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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Eudoxia sent a messenger to Geiserich


[Sidenote:

455. GEISERICH TAKES ROME.]

The alliance between Aetius and the Visigoths ceased immediately after the great battle. Valentinian III., suspicious of the fame of Aetius, recalled him to Rome, the year after Attila's death, and assassinated him with his own hand. The treacherous Emperor was himself slain, shortly afterwards, by Maximus, who succeeded him, and forced his widow, the Empress Eudoxia, to accept him as her husband. Out of revenge, Eudoxia sent a messenger to Geiserich, the old king of the Vandals, at Carthage, summoning him to Rome. The Vandals had already built a large fleet and pillaged the shores of Sicily and other Mediterranean islands. In 455, Geiserich landed at the mouth of the Tiber with a powerful force, and marched upon Rome. The city was not strong enough to offer any resistance: it was taken, and during two weeks surrendered to such devastation and outrage that the word _vandalism_ has ever since been used to express savage and wanton destruction. The churches were plundered of all their vessels and ornaments, the old Palace of the Caesars was laid waste, priceless works of art destroyed, and those of the inhabitants who escaped with their lives were left almost as beggars.

When "the old king of the sea," as Geiserich was called, returned to Africa, he not only left Rome ruined, but the Western Empire practically overthrown. For seventeen years afterwards, Ricimer, a chief of the Suevi,

who had been commander of the Roman auxiliaries in Gaul, was the real ruler of its crumbling fragments. He set up, set aside or slew five or six so-called Emperors, at his own will, and finally died in 472, only four years before the boy, Romulus Augustulus, was compelled to throw off the purple and retire into obscurity as "the last Emperor of Rome."

In 455, the year when Geiserich and his Vandals plundered Rome, the Germanic tribes along the Danube took advantage of the dissensions following Attila's death, and threw off their allegiance to the Huns. They all united under a king named Ardaric, gave battle, and were so successful that the whole tribe of the Huns was forced to retreat eastward into Southern Russia. From this time they do not appear again in history, although it is probable that the Magyars, who came later into the same region from which they were driven, brought the remnants of the tribe with them.

[Sidenote: 450.]

During the fourth and fifth centuries, the great historic achievements of the German race, as we have now traced them, were performed outside of the German territory. While from Thrace to the Atlantic Ocean, from the Scottish Highlands to Africa, the new nationalities overran the decayed Roman Empire, constantly changing their seats of power, we have no intelligence of what was happening within Germany itself. Both branches of the Goths, the Vandals and a part of the Franks had become Christians, but the Alemanni, Saxons and Thuringians were still heathens, although they had by this time adopted many of the arts of civilized life. They had no educated class, corresponding to the Christian priesthood in the East, Italy and Gaul, and even in Britain; and thus no chronicle of their history has survived.


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