Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Alaric the Visigoth
King from 394-410 A.D.
Long before the beginning of the period known as the Middle Ages a tribe of barbarians
called the Goths lived north of the River Danube in the country which is now known as
Roumania. It was then a part of the great Roman Empire, which at that time had two
capitals, Constantinople--the new city of Constantine--and Rome. The Goths had come
from the shores of the Baltic Sea and settled on this Roman territory, and the Romans had
not driven them back.
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Valens some of the Goths joined a conspiracy
against him. Valens punished them for this by crossing the Danube and laying waste their
country. At last the Goths had to beg for mercy. The Gothic chief was afraid to set foot
on Roman soil, so he and Valens met on their boats in the middle of the Danube and
made a treaty of peace.
For a long time the Goths were at war with another tribe of barbarians called Huns.
Sometimes the Huns defeated the Goths and drove them to their camps in the mountains.
Sometimes the Goths came down to the plains again and defeated the Huns.
At last the Goths grew tired of such constant fighting and thought they would look for
new settlements. They sent some of their leading men to the Emperor Valens to ask
permission to settle in some country belonging to Rome. The messengers said to the
"If you will allow us to make homes in the country south of the Danube we will be
friends of Rome and fight for her when she needs our help."
The emperor at once granted this request. He said to the Gothic chiefs:
"Rome always needs good soldiers. Your people may cross the Danube and settle on our
land. As long as you remain true to Rome we will protect you against your enemies."
These Goths were known as Visigoths, or Western Goths. Other tribes of Goths who had
settled in southern Russia, were called Ostrogoths, or Eastern Goths.
After getting permission from the Emperor Valens a large number of the Visigoths
crossed the Danube with their families and their cattle and settled in the country now
In course of time they became a very powerful nation, and in the year 394 they chose as
their king one of the chiefs named Alaric. He was a brave man and a great soldier. Even