Visigoths Sack of Rome
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - Ancient Wars
The Sack of Rome happened in 410 and should not be confused by two later episodes of war using the same name.
On the 24th august in the year 410, as the Roman Empire waned in strength the Visigoths attacked Rome. This move can be seen as one of the last of a long line of manoeuvres that signalled the end of the behemoth Roman Empire.
Many do not know of this invasion into the heart of the Roman Empire, but for those who lived through it this must have been a terrifying ordeal.
Prior to the Visigoths Sack of Rome
In the late fourth century the Barbarian hordes, later to be known as the Visigoths, moved into the Eastern Roman Empire after being pushed to the Eastern regions by the Huns.
The Visigoths were a Germanic tribe who, like many Germanic tribes, made up part of the great migration into the Roman Empire. Many attribute this move to the Huns who came from present day Russia and conquered much of northern Europe.
At first the Visigoths became Romanized in their new home, but this changed over time as they found themselves suffering prejudice, inflated taxes and corruption. In the end the Visigoths revolted and started causing troubles in the Eastern Roman Empire and defeated the Eastern Roman Emperor in battle, this caused the Romans to succeed the region of Thrace to the Visigoths.
From 395 the Visigoths were under the rule of Alaric I and by the turn of the year 408 the Visigoths moved westward and invaded Italy, this accumulated in the siege of Rome starting in the same year.
Visigoths Sack of Rome
In 408 the first siege of Rome started as the Visigoths besieged the city. This first siege was a resounding victory to the Visigoths as disease and starvation swept through the city, this victory did not come in taking the city however.
The senate of Rome actually persuaded Alaric I to stop the siege by paying him in Gold, Silver and other expensive items.
The senate of Rome then sent envoys to the Emperor under the guise of making a deal with Alaric and the Visigoths. After some debate the Emperor not only disagreed with what Alaric wanted, he even went further by insulting him through a written letter.
While this was going on the Emperor sent some forces in the support of Rome, Alaric and the Visigoths managed to block this move and then besieged the city for a second time.
Due to this second siege the senate of Rome again backed down and appointed a new Emperor who grated Alaric what he wanted, this included lands for the Visigoths and Alaric the title of Magister Utriusque Militium.
To support the new Emperor Alaric marched with his men to depose the old Emperor Honorius. They both started engaging in agreements to stop this from happening but half way through the discussions the Visigoths were attacked by a group of Goths loyal to Honorius.
In response to this move which angered Alaric, the Visigoths marched back to Rome and lay siege for a third time. This was on the 24th august in the year 410. This time the gates were opened by slaves and the Visigoths went in a looted the city, damaging buildings and ransacking the tombs of previous Emperors.
Rome had not been sacked in 800 years but the Visigoths managed to sack the city before continuing their rampage to further south in Italy.
This Visigoth victory came at a huge price with the Visigoths losing 17,000 casualties and losses out of their 39,000 men while the Romans had 15,000 casualties and losses out of 18,000 men.