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Home > Articles > The Archer's Register > 1894 > An adventurous shot into the past
An adventurous shot into the past
Part 2 of 3

But Gratian, during most of his reign, was rather guided than served by Mellobaudes, one of the kings of the Franks (by which title it is probable that the petty chiefs of this then warlike and masterful tribe were distinguished), who did not disdain to add to the title of king that of count or mayor of the household. His compatriots furnished most excellent infantry, as they were steadfast, resolute, unshaken in combat, and yet dexterous in manoeuvring; none were better qualified to replace, in the Imperial army, the ancient Roman infantry, to whom the subjugation of the whole of the then known world had been due.

Before long, however, most unfortunately for himself, Gratian offended the Franks by a piece of mere youthful frivolity. In carrying out the skilful policy of the Roman Empire of sending bodies of troops enlisted in one part of the empire to assist in the development or discipline of some other most distant part, a body of Alains was summoned (it may be almost said) from the banks of the Volga to those of the Seine, Gratian, who was most passionately fond of hunting, gladly welcomed these new comers, whom he admired enthusiastically as the most excellent archers, and the best light cavalry that could be found to engage with either men or wild beasts. Other less authorised invasions of these Alains, when they ravaged Gaul and Spain, occurred later on, and some bands of them became settled in Gaul in the course of the next century; as, for instance, at Orleans and Valence. These Scythians took their departure from the district lying between the Black and Caspian seas.

But the Romans, though accustomed to admit Germans into their service, could not endure to have these Scythians, whom they despised, associated with them; and the Franks, though they accepted with pride the designation of "Barbarians," demurred at being confounded with the savage inhabitants of Tartary. Thus the extravagant favours which the young Gratian heaped upon Ms new favourities, by rousing the bitter jealousy of his army, produced a revolution which ended in his downfall.

For Magnus Maximus, who was in command under the Roman Empire in Great Britain, took advantage of the unpopularity of the Emperor, and assumed the purple robe in England. The entire army of Gratian abandoned him to follow the colours of this new usurper. Gratian was reduced to flight, and killed at Lyons, August 25th, 383. These later particulars are gathered from Zozimus, a Greek historian of the 5th century.

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