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Aetius, Flavius (c. 395-454).

Roman general and statesman. Principal wars: Civil Wars and wars against the barbarians (423-454). Principal battles: Arles (425); Ravenna (432); Arles (435); Narbonne (436); Mauriac (Catalaunian) Plain/Chalons-sur-Marne (451).

Born at Durostorum (Silistra) in Moesia (northern Bulgaria), the son of Caudentius, the Scythian magister equitum (commander of cavalry) and his Italian wife (c. 395); after his father was killed in a mutiny, he was sent as a hostage to the court of Alaric the Goth (c. 401); while there he learned their language and military tactics, and made many friends; entered the army (412?), and recruited a force of Huns to aid the usurper John (Iohannes) after the death of Emperor Honorius (423); arrived in Italy too late to aid John, but quickly made peace with Honorius' sister, Galla Placidia (425), and was made magister equitum per Gallias (cavalry commander for Gaul); defeated Theodoric, the Visigothic king of Toulouse, at Arles (425); waged a series of campaigns in Gaul, subduing the Franks and other Germans, and reestablishing Roman control over all Gaul except Visigothic Aquitaine (426-430); recalled to Italy briefly (427) and made magister militum II (assistant commander in chief in the west), but was suspected of murdering his superior and harboring imperial ambitions (429-430); refused to accept disgrace, and invaded Italy (432), but was defeated near Ravenna by Boniface, who was killed in the battle; fled to his Hunnic allies, and returned from Pannonia (western Hungary) with a Hun army to persuade Placidia to restore him to favor (433); defeated a Burgundian uprising (434?) and concluded a peace with Gaiseric (435); repulsed another invasion by Theodoric at Arles (435), and defeated the Visigoths again at Narbonne (435); after further fighting (437-439) and a sojourn in Italy (440) he concluded a treaty with Theodoric (442); moved the Burgundians from Worms to Savoy (443); subdued the Salian Franks under Chlodian, but allowed them to settle along the Somme River (c. 445); aided by Franks and Theodoric's Visigoths, he halted Attila's invasion of Gaul by his victory at the battle of Chalons (Catalaunian or Mauriac Plain) (mid-June 451); Attila withdrew to his lands in Eastern Europe; Aetius was murdered by Emperor Valentian III during an audience, possibly at the instigation of future emperor Petronius Maximus (September 21, 454).

Capable and daring, if unscrupulous, Aetius was the last great imperial Roman general. <BL>

Brion, M., Attila, the Scourge of God. Translated by H. Ward. New
     York, 1929.
Bury, J. B., A History of the Later Roman Empire, 395 A.D. to 800
     A.D. 2 vols. 1889. Reprint, Amsterdam, 1895.
Gibbon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Edited by
     J. B. Bury. 7 vols. London, 1897-1902.


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Author:Bongard, David L.
Publication:The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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