Battle of Chalons

Zach – Welcome once again to Minimum Wage Historian
Anna – I’m your co-host, Anna Komemne, Byzantine princess and first woman historian.
Zach – We have a great panel for you today. First up we have Lord Cornwallis, British general during the American Revolution. Next is Buffalo Calf Road, Cheyenne woman warrior and killer of Custer. Then we have Tomoe Gozen, Samurai woman, then we have Gaspar Correia, Portuguese conquistador and historian.
Buffalo – Interesting panel today. At least Olga isn’t here to threaten –
(Olga bursts into room smelling of burnt wood. Buffalo lays head on table.)
Olga – Is Olga late? Do not want to miss panel! Da! We talk about Russia again?
Zach – Um…no. Today we’ll be talking about general Aetius and the Battle of Chalons, also known as the “Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.”
Olga – Ooooh! Sounds interesting. I will stay.
Tomoe – We are honored to have you with us.
Olga – I know.
Cornwallis – I hope you do not mind if I take some tea while we discuss?
Anna – Of course not.
Zach – Alright, here’s a brief overview. The Western empire is crumbling and has about a decade to live. The Empire’s resources are almost non-existent and its political power is dwindling. Already barbarians are carving up Gaul (France) Spain, Africa and have their sights set on Italy. As if this isn’t bad enough, here comes Attila, the worst barbarian leader to unit Rome’s enemies under one banner and begins a blood soaked rampage through the terminally ill Empire.
Cornwallis – I do say that that sounds most horrid. Barbarians have such poor manners.
Tomoe – Huns are like Mongols. They come to destroy and take. They fight like animals with no honor.
Zach – Well, yes, the Huns do come from central Asia and are nomadic horsemen.

Hunnic warrior chillin’ before getting his pillage on.

Anna – let us now go to the man, Aetius, the last great Western Roman. Naturally the Eastern Romans continued to have great people, including my father and I, but he was the Western Empire’s “swan song” and “last hurrah!”
Zach – Aetius had a Scythian father who was a faithful Roman Soldier. When he was young he was given as a political hostage to the Huns, who at that time were just one of the newest barbarians on the block. Aetius spent his childhood among the Huns, learning their ways and studying carefully.
Tomoe – It is always wise to know one’s enemies.
Cornwallis – Even barbarians need to be studied if one wishes to defeat them.
Gaspar – I do believe it is true that these “barbarians” breathed fire and rode steeds made of lighting into battle.
(confused silence.)
Zach – Um…yeah, sure.  Eventually Aetius is returned to Rome where he gets caught up in a mad game of musical chairs for the throne. Honorius, Galla Placida’s looser brother, dies and they choose a guy named Joannes to be emperor. Well, Honorius’s and Galla’s relatives in Constantinople don’t like the idea of a non-relative ruling anything so they send an army westward to make them reconsider. This would be a strong argument because Joannes doesn’t really have an army to speak of. Aetius, says “Wait, Joannes, let me go up north and bring back some Hun Thugs I know. I’ll get you your army!” And he takes off. While he’s gone Joannes dies and Galla Placida takes the throne. Then Aetius suddenly shows up with an army of Huns. This puts Galla in an awkward position. He was helping her enemy but she had to respect the fact that he was at the head of a large army. So she promoted him to “super, kill guy, general” or whatever the Latin equivalent is.
Anna – Comes et Magistar Militum.
Zach – Thanks, Anna.
Anna – That’s what I’m here for.
Buffalo – So, Galla bought Aetius off.
Zach – Yup. He was in charge of Gaul where all the fighting was.
Gaspar – Gaul, as we know, is a land of volcanoes that spew molten gold into the sky. The gold cools in the air and comes down as gold snow flakes.
Tomoe – From what I understand, Rome does not have powerful army? They use all Barbarians to fight for them?
Zach – Unfortunately you are correct. At this time, Rome is so weak they have to beg, bribe and threaten people to fight for them. They’re like the smart kid in high school that does everyone’s homework. Enough people like him doing their work for them that they’ll kinda protect him from other bullies.
Cornwallis – This is a sad state for an empire that was once so mighty.
Anna – Galla’s daughter wasn’t nearly as cool as she was. When she was engaged to someone she did not like, she sent a letter to the Hunnic king saying that she would marry him and give him half the empire as a dowry. Of course she couldn’t do that and the Hunnic king knew this, but it gave him enough pretext to invade the Empire anyways.

Honoria, a flirt that invited the single most dangerous enemy Rome ever had.

Zach – Too bad for Rome that this king was Attila, the Hun who had (forcefully) united many barbarian tribes into one massive army. We can trace the path of his destruction through Gaul by the list of murdered bishops. The Church’s records are pretty accurate about this. Aetius then gathers what force he could and marches out to meet an army many times larger than his own.

