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

    servire Imperio Romano coegisset. Jornandes de Rebus Geticis, c.

34, p. 660.]

    [Footnote *: Some valuable fragments of a poetical panegyric on

    Aetius by Merobaudes, a Spaniard, have been recovered from a

    palimpsest MS. by the sagacity and industry of Niebuhr. They

    have been reprinted in the new edition of the Byzantine

    Historians. The poet speaks in glowing terms of the long

    (annosa) peace enjoyed under the administration of Aetius. The

    verses are very spirited. The poet was rewarded by a statue

publicly dedicated to his honor in Rome.

     Danuvii cum pace redit, Tanaimque furore

     Exuit, et nigro candentes aethere terras

     Marte suo caruisse jubet. Dedit otia ferro

     Caucasus, et saevi condemnant praelia reges.

     Addidit hiberni famulantia foedera Rhenus

     Orbis ......

     Lustrat Aremoricos jam mitior incola saltus;

     Perdidit et mores tellus, adsuetaque saevo

     Crimine quaesitas silvis celare rapinas,

     Discit inexpertis Cererem committere campis;

     Caesareoque diu manus obluctata labori

     Sustinet acceptas nostro sub consule leges;

     Et quamvis Geticis sulcum confundat aratris,

     Barbara vicinae refugit consortia gentis.

     Merobaudes, p. 1]

    [Footnote !: - cum Scythicis succumberet ensibus orbis,

     Telaque Tarpeias premerent Arctoa secures,

     Hostilem fregit rabiem, pignus quesuperbi

     Foederis et mundi pretium fuit. Hinc modo voti

     Rata fides, validis quod dux premat impiger armis

     Edomuit quos pace puer; bellumque repressit

     Ignarus quid bella forent. Stupuere feroces

     In tenero jam membra Getae. Rex ipse, verendum

     Miratus pueri decus et prodentia fatum

     Lumina, primaevas dederat gestare faretras,

     Laudabatque manus librantem et tela gerentem

     Oblitus quod noster erat Pro nescia regis

     Corda, feris quanto populis discrimine constet

     Quod Latium docet arma ducem.

     Merobaudes, Panegyr. p. 15. - M.]

    [Footnote 6: This portrait is drawn by Renetus Profuturus

    Frigeridus, a contemporary historian, known only by some

    extracts, which are preserved by Gregory of Tours, (l. ii. c. 8,

    in tom. ii. p. 163.) It was probably the duty, or at least the

    interest, of Renatus, to magnify the virtues of Aetius; but he

    would have shown more dexterity if he had not insisted on his

patient, forgiving disposition.]

    [Footnote *: Insessor Libyes, quamvis, fatalibus armis

     Ausus Elisaei solium rescindere regni,

     Milibus Arctois Tyrias compleverat arces,

     Nunc hostem exutus pactis proprioribus arsit

     Romanam vincire fidem, Latiosque parentes

     Adnumerare sib, sociamque intexere prolem.

     Merobaudes, p. 12. - M.]

     From a principle of interest, as well as gratitude, Aetius

    assiduously cultivated the alliance of the Huns. While he

    resided in their tents as a hostage, or an exile, he had

    familiarly conversed with Attila himself, the nephew of his

    benefactor; and the two famous antagonists appeared to have been

    connected by a personal and military friendship, which they

    afterwards confirmed by mutual gifts, frequent embassies, and the

    education of Carpilio, the son of Aetius, in the camp of Attila.

    By the specious professions of gratitude and voluntary

    attachment, the patrician might disguise his apprehensions of the

    Scythian conqueror, who pressed the two empires with his

    innumerable armies. His demands were obeyed or eluded. When he

    claimed the spoils of a vanquished city, some vases of gold,

    which had been fraudulently embezzled, the civil and military

    governors of Noricum were immediately despatched to satisfy his

    complaints: ^7 and it is evident, from their conversation with

    Maximin and Priscus, in the royal village, that the valor and

    prudence of Aetius had not saved the Western Romans from the

    common ignominy of tribute. Yet his dexterous policy prolonged

    the advantages of a salutary peace; and a numerous army of Huns

    and Alani, whom he had attached to his person, was employed in

    the defence of Gaul. Two colonies of these Barbarians were

    judiciously fixed in the territories of Valens and Orleans; ^8

    and their active cavalry secured the important passages of the

    Rhone and of the Loire. These savage allies were not indeed less

    formidable to the subjects than to the enemies of Rome. Their

    original settlement was enforced with the licentious violence of

    conquest; and the province through which they marched was exposed

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