29 Facts About Alaric I


Alaric I was the first king of the Visigoths, from 395 to 410.

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Alaric I rose to leadership of the Goths who came to occupy Moesia—territory acquired a couple of decades earlier by a combined force of Goths and Alans after the Battle of Adrianople.

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Alaric I began his career under the Gothic soldier Gainas and later joined the Roman army.

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Once an ally of Rome under the Roman emperor Theodosius, Alaric I helped defeat the Franks and other allies of a would-be Roman usurper.

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Alaric I is responsible for the sack of Rome in 410, one of several notable events in the Western Roman Empire's eventual decline.

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Alaric I was probably a child during this period who grew up along Rome's periphery.

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For several subsequent decades, many Goths like Alaric I were "called up into regular units of the eastern field army" while others served as auxiliaries in campaigns led by Theodosius against the western usurpers Magnus Maximus and Eugenius.

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Alaric I began his military career under the Gothic soldier Gainas, and later joined the Roman army.

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Alaric I first appeared as leader of a mixed band of Goths and allied peoples, who invaded Thrace in 391 but were stopped by the half-Vandal Roman General Stilicho.

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Alaric I was among the few who survived the protracted and bloody affair.

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Whether or not Alaric I was a member of an ancient Germanic royal clan—as claimed by Jordanes and debated by historians—is less important than his emergence as a leader, the first of his kind since Fritigern.

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Alaric I needed Roman authority in order to be supplied by Roman cities.

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Alaric I took his Gothic army on what Stilicho's propagandist Claudian described as a "pillaging campaign" that began first in the East.

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Alaric I's forces made their way down to Athens and along the coast, where he sought to force a new peace upon the Romans.

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Alaric I's people were relatively quiet for the next couple of years.

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Between 404 and 405, Alaric I remained in one of the four Pannonian provinces, from where he could "play East off against West while potentially threatening both".

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Meanwhile, Alaric I—bestowed with codicils of magister militum by Stilicho and now supplied by the West—awaited for one side or the other to incite him to action as Stilicho faced further difficulties from more barbarians.

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The Roman Senate loathed the idea of supporting Alaric I; Zosimus observed that one senator famously declaimed Non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis .

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Twice Stilicho had allowed Alaric I to escape his grasp, and Radagaisus had advanced all the way to the outskirts of Florence.

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Alaric I again offered to move his men, this time to Pannonia, in exchange for a modest sum of money and the modest title of Comes, but he was refused because Olympius's regime regarded him as a supporter of Stilicho.

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When this title was not bestowed onto Alaric I, he proceeded to not only "besiege Rome again in late 409, but to proclaim a leading senator, Priscus Attalus, as a rival emperor, from whom Alaric I then received the appointment" he desired.

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Now that Honorius no longer felt the need to negotiate, Alaric I deposed Attalus, perhaps to re-open negotiations with Ravenna.

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When liturgical vessels were taken from the basilica of St Peter and Alaric I heard of this, he ordered them returned and had them ceremoniously restored in the church.

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Alaric I might seize what he wanted, as he had seized Rome, but he would never be given it by right.

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Still, the importance of Alaric I cannot be "overestimated" according to Halsall, since he had desired and obtained a Roman command even though he was a barbarian; his real misfortune was being caught between the rivalry of the Eastern and Western empires and their court intrigue.

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Alaric I was succeeded in the command of the Gothic army by his brother-in-law, Ataulf, who married Honorius' sister Galla Placidia three years later.

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Alaric I's Goths remained together inside the empire, going on to settle in Gaul.

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Not long after Alaric I's exploits in Rome and Athaulf's settlement in Aquitaine, there is a "rapid emergence of Germanic barbarian groups in the West" who begin controlling many western provinces.

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Chief authorities on the career of Alaric I are: the historian Orosius and the poet Claudian, both contemporary, neither disinterested; Zosimus, a historian who lived probably about half a century after Alaric I's death; and Jordanes, a Goth who wrote the history of his nation in 551, basing his work on Cassiodorus's Gothic History.

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