Europe 408: Alaric’s First Siege of Rome

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 03 Dec 408 (Theodosian Dynasty: Alaric’s First Siege of Rome), showing the following events: Reign of Theodosius II; Fall of Castra Martis; Constans II vs Didymus and Verininaus; Mutiny at Ticinum; Death of Stilicho; Massacre of the Gothic Families; Alaric’s First Siege of Rome.

In August 408 the Western Roman government executed Stilicho and turned on his Gothic foederati, encouraging many of them to join Alaric. With 30,000 troops now under his command and the emperor Honorius refusing to compensate him for his services, Alaric marched into Italy and besieged Rome, only withdrawing when the citizens of the city itself agreed to pay him.

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Akatziri and the “Scythian Kingdom” (Kuban Huns)

Little is known about the region north and east of the Black Sea in the first half of the fifth century, except that in c. 400 a “Scythian King” (almost always assumed to be a Hun) lived in the Kuban region and by the 440s a Hunnic people known as the Akatziri lived east of the Dniester. Although fragmented, the Akatziri were powerful enough that, when the Eastern Romans aligned with all but one of their kingdoms in 447, it took over a year for Attila’s armies to crush them and install his son as their king. After this, Attila contemplated invading Persia, implying that suppressing the Akatziri had bought the periphery of his empire close to the Caucasus. All this suggests that the Akatziri may have extended into the North Caucasus and that the “Scythian King” may have been part of the Akatziri, although this is of course conjecture.

Main Events

1 May 408–28 Jul 450 Reign of Theodosius II

In May 408, upon the death of his father Arcadius, the six-year-old Theodosius II—co-augustus since the age of nine months—became sole ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. Despite being dominated by his advisors until at least adulthood and presiding over the outbreak of the Christological controversies of Nestorianism and Eutychianism, Theodosius oversaw a period of consolidation in the Empire, in which the Thedosian Walls of Constantinople were constructed, the Theodosian law code was promulgated, and the University of Constantinople was founded. During his last decade, however, he was embroiled with wars with the Vandals, Persians, and Huns. He died in 450, at the age of 49, after a riding accident. in wikipedia

? ?? 408–23 Mar 409 Fall of Castra Martis

Taking advantage of the Eastern Roman deployment of troops from the Balkans to the Persian frontier, the Hunnic king Uldin led a large force of Huns and Sciri across the Danube to invade the dioceses of Thraciae and Dacia in early 408. After capturing the major fortress of Castra Martis by treachery, Uldin rebuffed Roman peace offers by pointing at the sun and declaring that he could easily subjugate every region of the earth under its light. However, while talks were underway, the Romans bribed many of the invaders into defecting and by March 409 had chased Uldin and his remaining Huns back across the Danube. in wikipedia

408 Constans II vs Didymus and Verininaus

In the summer of 408 the Western usurper Constantine III sent his eldest son Constans—elevated from a monk to Caesar—to across the Pyrenees to retake Hispaniae from the Honorian loyalist brothers Didymus and Verinianus. Although Constans quickly established his rule over most of the diocese, Didymus and Verinianus rallied, assembled an army of loyalists, armed peasants, and slaves, and defeated him in Lusitania. However, Constans was soon reinforced and in a second encounter defeated the brothers, who were then sent to his father in Gaul and executed. in wikipedia

13 Aug 408 Mutiny at Ticinum

Following the death of the Eastern emperor Arcadius in May 408, rumors soon began circulating in the West that the Western generalissimo Stilicho intended to replace Arcadius’ young son and successor Theodosius II with his own son Eucherius. That August, when the Western emperor Honorius arrived in Ticinum to inspect the army before its planned campaign against the usurper Constantine III, Olympius, one of the emperor’s officials, used the allegations to incite the troops into mutiny. Rioting, they killed all of Stilicho’s major officers in the area, including the magister militum of Gaul and the praetorian prefect of Gaul, but did not harm the emperor himself. in wikipedia

22 Aug 408 Death of Stilicho

Stilicho was at Bononia when he learned of the mutiny at Ticinum and, upon learning that the emperor Honorius was safe and headed for Ravenna, decided to travel there to meet him. Outside Ravenna, Stilicho—already faced with dissent among his own generals—discovered that Honorius had ordered his arrest as a public enemy and hastily took refuge in a church. However, after being promised that he would not be killed, he allowed soldiers to take him out of the church into custody, whereupon he was denounced for treason. Despite still being surrounded by many of his followers, Stilicho refused their offers to rescue him and submitted to decapitation, bringing an end to his 13-year primacy in the West. in wikipedia

Aug–Sep 408 Massacre of the Gothic Families

Hearing of the death of Stilicho (22 August 408), the Roman soldiers in Italy turned on the women and children of the Gothic and barbarian foederati living in the cities, killing them all and taking their possessions. When this massacre of their families became known to the foederati, they deserted the Roman army en masse and joined Alaric’s forces, swelling his numbers to 30,000 men. in wikipedia

Nov–Dec 408 Alaric’s First Siege of Rome

Following the death of Stilicho, Alaric asked the Western emperor Honorius for the payments he had been promised as well as a new exchange of hostages, but was rebuffed. Enraged, the Gothic king marched into Italy and, bypassing the secure imperial residence of Ravenna, besieged Rome in the winter of 408/409. Reduced to starvation, the Romans eventually capitulated, agreeing to provide Alaric with 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, and other valuables in return for the Gothic withdrawal. in wikipedia