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The Fall of the Roman Empire

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The Fall of the Roman Empire

We read so many stories of invincible Romans, of their arrogance, their brutal conquests and their cruel punishments, we hear about their luxurious life, supported by the enslavement of other peoples ... But no fame, no empire lasts forever. This is the story of the fall and decay of the Western Roman Empire over a period of 100 years from 375 to 476 AD, told in individual episodes (story) and supplemented with historical reviews (history).

In 375 AD, Gothic tribes crossed the Danube by mutual agreement with the Romans in order to become new settlers in the Roman Empire. In AD 476, the Gothic military leader and later King Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman emperor 'Romulus', whom they contemptuously nicknamed 'Augustulus' (little Augustus).

I invite those interested to add their own contributions to this epoch of the Romans, who are no longer used to victory ... where the Romans have to recognize that their power is not unlimited or lasts forever and that their leadership role is not determined by God.


(1) The Battle of Adrianople in 378 AD.

I begin my stories with one of the most momentous battles of late antiquity on Roman soil between the Goths under their leader Fritigern and the Romans under the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens. The Goths had come across the Danube to the Roman Empire three years earlier (375) fleeing from the Huns advancing from the east. They were accepted as new settlers, in return they were supposed to set up soldiers and secure the border to the north, and so they also kept their weapons. The Visigothic tribes were also followed – unplanned - by the equally oppressed Ostrogoths and the Alanian horsemen associations.

In the end there were around 200,000 people to be supplied, twice as many as expected. The supply did not work, the Goths were starving, corrupt provincial officials tried to enrich themselves with the already scarce aid supplies. Gothic families had to pay high prices for food, if they couldn't they had to redeem jewelry and weapons, or their daughters had to prostitute themselves for the locals, and boys should even be sold as slaves. In return, they were often only given dog food.

Riots soon broke out among the Goths. But instead of assigning them the promised settlement land and providing them with sufficient food, the provincial government resorted to a malicious trick to calm the situation in a 'Roman way'. They invited the Gothic leaders to talk over dinner. However, the Romans planned to assassinate the leaders in order to make the new settlers weak and leaderless. The project failed, Fritigern, one of the Goths leaders, escaped the attack and the anger of the Goths grew uncontrollably. For the next two years they marched raiding the Roman provinces of the Balkans in search of food and booty. This time it was the Goths who abducted local young women as living prey and who took able-bodied young men with them to reinforce their warriors.

Two attempts to stop them with the Roman forces from the region failed; Fritigern won, or the opponents parted in a draw after a bloody battle. Thereafter, the Goths had large amounts of captured Roman weapons. They moved to the gates of Constantinople, capital of the eastern part of the empire. However, they lacked the siege equipment and the necessary experience to attack this powerful city. Submissive refugees and supplicants had suddenly become dangerous invaders ... Not without the fault of the responsible Romans!

The leadership of the Roman Empire was shared by Emperor Valens for the eastern half of the empire and Emperor Gratian for the western part. But both were already involved in fighting, they had other worries. The Huns' storm had also pushed Germanic tribes to the west, where the Alemanni crossed the Rhine and invaded Roman Gaul. This tied Gratian to the Rhine border. In the far east of the empire Valerian was on a campaign against the Persians, who threatened the Roman border there. And so much time passed before the Roman rulers could intervene.

By the summer of 378 AD, Emperor Valens was able to make peace with the Persians and lead his troops back to Constantinople. Gratian advanced from the west against the Goths in the Balkans. Valens waited two weeks, but Gratian's approach was delayed. Then Emperor Valens decided to attack the Goths even without support from the West. Valens turned down offers of negotiation from her guide Fritigern. The leader of the Goths did not seek war, but rather land and peace for his people. The Eastern Roman ruler, however, wanted to discipline and punish the Goths - entirely according to Roman legal understanding - and he wanted to claim the glory for the suppression of the Goths for himself alone. He assessed the offers to negotiate as his opponent's weakness.

On August 9, 378 AD, there was a Roman attack on the Goths, who had holed up in their wagon castle. This fight would go down in history as the 'Battle of Adrianople '. Emperor Valens led around 25,000 legionnaires of his infantry into battle, reinforced on both wings by around 6,000 horsemen. Fritigern had around 20,000 men under arms to defend the Gothic wagon castle, and 4,500 riders, made up of allied Ostrogoths and Alans, hid in the woods. The Visigoth peasant tribes did not have their own cavalry.

