but was defeated and killed near Aquileia. Constans, now in control of the whole of the western empire, came to various agreements with his brother in the east about religious matters, but one issue they had to leave unresolved was that of Arianism, since Constantius was sympathetic towards this doctrine. As the reign of Constans progressed, he began to lose the support of his subjects and powerful elements of his army, because of his dissolute lifestyle, financial corruption and homosexuality. Eventually, when Constans had been on the throne for 13 years, general Magnentius led an army revolt and declared himself emperor. Constans tried to escape, but was captured in the region of the Pyrenees and killed. Constantius, who had been occupied fighting the Persians in the east, refused to accept Magnentius as emperor and directed his troops against him. Magnentius was soon defeated and killed, leaving Constantius as sole emperor. However, he soon decided that this situation was impractical, and appointed his cousin Julian to be junior emperor (Caesar) with responsibility for the west. Julian, born in Constantinople, was a remarkable character, being both a successful army officer and a highly-cultured man. He quickly became popular with both the civilian population and the military in the west, and when Constantius reacted to this by trying to reduce his authority, the army promoted Julian to having full emperor (Augustus) status for the western region. That resulted in civil war, which ended when Constantius died in AD 361, leaving Julian as ruler of the whole empire.
Although raised as a Christian, Julian had renounced this faith, believing that the empire would operate in a better way if it returned to the traditional religion of Rome. Individuals who wished to practise Christianity should be allowed to do so, but the religion should have no special status or privileges. When he became emperor, Julian began to take steps to bring this about, and he also launched philosophical attacks on Christianity. Not surprisingly, he was vilified in Christian writings of the time, and referred to as Julian the Apostate. However, Julian had little chance to introduce fundamental religious changes, or the administrative reforms he considered desirable, because he was killed fighting against the Persians in Mesopotamia after ruling for just 3 years. All his successors as emperor were to be Christians.
After the death of Julian, the army chose Jovian, one of the senior generals involved in the campaign against the Persians, as emperor. Jovian made a treaty with the Persians, but then died on his way back to Constantinople. As Jovian’s successor, the army selected another army officer, Valentinian I, who was from Pannonia. When Valentinian arrived in Constantinople, he announced that he would move to Milan and rule the west, with his younger brother, Valens, becoming the eastern emperor, on a subordinate basis. Valentinian was to prove the last strong western emperor.
Valenianian died from a stroke in Pannonia in the 11th year of his reign. He may have thought he had ensured a smooth succession by appointing his son Gratian as co-emperor before he died, but Gratian, although being full of religious fervour, had proved weak on more practical attributes, so the army raised his younger brother, Valentinian II, to imperial status when Valentian I died. In practice, however, that made little difference, because although Gratian’s formal responsibility was limited to governing the Gallic provinces from Trier, his brother was only four years old at the time, so Gratian was in effective control of the whole western empire. When Valens was killed in Thrace in AD 378, the entire empire was in Gratian’s hands, but he quickly appointed the Spanish-born military leader Theodosius as eastern emperor. Theodosius I proved to be a powerful and effective ruler, subsequently becoming known as Theodosius the Great. Gratian was killed trying to suppress a rebellion five years after the accession of Theodosius, leaving Valentinian II, now aged 17, as sole western emperor, but he operated as a subordinate to Theodosius. Valentinian was found hanged in uncertain circumstances nine years later, after which the military commander, Arbogast, appointed Eugenius as western emperor. That was unacceptable to Theodosius, who sent troops to kill both Arbogast and Eugenius.
Theodosius died in the following year, AD 395, and, in accordance with his wishes, his eldest son Arcadius, then aged 17, became eastern emperor, with the western empire being placed in the hands of his other son, Honorius, who was just 10 years old. Six years after the accession of Honorius, the Visigoths invaded northern Italy and, although they were driven back, the capital of the western empire was then moved from Milan to Ravenna, which was considered easier to defend. Initially, as arranged by Theodosius, the young Honorius received guidance from Stilicho, a knowledgeable and perceptive military commander of Vandal-Roman descent. However, when emperor Arcadius died in AD 408, Stilicho travelled to Constantinople to help make arrangements for the reign of his son and successor, Theodosius II, and, while he was away, some rivals of Stilicho poisoned the mind of Honorius. On Stilicho’s return to Ravenna, Honorius had him arrested and executed. After that, Honorius had a succession of advisors, often giving him conflicting advice, so he became reluctant to make any clear decisions.
By this time, the Roman empire was clearly losing its grip on western Europe. For the Barbarian, i.e. non-Roman, races in and around the region, that presented a problem for some and an opportunity for others. A number of Roman allies were left abruptly to fend for themselves, without imperial support or protection. On the other hand, tribes who had retained a significant amount of independence now saw a chance to develop their own culture and extend their sphere of influence.
According to the generally-accepted account told by the 8th-century monk, Bede, in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (EHEP), the inhabitants of Britain, at least in the first instance, fitted into the former category. Bede writes that in AD 407, during the first half of the reign of Honorius, a cluster of Germanic Barbarian tribes, in particular the Vandals, Alans and Suevi, crossed the Rhine from the east and invaded Gaul. In the same year, someone called Gratian was promoted by a Roman faction in Britain as a claimant to the imperial throne and, although he was quickly killed, an alternative pretender, Constantine, was soon found, and he crossed to Gaul with some troops to make his bid for power. Not long afterwards, with the army of Honorius struggling to overcome the threat from the Germanic Barbarians, the Roman rebels, and also the Goths who had already staged an invasion of Italy, the Britons were informed that the Roman empire was no longer prepared to defend them against incursions from the Picts and the Irish. However, collapse was far from immediate. Bede reports that, after Valentinian III had succeeded Honorius (his uncle) to become emperor in the west, bishop Germanus of Auxerre was able to visit Britain to counter a flirtation with the Pelagian heresy (which denied the concept of original sin), and successfully restore the British church to the Catholic faith. Nevertheless, shortly after Marcian followed Theodosius II to become eastern emperor in AD 449, with Valentinian still remaining emperor in the west, the Britons felt obliged to invite Anglo-Saxons into their country, to defend them against the increasing threat from the Picts and the Irish (a story taken from a history, generally considered unreliable, by the monk, Gildas). As to matters elsewhere, Bede writes that in the fifth year of Marcian’s reign, Valentinian was murdered by supporters of the patrician Aëtius, whom he had executed, and adds that “with him fell the empire in the west”.
Those are the final words in chapter 21 of Bede’s book. Chapter 22 is a very brief one, just a single paragraph, telling of a descent into civil war and paganism. Chapter 23 begins with the statement that, in AD 582, Maurice became emperor in the east (there being by this time no empire in the west) and, in the 10th year of his reign, Gregory became pope in Rome (the first to be named Gregory). In AD 596, Augustine was sent by pope Gregory as a missionary to the English nation (no longer the nation of the Britons, as the Anglo-Saxon culture was now dominant). From that point onwards, Bede gives reign-by-reign accounts of the kings of Kent, the Northumbrians, the East Angles and the East Saxons, but of their antecedents he provides merely a few names, lacking precise detail about time, place or status. As to events in Britain between the times of Marcian and Maurice, Bede says little more than that Ambrosius Aurelianus, who was of Roman descent, led the Britons to a victory over Anglo-Saxon invaders at Badon Hill, 44 years after their first arrival in the country (an account again taken from Gildas); and that Columba came from Ireland and established a monastery on Iona in AD 565.
Written evidence from Britain during this period is almost completely lacking. That is generally regarded as being due to the chaotic circumstances described by Bede (and Gildas). However, it has been suggested that it might instead indicate a chronological anomaly between the times of Marcian and Maurice. Bede accepted that nothing much had been recorded of events in Britain during a period of about 140 years, but an alternative possibility is that the time-period has been artificially extended, with the true gap between the reigns of Marcian and Maurice being much less than generally supposed.
Can either the 300-year contraction, involving two parallel 230-year periods, as proposed by Heinsohn, or this shorter one, be considered plausible? Let us go on to examine the written evidence from Europe as a whole.
1.2 The Roman Emperors and Popes, from the Reign of Septimius Severus to that of Valens
Contemporary accounts of the history of the first two decades of the third century were written by Herodian and Cassius Dio. The former has survived largely intact, but the latter is known only through epitomes (i.e. summaries) produced much later. However, from a comparison of the epitomes relating to earlier periods where the full accounts have survived, there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information provided in them. It is also known that a history from earliest times to the end of the reign of emperor Claudius II (conventionally dated to AD 270) was written by the third century Greek historian, Dexippus, although only fragments have survived. A continuation of this was written, as stated in the introduction, by the early 5th century Greek sophist and historian, Eunapius of Sardis. Again, only fragments have survived, but, on the basis of the various surviving fragments, and the abrupt change in style after the reign of Claudius II, it is well-established that the New History written by Zosimus of Constantinople around AD 500 copied Dexippus up to the end of the reign of Claudius II and then Eunapius into the joint-reigns of Arcadius and Honorius. Contemporary information about the third century is also provided by inscriptions, legal texts and coins.
The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle was written during the fourth century but, from what is known about Eusebius, he would have been about twenty years of age when Diocletian came to the throne, so, directly or indirectly, was likely to have had a reasonable personal knowledge of the events of the second half of the third century. Eusebius and Jerome were Christians, as was Paulus Orosius, the Spanish scholar whose History against the Pagans was written early in the 5th century. In contrast, the 4th century historians Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Festus and the contemporary anonymous authors of the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta (which admittedly is not an entirely reliable source, since it blends fact with fiction) were all writing from a pagan perspective. These pagan authors give details not included in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, so it is thought likely that they were using an alternative source, now lost, from around the time of Eusebius. This is referred to as the Enmannsche Kaisergeschichte, since the idea was first proposed by the German scholar Alexander Enmann in the late 19th century.
All of these writers, pagan and Christian (including Zosimus, who seems to have used sources not available to the others), give generally consistent accounts of the history of the third century. In the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the annual entries are associated with regnal years of kings and emperors, but each numbered Olympiad is also noted (taking the first to be in the year corresponding to 776 BC). In addition, each tenth entry is marked with the running total of years since the supposed birth of Abraham, which according to Eusebius had occurred 3184 years after the creation of the world, enabling the year of Abraham dates to be translated into ones in the AM system of Eusebius, which is what will be done here, inserting an ‘E’ in brackets to distinguish this particular AM system from others. Orosius gives the AUC date for the start of each new reign (AUC being an abbreviation for years ab urbe condita, i.e. years from the supposed foundation of the city of Rome in 753 BC). whereas others give dates on a more occasional basis, or in some cases not at all. In general, the reign-lengths of most emperors, particularly those consisting of more than a year or two, are given, although Zosimus and Festus are exceptions to this rule. Overall, although the amount of detail provided and the style may differ, all present essentially the same picture. The most direct of these sources, that of Herodian, which covers Roman history from just before the beginning of the reign of emperor Commodus to the “year of the six emperors” (conventionally dated to AD 238), states that it deals with events starting around 200 years after the time of emperor Augustus, and remarks on the amazing number of emperors who have held office during that 60-year period.
According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Commodus came to the throne in AM (E) 5379, the 3rd year of the 239th Olympiad (AD 179/180), whilst Orosius gives the date as AUC 930 (AD 177/178).
As told in all the accounts, Commodus, son of the previous emperor, the much-respected Marcus Aurelius, became obsessed with gladiatorial combat and increasingly lost contact with reality, so his violent end was not unexpected. According to Herodian, Cassius Dio, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius and the anonymous Epitome de Caesaribus, Commodus reigned for 13 years (to the nearest year). Pertinax, a distinguished senator and former military commander, then became emperor, but he was soon killed when he tried to address indiscipline within the praetorian guards. An opportunist, Didius Julianus, then became emperor, gaining the support of the praetorian guards in a bidding process before having his appointment confirmed by the senate. He quickly became unpopular when he devalued the currency, leading to Septimius Severus, Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus all making claims for the throne, and, with Septimius Severus, the governor of Upper Pannonia, leading troops towards Rome, the senate appointed him emperor and ordered the execution of Didius Julianus, less than a year after the death of Commodus.
Septimius Severus, born in Leptis Magna in north Africa, then set about stabilising the situation. According to the Historia Augusta, he came to the imperial throne in the consular year of Falco and Clarus (AD 193). The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle indicates the year to be AM (E) 5493, the 1st year of the 243rd Olympiad (AD 193/194), with Orosius saying AUC 944 (AD 191/192). Septimius Severus had an illustrious career as emperor, with achievements in all regions of the empire, before his death in York. Herodian, Cassius Dio, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta all give the length of his reign as 18 years, to the nearest year.
Septimius Severus bequeathed the empire to his sons, Antoninus, known as Caracalla, and Geta, to be shared between them, but the latter was dead within a year. He was murdered by Caracalla, who claimed he had acted in self-defence. Caracalla achieved victories in Germany, built impressive public baths in Rome, reformed the currency and brought in administrative reforms, but he was never secure on the throne, because of the way he had established sole rule. After a successful campaign against the Parthians, he was murdered near Edessa, in northwestern Mesopotamia, in a conspiracy organised by his praetorian prefect, Macrinus. The body of Caracalla was cremated, and his ashes brought back to Rome for burial. Macrinus, appearing grief-stricken, killed the assassin, whom he maintained had been acting alone, and was then declared emperor by the military. Although Macrinus was not of senatorial rank, which had hitherto been regarded as a requirement for becoming emperor, the senate confirmed the action of the military. Cassius Dio, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta all say that Caracalla had been emperor for 6 or 7 years. Herodian gives him a reign length of 11 years but, on the basis of the information supplied by the other sources, this must have included a period of co-rule with his father.
Emperor Macrinus remained out east, fighting against the resurgent Parthians, and his continuing absence from Rome began to raise concerns. Perhaps more importantly, the troops were also becoming discontented, particularly when Macrinus paid the Parthians a large sum of money to maintain peace, and changed the pay structure of the army to help pay for it. The family of Caracalla, whose mother, Julia Domna, was Syrian and now living in Syria, saw an opportunity to present to elements of the army the case for replacing Macrinus with Caracalla’s teenage half-cousin, Avitus, later called Antoninus and subsequently known as Elagabalus, because as a boy he had served as priest to a Syrian god of that name. Rebel forces supporting Elagabalus defeated Macrinus near Antioch and, although Macrinus tried to escape, he was eventually captured and killed. The various sources are in agreement that he had ruled for about a year.
According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Elagabalus came to the throne in AM (E) 5418, the 2nd year of 249th Olympiad (AD 218/219), whereas Orosius gave the date as AUC 970 (AD 217/218). The new emperor soon began to offend the people of Rome. Not only did he try to replace Jupiter by Elagabalus as the main god in the pantheon, but he became involved in a serious of sexual scandals with both men and women. Even his family and supporters were concerned, and he was persuaded to make his cousin, Alexian, later called Alexander, junior emperor. This appointment proved popular, but that displeased Elagabalus, so he ordered the praetorian guards to murder Alexander. Instead, they murdered Elagabalus, throwing his body into the Tiber, and Alexander succeeded him as emperor. According to Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta, Elagabalus reigned for 3 years; according to Cassius Dio (in what was to be the final section of his history), Orosius and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, it was 4 years; whereas Herodian gave it as 5 years.
The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle indicated that Alexander Severus became emperor in AM (E) 5422, the 2nd year of the 250th Olympiad (AD 222/223), with Orosius saying AUC 974 (AD 221/222). Alexander was only 14 years of age when he came to the throne, ruling initially with both his mother and grandmother as regents, but his reign provided a period of relative stability in turbulent times. As he grew to maturity, he led the army to a qualified success against the Persians, but then, in a campaign against the Germans, he lost the support of the army in a way similar to Macrinus, by paying money to the enemy and reducing the pay and bonuses available to his own troops. They transferred their allegiance to Maximinus Thrax, a Thracian soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks, and proclaimed him emperor. Alexander tried to escape, but was killed, together with his mother. According to Herodian, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta, the reign of Alexander had lasted 13 or 14 years. The Historia Augusta said that his body was brought home to Rome for burial, but that is uncertain.
The appointment of Maximinus Thrax as emperor was confirmed by the senate, who, according to Aurelius Victor, now felt it unsafe to go against the wishes of the army. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle indicated this was in AM (E) 5435, the 3rd year of the 253rd Olympiad (AD 235/236); Orosius said it was in AUC 987 (AD 234/235). Maximinus went on to lead a series of successful campaigns, but at a huge financial cost. Questions started to be raised as to whether the situation was sustainable. That led to the year of six emperors, which formed the final section in the history of Herodian. During that year, Maximinus, who had never set foot in Rome, died at Aquiliea, attempting to suppress a senatorial revolt. Herodian, Eutropius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus said he had reigned for 3 years, Aurelius Victor said it was 2 years, and Orosius 4. During the same year, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus and Balbinus were proclaimed emperors but, within a very short period of time, Gordian I hanged himself and the others were all murdered. At the end of the year, the throne was occupied by 13-year-old Gordian III, whose mother was the daughter of Gordian I and the sister of Gordian II. However, Gordian’s main support came from Timesitheus, the praetorian commander. A rebellion against Gordian’s rule, led by Sabinianus, the governor of north Africa, was quelled, but then the Persians invaded Roman territories in the east. Gordion and Timesitheus took troops to repel them, and all was going well for the Romans until Timesitheus became ill and died in northern Mesopotamia. Marcus Philippus, born in Syria (but known as Philip the Arab, because Syria was in the Roman province of Arabia) replaced Timesitheus as praetorian commander, and he used his position to conspire against Gordian, who was killed soon afterwards in uncertain circumstances. According to Eutropius, a monument was erected on the spot where he died, but his remains were brought back to Rome for burial. Eutropius gave no reign-length for Gordian, but Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta all said it was 6 years.
Philip, having been made emperor in succession to Gordian, bought peace with the Persians and then headed for Rome, to rule in partnership with his young son, who had the same name as his father. Aurelius Victor and Zosimus noted that Iotapianus soon emerged in the east as a rival claimant to the throne, and so, according to Zosimus, did Marinus Pacatianus in Pannonia, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
Philip’s reign coincided with a significant Roman anniversary, the 1000th year since the supposed foundation of the city. Orosius wrote that Philip came to the throne in AUC 997 (AD 244/245), and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle similarly said it was in AM (E) 5444, the 4th year of the 255th Olympiad (AD 244/245). These two sources, together with Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta, reported that the occasional ceremonial event known as the Secular Games was held to mark the special anniversary of the founding of Rome. This event had a long history. Tacitus, in his annals, noted that the Secular Games had been staged by emperor Claudius to mark the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rome, 64 years after the previous staging when Augustus was emperor. Consistent with that, Censorinus, writing in his Birthday Book in AUC 991, the consular year of Pius and Pontianus (AD 238), said that, according to Livy, the 5th Secular Games were held in AUC 737 by emperor Augustus during the consulship of Furnius and Silanus (17 BC), after which the 6th Secular Games were commissioned in AUC 800 by Claudius, when he (for the 4th time) and Vitellius (for the 3rd) were consuls (AD 47). Censorinus continued by saying that the 7th Games were staged in AUC 841 by emperor Domitian, during the consular year of the emperor (for the 14th time) and Rufus (AD 88), and the 8th Games were sponsored in AUC 957 by Septimius Severus, when Cilo and Libo were the consuls (AD 204). The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle indicates that the event marking AUC 1000 was held by Philip in AM (E) 5446 (AD 246), whilst the Historia Augusta says that it occurred when Philip and his son were consuls (AD 247 or 248, since the two Philips were consuls in both years). Aurelius Victor makes the observation that the next anniversary, AUC 1100, occurred, without celebration, during his own lifetime, when, coincidentally, one of the consuls was named Philip (AD 348), and AUC 900 was celebrated during the reign of Antoninus Pius. The celebration of AUC 1000 during the reign of Philip is also supported by archaeological evidence, since coins bearing his name have been found which mark the occasion. Furthermore, archaeologists have found that coins were also minted by one of Philip’s rivals, Pacatianus, to mark the 1000th anniversary of Rome.
The millennium celebrations organised by Philip did not secure his place on the throne. He sent a respected senator, Trajan Decius, to be governor of the troublesome provinces of Pannonia and adjacent Moesia, towards the Balkans, where the Goths were causing problems for the Romans. However, after taking effective action against the Goths, Decius was persuaded by his troops to set himself up as emperor. They marched on Rome, killing Philip and his son on the way. Eutropius, Aurelius Victor and the Epitome de Caesaribus said Philip had ruled for 5 years, whereas Orosius and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle made it two years more.
According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Decius became emperor in AM (E) 5451, the 3rd year of the 257th Olympiad (AD 251/252), whilst Orosius similarly said it was in AUC 1004 (AD 251/252). Decius was the first Roman emperor to have been born in the Balkans region, but by no means the last. Not long after becoming emperor, Decius led another campaign against the Goths. He had some successes, but was eventually killed in battle. Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus variously attributed him a reign-length ranging from 1 year 3 months to 3 years. At the time, Trebonianus Gallus, an Italian from Perugia, was governor of Upper Moesia and, when Decius was killed, the army proclaimed him emperor. Gallus promptly made a peace treaty with the Goths, which involved the payment to them of an annual tribute to stay east of the Danube. That proved unpopular to the Roman people, and Aemilius Aemilianus, his successor as governor of Upper Moesia, refused to pay the tribute, so the Goths crossed the Danube once again. Aemilianus raised an army and drove them back, after which he was declared emperor by his troops. Gallus led his own army north to secure his throne, but when he reached Interamna (Termi), messengers arrived to say that Aemilianus and a large number of soldiers had already crossed into Italy. The fearful troops of Gallus then mutinied and murdered him. According to Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus, Gallus had been emperor for perhaps slightly more than 2 years. Aemilianus survived him by only around 3 months.
If the situation had seemed bleak for the Romans at that point, it then got bleaker, although that was not immediately apparent. The troops of Aemilianus had killed their leader near Spoleto when they heard that Licinius Valerian, entrusted by Gallus to raise forces for a campaign along the Upper Danube, had declared himself emperor. Valerian, a former consul, from an old Roman family, was then enthusiastically welcomed to Rome, to ascend the imperial throne with his son Gallienus as co-emperor. Leaving Gallienus to attend to matters in the west, Valerian embarked on a campaign against the Persians, who were led by Shapur I. Valerian was eventually captured, and he died in humiliating fashion, leaving his son as sole emperor. Gallienus had achieved early successes against the German tribes, but by this time the tide had turned, and he seemed unable, as well as unwilling, to do anything about it. An alternative Roman empire was set up in Gaul, with a line of rulers consisting of Postumus, Marius, Victorinus and finally Tetricus. Gallienus was eventually killed during a campaign against the Goths, but his killers were some of his own troops, not the enemy. Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta allocated 15 years from the accession of Valerian to the death of Gallienus. Eutropius gave no figure for the reign-length of Valerian, but said that Gallienus had subsequently reigned alone for 9 years, consistent with the other sources.
Gallienus was succeeded as emperor by Claudius II, from the region of Pannonia. Claudius drove back an incursion of Germanic tribesmen, and then headed towards the Balkans to finish off the campaign against the Goths started by Gallienus. He won a significant victory and was awarded the title “Gothicus Maximus”. The Goths soon began to fight back, but the onset of plague stopped their advance. However, Claudius then died of the same disease. Eutropius, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus all reported that he had reigned for close to 2 years. He was succeeded by his younger brother Quintillus, who almost immediately took his own life, leaving Aurelian, a Pannonian, who was one of the most effective military commanders of the time, the obvious choice to succeed him as the next emperor. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle indicated that Aurelian became emperor in AM (E) 5471, the 3rd year of the 262nd Olympiad (AD 271/272), whereas Orosius gave the date as AUC 1027 (AD 274/275). Aurelian soon began to regain territories that had been taken away from Rome. Firstly, after driving back some incursions of tribesmen from the north, and dealing with internal challenges from rivals, he marched east and conquered the city of Palmyra, whose queen, Zenobia, had gained control of much of the region between Egypt and Asia Minor. Next he headed for western Europe, where he defeated Tetricus, thus bringing to an end the independent Roman empire in Gaul. According to Eutropius, Postumus, the first of the Gallic emperors, had reigned for 10 years, restoring Gaul after Valerian and Gallienus had allowed it to be devastated by invasions of the Alamanni from the east. Marius then had a brief period on the throne, after which Victorinus reigned for more than a year. According to Aurelius Victor, Tetricus succeeded Victorinus and ruled for 2 years before being conquered by Aurelian.
Amongst Aurelian’s achievements was the reform of the currency. A decline in the value of the denarius led to the introduction of a higher value silver coin, the antoninianus, during the reign of Caracalla. After the year of the six emperors, this became the only coin to be issued regularly, and it was minted in large amounts at Rome and Milan, but its size and its silver content were constantly being reduced. Aurelius drew up specifications for its size and fineness, and fixed its silver content at 5%. Despite the turmoil of the previous 60 years, and the deterioration in the quality of the coinage over this period, coins have been found bearing the names of all the official emperors (Geta, Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus, Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus, Balbinus, Gordian III, Philip, Decius, Gallus, Aemilianus, Valerian, Gallienus, Claudius II and Quintillus) and also many of their rivals. Amongst the latter were coins of the “Gallic emperors” Postumus, Marius, Victorinus and Tetricus, and also of others such as Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, Iotapianus, Pacatianus and Macrianus.
After initiating the construction of a stronger defensive wall for Rome, Aurelian headed back east, this time to fight the Persians, but was murdered while preparing to cross the Bosporus. The precise motive for the murder remains unclear. During his time on the throne, Aurelian had restored the empire to something more like what it had been in former times, but had been rigorous in enforcing discipline, which gave rise to enmity. He had reigned for just 5 or 6 years, according to Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta.
Aurelian was succeeded as emperor by Tacitus, about whom little is known, other than that he was a former consul. Aurelius Victor says he was appointed by the senate without any recommendation from the military, but that is uncertain. At the beginning of his reign he faced a problem in that mercenaries from northern tribes, including the Heruli, who were being assembled by Aurelian for his campaign against the Persians at the time of his death, had then gone on the rampage in Asia Minor. Tacitus won a victory over them but, on the way home, he died (possibly murdered) in Cappadocia. He had been emperor for just six months. His successor, the praetorian commander Florianus, lasted only half that time. No sooner had he been appointed than Aurelius Probus, a military man from Pannonia who had served with Aurelian, and was now governor of Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Phoenicia, was declared emperor in that region. Florianus hastened to confront him, and had the larger army, but before a battle could take place he was murdered near Tarsus by some of his own troops.
Probus then headed for Rome, where he was confirmed as emperor. According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, this was in AM (E) 5478, the 2nd year of the 264th Olympiad (AD 278/279); Orosius gave the date as AUC 1033 (AD 280/281). By this time, the Alamanni and other Germanic tribes, including the Franks, Vandals and Burgundians, were once again ravaging Gaul and the Rhineland, and similar incursions were being made into Pannonia and Moesia. Probus took action to restore the Roman frontiers in these regions, and planted vineyards in the areas he had recovered, to encourage re-settlement by citizens of the empire. He also overcame attempts by Saturninus, Proculus and Bonosus to seize the throne. However, Probus then lost the support of his own troops, and was murdered by some of them close to his birth-place in Pannonia. According to Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta, he had reigned for approximately 6 years.
