STILICHO, FLAVIUS (?~4o8), Roman general and statesman, was the son of a Vandal who had served as an officer in the army of the emperor Valens (364-378). He himself entered the imperial army at an early age and speedily attained high promotion. He had .already become master of the horse when in 383 he was sent by Theodosius (379-395) at the head of an embassy to the Persian king, Sapor III. His mission was very successful, and soon after his return he was made count of the domestics and received in marriage Serena, the emperor's niece and adopted daughter. In 385 he was appointed master of the soldiery (magister militum) in Thrace, and shortly afterwards directed energetic campaigns in Britain against Picts, Scots and Saxons, and along the Rhine against other barbarians. Stilicho and Serena were named guardians of the youthful Honorius when the latter was created joint emperor in 394 with special jurisdiction over Italy, Gaul, Britain, Spain and Africa, and Stilicho was even more closely allied to the imperial family in the following year by betrothing his daughter Maria to his ward and by receiving the dying injunctions of Theodosius to care for his children. Rivalry had already existed between Stilicho and Rufinus, the praetorian praefect of the East, who had exercised considerable influence over the emperor and who now was invested with the guardianship of Arcadius. Consequently in 395, after a successful campaign against the Germans on the Rhine, Stilicho marched to the east, nominally to expel the Goths and Huns from Thrace, but really with the design of displacing Rufinus, and by connivance with these same barbarians he procured the assassination of Rufinus at the close of the year, and thereby became virtual master of the empire. In 396 he fought in Greece against the Visigoths, but an arrangement was effected whereby their chieftain Alaric was appointed master of the soldiery in Illyricum (397). In 398 he quelled Gildo's revolt in Africa and married his daughter Maria to Honorius. Two years later he was consul. He thwarted the efforts of Alaric to seize lands in Italy by his victories at Pollentia and Verona in 402-3 and forced him to return to Illyricum, but was criticized for having withdrawn the imperial forces from Britain and Gaul to employ against the Goths. He manceuvred so skilfully in the campaign against Radagaisus, who led a large force of various Germanic peoples into Italy in 405, that he surrounded the barbarian chieftain on the rocks of Fiesole near Florence and starved him into surrender. Early in 408 he married his second daughter Thermantia to Honorius. It was rumoured about this time that Stilicho was plotting with Alaric and with Germans in Gaul and taking other treasonable steps in order to make his own son Eucherius emperor. There are conflicting accounts of the plots and counterplots and of the court intrigues, the relative truth of which will probably never be known. It is certain, however, that he was suspected by Honorius and abandoned by his own troops, and that he fled to Ravenna, and, having been induced by false promises to quit the church in which he had taken sanctuary, was assassinated on the 23rd of August 408.
The principal sources for the life of Stilicho are the histories of Zosimus and of Orosius and the flattering verses of Claudian. See T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vols. i. and ii. (Oxford, 1880); E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by J. B. Bury, vol. iii. (London, 1902); P. Villari, The Barbarian Invasions of Italy, translated by L. Villari, vol. i. (New York, 1902) ; S. Dill, Roman Society in the last century of the Western Empire (London, 1899). (C. H. HA.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)