AbstractIt has been frequently asserted that the western Roman supreme commander Stilicho’s neglect of the Transalpine provinces during the usurpation of Constantine III contributed to his eventual downfall in 408. Stilicho’s fatal flaw, in this recurring opinion, seems to have been a desire to annex eastern Illyricum for which he sought to employ Alaric. In a volte-face, he then wished to use Alaric as the leader of the western field army that was supposed to bring down Constantine. The aim of this article is to advance several notes of critique on this narrative that has had a long life in Stilichonian scholarship. Instead it will demonstrate that a) the threat of Constantine has been overestimated, b) Stilicho had no designs on annexing eastern Illyricum, c) he had a military strategy ready against Constantine that was sound and in tandem with earlier civil wars, and d) that the intended role of Alaric during this enterprise has been misunderstood. Nevertheless, Stilicho’s military strategy in 408 proved to be fundamentally corrosive towards his hitherto carefully built-up political capital. Olympius, the architect of his demise and his precise knowledge of Stilicho’s army preparations, as befitted the magister officiorium, provided the former with the perfect material to fabricate stories of Stilicho coveting a throne while neglecting the west. This set in motion the plot that ultimately brought down Stilicho.
Journal of Ancient History – de Gruyter
Published: Nov 27, 2018