Numerically, the Romans had a small advantage, and they also believed in their superior discipline and war experience ... but they had the disadvantage that they had to march 18 km to the slaughter site in the morning, where they arrived in the midday heat and where Fritigern awaited them well prepared. The Romans only counted on 10,000 armed defenders, they knew nothing about a Gothic cavalry and they were confident of victory ... Thirsty and tired from the march, they rushed to attack the Goths' wagon castle. A whole people had holed up behind thousands of wagons set up across and staggered and forming a large circle ... and the Goths were determined to defend their lives and their freedom against the attacking Romans.


It follows ... 'The Great Battle' a tale from the perspective of a young Gothic woman inside the wagon castle, who observed the battle but also intervened in the fight with a bow and arrows... Later, in retrospect, we learn about her humiliations and sufferings among the Romans before ... and we can also learn about her hatred...

Great Migration-1.jpg Great Migration-2.jpg goths-midgard-wolves.jpeg
 
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The Great Battle (1) – The Romans are coming!

The following description of the battle near Adrianople is based on historical tradition (only the Roman point of view has been handed down), all details and the people involved - apart from the leaders - are fictitious!


In the morning scouts bring the news: “The Romans are coming!” Since then there has been great excitement. For two weeks, half a revolution of the moon, we have been preparing for this day. We built and fortified our wagon castle, brought supplies and water, laid out weapons, prepared long lances to ward off the attackers, straw for setting fire...

I am scared? No, it's more like tension! We know we would expect a strong opponent, a Roman emperor and his army ... But we have already resisted the Romans in two battles ... we would fight for our lives and our freedom. We all trust Fritigern, our leader, who has guided us so safely so far, who has planned and prepared everything with us. And we have allies hiding in the woods ... We hoped the Romans would run into their doom, not us ... And yet the tension is great!

All of us, all of our people, are locked in the wagon castle. Thousands of wagons form our fortress and it is located on an elevated plateau, which gives a good overview. In front of us is a flat slope, from there the Romans must come. Behind us the slopes are steeper, on the sides there are steep rocks on the left and wooded slopes ascending to the right. Fritigern says: "If each of you fulfills your task, let the Romans come!" I trust him and will not disappoint him.

I am Teja, a young gothic woman from the 'Terwingen' tribe, which the Romans call 'Visigoths'. We are actually a peasant people, but we came across the Danube to seek refuge, protection from the Huns and their cavalry hordes, who attacked and burned our villages. But misery awaited us even among the Romans. We have been roaming around the Roman Empire for a long time. We are actually looking for settlement land that we can cultivate in peace, but now we are always looking for something to eat for our people.

Well, our men are looking for prey too. Jewelry for their wives ... or they look for beautiful girls - that annoys me! Are we Gothic women not good enough for them? But the Romans were allowed to desecrate me for two sacks of grain and some inferior meat ... We were terribly hungry and the roman traders had chosen me ... It was supposed to be me who had to serve them for three long days ... I begged and cried, and yet I had to follow them . "At least you have decent tits," said one. "We want this girl or three others!" I resisted, but finally I had to submit...

I was still lucky in bad luck, other girls never came back; but when I came back I could hardly walk. I didn't count the men I had to serve as a whore ... My lap burned, it hurt so much; I felt so dirty; it was so shameful. I kept crying ... After all, I didn't get pregnant… Since then I’m no longer 'pure' in the eyes of Gothic men ... But did they protect me? No! They threw themselves on the food and simply sent me away as a payment. Only my brother cried like me ... I still shudder at the thought. I never want to end up like this again and that's why I'll fight here!

Our allies are the Greutungs, the Romans call them Ostrogoths. They learned to ride in the steppes, and they are reinforced by the also fleeing Alans, horsemen from the steppe. They all fled from the terrible Huns...

I also learned to ride a horse, learned to shoot with a bow and arrow - I am not a warrior, but I will support my people in the fight against the Romans! And I've learned something from their language, which is useful for peaceful communication or to understand the enemy...

It is my job, together with other women, to set the prepared straw on fire when the Romans storm the slope, so that our men can take care of the defense of the wagon castle. But I am determined to point my arrows at the Romans and their horses as well if they should attack with their cavalry from the left side, where I keep my position protected behind thick boards and watch.

