If you ever learned about the Roman Empire in history class, the barbarian Goths’ sack of Rome in 410 was probably one of the points your teacher hit. After all, if you’re looking for an endpoint for an empire, the looting of its namesake city is probably a good place to start.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Goths didn’t sack Rome, but there’s a lot more to the story than that. The Roman Empire didn’t just stop functioning after the Goths carted off centuries worth of plunder, and the Goths themselves were more interested in fighting as a Roman army than they were in looting and burning its cities. The sack of Rome was a negotiating play gone awry.
I’m Patrick Wyman, and I just finished my PhD on the end of the Roman Empire. It seems pretty silly to me that professional historians don’t actually talk to the general public—why would you spend decades working on something if you don’t want to tell people about it?—so that’s why I’m doing this podcast on the fall of Rome.
In the fourth episode, we track the Goths as they rise up in rebellion after being used as cannon fodder in a Roman civil war, use raiding as leverage to try to negotiate a better deal, and finally, out of options and starving outside Rome, sack the city and bring an end to Rome’s 800-year undefeated streak of turning away invaders.
If that sounds interesting to you, give the fourth episode of The Fall of Rome a listen.