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The Lovers of Placidia
We still derive a little light from Orosius, whose polemical history ends with the restoration of Placidia in 417.
But our chief authority is Olympiodorus, a contemporary, but known to us only at second hand by the abstract of his work contained in the 'Library' of Photius ('Olympiodorus apud Photium' is the usual form of quotation).
Photius is the celebrated litterateur-bishop, whose elevation to the see of Constantinople in the middle of the ninth century, followed by the appeal of his deposed rival Ignatius to Pope Nicholas I, was one of the chief causes of the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. The history of his stormy life may be read in Milman's Latin Christianity (Book V, chap. 4), or in Finlay's Byzantine Empire (Book I, chap. 3). With all his many faults he was an earnest scholar, and, whatever injury he may have inflicted on the Church, his services to literature are unquestionable. Sent on an embassy to the Court of Bagdad, he employed his leisure hours in writing for his absent brother Tarasius, an abstract of all the books, 279 in number, which he had been reading since they parted. As many of these books have utterly perished, the value of this abstract, called the Myrobiblion or Bibliotheca, is obviously very great. Among other subjects, the religious controversies of the fourth century and the barbarian invasions of the fifth seem to have engaged the learned patriarch's special attention; and hence it is that we have not only a valuable abstract of the Arian historian Philostorgius (quoted in previous chapters), but also one of Olympiodorus.
This author was a native of the Egyptian Thebes. He was p818 by profession a poet, and by religion a Greek, that is, a worshipper of the old Olympian gods. It is singular that Egypt should have given us two such valuable guides to the history of the West as Claudian and Olympiodorus. He composed his history probably under the reign of Valentinian III: what is certain is, that beginning with the year 407 it closed with the accession of that prince in 425. It consisted of twenty‑two books, which are represented in the Abstract of Photius by not quite so many pages. Photius says that 'the style of the book is poor, and that there is a tendency to vulgarity in it, so that it can hardly be called a regular history, and that he seems to have felt this himself, for he calls it only "Materials for History," though on the other hand he adopts the conventional division into books, and endeavours to adorn it with a dedication to Theodosius.'
It may be permitted to us to conjecture that, as was natural enough for an Egypto-Greek historian, he took Herodotus for his model. Certainly his long digressions about the Egyptian oases, his complaints about the hardships of his voyages, his valuable though ludicrous account of the schools of philosophy at Athens, and his anecdotes about a favourite parrot which danced and sang and called people by their names, remind one more of the garrulous old man of Thurii than of any intervening historian. But be it dignified or undignified, would that we had still the twenty‑two books of his history.
My quotations of Olympiodorus are generally made from the fourth volume of Müller's 'Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum.'
It has seemed necessary to relate with almost tedious minuteness the marches and counter-marches, the intrigues, the negotiations, and the plunderings which preceded or accompanied the Gothic sack of Rome.
Other sieges and pillages of the Eternal City lie before us, but we shall not find it necessary to bestow on all the same close attention which has been claimed for the first. Now that the secret of Rome's weakness is disclosed, many a nomadic horde wandering over the Scythian steppes has heard the strange exciting history, p819 and will not rest till it, too, has stood victorious on the Capitolian Hill. But we hear and we tell the adventures of Columbus, and of his fellow mariners, who could say
'We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea,'
with an interest which we do not accord to the journal of a modern passenger traversing the same waters with all the appliances and all the luxuries of our modern civilisation; and uninteresting as the latter class of travellers do some of the more recent ravagers of Rome appear, on their commonplace and easily accomplished errand of destruction.
Not yet however for another generation is the example of Alaric to be followed. 410‑452 Forty‑two years of something like repose for Italy have first to elapse. In journeying over this long piece of level ground we shall find our attention chiefly attracted by the story of the sister of Honorius and the sister-in‑law of Alaric, the Queen of the Goths and the Augusta of the Romans, the lady Galla Placidia.
Birth and parentage of Galla Placidia. The second marriage of Theodosius, as the reader has already been told, was a somewhat romantic affair, springing out of the murder of Valentinian II and the flight of his mother and sisters to Constantinople. The issue of that marriage, his daughter Galla Placidia, was thus the representative of two Imperial houses, the granddaughter of the warrior Valentinian, the daughter of the warrior Theodosius. She was born probably about the year 390,1 and can have remembered little p820 either of father or mother, the Empress Galla having died before she was four years old, and Theodosius having departed immediately after for his last campaign in the West. As she inherited one of her names from her mother, so she seems to have been the only member of the family who inherited anything of the vigour and capacity of her father, character, as is so often the case, not being transmitted according to sex.
Her residence at Rome during the Gothic invasion. For some reason unknown to us,2 she did not follow her brother's court to the safe shelter of Ravenna, but remained in Rome at the time of the Gothic invasion. It is with sorrow that we find her at the time of the first siege assenting to the judicial murder of Serena, as decreed by the Senate.3 We can well believe that the p821 wife of Stilicho had been a hard duenna towards her young kinswoman: and a few words of Claudian suggest the possibility that the suit of her son Eucherius for the hand of his cousin may have been too importunately pressed: still, the sanction which this young maiden of eighteen is said to have given to the death of one so unfortunate and so unjustly slain as Serena must remain as a stain upon her memory.
Placidia taken prisoner by the Gothic army. After one of the three sieges of Rome, probably the second, Placidia was taken captive by the barbarians: and though treated with all the courtesy and deference due to a lady of royal birth, was nevertheless distinctly spoken of as a hostage, obliged apparently to move as the army moved, and used as a lever to bring the endless peace-negotiations with the Court at Ravenna to a satisfactory issue.
Ataulfus becomes philo-Roman. But after the death of Alaric, and when his brother-in‑law Ataulfus4 had been raised upon the shield and proclaimed King of the Visigoths, a change gradually came over these negotiations, and the restitution of the lady Placidia was less and less willingly offered by the barbarians. There was a change in the mind of Ataulfus, who was beginning to wish to be the champion rather than the enemy of Rome.
