THE DOWNFALL OF ROME
 THEODOSIUS, the great and noble emperor who succeeded
Valens, pacified and made quiet subjects of the Goths.
He died in 395, and before the year ended the Gothic
nation was again in arms. At the first sound of the
trumpet the warriors, who had been forced to a life of
labor, deserted their fields and flocked to the
standards of war. The barriers of the empire were down.
Across the frozen surface of the Danube flocked savage
tribesmen from the northern forests, and joined the
Gothic hosts. Under the leadership of an able
commander, the famous Alaric, the barbarians swept from
their fields and poured downward upon Greece, in search
of an easier road to fortune than the toilsome one of
Many centuries had passed since the Persians invaded
Greece, and the men of Marathon and Thermopylæ were no
more. Men had been posted to defend the world-famous
pass, but, instead of fighting to the death, like
Leonidas and his Spartans of old, they retired without
a blow, and left Greece to the mercy of the Goth.
Instantly a deluge of barbarians spread right and left,
and the whole country was ravaged. Thebes
 alone resisted. Athens admitted Alaric within its
gates, and saved itself by giving the barbarian chief a
bath and a banquet. The other famous cities had lost
their walls, and Corinth, Argos, and Sparta yielded
without defence to the Goths. The wealth of the cities
and the produce of the country were ravaged without
stint, villages and towns were committed to the flames,
thousands of the inhabitants were borne off to slavery,
and for years afterwards the track of the Goths could
be traced in ruin throughout the land.
By a fortunate chance Rome possessed at that epoch a
great general, the famous Stilicho, whose military
genius has rarely been surpassed. He had before him a
mighty task, the forcing back of the high tide of
barbarian overflow, but he did it well while he lived.
His death brought ruin on Rome. Stilicho hastened to
Greece and quickly drove the Goths from the
Peloponnesus. But jealousy between Constantinople and
Rome tied his hands, he was recalled to Italy, and the
weak emperor of the East rewarded the Gothic general
for his destructive raid by making him master-general
Alaric, fired by ambition, used his new power in
forcing the cities of his dominion to supply the Goths
with the weapons of war. Then, Greece and the country
to the north having been devastated, he turned his arms
against Italy, and about 400 A.D. appeared at the foot
of the Julian Alps, the first invader who had
threatened Italy since the days of Hannibal, six
hundred years before.
There were at that time two rulers of the Roman
 empire,—Arcadius, emperor of the East, and Honorius,
emperor of the West. The latter, a coward himself, had
a brave man to command his armies,—Stilicho, who had
driven the Goths from Greece. But Italy, though it had
a general, was destitute of an army. To meet the
invading foe, Stilicho was forced to empty the forts on
the Rhine, and even to send to England for the legion
that guarded the Caledonian wall. With the army thus
raised he met the Gothic host at Pollentia, and
defeated them with frightful slaughter, recovering from
their camp many of the spoils of Greece. Another battle
was fought at Verona, and the Goths were again
defeated. They were now forced to retire from Italy,
Stilicho and the emperor entered Rome, and that capital
saw its last great triumph, and gloried in a revival of
its magnificent ancient games.
In these games the cruel combat of gladiators was shown
for the last time to the blood-thirsty populace of
Rome. The edict of Constantine had failed to stop these
frightful sports. The appeal of a Christian poet was
equally without effect. A more decisive action was
necessary, and it came. In the midst of these bloody
contests an Asiatic monk, named Telemachus, rushed into
the arena and attempted to separate the gladiators. He
paid for his rashness with his life, being stoned to
death by the furious spectators, with whose pleasure he
had dared to interfere. But his death had its effect.
The fury of the people was followed by shame.
Telemachus was looked upon as a martyr, and the
gladiatorial shows came to an end, the emperor
for-  ever the spectacle of human slaughter and human cruelty in
the amphitheatre of Rome.
Rome triumphed too soon. Its ovation to victory was the
expiring gleam in its long career of glory and
dominion. Its downfall was at hand. Fight as it might
in Italy, the gateways of the empire lay open in the
north, and through them still poured barbarian hordes.
