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.”


True or False: Braveheart



One of the few movies (in my opinion) that far outdid the book. It masterfully balances the love story with adventure and revenge. A perfect movie to watch with your significant other. (Then again, in the case of my wife, it is too violent because the horses get hurt!)


1. True or False—Wallace came from a family of commoners.

2. True or False—Wallace invented the use of pikes (long spears) in order to defend against cavalry.

3. True or False—English soldiers wore uniforms.

4. True or False—Scots painted their faces for battle.

5. True or False—Wallace spoke French.

(Answers at bottom)

Check out the following websites for more information:





1. Unknown—most scholars think his father was a knight, though the movie has the possibility of being true in this aspect. This is one of the perks of telling about a man we actually know so little about.

2. False—pikes had been around for centuries, especially used by the Greek phalanxes. They were the major fighting force long before cavalry.

3. False—this is necessary in a movie, though, to help the viewer know who is who. In actuality, soldiers often painted their shields with their symbol, but most of the clothing would have been the same on either side. I imagine this must have made fighting confusing.

4. False—earlier Picts and Celts were known to do this, but at this time, it was not common. But it sure adds to Wallace’s image.

5. True—in fact, French was common. It was the language of the educated, whereas English was looked down upon. Quite a change nowadays!


In all, the movie is true in that Wallace led a rebellion against the English and was executed. But doesn’t the fiction make the story so much more appealing?

Then again, if historical fact is important to you, you may prefer novels to movies.

Top 5 reasons to read historical fiction

File:Sakanoue Tamuramaro in a rain of arrows.jpg

Why read historical fiction?

1. It’s true.

Now, before you call me a liar and lecture me on the definition of “fiction,” let me rephrase that—it’s mostly true. Unlike movies, which can succeed without a shred of truth, historical fiction generally stays true to the facts. Our readers keep us honest!

Just be sure to read the author’s notes on what was fictionized.

2. It’s better than text books.

I’ve always loved history, but most of my history classes were boring. Facts, dates, names… Who cares? But reading about people in real

situations from the past—I could spend the rest of my life doing that.

3. It expands your horizons.

Visiting other parts of the world helps you think about life and gives you ideas you could not think while remaining in your own culture.

But let’s be honest. Most tourist attracts around the world are pretty westernized. Historical fiction, however, preserves the best of traditional cultures. What better way to view the world!

4. It’s great on a budget.

No money to visit ancient Egypt? Check out a book from the library, and go there when the mummies still had flesh on them, when the pharaohs ruled and chariots raced past.

Not even a five-star tour can rival that!

5. It shows true heroes.

Heroes still exist nowadays, but often it’s hard to know who will end well. So many people seem like great role models until… But historical fiction tells of those who lived well, ended well, and died well. You can find perfect examples of people to emulate.

And just in case you are curious, it has real life villains worse than any from other kinds of fiction, monsters who will disgust you and terrorize your soul… should you chose to read about them.

Read also: 

Who’s Who: Finding Your Comrades at Adrianople


In the movies, who can’t tell the Romans from the barbarians? It’s obvious. The Romans march in formation, their legions marked by eagles, wearing matching uniforms. They fire ballistae and other marvels of engineering.

The barbarians? They are a cross between Conan the Barbarian and a caveman, covered in fur even in the summer. They scream and charge, swinging axes, clubs, and swords. No order, no uniforms.

Maybe at one time that was true, but in the late Roman empire, everything changed.

When we think of Roman soldiers, we imagine fully armored soldiers with…

• the pilum (spears with an insert of metal, which broke upon contact to weigh down an enemy’s shield)

• the scutum (large rectangular shields that covered nearly the entire soldier and allowed the formation of the testudo, a turtle-shell like covering that could protect an entire formation)

• the gladius (short swords that were thrust into an enemy instead of slashed)

But by the time of “Alaric, Child of the Goths” and the late Roman empire, much of this changed due to a surprising change in Roman technology: they copied the barbarians.

• The lancea and veruta replaced the pilum.

• The shields were round and smaller, better suited for individual fighting.

• Most importantly, the gladius lost popularity to the spatha. Formerly, the spatha was limited to the cavalry, as it was a long sword that could strike enemies from a height. But since the legion became less of a machine and more of individual fighters, the longer swords were better suited.

So, surprisingly at a battle like Adrianople an equipped Gothic army met the Romans, and there little distinguished them. We should not picture the disciplined legions facing the barbarian horde, but rather a group of barbarians paid by Rome facing a similarly armed group of barbarians.

So, how do you find your comrades there? Look for men charging the same way, unless the enemy is retreating, of course! Also, check the shields, as these tended to be painted to show one’s unit / army.

Recommended reading: Late Roman Infantryman 236-565AD by Simon MacDowall (Osprey 1997). I highly recommend all the historical and ancient military books by Osprey. These have some of the best pictures and most accurate, easy-to-read information.





Check out other articles on the Goths:

Sack of Rome


Why didn’t the Goths take over the Roman Empire


Learning Gothic


True or false




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


Truth or Dare… the surprising truth of “Alaric”

Alaric cover pic

Historical fiction… a paradox?

Part 1

When reading historical ficiton, I always wonder what is true and what the author made up. So, here is the truth of my story. No spoilers here!

The truth:

1. Alaric was a Goth, as was Fritigern.

But nobody knows his family. Some scholars actually think Athanaric was his father. But I preferred him as a villain. Elvira was completely made up. She’s a necessary part for the trilogy. Athwaulf historically is Alaric’s brother in-law…so this lets you predict what will happen.

2. The Huns drove the Goths from their homes.
This was before the time of Attila, so the Hunnic tribes were not united. These raiders from the east eventually would make their way into France, scaring every Roman citizen and earning Attila the name Scourge of God. Compared to him, the Goths seem rather civilized.

3. The Goths were Christians.
This is partially true. Many Goths followed a missionary named Ulfilas into the Roman Empire where they lived in relative peace before others like Fritigern and Alavivus crossed. On the other hand, some Goths like Athanaric remained enemies of Christianity their entire lives.

4. The Romans abused the Goths
As terrible as it sounds, the fact is that many Romans traded mangy dogs for Gothic children. Romans enslaved them so their parents could have a meal.

5. The Romans ate jellyfish
To the Roman elite, one aspect of life that could not be cheapened was food. Exotic foods (often the more disgusting became more appealing it seems) bragged of one’s social status.

6. Alavivus’ life changed at Marcianople (read the book to find out how)
This is more of an argument from silence, as nobody knows for sure exactly how this happened.





Check out other articles on the Goths:

Sack of Rome


Why didn’t the Goths take over the Roman Empire


Learning Gothic


Weapons and armor of the Goths



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