'When I was at Bethlehem,' says his contemporary Orosius, VII.43 'I heard a citizen of Narbonne, who had served with distinction under Theodosius, and who was besides a p822 wise and religious person, tell the most blessed Jerome that he had been on terms of the greatest intimacy with Ataulfus at Narbonne, and that he had frequently heard him say that, in the first exuberance of his strength and spirits, he had made this his most earnest desire — to utterly obliterate the Roman name, and bring under the sway of the Goths all that had once belonged to them — in fact, to turn Romania into Gothia, and to make himself, Ataulfus, all that Caesar Augustus had once been. But when he had learnt, by long experience, that the Goths would obey no laws on account of the unrestrained barbarism of their character, yet that it was wrong to deprive the commonwealth of laws without which it would cease to be a commonwealth, he at least for his part had chosen to have the glory of restoring the Roman name to its old estate, and increasing its potency by Gothic vigour, and he wished to be looked upon by posterity as the great author of the Roman restoration, since he had failed in his attempt to be its transformer.'
Ataulfus and Placidia in love with one another. Such were the plans which, during the years immediately following 410, were passing through the brain of the Gothic chieftain, and at the same time his heart was cherishing day by day more loving thoughts about the fair wise face of his captive Placidia. She appears to have been ready to return his affection; and it is therefore with some surprise that we find a space of four years elapse before the marriage ceremony takes place.
But the marriage is delayed by the influence of the new favourite at Ravenna, Constantius. This delay seems to be chiefly due to the fact that the Visigoth had a powerful rival in the person of the Emperor's new general and adviser, Constantius,5 p823 before whose rising star the influence of Olympius and Jovius successively succumbed.6 He too had set his heart on winning Placidia for his wife, and the effectual services which he rendered to her brother seemed to excuse the pertinacity of his suit. Therefore it was that whenever Goths and Romans met to negotiate a peace, the restitution of Placidia was the point most strongly insisted upon by the ministers of Honorius, most sedulously evaded by the envoys of Ataulfus.
Characteristics of the two rivals. By a rare piece of good fortune we are favoured with some details as to the outward appearance of the two rivals, and can therefore imagine some of the contending emotions which agitated the heart of Placidia.
Ataulfus, among his tall countrymen, was not distinguished for his stature, but his shapely figure and dignified countenance more than atoned for this deficiency.7
Constantius, on the other hand (an Illyrian by birth, who had served in many campaigns under the great Theodosius), is described8 as having a downcast, sulky look. His broad head was set upon a large neck; his great full eyes were darted with a scowl to right and left of him, so that men said he looked thoroughly like p824 a tyrant:9 and when he rode he rolled forward on the neck of his horse. But this slouching, gloomy tyrant was agreeable enough in his cups. At suppers and banquets he showed himself a pleasant and polite person; nay, so great was his condescension that when the time came for the comic actors to enter and enliven the feast, he would often rise from the table and contend with them for the prize of buffoonery.
We must again interrupt for a time the course of the history of Italy in order to glance at the affairs of Gaul and Spain, in which Constantius played a prominent part. The year 409, which witnessed the elevation and the short-lived glory of Attalus, saw also another anti-Emperor proclaimed in Spain, threatening the throne of the usurper Constantine. There was disaffection and mutiny among the Spanish troops of Constantine, which was connected in some way (whether as cause or effect our authorities will not enable us to say) with the fact that the three barbarian nations, Vandals, Alans, and Suevi, who had once before ineffectually dashed themselves against the barriers of the Pyrenees, 28th Sept., 409. now succeeded in penetrating the mountain-passes, no longer defended by the old national militia, and were soon surging wildly over the fat and fruitful land which since the birth of Christ had scarcely seen a spear thrown in anger.10 Three-quarters of Spain at least were lost p825 to the Empire, and in the remaining quarter usurper and counter-usurper were struggling for supremacy. For Gerontius, the British lieutenant of Constantine, being for some reason superseded in his command, refused to accept his dismissal, and proclaiming one of his dependants,11 a life-guardsman named Maximus, Emperor, in his name waged bitter and on the whole successful war against Constans, the son of his former chief Constantine. In the year 410 he seems to have succeeded in driving Constans out of Spain, and to have followed him into Gaul, intent on overthrowing the new dynasty. Gerontius besieged and took Vienne, probably in the early part of 411, and having put the young Constans to death, turned southward to besiege the strong city of Arles, where Constantine, given over to gluttony and sloth, was dragging out his inglorious reign.
But not for Gerontius was reserved the glory of stripping the purple robe from the base-born usurper. At the same moment, apparently, that he was marching on Arles from the North, Constantius, eager to do some signal service to Honorius and to win by the sword the hand of Placidia, was approaching it from the East. Ere either army had formed the siege the bulk of the army of Gerontius had melted away from his standards and had joined themselves to the host of Constantius. p826 Perhaps, in fighting Constantine, they had persuaded themselves that they were showing their loyalty to Honorius, and did not dare to oppose in arms the representative of the legitimate ruler of the Empire. Perhaps, as Spaniards, they shared that feeling of loyalty to the Theodosian house which had brought Didymus and Verenianus into the field. Whatever the cause, Gerontius, finding himself general of an ever-dwindling army, threw up the game, and stole away into Spain. But the soldiers among whom he came, despising him for what they deemed his cowardly flight, mutinied against him, and took counsel to slay him. They surrounded his house at nightfall, but he, with one faithful henchman, of Alan blood, and a few slaves, mounted to the top of the house and did such execution with their arrows that 300 of the besiegers fell. At length, the arrows were all exhausted; the slaves, under cover of the night, glided away from the house; and Gerontius might easily have done the like. But he would not leave his wife, who for some reason could not share his flight, and his Alan comrade would not leave him. So all three were still remaining on the house top when the day was dawning. The bloodthirsty mutineers gathered round and set fire to the house. Flight was impossible: the only thought of the defenders was how to escape ignominy and torture. At the earnest request of his friend, Gerontius cut off the head of the faithful Alan, then of his wife, a devout Christian, who with prayers and tears besought him thus to preserve her honour. Then he thrice struck himself with his sword, but failing each time to inflict a mortal wound, he drew forth the trustier dagger and stabbed himself to the heart.
