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It has seemed necessary to relate with almost tedious minuteness the marches and counter-marches, the intrigues, the negotiations, and the plunderings, which preceded or accompanied the Gothic sack of Rome. Other sieges and pillages of the Eternal City lie before us, but we shall not find it necessary to bestow on all the same close attention which has been claimed for the first. Now that the secret of Rome’s weaknes is disclosed, many a nomadic horde wandering over the Scythian steppes has heard the strange exciting history, and will not rest till it, too, has stood victorious on theCapitolian Hill. But we hear and we tell the adventures of Columbus, and of his fellow mariners, who could say

‘We were the first that ever burst

Into that silent sea,’

with an interest which we do not accord to the journal of a modern passenger traversing the same waters with all the appliances and all the luxuries of our modern civilisation; and uninteresting as the latter class of travellers do some of the more recent ravagers of Rome appear, on their commonplace and easily accomplished errand of destruction.

Not yet however for another generation is the example of Alaric to be followed. Forty-two years, 410-452, of something like repose for Italy have first to elapse. In journeying over this long piece of level ground we shall find our attention chiefly attracted by the story of the sister of Honorius and the sister-in-law of Alaric, the Queen of the Goths and the Augusta of the Romans, the lady Galla Placidia.

The second marriage of Theodosius, as the reader has already been told, was a somewhat romantic affair, springing out of the murder of Valentinian II and the flight of his mother and sisters to Constantinople. The issue of that marriage, his daughter Galla Placidia, was thus the representative of two Imperial houses, the granddaughter of the warrior Valentinian, the daughter of the warrior Theodosius. She was born probably about the year 390 and can have remembered little either of father or mother, the Empress Galla having died before she was four years old, and Theodosius having departed immediately after for his last campaign in the West. As she inherited one of her names from her mother, so she seems to have been the only member of the family who inherited anything of the vigour and capacity of her father’s character, as is so often the case, not being transmitted according to sex.

For some reason unknown to us she did not follow her brother’s court to the safe shelter of Ravenna, but remained in Rome at the time of the Gothic invasion. It is with sorrow that we find her at the time of the first siege assenting to the judicial murder of Serena, as decreed by the Senate. We can well believe that the wife of Stilicho had been a hard duenna towards her young kinswoman : and a few words of Claudian suggest the possibility that the suit of her son Eucherius for the hand of his cousin may have been too importunately pressed: still, the sanction which this young maiden of eighteen is said to have given to the death of one so unfortunate and so unjustly slain as Serena must remain as a stain upon her memory.

After one of the three sieges of Rome, probably the second, Placidia was taken captive by the barbarians; and though treated with all the courtesy and deference due to a lady of royal birth, was nevertheless distinctly spoken of as a hostage, obliged apparently to move as the army moved, and used as a lever to bring the endless peace negotiations with the Court at Ravenna to a satisfactory issue.

But after the death of Alaric, and when his brother-in-law Ataulfus had been raised upon the shield and proclaimed King of the Visigoths, a change gradually came over these negotiations, and the restitution of the lady Placidia was less and less willingly offered by the barbarians. There was a change in the mind of Ataulfus, who was beginning to wish to be the champion rather them the enemy of Rome. ‘When I was at Bethlehem,’ says his contemporary Orosius, ‘I heard a citizen of Narbonne, who had served with distinction under Theodosius, and who was besides a wise and religious person, tell the most blessed Jerome that he had been on terms of the greatest intimacy with Ataulfus at Narbonne, and that he had frequently heard him say that, in the first exuberance of his strength and spirits, he had made this his most earnest desire—to utterly obliterate tbe Roman name, and bring under the sway of the Goths all that had once belonged to them—in fact, to turn Romania into Gothia, and to make himself, Ataulfus, all that Caesar Augustus had once been. But when he had learnt, by long experience, that the Goths would obey no laws on account of the unrestrained barbarism of their character, yet that it was wrong to deprive tbe commonwealth of laws without which it would cease to be a commonwealth, he at least for his part had chosen to have the glory of restoring the Roman name to its old estate, and increasing its potency by Gothic vigour, and he wished to be looked upon by posterity as the great author of the Roman restoration, since he had failed in his attempt to be its transformer.’

Such were the plans which, during the years immediately following 410, were passing through the brain of the Gothic chieftain, and at the same time his heart was cherishing day by day more loving thoughts about the fair wise face of his captive Placidia. She appears to have been ready to return his affection; and it is therefore with some surprise that we find a space of four years elapse before the marriage ceremony takes place.

