Stilicho, the Vandal who Saved Rome, Ian Hughes

Stilicho, the Vandal who Saved Rome, Ian Hughes

Flavius Stilicho was the dominant political and military figure in the Western Roman Empire in the last twenty years before the sack of Rome in 410 AD, which occurred just after his fall and death. He is generally known as a barbarian general, although as Hughes makes clear he was actually much closer to the Roman establishment that this would imply to most people. Stilicho was a member by marriage of the Imperial family, and for most of his period of power could claim to be the senior member of the family. He was also more of a political than a military figure for much of the time, serving as the guardian of the young western Emperor Honorius.

What makes this book particularly valuable is that Hughes provides a great deal of interesting background material on the period, looking at the structure of the Roman army and Empire in this late period. This helps to place Stilicho's career in context, explaining the reasons for many of his actions. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the importance of the Roman Senate at this late stage in its history - a combination of the wealth and thus power of many of the Senators and the weakness of the Emperor meant that Stilicho's freedom of action was often very limited.

Hughes does an excellent job of avoiding hindsight - we known that the Western Empire was about to fall, but Stilicho and his contemporaries did not, and many for their actions make more sense if we remember that they would have seen the Empire as a permanent part of their world. Even the infamous Alaric the Goth served both the Western and Eastern Emperors for long periods of time.

This book will be of great value to anyone with an interest in the late Roman Empire and the desperate struggles to preserve the empire against external and internal threats.

1 - The Roman Empire and its Neighbours
2 - Stilicho, Serena and Theodosius
3 - Command in the West
4 - The Roman Army
5 - The Barbarian Armies
6 - The Campaign in Illyricum, 395
7 - The Rhine and the Greek Campaign, 396-7
8 - Gildo's Revolt and the African Campaign, 398
9 - Consolidation, 398-400
10 - Alaric and the Invasion of Italy, 401-402
11 - The West and the Invasion of Radagaisus, 402-406
12 - Stilicho and the Invasion of Illyricum, 406-407
13 - The British Revolt and the Invasion of Gaul, 406-407
14 - Stilicho Responds to the Invasions, 407-408
15 - The Fall of Stilicho
16 - Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome?

Appendix I: Glossary
Appendix II: Outline Chronology
Appendix III: Select Personalities

Author: Ian Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 282
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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