Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

An Emperor's Penance

Theodosius was, as we have seen, an excellent emperor, and we are told that there is but one stain on his memory,—the massacre at Thessalonica.

The people of that city once revolted, because the soldiers had arrested one of their favorite chariot drivers, who had failed to obey the laws. In his rage at hearing of this revolt, Theodosius commanded that all the inhabitants of Thessalonica should be killed. Men, women, and children were accordingly butchered without mercy; but when the deed was done, the emperor repented sorely of his cruelty.

He then went to St. Ambrose, a priest who had vainly tried to disarm his anger. Humbly begging pardon for his cruelty, he asked permission to come into the Church once more. St. Ambrose, however, would not grant him forgiveness until Theodosius had done public penance for his sin.

Thus, you see, when the Christian emperors did wrong, they were publicly reproved by the priests, whose duty it was to teach men to do good and to love one another.

Both sons of Theodosius were mere boys when they were called by their father's death to take possession of the empires of the East and of the West. For a while, however, the barbarians dared not invade Roman territory, for they had not yet forgotten how they had been conquered by Theodosius.

The empire of the West in time became the weaker and the smaller of the two; for the Caledonians in Britain, the Germans along the Rhine, the Goths and Huns along the Danube, and the Moors in Africa were little by little invading its territory and taking possession of its most exposed cities.

As the two princes were themselves too young to govern, the power was wielded by their guardians, Stilicho and Rufinus, who quarreled and finally fought against each other. The national jealousy which had always existed between the Greeks and the Latins was increased by these quarrels between the two ministers; and it did not come to an end even when Rufinus was caught in an ambush and slain.

When the Goths saw that the empires of the East and the West were too busy quarreling with each other to pay any attention to them, they suddenly marched into Greece under Alaric.

The Greeks, in terror, implored Stilicho to hasten to their rescue. He came, and won a victory over the Goths; but, instead of following up his advantage, he soon returned to Italy. The Goths, seeing this, soon followed him thither, and laid siege to Milan.

Stilicho raised an army as quickly as possible, and defeated the Goths on the same field where Marius had once conquered the Cimbri. But the Goths, although defeated, secured favorable terms before they withdrew.

Honorius, the emperor of the West, had been very badly frightened by the appearance of the Goths in Italy. In his terror, he changed his residence to the city of Ravenna, where he fancied that he could better defend himself if they attacked him.


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire