Page 0993

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

the city.

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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