In 451, the famous battle of Catalaunic Fields puts an end to the meteoric expansion of Attila's huns and their aggregate allies over the conquests. Facing them, an unprecedented coalition mixing Gallo-Roman and Germanic peoples installed in Gaul. A decisive shock that relates to us Alain Di Rocco in his latest work: Year 451: the victory of the West.
What happened in Gaul, between Antiquity and the Middle Ages?
As the Roman Empire lives its last decades, Gallo-Roman Gaul abandoned by the imperial power of Ravenna will suffer the worst of invasions, Attila, the most formidable warlord of all time at the head of the Huns. Where did they come from? In time immemorial, settled in the steppes of Central Asia, their ancestors had made China tremble. But by the middle of the fifth century, the Huns had created an Empire in the plains of Pannonia, the future Hungary and Attila would lead his terrible hordes towards the rich cities of Gaul.
Soon the first of these cities, Divodurum, the ancient Metz, will experience "the apocalypse. After several days of devastation in the Metz region, the steppe riders crossed the Argonne. Continuing their advance to the west, they soon flooded Champagne. Durocorturum, the Reims of Antiquity, the second largest city in Gaul, will be besieged. Worn out by vandal attacks at the start of the century, the fortifications of Reims quickly gave way. Fortunately for the metropolis of Reims, the hordes will quickly leave the city. Then, warrior king, Attila will lead his armies before Chalons, who will not yield to the violence of the Hunnic leader. Living up to its reputation as a sentinel of Champagne, Châlons will be able to prevent the Huns from crossing its high walls.
But how will the Catalan city achieve such a feat, in the face of these myriads of warriors? The lack of supplies and Attila's eagerness to reach the Loire will serve the Chalonnaise cause, as will the determination of his Alpine bishop! The appetite of the horsemen of the steppe was not satisfied and continuing their wild races, the Hunnic mounts plowed the Champagne lands with their heavy hooves.
Meaux and Melun trembled when Attila came. A Hunnic column crossed the Marne near La Ferté sous Jouarre, another the Seine near Nogent sur Seine, before all heading towards the Gâtinais and the Orléans bridge. Nothing and no force seemed to be able to stop the surge of horsemen from the steppe falling on the Gallo-Roman country. How can we stop the master of devastation? What was to become of the city of Orleans?
The battle of the Catalaunic Fields, clash of worlds
Yet a General, responding to the name of Flavius Aetius, "the last Roman," as he would later be called, was to save Gaul, bringing Attila to an end.
How could he succeed in such a challenge, when Emperor Valentinian III refused him the legions of Italy! With what forces will he be able to repel Attila's armies, numbering tens of thousands of warriors, even more seasoned, even more ferocious, while his field army is barely five thousand! Such a disproportion of the workforce could not grant him the victory! But it was not without counting on the diplomatic genius of Aetius. On his order, many messengers will cross Gaul to find an alliance. But alliance with whom, with what forces capable of stemming the terrible advance of the "hordes of darkness"? Perhaps the Germans, the Franks or the Visigoths! These tribes of thousands of warriors, whom Aetius had once fought, but whose mercy granted them lands to establish kingdoms. Which of these tribes will answer the general's call?
Thus in this year 451, a vast coalition was born and after the battle which opposed the princes of the earth, this colossal battle of the Catalaunic fields, the "world" was saved. Gaul, then, was able to regain a certain serenity, before entering a new era, the Middle Ages, which will lead it to a new country: France and its new "shepherd" Clovis.
The historical chronicle: Year 451, the Victory of the West presents us, against a background of Hunnic invasion, Gaul from the end of Antiquity to the beginning of the Middle Ages. Who will save her from the Hunnic peril? Who will take over the reins of power after the disappearance of the Roman commandments? So many questions that lay the foundations for a new country: France.
Year 451, the victory of the West, by Alain Di Rocco. Editions Beaurepaire, 2018.