p827 Meanwhile, the siege of Arles, though of some length, had upon the whole gone favourably for the cause of legitimacy. After four months the siege seemed likely to be raised by the approach of Edobich, a Frank, in the usurper's service, who had been sent to collect auxiliaries among his barbarous countrymen on the lower Rhine. But by a clever stratagem, Edobich's army was surrounded and defeated: by the ingratitude of an old friend Edobich was slain, and Constantine was forced to recognise that the pleasant years of Empire were over. He took refuge in a church, and there received priest's orders. The people of Arles, on obtaining the assurance of the Imperial clemency both for themselves and their late lord, opened their gates to Constantius. As far as the citizens were concerned, the compact was honourably kept, but not so as to the late Augustus. He was sent, with his son Julian, to the court of Honorius, but messengers met them at the twentieth milestone from Ravenna, bearing the orders of the Emperor, in whose mind the insult offered to his own majesty and the cruel murder of his kinsmen, outweighed the obligations of good faith and the respect due to his general's plighted word. 18th Sept., 411. Constantine and Julian were put to death, and their heads were fixed up outside the gates of Carthage, where those of Maximus and Eugenius, the usurpers of a previous generation, had already for many years been exposed, a ghastly memorial of an anti-Emperor's perils.12
p828 The revolt of Heraclian, governor of Africa. But the lesson which these ghastly trophies were meant to teach was not learned even in Carthage itself. Heraclian, the murderer of Stilicho, whom we have seen valiantly and loyally holding Africa for Honorius, at length (in the year 413) raised the standard of rebellion himself, detained the usual tribute of cornº which should have gone from his province to Rome, and set sail for the coast of Italy with an armament which the terror-stricken citizens believed to be larger than any squadron that had been seen since the days of Xerxes, and to consist of 3700 ships. Something however — perhaps the remains of the old Roman loyalty — lingering near his conscience, made him, who had been so staunch in his defence, falter in his attack. The Count Marinus resisted him with some vigour, and he immediately lost heart and fled, with one ship, to Carthage, where he was at once arrested and put to death.13 So was the death of Stilicho avenged. Constantius asked for the confiscated property of the rebel, and obtained it, the historian says, 'at one asking' — so ductile was the soft nature of Honorius. It amounted to £4600 in gold, and about £92,000 worth of landed estate: much less than Constantius had reckoned on receiving, but sufficient to enable him to celebrate his consulship (in the year 414) with becoming splendour.
The Visigoths march from Italy into Gaul. 412 We return to Ataulfus and his Visigoths. Two p829 years after the sack of Rome they quitted Italy, never again to come back through the Alpine passes. The reason of their departure is not made clear to us. It may be that Gaul, whither they at first directed their steps, seemed a fairer prize than the much-ravaged plains of Italy: it may be that the desire of conserving instead of destroying 'Romania' induced the Gothic chieftain to withdraw from a land, the security of which was essential to the recovery of the prestige of Rome: it may be that the departure of the barbarians from the near neighbourhood of Ravenna was meant to soothe the Roman Emperor into giving that consent to the marriage with Placidia which threats had been unable to extort.
Ataulfus supports the usurper Jovinus. But strangely enough, if this was the aim of Ataulfus, he next appears as supporting the cause of Jovinus, one of the many usurpers of the Empire, who, relying on the aid of the Tartar Alans and the Teutonic Burgundians, had lately raised the standard of revolt at Mentz. That pitiable shadow of an Emperor, Attalus, who still followed in his train, had counselled Ataulfus to make this inexplicable move. One important result followed from the visit to the camp of Jovinus. The hereditary enemy, or, as the Germans would say, the Erb‑feind,14 of Alaric and his successor, he who was in heart the murderer of Stilicho, Sarus, was coming to the same headquarters of mutiny, disgusted with the ungrateful feebleness of Honorius, who had allowed his faithful servant, Belleridus by name, to be murdered at the Imperial Court without making any inquisition for his blood.
Sarus taken and killed by Ataulfus. Unawares, the revolter Sarus rushed into the deadly p830 embrace of his enemy. Ataulfus waylaid him with 10,000 men, against whom the eighteen or twenty followers of Sarus fought with useless intrepidity. At length one of this immensely superior force, anxious to take the captive alive to his master, threw a piece of coarse sacking over the head of Sarus, and so brought him helpless, but still living, into the presence of Ataulfus, by whose orders he was slain.
Except this event, little followed from the visit of Ataulfus to the camp of Jovinus. The usurper deeply offended his powerful friend by proclaiming, contrary to that friend's advice, Sebastian, his brother, as his partner in the Imperial dignity.
Jovinus and his surrendered by Ataulfus to Honorius and put to death. 413 With the opening of the year 413, Ataulfus sent an embassy to Ravenna offering to bring in the heads of all the usurpers if 'a just and honourable peace' were concluded. The offer was accepted, oaths were exchanged, and the ambassadors returned. First of all, Sebastian's head was despatched as a present to Honorius; then Jovinus, besieged and taken prisoner, was sent in bonds to Ravenna, and there slain by the Praetorian Prefect with his own hand. The heads of the two brothers were then exposed outside the gate of Carthage, where the two pairs of usurpers had already preceded them.
The courtship of Placidia proceeds slowly. Great services were these which the Visigoth had rendered to the Emperor: still, the cardinal point, the restitution of Placidia, could not be agreed upon. Constantius began to press more eagerly for her return. Ataulfus, to evade this demand, raised his terms, for concessions in land, in money, in corn, yet higher and higher. In the midst of the peace negotiations, he even made a sudden attack upon the town of Marseilles. p831 The general commanding there, Bonifacius, a man who afterwards played a great part in the service of Placidia, repulsed him with great loss, and he scarce escaped with life. Still, however, Ataulfus pushed on his preparations for the marriage; and at last, in the year 414, the year which witnessed the consulship of the other lover, Constantius, Honorius was induced, chiefly by the good offices of a certain general, Candidianus,15 to give his consent to the match.
The wedding at Narbonne. 414 The time was the early part of the month of January; the place where the marriage was solemnised was the city of Narbonne, the capital of Gallia Narbonensis, the chief province of Gaul. Olympiodorus ap. Photium, Fr. 24 (ed. Müller) The house of Ingenuus, one of the principal personages in the city, was given up for the ceremony. Here, in the inner apartment16 which was adorned after the manner usual with wealthy Romans, sat Placidia in the seat of honour, arrayed in royal robes. To her entered Ataulfus, not wearing the furs and carrying the great battle‑axe of the Goths, but dressed in the fine woollen tunic17 which was the appropriate wedding garment of the Romans, and in all other respects costumed like a countryman of the bride. The religious ceremony may probably enough have been performed by Sigesarius the Arian bishop who baptized p832 Attalus, and who seems to have acted as a kind of chaplain to the Visigothic army.
