Curious History: The Hunt for Alaric’s Treasure - The Missing Gold of Rome
Alaric I, King of the Visigoths from 394-410 A.D. Long before the beginning of the period known as the Middle Ages, a tribe of barbarians called the Visigoths (Goths) lived north of the River Danube in the country which is now known as Romania. It was then a part of the great Roman Empire, which at that time had two capitals, Constantinople—the new city of Constantine and Rome. The Goths had come from the shores of the Baltic Sea and settled on this Roman territory, and the Romans had not driven them back.
Alaric’s dream was to conquer Rome and by the third attack, the emperor got what he wanted. The city was taken, and Alaric’s dream came true. In a grand procession he rode at the head of his army through the streets of the great capital. Then began the work of destruction. The Goths ran in crowds through the city, wrecked private houses and public buildings and seized everything of value they could find. Alaric gave orders that no injury should be done to the Christian churches, but other splendid buildings of the great city were stripped of the beautiful and costly articles that they contained, and all the gold and silver was carried away from the public treasury.
In the midst of the pillage, Alaric dressed himself in splendid robes and sat upon the throne of the emperor, with a golden crown upon his head. While Alaric was sitting on the throne thousands of Romans were compelled to kneel down on the ground before him and shout out his name as conqueror and emperor. Then the theaters and circuses were opened, and Roman athletes and gladiators had to give performances for the amusement of the conquerors. After six days of pillage and pleasure, Alaric and his army marched through the gates, carrying with them the riches of Rome.
Alaric died in 410 and it was said that all of the riches of Romes were to be buried with him. His burial site is in a secret location, somewhere under the Busento River near Cosenza in southern Italy. A horde of slaves were used to divert the water from the Busento allowing them to dig a tomb large enough for Alaric, his horse and all of the treasure amassed from his conquests. Once the tomb was completed the river was returned to its original site and Alaric’s tomb was covered with water. To ensure that no one would reveal this location, Alaric’s troops had all of the slaves who worked on the tomb killed.
In 711 AD, when the Arabs captured Toledo, the Spanish capital of what remained of the Visigoth kingdom, the got their hand on part of the ancient treasure, as reported in an inventory found in Damascus. More than 700 years later, during the mid 18th century, a huge project took place to unearth the tomb of Alaric, but nothing was found. Many books discuss Alaric’s history and what has happened to the remaining treasure. Up to this date, the mystery remains unsolved.
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