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Marriage of Ataulf and Galla Placidia

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Possible image of Galla Placidia
Possible image of Galla Placidia

Galla Placidia was the native sister of the West Roman emperor – Honorius. In 410 CE she was captured by the Visigoths, who, commanded by king Alaric, captured and plundered Rome. While in captivity, she accompanied the Visigothic army in the march south of the Apennine Peninsula, and then to Gaul. Alaric showed her special favors, but only his successor – Ataulf – got married to Galla.

Ataulf, when he was in Gaul, was looking for a way to make an agreement with Honorius. In fact, both sides were tired of a constant war and were looking for a way to stop fights. Honorius had enough worries in the form of invasion of Gaul and Spain by other barbarian peoples. He decided to give the Visigoths the title of “allies” and settle them within the borders of the Empire, in the present southern France. Germans, who were looking for land to settle, had to respect their areas and receive regular grain deliveries. In exchange, they were to serve as troops, which were to be used to deal with Vandals and Suebi.

As it turned out, the agreement did not last long. Emperor Honorius demanded the release of his sister from captivity. The Romans, however, did not provide the promised deliveries of grain, which caused Ataulf’s anger. His troops captured the provincial capital – Narbonne, and in 414 CE the king of Visigoths has made an unprecedented event. The barbarian king took as his wife, daughter and sister of the emperors – Galla Placidia. Interestingly, Roman woman was not forced to do so. Their child – Theodosius, in turn, was the only royal son in the history of the Goths with the Roman name.

The marriage of Ataulf and Galla Placidia allowed us to make visions about the Roman-Gothic union. A weak military West with the support of a significant Visigothic army could “get up” for years and rebuild its declining status. The idea disappeared with the early death of Ataulf and Theodosius.

Sources
  • Koper Sławomir, Życie prywatne i erotyczne w starożytnej Grecji i Rzymie, Warszawa 1998
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzowych Rzymu, Warszawa 2001

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