Aurelius Carus, an experienced and well-respected military commander, who came from Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast of Gaul, then became emperor. He made his eldest son Carinus co-emperor and, leaving him to take care of the west, particularly Gaul, which was under attack once again from across the Rhine, Carus headed east with his youngest son Numerian on a campaign against the Persians. He won a victory against them in Mesopotamia and captured the city of Ctesiphon, but was subsequently killed, apparently by a lightning bolt, on the banks of the Tigris. Numerian then took command but, incapacitated by a serious eye infection, he decided that the campaign had already served its purpose and ordered that his troops should now withdraw. However, he was murdered on the return journey, and Diocletian, commander of the bodyguard was acclaimed emperor by the troops. Back in the west, Carinus had achieved some significant military successes, but he had become unpopular because of his cruelty and sexual excesses. Hearing that Diocletian was marching west to establish himself on the throne, Carinus led his army east to confront him. When they joined battle on the banks of the Margus river in Moesia, the initial advantage lay with Carinus, but he was then murdered by some of his own troops because, it was said, he had seduced their wives. Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, Orosius, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus all say that Carus and his sons reigned for 2 years. Diocletian then became undisputed emperor, bringing much needed strength and stability to the Roman empire, although it was no longer to be ruled from Rome. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle dated the first regnal year of Diocletian to AM (E) 5486, the 2nd year of the 266th Olympiad (AD 286/287), whilst Orosius wrote that Diocletian came to the throne in AUC 1041 (AD 288).
Three of the 4th or early-5th century historical sources give a complete sequence of reign-lengths from the accession of Septimius Severus to that of Diocletian: the Epitome de Caesaribus indicates the duration of that period to have been 91 years, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle 93 years and the Orosius history 97 years. Another source which should be mentioned is the Chronographia 354 (known by that name because its contents, including an illustrated calendar, indicate that it was written in the year corresponding to AD 354). The “Chronicle of the City of Rome” included in that work is, despite its title, nothing more than a list of rulers and their reign-lengths, with just one or two comments, or sometimes simply a humorous anecdote, about each reign. From information given in other sources, it is evident that the reign-lengths given in this “chronicle” include periods served as junior emperor during a previous reign and, after the time of Diocletian, the list includes emperors known from other sources to have been ruling in different regions, but at the same time, as others in the list. Nevertheless, the sequence of emperors from Septimius Severus to Diocletian is the same as that given in other sources, apart from the fact that Geta and Caracalla are listed separately, as are Carus and Carinus. Adding together the reign-lengths from the accession of Septimius Severus to that of Diocletian, without compensating for these two duplicated periods (which are both brief), a total of 98 years is obtained.
Also of relevance is the list of “ordinary consuls” (consules ordinarii), i.e. those whose names were associated with the year, as given in the Chronographia 354 and also in the Consularia Constantinopolitana attached to the Hydatius chronicle. As indicated in the Historia Augusta, Septimius Severus came to the throne in the consular year of Falco and Clarus Vibianus (AD 193). In the following year, he is listed, with his imperial title, as one of the consuls. Subsequently, it may be seen that Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus, Maximinus, Gordian III, Philip, Decius, Gallus, Valerian, Gallienus, Claudius II, Aurelian, Tacitus, Probus, Carus, Numerian and Carinus all served as consuls while they were emperors. Ninety two years after the consulship of Falco and Clarus, which was when Septimius Severus ascended the throne, Carinus was appointed as one of the consuls, but he was replaced by Diocletian following his death. There is also the evidence of the coinage, which provides physical support for the existence of all the official emperors from Septimius Severus to Diocletian, as well as many of their rivals. Despite the chaos caused by the events taking place, there seems no reason to suppose that this was a “phantom period” of history.
Another relevant aspect is the progression of Olympiad cycles, which we have already referred to. Although the actual date of the first numbered Olympiad is far from certain, the system used in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle had become accepted by the 2nd century BC, so provides an unambiguous framework for dating events which took place after that time. Diodorus Siculus reported that he finished writing his history in the 1st year of the 180th Oympiad, when Herodes was archon of Athens (60/59 BC), which was the year when Julius Caesar began his campaign against the Celts. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle dated the 1st year of the 180th Olympiad to AM (E) 5141 (60 BC), saying that this was the year when Julius Caesar captured Lusitania (which was just before he began campaigning against the Celts). Early medieval sources say that the chronicle of Julius Africanus, now lost, ended in the 3rd year of emperor Elagabalus, which he dated to the consular year of Seleucis and Gratus (AD 221) and the 1st year of the 250th Olympiad. Censorinus, in his Birthday Book, noted that the year in which he was writing, that when Pius and Pontianus were consuls (AD 238), was AUC 991 and also the 1014th year since the first Olympiad, i.e. the 2nd year of the 254th Olympiad. All of this, and much more, presents an entirely consistent picture of the Olympiad cycle in relation to other dating systems. The Games were held at Olympia in Greece throughout the period of the early Roman Empire and, when the cycle was briefly disrupted during the reign of Nero, this fact was well-known. The tradition of holding numbered Olympic Games, at four-yearly intervals, was still being maintained throughout the lifetimes of Eusebius and Jerome. There is nothing in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, or anywhere else, to indicate that the Olympic cycle was disrupted after the reign of Elagabalus, and nothing to suggest that some kind of historical/chronological dislocation occurred following this reign.
To the Christians of this period, the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were of no lesser importance than the emperors, so, at some point (it is not known when) lists began to be compiled of sequences in each bishopric. Here we shall just consider the bishops of Rome, or, as we would now call them, the popes. The earliest surviving list is found in the Chronographia 354 although, not surprisingly in view of the age of the manuscript, there are a few brief lacunae, i.e. missing sections. After one such lacuna there is the final part of an entry referring to a pope who held office from the consulship of Saturninus and Gallus (AD 198) to that of Praesens and Extricatus (AD 217), during the reign of Caracalla. Callistus was then pope from the year in which Macrinus and Elagabalus were consuls (AD 218) to the consulship of Elagabalus (for the 3rd time) with Alexander Severus (AD 222). Urban succeeded Callistus, and held the pontificate during the reign of Alexander Severus, from the consulate of Maximus and Aelianus (AD 223) to that of Agricola and Clementinus (AD 230). Urban’s successor was Pontianus, whose papacy also fell during the reign of Alexander Severus, beginning in the consular year of Pompeianus and Paelignianus (AD 231). He was exiled to Sardinia during the consulate of Severus and Quintianus (AD 235), and died in the same year. Anteros was appointed to replace him, but he only lived for another year, dying during the consulship of Maximinus and Africanus (AD 236). Fabian then became pope, serving through the reigns of Maximinus, Gordian and Philip, before his martyrdom in the consular year of Decius (for the 2nd time) and Gratus (AD 250).
The list of popes given in the Chronographia 354 then continues with Cornelius, who held the See briefly until his death during the consulate of Gallus and Volusianus (AD 252). His successor, Lucius, had a similarly short term as pope, from the end of the reign of Gallus to the beginning of that of Valerian with Gallienus. Stephen then held the pontificate until the consulship of Valerian (for the 3rd time) and Gallienus (for the 2nd) (AD 255). He was succeeded by Xystus (II), who was pope from the consular year of Maximus and Glabrio (AD 256) to that of Tuscus and Bassus (AD 258). Dionysius was then elected to the papacy, the sixth pope to have held office in a period of about 8 years, but he served until the consulship of Claudius and Paternus (AD 269). His successor was Felix, who held the See from the reign of Claudius to that of Aurelian, dying in the consulate of Aurelian (for the 2nd time) and Capitolinus (AD 274). Eutychian then took over, until the consular year of Carus (for the 2nd time) with Carinus (AD 283). He was succeeded by Gaius, who served as pope for 12 years, dying during the consulate of Diocletian (for the 6th time) with Constantius (for the 2nd) (AD 296).
Near the beginning of the 6th century, or so it now believed, the first edition of the Liber Pontificalis (LP), or “Book of the Pontiffs”, a series of papal biographies, was published. The anonymous author (or authors) clearly had access to some of the files in the Lateran Palace (donated by emperor Constantine to be the papal residence and administration centre). He (or they) must also have been familiar with the Chronographia 354, since details from it (summarised above) were reproduced in the LP in almost exact fashion. From this, the missing name of the pope who preceded Callistus can be identified as Zephyrinus, and his accession date as the consulship of Saturninus and Gallus (AD 198). Information which must have come from other sources reveals that all the popes from Zephyrinus to Gaius were born in Rome, apart from Anteros and Xystus, who were Greeks, Gaius, who was a Dalmatian, and Eutychian, who was born in Tuscia. The ancestry of Dionysius, who had been a monk, could not be traced. According to the LP, Callistus, Pontian, Anteros, Fabian, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephen, Xystus, Felix, Eutychian, Gaius and perhaps Urban were all martyred.
The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle had Zephyrinus becoming pope in the 9th year of Septimius Severus, AM (E) 5401 (AD 201); Callistis in the 2nd year of Elagabalus, AM (E) 5420 (AD 220); Urban in the 2nd year of Alexander Severus, AM (E) 5425 (AD 225); Pontianus in the 12th year of Alexander Severus, AM (E) 5434 (AD 234); Anteros followed by Fabian in the 1st year of Gordian (III), AM (E) 5439 (AD 239); Cornelius in the 1st year of Decius, AM (E) 5452 (AD 252); Lucius and then Stephen in the 2nd year of Gallus, AM(E) 5454 (AD 254); Xystus in the 2nd year of Valerian and Gallienus, AM (E) 5456 (AD 256); Dionysius in the 12th year of Valerian and Gallienus, AM (E) 5466 (AD 266); Felix in the 1st year of Probus, AM (E) 5478 (AD 278); and Eutychian followed by Gaius in the 5th year of Probus, AM (E) 5482 (AD 282), with Gaius going on to hold the See until the 12th year of Diocletian, AM (E) 5497 (AD 297).
Therefore, although there are variations in the terms served by individual popes, the overall sequence and timescale given by the Chronographia 354 and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle for the popes from Zephyrinus to Gaius are almost identical. As with the emperors, there is nothing in what the sources say about the succession of popes to indicate a historical/chronological dislocation following the reign of Elagabalus.
Moving on, a summary of the conventional history of the Roman empire in the period from Diocletian to Valens has been given previously. The contemporary accounts given in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus, and by the historians Aurelius Victor, Eutropius and Festus are all generally consistent with this, as is the history written by Orosius early in the 5th century, and that written almost a century later by Zosimus, using as his main source for this period a work by Eunapius, who was a contemporary of Orosius. Also generally consistent with the same picture is the chronicle written by Prosper of Aquitaine in the middle of the 5th century. Hence there is no need to repeat details already given, except those which are of relevance to chronology.
As previously noted, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle dated the first regnal year of Diocletian to that corresponding to AD 286/287. Prosper of Aquitaine, writing a century later, dated the accession of Diocletian to the consular year of Carus (for the second time) and Numerian (AD 284), which was year 257 in his own anno passionis (AP) system, numbering years from the one he associated with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (AP 1 corresponding to AD 28). His first regnal year was regarded as the subsequent one. Aurelius Victor, Orosius, Prosper and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle all say that Diocletian reigned for 20 years. The Epitome de Caesaribus gives the figure as 25 years but, from what the other sources say, that must have been the period up to his death rather than to his abdication. There is then general agreement that the next major emperor was Constantine I. According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, the first regnal year of Constantine was AM (E) 6507, the 3rd year of the 271st Olympiad (AD 307/308), whereas Orosius gave it as AUC 1061 (AD 308/309).
Counting the years of his reign from the death of his father Constantius I, not long after the end of the reign of Diocletian, Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, Orosius, Prosper, the Epitome de Caesaribus and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle give the length of Constantine’s reign as 30 to 31 years. The last-mentioned source notes the transfer of the authorship from Eusebius to Jerome in the 20th year of Constantine. It also notes that, in the 15th year of Constantine, Alexander was appointed bishop of Alexandria and, soon afterwards, he excommunicated the priest Arius for preaching the doctrine known as Arianism. This doctrine was subsequently refuted by bishops at the Council of Nicaea. However, a later entry records that emperor Constantine, in the 31st and final year of his reign, fell into the dogma of Arianism and was baptised by Eusebius, the Arian bishop of Nicomedia.
Although the empire was no longer governed from Rome, the city continued to function (contrary to what was suggested by Heinsohn), and the popes, the bishops of Rome, still lived there. Indeed, emperor Constantine, although not giving them a higher status than other bishops, provided them with palatial accommodation within the city, as mentioned earlier. According to the Chronographia 354, Gaius had been succeeded as pope by Marcellinus, who held the See until the consulate of Diocletian (for the 9th time) and Maximian (for the 8th) (AD 304). At around there was a persecution of Christians, and the episcopate ceased to operate for a period of 7½ years. Then, during the time of Maxentius, Marcellus was pope for 1 year 6 months, Eusebius for 4 months and Miltiades for 3 years 6 months, up to the consulship of Volusianus and Annianus (AD 314), when Constantine was now in control of Rome. Silvester succeeded Miltiades as pope, and held the See for over twenty years, into the consular year of Constantius and Albinus (AD 335). Mark was then pontiff for 8 months, before being succeeded by Julius in the consulate of Felicianus and Titianus (AD 337). The LP adds the details that Eusebius was born in Greece and Miltiades in Africa, with all the others being born in Rome, and that Marcellinus and Marcellus were martyred.
The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle agrees with the Chronographia 354 in saying that Marcellinus succeeded Gaius as pope, and that around the time of the end of his papacy there was a sustained campaign of persecution against the Christians, dating the start of this to the 19th year of Diocletian, AM (E) 5504 (AD 304), Era of Antioch year 350 (AD 301/2). Omitting any mention of Marcellus, this chronicle states that Eusebius and then Miltiades became pope in the 20th year of Diocletian, with Silvester succeeding Miltiades in the 4th year of Constantine, AM (E) 5510 (AD 310). The persecutions against the Christians were brought to an end by Constantine in AM (E) 5514 (AD 314). Mark, followed by Julius, became pope in the 25th year of Constantine, AM (E) 5531 (AD 331).
Emperor Constantine was succeeded by his sons, Constantius II, Constans I and Constantine II, who divided the empire between them. This transition was dated by the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle to AM (E) 5538 (AD 338) and by Orosius to AUC 1092 (AD 339/40). Prosper, who, as mentioned above, dated entries in his chronicle by naming the consuls for the year and also according to his own anno passionis (AP) system, said that Constantius and his brothers had come to power in AP 310 (AD 337), during the consulship of Felicianus and Titianus (AD 337).
Constantius outlived his brothers and became sole emperor. As well as the sources already mentioned, the final part of his reign is covered in contemporary fashion in the history written by Ammianus Marcellus, the earlier books of which have not survived. According to Orosius, Prosper, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus, the overall reign of Constantinius lasted for 24 years, or a few months more. Eutropius and Ammianus Marcellinus state that he died in the 38th year of his reign in the 45th year of his life but, since the Epitome de Caesaribus notes that he was junior emperor for 15 years before becoming sole emperor for a further 24 years, the figures given by Eutropius and Ammianus must include the period during which Constantius was junior emperor during the reign of his father. The history by Aurelius Victor came to an end during the 23rd year of the reign of Constantius, when Julian was his junior emperor.
The Chronographia 354 states that Liberius succeeded Julius as pope in the consulate of Constantius II (for the 5th time) with Constantius Gallus (AD 352). That was the final entry in this particular list of popes and, since it ended with pope Liberius, it is sometimes referred to as the “Liberian catalogue”. The LP says that Liberius, who was born in Rome, was sent into exile by emperor Constantius for refusing to accept the Arian doctrine. Before leaving, Liberius ordained a priest name Felix to replace him as bishop. Later, Felix identified two priests as having Arian sympathies and excommunicated them. They complained to emperor Constantius, asking him to recall Liberius from exile, so he could share in a single communion, apart from rebaptism. Liberius agreed to the terms and, after 3 years in exile, returned to Rome. However, his concession to Constantius was unpopular and, for a time, he was not able to enter the city. Eventually, Constantius re-instated him as pope, and he went on to serve for another 6 years, whilst Felix retired to his small estate. Felix is given a separate entry in the LP, as Felix II, but this appears to have been because the compilers confused him with someone else called Felix, who was martyred. Liberius was succeeded as pope by Damasus who, according to the LP, was a Spaniard, who went on to serve for over 18 years. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle says that Liberius was pope from the 12th year of Constantius, AM (E) 5549 (AD 349), to the 2nd year of Valentinian and Valens, AM (E) 5566 (AD 366), when he was succeeded by Damasus.
According to Orosius, Prosper and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Julian was emperor for around 2 years following the death of Constantius. Eutropius gives him a reign-length of 7 years but, again, that presumably includes his time as junior emperor. After Julian, Jovian reigned for about 8 months. The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle dated the short reign of Jovian to AM 2380 (AD 364). Orosius dated in to AUC 1117 (AD 364/5), and Prosper to AP 336 (AD 363) and the consular year of Julian (for the 4th time) with Sallustius (AD 363). Festus ended his chronicle at this point, stating similarly (in his introduction) that the date was AUC 1117, and adding that it was 407 years since the beginning of the reign of emperor Augustus. The final entry of the history by Eutropius also ended with the reign of Jovian, which he dated to AUC 1119 (AD 366/7).
Valentinian I and his brother Valens then became co-emperors, Valentinian in the west and Valens in the east. When Valentinian died 10 or 11 years later, he was succeeded in the west by his sons Gratian and Valentinian II. A few years later, Valens was killed in a battle against the Goths. Acording to Orosius, Prosper, Ammianus, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and the Epitome de Caesaribus, he had reigned for approximately 14 years. The history by Ammianus and the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle both ended at this point. According to the latter, the year in which Valens died was AM (E) 5579 (AD 379), the 2nd year of the 289th Olympiad, AUC 1131 (AD 378/9) and the consular year of Valens (for the 6th time) with Valentinian II (for the 2nd time) (AD 378). Prosper gave this same consular year for the death of Valens, dating it to AP 351 (AD 378), and Orosius said that Theodosius I succeeded Valens as emperor in the east in AUC 1132 (AD 379/80). Generally consistent with this, the conventional view is that Valens was killed in August AD 378, after which Gratian nominated Theodosius I to be the new eastern emperor in January AD 379.
1.3 The Timescale of the Roman Emperors, from Septimius Severus Onwards
If the currently accepted view of the timescale of the Roman emperors had come from a single source, or at least a limited number of sources, or if it had been deduced retrospectively at a particular moment in time, there could be serious ground for considering the possibility of a mistake, or even of deliberate deceit. However, as we have seen, the conventional timescale from the beginning of the Roman empire developed in incremental fashion. A number of contemporary accounts, consistent with each other to within a year or so, were produced during the first century AD. These were then used as the starting-point for accounts produced during the next period, which were continued on the basis of information relating to (or close to) the period when the compilers were writing. This process continued on a regular basis, up to and beyond the time of Bede. Results were generally consistent, with variations of no more than two or three years. This is apparent from the information given below.
As is well-established, the Roman empire was split into two by Diocletian, after which there were often two separate emperors, one ruling the west from Milan (until the western capital moved to Ravenna during the 5th century) and the other ruling the eastern half, initially from Nicomedia, and subsequently from Constantinople. The emperors in the east were generally more powerful than the ones in the west, although there were occasional exceptions, and the western empire collapsed and fell to the Barbarians in the second half of the 5th century. The eastern empire became known as the Byzantine empire to later historians, and its rulers were often referred to as Greeks by their contemporaries living in the west. Nevertheless, the eastern emperors unequivocally considered themselves to be Romans. The table given in the next paragraph follows the eastern line of Roman emperors after the partition of the empire.
It seems clear from this table (see below) that there were no significant differences of opinion amongst scholars living during the first millennium AD about the timescale of the reigns of Roman emperors from Augustus (counting from the first year of his shared reign, following the death of Julius Caesar) and throughout the period under consideration here, which begins with the reign of Septimius Severus. The table includes data from: the 1st/2nd century historian Suetonius (S), the 2nd/3rd century historian Cassius Dio (CD), the 4th century historian Eutropius (E), the anonymous 4th century Epitome de Caesaribus (EC), the 4th century Eusebius-Jerome chronicle (E-J), the 4th century Chronographia 354 (CG) (which incorporates some small duplications, as discussed previously), the 4th/5th century historian Orosius (O), the 5th century historian Hydatius (H), the 5th century historian Sozomen (SZ), the 5th century historian Prosper of Aquitaine (P), the 5th/6th century linked Prosper/Marius of Avenche chronicles (P-M), the 5th century Gallic chronicle (G), the 6th century historian Victor of Tunnuna (V), the linked Victor of Tunnuna/John of Biclar chronicles (V-J), the 6th century historian Marcellinus Comes (MC), the 6th century historian Cassiodorus (C), the 6th century historian Evagrius Scholasticus (ES), the chronicle of the 6th century writer John of Malalas (JM) (note that details from this before the reign of Marcian have been omitted, because of what are well-established chronological errors arising from regarding parallel reigns as sequential), the 7th century historian Isidore of Seville (IS), the 7th century Chronicon Paschale (CP), the 8th century Mozarabic chronicle (M), Bede’s 8th century chronicle from The Reckoning of Time (B), and finally the chronicles of the 8th/9th century historians George Synkellos (GC) and Theophanes (T). The periods in the table were selected on the basis of when individual histories/chronicles began or ended, thus allowing the most complete use of the data available. All time-intervals in the table are from regnal year 1 to regnal year 1, and given to the nearest year.
Augustus to Nerva: S 138; CD 139; EC 138; E 139; E-J 139; O 136; C 139; IS 138; B 139.
Nerva to S. Severus: CD 97; EC 99; E 96; E-J 96; O 98; C 97; IS 96; B 97; P 99; GS 99.
S. Severus to Diocletian: EC 91; E-J 93; CG 98; O 97; C 94; P 93; IS 93; B 92; GS 91.
Diocletian to Valens: E-J 79; O 77; C 77; P 79; IS 81; CP 79; B 79; T 80.
Valens to Arcadius: O 31; SZ 32; C 31; P 31; IS 32; CP 30; B 32; T 30.
Arcadius to Marcian: C 55; H 57, P 55; IS 55; MC 55; G 59; CP 56; B 54; T 56.
Marcian to Justinian I: IS 76; MC 77; V 77; P-M 77; JM 76; CP 77; B 77; T 77.
Justinian I to Maurice: IS 57; V-J 55; ES 59; CP 55; B 56; T 55.
It will be apparent that, despite the disparate nature of the sources, the figures in the table show a high degree of consistency. Some discrepancies between the figures in the various sources would be expected, for a number of reasons. Communications between different regions would not of course be instantaneous, so when a traveller arrived from a far-away place, saying that a king had died, there could well be uncertainty about precisely when the death had occurred. Also, the production of an overall timescale from a series of reign-lengths could only be achieved with complete accuracy if it was known precisely on what date within a particular year each king had died, together with the exact date on which the reign of each successor had begun. Confusion could also occur because many different dating systems were in use during the first millennium AD, and conversion of the date of an event from one system to another could lead to errors. As mentioned earlier, the main dating system in the Roman empire during the first half of the first millennium was the consular one, an event being associated with the names of the consuls who had been appointed for that year (starting on 1st January). The last non-royal consul to be appointed was Flavius Basilius, during the reign of Justinian I, after which the role of consul was subsumed into that of the emperor. However, for the remainder of the reign of Justinian, events were generally dated according to the number of years after the consulship of Basilius. From the beginning of the reign of Justinian’s successor, Justin II, it became the custom for the emperor to have a formal consular year, starting on the 1st of January following his accession to the throne, which could of course have been at any time. Events from later in the reign were often dated by reference to this consular year. During the reign of Justinian I, it also became a requirement that the indiction year (the position in a 15-year taxation cycle) should be included when dating an event. The indiction system used throughout the period in which we are interested was that introduced by emperor Constantine I in his 7th regnal year, the 1st year of the 1st indiction cycle beginning on 1st September during the second consulship of Constantine and Licinius (corresponding to AD 312).
Another system still used occasionally during the early medieval period was the AUC one, mentioned previously. In Armenia, AUC 201 was made year 1 of a new dating system, the Era of the Romans (sometimes called the Era of the Greeks) and, later still, the Armenian Era dating system began in year 304 of the Era of the Romans. The system of dating events by relation to the 4-year cycle of Olympic games also continued to be used on occasions, long after the practice of actually holding games had stopped. Neither the AUC nor the Olympiad system had a year which ran from January to December.
The Christian church in Alexandria used a system (still used by a Coptic church in Egypt today) of numbering years from the accession of emperor Diocletian, later re-named the Era of the Martyrs, each year beginning on 29th August. The first entry in the Easter Tables of Dionysius Exiguus, dated AD 532, was linked to year 248 in the Diocletian system. In the Iberian peninsula, dating by the Spanish Era system (year 1 in the Spanish Era corresponding to 38 BC, and hence year 39 to AD 1) was widely used from the third century onwards. In the Greek cities of Syria and Asia Minor, the Seleucid Era (also known as the Era of Alexander or, except in Armenia, the Era of the Greeks) began on 1st October 312 BC, whereas the Seleucid Era system used elsewhere, e.g. Babylonia, had its starting point a few months later. Also in the east, the Era of Antioch began in the autumn of the year corresponding to 49 BC, so year 50 in this system corresponds to AD 1/2.
Three other systems used in the east, the Alexandrian Era, Byzantine Era and Chronicon Paschale ones, were anno mundi (AM) schemes, dating events from the supposed creation of the world, so, to avoid confusion, we shall insert the letters AE, BE or CP, in brackets, into AM dates in these systems. The Alexandrian Era scheme was introduced in the fifth century AD by Annianos of Alexandria. Initially, year 1 in the Alexandrian Era system began on the date corresponding to 1st March 5492 BC (the day Annianos believed the world to have been created), but by the 9th century, when this system was used by Syncellus and Theophanes in their chronicles, this had been adjusted to 1st September 5493. In either case, the year overlapped with the consular year and that in the current AD system so, for example, year 5494 in the Alexandrian Era, i.e. AM (AE) 5493, corresponds to AD 1/2. Despite the use of the Alexandrian Era system by Syncellus and Theophanes, the dating system which was on the way to becoming the method of choice in Constantinople was the Byzantine Era one, in which the date of creation was supposedly the equivalent of 21st March 5508 BC (subsequently adjusted to 1st September 5509 BC). A slightly different earlier version of the Byzantine system was used in the 7th century in the Chronicon Paschale to date the ends of imperial reigns. In this precursor of the Byzantine system, the date of creation was 21st March 5509, so its year 5510, i.e. AM (CP) 5510, would correspond to AD 1/2.
Yet another AM scheme to be developed was the Hebrew system (still being used today), whose starting point was the equivalent of 7th October 3761 BC in the Julian calendar. In western Europe, the most popular AM system by far was that devised by Eusebius, which has been mentioned previously. This was used (indirectly, via years since Abraham) in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle. Although, according to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Jesus Christ was born in AM (E) 5199, the year AM (E) 5201 in this scheme is actually the one which corresponds to AD 1 in our current system. That relationship will be the one used below, but it should be appreciated that there was also an alternative tradition in which AD 1, or its equivalent, corresponded to AM 5202. This alternative tradition was used by Isidore of Seville in the 7th century to date his chronicle, since he wrote that the year in which he finished writing it, AM 5827, was also Spanish Era 664 (AD 626). In the 8th century, Bede used an AM system of his own devising in the chronicle included in his The Reckoning of Time. Since, for example, he dated the accession of emperor Maurice to AM 4536 in this chronicle and the same event to AD 582 in his EHEP, it may be deduced that AM 3955 in Bede’s system corresponds to AD 1.