It was a long wait this morning, final preparations, checking everything again, a lot of excitement ... Now it is noon; it will be a hot day, possibly good for us and bad for the Romans.

"The Romans! The Romans! ”I hear excited shouts… And then I see them appear at the foot of the hill, with their shining armor and shields. There are so many and more and more come! It should take over an hour for their troops to arrive and to line up. Some impatient among our ranks demand: “Let us attack the Romans now, before they have gathered and organized. But Fritigern says: "Let them rush up the hill first, that will make them tired!"

We should eat and drink something, there won't be time later. So I drink my water, bite my bread, and wait impatiently. I look down the hill from my wagon hiding place at the Roman armies. There are so many that I get scared. And now I hear their battle cries, it's a loud roar that reaches us on the hill.

Waiting! Then suddenly there is movement, Roman horsemen break out of the forest and start to storm our hill - they come on the left side, it's my side, where I hid myself with, armed with bows and arrows and with fire...

Suddenly our horns sound like a loud roar that echoes against the Romans. But it is not a call to attack, but a call to defense. I look down at the enemy; slowly the whole army begins to move, shield by shield pushing its way up the slope to our wagon castle. But then I concentrate on the cavalry on my side. I lay out the prepared bowl with embers, grab the arrows that have pitch-soaked fabric on their tips, I look at the markings on the slope, wait for the Roman horsemen to reach them.

“Now!” An old man calls from behind my back. I light arrow after arrow and shoot him in the air. I know exactly how to draw and hold the bow to hit the straw. We've practiced this a hundred times, but now it's serious!

I see burning arrows flying everywhere and soon the straw on the slope is also burning. The horses of the Romans shy away, they don't run into the fire, and I hear the Romans cursing ... Then I only see smoke and fire, nothing more can be seen of the cavalry. But further to the right I can still see the Roman legions marching, they are coming higher and higher slowly... and our fires are waiting for them too. On the other side there is a fire now too, were from our view the right wing of the Roman cavalry is attacking us. I see some smoke and fire but I only have a poor view of it.

Battle of Adrianopel 378 AD-01.jpg
 

Eulalia

Poet Laureate
Staff member
I'm liking this a lot, it's a period of history I find fascinating (I'm a fan of Edward Gibbon - his account of the battle, Decline & Fall ch. 26, is up to his usual splendid standard!), and your idea of telling the story from the point of view of a Visigothic girl is an excellent one. I look forward to lots more :)

In case anyone's wondering where Adrianople (aka Hadrianopolis) was/is, nowadays it's Edirne, in the European bit of Turkey, to the west of Istanbul with the Greek border not far to the west and the Bulgarian close to the north. But in Roman times it was in Thrace.
 
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I'm liking this a lot, it's a period of history I find fascinating (I'm a fan of Edward Gibbon - his account of the battle, Decline & Fall ch. 23, is up to his usual splendid standard!), and your idea of telling the story from the point of view of a Visigothic girl is an excellent one. I look forward to lots more :)

In case anyone's wondering where Adrianople (aka Hadrianopolis) was/is, nowadays it's Edirne, in the European bit of Turkey, to the west of Istanbul with the Greek border not far to the west and the Bulgarian close to the north. But in Roman times it was in Thrace.
Thank you Eulalia for this informations!
Here are the appropriate maps and migratory movements for a better understanding.

The invasion of the Huns in eastern Europe and the migration of peoples that caused it:

Huns and Goths.jpg

The migration of the Gothic tribes in the Roman Empire from crossing the Danube 375 AD to their "permanent" settlement 380/382 AD:

Goths-Huns-Migration.jpg
 
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Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
The thread's name reminds me of a 1964 movie with the same name, a bit forgotten and underrated IMHO.



The story plays around 180-190 AD, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, hence about 200 years before the Battle of Adrianople.
But part of the plot is are either the first invasions of Germanic tribes, and the political intrigues that weakened Rome's power from inside.
 
The thread's name reminds me of a 1964 movie with the same name, a bit forgotten and underrated IMHO.



