Alaric I

Alaric I

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Alaric I was the King
Germanic kingship
Germanic kingship refers to the customs and practices surrounding kings among the pagan Germanic tribes of the Migration period and the kingdoms of the Early Middle Ages ....

 of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on August 24, 410. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a...

 in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire
Decline of the Roman Empire
The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the gradual societal collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Many theories of causality prevail, but most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with foreign invasions and usurpers from within the...

.

Born c .370 on Peuce Island
Peuce Island
Peuce in ancient geography was an island located in the Danube Delta, in Scythia Minor . Its name came from the ancient Greek word peuke, 'pine tree'. It was about the size of the island of Rhodes...

 at the mouth of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 in present day Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Alaric belonged the noble Balti dynasty
Balti dynasty
The Balti dynasty, Baltungs, Balthings, or Balths, existed among the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe who confronted the Western Roman Empire in its declining years. The Balti took their name from the Gothic word balþa...

 of the Tervingian Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

. After their setbacks against the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, Alaric was probably a child during the Goths mass-migration across the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 and their subsequent war with Rome. Later joining the Roman army, he began his career under the Gothic
Gothic
-Germanic people:*Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes**Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language, spoken by the Goths**Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by the Crimean Goths...

 soldier Gainas
Gainas
Gainas was an ambitious Gothic leader who served the Eastern Roman Empire as Magister Militum during the reigns of Theodosius I and Arcadius....

. In 394 Alaric led a Gothic force of 20,000 that helped the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 defeat the Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 usurper Arbogast
Arbogast
Arbogast is a Germanic name composed of arbi ‘inheritance’ + gast ‘stranger’.Arbogast may refer to:* Arbogast , a Frankish general in the late Roman Empire* Saint Arbogast, an Irish saint...

 at the Battle of Frigidus. Despite sacrificing around 10,000 of his men, Alaric received little recognition from the Emperor. Disappointed, he left the army and was elected chief of the Visigoths in 395, and marched toward Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 until he was diverted by Roman forces. He then moved southward into Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, where he sacked Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

 (the port of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

) and destroyed Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

, Megara
Megara
Megara is an ancient city in Attica, Greece. It lies in the northern section of the Isthmus of Corinth opposite the island of Salamis, which belonged to Megara in archaic times, before being taken by Athens. Megara was one of the four districts of Attica, embodied in the four mythic sons of King...

, Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

, and Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

. As a response, the Eastern emperor Flavius Arcadius appointed Alaric magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 (“master of the soldiers”) in Illyricum
Illyricum
Illyricum can refer to:* Illyria, a region in the Balkans* Illyricum * Diocese of Illyricum* Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum...

.

In 401 Alaric invaded Italy, but he was defeated by the Roman half-Vandal general Flavius Stilicho at Pollentia
Battle of Pollentia
The Battle of Pollentia was fought on 6 April 402 between the Romans and the Visigoths.-Background:Theodosius I, the last emperor of both eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire, died in 395, leaving his sons Arcadius and Honorius emperors of the East and West, respectively...

 (modern Pollenza) on April 6, 402. A second invasion also ended in defeat at the Battle of Verona
Battle of Verona
The Battle of Verona was fought in June of 403 by Alaric's Visigoths, and a Roman force led by Stilicho. Alaric was defeated and subsequently withdrew from Italy....

, though Alaric forced the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 to pay a large subsidy to the Visigoths. During the invasion by the Pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 Goth Radagaisus
Radagaisus
Radagaisus was a Gothic king who led an invasion of Roman Italy in late 405 and the first half of 406. A commited Pagan, Radagaisus evidentily planned to sacrifice the Roman Senators to the gods and burn Rome to the ground. Radagaisus was executed after being defeated by the half-Vandal general...

, Alaric remained idle in Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

. In 408, Western Emperor Flavius Honorius ordered the execution Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

 and his family, and incited the Roman population to massacre of tens of thousands of wives and children of Goths serving in the Roman military. Subsequently, around 30,000 Gothic soldiers defected to Alaric, and joined his march on Rome to revenge their murdered families.