And so the complicated and unsatisfactory negotiations of the last four years were brought to a successful issue. Romans and barbarians were made for the time one people; the captor and captive were fond husband and devoted wife.
The gorgeousness of the wedding presents which the Visigoth gave to his bride was long remembered. Fifty beautiful youths dressed in silken robes (the material for which came not then from Lyons, but across trackless deserts from the far East of Asia) knelt before the bride, whose slaves they were henceforward to remain. Each held in his hands two chargers, one filled with gold, the other with precious, or more properly, priceless, stones. The gold and the jewels were the spoils of Rome, but Placidia must have been more or less than woman if at that moment the thought of the possession of so many lustrous gems did not in some measure efface the remembrance of the woes of 'the daughter of her people.'
Attalus acts as choir-master. After the presentation of the wedding gifts came the singing of wedding songs, in which the aesthetic Attalus, ex‑Praetorian Prefect, ex‑Emperor of Rome, but ever true to his Greek instinct for Art, led the chorus.
Importance of the marriage as prefiguring the union of the Latin and Teutonic peoples. The day ended with loud demonstrations of joy on the part of both the populations whose union was typified by this event. And, in truth, small as was the result which actually followed from this marriage, we can hardly attribute to it too great an importance as symbolical of that amalgamation between the Roman and the Germanic races which was yet to be, though p833 confused and bloody centuries were to elapse before it was finally achieved. Augustus or Tiberius would have as soon accepted a menial slave for a son-in‑law as the German hero Arminius. In the four centuries which have elapsed since those days, 'Gothia' has risen much in the scale of civilisation, and 'Romania' has learned that her very existence may depend on the clemency of these barbarians. And so it comes to pass that the sister of the Roman Augustus and the Thiudans of the Teutonic people are joined with mutual love and reverence in the honourable estate of holy matrimony; the word Barbarian loses half its potency as an epithet of reproach, and Mediaeval History begins to show itself above the horizon.
Birth of Placidia's eldest son, The issue of this marriage was a son, named after his maternal grandfather Theodosius. It might well be thought that high fortunes were in store for this child, that he would one day mount the throne of the Caesars and restore to Rome, by the arms of his father's soldiers, all and more than all that she had lost by the might of one uncle and the weakness of another. But it was not so to be. Ataulfus, though more than ever since this infant's birth, disposed to be friendly towards the Empire, found his overtures for peace persistently declined on account of the predominant influences of Constantius. Nay more: without actual battle he appears to have been, by a kind of blockade of the Gallic coast, forced over the Pyrenees, and obliged to enter Spain where Vandals, Alans, and Sueves, having penetrated before him, left little to be plundered and much toil to be undergone by the latest comers. who dies an infant. Soon after the Visigothic host had entered Spain the infant Theodosius died. His parents made great lamentation p834 over him, and buried him in a silver coffer in a church outside their new capital, Barcelona.a
Ataulfus murdered by his groom. The death of the child was speedily followed by that of the father. Ataulfus had among his servants a Goth named Dobbius (or Dubius),18 whose former master, the chief of some petty tribe, he had conquered and slain. Dobbius was loyal to the memory of his earlier servitude, and watched for an opportunity of revenge. It came one morning when the king, according to his usual custom, was, like many a Teuton since, going the round of his stables and enjoying the sight of his horses feeding. Then, apparently, the treacherous groom came behind him and stabbed him in the back. Dying, for he was not killed on the spot, he was able to whisper his commands to his brother, 'If possible live in friendship with Rome, and restore Placidia to the Emperor.' And with those words surely a spasm of grief shook the frame of the dying warrior as he remembered all the years wasted on windy negotiations. Four years of these and only one of actual possession of his fair p835 young bride. The thought lent a fresh bitterness to death as the soul of Ataulfus went forth whither Alaric had preceded him.
Singeric, successor of Ataulfus, insults Placidia. The successor of Ataulfus was Singeric,19 the brother of Sarus. Seeing the brother of the Erbfeind thus reaping the advantage of Dobbius's crime, we shall probably not be far wrong in supposing that he was an accomplice before the fact. His acts are those of a man determined to pursue the blood-feud to the uttermost. He tore the sons of Ataulfus (children of an earlier marriage than that with Placidia) out of the very arms of Bishop Sigesarius and put them to death. Placidia he durst not slay, but he dared to insult her. Mingled with a crowd of other captives she was forced to walk before his horse out of the gates of Barcelona, and this insulting procession20 was continued till it reached the twelfth milestone from the city. Strange reverse of fortune for the daughter, sister, and grand-daughter of Emperors, humbled thus before an insolent barbarian on the soil of her own ancestral Spain!
He is slain, and Walia succeeds him. But the reaction, if such there was in the Visigothic camp in favour of the family of Sarus, was but for a moment. After a reign of only seven days Singeric was slain, and the brave Walia, a worthy successor, though not, as far as we know, a relative of Alaric and Ataulfus, was raised upon the shield in his stead.
Placidia restored to Honorius and a treaty concluded between the Empire and the Visigoths. Almost the first act of King Walia was to restore p836 Placidia to the Romans. His chamberlain Euplutius was charged to escort her to the foot of the Pyrenees, whither came Constantius with almost regal pomp to receive her. A firm treaty of peace between the two nations was at length concluded, and in return for the surrendered princess the Visigoths received 600,000 measures (nearly 19,000 quarters) of coin. This was possibly the amount of pay which had been stipulated for and wrangled over in the previous negotiations between Ataulfus and Honorius.
Miserable condition of Spain. And in truth the state of Spain, wasted and trodden under foot by four barbarian tribes (Vandals, Alans, Suevi, and Visigoths), as well as by the remaining Roman soldiery, was such that any considerable quantity of coin might well seem a good exchange for a princess. The usual terrible stories of cannibalism are told of this time. In one Spanish town, it is said, a woman who had four children ate them all. As the first and the second and the third disappeared, she pleaded the necessity of affording some sustenance, however dreadful, to the remainder, but when the fourth was eaten this plea availed her no longer, and she was stoned to death by her horrified townsmen. One commercial transaction, long remembered and talked of besides many a barbarian camp-fire, marked this time of famine. Olympiodorus, Fr. 29 (ed. Müller) Some Gothic soldiers bought from some Vandals a trula of wheat for an aureus. As the Trula was only the third part of a pint, and the Aureus was worth about twelve shillings, the bargain did not redound greatly to the profit of the Visigoths, who received from the other nation the contemptuous nickname of Truli. Many a time, as we can well imagine, were the streets of Spanish towns made p837 red with Teuton blood, and the yellow locks of slain barbarians lay thick across the pathway, after the taunting shout Truli, Truli, and some unknown word of answering defiance had greeted the ears of the trembling provincials.