The story plays around 180-190 AD, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, hence about 200 years before the Battle of Adrianople.
But part of the plot is are either the first invasions of Germanic tribes, and the political intrigues that weakened Rome's power from inside.
The Romans often had problems with the Germanic peoples. Even before that, they came under distress from the Cimbri and Teutons around 105 BC. And they had a devastating defeat in the 'Varus Battle' in 9 AD in Germania. But none of that seriously shooked them - even if a movie might give that impression - The Roman power didn't really begin to decline until around 400 AD!
There is also a book and a film "A Battle for Rome", but that takes place at a time when the Western Roman Empire has already been overthrown and Rome has been plundered several times by Goths and Vandals.
The title of films and books cannot always be relied on. Nevertheless, thank you very much for the hint!
I want to describe episodes from the real fall of the Roman Empire ... And the battle of Adrianople was only a prelude ...
 
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The Great Battle (2) – The Romans’ attack

As if spellbound I look towards the middle of the slope, where the huge Roman infantry is advancing incessantly – so many shields, so many shiny helmets, I could never count them... Suddenly I see arrows flying through the air, our arrows, and moments later that Straw also burned, where I just saw all the Romans with their shields approaching us like a roller. A little later I hear them cursing and coughing, then the attackers hide themselves in smoke and flames.

Suddenly I hear battle cries from our men around me, between the rows of wagons. The first Roman horsemen break through the flames and rush towards us, but their horses seem tired, almost leisurely - but I know that things are getting serious now. Without hesitation, I draw my bow with a sharp arrow. I aim at a horse and wait for it to get closer. When I see it a little from the side, I aim at the flank above the forelegs, where it has no protection ... And I let the arrow fly. I watch the horse straighten up from a gallop, stop and throw off the rider. But other riders run over their comrade lying on the ground. It seems they trample him to death.

I don't have time to be proud of my first arrow shot in this battle; immediately I draw the bow again. So many armed horsemen come up to me. I shoot them at random; I don't have time to watch if my arrows succeed. First Roman attackers reach our wagon castle, where our men greet them with roars, lances and spears. In front of me I see horses collapse and our warriors rush forward, slaying the falling Romans with their battle axes. It is a slaughter, but very dangerous for both sides, because the Roman cavalry also carries spears and long lances with them to attack us.

I shoot arrow after arrow at the Roman horses and their riders, when a spear of the attackers hits into the wooden beam behind which I seek cover. The whirring noise when an iron point hits wood and then gets stuck makes me startle. I suddenly realize how vulnerable I am myself. I am in the middle of a battle for life and death. But I remember, it wasn't up to us women to fight in the front row, we should just start the fire. I won't venture out of cover to shoot my arrows for a while. A whole basket of arrows is waiting next to me, but I am trembling.

The Roman cavalry is still storming against our wagon castle on both sides, but they are repeatedly pushed away by our warriors. From my hiding place I look over at the central battle scene. The Roman infantry, too, are now pushing their way through the straw fires towards us, but their firm order, shield to shield, has already dissolved ... but there are thousands streaming towards our wagon castle...

I think with horror what would happen if they got inside here - we cannot escape! Or if they set fire to our wooden wagons - how are we supposed to defend ourselves? I think of my parents, my little brother and sister, the family ... and of my great brother Roderich, who is somewhere near me between the wagons with his lance to defend our people.

The Roman cavalry on my side has suddenly withdrawn a little, outside of range our spears and my arrows. I put down my at last unused bow and watch what is happening. Surely the Roman horsemen are preparing a second attack ... while their infantry will soon reach our wagons...

Our battle cries ring out as their shields shine in the sunlight and press towards us on my right side. Now it's getting serious I think ... there are too many! But I can still see the Romans collapse in the front row under our lances and spears. Their warriors seem slow and tired - is that really so, or is that just what I wish for? Where is our cavalry going?

But the second attack of their cavalry comes on my side. I am trembling with tension. "Quiet, be quiet!" I tell to myself. Again I take up my bow and arrows. Three armored horsemen storm ahead of the entourage, but I aim at their horses. In quick succession I send my arrows against the horses in front. One horse turns away, another stops, the rider can barely hold on. The third horseman in front continues to storm towards us, but a spear from our defense brings him down.

The Roman horses stir up dust and come closer and closer. Suddenly I hear a loud horn on the slope on my right side. It's our cavalry, I think relieved. Our allies, the Greutungens and Alans, intervene in the battle! It is the sound of their horn to attack.

