24 August: On this day in history
What events happened on 24 August in history? We round up the events, births and deaths…
24 August 410: Rome sacked by the Visigoth army
Citizens butchered and valuables stolen as Eternal City falls
For centuries afterwards, the sack of Rome by the Visigoths on 24 August 410 reverberated as one of the darkest days in world history. The birthplace of the empire, the spiritual capital of the Christian world, had fallen to the barbarians.
In fact, Rome’s importance in the early fifth century was largely symbolic. Following the division of the empire, power had moved to the new capitals of Constantinople and Ravenna, and the ageing city was manifestly in decline. Even so, as Alaric’s Visigothic army approached, its fall seemed almost unimaginable.
But then, according to legend, a group of disaffected slaves opened the Salarian Gate, and in poured the barbarian army. And so, “1163 years after the foundation of Rome”, wrote Edward Gibbon, “the Imperial city, which had subdued and civilised so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia”.
The sack lasted three days, during which the Visigoths burned and ransacked some of the city’s landmarks, raped and killed several citizens and seized others as slaves. In fact, by the standards of the day they were pretty restrained, but that was little consolation. “My voice sticks in my throat, and as I dictate, sobs choke me,” the theologian St Jerome recorded. “The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken... Who would have believed that mighty Rome, with its careless security of wealth, would be reduced to such extremities as to need shelter, food and clothing?
More like this
24 August 1662
The Act of Uniformity came into effect in England, enforcing the use of the new English Prayer Book and requiring episcopal ordination of all ministers.
24 August 1759
Anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce was born in Kingston upon Hull, the son of a wealthy merchant. At the age of 17 he went to Cambridge University where he formed a lasting friendship with future prime minister William Pitt. In 1785 he underwent an evangelical conversion, from which point he resolved to dedicate the rest of his life to the service of God.
24 August 1921
The R38 airship, which was undergoing trials before being delivered to the US Navy, broke up in the air and crashed into the Humber, killing 44 of the 49 crew members on board.
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