⁃ Theodosius’ army rapidly dissolved after his death.
⁃ And as he apparently hadn’t given the Goths the rewards they expected for helping him defeat Eugenius at the Battle of the Frigidus, they decided to just TAKE their rewards – and more.
⁃ As his heir in the East, Theodosius left his son Arcadius, who was then about eighteen years old, and in the West his son Honorius, who was ten.
⁃ Neither ever showed any sign of fitness to rule, and their reigns were marked by a series of disasters.
⁃ As their guardians Theodosius left Flavius Stilicho and Flavius Rufinus
⁃ Stilicho was the magister militum who was half Vandal, a large East Germanic tribe, and married to the niece of Theodosius
⁃ Stilicho ruled in the name of Honorius in the Western Empire
and the magister officiorum (“Master of Offices”)
⁃ Flavius Rufinus was the actual power behind the throne of Arcadius in the East.
⁃ Edward Gibbon called Stilicho “the last of the Roman generals”.
⁃ BTW, it’s from the Vandals obviously that we get the word “vandalism”.
⁃ We’ll talk more about the Vandals, and their role in the Sack of Rome, in coming episodes.
⁃ Stilicho claimed that Theodosius actually made him the guardian of both Honorius AND Arcadius.
⁃ So he and Rufinus were immediate enemies.
⁃ Things came to head between them pretty quickly in 395.
⁃ The Visigoths living in Lower Moesia, think Serbia, had recently elected Alaric as their king.
⁃ And as I mentioned before, Alaric helped Theodosius defeat Eugenius at the Battle of the Frigidus, and didn’t get the rewards he was promised, even though he lost 10,000 men.
⁃ According to rumour, exposing the Visigoths in battle was a convenient way of weakening the Gothic tribes.
⁃ Alaric apparently hoped he would be promoted from a mere commander to the rank of general in one of the regular armies.
⁃ So he broke his treaty with Rome and decided to build his own empire.
⁃ according to Jordanes, a 6th-century Roman bureaucrat of Gothic origin who later turned his hand to history, 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.”
⁃ Alaric struck first at the eastern empire.
⁃ He marched to the neighborhood of Constantinople but decided it was going to be too difficult to put under siegeYou got to admire his moxy
Don’t start off small or anything – just try to stab the heart of the empire!
So he retraced his steps westward and then marched southward through Thessaly and the pass of Thermopylae into Greece.
⁃ The army that had been victorious at the Frigidus – but obviously without the Visigoth contingent – was assembled by Stilicho.
⁃ However, since the armies of the Eastern Empire were busy dealing with Hunnic incursions in Asia Minor and Syria, and so they weren’t going to be of any use against Alaric, Rufinus attempted to negotiate with Alaric in person.
⁃ Officials in Constantinople suspected Rufinus was in league with the Goths.
⁃ Stilicho led his army to the Balkans to confront the Goths anyway.
⁃ According to the last classical Roman poet Claudius Claudianus, Stilicho was in a position to destroy them, but was ordered by Arcadius to leave Illyricum.
⁃ Soon after, Rufinus was hacked to death by his own soldiers.
⁃ Some sources blame Stilicho for the death of Rufinus.
⁃ Rufinus’ death and Stilicho’s departure gave free rein to Alaric’s movements; he ravaged Attica but spared Athens, which capitulated at once.
⁃ In 396, as a good Christian, he wiped out the last remnants of the Mystery Religion of Eleusis in Attica, which ended a tradition of religious ceremonies going back to the Bronze Age.
⁃ Then he penetrated into the Peloponnese and captured its most famous cities—Corinth, Argos, and Sparta—and sold many of their inhabitants into slavery.
⁃ Because that’s how Jesus would have done it.
⁃ Then he suffered a serious setback.
⁃ In 397 Stilicho crossed the sea to Greece and succeeded in trapping the Goths in the mountains.
⁃ Alaric escaped but only barely – and there were rumours that he had cut a secret deal with Stilicho.
⁃ Alaric then crossed the Gulf of Corinth and plundered Greece.
⁃ His rampage continued until the eastern government appointed him magister militum per Illyricum,
⁃ That gave him the Roman command he had desired, as well as the authority to resupply his men from the imperial arsenals.
⁃ But he couldn’t be bought off that easily now.
⁃ He had a taste for Roman blood.
⁃ In 401 he made his first invasion of Italy.
⁃ Like Constantine, he also heard gods talking to him.
⁃ He heard a voice coming from a sacred grove that said, “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 making his way through North Italy and striking terror into the citizens of Rome, Alaric was met by Stilicho at Pollentia, 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 advantage of a Christian festival.
⁃ Alaric was a Christian and he had trusted that another Christian would never attack him on Easter day while he was praying to the sacred rabbit.
⁃ But he was wrong.
⁃ Alaric’s wife was reportedly taken prisoner after this battle
⁃ He probably had a large number of women and children with him, the entire Goth contingent were probably moving together, looking for a new place to live.
⁃ And he couldn’t leave them unprotected by themselves, they’d be sitting ducks.
⁃ He was defeated a second time and left Italy, probably in 403.
⁃ He had not “penetrated the city” but his invasion of Italy produced at least one important result:
⁃ It caused the imperial residence to be transferred from Milan to Ravenna on the eastern shores of Northern Italy.
⁃ Ravenna was surrounded by swamps and marshes, so they thought they could defend it easily
It also had a good port which made it easy to connect to the Eastern Roman Empire in case he needed to flee by ship
⁃ It becomes the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until that empire collapsed in 476.
⁃ And then it was the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom until it was re-conquered in 540 by the Byzantine Empire.
⁃ Alaric also somehow became the friend and ally Stilicho.
⁃ Meanwhile, By 407, the estrangement between the eastern and western courts had become so bitter that it threatened civil war.
⁃ Stilicho proposed using Alaric’s troops to enforce Honorius’ claim to the prefecture of Illyricum.
⁃ So Alaric started moving his guys towards Illyricum.
⁃ But then Arcadius died in May 408 and the war was averted.He was succeeded by his young son, Theodosius II – aged seven.
But Alaric, who had moved his troops a long way, demanded he should be paid for the “expenses of mobilization”.
⁃ 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.