All Romans suddenly pause; everyone seems to be looking to the left towards the slope. It's like hearing a murmur. Moments later I hear our own horns sounding like an echo - the sign to attack, the moment for most of our warriors to leave the wagon castle!

The fires are down now, only some smoke is still smoldering. I have an almost clear view of the wide slope where the Romans are attacking, but their attack seems to freeze for a moment. Even the Roman cavalry in front of me, which has just rushed towards us in a second wave of attacks, is beginning to remain paralyzed.

After a moment of silence, our warriors begin to scream loudly. I am very moved and scream with them, scream at the Romans in front of me, want to scare them and give me courage...

Battle of Adrianopel 378 AD-02.jpg
 
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Loxuru

Graf von Kreuzigung
I remember this depiction of the battle from my youth's history encyclopedia.

adrianople.jpg

Although the Roman uniforms on the pic above may be from centuries earlier. Dress of the Roman legionnaries in the 4th century may have changed and more have looked like on the right pic below.
adrianople2.jpg
 

Eulalia

Poet Laureate
Staff member
'A hasty and imprudent attack was made by Bacurius the Iberian, who commanded a body of archers and targeteers: and, as they advanced with rashness, they retreated with loss and disgrace. In the same moment the flying squadrons of Alatheus and Saphrax, whose return was anxiously expected by the general of the Goths, descended like a whirlwind from the hills, swept across the plain, and added new terrors to the tumultuous but irresistible charge of the barbarian host ...'
 
'A hasty and imprudent attack was made by Bacurius the Iberian, who commanded a body of archers and targeteers: and, as they advanced with rashness, they retreated with loss and disgrace. In the same moment the flying squadrons of Alatheus and Saphrax, whose return was anxiously expected by the general of the Goths, descended like a whirlwind from the hills, swept across the plain, and added new terrors to the tumultuous but irresistible charge of the barbarian host ...'
Exactly like that! The short version of this battle from a slightly different perspective! :)
 
The Great Battle (3) – The Goths strike back

The loud sound of our horns was the signal that we were beginning our attack - yes, instead of continuing to defend our wagon castle against the Roman attacks, we ourselves are going to attack. As if spellbound, I watch our men pull apart the wagons on our front and open aisles to storm out.

The Romans seem to be in shock, the front ranks stop their attack and wait for what to come ... and these are our Gothic warriors. With great shouting, our men rush towards the Roman legionaries. The wagons open on my side too and our men push with long lances towards the Roman cavalry, which has just attacked us.

I cannot see what is happening on our right flank, but I am confident that our cavalry will attack there and harass the Romans from the side ... In front of me the Roman horsemen start a hesitant attack, but beset by a forest of long Gothic lances... They turn off and withdraw. I am amazed, and in deed I will not see the Roman cavalry again in this battle.

I look over to the battle going on in the middle, I see the Roman shields sway, see their legionnaires retreat, but they cannot turn back, behind them parts of their infantry are still pushing up the slope. But the tide has turned, this is the hour of the Goths, the Romans are tottering under our attack, they are simply being slaughtered. Soon their lines of battle dissolve completely before my eyes. As if in panic they try to flee down the slope, where their own men block their way ... and these thousands of Roman infantrists further down the slope cannot intervene in the fight, they cannot support their comrades, they won't come to the rescue. And soon our cavalry will cut off the way for them down the hill too.

“Come help us, your job is done, Teja! We have to take care of the injured,” a woman calls to me from behind. As frightened I turn around, I had forgotten everything around me. Of course, I'm not here to watch excitedly, but to help wherever I can. My bow and my arrows did their job. So I'll take care of the injured and leave the battle to our warriors.

Together with other women and older men, I leave the wagon castle and go to where the battle was just raging. It is a picture of horror, but also of satisfaction. There are dead and seriously injured Roman legionaries everywhere. “We don't take any prisoners, especially none that we have to take care of!” Says one of our older men and pierces a seriously injured Roman with his spear in the chest. I don't like to look at that, I prefer to look around for injured Goths, whom we give water, bandage them on site, or move back to the wagon castle to care for them there.

Children come over and enthusiastically collect Roman armor and weapons. I keep looking at the battle going on below me on the slope, where the fight rages on until the evening, but as I learned later, it was more and more of a slaughter...