This delay seems to be chiefly due to the fact that the Visigoth had a powerful rival in the person of the Emperor’s new general and adviser, Constantius, before whose rising star the influence of Olympius and Jovius successively succumbed. He too had set his heart on winning Placidia for his wife, and the effectual services which he rendered to her brother seemed to excuse the pertinacity of his suit. Therefore it was that whenever Goths and Romans met to negotiate a peace, the restitution of Placidia was the point most strongly insisted upon by the ministers of Honorius, most sedulously evaded by the envoys of Ataulfus. By a rare piece of good fortune we are favoured with some details as to the outward appearance of the two rivals, and can therefore imagine some of the contending emotions which agitated the heart of Placidia. Ataulfus, among his tall countrymen, was not distinguished for his stature, but his shapely figure and dignified countenance more than atoned for this deficiency. Constantius, on the other hand (an Illyrian by birth, who had served in many campaigns under the great Theodosius), is described as having a downcast, sulky look. His broad head was set upon a large neck; his great full eyes were darted with a scowl to right and left of him, so that men said he looked thoroughly like a tyrant: and when he rode he rolled forward on the neck of his horse. But this slouching, gloomy tyrant was agreeable enough in his cups. At suppers and banquets he showed himself a pleasant and polite person; nay, so great was his condescension that when the time came for the comic actors to enter and enliven the feast, he would often rise from the table and contend with them for the prize of buffoonery.

We must again interrupt for a time the course of the history of Italy in order to glance at the affairs of Gaul and Spain, in which Constantius played a prominent part.

The year 409, which witnessed the elevation and the short-lived glory of Attalus, saw also another anti-Emperor proclaimed in Spain, threatening the throne of the usurper Constantine. There was disaffection and mutiny among the Spanish troops of Constantine, which was connected in some way (whether as cause or effect our authorities will not enable us to say) with the fact that the three barbarian nations, Vandals, Alans, and Suevi, who had once before ineffectually dashed themselves against the barriers of the Pyrenees, now succeeded in penetrating the mountain-passes, no longer defended by the old national militia, and were soon surging wildly over the fat and fruitful land which since the birth of Christ had scarcely seen a spear thrown in anger. Three-quarters of Spain at least were lost to the Empire, and in the remaining quarter usurper and counter-usurper were struggling for supremacy. For Gerontius, the British lieutenant of Constantine, being for some reason superseded in his command, refused to accept his dismissal, and proclaiming one of his dependants, a life-guardsman named Maximus, Emperor, in his name waged bitter and on the whole successful war against Constans, the son of his former chief Constantine. In the year 410 he seems to have succeeded in driving Constans out of Spain, and to have followed him into Gaul, intent on overthrowing the new dynasty. Gerontius besieged and took Vienne, probably in the early part of 411, and having put the young Constans to death, turned southward to besiege the strong city of Arles, where Constantine, given over to gluttony and sloth, was dragging out his inglorious reign.

But not for Gerontius was reserved the glory of stripping the purple robe from the base-born usurper. At the same moment, apparently, that he was marching on Arles from the North, Constantius, eager to do some signal service to Honorius and to win by the sword the hand of Placidia, was approaching it from the East. Ere either army had formed the siege the bulk of the army of Gerontius had melted away from his standards and had joined themselves to the host of Constantius. Perhaps, in fighting Constantine, they had persuaded themselves that they were showing their loyalty to Honorius, and did not dare to oppose in arms the representative of the legitimate ruler of the Empire. Perhaps, as Spaniards, they shared that feeling of loyalty to the Theodosian house which had brought Didymus and Verenianus into the field. Whatever the cause, Gerontius, finding himself general of an ever-dwindling army, threw up the game, and stole away into Spain. But the soldiers among whom he came, despising him for what they deemed his cowardly flight, mutinied against him, and took counsel to slay him. They surrounded his house at nightfall, but he, with one faithful hench­man, of Alan blood, and a few slaves, mounted to the top of the house and did such execution with their arrows that 300 of the besiegers fell. At length, the arrows were all exhausted; the slaves, under cover of the night, glided away from the house: and Gerontius might easily have done the like. But he would not leave his wife, who for some reason could not share his flight, and his Alan comrade would not leave him. So all three were still remaining on the house top when the day was dawning. The bloodthirsty mutineers gathered around and set fire to the house. Flight was impossible: the only thought of the defenders was how to escape ignominy and torture. At the earnest request of his friend, Gerontius cut off the head of the faithful Alan, then of his wife, a devout Christian, who with prayers and tears besought him thus to preserve her honour. Then he thrice struck himself with his sword, but failing each time to inflict a mortal wound, he drew forth the trustier dagger and stabbed himself to the heart.

