In 410 AD, Alaric I, a Visagoth, lead an army into Rome and sacked the city.
It was in essence, the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
We really don’t talk about this enough.
Rome had been replaced by Ravenna as the capital city of the Western Roman Empire a decade before, but it was still the eternal city and the spiritual center of the Empire. It’s fall and sacking sent shock-waves to friend and foe.
Really, it was all over twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
St. Jerome, residing in Bethlehem said, “The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”
I had to let that sink in for a minute.
Rome had fallen to no one for nearly 800 years. In 387 BC, the Gauls, at the battle of Allia and under the leadership of a brute named Brennus, defeated the Romans, charged into the city, and tore it UP.
The Romans tried to buy their way out of destruction, and agreed to pay 1,000 pounds of gold.
The historian Livy, tells us that a dispute arose over the weights used to weigh the gold. It seems Brennus had brought his own which were heavier than usual. When the Romans began to whine, he threw his sword onto the scales and said “Vae victis!” which means, “woe to the conquered.”
Now, 800 years later, and after pillaging the world, Rome had fallen again.
Rome had conquered the known world; more than the Persians, more than the Medes, more than Alexander, more than anyone before.
Alaric and his army had marched south to begin his third siege of the city, and after some time and treachery, his army of Visigoths breached the Porta Salaria and Rome had fallen.
Some historians of the day wrote glowing stories of the Visigoths’ mercy: Christian churches were spared along with the Roman citizens who took refuge therein; precious metals in homes were spared when they sat in front of altars of St. Peter, and many women went “unharmed.”
They were barbarians, Visigoths, Huns!
Much of the city was spared from fire, but an invasion is an invasion, and barbarians are barbarians.
After Rome, Alaric headed to Calabria. He wanted to invade Africa, but a storm arose, many of his ships fell apart, and much of his army drowned.
He, himself was dead a few days later of fever.
He was buried under the riverbed of the Busento as was the custom of the plundering horde. To accomplish this, the river was diverted from its normal course, the grave dug, Alaric interred, and the river righted; those who’d done the labor were killed to avoid divulging his burial place.