Sack of Rome (455)

Sack of Rome (455)

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The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 sacks of Rome
Sack of Rome
The city of Rome has been sacked on several occasions. Among the most famous:*Battle of the Allia – Rome is sacked by the Gauls after the Battle of the Allia*Sack of Rome – Rome is sacked by Alaric, King of the Visigoths...

; it was executed by the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
Flavius Petronius Maximus was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III...

.

In 440s, the Vandal king Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

 and the Roman Emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

, had betrothed their children, Huneric
Huneric
Huneric or Honeric was King of the Vandals and the oldest son of Genseric. He dropped the imperial politics of his father and concentrated mainly on internal affairs. He was married to Eudocia, daughter of western Roman Emperor Valentinian III and Licinia Eudoxia. She left him, probably in 472...

 and Eudocia
Princess Eudocia
Eudocia, or Eudoxia was the eldest daughter of Roman emperor Valentinian III and his wife, Licinia Eudoxia. She was thus the granddaughter on her mother's side of Eastern emperor Theodosius II and his wife, the poet Aelia Eudocia; and on her father's side of Western emperor Constantius III and his...

, to strengthen their alliance, reached in 442 with a peace treaty
Peace treaty
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a state of war between the parties...

 (the marriage was delayed as Eudocia was too young). In 455 Valentinian was killed, and Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
Flavius Petronius Maximus was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III...

 rose to the throne. Petronius married Valentinian's widow, Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia was a Roman Empress, daughter of Eastern Emperor Theodosius II and wife of the Western Emperors Valentinian III and Petronius Maximus.- Family :...

, and had his son Palladius
Palladius (Caesar)
Palladius was Caesar of the Western Roman Empire for two months in 455, together with his father Petronius Maximus.- Biography :...

 marry Eudocia; in this way Petronius was to strengthen his bond with the Theodosian dynasty
Theodosian dynasty
The Theodosian dynasty was a Roman family that rose to eminence in the waning days of the Roman Empire.-History:Its founding father was Flavius Theodosius , a great general who had saved Britannia from the Great Conspiracy...

. This move, however, damaged Genseric's ambitions. The king of the Vandals claimed that the broken betrothal between Huneric and Eudocia was an invalidation of his peace treaty with Valentinian, and set sail to attack Rome.

Upon the Vandal arrival, according to the chronicler 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 :...

, Pope Leo I
Pope Leo I
Pope Leo I was pope from September 29, 440 to his death.He was an Italian aristocrat, and is the first pope of the Catholic Church to have been called "the Great". He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun in 452, persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy...

 requested that Genseric not destroy the ancient city or murder its inhabitants. Genseric agreed and the gates
City gate
A city gate is a gate which is, or was, set within a city wall. Other terms include port.-Uses:City gates were traditionally built to provide a point of controlled access to and departure from a walled city for people, vehicles, goods and animals...

 of Rome were thrown open to him and his men. Maximus, who fled rather than fight the Vandal warlord
Warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

, was killed by a Roman mob outside the city, possibly together with his son Palladius.

It is accepted that Genseric looted great amounts of treasure from the city, destroying objects of cultural significance (hence the modern term vandalism
Vandalism
Vandalism is the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Romans, in respect of culture: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable...

), and also took Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia was a Roman Empress, daughter of Eastern Emperor Theodosius II and wife of the Western Emperors Valentinian III and Petronius Maximus.- Family :...

 and her daughters hostage. Eudocia later married Huneric. There is, however, some debate over the severity of the Vandal sack. The sack of 455 is generally seen by historians as being more thorough than the Visigothic sack of 410
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...

, because the Vandals plundered Rome for fourteen days whereas the Visigoths spent only three days in the city.

The cause of most controversy, however, is the claim that the sack was relatively "clean", in that there was little murder and violence, and the Vandals did not burn the buildings of the city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

. This interpretation seems to stem from Prosper's claim that Leo managed to persuade Genseric to refrain from violence. However, Victor of Vita records how many shiploads of captives arrived in 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...

 from Rome, with the purpose of being sold into slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. Similarly, the Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 historian Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

 reports how at least one church was burnt down.