Northern Africa 410: Attalus’ African campaign
At the end of 409 the Gothic king Alaric, having lost patience with the Western Roman emperor Honorius, appointed his own emperor, Attalus. Early the following year Attalus attempted to conquer the Diocese of Africa but bungled the attempt by refusing Gothic support and sending an inadequate invasion force. As a result, Africa cut off its grain supply to Rome, seriously undermining Attalus’ political position.
??–Dec 409 Alaric’s Second Siege of Rome▲
In late 409 Alaric sent an embassy of Roman bishops to the Western Roman emperor Honorius, asking only for the Goths to settle in Noricum and be given an annual payment of corn, but the emperor firmly rejected these terms. In response, the Gothic king marched on Rome for a second time and, upon laying siege to the city, captured the vital harbor of Portus and much of Rome’s stores. Realizing that they now faced starvation, the Senate capitulated and agreed to accept Alaric’s demands.
Dec 409 First Usurpation of Attalus▲
In December 409, on Alaric’s command, the Roman Senate proclaimed the elderly praefectus urbi Priscus Attalus as emperor. Originally a pagan, the new emperor was baptized as an Arian Christian for his accession. Attalus then appointed Alaric and Alaric’s brother-in-law Athaulf as his military commanders, but gave the other positions in his new government to senators.
410 Attalus’ African campaign▲
When Heraclian, governor of Africa, rejected the authority of the usurper Attalus, Alaric suggested sending a contingent of Goths under Drumas against him, only to be overruled by Attalus himself, who instead dispatched a small number of Roman troops. Landing in Africa in early 410, this inadequate force was soon defeated by Heraclian and its general Constantine killed. After this, Heraclian cut the supply of African corn, oil, and other supplies to Rome, triggering a major famine in the city even more serious than that of Alaric’s first siege.
410 Siege of Ravenna▲
While they were awaiting the result of their African expedition (early 410), the Roman usurper Attalus and the Gothic king Alaric marched on Ravenna, where the alarmed Western Roman emperor Honorius offered to share his empire with Attalus. Attalus rejected this offer, demanding instead that Honorius be deposed and sent into exile, but at the last moment Honorius position was secured by the arrival of 4,000 troops from the Eastern Empire. Realizing that he could no longer take Ravenna and learning that the African expedition had failed, Alaric abandoned the siege and marched north and west into Aemilia and Liguria to secure those regions for Attalus.