The Christian church in Alexandria dated events from accession of emperor Diocletian. This system, which became known as the Era of the Martyrs (and is still used by the Coptic church in Egypt today) has its starting point on 29th August in the year corresponding to AD 284. Another dating system, mentioned previously, was made popular in western Europe by the works of Prosper of Aquitaine (mentioned above) and Victorius of Aquitaine in the 5th century. This was the anno passionis (AP) system, dating events from the crucifixion of Christ, with AP 1 in the schemes of both Prosper and Victorius corresponding to AD 28. Then, of course, there was the anno domini (AD) system, introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century (his Easter tables linking AD 532 and Diocletian year 248). The Dionysian AD system was first used for historical purposes by Bede (in his EHEP) in the 8th century, after which it became the dating system for the chronicles of the Franks, who ruled most of western Europe. However, even then, things were not entirely straightforward. Although, in the period when Dionysius introduced the AD system, the civil year began on 1st January, following the Roman tradition, by the time the Franks began using it for general dating purposes two centuries later, they and people in some other parts of Europe (including Britain) regarded the start of the new year as 25th December rather than 1st January. This provided a potential source of confusion for the allocation to a specific year of events which took place in the week beginning on Christmas day. Furthermore, towards the end of the millennium, there emerged the beginnings of a movement which eventually saw widespread acceptance in western Europe, for several centuries, of the new year starting on the feast of the Annunciation, on 25th March.
It seems clear that scholars during the early medieval period were aware of a range of dating systems, and how these related to each other. The theoretical basis of each system was immaterial, once its use had become established. So, for example, there was no necessity to agree with Eusebius that Julius Caesar had been assassinated 5157 years after the creation of the world, to be able to relate his AM dates for subsequent events to other dating systems. Similarly, one did not have to accept that the event labelled the 195th Olympiad was held 776 years after the 1st Olympiad, to know that the event labelled the 196th Olympiad would have taken place four years later. Also, although the consular dating system was not a numerical one, lists of consuls were preserved. So, for example, the Chronographia of 354, the so-called Consularia Constantinopolitana found associated with the chronicle of Hydatius, the chronicles of Cassiodorus, Prosper of Aquitaine, Marcellinus Comes, Marius of Avenches and the Chronicon Paschale between them provide a year-by-year record of the consuls from the death of Julius Caesar to the merging of the office with that of the emperor in the reign of Justinian I. Nevertheless, because of the complexities mentioned above, compilers of histories and chronicles have undoubtedly made occasional mistakes. In that context, discrepancies of two years or so in the figures in the table given above cannot be of any significance.
Four of the chronicles covered the important period from Marcian to Maurice. For the 1st year of Marcian to the 1st year of Maurice (which, according to conventional chronology, lasted 132 years), the chronicle of Isidore of Seville gave 133 years, the Chronicon Paschale 132 years, the Chronica Maiora of Bede 133 years and the chronicle of Theophanes 130 years, all of these time-intervals being obtained from the dates in the AM systems used by the various authors. In addition, the linked chronicles of Victor of Tunnuna and John of Biclar gave 132 years for the same period. Moreover, these are not just sequences of names and dates, because detailed information has been passed down to us about the lives and times of the various emperors.
Nevertheless, had the chronology of Europe over the period of the Roman empire and the early medieval period depended solely on the timescale of the reigns of the Roman emperors, doubts about its validity could not have been entirely dispelled. If the recorded history of Europe, as a whole, was as unsubstantial as that for Britain between the reigns of Marcian and Maurice, then legitimate doubts could indeed be raised about a viable historical scenario. Let us therefore investigate the details known about the history of Europe for the period before and after the collapse of the Roman empire.
2. The Chronology of Barbarian Europe between the Reigns of Theodosius and Maurice
by Trevor Palmer
2.1 Goths, Vandals, Lombards and Romans
In the early sixth century, Cassiodorus wrote a lengthy history of the Goths (in which the related Vandals also featured prominently). This has not survived in its original form, but is preserved in a condensed version, together with material from other sources, put together by Jordanes in the middle of the sixth century, and known as the Getica. Another history of the Goths was written during the seventh century by Isidore of Seville, a renowned scholar who was archbishop of Seville for more than three decades, and this is generally consistent with the account by Jordanes. Since Isidore’s history continues for a longer period of time, and also gives far more dates (using the Spanish Era system), we shall use it as a framework for considering the chronology of the Goths. In addition, there were, of course, numerous other writings, giving accounts of shorter periods of Gothic history or mention of specific events, some of which were used as sources by Cassiodorus, Jordanes and Isidore.
The Eusebius-Jerome chronicle records that in AM (E) 5463 (corresponding to AD 263), in the 9th year of the Roman emperor Gallienus, the Goths (who were then living to the northwest of the Black Sea) laid waste a region of land stretching from Greece to Asia Minor. Six years later, in the 1st year of Claudius II, they advanced towards the Adriatic coast and threatened to invade Italy, but were driven back to their homeland. Again, in the 26th year of Constantine I, AM (E) 5532 (AD 332), the Goths advanced across the Danube but were pushed back by the Romans.
Isidore refers to these entries from the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle and then takes the story forward, making further use of the same source, as well as Orosius’s History Against the Pagans, and the chronicles of Prosper of Aquitaine and Hydatius. (Another source of information for the period, not apparently used by Isidore, is a detailed history by the pagan writer, Ammianus Marcellinus.) After the measures taken by Constantine I, the Goths seem to have posed few problems for the Romans until the time when, although the empire was still unified, Valens, on being made co-emperor with his brother, Valentinian I, was given effective control of the eastern half, which included the area occupied by the Goths. According to the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, Valens and Valentinian came to the throne in AM (E) 5565, i.e. AD 365. By this time, we know from Jordanes (although Isidore makes no mention of it) that the Goths had split into two groups: the Visigoths in the west of the region and the Ostrogoths in the east. Isidore’s account concentrates on the Goths then living in Istria, a peninsular jutting into the Adriatic, so these were clearly the Visigoths, and we shall call them that from now on to avoid confusion. These Visigoths began to fight amongst themselves, and representations were made to Valens to send missionaries to instruct them in the Christian faith. However, Valens was an Arian (a sect whose rejection of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was soon to be condemned as heretical at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople which, according to the Chronicon Paschale, took place in the consular year of Syagrius and Eucherius, the 9th indiction, i.e. AD 381). Hence he sent out Arian missionaries into the areas where the Goths were living and, as known from a variety of sources, not only the Visigoths but also the Ostrogoths and the Vandals became Arians, and remained so for several centuries.
Isidore writes that Athanaric became the first king of the Istrian Goths, i.e. the Visigoths, in Spanish Era year 407 (AD 369), which was the 5th year of emperor Valens, and he (Athanaric) ruled for 13 years. However, his reign was not straightforward, for a rival faction recognised Fritigern as king. During the period of the conflict between Athanaric and Fritigern, the Huns swept into the region from the east, which caused serious problems for all the Goths (the Ostrogoths, as known from other sources, quickly becoming subservient to the Huns). Unable to resist the advance of the Huns, the Visigoths were forced back over the Danube, into Roman territory (an event dated by Orosius to AUC 1130, i.e. AD 377/8). They had little choice but to throw themselves on the mercy of Valens. In fact, peace ensued for a very short time, with the Visigoths being allowed to settle in Thrace, but oppressive action by the Roman army quickly stirred up a rebellion and full-scale war ensued, in which Valens was killed. Ammianus Marcellinus says that the rebellion in Thrace took place during the consulship of Gratian (for the 4th time) and Merobaudes (i.e. AD 377), with Valens being killed in the following year; Prosper agrees with Ammianus about the consular year of the rebellion, dating it also to AP 350 (AD 377), with the death of Valens occurring in AP 351 (AD 378); the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle dates the rebellion to AM 5577 (AD 378) and the death of Valens to AM (E) 5579 (AD 380); and Orosius says that Valens died in in AUC 1132, i.e. AD 379/380.
The death of Valens was the last entry in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, but two new ones, the chronicle of Hydatius and the Gallic Chronicle of 452 (GC452), began in the following year. These used exactly the same dating systems as the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, mentioned previously, so they give, as well as regnal years of kings and emperors, indications of Olympic cycles and the running total years since the supposed birth of Abraham, from which years in the AM system of Eusebius may be determined, as will be done here. Hydatius, an Iberian bishop, also gave occasional indications of the Spanish Era date.
The various chronicles and histories note that Valens was succeeded as emperor with particular responsibility for the east by Theodosius I, the magister militum (military commander) of the Balkans region. The elevation of Theodosius was the result of prompting by Gratian, one of the two co-emperors of Valens (the other, by this time, being Valentinian II). However, as known from various sources, the situation soon became complicated. The Roman army in Britain proclaimed a senior general, Magnus Maximus, as emperor (Bede dates this to AD 381) and, shortly afterwards, Maximus crossed the Channel to Gaul, where he received much support. He then moved to confront Gratian, who had been pushing back an incursion to the south by the Alamanni, a Germanic people. Maximus’s troops killed Gratian, allowing Maximus to establish effective rule over western Europe and north Africa. He then advanced towards Valentinian, who took flight eastwards, seeking the protection of Theodosius. Maximus himself was eventually captured and killed by the army of Theodosius. (Hydatius, in his chronicle, dates the death of Maximus to Spanish Era 426, i.e. AD 388; Prosper dates it to AP 361, when Theodosius, for the 2nd time, and Cynegius were the consuls, i.e. AD 388; and both Hydatius and the GC452 indicate an AM (E) date of 5588, i.e. AD 388). Without question, the strength of the Roman empire was now in the east, and it remained there.
Hydatius, Prosper and the GC452 all indicate that emperor Theodosius died 6 years after Maximus, which is consistent with the date given by Bede in the EHEP, AD 394. Theodosius was succeeded by his sons, on a joint basis, Honorius with responsibility for the west (ruling from Ravenna) and Arcadius (based in Constantinople) for the east. About thirteen years later, Constantine arose as a usurper in Britain (proclaiming himself Constantine III) and travelled to Europe to fight for his cause. (Prosper dates this to AP 380, when Honorius was consul for the 7th time and his nephew Theodosius for the 2nd, i.e. AD 407; Bede as we have seen also dates it to AD 407.) Most of the Roman legions then based in Britain left to join in the fighting, and never returned. Constantine’s magister militum, Gerontius, broke away and formed a third faction, based in Spain around a puppet emperor called Maximus (possibly his son). There was chaos in western Europe. Eventually, Constantius, the magister militum of Honorius, captured and killed Constantine (in AM (E) 5612, i.e. AD 412, according to Hydatius and the GC452, and AUC 1165, i.e. AD 412/3, according to Orosius) and drove Gerontius back to Spain (where he was killed by his own men), but Honorius continued to be viewed as a weak emperor.
Returning to the history of the Visigoths, Isidore reports that, in the 3rd year of Theodosius I, Athanaric travelled to Constantinople to sign a peace treaty, but died shortly after his arrival (Hydatius dates this to Spanish Era 418, i.e. AD 380; Prosper dates it to AP 355, when Antonius and Syagrius were consuls, i.e. AD 382). In the following year, the Visigoths rejected the idea of placing themselves under Rome’s protection, and went on to make the warlike Alaric their king. (The subsequent activities of Alaric are described in some detail in the works of Procopius and the pagan writer, Zosimus, as well as in the histories of Isidore, Jordanes and Orosius.)
According to Isidore, in Spanish Era 437 (AD 399), which was the 4th year of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius, in what was now a formally-divided empire, Alaric came to an agreement with Radagaisus, the king of a different group of Goths (perhaps the Ostrogoths), that they would view the imperial power as a common enemy. Six years later, Radagaisus attempted a major invasion of Italy, but was captured and killed by the Roman general Stilicho (who was the son of a Vandal father and a Roman mother). Undaunted, Alaric laid siege to Rome in Spanish Era 447 (AD 409) and eventually captured the city. (Bede also dates this event to AD 409, adding - as stated by Orosius - that it was the 1164th year after the city’s foundation; Prosper similarly dates it to AP 383, the consulship of Varanes, i.e. AD 410, and the GC452 to AM (E) 5611, i.e. AD 411.) Three days later, the Visigoths left Rome and headed for Sicily, taking with them an immense amount of gold, as well as Galla Placidia, sister of Honorius and Arcadius. Alaric died soon afterwards, and in Spanish Era 448 (AD 410), Athaulf became king of the Visigoths, ruling for 6 years. He married Galla Placidia and, in the 5th year of his reign, led the Visigoths from Italy into Gaul. The Visigoths then crossed over the Spanish border (driven from the Narbonne region of southern Gaul by Constantius in AUC 1168, i.e. AD 415/6, according to Orosius) and reached Barcelona, where Athaulf was killed by one of his own men.
The Visigoths were not the first to head towards Spain during this period, as a consequence of the turbulent events in central Europe, linked to the seemingly irresistible westward drive of the Huns. Accounts by Orosius, Hydatius, Prosper and the writer of the GC452 tell how, two or three years before the sack of Rome by the Visigoths, the Vandals, Alans and Suevi crossed the Rhine (helped, it is said, by the river freezing over in unusual fashion) and moved through Gaul. Then, although held up for a while by the barrier of the Pyrenees, they soon found their way into Spain and reached the western coast. According to Hydatius, they entered the Spanish provinces in Spanish Era 447, when Honorius was consul for the 8th time and Theodosius, son of Arcadius, for the 3rd (AD 409). Hydatius adds that Alaric plundered Rome in the same year, after which he died and was succeeded by Athaulf.
Isidore continued to use Hydatius (a Spanish historian whose chronicle was completed around AD 470) and Prosper (from nearby Aquitaine, whose chronicle ended in AD 455) as sources for his history of events over the next few decades. This period, in whole or in part, is also covered in the GC452 (whose last clear entry, as the name subsequently given to the chronicle indicates, refers to an event which is generally believed to have occurred in AD 451), the chronicle of Marcellinus Comes (written in Constantinople) and surviving fragments of the History by Priscus of Panium (in Thrace), as well of course as the history by Jordanes. All of these various sources give accounts which are generally consistent with each other, and with the conventional view of the history of the period.
As reported by Isidore, Athaulf was succeeded as king of the Visigoths by Sigeric in Spanish Era 454 (AD 416). However, he seemed too eager to appease the Romans, so was killed after a few months and replaced by Wallia, who ruled for 3 years. (The history written by the Spanish historian, Orosius, came to an end during the reign of Wallia, in the year given by the author as AM (E) 5618, i.e. AD 418.) Although expected to take a tougher line than his predecessor, Wallia quickly made a treaty with Honorius and gave the emperor’s sister, Placidia, back to the Romans. With the approval of Honorius, she soon married Constantius, his magister militum in Gaul. Wallia then formed an alliance with Constantius to take action against the Vandals, Alans and Suevi who had settled in Spain. The Visigoths devastated the Silingian Vandals of Baetica (southwest Spain) and also the Alans, the remnants of these being assimilated into the Hasdingian Vandals, who were living under king Gunderic in Galicia (northwest Spain). In reward, the Visigoths were given dominion over Lower Aquitaine and some neighbouring territories, including Toulouse. Wallia died in Spanish Era 457 (AD 419), the 25th year of Honorius, and was succeeded by Theodoric I, who went on to rule for 33 years.
As reported by Prosper, Honorius died in AP 396, the consular year of Marinianus and Asclepiodotus (AD 423), 15 years after his brother Arcadius. Theodosius II, who had succeeded his father Arcadius as eastern emperor, now assumed control of both east and west but, in the following year, appointed his nephew Valentinian III (son of Constantius and Placidia) as western emperor. Hydatius indicated the year when Honorius died to be Spanish Era 562 (AD 424) and AM (E) 5625 (AD 425), whereas the GC452 indicated AM (E) 5627 (AD 427). Bede, in the EHEP, dated the death of Honorius to AD 423.
Continuing with the history of the Visigoths, Hydatius informs us that, during the time of king Theodoric I, in the 4th year of Valentinian III as western emperor, in Spanish Era 566 (AD 428), Gunderic died and was succeeded by his brother Gaiseric, who, in the following year, led the Vandals out of Spain to seek opportunities in Africa. Ten years later, they took Carthage, and so controlled most of the coastal region of North Africa. According to Hydatius, Carthage fell to the Vandals in Spanish Era 477 (AD 439). Consistent with that, Prosper says that Gaiseric conquered Carthage during the consulship of Theodosius (for the 17th time) and Festus, in AP 412, which corresponds to AD 439.
Meanwhile, Isidore records that Theodoric became dissatisfied with the territory annexed to the Visigoths by the Romans, and seized several neighbouring cities. However, his attempt to capture Arles led him into conflict with Aëtius, the current magister militum of Gaul, and he was forced to withdraw. Similarly, his attack on Narbonne was thwarted by the Roman general Litorius, but Litorius was killed during subsequent fighting against the Visigoths. Prosper and Hydatius dated the death of Litorius to the year in which Carthage fell to the Vandals (which, as already noted, corresponded to AD 439). Peace was subsequently negotiated between Theodoric and the Romans.
Prosper went on to record that emperor Theodosius II died in AP 423, the consular year of Valentinian (for the 7th time) and Avienus (AD 450), and was succeeded by Marcian, with Valentinian III remaining emperor in the west. Hydatius and the GC452 gave much the same account, the former dating the transition to Spanish Era 487 (AD 450) and AM (E) 5652 (AD 452) whilst the latter, in its scrappy final section, dated it to AM (E) 5654 (AD 454). Marcellinus Comes and Cassiodorus, in their chronicles, placed it in the same consular year as Prosper, Marcellinus adding that it was the 3rd indiction, whereas Malalas, a 6th century Antioch-born contemporary of Marcellinus and Cassiodorus, said it was the 4th indiction, in Era of Antioch 499 (AD 450/1). Bede, as noted earlier, dated the accession of Marcian to AD 449.
In the first regnal year of Marcian, according to the GC452, in its last clear entry, the Huns, led by king Attila, entered Gaul. Shortly afterwards, as reported by Isidore and noted in various chronicles, they headed towards Spain. The Visigoth king Theodoric, in alliance with Aëtius, fought against the rampaging Huns in the Catalaunian fields (near Troyes). Theodoric was killed, but the Visigoths continued fighting under the command of his son, Thorismund, and drove the Huns back, which proved to be a significant turning-point in their attempts to conquer Europe. The Huns retreated from Gaul and entered Italy, attacking various cities. However, afflicted by hunger and disease, and also by the threat of an army sent by the eastern emperor, Marcian, they moved back towards their homeland, Attila dying as they did so (Prosper dates the death of Attila to AP 426, Hydatius to Spanish Era 491, and both Prosper and Cassiodorus to the consulship of Opilio and Vincomalus, all these corresponding to AD 453). Attila’s sons then began to fight amongst themselves, so the threat to Europe from the Huns was at an end.
Jordanes describes how, at the battle on the Catalaunian plain, the pro-Roman army took to the field with the Visogoths deployed on the right wing and Aëtius and his troops on the left, whereas on the other side Attila and his Huns were at the centre, with, to the right and left, the armies of subordinated peoples, including the Gepidae (a Germanic tribe) and the Ostragoths, who were led by Valamir and his brothers, Thiudimer and Vidimer. Valamir had recently been made king of the Ostrogoths after a lengthy inter-regnum following the death of the previous ruler, who had been the cousin of Vandalarius, the father of Valamir, Thiudimer and Vidimer. The disarray amongst the Huns following their defeat on the Catalaunian fields and the subsequent death of Attila prompted some of their formerly compliant allies, led by king Ardaric of the Gepidae, to seek independence, which they quickly achieved at the battle of Nedao. That encouraged the Ostrogoths to do likewise. However, rather than try to compete for territory with the other liberated tribes, the Ostrogoths decided to throw in their lot with the Romans, so they made approaches to Marcian about a treaty, and were eventually given a homeland in Pannonia, south of the Danube. As a hostage for peace, Theodoric, the young son of Thiudimer, was sent to Constantinople, arriving at the court of Emperor Leo I (who had succeeded Marcian) as a 7-year-old boy and remaining there until he was 18. Theodoric was thus able to learn much about the ways of the Romans, but he retained his Arian religion.
Even with the threat of the Huns removed, there was little respite for the Roman empire in the west. In the 4th year of the eastern emperor Marcian, the western emperor, Valentinian III was assassinated in Rome, in revenge for him having murdered Aëtius in the previous year, apparently for reasons of jealousy. Petronius Maximus then seized power, but was killed two months later, after which Avitus became emperor. In the same year (between the reigns of Maximus and Avitus), several chroniclers report that Rome was plundered by Gaiseric and his Vandals, to an even greater extent than in the case of the Visogoths almost fifty years earlier. However, apparently because of an intervention by pope Leo I, there was little killing, burning or torture. Leo, it seems, also managed to prevent the departing Vandals taking with them Valentinian’s widow, Eudoxia, and daughter, Placidia, but his other daughter, Eudocia, left with them to marry Gaiseric’s son, Huneric. Prosper, Hydatius, Cassiodorus, Marcellinus Comes and the Chronicon Paschale between them indicate that the sack of Rome by the Vandals occurred in AP 428, Spanish Era 493, the 4th year of the 308th Olympiad, the 8th indiction, during the consulship of Valentinian III (for the 8th time) and Anthemius, all pointing to AD 455. Hydatius also gave the date as AM (E) 5656 (AD 456), which only differs by one year.
The chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine came to a conclusion at this point. From the death of Athanaric in the 4th year of emperor Theodosius I to the sack of Rome by the Vandals under Gaiseric in the 4th year of emperor Marcian, he gave 73 years, which is consistent (to within two years) with the chronology of Hydatius. As Prosper’s life reached its end, the chronicles of Victor of Tunnuna and Marius of Avenches commenced (with some slight overlap), as continuations of his chronicle. Marcian died soon afterwards, being succeeded by Leo I. This transition is dated to Spanish Era 494 (AD 456) by Hydatius and to the consular year of Constantine and Rufus (AD 457) by Victor of Tunnuna and Cassiodorus, and also by Marcellinus Comes, who added that it was the 10th indiction.
Returning to the Visigoths, Isidore records that, in Spanish Era 490 (AD 452), which was the 1st year of Marcian, Thorismund succeeded his father Theodoric as king of the Visigoths, but his arrogant manner caused enmity, and within a few months he was killed by his brothers, Theodoric and Frederic. In the following year, the former became king, as Theodoric II, and ruled for 13 years. He had supported Avitus as the successor to Petronius Maximus as western emperor, so received the support of Avitus when he entered Spain with a large army to confront Rechiarus, king of the Suevi, and defeated him at a battle near to the city of Astorga. That was the start of a process in which the Visigoths, under Theodoric II, acquired much of eastern Spain to add to their territories in southwest Gaul, with a further expansion to the Mediterranean coast to incorporate the Narbonne region (the western part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis).
Meanwhile, as told in a variety of sources (including the Getica of Jordanes, the chronicles of Cassiodorus, Marcellinus Comes, Marius of Avenches, Victor of Tunnuna, John Malalas, John of Antioch and the Gallic Chronicle of 511, as well as the writings of Procopius, Sidonius Apollinaris and Priscus of Panium), the western half of the Roman empire began to head towards its final collapse. After a year as western emperor, Avitus was deposed by Majorian, who had made an unsuccessful bid for the throne when Valentinian III died, and was now supported by Ricimer, the patrician and magister militum. Majorian succeeded Avitus as emperor, with Ricimer becoming the power behind the throne. Ricimer had a powerful ally in the Burgundian king, Gundioc, who had married his sister. The Burgundians, one of the many tribes who had crossed the Rhine from Germany to find a new home, now lived in southeastern Gaul, which placed them in a key strategic position in relation to Italy, the only area now under the secure control of the western emperor. Italy itself was under constant threat of attack from the Vandals based in north Africa who, under their king, Gaiseric, had sacked Rome two years previously. Majorian resolved to take the fight to the Vandals, and also to restore Roman control over Gaul. He made a treaty with Theodoric II, and began assembling a fleet in Spain to attack the Vandals, but his plans were thwarted by a traitor. Many of the ships were seized by the Vandals, so the troops who were to sail in them returned to Italy. Hydatius says that occurred in Spanish Era 498 (AD 460). At around the same time, Majorian sent his trusted general, Aegidius, into western Gaul as magister militum. However, soon afterwards, in his fourth year on the throne, Majorian had a dispute with Ricimer, who had him taken prisoner, and subsequently beheaded. At Ricimer’s instigation, Libius Severus was then crowned as emperor. Aegidius remained as the emperor’s magister militum in Gaul, but that was in name only, for his loyalty had been to Majorian, and he now in effect governed an independent Roman enclave around Soissons, between the Seine and the Meuse. Nevertheless, Severus had some successes, particularly in driving the Vandals out of Sicily. Hydatius dates that to Spanish Era 501 (AD 463). After four years on the throne, Severus died in Rome. According to Hydatius, that was in Spanish Era 503 (AD 465). Consistent with that, Marcellinus Comes and Cassiodorus say that Severus died when Basiliscius and Arminericus were consuls, which corresponds to AD 465.
Isidore relates that, during the reign of Theodoric II, count Agrippinus, a rival of Aegidius in Gaul, surrendered Narbonne to the Visigoths, to win their support. Hydatius adds that, in consequence, Frederic, brother of Theodoric, rose against Aegidius in the following year, with disastrous effect, for the Visigoths suffered a defeat, and Frederic was killed. That was in Spanish Era 502 (AD 464). Isidore goes on to record that, in the 8th year of emperor Leo I in Spanish Era 504 (AD 466), Theodoric was killed by his brother, Euric, who succeeded him as king and ruled for 17 years. (Hydatius similarly says that the murder of Theodoric by Euric took place in Spanish Era 504 (AD 466); Marius of Avenches says that it occurred in the year when Pusaeus and John were consuls, which corresponds to AD 467.) The chronicle of Hydatius came to an end shortly after the accession of Euric. From the death of Athanaric in the 3rd year of emperor Theodosius I to the death of Theodoric II in the year following the end of the reign of Libius Severus as emperor in the west, Hydatius gave a period of of 86 years, which is consistent (to within a year) with the chronology of Isidore and also the conventional chronology.
The death of Libius Severus was followed by an interregnum of two years. The eastern emperor, Leo I, then sent Anthemius from Constantinople to become the western emperor. Anthemius attempted to form a good relationship with Ricimer. Initially, things worked well, with Ricimer marrying Alypia, the daughter of Anthemius. However, as with Majorian, the relationship soon soured. Ricimer formed an alliance with Gundobad, the son of Gundioc of Burgundy, and they killed Anthemius in the fifth year of his reign. Marcellinus Comes and Cassiodorus both say that Anthemius died during the consulship of Marcianus and Festus, which corresponds to AD 472.
In the east, emperor Leo died, and was succeeded by Leo II (his grandson), who had been appointed sole consul for the year (AD 474), as reported in the accounts by Cassiodorus, Victor of Tunnuna and Marcellinus Comes. This was the 12th indiction, according to Marcellinus, and also to Malalas, who placed it in February, Era of Antioch 522 (AD 473/4). Leo II died during the same consular year, with his father Zeno (son-in-law of Leo I) becoming emperor. Malalas gave the date of the transition from Leo II to Zeno as November in the 13th indiction, Era of Antioch 523 (AD 474/5).
As to events in and around the Iberian peninsula, Isidore reports that Euric, in the course of his reign, extended the territory of the Visigoths into northern Spain and eastwards along the Mediterranean coast of Gaul as far as Marseilles. Upon his death in Spanish Era 521 (AD 483), the 10th year of the emperor Zeno, Alaric II, the son of Euric, was crowned king of the Visigoths in Toulouse and ruled for 23 years.
In Italy, Olybrius succeeded Anthemius as emperor, and Ricimer died shortly afterwards. Gundobad the Burgundian was appointed patrician and magister militum in place of Ricimer. Olybrius survived Ricimer by the barest of margins (just 13 days before dying of dropsy, according to John of Antioch), and Gundobad then raised Glycerius to the throne. However, Gundobad’s father then died, so Gundobad resigned from his imperial duties and returned to Burgundy, to secure his rights to a share of his father’s kingdom. Soon afterwards, Julius Nepos seized the imperial throne from Glycerius, and was then deposed within a year by his magister militum, Orestes, who replaced him with his own son, the young Romulus Augustulus. The instability of the situation enabled Odoacer, leader of a confederation of tribes living in the north of Italy as supposed allies of the Roman empire, to snatch the throne for himself. According to Marcellinus Comes, Cassiodorus and Marius of Avenches, that happened in the 2nd year of Zeno as emperor in the east, when Basiliscus and Armatus were consuls (AD 476). After seizing the throne from Romulus Augustulus, Odoacer abolished the title of western emperor, which had become meaningless, and became in effect the king of Italy, ruling from Ravenna.