Expectation that the dissensions of the barbarians would rescue the Empire. The thought that Rome would be the gainer by all these dissensions among her invaders is expressed by the barbarians themselves with a plainness which seems most improbable (were we not reading the words of a contemporary) in the following passage of Orosius: —
'Vandals, Alans, and Suevi, all sent embassies to Honorius, at the same time as the Visigothic king Walia, and on the same errand. "Do thou live at peace with all of us," said they, "and accept the hostages of all. We fight with one another, perish with one another, conquer for thee: thy commonwealth will reap immortal gain if both parties among us perish." '
Conclusion of Orosius's history. Orosius upon this remarks,
'Who would believe these things, unless the fact itself persuaded him of it. But so it is, that up to 417 this very time we hear from numerous messengers that wars are being daily waged among the barbarous nations in Spain, and that the bloodshed on both sides is enormous: especially that Walia, the king of the Goths, is earnest in keeping the peace which he has made with us. Wherefore I would for my part concede that the age of Christianity should be abused as much as ever you please, if you can show me anything from the foundation of the world till the present time that has ever been managed with similar success.'
And so, with a few complimentary words to St. Augustine, he ends his history 'of the passions and punishments of men during 5617 years, namely, from p838 the creation of the world till the present day.' Here we part company with the worthy ecclesiastic, not entirely convinced that the then condition of the Roman Empire was the most fortunate thing that the world had ever seen, nor regretting that the truth of the Christian Revelation rests upon some arguments besides those alleged in the Seven Books of the Histories of Orosius.
We part company from the Visigoths. Here also our path diverges from that of the Visigothic nation. In order to trace the fortunes of Placidia, the type of the alliance between Rome and the barbarians, we have followed the Visigoths over the Alps and the Pyrenees. It is now time to return within the frontier of Italy. But having accompanied their waggons so long, we may in parting from them give a brief glance at their future history. Their subsequent career. The successors of Alaric will establish a powerful and well-ordered kingdom on both sides of the Pyrenees, the capital of which will be the city of Toulouse, its northern frontier the River Loire, and its southern the Mediterranean and Atlantic. They will take a leading part in repelling the invasion of the Huns. Towards the close of the fifth century the fairest of their possessions north of the Pyrenees will be wrested from them by the Franks under Clovis and his sons. In the sixth century they will consolidate their Spanish kingdom, they will renounce Arianism, and be numbered among the most steadfast supporters of the Catholic faith. The elective character of their monarchy, the predominance of the great nobles, and then of the great ecclesiastics, will continue during the seventh century special marks of their polity, in which the power wielded by the great Councils of Toledo will p839 also be a remarkable feature. But during all this time the Gothic conquerors, while daily losing that rough and martial vigour which gave them the ascendancy over the Roman provincials, will still treat them as a subject population, and will but slowly and grudgingly admit them to even theoretical equality with themselves. And thus, when in 711 the wave of Saracen fanaticism shall break against the throne of 'Roderic the last of the Goths,' the whole fabric of the state will fall like a house of cards, and one lost battle by the Guadalete will make the Moors masters of Spain for centuries. The new Christian state, which will emerge from the mountains of Asturias and slowly win back town by town and province by province for the Cross, will be one in which Goth and Roman and Spaniard will be all welded together into one homogeneous mass by the fires of adversity though a few Gothic names may survive, and even 'the blue blood' of the future Spanish hidalgo will faintly keep alive the memory of those fair-skinned warriors of the Danube, who in the fifth century descended, conquering, among the sunburnt populations of the South.
Placidia received by Constantius, We return from the history of the Visigoths to that of their late Queen, Galla Placidia. Constantius, who was waiting to receive her at the foot of the Pyrenees, had received from Honorius the assurance that by whatsoever means, peaceable or warlike, he might succeed in liberating Placidia, he should receive her hand in marriage.
who again presses his suit. Some little time may, for the sake of appearances, have been conceded to the widow so recently a wife. But soon the courtship of the successful general, backed by the Imperial mandate, commenced in good earnest. p840 Placidia again and again rejected his overtures. The sullen, broad-headed, loose-limbed soldier, whose large eyes shot forth tyrant-glances on all around, could not understand why the widow of the comely and courteous Ataulfus should prefer the remembrance of the dead, to union with the living, lover, and was full of wrath against her confidential servants, to whose hostility he attributed her coldness.
and at last succeeds. At length the fortress surrendered. The year 417 was distinguished by the eleventh consulship of Honorius and the second of Constantius. On the day when the new consuls entered office, the Emperor took his sister by the hand and delivered her over to his colleague as a bride. The wedding. The wedding festival, celebrated probably at Ravenna, was of unusual magnificence. It may have been a point of honour with the Roman general to eclipse the splendour of the far‑renowned marriage-feast at Narbonne in the house of Ingenuus. Issue of the marriage. Two children were the issue of this marriage; first, a girl, named after her Imperial uncle, Honoria,b and then (in the year 419), a boy, who, in remembrance of his great-grandfather, the sturdy soldier-emperor, received the name of Valentinian. For this son Placidia obtained from her brother the title Nobilissimus, a sort of recognition of his presumptive heirship to the Empire.
Attalus a captive. The same year, 417, which witnessed Placidia's second wedding-feast, witnessed also the final degradation of the unfortunate child of Genius, who so gracefully led the revels at her first — the ex‑Emperor Attalus. It is said that this poor piece of jetsam and flotsam had once more mounted to the top of the waves, and had been again proclaimed Emperor in Gaul in the year 414. p841 If so, he was soon again deposed, and 'as bearing the empty simulacrum of empire,' was carried by the Goths into Spain. There he wandered, miserable and aimless, till he could endure his life no longer, and took ship to sail anywhither away from his barbarian protectors. He was captured at sea by the ships of Honorius, brought to Constantius, and by him sent to Rome to await the Emperor's pleasure.21
Triumph of Honorius. This capture of an old antagonist, and some successes obtained in Spain by King Walia, fighting as the Emperor's lieutenant, against the Vandals and other barbarous tribes, suggested and seemed to justify the idea of a triumph at Rome. It was not much for which to stand in the triumphal car, and to ascend the Clivus Capitolinus; but it was as much of a pretext as was likely to be found in the lifetime of Honorius.
