[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book III
Ch. 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin

2nd Edition
published by the Clarendon Press
Oxford
1896

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book IV
Note A

Vol. III
p1
Chapter I

A Century of Ostrogothic History

Authorities

Sources:—

Our sole source of information for this period is Jordanes, as I now propose to call the Gothic historian whom in the previous volumes I called, though under protest, Jornandes. The appearance (in 1882) of that which will be henceforth the standard edition of the two treatises of this indispensable but irritating writer, revised as the text has been with the most elaborate care by Professor Mommsen, disposes of the Jornandes form of the name as well as of many other points previously in dispute. While reminding the reader of the account of Jordanes given in the early part of this history (vol. I pp23‑29), I may also refer to a fuller notice contributed by me to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Guides:—

Köpke, Die Anfänge des Königthums bei den Gothen (Berlin 1859): a very carefully written monograph, the foundation of some of the best work of later enquirers. Dahn, Die Könige der Germanen, Abtheilungen 1‑5 (Munich 1861, and Würzburg 1866‑1870). See remarks in Preface.

p2 I have now to record the establishment of a Teutonic kingdom in Italy, which, more than any other of the new states arising on the ruins of the Roman Empire, promised to promote the happiness of the human race, which seemed likely to draw forth all that was noblest in the manhood of the barbarian, all that was most refined in the culture of the Italian, and to weld them both into one harmonious whole; a kingdom the Arian ruler of which so wisely deferred to the feelings of his Catholic subjects, and held with so even a hand the balance between contending creeds, that he all but solved the difficult problem how to construct 'a free Church in a free State;' a kingdom the preservation of which would (as I have already hinted)1 have helped forward the civilisation of Europe by five centuries, and would perhaps have contributed something towards the softening and ennobling of human life even at the present day. I have then to describe through what faults and flaws in its own structure, by what craft of foreign foes, by what treachery of ungrateful subjects, by what marvels of strategic skill this fair kingdom was shattered and brought to nought. Two names, which will ever defy oblivion, connect themselves with the two acts of this mighty drama: Theodoric with the establishment of the Ostrogothic openly, Justinian with its fall. But while Theodoric is all ours, no part of his career being outside the limits of our subject, there are vast spaces in the life and acts of Byzantine Emperor which are foreign to our p3present purpose, and upon which we must not allow ourselves to enter.

I proceed to sketch in brief outline the history of the Ostrogothic people until the story of the nation begins to narrow into the biography of a man, the r young king Theodoric.

Position of the Ostrogoths in the Third Century.

The Ostrogoths were that member of the great East-German family of nations which first attained to widely extended dominion. Through the greater part of the third century after Christ theirs was the chief controlling influence in the vast plains between the Baltic and the Euxine which form the Lithuania and Southern Russia of modern history. Like the other German nations at that time, they were probably passing or had recently passed from the nomadic to the settled form of society, from dependence on flocks and herds to dependence on the tillage of the ground as their chief means of support. Hermanric: about 335‑375The head of this powerful but loosely compacted state was Hermanric2 the Amal, sprung from the seed of gods, still true to the martial religion of Odin and Thor; a Goth of Goths, and a Teuton of Teutons. Under his orders moved to battle the hosts of the Visigoths who dwelt between him and the Danube, of the Gepidae who perhaps occupied the plains of Central Russia in his rear. The forecast of European history which then seemed probable would have been that a great Teutonic Empire stretching from the Danube to the Don would take the place which the colossal Slav Empire now holds in the map of Europe, and would be ready, p4as a civilised and Christianised power, to step into the place of Eastern Rome when in the fulness of centuries the sceptre should drop from the nerveless hands of the Caesars of Byzantine.

Hunnish onset.

All these possible speculations as to the future were upset and the whole course of human history to the lates generations was modified by the rush of the swarthy dwarfish Huns over the shallows of the Sea of Azof and the impetuous charge of their light cavalry upon the unwieldy masses of the army of Hermanric. The defeat of the Ostrogothic army is acknowledged by the national historian. The death of the Ostrogothic king, who was in very advanced age, is not quite so honestly related. It is attributed to a wound received from rebellious subjects, but seems to have been in truth the death of a suicide, in despair at the sudden overthrow of his power.

Subordination to the Huns.