Meanwhile, the siege of Arles, though of some length, had upon the whole gone favourably for the cause of legitimacy. After four months the siege seemed likely to be raised by the approach of Edobich, a Frank, in the usurper’s service, who had been sent to collect auxiliaries among his barbarous countrymen on the lower Rhine. But by a clever stratagem, Edobich’s army was surrounded and defeated : by the ingratitude of an old friend Edobich was slain, and Constantine was forced to recognise that the pleasant years of Empire were over. He took refuge in a church, and there received priest’s orders. The people of Arles, on obtaining the assurance of the Imperial clemency both for themselves and their late lord, opened their gates to Constantius. As far as the citizens were concerned, the compact was honourably kept, but not so as to the late Augustus. He was sent, with his son Julian, to the court of Honorius, but messengers met them at the twentieth milestone from Ravenna, bearing the orders of the Emperor, in whose mind the insult offered to his own majesty and the cruel murder of his kinsmen, outweighed the obligations of good faith and the respect due to his general’s plighted word. Constantine and Julian were put to death, and their heads were fixed up outside the gates of Carthage, where those of Maximus and Eugenius, the usurpers of a previous generation, had already for many years been exposed, a ghastly memorial of an anti-Emperor’s perils

But the lesson which these ghastly trophies were meant to teach was not learned even in Carthage itself. Heraclian, the murderer of Stilicho, whom we have seen valiantly and loyally holding Africa for Honorius, at length (in the year 413) raised the standard of rebellion himself, detained the usual tribute of corn which should have gone from his province to Rome, and set sail for the coast of Italy with an armament which the terror-stricken citizens believed to be larger than any squadron that had been seen since the days of Xerxes, and to consist of 3700 ships. Something however—perhaps the remains of the old Roman loyalty—lingering near his conscience, made him, who had been so staunch in his defence, falter in his attack. The Count Marinus resisted him with some vigour, and he immediately lost heart and fled, with one ship, to Carthage, where he was at once arrested and put to death. So was the death of Stilicho avenged. Constantius asked for the confiscated property of the rebel, and obtained it, the historian says, ‘at one asking’—so ductile was the soft nature of Honorius. It amounted to £460o in gold, and about £92,000 worth of landed estate: much less than Constantius had reckoned on receiving, but sufficient to enable him to celebrate his consulship (in the year 414) with becoming splendour.

We return to Ataulfus and his Visigoths. Two years after the sack of Rome they quitted Italy, never again to come back through the Alpine passes. The reason of their departure is not made clear to us. It may be that Gaul, whither they at first directed their steps, seemed a fairer prize than the much-ravaged plains of Italy: it may be that the desire of conserving instead of destroying ‘Romania’ induced the Gothic chieftain to withdraw from a land, the security of which was essential to the recovery of the prestige of Rome : it may be that the departure of the barbarians from the near neighbourhood of Ravenna was meant to soothe the Roman Emperor into giving that consent to the marriage with Placidia which threats had been unable to extort.

But strangely enough, if this was the aim of Ataulfus, he next appears as supporting the cause of Jovinus, one of the many usurpers of the Empire, who, relying on the aid of the Tartar Alans and the Teutonic Burgundians, had lately raised the standard of revolt at Mayence.

That pitiable shadow of an Emperor, Attalus, who still followed in his train, had counselled Ataulfus to make this inexplicable move. One important result followed from the visit to the camp of Jovinus. The hereditary enemy, or, as thfe Germans would say, the Erb-feind, of Alaric and of his successor, he who was in heart the murderer of Stilicho, Sarus, was coming to the same headquarters of mutiny, disgusted with the ungrateful feebleness of Honorius, who had allowed his faithful servant, Belleridus by name, to be murdered at the Imperial Court without making any inquisition for his blood.

Unawares, the revolter Sarus rushed into the deadly embrace of his enemy. Ataulfus waylaid him with 10,000 men, against whom the eighteen or twenty followers of Sarus fought with useless intrepidity. At length one of this immensely superior force, anxious to take the captive alive to his master, threw a piece of coarse sacking over the head of Sarus, and so brought him helpless, but still living, into the presence of Ataulfus, by whose orders he was slain.

Except this event, little followed from the visit of Ataulfus to the camp of Jovinus. The usurper deeply offended his powerful friend by proclaiming, contrary to that friend’s advice, Sebastian, his brother, as his partner in the Imperial dignity.

With the opening of the year 413, Ataulfus sent an embassy to Ravenna offering to bring in the heads of all the usurpers if a just and honourable peace were concluded. The offer was accepted, oaths were exchanged, and the ambassadors returned. First of all, Sebastian’s head was despatched as a present to Honorius; then Jovinus, besieged and taken prisoner, was sent in bonds to Ravenna, and there slain by the Praetorian Prefect with his own hand. The heads of the two brothers were then exposed outside the gate of Carthage, where the two pairs of usurpers had already preceded them.

Great services were these which the Visigoth had rendered to the Emperor : still, the cardinal point, the restitution of Placidia, could not be agreed upon. Constantius began to press more eagerly for her return. Ataulfus, to evade this demand, raised his terms, for concessions in land, in money, in corn, yet higher and higher. In the midst of the peace negotiations, he even made a sudden attack upon the town of Marseilles. The general commanding there, Bonifacius, a man whoafterwards played a great part in the service of Placidia, repulsed him with great loss, and he scarce escapedwith life. Still, however, Ataulfus pushed on his preparations for the marriage; and at last, in the year 414, the year which witnessed the consulship of the other lover, Constantius, Honorius was induced, chiefly by the good offices of a certain general, Candidianus, to give his consent to the match.

