ATAULPHUS, ATHAULPHUS, ADAULPHUS
Atha-ulf, "sworn helper," the same name as that which appears in later history under the form of Adolf or Adolphus), brother of Alaric's wife. (Olympiod. apud Phot.
Cod. 80, p. 57a., ed Bekk.)
He first appears as conducting a reinforcement of Goths and Huns to aid Alaric in Italy after the tennination of the first siege of Rome. (A. D. 409.)
In the same year he was after the second siege raised by the mock emperor Attalus to the office of Count of the Domestics; and on the death of Alaric in 410, he was elected to supply his place as king of the Visigoths. (Jornandes, de Reb. Get.
32.) From this time the accounts of his history vary exceedingly.
The only undisputed facts are, that he retired with his nation into the south of Gaul,--that he married Placidia, sister of Honorius,--and that he finally withdrew into Spain, where he was murdered at Barcelona.
According to Jornandes (de Reb. Get.
32), he took Rome a second time after Alaric's death, carried off Placidia, formed a treaty with Honorius, which was cemented by his marriage with Placidia at Forum Livii or Cornelii, remained a faithful ally in Gaul, and went into Spain for the purpose of suppressing the agitations of the Suevi and Vandals against the empire.
But the other authorities for the time agree on the whole in giving a different representation.
According to them, the capture of Placidia had taken place before Alaric's death (Philostorg. 12.4; Olympiod. l.c.;
); the treaty with the empire was not concluded till after Ataulphus's retreat into Gaul, where he was implicated in the insurrection of Jovinus, and set up Attalus, whom he detained in his camp for a musician, as a rival emperor; he then endeavoured to make peace with Honorius by sending him the head of the usurper Sebastian, and by offering to give up Placidia in exchange for a gift of corn; on this being refused, he attacked Massilia, from which he was repulsed by Bonifacius; finally, the marriage with Placidia took place at Narbo (Idat. Chronicon
), which so exasperated her lover, the general Constantius, as to make him drive Ataulphus into Spain. (Orosius, 7.43
; Idat. Chronicon;
He was remarkable as being the first independent chief who entered into alliance with Rome, not for pay, but from respect. His original ambition had been (according to Orosius, 7.43
, who appears to record his very words), "that what was now Romania should become Gothia, and what Caesar Augustus was now, that for the future should be Ataulphus, but that his experience of the evils of lawlessness and the advantages of law had changed his intention, and that his highest glory now would be to be known in after ages as the defender of the empire." And thus his marriage with Placidia--the first contracted between a barbarian chief and a Roman princess--was looked upon by his contemporaries as a marked epoch, and as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel, that the king of the North should wed the daughter of the king of the South. (Idat. Chronicon.
He was a man of striking personal appearance, and of middle stature. (Jornandes, de Reb. Get.
The details of his life are best given in Olympiodorus (apud Phot.
), who gives a curious description of the scene of his nuptials with Placidia in the house of Ingenuus of Narbo (p. 59b. ed. Bekker).
His death is variously ascribed to the personal anger of the assassin Vernulf or (Olympiod. p. 60a.) Dobbius (Jornandes, de Reb. Get.
32), to the intrigues of Constantius (Philostorg. 12.4), and to a conspiracy occasioned in the camp by his having put to death a rival chief, Sarus (Olympiod. p. 58b.)
It is said to have taken place in the palace at Barcelona (Idat. Chronicon
), or whilst, according to his custom, he was looking at his stables. (Olympiod. p. 60,a.) His first wife was a Sarmatian, who was divorced to make way for Placidia (Philostorg. 12.4), and by whom he had six children.
The only offspring of his second marriage was a son, Theodosius, who died in infancy. (Olympiod. p. 59b.)