According to John Malalas, emperor Zeno died in April of the 14th indiction, Era of Antioch 539 (AD 490/1), and was succeeded by Anastasius. This transition was placed by Cassiodorus, Victor of Tunnuna and Marcellinus Comes within the consular year of Olybrius (AD 491), with Marcellinus agreeing with Malalas that it occurred during the 14th indiction. The Chronicon Paschale from the early 7th century, which systematically dated events by reference to consulships, the indiction year, the ongoing cycle of Olympiads (even though no actual games had been held for several centuries) and its own AM system (which we are referring to as AM (CP) to avoid confusion), accepted what earlier writers had said about the consular year and indiction year when Anastasius came to the throne, and dated in to AM (CP) 6000 (AD 491/2).
In north Africa, Procopius records that Gaiseric, king of the Vandals, died 39 years after conquering Carthage, and was succeeded by his son Huneric. On that basis, Huneric would have come to the throne in around AD 478. Procopius continues by saying that Huneric ruled the Vandals for 8 years, followed by his nephew Gunthamund, who died in his 12th year as king. Thrasamund, the younger brother of Gunthamund, then came to the throne in what, according to this timescale, would have been about AD 497.
In Italy, Odoacer had made agreements which suggested he was ruling as a client of Nepos and then, after the death of Nepos (four years into the reign of Odoacer), as a client of emperor Zeno, but it eventually became clear that he always followed his own line, and was oppressing the Roman citizens. Zeno therefore encouraged the Ostrogoth Theodoric, who, as mentioned above, had been raised in the imperial court in Constantinople and was now king of his own people, to invade Italy and seize the throne from Odoacer. After a series of battles, Theodoric entered Ravenna and killed Odoacer with his own hands in the 2nd year of emperor Anastasius. Marius of Avenches and Cassiodorus date the replacement of Odoacer by Theodoric to the consulship of Albinus and Eusebius, i.e. AD 493. Nominally, Theodoric was a client of the eastern emperors, but he was considered to be trustworthy, and so was allowed to rule as king of Italy without interference. Despite his Arian religion, he gained a high reputation, and subsequently became known as Theodoric the Great.
As Jordanes points out, Theodoric put a great deal of effort into arranging dynastic marriages. He himself married Audofleda, the sister of king Clovis I of the Franks. Theodoric sent his own sister, Amalafrida, to Africa to be the wife of king Thrasamund of the Vandals, as well as arranging the marriage of his daughter Thiudigotho to Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, that of another daughter Ostrogotho to Sigismund, son of Gundobad, king of Burgundy, and that of his niece Amalaberga (daughter of Amalafrida and Thrasamund) to Hermanfrid, king of Thuringia (in central Germany). However, these linkages between the royal families did not ensure peace and harmony in the region.
Isidore tells us that Clovis I of the Franks coveted the Visigothic kingdom of Alaric II in southwestern Gaul and launched an attack, supported by the Burgundians of king Gundobad. The Visigoth army was defeated near Poitiers (at Vouillé), and Alaric killed. When word reached Theodoric that his son-in-law, Alaric, was dead, he marched out of Italy at once and routed the Franks, restoring lands to the Visigoths that had been seized from them (but clearly not all of them, for there is no further mention of the region of Aquitaine and Toulouse being a Visigoth possession). Amalric, the son of Alaric II and Thiudigotho, was considered too young to rule, so his elder half-brother, Gesalic, the son of Alaric and a concubine, was made king of the Visigoths instead (the coronation taking place, significantly, in Narbonne, not Toulouse). That was in Spanish Era 544 (AD 506), the 17th year of emperor Anastasius.
Not long afterwards, Gundobad of Burgundy seized Narbonne from the Visigoths, prompting Gesalic to flee to Barcelona. Because of that act of cowardice, Theodoric adjudged him to have forfeited the throne, so Gesalic crossed to Africa to seek the help of the Vandals in restoring his kingship, but in vain. He returned to Europe and, after briefly taking refuge in Aquitaine, was captured and killed by one of Theodoric’s generals near to Barcelona, just four years after the beginning of his reign. Theodoric then took personal control of the Visigoth kingdom (as regent for his young grandson) for 15 years.
In the east, Marcellinus Comes (in the last entry of his chronicle) and Victor of Tunnuna reported that emperor Anastasius died during the consular year of Magnus (AD 518), and was succeeded by Justin (I). Marcellinus indicated that this transition occurred in the 11th indiction. Cassiodorus noted that the next consular year, the final one to be included in his chronicle, was that of Eutharicus and emperor Justin, but strangely made no other mention of Justin having succeeded Anastasius. Malalas was much more specific, dating the transition to July in the 11th indiction, Era of Antioch 566 (AD 517/8). The Chronicon Paschale accepted the details given by Malalas and also that the succession took place during the consulship of Magnus, in AM (CP) 6027 (AD 518/9).
Back in Spain, in what Isidore says was Spanish Era 564 (AD 526), the first year of emperor Justinian (I) in the east, Theodoric deemed that Amalric was now old enough to rule as king of the Visigoths in his own right, so passed the authority over to him. In fact, other sources say that Justinian became emperor in the following year – for example, both Malalas and the Chronicon Paschale give the date of his accession (initially, for four months in partnership with his predecessor, Justin I) as 1st April in the 5th indiction, the former source giving the year as the 575th of the Era of Antioch (AD 526/7) and the latter as AM (CP) 6036 (AD 527/8), in the consulship of Mavortius (AD 527), this consular year being consistent with what was stated by Victor of Tunnuna and a continuator of Marcellinus Comes. However, the discrepancy with Isidore is only a slight one.
When Amalric assumed full authority over the Visigoths, Theodoric the Great had very little time left to live. Marius of Avenches says that he died in Ravenna in the year of the consulship of Olybrius, the 4th indiction (AD 526), and was succeeded as king of Italy by his grandson, Athalaric. Jordanes tells us that Athalaric was the young son of Amalasuntha (the daughter of Theodoric and Audofleda) and an Ostrogoth called Eutharic, who was already dead, so Amalasuntha became the regent.
During that period, conflicts between the eastern empire and the Vandals in North Africa came to a climax. The chronicle of Victor of Tunnuna informs us that Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, had died in the year when Maximus was the sole consul (AD 523), to be succeeded by Hilderic (his cousin), who was deposed 8 years later by Gelimer (cousin of both Thrasamund and Hilderic). Although all of these were Arians, we know from the histories by Jordanes and Procopius that Hilderic (whose father was Huneric, son of Gaiseric, and his mother Eudocia, daughter of Valentinian III) was unusually tolerant towards those with different religious views (and may even have converted to Catholicism), whereas Gelimer was particularly intolerant. His subsequent murder of Hilderic provoked Justinian to declare war on the Vandals, with Belisarius being the general expected to achieve success. He was equal to the task, bringing the Vandal kingdom in North Africa to an end, and taking Gelimer captive to Constantinople, in the year in which, according to Victor, Marius and the continuator of Marcellinus Comes, Justinian was consul for the 4th time (AD 534).
From the accounts of Jordanes and Procopius, we know that Athalaric the king of the Ostrogoths died before reaching maturity, causing his mother Amalasuntha to be fearful for her own safety, so she summoned her elderly cousin Theodahad, who was living in retirement in Tuscany, to come and assume the kingship, thinking that he would protect her. However, he promptly exiled her to an island in the Bulsinian lake, and soon afterwards had her murdered. The Ostrogoth army, now fighting against Belisarius (who, following his victory over the Vandals, had been asked by Justinian to re-establish control over Italy) called for Theodahad to be removed from office, and proclaimed its leader, Witiges, to be king. The Ostrogoth forces entered Rome, and Witiges waited there to allow time for some of his elite troops to reach Ravenna, kill Theodahad and announce to the people that Witiges was now king. Witiges soon followed in their wake and, on arriving at Ravenna, married Matasuntha, the daughter of Amalasuntha, thus giving some legitimacy to his kingship. However, it was to little avail, for, as described by Jordanes and Procopius, Witiges and Matasuntha were soon captured by Belisarius and taken to Constantinople, where Witiges died and Matasuntha was married to Germanus Justinus, the nephew of emperor Justinian. According to Marius of Avenches and the continuator of Marcellinus Comes, the arrival of Witiges and Matasuntha as captives in Constantinople was in the year of the consulship of Germanus Justinus, the 3rd indiction (AD 540). The histories of Procopius and Agathius then tell of the actions of Justinian’s general Narses that brought the kingdom of the Ostragoths to its final end, with the overthrow of king Baduila, known as Totila, and then the mopping up of the final remnants of resistance, led by Teia. Marius says that Totila was killed in the 12th year of the post-consulship of Basilius, i.e. AD 553, and Teia in the following year.
At this point it is worth mentioning that historians of the present day have a variety of sources available on which to form their views on the precise details of what actually happened in the past. As well as histories and chronicles, these include ecclesiastical and secular records, and also letters written at the time of the events under consideration. One noteworthy collection of letters is the variae epistolae of Cassiodorus. This collection includes 235 letters written by Cassiodorus on behalf of Theodoric the Great in his capacity as magister officiorum, to recipients such as emperor Anastasius, king Clovis I, king Alaric II, king Gundobad, king Thrasamund, the nation of Goths and the citizens of Rome. A further 57 letters were written by Cassiodorus on behalf of king Athalric, one of them to emperor Justin I (to inform him of the death of Theodoric) and another to pope John II. Another 4 letters were written in the name of queen Amalasuntha, 22 for king Theodahad and 5 on behalf of king Witiges, some of these being addressed to emperor Justinian. There are also 67 personal letters written by Cassiodorus in his later capacity as praetorian praefect for Italy, to recipients such as senators, bishops and judges. A further example of a collection of valuable letters is the correspondence between Clovis I and several Gallic bishops. Yet another series of historically-informative letters are the ones of Sidonius Apollinarus from Roman to Visigothic Gaul in the 5th century. These and other letters complement the information provided in the chronicles and histories.
Heinsohn, in a presentation at the Quantavolution Conference on Naxos in 2012 in 2012 in which he unveiled aspects of his theory, cited as evidence the fact that Cassiodorus never indicated in any of his letters that he was living three centuries after the time of Caracalla, and never referred to emperors such as Diocletian or Constantine, who were supposed to have lived during that period (http://www.2012-q-conference-naxos.grazian-archive.com/gunnarstalk/index.html). However, although that may be the case, the chronicle written by Cassiodorus, which was not mentioned by Heinsohn, casts a very different light on the situation. This chronicle has 301 annual entries from the death of Caracalla, said to be in the consular year of Adventus and Elagabalus (AD 218), to its final entry in the consular year of Eutharicus and emperor Justin I (AD 519), indicating in between a sequence of emperors, including Diocletian and Constantine, which is entirely consistent with the conventional view and with other medieval sources. Cassiodorus gives 69 years from the death of Caracalla to the accession of Diocletian (generally consistent with Eusebius-Jerome, Orosius, Prosper, Isidore and the Epitome de Caesaribus), then 91 years from this point to the death of Valens (generally consistent with Eusebius-Jerome, Orosius, Prosper, Isidore and the Chronicon Paschale), 72 more years to the accession of Marcian (generally consistent with Prosper, Isidore, Hydatius, Marcellinus Comes, the GC452 and the Chronicon Paschale) and another 69 years to the first year of Justin I (generally consistent with Isidore, Marcellinus Comes, Victor of Tunnuna and the Chronicon Paschale).
Heinsohn also suggested that none of the contemporaries of Cassiodorus seemed to be aware of emperors such as Diocletian and Constantine who supposedly lived between the reign of Caracalla and their own time, but again that is clearly not the case. The fact that they made no mention of them in their writings when there was no need to do so is perfectly understandable. None of them wrote that they were living close in time to Caracalla, and some actually mentioned emperors from the intervening period. One who did so was Dionysius Exiguus, a Rome-based monk who was described by Cassiodorus as one of the greatest Christian scholars of his day. Dionysius had been prompted to produce a set of Easter tables to continue from the end of the set commissioned by Cyril of Alexandria, which were soon to expire, and in the preface to the new tables he explained he was introducing his Anno Domini (AD) system to date the entries, because he considered it inappropriate to follow the Alexandrian practice of dating entries from the first year of emperor Diocletian, a persecutor of Christians. From information given by Dionysius in the preface, the tables themselves and the “argumenta” at the end, it is clear that the year in which he was writing was the consulship of Probus Junior, the 241st year of Diocletian and AD 525 in his system (which was eventually adopted by all the Christians of Western Europe). Thus Dionysius, a contemporary of Cassiodorus, undeniably regarded himself as living more than 200 years after the reign of Diocletian. Furthermore, the fact that he equated the first year of Diocletian with AD 285 indicated that he believed that Diocletian had come to the throne more than 250 years after the death of Augustus, since all Christians believed, on the basis of the gospel of St. Luke, that Jesus Christ had been born late in the reign of that emperor.
Before resuming our survey of Visigoth history, let us first see what happened in northern Italy after the fall of the Ostrogoth kingdom in the 6th century AD. A major role in subsequent developments was to be taken by the Lombards, yet another Germanic people. Their main chronicler was Paul the Deacon, himself of Lombard descent, who was tutor to Adelperga, daughter of Desiderius (the last king of the Lombards) and wife of Arichis II, duke of the Lombard province of Benevento, southeast of Rome. Paul spent the closing years of his life in the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in Benevento. His History of the Lombards was written towards the end of the 8th century AD. This made use of an anonymous work, Origin of the People of the Lombards, a lost history by Secundus of Trent and another lost work, the annals of Benevento, as sources for events up to the late 7th century. Relevant events in the 6th century are also recorded in the chronicles of John of Biclar and Marius of Avenches.
At the time when emperor Justinian was concentrating on defeating the Ostrogoths, he had invited the Lombards, under king Audoin, to cross the Danube into Pannonia, to hold back the aggressive Gepidae. The Lombards did this successfully and then, under their subsequent king, Alboin, son of Audoin and his wife Rodelinda (daughter of Hermanfrid of Thuringia and Amalaberga, niece of Theodoric the Great), finally conquered them (with the help of the Avars, relatives of the Huns) and killed their leader, Cunimund. Alboin then married Cunimund’s daughter, Rosamund (his first wife, Chlothsind, daughter of the Frankish king Chlothar I having recently died). By this time, hordes of Avars were entering Pannonia from the east and becoming an increasing problem, whereas, following the collapse of the Ostrogoth kingdom, Italy seemed an inviting area of opportunity, being defended by just a token force of imperial troops. Hence, Alboin led the Lombard people, accompanied by Gepidae and others, through the Alpine regions and took possession of northern Italy, establishing a capital at Pavia, and a system of rule through a network of dukes. Tuscany soon became part of this new Lombardian kingdom, and then, further south, Spoleto and Benevento became established as independent duchies. The emperor in Constantinople retained control of just a swathe of land which incorporated the cities of Ravenna and Rome, and operated under an exarch (or governor) based in Ravenna. This remaining imperial territory in northern and central Italy consisted largely of the region south of Ravenna between the Apennines and the Adriatic coast, encompassing the five cities of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia and Ancona (and hence known as the “Pentapolis”), linked to the duchy of Rome in the west (the duchy incorporating Latium to the north of the Tiber and Campania to the south, as well as the city of Rome) by a strip of land through the Apennine hills, passing between Tuscany and Spoleto.
According to Marius of Avenches, the Lombardian invasion of Italy took place in the 3rd year of Justin II, the 2nd indiction (AD 569). Paul says that the Lombards reached the province of Liguria at the beginning of the 3rd indiction. He continues by noting that, 2 years and 6 months after the initial invasion (and in the 6th year of Justin II, the 5th indiction, according to Marius), Alboin was murdered in a Lombardian conspiracy that had imperial involvement, its leader, Helmichis, marrying Alboin’s widow, Rosamund. Nevertheless, the coup failed to receive significant support, and power was seized by Cleph, a Lombardian duke. Following his assassination eighteen months later (dated by Marius to the 8th year of Justin II, the 7th indiction, i.e. AD 574), there was a 10-year inter-regnum, when power was held by a group of around thirty dukes. Amongst these were Zaban of Pavia, Wallaris of Bergamo and Alichis of Breschia. This was a particularly violent and chaotic period in Italy, with cities being sacked and churches despoiled. Some dukes attacked Gaul, killing the patrician Amatus, who had been sent by king Guntram to intercept them, and they returned to Italy loaded with booty. However, a second incursion was less successful, and the Lombards were routed by the patrician Eulius, also known as Mummolus.
That made the dukes realise the need for them to unite under a single ruler. So, as related by Paul the Deacon, Authari, son of Cleph, was then appointed king. (If we start with the date given by Marius of Avenches for the Lombardian invasion of Italy and then follow the subsequent timescale given by Paul, Authari would have come to the throne in AD 584.) In the early part of Authari’s reign, the Franks were in conflict with the Visigoths in Spain, because Ingund, the sister of the Frankish king Childebert II, had been sent to marry Hermenegild, the son of king Leovigild, who was an Arian. Together with Leander, the bishop of Seville, Ingund persuaded Hermenegild to convert to Catholicism. At around the same time, flooding of the Tiber resulted in a serious epidemic in Rome, during which pope Pelagius II died and was succeeded by Gregory I. Gregory subsequently sent Augustine and others as missionaries to Britain.
Paul continues his account by noting that Childebert II, encouraged by emperor Maurice, began making raids into Lombardy. Authari, seeking peace, sent an embassy to Childebert, proposing a family union, through the marriage of the Lombard king to Childebert’s sister. Childebert agreed to this arrangement, but then promptly accepted a request from the successor to Leovigild as king of the Visigoths (known from other sources to be Reccared I), who had just been converted to Catholicism, for the hand of the same sister in marriage. Following a mission to Constantinople during which his envoy, Grippo, was well-received by Maurice, Childebert agreed to escalate his actions against the Lombards, and drive them out of Italy. He duly invaded Lombardy, but was driven back by Authari’s army. With Childebert’s sister no longer being available, Authari married Theodelinda, daughter of the Bavarian duke, Garibald I. Making another attempt to seek peace with the Franks, Authari sent an embassy to Guntram, who was willing to agree, but directed the embassy to his nephew, Childebert, for a final decision. While the envoys were still in Gaul, Authari died, apparently by poison, so another messenger was dispatched to Childebert with this news, and a further request for peace. Childebert’s response was that he would agree to peace, but at a future time, under terms which he would specify. According to Paul, Authari reigned for 6 years, so, on the basis of his timescale linked to the chronicle of Marius of Avenches, Authari would have died in AD 590.
Let us now return to the sequence of events in Visigothic history as presented in the account by Isidore of Seville, which we left at the time of the accession of Amalric, son of Alaric II. Despite the high expectations of someone with his pedigree, and the years of preparation when Theodoric the Great acted as his regent, Amalric’s reign turned out to be disastrous and short. He was defeated by Childebert I, king of the Franks, in a battle near Narbonne and fled to Barcelona, where he was murdered by one of his own men.
In Spanish Era 569 (AD 531), Theudis succeeded Amalric, and went on to rule the Visigoths from Barcelona for 17 years. (According to Jordanes, Theudis was an Ostrogoth who had served with Theodoric, and was asked by him to remain in the Visigoth region to provide guidance to Almaric). During the reign of Theudis, the Franks penetrated into Spain and began ravaging the land, but were driven back by general Theudigisel. After Theudis was murdered, in Spanish Era 586 (AD 548), Theudigisel was made king but, within a year, he too was murdered. Agila then took the throne, but caused resentment amongst his Hispano-Roman subjects (i.e. the large section of the population who were not Visigoths) by desecrating Catholic churches. A rival, Athanagild, saw an opportunity to stage a rebellion, and called on the emperor Justinian to provide support. In a vain attempt to prevent an imperial invasion (Justinian needing little encouragement to try to extend his sphere of influence), the Visigoths killed Agila and, in Spanish Era 592 (AD 554), the 29th year of Justinian, Athanagild was made king. He ruled for 14 years, spending much of his time trying unsuccessfully to close the imperial bases that had been set up within his kingdom in response to his requests for assistance. Unlike his six predecessors, Athanagild died a natural death.
Events involving the Visigoths over the next two decades are reported not only in the history of Isidore of Seville but also (as a contemporary account, and in greater detail) in the chronicle of John of Biclar, which dates each annual entry by the regnal year of the emperor and also that of the Visigoth king. John was born in Lusitania (in what is now Portugal) and educated in Constantinople. The first part of his chronicle was written when he was detained in Barcelona (because of his devout Catholicism) following his return from Constantinople, and completed after his release from prison (following the transformation of Spain from an Arian to a Catholic country) to become abbot of the monastery of Biclaro. He introduces his chronicle by saying that it continues from where the chronicle of Victor of Tunnuna ended, and starts by noting the death of emperor Justinian in the 15th indiction (AD 566/7), and his succession by Justin II. In line with that, the Chronicon Paschale dates the change of emperor to November in the 15th indiction, AM (CP) 6075 (AD 566/7). Also consistent with the above, John of Ephesus, in his Ecclesiastical History, dates an event which occurred during the 5th year of Justin II to Seleucid Era year 882 (AD 571).
The accounts of Visigoth history given by Isidore and John over the period covered by the latter’s chronicle are consistent in all essential features. From these two Spanish writers, we learn that Athanagild died in Spanish Era 605 (AD 567), which was the 2nd year of emperor Justin II, and Liuva was then crowned king of the Visigoths in Narbonne. In the following year, Liuva decided to split his kingdom, keeping only Gallia Narbonensis for himself, and making his brother, Leovigild, the ruler of the Visigoth territories in Spain. To strengthen his position, Leovigild married Gosuintha, the widow of Athanagild. Leovigild went on to regain territory formerly held by the Visigoths in Spain, including Córdoba, which had been lost during the reign of Agila, and also expanded his kingdom into new regions. According to John of Biclar, Leovigild captured Córdoba in the 4th year of his reign. In the same year, he notes that, to the east, the kingdom of the Gepidae came to an end when, under king Cunimund, they were defeated in battle by the Lombards. In the following year, king Alboin of the Lombards was killed by a faction of his own men whilst, in Rome, Benedict I succeeded John III as pope. Closer to home, king Liuva died, leaving Leovigild as sole ruler of the Visogoth territories in both Spain and Gallia Narbonensis. He made his two sons, Hermenegild and Reccared, associates in his rule.
In the 8th year of Leovigild, which was the 10th year of emperor Justin II, John of Biclar records that the Visigoth king harassed the Suevi in Galicia (northwest Spain), but agreed to an offer of a temporary truce offered by their king, Miro. In the same year, troops led by Baduarius, the son-in-law of emperor Justin, were defeated by the Lombards in Italy. Justin died soon afterwards, with Tiberius II becoming emperor in his place, and, in Rome, Pelagius II succeeded Benedict I as pope. Isidore of Seville, in his history of the Goths, makes no mention of the later years of Justin II or the reign of Tiberius II, but, in his chronicle, he dated the succession of Justin by Tiberius to year 5776 in the AM system he was using, so we will write the date as AM (IS) 5776. This corresponds to AD 575. However, the account in the Chronicon Paschale suggests that the situation was not straightforward. In September at the start of the 8th indiction (AD 574), Justin became incapacitated, so Tiberius was appointed co-emperor. From the more detailed history by Theophylact Simocatta, it is clear that Justin remained emperor in name alone. The Chronicon Paschale goes on to record that Tiberius was eventually crowned emperor in September of the 12th indiction, one month before the death of Justin, in AM (CP) 6087 (AD 578).
Continuing with the account by John of Biclar, he reports that, in the 11th year of Leovigild, the Avars, who had been devastating Thrace for several years, during which time they besieged Constantinople, were expelled from that region, but seized parts of Pannonia and Greece. At around the same time, Hermenegild, son of Leovigild, married the daughter of the Frankish king, Sigibert, and was given part of his father’s territories to rule, his principal city being Seville. However, almost immediately, Hermenegild rebelled against Leovigild.
Two years later, Authari was elected king of the Lombards. In the following year, John notes the death of emperor Tiberius, and his succession by Maurice. Isidore, in his chronicle, dated this transition to AM (IS) 5782 (AD 581). The Chronicon Paschale says that Maurice succeeded Tiberius in August of the 15th indiction, in AM (CP) 6091 (AD 582). Bede, as noted earlier, also dated this event to AD 582, in his EHEP.
In Spain, the army of Leovigild besieged Hermenegild in Seville. Miro brought some troops to support Hermenegild, but died at Seville, being succeeded as king of the Suevi by his son, Eboric. In the following year, Eboric was deposed by Audeca, who married the widow of Miro. Leovigild then entered Seville and captured Hermenegild, who was exiled to Valencia, and murdered soon afterwards. In this period, emperor Maurice paid the Franks to attack the Lombards in Italy.
Leovigild, in his 17th year, and the 3rd year of emperor Maurice, devastated Galicia, captured Audeca, and assimilated the Suevi kingdom into his own. Leovigild died of natural causes a year later in Toledo (which he had made his capital), being succeeded by his son, Reccared, who almost immediately converted to Catholicism, a key moment in Spanish history. According to Isidore, Reccared became king of the Visigoths in Spanish Era 624 (AD 586), which was the 3rd year of Maurice.
As recorded in the chronicle of John of Biclar, the Franks then attacked Reccared, but were defeated in battle, with their general, Desiderius, being killed. At about the same time, Authari the Lombard routed imperial forces and gained control of much of Italy. Also, Pelagius died, and was succeeded as pope by Gregory I.
In the 3rd year of Reccared, the Frankish king, Guntram, sent an army under the command of general Boso into Gallia Narbonensis, and set up camp close to the city of Carcassonne. Recarred sent his military commander, Claudius, to intercept them. The Franks were put to flight, and many of their troops were slaughtered.
In the 4th year of Reccared, which was the 8th year of emperor Maurice, Reccared convened in Toledo a synod of 72 bishops from all of Spain, Gallia Narbonensis and Galicia, held under the direction of Leander, bishop of Seville (the elder brother of Isidore) and Eutropius, abbot of Servitanum. At this synod, as told by both Isidore and John, Reccared made a formal announcement, on behalf of himself and also the whole Visigoth people, abjuring the heresy of Arianism. The entry for this year was the last in the chronicle of John of Biclar. He rounded it off by indicating that the date of the 8th year of Maurice according to the system used by Eusebius was AM (E) 5791, which was 592 years after the birth of Christ (since that event had been dated by Eusebius to AM (E) 5199, the 42nd year of emperor Augustus as defined above). Regardless of the reference to the birth of Christ, a timescale of 592 years from an event in the 42nd year of Augustus to one in the 8th of Maurice is consistent with the accounts of other historians of the first millennium and, indeed, with the chronology generally accepted at the present time.
As for the theory that the lack of written evidence in England from the accession of Marcian to that of Maurice suggested that the timescale for this period may have been significantly less than the 133 years generally supposed, the 7th century Chronicon Paschale from Constantinople gave a timescale for this period of 132 years, the 7th century chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine from Spain said this period lasted 133 years, Bede, in 8th century England, similarly wrote that the time-span of this period was 133 years, and Theophanes, in 9th century Constantinople, gave it as 132 years. There seems no plausible reason to suppose that the lack of written evidence from England during this period indicates a chronological anomaly.
