ATHANARIC (d. 381), a ruler of the Visigoths from about 366
to 380. He bore the title not of king but of judge, a title which
may be compared with that of ealdorman among the Anglo-Saxon
invaders of Britain. Athanaric waged, from 367 to 369,
an unsuccessful war with the emperor Valens, and the peace by
which the war was ended was ratified by the Roman and Gothic
rulers meeting on a barge in mid-stream of the Danube. Athanaric
was a harsh and obstinate heathen, and his short reign was
chiefly famous for his brutal persecution of his Christian fellow-countrymen.
In 376 he was utterly defeated by the Huns,
who a few years before had burst into Europe. The bulk of the
VisiGothic people sought refuge within the Empire in the region
now known as Bulgaria, but Athanaric seems to have fled into
Transylvania. Being attacked there by two OstroGothic chiefs
he also, in 381, sought the protection of the Roman emperor.
Theodosius I. received him courteously, and he was profoundly
impressed by the glories of Constantinople, but on the fifteenth
day after his arrival he died, and was honoured by the emperor
with a magnificent funeral.
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