The time was the early part of.the month of January; the place where the marriage was solemnised was the city of Narbonne, the capital of Gallia Narbonensis, the chief province of Gaul. The house of Ingenuus, one of the principal personages ot the city, was given up for the ceremony. Here, in the inner apartment which was adorned after the manner usual with wealthy Romans, sat Placidia in the seat of honour, arrayed in royal robes. To her entered Ataulfus, not wearing the furs and carrying the great battle-axe of the Goths, but dressed in the fine woollen tunic which was the appropriate wedding garment of the Romans, and in all other respects costumed like a countryman of the bride. The religious ceremony may probably enough have been performed by Sigesarius the Arian bishop who baptized Attalus, and who seems to have acted as a kind ofchaplain to the Visigothic army.

And so the complicated and unsatisfactory negotiations of the last four years were brought to a successful issue. Romans and barbarians were made for the time one people; the captor and captive were fond husband and devoted wife.

The gorgeousness of the wedding presents which the Visigoth gave to his bride was long remembered. Fifty beautiful youths dressed in silken robes (the material for which came not then from Lyons, but across trackless deserts from the far East of Asia) knelt before the bride, whose slaves they were henceforward to remain. Each held in his hands two chargers, one filled with gold, the other with precious, or more properly, priceless, stones. The gold and the jewels were the spoils of Rome, but Placidia must have been more or less than woman if at that moment the thought of the possession of so many lustrous gems did not in some measure efface the remembrance of the woes of ‘the daughter of her people.’

After the presentation of the wedding gifts came the singing of wedding songs, in which the aesthetic Attalus, ex-Praetorian Prefect, ex-Emperor of Rome, but ever true to his Greek iustinct for Art, led the chorus.

The day ended with loud demonstrations of joy on the part of both the populations whose union was figuring typified by this event. And, in truth, small as was the result which actually followed from this marriage, we can hardly attribute to it too great an importance as symbolical of that amalgamation between the Roman and the Germanic races which was yet to be, though confused and bloody centuries were to elapse before it was finally achieved. Augustus or Tiberius would have as soon accepted a menial slave for a son-in-law as the German hero Arminius. In the four centuries which have elapsed since those days, ‘Gothia’ has risen much in the scale of civilisation, and ‘Romania’ has learned that her very existence may depend on the clemency of these barbarians. And so it comes to pass that the sister of the Roman Augustus and the Thiudam of the Teutonic people are joined with mutual love and reverence in the honourable estate of holy matrimony; the word Barbarian loses half its potency as an epithet of reproach, and Mediaeval History begins to show itself above the horizon.

The issue of this marriage was a son, named after his maternal grandfather Theodosius. It might well be thought that high fortunes were in store for this child, that he would one day mount the throne of the Caesars and restore to Rome, by the arms of his father’s soldiers, all and more than all that she had lost by the might of one uncle and the weakness of another. But it was not so to be. Ataulfus, though more than ever, since this infant’s birth, disposed to be friendly towards the Empire, found his overtures for peace persistently declined on account of the predominant influence of Constantius. Nay more : without actual battle he appears to have been, by a kind of blockade of the Gallic coast, forced over the Pyrenees, and obliged to enter Spain where Vandals, Alans, and Sueves, having penetrated before him, left little to be plundered and much toil to be undergone by the latest comers. Soon after the Visigothic host had entered Spain the infant Theodosius died. His parents made great lamentation over him, and buried him in a silver coffer in a church outside their new capital, Barcelona.

The death of the child was speedily followed by that of the father. Ataulfus had among his servants a Goth named Dobbius (or Dubius), whose former master, the chief of some petty tribe, he had conquered and slain. Dobbius was loyal to the memory of his earlier servitude, and watched for an opportunity of revenge. It came one morning when the king, according to his usual custom, was, like many a Teuton since, going the round of his stables and enjoying the sight of his horses feeding. Then, apparently, the treacherous groom came behind him and stabbed him in the back. Dying, for he was not killed on the spot, he was able to whisper his commands to his brother, ‘If possible live in friendship with Rome, and restore Placidia to the Emperor.’ And with those words surely a spasm of grief shook the frame of the dying warrior as he remembered all the years wasted on windy negotiations. Four years of these and only one of actual possession of his fair young bride. The thought lent a fresh bitternessto death as the soul of Ataulfus went forth whither Alaric had preceded him.

The successor of Ataulfus was Singeric, the brother of Sarus. Seeing the brother of the Erbfeind thus reaping the advantage of Dobbius’s crime, we shall probably not be far wrong in supposing that he was an accomplice before the fact. His acts are those of a man determined to pursue the blood-feud to the uttermost. He tore the sons of Ataulfus (children of an earlier marriage than that with Placidia) out of the very arms of Bishop Sigesarius and put them to death. Placidia he durst not slay, but he dared to insult her. Mingled with a crowd of other captives she was forced to walk before his horse out of the gates of Barcelona, and this insulting procession was continued till it reached the twelfth milestone from the city. Strange reverse of fortune for the daughter, sister, and grand-daughter of Emperors, humbled thus before an insolent barbarian on the soil of her own ancestral Spain!

But the reaction, if such there was in the Visigothic camp in favour of the family of Sarus, was but for a moment. After a reign of only seven days Singeric was slain, and the brave Walia, a worthy successor, though not, as far as we know, a relative of Alaric and Ataulfus, was raised upon the shield in his stead.

Almost the first act of King Walia was to restore Placidia to the Romans. His chamberlain Euplutius was charged to escort her to the foot of the Pyrenees, whither came Constantius with almost regal pomp to receive her. A firm treaty of peace between the two nations was at length concluded, and in return for the surrendered princess the Visigoths received 600,000 measures (nearly 19,000 quarters) of corn. This was possibly the amount of pay which had been stipulated for and wrangled over in the previous negotiations between Ataulfus and Honorius.

And in truth the state of Spain, wasted and trodden or Spain, under foot by four barbarian tribes (Vandals, Alans, Suevi, and Visigoths), as well as by the remaining Roman soldiery, was such that any considerable quantity of corn might well seem a good exchange for a princess. The usual terrible stories of cannibalism are told of this time. In one Spanish town, it is said, a woman who had four children ate them all. As the first and the second and the third disappeared, she pleaded the necessity of affording some sustenance, however dreadful, to the remainder, but when the fourth was eaten this plea availed her no longer, and she was stoned to death by her horrified townsmen. One commercial transaction, long remembered and talked of beside many a barbarian camp-fire, marked this time of famine. Some Gothic soldiers bought from some Vandals a trula of wheat for an aureus. As the Trula was only a third part of a pint, and the Aureus was worth about twelve shillings, the bargain did not redound greatly to the profit of the Visigoths, who received from the other nation the contemptuous nickname of Truli. Many a time, as we can well imagine, were the streets of Spanish towns made red with Teuton blood, and the yellow locks of slain barbarians lay thick across the pathway, after the taunting shout Truli, Truli, and some unknown word of answering defiance had greeted the ears of the trembling provincials.

The thought that Rome would be the gainer by all these dissensions among her invaders is expressed by thethe barbarians themselves with a plainness which seems most improbable (were we not reading the words of a contemporary) in the following passage of Orosius:—

‘Vandals, Alans, and Suevi, all sent embassies to Honorius, at the same time as the Visigothic king Walia, and on the same errand. “Do thou live at peace with all of us,” said they, “and accept the hostages of all. We fight with one another, perish with one another, conquer for thee : thy commonwealth will reap immortal gain if both parties among us perish.” ’

Orosius upon this remarks, ‘Who would believe these things, unless the fact itself persuaded him of it. But so it is, that up to this very time we hear from numerous messengers that wars are being daily waged among the barbarous nations in Spain, and that the bloodshed on both sides is enormous: especially that Walia, the king of the Goths, is earnest in keeping the peace which he has made with us. Wherefore I would for my part concede that the age of Christianity should be abused as much as ever you please, if you can show me anything from the foundation of the world till the present time that has ever been managed with similar success.’ And so, with a few complimentary words to St. Augustine, he ends his ‘history of the passions and punishments of men during 5617 years, namely, from the creation of the world till the present day.’

Here we part company with the worthy ecclesiastic, not entirely convinced that the then condition of the Roman Empire was the most fortunate thing that the world had ever seen, nor regretting that the truth of the Christian Revelation rests upon some other arguments besides those alleged in the Seven Books of the Histories of Orosius.

Here also our path diverges from that of the Visigothic nation. In order to trace the fortunes of Placidia, the type of alliance between Rome and the barbarians, we have followed the Visigoths over the Alps and the Pyrenees. It is now time to return within the frontier of Italy. But having accompanied their waggons so long, we may in parting from them give a brief glance at their future history.