2.2.1 The establishment of a Frankish kingdom in gaul
Let us now turn to the Merovingian Franks to provide another example of a culture that grew more powerful in western Europe as the Roman empire based in Rome itself grew weaker. There is no shortage of documentary evidence, but a key source is undoubtedly The History of the Franks, written in ten books by Gregory of Tours shortly before his death in AD 594, at which time he had been bishop of the city for more than twenty years. Gregory’s History makes use of some of the other material. The first book, as was common at the time, started with the Creation and continued to the death of St. Martin, bishop of Tours, in the second year of the reigns of Honorius (in the west) and Arcadius (in the east). Gregory dated that as AM (E) 5596 (corresponding to AD 396). Generally consistent with that, Hydatius and Prosper both noted the spreading fame of bishop Martin in entries in their chronicles whose dates corresponded to a time around 15 years earlier.
Taking material from a history written by Renatus Frigeridus in the fifth century, Gregory went on to give an account of Valentinian III becoming emperor in the west, at a time when Theodosius II was emperor in the east, and then told of the subsequent murder of Valentinian, who was succeeded (briefly) by Avitus. As mentioned above, events in western Europe during this period are also recorded in the chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine (which terminated in AD 455), the Gallic Chronicle of 452 (which terminated in AD 451), the Gallic Chronicle of 511 (which continued up to that AD date), the chronicle of Hydatius (which covered the period from the reign of Theodosius I, the father of Honorius and Arcadius, to AD 468) and the chronicle of Marius of Avenches (which extended the chronicle of Prosper to AD 581). These give generally consistent accounts, with Valentinian III coming to the throne in the west during the reign of Theodosius II in the east, and then being killed during the reign of Marcian, the successor of Theodosius.
Around this time, on the heels of Visigoths, Vandals and other Barbarian tribes, Franks began to move into western Europe, settling in the first instance in northern Gaul, in the region north of the Somme. According to Gregory, in The History of the Franks, the Frankish people had previously migrated from Pannonia into various districts east of the Rhine, each becoming an independent state, ruled by a king with long hair (a characteristic mark of office, which the Franks maintained for several more centuries). Clodio, whose capital was Duisburg in Thuringia was the first Frankish king to cross the Rhine and invade Gaul. The Franks were pagans and were entering territory that was predominantly Catholic for, at that time, the Romans still held control of western Gaul north of the Loire. The region south of the Loire was largely under the control of the Arian Visigoth kingdom, and to the east of this, in the region bordering the Rhône, lived the Burgundians, whose kings were related to the Visigoths and also Arian. Clodio and his Franks seized the town of Cambrai from the Romans and, from there, expanded their territory as far as the Somme. Clodio was an ancestor (possibly even the father) of a later king, Merovech (after whom the Merovingian dynasty was named, the Merovingian kings maintaining the tradition of having long hair).
Gregory gives only a brief mention of these two kings. His history of the Franks really begins with the accession to the throne of Childeric, son of Merovech, when Eustochius was bishop of Tours (Eustochius, according to Gregory, became bishop 47 years after the death of St. Martin, and died in the 17th year of his episcopate). Gregory says that, shortly before Childeric became king, Attila the Hun invaded Gaul, captured Metz, and began to devastate the region in which the Franks were living. He then headed southwest, but was confronted near Orleans by Romans led by Aëtius and by Visigoths under king Theodoric I. In the ensuing battle, during which Theodoric was killed, the Visigoths and Romans, aided by the Franks, defeated Attila, and forced him to retreat from Gaul. (Prosper of Aquitaine and Cassiodorus both date this battle to the year when Marcian and Adelphius were consuls, corresponding to AD 451; Hydatius dates the battle to Spanish Era 490, the 1st year of the 308th Olympiad, and (indirectly) to AM (E) 5653, which is generally consistent with that.)
When Childeric succeeded his father as one of several Frankish kings in northern Gaul (which was the situation by this time), Gregory reports that his eagerness to seduce young women soon led to threats against his life, so he fled for safety to Thuringia. The Roman general Aegidius then became involved. Following the seizure of the imperial throne from Avitus by Majorian (in Spanish Era 495, i.e. AD 457, according to Hydatius), Aegidius had been sent to Gaul by the new emperor as magister militum (and remained in Gaul after Majorian’s death, operating in a largely independent fashion). As related by Gregory, Aegidius was invited by Chilperic’s subjects to assume direct authority over them in the absence of their king, an arrangement which lasted until it was deemed safe for Childeric to return. Childeric then fought a major battle at Orleans and, not long afterwards, Aegidius died. Gregory gives no further details but, taking into account information from various other sources, it seems that Childeric partnered Aegidius in confronting a Visigoth army led by Frederic, brother of king Theodoric II. The Visigoths were defeated, and Frederic was killed. Marius of Avenches writes that this battle took place in the year when Basilius and Vivianus were consuls (corresponding to AD 463). Consistent with the above, Hydatius says that both the battle and the death of Aegidius occurred during the reign of Libius Severus as western emperor, the former event in Spanish Era 501, i.e. AD 463, and the latter a year later. Hydatius adds that the departure of Aegidius from the scene made Gaul vulnerable to subsequent attacks by the Visigoths. Indeed, Gregory continues his account by describing how the next Visigoth king, Euric, soon began to cause havoc in Gaul (as we have already noted from the history by Isidore of Seville). After the death of Aegidius, Gaul was also subjected to attacks by Saxon marauders, led by Odoacer. However, Gregory says that Childeric eventually formed an alliance with Odoacer and together they drove back the Alamanni, who had invaded the northern part of Italy.
Few of the specific details about Childeric given by Gregory or the writers of other early sources are verifiable, but there seems no reason to doubt his existence. A tomb was found during rebuilding work in 1653 at the church of Saint-Brice in the Belgian city of Tournai, which is believed to have been Childeric’s capital, and amongst the valuable objects found associated with the tomb was a ring inscribed “Childerici Regis”, i.e. “of king Childeric”.
According to Gregory, Childeric was succeeded by his son Clovis, who was 15 years-old on his accession and went on to rule for 30 years, dying 112 years after St. Martin (which would place the death of Clovis in the year corresponding to AD 508, and hence his accession to AD 478). Gregory tells how Clovis, in the 5th year of his reign, formed an alliance with his relative, Ragnachar, king of another group of Franks (based around Cambrai), and attacked Soissons, where Syagrius, son of Aegidius, was trying to maintain the last vestiges of a Roman presence in Gaul. The army of Syagrius was annihilated, and Syagrius himself fled to seek refuge with the Visigoth king, Alaric II, in Toulouse. Clovis then advanced to the south and forced Alaric to hand over Syagrius, whom he subsequently killed. Thus the region between the Somme and the Loire fell under the control of the Franks. Clovis, like most of the Franks of his day, was a pagan, and his troops plundered the Christian churches around Soissons. Further military victories followed and, in the 10th year of his reign, Clovis invaded Thuringia and brought more people under his rule.
By this time, Clovis had fathered a son, Theuderic, by a concubine, but was still without a wife. So, when an envoy returned from Burgundy, and mentioned seeing there an elegant and intelligent princess called Clotild, Clovis decided to ask for her hand in marriage. Clotild was the daughter of Chilperic who together, with his brothers Gundobad, Gundomar and Godigisel, had split the Burgundian kingdom between them on the death of their father, Gundioc, a relative of Athanaric the Visigoth. Gundobad had recently murdered Chilperic, leaving the fate of the victim’s daughter in his hands, but, fearful of Clovis, he allowed him to take Clotild as his wife. Chilperic had raised Clotild as a Catholic, having renounced the Arianism of his father and brothers, and she attempted to convert Clovis to Catholicism, but he resisted her efforts. However, he agreed to her requests that their children could be baptised into the Catholic faith. They subsequently had four sons, Ingomer (who died in infancy), Chlodomer, Childebert and Chlothar, and a daughter, Clotild, who subsequently married Amalaric the king of the Visigoths. Gregory also records that Audofleda, the sister of Clovis, married the Ostrogoth, Theodoric the Great, king of Italy.
In the 15th year of his reign, Clovis won an unexpected victory over the Alamanni after calling upon the name of Christ at a crucial point in the battle. In consequence, and with further encouragement from his wife, Clotild, he was baptised as a Catholic by Remigius, bishop of Rheims. Correspondence between Clovis and Romigius has been preserved, as has a letter to Clovis from Avitus, bishop of Vienne, which refers to his conversion.
Godigisel, who then shared the Burgundian kingdom with his brother Gundobad (Godigisel ruling from Vienne and Gundobad from Lyons) made overtures to Clovis about a possible alliance, saying he would pay a tribute to the Frankish king if he would help him defeat Gundobad and unify the kingdom under his own rule. Clovis and Godigisel subsequently defeated Gundobad in battle near Dijon, and Clovis pursued him to Avignon, where he took refuge. Gundobad sent out an envoy, Aridius, who pointed out to Clovis that Avignon was too well-fortified to fall to the Franks without a lengthy siege, so proposed an arrangement by which the Franks would go home, in return for the payment of a substantial tribute by Gundobad. Clovis agreed, and took his army out of Burgundy. Gundobad soon recovered his strength, and marched his army against Godigiel, besieging him in the city of Vienne. Eventually he broke in and killed his brother, together with one of his bishops, in an Arian church. Gundobad, now king of the whole of Burgundy, then made peace with the Franks. (Marius of Avenches says that these events took place in the year when Patricius and Hypatius were consuls, which corresponds to AD 500.) According to Gregory, Gundobad became a convert to Catholicism, but kept that a secret from his subjects.
Following his own conversion, Clovis became angry that Arian Visigoths occupied part of Gaul. Theodoric the Great (in letters preserved in the variae epistolae of Cassiodorus) tried to persuade Clovis to avoid conflict with the Visigoth king, Alaric II, and vice versa, but to no effect. Gregory reports that Clovis confronted his army near Poitiers. Alaric was killed during the ensuing battle, and the Visigoths were driven back into their Spanish territories, leaving the Franks in control of cities such as Toulouse and Angoulême. (Isidore dates these events to Spanish Era 544, corresponding to AD 506.) Shortly afterwards, Clovis received a letter from the emperor in the east, Anastasius, conferring on him a consulate (presumably of an honorary nature). Clad in a purple tunic and the military mantle, Clovis crowned himself with a diadem in the church of St. Martin in Tours. He then travelled to Paris, where he established the seat of his government.
Gregory goes on to tell how Clovis put a great deal of effort into defeating the other Frankish kings who held parts of northern Gaul and areas in the vicinity of the Rhine. He persuaded Chloderic, son of king Sigibert, who ruled in Cologne, to murder his father, and when that had been accomplished, Clovis arranged for Chloderic to be killed. Thus Clovis assimilated Sigibert’s kingdom into his own. He then marched west and overcame king Chararic and his son, symbolically removing their royal status by cutting their hair short, and ordering them to become priests. When he subsequently heard that they were growing their hair long again, he had their heads cut off. After that, he took possession of Chararic’s kingdom. Clovis then advanced on Cambrai, to confront his relative, Ragnachar. When Ragnachar saw the strength of Clovis’s forces, he and his brother Ricchar attempted to slip away, but were captured by their own men and brought before Clovis, who killed them both with an axe. Clovis then ordered the death of another brother, Rignomer, in Le Mans, and he also killed other Frankish kings whom he saw as potential rivals. In each case, Clovis took over their kingdoms, and their treasure. Thus he became king of all the Franks, and his kingdom stretched throughout Gaul.
Details given by Gregory about events in the time of Clovis are generally consistent with entries in the Gallic Chronicle of 511, the chronicle of Marius of Avenches and the histories of Isidore of Seville and of Jordanes.
2.2.2 Chlothar I and his Brothers
When Clovis died (in Paris, in the 11th year of Licinius as bishop of Tours), his kingdom was divided between his four sons, Chlothar I, Chlodomer, Childebert I and Theuderic I. The region was rarely at peace. Gregory tells us that Theuderic, whose kingdom included territory to the northeast of those of his half-brothers, was soon enticed by Hermanfrid, who ruled half of Thuringia, to help him depose his brother Baderic, who ruled the other half, on the promise that, if this plot was successful, Baderic’s kingdom would be divided equally between Hermanfrid and Theuderic. Baderic was indeed killed during the joint invasion of his territory, but Hermanfrid failed to keep his promise to Theuderic. Meanwhile, Queen Clotild called her sons together and urged them to invade Burgundy, to avenge the murder of her father, Chilperic, by Gundobad, whose son, Sigismund, was now king. (Marius of Avenches says Sigismund became king when Peter was consul, which corresponds to AD 516.) Sigismund, who had married a daughter of Theodoric the Great the Ostrogoth, was taken prisoner by Chlodomer and eventually killed, but his brother Godomer escaped. In a subseqent battle, the Burgundian army took flight, pursued by the headstrong Chlodomer, who became isolated from his own troops and was lured into a trap by the retreating enemy. Chlodomer’s head was severed from his shoulders. (Marius of Avenches said this occurred in the year when Justin and Opilio were consuls, the 2nd indiction, corresponding to AD 524.)
Following Chlodomer’s death, his three young sons were put in the care of Queen Clotild in Paris. Childebert became concerned that she was lavishing too much attention on them, possibly indicating a preparation for kingship. He sent a message to his brother Chlothar, suggesting that he came with him to Paris to resolve the situation. When they arrived, they sent a messenger to Clotild, asking her if she would be willing to send the princes into a monastery, as an alternative to them being killed. Her response was that she would sooner see them dead, rather than with short hair. So, the two kings entered the rooms where the boys were staying, and Chlothar stabbed the eldest, Theudovald, to death. The second boy, Gunthar, held on to Childebert and pleaded for mercy. Childebert was moved by his pleas, but Chlothar pointed out that the plot had been Childebert’s idea, and threatened to kill his brother unless he let go of the boy. So, Childebert pushed Gunthar away, allowing Chlothar to murder him. The third boy, Chlodovald, escaped, protected by his guards. He had no wish for kingship, and cut his hair short with his own hands, before becoming a priest. Childebert and Chlothar then divided Chlodomer’s lands between them.
Soon afterwards, Childebert received a message from his sister Clotild, the wife of the Visigoth king, Amalric, saying she was being appallingly treated because of her insistence on retaining her Catholic faith. Childebert set out to help her, the strength of his army causing Amalric to flee. The Visigoth king made plans to escape by boat, but first went to Barcelona to pick up treasure he had stored there. His own soldiers blocked his path and, as he tried to take refuge in a church, one of them killed him. Childebert set off back to Paris, his capital, with his sister and much plunder, but Clotild died on the journey, and was buried in Paris alongside her father, Clovis.
Childebert and Chlothar then invaded Burgundy. They besieged Autun and forced king Godomer to flee, never to return. Childebert and Chlothar divided his territory between them. According to Marius of Avenches, this occurred in the consulship of Justinian (for the 4th time) and Paulinus, the 12th indiction, which corresponds to AD 534.
Since the death of Clovis, the Visigoths had regained much of the territory he had taken from them south of the Clermont region, so Theuderic now sent his son Theudebert to try to win it back. Theudebert went as far as Béziers, capturing and plundering the fortresses of Dio and Cabrières. Meanwhile, in Clermont itself, Theuderic killed Sigivald, who with his friends had been carrying out a long series of thefts, assaults and murders. Theuderic sent a message to Theudebert, asking him to do away with Sigivald’s son, who was serving with him, but Theudebert allowed him to escape. Another message then arrived, saying that Theuderic was seriously ill. Theudebert headed home but, before he arrived, Theuderic died, in the 23rd year of his reign. Childebert and Chlothar joined forces against Theudebert, to try to claim Theuderic’s kingdom for themselves. However, Theudebert paid them to leave him alone and, with the help of his loyal nobles, was able to establish himself on his father’s throne (as Theudebert I). Childebert then sent an embassy to Theudebert to say that, as he had no sons of his own, he would like to adopt him.
Childebert and Chlothar then attacked Spain, and besieged Zaragoza, where the inhabitants carried the tunic of Saint Vincent the Martyr as a banner. The Franks were forced to withdraw, but took with them much booty (including the tunic of Saint Vincent). At around the same time, Theudebert invaded Italy, and also captured much booty. However, his army was stricken by a series of epidemics, and he was forced to return home. According to Marius of Avenches, this invasion took place when Apion was consul, the 2nd indiction, i.e. in AD 539.
Gregory goes on to report that, in the 14th year of his reign, Theudebert became seriously ill and died, 37 years after the death of Clovis. He was succeeded by his son, Theudebald. Marius of Avenches says this happened in the 7th year after the consulship of Basilius, the 11th indiction, which corresponds to AD 548. During the reign of Theudebert, Gregory says that emperor Justinian marched into Spain, against the unpopular Visigoth king, Agila, and captured several cities. Agila was succeeded by Athanagild, who was able to regain some, but not all, of the cities taken by the imperial army. Also during the reign of Theudebald, Justinian was in conflict with Frankish troops, under the command of Buccelin, in Italy. We know from other sources that Theudebald had been asked for help by Teia, the last Ostrogoth king of Italy, and Theudebald had responded by sending a joint Alamanni/Frankish force, led by the Alamanni noble, Buccelin. Gregory goes on to say that Buccelin was killed when his troops were routed by Narses, leaving Justinian in control of Italy. Shortly afterwards, Theudebald suffered a stroke and died, in the 7th year of his reign, after which Chlothar took over his kingdom. According to Marius of Avenches, the deaths of Buccelin and Theudebald both occurred in the 14th year after the consulship of Basilius, the 3rd indiction, i.e. AD 555.
Continuing with Gregory’s account, Childebert was taken ill in Paris not long afterwards and soon died, being buried in the church of Saint-Vincent (now Saint-Germain-des-Prés), which he had built to house the tunic of the martyr. Chlothar quickly took over his kingdom and his treasury, so was now ruler of all the Franks. According to Marius of Avenches, Childebert died in the 17th year after the consulship of Basilius, the 6th indiction, corresponding to AD 558.
In the 51st year of his reign, Chlothar went on a pilgrimage to Tours, visiting the tomb of St. Martin. Soon afterwards he was taken ill while hunting in the forest of Cuise, and died of a fever. His four surviving sons took his body back to Soissons, and buried it in the church of St. Medard, which Chlothar himself and built. According to the timescale provided by Gregory from the death of St. Martin, the 51st and last year of the reign of Chlothar would have corresponded to AD 559. Marius of Avenches writes that Chlothar died in the 20th year after the consulship of Basilius, the 9th indiction, i.e. AD 561.
2.2.3 Chilperic I, Guntram and their Brothers
Gregory continues his History by noting that Chilperic acted quickly to try to gain the advantage over the other sons of Chlothar following their father’s death. He seized Chlothar’s treasure from his villa at Berny, and bribed influential Frankish nobles to give him their support. However, the other three joined forces against Chilperic, who was their half-brother, and forced him to agree to a reasonably fair division of wealth and power. Charibert I became ruler of the western kingdom of Neustria, with Paris as his capital city; his heartland was the northwestern region originally controlled by Charibert I (but added to this was the western half of the area to the south, originally controlled by Chlodomer, and also Aquitaine). Guntram became ruler of the re-defined kingdom of Burgundy, with Orléans as his capital; his heartland was the region around this city, formerly ruled by Chlodomer (the rest of the kingdom being the main part of the territory once ruled by Gundobad and his sons). Sigibert I assumed control of the northeastern kingdom of Austrasia, with Rheims as his capital (although he subsequently moved to Metz); this was essentially the territory ruled by Theuderic I (together with the northeastern corner of the former Burgundian kingdom). Like Theuderic, Sigibert was, in addition, given control of the geographically-separate region of the Auvergne, around Clermont-Ferrand, and he also received former Ostrogoth territory in Provence, south of Burgundy. Chilperic became king of the northern region between Neustria and Austrasia, originally controlled by Chlothar I, with Soissons as his capital city.
Gregory tells us that, soon afterwards, the Huns (or to be more precise the Avars, who were relatives of the Huns) attacked Gaul. Sigibert marched his army against them and put them to flight. While this was happening, Chilperic attacked Rheims and captured a number of cities in the territory allocated to Sigibert. That resulted in civil war between the two of them. When Sigibert returned from fighting the Avars, he immediately occupied the city of Soissons. He captured Theudebert, the son of Chilperic, and sent him into exile. He then fought against Chilperic and recovered the cities stolen from him. A year later, he let Theudebert return from exile, after he swore on oath that he would never fight against Sigibert again.
Guntram and Charibert were intemperate in their relationships with women, both having a succession of wives and mistresses, of which very few were of noble birth or bearing. Gregory notes that Charibert’s first wife was called Ingoberg, and they had a daughter who subsequently married the son of the king of Kent and went to live there. Bede, in the EHEP, tells us more about this daughter, Adelberg, who was known as Bertha in England. She was the wife of Ethelbert who, according to Bede, became king of Kent in AD 560 (although some have suggested that was when Ethelbert was born) and died in AD 616, 21 years after being converted to Christianity by Augustine. Bede remarks that Ethelbert had been receptive to conversion because Bertha had been brought up as a Christian in the Frankish court, and had remained a Christian after her marriage, bringing bishop Liudhard with her from Gaul as her personal advisor.
According to Gregory, Ingoberg’s marriage to Charibert was a short one: he dismissed her because of her jealousy over his love for two sisters, Marcovefa and Merofled, who were servants of Ingoberg, and the daughters of a wool-worker. After that, Ingoberg settled into a religious lifestyle. In her place, Charibert married Merofled, but then took another woman, Theudechild, the daughter of a shepherd. Soon afterwards, he married Marcovefa, even though he was already married to her sister. For that, he was excommunicated by Germanus, bishop of Paris. Charibert’s dissolute behaviour soon took its toll, for he died, after which his kingdom was split between his three brothers, with Chilperic effectively becoming king of a re-formed Neustria, to complement Guntram as king of Burgundy and Sigibert as king of Austrasia. It was agreed that the city of Paris would be common territory, and none of them would enter it without the permission of the others. At around the time of Charibert’s death, according to Gregory, emperor Justinian died in Constantinople and was succeeded by Justin II. Also, Alboin the Lombard, who had married Clothsind, the sister of Charibert, Guntram and Sigibert, led his nation over the Alps into Italy.
Sigibert was distressed at seeing his brothers take unsuitable wives, so he was determined to be different. Hearing of the elegance, beauty and wisdom of Brunhild, daughter of the Visigoth king, Athanagild, he sent messengers loaded with gifts to Spain, to ask for her hand in marriage. Athanagild agreed to this, and sent Brunhild to Austrasia with a large dowry. To add to a situation that seemed full of promise, Brunhild, although an Arian by upbringing, readily agreed to convert to Catholicism.
Gregory continues his account by saying that these events then stimulated Chilperic to ask for the hand of Galswinth, the elder sister of Brunhild, even though he already had several wives. He promised to dismiss all the others, if he was allowed to marry Galswinth. Athanagild accepted his assurances and, as with Brunhild, sent his daughter off with a large dowry. Galswinth became a Catholic, married Chilperic, and all seemed well. However, Chilperic remained under the influence of Fredegund, one of his previous wives, and soon tired of the constant complaints of Galswinth about the insulting and demeaning treatment she was receiving in his court. In the end, he arranged for her to be garrotted by a servant, and so found her dead in bed. Although he wept genuine tears for Galswinth, he was soon sleeping with Fredegund once again.
Outbreaks of conflict between Austrasia and Neustria over the next few decades were frequent, with the disputes often being fuelled by personal animosity between Brunhild and Fredegund (whom Brunhild blamed for the death of her sister, Galswinth). By this time, Guntram had repented of the intemperate lifestyle he had once enjoyed, and spent much of his time in prayer, fasting and charitable works. Nevertheless, that did not prevent Burgundy becoming fully involved in the civil wars that brought chaos to the country, with alignments often changing.
In Spain, Gregory notes that, when Athanagild died, Leovigild inherited part of his territory. Then Liuva died, and the kingdom of Leovigild was extended. When Leovigild’s wife died, he married Goiswinth, widow of Athanagild and mother of Brunhild. He had two sons by his first wife (Theodosia), whose names were Hermenegild and Reccared.
To the northeast, the Avars once again invaded Frankish territory, and this time defeated Sigibert in battle. However, he was able to bribe their leader, the Khan, into accepting a peace treaty, and this proved to be a lasting one. After neutralising the Avar menace, Sigibert set his mind on seizing Arles from Guntram, and his troops, led by Firminus and Audovarius, succeeding in doing so. In response, Guntram sent out troops under the command of the patrician Celsus to invade Sigibert’s territory, and they captured the city of Avignon. In the end, after further fighting, Arles was restored to Guntram, and Avignon to Sigibert.
In Italy, Gregory records that the Lombards had robbed many churches and brought many people under their dominion since entering the country. By this time, king Alboin’s wife, Chlothsind, had died, and he married again, on this occasion to the daughter of a king he had recently killed. His new wife could not forgive Alboin for murdering her father, and conspired with a servant to poison him. After bringing about Alboin’s death in this way, the two conspirators tried to escape, but were captured and killed. Not long afterwards, the Lombards invaded Gaul, and were met by an army led by the patrician Amatus, who had succeeded Celsus. Amatus was forced to flee, and was killed, together with many other Burgundians. Laden with booty, the Lombards then returned to Italy. A later Lombard attack on Gaul reached as far as Plan de Fazi, near the town of Embrun in Provence. This time Eunius, surnamed Mummolus, who succeeded his father Peonius as count of Auxerre and Amatus as patrician of Burgundy, inflicted a heavy defeat on the Lombardians and drove the survivors back to Italy.
Soon afterwards, various groups of Lombards made incursions into Gaul. Amo led his men through Embrun and camped near Avignon, whereas Zaban pitched his tents near Valence, and Rodin set up his headquarters near Grenoble. All captured towns and plundered the countryside on their way. Mummolus raised an army and went to attack Rodin, who was besieging Grenoble. Rodin was wounded by a spear and, with the remnants of his troops, headed towards Valence to join forces with Zaban. Together they pillaged the neighbourhood and then withdrew to Embrun, where Mummolus marshalled his army against them. The Lombards were cut to pieces, and Zaban and Rodin fled back to Italy, where they received a harsh reception from the local inhabitants as they they passed through various regions. Hearing of the victory of Mummolus over Zaban and Rodin, Amo ordered his army to retreat, but their flight was made difficult by deep snow in the mountain passes. They were forced to leave their booty behind, and Amo finally arrived back in Italy with only a small escort.
In Francia, not long after the death of Charibert, Chilperic invaded Tours and Poitiers, which had been given to Sigibert as part of the re-distribution of land. Sigibert and Guntram agreed to ask Mummolus to restore these cities to their rightful owners. Mummolus approached Tours, drove out Clovis, the son of Chilperic, and made the people swear an oath of allegiance to Sigibert. Then he entered Poitiers, and forced the inhabitants to swear a similar oath of fealty.
A dispute then arose between Sigibert and Guntram. The latter convened a council of bishops in Paris to adjudicate between them but, according to Gregory, neither of the kings would take the advice offered by the bishops, so the civil war became increasingly bitter. The next development was that Chilperic sent his son Theudebert to attack Tours, Poitiers and other cities south of the Loire, despite the fact that Theudebert had sworn an oath that he would never again take arms against Sigibert. At Poitiers, Theudebert defeated forces led by Sigibert’s military commander, Duke Gundovald, and went on to slaughter many of the local inhabitants. He then burnt much of the district around Tours and invaded the Limousin region, which he ravaged and sacked, plundering churches and killing the clergy.
Sigibert began making plans to mobilise tribes from across the Rhine to fight Chilperic. When Chilperic heard about this, he approached Guntram and they agreed a treaty that neither of them would allow the other to come to harm. When Sigibert marched towards Chilperic, he could find no ford to allow his forces to cross the Seine, so he sent a messenger to ask Guntram to allow his army to pass through his territory so that it could cross the river. If Guntram would not agree, Sigibert threatened to direct his army to attack him. Guntram was too frightened to refuse Sigibert’s request, even though that meant breaking the treaty he had recently made with Chilperic. Realising he was getting no help from Guntram, Chilperic retreated and set up camp at the village of Havelu, near Chartres. Sigibert soon approached and challenged Chilperic to let the two armies meet in battle, but the Neustrian king chose to sue for peace, offering to hand back the cities which Theudebert had seized. Sigibert was willing to settle for peace but, while these negotiations were taking place, elements of his army were still burning and plundering the region between Paris and Chartres. He tried to stop this happening, but found it particularly difficult to control the savagery of the people he had brought from across the Rhine. Sigibert had to kill some of them before discipline was restored, a peace treaty signed, and he was able to return home.