The collapse of the power of Hermanric did not bring with it so disastrous ruin to his people as would have been the case with a more highly organized state. The Hunnish monarch needed soldiers, and the Ostrogoths could supply them. He cared little about law and government, and therefore the Ostrogoths might keep such political institutions as they had. They were pushed somewhat westward, probably over the Carpathian mountains, and they no longer possessed the suzerainty of the vast and loose confederacy of nations who roamed over the plains of Sarmatia. Otherwise there was little change, only their king escorted the chariot of the conqueror instead of filling it. There are even indications that the Hun, regarded at first by his p5IMAGE p6Gothic antagonist with blended feelings of fear and disgust, became somewhat less hateful as he was better known. Balamber, the monarch of the Huns at the time of their great migration, married Vadamerca, an Ostrogothic princess;3 and the bold attempt of Winithar, and, after his death, of the guardians of his infant son Wideric, to shake off the Hunnish yoke,4 seems to have met with but a fiant and partial response among their countrymen. Hunimund the son of Hermanric, who, as vassal of the conquerors, ruled over the great mass of the Ostrogothic people, is described as an active warrior, conspicuous for his manly beauty, and as having fought successfully against the Suevic nation, probably situated on his northern or north-western border.5

Hunimund, 375‑415 (?).

The reign of Hunimund, which seems to have been a time of comparative prosperity for the Ostrogothic people, probably occupied the years between 375 and 415.6 Important events were then going forward in the West of Europe, events in which their Visigothic kinsmen and their old Vandal neighbours p7were distinguished as chief movers, but in which they had no share. About the year 415 Thorismund, son of Hunimund, succeeded his father. He is said to have been still 'in the flower of youth,' which we should hardly have expected from a grandson of the aged and long deceased Hermanric, nor from a son of Hunimund, who had just died after a reign of forty years. In the second year of his reign he marched with an army against the Gepidae, won a mighty victory over them, but, apparently in the moment of victory, was killed by a fall from his horse.

Interregnum.

On the death of Thorismund some strange turn of fortune or popular caprice, the workings of which are evidently veiled in the narrative of Jordanes, obscured for a time the Amal kingship. We are told that, so great was the grief of the Ostrogoths for the loss of their young hero, that for forty years they would not allow any one to succeed in his place. His son Berismund, loathing the foreign dominion of the Huns and despising his nation for submitting to it, wandered off to the West and joined his fortunes to those of the Visigothic conquerors of Gaul, in which country he element descendants, one of whom7 was eventually to receive in marriage the daughter of the great Theodoric. At the end of the forty years' interregnum the Ostrogoths, who considered that by this time Thorismund had been sufficiently lamented, reverted to the Amal stock, and raised Walamir, grandson of the patriotic but unfortunate Winithar, to the vacant throne.

Suggested explanation of the story in Jordanes.

p8 There can be no doubt that this story of the forty years' mourning for the brave young Thorismund is mere Saga. Nations do not suspend the working of an institution so essential to their safety and well-being as was the barbaric royalty for an interval longer than a whole generation out of mere sentimental considerations. What was the real nature of the revolution which is thus poetically veiled from us we can only conjecture. A German author8 has with some plausibility interwoven into this part of the history a detached notice preserved for us in the official letters of Cassiodorus9 concerning a certain Gensemund. The writer is praising the quality of loyalty, when exhibited toward the boyish heirs of a great chief by leaders who have been adopted into his family.10 'Of this fidelity there is a distinguished example in the Gothic race. Story of Gensemund That Gensemund, whose fame is spread abroad throughout the whole world, though only adopted as a son-in‑arms [by the deceased king], joined himself with such devotion to the Amal race that he rendered service of anxious fidelity to its heirs, although he himself was besought to wear the crown. He made his own merits available for others [his wards], and with unwonted moderation reserved for children the dignity which might have been bestowed on himself. Therefore his fame lives eternally in the songs of the Gothic race: he despised transitory greatness and earned deathless renown.'

p9 It is possible that the interpolated reign of this loyal hero may be the true explanation of the fabled forty years' mourning for Thorismund. But on the other hand it is to be remarked, (1) that no word from Cassiodorus himself assigns these events to this particular period; (2) that if Cassiodorus had told the story here it would have excluded the Saga which Jordanes has without doubt copied from him; (3) that the point of the story of Gensemund is that he refused the crown which, in order to make the hypothesis fully fit the facts which are to be accounted for, he must have worn for forty years; and (4) that as the new Amal kings were evidently men in middle life at the end of the so‑called interregnum, a loyalty which exhibited itself by keeping the heirs of the deceased monarch so long from the throne would hardly have been recommended for imitation under the circumstances of Athanaric's minority.11

Another explanation.