What Romans thought Huns were like.

What Huns were actually like.

Anna – Not only that, but it was said that Aetius only had Auxiliaries, like your “National Guard” and not a single full time soldier. So, he recruited Theodoric, the Goth king and a few other barbarian tribes to help them out. (They needed it.)
Buffalo – But, this seems pretty desperate. Poor soldiers and disloyal barbarians to stop a ravaging barbarian army?
Cornwallis – This is what we call a “stiff upper lip!”
Gaspar – Attila had minatours riding gryphons but Aetius had acid spitting hydras! It was an even battle if there ever was one.
Olga – Really?
Gaspar – Oh, yes indeed!
Zach – Attila was besieging a city called Aurelianum and Aetius arrived just in time. The Huns had just breached the walls when they heard the Romans were coming. So the bug out and try to get away but the Romans meet up with them near a place called “Chalons.”
So, they formed up their lines and went into battle.
Cornwallis – Well then, Aetius, being a proper military man, took his little Roman force and went up on the high ground where they could have a chance of survival. I do believe that there is an account from an eye witness that speaks of the deplorable state of Roman military prowess. That they were barely able to hold off the enemy.

The once proud legions were reduced to a bunch of frightened men who no longer had the training or discipline to win their own battles.

Zach – But the Huns advance too far in their eagerness to get at the Visigoth flank and exposed their own flank to the Alan cavalry. Now, exposing a flank in an ancient or medieval battle is a big thing. It’s like a vent shaft of the Death Star: exposure may cause your entire force to be “rolled up.” That’s when your formation is attacked and is unable to defend itself so it is slaughtered completely. Not a good thing. So, the Huns retreat in disorder to avoid being “rolled up” and the rest of Attila’s force also retreats.

Here’s how the battle went down step by step.

Buffalo – So, the Romans won?
Zach – Kind of. It was a draw. The Huns managed to retreat but due to confusion and approaching darkness, they Romans weren’t able to pursue and destroy them.
Olga – But Aetius stopped enemy and sent him running! He won.
Gaspar – Aetius did manage to chase down Attila on his velociraptor steed and had a duel with him on the top of Mount Doom using the Flaming Sword of Ard’tule!
Buffalo – No, he didn’t.
Gaspar – How do you know?
Tomoe – Aetius won great honor. He did duty with insufficient force. What reward did Aetius receive?
Zach – The emperor Valentinian had him a assassinated because he was jealous.
Buffalo – What? The best general he has and he just kills him?
Cornwallis – I do say that that is like using your crippled hand to chop off your good hand.
Olga – (scratches head) Don’t get me wrong, I do love killing people that need to be killed, but…Rome not have many smart generals, da?
Zach – Rome had a horrible shortage of competency. They finally get one guy who knows how to get things done in spite of not having anything to work with…and they kill him.
Tomoe – This is most dishonorable and foolish.
Zach – But men loyal to Aetius assassinated the emperor in return.
Olga- Oh, Okay. That better.
Anna – This is a sad tale of an Empire that is a ruin of its former glory, barely holding on to life and then making horribly incompetent decisions based on greed, power and ignorance when they could least afford it.
Anna – I’m glad we Eastern Romans held on to our dignity.
Olga – I would go to Hun home and burn it down.
Cornwallis – Still, you must admire Aetius, he did a great deal with very little.
Gaspar – But Aetius came back as a Master Vampire and started the Knights Templar.
Buffalo – But what lessons could we learn from this morally grey story?
Zach – I’ll let the reader decide that!


12 comments on “Battle of Chalons

  1. Julaire says:

    Gaspar Correia needs to be invited to more of these panels. =)

  2. Harry the Horrible says:

    I would say the moral lesson is
    “Don’t assassinate your competent generals – adopt them as your heir or co-emperor, then load ’em down with work until they run away from the job to vacation somewhere far, far away.”

  3. Francis says:

    I see Gaspar’s grasp on what we laughingly call reality has bred true!

    • zacharyhill says:

      He claims he “calls it how he sees it.” I’m not sure he understands what that means exactly. Dig the jewelry on your site! I want those glasses btw.

  4. Napoleon Bonaparte says:

    Ha! I would have done much more than this Aetius fellow! I would have destroyed Atilla, no problem, no? Weak Roman man.

  5. Some bloke what named Wellington says:

    Ahhh yes Monsieur Bonaparte…Just like the glorious dash across the steppes during your Russian campaign I presume.

  6. Devo says:

    Gasper is awsome

  7. I would have slaughtered them all!!!!!

    • Of course, Mr. Khan. After all, Attila was fleeing your ancestors. It wasn’t until you went west that Europe felt the full might of the Mongols. Everything up till then was just teaser trailers.

      Please don’t kill me Mr. Khan.

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