King Alaric *Visigoths *Epic Sack of Rome 410 CE

Background of the Sack of Rome

The Sack of Rome was an event that marked the decline and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire. This event was equally shocking to the friends, foes, and contemporaries of the Empire. It took place on 24th August 410 CE by King Alaric.

The city was not the capital of the Western Roman Empire at the time which had shifted to Ravenna. However, Rome was still regarded as “the eternal city" and the spiritual center of the whole of Europe for many centuries.

This was the first time in about 800 years that the city had been sacked. Rome could never recover from the after-effects of this sack, which were compounded by another sack by the Vandals a few decades later.

King Alaric *Visigoths - Sack of Rome 410 CE


Who was King Alaric of the Visigoths?

King Alaric I was the first king of the Visigoths – He ruled from 395 to 410. He is famously known for the Sack of Rome that took place in 410. His career began under the Gothic soldier Gainas. He later joined the Roman army. He gathered Goths and some allied people and invaded Thrace in 391. Thrace is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

Alaric also led a force of 20,000 Gothic soldiers that helped the Roman Empire to defeat the Frankish Arbogast. He later attempted an invasion of Italy which failed. He later undertook a second invasion during which he besieged Rome and made the Roman Senate pay a massive amount to Visigoths. During his third invasion, he besieged and sacked Rome.

King Alaric in Roman Service

In the 4th century, it was a common practice to employ irregular groups such as Germanic tribes in the Roman Army. At the Battle of Frigidus, Alaric under the command of Emperor Theodosius I defeated usurper Arbogast. He learned that the northeastern frontier of Italy was weak while serving the emperor. When the Empire was to be divided after the death of Theodosius I to his two sons.

At the time, Alaric expected to be promoted to the position of a general but was refused. The Goths felt that they were not rewarded well after the battle. This urged them to rebel against the Roman Empire.

Differences with Rome

During the Battle of Frigidus, the Goths suffered heavy losses. A rumor grew that the Empire wanted to eliminate the Goths and subdue them by forcing them to face the brunt of the battle. In view of the sacrifices of his men, Alaric expected a promotion from being a mere commander to the general of a Roman army.

But the Empire was divided and Alaric didn’t receive any promotion, nor were the Goths sufficiently rewarded. This led to sharp differences between the Goths and the Empire.

King Alaric *Visigoths and the Sack of Rome – Third Siege

The negotiations of Alaric with Emperor Honorius broke down when the Roman Empire didn’t honor its agreements with the Goths. He then launched the third and final siege of Rome. The defenses of Rome were weak. The Visigoths under the leadership of Alaric attacked and captured the city.

Those who took refuge in churches were not harmed. In general, few people died during the sack and Rome sustained relatively minor damage.



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