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of Germany, the Suevi also from Germany, and the Alans, people of Sarmatia or Poland; and having passed the Rhine, they spread themselves through the Roman provinces of Gaul. They sacked the towns, they plundered the country, they put to death many christians, and carried desolation and slaughter wherever they went. These were soon followed by another swarm from Germany, composed of Burgundians, Franks, Saxons, and others: so that the whole country of Gaul or France was overspread with barbarians. St. Jerom, who lived at that time, thus describes these irruptions : “ A multitude of barbarous nations have possessed themselves of all Gaul. The Quadi, the Vandals, the Sarmatians, the Alans, the Gepidi, the Heruli, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, and the Pannonians,* have laid waste the whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, between the ocean and the Rhine." Epist. xi. ad. Ager. He goes on with specifying the deplorable devastations and massacres committed by this shoal of savages. The author of a poem on Providence, who bore a share in these calamities, says that, “ if the ocean itself had broken through its bounds and overflowed all Gaul, it could not have done more mischief." It appears then that the people of the western part of the empire were compelled to swallow a full draught of wormwood, and would have been glad to purchase two pounds of wheat for a Roman penny, or at an excessive price.
Alaric, after his retreat, as we have seen, into Dalmatia, agreed to assist the Emperor Honorius with his troops against the enemies of Rome, but when the work was done, he could not obtain from the emperor the reward he thought due for his services. Upon this disappointment he in 408 invaded Italy at the head of his army. It was upon this occasion, as the historians Socrates and Sozemon relate, that a holy hermit met him, and exhorted him to spare Rome, and not bring upon himself the guilt of so much blood and destruction; to whom Alaric made this answer: “I constantly feel an impulse within me, that gives me no rest, but presses me to go and destroy that city.” He pillaged the country as he went, pitched his camp in the neighbourhood of Rome, and besieged it. This occasioned a famine to rage in that city; the famine gave birth to a plague which carried off numbers of people. In this extremity, the senate of Rome offered him a large sum of money, with such other ad
* By the Pannonians St. Jerom seems to understand the Huns, and the Suevi by the Alemanni.
vantageous proposals, that he thought fit to desist from his enterprise, and retired into Tuscany.
During these times inexpressible were the devastations and barbarities committed in different parts of the empire by nuinerous invaders, the northern wolves, as St. Jerom styles them. Thus speaks he: “ It shocks me to relate the miseries of our present times. For twenty years past and more, from Constantinople to the Julian Alps, we see the Roman blood every day spilt. Scythia, Thracia, Macedonia, Dardania, Dacia, Thessalonica, Achaia, Epirus, Dalmatia, and all the Pannonians, are plundered and laid waste by the Goths, the Sarmatians, the Quadi, the Alans, the Huns, the Vandals, and the Marcomans. How many matrons, virgins, and persons, of noble birth have been abused by these beasts! The bishops are carried into captivity, the priests and others of the clergy murdered. The churches are thrown down, horses tied to the altars of Christ, and the ashes of the martyrs are dug up from their tombs. Every where groans and lamentations ; every where death appears in various shapes. The whole Roman empire is tumbling." Epist. 3. ad Heliod.
In 409, the next year after his retiring into Tuscany, Alaric, impatient that some articles of the treaty made with him were not fulfilled, complained to Honorius, but met with a repulse. Enraged at this usage, he assembled his troops and marched towards Rome. The emperor, to oppose him, took into pay ten thousand Huns, and sent Valens with six thousand men to reinforce the garrison of Rome: but this officer fell into an ambush laid for him, and all his men were either killed or taken. Alaric advanced to Rome, and laid close siege to it.
And now the time approached, which the Almighty had fixed, for delivering that city into the hands of Alaric. * The day of destruction is at hand, and the time makes haste to come;" Deut. xxxii. 35. The Pagans were still numerous there, and averse to Christianity. May we not then interrupt for a moment the thread of our narrative, and consider the Almighty as making the same challenge to these pagans, which he formerly did to those who obstructed the establishment of the Jews? “Where are your gods, in whom you trust ?—Let them arise and help you, and protect you in your distress. See ye, that I alone am, and there is no other God besides me.—If I shall whet my sword as the lightning, and my hand take hold on judgment, I will return vengeance on my enemies, and repay them that hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh.” Deut. xxxii. 37, &c.
