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Gainas

Gainas

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Gainas was an ambitious Gothic
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 leader who served the Eastern Roman Empire as Magister Militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 during the reigns of Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 and Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

.

Gainas began his military career as a common foot-soldier, but later commanded the barbarian contingent of Theodosius' army against the usurper Eugenius
Eugenius
Flavius Eugenius was an usurper in the Western Roman Empire against Emperor Theodosius I. Though himself a Christian, he was the last Emperor to support Roman polytheism.-Life:...

 in 394. Under the command of Gainas, a man of "no lineage", was the young Alaric
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

 of the Balti dynasty
Balti dynasty
The Balti dynasty, Baltungs, Balthings, or Balths, existed among the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe who confronted the Western Roman Empire in its declining years. The Balti took their name from the Gothic word balþa...

. In 395, he combined his forces with those of Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

 and Eutropius to bring about the fall of Rufinus.

In 399
399
Year 399 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Eutropius and Theodorus...

 he replaced the Magister Militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 Leo after the latter failed to put down invasions led by Ostrogothic chieftain Tribigild
Tribigild
Tribigild was a Ostrogothic general whose rebellion against the Eastern Roman Empire precipitated a major political crisis during the reign of Emperor Arcadius....

, who was devastating Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. Gainas too failed to put down the invasions, although he blamed his failure on Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

' palace chamberlain (cubicularius
Cubicularius
Cubicularius, Hellenized as koubikoularios , was a title used for the eunuch chamberlains of the imperial palace in the later Roman Empire and in the Byzantine Empire...

) Eutropius. Gainas then proceeded to install his forces in Constantinople, where he ruled for several months. He attempted in effect to copy the success of Stilicho in the West and posed a danger to the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire. He deposed all the anti-Goth officials and had Eutropius executed, though after the intervention of St. John Chrysostom the others were spared.

While a somewhat competent military commander, the zealous Arian
Arian
Arian may refer to:* Arius, a Christian presbyter in the 3rd and 4th century* a given name in different cultures: Aria, Aryan or Arian...

 Gainas was patently unable to administer a city of 200-400,000 whose Graeco-Roman populace intensely resented barbarian Goths and Arian Christians. Gainas' compromises with Tribigild led to rumors that he had colluded with Tribigild, his kinsman; when he returned to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 in 400
400
Year 400 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Stilicho and Aurelianus...

, riots broke out. He attempted to evacuate his soldiers but even then the citizens of Constantinople managed to trap and kill 7,000 armed Goths, spurred to action by the Empress Aelia Eudoxia
Aelia Eudoxia
Aelia Eudoxia was the Empress consort of the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius.-Family:She was a daughter of Flavius Bauto, a Romanised Frank who served as magister militum in the Western Roman army during the 380s. The identity of her father is mentioned by Philostorgius...

.

In response, Gainas and his forces attempted to flee back across the Hellespont, but their rag-tag ad hoc fleet was met and destroyed by another Goth in Imperial service, Fravitta
Fravitta
Flavius Fravitta was a chieftain of the Visigoths, who entered in the Eastern Roman army, rising to its highest ranks.- Biography :Fravitta was a member of the Visigoth aristocracy...

, who was subsequently made consul for 401 but was later accused of treason and executed as well. After this battle, Gainas fled across the Danube and was caught by the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 under Uldin
Uldin
Uldin or Uldes was one of the primary chieftains of the Huns located beyond the Danube during the reigns of the Eastern Roman Emperors Arcadius and Theodosius II...

. Gainas was killed, and his head was sent by Uldin to Arcadius ca. 400
400
Year 400 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Stilicho and Aurelianus...

 as a diplomatic gift.

Gainas' usurpation is the subject of the Egyptian Tale and the speech On Imperial Rule by Synesius of Cyrene
Synesius
Synesius , a Greek bishop of Ptolemais in the Libyan Pentapolis after 410, was born of wealthy parents, who claimed descent from Spartan kings, at Balagrae near Cyrene between 370 and 375.-Life:...

 who represented the anti-barbarian faction of the Byzantine nobility.

Herwig Wolfram, the historian of the Goths, notes that the death of Gainas marks an end to the relatively pluralistic Gothic tribal development with independent warbands: "thereafter only two ethnogeneses
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

 were possible: that of the Roman Goths within the empire and that of the Hunnic Goths at its doorstep".

Sources

  • Zosimus
    Zosimus
    Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

     Book V http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/zosimus05_book5.htm
  • Socrates of Constantinople Book VI http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.ii.ix.vii.html
  • Sozomen
    Sozomen
    Salminius Hermias Sozomenus was a historian of the Christian church.-Family and Home:He was born around 400 in Bethelia, a small town near Gaza, into a wealthy Christian family of Palestine....

     Book VIII http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.iii.xiii.iv.html
  • Theodoret
    Theodoret
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus was an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria . He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms...

     Book V http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.iv.viii.v.xxxiii.html
  • George of Alexandria, Life of St. Chrysostom, in Photios
    Photios
    Photios is a Greek name. Variants include the latinized Photius and the modern Fotios, Photis, Fotis.It commonly refers to Photios I of Constantinople Photios (Φώτιος) is a Greek name. Variants include the latinized Photius and the modern Fotios, Photis, Fotis.It commonly refers to Photios I of...

    , Myriobiblon, 96 http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/photius_03bibliotheca.htm#96
  • Alan Cameron and Jacqueline Long, Barbarian and Politics at the Court of Arcadius, Berkeley et Los Angeles, 1993.
  • Alexander Kazhdan
    Alexander Kazhdan
    - Soviet :Born in Moscow, Kazhdan was educated at the Pedagogical Institute of Ufa and the University of Moscow, where he studied with the historian of medieval England, Evgenii Kosminskii...

     (éd.), The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium is a three volume historical dictionary published by the English Oxford University Press. It contains comprehensive information in English on topics relating to the Byzantine Empire. It was edited by the late Dr. Alexander Kazhdan, and was first published in 1991...

    , 3 vols., Oxford University Press, 1991 (ISBN 0-19-504652-8)
  • (fr) André Piganiol, L'Empire chrétien, PUF, Paris, 1972.
  • Herwig Wolfram, History of the Goths (1978) tr., 1988.