The myriads of the Huns, rushing in a devouring wave
from the borders of China, made a mighty stir in the
forest region of the Baltic and the Danube. In the year
406 a vast host of Germans, known by the names of
Vandals, Burgundians, and Suevi, under a leader named
Rhodogast, or Radagaisus, crossed the Danube and made
its way unopposed to Italy. Multitudes of Goths joined
them, till the army numbered not less than two hundred
thousand fighting men.
As the flood of barbarians rushed southward through
Italy, many cities were pillaged or destroyed, and the
city of Florence sustained its first recorded siege.
Alaric and his Goths were Christians. Radagaisus and
his Germans were half savage pagans. Florence, which
had dared oppose them, was threatened with utter ruin.
It was to be reduced to stones and ashes, and its
noblest senators were to be sacrificed on the altars of
the German gods. The Florentines, thus threatened,
fought bravely, but they were reduced to the last
extremity before deliverance came.
Stilicho had not been idle during this destructive
raid. By calling troops from the frontiers, by arming
slaves, and by enlisting barbarian allies, he was
 at length able to take the field. He led the last army
of Rome, and dared not expose it to the wild valor of
the savage foe. On the contrary, he surrounded their
camp with strong lines which defied their efforts to
break through, and waited till starvation should force
them to surrender.
Florence was relieved. The besiegers were in their turn
besieged. Their bravest warriors were slain in efforts
to break the Roman lines. Radagaisus surrendered to
Stilicho, and was instantly executed. Such of his
followers as had not been swept away by famine and
disease were sold as slaves. The great host
disappeared, and Stilicho a second time won the proud
title of Deliverer of Italy.
But the whole army of Radagaisus was not destroyed.
Half of it had remained in the north. These were forced
by Stilicho to retreat from Italy. But Gaul lay open to
their fury. That great and rich section of the empire
was invaded and frightfully ravaged, and its conquerors
never afterwards left its fertile fields. The empire of
Rome ceased to exist in the countries beyond the Alps,
those great regions which had been won by the arms of
Marius and Cæsar.
And now the time had come for Rome to destroy itself.
The mind of the emperor was poisoned against Stilicho,
the sole remaining bulwark of his power. He had sought
to tie the hands of Alaric with gifts of power and
gold, and was accused of treason by his enemies. The
weak Honorius gave way, and Stilicho was slain. His
friends shared his fate, and the cowardly imbecile who
ruled Rome cut down the only safeguard of his throne.
 The result was what might have been foreseen. In a few
months after the death of Stilicho, Alaric was again in
Italy, exasperated by the bad faith of the court, which
had promised and not performed. There was no army and
no general to meet him. City after city was pillaged.
Avoiding the strong walls of Ravenna, behind which the
emperor lay secure, he marched on Rome, led his army
under the stately arches, adorned with the spoils of
countless victories, and pitched his tents beneath the
walls of the imperial city.
Six hundred and nineteen years had passed since a
foreign foe had gazed upon those proud walls, within
which lay the richest and most splendid city of the
world, peopled by a population of more than a million
souls. But Rome was no longer the city which had defied
the hosts of Hannibal, and had sold at auction, for a
fair price, the very ground on which the great
Carthaginian had pitched his tent. Alaric was not a
Hannibal, but much less were the Romans of his day the
Romans of the past.
Instead of striking for the honor of Rome, they lay and
starved within their walls until thousands had died in
houses and streets. No army came to their relief, and
in despair the senate sent delegates to treat with the
king of the Goths.
"We are resolved to maintain the dignity of Rome,
either in peace or war," said the envoys, with a show
of pride and valor. "If you will not yield us honorable
terms, you may sound your trumpets and prepare to fight
with myriads of men used to arms and with the courage
 "The thicker the hay, the easier it is mowed," answered
Alaric, with a loud and insulting laugh.
He then named the terms on which he would retreat,—all
the gold and silver in the city; all the rich and
precious movables; all the slaves who were of barbarian
"If such are your demands," asked the envoys, now
reduced to suppliant tones, "what do you intend to
"Your lives," said Alaric, in haughty tones. The envoys
retired, trembling with fear.