Just a year later, according to Gregory, Chilperic engineered another treaty with Guntram, in which they agreed to make peace together, in order to be able to attack Sigibert. Chilperic then raised an army and marched as far as Rheims, ravaging the countryside on the way. Sigibert felt obliged to summon the tribes from across the Rhine to fight for him once again. He advanced to Paris, and ordered the inhabitants of Châteadun and Tours to march against Theudebert. They were reluctant to do so, until Sigibert sent dukes Godisel and Guntram Boso to take command. When they attacked Theudebert’s army, most of his troops deserted him. Theudebert fought on with those remaining, but was soon killed and buried in Châteadun. Chilperic realised that, once again, king Guntram was doing nothing to help him, so he retreated with his wife, Fredegund, and his remaining sons to Tournai. Meanwhile, Sigibert’s wife, Brunhild, and their sons joined him in Paris. There, envoys came to him from Franks who had once been subjects of Childebert I and were now under the rule of Chilperic, saying they wished to appoint Sigibert as their king. Encouraged by this, Sigibert sent troops to besiege Chilperic in Tournai, planning to follow them as soon as he could. Before he left, bishop Germanus advised him that it would be in his best interests to try to make peace with Chilperic, but he refused to listen, since it seemed that he was on the verge of victory. As he approached the royal villa of Vitry, Neustrian troops raised him on a shield and elected him as their king. Then, as told by Gregory, two men who had been suborned by Queen Fredegund approached Sigibert and, without warning, stabbed him with knives smeared with poison. Shortly afterwards, Chilperic, waiting in trepidation within the walls of Tournai for a major assault by the Austrasian troops, was told by a messenger that Sigibert was dead and the crisis was over. Chilperic came out of the city with his wife and sons, and buried his brother’s body in the village of Lambres. Later, Sigibert was re-buried by the side of Chlothar I in the church of Saint Medard in Soissons.
Gregory records that Sigibert died when he was 40 years of age, in the 14th year of his reign. This was in AM (E) 5774 (AD 574), 29 years after the death of Theudebert I and 66 years after the death of Clovis. Marius of Avenches dates the death of Sigibert to the 10th year of the consulship of emperor Justin II, the 9th indiction (AD 576), which involves only a small discrepancy.
2.2.4 Chilperic I, Guntram and Childebert II
Gregory continues by reporting that, when the news of Sigibert’s death reached Paris, duke Gundovald fled to Austrasia with Sigibert’s young son, Childebert, thus saving him from certain death. Even though he was only 5 years old, Childebert was proclaimed king (as Childebert II) in succession to his father. Chilperic quickly reached Paris and seized Sigibert’s distraught widow, Brunhild, taking possession of her treasure, which she had brought with her, and banishing her to Rouen. Chilperic sent troops to Poitiers under the leadership of his son Merovech, who succeeded in snatching the city from Austrasian control. Then, disregarding orders, Merovech marched on Tours, seizing that city also for his father. After that, on the pretext of visiting his mother Audovera, Merovech went to Rouen and took Brunhild as his wife. Chilperic was furious about that and raced to Rouen where, hearing of his approach, Merovech and Brunhild had taken sanctuary in the church of Saint Martin. Chilperic pretended to be kindly disposed towards them, and swore a solemn oath that he would do nothing to separate them. When they came out, he kissed them, and they had a meal together. Then Chilperic returned to Soissons, taking Merovech with him.
While Chilperic had been away, some troops assembled in Champagne and attacked Soissons, forcing Fredegund and Clovis, the son of Chilperic, to flee. Chilperic soon routed the besieging army, but began to harbour the suspicion that Merovech had instigated the attack. Although this was untrue (the instigator was in fact a man called Godin, who had a personal grudge against Chilperic), Merovech was placed under guard. Chilperic then sent Merovech’s brother Clovis to Tours, where he assembled an army and marched through Poitiers into western Aquitaine, as far as Saintes, which he occupied. Concerned about Chilperic’s expansion into former Austrasian territory, Guntram dispatched an army westwards under his military commander, Mummolus. In the Limoges region southeast of Poitiers, Mummolus encountered troops led by Chilperic’s military commander, Desiderius, and routed them. Mummolus then returned home to Burgundy through the Clermont-Ferrand region, which was laid waste by some of his army.
In the meantime, Merovech had been tonsured, ordained as a priest and sent off to the monastery of Anille at Le Mans. Duke Guntram Boso, who by this time was living in sanctuary in Saint Martin’s church in Tours (for fear of his life, because of the general belief that he had killed Chilperic’s son, Theudebert) sent Merovech a message to suggest he joined him in the same sanctuary. Merovech’s arrival in Tours brought him into direct contact with Gregory, author of the History, who had been appointed bishop of the city a few years previously. Gregory writes in his account of Frankish history (which, from the death of Sigibert onwards, consists essentially of lengthy year-by-year reports of contemporary events, of which the following gives just of brief summary of some key developments) that Chilperic threatened to set the whole countryside around Tours alight unless he (Gregory) expelled Merovech from his church, but he refused. Merovech seemed safe for the time being, but Guntram Boso was actually in the pay of Queen Fredegund. She was secretly pleased that he had killed Theudebert (who had the same mother as Merovech, Audovera), because that increased the chances of one of her own sons succeeding Chilperic as king. Now she sent a message asking him to encourage Merovech to leave his sanctuary, so that he too could be killed. Thinking that assassins were already in place outside, Boso persuaded Merovech to accompany him on a short horse-ride, but they returned safely.
Gregory goes on to report that, in the 2nd year of Childebert II, Chilperic raised an army and began to advance on Tours. Merovech did not want to be the cause of any damage to the church of Saint Martin, so he decided to leave and head for Austrasia, where Brunhild was now living. (Brunhild was hoping to be made regent for her young son, and was eventually successful, but had to face constant struggles with Austrasian nobles for influence over policy decisions.) Passing through the region around Auxerre, Merovech was captured by Herpo, one of king Guntram’s officials, but managed to escape and find sanctuary in the church of Saint Germanus. Meanwhile, the Neustrian troops devastated the area around Tours, and then Chilperic launched an attack on the region of Champagne, thinking that Merovech might be hiding there. After two months in the church of Saint Germanus, Merovech slipped out and reached the Austrasian boundary, but was refused entry. Rumours spread that Merovech was now trying to return to Tours, so Chilperic had the church of Saint Martin closely guarded. Merovech was actually hiding in the area of Rheims at this time. His presence became known to the people of Thérouanne, who told him that, if he joined them, they would throw off their allegiance to Chilperic and accept him as king. Merovech selected a band of his most valiant followers and hurried towards them, but they had prepared an ambush, and surrounded Merovech in a country house. Some suspected Guntram Boso of being involved in this plot. Keeping Merovech a prisoner inside, the plotters sent a messenger to inform Chilperic of the situation. Knowing that he could expect no mercy from his father, Merovech asked his servant Gailen to kill him with his sword, which he did. Marius of Avenches writes that Merovech died in the 12th year of the consulship of Justin II, the 11th indiction, i.e. AD 578.
Continuing, Gerogory notes that, in the 4th year of Childebert, which was the 18th year of Guntram and Chilperic, a Council was held at Chalon-sur-Sâone in Burgundy, at which bishops Salonius and Sagittarius, who had been causing trouble for many years, were finally stripped of their bishoprics. Marius of Avenches says this event took place in the 13th year of the consulship of Justin II, the 12th indiction, i.e. 579. Both Marius and Gregory go on to say that, later in the same year, emperor Justin II died and was succeeded by Tiberius II.
In the 6th year of Childebert, the Austrasians broke their agreement with Guntram and allied themselves with Chilperic. At around the same time, Mummolus left the service of Guntram and travelled south, with his wife and children, to set up home in the city of Avignon, which was in Childebert’s territory. In the final entry of his chronicle, Marius of Avenches says that Mummolus came to Avignon in the 2nd year of the consulship of Tiberius II, the 14th indiction, i.e. AD 581. Gregory continues by saying that envoys sent by Chilperic to Tiberius were unable to land at Marseilles (on the boundary between Burgundy and Provence) on their return journey, because of the state of war between Guntram and Chilperic, so had to continue to Agde in Septimania (the western part of Gallia Narbonensis, held by the Visigoths; Provence, held by the Franks, constituted the eastern part). Soon afterwards, Gregory visited Chilperic at his manor at Nogent-sur-Marne, and was shown gifts brought back from Constantinople by the envoys. While Chilperic was still at Nogent-sur-Marne, notables from Childebert’s court led by Egidius, bishop of Rheims, arrived to discuss the details of a peace treaty between Austrasia and Neustria, and make plans to deprive Guntram of his kingdom. Chilperic assured them that, now he no longer had any sons of his own, he would regard Childebert as his heir. The Austrasian ambassadors reported back to Childebert, and the treaty was confirmed.
In the 7th year of Childebert, Gregory notes that Leovigild, the Visigothic king of Spain, raised an army against his son, Hermenegild. Before then, as also reported in the chronicle of John of Biclar, Hermenegild had married a daughter of king Sigibert and then revolted against his father. In contrast to John, Gregory gives the cause of this dispute. When Ingund, the daughter of the Austrasian king, arrived in Spain to marry Hermenegild, Queen Gosuintha, the wife of Leovigild (and step-mother of Hermenegild) had tried to persuade her to become an Arian, but she had refused. Furthermore, after the marriage, when Hermenegild was given a city of his own to govern, Ingund succeeded in converting him to Catholicism. As a result, Gosuintha began to maltreat Ingund, whilst Leovigild plotted against Hermenegild. That drove Hermenegild to seek an alliance with the forces of Tiberius II, who were occupying parts of Spain. Leaving his wife under their protection, he went out with his army to fight his father. Hermenegild had expected imperial troops to join him, but that failed to happen. He was also relying on support from Miro, king of Galicia, but Leovigild surrounded Miro’s forces and forced him to swear an oath of loyalty. Miro died soon afterwards. According to Gregory, Hermenegild’s army was defeated by the forces of Leovigild in a battle around the fortress of Osser, near Seville, and Hermenegild was forced to flee, taking sanctuary in a nearby church. Leovigild sent Hermenegild’s younger brother, Reccared, to him to say that if he went back to his father and asked for forgiveness, he would not be harmed or humiliated. However, breaking his word, Leovigild stripped Hermenegild of all his fine clothes and sent him into exile. Hermenegild was subseqently murdered, and his wife Ingund taken by imperial troops across to north Africa, on their way back to Constantinople. During the period when the fighting between Leovigild and Hermenegild was taking place, Ansovald and Domigisel were in Spain as ambassadors of Chilperic, trying to arrange details of a dowry for the marriage of Reccared to Rigunth, the daughter of Chilperic and Fredegund. Not surprisingly, in the circumstances, little progress was made in these discussions.
In the 8th year of Childebert and the 22nd year of Guntram and Chilperic, according to Gregory (which, following Gregory’s timescale, corresponds to AD 581/2), Tiberius II died and Maurice, the son-in-law of Tiberius, became emperor. Closer to home, Chilperic broke the agreement he had made with his brothers after the death of Charibert by entering the city of Paris without obtaining the approval of his fellow Frankish kings. During the time Chilperic and his entourage stayed in Paris, his son Theuderic was baptised by Ragnemod, the bishop of the city.
In the following year, the 9th of Childebert, king Guntram, of his own volition, restored the second half of Marseilles to his nephew. Thus, peace was restored between Austrasia and Burgundy. Shortly afterwards, ambassadors arrived from Spain, telling Chilperic that the details for the marriage between his daughter Rigunth and Reccared, son of Leovigild, had finally been settled, so it could now go ahead. Chilperic set off from Paris to Soissons but, on the journey, his infant son Theuderic died of dysentery, so he returned to Paris to bury him. Leovigild then sent an envoy bearing gifts to Chilperic, apparently to encourage him to thwart any plans his nephew Childebert might have for an invasion of Spain, in revenge for what had happened to his sister Ingund. On his way to see Chilperic, the envoy stayed with Gregory at Tours.
When Chilperic heard that Guntram and Childebert had made peace with each other, and now proposed to win back the cities he had seized from them, his immediate response was to withdraw to Cambrai with his treasure. He also sent messengers to his counts and dukes, asking them to strengthen the fortifications of their cities, and be prepared to defend them stoutly should Guntram and Childebert attack. At this time, another son, Chlothar, was born to Chilperic and Fredegund. Chilperic was afraid that if the child appeared in public, some harm might befall him, so he gave orders for him to be brought up in the manor of Vitry.
A large number of Visigoth envoys then arrived in Gaul, to complete the transactions required before the marriage of Rigunth to Reccared could take place, so Chilperic was obliged to take up residence in Paris once again to do all that was necessary. He rounded up large numbers of serfs from various royal estates to be transported to Spain, where they would be expected to serve Rigunth, giving no thought to the distress caused by the arbitrary splitting up of families. He then handed his daughter over to the Visigoth envoys, together with her immense dowry, to which Fredegund added a vast weight of gold and silver, as well as fine clothes, from her own personal possessions. Frankish nobles also gave expensive presents, including precious objects and horses. Eventually Rigunth set off for Spain, accompanied by the Visigoth envoys, together with a large escort of armed Franks, to deal with anyone who might try to ambush the procession. However, on the first night out of Paris, fifty of her escort absconded with a hundred of the best horses, their golden bridles, and two great salvers, taking them to Childebert. From then on, there was a steady stream of people slipping away from the party, carrying with them whatever they could lay their hands on. Those who continued seized crops and livestock from the fields without recompense to the farmers, for Chilperic had made no provision from the public purse. So, the wedding procession left desolation in its wake.
Meanwhile, back in Paris, Chilperic was spending most of his time hunting on his estate at Chelles. One day, he arrived back from the hunt at twilight, and was just alighting from his horse when an unknown assailant stepped forward and stabbed him twice. Thus Chilperic died, in the 23rd year of his reign. No-one at Chelles seemed to know what to do, so Mallulf, bishop of Senlis, who had spent the previous three days in a tent, waiting in vain for an audience with Chilperic, took responsibility for the king’s body. He prepared it for burial, sang hymns throughout the night and then carried it by boat to the church of Saint Vincent in Paris, where he buried it close to the tomb of Childebert I.
2.2.5 Guntram, Childebert II and Chlothar II
Soon afterwards, queen Fredegund arrived in Paris, collected together that part of her treasure she had secreted within the city walls, and sought sanctuary within the cathedral, where she was given protection by bishop Ragnemod. The remainder of the Neustrian royal treasure, left behind at Chelles, was quickly seized by treasury officials and taken to Childebert, who was then in Meaux. Listening to her advisors, Fredegund then invited Guntram to come and take control of Neustria, as protector of herself and her 4-month-old son, Chlothar. In response, Guntram immediately moved to Paris. Childebert attempted to follow suit, but was refused entry into the city by its inhabitants. Childebert sent envoys to Guntram, to demand his right of access to Paris, but this merely led to an exchange of insults about broken promises on each side. Guntram sent Childebert’s envoys away, with a clear statement of his position. In his view, Childebert’s uncle, Chilperic, had clearly forfeited his (and his descendants) rights to a share of Paris, by entering the city in the previous year without obtaining the agreements required by the pact made after the death of Charibert. Similarly, Childebert’s father, Sigibert, had forfeited his own rights to a share of Paris, and those of his son, by entering the city on his way to a final confrontation with Chilperic. Divine judgement had been made on both Sigibert and Chilperic for these acts, because each of them had been killed soon afterwards. Guntram therefore maintained that Paris, and indeed the whole of the former kingdom of Charibert, should now belong to him by rights, and he alone would determine what happened to it in the future.
Childebert’s envoys departed carrying that message, shortly before another group arrived to demand that Guntram should hand Fredegund over to Childebert, who was claiming that Fredegund was responsible for the murders of his aunt Galswinth, his father Sigibert, his uncle Chilperic and his cousins Clovis and Merovech. Guntram replied that he would convene an assembly to consider the demands made by the two groups of envoys.
At this time, duke Ansovald and other Neustrian nobles rallied in support of Chilperic’s four-month-old son, whom they hailed as king Chlothar II. From all the cities that had owed allegiance to Chilperic, they obtained oaths of allegiance to Chlothar and to Guntram, his protector. Guntram helped by returning to their rightful owners possessions that had been wrongly seized by Chilperic and his cronies. Also, on the advice of Ragnemod, speaking on behalf of forty-five Neustrian bishops, but contrary to the wishes of Fredegund, Guntram confirmed an action by the inhabitants of Rouen, who had recalled their popular bishop, Praetextatus, from the exile imposed on him by Chilperic. Nevertheless, Guntram felt unsafe in Paris, and never moved around without an armed escort. One day in church, just as mass was about to begin, Guntram addressed the congregation and asked them to allow him to rule for at least another three years, as adoptive father of both Chlothar and Childebert, to try to prevent the country falling back into chaos. His words were well-received.
Meanwhile, Rigunth had reached Toulouse, on her way to Spain with her treasure, when word reached duke Desiderius that Chilperic had been assassinated. Gathering together some of his most formidable warriors, he entered Toulouse and seized the treasure from Rigunth, leaving her to stay in St. Mary’s church with just a meagre allowance.
Shortly afterwards, Guntram sent his counts to take over the cities which had been allocated to Sigibert after the death of Charibert. The people of Tours and Poitiers wanted to stay with Sigibert’s son, Childebert, but Guntram mobilised the men of Bourges, who began creating havoc around Tours. That persuaded the inhabitants of the city to give their allegiance to Guntram, for the time being. Duke Geraric sent them a message from Poitiers, urging them to remain with Childebert, but was advised by return to accept the reality of the situation, as it was at that particular time. When troops recruited by Guntram’s officers in the area of Tours began to approach Poitiers from one side, and the men of Bourges from the other, the people of the city sent messages to say that they were prepared to abide by whatever decision was reached at the forthcoming conference to address the disputes between Guntram and Childebert, but they were told in no uncertain terms that they had to give their allegiance to Guntram immediately or they would lose everything they had. Having little alternative, they followed the example of the inhabitants of Tours. In fact, the conference, when it took place, achieved nothing constructive.
Later, Guntram ordered Fredegund to be confined to the manor of Rueil, in the Rouen area, under the care of bishop Melanius. The chief nobles of Neustria then all swore an oath of allegiance to Chlothar II, pointedly omitting any reference to Fredegund. The queen felt she had lost most of her power, unlike the hated Brunhild, who still exercised a significant amount of influence over Childebert, even though he was now king in his own right, and also had other powerful advisors. She sent a cleric of her household to gain Brunhild’s confidence and then assassinate her. However, the Austrasians became suspicion of the cleric, who, under torture, confessed the true nature of his mission. He was then sent back to Fredegund, who cut off his hands and feet for having failed to accomplish his task.
Guntram then went to Chalon-sur-Saône, where he began to concern himself with finding out who had murdered Chilperic. Fredegund was claiming that the person behind the assassination was Childebert’s treasurer, Eberulf, whom she now hated because he had turned down her invitation to come and live with her after the king’s death. Guntram took her accusation seriously, and swore to bring Eberulf to justice. When Eberulf heard about this, in Tours where he was now living, he sought sanctuary in the church of Saint Martin. Men from Orleans and Blois were then sent by Guntram to keep guard on the church but, fifteen days later, they went home, loaded with booty. Eberulf’s house was ransacked, for which Eberulf blamed bishop Gregory, even though he categorically denied any involvement. Regardless of that, Eberulf continued to live as a refugee in the church of Saint Martin, where he and his numerous staff regularly insulted Gregory and carried out sacrilegious acts.
The 10th year of Childebert (which was the 24th year of Guntram) proved to be as eventful as the previous year. Gregory records that the people of Poitiers soon broke their oath of allegiance to Guntram, so once again he sent a force, including men from Orleans and Bourges, to get them to change their minds. Maroveus, the bishop of Poitiers, gave the envoys a hostile reception, so Guntram’s troops went on a rampage of looting, burning and killing in the region around the city. They then went and did the same around Tours, even though the Tourangeaux had kept to their word. Further attacks on Poitiers eventually forced the inhabitants to swear loyalty to Guntram once again, but they did so with the greatest reluctance.
Guntram then summoned Childebert to come and join him. He warned his nephew not to trust certain of his advisors, and also advised him to distance himself from his mother, Brunhild. Guntram assured Childebert that he was his sole heir, and would inherit the whole of his kingdom after his death. Later, when they appeared together at a feast, Guntram addressed his assembled warriors and told them that Childebert was now a grown man. Hence, whatever their previous feelings towards him, they should now regard him as the king that he had become, in reality as well as name. Thus peace was restored between Guntram and Childebert. When the time came for Childebert to return home to Austrasia, Guntram promised to restore to him everything that had once been held by his father, Sigibert.
Later that year, Guntram was invited to come to Paris, to participate in the baptism of Chlothar II. On his way from Chalon, he stopped at Orleans, to celebrate the feast of Saint Martin. There, at the formal dinner, Guntram told the guests (who included Gregory) that he considered Childebert to have the makings of a great king, although in the past he had been ill-served by his advisors.
When Guntram reached Paris, there were no signs of Chlothar, and no indications that he was on his way to the city. That seemed to confirm Guntram’s suspicions that Chlothar was not the son of his brother, for otherwise there should have been no reluctance to allow him to see the infant king. When Fredegund heard of Guntram’s doubts, she sent him a statement sworn on oath by three hundred Neustrian nobles and three bishops, saying that Chilperic was the boy’s father. Thus reassured, Guntram returned to Chalon, but Chlothar had still to be baptised. To strengthen his influence in Neustria, Guntram appointed Theodulf to be count of Angers. Theodulf entered the city, but was then driven out by the townsfolk, led by Domigisel. However, with the help of duke Sigulf, Theodulf was eventually able to establish himself in the position given to him by Guntram.
Soon afterwards, Childebert held a meeting with his leaders on his estate at Breslingen. Brunhild wanted to send troops to Africa, where, according to recent reports, her daughter Ingund was still being held by imperial troops, but the nobles were unsympathetic to her proposal. News then arrived that Ingund had died in Africa, re-igniting the anger felt by the Franks about the way she had been treated by the Visigoths. The Franks also regarded Septimania, the Visigoth-controlled western region of the former Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis, as being part of Gaul, and they wished to bring it within their boundaries. So, Guntram decided to send an army to capture Septimania for the Franks, and then to advance into Spain. As the troops were about to depart, a letter from the Visigoth king Leovigild to Fredegund was intercepted and the contents made known to Guntram (who quickly passed them on to Childebert). The letter supposedly urged Fredegund to murder Childebert and Brunhild as quickly as possible, and to pay Guntram whatever was required to bring about peace between Francia and Spain. Leovigild promised to supply the funds necessary to enable this to happen. Fredegund was then asked to reward Amelius (bishop of Bigorra) and Leuba (mother-in-law of duke Bladast) for arranging access for his envoys to her. Fredegund immediately armed two clerics with poisoned daggers and sent them to assassinate Childebert and Brunhild. However, Rauching was able to apprehend them, and they confessed their guilt. Their hands, ears and noses were cut off, after which they were put to death.
Guntram then sent a large army to march on Septimania. It was followed by men from beyond the Saône, Rhône and Seine, who ravaged the regions they passed through, destroying crops and herds, seizing booty, stripping the churches and killing the local inhabitants, including priests and bishops. When they reached Septimania, similar atrocities were carried out in the region of Nimes by men of Bourges, Saintes, Périgueux, Angoulême and other cities from within Guntram’s own kingdom. The Burgundian army was, however, unable to force an entry into Nimes itself, or to a number of other well-fortified towns. When they arrived at Carcassonne, the citizens opened the gates to let them in, but a quarrel immediately broke out so they marched out again. Terentiolus, count of Limoges, was struck on the head by a stone thrown from the walls and killed. His body was seized by the local people, and his head cut off. Guntram’s army then panicked, and began to head for home, abandoning much of what they had seized during their march. The Visigoths ambushed them on several occasions, killing many and stealing their goods. After that, the people of the Toulouse region, who had suffered badly during the army’s advance, now took their revenge during its retreat. Furthermore, the destruction of crops during the outward journey meant that the retreating troops could find nothing to eat, so many died of starvation.
When the remnants of Guntram’s army arrived home, the king was furious about what had happened, causing the principal officers to seek refuge at the church of Saint Symphorian in Autun. Guntram visited the church to celebrate the feast-day of the saint, and told the army leaders that he wanted them to explain their actions on some future occasion. He then made critical comments about them to a group of bishops and nobles. They responded that the army officers could not be blamed for the behaviour of their troops, for the entire population was steeped in evil, and everyone did as they wished, regardless of orders. There was no respect for anyone in authority, including the king himself. At that moment a messenger arrived to say that Reccared, the son of king Leovigild, had led an army out of Spain, capturing the castle of Cabaret, ravaging the countryside around Toulouse and then moving on to attack the castle of Beaucaire on the Rhône, near Arles. He had now based himself within the walls of Nimes, from where he could threaten Provence. Guntram responded by making Leudegisel army commander in place of Calumniosus, and posting more than four thousand men as frontier guards. In addition, Nicetius, duke of Clermont, came with a force to patrol the border.
In the 11th year of Childebert’s reign, which was the 25th year of Guntram (and, following Gregory’s timescale, corresponds to AD 584/5), Gregory reports that envoys came from Spain to sue for peace. They returned home without being given a definite answer. Reccared once again advanced into Gaul and took booty from the Franks.
In the 12th year of Childebert, Gregory says that Fredegund sent envoys to Guntram in the name of her son. They presented their petition, received their reply and retired to their lodgings. On the following morning, as the king set off for communion, one of the envoys was apprehended, fully armed, in a corner of the oratory. On interrogation, the man confessed that he had been sent to kill Guntram. He was mutilated and thrown into prison. The other envoys denied any knowledge of the plot and, although they were not believed, they were allowed to retain their freedom, but banished from Guntram’s realm.
Reccared, who had now succeeded his father Leovigild as king of the Visigoths, consulted with his step-mother Gosuintha about the desirability of having a treaty of peace and mutual support between the Visigoths and the Franks, and then sent envoys to Guntram and Childebert. Those sent to Guntram were turned back at Mâcon, which angered Reccared greatly, and he ordered that no-one from Guntram’s kingdom should be allowed to enter any of the cities of Septimania. In contrast, those envoys sent to Childebert were well-received, peace was made, and the envoys returned home loaded with presents.
Rauching then conspired with the leading men of Chlothar’s kingdom to assassinate Childebert. When Childebert was dead, Rauching would be given command of Champagne, and put in charge of Theudebert, whilst Ursio and Berthefried would seize Theuderic and take control of the rest of the kingdom, making sure that Guntram did not intervene. They were determined to humiliate Brunhild, as they had done in the years following the death of Sigibert. The plan was that Rauching would seek an audience with Childebert, and kill him personally. However, Guntram became aware of what was intended, and sent a warning to his nephew. Childebert summoned Rauching to come and see him and, as he was waiting outside, sent men to sequester all of his property. Rauching was then invited in and, after a discussion of various matters, he was asked to withdraw. As Rauching was leaving, he was murdered.
In the expectation that Rauching had already carried out his plan to assassinate Childebert, Ursio and Berthefried raised an army and began to march. Then, when they heard what had actually happened, they collected together their supporters and possessions inside a strong-point on the Woëvre, near Ursio’s estate. Brunhild, who had stood sponsor to Berthefried’s daughter at her baptism, sent a message to him to break with Ursio before it was too late. However, Berthefried responded that only death could sever the link between himself and Ursio.
