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Chapter X.—Rome taken and sacked by Alaric.

About this same time 931 it happened that Rome was taken by the barbarians; for a certain Alaric, a barbarian who had been an ally of the Romans, and had served as an ally with the emperor Theodosius in the war against the usurper Eugenius, having on that account been honored with Roman dignities, was unable to bear his good fortune. He did not choose to assume imperial authority, but retiring from Constantinople went into the Western parts, and arriving at Illyricum immediately laid waste the whole country. As he marched, however, the Thessalians opposed him at the mouths of the river Peneus, whence there is a pass over Mount Pindus to Nicopolis in Epirus; and coming to an engagement, the Thessalians killed about three thousand of his men. After this p. 158 the barbarians that were with him destroying everything in their way, at last took Rome itself, which they pillaged, burning the greatest number of the magnificent structures and other admirable works of art it contained. The money and valuable articles they plundered and divided among themselves. Many of the principal senators they put to death on a variety of pretexts. Moreover, Alaric in mockery of the imperial dignity, proclaimed one Attalus 932 emperor, whom he ordered to be attended with all the insignia of sovereignty on one day, and to be exhibited in the habit of a slave on the next. After these achievements he made a precipitate retreat, a report having reached him that the emperor Theodosius had sent an army to fight him. Nor was this report a fictitious one; for the imperial forces were actually on their way; but Alaric, not waiting for the materialization of the rumor, decamped and escaped. It is said that as he was advancing towards Rome, a pious monk exhorted him not to delight in the perpetuation of such atrocities, and no longer to rejoice in slaughter and blood. To whom Alaric replied, ’I am not going on in this course of my own will; but there is a something that irresistibly impels me daily, saying, ‘Proceed to Rome, and desolate that city.’ Such was the career of this person.



On Alaric’s career, see Zosimus, V. 5, 6; 28–51 and V. 1–13. Cf. also parallel accounts in Sozomen, IX. 4, 6–9; and Philostorgius, XII. 2, 3; and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, chap. 31.


This incident is also given by Procopius of Cæsarea in Hist. Vandal. I. p. 8.

Next: The Bishops of Rome.