Thursday, August 10, 2006

Alaric I

In 410 A.D., Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. It was the first time that Rome had been taken by a foreign army in 800 years. Although the Western Roman Empire was already well into decline, the sack of Rome sent shockwaves throughout the world and signaled to many that the Western Roman Empire was on it's last legs.

Who was the leader that sacked Rome? His name was Alaric. And he has an interesting biography.

A nobleman, Alaric served as a commander of Gothic troops in the Roman army. After the death of the emperor Theodosius I in 395, he left the Roman military and was elected king of the Visigoths. He then promptly fabricated an excuse and attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. He was repulsed before reaching Constantinople but he ravaged a large portion of Greece as a consolation prize.

Alaric twice invaded Italy but was defeated both times. However, his third invasion worked like a charm. Riccardo Cigola wrote about what happened, "The Visigothic laid siege to Rome (408) until the Senate granted him another subsidy and assistance in his negotiations with Honorius. Honorius remained intransigent, however, and in 409 Alaric again surrounded Rome. He lifted his blockade after proclaiming Attalus as Western emperor. Attalus appointed him magister utriusque militiae ("master of both services") but refused to allow him to send an army into Africa. Negotiations with Honorius broke down, and Alaric deposed Attalus in the summer of 410, besieging Rome for the third time. Allies within the capital opened the gates for him on August 24, and for three days his troops occupied the city, untouched by a foreign enemy for nearly 800 years. The emotions about ruined Rome were partly expressed in the City of God by St Augustin."

Alaric did not survive his triumph over Rome long. While contemplating an invasion of Roman Africa, he died. It was still 410 A.D. and he had not survived the year he sacked Rome. His death was rumored to have been caused by a fever but many Christians attributed the death to God's vengeance.

Miles H. Hodges wrote of his legacy, "Despite his ultimate failure at establishing some kind of Gothic regime of his own, Alaric left an huge mark on his age. Principally, he had exhausted the Roman resistance in the West, and opened the way for the German Vandals and Suebi to invade Gaul and Spain. It was his marauding of Rome that also caused the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain--leaving that land vulnerable to the invading Picts to the North and the Saxons to the East."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Domesday Book

In 1085, William the Conqueror commissioned a great survey to discover the resources and taxable values of all the boroughs and manors in England. He wanted to discover who owned what, how much it was worth, and how much was owed to him as King. It was a massive enterprise, and the record of that survey, Domesday Book, was a remarkable achievement.

The UK National Archives has made the Domesday Book available online. The site notes, "You can search by the names of places or people, or by folio reference. A folio might contain entries for several places and you can see examples in the section Images of the folio and translation below. The indexes of people and places were compiled by Editions Alecto. There is a specific search form for Domesday. "

Other features at the site include:

Discover Domesday explains why Domesday was created and how you can interpret it. You can learn how the survey was carried out, what questions were asked, how the findings were written up and how its legacy has been preserved for more than 900 years. It gives lots of examples of Domesday folios, and shows you how to interpret an entry. (Description from the site.)

World of Domesday explores life in eleventh century England, and the rich landscape William the Conqueror inherited. You will read about the lives of the people, the landscape and the life in towns and villages. (Description from the site.)

This is a great primary resource and am sure with creativity could be used to teach students about this time in English history. My thanks to the UK National Archives for putting it online in a searchable format.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Smithonian Source - Resources for Teaching American History

Smithonian Source - Resources for Teaching American History. The site exclaims, "Find teacher-selected resources that allow you to peer over the historian's shoulder and share the excitement of discovery." Despite some annoying background music and slow loading times, this site delivers.

The site contains a large number of primary sources. All of the material is in the public domain and available to educators for use in teaching in class or online. The Teaching with Primary Sources page has five teaching ideas with video and lesson plan attached. The Historical Topics page has collected primary sources into one of six collections including Civil Rights, Colonial America, Invention, Native American History, Transportation, and Westward Expansion. There is also an option for doing a simple keyword search of all material in the site database.

From the site:

This website reflects the work of several groups of teachers who conducted research at the Smithsonian and other national historical organizations. For this reason, some of the primary sources included in Smithsonian Source are not from the Smithsonian collections. Teachers also chose the historical topics on the site, and these categories reflect their curricula rather than the terminology or organizational methods of the Smithsonian Institution.