I am reassured to see that the fighting is getting further and further away from our wagon castle. We follow at a safe distance and take care of the seriously wounded who are lying on the battlefield. I see blood everywhere, hear men moan, or see them trembling. Everywhere are lances, shields and swords of the Romans...

We help our wounded as best we can, but our old men put an end to the wounded Romans quickly with the spear. Soon I'll be sweating, repeatedly helping the wounded up the slope, getting cloth to bandage and fresh water. The battle beneath me blurs, I hardly notice the calls of our warriors and the screams of the Romans. But as long as I hear the Romans scream, I know that victory is on our side.

Again and again I have to take breaks from my work, it was a hot day and it will be a warm evening. I sit on a stone and look around carefully. I still feel uneasy. I think Roman horsemen could turn back and attack us ... but I can only see our own horsemen in battle. Suddenly I see something that attracts my attention, a group of Roman horsemen on the left at the edge of the forest outside of the battle. They throw something between the trees and then rush off. It seems like a Roman standard with a coat of arms and an eagle to me. But why do they throw their standard away?

They have something to hide! The Roman Emperor, he is fleeing, shoots it through my head. We shouldn't recognize his banner! Just then I see a confused Roman horse grazing nearby. That's it, a sign that I have to act, I guess. I go to the horse very calmly; I stroke it and talk to it well. At first it shines, but then it becomes more trusting. I think to myself: "What did I learn to ride for?"

I know I'm doing something crazy, but a little later I'm sitting on the Roman horse and riding down the slope. “I have to find the imperial standard, the emperor’s banner!” I call out to one of our stunned women, and then I'm gone. The horse carries me without hesitation. Slowly and carefully I trot down the hill.

Further down the slope I meet Greutungen horsemen. They look at me in amazement - of course, what is a young Gothic woman on a Roman horse doing here beside the battle? I immediately raise my hands so they don't accidentally attack me. Then I call out to them: “The Roman emperor, he has fled, you have to follow him!” We speak slightly different dialects, but we can communicate well, the Terwingen and the Greutungen, we are both Gothic tribes.

“Speak warrioress!” Her leader calls to me. Yes, he calls me a warrioress! Obviously he thinks that we Terwingen also have women warriors. So I hastily tell them what I saw and how I came into possession of a horse with a Roman badge. I point to the forest where the Romans fled to.

“How many armed Roman horsemen were there?” One asks. “I saw not many, maybe a dozen.” “Strange, they protect their emperor with such a small force. At least that is inconspicuous ... Well, we are over 20, whether emperor or not, we will follow them!” Their leader shouts. Then he says: "I'm Gillis ... and what's your name, warrioress?" "I'm Teja!" I call out to him. “I hope you watched well. Find the imperial standard, Teja! We're chasing the emperor…” Gillis raises his right arm to me in greeting; then he turns and rides with his men into the forest to follow the fled Romans.

Hopefully none of this was a mistake; I think to myself and look into the forest. I wonder where the standard was thrown away - if it was a Roman standard at all. And if so, hidden Romans could be lurking here everywhere. I look around carefully and tie my horse to a tree at the edge of the forest. Suddenly I hear someone calling my name from behind. It's my brother Roderich!

I'm so relieved, so happy for a moment; my brother is alive and we have found each other among thousands in this gruesome battle. But my brother injured his arm, he says it's not bad, but he needs a break. He too wonders: “What are you doing here on the battlefield, especially on a Roman horse? At first I was frightened that you could be an enemy's horsewoman - well, the Romans don't lead women into battle and I recognized you quickly as my own beloved sister."

I look at him and I'm scared, his whole body is full of blood! But he calms me down; it's the blood of the Romans. I'm tearing some fabric from my skirt, that's all I can find. I have some water in a pig's bladder. Roderich hastily drinks my water. Then I wash and bandage his wound on his right forearm. I greedily slurp the rest of the water myself.

Finally I tell him about my observation and we both go in search of the imperial standard that was thrown into the forest ... if that's not just my obsession.

Battle of Adrianopel 378 AD-03.jpg

I'm sorry, but unfortunately I can't find a thumbnail selection when uploading images, as described in the technical guide!
 
