History : Mar-Apr 2016
Barbarians at the Gates 376 Driven out of their central European lands by the Huns, the Visigoths ask to settle on land within the Roman Empire. 378 The Visigoths defeat the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople, in which the Roman emperor Valens is slain. 382 Emperor Theodosius I allows the Visigoths to settle in the provinces between the Danube River and the Balkans. 395 Theodosius dies. His sons, Honorius and Arcadius, take control of the western and eastern halves of the empire. ROME’S 401 The Visigoth king Alaric enters Italy to seek a treaty with Rome. In 402 one of Honorius’ generals, Stilicho, defeats him. 408 Stilicho is deposed and executed. Shortly after, Alaric returns to Italy and this time besieges Rome. 409 While Honorius is in Ravenna, Alaric supports a coup in Rome, in which Flavius Priscus Attalus is proclaimed emperor. 410 Alaric lays waste to Rome in a three-day spree of burning and pillage. Alaric dies later that year and is succeeded by Ataulphus. 56 MARCH/APRIL 2016 LINGERING GRANDEUR The ruins of the Roman Forum retain their magnificence despite the passage of time. In the fifth century the Forum was still home to the Senate and a symbol of Rome’s steadfast endurance. GIOVANNI RINALDI A fter Augustus became emperor in 27b.c., the Roman Empire took its place at the center of the Western world and held it for nearly six centuries. A dominant force in culture, economics, politics, engineering, and military might, the empire controlled territory stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea. At its heart was Rome, the glorious capital city. But the center could not hold forever, and Rome’s fortunes began to decline in the third and fourth centuries. The events leading to the fall of Rome would prove to be as dramatic as those of its rise. In the fourth century Rome’s glory days were far behind it. Limited resources strained the empire as encroaching “barbarians”—the Germanic tribes—loomed along its northern borders. To address the threat, the empire’s power bases moved farther from Rome to manage the conflicts on the frontier. In the western Roman Empire, emperors in this period started to live in cities such as Trier, Milan, and Aquileia, located in modern-day Germany and northern Italy.