Rome recovers her prosperity. The outward appearance of the city was doubtless much improved since the three sieges by Alaric. Shortly before this time, the Prefect, Albinus, had reported to the Emperor that the largesse of victuals to the people must be greatly increased, since the population was rapidly augmenting, and as many as 14,000 had passed in through the gates in one day.22 The p842 largesse may explain part of the influx of population, and the narrative may show not so much the recovery of Rome as the more profound exhaustion of Italy. Still it seems probable that the city was not much changed in outward seeming from the days when real triumphs were exhibited within its walls, and that a crowd of curious and not discontented citizens 'climbed up' as of old 'to walls and battlements, to see' Honorius 'pass the streets of Rome.'
Punishment of Attalus. All that we hear concerning the pageant is that the Emperor, having ascended the tribunal, ordered Attalus to come to the lowest step of it; and, after his old rival had humbled himself in the dust before him, he (reminding that rival doubtless of his own similar menaces when Alaric stood before Ravenna) ordered the thumb and finger of his right hand to be cut off, and then despatched him to one of the Lipari islands, where, as one of the annalists epigrammatically expresses it, he was 'left to life.'23
417‑421 Constantius Augustus. Four comparatively uneventful years followed the marriage of Constantius and Placidia. Then, with the reluctant assent of Honorius, his brother-in‑law was associated with him on the Imperial throne, and his sister took the title of Augusta.
The Eastern Court refuses to recognise him. The tidings of this addition to the Imperial partnership were not welcomed at Constantinople, where the young Theodosius, or rather his sister Pulcheria, who administered the government in his name, refused to recognise the new Emperor or to receive his statues, which, according to the etiquette of the period, were sent for erection in Constantinople.
p843 Constantius finds the throne an uncomfortable seat. Great was the wrath which this refusal kindled at Ravenna, and the long-smouldering jealousy between the two courts seemed likely to break forth into a flame of discord. And yet in a short time no one perceived more clearly than Constantius himself his unfitness for the position of dignified nothingness to which he had been raised, and no one more heartily regretted that elevation. The jovial, active soldier could no longer come and go as he pleased, no longer vie with the comic actors in provoking the laughter of the banqueters: every step which he took in the purple buskins of royalty was prescribed by the tedious court ceremonial invented by Diocletian, and perfected by the eunuchs of an earlier Constantius. He becomes low‑spirited and dies. His health began to give way, and, like many men of high animal spirits, he fell an easy prey to nervous depression. One night, six months after he had begun to reign, a figure appeared to him in a dream, and uttered the words, apparently innocent, but, to his ear, full of evil omen: 'Six are finished: the seventh is begun.' He was shortly afterwards attacked by pleurisy, and justified the dream and the interpretation thereof by dying before the end of his seventh month of royalty. Rarely has the world had so frank a confession of the unjoyousness of a kingly life as it received from this clumsy, roystering, and yet not altogether odious husband of Placidia.
Proposed art‑magic of Libanius. Not long before his death a transaction was proposed, which reminds us of the Roman senate's dealings with the Etruscan soothsayers during Alaric's siege. A certain Libanius, a mighty magician, sprung from Asia, appeared in Ravenna, and promised, with the Emperor's leave, to perform great marvels against the barbarians, p844 entirely by means of his art‑magic, and without the aid of any soldiers. Constantius gave his consent to the meditated experiment, but Placidia, a fervent Christian always, and not too fondly attached to her second husband, sent him word that if he permitted that faithless enchanter to live she would apply for a divorce. Upon this Libanius was killed.
Strange conduct of Honorius. After her second widowhood Placidia was for a time the object of extravagant and foolish fondness on the part of her brother, whose uncouth kisses, frequently bestowed upon her in public, moved the laughter of the people. Then his fatuous mind wavered round from fondness to mistrust and from mistrust to aversion. He was jealous of her nurse, her waiting-woman, her grand chamberlain; the jealousy of the masters reflected itself in the squabbles of the domestics: the Gothic followers of Placidia, the veterans who had served under the standard of Constantius, often came to blows with the Imperial soldiers in the streets of Ravenna, and wounds were inflicted, if no lives were lost.
Placidia retires to Constantinople. At length the quarrel became so embittered that Placidia, finding herself the weaker of the combatants, withdrew with her two children to the court of her nephew Theodosius II at Constantinople.
Honorius dies. Soon after, on the 26th of August of the same year (423), Honorius died of dropsy — his feeble mind and body having no doubt been shaken by these domestic storms — and his poultry and his people passed under other masters. The child 'more august than Jove,' whose birth and whose destinies Claudian had depicted in such glowing colours, died at the age of thirty-nine, having been by his weakness the cause of greater p845 changes than are often accomplished by the strength of mighty heroes.
Joannes proclaimed Emperor. On the death of Honorius some obscure palace intrigue raised Joannes, the chief of the Notaries, to the vacant throne. The office of the Primicerius Notariorum, though useful to the state, was not one which put the holder of it in the foremost rank of the official hierarchy. He could only claim to be addressed as Spectabilis, not as Illustris, and his chief duty seems to have been the editing of that very Notitia Imperii which has been so often quoted in these pages.
It is not easy for us to understand why a comparatively obscure member of the Civil Service should have been permitted to array himself with the still coveted Imperial purple, until we ascertain that Castinus, who was then master of the soldiery, and who the following year shared the honours of the Consulship, supported the pretensions of Joannes to the diadem, intending doubtless to enjoy the substance of power himself while leaving its shadow and its dangers to his creature.
At the inauguration of Joannes an event occurred which showed the influence still exerted over the minds of the people by the omen of the voice (φήμη). While the officers of the court were proclaiming the style and titles of 'Dominus Noster Joannes Pius Felix Augustus,' a cry, by whom uttered none could tell, was suddenly heard. 'He falls, he falls, he does not stand.' The multitude, as if desiring to break the spell, shouted with one accord, 'He stands, he stands, he does not fall;' but the ill‑omened words were none the less remembered.
