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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Then the Busento was restored to its channel


Alaric

only withdrew into Northern Italy, where he soon found a new cause of dispute with the government of Honorius, in Ravenna. He seems to have been a man of great military genius, but little capacity for civil rule; of much energy and ambition, but little judgment. The result of his quarrel with Honorius was, that he marched again to Rome, proclaimed Attalus, the governor of the city, Emperor, and then demanded entrance for himself and his troops, as an ally. The demand could not be refused: Rome was opened to the Goths, who participated in the festivals which accompanied the coronation of Attalus. It was nothing but a farce, and seems to have been partly intended as such by Alaric, who publicly deposed the new Emperor shortly afterwards, on his march to Ravenna.

[Sidenote: 410. ALARIC IN ROME.]

There were further negotiations with Honorius, which came to nothing; then Alaric advanced upon Rome the third time, not now as an ally, but as an avowed enemy. The city could make no resistance, and on the 24th of August, 410, the Goths entered it as conquerors. This event, so famous in history, has been greatly misrepresented. Later researches show that, although the citizens were despoiled of their wealth, the buildings and monuments were spared. The people were subjected to violence and outrage for the space of six days, after which Alaric marched out of Rome with his army, leaving the city, in its external appearance,

very much as he found it.

He directed his course towards Southern Italy, with the intention, it was generally believed, of conquering Sicily and then crossing into Africa. The plan was defeated by his death, in 411, at Cosenza, a town on the banks of the Busento, in Calabria. His soldiers turned the river from its course, dug a grave in its bed, and there laid the body of Alaric, with all the gems and gold he had gathered. Then the Busento was restored to its channel, and the slaves who had performed the work were slain, in order that Alaric's place of burial might never be known.

His brother-in-law, Ataulf (Adolph), was his successor. He was also the brother-in-law of Honorius, having married the latter's sister, Placidia, after she was taken captive by Alaric. He was therefore strengthened by the conquests of the one and by his family connection with the other. The Visigoths, who had gradually gathered together under Alaric, seem to have had enough of marching to and fro, and they acquiesced in an arrangement made between Ataulf and Honorius, according to which the former led them out of Italy in 412, and established them in Southern Gaul. They took possession of all the region lying between the Loire and the Pyrenees, with Toulouse as their capital.

[Sidenote: 412.]

Thus, in the space of forty years, the Visigoths left their home on the Black Sea, between the Danube and the Dniester, passed through the whole breadth of the Roman Empire, from Constantinople to the Bay of Biscay, after having traversed both the Grecian and Italian peninsulas, and settled themselves again in what seemed to be a permanent home. During this extraordinary migration, they maintained their independence as a people, they preserved their laws, customs, and their own rulers; and, although frequently at enmity with the Empire, they were never made to yield it allegiance. Under Athanaric, as we have seen, they were united for a time with the Ostrogoths, and it was probably the renown and success of Alaric which brought about a second separation.

Of course the impetus given to this branch of the Germanic race by the invasion of the Huns did not affect it alone. Before the Visigoths reached the shores of the Atlantic, all Central Europe was in movement. Leaving them there for the present, and also leaving the great body of the Ostrogoths in Thrace and Illyria, we will now return to the nations whom we left maintaining their existence on German soil.


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