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One good thing came of the Gothic conquest—the pagans were put to
silence for ever. The temples had been razed, the idols broken, and no
one set them up again; but the whole people of Rome were Christian, at
least in name, from that time forth; and the temples and halls of
justice began to be turned into churches.
Honorius still lived his idle life at Ravenna, and the Bishop—or, as
the Romans called him, Papa, father, or Pope—came back and helped them
to put matters into order again. Alaric had left no son, but his wife's
brother Ataulf became leader of the Goths. At Rome he had made prisoner
Theodosius' daughter Placidia, and he married her; but he did not choose
to rule at Rome, because, as he said, his Goths would never bear a quiet
life in a city. So he promised to protect the empire for Honorius, and
led his tribe away from Italy to Spain, which they conquered, and began
a kingdom there. They were therefore known as the Visigoths, or Western
Arcadius, in the meantime, reigned quietly at Constantinople, where St.
John Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed preacher of Antioch, was made
Patriarch, or father-bishop. The games and races in the circus at
Constantinople were as madly run after as they had ever been at Rome or
Thessalonica; there were not indeed shows of gladiators, but people set
themselves with foolish vehemence to back up one driver against another,
wearing their colors and calling themselves by their names, and the two
factions of the Greens and the Blues were ready to tear each other to
pieces. The Empress Eudoxia, Arcadius' wife, was one of the most
vehement of all, and was, besides, a vain, silly woman, who encouraged
all kinds of pomp and expense. St. Chrysostom preached against all the
mischiefs that thus arose, so that she was offended, and contrived to
raise up an accusation against him and have him driven out of the city.
The people of Constantinople still showed so much love for him that she
insisted on his being sent further off to the bleak shores of the Black
Sea, and on the journey he died, his last words being, "Glory be to God
in all things."
Arcadius died in 408, leaving a young son, called Theodosius II., in
the care of his elder sister Pulcheria, under whom the Eastern Empire
lay at peace, while the miseries of the Western went on increasing. New
Emperors were set up by the legions in the distant provinces, but were
soon overthrown, while Honorius only remained at Ravenna by the support
of the kings of the Teuton tribes; and as he never trusted them or kept
faith with them, he was always offending them and being punished by
fresh attacks on some part of his empire, for which he did not greatly
care so long as they let him alone.
Ataulf died in Spain, and Placidia came back to Ravenna, where Honorius
gave her in marriage to a Roman general named Constantius, and she had a
son named Valentinian, who, when his uncle died after thirty-seven years
of a wretched reign, became Emperor in his stead, under his mother's
guardianship, in 423.
Two great generals who were really able men were her chief
supporters—Boniface, Count or Commander of Africa; and Aëtius, who is
sometimes called the last of the Romans, though he was not by birth a
Roman at all, but a Scythian. He gained the ear of the Empress Placidia,
and persuaded her that Boniface wanted to set himself up in Africa as
Emperor, so that she sent to recall him, and evil friends assured him
that she meant to put him to death as soon as he arrived. He was very
much enraged, and though St. Augustine, now an old man, who had long
been Bishop of Hippo, advised him to restrain his anger, he called on
Genseric, the chief of the Vandals, to come and help him to defend his
The Vandals were another tribe of Teutons—tall, strong, fair-haired,
and much like the Goths, and, like them, they were Arians. They had
marauded in Italy, and then had followed the Goths to Spain, where they
had established themselves in the South, in the country called from them
Vandalusia, or Andalusia. Their chief was only too glad to obey the
summons of Boniface, but before he came the Roman had found out his
mistake; Placidia had apologized to him, and all was right between them.
But it was now too late; Genseric and his Vandals were on the way, and
there was nothing for it but to fight his best against them.
He could not save Carthage, and, though he made the bravest defence in
his power, he was driven into Hippo, which was so strongly fortified
that he was able to hold it out a whole year, during which time St.
Augustine died, after a long illness. He had caused the seven
penitential Psalms to be written out on the walls of his room, and was
constantly musing on them. He died, and was buried in peace before the
city was taken. Boniface held out for five years altogether before
Africa was entirely taken by the Vandals, and a miserable time began for
the Church, for Genseric was an Arian, and set himself to crush out the
Catholic Church by taking away her buildings and grievously persecuting
her faithful bishops.
Valentinian III, made a treaty with him, and even yielded up to him all
right to the old Roman province of Africa; but Genseric had a strong
fleet of ships, and went on attacking and plundering Sicily, Corsica,
Sardinia, Italy and the coasts of Greece.
Britain, at the same time, was being so tormented by the attacks of the
Saxons by sea, and the Caledonians from the north, that her chiefs sent
a piteous letter to Aëtius in Gaul, beginning with "The groans of the
Britons;" but Aëtius could send no help, and Gaul itself was being
overrun by the Goths in the south, the Burgundians in the middle, and
the Franks in the north, so that scarcely more than Italy itself
remained to Valentinian.
The Eastern half of the Empire was better off, though it was tormented
by the Persians in the East, on the northern border by the Eastern Goths
or Ostrogoths, who had stayed on the banks of the Danube instead of
coming to Italy, and to the south by the Vandals from Africa. But
Pulcheria was so wise and good that, when her young brother Theodosius
II. died without children, the people begged her to choose a husband who
might be an Emperor for them. She chose a wise old senator named
Marcian, and when he died, she again chose another good and wise man
named Zeno; and thus the Eastern Empire stood while the West was fast
crumbling away. The nobles were almost all vain, weak cowards, who only
thought of themselves, and left strangers to fight their battles; and
every one was cowed with fear, for a more terrible foe than any was now
coming on them.
PYRAMIDS AND SPHINX IN EGYPT.