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The Rise And Fall Of Barbatio
In my latest series, "Apostate's War", one of the more prominent characters was a Roman general by the name of Barbatio, who I will go into more here. Barbatio is first heard of as the commander of the unpopular Caesar Gallus' guards in the Roman East, against whom he later turned. Barbatio thus came to be trusted by the Augustus Constantius II, ensuring future promotion.
By 357 AD Barbatio was a Magister Militum in charge of a large army sent to reinforce Constantius' new Caesar, Julian, in Gaul. Barbatio already had a reputation for treachery, and he constantly intrigued against Julian. That same year he was surprised and driven off by the Alamanni king Chnodomar, and did not make any attempts to return to Julian's aid, instead continuing his intrigue.
Barbatio had at least some merit as a commander, for in 358 AD he defeated the Juthungi, and by then had been raised to Magister Peditum. However, Barbatio's wife, Assyria, was apparently fearful of being cast off by her husband, and while the Magister was away on campaign in 359 AD she wrote a letter to him. It was carried by a former slave of Silvanus specialized in cryptography.
The slave couldn't get the latter to Barbatio himself, so she instead handed it over to the general Arbitio. Just when Barbatio had returned from his latest campaign, he was arrested on Constantius' orders along with Assyria: the fearful wife had pleaded her husband to declare himself emperor when Constantius died in the letter, and Arbitio promptly took it to the Augustus.
Barbatio couldn't deny that he had indeed received this letter from Assyria, and both of them were tried for treason and executed by beheading. It is of course possible, even likely, that Barbatio's reputation has somewhat suffered because of historians who disliked him, namely Ammianus Marcellinus who served in Julian's army at Gaul. However, this shouldn't be pushed too far either; Barbatio was at least a somewhat able commander.
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