The successors of Alaric will establish a powerful and well-ordered kingdom on both sides of the Pyrenees, the capital of which will be the city of Toulouse, its northern frontier the River Loire, and its southern the Mediterranean and Atlantic. They will take a leading part in repelling the invasion of the Huns. Towards the close of the fifth century the fairest of their possessions north of the Pyrenees will be wrested from them by the Franks under Clovis and his sons. In the sixth century they will consolidate their Spanish kingdom, they will renounce Arianism, and be numbered among the most steadfast supporters of the Catholic faith. The elective character of their monarchy, the predominance of the great nobles, and then of the great ecclesiastics, will continue during the seventh century special marks of their polity, in which the power wielded by the great Councils of Toledo will also be a remarkable feature. But during all this timethe Gothic conquerors, while daily losing that rough and martial vigour which gave them the ascendancy over the Roman provincials, will still treat them as a subject population, and will but slowly and grudgingly admit them to even theoretical equality with themselves. And thus, when in 711 the wave of Saracen fanaticism shall break against the throne of Roderic the last of the Goths, the whole fabric of the state will fall like a house of cards, and one lost battle by the Guadalete will make the Moors masters of Spain for centuries. The new Christian state, which will emerge from the mountains of Asturias and slowly win back town by town and province by province for the Cross, will be one in which Goth and Roman and Spaniard will be all welded together into one homogeneous mass by the fires of adversity, though a few Gothic names may survive, and even ‘the blue blood’ of the future Spanish hidalgo will faintly keep alive the memory of those fair-skinned warriors of the Danube, who in the fifth century descended, conquering, among the sunburnt populations of the South.

We return from the history of the Visigoths to that of their late Queen, Galla Placidia. Constantius, who was waiting to receive her at the foot of the Pyrenees, had received from Honorius the assurance that by whatsoever means, peaceable or warlike, he might succeed in liberating Placidia, he should receive her hand in marriage.

Some little time may, for the sake of appearances, have been conceded to the widow so recently a wife. But soon the courtship of the successful general, backed by the Imperial mandate, commenced in good earnest.

Placidia again and again rejected his overtures. The sullen, broad-headed, loose-limbed soldier, whose large eyes shot forth tyrant-glances on all around, could not understand why the widow of the comely and courteous Ataulfus should prefer the remembrance of the dead, to union with the living, lover, and was full of wrath against her confidential servants, to whose hostility he attributed her coldness.

At length the fortress surrendered. The year 417 was distinguished by the eleventh consulship of Honorius and the second of Constantius. On the day when the new consuls entered office, the Emperor took his sister by the hand and delivered her over to his colleague as a bride. The wedding festival, celebrated probably at Ravenna, was of unusual magnificence. It may have been a point of honour with the Roman general to eclipse the splendour of the far-renowned marriage-feast at Narbonne in the house of Ingenuus. Two children were the issue of this marriage niamage, first, a girl, named after her Imperial uncle, Honoria, and then (in the year 419), a boy, who, in remembrance of his great-grandfather, the sturdy soldier-emperor, received the name of Valentinian. For this son Placidia obtained from her brother the title Nobilissimus, a sort of recognition of his presumptive heirship to the Empire.

The same year, 417, which witnessed Placidia’s second wedding-feast, witnessed also the final degradation of the unfortunate child of Genius, who so gracefully led the revels at her first—the ex-Emperor Attalus. It is said that this poor piece of jetsam and flotsam had once more mounted to the top of the waves, and had been again proclaimed Emperor in Gaul in the year 414.

If so, he was soon again deposed, and as bearing theempty simulacrum of empire, was carried by the Goths into Spain. There he wandered, miserable and aimless, till he could endure his life no longer, and took ship to sail any whither away from his barbarian protectors. He was captured at sea by the ships of Honorius, brought to Constantius, and by him sent to Rome to await the Emperor’s pleasure.

This capture of an old antagonist, and some successes obtained in Spain by King Walia, fighting as the Emperors lieutenant, against the Vandals and other barbarous tribes, suggested and seemed to justify the idea of a triumph at Rome. It was not much for which to stand in the triumphal car, and to ascend the Clivus Capitolinus; but it was as much of a pretext as was likely to be found in the lifetime of Honorius.

The outward appearance of the city was doubtless much improved since the three sieges by Alaric. Shortly before this time, the Prefect, Albinus, had reported to the Emperor that the largesse of victuals to the people must be greatly increased, since the population was rapidly augmenting, and as many as 14,000 had passed in through the gates in one day. The largesse may explain part of the influx of population, and the narrative may show not so much the recovery of Rome as the more profound exhaustion of Italy. Still it seems probable that the city was not mud changed in outward seeming from the days when real triumphs were exhibited within its walls, and that a crowd of curious and not discontented citizens ‘climbed up’ as of old ‘to walls and battlements, to see ’ Hono-rius ‘pass the streets of Rome.’

All that we hear concerning the pageant is that the Emperor, having ascended the tribunal, ordered Attalus to come to the lowest step of it; and, after his old rival had humbled himself in the dust before him, he (reminding that rival doubtless of his own similar menaces when Alaric stood before Ravenna) ordered the thumb and forefinger of his right hand to be cut off, and then despatched him to one of the Lipari islands, where, as one of the annalists epigrammatically expresses it, he was ‘left to life’.

Four comparatively uneventful years followed the marriage of Constantius and Placidia. Then, with the reluctant assent of Honorius, his brother-in-law was associated with him on the Imperial throne, and his sister took the title of Augusta.

