The Visigoths *Alaric I and the Sack of Rome


The Visigoths were the Germanic people who played a significant role in the fall of the Roman Empire. They came from the region of present-day Poland before they migrated to Rome. They emerged from Gothic groups that had two branches, the Visigoths and Ostrogoths.

The Western tribes of Goths were known as Visigoths while the Eastern Goths were called Ostrogoths. They separated from the Ostrogoths and invaded Roman territories and established their kingdom. The invasions started in 376 and the Romans were defeated at the Battle of Adrianople in 378.

Rise of the Visigoths

The Visigoths grew in power during the migration period with the widespread invasions into Roman territory. The Germanic tribes had gained technological and social changes after centuries of contact with the Roman Empire. By the late 4th century, Visigoths were defeated by Huns and they took refuge in Eastern Roman Empire.

The mistreatment and hatred from the Roman population turned Visigoths against the Roman Empire. Visigoths defeated Romans at the Battle of Adrianople. Visigoths invaded Italy and sacked Rome and began settling down in Southern Gaul and Hispania. Eventually, they established the Visigoth kingdom from the 5th to 8th centuries.

Alliance with Rome

During the third and fourth centuries, there were various conflicts and peaceful agreements between Visigoths and Romans. By 332, the relations between Goths and Romans were stabilized by a treaty that did not last long. Rome made peace with rebels under the command of Theodosius and this peace treaty continued until his death in 395.

Goths and Romans Battle

Visigoths and Romans Battle

The treaty made Visigoths the first independent barbarian nation within the Roman Empire. In the coming years, peace was broken by various conflicts between Rome and the Visigoths.

War with Rome

The Visigoth’s kingdom began when Romans lost their power in the Western half of the Empire. The war began when the Visigoths appealed Roman Empire to provide them refuge from the Huns. The Goths leader Fritigern appealed Roman emperor to settle with his people on the South Bank of the Danube.

The Romans did not provide them with food and land as promised which lead to open rebellion against the Romans. The Battle of Adrianople took place which resulted in the disastrous defeat of the Romans. The Roman forces and Emperor Valens were killed. Romans were forced to negotiate and settle the tribe within the empire’s boundaries which eventually led to the falling of Rome.

Alaric I and Sack of Rome

Alaric I was the first king of Visigoths from 395 to 410. He was famous for his sack of Rome which was the major reason for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In 394, he led a Gothic force of 20,000 and helped Roman Emperor, Theodosius in defeating the Frankish usurper Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus.

Battle of Frigidus

Battle of Frigidus

He left the army and was elected king of Visigoths in 395. He invaded Italy in 401 but was defeated by Stilicho. He then sacked the cities of Aquileia and Cremona and laid siege to Rome in 408 but Senate gave him a subsidy. On 24 August 410, Rome was attacked and sacked which was the first time Rome had fallen to a foreign enemy.