Moving swiftly along Roman roads, Alaric sacked the cities of Aquileia
Aquileia
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso , the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times...

 and Cremona
Cremona
Cremona is a city and comune in northern Italy, situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po River in the middle of the Pianura Padana . It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local City and Province governments...

 and ravaged the lands along the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

. The Visigothic leader thereupon laid siege upon Rome in 408. Eventually, the Senate granted him a substantial subsidy. In addition, Alaric forced the Senate to liberate all the 40,000 Gothic
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 slaves in Rome. Honorius, however, refused to appoint Alaric as the commander of the Western Roman Army, and in 409 the Visigoths again surrounded Rome. Alaric lifted his blockade after proclaiming Attalus
Attalus
Attalus may refer to:*Several members of the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon**Attalus I, ruled 241 BC–197 BC**Attalus II Philadelphus, ruled 160 BC–138 BC**Attalus III, ruled 138 BC–133 BC...

 as Western Emperor. Attalus appointed him magister utriusque militiae (“master of both services”) but refused to allow him to send an army into Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. Negotiations with Honorius broke down, and Alaric deposed Attalus in the summer of 410, and besieged Rome for the third time. Allies within the capital opened the gates for him on August 24, and for three days his troops sacked the city
Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on August 24, 410. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a...

. Although the Visigoths plundered Rome, they treated its inhabitants humanely and burned only a few buildings. Having abandoned a plan to occupy Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 after the destruction of his fleet in a storm, Alaric died as the Visigoths were marching northward.

In Roman service



During the fourth century, the Roman emperors commonly employed foederati
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

: Germanic irregular troops
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

 under Roman command, but organized by tribal structures. To spare the provincial populations from excessive taxation and to save money, emperors began to employ units recruited from Germanic tribes. The rich balked at furnishing recruits from their own estates in the numbers needed for the empire's defense and ordinary folk were reluctant to serve. Instead, the rich paid a special tax to fund the hiring of mercenaries. Moreover, the emperors—ever fearful that a brilliantly successful general of Roman extraction might be proclaimed Augustus
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

 by his followers—preferred that high military command should be in the hands of one to whom such an accession of dignity was impossible. The largest of these contingents was that of the Goths, who in 382, had been allowed to settle within the imperial boundaries, keeping a large degree of autonomy.

In 394 Alaric served as a leader of foederati under Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 in the campaign which crushed the usurper Eugenius
Eugenius
Flavius Eugenius was an usurper in the Western Roman Empire against Emperor Theodosius I. Though himself a Christian, he was the last Emperor to support Roman polytheism.-Life:...

. As the Battle of the Frigidus
Battle of the Frigidus
The Battle of the Frigidus, also called the Battle of the Frigid River, was fought between September 5–6 394, between the army of the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I and the army of Western Roman ruler Eugenius....

, which terminated this campaign, was fought at the passes of the Julian Alps
Julian Alps
The Julian Alps are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps that stretches from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864 m at Mount Triglav. They are named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipium of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains...

, Alaric probably learned the weakness of Italy's
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 natural defences on its northeastern frontier at the head of the Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

.

Theodosius died in 395, leaving the empire to be divided between his two sons Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

 and Honorius, the former taking the eastern and the latter, the western portion of the empire. Arcadius showed little interest in ruling, leaving most of the actual power to his Praetorian Prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

 Rufinus
Rufinus (Byzantine official)
Flavius Rufinus was a 4th century Eastern Roman Empire statesman of Gaulish extraction who served as Praetorian prefect of the East for the emperor Theodosius I, as well as his son Arcadius, under whom Rufinus was the actual power behind the throne.He was the subject of the verse invective In...

. Honorius was still a minor; as his guardian, Theodosius had appointed the magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

. Stilicho also claimed to be the guardian of Arcadius, causing much rivalry between the western and eastern courts.

According to Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, during the shifting of offices that took place at the beginning of the new reigns, Alaric apparently hoped he would be promoted from a mere commander to the rank of general in one of the regular armies. He was denied the promotion, however. Among the Visigoths settled in Lower Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

, the situation was ripe for rebellion. They had suffered disproportionately great losses at Frigidus. And according to rumour, exposing the Visigoths in battle was a convenient way of weakening the Gothic tribes. This, combined with their post-battle rewards, prompted them to raise Alaric "on a shield" and proclaim him king; according to Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 (a Gothic historian of varying importance, depending upon who is asked), both the new king and his people decided "rather to seek new kingdoms by their own work, than to slumber in peaceful subjection to the rule of others."

