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Sti'licho

Στιλίχων or Στελίχων), the military ruler of the western empire under honorius, was the son of a Vandal captain of the barbarian auxiliaries of the emperor Valens. Stilicho rose through prowess and great military skill, combined with many other eminent qualities, which made him dear to the army and invaluable to the emperor Theodosius. In. A. D. 384, when magister equitum, he was sent as ambassador to Persia, and of through his various accomplishments and agreeable manner of transacting business, so pleased the Persian king, that peace was concluded on terms very advantageous for Rome. On his return, he was made comes domesticus and commander-in-chief of the army; but his greatest reward was the hand of Serena, the niece of Theodosius, whom he married about the sane time. from which we may infer the great esteem he enjoyed with his master, one and the influence he exercised in the empire. Jealousy soon arose between him and Rufinus, the nefarious minister of Theodosius, which increased after the murder of his friend, the gallant Promotus, who in reward for his victories over the East Goths, was first exiled, and then put out of the way by Rufinus. Jealousy soon waxed to implacable hatred, and a struggle took place between the two rivals, which eventually ended in the destruction of Rufinus.

During the period from Stilicho's return from Persia to the year 394, he distinguished himself by several victories over the barbarians, especially the Bastarnae, and took a prominent part in the government; but the events are not important enough to be mentioned in detail. His influence increased not a little when Theodosius confided to Serena the education of his infant son Honorius, after the death of the empress Flaccilla, and it rose to its acme in 394. In that year Theodosius proclaimed Honorius Augustus and emperor of the West, Stilicho and Serena being appointed his guardians; and after a touching private speech, with which Theodosius concluded the ceremony, they set out for Rome, where Stilicho took the reins of government. He, as well as Serena, were active in abolishing paganism, which had still a strong root in Rome; but it seems that their zeal was not over pure, since several temples were stripped, by their command, of their silver and gold ornaments, which found their way into the governor's treasury, if at least the report is true, for generally speaking Stilicho was a man of remarkable integrity. The Roman emperor had now five heads -- one emperor-in-chief, Theodosius, two sub-emperors, Honorius and Arcadius, and two powerful ministers, Stilicho and Rufinus, both animated by boundless ambition and divided by mortal hatred; so that evils of every description would have sprung up, had not Theodosius been the man fit to govern such heterogeneous elements, and make them all conform to his own will. No sooner, however, did his death take place (394), than the struggle for the mastery broke out between Stilicho and Rufinus. The fall of the latter could be foretold. Rufinus, although possessed of eminent qualities, was a downright scoundrel; while with still higher natural gifts, great military experience, and an eminently better character, Stilicho combined a twofold imperial alliance through his wife Serena and his daughter Maria, who had been betrothed to Honorius in the lifetime of Theodosius, and was married to him soon afterwards. Stilicho began his reign by dividing the imperial treasury in equal shares between Honorius and Arcadius; prevailed upon Honorius to grant the amnesty promised by the late Theodosius to the partisans of the rebel Eugenius; quelled a military outbreak at Milan; and finally set out to make his and the emperor's authority respected in Gaul and Germany, where the barbarians pursued an audacious course of invasions. His march up the Rhine was triumphant, and his force was increased creased by an alliance with the Suevi and Alemanni. Marcomir, the principal chief of the Franks, fell into his hands, and was sent to Italy, where he ended his days in captivity; the Saxon pirates, the scourge of the northern coast, were severely chastised, and shrunk back into their own seas; and such was the terror caused by the rapid and crushing advance of Stilicho, that the Picts made a sudden retreat from Britain into their native mountains, from mere fear that Stilicho would effect a landing on the British coast, although he never did so. All this was achieved in the course of one summer; and Stilicho had no sooner returned to Milan than he set out again for the purpose of ruining Rufinus in Constantinople. One pretext for this expedition was the invasion of Greece by Alaric; another the conducting back of the eastern legions, which were stationed in Italy, and proved a heavy burden to the country. His success in this bold undertaking, and the death of Rufinus, are related in the life of the latter. [RUFINUS.]

