What did the example of Stilicho illustrate in the Roman Empire?

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General Flavius Stilicho is representative of the need for Rome to have patriotic defenders and how even they could become victims of the systems that they fought to protect. Stilicho had the impressive ability to protect the Western Roman Empire from both without and within. Throughout his long military career, he repeatedly drove out barbarian invaders while simultaneously balancing the needs of inexperienced emperors and self-serving courtiers.

Even though he had saved Rome from barbarian attacks on several occasions, there were certain high-ranking Romans who resented Stilicho. Some felt it to be improper for a man of barbarian descent to rank so highly. Some feared that Stilicho was too power-hungry. Others saw him standing in the way of their own aspirations. Olympius, a court official under Honorius, orchestrated a plot that saw Stilicho accused of treason and executed.

A mere two years after Stilicho's execution, Alaric and his barbarian forces faced little opposition as they ransacked their way through Italy and sacked Rome. It is plausible that, had he still been alive, Stilicho could have driven out Alaric either by military force or negotiation, as he had done before.

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