The late Roman army and the defence of the Balkans

Michael Whitby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In Late Antiquity the Balkans were transformed from a relatively prosperous region to one of great insecurity, with emperors increasingly inclined to ignore problems as long as they did not threaten the security of Constantinople itself; the Roman troops in the Balkans might appear inadequate, in quality as well as quantity, for dealing with the challenges from beyond the Danube, particularly those posed by the great federations of Huns and Avars. Against this interpretation I urge the continuity of imperial interest and the considerable achievements of Roman forces in maintaining control both through an aggressive defence on the frontier and by efforts to improve the stability of the interior. Huns and Avars both shattered Roman defences, but the process took time. Roman armies which combined local and central units with, at times, a significant foreign element, generally worked well. Logistics as well as strategic and tactical thinking were powerful advantages for the Romans, and were exploited right through until the early seventh century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-161
Number of pages27
JournalProceedings of the British Academy
Publication statusPublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Classics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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