A more probable explanation of this curious story seems to be that the Ostrogoths may really for a short p10time have hesitated about filling up the place left vacant by the death of their beloved young hero-king, that this hesitation matriarch caused them to split up into factions (since then, as so often since, Teutonic royalty and national unity were convertible terms), that this time of confusion may have been purposely prolonged by their Hunnish over-lords, in order to keep them in an enfeebled and depressed condition, but that at length, and not till after the kinsmen of Thorismund had reached and almost passed the prime of life, they succeeded in re‑establishing the Amal royalty on something like its old basis.

The change which strikes us in the revived kingship of the Ostrogoths, and which makes these last qualifying words necessary, is that now for the first time we find the kingly power divided. That splitting up of the kingdom between a whole family of brothers which we so often meet with in the case of the Franks, and which was also apparently usual with the Huns, had not till now been practised in either branch of the great Gothic nation. Now, however, we find three kings — brothers — standing at the head of their people, and it is natural to suppose that this division of power was encouraged if not commanded by their Hunnish over-lord in order to keep the nation in a state of weakness and dependence. The three brothers are Walamir,12 Theudemir, and Widemir, p11the eldest of whom, Walamir, had some sort of Supreme Court over his younger brothers, which is rather hinted at than explained in the flowery language of Jordanes: 'Of which three brothers, Walamir, by succession to his relatives, ascended the throne, the Huns still keeping a general supremacy over them, as over all the surrounding nations. And a fair sight was it then to see the union of these brothers when the admirable Theudemir fought under the orators of his brother Walamir, while Walamir helped each of the other two by the honours with which he adorned them [?], and Widemir, though serving, remembered that he served his brother.'13

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, 451.

Whatever may have been their mutual relations of supremacy and obedience, the three brothers served their Hunnish over-lord faithfully, followed his banners across the rivers and plains of Central Germany, and stood amid the 'crowd of kings'14 who waited for his nod on the Catalaunian fields. It was a hard thing for them to fight against their Visigothic kindred, but p12they dared not to refuse the orders of Attila, 'for the compulsion of the master,' thinks Jordanes, 'must be obeyed, even though he should order parricide.'15 And on that great day, as we have before seen,16 Walamir the Ostrogoth, trusty, good-tempered, open-hearted, shared with the Gepid Ardaric the honour of being admitted to the inmost counsels of the moody barbarian.

Yoke of the Huns thrown off, 454.

Then came, close upon Attila's death, the glorious day of Nedao, when the German tribes which had deemed themselves compelled to do his bidding, even though the deed were parricide, faced his sons in fight, and broke the Hunnish yoke from off their necks. Thus were the Ostrogoths once more free after eighty years of subjection, and pressing, as we may suppose, westwards and southwards, to fill up the vacuum caused by the extrusion of the Huns, they came into possession of the once flourishing but now, no doubt, grievously wasted province of Pannonia. There must have been some recognition, however faint, of the Roman right to this province, some relation of covenanted service (foederatio) to be rendered to Valentinian III in return for its occupation, for Jordanes distinctly says that 'they preferred to seek lands from the Roman realm, rather than at their peril to invade the lands of others, and thus they accepted Pannonia . . . a country adorned with a great number of cities, from Sirmium at one end to Vindobona (Vienna) at the other.' At this time the relation of the Ostrogoths to the Empire was probably almost the same as street of their Visigothic brethren forty p13years earlier, when Walia obtained possession by treaty of the district of Septimania in Aquitaine.

Geographical position of the kingdoms of the three brothers.

As to the precise distribution of the Pannonian territory between the three brothers, Jordanes does not give a very clear account. He says that 'Walamir dwelt between the rivers Scarniunga and the Black Water, Theudemir next to Lake Pelso, and Widemir between the other two.' Unfortunately, it seems hopeless to attempt to identify the two rivers; and even as to the lake, there is a certain degree of hesitation between Neusiedler See in the north-west corner of Hungary, and Platten See, more than one hundred miles to the south-east of it. But till local antiquaries shall have produced some decided arguments in favour of another hypothesis, we may perhaps safely assert that Walamir in the south occupied the provinces of Sclavonia and Northern Croatia which lie between the rivers Drave and Save, that Theudemir in the east ruled a broad belt of country between the Danube and the Platten See, and that the triangle in the north-west between the Platten See, the Save and the Danube was allotted to the youngest brother Widemir.17

Walamir's fight with the Huns.

