ROME. Early Middle Ages.
is accounted for by the fact that the Roman aristocracy at first clung
tenaciously to the old traditions, and for a long period the city pre¬
served its heathen character. The state at length overcame this
antagonism. In 382 the altar of Victoria was removed from the
senate-hall, and in 408 the ancient religion was at length deprived
by a law of Honorius of all its temporal possessions, and thus in¬
directly of its spiritual authority also. The destruction of the an¬
cient temples, or their transformation into Christian places of wor¬
ship now began, and the churches rapidly increased in number. At
this early period Rome possessed 28 parish churches (tituli), be¬
sides numerous chapels, and among them arose the five Patriarchal
Churches, presided over by the pope, and forming a community to
which the whole body of believers throughout the world was con¬
sidered to belong. These five were <S. Giovanni in Laterano, S.
Pietro, S. Paolo, S. Lorenzo, and the church of S. Maria Maggiore
founded by Liberius. Besides these, S. Croce in Oerusalemme and
5. Sebastiano, erected over the catacombs of the Via Appia, enjoyed
special veneration. These formed the 'Seven Churches of Rome' to
which pilgrims flocked from every part of western Christendom.
The number of monasteries now steadily increased, and at the same
time the inroads of poverty made rapid strides.
In the 4th Century the cultivation of the Roman Campagna
began to be seriously neglected, and in an official document of the
year 395 it is stated that upwards of 500 square miles of arable land
had been abandoned and converted into morass. The malaria at the
same time extended its baneful sway from the coast into the in¬
terior of the country. The storms of the barbarian irruptions greatly
aggravated the misery. Although the Vandals and Goths are often
erroneously held responsible for the destruction of all the great
monuments of antiquity, which , on the contrary, Theodoric tlie
Great did his utmost to protect, Rome doubtless suffered terribly
from having been the scene of their battles and pillagings. In 410
the city was plundered by Alaric, and in 445 by the Vandals, and
in 537 it sustained its first siege from the Goths under Vitiges.
They laid waste the Campagna and cut off all the supplies of water
brought to the city by the aqueducts, but the skill of Belisarius,
and the strength of the walls, particularly those of the Castle of
S. Angelo, effectually repelled their attacks on the city. In March
538 they were at length compelled to abandon their designs, after
having beleaguered the city for upwards of a year. In December
546, Totilas, the king of the Goths, entered Rome, and is said to
have found not more than 500 persons within the walls of the
devastated city. Belisarius then repaired the walls which had been
partially destroyed, and in 547 he sustained a second siege. In 549
the city again fell into the hands of Totilas, but in 552 it was re¬
captured by Narses and again united with the Byzantine empire.
About this period the city was reduced by war, pestilence, and