The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



not lost, amidst the effeminacy of the Greek court, any of the ferocious valour of his people. Soon after his return he gathered around him a body of volunteers, and, without the knowledge of his fa­ther, descended the Danube, and conquered and slew in battle a Sarmatian king. Theodoric after­wards accompanied his father and the Ostrogoths, when they quitted their settlements in order to obtain a more fertile territory at the expense of the Byzantine empire. This was in the last year of the reign of the emperor Leo; and Zeno the Isaurian, who succeeded him in 474, hastened to make peace with the Ostrogoths, ceded to them the southern part of Pannonia and Dacia, and en­trusted them with the defence of the lower Da­nube. They had scarcely time to take possession of their new territory, when the death of Theo-demir, in 475, placed Theodoric on the throne of the Ostrogoths.

Theodoric was for some time a faithful ally of Zeno. He was of great assistance to the emperor in restoring him to the throne, when he was ex­pelled in 476 [zeno] ; and he carried on war, on behalf of Zeno, with another Gothic prince, Theodoric, the son of Triarius ; but the treachery of Zeno, who neglected to supply him with the provisions and the reinforcements of troops he had promised, led the son of Theodemir to conclude a peace with the son of Triarius. To punish the emperor, and, still more, to satisfy the appetite of his subjects for plunder, Theodoric, the son of Theodemir, now ravaged the Byzantine dominions, and laid waste the whole of Macedonia and Thes-saly. At length, in 483, Zeno appeased his resent­ment by conferring upon him the titles of Patrician and Praefectus militiae, by liberal donatives, by adopting him as his son, by erecting his statue in front of the imperial palace, and, finally, by raising him to the consulship in the following year, 484. But these honours did not long retain Theodoric in his allegiance ; the restless spirit of his country­men would not allow him to remain quiet if he had desired it; and accordingly he again took up arms in 487, and marched upon Constantinople. To save himself and his capital, Zeno gave Theo­doric permission to invade Italy, and expel the usurper Odoacer from the country. The proposal was gladly accepted by the king of the Ostrogoths; but the terms on which the conquered country was to be held seem to have been purposely left in ambiguity. The Greeks afterwards asserted that Theodoric had promised to conquer the country for the emperor ; while the Ostrogoths, on the other hand, alleged that Zeno had expressly ceded Italy to their king.

Theodoric commenced his march towards Italy in 488. The reputation of the leader, and the wealth and beauty of Italy, attracted to his stand­ard a vast host of Goths. They were accompanied by their wives and children, and they carried with them all their moveable property. It was, in fact, an emigration of the whole nation. After encoun­tering numerous obstacles and dangers, and fight­ing his way through various tribes of Bulgarians, Gepidae, and Sarmatians, Theodoric at length en­tered Italy in the summer of 489. Odoacer had collected a powerful army to oppose him, and the first battle was fought on the banks of the Sontius or Isontius, not far from Aquileia (28th of August, 489). Odoacer was defeated with great loss, but he again collected his troops in the neighbourhood


of Verona, and offered battle a second time to Theodoric (27th of September, 489). This second battle was still more disastrous than the former one, and Odoacer was compelled to relinquish the open country to the invaders, and to shut himself up within the strong fortifications of Ravenna. In the following year (490) he sallied out of the town, and at first gained some advantages over the troops of Theodoric in the neighbourhood of Pavia; but the Gothic king soon rallied his forces, and defeated Odoacer in a third and decisive victory on the banks of the Adda (August, 490). Odoacer again took refuge in Ravenna, where he sustained a siege of three years, while the generals of Theo­doric gradually subdued the whole of Italy. At length, in 493, Odoacer agreed to admit the Os­trogoths into Ravenna, on condition that he and Theodoric should rule jointly over Italy. The treaty was confirmed by an oath, but after a few days Odoacer, in the midst of a banquet, was stabbed by the hands or command of his more for­tunate rival (5th of March, 493).

Theodoric was now the undisturbed master of Italy, which he ruled for thirty-three years, till his death in 526. The history of his long and pros­perous reign does not full within the plan of the present work. A few particulars only can be mentioned, and the reader must refer for further information to the glowing description of Gibbon. As soon as Theodoric was firmly seated on the throne, he turned his attention to the improvement of the qpuntry, which had sunk into the most mi­serable condition from the long and devastating wars it had gone through. The third part of the lands, which had been previously seized by Odoa­cer, were assigned to his Gothic warriors, who were thus scattered over the whole country, and formed the standing army of his kingdom. The Italians were secured in the possession of the re­maining two thirds of the lands; they were de­barred from the use of arms, but they retained all the other rights and privileges which they had previously enjoyed. Theodoric also gradually in­troduced among his rude warriors a strict disci­pline, and taught them to respect the lives and property of their Italian neighbours. Although an Arian himself, the most complete toleration was given to the Catholic religion, and Theo­doric rather discouraged than promoted conver­sion to the Arian faith among his Italian sub­jects. Under his mild and beneficent rule agri­culture and commerce flourished, and Italy again became one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Theodoric's relations with foreign nations were marked by principles of justice and integrity, and he showed no desire to extend his dominions at the expense of his neighbours. Unlike other barbarians, he had sufficient penetration to see that the extension of his dominions would not bring an extension of power, and thus most of the wars in which he engaged were purely defensive. The various Germanic nations looked up to him as their chief, and he cemented his connection with them by intermarriages with most of their royal families. Thus he married his two daughters Theodichusa and Ostrogotha, the former to Alaric II., king of the Visigoths, and the latter to Sigismund, the son of Gundobald, king of the Burgundians ; his sister Amalfrida, the widow of a noble Goth, he gave in marriage to Thrasimund, king of the Vandals; and his niece Amalaberga to Hermanfried, the last king

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of