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The great battle (4) – The imperial standard and banner

I've moved away from my chores ... I've taken a Roman horse and made my way down the hill to the edge of the battle, where, as a young woman, I have no business ... All because I made a strange observation? And in a lucky way I met a group of Gothic horsemen and finally even found my brother on the edge of this chaotic battle ... I wonder if it all makes sense.

Yes, it was an interesting observation, but not alone! I also just wanted to get away ... get away because I couldn't stand so much blood and so many dead Romans, even if I couldn't help our own injured warriors anymore ... But seeing their suffering is depressing at some point. Even in our ranks there are serious injured men, which we just cannot help ... except to hold the hand until they die. But there are so many women up there in the wagon castle who can take turns.

Now I'm looking for a Roman standard here in the edge of the forest with my back to the battle. Was that particular staff that the Romans carried into battle of any particular value? At any time there could be danger, scattered Romans could kill me or take me hostage. To fall into the hands of fleeing Romans now would have to be terrible ... they certainly would take cruel revenge on me. As a woman, I am conspicuous here and at the same time an attractive victim. I am glad that Roderich is with me so that I am not alone.

“It should be around here!” I call out to my brother. We look around again - nobody seems to notice us. I pull the horse that has come to me a little further into the forest so that it is not seen. Then we start looking in the bushes. Side by side with one arm apart, we draw serpentine lines to carefully search the entire edge of the forest. But again and again we have to avoid trees or bushes block our way. We search and search and yet we cannot find anything. I feel my brother starts to doubt what I've seen. I'm slowly getting insecure too. Is this the right place? Maybe a little deeper inside the wood?

We take a break… I want to think, to reflect. The battle is still booming over to us in the forest. A nice weather cloud releases the sun and suddenly I see something shimmering in the low light between the bushes, further down, where we haven't looked yet; then it's gone again. I run there excitedly, looking in the bushes and grabbing a stick. As I pull it out, the blow almost hits me: a golden Roman eagle and then a banner - a head with a laurel wreath – Valens, the emperor!

Standard with eagle and banner from Emperor Valens.jpg

I can hardly believe what I found there, my brother is thrilled too. It is the imperial standard, It is amazing! "We have to get it to Fritigern for sure," I think out loud. We look around again so that no one noticed us. Back to the horse, I get on and Roderich runs alongside me, slowly up the mountain. He wears his Gothic helmet, I raise one hand, I lower my standard, no one should take us for Romans when we approach the wagon castle. I see how the circle of wagons has been opened in many places, there is a lot of activity.

Women, children, old men and wounded look at me in amazement. Triumphantly I lift up the Roman emperor's standard and shout loudly “Victory!” There is instant great excitement, everyone wants to see the banner with the image of the Roman emperor and the shiny golden eagle. The Goths are enthusiastic and I happily trot up and down in front of the wagons with 'my' standard. I feel a little sorry for Roderich, who stands around while I steal the whole show from him. I give him the trophy. He holds it, looks at it and he seems happy, but then he gives it back to me with the words "No, sister, this is all your merit and your honor!"

I get off my horse - yes, it is my horse now! Then our leader Fritigern comes towards me, who is still watching the fading battle from his vantage point, sending messengers with instructions and receiving those who come back. My arrival was not hidden from him. He admires the imperial standard and takes me in his arms. "Girl, how did you do that? You're a heroine!” I almost cry with emotion. "It is for you, it is your victory; you are our leader!" "No, it is for all Goths who have achieved a great victory today!"

Later, when dusk falls and the battle comes to an end, a group of Greutungen horsemen approach the Goth camp. They ask about Fritigern as our leader and about a woman rider on a Roman horse who calls herself Teja. Immediately children come running to fetch me.

“Greetings, warrioress Teja!” Welcomes me Gillis, “Did you find the Roman standard in the forest?” I nod happily “Yes, a standard with a banner and the image of the Roman emperor!” Gillis hugs me, he kisses me on my Cheeks and he hugs me again, he doesn't even want to let go of me. I am touched and embarrassed when he tells me: “You are a great warrioress and a wonderful girl, Teja!”

“Did I fight?” I say what I think with his words. “I only shot a couple of arrows with my bow at the straw and at the Roman cavalry…” “As a woman you won a horse and the imperial banner in this battle! Whether in fight or through resolute and courageous action, it doesn't matter!"

Together we are both taken to Fritigern, where Gillis tells his own story...
 
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