#9.3: Stilicho Statue Base

Ok, backtrack and walk back over to that tall marble inscribed pedestal base I mentioned earlier, the one in line with the Pozzi Rituali between the Custodian Shack and the Rostra (it will be on your right inside the fenced Forum Square).

It is actually an earlier period equestrian statue base (on the left side are the sockets for the horse's feet) set on it's end atop a travertine block. Rome has been declining economically for years and reusing earlier materials for buildings and monuments is common. The fifteen-line inscription says it was setup by the City Prefect, Pisidius Romulus, in 405 AD by the Senate and People of Rome to celebrate the 'fidelity and valor of the most devoted troops' in battle against the Goths won under the command of General ////////////.... his name is chiseled-off (Damnatio Memoriae) three years later after he was executed. And as you can see the fifth and sixth line from the bottom is etched off. The name was Flavius Stilicho and it was on the fifth line, I *assume* his title(s) were on the sixth line. The inscription celebrates the defeat of the Goths (the Visigoths and Ostrogoths are Goths but different tribes). But I get different info: either in the 402 or 403 AD defeat at Pollentia (Pollenza) of either Alaric Visigoths or Radagaisus Ostrogoths or both. This the only surviving monument of several that were setup in the Forum praising the armies of the co-ruling Emperors Arcadius and Honorius (brothers) but their victories are short lived. And that etched-off name *might* be the reason for it and a big shove towards the 'Fall of the Roman Empire'.

Flavius Stilicho was born about 359 AD to a Vandal father and a Roman mother in Germany. He is brought up as an Arian which is a Christian sect in Germany slightly different than Roman Christianity (and early Roman Christians don't like diversity). He's made a General after negotiating a peace treaty with the Persians by Emperor Theodosius (Honorius and Arcadius father). The Emperor sees him as a great general who would make a powerful ally and has him marry his niece and adopted daughter now a princess for a blood tie. And before Theodosius' death in 394 he appoints Stilicho as guardian to his son Honorius who becomes Emperor at age six.

Stilicho has fought in battle with Alaric and his Visigoths when they were allies (about 392 AD). So he knows the man, his troops and his tactics. Rome and Alaric are now enemies and Stilicho defeats Alaric three times (397, two times in 402/403). Stilicho has also defeated Ostrogoths, Vandals and quelled an African revolt as General. But he has enemies within the Palace and rumors are started. Plus being a half barbarian Vandal, a Christian Arian and a successful and powerful General doesn't help during somewhat of a peace. He is accused of secretly forming an alliance with Alaric and other Barbarians, that he plans to make his son (Eucherius) Emperor and early in his career had ordered the murder his enemy who was the 'Praetorian Prefect' Rufinus (by the way, this guy deserved to get whacked). His Palace enemies pull-off a well-planned reverse coup d'etat. Stilicho retires to Ravenna where he is arrested. He is tried but doesn't defend himself against the charges. Either he knows there is only going to be one possible verdict in a kangaroo court so why bother, pride and honor to accept his fate for the good of Rome (no in-fighting) or perhaps he was guilty and did want to make his son Emperor. In 408 he is executed on the orders of Emperor Honorius.

His only son is also executed in Rome and his mother (Stilicho's princess wife) Serena will follow in two years accused of being in league with Alaric during the siege of Rome (remember Serena for later). Shortly after Stilicho's execution an anti-barbarian witch-hunt sweeps Italy.

The wives and children of barbarian troops who are auxiliaries in the Roman Army are murdered by the locals. 30,000 barbarian troops desert and join Alaric and his Visigoths for safety and revenge. Alaric marches on Rome and for two years there is an 'on-again-off-again' siege of Rome.

Finally on Aug 24, 410 someone opens the Gate (some believe on Serena's orders?) and for the first time in 800 years Rome is sacked and burned for three days. Atop this pedestal are sockets for the statue feet of a Stilicho statue, the statue faced the Arch of Septimius Severus. We have to assume his statue was either taken-down and replaced or had the head changed or maybe in this budget no-frills Empire they just said it was of someone else like another General from now on? Anyway this statue faced the first arriving Visigoths as they stormed into the Forum.

Three days later the Forum buildings around this statue lay in burned-out ruins within a pillaged Rome.

And the only General who had three times defeated this invading King and his army had been executed two years before and his name chiseled off this monument.

It's easy and very possible to believe that Alaric himself looked upon this monument which listed the Goths earlier defeat at the hands of his old ally and adversary Stilicho.

What would have been his thoughts? Happy, that he didn't have to face Stilicho again in battle? Hurt pride, that he didn't have the chance to defeat him honorably in battle at least once? Or the sadness of a soldier's code of honor, where his old and respected adversary was cast aside in dishonor by his own people? Also I wonder what did the Romans think afterwards as their city lay in ruins? Perhaps "Stilicho could have saved us!"?

Next: #9.4: Decennalia Base
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