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Chapter VI.—Alaric the Goth. He assaulted Rome, and straitened it by War.

Thus was the Eastern Empire preserved from the evils of war,16291629    Independent; cf. Olymp. Fragm. 3–10; Zos. v. 37–40; Soc. vii. 10. and governed with high order, contrary to all expectations, for its ruler was still young. In the meantime, the Western Empire fell a prey to disorders, because many tyrants arose. After the death of Stilicho, Alaric, the leader of the Goths, sent an embassy to Honorius to treat of peace; but without avail. He advanced to Rome, and laid siege to it; and by posting a large army of barbarians on the banks of the Tiber, he effectually prevented the transmission of all provisions into the city from Portus. After the siege had lasted some time, and fearful ravages had been made in the city by famine and pestilence, many of the slaves, and most of the barbarians by race within the walls, deserted to Alaric. Those among the senators who still adhered to pagan superstition, proposed to offer sacrifices in the Capitol and the other temples; and certain Tuscans, who were summoned by the prefect of the city, promised to drive out the barbarians with thunder and lightning; they boasted of having performed a similar exploit at Larnia, a city of Tuscany, which Alaric had passed by for Rome, and had not taken. The event, however, proved that no advantage could be derived from these persons for the city. All persons of good sense were aware that the calamities which this siege entailed upon the Romans were indications of Divine wrath sent to chastise them for their luxury, their debauch423ery, and their manifold acts of injustice towards each other, as well as towards strangers. It is said that, when Alaric was marching against Rome, a good monk of Italy besought him to spare the city, and not to become the author of so many calamities. Alaric, in reply, assured him that he did not feel disposed to commence the siege, but that some resistless influence compelled and commanded him to go against Rome; and this he eventually did. While he was besieging the city, the inhabitants presented many gifts to him, and for some time he raised the siege, when the Romans agreed to persuade the emperor to enter into a treaty of peace with him.


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