But Alaric moderated his demands, and was bought off by
the payment of five thousand pounds of gold, thirty
thousand pounds of silver, four thousand robes of silk,
three thousand pieces of scarlet cloth, and three
thousand pounds of pepper, then a costly and favorite
spice. The gates were opened, the hungry multitude was
fed, and the Gothic army marched away, but it left Rome
What followed is too long to tell. Alaric treated for
peace with the ministers of the emperor. But he met
with such bad faith and so many insults that
exasperation overcame all his desire for peace, and
once more the army of the Goths marched upon Rome.
The crime and folly of the court of Honorius at Ravenna
had at last brought about the ruin of the imperial
city. The senate resolved on defence; but there were
traitors within the walls. At midnight the Salarian
Gate was silently opened, and a chosen band of
barbarians entered the streets. The tremendous sound of
the Gothic trumpet aroused the
 sleeping citizens to the fact that all was lost. Eleven
hundred and sixty-three years after the foundation of
Rome, and eight hundred years after its capture by the
Gauls, it had again become the prey of barbarians, and
the imperial mistress of the world was delivered to the
fury of the German and Gothic hordes.
Alaric, while permitting his followers to plunder at
discretion, bade them to spare the lives of the
unresisting; but thousands of Romans were slain, and
the forty thousand slaves who had joined his ranks
revenged themselves on their former masters with
pitiless rage. Conflagration added to the horrors, and
fire spread far over the captured city. The Goths held
Rome only for six days, but in that time depleted it
frightfully of its wealth. The costly furniture, the
massive plate, the robes of silk and purple, were piled
without stint into their wagons, and numerous works of
art were wantonly destroyed.
But Alaric and many of, his followers were Christians,
and the treasures of the Church escaped. A Christian
Goth broke into the dwelling of an aged woman, and
demanded all the gold and silver she possessed. To his
astonishment, she showed him a hoard of massive plate,
of the most curious workmanship. As he looked at it
with wonder and delight, she solemnly said,—
"These are the consecrated vessels belonging to St
Peter. If you presume to touch them, your conscience
must answer for the sacrilege. For me, I dare not keep
what I am not able to defend,"
 The Goth, struck with awe by her words, sent word to
Alaric of what he had found, and received an order that
all this consecrated treasure should be transported
without damage to St, Peter's Church. A remarkable
spectacle, never before seen in a captured city,
followed. From the Quirinal Hill to the distant Vatican
marched a long train of devout Goths, bearing on their
heads the sacred vessels of gold and silver, and
guarded on each side by a detachment of their armed
companions, while the martial shouts of the barbarians
mingled with the hymns of devotees. A crowd of
Christians flocked from the houses to join the
procession, and through its sheltering aid to a
multitude of the fugitives escaped to the secure
retreat of the Vatican.
Not satisfied with plundering the city, the conquerors
ended by selling its citizens, save those who could
ransom themselves, for slaves. Many of these were
redeemed by the benevolent, but as a result of the
taking of Rome hosts of indigent fugitives were
scattered through the empire, from Italy to Syria.
From this time forward the Western Empire of Rome was
the prey of barbarians. In 451 the Huns under Attila
invaded Gaul, besieged Orleans, and were defeated at
Châlons in the last great victory of Rome. In the
following year Attila invaded Italy, and Rome was only
saved form the worst of horrors by a large ransom.
Three years afterwards, in 455, an army of Vandals, who
had invaded Africa, sailed to Italy, and Rome again was
again taken and sacked. For fourteen days and nights
the pillage continued, and when it ended Rome was
stripped bare of
 treasure; the Christian churches, which had been spared
by the Goths, being mercilessly plundered by these
A few years more and the Western Empire of Rome came to
an end. In the year 476 or 479, Augustulus, the last
emperor, was forced to resign, and Odoacer, a barbarian
chief, assumed the title of King of Italy. As for the
Eastern Empire, it maintained a half-life for nearly a
thousand years after, Constantinople being finally
taken by the Turks, and made the capital of Turkey, in