The tidings of this addition to the Imperial partnership were not welcomed at Constantinople, where the young Theodosius, or rather his sister Pulcheria, who administered the government in his name, refused to recognise the new Emperor or to receive his statues, which, according to the etiquette of the period, were sent for erection in Constantinople.

Great was the wrath which this refusal kindled at Ravenna, and the long-smouldering jealousy between the two courts seemed likely to break forth into a flame of discord. And yet in a short time no one perceived more clearly than Constantius himself his unfitness for the position of dignified nothingness to which he had been raised, and no one more heartily regretted that elevation. The jovial, active soldier could no longer come and go as he pleased, no longer vie with the comic actors in provoking the laughter of the banqueters: every step which he took in the purple buskins of royalty was prescribed by the tedious court ceremonial invented by Diocletian, and perfected by the eunuchs of an earlier Constantius. His health began to give way, and, like many men of high animal spirits, he fell an easy prey to nervous depression. One night, six months after he had begun to reign, a figure appeared to him in a dream, and uttered the words, apparently innocent, but, to his ear, full of evil omen: ‘Six are finished : the seventh is begun.’ He was shortly afterwards attacked by pleurisy, and justified the dream and the interpretation thereof by dying before the end of his seventh month of royalty.

Rarely has the world had so frank a confession of the unjoyousness of a kingly life as it received from this clumsy, roystering, and yet not altogether odious husband of Placidia.

Not long before his death a transaction was proposed, which reminds us of the Roman senate’s dealings with the Etruscan soothsayers during Alaric’s siege. A certain Libanius, a mighty magician, sprung from Asia, appeared in Ravenna, and promised, with the Emperor’s leave, to perform great marvels against the barbarians, entirely by means of his art-magic, and without the aid of any soldiers. Constantius gave his consent to the meditated experiment, but Placidia, a fervent Christian always, and not too fondly attached to her second husband, sent him word that if he permitted that faithless enchanter to live she would apply for a divorce. Upon this Libanius was killed.

After her second widowhood Placidia was for a time the object of extravagant and foolish fondness on the part of her brother, whose uncouth kisses, frequently bestowed upon her in public, moved the laughter of the people. Then his fatuous mind wavered round from fondness to mistrust and from mistrust to aversion. He was jealous of her nurse, her waiting-woman, her grand chamberlain; the jealousy of the masters reflected itself in the squabbles of the domestics: the Gothic followers of Placidia, the veterans who had served under the standard of Constantius often came to blows with the Imperial soldiers in the streets of Ravenna, and wounds were inflicted, if no lives were lost.

At length the quarrel became so embittered that Placidia, finding herself the weaker of the combatants, withdrew with her two children to the court of her nephew Theodosius II at Constantinople.

Soon after, on the 26th of August of the same year (423), Honorius died of dropsy—his feeble mind and body having no doubt been shaken by these domestic storms—and his poultry and his people passed under other masters. The child ‘more august than Jove,’ whose birth and whose destinies Claudian had depicted in such glowing colours, died at the age of thirty-nine, having been by his weakness the cause of greater changes than are often accomplished by the strength of mighty heroes.             

On the death of Honorius some obscure palace intrigue raised Joannes, the chief of the Notaries, to the vacant throne. The office of the Primicerius Notariorum, though useful to the state, was not one which put the holder of it in the foremost rank of the official hierarchy. He could only claim to be addressed as Spectabilis, not as Illustris, and his chief duty seems to have been the editing of that very Notitia Imperii which has been so often quoted in these pages.

It is not easy for us to understand why a comparatively obscure member of the Civil Service should have been permitted to array himself with the still coveted Imperial purple, until we ascertain that Castinus, who was then master of the soldiery, and who the following year shared the honours of the Consulship, supported the pretensions of Joannes to the diadem, intending doubtless to enjoy the substance of power himself while leaving its shadow and its dangers to his creature.

At the inauguration of Joannes an event occurred which showed the influence still exerted over the minds of the people by the omen of the voice. While the officers of the court were proclaiming the style and titles of Dominus Noster Joannes Pius Felix Augustus, a cry, by whom uttered none could tell, was suddenly heard. ‘He falls, he falls, he does not stand.’ The multitude, as if desiring to break the spell, shouted with one accord, ‘He stands, he stands, he does not fall’; but the ill-omened words were none the less remembered.

It was not to be expected that the family of the great Theodosius, having still the resources of the Eastern Empire at their disposal, would tamely acquiesce in the assumption of the Western diadem by a clerk in the Government Offices. The only questionwas whether Theodosius II would interfere for her cousin or for himself. He chose the former and the more generous course, confirmed Placidia in her title of Augusta, and Valentinian in that of Nobilissimus (titles which on account of the quarrel with Constantius had not previously been recognised at Constantinople), and equipped an army to escort them to the palace at Ravenna (A.D. 424). He himself accompanied them as far as Thessalonica, but was prevented by sickness from further prosecution of the journey. However, he caused his young kinsman to be arrayed in the Imperial robes, and conferred upon him the secondary title of Caesar.

