Battle of Châlons (274)

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Coordinates: 48°57′27″N 4°21′54″E / 48.9575°N 4.365°E / 48.9575; 4.365

This article is about the battle of the Roman emperor Aurelian against Tetricus I, emperor of the Gallic empire, in 274. For the battle of Flavius Aetius against Attila the Hun, in 451, see Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.
Battle of Châlons
Date February or March 274 (0274-02-12)
Location apud Catalaunos (Châlons-en-Champagne, France)
Result Roman victory
Belligerents
Roman Empire Gallic Empire
Commanders and leaders
Aurelian Tetricus I

The Battle of Châlons was fought in 274 between Roman Emperor Aurelian and Emperor Tetricus I of the Gallic Empire. Fought in what is now Châlons-en-Champagne, France, it was the battle that marked the end of the independent Gallic Empire, and its unification back to the Roman Empire, after thirteen years of separation.[1]

Background[edit]

Aurelian, having subdued revolts in the eastern Roman Empire, began preparing to reconquer the Gallic Empire by early 274.[2] Meanwhile, Tetricus' hold on his domain was steadily weakening, facing continuous raids from German tribes and internal troubles with the rebellion of Faustinus, a provincial governor.[3][4]

Tetricus ordered his troops to leave the Rhine and march southward, where they met the Roman army in the Catalunian fields of Châlons-sur-Marne.

The battle[edit]

Aurelian's army was better trained and well commanded, and when Tetricus was captured in the midst of the fighting, the Rhine army disintegrated and was torn apart by Aurelian's troops. The battle was remembered for years for its high death toll.[1][4]

Aftermath[edit]

Historians dispute whether Tetricus truly intended to fight at Châlons. Some older accounts portray Tetricus as unhappy with his position as Gallic emperor. According to these accounts, Tetricus deliberately positioned his troops so they could easily be defeated, having previously sent Aurelian a letter, imploring with the words of Virgil, "rescue me undefeated from these troubles." Tetricus would then surrender during the battle.[5]

However, historians from recent times have disagreed, deeming the story of Tetricus' betrayal as a propaganda made up by Aurelian. Logically, Aurelian could have prevented many casualties to his army by simply having Tetricus surrender before the battle even started. Aurelian badly needed troops from Tetricus' army to secure the Rhine from the Germanic tribes, but instead the battle of Châlons nearly destroyed the Rhine army.

The costly battle made it much harder for Aurelian to defend the Rhine area.[4] In the years to come, Alamans and Franks invaded the Rhineland, taking forts and destroying cities.[1]

In the aftermath of the Battle of Châlons, Tetricus and his son were taken to Rome and paraded in a triumph. Tetricus was spared further punishment; instead, Aurelian made him a Roman administrator, a corrector Lucaniae, overseeing part of Italy.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lendering, Jona (31 March 2006). "Gallic empire". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Polfer, Michel (28 January 2000). "Tetricus I (AD 271-273)". Die Imperatoribus Romanis. Salve Regina University. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Southern, Pat (2001). The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. New York: Routledge. pp. 118–119. 
  4. ^ a b c Watson, Alaric (1999). Aurelian and the Third Century. New York: Routledge. 
  5. ^ Gibbon, Edward (1905). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1. New York: Harper and Brothers. p. 594.