The legend of Alaric’s burial

It all started with Jordanes who provides most of the literary evidence concerning the early history of the Goths. His De origine actibusque Getarum (551) is a Readers Digest version of the lost History by Cassiodorus (490-585).

Cassiodorus held several high offices under the reigns of Theoderic and Athalaric, the Ostrogoth rulers in Ravenna. I suppose he spoke the Gothic language. But scholars today question his claim that he based his history of the Goths on folk songs. More likely, he wanted to give the Gothic ruling class a glorious past matching that of Roman senatorial families. Cassiodorus probably used oral sources, but coming from a traditon of written sources, he might have known that he was putting the ‘story’ into History by merging these snippets into a coherent Whole.

It would not be the only time this happened. Geoffrey de Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittaniae does the same by connecting the House Plantagenet to King Arthur, to name just one example.

We don’t know much about Jordanes, according to what he mentions in his Getica, he and his father held positions in the immediate surroundings of the leaders in the Alano-Ostrogothic tribal confederation in Moesia (Bulgaria) until Jordanes converted to the Catholic faith and took vows. His and his father’s name sound more Alan than Gothic to me.

Thus, we have the condensed version of a history that had an agenda, both written some 140 years after the incidents. The main tone of the Getica is friendly to the Goths whom Jordanes as well as Cassiodorus interpret as having tried to find a peaceful integration into the Roman Empire.

This is what Jordanes says about Alaric’s funeral:





Valens – Emperor Against the World Part 2

A prophecy: Emperor Valens would burn


As mentioned in part 1, though Emperor Valens ruled the eastern Roman Empire, his strangeness led to a paranoia that the world was against him. He had more in common with his enemies the Goths (especially the shared Arian religion) than with his own people. As a result, many Catholics predicted that he would burn.

What led to the burning?

Valens made two mistakes.

Actually, they are one—underestimating.

Planning to recruit Goths into the army, Valens allowed the Tervingi clan (one of the two largest Gothic peoples) to immigrate. Though sources differ on exactly how many Goths crossed the Danube to live in the empire, they all agree that Rome was not prepared. Some guesses are as high as a hundred thousand people. Valens must have underestimated their number, for the empire could not provide to feed them all, let alone give them land. The Goths were placed in what we would now call concentration camps, holding areas where they were cheated and abused. The price of meat? They could purchase a dog carcass by selling a child into slavery.

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The Last of the Legions – A brief look at the armies of Rome’s Twilight

Rome’s Legions: All-Conquering? Invincible? Think Again!

Think of Rome’s armies and you’ll probably conjure up an image of the typical 1st century AD legionary. In that era, the empire was bold, brash, burgeoning and seemingly unstoppable. The iconic lorica segmentata (segmented armour vest) symbolised the empire’s military might and technical superiority. But Rome’s dominance was not to last . . .

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Sack of Rome


The Visigoth Sack of Rome – 410 A.D.

The Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 A.D. was a milestone in the fall of the Empire. Not since Hannibal reached Rome in 218 B.C. had an invading force threatened the city. In the latter case, there was no attack because Hannibal knew he could not prevail. Alaric, king of the Visigoths saw a different vista – an impotent western empire without a future.

Find what happened at


Valens – Emperor Against the World


Barbarians in the north. Persians in the east. Catholics within. With enemies everywhere, it was no surprise to find a paranoid emperor.

Valens, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from 364—378, was far from the specimen of nobility you would expect. When you think of a Roman emperor, you might picture a man with arms upheld in victory, leading a procession of soldiers and slaves through the city of Rome. Or perhaps you picture Commodus from “Gladiator,” a naïve youth whose desire to help the commoners is clouded by his fascination with his sister.  But you do not picture a man with a squint—squints are for Popeye. Or a man with bowed legs—those are for cowboys. Yet, Valens (CAESAR·FLAVIVS·IVLIVS·VALENS·AVGVSTVS) was just that. Not even his paranoia could save him.

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What’s in a name? A Goth by any other name would not be.


Heroes and ancient warriors collected names. Think of biblical characters, Tolkien’s heroes, or ancient kings with their list of titles. Quite impressive, especially compared to our simple John Robert Smith. (My apologies if that is your name.)

So, how do you go about choosing a name?

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Sack of Rome, Day 3


On this date in 410, Rome was experiencing its third day of siege by the Goths under the command of Alaric.

What made this event unique?

  1. Rome had not been attacked for 800 years. Not since the Gauls in 390 BC had Rome’s enemies reached the eternal city.

How were the enemies allowed to get inside?
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Why didn’t the Goths take over the Roman Empire? 4 reasons

goths on move

After the tragic defeat of the Roman army at Adrianople in 378, the Goths were loose in the empire. The eastern emperor was dead, along with two-thirds of his army. No other army remained in the east, and definitely none that could face them in battle. So, why didn’t the Goths take over the empire?

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Want to learn Gothic?

Goth Lord's prayer

Want to learn Gothic?

Now, you can’t start with the basics of conversation, since no one really speaks this language any more. None of the “Hi. My name is ___. How are you?”

To find the Gothic that Alaric and his family would have spoken, check out It’s a bit academic, but you can impress your friends with this language, which none of them have ever heard!

 Check out other articles on the Goths:

Sack of Rome


Why didn’t the Goths take over the Roman Empire


Weapons and armor of the Goths


True or false




For more information on the Gothic quest for a home and freedom, check out “Alaric, Child of the Goths.”


Making mistakes on purpose


Here is an original page from “Alaric, Child of the Goths.” Looks messy, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry—none of this mess is still in the book!

The typed section doesn’t look too bad—a few asterisks, an all cap question, and an underlined number.

But look at the rest. It looks like I failed the assignment because of all the mistakes.


Or did I?

Is your assignment to write a perfect rough draft?

1. If you are taking a placement exam, yes.

2. If you are writing a novel, journal, or anything for fun, no.


Are all those comments actually mistakes?

Let’s change the perspective. When you receive the page filled with marks—made either by you or by your editor—avoid thinking about them as mistakes. Instead, think of what you did as practice. Few people if any are able to write a rough draft worthy of a final. And generally these people are poor writers whose problem is the inability to do more than the rough draft.

Without writing the “flawed” rough draft, the final would not happen. As I look through this page, I do not see mistakes so much (this page had mostly the right words and grammar in my opinion) as unfinished ideas. I filled most of the available page with what I thought needed to be added, either to clarify an unclear sentence or to give a character the right name. (The character Athwaulf used to be named Paulus.)


If we take this analogy to the marks an editor or teacher gives, think of them as advice to help your practice. Unless you were lazy and did not correct basic mistakes like spelling and verb form, an editor’s marks are ideas for you to consider and implement, not criticisms of your mistakes.


I hope you find this change in perspective freeing. Now, go make mistakes… with the goal of improving what you do.