In Greece



Alaric struck first at the eastern empire. He marched to the neighborhood of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 but, finding himself unable to undertake a siege, retraced his steps westward and then marched southward through Thessaly
Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 and the unguarded pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

 into Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

.

The armies of the eastern empire were occupied with Hunnic
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 incursions in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Instead, Rufinus attempted to negotiate with Alaric in person, which only aroused suspicions in Constantinople that Rufinius was in league with the Goths. Stilicho now marched east against Alaric. According to Claudian
Claudian
Claudian was a Roman poet, who worked for Emperor Honorius and the latter's general Stilicho.A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria and probably not a Christian convert, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395. He made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby...

, Stilicho was in a position to destroy the Goths when he was ordered by Arcadius to leave Illyricum
Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium , and, after 379, Thessalonica...

. Soon after, Rufinus' own soldiers hacked him to death. Power in Constantinople now passed to the eunuch Chamberlain Eutropius
Eutropius (Byzantine official)
Eutropius was a fourth century Eastern Roman official.He began his career as a eunuch in the palace of Theodosius I. After Theodosius' death in 395 he successfully arranged the marriage of the new emperor, Arcadius, to Aelia Eudoxia, having blocked an attempt by Arcadius' chief minister, Rufinus,...

.

Rufinus' death and Stilicho's departure gave free rein to Alaric's movements; he ravaged Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

 but spared Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, which capitulated at once to the conqueror. In 396, he wiped out the last remnants of the Mysteries at Eleusis
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

 in Attica, ending a tradition of esoteric religious ceremonies that had lasted since the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

. Then he penetrated into the Peloponnesus and captured its most famous cities—Corinth, Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

, and Sparta
History of Sparta
The History of Sparta describes the destiny of the ancient Dorian Greek state known as Sparta from its beginning in the legendary period to its forced incorporation into the Achaean League under the late Roman Republic, its conquerors, in 146 BCE, a period of roughly 1000 years...

—selling many of their inhabitants into slavery.

Here, however, his victorious career suffered a serious setback. In 397 Stilicho crossed the sea to Greece and succeeded in trapping the Goths in the mountains of Pholoe, on the borders of Elis
Elis
Elis, or Eleia is an ancient district that corresponds with the modern Elis peripheral unit...

 and Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

 in the peninsula. From there Alaric escaped with difficulty, and not without some suspicion of connivance by Stilicho, who supposedly had again received orders to depart. Alaric then crossed the Gulf of Corinth
Gulf of Corinth
The Gulf of Corinth or the Corinthian Gulf is a deep inlet of the Ionian Sea separating the Peloponnese from western mainland Greece...

 and marched with the plunder of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 northward to Epirus
Despotate of Epirus
The Despotate or Principality of Epirus was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire that emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond...

. Here his rampage continued until the eastern government appointed him magister militum per Illyricum, giving him the Roman command he had desired, as well as the authority to resupply his men from the imperial arsenals.

First invasion of Italy


It was probably in 401 that Alaric made his first invasion of Italy, Supernatural influences were not lacking to urge him to this great enterprise. Some lines of the Roman poet Claudian
Claudian
Claudian was a Roman poet, who worked for Emperor Honorius and the latter's general Stilicho.A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria and probably not a Christian convert, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395. He made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby...

 inform us that he heard a voice proceeding from a sacred grove
Sacred grove
A sacred grove is a grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves were most prominent in the Ancient Near East and prehistoric Europe, but feature in various cultures throughout the world...

, "Break off all delays, Alaric. This very year thou shalt force the Alpine barrier of Italy; thou shalt penetrate to the city." But the prophecy was not to be fulfilled at this time. After spreading desolation through North Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and striking terror into the citizens of Rome, Alaric was met by Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

 at Pollentia
Pollentia
thumb|250px|Church of San Vittore at Pollenzo.Pollentia was an ancient city the left bank of the Tanaro, known today as Pollenzo, a frazione of Bra in the Province of Cuneo, Piedmont, northern Italy....

, today in Piedmont. The battle which followed on April 6, 402 (coinciding with Easter), was a victory for Rome, though a costly one. But it effectively halted the Goths' progress.