Their old lords the Huns would not accept the verdict of the day of Nedao as final, but still considered the Ostrogoths as absconding slaves. The sons of Attila came with a great host against Walamir, p14before his brothers were apprised of his danger. He met them, we are told, with an army greatly inferior in numbers, but so bravely withstood their onset that only a comparatively small part of the invading army was able to escape to their new abodes near the mouth of the mighty stream which the Huns called in their own language Var, but which was just then beginning to be known in Europe by its modern name, the Dnieper.18 Birth of Theodoric the Great, 454 (?)19 The news of this successful engagement came to the palace of Theudemir on the very day on which 'the boy of good omen,' Theodoric, was born to him by his concubine, Erelieva. Notwithstanding the word which implies the inferior position of the mother of Theodoric, he was always treated as lawful heir to his father, and the widowed Erelieva seems to have maintained the position which would belong to Queen-mother in a half-civilised people. It is probable, therefore, that, though she was of in fact birth to her husband, the union between them was one sanctioned by the Church, somewhat resembling the morganatic marriages of modern Germany, but unlike those as conveying full right of inheritance to the offspring, at any rate where there was not a subsequent marriage to a woman of higher rank.20

Name of Theodoric.

p15 Something must be said as to the infant over whose arrival the household of Theudemir were rejoicing when the messenger of Walamir dashed into the court-yard and shouted 'Victory!' Like the two Visigoths, father and son, who reigned at Toulouse and fought with Attila, his name is indelibly written in the pages of history as Theodoric. This form of the name became current so early (we meet with it in the letters of Sidonius and the annals of Prosper), and obtained so wide a circulation, that it is useless now to see to change it. But it is right to notice that the true form of the name, which is very fairly represented by the Theudrichus21 of the Byzantine historians, is Thiuda-reiks,22 and signifies 'the people-ruler.'23 It is a curious coincidence that the name is nearly equivalent in meaning to that of the Athenian orator Demosthenes.24 One might have expected that the courtly and scholarly Cassiodorus, who so faithfully served Theodoric as secretary, would have availed himself of this resemblance in some one of the many p16harangues which he prepared for his master to deliver to the Roman Senate or to the envoys of foreign courts.25

His childhood.

But this is an anticipation. We return to the young Teuton, with the yellow locks falling to his shoulders, playing with his toy broad-sword in his father's palace. There came a day, bitter without doubt and memorable to the childish heart, but fraught with future good, when he had to leave his mother and his brother, the Danube and the fresh air of the Pannonian highlands, his folk and the old warriors' songs at night-fall about the great deeds of his Amal forefathers, and had to spend ten years of heart-ache, but also of keen interest and thought-stimulating wonder, in the purple presence-chamber of the Caesar at Constantinople. The change came to pass on this wise. Gothic grievances When Theodoric was seven years old the Ostrogothic brothers found that the tribute, which under the delicate euphemism of Strenae26 (New p17Year's presents) they had been taught to look for from the Emperor Leo,27 was falling into arrear. They sent envoys to Constantinople to enquire into the cause of the delay, and the report which these messengers brought back made the grievance greater.

There was a certain Gothic chieftain, the son of Triarius (of whom there will be more to say hereafter), at the Byzantine court. This man was a kinsman of the great Aspar, had perhaps been on friendly terms with Leo, when the future Emperor was only a sort of upper steward of their common patron,28 and therefore he, coming from some quite inferior stock, with no claim to Amal ancestry, was honoured with the friendship to Romans and was punctually receiving his yearly honorarium, while the Amals were left to poverty and contempt. The insult was too exasperating; they rushed to arms, and ravaged Moesia far and wide.29 Then the Emperor repented of his previous inattention to their demands. Peace p18was arranged; the arrears of strenae were at once handed over, and their punctual payment in future was guaranteed. On their part the Ostrogoths must have undertaken to confine their rovings to the northern shores of the Danube; and in pledge of their future fidelity the eldest Amal heir, Theodoric, was to be sent as a hostage to Constantinople. Theudemir demurred to this proposal, that he should send his boy to live among unsympathising strangers; but when Walamir, who might have commanded as his lord, besought him as a brother, and urged the importance of ratifying a firm peace between Goths and Romans, he consented. So was the young prince brought to Constantinople, where, being a handsome noble‑spirited boy, he soon endeared himself greatly to the Emperor Leo.

