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FOURTH PERIOD, A. D. 395–476.
243. The empire east of the Adriatic continued more than a thousand years from the accession of Arcadius, and its records belong to Mediæval History. From the death of the great Theodosius, the division of the two empires was complete. Rufi'nus, the minister of Arcadius, bore a mortal enmity to Stilicho, the guardian of Honorius; and for the sake of revenge, he let loose the Goths upon the Western empire. Al'aric, the Visi-Goth, was made master-general of the Eastern armies in Illyricum. At the same time, he was elected to be king of his own countrymen, and it is uncertain in which character he invaded Italy, A. D. 400-403. Honorius was driven from Milan, but Stilicho defeated the invader at Pollen'tia, and afterward at Verona, and persuaded him, by promises of lands for his followers, to withdraw from Italy.
During the rejoicings at Rome on account of his retreat, an incident occurred which marks the progress of Christianity in the declining empire. Telem ́achus, a monk, entered the arena of the Coliseum and attempted to separate the gladiators, protesting, in the name of Christ, against their inhuman combat. He was stoned to death by the crowd; but their remorse bestowed upon him the honors of a martyr; and the emperor, who was present, made a law abolishing forever the shedding of human blood for public sport.
244. Honorius transferred his capital from Milan to the impregnable fortress among the marshes of Ravenna, which continued three centuries to be the seat of government for Italy. A fresh invasion from Germany, led by the pagan Radagai'sus, devastated western Italy. Gaul was, at the same time, overrun by a mingled horde of Vandals, Suevi, Alani, and Burgundians; and from that moment the Roman Empire may be said to have fallen in the countries beyond the Alps. The army in Britain revolted; and after electing and murdering two emperors, set up Constantine, who led them into Gaul, defeated the German invaders, passed into Spain, and established a kind of sovereignty over the three western countries of Europe.
Meanwhile, Stilicho was disgraced and slain, through the intrigues of his enemy, Olympius. While the barbarian auxiliaries in his army were lamenting his death, they were enraged by a massacre of their wives and children, who had been kept as hostages in the various cities of Italy. This insane act of cruelty sealed the fate of Rome. The barbarians, freed from either the duty or necessity of obeying Honorius, flocked to the camp of Alaric, in Illyricum, and urged him to invade Italy. The Visi-Goth had injuries of his own to avenge. He passed the Alps and the Po, and, after a rapid march, pitched his camp upon the Tiber. Rome was reduced to starvation. Thousands died of famine, and thou
sands more from the pestilence which it occasioned. At length, Alaric accepted the terms offered by the Senate, and retired, upon the payment of an enormous ransom, A. D. 408.
245. His brother-in-law, Adolphus, now joined him with a troop of Huns and Goths. Alaric offered peace to the court of Ravenna, on condition of receiving lands for his followers, between the Danube and the Adriatic. His demands being refused, he again marched upon Rome, and set up an emperor of his own choosing, in At'talus, præfect of the city. Ravenna was only saved from his attack by a reinforcement from Theodosius II., now emperor of the East. Africa was likewise delivered by the vigilance of Count Herac ́lian. But Alaric was soon tired of his puppet-king. He deposed him, and again sought peace with Honorius. The treaty failed through the ill-will of Sarus, a Goth in the imperial service, who was a bitter enemy and rival of Alaric.
The king of the Visi-Goths now turned a third time, and with relentless rage, upon Rome. The Eternal City was taken, Aug. 10, A. D. 410, and for six days was given up to the horrible scenes of murder and pillage. Though greatly reduced in power, Rome had never lost her dignity, or the wealth of her old patrician houses. These were now ransacked; gold, jewels, and silken garments, Grecian sculptures and paintings, and the choicest spoils of conquered countries, brought home in triumph by ancestors of the present families, went to enrich the Gothic and Scythic hordes, who were so ignorant of the value of their plunder, that exquisite vases were often divided by a stroke of a battleax, and their fragments distributed among the common soldiers. Only the churches and their property were respected, for Alaric declared that he waged war with the Romans, and not with the apostles.
246. At length the king of the Goths withdrew, laden with spoils, along the Appian Way, meditating the conquest of Sicily and Africa. Storms, however, destroyed his hastily constructed fleet, and a sudden death terminated his career of conquest. He was buried in the channel of the little river Busenti'nus, and his sepulcher was adorned by his followers with the treasures of Rome. Adolphus, his successor, made peace with Honorius, and received the hand of the imperial princess Placid'ia, who had been taken prisoner during the siege. Her bridal gifts consisted of the spoils of her country. Adolphus retired into Gaul, and then into Spain, where he founded the kingdom of the Visi-Goths, as a dependency upon the Western empire.
Constantine was driven out of Spain, and captured at Arles, by Constantius, who was rewarded for his distinguished services by a marriage with Placidia, after the death of her Gothic husband, and by the imperial titles which he bore as the colleague of her brother. He reigned but seven months, and after his death Placidia quarreled with Honorius,
and took refuge with her nephew at Constantinople. In a few months the emperor of the West ended a disgraceful reign of twenty-eight years, A. D. 423. John, his secretary, usurped the throne; but Theodosius II. sent a fleet and army to enforce the claims of his cousin, the son of Placidia, and the troops in Ravenna were easily persuaded to surrender their upstart emperor. John was beheaded at Aquileia, A. D. 425.
247. Valentinian III. was a child of six years. The Western empire was therefore placed under the regency of his mother, Placidia, who continued to rule it for a quarter of a century, while the military command was held by Aë'tius and Boniface. Unhappily, these two generals were enemies. The malicious falsehoods of Aëtius led Boniface into rebellion, and lost Africa to the empire. Gen ́seric, king of the Vandals in Spain, willingly accepted the invitation of Boniface, and crossed the straits with 50,000 men. The Moors immediately joined his army; the Donatists hailed him as their deliverer from persecution.
Too late, Boniface discovered his mistake, and returned to his allegiance. All Roman Africa, except Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo Regius, had passed over to the Vandals. Forces were sent from Constantinople to aid those of Italy; but the combined armies were defeated, and Boniface was compelled to abandon Africa, taking with him all the Roman inhabitants who were able to leave. The countries on the Danube had been ceded to the Eastern empire, in return for the aid of Theodosius II., in placing Valentinian III. upon his throne. Britain, unprotected by the Roman armies, had thrown off her allegiance, and had for forty years no government except that of the clergy, the nobles, and the magistrates of the towns. The Goths were settled permanently in south-western Gaul; the Burgundians in the east, and the Franks in the north of the same country; and except a small tract in southern Gaul, the Western empire now included only Italy and the region of the western Alps.
248. Aëtius defended the Gallic province against the Visi-Goths on one side, and the Franks on the other, until the latter called in a new and more terrible ally than all previous invaders, in At'tila, king of the Huns. This savage chief was known to the terror-stricken world of his time, as the Scourge of God. He had subdued to his authority all the barbarians between the Baltic and the Euxine, the Rhine and the Volga, and his army of 700,000 men was officered by a host of subject kings. He had been for nine years ravaging the Eastern empire to the very walls of Constantinople, and had only retired upon the promise of an enormous annual tribute, and the immediate payment of 6,000 pounds of gold. He now invaded Gaul, in behalf of a Frankish king who had been driven beyond the Rhine, and had sought his aid.
*A very numerous sect in Africa, opposed by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and by an edict of Honorius.
Theodoric, the son of Alaric, now king of the Visi-Goths, had allied himself with the Romans, and their united armies came up with Attila, just as he had effected the capture of Orleans by battering down its walls. The Hun instantly drew off his hordes from the plunder of the city, and retreated across the Seine to the plains about Chalons', where his Scythian cavalry could operate to better advantage. Then followed one of the most memorable battles in the history of the world. The aged king Theodoric was slain, but the victory was gained by the valor of his subjects. Attila was driven to his circle of wagons, and only the darkness of night prevented the total destruction of his hosts.
This was the last victory ever achieved in the name of the Western empire. It settled the great question, whether modern Europe should be Teuton or Tartar. The Goths were already Christian; their rude energy was well adapted to the laws and institutions of civilized life. The Huns were savage, heathen, destructive; mighty to ravage and desolate, but never, in their greatest power and wealth, known to build and organize a state. Most of what is admirable in European history would have been reversed by a different result of the battle of Chalons.
