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The Visigoths

The Visigoths, also known as the Goths, were a barbaric tribe. Living on the delta of the Danube River, their kingdom was inherited by Alaric I. They were pushed west by attacks from the Huns.

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In 382, Theodosius, Roman ruler at the time, under a treaty made the Visigoths the first independent barbarian nation within the Roman Empire. Visigoths allied with Rome in 394, and Alaric I led the Visigoths in the Roman army against the Huns. Theodosius, before his death, spilt the empire between his sons Honorius and Acradius. The empire was now permanently split into eastern and western empires. In 395, when Theodosius died, the Visigoths relinquished their allegiance with Rome.

In 401, Alaric decided to invade Italy, but was defeated by the Roman general Flavius Stilicho, and the Visigoths were forced to withdraw from Italy. Alaric's huge loss did not prevent him from attacking again, as he did. The second invasion also ended in defeat, but this time Alaric constrained the Senate at Rome to pay a large endowment to the Visigoths. An anti-barbarian party took over Rome after Stilicho's death and ordered that wives and children of the tribesmen who served in the Roman army be killed. The tribal soldiers then returned to serve under Alaric, increasing his military strength. Even though Alaric was eager for peace, the western emperor Honorius, refused to recognize Alaric's needs for supplies and land. This led Alaric to attack Rome once more and the Senate ended up paying an endowment to Alaric and granted Alaric the right to go and negotiate with Honorius. Honorius, close-minded, paid no attention to what Alaric wanted and refused to set up a meeting for the negotiations to take place. In 409, Alaric surrounded Rome. Honorius lifted his blockade and appointed Attalus as western emperor. Alaric soon deposed Attalus and besieged Rome for the third time. Allies that were in the city opened the gates for Alaric and for three days his troops occupied Rome. While in Rome Alaric and his troops took everything with them and burned things that were in their way. Soon after this Alaric died and the Visigoths moved northward towards Spain. After Alaric's death the Visigoths roamed and were vulnerable to attacks.


Bury, J. B. History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius to the Death of Justinian (Dover Publications, Inc., 1958).

Duggan, Christopher, A Concise History of Italy (Cambridge University Press., 1994).

Grant, Michael, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Macmillan Publishing Company,1914).

Randers-Pherson, Justine Davis, Barbarians and Romans (Justine Davis Randers-Pherson Publishing, 1983).

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