Goths: Moving Whole Populations (part II)

OK, I posted my last entry in the Allies & Enemies of Rome forum at R.A.T. (Goths: Moving Whole Populations) and I got a handful of very useful comments and insights.

This is a modified form of my final post over there, and the basis of my next calculations, etc... More comments or help will be welcome!


Yes, I guessed the Huns would just be the warriors and maybe their slaves. If the Alans were also just warriors, then the group of Alatheus and Saphrax would have a higher ratio of warrior-to-civilians... I didn't thought about the selling of slaves and children to the Romans after the crossing of the river, though, good point.

Before crossing the Danube, the Tervingi would have a ratio close to 20% (the deaths of warriors against the Huns would be compensated by the death of the elders and some children due to Winter suffering in the Carpatos).

Let's, for the sake of simplicity, deal with the lowest estimations (some 20,000 Gothic warriors at the Battle of Hadrianopolis, half of whom were Tervingi).

This roughly means some 50,000 Tervingi.

We know many of the elders and weaklings were left behind. They account for some 3% of the population, let's suppose half of them were left behind, so we have some 49,000 Tervingi. Call this number T.

Now, let's try to get an account of what's going on: the roughly 20% of warriors would be among the free men, but let's simplify including all able men, including slaves.

In 'young' populations, age pyramids show that about half the population is under the 15 years old age, so we get as many children as adults.

A familiar core would be comprised, in average, of mother, father, some 4 or 5 sons, one grandparent and a slave or two, although this would vary wildly depending on the economic and social status (the higher the status, the more slaves and the lesser children, in order to avoid heavy fighting for the power).

In average, anyway, we have a familiar core of some 10.5 members. This means that the Tervingi was formed of some 4,666 family cores. Call this number F.

Now, once on the other side of the river, they started to get too hungry and started to sell slaves and sons to keep the rest fed and alive. How many sons per family would have been sold? We can only speculate.

The richer families would have had gold and slaves to avoid selling their younglings, or probably one of the younger girls, while the poorer families would have sold families up to all their sons except the first one (maybe two if the first one was a female, but undoubtly)... It also depends on how much food they got from the sellings, and how long would it have served to feed the rest of the family.

Anyway, we know it was bad enough for people to be at unrest but not as bad as to force them to rebel right away, so I'd say that an average of one to two sons per family would be a realistic number (let's say 1.5).

That means the total population now is close to T - 1.5F ~ 42,000 of which 10,000 are warriors (per the 20% rule before starting to lose civilians).

Now, if the 42,000 Tervingi were able to provide some 10,000 warriors to Hadrianopolis, led by Fritigern, then the rest of the 10,000 were provided by the fleeing Greutungi led by Alatheus and Saphrax, and their Alan and Hun allies.

Let's say that the number of allies wasn't greater than the number of warriors the Greutungi were able to muster, in case of a mutiny. That would put the maximum number of Alans and Huns at 5,000.

Now, in this case, we know that the Greutungi had suffered heavy losses against other Hunnic and Alannic tribes the previous two years. And we know that most if not all of the Greutungi were forced to abandon their lands, so we must expect a big number of population. The Tervingi only decided to leave Athanaric, but we know he kept many retainers on the Carpatos, although we can only especulate. They were enough to allow them to survive against the smaller Hunnic bands, but not so many as to allow them a huge victory. Considering 3,000 would be a big army, I'd say a maximum of 2,000 (about 4 comitives) which would throw some 10,000 more Tervingi, or roughly the 16% of the total Tervingi population (and we aren't taking into account the losses of several skirmishes against the Huns because we are told that Athanaric was pretty good in retreating without heavy losses).

So we have that the total Greutungi population, if of somewhat similar size to the Tervingi, would be some 60,000 people, of which some 12,000 would, originally, been warriors. Heavy losses were to be expected when an army lost some battles, but considering they managed to be fighting for some years, that would mean that either they had the ability to replenish their ranks faster than others, or that they were able to keep their losses relatively low.

Now, the final number should be about 5,000 or bigger, or they would be at the mercy of their allies if they decided to defect them. Let's say the Greutungi suffered heavy losses, about half their warriors.

That would mean the total Greuthungi population would be of 54,000 people, of which 6,000 were warriors. And so we have about 4,000 for the Alans and Huns. Now, before jumping on conclusions, we will take half the civilian population from the Greuthungi, who fell under Hunnic power precisely because they had been let without warriors (simple, I know, but it's a rough estimation).

So, we get 24,000 civilians and 6,000 warriors, about 30,000 Greuthungi.

Summing all this up we have, for the aftermath of the rebellion at Martianopolis, when the Tervingi and the Greuthungi united, but before the battle of Ad Salices in 377:

* 42,000 Tervingi, with 10,000 able warriors.
* 30,000 Greuthungi, with 6,000 able warriors.

