CHAPTER XI. THE FALL OF THE EMPIRE.
Italy, however, had been for a time delivered, and by the only man of ability who remained in the service of the emperor. He might possibly have checked the further progress of the Goths, had the weak emperor intrusted himself to his guidance. But imperial jealousy, and the voice of faction, removed forever this last hope of Rome. The frivolous Senate which he had saved, and the timid emperor whom he had guarded, were alike demented. The savior of Italy was an object of fear and hatred, and the assassin's dagger, which cut short his days, inflicted a fatal and suicidal blow upon Rome herself.
[Alaric ravages Italy.]
[Rome without defenders.]
The Gothic king, in his distant camp on the confines of Italy, beheld with undissembled joy, the intrigues and factions which deprived the emperor of his best defender, and which placed over his last army incompetent generals. So, hastening his preparations, he again descends like an avalanche upon the plains of Italy. Aquileia, Altinum, Concordia, and Cremona, yielded to his arms, and increased his forces. He then ravaged the coasts of the Adriatic; and, following the Flaminian way, crossed the passes of the Apennines, ravaged the fertile plains of Umbria, and reached without obstruction the city which for six hundred years had not been violated by the presence of a foreign enemy. But Rome was not what she was when Hannibal led his Africans to her gates. She was surrounded with more extensive fortifications, indeed, and contained within her walls, which were twenty-one miles in circuit, a large population. But where were her one hundred and fifty thousand warriors? Where were even the three armies drawn out in battle array, that had confronted the Carthaginian leader? She could boast of senators who traced their lineage to the Scipios and the Gracchi; she could enumerate one thousand seven hundred and eighty palaces, the residence of wealthy and proud families, many of which were equal to a town, including within their precincts, markets, hippodromes, temples, fountains, baths, porticoes, groves, and aviaries; she could tell of senatorial incomes of four thousand pounds of gold, about eight hundred thousand dollars yearly, without computing the corn, oil, and wine, which were equal to three hundred thousand dollars more - men so rich that they could afford to spend five hundred thousand dollars in a popular festival, and this at a time when gold was worth at least eight times more than its present value; she could point with pride to her Christian saints, one of whom, the illustrious Paula, the friend of St. Jerome, was the sole proprietor of the city of Nicopolis, which Augustus had founded to commemorate his victory over Antony; she could count two millions of inhabitants, crowded in narrow streets, and four hundred thousand pleasure-seekers who sought daily the circus or the theatre, and three thousand public female dancers, and three thousand singers who sought to beguile the hours of the lazy rabble who were fed at the public expense, and who, for a small copper coin, could wash their dirty bodies in the marble baths of Diocletian and Caracalla; but where were her defenders - where were her legions?
[Alaric beseiges Rome.]
[Disgraceful terms of peace.]
The day of retribution had come, and there was no escape. Alaric made no efforts to storm the city, but quietly sat down and inclosed the wretched citizens with a cordon through which nothing could force its way. He cut off all communications with the country, intercepted the navigation of the Tiber, and commanded the twelve gates. The city, unprovided for a siege, and never dreaming of such a calamity, soon felt all the evils of famine, to which those of pestilence were added. The most repugnant food was eagerly devoured, and even mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their murdered children. Thousands perished daily in the houses, and the public sepulchres infected the air. Despair at last seized the haughty citizens, and they begged the clemency of the Gothic king. He derided the ambassadors who were sent to treat, and insulted them with rude jests. At last he condescended to spare the lives of the people, on condition that they gave up all their gold and silver, all their precious movables, and all their slaves of barbaric birth. More moderate terms were afterward granted; but the victor did not retreat until he had loaded his wagons with more wealth and more liberated captives than the Romans had brought from both Carthage and Antioch. He retired to the fertile fields of Tuscany to make negotiations with Honorius; and it was only on condition that he were appointed master-general of the armies of the emperor, with an annual subsidy of corn and money, and the free possession of the provinces of Dalmatia, Noricum, and Venetia, for the seat of his kingdom, that he would grant peace to the emperor, who had entrenched himself at Ravenna. These terms were disregarded, and once more Alaric turned his face to Rome. He took possession of Ostia, one of the most stupendous works of Roman magnificence, and the port of Rome secured, the city was once again at his mercy. Again the Senate, fearful of famine and impelled by the populace, consented to the demands of the conqueror. He nominated Atticus, prefect of the city, emperor instead of the son of Theodosius, and received from him the commission of master- general of the armies of the West.
[Alaric takes Rome.]
[The miseries of the Romans.]