Alaric was driven back for a time, but there were swarms of Germans who were breaking in where the line of boundary had been left undefended by the soldiers being called away to fight the Goths. A fierce heathen chief named Radegaisus advanced with at least 200,000 men as far as Florence, but was there beaten by the brave Stilicho, and was put to death, while the other prisoners were sold into slavery. But Stilicho, brave as he was, was neither loved nor trusted by the Emperor or the people. Some abused him for not bringing back the old gods under whom, they said, Rome had prospered; others said that he was no honest Christian, and all believed that he meant to make his son Emperor. When he married this son to a daughter of Arcadius, people made sure that this was his purpose. Honorius listened to the accusation, and his favorite Olympius persuaded the army to give up Stilicho. He fled to a church, but was persuaded to come out of it, and was then put to death.
And at that very time Alaric was crossing the Alps. There was no one to make any resistance. Honorius was at Ravenna, safe behind walls and marshes, and cared for nothing but his favorite poultry. Alaric encamped outside the walls of Rome, but he did not attempt to break in, waiting till the Romans should be starved out. When they had come to terrible distress, they offered to ransom their city. He asked a monstrous sum, which they refused, telling him what hosts there were of them, and that he might yet find them dangerous. “The thicker the hay, the easier to mow,” said the Goth. “What will you leave us then?” they asked. “Your lives,” was the answer.
The ransom the wretched Romans agreed to pay was 5000 pounds’ weight of gold and 30,000 of silver, 4000 silk robes, 3000 pieces of scarlet cloth, and 3000 pounds of pepper. They stripped the roof of the temple in the Capitol, and melted down the images of the old gods to raise the sum, and Alaric drew off his men; but he came again the next year, blocked up Ostia, and starved them faster. This time he brought a man named Attalus, whom he ordered them to admit as Emperor, and they did so; but as the governor of Africa would send no corn while this man reigned, the people rose and drove him out, and thus for the third time brought Alaric down on them. The gates were opened to him at night, and he entered Rome on the 24th of August, 410, exactly eight hundred years after the sack of Rome by Brennus.
[Illustration: ALARIC’S BURIAL.]
Alaric did not wish to ruin and destroy the grand old city, nor to massacre the inhabitants; but his Goths were thirsty for the spoil he had kept them from so long, and he gave them leave to plunder for six days, but not to kill, nor to do any harm to the churches. A set of wild, furious men could not, of course, be kept in by these orders, and terrible misfortunes befell many unhappy families; but the mischief done was much less than could have been expected,