Later, about 4,000 Alans and Huns joined in as well. And later on, Athanaric's Goths crossed the Danube and joined the Goths in Illiricum, when they signed the foedus with Theodoric. The proportion of populations are 14 Tervingi to 10 Greuthungi, almost 3 to 2, which would justify the leadership of Tervingi over the whole population later on (first Fritigern, then Athanaric, then who-knows until Alaric is raised reiks and judge in 395 (specially since the kings were elected by the warriors).

All this is, as you can see, highly especulative, however I think it seems reasonable. I have supposed that, as the Goths didn't have siege experience, they weren't able to recover their sons or slaves from their Roman buyers.

So, approaching the Battle of Hadrianopolis, we have a grand totale of 76,000 people, of which 20,000 were soldiers, and about 55,000 were women and children of both sexes.

Now, do these numbers make more sense? I hope that the process I have followed is, if a bit especulative, at least plausible enough, considering the lack of data we have.

The main points are: Tervingi and Greuthungi populations were of similar size before the arrival of the Huns, the Tervingi suffered heavy civilian losses after crossing the Danube, while the Greuthungi suffered heavy military losses before crossing it, and only about half of them managed to escape the Huns.

If we follow this process for the 25,000 highest number of warriors, we would roughly get the following numbers:

* 53,000 Tervingi, with 13,000 warriors
* 36,000 Greuthungi, with 7,000 warriors
* 6,000 Alans and Huns

And a total of 95,000 people, of which 25,000 would be warriors.

Best regards!


Pacal said...

Yes your figures are plausible. I should point out that your figures would seem to argue for the virtually every adult male being a warrior sort of idea, which is questionable. Besides disdn't these groups have slaves some of whom would be adult males. (slaves would be 10% or more of pop.) So I would inflate your totals, although not by much (say 10-30%) Also not every adult male would be for example at the battle of Adrianople, some would be plundering others foraging and others just pissed off with the leaders. Regarding your totals for warriors. I myself have read in Ferdinand Lot a figure of 15.000 for the total of the barbarian "hordes" at Adrianople. My opinion is that this figure is an absolute minimum for the number of "barbarian" troops at Adrianople. I further note that the Goths were likely joined by escaped slaves, by "barbarian" auxilaries, and possibly "barbarians" and others from the ranks of the Roman army itself. So I doubt that just the groups you enumerated would have supplied soldiers / warriors for the Goths. Despite this I would still not rate the "Gothic" army at Adrianople has above 30,000. In fact I would give it c. 25.000, Given the above mentioned conditions, i.e., many warriors being abscent, the arrival of others to join in the plundering etc., I find it hard to believe it could be much larger, and more likely smaller.

In a previous posting I listed the figure given for the Vandals as 80,000 which includes women, children and slaves and means in my opinion to under 20,000 warriors, in fact likely only about 10-12.000.

The fact that Rome in the west fell to such small numbers indicates something was profondly wrong.

Alaric very likely never had a as large a army that fought te Romans at Adrianople. But he was able to cause imense grief and travel about Italy with a army c. 20.000 or less. In fact after the murder of Sitilico (unsure of spelling), with no opposition outside of fortrified cities and strong points indicates something was seriously wrong.

Just my thoughts.


Pacal said...

I have to appologize for the rant I posted earlier. I sometimes let myself get hot under the coller about certain positions. Frankly the resurgence of this particular school of thought regarding the fall of the Roman empire just strikes me has largely indefensible.


Excalibor said...


Thanks for your thoughts. The 20% rule I got it from population censuses of Iroquian tribes, and some African and Asian censuses...

Using age pyramids, I calculated a rough percentage of males between 15 and 55 years-old as fighting able in extreme situations (like Hadrianopolis), at about 44% of all males, or about 21.75% of the whole population.

However, we don't exactly know how the work division worked for the Goths in the IV Century, and how many men were permanently warriors, and how free men and libertos (but not noblemen) were recruited or levied as need arose. We have some hints from Taciti Germania but we are talking about very different social structures and economical regimes, so I doubt the extrapolation would have any value at all.

Indeed, there are a lot of things to consider, but we also have too many unknowns, and you can only parameterized to a point. I think I can, for novelling purposes, safely put the line in here.

I will arrive, however, to a point were freed slaves, and Goths serving in the Roman military under Stilicho join in Alaric's army after the great barbarian massacre that followed Stilicho's suicide/assasination.

All these calculations are useful to have a better understanding of the logistics of moving such population, feeding them, defending them, etc... As my last entry tried to show, moving around such a large number of people with their animals, food, water, etc must have been really burdensome for the technology and logistics of the time.

I need some reasonable numbers so modern readers can get the feeling, and there can be a qualitative difference between 50,000 Tervingi and 100,000 just before the crossing of the Danube, not just a quantitative one. That's something I will have to explore as I write...

I'll let you know... :-)

As for your comments on Heather's book and the like. I think the real reason must be in between the current and past theories. Something as big and complex as the Roman Empire could not fall just for one reason, too many people involved, too many soldiers, too many internal and external forces pushing and pulling.

I'll have to try and get some of the books you told me, but I think military, economical and population causes, correctly mixed, can be the way to go. I may write a blog entry one of these days about this topic...

Thanks for all! best regards!