About 1,600 years ago, in the year 410 AD, barbarian armies underneath King Alaric captured the ancient city of Rome, ransacking and pillaging the center of the Roman Empire. The fall of the once-great capital sent terrifying shockwaves throughout the Western world, triggering Saint Jerome to lament that it was like “the bright light of all the world was put out.”
Contrary to popular belief, no climactic battle preceded the fall of Rome. In fact, for years beforehand, Alaric and his Visigoths had already gone on a rampage up and down the entire Italian Peninsula, ravaging the countryside as they pleased — utterly unchecked and unchallenged. By the time this band of Gothic ruffians actually arrived at the gates of Rome, it seems that they simply walked into town.
All of this relentless chaos begs the question: Just where exactly were the famous Roman legions to stop them? In one of the curious mysteries of 5th century history, nobody really knows the particulars for sure. But one thing is certainly known, the Roman army was conspicuously missing in action. Decades of waging one expensive war after the next — its forces spread thin across the outposts of a vast frontier — Rome’s depleted military started to disintegrate.