Guntram and Childebert, together with the three queens, then signed a detailed treaty (the “Treaty of Andelot”). This made clear which cities belonged to which ruler, and indicated how any disputes between them should be settled. On this same occasion, Dynamius and Lupus rejoined the service of Childebert, and had an audience with him. Childebert and his party then left Guntram in joy and amity, and returned home.
Afterwards, Childebert sent an army, led by Godigisel, the son-in-law of Lupus, to attack the stronghold of Ursio and Berthefried. On the way, some of the conscripted men burned and looted every property they passed which belonged to Ursio or Berthefried. When they arrived at their destination, they found it impossible to drive Ursio, Berthefried and some of their supporters out of a church, so they set fire to it. Ursio came out fighting, and killed many of Godigisel’s men, but was wounded in the thigh and eventually slain. At this point, Godigisel shouted to his troops that, with Ursio, the main enemy, dead, Berthefried could keep his life if he surrendered. The soldiers then turned their attention to looting goods from the church, allowing Berthefried to escape and seek refuge in the church-house in Verdun.
At around this time, Reccared called a meeting of Spanish bishops and announced his conversion from Arianism, bringing together the two sects in Spain. Reccared then sent envoys to Guntram and Childebert, to repeat his previous message of friendship, and also to suggest the possibility of a marriage between himself and Chlodosind, the sister of Childebert. He swore that he was not in any way inculpated in Ingund’s death. Nevertheless, as before, Guntram turned the envoys away, saying that he was unable to trust people who had treated his niece so badly. Again, as on the previous occasion, the envoys received a much friendlier welcome in Austrasia. Even though Childebert had apparently already promised envoys from Lombardy that Chlodosind could marry their king, both he and Brunhild said they would happily agree to her marrying Reccared. However, they added that the marriage could only go ahead if it also received the approval of Guntram. The envoys then returned home.
In the 13th year of Childebert’s reign and the 27th year of Guntram (which, following Gregory’s timescale, corresponds to AD 586/7), Gregory records that he was just setting out to visit the Austrasian king when, together with Felix, bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, he was summoned by Guntram to come to him at Chalon-sur-Saône. On arrival, Guntram told them that he was upset because Childebert had already broken the promises he made by signing the Treaty of Andalot. In particular, he had not handed over to Guntram his share of the town of Senlis, nor returned to him men of his kingdom who had been acting against his interests. Gregory assured him that Childebert had no intention of contravening any of the provisions. If Guntram wished to proceeed to a partition of Senlis, it could be done immediately. Similarly, if Guntram gave to Gregory the names of those Burgundians he wished to be returned to him, he was certain that Childebert would arrange for this to be done without delay. Without responding to what Gregory had said, Guntram asked him to read out the treaty aloud for the benefit of everyone present (at which point Gregory provides the full text of the treaty). Guntram said he would abide by every word, and expected Childebert to do likewise. He then turned to Felix and asked him abruptly if it was true that he had managed to bring about warm, friendly relations between Brunhild and Fredegund. Felix denied it, and said that the relationship between the two queens was the same as it had always been, i.e. one of mutual enmity. Gregory then asked why Guntram treated Fredegund’s envoys more sympathetically than those of Brunhild. Guntram responded that he did this because it would ultimately prove to be in the best interests of Childebert, adding that it could hardly be because of genuine friendship towards a woman who had sent assassins to murder him on more than one occasion.
In the 14th year of Childebert, Gregory records the death of Ingoberg, the former wife of Charibert, who had spent most of her adult life in religious activities. Soon afterwards, Brunhild sent Ebregisel to Spain, carrying a large salver made out of gold and precious gems, and two basins decorated with gold and jewels. It was suggested to Guntram that this was part of a plot to assassinate him, so Guntram had Ebregisel arrested by duke Ebrachar as he passed through Paris. Ebregisel was then brought before him in Burgundy. Ebregisel maintained that the gifts were intended for king Reccared, whom Brunhild hoped would marry her daughter Chlodosind. Guntram accepted this explanation, and allowed Ebregisel to continue on his journey.
Afterwards, Guntram raised an army to attack Septimania. He sent duke Austrovald on ahead to extract an oath of allegiance from the people of Carcassonne, and then dispatched duke Boso, now his military commander, and Antestius to take control of the other cities. Boso behaved in a most arrogant way. He reprimanded Austrovald for having entered Carcassonne without waiting for him to arrive, and then marched his own troops, consisting of men from Saintes, Périgueux, Bordeux, Agen and Toulouse, towards the city. The Visigoths came to hear of this advance, and laid a trap for him. Boso pitched his camp by a small river, after which he settled down to his supper, eating and drinking more than was sensible. At this point, the Visigoths chose to attack, catching the Franks off their guard. As they rose to their feet and began to resist, the Visigoths pretended to run away. Boso and his troops chased after them, and fell into the ambush prepared for them. Nearly five thousand Franks were killed, and two thousand taken prisoner.
When Guntram was told of this terrible defeat, he was extremely angry, and reacted by banning the passage of Austrasians through his kingdom. This was because he maintained that Childebert’s keenness to form an alliance with Reccared had encouraged the Visigoths to think they could hold onto Septimania, thus thwarting Guntram’s ambition to bring the whole of the former Gallia Narbonensis (comprising Septimania and Provence) under Frankish control. Guntram also saw other gounds for thinking that the Austrasians were working against him. In particular, he had heard that Childebert was sending his son Theudebert to Soissons. The reason for this, in fact, was that some of the prominent citizens of Soissons had visited Childebert in Strasbourg and told him that if he were to send one of his sons to live amongst them, they would serve him and defend his lands in the surrounding area. However, the suspicious Guntram said that Theudebert would not be travelling to Soissons unless he intended to go on to enter Paris and deprive Guntram of his kingdom. Guntram convened a council of bishops in November to consider these matters. They found Brunhild and Childebert innocent of the charges made against them, so Guntram re-opened the roads between Austrasia and Burgundy.
In the 15th year of Childebert’s reign, which was the 29th year of Guntram (corresponding to AD 588/9), Gregory records that there was a great epidemic in Rome, pope Pelagius II being amongst the first to die. The deacon Gregory was then unanimously elected to replace him. Emperor Maurice, whose son had been baptised by the pope-elect in Constantinople, confirmed his appointment with enthusiasm. It is known from pope Gregory’s letters, collected and preserved in his Registrum Epistolarum that, early in his papacy, he wrote to bishop Leander of Seville to express his joy at Reccared’s conversion to Catholicism. He also wrote to Virgilius, bishop of Arles, and Theodore, bishop of Marseilles, to say that, although their actions in converting Jews to Christianity by force were well-meaning, it would be better if such conversions could be achieved willingly.
During the same year, bishop Gregory tells us that Grippo arrived back in Francia, after having been sent by Childebert on a mission to emperor Maurice in Constantinople. Grippo, together with his fellow-envoys, Bodegisel, the son of Mummolen from Soissons, and Evantius, the son of Dynamius from Arles, had first sailed to imperial territory in north Africa, waiting in Carthage for permission to complete their journey to Constantinople. In Carthage, a servant of Evantius stole a valuable object from the hand of a shopkeeper and fled. He was traced to the place where he and the envoys were staying, but refused to give the object back, which resulted in a series of arguments taking place over the next few days, these becoming increasingly acrimonious. Eventually, the servant drew his sword and killed the shopkeeper, but said nothing to his master about what had happened. Thus, Grippo, Evantius and Bodogisel were taken by complete surprise when a squad of soldiers sent by the prefect of Carthage arrived at their lodgings, accompanied by an armed mob. The officer in charge called for everyone inside to lay down their arms and come out, and gave assurances that no-one would be hurt if they did as they were asked, but such was the pandemonium in the street that Evantius and Bodogisel were killed as they emerged. Grippo seized his weapons and went out to face the mob, asking for an explanation for what had happened, and pointing out that he and the two men who had just been murdered were on their way to see the emperor on a mission of peace. Hearing that, the soldiers and the mob all melted away. The prefect of Carthage quickly came round to see Grippo, expressing regret for what had occurred, and arranging for him to be taken to Maurice with the minimum of delay. The emperor was greatly distressed about the way the envoys had been treated, and promised that those responsible for the deaths of Evantius and Bodigisel would be punished. He also said he would agree to any other suggestion that Childebert might put forward. Then, loaded with presents, Grippo set off home.
Grippo’s report of his meeting with emperor Maurice stimulated Childebert to mount another invasion of Italy, ordering twenty dukes to raise armies and march against the Lombards. Duke Audovald, supported by duke Wintrio, raised a contingent in Champagne and advanced through the region of Metz, where his troops caused great destruction, killing, burning and looting. Contingents of men from other parts of Austrasia behaved similarly, causing much devastation within their own country. Only when they crossed the border into Italy did they turn their attention towards the enemy. Once over the border, Audovald turned to the right with six other dukes, and advanced as far as Milan. Duke Olo was foolish enough to approach Bellinzona, a stronghold belonging to Milan. There he was struck in the chest by a javelin and killed. Those of his men who were plundering the countryside for supplies were cut down by the Lombards. The Franks learned that the Lombards were encamped at the other side of a narrow but very deep stream flowing out of lake Lugano. A few of the Franks managed to cross and engage with the Lombards, but by the time the main army got to the other side, the Lombards had marched away and disappeared. After the Franks returned to the camp, an envoy from the emperor arrived, saying that support troops would join them in three days time. The Franks waited six days, as agreed, but no support troops appeared.
Cedinus, with thirteen other dukes, turned left on entering Italy. He captured five strong-points and took oaths of allegiance in the districts that had once been held by Sigibert. At this point, his army was stricken by dysentery, and many died. The wind then changed and the temperature dropped a little, making the troops feel much better. They wandered around Italy for three months, but inflicted no losses on the enemy, who had shut themselves up in strongly-fortified places. The king himself remained safe inside the walls of Pavia. They then returned home, by which time supplies were so short they had to sell weapons and clothes to buy food.
Afterwards, the Lombard king, Authari, sent peace envoys to Guntram, asking why the Franks continued to attack the Lombards, when they had not broken the oaths they had made. Guntram received the renewed offer of peace graciously, and sent the envoys on the Childebert. However, while they were still there, other envoys arrived to say that Authari was now dead. Nevertheless, they bought the same protestations of peace as the previous envoys. Childebert agreed in principle to a truce, but said that he would announce at a later date what his detailed plans were. After that, Maurice sent twenty bound men to Childebert, saying that these were the ones who had murdered the envoys, Evantius and Bodigisel. He said that Childebert could execute the men, or alternatively they could be exchanged back for a ransom of three hundred gold solidi each. Either way, that should be an end to the matter. Childebert was sceptical about these being the right men, for they could simply have been twenty slaves randomly selected to suit Maurice’s purposes. Grippo, who was present, said he did not recognise any of them. He thought that, if he was allowed to return to Carthage, he might be able to identify the real murderers of Evantius and Bodigisel. Childebert therefore refused to accept the twenty men, and decided to send another envoy to Maurice.
In the 16th year of Childebert’s reign, and the 30th year of Guntram’s, Gregory relates how Fredegund invited Guntram to come to Paris for the long-delayed baptism of Chlothar. Guntram would receive the boy from the baptismal font. Guntram sent some of his bishops ahead of him, and then made his way to his country estate of Rueil, just outside Paris. There, he had Chlothar brought to him, and made arrangements for the baptism to be carried out in the nearby village of Nanterre. Messengers from Childebert then arrived, accusing Guntram of breaking his agreement with the Austrasian king by confirming Chlothar’s right to the royal throne. Guntram denied that he was breaking any agreement with Childebert. He was, by request, simply receiving from the font his brother’s son, which was something that no Christian could refuse to do. He assured Childebert that, as long as he upheld the agreement they had made, he would do the same, complying with every small detail. Following the ceremony, many gifts were exchanged between Guntram and the representatives of Chlothar, after which Guntram returned home to Chalon-sur-Saône.
2.2.6 Overall Perspectives
This was the last entry relating to political events in The History of the Franks. Gregory, who was now growing old, went on to mention some ecclesiastical matters, and then began an account of the bishops of Tours, from the first, Gatianus, who was appointed in the first year of emperor Decius, through the fourth, Saint Martin, to the appointment of Gregory himself as the nineteenth bishop of the city. For each, Gregory gives the number of years they served in office, and also says that there was a 37-year gap between the death of the first bishop and the appointment of the second, Litorius, in the first year of emperor Constans. There was also a one-year vacancy between the seventeenth bishop, Gunthar, and the eighteenth, Eufronius.
As a coda, Gregory notes that he finished writing his History of the Franks in AM (E) 5792 (corresponding to AD 592), this year being the 19th of the reign of Childebert II, the 33rd of Guntram, the 5th of pope Gregory, the 21st of his own term as bishop of Tours, and the 197th since the death of Saint Martin. Elsewhere, Gregory equated the first year of emperor Maurice with the 8th year of Childebert, so the year in which he finished his work was also the 12th year of Maurice.
Adding together Gregory’s figures for the Episcopal periods of the bishops of Tours, plus the vacant periods he notes between the first and second and between the seventeenth and eighteenth bishops, gives a total of 345 years from the 1st year of Gatianus to the 21st year of Gregory himself. Since, according to the information he gives, the 1st year of bishop Gatianus was the 1st year of emperor Decius and the 21st year of bishop Gregory was the 11th year of emperor Maurice, that indicates a total of 345 years from the 1st year of Decius to the 11th year of Maurice, which is consistent with the conventional chronology. Similarly, since, according to Gregory, Saint Martin died in the 2nd year of the joint-rule of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius, which he dates as AM (E) 5596, and the 12th year of Maurice was in the year he dates as AM (E) 5792, that gives a total of 196 years between the two regnal years, which again is consistent with the conventional chronology.
As we have seen above, much of this period is also covered, albeit in less detail, by the chronicle of Marius of Avenches, which is presented in the form of annals, the entry for each year being headed by the names of the consuls associated with it and, from AD 523 onwards, by the indiction year. There are 126 annual entries in the chronicle, the first for the consulship of Valentinian (for the 8th time) and Anthemius (AD 455), the year when Avitus became emperor in the west whilst, in the east, Marcian was in his 5th year, and the last entry dated as the 2nd year of the consulship of Tiberius II (since by this time the office of consul had been subsumed into that of the emperor), which was the 5th year of Childebert II. Once more, this is in general agreement (to within a year) with the conventional chronology.
It is evident that, in contrast to the situation in England, mentioned in section 1.1, there was a large amount of recorded history about events in Gaul during the period between the reigns of emperors Marcian and Maurice, relating to the Franks and their neighbours to the southwest, the Visigoths. This confirms the conclusion reached previously, that the shortage of historical evidence concerning England during this period is unlikely to be an indication of a chronological anomaly.
According to the picture presented by Gregory and other sources, the Frankish kingdom in Gaul operated independently, without any significant interference from the Roman Empire, from the reign of Clovis onwards. During this period, there were occasional mentions of the eastern emperors, Anastasius I, Justin I, Justinian I, Justin II, Tiberius II and Maurice, but all the indications were that by this time the northern half of Italy was under the control of the Ostrogoths and, after them, the Lombards. There was no reference to any western emperors.
2.3 Popes of Rome
For the timeline of the popes of Rome, as with other timelines we have considered, it is convenient to follow a single narrative source, in this case the Liber Pontificalis (LP), mentioned previously, whilst noting relevant information from other historical accounts. The LP gives an entry for each pope, in chronological order, giving the precise length of the papacy and also the duration of the vacancy between one papacy and the next.
In an earlier part of this article, we followed a sequence of popes and arrived at Damasus, who, according to the LP, served for 18 years 3 months, starting towards the end of the reign of Constantius II. The next pope listed in the LP is Siricius, who is said to have held the See for 15 years. According to Hydatius, Siricius became pope in the 8th year of Theodosius I, which he dates to AM (E) 5586 in the Eusebian system (AD 386), Spanish Era 424 (AD 386). Prosper of Aquitaine says that Siricius succeeded Damasus in the consular year of Richomer and Clearchus, AP 357 (AD 384), whereas Marcellinus Comes places it a year earlier, in the consulship of Merobaudes and Saturninus.
As reported in the LP, the next pope after Siricius was Anastasius. Prosper says that Siricius was ordained in the consulate of Honorius (for the 4th time) with Eutychian, AP 371 (AD 398), and Marcellinus Comes gives the same consular year. According to the LP, Anastasius served for 3 years and was succeeded by Innocentius. Hydatius says that Innocentius became pope in the 8th year of Arcadius and Honorius, AM (E) 5603 (AD 403), Spanish Era 439 (AD 401). Prosper gives it as the consular year of Arcadius and Honorius (both for the 5th time), AP 375 (AD 402) and Marcellinus Comes agrees that it was in that consular year. As reported by the LP, Innocentius held the See for 15 years 2 months, after which Zosimus became pope. Hydatius gives the year of this transition as the 24th of Honorius, AM (E) 5619 (AD 419), Spanish Era 455 (AD 417), Prosper makes it the consular year of Theodosius (for the 7th time) and Palladius, AP 389 (AD 416), and Marcellinus Comes gives it as the consular year of Honorius (for the 11th time) and Constantius (for the 2nd) (AD 417). The LP states that Zosimus was pope for 1 year 3 months, and his successor was Boniface (I).
For the period covered by the Chronographia 354, the LP had recorded the consular years given in that work for each change of pope. However, following its end in the middle of the 4th century, the LP simply noted the timescale of each individual papacy for the next century and a half. Having arrived at the papacy of Boniface in the early 5th century, let us now reach forward to the next occasion when a consular date was given in an entry in the LP.
According to the LP, the length of time from the ordination of Boniface to that of Hormisdas, determined on the basis of summation of pontifical periods and vacancies, was 95 years (to the nearest year). Amongst the information provided in the entry for Hormisdas is that he became pope in the year when Senator was sole consul, which corresponds to AD 514. On that basis, therefore, Boniface would have become pope in AD 419. In line with that, Prosper writes that Boniface became pope when Monoxius and Plinta were consuls, in AP 392, i.e. AD 419, whilst Marcellinus Comes says that Boniface’s ordination was just one year later, during the consulship of Theodosius II (for the 9th time) and Constantius (for the 3rd time). Theophanes, dating events according to the Alexandrian Era, notes the ordination of Boniface as pope in AM (AE) 5913, i.e. AD 420/1. As related in the LP, Boniface and Eulalius were both proclaimed pope on the same day by different factions in Rome. Emperor Honorius consulted with Valentinian (the future Valentinian III) and ordered both men to leave the city. They did so, but Eulalius then returned in defiance of the imperial order, after which Boniface was confirmed as pope. He went on to serve for 4 years in total (all pontifical periods being given in this summary to the nearest year, except where otherwise stated).
The LP goes on to say that Boniface was succeeded by Celestine. Consistent with that, Prosper says that Celestine became pope when Marinianus and Asclepiotatus were consuls, in AP 396, i.e. AD 423; Marcellinus Comes similarly says that Celestine’s ordination was in the consular year of Marinianus and Asclepiodatus, adding that it was the 6th indiction; whilst Hydatius writes that it was in Spanish Era 464, corresponding to AD 426. Theophanes gives the year as AM (AE) 5917, i.e. AD 424/5. According to the LP, Celestine held the See for 9 years, during which time he issued many decrees, including one that before the sacrifice the 150 psalms of David should be performed antiphonally by everyone. Bede, in the EHEP, tells us that Celestine sent Palladius to be the first bishop to the Christian Irish in AD 430.
On the basis of the LP timescale, the next pope, Xystus III, would have been ordained in AD 432. Prosper says that Xystus became pope when Aëtius and Valerius were consuls, in AP 405, i.e. AD 432; Marcellinus Comes gives the same consular year, adding that it was the 15th indiction; Hydatius has Xystus becoming pope in Spanish Era 472, i.e. AD 434; and Theophanes says it was in AM (AE) 5927, i.e. AD 434/5. The LP continues by saying that, in the second year of his papacy, Xystus was arraigned on a charge by someone called Bassus, but was cleared by a synod of bishops. Emperor Valentinian III and his mother, Placidia, then issued a writ condemning Bassus and transferring all his goods and estates to the Catholic church. Xystus was pope for 8 years, on which basis the next pope, Leo I (subsequently known as Leo the Great) would have been appointed in AD 440. Generally consistent with that, Prosper writes that Leo became pope when Valentinian (for the 5th time) and Anatolius were consuls, in AP 413, i.e. AD 440; and Marcellinus Comes gives the same consular year, which he says was the 8th indiction. Theophanes says that the first year of the papacy of Leo was AM (AE) 5935, i.e. AD 442/3. The LP reports that Leo was pope for 21 years, during which time Marcian became emperor in the east, and Rome was sacked by the Vandals and threatened by the Huns. Leo went in person to talk to Attila, the king of the Huns, and the Huns then withdrew from Italy. During his papacy, Leo became aware of the spread of two heresies, the Nestorian and the Eutychian. (Nestorius maintained that Christ had been born human and was subsequently inbued with a divine nature; Eutyches maintained that Christ was born with human and divine natures, combined into a single nature; the orthodox belief was that, from birth, Christ had two natures, human and divine.) Becoming frustrated in his attempts to combat the heresies, particularly the Euthychian one, Leo wrote to emperor Marcian about the problem. A synod of bishops was convened at Chalcedon to consider a statement of the orthodox faith which had been written by Leo. (This document, known as the Tome, was dated the Ides of June in the consulship of Asturius and Protogenes, i.e. AD 449, and sent to Flavius, patriarch of Constaninople, late in the reign of emperor Theodosius II.) At the synod of Chalcedon, Marcian (the new emperor) and his wife, Pulcheria, affirmed their own belief in the orthodox faith, and Nestorius and Eutyches were condemned. The LP account continues by referring to the numerous letters on the Christain faith written by pope Leo, copies of which were safely preserved in the archives. These have survived to the present day, and include one (dated June in the consulship of Adelfius, i.e. AD 451) sending his apologies for not being able to attend the synod of Chalcedon in person, and another (dated March in the consulship of Opilio, i.e. 453) formally giving his assent to the decisions made at the synod. References to these events are also included in the chronicles of Prosper, Marcellinus Comes, Hydatius, Victor of Tunnuna and Theophanes, as well as the Chronicon Paschale, the dates being consistent with those given above. Thus, for example, Hydatius mentions that Leo wrote to Flavius about the Nestorian and Eutychian heresies in Spanish Era 488, i.e. AD 450. The Chronicon Paschale states that the synod of Chalcedon took place during the consulship of Sphoracius and Herculanus (AD 452). Theophanes says that it began in October of the 5th indiction in AM (AE) 5944 (AD 451), 14 months after the accession of Marcian.
All of the popes mentioned above, from Boniface I to Leo I, were Italians. Hilarius, a Sardinian, then became pope. In line with the LP timescale, Marcellinus Comes says he was ordained during the consulship of Dagalaiphus and Severinus, the 14th indiction, i.e. AD 461, whereas Hydatius gives the date as Spanish Era 500, i.e. AD 462, and Theophanes says AM (AE) 5956, i.e. AD 463/4. The LP account states that Hilarius was pope for 6 years, during which time he confirmed the outcomes of the three synods of Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon, as well as the Tome of Leo, and issued a decree on church matters during the consulship of Basiliscus and Hermenericus, i.e. AD 465. Simplicius, an Italian, was the next pope. Marcellinus Comes gives the year of his ordination as the consulship of Pusaeus and John, the 5th indiction, i.e. AD 467, and Hydatius says it was Spanish Era 506, which would have been the following year, whilst Theophanes states that Simplicius became pope in AM (AE) 5962, i.e. AD 469/70. The LP notes that, during the papacy of Simplicius, a report came from Acacius, bishop of Constantinople, claiming that Peter of Alexandria was a Eutychian heretic. Simplicius examined the evidence and condemned Peter, but granted him time for repentance. The account also says that, when Simplicius died, he had been pope for 15 years. The next pontiff, Felix III, would therefore have been ordained in AD 482, on the basis of the LP timescale. Consistent with that, Marcellinus Comes says that Felix became pope during the consulship of Trocundes and Severinus, the 5th indiction, i.e. AD 482, whereas Theophanes gives the date as AM (AE) 5976, i.e. AD 483/4. According to the LP, Felix, an Italian, held the See for 9 years, and was pope when Odoacer and then Theodoric were kings of Italy. During his papacy, a report came from the Greek church to say that Acacius had re-instated Peter as bishop of Alexandria. After seeking advice, Felix condemned Acacius as well as Peter. A letter then arrived from emperor Zeno, saying that Acacius had repented and should be re-instated. Felix sent two bishops, Misenus and Vitalis, to Constantinople to investigate. They found in favour of Acacius, but it subsequently emerged that they had taken a bribe, so they were excommunicated. After Felix, Gelasius, who was born in Africa, was then pope for 5 years, in the time of king Theoderic. Theophanes gives the date of his ordination as AM (AE) 5985, i.e. AD 492/3. The LP account continues by saying that bishop Misenus repented, and was restored to his church by Gelasius, but Acacius and Peter persisted with their sinful ways in Constantinople. Once again they were condemned, but given time to repent. After Gelasius, Anastasius, another Italian, became pope. Acording to Marcellinus Comes, that was during the consulship of Paulinus and Scytha, the 7th indiction, i.e. AD 498, and Theophanes gives the date as AM (AE) 5990, i.e. AD 497/8. The LP says that Anastasius held the See for 2 years, during which time a deacon of Thesalonica named Photinus conspired to re-instate Acacius, but his attempt failed. On the death of pope Anastasius, Symmachus, a Sardinian, was elevated to the papacy, during the reigns of Theodoric and emperor Anastasius. Marcellinus Comes dates the ordination of Symmachus to the year when Patricius and Hypatius were consuls, the 8th indiction, i.e. AD 500. The LP tells how Symmachus and Laurence were both ordained as pope, by rival factions, on the same day. The issue was taken to Ravenna, for king Theodoric to adjudicate. He ruled that the papacy should go to the person who was ordained first, and had the largest following. Those appointed to investigate the situation in the light of that ruling found in favour of Symmachus, so he was confirmed as prelate. Despite several attempts by his opponents to have him removed from office, Symmachus served as pope for 16 years.
That brings us to Hormisdas who, according to the LP, became pope in the year corresponding to AD 514 (as noted above). In line with that, Theophanes gives the date of his ordination as AM (AE) 6006, i.e. AD 513/4, whilst Marcellinus Comes says that Hormisdas became pope during the consulship of Florentius and Anthemius, the 8th indiction, i.e. AD 515, which involves a discrepancy of just one year. The LP continues by saying that Hormisdas died in the year when Flavius Symmachus and Boethius were consuls (which corresponds to AD 522), having held office for 9 years. During his time as pope, it was recorded that a jewelled diadem had been received from Clovis, king of the Franks, as a gift to the papacy. On the advice of king Theodoric, Hormisdas sent a group of bishops to emperor Anastasius in Constantinople, in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the problems concerning Acacius and Peter. Anastasius, it seemed, was sympathetic towards the Eutychian heresy, and attempted to bribe the bishops, but they resisted. Not long afterwards, Anastasius died and was succeeded as emperor by Justin I, whose religious views were strictly orthodox. Theoderic encouraged Hormisdas to send further envoys, to try to improve relations with Constantinople, and he made a gift of some silver candlesticks for the church of St. Peter’s.