Theodosius II determines to restore Placidia and her son. It was not to be expected that the family of the p846 great Theodosius, having still the resources of the Eastern Empire at their disposal, would tamely acquiesce in the assumption of the Western diadem by a clerk in the Government Offices. The only question was whether Theodosius II would interfere for his cousin or for himself. He chose the former and the more generous course, confirmed Placidia in her title of Augusta, and Valentinian in that of Nobilissimus (titles which on account of the quarrel with Constantius had not previously been recognised at Constantinople), and equipped an army to escort them to the palace at Ravenna. He himself accompanied them as far as Thessalonica, but was prevented by sickness from further prosecution of the journey. However, he caused his young kinsman to be arrayed in the Imperial robes, and conferred upon him the secondary title of Caesar.
Expedition of Ardaburius and Aspar. Ardaburius, the general of horse and foot, and his son Aspar,24 whose names betoken their barbarian origin, were entrusted with the chief conduct of the expedition. Candidianus also, he who, ten years before, had so zealously promoted the marriage of Ataulfus and Placidia, was now entrusted with a high command in her service.
Ardaburius, after some successes in Dalmatia, set sail for Aquileia. An unfavourable wind carried him to a different part of the coast: he was separated from his followers, and taken in chains to Ravenna. Feigning treachery to the cause of his Imperial mistress, he received from Joannes the gift of his life, and was p847 kept in such slight durance that he was able to sow the seeds of real treachery among the generals and courtiers of the usurper.
Aspar, however, was deeply distressed and terrified for his father's life, and Placidia feared that her cause was hopeless; but the brilliant victories of Candidianus, who captured many towns in North Italy, revived their drooping spirits.
425 VII.23. What follows is related by the contemporary ecclesiastical historian Socrates, and the compiler feels himself therefore in some sort bound to insert it for the reader to deal with as he thinks fit.
An alleged miracle. 'The capture of Ardaburius made the usurper more sanguine in his hope that Theodosius would be induced, by the urgency of the case, to proclaim him Emperor, in order to preserve the life of this officer. . . . But at this crisis the prayer of the pious Emperor again prevailed. For an angel of God, under the appearance of a shepherd, undertook the guidance of Aspar and his troops, and led them through the lake near Ravenna. Now, no one had ever been known to ford that lake before: but God then rendered that passable which had hitherto been impassable. Having therefore crossed the lake, as if going over dry ground, they found the gates of the city open, and seized the tyrant.'
XII.13. Philostorgius, who was a contemporary historian in a stricter sense than Socrates, being a middle-aged man when these events occurred, attributes the defeat of Joannes to the treachery of his followers, who had been tampered with by Ardaburius; and he knows nothing of the angelic shepherd.
Joannes deposed and slain. Joannes was thus deposed after a reign of about eighteen months. He was led a prisoner to Aquileia, p848 where Placidia and her son were abiding. In the hippodrome of that city his right hand was cut off. He was then sent in derisive triumph round the town riding upon an ass, and, after many similar insults had been heaped upon him by the soldiery, the Notary-Emperor was put to death.
Sack of Ravenna. Placidia with the Caesar her son entered Ravenna, which was given up to sack by the soldiers of Aspar to punish the inhabitants for their sympathy with the usurpation of Joannes.
Valentinian III Emperor. Ardaburius was of course liberated. Helion, the master of the offices, and patrician, escorted the little Valentinian, now seven years old, to Rome, and then, amidst an immense concourse of citizens, arrayed him with the purple of empire, and saluted him as Augustus.25
Pious rejoicings at Constantinople. The tidings of all these prosperous events reached Constantinople while Theodosius and his people were watching the sports of the hippodrome. Socrates, VII.23. 'That most devout Emperor' called upon the people to come with him to the Basilica, and offer thanks to God for the overthrow of the tyrant. They marched through the streets singing loud hymns of praise, and the whole city became, as it were, one congregation at the Basilica, nor ceased from their religious exercises till daylight faded.
1 I see that the statement on p569 (l. 10) may be understood as meaning that Placidia was born in 394 at the time of her mother's death. That is not my meaning, but I venture to think that Sievers (Studien, p447) is wrong in saying that the child born in 394 died at the same time as its mother. (See Zosimus IV.57.)
2 One reason, perhaps, might be that her kinswoman Laeta, widow of Gratian, was still residing in Rome.
3 Zosimus V.38. Thierry (Trois Ministres des fils de Théodore, p376) attributes the initiative to Placidia. 'Elle comparut devant le Sénat : elle accusa Serène de trahison,' &c. This is not a fair inference from the brief words of Zosimus: ἐδόκει κοινῇ τε γερουσίᾳ πάσῃ καὶ Πλακιδίᾳ τῇ ὁμοπατρίᾳ τοῦ Βασιλέως ἀδελφῇ ταύτην ἀναιρεθῆναι ('The Senate, and Placidia the half-sister of the Emperor, jointly determined that she should be put to death'). The whole story of Eucherius' suit and Placidia's rejection of it, as told by Thierry (p326), seems, as I have before remarked, much too large a fabric for the few lines of Claudian (In Cons. Stilichonis, II.350‑361) upon which it is based. The following is the passage:
'Parte aliâ spumis fucantem serica frena
Sanguineis, primae signatus flore juventae,
Eucherius flectebat equum; jaculisque vel arcu
Aurea purpureos tollentes cornua cervos,
Aureus ipse, ferit. Venus hic, invecta columbis,
Tertia regali jungit connubia nexu;
Pennatique nurum circumstipantur honores
Progenitam Augustis, Augustorumque sororem.
Eucherius trepida jam flammea sublevat ore
Virginis: arridet laeto Thermantia fratri.
Nam domus haec utroque petit diademata Sextus;
Reginasque parit, reginarumque maritos.'
4 The name Ata‑ulfus is a word of four syllables, possibly derived from Atta‑Wulfs, Father-Wolf, and so equivalent to Wolf‑son. It survives in the modern Adolf.
5 The reader is requested to observe that the British usurper of the sovereignty of the Gauls is Constantine; this new minister of Honorius is Constantius. The habit of giving the names of the still popular Constantian dynasty greatly perplexes the annals of this period. We meet with two or three persons of the name of Constans, and one Julian, about this time, in addition to this Constantine and Constantius.