The downfal of his rival enabled Stilicho to turn the full weight of his power against Alaric, who, in 396, had penetrated into the Peloponnesus. With a powerful army raised in Italy, Stilicho hastened to Greece, and Alaric soon found himself blocked up within that peninsula, whence no escape by land was possible but across the isthmus of Corinth, which was guarded by a strong Roman force. Owing to the presumption of Stilicho, however, who seems to have thought he had caught his enemy as if in a trap, or perhaps to the negligence of his lieutenants, who might have indulged in similar hopes, Alaric extricated himself from his dangerous position by a rapid march towards the gulf of Corinth; which he crossed at its narrowest point near Rhium, with his whole army, captives and booty, and was soon safely encamped in Epeirus. Thence he carried on negotiations with the ministers of Arcadius, who were afraid that if Alaric were undone, Stilicho would make himself master of the East also, and ere long (398) Alaric was appointed master general of Eastern Illyricum, which was one of the most important posts in the empire of Arcadius. The presence of Stilicho in Greece was now no longer required, and he required to Italy with rage and thoughts of revenge against Alaric. A war between the two rivals broke out soon afterwards, for which Stilicho made the most active preparations. Nor was he negligent in increasing his authority in Italy, and the people felt his sway, or worshipped his power so much. that in 398 they caused a splendid statue to be erected to him in Rome; in the same year the marriage between his daughter Maria and Honorms was celebrated at Milan. In 400, Stilicho was consul together with Aurelianus, and the honorary titles of pater and dominus were given to him. The war with Alaric had meanwhile taken its course, and in 402 became extremely dangerous to Italy, where the Gothic chief had already more than once made his appearance. In 403 Alaric made an irresistible push as far as Milan, whence the emperor Honorius fled to Ravenna, after abandoning, at the persuasion of Stilicho, the cowardly plan of transferring the seat of the empire into Gaul. In this crisis Stilicho acted with surprising boldness, energy, and military wisdom. At the approach of the Goths he hastened to Rhaetia, where the main force of the Italian troops was employed against the natives, and after giving the latter a severe chastisement, and compelling them to accept peace, he returned to Milan with the whole of the Rhaetian corps. At the same time most of the Roman troops were withdrawn from Gaul and Germany, and even the Caledonian legion was recalled from the frontiers of Britain. With his army thus augmented,he occupied Milan, where he was besieged, or, as it seems, rather blockaded by Alaric. However, at the close of March (403), he suddenly sallied out, and at Pollentia (not far from Turin) obtained a decisive victory over the Goths. The dispersion of the barbarians, an immense booty, the rich spoil of Greece and Illyricum, and thousands of captives among whom was the wife of Alaric, were the fruit of this great victory. Soon afterwards Alaric suffered another defeat under the walls of Verona, in consequence of which he withdrew from Italy. Stilicho was rewarded with the honour of a triumph on his return to Rome (in 404).