Following the death of Hormisdas, the LP then reports that the next pope, John I, was ordained in the year of the consulship of Maximus (corresponding to AD 523) and died when Olybrius was consul (i.e. AD 526), holding the See for 3 years during the time of Theodoric and emperor Justin I. The continuator of Marcellinus Comes says that John became pope in the consulship of Philoxenus and Probus, the 3rd indiction, corresponding to AD 525, whereas Theophanes gives the date as AM (AE) 6016, i.e. AD 523/4. The LP goes on to relate how pope John, appreciating the orthodoxy of emperor Justin I, made an attempt to encourage him to remove the Arian, Theodoric, from the Italian throne. When Theodoric heard of that, he had John put into prison, where he soon died. Felix IV then became pope during the consulship of Maburtius (corresponding to AD 527). Consistent with that, Theophanes says that Felix was ordained in AM (AE) 6019 (AD 526/7). According to the LP, Felix had an uneventful papacy. He held the See for 4 years, during which time Athalaric succeeded Theodoric as king of Italy, and died during the consulship of Lambadius and Orestes (corresponding to AD 530).
Boniface II then became pope. According to Theophanes, this was in AM (AE) 6023 (AD 530/1). The LP reports that Boniface was ordained in rivalry to Dioscorus, who died 28 days later. Boniface made himself unpopular by his continued antagonism towards the followers of Dioscorus, and also his attempts to appoint his own successor. He died after serving for 2 years. John II (who was not Boniface’s chosen successor) was then elected pope. Theophanes dates his ordination to AM (AE) 6025 (AD 532/3). The LP records that John served for 2 years, in the time of Athalaric and the emperor Justinian I. During that period, the emperor made gifts of gold and silver objects to the church of St. Peter. Following the death of John II, Agapitus became pope. The continuator of Marcellinus Comes says that he was ordained in the year when Belisarius was consul, the 13th indiction, i.e. AD 535, and, similarly, Theophanes states that it was in AM (AE) 6028 (AD 535/6), whereas Victor of Tunnuna gives the date as the consulship of Johannes, i.e. AD 538. According to the LP, Agapitus then held the See for almost a year, during which time he went to Constantinople at the request of king Theodahad, to try to placate Justinian, who was infuriated that Theodahad had killed queen Amalasuntha, the daughter of king Theoderic. Agapitus was well-received, but died while he was in Constantinople. All of these popes, from Hormisdas to Agapitus, were born in Italy, as indeed were the next 14 popes.
According to the LP, there was almost exactly 22 years between the ordination of Hormisdas and that of Agapitus’s successor, Silverius, who would therefore have become pope in AD 536. According to Theophanes, the date was AM (AE) 6030, i.e. AD 537/8, and Victor of Tunnuna indicates that Silverius was ordained during the consulship of Basilius, i.e. AD 541. The LP reports that, during the short papacy of Silverius, Theodahad died and was succeeded as king of Italy by Witiges, who went to Ravenna and forcibly took Amalasuntha’s daughter as his wife. Justinian sent the patrician Belisarius with an army to free Italy of the Goths, and a great war took place. Belisarius took Rome, but the city was then besieged by Witiges, but eventually the Goths were driven back to Ravenna.
This signalled the beginning of a time of difficulty for the papacy. During the occupation by the Ostrogoths, and particularly during the long reign of Theodoric the Great, the papacy had been allowed to continue its activities without undue interference (except when pope John I had tried to bring about the overthrow of Theodoric). Despite the fact that the Ostrogoth kings were Arians, they generally seemed to work with the popes in a spirit of mutual respect. Now Justinian and, even more so, empress Theodora, wanted to be able to control the actions of the popes. The LP reports that, although pope Silverius had a courteous meeting in Rome with Belisarius in the 15th indication (AD 537), he soon afterwards fell out of favour with Theodora, because of his reluctance to comply with her request to reverse a decision of his predecessor, Agapitus, and re-instate the patriarch Anthimus to office (Anthimus had been removed because of his adherence to monophysitism, the belief, put forward by Eutyches during the papacy of Leo I, that Christ did not have separate human and divine natures, as supposed in orthodox circles, but a single nature). So, with the empress pulling the strings, Silverius was accused of conspiring with the Goths and deposed by archdeacon Vigilius, who was appointed pope in his place. Victor of Tunnuna says that this occurred in the year following the consulship of Basilius, i.e. AD 542, whereas Theophanes gives the date as AM (AE) 6031, i.e. AD 538/9. Despite the discrepancy in dates, both Victor and Theophanes say that Silverius was pope for no more than a year.
It is believed that the first edition of the LP contained the lives of popes up to and including Felix IV, and was completed soon after Felix’s death, with a second edition following quickly on the heels of the first, stopping part way through the papacy of Silverius. Given the climate of fear then created by Justinian and Theodora, soon to be followed by the persistent threat of Rome falling to the Lombards, and by outbreaks of plague and famine in Italy, it is perhaps not surprising that the next edition of the LP was produced almost a century later, perhaps during the papacy of Honorius. As would be expected in these circumstances, the material written to finish off the entry for Silverius, and also to constitute the next few entries, all written long after the events being described, is below the standard of that in earlier and later entries, in terms of being generally consistent with the full range of evidence now available.
In the LP account, it is said that Silverius held the See 1 year 5 months and 11 days, but no period of vacancy is indicated before the ordination of the next pope. In fact, it is known from other sources that Silverius was deposed after having served as pope for just over 9 months, and Vigilius was ordained around 2 weeks later. The figures given by the LP approximate to those from the ordination of Silverius to his death. To take them at face value would erroneously extend the “dead-reckoning” chronology of the LP by 7½ months, but that seems little to get excited about, in the overall context of our considerations.
According to the LP, Vigilius held the See for almost 18 years (which, in contrast to some other details given in the same entry, is in line with information from other sources). During this period, Witiges was captured and sent to Justinian in Constantinople. The Goths later attempted a revival under Baduila, known as Totila, at a time when there was a great famine in Italy, but the rebellion was crushed by Justinian’s general, Narses, and Totila was killed. Meanwhile, Theodora kept putting pressure on Vigilius to re-instate Anthimus. However, although had promised to do so, he now said he felt obliged to abide by the decision of Agapitus, since confirmed by Silverius. Eventually, at the instigation of Theodora, Vigilius was arrested and taken to Constantinople where, refusing to change his mind, he remained for ten years. During this period, archdeacon Pelagius acted as his representative in Rome. Then, after the final defeat of the Goths, the Romans asked Narses to petition Justinian for the return of Vigilius. Justinian eventually gave way, and Vigilius sailed towards Rome, but died on the way at Syracuse, in Sicily. On the basis of the LP timescale, that would have been in AD 555. According to Victor of Tunnuna, Vigilius died 16 years after the consulship of Basilius, i.e. AD 557.
The LP account continues by stating that archdeacon Pelagius succeeded Vigilius (becoming pope Pelagius I). Victor of Tunnuna says that Pelagius was ordained in the consular year following the death of Vigilius (AD 558), whilst Theophanes gives the date as AM (AE) 6049 (AD 556/7). Up to this point, the timescale of the LP has remained generally consistent with that from other sources. However, according to the LP, Pelagius was pope for 11 years 10 months and 18 days, whereas, on the basis of information from other sources, it seems clear that Pelagius held the See for much less than that period. Victor of Tunnuna, for example, gives the length of his papacy as 6 years, and Theophanes says it was 5 years. A term of 6 years is now generally accepted. Possibly the larger figure included time when Pelagius was the de facto pope, during the long absence of Vigilius in Constantinople. Regardless of that, attributing this lengthy term of office to Pelagius, after the death of Vigilius, would add what appears to be a spurious 6 years to the “dead-reckoning” chronology of the LP.
After that entry, the LP returns to the situation where the indicated lengths of papacies are in line with information from other sources. The next pope, after the death of Pelagius I, was John III. According to Theophanes, he was ordained in AM (AE) 6054 (AD 561/2). The LP reports that John held the see for 13 years, during which time Narses defeated a Frankish army, led by Buccelin, which was oppressing Italy. Later, angered by a petition from the Romans to emperor Justin II and empress Sophia to remove him from office as prefect of Italy, Narses encouraged the Lombards to invade the country. John III was succeeded as pope by Benedict I. According to the LP timescale (now apparently inflated by about 6 years because of the error concerning the papacy of Pelagius I, as discussed above), that would have been in AD 581. John of Biclar (whose chronicle follows on from that of Victor of Tunnuna) says that it was in the 5th year of Leovigild, king of the Visigoths, which Isidore dates to Spanish Era 612, i.e. AD 574. The LP continues by saying that Benedict served for 4 years. During this period, there was a severe famine in Italy, prompting the emperor to arrange for ships laden with corn to be sent to Rome from Egypt. To add to the problems for the Italians, the Lombards spread through the country, capturing many cities. In the time of the next pope, Pelagius II, who held the see for 10 years, Rome itself was besieged by the Lombards. On the basis of the LP timescale, Pelagius II would have become pope in AD 586. John of Biclar dates his ordination to the 8th year of Leovigild which, via the link to Isidore, corresponds to Spanish Era 615, i.e. AD 577, and adds that Pelagius served for 11 years.
And so we come to pope Gregory I, known as Gregory the Great, who, according to the LP, held the See for 13 years 6 months and 10 days. The LP gives a total of 60 years and 6 months between the ordinations of Silverius and Gregory I, which would place the latter towards the end of AD 596. However, we have reason to think that, because of the confusion in the LP about the term of office served by pope Pelagius I, that date should perhaps be around 6 years earlier. As it happens, there is much documentary evidence from the time of Gregory I which can help us decide whether an ordination date of AD 590 or one of AD 596 is the more likely. In particular, we have copies of many letters written by Gregory when he was pope, including a number that were dated. Amongst the earliest are ones dated to the 9th year of emperor Maurice or to the 9th indiction. Some later letters from Gregory combine the regnal year of Maurice, the year of his consulship and the indiction, examples of these being letters to Augustine, Mellitus and Ethelbert, king of Kent, quoted by Bede in the EHEP, the first letter to Augustine being dated July in the 14th year of Maurice, the 13th year after his consulship, the 14th indiction (AD 596). Another example, not included in the EHEP, is a letter to Virgilius, bishop of Arles, dated July in the 19th year of Maurice, the 18th year after his consulship, the 4th indiction (AD 601). One of the last letters written by Gregory was to the emperor Phocas, and dated June, the 6th indiction. Of the two alternative dates we are considering for the ordination of Gregory, AD 590 was the 8th indiction and AD 596 the 14th, so the first alternative is strongly suggested by the evidence of the indiction years used in the dating of the correspondence, the letters written in the 9th indiction (the 9th year of Maurice) being from the year after his ordination, and the letter to Phocas being written in AD 603 (the 6th indiction). If he was ordained in AD 590 and, as stated in the LP, served for 13 years and 6 months, dying on 12th March, then he must have died in AD 604, the year after he wrote to Phocas. Consistent with that, some editions of the LP (although not the one in the widely-used Lucca manuscript) add the information that Gregory died in the 7th indiction. Also consistent with these dates (to within a year), the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours gives the start of the papacy of Gregory as the 15th year of Childebert II and the 7th of Maurice, which, following Gregory’s timescale linked to the AM (E) dates he gives for key events, corresponds to AD 588/9. Bede, in the EHEP, says that Gregory became pope in the 10th year of Maurice and died in AD 605. That is consistent with the entry for AD 785 in the Annals of Lorsch, which notes that this year was the 180th after the death of Gregory. The information given in the History of the Franks, the EHEP and the Annals of Lorsch, although not being precisely in agreement, is nevertheless much closer to the notion that Gregory’s papacy covered the period AD 590-604 than to the AD 596-610 alternative. A slightly different possibility is suggested by John of Biclar, who says that Gregory became pope in the first year of Reccared (the son of Leovigild), the 5th of Maurice, and presided in office for 15 years. On the basis of the dates given by Isidore, the first year of Reccared would have been Spanish Era 625, i.e. AD 587, so if Gregory became pope in that year and served for 15 years as John says, he would have died in AD 603 (the year in which he wrote to Phocas).
Consistent with what is reported by Paul the Deacon in The History of the Lombards, the LP notes that, after Gregory replaced Pelagius as pontiff, imperial forces regained control of cities that had been lost to the Lombards in the territories between Rome and Ravenna. It says nothing about Gregory’s attempts to establish good relations between the Lombards and the Romans (also mentioned by Paul the Deacon), but a surviving letter from Gregory to the Lombard king, Agilulf, thanks him for agreeing to a treaty, and another to Theodelinda, wife of Agilulf, thanks her for her efforts in helping to establish peace in the region. As to events elsewhere, the LP records that, during Gregory’s pontificate, Mellitus, Augustine and John were sent as missionaries to the English nation (Bede in the EHEP dating this to AD 596, which is a further indication that Gregory must have been ordained as pope several years before that date).
From the above, it is apparent that, although there may uncertainties about the precise dates for certain popes, the overall timescale of the papacy from Damasus, who was pope during the reign of emperor Theodosius I, to pope Gregory the Great in the reign of emperor Maurice, is entirely consistent with the timescales for the same period indicated in histories of the Visigoths and the Franks, as well as the Roman emperors themselves.
3. Some Conclusions Regarding Heinsohn’s Hypothesis
From the written evidence, as it has been transmitted down to us, it is clear that the history of the period under consideration was not first written down many centuries after the completion of this period. Instead, it accumulated in incremental fashion, with accounts by historians of events close to their time providing source material for later historians, and also a starting point for the next phase of an ongoing process. So, for example, it was made explicit that the chronicle of Hydatius and the Gallic Chronicle of 452 were both continuations of the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle. The chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine went back to the time of Tiberius, making use of material from the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle, and then continued past the end of this source for a further three-quarters of a century. The chronicles of Marius of Avenches and Victor of Tunnuna then both explicitly presented continuations of the chronicle of Prosper, and the chronicle of John of Biclar explicitly began at the point where Victor of Tunnuna had ended, bringing us to the reign of Maurice. Furthermore, during each century, independent histories were being written of recent and contemporary events.
To refer to a particular century, even if just for convenience, may appear to be making assumptions about chronology, so let us instead place the various writers within their historical context, since details are known about their lives. Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, succeeding Agapius and being succeeded by Acacius. He lived during the reign of Constantine I, and played a prominent role at the First Council of Nicaea. Jerome noted in the entry for the 20th year of Constantine I in the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle that all the previous entries had been written by Eusebius and he was now taking over the task. Jerome was born in the Balkans region but spent much of his adult life in Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. He was prominent in Rome during the papacy of Damasus I, in the time of emperor Julian. Aurelius Victor served as a governor in the Balkans region under emperor Julian and then became a senior official in Rome. Eutropius was an official in Constantinople, and accompanied emperor Julian on his campaign against the Persians. Paulus Orosius was a Spanish priest who became a student of Augustine of Hippo and was sent by him to have discussions with Jerome, who was then living in Bethlehem. Orosius also had contacts with pope Innocentius I. All of these, who lived within the same 100-year period, regardless of what dates we may wish to attach to it, and who came from different parts of the Roman empire, but travelled widely, gave essentially the same account of the history of the Roman emperors up to their own time.
They were writing during the period from Constantine I to Honorius/Arcadius which, according to Heinsohn’s theory, was the period when the western half of the empire was being ruled from Rome by emperors Tiberius to Trajan, with Constantine to Honorius/Arcadius reigning only in the east. However, there is not the slightest indication in any of their accounts of this arrangement, or of any of the emperors from Tiberius to Trajan living in the present or the recent past. Indeed, all of these historians place the sequence from Tiberius to Trajan in the distant past. For example, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle says that Tiberius came to the throne after the death of Augustus, his first regnal year being AM (E) 5214, the 2nd year of the 198th Olympiad, whereas the first year of Trajan was AM (E) 5298, the 2nd year of the 219th Olympiad, and the first year of Constantine was AM (E) 6507, the 3rd year of the 271st Olympiad. Thus the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle places the accession of Constantine 293 years after that of his supposed contemporary, Tiberius. Moreover, it will be apparent that, in the part of the chronicle written by Eusebius, i.e. that before the 20th year of Constantine I, there is a reference to the reign of Trajan yet, according to Heinsohn’s theory, Trajan reigned at the same time as Honorius and Arcadius, who came to the throne more than half a century after the end of the reign of Constantine I. Even the continuation written by Jerome had come to an end more than 15 years before the accession of Honorius and Arcadius. Furthermore, the Eusebius-Jerome chronicle gives details of the successors of Trajan: Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Septimius Severus etc, who, in Heinsohn’s scenario, would have reigned long after the deaths of both Eusebius and Jerome, and makes them all predecessors of Constantine I.
A very similar picture emerges in the writings of the other historians from the time of Jerome, all placing the sequence from Augustus to Septimius Severus and his successors before the time of Diocletian and Constantine. For example, Orosius dates the accession of Tiberius to AUC 767, that of Trajan to AUC 847, that of Constantine to AUC 1061 and that of Honorius and Arcadius to AUC 1149. Thus he had Trajan coming to the throne 80 years after Tiberius, Constantine 214 years after Trajan, and Honorius and Arcadius 88 years after Constantine. Similarly, Eutropius wrote that Julius Caesar was assassinated in AUC 709, bringing Augustus to power, although not yet as emperor (or, indeed, as Augustus), Nerva, the predecessor of Trajan, became emperor in AUC 850, Philip was emperor when AUC 1000 was celebrated, and Jovian was emperor in AUC 1119. Consistent with all this, Aurelius Victor wrote that Augustus became emperor in AUC 722, Philip was emperor in AUC 1000, and AUC 1100 had been celebrated during his own time (in the reign of Constantius II). There is nothing in the writings of these authors to support the theory of Heinsohn.
Moving forward incrementally, we could carry out a similar exercise with historians from around the time of emperor Marcian (e.g. Prosper of Aquitaine, Hydatius and Sozomen), from around the time of Justinian I (e.g. Cassiodorus, John Malalas and Marcellinus Comes) and from around the time of Heraclius (e.g. Isidore of Seville and the compiler of the Chronicon Paschale), but there is no need to do so, because it is evident that exactly the same outcomes would be found as before. Although some of these historians were operating in the east and others in the west, all wrote about emperors from Theodosius I onwards without giving the slightest indication that another line of emperors, starting with Nerva and continuing with Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Septimius Severus etc, were ruling from Rome at the same time as Theodosius and his successors were reigning in the east. Also, where these authors began their histories in earlier times, they invariably placed the entire line beginning with Augustus and continuing through Trajan and Septimius Severus to Carinus and Numerian before the accession of Diocletian. Again, if we move further forward, the chronicle of Bede, written in England during the reign of emperor Leo III, and the chronicle of George Synkellos with its continuation by Theophanes, written in Constantinople and finished during the reign of emperor Leo V, follow the same pattern as the histories by Aurelius Victor, Eutropius and Orosius, the Epitome de Caesaribus, the chronicles by Eusebius-Jerome, Prosper, Cassiodorus, Malalas and Isidore, and the Chronicon Paschale, in unambiguously placing the line of Roman emperors from Augustus to Carinus/Numerian before the reign of Diocletian and those of his successors.
There are also the accounts of the popes of Rome to consider. Those concerning the earliest popes are sketchy and probably unreliable, but there is a sequence from Zephyrinus in the reign of Septimius Severus and then Caracalla to Gregory I in the reign of Maurice which is generally consistent with information from more than one source. Zephyrinus is listed in the LP as the 16th pope (St. Peter supposedly being the first), with Gregory I being the 66th. According to the LP, the 50th and 51st popes in the list, Felix III and Gelasius, held office in the time of Theoderic (the Great) and emperor Zeno, whilst the 53rd and 54th popes, Symmachus and Hormisdas, were said to have held office in the time of Theoderic and emperor Anastasius (I). Hence this sequence is incompatible with Heinsohn’s scheme, in which Zeno was a contemporary of Septimius Severus, and Anastasius a contemporary of Caracalla.
Another matter to consider is that a consistent picture is presented in the various historical sources of the Roman empire losing its ability to control western Europe during the reign of Honorius. That prompted several tribes, including Visigoths, Vandals and Franks, to cross the Rhine from the east to find new homelands in western Europe. The Visigoths created a kingdom in Spain and southwestern Gaul, the Vandals also settled in Spain but then moved to North Africa to avoid conflict with the Visigoths, and the Franks established a kingdom in northeastern Gaul which eventually spread far to the south and west. The reports of events in the time of Honorius consistently say that the Roman Empire had been formally divided after the death of Theodosius I, with one of his sons, Arcadius, ruling the eastern half from Constantinople and his other son ruling the western half, and making Ravenna his capital. None of these accounts say anything about Trajan ruling from Rome at the same time, as supposed by Heinsohn. The historians report that, during the reign of Honorius, the Visigoths under the leadership of Alaric entered and plundered Rome before heading towards Spain. There is no mention in these accounts of Trajan, or his successor, Antoninus Pius. Conversely, in accounts of the reigns of Trajan and Antoninius Pius, there is no mention of any sack of Rome taking place. Similarly, the historical accounts state that, when Marcian was emperor in the east and Valentinian III emperor in the west, Rome was threatened by the Visigoths, under Gaiseric, and, when Valentinian was murdered and Petronius Maximus seized the western throne, the Vandals seized the opportunity to attack and plunder Rome. Petronius Maximus tried to flee from the city, but was seized and killed by a mob. There is no mention of Marcus Aurelius who, according to Heinsohn’s scenario, was emperor of Rome at the time, or any mention of a sack of Rome in accounts of the reign of Marcus Aurelius. This was also the time when Attila the Hun invaded western Europe and Italy but, again, there is no mention of Marcus Aurelius in historical accounts of Attila, or vice versa. Lastly, the historical sources consistently state that the western half of the Roman empire finally collapsed in the 2nd regnal year of the eastern emperor, Zeno. At this time, according to the Heinsohn scenario, the emperor in Rome would have been either Commodus or Septimius Severus, but neither of these are mentioned in the reports. After this, there is no further mention of a western emperor in any source, yet the Heinsohn theory maintains that Caracalla, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus followed Septimius Severus as rulers of the west during the reign of Anastasius I in the east. Without any question, the Heinsohn theory is completely out of kilter with the historical accounts.
The basis of Heinsohn’s theory is that widespread cataclysmic destructions which occurred shortly after the reign of Egalabalus (presumably in that of his successor, Alexander Severus) and during the reign of Justinian I, were in fact the same event. What do the historical sources say of these two major catastrophic episodes, regardless of whether they were referring to a single event? The only surviving contemporary account of the reign of Alexander Severus is that by Herodian. This work records that, shortly before the murder of emperor Commodus, three decades before Alexander Severus came to the throne, there was an outbreak of plague in Rome, followed by various portents of disaster and a mild earthquake, after which fire broke out in the Temple of Peace. The flames spread throughout the city, and most of the buildings were destroyed. However, after that, Herodian mentioned no unusual physical event of any kind, let alone a cataclysmic destruction of the city, during the remaining 50-year period of his account. He reported that Alexander Severus, after 14 years as emperor, lost the throne to Maximinus, after which civil war broke out, leading to a year in which there were six emperors, but attributed this turmoil to greed and opportunism. The non-mention of a catastrophic event in a single source may not be significant, but no other surviving source refers to one during or close to the reign of Alexander Severus. According to the sources, Rome continued to be the capital city of the empire until, for strategic reasons, Diocletian moved the capital elsewhere, half a century after the reign of Alexander. During that half-century, Rome continued to be the headquarters of the papacy, and remained so afterwards, so there is nothing to suggest that the city became uninhabitable.
In contrast to the situation in the time of Alexander, several sources refer to environmental anomalies during the reign of Justinian I, although without suggesting they were associated with widespread cataclysmic destructions. Procopius wrote that, in the 10th year of Justinian (AD 536), while he was with the emperor’s army waiting to invade Italy from Libya and Sicily and drive the Orthogoths out of the country, the sun was more like the moon, without brightness, for a whole year. However, Procopius gave no indication that this had any effect on the military campaign. In northern Italy, Cassiodorus wrote about this same sun-dimming event, saying that it caused severe frosts and a summer without heat, leading to a poor harvest, but that was all he said about the situation. There is no indication from these sources, or any other, that there were cataclysmic destructions of cities in Italy at this time. The LP records, in the entry for pope Silverius, a prolonged battle between the Ostrogoths and Justinian’s army for control of Rome, with the Ostrogoths eventually retreating to Ravenna, and also notes that there was a widespread famine at this time, but, afterwards, the city, and the papacy, continued functioning as before. In the east, Malalas reported that, in the consulship of Olybrius (AD 526), i.e. ten years before the sun-dimming event, Antioch was destroyed by a major earthquake and fire. Reconstruction began at once, but two years later the city was rocked by another earthquake, almost as damaging as the previous one. Two years after that, a large comet appeared in the sky, and there were widespread earthquakes in the region. A year or two later, there was a great shower of stars which lasted from dust to dawn. Soon afterwards, there was an earthquake in Constantinople, causing people to gather in the Forum for prayer and vigils, and this was followed by another in Antioch. Then, in the indiction year corresponding to AD 541/542, a great plague arose in Egypt and soon reached Constantinople. So, this seems to have been an eventful time, and a time of great suffering caused by environmental stresses. Antioch appears to have been severely damaged on several occasions but, nevertheless, there is no evidence from the historical sources of the cataclysmic destruction of either Rome or Constantinople. Once again, these sources fail to provide any significant support for Heinsohn’s theory.
To summarise, there is a high degree of consistency in the information provided by different sources. To some extent, that can be attributed to an author taking material from an earlier source. However, during each century, contemporary events were being recorded by a number of authors, often in widely separated regions (which would have made collaboration between them impossible), yet their accounts are generally consistent with each other, and with other sources such as letters and charters. Of course, most documents which have survived to the present day have been copied from earlier versions that have subsequently been lost due to human activity or natural decay. In some cases, there may have been several cycles of copying between the original and the version which has survived, each one opening up the possibility of the occurrence of accidental scribal errors or deliberate modifications. Again, because of the general consistency of the accounts that have reached us, a scribal error in a single source can stand out very clearly.
Deliberate modifications, as well as out-and-out forgeries, may not be quite so easy to detect, but there are sometimes tell-tale signs of a problem, such as the style not being appropriate for the period during which a document was supposedly written. Documents suspected of being forgeries often involve relatively mundane matters such as providing a justification for the possession of some land, but is it possible that, on a much larger scale, chronicles and other documents could have been modified or fabricated to create a false chronology? That must be considered extremely unlikely. Apart from the question of a plausible motive, it is surely well beyond the bounds of credibility to suppose that some medieval emperor, king or bishop would have had the authority or capability to bring about the co-ordinated writing or re-writing of documents throughout a region encompassing Spain, Gaul, Italy and Constantinople, to support a false chronology, and, furthermore, to suppress all indications that such an operation had taken place.
In this article, the Heinsohn theory has been considered solely from the criterion of its compatibility with historical sources, in which likely scribal errors or editorial modifications have already been identified, using criteria such as those mentioned above, thus enabling the passages involved to be treated with caution. It is acknowledged that Heinsohn’s arguments are interdisciplinary, and hence need to be considered from a variety of other perspectives, such as archaeology, geology, architecture and scientific-dating. Hence it would be inappropriate to express any definite conclusions about whether or not the model is likely to be correct just on the basis of one aspect of the evidence.
Nevertheless, it should be abundantly clear that the key features of the model are incompatible with the surviving historical evidence. The discordance is so great that it seems unrealistic to suppose that the historical evidence which has been lost would tell a significantly different story, or that undetected scribal errors give a completely false picture of what was originally written. The inevitable conclusion seems to be that, if the Heinsohn model is correct, there must have been a conspiracy of forgery on a gigantic scale. Is there any other possible explanation? And yet, for the reasons indicated above, the conspiratorial theory is highly unlikely. Whatever plausible aspects there may be to the archaeological, architectural or other evidence, this theory seems unlikely to make much progress unless a convincing explanation can be given for its incompatibility with the current historical evidence.
(The First Millennium A.D. Chronology Controversy)
We are grateful to Trevor Palmer whose present article has ignited this rich controversy.
Anne-Marie de Grazia (Q-MAG.org)