Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Ataulf

Ataulf

Overview
Ataulf was king of the Visigoths from 410 to 415. The modern historian of the 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....

, Herwig Wolfram, summarizes the last seven years of his life, the only ones that we can follow: "within that period he developed from a tribal chief to a late antique statesman."

He was unanimously elected to the throne to succeed his brother-in-law Alaric
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

, who had been struck down by a fever suddenly in 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....

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Ataulf'
Start a new discussion about 'Ataulf'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Ataulf was king of the Visigoths from 410 to 415. The modern historian of the 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....

, Herwig Wolfram, summarizes the last seven years of his life, the only ones that we can follow: "within that period he developed from a tribal chief to a late antique statesman."

Life


He was unanimously elected to the throne to succeed his brother-in-law Alaric
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

, who had been struck down by a fever suddenly in 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....

. King Ataulf's first act was to halt Alaric's southward expansion of the Goths in 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...

.

Meanwhile, Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 had been separated from the western Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 by the usurper Constantine III
Constantine III (usurper)
Flavius Claudius Constantinus, known in English as Constantine III was a Roman general who declared himself Western Roman Emperor in Britannia in 407 and established himself in Gaul. Recognised by the Emperor Honorius in 409, collapsing support and military setbacks saw him abdicate in 411...

. So in 411 Constantius
Constantius III
Flavius Constantius , commonly known as Constantius III, was Western Roman Emperor for seven months in 421. A prominent general and politician, he was the power behind the throne for much of the 410s, and in 421 briefly became co-emperor of the Western Empire with Honorius.- Early life and rise to...

, the magister militium (master of military) of the western emperor, Flavius Augustus Honorius, with Gothic auxiliaries under Ulfilas, crushed the Gallic rebellion with a siege of Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

. There Constantine and his son were offered an honorable capitulation— but were beheaded in September on their way to pay homage to Honorius at 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...

.

In the spring of 412 Constantius pressed Ataulf. Taking the advice of 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...

—the former emperor whom Alaric had set up at Rome in opposition to Honorius at 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 who had remained with the Visigoths after he'd been deposed—Ataulf led his followers out of Italy. Moving north into a momentarily pacified Gaul, the Visigoths lived off the countryside in the usual way. Ataulf may have received some additional encouragement in the form of payments in gold from the Emperor Honorius—since Ataulf carried with him as a respected hostage the emperor's half-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...

, who had long been his captive.

Once in Gaul, Ataulf opened negotiations with a new usurper, the Gallic Jovinus
Jovinus
Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

. But when the latter ended up instead preferring Sarus, Ataulf's blood enemy among the Gothic nobles, Ataulf broke negotiations off and attacked and killed Sarus. Jovinus then named his brother Sebastianus
Sebastianus
Sebastianus , a brother of Jovinus, was an aristocrat of southern Gaul. After Jovinus usurped in Gaul the throne of the western Roman Emperor Honorius in 411, he named Sebastianus as Augustus in 412...

 (Sebastian) as Augustus (co-emperor). This further offended Ataulf, who hadn't been consulted. So he allied his Visigoths with Honorius. Jovinus' troops were defeated in battle, Sebastianus was captured, and Jovinus fled for his life. Ataulf then turned Sebastianus over for execution to Honorius' Gallic praetorian prefect (provincial governor), Postumus Dardanus. After this, Ataulf besieged and captured Jovinus at Valentia (Valence
Valence, Drôme
Valence is a commune in southeastern France, the capital of the Drôme department, situated on the left bank of the Rhône, south of Lyon on the railway to Marseilles.Its inhabitants are called Valentinois...

) in 413, sending him to Narbo (Narbonne
Narbonne
Narbonne is a commune in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It lies from Paris in the Aude department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Once a prosperous port, it is now located about from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea...

), where he was executed by Dardanus.

After the heads of Sebastianus and Jovinus arrived at Honorius' court in Ravenna in late August, to be forwarded for display among other usurpers on the walls of Carthage, relations between Ataulf and Honorius improved sufficiently for Ataulf to cement them by marrying Galla Placidia perhaps at Narbo in early 414, but Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 says he married her in Italy, at Forlì
Forlì
Forlì is a comune and city in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and is the capital of the province of Forlì-Cesena. The city is situated along the Via Emilia, to the right of the Montone river, and is an important agricultural centre...

