BLTC Press Titles

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Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

A history of the art of war

by Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman


This tendency was only emphasised by the appearance on the Imperial frontier of the Huns, a new race of horsemen, formidable by their numbers, their rapidity of movement, and the constant rain of arrows which they would pour in without allowing their enemy to close. In their tactics they were the prototypes of the hordes of Alp Arslan, of Genghiz, and of Tamerlane. The influence of the Huns on the Roman army was very marked: profiting by their example, the Roman trooper added the bow to his equipment; and in the fifth century the native force of the empire had come to resemble that of its old enemy the Parthian state of the first century, the choicer corps being composed of horsemen in mail armed with bow and lance. Mixed with these horse-archers fought squadrons of the Teutonic Foederati, armed with the lance alone. Such were the troops of Aetius and Ricimer, the army which faced the Huns on the plain of Chalons.

That decisive battle was pre-eminently a cavalry engagement. On each side horse-archer and lancer faced horse-archer and lancer—Aetius and his Romans leagued with Theodoric's Visigothic chivalry—Attila's hordes of Hunnish light horse backed by the steadier troops of his German subjects, the Ostrogoths, Gepidae, Heruli, Scyrri, and Rugians. The Frankish allies of Aetius must have been the largest body of foot-soldiery on the field, but we hear nothing of their exploits in the battle.1 The victory was won, not by superior tactics, but by sheer hard fighting, the decisive point having been the riding down of the native Huns by Theodoric's heavier Visigothic horsemen (A.D. 450). It was certainly not the troops of the empire who had the main credit of the day. • - > i <'

1 Jordanes tells as, however, that the Franks had a bloody engagement with Attila's Gepidae on the night before the battle, in which fifteen thousand men fell on the two sides. There were no doubt many infantry in the host of Aetius. In Attila's harangue, before the battle Jordanes makes him bid the Huns despise the " testudines " of the Romans,./.*, their infantry formed in solid masses.



A.D. 450-552

TO trace out in further detail the meaning of the wars of the fifth century is unnecessary. But it must be observed that, as the years of its middle course rolled on, a divergence began to be seen between the tendencies of the Eastern and the Western Empire. In the West the Foederati became the sole military force of any importance. One of their chiefs, the Suevian Ricimer, made and unmade emperors at his good pleasure for some twenty years. A little later, another, the Scyrrian adventurer Odoacer, broke through the old spell of the Roman name, dethroned the last emperor of the West, and ruled Italy as a Teutonic king, though he thought well to legalise his usurpation by begging the title of Patrician from Zeno, the emperor at Constantinople (476 A.D.).

In the East the decline of the native troops never reached the depth that it attained in the West, and the Foederati never became masters of the situation. That Byzantium did not fall a crey to a Ricimer or an Odoacer seems mainly to be due to the Emperor Leo I. (457-474), who took warning by contemporary events in Italy, and determined that—even at the cost of military efficiency—the native army must be kept up as a counterpoise to the Teutonic auxiliaries. He unscrupulously slew Aspar, the great German captain whose preponderance he dreaded, though he himself owed his throne to Aspar's services. At the same time he increased the proportion of Romans to Foederati in his hosts. His successor Zeno (474-491) continued this work, and made himself noteworthy as the first emperor who properly utilised the military virtues of the Isaurians—the rough and hardy pro489] ZENO AND THE ISAURIANS 23

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