The Roman empire was one of the “greatest” to rule the world. For hundreds of years the Romans dominated the Mediterranean, building magnificent cities, roads that remain today and imposing their “peace” upon those they conquered. At the time of Jesus and in the centuries after the power of Rome seemed unassailable.

By the fifth century after Christ the citizens of Rome had enjoyed eight centuries as a superpower. Regaled with tales of victory by their armies in far off places and convinced of their superiority to the barbarian hordes they were convinced their city could never fall. Then in the first decade of the fifth century they awoke to find Alaric, king of the Visigoths, standing at their gates with his army.

What a preposterous man he was thinking Rome would fall to his power! Envoys were sent out to conduct negotiations to have him move away. They began with threats: an attack on Rome would be met by the almighty strength of her innumerable warriors.

Alaric’s reply was simple: “The thicker the grass the more easily scythed.”

The envoys realised Alaric could not be fooled by their empty threats. What then would be the price of his departure. Alaric explained that his soldiers would move through the city taking all the gold, silver and anything else of value that could be moved. They would also take with them every barbarian who had been enslaved.

The envoys became hysterical. “But what would that leave us?” the demanded.

“Your lives” Alaric replied.

And with that Rome’s centuries as an apparently unbeatable superpower came to an end.


Source: Story of Rome’s fall found in T. Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilisation (Hodder, 1995)