Fritigern or Fritigernus (died ca. 380) was a Western Gothic chieftain whose military victories in the Gothic War (376-382) extracted favourable terms for the Goths when peace was made with Gratian in 382.
Fritigern against Athanaric?
Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, and Zosimus refer to conflicts between Fritigern and Athanaric. Ammianus Marcellinus and Philostorgius do not record such conflicts.
According to Socrates, Fritigern and Athanaric were rival leaders of the (Therving) Goths. As this rivalry grew into warfare, Athanaric gained the advantage, and Fritigern asked for Roman aid. The Emperor Valens and the Thracian field army intervened, Valens and Fritigern defeated Athanaric, and Fritigern converted to Christianity, following the same teachings as Valens followed. Sozomen follows Socrates' account.
According to Zosimus, Athanaric (Athomaricus) was the king of the Goths (Scythians). Sometime after their victory at Adrianople, and after the accession of Theodosius, Fritigern, Alatheus, and Saphrax moved north of the Danube and defeated Athanaric, before returning south of the Danube.
The earliest sources that mention Fritigern originate from the period in which Valens, emperor of the Roman Empire, attacked the Thervingi (367-369) and from the period in which the Huns raided the Thervingi (ca. 376). In this period a civil war may have broken out between Fritigern and Athanaric, a prominent Therving ruler. Before or during this civil war, Fritigern converted to ("Arian") Christianity. Nevertheless, Athanaric seems to have won this war. This is deduced by historians from the fact that Athanaric would later lead the Thervingi in battle against the Huns in 376.
The Danube Crossing
The Thervingi however were not able to keep the Huns at bay, and were under increasing pressure from the Huns who had already conquered their kinsmen, the Greuthungi. While Fritigern asked Valens to allow the Thervingi to cross the northern Roman border and settle in Moesia or Thracia, with the Danube River and Roman frontier forts protecting them from the Huns, (thus this was a form of asylum), Athanaric and many of his followers retreated to Caucaland (probably Transylvania). Valens agreed to permit Fritigern's followers to enter the empire. In return, they would be subject to military service, but would be treated the same as other Roman subjects. As it turned out, neither happened.
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