Stilicho, Alaric, Attila, and the Changing World of the Ancient Roman Empire

Stilicho, Alaric, Attila, and the Changing World of the Ancient Roman Empire

In the late fourth century, a man born of a Roman noblewoman and an East-Germanic Vandal father served as a Roman cavalry officer. Stilicho served Rome with distinction by embracing the Empire and all it stood for, and would go on to become the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. However, this position would not save him from his fate, nor would it stop the fall of the very empire he sought to protect.

Stilicho, Master of the Soldiers

The ivory diptych of Stilicho (right) with his wife Serena and son Eucherius, ca. 395

The ivory diptych of Stilicho (right) with his wife Serena and son Eucherius, ca. 395 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Stilicho got his break early in life when his parents placed him on the roster of the guards of the court, where he perhaps made contact with the future emperor Theodosius. Later, Stilicho served on an imperial delegation to the Sassanid king Shapur III. Once returned from the Sassanid court, he married Theodosius' niece, Serena and was given the promotion “master of the stable”.


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