The Battle of the Utus, fought in 447, was the last engagement between the Huns of Attila and the Eastern Roman Empire. Details about the battle of Utus are sketchy and are mostly taken from short passages from Jordanes. Attila’s army invaded the Balkan provinces for the second time in 447 and Arnegisclus, magister utriusque militiae,, marched from Marcianopolis westwards to engage the Hunnic army at Utus in the Roman province of Dacia Ripensis.
The Roman force consisted of the field armies of the Magister Militum per Illyricum, Thrace, and Praesentalis which gives a total of 90 units listed by the Notitia Dignitatum. If these were all present for the battle this could account for the 60,000 quoted by one modern source. A lower quotation of 45,000 or even 30,000 might represent a true picture of Roman numbers.
To re-fight the battle, we used two commands per side based on the DBA 3.0 army lists for both armies.
II/80a Attila’s Army 433 - 453 AD
1 x general (Cv or LH), 5 x horse archers (LH), 1 x Ostrogoth and Gepid (3Kn), 2 x Hunnic horse archer (LH) or subject warriors (4Wb), 2 x subject warriors (4Wb), 1 x archers (Ps).
II/82b Eastern Patrician Roman 408 – 493 AD
1 x general (3Kn), 1 x equites (Cv or 3Kn), 2 x horse archers (LH), 1 x equites clibanarii (4Kn) or Gothic foederati (3Kn), 2 x legionnaire (4Bd), 2 x auxilia (4Ax), 2 x legionnaire (4Bd) or German foederati (4Wb) or archers (Ps), 1 x archers (Ps or 4Bw).
Re-fighting the battle.
The battlefield is an unobstructed plain flanked by the Utus river on one side and woods on the opposite. The Roman general Arnegisclus deployed all his infantry as his main battle line with his left flank resting on the wooded area and a reserve of cavalry held back forming a second line.
Attila deployed all his subject warriors on the right supported by the Sciri cavalry. This wing slightly outnumbered Attila’s command. On the left, Attila planned to probe and exploit the open right of the Roman army while the Hunnic subjects would keep the Roman main battle line occupied.
The Roman left moved cautiously forward while auxilia moved ahead to clear the wood of any opposition. The right kept pace and dropped horse archers back anticipating a Hunnic encirclement.
As predicted, the Huns moved the subject infantry forward to lock the Roman battle line while Attila toyed with the Roman right wing.
Sensing a hesitation on the Hunnic side, the infantry on the Roman right closed the distance between them and the skirmishing Hunnic archers. On the extreme right the situation quickly developed into a skirmishing action.
The Roman left settled down to a hard struggle with both sides moving to and fro. Between the two wings, the legions supported by Clibanarii surged forward at the oncoming Gothic cavalry.
After an hour, the Hunnic right wing gave way to superior arms of the Romans; with nearly half the subject levies and all the Gothic cavalry destroyed. Sensing an ill omen, the Hunnic horse were faltering as many units fled in confusion. In the chaos, a number of Hunnic horse archers were caught by Roman infantry and these would ride no more. On the extreme left, the Huns found themselves out-matched by Roman horse archers.
Having lost control of the battle and seeing too many Hunnic horse archers slaughtered by Roman infantry, Attila had no choice but to call a general retreat giving a 9 – 3 victory for Arnegisclus.