Wars of the Alemanni

251 to 410 A.D.
Visigoths — versus — Rome

First Invasion : 251 to 270

Invasion of the Alemanni
The Alemanni were a Germanic tribe that settled on the Rhine river around modern Switzerland. The were particularly troublesome during the third and forth centuries, and made frequent incursions into Roman territory over a hundred year period. By 268 A.D. several of the western legions were moved to the east to fight Goths. The Alemannis broke through the border, first into Italy, and later into Gaul, but were driven back successfully, first by Claudius II, and later by his successor Aurelian. This crisis occurred during the military anarchy and the success of these emperors fighting the barbarians on several fronts did much to restore faith in the military institutions. Thirty years later they made another incursion into Gaul, but were pushed back, this time by Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine.

The most famous invasion of the Alemanni occurred at Strasbourg on the Rhine. Not only did Emperor Julian rout the invaders, but the Alemanni chieftain Chnodomer was captured and taken to Rome. Only ten years later, however, the invaders crossed the ice during the winter and poured into Gaul. The battle of Solicinium was hard fought with heavy losses on both sides, but again, the barbarians were driven back. The last time the Romans resisted the incursions of an Alemmani tribe was in 378 A.D., when the Emperor Gratian met a tribe of Lentienses at the battle of Argentaria, and drove them back across the Rhine. Soon after this, Hunnic invasions in the east caused an enormous stir within central Europe, and forced irrepressible migrations that would soon collapse the western empire. In about 406 A.D., when the Western empire was already suffering for Gothic invasions from the east, the integrity of the Western borders broke down altogether. In about 406 A.D., the Alemanni were part of a massive migration of Germans into Roman territory. They are thought to have settled somewhere around Alsace, and became part of the Frankish Empire.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Lake Benacus   Romans victory
Fought November 268 between 35,000 Romans under Claudius II, and 100,000 Alemanni. The Alamanni had broken through the Roman frontier at Brenner pass while the Romans were fighting the Goths at Naissus. Claudius routed the Alemmani, killing over half, and driving the reminder back over the Alps.
Battle of Placentia   Alemanni victory
Fought 271, between the Romans, under Aurelian, and the invading Alemanni. The barbarians attacked the Romans in the dusk of evening, after a long and fatiguing march, and threw them into disorder, but they were rallied by the Emperor, and after severe fighting, succeeded in beating off their assailants, but with great loss.
Battle of Pavia   Romans victory
Fought 271, between the Romans under Aurelian and the German invaders. Aurelian gained a signal victory and the Alemanni recrossed the frontier.
Battle of Argentoratum   Romans victory
Fought August, 357, between 13,000 Romans under Julian, and a vastly superior army of Alemanni under Chnodomar. The Romans attacked the German lines shortly before nightfall, after a long march, and though the right wing, under Julian, was at first driven in, they were rallied by their general, and the left and centre pressing on, the Alemanni were totally routed, with a loss of 6,000, in addition to those who fell in the flight. The Romans lost 4 tribunes and 243 soldiers; only Chnodomar was taken prisoner.
Battle of Châlons   Romans victory
Fought July 366 between the Romans under Jovinus, and the Alemanni under Vadomair. After an obstinate engagement, lasting throughout the day, the Alemanni were routed with a loss of 6,000 killed and 4,000 prisoners. The Romans lost 1,200.
Battle of Argentaria   Romans victory
Fought May, 378, between the Romans under Gratianus and the Alemanni under Priarius. The Alemanni were overwhelmed by the Roman legionaries, though they stood their ground bravely, and only 5,000 escaped from the field. Priarius was slain.

Short Biography
Claudius II Emperor during the 'Military Anarchy' who fought Goths in the East and Alemanni in the west.
Aurelian Emperor who reunited the empire during the Military anarchy. Led campaign in Palmyra against Zenobia.
Constantius Chlorus Father of Constantine. Western Emperor. Fought Alemanni in Gaul.
Julian the Apostate Last emperor of the Constantinian dynasty. Tried to restore paganism.
Chnodomer Chieftain of the Alemmani. Captured at the battle of Strasbourg.
Valentinian Emperor of the West, 346 to 375. Founder of the Valentinian dynasty.

Image Links

A triumph of Marcus Aurelius, Tiepolo
 in Famous Men of Rome