Ataulf

From Academic Kids

Ataulf (sometimes spelled Athaulf, "father-wolf") was king of the Visigoths from 410 to 415. He succeeded his brother-in-law Alaric I, struck down by a fever suddenly in Calabria, and halted the southward expansion of the Goths in Italy. Gaul had recently been separated from Honorius, under the usurper Constantine III; in 411, Constantius, the magister miltium of the Western Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius, with Gothic auxiliaries under Ulfilas, crushed the Gallic rebellion with a siege of Arles, where Constantine and his son were offered an honorable capitulation (but were beheaded in September on their way to pay homage to Honorius at Ravenna). In the spring of 412 Ataulf, who carried with him as a respected hostage the Emperor's half-sister Galla Placidia and who may have been encouraged with some payments in gold from Honorius, led his followers north into a momentarily pacified Gaul, living off the countryside in the usual way; there however he opened negotiations with another new usurper, the Gallic Jovinus, who preferred Ataulf's blood-enemy Sarus instead, whereupon Ataulf murdered him, then captured Jovinus' Augustus, Sebastianus, and turned him over for execution by Honorius' Gallic praetorian prefect in 413. After the usurper's head arrived at Ravenna in late August,to be forwarded for display among other usurpers on the walls of Carthage, relations between Ataulf and Honorius thawed sufficiently that Ataulf could cement them by marrying Galla Placidia, who had long been his captive, at Narbonne in early 414. The nuptials were celebrated with high Roman festivities, a classical epithalamium and magnificent gifts from the Gothic booty.

Under Ataulf's rule, the Visigoths could not be said to be masters of a settled kingdom until Ataulf took possession of Narbonne (413) and Toulouse, but they sustained an uneasy client relationship with the Western Roman Empire. Though he remained an Arian Christian, his relationship with Roman culture was summed up, from a catholic Roman perspective, by the words that the contemporary Christian apologist Orosius put into his mouth:

"At first I wanted to erase the Roman name and convert all Roman territory into a Gothic Empire: I longed for Romania to become Gothia, and Athaulf to be what Caesar Augustus had been. But long experience has taught me that the ungoverned wildness of the Goths will never submit to laws, and that without law, a state is not a state. Therefore I have more prudently chosen the different glory of reviving the Roman name with Gothic vigour, and I hope to be acknowledged by posterity as the initiator of a Roman restoration, since it is impossible for me to alter the character of this Empire." (from Adversum Paganos, translated in Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery, Routledge, 1985, 2000, p.218)

Honorius's general Constantius (later Emperor Constantius III), poisoned the relations with Ataulf and gained permission to blockade the Mediterranean ports of Gaul. In reply, Ataulf acclaimed as Augustus Priscus Attalus, the former emperor whom Alaric had set up at Rome in opposition to Honorius at Ravenna, and who had remained with the Goths after he had been deposed and had even graced the wedding of Ataulf. Constantius' naval blockade was successful, and in 415 Ataulf withdrew with his people into northern Hispania. Attalus fled, fell into the hands of Constantius and came to a bad end. Galla Placidia traveled with him; the infant son, Theodosius, she bore him died in infancy and was buried in Hispania, in a silver plated coffin [1] (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2004/2004-07-48.html), thus eliminating an opportunity for a Romano-Visigothic line. At Barcelona Ataulf's reign came to a sudden end, when the servant of a noble he had slain killed him while he bathed. Sigeric, the brother of Sarus, his late enemy among the Gothic nobles immediately became king—for a mere seven days, when he was also murdered and succeeded by Wallia. Galla Placidia returned to Ravenna, where she remarried the implacable enemy of the Goths, Constantius.

Main sources for Athaulf are Paulus Orosius and the chronicles of Idatius and Proper of Aquitaine.

External links

Preceded by:
Alaric I
King of the Visigoths Followed by:
Wallia
de:Athaulf

es:Ataślfo fr:Athaulf nl:Athaulf pl:Ataulf

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