|Allegiance||Western Roman Empire|
Kingdom of Soissons
|Service||458–464/465 AD (Rome)|
461–464/465 AD (Kingdom of Soissons)
|Rank||Magister militum per Gallias|
Ruler of the Kingdom of Soissons
|Battles/wars||Battle of Arelate|
Battle of Orleans
Aegidius (died 464 or 465) was ruler of the short-lived Kingdom of Soissons from 461–464/465 AD. Before his ascension, he became magister militum per Gallias (Master of the Soldiers for Gaul) serving under Majorian, in 458 AD. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled against Ricimer when he assassinated Majorian and replaced him with Libius Severus; Aegidius may have pledged his allegiance to Leo I, the Eastern Roman Emperor. Aegidius repeatedly threatened to invade Italy and dethrone Libius Severus, but never actually launched such an invasion; historians have suggested he was unwilling to launch an invasion due to the pressure of the Visigoths, or else because it would leave Gaul exposed. Aegidius launched several campaigns against the Visigoths and the Burgundians, recapturing Lyons from the Burgundians in 458, and routing the Visigoths at the Battle of Orleans. He died suddenly after a major victory against the Visigoths; ancient historians say that he was assassinated, but do not give the name of the assassin, whereas modern historians believe it is possible that he died a natural death. After his death he was succeeded by his son Syagrius, who would be the second and last ruler of the Kingdom of Soissons.
Aegidius was born in Gaul, a province of the Western Roman Empire. It is believed that he came from the aristocratic Syagrii family, based upon the name of his son, Syagrius. While this evidence is not absolute, modern historians consider a connection to the family likely, by birth or marriage. Aegidius served under Aetius during the latter's time as magister militum (master of soldiers) of the Western Roman Empire. He also served alongside the future emperor Majorian. Aegidius was either a founding member of Majorian and Ricimer's faction, or else he quickly joined it. After Majorian became Western Roman Emperor, Aegidius was granted the title of magister militum per Gallias (master of the soldiers for Gaul) in 458, as a reward for his loyalty. In the same year, Aegidius led troops at the Battle of Arelate, against the Visigoths under King Theodoric II. Aegidius is credited by ancient sources as being the primary cause for Theodoric II's defeat. As a result of the battle, Theodoric II was forced to return Visigoth territory in Hispania to the Western Roman Empire, and submit again to being a Roman vassal.
After Ricimer assassinated Emperor Majorian in 461 and replaced him with Libius Severus, Aegidius refused to recognize the new emperor. Libius Severus was not recognized by the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo I, who was considered the senior emperor. Aegidius may have pledged his allegiance directly to Leo I, in order to legitimize his independence from the Western Roman Empire, and his retention of the Gallic legions. Aegidius repeatedly threatened to invade Italy, however he never did so. Modern historian Penny MacGeorge has suggested that this was due to pressure from the Visigoths, whereas others assert that he was unable or unwilling to march to Italy, leaving Gaul exposed. It is known that during this time, Ricimer ceded Lyons to the Burgundians, and Narbonne and most of Narbonensis Prima to the Visigoths, in exchange for alliances. Ricimer probably appointed a replacement for Aegidius, despite the fact that Aegidius retained most or all of his Gallic forces. The two people most likely to have been given the title of magister militum per Gallias (master of soldiers in Gaul) were the Roman general Agrippinus, or the Burgundian King Gundioc, who was Ricimer's brother-in-law. Around this time Aegidius sent embassies to the Vandal king Gaiseric, probably in an effort to form an alliance to oppose Ricimer. According to a story known to Gregory of Tours and Fredegar, the Frankish King Childeric I, who controlled much of northern Gaul, was exiled at some point after 457, and the Franks then elected Aegidius to rule them. The ancient sources go on to say that Aegidius ruled them for eight years, before Childeric was recalled and reinstated as king. This story is considered fictional by most modern historians. Another narrative given by primary sources is that Childeric formed an alliance with Aegidius, although this has slim historical evidence, and is directly opposed by archeological evidence, which supports the theory of the Kingdom of Soissons, the historiographic name given to territory ruled by Aegidius and his son Syagrius, containing the expansion of the Franks.
Aegidius recaptured Lyons from the Burgundians in 458 and repulsed an invasion by the Visigoths in 463, routing them at the Battle of Orleans. In this battle, Aegidius' forces killed the Visigoth general Frederic, who was the brother of Theodoric. Some sources say that Aegidius' forces were bolstered by Frankish forces. Aegidius also won a minor engagement against the Visigoths near Chinon, at an unknown date. Despite these victories, he did not take the offensive against the Visigothic position in Aquitaine, possibly due to lack of resources, or due to threats from comes (count) Paulus, Gundioc, and the Western Roman generals Arbogast and Agrippinus.
Aegidius is recorded to have died suddenly, in either late 464 or late 465. Sources of the time report that he was either assassinated or poisoned, but do not mention a perpetrator. Modern historians consider it possible that he died a natural death. After his death, he was succeeded by his son Syagrius. Syagrius is reported to have moved his seat of government to Soissons, which would later give Aegidius and Syagrius' breakaway government the historiographic name of the Kingdom of Soissons. The Franks defeated Syagrius and captured Soissons in the 480s.
Aegidius was referred to by numerous titles in primary sources, many of which were contradictory. In the Historia Francorum by Gregory of Tours, he is twice called magister militum (Master of Soldiers), although Gregory describes him as being elected rex (king) of the Franks. Even more confusingly, Gregory does not give him any title while mentioning his death. The Liber Historiae Francorum refers to him initially as rex, but later twice calls him principem Romanorum (the Roman emperor). In the 'A' version of the Liber Historiae Francorum, he is called Romanorum rex (King of the Romans) at the time of his death, while the 'B' version calls him Romanorum tirannus (Roman tyrant), implying that he was a usurper. The Chronicle of Fredegar calls him comes (count). Based on the two references from the Liber Historiae Francorum which refer to him as emperor, and the occasional usage of the title of rex to refer to an emperor, some have asserted that he was in fact an emperor, although this is based upon shaky evidence, and is considered very unlikely by most historians. Modern historians give three possibilities for his actual status: The first possibility is that he declared himself king, and was called such by both his own kingdom, and external barbarians. The second is that he was never called king within his own lifetime, but later folk or epic traditions gave him the title. The third is that he was referred to by a Roman title by his subjects, but called rex by barbarians, as it was analogous to the titles of their own rulers.
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