If we were to solve the identities of Alaric, Gaiseric, and Attila by inspection, we would look no further than the leading members of the Roman/Byzantine ruling family at that time.
The abdication of Dio-Cletian in 305 AD was followed by the succession of Galerius, who ruled between 305-311 AD. Galerius had defeated the Persian king Narses decisively in 295 AD and effectively dictated policy as overlord of Persia. In 309 AD an infant was placed on the throne of Persia by the name of Shapur, "son of the king". Shapur ruled for 70 years and outlived 10 Roman Emperors. It appears that he ultimately ended his life as Emperor of Rome himself under the name of Valentinian. Shapur was succeeded by Ardashir who died in 383 AD, the same year as Gratian son of Valentinian. The name Gratian suggests some inheritance from Dio-Cletian and through his daughter Valeria who was the wife of Galerius.
The sudden appearance in the West of aggressive eastern tribes such as the Goths and Huns is a fall-out of Parthia's demise and Rome's replacement of the Parthian dynasty with the Sassanid. The shift of the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople also reflects a new eastern orientation. Over the 70 year reign of Shapur/Valentinian there was ample time to cultivate leadership of eastern peoples such as Goths and Huns. And when the collateral ruling lines of Rome played out, Shapur/Valentinian was well-positioned to establish his own in Rome.
Valentinian became Emperor in 364 AD after Julian the Apostate's failed Persian campaign, which turns out to be a battle for the combined thrones of Rome and Persia. As a noble gesture Valentinian raised up his brother Valens as co-Emperor of the West. The first leader of the Huns emerges about this time by the name of Balamber or Balamar, which appears to be an adaptation of Valentinian or Valens. The Visigoths were also recognized as an independent power under their king, Athanaric. Ath-anar-ic also appears to be a variant of Bal-amar. Valentinian and Valens were able then to become Roman Emperors based at least partially on their Hun and Goth power bases.
However, after Valentinian named his son Gratian as successor, Valens was defeated and killed in battle by a Goth army under the leadership of one named Fritigern. Fritigern would have been a Goth alias of Gratian, who used Goth forces to consolidate rule over the entire empire. The young Gratian/Fritigern in turn appointed Theodosius as his co-Emperor in gratitude for the support Theodosius' father (also called Theodosius) had given his own father Valentinian.
The next great king of the Goths was Alaric, who rose to fame in the service of Theodosius after Gratian was killed in 483 AD by Magnus Maximus (perhaps a final claimant in the house of Constantine, who like Maximus also launched his career from Britain). Theodosius also led contingents of Huns and Alans in the years 384 AD and 388 AD. Theodosius remained a co-Emperor alongside Gratian's younger half-brother Valentinian II, and became sole Emperor upon the defeat of Maximus and assassination of Valentinian II in 492 AD.
Upon the death of Theodosius in 395 AD the Empire was divided up once again between his two sons Arcadius (in the East) and the younger Honorius (in the West). The sack of Rome by Alaric then emerges as an aspect of the struggle between the two brothers for control over the entire Empire. Alaric the Goth son of Theodosius corresponds to Arcadius.
Alaric was assisted in his attack on Honorius by the Vandal prince Stilicho, who was made ruler of Rome under his Greek/Byzantine name of Attalus. Attalus was ostensibly also one and the same as Ataulfus the brother-in-law and successor of Alaric as leader of the Goths. Honorius found an ally in Heraclius governor of Carthage and managed to hang on as Western Emperor. After "sacking" Rome, Alaric was heading south, presumably to deal with Heraclius, but became ill and died. Attalus was consequently unable to remain as ruler of Rome, but he would return years later with a vengeance as "Attila the Hun", the "Scourge of God".
In Constantinople, the throne passed from Arcadius to his son Theodosius II by 408 AD. although Aracadius does not seem to have actually died until 410 AD. Theodosius II is generally thought to have been a weak king who handed over control of the Empire to his ambitious sister. However, as the son of Arcadius/Alaric, Theodosius II emerges as a dominant figure of the West by the 420's, none other than "Gaiseric the Vandal".
The Germanic name Gaiser-ic is in fact Kaiser/Caesar, the very title of Theodosius II. Theodosius II became the leading Roman/Byzantine king after the death of his uncle Honorius in 423 AD. It was in 428 AD that Gaiseric led the Vandal peoples into North Africa and established himself as king of Carthage. This effectively secured the Empire against all other rivals. He would not need to worry about an African grain embargo such as the one imposed by Heraclius to the detriment of Alaric.
