993 ROMECONSTANTINE AND HIS SUCCESSORS.
and was influenced not a little by his warnings. Valentinian also, quaking with dread,
now promised his sister to the king of the
Huns as the price of his forbearance. The
latter consented to withhold his hand from
Italy, and to retire beyond the Alps. In A. D.
453 he returned to his stockade on the Theiss,
and came to a mysterious end. He was found
on the morning after his marriage with a certain captive named Ildico, stretched on his
bed, bathed in blood.
The remaining energy of the Empire of the
West had, during these events, been chiefly
centered in the minister Aetius. Valentinian
himself had little ambition and less ability.
He had been obliged to rely upon his counselor and Pope Leo for protection. Scarcely,
however, had Attila gone beyond the mountains when the utter meanness of the Emperor's character was shown in the assassination
of Aetius, whose only offense consisted in
having provoked the jealousy of his narrowminded master. The latter did not long survive the crime. A senator named Maximus
repaid him with the same fate which he had
sent to Aetius. The murderer of the Emperor then, after the manner of Richard III.,
sought the hand of Eudoxia, the widow of his
victim; but she, of a different mettle from the
Lady Anne, would not be so wooed by the
fresh assassin of her lord. Instead of so yielding, she sent a hasty message to Genseric,
king of the Vandals, to come over to Italy
and avenge her wrongs. To this he readily
assented. An enormous host, borne in transports, was landed on the Tiber's banks and
directed against Rome. The Pope Leo again
undertook, as in the case of Attila, to use the
terrors of religion to stay the terrors of barbarism. But Genseric had himself advanced beyond the green stages of barbaric life, and
was not to be frightened from his purpose.
He merely agreed with the great prelate that
the lives of the people should be spared. The
latter had in the mean timehoping by such a
course to appease the Vandal king and satisfy
Eudoxiastoned Maximus to death; but nothing would avail. The city was taken, and
for twelve days given up to pillage. Fires
were kindled in various parts; nor was the
pledge to spare the blood of the citizens observedas indeed it could not be under the
mutual provocations incident to the sacking of
Never before, since the days of old Brennus, had Rome been so terribly despoiled.
The gilded tiles were stripped from the Capitol. The Forum was robbed of its ornaments.
Barbaric vessels were heaped with gold and
silver treasures. The trophies which the ages
of victory had hung up in the temple of Peace
and the Capitol were snatched down and
thrown into the heap of spoils. The Jewish
treasures, including the golden candlestick of
Solomon's temple, were added to the accumulated plunder with which the Vandals loaded
themselves before their departure. Eudoxia
and her daughters were taken to Africa, and
Genseric insisted that one of the princesses
should be given to his son in marriage.
The family of Theodosius the Great was
now extinct. As for Rome
The Niobe of nations! there she stands
Childless and crownless in her voiceless woe,
An empty urn within her withered hands,
Whose holy dust was scattered long ago!
After the retirement of Genseric from Italy
the nobles, finding no further legitimacy in
the line of the Caesars, and having little use
for a legitimacy which if found, could protect
them no longer, called upon AVITUS, a Gaulish patrician of Auvergne, to accept the crown
of the Empire. The invitation was accepted,
and this foreign nobleman became for the
nonce Caesar of the West. It was not long,
however, until the Romans tired of their choice
and sent for RICIMER, king of the Suevi, to
come and expel the alleged Emperor from the
alleged throne. Avitus promptly retired to
his own city, but the prominence which had
thus been thrust upon him was too great to
be borne, and he was presently assassinated.
It appears that Ricimer was more anxious
to bestow the crown than to wear it. After an
interval of nearly a year, he nominated for
the vacant throne another Sueve named MAJORIAN, who, to the astonishment of all, began
to diffuse anew life into the more than half-dead body of Rome. The army was reorganized and directed successfully against the
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