Stilicho's enemies later reproached him for having gained his victory by taking impious advantage of the great Christian festival. Alaric, too, was a Christian, though an Arian
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, not Orthodox. He had trusted to the sanctity of Easter for immunity from attack.

Alaric's wife was reportedly taken prisoner after this battle; it is not unreasonable to suppose that he and his troops were hampered by the presence of large numbers of women and children, which gave his invasion of Italy the character of a human migration
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

.

After another defeat before Verona, Alaric left Italy, probably in 403. He had not "penetrated to the city" but his invasion of Italy had produced important results. It caused the imperial residence to be transferred from Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 to Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, and necessitated the withdrawal of Legio XX Valeria Victrix
Legio XX Valeria Victrix
Legio vigesima Valeria Victrix was a Roman legion, probably raised by Augustus some time after 31 BC. It served in Hispania, Illyricum, and Germania before participating in the invasion of Britannia in 43 AD, where it remained and was active until at least the beginning of the 4th century...

 from Britain.

Second invasion of Italy


Alaric became the friend and ally of his late opponent, Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

. By 407, the estrangement between the eastern and western courts had become so bitter that it threatened civil war. Stilicho actually proposed using Alaric's troops to enforce Honorius' claim to the prefecture
Prefecture
A prefecture is an administrative jurisdiction or subdivision in any of various countries and within some international church structures, and in antiquity a Roman district governed by an appointed prefect.-Antiquity:...

 of Illyricum. The death of Arcadius in May 408 caused milder counsel to prevail in the western court, but Alaric, who had actually entered Epirus, demanded in a somewhat threatening manner that if he were thus suddenly requested to desist from war, he should be paid handsomely for what modern language would call the "expenses of mobilization
Mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

". The sum which he named was a large one, 4,000 pounds of gold. Under strong pressure from Stilicho, the Roman senate consented to promise its payment.

But three months later, Stilicho and the chief ministers of his party were treacherously slain on Honorius' orders. In the unrest that followed throughout Italy, the wives and children of the foederati were slain. Consequently, these 30,000 men flocked to Alaric's camp, clamouring to be led against their cowardly enemies. He accordingly led them across the Julian Alps and, in September 408, stood before the walls of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 (now with no capable general like Stilicho as a defender) and began a strict blockade.

No blood was shed this time; Alaric relied on hunger as his most powerful weapon. When the ambassadors of the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, entreating for peace, tried to intimidate him with hints of what the despairing citizens might accomplish, he laughed and gave his celebrated answer: "The thicker the hay, the easier mowed!" After much bargaining, the famine-stricken citizens agreed to pay a ransom of 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 silken tunics, 3,000 hides dyed scarlet, and 3,000 pounds of pepper. Along came 40,000 freed Gothic
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 slaves. Thus ended Alaric's first siege of Rome.

Second siege of Rome



Throughout his career, Alaric's primary goal was not to undermine the empire, but to secure for himself a regular and recognized position within the empire's borders. His demands were certainly grand— the concession of a block of territory 200 miles long by 150 wide between the Danube and the Gulf of Venice (to be held probably on some terms of nominal dependence on the empire) and the title of commander-in-chief of the imperial army—. Immense as his terms were, the emperor would have been well advised to grant them. Honorius, however, refused to see beyond his own safety, guaranteed by the dikes and marshes of Ravenna. As all attempts to conduct a satisfactory negotiation with this emperor failed, Alaric, after instituting a second siege and blockade of Rome in 409, came to terms with the senate. With their consent, he set up a rival emperor, the prefect of the city, a Greek named Priscus Attalus
Priscus Attalus
Priscus Attalus was twice Roman usurper , against Emperor Honorius, with Visigothic support.Priscus Attalus was a Greek from Asia whose father had moved to Italy under Valentinian I. Attalus was an important senator in Rome, who served as praefectus urbi in 409...

.

Third siege of Rome



Alaric cashiered his ineffectual puppet emperor after eleven months and again tried to reopen negotiations with Honorius. These negotiations might have succeeded had it not been for the malignant influence of another Goth, Sarus
Sarus (Goth)
Sarus was a Gothic chieftain and commander for the emperor Honorius . He was known for his hostility to the prominent Gothic brothers Alaric I and Ataulf, and was the brother of Sigeric, who ruled the Goths briefly in 415.-Career:...

, an Amali, and therefore hereditary enemy of Alaric and his house. Alaric, again outwitted by an enemy's machinations, marched southward and in deadly earnest, began his third siege of Rome. Apparently, defence was impossible; there are hints, not well substantiated, of treachery; surprise is a more likely explanation. However, this may be—for our information at this point of the story is meagre—on August 24 410, Alaric and his Visigoths burst in by the Porta Salaria
Porta Salaria
Porta Salaria was a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy, demolished in 1921.-History:Porta Salaria was part of the Aurelian Walls built by emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century, including pre-existing constructions in order to hasten the works. Under it passed the Via Salaria nova, which joined...

 on the northeast of the city. Rome, for so long victorious against its enemies, was now at the mercy of its foreign conquerors.

The contemporary ecclesiastics
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

 recorded with wonder many instances of the Visigoths' clemency: Christian churches saved from ravage; protection granted to vast multitudes both of pagans and Christians who took refuge therein; vessels of gold and silver which were found in a private dwelling, spared because they "belonged to St. Peter"; at least one case in which a beautiful Roman matron appealed, not in vain, to the better feelings of the Gothic soldier who attempted her dishonor. But even these exceptional instances show that Rome was not entirely spared the horrors which usually accompany the storming of a besieged city. Nonetheless, the written sources do not mention damages wrought by fire, save the Gardens of Sallust
Gardens of Sallust
The Gardens of Sallust were Roman gardens developed by the Roman historian Sallust in the 1st century BC. The landscaped pleasure gardens occupied a large area in the northwestern sector of Rome, in what would become Region VI, between the Pincian and Quirinal hills, near the Via Salaria and later...

, which were situated close to the gate by which the Goths had made their entrance; nor is there any reason to attribute any extensive destruction of the buildings of the city to Alaric and his followers. The Basilica Aemilia
Basilica Aemilia
The Basilica Aemilia was a civil basilica in the Roman forum, in Rome, Italy. Today only the plan and some rebuilt elements can be seen. The Basilica was 100 meters long and about 30 meters wide...

 in the Roman Forum
Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum...

 did burn down, which perhaps can be attributed to Alaric: the archaeological evidence was provided by coins dating from 410 found melted in the floor. The pagan emperors' tombs of the Mausoleum of Augustus
Mausoleum of Augustus
The Mausoleum of Augustus is a large tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The Mausoleum, now located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, is no longer open to tourists, and the ravages of time and carelessness have stripped the ruins bare...

 and Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family...

 were rifled and the ashes scattered.

Death and funeral


Alaric, having penetrated the city, marched southwards into Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

. He desired to invade Africa, which, thanks to its grain, had become the key to holding Italy. But a storm battered his ships into pieces and many of his soldiers drowned. Alaric died soon after in Cosenza
Cosenza
Cosenza is a city in southern Italy, located at the confluence of two historic rivers: the Busento and the Crathis. The municipal population is of around 70,000; the urban area, however, counts over 260,000 inhabitants...

, probably of fever, at the age of about forty (assuming again, a birth around 370 AD), and his body was, according to legend, buried under the riverbed of the Busento. The stream was temporarily turned aside from its course while the grave was dug wherein the Gothic chief and some of his most precious spoils were interred. When the work was finished, the river was turned back into its usual channel and the captives by whose hands the labor had been accomplished were put to death that none might learn their secret.

Alaric was succeeded in the command of the Gothic army by his brother-in-law, Ataulf
Ataulf
Ataulf was king of the Visigoths from 410 to 415...

, who married Honorius' sister Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

 three years later .

Sources


The chief authorities on the career of Alaric are: the historian Orosius and the poet Claudian
Claudian
Claudian was a Roman poet, who worked for Emperor Honorius and the latter's general Stilicho.A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria and probably not a Christian convert, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395. He made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby...

, both contemporary, neither disinterested; Zosimus
Zosimus
Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

, a historian who lived probably about half a century after Alaric's death; and Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

, a Goth who wrote the history of his nation in 551, basing his work on The Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

. The legend of Alaric's burial in the Buzita River comes from Jordanes.

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