249. Attila retreated beyond the Rhine. Two years later, he descended into north-eastern Italy, reduced Aquileia, Alti'num, Concordia, and Padua to heaps of ashes, and plundered Pavia and Milan. The fugitives from the old territory of the Veneti took refuge upon the hundred low islets at the head of the Adriatic, and laid, in poverty and industry, the foundations of the Republic of Venice. While he was diverted from his threatened march upon Rome, by the intercessions of Pope Leo, Attila suddenly died, and his kingdom fell to pieces even more rapidly than it had been built up. Two of his sons perished in battle. Irnac, the youngest, retired into Scythia. Valentinian showed his relief from apprehension by murdering Aëtius with his own hand. Having in many ways disgusted and offended his subjects, he was himself assassinated in March, A. D. 455.
Maximus, his murderer, assumed the purple, but he continued in power less than three months. Eudox'ia, the widow of Valentinian, called in the aid of Genseric, the Vandal king of Africa, who, commanding the Mediterranean with his fleets, was only too eager for the spoils of Italy. The Romans, as soon as he had landed in Ostia, put to death their unworthy emperor; but this execution failed to appease the barbarian. Fourteen days the Eternal City was again given up to a pillage more unscrupulous than that of Alaric. The Vandal fleet, waiting at Ostia, was laden with all the wealth which the Goths had spared, and receiving on board the empress Eudoxia and her daughter, made a safe return to Carthage.
250. The Romans were too much paralyzed to appoint a new sovereign.
When the news reached Gaul, Avi'tus, the general of the armies there, was proclaimed, through the influence of Theodoric II., and was acknowledged for more than a year throughout the Western empire. But, A. D. 456, Count Ric ́imer, a Goth commanding the foreign auxiliaries in Italy, rebelled, and captured Avitus in a battle near Placentia. He set up Marjo'rian, whose talents and virtues revived some appearance of justice and energy in the government. A fleet was now prepared for the invasion of Africa, in the hope not only of retaliating upon Genseric for his plunder of Rome, but of stopping the ravages of the Vandal pirates upon the coasts of Italy. It was betrayed to the emissaries of Genseric, in the Spanish port of Carthagena.
Ricimer, by this time, was jealous of his protégé, and, forcing him to resign, set up a new puppet in the person of Lib'ius Severus, in whose name he hoped to exercise the real power. But the nominal rule of Severus was confined to Italy, while, beyond the Alps, two Roman generals - Marcellinus in Dalmatia, and Ægid'ius in Gaul-possessed the real sovereignty, though without the imperial titles. The coasts of Italy, Spain, and Greece were continually harassed by the Vandals, and Ricimer, two years after the death of Severus (A. D. 467), appealed to the court of Constantinople for aid against the common enemy, promising to accept any sovereign whom the emperor would appoint.
251. Anthemius, a Byzantine nobleman, was designated as emperor of the West, and received the allegiance of the Senate, the people, and the barbarian troops. The fidelity of Count Ricimer was thought to be secured by his marriage with the daughter of the new emperor. A formidable attack upon the Vandals was made by the combined forces of the East and the West; but it failed through the weakness or treachery of Bas ́ilis'cus, the Greek commander, who lost his immense fleet through the secret management of Genseric. The Vandals recovered Sardinia and became possessed of Sicily, whence they could ravage Italy more constantly than ever.
The Goths, meanwhile, became dissatisfied with the foreign rule. Ricimer retired to Milan, where, in concert with his people, he openly revolted, marched with a Burgundian army to Rome, and forced the Senate to accept a new emperor in the person of Olyb'rius, A. D. 472. Anthemius was slain in the attack upon the city. Ricimer died forty days after his victory, bequeathing his power to his nephew, Gund'obald, a Burgundian. Olybrius died a month or two later, and Gundobald raised a soldier named Glyce'rius to the vacant throne. The emperor of the East interfered again, and appointed Julius Nepos-a nephew of Marcellinus of Dalmatia who was accepted by the Romans and Gauls, Glycerius being consoled for the loss of his imperial titles by the safer and more peaceful dignity of Bishop of Salo ́na.