Alaric I

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Alaric I

Alaric I (ălˈərĭk), c.370–410, Visigothic king. He headed the Visigothic troops serving Emperor Theodosius I. After the emperor's death (395) the troops rebelled and chose Alaric as their leader (see Visigoths). Alaric devastated Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. Stopped, but not defeated, by Stilicho, he retired northward, and by an agreement with the Eastern emperor, Arcadius, occupied Epirus. In 401 he invaded Italy, where after some indecisive warfare he agreed to withdraw. Stilicho persuaded (407) the Romans to buy Alaric's alliance, but shortly afterward Emperor Honorius had Stilicho executed for treason. Alaric again invaded (408) Italy and laid seige to Rome. Raising the seige after an agreement with the Roman senate, Alaric again turned on Rome (409) and forced the city to accept a puppet emperor, Attalus, whom he himself deposed the next year for disregarding his advice. After the failure of renewed negotiations with Honorius (who all the while held out at Ravenna) Alaric stormed and sacked Rome (410) and then marched south to attack Sicily and Africa. A storm destroyed his fleet, and Alaric, having turned back, died of an illness. His brother Ataulf was elected his successor. It is said that Alaric was buried with his treasures near Cosenza in the bed of the Busento River, which was temporarily diverted from its course. That the secret of his burial place might be kept, the slaves employed in the labor were killed.

Bibliography

See study by M. Brion (tr. 1932).

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Alaric I

 

(Alaricus, Alarich), circa 370–410, king of the Visigoths from 395.

Alaric I invaded Thrace, seized Athens, and devastated Corinth, Argos, and Sparta. The Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius concluded peace with Alaric and conferred upon him the title of magister militum (“master of the soldiers”) in Illyricum (396), where the Visigoths settled as federates. In 401, Alaric invaded Italy but was beaten back by Stilicho. In 408 he again marched into Italy and besieged Rome three times. (Writers of ancient history report that a large number of Roman slaves went over to the army of Alaric.) On August 24, 410, Alaric took the Eternal City and sacked it for three days. This was the first time barbarians had captured Rome since the Gallic invasion of Italy in the fourth century B.C. It had an enormous impact and was the beginning of the ultimate seizure of the Western Roman Empire by the barbarians. Alaric died in southern Italy while preparing for a campaign against Sicily and Africa.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.