Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's



Then at length the first Trumpet sounded. The object of doom marked out by it was Italy and Rome. Accordingly, as Alaric told an Italian hermit afterwards, "he felt a secret and præternatural impulse, which directed, and even compelled, his march to the gates of Rome."—As his trumpet sounded, and his march advanced, terrible omens and prognostications preceded him. "The Christians however," says Gibbon, "still derived some comfort from the powerful intercession of the saints and martyrs." So does he note again the very cause that had been hinted in the Apocalypse of the coming judgments. Thrice, in fulfilment of his destiny, Alaric descended from the Alps on the Italian plains; marking his course each step, as the awe-struck historians of the times tell us, in country and in town, with ravage, conflagration, and blood; till the gates of Rome itself were opened to the conqueror, and the Gothic fires blazed around the Capitol.

In the mean time other destroyers, of a kindred race and origin, had extended their ravages to the trans-rhenane provinces. Between Alaric’s first and second invasions of Italy, Rhadagaisus, from the far north of Germany, with a host of Vandals, Suevi, and Burgundians, burst, like a dark thunder-cloud from the Baltic, as Gibbon graphically describes it, on the Rhætian and Italian valleys. With slaughter, though with difficulty, they were repulsed by the Roman general from near Florence. But it was only to bend the course of the vast remnant westward; and overwhelm the provinces, till then flourishing and fertile, of Gaul and Spain. Blood and conflagration here marked each step of their track; just as that of Alaric in Greece and Italy. The burning of trees and herbage, as well as of cities, is pathetically particularized by the chronicles of the times. "The consuming flames of war," says Gibbon, "spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul … The scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man." A similar description is given of the desolation of Spain.—And the desolators entered never to retire. "This passage" of the Rhine, he adds, "by the Suevi, Vandals, Alani, and Burgundians, who never afterwards retreated, may be considered as the fall of the Roman empire in the countries beyond the Alps. The barriers which had so long separated the savage and the civilized nations of the earth, were, from that fatal moment, levelled with the ground."

The era of Alaric and Rhadagaisus,—that is, of the first Trumpet,—is to be considered as chiefly embracing some ten or twelve years, from A. D. 400 to about A. D. 410; though, as the ravages of the provinces were not then discontinued, we may perhaps consider the vision before us to embrace a period somewhat longer. In that latter year the Vandals had extended their conquests to the Straits of Gades: and Alaric, who had accomplished his destiny, and reached in his desolating course the southernmost coast of Italy,—while meditating still further conquests in the islands and transmarine provinces, which were intended however for another hand and another Trumpet,—was arrested suddenly by the hand of death. His royal sepulchre, we are told, adorned with the spoils and trophies of Rome, was built in the midst of the bed of the river Consentia in Bruttium; and the secret for ever concealed by the massacre of the prisoners employed in constructing it:—the last Italian blood that mingled with the fire and the hail, under the judgments of the first Trumpet.