Germanic warriors of this time period fought not only against the Roman Empire, but also with them. They fought not as individuals incorporated into the ranks of the Roman military but as whole divisions of Germanic tribes within the Roman Army. The Goths were in turn allowed to settle on land set aside for them by the Roman Empire. They were also allowed to maintain a certain level of self rule within their settlement. Beginning in 394 Alaric served in the army of Theodosious I, as Foederati, and helped him defeat Eugenius. It was during this campaign that Alaric saw for himself the weaknesses in the Roman defences, and saw that the Roman Empire was no longer the invincible citadel that it had once been.
Alaric became disillusioned with his place in the Roman Army, and felt that he should have been promoted from commander of troops to a full Roman general for the way he helped to crush Eugenius at the Battle of the Frigidus. The Visigoths of Lower Moesia also felt that they were being misused in battle by the Romans, who often sent in their Germanic troops first, and into the most dangerous situations. The Goths at times received disproportionate casualties in battle which caused grumblings among the Goths. As a result of these events was chosen, or " raised on a shield ", as the historian Jordanes said, and made King of the Visigoths.
Alaric first attacked Greece, and the Roman commander Rufinus, who was already dealing with the Huns, decided it was better to deal with Alaric and met him in person. This was seen as treason by the leaders in Constantinople, and eventually Rufinus' own soldiers, who apparently also did not agree with his actions either, hacked him to death. With Rufinus out of the way Alaric was free to move on Greece. In and around 396 Alaric destroyed Attica, and captured Athens, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta. Alaric then sold many of the citizens of these city - states into slavery, a common practice at that time.
In 397 the Roman Empire sent their general, Stilicho, after Alaric. For a while Stilicho had Alaric and his Goths trapped in the Pholoe mountains. Using daring and a little help from the convenient departure of General Stilicho, Alaric was able to cross the Gulf of Corinth and escape. Alaric then went north to Epirus, and continued his conquests. Finally the Eastern Empire had had enough and offered him the military command, and title, that he had asked for.
Alaric, however, still was not satisfied with his treatment or the treatment that his people were receiving from their overlords, the Romans. In 401 he invaded Italy itself . After spreading fear and devastation throughout Northern Italy, the Romans decided to act, and once again sent Stilicho after him.
Next : Alaric turns defeats into final victory .
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