Episode 11 – The Rise Of The Goths
April 7, 2018

#12 – The Sack Of Rome

Stilicho and the chief ministers of his party were treacherously slain on Honorius’ orders.

* Stilicho had been accused by one of his enemies at court, Olympius, of treason and wanting to put his own son on the throne.
* So Stilicho went to Ravenna to meet with the Emperor to protest his innocence.
* Honorius, now believing the rumors of Stilicho’s treason, ordered his arrest.
* Stilicho sought sanctuary in a church in Ravenna, but he was lured out with promises of safety.
* Stepping foot outside, he was arrested and told he was to be immediately executed on Honorius’ orders.
* Stilicho refused to allow his followers to resist, and he was executed on August 22, 408.
* His son was also executed.
* And Alaric didn’t get his gold
* Olympius was appointed magister officiorum and replaced Stilicho as the power behind the throne.
* His new government was strongly anti-Germanic and obsessed with purging any and all of Stilicho’s former supporters.
* Roman soldiers began to indiscriminately slaughter allied barbarian foederati soldiers and their families in Roman cities.
* Thousands of them fled Italy and sought refuge with Alaric in Noricum.
* Their wives and children of the other Germanic tribes were murdered.
* Alaric led them leaisurely across the Julian Alps and, in September 408, stood before the walls of Rome (now with no capable general like Stilicho as a defender) and began a strict blockade.
* Sarus and his band of Goths, still in Italy, remained neutral and aloof.
* The city of Rome may have held as many as 800,000 people, making it the largest in the world at the time.
* No blood was shed this time; Alaric relied on hunger as his most powerful weapon.
* He blockaded the city – I don’t know how long it was, but it must have been a while as people starved to death.
* Julius Caesar would have been proud.
* there was an attempt to reinstate pagan rituals in the still religiously mixed city to ward off the Visigoths.
* Pope Innocent I even agreed to it, provided it be done in private.
* I guess that speaks volumes about how much confidence the Pope had in his monotheism and his God.
* The pagan priests, however, said the sacrifices could only be done publicly in the Roman Forum, and the idea was abandoned.
* Serena, the wife of the Stilicho and a cousin of emperor Honorius, was in the city and believed by the Roman populace, with little evidence, to be encouraging Alaric’s invasion.
* Galla Placidia, the sister of the emperor Honorius, was also trapped in the city and gave her consent to the Roman Senate to execute Serena.
* Serena was then strangled to death.
* Hopes of help from the Imperial government faded as the siege continued and Alaric took control of the Tiber river, which cut the supplies going into Rome.
* Grain was rationed to one-half and then one-third of its previous amount.
* Starvation and disease rapidly spread throughout the city, and rotting bodies were left unburied in the streets.
* The Roman Senate then decided to send two envoys to Alaric.
* When the envoys boasted to him that the Roman people were trained to fight and ready for war, Alaric laughed at them and said, “The thickest grass is easier to cut than the thinnest.
* The envoys asked under what terms could the siege be lifted, and Alaric demanded all the gold and silver, household goods, and barbarian slaves in the city.
* One envoy asked what would be left to the citizens of Rome.
* Alaric replied, “Their lives.”
* Ultimately, the city was forced to give the Goths 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 in exchange for lifting the siege.
* The barbarian slaves fled to Alaric as well, who swelled his ranks to about 40,000.
* To raise the needed money, Roman senators were to contribute according to their means.
* This led to corruption and abuse, and the sum came up short.
* The Romans then stripped down and melted pagan statues and shrines to make up the difference.
* Zosimus reports one such statue was of Virtus, and that when it was melted down to pay off barbarians it seemed “all that remained of the Roman valor and intrepidity was totally extinguished”.
* So that ended Alaric’s first siege of Rome.

