The Battle of Chalons
Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Chalons in 451, between the Huns under the command of Attila versus the combined forces of the Roman Empire and the Visigothic Empire, it under the command of its King, Theodoric I. The western forces were under the command of magister militum Flavius Aetius.
While Theodoric would himself fall in battle, the western forces were successful in defeating the Huns, forcing them to retreat from their efforts to expand their empire to include the former Roman province (portions of it had already withdrawn from it) of Gaul.
The hero of the day was clearly Falvius Aetius. He had been appointed magister militum (essentially “supreme commander” of all Roman military forces) by Valentinian III, a particularly weak (and in this era that is saying something) emperor. While Boethius is oft identified as the last gasp of the Roman Empire’s (or at least its western components’) intellectual life, Flavius Aetius can equally be described as the last of the great western Roman generals.
Only three years after Chalons in September, 454, Aetius was assassinated by Valentinian. Within the year, Valentinian would in turn be assassinated by friends of Aetius while Valentinian’s guard watched; the members of the guard had been followers of Aetius.
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