Europe 410: Alaric’s Sack of Rome
In the summer of 410 Alaric deposed his appointed emperor Attalus and reopened talks with Honorius, but was suddenly attacked by Sarus, a Gothic general in Honorius’ employ. Enraged, Alaric and his Goths marched on Rome and put the eternal city to the sack. The sack—Rome’s first in eight centuries—was received with shock and horror across the Roman world.
Jul 410 Deposition of Attalus▲
By the summer of 410 Heraclian’s blockade of Rome was causing a serious famine in the city, but Attalus still refused to agree to send a force Goths against the African governor. Finally losing patience with his appointed emperor, Alaric summoned Attalus to Ariminum (Rimini) and formally deposed him, sending his imperial regalia to Honorius in Ravenna as a peace offering. Attalus was then allowed to retire to his townhouse in Rome, to live on as a private individual.
Aug 410 Sarus vs Alaric▲
Soon after Alaric’s deposition of Attalus (July 410), the Gothic king’s brother-in-law Athaulf marched into Picenum, where his rival, the Gothic general Sarus, was stationed with 300 men. Sarus immediately fled north and joined Honorius, who was reopening talks with Alaric outside Ravenna. Deciding that he had nothing to gain from a peace between the two, Sarus launched a surprise attack on Alaric and killed some of his followers. This apparent act of treachery enraged Alaric, who promptly abandoned negotiations and turned to march on Rome.
24 Aug 410 Alaric’s Sack of Rome▲
After being attacked during talks with the Western Roman emperor Honorius outside Ravenna in August 410, the enraged Gothic king Alaric marched south and laid siege to Rome for the third time. His forces were soon let in through the Salarian Gate and proceeded to mount a systematic three-day plunder of the eternal city, although they generally did not violate the sanctity of churches or indulge in much bloodshed. Nonetheless, news of the sack of the imperial capital—the first in eight centuries—was received with shock and horror across the Roman world.