When the Goths became Roman Mercenaries, who were they tasked to fight, if not the Huns?

  • I could be mistaken as I dont have research handy, but the Romans (specifically Caesar) was using German Mercenaries in his campaigns in Gaul. The Germans basically replaced the Gaulish cavalry since Caesar could not rely upon them. The Germans performed exceptionally well at Alesia. The German troops essentially became Caesar's bodyguard. After Labenius defected to Pompei in the Civil wars, Caesar again used his German cavalry to attack both the Gaulish calvary and the Romans under Pompei. – ed.hank Feb 8 '17 at 17:53
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    @ed.hank: I think one should not conflate Goths with Germanic tribes in general, they are clearly not the same. – Moishe Kohan Feb 8 '17 at 18:01
  • I don't think you can assume that Romans fought noone but the Huns, during any of the time Goths were serving as Roman mercenaries. – vpekar Feb 8 '17 at 18:34
  • What research have you done? – Mark C. Wallace Feb 8 '17 at 23:01
  • @MoisheCohen , yup you are totally correct. That was my mistake, I was incorrectly conflating the Goths and Germans. I believe the Germans that fought with Caesar were Swabians and not Goths (though please correct me if I am mistaken again :) – ed.hank Feb 9 '17 at 0:07

It is possible that some Goths became Roman mercenaries as early as the reign of Galerius (305-311 AD). See

Michael Kulikowski, Rome's Gothic Wars: From the Third Century to Alaric:

"Goths may have been recruited into the imperial army and served with Galerius in Persia, though the only evidence comes from Jordanes and is therefore suspect."

This did not prevent Roman-Gothic wars from resuming soon afterward (during the reign of Constantin, see the same book).

These wars continued throughout 4th century AD. Nevertheless, according to this wikipedia article, "As the Goths increasingly became soldiers in the Roman armies in the 4th Century AD, contributing to the almost complete Germanization of the Roman Army by that time, the Gothic penchant for wearing skins became fashion in Constantinople, which was heavily denounced by conservatives."

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Alaric's brother, Ataulf, was hired by Honorius to fight first, an usurping emperor, then the Vandals and Alans that had settled in Spain. This seems to have been fairly typical.

The western barbarians often seemed to want to exchange their military service for Roman grants and honours, not imagining they could take down an empire that had lasted for many centuries, so many of them happily hired on to fight germanic aggressors not far different from themselves.

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