 (Forum Livii). The nuptials were celebrated with high Roman festivities and magnificent gifts from the Gothic booty. Priscus Attalus gave the wedding speech, a classical epithalamium
Epithalamium
Epithalamium refers to a form of poem that is written specifically for the bride on the way to her marital chamber...

.

Under Ataulf's rule, the Visigoths couldn't be said to be masters of a settled kingdom until Ataulf took possession of Narbonne
Narbonne
Narbonne is a commune in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It lies from Paris in the Aude department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Once a prosperous port, it is now located about from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 in 413. Still, the Visigoths sustained an uneasy client relationship with the western empire. Although Ataulf remained an Arian Christian
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...

, his relationship with Roman culture was summed up, from a Catholic Roman perspective, by the words that the contemporary Christian apologist Orosius put into his mouth, Ataulf's Declaration:
At first I wanted to erase the Roman name and convert all Roman territory into a Gothic empire: I longed for Romania to become Gothia, and Athaulf to be what Caesar Augustus had been. But long experience has taught me that the ungoverned wildness of the Goths will never submit to laws, and that without law a state is not a state. Therefore I have more prudently chosen the different glory of reviving the Roman name with Gothic vigour, and I hope to be acknowledged by posterity as the initiator of a Roman restoration, since it is impossible for me to alter the character of this Empire.


Honorius's general Constantius (who would later become Emperor Constantius III), poisoned official relations with Ataulf and gained permission to blockade the Mediterranean ports of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

. In reply, Ataulf acclaimed Priscus Attalus as Augustus in Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 in 414. But Constantius' naval blockade was successful and, in 415, Ataulf withdrew with his people into northern Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

. Attalus fled, fell into the hands of Constantius, and came to a bad end.

Galla Placidia traveled with Ataulf. The infant son, Theodosius, she bore him died in infancy and was buried in Hispania in a silver-plated coffin http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2004/2004-07-48.html, thus eliminating an opportunity for a Romano-Visigothic line.

In Hispania, Ataulf imprudently accepted into his service one of the late Sarus' followers, unaware that the man harbored a secret desire to avenge the death of his beloved patron. And so, in the palace at Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, the man brought Ataulf's reign to a sudden end by killing him while he bathed.

Sigeric
Sigeric
Sigeric was a Visigoth king for seven days in 415 CE. His predecessor, Ataulf, had been mortally wounded in his stables at the palace of Barcelona by an assassin. The assassin was probably a loyal servant of Sarus, a Gothic noble and personal enemy whom Ataulf had earlier slain...

, the brother of Sarus, immediately became king—for a mere seven days, when he was also murdered and succeeded by Wallia
Wallia
Wallia was king of the Visigoths from 415 to 419, earning a reputation as a great warrior and prudent ruler. He was elected to the throne after Athaulf and then Sigeric were assassinated in 415....

. Under the latter's reign, Galla Placidia was returned to Ravenna where, in 417, at the urging of Honorius, she remarried, her new husband being the implacable enemy of the Goths, Constantius.

The main sources for the career of Ataulf are Paulus Orosius, the chronicles of the Gallaecia
Gallaecia
Gallaecia or Callaecia, also known as Hispania Gallaecia, was the name of a Roman province and an early Mediaeval kingdom that comprised a territory in the north-west of Hispania...

n bishop Hydatius
Hydatius
Hydatius or Idacius , bishop of Aquae Flaviae in the Roman province of Gallaecia was the author of a chronicle of his own times that provides us with our best evidence for the history of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century.-Life:Hydatius was born around the year 400 in the...

, and those of Augustine's
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 disciple, Prosper of Aquitaine
Prosper of Aquitaine
Saint Prosper of Aquitaine , a Christian writer and disciple of Saint Augustine of Hippo, was the first continuator of Jerome's Universal Chronicle.- Life :...

.

Ataulf's declaration


The authenticity of Ataulf's declaration at Narbonne
Narbonne
Narbonne is a commune in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It lies from Paris in the Aude department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Once a prosperous port, it is now located about from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea...

, as Orosius reported it in a rhetorical history that was explicitly written "against pagans" (it was completed in 417/18) has been doubted. Antonio Marchetta concludes that the words are indeed Ataulf's and distinguishes them from their interpretation by Orosius, who was preparing his readers for a conclusion that Christian times were felicitous and who attributed Ataulf's apparent change of heart to the power of his love for Galla Placidia, the instrument of divine intervention in God's plan for an eternal Roman Empire. Marchetta finds the marriage instead an act of hard-headed politics.

External links