Towards the End of an Empire: Rome in the West and Attila (425-455 AD)
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In this thesis I argue, with the help of primary sources, archaeology, prosopography and philology, that the Western Roman Empire during the reign of Valentinian III (425-455) did not suffer its gravest catastrophe due to Attila and his Huns, but owing to the fall of its grain and tax basket Carthage in 439, which came to dictate every policy of the Roman court after it occurred. In fact, the Huns had been essential in the campaigns of Flavius Aetius, the most able general of Valentinian III and also the effective ruler of the West until his assassination at the hands of his emperor in 454. Aetius was twice able to assert his dominance over the last representative of the Theodosian dynasty in the West by the aid of Hunnic auxiliaries and without their assistance, neither Aetius’ ascension nor his campaigns would have been realized. When Attila ceased to send further warriors to aid Aetius in 439, this came to be his most detrimental decision for the Western Romans, for they depended on the Hunnic federates (foederati) to undertake campaigns, while the soldiers of the regular Roman army became either garrison forces or expensive to maintain when contrasted with the rather cheaply employed foederati. Although Attila’s western campaigns of 451 and 452 were successfully checked, as long as Carthage remained outside of the imperial control, there was no hope for the Western Romans to successfully recover from the setbacks of the 5th century. In this age, the Huns and Attila, who developed a symbiotic relationship with Germanic peoples, were nothing more than a nuisance for the Western Romans due to their grand incursions that aimed at nothing but Roman riches, and therefore their tie with the Western Romans can only be described as a parasitic relationship.