By Dolores Willis,2014-07-11 07:59
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Chapter XXXV: Invasion By Attila.

Part I.

     Invasion Of Gaul By Attila. - He Is Repulsed By Aetius And

    The Visigoths. - Attila Invades And Evacuates Italy. - The Deaths

Of Attila, Aetius, And Valentinian The Third.

     It was the opinion of Marcian, that war should be avoided,

    as long as it is possible to preserve a secure and honorable

    peace; but it was likewise his opinion, that peace cannot be

    honorable or secure, if the sovereign betrays a pusillanimous

    aversion to war. This temperate courage dictated his reply to

    the demands of Attila, who insolently pressed the payment of the

    annual tribute. The emperor signified to the Barbarians, that

    they must no longer insult the majesty of Rome by the mention of

    a tribute; that he was disposed to reward, with becoming

    liberality, the faithful friendship of his allies; but that, if

    they presumed to violate the public peace, they should feel that


correctly, under the administration of Aetius. ^3

[Footnote 1: See Priscus, p. 39, 72.]

    [Footnote 2: The Alexandrian or Paschal Chronicle, which

    introduces this haughty message, during the lifetime of

    Theodosius, may have anticipated the date; but the dull annalist

    was incapable of inventing the original and genuine style of


    [Footnote 3: The second book of the Histoire Critique de

    l'Etablissement de la Monarchie Francoise tom. i. p. 189 - 424,

    throws great light on the state of Gaul, when it was invaded by

    Attila; but the ingenious author, the Abbe Dubos, too often

bewilders himself in system and conjecture.]

     After the death of his rival Boniface, Aetius had prudently

    retired to the tents of the Huns; and he was indebted to their

    alliance for his safety and his restoration. Instead of the

    suppliant language of a guilty exile, he solicited his pardon at

    the head of sixty thousand Barbarians; and the empress Placidia

    confessed, by a feeble resistance, that the condescension, which

    might have been ascribed to clemency, was the effect of weakness

    or fear. She delivered herself, her son Valentinian, and the

    Western empire, into the hands of an insolent subject; nor could

    Placidia protect the son- in-law of Boniface, the virtuous and

    faithful Sebastian, ^4 from the implacable persecution which

    urged him from one kingdom to another, till he miserably perished

    in the service of the Vandals. The fortunate Aetius, who was

    immediately promoted to the rank of patrician, and thrice

    invested with the honors of the consulship, assumed, with the

    title of master of the cavalry and infantry, the whole military

    power of the state; and he is sometimes styled, by contemporary

    writers, the duke, or general, of the Romans of the West. His

    prudence, rather than his virtue, engaged him to leave the

    grandson of Theodosius in the possession of the purple; and

    Valentinian was permitted to enjoy the peace and luxury of Italy,

    while the patrician appeared in the glorious light of a hero and

    a patriot, who supported near twenty years the ruins of the

    Western empire. The Gothic historian ingenuously confesses, that

    Aetius was born for the salvation of the Roman republic; ^5 and

    the following portrait, though it is drawn in the fairest colors,

    must be allowed to contain a much larger proportion of truth than

    of flattery. ^* "His mother was a wealthy and noble Italian, and

    his father Gaudentius, who held a distinguished rank in the

    province of Scythia, gradually rose from the station of a

    military domestic, to the dignity of master of the cavalry.

    Their son, who was enrolled almost in his infancy in the guards,

    was given as a hostage, first to Alaric, and afterwards to the

    Huns; ^! and he successively obtained the civil and military

    honors of the palace, for which he was equally qualified by

    superior merit. The graceful figure of Aetius was not above the

    middle stature; but his manly limbs were admirably formed for

    strength, beauty, and agility; and he excelled in the martial

    exercises of managing a horse, drawing the bow, and darting the

    javelin. He could patiently endure the want of food, or of

    sleep; and his mind and body were alike capable of the most

    laborious efforts. He possessed the genuine courage that can

    despise not only dangers, but injuries: and it was impossible

    either to corrupt, or deceive, or intimidate the firm integrity

    of his soul." ^6 The Barbarians, who had seated themselves in the

    Western provinces, were insensibly taught to respect the faith

    and valor of the patrician Aetius. He soothed their passions,

    consulted their prejudices, balanced their interests, and checked

    their ambition. ^* A seasonable treaty, which he concluded with

    Genseric, protected Italy from the depredations of the Vandals;

    the independent Britons implored and acknowledged his salutary

    aid; the Imperial authority was restored and maintained in Gaul

    and Spain; and he compelled the Franks and the Suevi, whom he had

    vanquished in the field, to become the useful confederates of the


    [Footnote 4: Victor Vitensis (de Persecut. Vandal. l. i. 6, p. 8,

    edit. Ruinart) calls him, acer consilio et strenuus in bello: but

    his courage, when he became unfortunate, was censured as

    desperate rashness; and Sebastian deserved, or obtained, the

    epithet of proeceps, (Sidon. Apollinar Carmen ix. 181.) His

    adventures in Constantinople, in Sicily, Gaul, Spain, and Africa,

    are faintly marked in the Chronicles of Marcellinus and Idatius.

    In his distress he was always followed by a numerous train; since

    he could ravage the Hellespont and Propontis, and seize the city

of Barcelona.]

    [Footnote 5: Reipublicae Romanae singulariter natus, qui

    superbiam Suevorum, Francorumque barbariem immensis caedibus