A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

emperor of the West for one year (A. D. 409, 410), the first raised to that office purely by the influence of barbarians. He was born in Ionia, brought up as a Pagan (Philostorgius, 12.3), and received baptism from an Arian bishop. (Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 9.9.) Having become senator and praefect of the city at the time of Alaric's second siege of Rome, he was, after the surrender of the place, declared emperor by the Gothic king and his army, in the place of Honorius, and conducted by them in state to Ravenna, where he sent an insulting message to Honorius, commanding him to vacate the throne, amputate his extremities, and retire to a desolate island. (Philostorgius, 12.3.) But the union of pride and folly which he had shewn in the first days of his reign, by proposing to reannex Egypt and the East to the empire (Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 9.8), and later by adopting measures without Alaric's advice, induced the Gothic chief to depose him on the plain of Ariminum. (Zosimus, 6.6-13.) After the death of Alaric, he remained in the camp of Ataulphus, whom, as emperor, he had made count of the domestics, and whose nuptials with Placidia he celebrated as a musician. He was again put forward by Ataulphus as a rival emperor, during the insurrection of Jovinus, but on being abandoned by him (Olympiod. apud Phot. p. 58), was taken prisoner, and on being brought before the tribunal of Honorius, was condemned to a sentence with which he had himself threatened Honorius in his former prosperity, viz. the amputation of his thumb and forefinger, and perpetual banishment to the island of Lipari, A. D. 416. (Philostorgius, 12.4, with Godefroy's Dissertations.)

There is in the British Museum a silver coin of this emperor, once in the collection of Cardinal Albano, and supposed to be unique. It is remarkable as exceeding in size all known ancient silver coins, and weighs about 1203 grains, and in the usual numismatic language would be represented by the number 13 3/4.

The obverse is, PRISCUS. ATTALVS. P. F. AUG., a protome of Attalus, turned to the right, wearing a fillet ornamented with pearls round his forehead, and the paludamentum fastened across the right shoulder with the usual bulla.

The reverse is, INVICTA. ROMA. AETERNA. R. .M. Rome, helmeted and draped to the feet, sitting

in front on a chair ornamented on each side with lions' heads; in the right hand she holds a globe, on which a small Victory is standing and holding in her right hand a crown and in her left a branch of palm; the left rests upon a spear with a long iron head, and inverted.