Major events that happened after the death of Alaric

Alaric I, the prominent Visigothic king, played a pivotal role in the late Roman Empire’s history.

Alaric reigned as the king of the Visigoths from 395 to 410. He passed away due to a severe fever. His death came after just a few months of sacking Rome. Image: 1920s artistic depiction of Alaric parading through Athens after conquering the city in 395

Born around 370 AD, he rose to power amid shifting relations between the Goths and Romans. Although he initially served in the Roman military, Alaric is best known for his sieges of Rome, culminating in the historic sack of the city in 410 AD. This event symbolized the declining might of the Western Roman Empire.

Alaric’s leadership, marked by both conflict and negotiation, underscores the complexities of the era and the intricate dance between “barbarian” groups and the Roman world.

Alaric I died in 411 AD, just a few months after his most famous accomplishment: the sack of Rome. The exact cause of his death remains uncertain, with some historical sources suggesting natural causes while others imply disease or a battle injury.

After the death of Alaric in 410 AD, several significant events unfolded:

  1. Leadership of Ataulf: Alaric’s brother-in-law, Ataulf, took over the leadership of the Visigoths. Under his leadership, the Visigoths’ direction and relationship with the Roman Empire shifted.
  2. Move to Gaul: The Visigoths, under Ataulf, moved out of Italy and headed towards Gaul. They initially settled in the region of Aquitaine in southern Gaul.
  3. Alliance with Rome: Ataulf began seeking a more cooperative relationship with the Roman Empire. He saw himself as someone who could restore the Roman Empire to its former glory but through Gothic dominance. In 414, Ataulf married Galla Placidia, the half-sister of the Western Roman Emperor Honorius. This marriage solidified a bond between the Visigoths and the Roman Empire, although it was as much a political move as a personal union.
  4. Conflict and Assassination of Ataulf: Despite his aspirations, Ataulf faced resistance within his ranks and from external adversaries. He was assassinated in 415 AD in Barcelona by a member of his own court.
  5. Subsequent Visigoth Leaders: After Ataulf’s death, the Visigoths experienced a series of short-lived leaderships, including Sigeric, who ruled for just a week, and Wallia, who entered into a foedus (treaty) with the Roman Empire. Wallia received provisions in return for waging war on rival barbarian groups like the Alans, Siling Vandals, and Suebi.
  6. Establishment in Iberia: The Visigoths, under Wallia and his successors, eventually established a powerful kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula, which lasted for several centuries.

In essence, Alaric’s death marked a turning point for the Visigoths. Their move from Italy to Gaul and then to Iberia, coupled with changing relations with the Roman Empire, paved the way for the establishment of the Visigothic Kingdom, a significant successor state in the former Western Roman Empire.

After his death, Alaric was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Ataulf, who took over the leadership of the Visigoths. Image: Athaulf, king of the Visigoths, by Spanish painter Raimundo de Madrazo. 1858. (Museo del Prado, Madrid).

Did you know…?

His death led to an elaborate funeral, steeped in legend. According to Eastern Roman historian Jordanes in his work “Getica”, the Visigoths diverted the Busento River in Italy to bury Alaric, along with treasures from the Roman sack, in the riverbed. Once the burial was complete, the river was returned to its original course, concealing Alaric’s tomb. This act was done to keep the location of his burial a secret. The slaves who performed the burial work were allegedly killed to ensure they wouldn’t reveal the tomb’s location.

The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busento River. 1895 wood engraving

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *