Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sack of Rome (August 24th)

In the fifth century AD, Rome was in quite a bit of trouble. Barbarian tribes around the Roman Empire were starting to get stronger. The Huns attacked from the East, and the Visigoths attacked from the North. Eventually, Roman Emperor, Theodosius I, had to sign a treaty with the Visigoths. The Visigoths all became Roman citizens and fought as part of the Roman army. Alaric I, the King of the Visigoths, rode along with Theodosius, riding into battle against the Goths and the Huns, but all this changed when Theodosius died.

After Theodosius died, the peace between the Romans and the Visigoths quickly disintegrated, leading to the the top general, Flavius Stilicho, chasing the Visigoths out of Italy. When Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius died, Honorius, the Western Emperor, decided to go to Rome. Stilicho forbade his leaving Rome and suggested that he go instead. Rumors spread that Stilicho wanted to put his own son on the throne. Olympius, a Roman politician, staged a mutiny within the army and convinced Honorius that Stilicho was a threat.

Stilicho was soon executed, and the Roman Army was soon in chaos.Much violence broke out against the slaves and barbarian soldiers residing in Italy. Many of the persecuted people fled from Italy and sided with Alaric. Alaric's army grew by several thousand, and he was soon able to attack Rome.

In 408, the Visigoths attacked the great city of Rome, and starvation and diseases rapidly spread through the city. Alaric was given 5,000 pounds of gold and 30,000 pounds of silver along with silk and pepper in order to stop the siege.

Encouraged by Pope Innocent I, Honorius decided to make an alliance with the Visigoths. When Alaric demanded the title of Magister Militium, Honorius refused and sent Alaric an insulting letter. When Alaric intercepted a force of soldiers being secretly brought into Rome, he was furious and laid siege to Rome once more.When starvation returned, the Roman Senate surrendered again, and Alaric pressured them to appoint a new military leader.

When a treaty was almost reached between Honorius and Alaric, a Gothic commander allied with Honorius attacked Alaric. Alaric defeated the Gothic raiders and traveled to Rome, laying siege to the city for a third time. On August 24, 410, slavesopened Romes gate and Visigoths looted the city for three days.

This was the first time Rome had been sacked in 800 years, and it showed Rome's growing weakness and vulnerability. The eternal city was falling. In less than seventy years from the sacking of Rome, the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, would be dethroned.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.