Ardaburius, the general of horse and foot, and his son Aspar, whose names betoken their barbarian origin, were entrusted with the chief conduct of the expedition. Candidianus also, he who, ten yean before, had so zealously promoted the marriage of Ataulfus and Placidia, was now entrusted with a high command in her service.

Ardaburius, after some successes in Dalmatia, set sail for Aquileia. An unfavourable wind carried him to a different part of the coast: he was separated from his followers, and taken in chains to Ravenna. Feigning treachery to the cause of his Imperial mistress, he received from Joannes the gift of his life, and was kept in such slight durance that he was able to sowthe seeds of real treachery among the generals and courtiers of the usurper.

Aspar, however, was deeply distressed and terrified for his father’s life, and Placidia feared that her cause was hopeless; but the brilliant victories of Candidianus, who captured many towns in North Italy, revived their drooping spirits.

What follows is related by the contemporary ecclesiastical historian Socrates, and the compiler feels himself therefore in some sort bound to insert it for the reader to deal with as he thinks fit.

‘The capture of Ardaburius made the usurper more sanguine in his hope that Theodosius would be induced, by the urgency of the case, to proclaim him Emperor, in order to preserve the life of this officer. But at this crisis the prayer of the pious Emperor again prevailed. For an angel of God, under the appearance of a shepherd, undertook the guidance of Aspar and his troops, and led them through the lake near Ravenna. Now, no one had ever been known to ford that lake before: but God then rendered that passable which had hitherto been impassable. Having therefore crossed the lake, as if going over dry ground, they found the gates of the city open, and seized the tyrant.’

Philostorgius, who was a contemporary historian in a stricter sense than Socrates, being a middle-aged man when these events occurred, attributes the defeat of Joannes to the treachery of his followers, who had been tampered with by Ardaburius; and he knows nothing of the angelic shepherd.

Joannes was thus deposed after a reign of about eighteen months. He was led a prisoner to Aquileia, where Placidia and her son were abiding. In the hippodrome of that city his right hand was cut oft. He was then sent in derisive triumph round the town riding upon an ass, and, after many similar insults had been heaped upon him by the soldiery, the Notary-Emperor was put to death.

Placidia with the Caesar her son entered Ravenna, which was given up to sack by the soldiers of Aspar to punish the inhabitants for their sympathy with the usurpation of Joannes.

Ardaburius was of course liberated. Helion, the master of the offices, and patrician, escorted the little Valentinian, now seven years old, to Rome, and there, amidst an immense concourse of citizens, arrayed him with the purple of empire, and saluted him as Augustus

The tidings of all these prosperous events reached Constantinople while Theodosius and his people were watching the sports of the hippodrome. ‘That most devout Emperor’ called upon the people to come with him to the Basilica, and offer thanks to God for the overthrow of the tyrant. They marched through the streets singing loud hymns of praise, and the whole city became, as it were, one congregation at the Basilica, nor ceased from their religious exercises till daylight faded.


NOTE. Usurpers in the Western Empire during the reign oF Honorius.


Orosius remarks that the fall of all the five usurpers by whom Honorius was attacked was a manifest proof of Divine favour, and a reward for his zeal in persecuting the heretics who disturbed the unity of the African Church. It may be convenient to have a short summary of these obscure and complicated transactions. The five tyrants were :—

(1) Constantine, proclaimed Emperor in Britain in 407; conquered Gaul in that year, Spain in 408 (death of Didymus and Verenianus); defeated by Gerontius in 411; taken prisoner by Constantius at Arles, and slain in the neighbourhood of Ravenna in the same year.

(2) Maximus, proclaimed Emperor in Spain by his patron Gerontius (rebelling against Constantine) in 409. In the year 411 Gerontius took to flight on hearing of the approach of the victorius Constantius. His soldiers mutinied, and he committed suicide as related in the text. Maximus, hearing the news, escaped to the barbarian auxiliaries in Spain. In the year 417, when Orosius wrote, he was still wandering about in Spain a needy exile. He is said, but on the rather doubtful authority of Marcellinus, to have been brought to Ravenna and executed in the year 422.

(3) Attalus, proclaimed at Rome by Alaric in 409. Dethroned the same year; restored (possibly) in 414; surrendered to Honorius in 416; punished by the loss of a hand, but not slain.

(4) Jovinus, a general of troops on the Rhine, proclaimed at Mayence in 412 by Goar, a chief of the Alans, and Guntiar, a chief of the Burgundians. He associated his brother Sebastian with him. Ataulfus slew Sebastian and sent Jovinus a prisoner to Ravenna in 413.

(5) Heraclianus, Count of Africa, proclaimed Emperor, invaded Italy, was defeated, fled to Carthage, and was put to death, all in the same year, 413