In the following year (452), Attila invaded Italy, where he caused great consternation. But when the bishop of Rome, Leo the Great, went to his camp near Mantua, and entreated him to spare the country, Attila was so much struck by the bishop's venerable appearance and his powerful words, that he agreed to withdraw on receiving a large sum of money. A few months later he suddenly died, and his kingdom soon fell to pieces
By degrees, the Romans lost Britain, Gaul, Spain, and Africa; and Italy was all that was left of the western empire.
Genseric, who, as has been mentioned (p 127), had led the Vandals into Africa, long kept the Mediterranean in constant dread of his fleets. Three years after the invasion of Italy by Attila, he appeared at the mouth of the Tiber (AD 455), having been invited by the empress Eudoxia, who wished to be revenged on her husband, in consequence of his having told her that he had been the cause of her former husband's death. As the Vandals approached the walls of Rome, the bishop, Leo, went forth at the head at his clergy. He pleaded with Genseric as he had before pleaded with Attila, and he brought him to promise that the city should not be burnt, and that the lives of the inhabitants should be spared, but Genseric gave up the place for fourteen days to plunder, and the sufferings of the people were frightful. The Vandal king returned to Africa with a vast quantity of booty, and with a great number of captives, among whom were the unfortunate empress and her two daughters. On this occasion the bishop of Carthage, Deogratias, behaved with noble charity; -- he sold the gold and silver plate of the church, and with the price he redeemed some of the captives, and relieved the sufferings of others. Two of the churches were turned into hospitals. The sick were comfortably lodged, and were plentifully supplied with food and medicines; and the good bishop, old and infirm as he was, visited them often, by night as well as by day, and spoke words of kindness and of Christian consolation to them.
This behaviour of Deogratias was the more to his honour, because his own flock was suffering severely from the oppression of the Vandals, who, as we have already seen (p 127), were Arians. Genseric treated the Catholics of Africa very tyrannically, his son and successor, Hunneric, was still more cruel to them; and, as long as the Vandals held possession of Africa, the persecution, in one shape or another, was carried on almost without ceasing.
The last emperor of the West, Augustulus, was put down in the year 476, and a barbarian prince named Odoacer became king of Italy.