While Alaric lay before Rome, Heraclion, governor of Africa for the Emperor Honorius, being informed of the sicge, forbade all provisions being sent from Africa to the city of Rome, which used to be chiefly supplied from thence. This caused a famine, which raged to a degree that had never been felt before. “Rome,” says St. Jerom,“ perished by famine before it perished by the sword. Such was the force of hunger, that they fed upon the most execrable meats; the people tore one another to pieces to devour their flesh, and mothers did not even spare the infants at their breasts, inhumanly eating what they had lately brought into the world.” Epist. 16. ad. Princip. At length, Alaric availing himself of this dis tress, assaulted the town, and took it. This happened in the year 410. Thus Rome, that proud city, the mistress of the world, which had subsisted eleven hundred and sixty years, had raised to herself the greatest empire that had ever existed, fell a prey to an obscure Goth, who could scarce be said to be master of a foot of land. Rome was now exposed to the rage of a barbarous exasperated enemy. Therefore “wo to thee, O City that plunders, shalt not thou thyself be also plundered ?" Isai. xxxiii. 1. The soldiers were allowed to plunder every thing, and to carry off the immense riches, which had been amassed there, and were the spoils of all the countries of the world. In consequence of such unbounded liberty being granted, shocking were the barbarities committed by the soldiers to extort from the inhabitants their treasures. They not only plundered, but slaughtered the inhabitants on all sides. That renowned people, that had given laws to all mankind, were now become the prey of fire and the sword. . The number of the dead was so great, that they lay, unburied; and St. Jerom tells us, that Rome was buried in its own ashes. The august palace of the emperors, and the greatest part of the so much admired elegant buildings, were consumed by the flames. The historian Procopius even says, the conflagration was such that there scarce remained one single house entire. In a word, Rome perished by the four greatest plagues that can afflict the human species, famine, pestilence, sword, and fire.
Here then appears conspicuous the judgment of God upon ancient Rome, and how the Roman people, conformably to our text, were drenched with their own blood, in conse
quence of their forefathers having shed in their persecutions the blood of his saints. Here also we see fulfilled that prophecy of Daniel, where, speaking of the fourth beast, which represented Rome with its dominion, he says: “I saw that the beast was slain, and that its body was destroyed, and given to the fire to be burnt.” Dan. vii. 11.
The fall of Rome was equally an object of surprise and sorrow to many nations, on account of the extraordinary figure it had made in the world. St. Jerom, who was then at Bethlehem, and learned the whole account from some Christians who had escaped out of the dismal scene and come to him, laments the dreadful fate of that ancient and powerful city, and describes it by the following verses, with which Virgil describes the conflagration and destruction of Troy.
Quis cladem illius noctus, quis funera fando
Æneid, lib. 2.
* Dryden's Transl. We shall beg leave to add one verse more out of the same poem :
Venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus.
The fatal day, th' appointed hour is come. It is however to be observed, that in this terrible calamity and severe judgment of heaven, Almighty God showed a peculiar regard to his own people; for Alaric had ordered that the two churches of St. Peter and St. Paul should be places of refuge, and that whoever retired there should be safe. The Christians therefore fled thither, and with them some also of the pagans, who by that means sustained no hurt.
For three days, the city lay under the tyranny of the Goths; who then leaving it, passed into the provinces of Campania, Lucania, and Calabria, wasting the country, and loading themselves with the spoils of it. But being arrived at Consentia, a town of Calabria, as if the Almighty chose to drop the rod of justice he made use of, there Alaric sickened and died in a few days. Athaulph his successor, made peace with the emperor, and obtained for himself and his Goths a settlement in the southern parts of France.
But the anger of God was not yet assuaged. The Vandals, the Alans, and the Suevi, not content with having ravaged Gaul, had passed the Pyrenean mountains in 409, and entering Spain, another province of the empire, defeated the Roman armies there. The calamities caused by these savage people in that country. were most dreadful. Besides the destruction made by the sword, the famine became so excessive, that many did not scruple to eat human flesh, and even mothers murdered their own children to feed upon them. To these miseries was also added the plague, which carried off multitudes; and the wild beasts accustomed to human flesh from the number of carcasses that had perished by the sword, famine, and plague, assaulted even the living and devoured them. This account we have from Idatius, a bishop of Spain, in that century. The three above-mentioned barbarous nations, after the reduction of the country, in 411, divided its provinces among themselves, and settled there.
Attila, king of the Huns, a pagan people of Scythia, now Tartary, broke into different provinces of the empire with a prodigious army, called himself the “Scourge of God," and answered that name by his devastations and barbarities, destroying all before him by fire and sword. He was feared as a more fierce and savage barbarian, than either Alaric or Radagaisus. In the year 451 he invaded Gaul, and was there beat by the Roman army assisted by the Goths, Alans, Franks, and Burgundians. Upon his defeat he retired into Pannonia, which became the seat of the Huns, part of that country being called from them Hungaria. Attila having reinforced his army, marched into Italy, where he spread destruction. As he advanced in his career, he was met by St. Leo, pope, who addressed him with so much energy, eloquence, and dignity, that the barbarian let himself be persuaded to retire out of Italy..
The Vandals had got footing in Africa from the year 427, and afterwards a fixed settlement there by agreement with the emperor. In 455, Genseric, their king, was invited into Italy by the Empress Eudoxia, through a disgust she had taken to Maximus, her husband, who forced her to marry him. Genseric had accepted with pleasure the invitation, and landed in Italy with an army of Vandals and Moors. Maximus, who had usurped the empire, fled ; and Genseric entering Rome without opposition, delivered it up to his soldiers, who pillaged it for fourteen days, and then set fire to it. Genseric left the place loaded with riches, and at his