|Died||464 or 465|
|Allegiance||Western Roman Empire|
Aegidius (died 464 or 465) was a Gallo-Roman warlord of northern Gaul. He had been promoted as magister militum in Gaul under Aëtius around 450. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled when Ricimer deposed Majorian, engaging in several campaigns against the Visigoths and creating a Roman rump state that came to be known as the Domain of Soissons. After winning an important victory over the Visigoths he died suddenly, and was succeeded by his son Syagrius.
Ralph Mathisen points out the name of Aegidius' son, Syagrius, "would suggest that he was related to the Syagrii of Lyons, one of the oldest, most aristocratic families of Gaul. Aegidius, in fact, has been proposed as a grandson of Flavius Afranius Syagrius, consul in 382". Other Syagrii Mathisen lists with a connection to Gaul are a great-grandson of Afranius, who had an estate at Taionnacus near Lyons, and a wealthy Syagria of Lyons who was described by Magnus Felix Ennodius as thesaurus ecclesiae.
As official representative in Gaul
According to Priscus, Aegidius and Majorian were lieutenants of Aëtius, and campaigned together in northern Gaul. After Aëtius' murder Aegidius assumed the role his mentor had held, maintaining order between the foederati and Romans in Gaul, but "while Aëtius had sought to preserve the equilibrium within the Gallic community with the help of Hunnic warriors from outside, Aegidius drew his support largely from the Salian Franks under Clovis' father Childeric."
A legendary story known to both Gregory of Tours and Fredegar tells that Childeric had fled to exile with the Thuringians, he arranged with his faithful follower Wiomad to send him a message when to return. Wiomad then provoked the Franks against their new leader, Aegidius, while at the same time tricked the Emperor Maurice into giving Childeric a great treasure for his return to his people. This shows that, at the minimum, some Franks were prepared to fight under a Roman leader.
When Avitus had been deposed—then killed—by Ricimer, Majorian became the new emperor. One of his first acts was to replace comes Agrippinus with Aegidius, who then accused his predecessor of various kinds of treachery. Allegedly, Agrippinus was sent to Rome where he was tried and sentenced to death, but managed to escape prison, gain a pardon from the Emperor, returned to Gaul "exalted with honors." As a result, the two became rivals.
Next Majorian overawed with force the Visigoths of southern Gaul and their neighbors the Burgundians. Aegidius assisted this effort, marching down the Rhone, his troops burning and pillaging as they advanced, and he seized Lyons in 458, then in the next year allowed the Goths to encircle him at Arles. "The Goths thought that they were supposed to perform the usual federate ritual outside the walls of the Gallic capital," writes Wolfram, "but they were rudely awakened from their daydreaming by an attack of Majorian and the 'Frankish' Aegidius."
As quasi-independent ruler
However, relations between Ricimer and Majorian soured; when Majorian's campaign in Hispania against the Vandals proved unsuccessful Ricimer deposed him (461), murdering another Emperor, replacing him with Libius Severus. Aegidius refused to recognize Ricimer's new figurehead, Separated from Ricimer and Severus in Northern Gaul by the Visigoths and Burgunds, Aegidius was safe from any direct response they might make. Ricimer did accept as a supporter Aegidius' rival Agrippinus, whom contemporaries claimed betrayed Narbonne to the Visigoths in return for their help. Aegidius was soon drawn into a war with the Visigoths; Hugh Elton suggests that Ricimer's puppet Emperor Severus had bribed the Visigoths to go to war against Aegidius.
Aegidius struck back by attacking Orleans with the help of Childeric, and the brother of king Theoderic, Frideric, was killed in the fighting. However, Aegidius did not press his victory; Elton speculates that Aegidius' attention was distracted by "increasing conflict with various Frankish groups on the north-eastern frontier or lack of resources." Hilton notes that Aegidius had other rivals beyond the Visgoths he needed to confront: there were Saxons in the Loire valley, Bretons under Riothamus who fought the Visigoths, "sometimes in co-operation with the Italian imperial Romans", and other Roman factions led by the comites Paul and Arbogast. The boundaries of his 'kingdom', the Domain of Soissons are not known with any precision. "Though often portrayed as an independent Roman state in north Gaul, Aegidius and Syagrius' 'kingdom' was probably not much bigger than a day's march from their army."
Hydatius records that Aegidius sent an embassy to the Vandals via the Atlantic in May 464; that same year Hydatius records Aegidius's death due to either poison or ambush. Steven Muhlberger explains Hydatius knew of the first when the ships the embassy sailed on passed Gallaecia, and the second through the rumors which reached his distant corner of Hispania. Gregory of Tours implies that he died of the plague. He was succeeded by his son Syagrius.
A British connection?
Gildas preserves a fragment of a petition that the Britons, having been deprived of Roman military protection after 410, wrote to a "Roman commander Agitus, thrice consul". Although "practically all historians of dark-age Britain since Bede" have thought Agitus was the Patrician Aëtius, more recent scholars Leslie Alcock and Mollie Miller have suggested this Agitus may be Aegidius. However the philologist Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson noted "there is no philological difficulty over Agitius = Aetius", which led Thomas D. O'Sullivan to dismiss this alternative identification.
- Mathisen, "Prospographia II", Francia 7 (1980), pp. 608f, and notes
- Priscus, fragment 30; translated by C.D Gordon, The Age of Attila: Fifth Century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1966), pp. 118f
- Herwig Wolfram, History of the Goths, translated by Thomas J. Dunlap (Berkeley: University of California, 1988), p. 180
- Gregory of Tours, II.2; Fredegar, III.11. Discussed by Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms: 450-751 (London: Longman, 1994), p. 39
- Ralph W. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism and Religious Controversy in Fifth-Century Gaul (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1989), pp. 199f
- Isidore of Seville, Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum, chapter 33. In his edition of Hydatius' Chronicle, Theodor Mommsen believes this is a passage copied from Hydatius' chronicle which is missing from existing copies.
- Elton, "Defence in fifth-century Gaul", in John Drinkwater and Hugh Elton, Fifth-Century Gaul: A Crisis of Identity? (Cambridge: University Press, 1992), p. 172
- Gregory of Tours, Decem Libri Historiarum, II.18; Hydatius, 218
- Elton, "Defence", p. 173
- Hydatius, 224, 228; Muhlberger, The Fifth-century chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990), pp. 210, 310
- Decem Libri Historiarum, II.18
- O'Sullivan, The De Excdio of Gildas: Its authenticity and date (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978), p.169
|Ruler of the Domain of Soissons
|Magister militum of Gaul