Valentinian thought the danger over, and when Aetius came back to Ravenna, he grew jealous of his glory and stabbed him with his own hand. Soon after he offended a senator named Maximus, who killed him in revenge, became Emperor, and married his widow, Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodosius II. of Constantinople, telling her that it was for love of her that her husband was slain. Eudoxia sent a message to invite the dreadful Genseric, king of the Vandals, to come and deliver her from a rebel who had slain the lawful Emperor. Genseric’s ships were ready, and sailed into the Tiber; while the Romans, mad with terror, stoned Maximus in their streets. Nobody had any courage or resolution but the Pope Leo, who went forth again to meet the barbarian and plead for his city; but Genseric being an Arian, had not the same awe of him as the wild Huns, hated the Catholics, and was eager for the prey. He would accept no ransom instead of the plunder, but promised that the lives of the Romans should be spared. This was the most dreadful calamity that Rome, once the queen of cities, had undergone. The pillage lasted fourteen days, and the Vandals stripped churches, houses, and all alike, putting their booty on board their ships; but much was lost in a storm between Italy and Africa. The golden candlestick and shew-bread table belonging to the Temple at Jerusalem were carried off to Carthage with the spoil, and no less than sixty thousand captives, among them the Empress Eudoxia, who had been the means of bringing in Genseric, with her two daughters. The Empress was given back to her friends at Constantinople, but one of her daughters was kept by the Vandals, and was married to the son of Genseric. After plundering all the south of Italy, Genseric went back to Africa without trying to keep Rome or set up a kingdom; and when he was gone, the Romans elected as Emperor a senator named Avitus, a Gaul by birth, a peaceful and good man.
[Illustration: THE POPE’S HOUSE.]
His daughter had married a most excellent Gaulish gentleman named Sidonius Apollinaris, who wrote such good poetry that the Romans placed his bust crowned with laurel in the Capitol. He wrote many letters, too, which are preserved to this time, and show that, in the midst of all this crumbling power of Rome, people in Southern Gaul managed to have many peaceful days of pleasant country life. But Sidonius’ quiet days came to an end when, layman and lawyer as he was, the people of Clermont begged him to be their Bishop. The Church stood, whatever fell, and people trusted more to their Bishop than to any one else, and wanted him to be the ablest man they could find. So Sidonius took the charge of them, and helped them to hold out their mountain city of Clermont for a whole year against the Goths, and gained good terms for them at last, though he himself had to suffer imprisonment and exile from these Arian Goths because of his Catholic faith.