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The Sources
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Frigeridus
(AD 455)
Robert Vermaat

Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus probably wrote in the middle years of the fifth century, but unfortunately nothing more is known of him. His work has only partly survived through the passages of the Historia Francorum by Gregory of Tours. From these quotes we know that Frigeridus' work contained at least 12 books, as he quotes from that book when describing the person of Aetius. The last quotes from Frigeridus mention the death of Valentinian III, in the spring of 455, which provides us with a date for the publication.

Britain

Though mostly concerned with the events concerning the Franks in the early fifth century, Gregory quotes Frigeridus in describing the events leading up to the sack of Rome in 410 (though that event is strangely left out by Gregory!), turning to Frigeridus for the activities by Constantine III and his son Constans:

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, Book II, 9
The tyrant Constantine summoned his son Constans, who was also a tyrant [i.e. he was made Augustus by his father] from Spain, so that they might confer together about affairs of state. As a result, Constans left his wife and the administrative affairs of his court in Saragossa, entrusted all his interests in Spain to Gerontius and hurried to meet his father by forced marches. They duly met. Quite a few days passed, but no news arrived from Italy to disturb Constantine. He therefore returned to his daily round of over-drinking and over-eating, and told his son that he might as well go back to Spain. No sooner had Constans sent his troops on ahead, while he himself lingered a little longer with his father, than messengers arrived from Spain to say that Gerontius had proclaimed Maximus, one of his own dependants, as Emperor. Maximus was supported by a horde of troops collected from various barbarian tribes and he was ready for any contingency. Constans and the Prefect Decimus Rusticus, one-time Master of the Offices [of Honorius], were very frightened by this news. They sent Edobech to contain the people of Germania and they themselves set out for Gaul, with the Franks, the Alamanni and a whole band of Soldiery, intending to return to Constantine as soon as they could.

This is a very telling story of a counter-coup. Gerontius had used the absence of his commander to create his own puppet on the throne. This led to the end of Constantine's attempts. Gerontius then goes on to attack Constantine, but when the general Constantius reaches Gaul, Gerontius is killed by his own troops (though his puppet Maximus manages to hold out until 412). Meanwhile, Constantius' troops have encircled Constantine:

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, Book II, 9
Constantine had been beleaguered for about four months when messengers arrived all of a sudden from northern Gaul to announce that Jovinus had assumed the rank of Emperor and was about to attack the besieging forces with the Burgundes, the Alamanni, the Franks, the Alani and a large [Roman] army. Things then moved very quickly. The city gates were opened and Constantine came out. He was immediately packed off to Italy, but the Emperor [Honorius] sent a band of assassins to meet him and he was beheaded up on the river Mincio.

Later on, Constans is also killed. This piece of history tells us how fast the alliegiances of the tyrants could change, even betrayal by their own generals is apparantly no problem. It also tells us that the use of barbarians as the largest part of an army was very common, even though 'Roman' regular troops (who could for the most part consist of barbarians as well) were kept as a 'core'.

Bibliography

  • Salway, Peter (1993): The Oxford illustrated History of Britain, (Oxford).*
  • Snyder, Christopher A. (1998): An Age of Tyrants, Britain and Britons AD 400-600, (Stroud).*

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