Thursday, July 7, 2022

At the Gates of Rome: The Rise and Fall of the Eternal City, AD 410 (Don Hollway)

The gradual and occasionally spastic decline of the Roman Empire occured over a couple of centuries and involved a combination of events. One of them was the sacking of Rome in AD 410 by the Goths, who were led by Alaric. Alaric was a former Roman soldier and ally of the empire before being dismissed from the Roman Army late in the 4th Century. Eventually, Alaric directed an army of Goth supporters on a rampage from the historic and symbolic capital of Rome.

At the Gates of Rome: The Fall of the Eternal City, AD 410 is Don Hollway’s detailed, historic account of this event and the decades-long lead-up to it. While Rome was no longer the capital of the Roman Empire, which by the 5th Century had been split into two parts, it was still a large, symbolic, major city with over 100,000 inhabitants. It also housed the Roman Senate and many political institutions, even though emperors were now based in Ravenna. Hollway’s account details the story of imperial incompetence, political backstabbing, murder, religion, and a former army leader turning against his former employer after they dismissed him. The Goths had rampaged through Italy on two prior occasions, including two sieges where the city’s supply of grain was cut off until a ransom was paid. On the third siege, Alaric ultimately burned much of the city and killed numerous Roman residents.

At the Gates of Rome does not just describe the sacking of Rome in technical detail, but shares intriguing stories involving Gothic treatment of religious relics and some individuals (many others were not spared such kindness). Hollway’s book closes with explaining his reasons for the Fall of Rome, quoting Patrick Henry’s remarks from the late 18th Century regarding division and unity. Rome’s inability to remain united nor welcoming to foreign groups seeking refuge within the Roman Empire is the author’s chief reason why he believes Rome was ultimately sacked and why the Western Roman Empire eventually ceased to exist.