* The greatest impact of their attack on Rome was psychological
* Rome had considered itself immune from attack.
* No foreign invader had breached the city walls since the Gauls in 390 BCE, exactly eight hundred years earlier.
* The Visigoths themselves moved on to Erturia, modern Tuscany and Umbria, in Central Italy.
* But Alaric wasn’t done with the Romans.
* He demanded 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.
* In January 409, the Senate sent an embassy to the imperial court at Ravenna to encourage the Emperor to come to terms with the Goths, and to give Roman aristocratic children as hostages to the Goths as insurance.
* Alaric would then resume his alliance with the Roman Empire.
* Honorius, now 25 years old, vacillates.
* He thinks he’s personally safe in Ravenna because MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA.
* Fuck Rome.
* Honorius refused and called in five legions from Dalmatia, totaling six thousand men.
* They were to go to Rome and garrison the city, but their commander, a man named Valens, marched his men into Etruria, believing it cowardly to go around the Goths.
* He and his men were intercepted and attacked by Alaric’s full force, and almost all were killed or captured.
* Only 100 managed to escape and reach Rome.
* A second Senatorial embassy, this time including Pope Innocent I, was sent with Gothic guards to Honorius to plead with him to accept the Visigoths’ demands.
* The imperial government also received word that Ataulf, Alaric’s brother-in-law, was coming with his Goth army into Italy with the intent of joining Alaric.
* Honorius summoned together all available Roman forces in northern Italy.
* He placed 300 Huns of the imperial guard under the command of Olympius, and possibly the other forces as well, and ordered him to intercept Ataulf.
* They clashed near Pisa, and despite supposedly killing 1,100 Goths and losing only 17 of his own men, Olympius was forced to retreat back to Ravenna.
* Ataulf then joined Alaric.
* This failure caused Olympius to fall from power and to flee for his life to Dalmatia.
* The guy who replaces Olympius is Jovius, a friend of Alaric’s who had been a supporter of Stilicho.
* So he’s open to negotiations.
* No more fucking around.
* So they meet.
* Alaric wanted a yearly tribute in gold and grain, and lands in the provinces of Dalmatia, Noricum, and Venetia for his people.
* Think Croatia, modern Austria and part of Slovenia.
* Jovius also wrote privately to Honorius, suggesting that if Alaric was offered the position of magister utriusque militae, “Master of the Soldiers”, they could lessen Alaric’s other demands.
* Honorius rejected the demand for a Roman office, and he sent an insulting letter to Alaric, which was read out in the negotiations.
* Because he’s a fucktard.
* Alaric broke off negotiations and prepared to march again on Rome.
* Jovius went back to Ravenna and swore an oath to Honorius that he would never betray him.
* And anyone who has watched Game Of Thrones knows what THAT means.
* But then Alaric heard Honorius was going to hire 10,000 Huns to join his army.
* And he thought OH FUCK.
* I mean, even the Goths don’t want to fuck with the Huns.
* It was the Huns that started this whole fucking mess in the first place!
* They caused the Great Migration.
* And this is even before Attila.
* So Alaric backs down.
* He doesn’t want gold, he doesn’t want high office.
* He just wants some land and as much grain as Honorius can spare.
* But Honorius told him to go fuck himself.
* So Alaric returns to Rome and attacks it again in 409.
* Fortunately for him, the Huns never show up.
* This time, faced again with famine and starvation, the Senate buy him off.
* He demanded that they appoint one of their own as Emperor to rival Honorius, and he instigated the election of the elderly Priscus Attalus to that end, a pagan who permitted himself to be baptized.
* Alaric was then made magister utriusque militiae and his brother-in-law Ataulf was given the position comes domesticorum equitum, basically the new Imperial Guard, and the siege was lifted.
* 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.
* For some reason, Alaric decides this guy would make a good puppet emperor.
* Why didn’t he make himself emperor?
* Who knows.
* Maybe he didn’t want the job.
* The governor of the food-rich province of Africa, Heraclian, remained loyal to Honorius.
* Attalus sent a Roman force to subdue him, refusing to send Gothic soldiers there as he was distrustful of their intentions.
* Attalus and Alaric then marched to Ravenna, forcing some cities in northern Italy to submit to Attalus.
* Honorius sent Jovius and others to Attalus, pleading that they share the Western Empire.
* Attalus said he would only negotiate on Honorius’ place of exile.
* Jovius, for his part, switched sides to Attalus and was named patrician by his new master.
* Jovius wanted to have Honorius mutilated as well, but Attalus rejected it.
*
* So much for that loyalty pledge.
* Now in pure panic, Honorius was preparing to flee to Constantinople when 4,000 Eastern Roman soldiers appeared at Ravenna’s docks to defend the city.
* Their arrival strengthened Honorius’ resolve to await news of what had happened in Africa: Heraclian had defeated Attalus’ force and cut supplies to Rome, threatening another famine in the city.
* Alaric wanted to send Gothic soldiers to invade Africa and secure the province, but Attalus again refused, distrustful of the Visigoths’ intentions for the province.
* Counseled by Jovius to do away with his puppet emperor, Alaric summoned Attalus to Ariminum and ceremonially stripped him of his imperial regalia and title in the summer of 410.
* Alaric then reopened negotiations with Honorius.
* Honorius arranged for a meeting with Alaric about 12 kilometers outside of Ravenna.
* As Alaric waited at the meeting place, Sarus, a Gallic commander who hates Alaric, maybe because he lost the election to be the King of the Goth, and is now allied to Honorius, attacked Alaric and his men with a small Roman force
* Alaric cuts off the negotiations and attacks Rome on August 24, 410 for the third and final time.
* This is the infamous Sack of Rome.
* According to some sources, the Roman just opened the gates and let him in.
* They pillaged the city for three days.
* Many of the city’s great buildings were ransacked, including the mausoleums of Augustus and Hadrian, in which many Roman Emperors of the past were buried; the ashes of the urns in both tombs were scattered.
* Keep in mind that these are Christians attacking other Christians.
* St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote that “The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”
* All valuables were taken and people were raped and tortured to force them to give up their gold.
* But by the standards of the time, the Goths were pretty restrained.
* There wasn’t a mass slaughter.
* The basilicas of Peter and Paul were allowed to be places of sanctuary for both Christians and Pagans.
* And most of the buildings and monuments were left unharmed, just stripped of their valuables.
* There’s a great story, probably fictional, about Honorius.
* At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, ‘And yet it has just eaten from my hands!’ For he had a very large cock, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: ‘But I thought that my fowl Rome had perished.’ So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.
* I also have a very large cock, but do you know what I call it?
* “Ray.”
* Because that’s ironic.

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