Flavius Stilicho (or Stilico) greatly influenced the emperors of his time, using his military abilities and influence to his full advantage. Before accommodating the needs of Honorius (the ruler of the Western Roman Empire), he advised and assisted Theodosius I , a Western Roman Empire ruler. In this article, you will learn more about the man who overcame barbarian family lines to become an important figure during his time.
1. Stilicho was noted for his semi-barbarian family lines. Born in Germany as the son of a Vandal and a Roman mother, Stilicho grew up considering himself Roman and nothing else.
2. Due to his high rank within the empire, Stilicho is believed to have practiced the Nicene Orthodox religion, which was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire by Theodosius I , the ruler in which Stilicho rose in rank under. Theodosius ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from a throne situated in Constantinople. He is noted as the last emperor to rule both the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire jointly.
3. After joining the Roman army, Stilicho quickly grew powerful in rank, rising from envoy to finally a general (known as magister militum in ancient Roman days).
4. Seeing Stilicho as a valued ally, the emperor formed a ‘blood tie’ with him by marrying off his adopted niece Serena to Stilicho. The two would have three children during the course of their marriage , one son (Eucherius) and two daughters.
5. Following the death of Western Emperor Valentinian II in 392, Stilicho was instrumental in helping the army that allowed Theodosius to win the Battle of the Frigidus.
6. After Theodosius died, the Western Roman Empire came under the rule of Honorius, while his brother Arcadius ruled over the Eastern Roman Empire. The new emperors were weak in their ability to rule the Empires, making it easy for military figures, like Stilicho, to become influential sources of information and guidance. Stilicho became the “de facto” commander-in-chief of the Roman armies in the West, while his rival, Rufinus, assisted the emperor in the East.
7. Throughout his career, Stilicho was met with political opposition. The first incident took place in 395, when he bumped heads with court policies surrounding matters involving the Visigoths, Goths, and Alaric forces in Macedonia.
8. In 400, Stilicho was given the highest honor within the Roman state when he was appointed Consul.
9. The destruction of the Sibylline Books in 405 was the doings of Stilicho who believed the stories and prophesies in the publications were being used to attack his government. To this day, only fragments remain in existence.
10. Although Stilicho was successful in defeating the Goths, he was unable to stop the barbarians from crossing the Rhine in 406. This accomplishment allowed the barbarians to destroy Roman cities and encourage a military revolt in Gaul and Britannia.
11. A failed attack in 408 against usurper Constantine III and rumors that he had plans to place his son on the Byzantine throne led to events that placed Stilicho on the chopping block. After retiring to Ravenna, he was taken into captivity. On August 22, 408, the great general was executed and his son, Eucherius, was murdered in Rome, shortly after the death of his father.