6 Olympius first lost his ears, and then was beaten to death with clubs, by order of Constantius (Olympiodorus, Fr. 8, ed. Müller). The particulars of the fall of Jovius are not recorded.
7 Jordanes, cap. xxxi.
8 By Olympiodorus (fr. 23).
9 Or king. Τύραννος is of course susceptible of either meaning.
10 Idatius says 'Alani et Wandali et Suevi Hispanias ingressi aerâ CCCCXLVIII (= A.D. 410) alii quarto Kalendas (28 Sept.) alii tertio Idus Octobris (13 Oct.) memorant die, tertiâ feriâ Honorio VIII et Theodosio Arcadii filio III consulibus.' The consulships fix the year to 409 not 410. The interval between the two dates mentioned, 28 Sept. and 13 Oct., might well be occupied in the passage of so numerous a horde through the mountain defiles.
11 All the other authorities except Olympiodorus say or imply that this was the relation between Gerontius and Maximus. Fr. 15 Olympiodorus seems to make them father and son, saying Γερόντιος . . . Μάξιμον τὸν ἐαυτοῦ παῖδα, εἰς τὴν τῶν δομεστίκων τάξιν τελοῦντα, Βασιλέα ἀναγορεύει. I think we must conclude either (which is very probable) that Photius, on whose notes we rely, misunderstood the meaning of his author, or that Olympiodorus used the word παῖς in the meaning of 'servant,' which like the Latin 'puer' it sometimes bears. The Latin translator in Müller's edition renders 'ejus filius [potius, ejus domesticus].'
12 The words of Olympiodorus are clear, ἀποτίθενται ἄμφω αἱ κεφαλαὶ Καρθαγένης ἔξωθεν. It is certainly rather difficult to understand why Carthage should be selected as the scene of this object lesson on the duties of subjects: but I agree with my critics that to propose to substitute Milan for Carthage, as I did in the first edition, is to take an unwarrantable liberty with the text. Mr. Bury's suggestion that Carthago Nova in Spain is meant would be quite satisfactory as far as Constantine and Julian are concerned, but one fails to see why it should have been chosen for the other usurpers. Καρχηδών seems to be the correct form of the Greek name of Carthago Nova as much as of Carthago Vetus.
13 Readers of 'Hypatia' will remember the use which Kingsley has made of this abortive stroke for empire on the part of Heraclian.
14 The Goths would probably call him Arbi‑fijands.
15 Candidianus is mentioned again by Olympiodorus as assisting in the restoration of Placidia and her son in 425. He also presided at the Council of Ephesus (431), where his influence was exerted on the side of Nestorius. He was then 'Comes Domesticorum.' The 'Pons Candidiani' at Ravenna, mentioned by Jordanes (De Rebus Geticis, cap. XXIX) as the limit of Alaric's advance in that quarter, was probably named after him.
16 Or it may be in the 'atrium,' or long porch in front of the house. The Greek word παστάς seems susceptible of either interpretation.
18 According to Jordanes, the assassin was a certain Wernulf, at whose small stature his master had frequently mocked. But Olympiodorus, whose account I have followed, is much more likely to be right than Jordanes. The modern historians, including even the careful Aschbach, make the assassin a former servant of Sarus. I venture to think that they are mistaken. Fr. 26 (ed. Müller) Olympiodorus, who knows the history of Sarus well and has described his death, simply says Πάλαι γὰρ ἦν ὁ τούτου δεσπότης μοίρας Γοτθικῆς ῥὴξ ὑπὸ Ἀδαούλφου ἀνῃρημένος, 'For the master of this man was, of old, king of a Gothic troop, and had been slain by Adaulphus.' Had it been Sarus, he would surely have mentioned the name. Tillemont evidently thinks so, for he describes the event thus: 'Il fut tué dans son écurie par un de ses domestiques nommé Dobbie, de sa propre nation et qu'il avoit pris depuis longtemps à son service. Mais c'estoit après avoir tué son maistre qui estoit Roy d'une partie des Goths : et il n'avoit jamais pu luy faire oublier ce premier maistre.' (V.629.)
19 Otherwise Segeric (Orosius) or Regeric (Jordanes).
20 The word used by Olympiodorus for this procession, προπομπὴ, is sometimes used of a funeral procession. Is it possible that Singeric, with a refinement of cruelty, inflicted this insult on Placidia while she was actually following the dead body of her husband to the grave?
21 This is Orosius's account. According to other authors the Visigoths themselves surrendered him along with Placidia.
22 Olymp. ap. Phot., Fr. 25 (ed. Müller) Μετὰ τὴν ὑπὸ Γότθων ἅλωσιν τῆς Ῥώμης Ἀλβίνος ὁ τῆς ῥώμης ἔπαρχος, ἤδη ταύτης πάλι ἀποκαθισταμένης, ἔγραψε μὴ ἐξαρχεῖν τὸ χορηγούμενον μέρος τῷ δήμῳ εἰς πλῆθος ἤδη τῆς πόλεως ἐπιδιδούσης· ἔγραψε γὰρ καὶ ἐν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ τετέχθαι ἀριθμόν χιλιάδων δεκατεσσάρων. As it is utterly out of the question to suppose that there can have been 14,000 births in one day in Rome, scholars seem to be agreed in substituting τετάχθαι for τετέχθαι, and understanding it of the number of strangers who streamed into the city and were marshalled perhaps for the Prefect's inspection. But the passage is not clear, and should be quoted under some reserve.
23 'Truncatâ manu vitae relictus est.' Marcellinus, s. a. 412 (five years too early).
24 This Aspar is the same who in 457 raised Leo I to the Eastern throne, and was afterwards assassinated by him. His son, as well as his father, was named Ardaburius.
25 With the proclamation of Valentinian III we lose the guidance of Olympiodorus.
a At some point the little child's remains were apparently moved to Old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Meaghan A. McEvoy, Child Emperor Rule in the Late Roman West, AD 367‑455, p212, n. 140: "The first burial recorded in surviving sources is that of the infant Theodosius, son of Galla Placidia and the Visigoth Ataulf, who seems to have been re‑interred in this mausoleum [a now demolished mausoleum in St. Peter's] at Rome in 450, according to the Reichenau addition to the chronicle of Prosper (Add. 12.I.489); cf. Olympiodorus, frg. 26.1, and Oost (1965), 7‑8."
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