Honorius was eventually succeeded as Western Emperor by Valentinian III son of Constantius III (former advisor to Emperor Honorius). Both Constantius III and Ataulfus (Attalus/Attila) were married to Queen Galla Placidia, and were probably one and the same person. Valentinian III was the son of Galla Placidia by Constantius III. His sister was named Honoria.
The Eastern Empire passed from Theodosius to Marcian in 450 AD. Marcian we must suspect corresponds to the heir of Gaiseric/Theodosius, and the one that inherited the title of Gaiseric/Caesar in Carthage as well. It would have been this Gaiseric that removed the wealth of Rome in 455 AD and not his father. Acting as a true Caesar, he also removed senators and other aristocrats from Rome to Carthage. This event occurred only three years after "Attila the Hun" (Constantius III?) was persuaded NOT to sack Rome by Pope Leo. After the deaths of Attila and Gaiseric II (Marcian?) in 457 AD, the Eastern Throne passed to a man named Leo, presumably the same Leo that orchestrated the looting of Rome only two years previously. Pope Leo died (or resigned) in 461 AD while Emperor Leo ruled until 474 AD.
Much is made of two royal ladies (who were also sisters-in-law) making appeals to the barbarian leaders Attila and Gaiseric. This is now explained as more conventionally as appeals to fellow royal men of the family. In the case of Honoria she was offering herself either to her father or step father! Eudoxia looked either to her own father or a brother (holding the title of Caesar/Gaiseric).
The last Gaiseric of Carthage was called Hunneric, a peculiar name for a Vandal king (as opposed to a Hun). Hunneric had been married to a daughter of Eudoxia and Valentinian III (who appears to have been the son of Attalus/Attila the Hun). Therefore, Hunneric would have inherited at least the nominal status as leader of Huns (in addition to Vandals).
Note: Historians claim that Gaiseric lived to be 87 years old and did not die until 477 AD. It is more reasonable that at least two "Gaiserics"/Caesars ruled Carthage between 428 AD and 477 AD and not just one.
Note: Constantius III is attributed with only a brief reign over the Western Empire in 423 AD. An interloper named Johannes/John held the distinction until 425 AD, at which time Theodosius intervened and declared Valentinian III son of Constantius III to be Emperor of the West. Theodosius also gave Valentinian his daughter in marriage. If Constantius III is to be associated with Attalus/Ataulfus/Attila, then he was being appeased by Theodosius II. Consistent with this, the most serious attacks of Attila came in the early 450's AD, just after the death of Theodosius but before the death of Valentinian. Attila could have invaded Italy at this time, but inexplicably chose to attack the Goths in Western Europe instead. The reason may be that he was trying to confirm and defend Valentinian (who was resident in Rome at the time) against his rivals in the West. He likely also entertained notions of defeating Marcian/Gaiseric II and establishing Valentinian as ruler over the entire Empire. After Attila died Valentinian did not survive much longer (before being assassinated in Rome in 455 AD).
Note: The tribal name Vandal could be construed as Valent's (Valentinian's) people.
Note: There is a further parallel between Ardashir and the Hun ruler Octar. Octar ~ Urda ~ "Strong"
Note: The Hunnish king Bleda was a rival and partner of Attila. Bleda probably corresponds to Valentinian II, whose death cleared the way for Attila's son Valentinian III and Theodosius' son Arcadius/Alaric. Compare also the names Bleda, Balamar and Vladamir. Compare as well the name Balamber and a leading cleric of the time, Ambrose of Milan.
Note: Other Hunnish king names of the time include Ruga, Mundzuk, Uldin, and Charatan. These await analysis.
Note: Shapur II had a prominent brother named Hormuz that would correspond to Valens brother of Valentinian. Hormuz supposedly defected to Julian the Apostate. If so, Valentinian must have made him a better offer, which resulted in Valens becoming co-Emperor of Rome. However, the betrayal may also have been avenged later by the son of Valentinian. The body of Valens was not given a royal burial.
Note: As a young child the future Emperor Theodosius II was sent by his father Emperor Arcadius to the Persian court of king Yazdegird.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.