The sieges and captures of Rome by the Barbarians we present in a separate chapter, instead of in the narrative of the Emperors, because by this plan a better idea of the operations can be given; and especially because we can thus obtain a clearer and more comprehensive conception of the rise of the nations, which, tearing in pieces the Roman Empire, have made up Modern Europe.

The HUNS, who originated the movement which overthrew the Western Empire, came, it is supposed, from the eastern part of Asia. As they moved westward, their march was irresistible. In 395 they met and defeated the GOTHS, a powerful tribe that lived to the north of the Danube, and who were ruled by a king named Hermanric.

The Gothic nation consisted of two branches, the OSTROGOTHS, Eastern Goths, and the VISIGOTHS, Western Goths, Of these the Ostrogoths were the more powerful, but on the approach of the Huns they were obliged to submit. The Huns moved on, and found but little trouble in overrunning the country of the Visigoths, who were so terrified by the hideous appearance and wild shouts of the Huns that they fled to the Danube, and besought the Romans to allow them to cross the river and take refuge in their territory. The favor was granted, but the refugees were treated with indignity, and compelled to undergo every privation.

Subsequently a remnant of the Ostrogoths arrived at the Danube, also desiring to cross. To them permission was refused, but they seized shipping and crossed, despite the prohibition of the Romans. They found the condition of their brethren, the Visigoths, so sad, that they united with them in open revolt, defeated a Roman army sent against them, and ravaged Thrace. The Emperor Valens took the field in person, and was defeated (378). The Goths then moved southward and westward into Greece, everywhere pillaging the country.

When Theodosius became Emperor, he acted cautiously, fortifying strong points from which to watch the enemy and select a favorable moment for an attack. At length he surprised their camp and gained a complete victory. The Goths were taken into the service of the Empire, and the first chapter of the barbarian invasion of the Empire was brought to a close.

We now meet two of the great names connected with the fall of Rome, ALARIC and STILICHO.

Theodosius was succeeded by Arcadius, and before the end of the year the Goths broke into open revolt under their leader, Alaric. Athens was compelled to pay a ransom; Corinth, Argos, and Sparta were taken and plundered. No place was strong enough to offer effectual resistance. At this juncture, Stilicho, General of the Western Empire, hastened to the scene, and succeeded in surrounding the Goths, but Alaric burst through his lines and escaped. He then made peace with Constantinople, and the office of Master-General of Illyricum was bestowed upon him. How sincere the barbarian was in his offers of peace may be seen from the fact that in two years he invaded Italy (400).

Honorius, who was then Emperor of the West, was a man so weak that even the genius of Stilicho could not save him. No sooner did he hear of the approach of Alaric, than he hastened to a place of safety for himself, leaving Stilicho to defend Rome. Troops were called from Britain, Gaul, and the other provinces far and near, leaving their places vacant and defenceless. Honorius, who had attempted to escape to Gaul, was surprised by Alaric, and, taking refuge in the fortified town of Asta, was there besieged until the arrival of the brave Stilicho, who attacked the besiegers, and after a bloody fight utterly routed them. In his retreat, Alaric attempted to attack Verona, but he was again defeated, and escaped only by the fleetness of his horse. Honorius returned home (404), and enjoyed a triumph.

Rome had scarcely time to congratulate herself upon her escape from the Goths, when she was threatened by a new enemy.

The Huns, pushing westward, had dislodged the northern tribes of Germany who dwelt on the Baltic. These were the Alans, Sueves, Vandals, and Burgundians. Under the leadership of RADAGAISUS, these tribes invaded Italy with about two hundred thousand men. They were met near Florence by Stilicho, and totally defeated (406). Radagaisus himself was killed. The survivors turned backward, burst into Gaul, ravaged the lower portion of the country, and finally separated. One portion, the Burgundians, remained on the frontier, and from their descendants comes the name of Burgundy.

The Alans, Sueves, and Vandals pushed on into Spain, where they established kingdoms. The Alans occupied the country at the foot of the Pyrenees, but were soon after subdued by the Visigoths. The Sueves settled in the northwest of Spain, but met the same fate as the Alans. The Vandals occupied the southern part, and from there crossed over to Africa, where they maintained themselves for nearly a century, and at one time were powerful enough, as we shall see, to capture Rome itself.

Rome was now for a time delivered from her enemies, and the Emperor, no longer needing Stilicho, was easily persuaded that he was plotting for the throne. He was put to death, with many of his friends.

With Stilicho Rome fell. Scarcely two months after his death, Alaric again appeared before Rome. He sought to starve the city into submission. Famine and pestilence raged within its walls. Finally peace was purchased by a large ransom, and Alaric withdrew, but soon returned. The city was betrayed, and after a lapse of eight centuries became the second time a prey to the barbarians (24 August, 410).

The city was plundered for five days, and then Alaric withdrew to ravage the surrounding country. But the days of this great leader were almost spent. Before the end of the year he died, and shortly after his army marched into France, where they established a kingdom reaching from the Loire and the Rhone to the Straits of Gibraltar.

The GERMANS, under their king, CLODION, prompted by the example of the Burgundians and Visigoths, began, about 425, a series of attempts to enlarge their boundaries. They succeeded in establishing themselves firmly in all the country from the Rhine to the Somme, and under the name of FRANKS founded the present French nation in France (447).

Clodion left two sons, who quarrelled over the succession. The elder appealed to the Huns for support, the younger to Rome.

The Huns at this time were ruled by ATTILA, "the Scourge of God." The portrait of this monster is thus painted. His features bore the mark of his Eastern origin. He had a large head, a swarthy complexion, small deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a short square body, of nervous strength though disproportioned form. This man wielded at will, it is said, an army of over half a million troops.

At the time he received from the son of Clodion the invitation to interfere in the affairs of Gaul, Attila was already contemplating an invasion of both the Western and Eastern Empires; but the prospect of an ally in Gaul, with an opportunity of afterwards attacking Italy from the west, was too favorable to be neglected.

A march of six hundred miles brought the Huns to the Rhine. Crossing this, they continued their progress, sacking and burning whatever cities lay in their route.

The Visigoths under Theodoric, joining the Romans under Aetius, met the Huns near Orleans. Attila retreated towards Chalons, where, in 451, was fought a great battle, which saved the civilization of Western Europe. Attila began the attack. He was bravely met by the Romans; and a charge of the Visigoths completed the discomfiture of the savages. Aetius did not push his victory, but allowed the Huns to retreat in the direction of Italy. The "Scourge" first attacked, captured, and rased to the ground Aquileia. He then scoured the whole country, sparing only those who preserved their lives by the surrender of their wealth.

It was to this invasion that VENICE owed its rise. The inhabitants, who fled from the approach of the Huns, found on the islands in the lagoons at the head of the Adriatic a harbor of safety.

Attila died shortly after (453) from the bursting of a blood-vessel, and with his death the empire of the Huns ceased to exist. The VANDALS, we have seen, had established themselves in Africa. They were now ruled by GENSERIC. Carthage was their head-quarters, and they were continually ravaging the coasts of the Mediterranean with their fleets.

Maximus, Emperor of Rome (455), had forcibly married Eudoxia, the widow of the previous Emperor, Valentinian, whom he had killed. She in revenge sent to Genseric a secret message to attack Rome. He at once set sail for the mouth of the Tiber. The capital was delivered into his hands on his promise to spare the property of the Church (June, 455), and for fourteen days the Vandals ravaged it at pleasure. Genseric then left Rome, taking with him Eudoxia.

This was the last sack of the city by barbarians. But twenty-one years elapsed before the Roman Empire came to an end (476).