These victories and the subsequent increase of influence and power raised the ambition of Stilicho to so high a pitch, that he aspired to make himself master of the whole Roman empire, Eastern and Western. Honorius had no children, and Arcadius only one son, after whose death or removal both the empires would become the inheritance of Placidia, the daughter of Theodosius and Galla, to whom Stilicho accordingly undertook to marry his own son, Eucherius. This plan, however, could not be executed without the assistance of his mortal foe Alaric; but as ambition prevailed over hatred in both the rivals, Stilicho did not hesitate to make proposals to that effect to the Gothic chief, and Alaric gladly entered into the plan. The concert of their action was for some time interrupted by the invasion of Radagaisus, one of the most dangerous and destructive by which Italy was ever visited, but from which it was delivered by the valour of Stilicho in 406. [RADAGAISUS.] In the following year (407), Gaul was inundated and laid waste by that innumerable host of Suevi, Vandals, Alani, and Burgundians, who caused the downfal of the Roman authority beyond the Alps, and in the same year the legions in Britain proclaimed Constantine emperor in that province and in Gaul. This torrent Stilicho had either no means, or, more probably, no inclination to check, his whole activity being absorbed by his schemes upon Constantinople and his intrigues with Alaric. Already had he thrown the gauntlet to the ministers of Arcadius, by annexing all Illyricum to the Western Empire, whither he sent Jovinus as prefect, and his lofty plans became manifest after Alaric had openly renounced his allegiance to the Eastern court, and entered into that of the Western, upon which Stilicho compelled the subservient senate of Rome to elect Alaric a member of their body. Fortune, however, began to turn her back upon the ever successful master of Italy. Maria, the wife of Honorius, having died, Serena proposed her second daughter Thermantia (Aemilia Materna) to him, when Stilicho opposed the project, as any issue arising out of this new marriage would thwart his plan of obtaining both the empires for his son Eucherius. Serena, however, carried her point, and the marriage took place accordingly. Soon afterwards Arcadius died, and was succeeded by his son Theodosius the younger, for whom his excellent mother Pulcheria reigned with sovereign power. The influence of these events was sensibly felt at the court of Honorius, where dangerous court intrigues sprang up, in which the arbitrary rule of Stilicho found an unforeseen check. It was evident that the emperor secretly followed the advice of other counsellors than his father-in-law, and among those the crafty Olympius soon became conspicuous. Stilicho was not the man to be taken by surprise by such intrigues; and since he was as crafty as he was bold, he coolly informed the emperor that the would at last settle the business in Illyricum, where Jovinus was only nominal prefect, if the was there at all, and go thither with the legions to annex it finally to the Western Empire. For the first time in his life, Honorius firmly opposed the will of Stilicho, on the pretext that he would not rob his nephew of his paternal inheritance. At the same time he declared that he would leave Rome, whither he had been compelled to accompany his father-in-law, and take up his former residence at Ravenna. His eyes had been opened by Olympius, who had seen through the plan of Stilicho's going to Illyricum, and could not but consider it as a means of making war upon both the emperors at once, and of seizing by force of arms what he could not obtain by intrigues and negotiations. Honorius consequently set out for Ravenna. He was received with shouts of acclamation by the troops assembled in the camp of Pavia, who were preparing for a campaign in Gaul, and had been secretly worked upon by Olympius. Honorius addressed the troops in a long and artful speech. Suddenly they rose in uproar against the partizans of Stilicho, and a terrible bloodshed ensued : the prefecti praetorio of Gaul and Italy, a magister equitem, a magister militum, the quaestor Salvius, and his namesake Salvius, the comes domesticus, besides many other high functionaries, fell victims to the fury of the army. Stilicho, full of sinister forebodings, assembled round him his remaining partizaus in the camp of Bologna, where he was then staying, but to their surprise and indignation he declined to follow their plan of immediately hastening to Pavia, and putting down Olympius and the whole rebellion. His hesitation in adopting energetic means in such an alternative caused his ruin. His own most faithful friends now turned against him. Sarus was the first to act. [SARUS.] He surprised the camp of Stilicho, and cut his body-guard to pieces in the conflict. Stilicho fled to Ravenna, where he shut himself up after summoning the principal cities of Italy to declare against the barbarian mercenaries of the emperor. The confusion increasing, Stilicho took sanctuary in a church. Heraclianus Comes soon arrived with a chosen body of troops, and a warrant to seize the person of the fallen minister, to whom safety of life was promised. Stilicho trusted to the promise and left the church, but was immediately seized and massacred. He suffered death with the calm stoicism of an ancient Roman. His property was confiscated, and cruel persecutions were instituted against his family; his son Eucherius took to flight, but was seized, dragged from one place to another, and finally put to death. The marriage of Honorius and Thermantia was dissolved, but she was allowed to lead an obscure life with her mother Serena, and died seven years afterwards. The friends of Stilicho were persecuted with cruel rigour, their blood flowed in torrents, and their families were disgraced and robbed of their estates : Olympius had become the successor of Stilicho. (Claudian. Stilicho, Serena, Rufinus ; Zosim. lib. iv. v.; Sozom. lib. viii.; Socrat. lib. vi.; Philostorg. 11.3, &c.; Marcellin. Chron. ; Oros. lib. vii.)

[W.P]

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384 AD (1)
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