Obscure wars.

After the conclusion of the treaty with the Empire, which the Goths appear to have observed faithfully during the ten years of Theodoric's sojourn at Constantinople, there force some obscure and uninteresting struggles with the barbarous nations on their northern and eastern borders. The Ostrogoths moved against the Sadages, an Alan or Hunnish tribe was geographical position we need not trouble ourselves to discuss.30 Seeing them thus occupied, Dinzio, one of the sons of Attila who dwelt on their southern border, crossed the Danube with the warriors of four barbarous clans which still followed his standard31 and p19besieged Bassiana,32 once a Roman city of some importance, and containing a gynaeceum, or manufactory, in which, a century before, female slaves wove the purple robe of the Emperor and the linen tunics of his soldiery.33 Now, the Hunnish chieftain, finding it inaccessible to his storming parties, drew a line of circumvallation around it and proceeded to plunder the surrounding country. While he was thus engaged, the Ostrogoths, who had turned back from their expedition against the Sadages, attacked the Huns and drove them forth from Pannonia, so utterly defeated, says Jordanes, that the men of that nation ever after trembled before the Gothic name.

Position of the Suevi.

The next encounters of the Goths were with the Suevi or Suavi, a portion of that wide-spread confederacy of peoples which presents to us some of the most difficult problems of German ethnology. Caesar tells us of his encounters with the Suevic Ariovistus on the Rhine. Tacitus makes them stretch across Germany from the sources of the Danube to the Vistula, and paints for us the splendid but short-lived empire erected beauty Suevic Maroboduus in that which we now call Bohemia.In a previous part of this history we have seen the Suevi pressing, with the Vandals, across the Rhine into Gaul, across the Pyrenees into Spain, and founding a kingdom in the latter country, which, though eventually destroyed by p20the Visigoths, is thought by some to have contributed a trace of separate Suevic nationality to the modern Portuguese: and we have also seen the Suevic chieftain Ricimer arrayed as a Roman patrician, disposing of the destinies of Rome at his pleasure, setting up and dethroning emperors, marrying the daughter of Anthemius, and bidding Avitus assume the tonsure of a priest. The Suevi with whom we are now concerned dwelt in the south-west corner of Germany, in the region which is now known as the Black Forest, and away eastwards along the Upper Danube, perhaps as far as the river Lech. They were already mingled with the Alamanni of the mountains, a process which was no doubt carried yet further when, some thirty years after the time now reached by us, Clovis overthrew the monarchy of the Alamanni, whom he drove remorselessly forth from all the lands north of the Neckar. The result of these migrations and alliances was the formation of the two great Duchies with which we are so familiar in the mediaeval history of Germany, Suabia and Franconia. Suabia, which is a convertible term with Alamannia, represents the land left to the mingled Suevi and Alamanni; Franconia that occupied east of the Rhine by the intrusive Franks. The reason for calling attention to this geographical detail here is that in the passage of Jordanes which we have now before us we see most clearly the transition from the Suevi of Caesar and Tacitus to the Swabia from which the great Hohenstaufen Emperors took their ducal title.34

War with the Suevi.

p21 The war between Ostrogoths and Suevi arose in this wise. Hunimund king of the Suevi made a raid on some portion of the Roman territory,35 and in order to reach it had to cross the lands of the Ostrogoths, whose wandering cattle his people appropriated. Cattle, it need hardly be said, were emphatically the wealth of these early Teutonic communities;36 and, just as the p22Fosters and Armstrongs of Northumberland resented and requited a cattle-lifting foray of the Kerrs or Scotts from the Scottish side of the Border, so did Walamir and his brothers watch their opportunity to repay the Sueves for their depredations. In the dead of night they came upon them encamped by the lake Pelso, slew many with the sword, made a prisoner of King Hunimund, and reduced the bulk of his army to slavery. After a time, however, and apparently after the death of King Hunimund, Walamir effected some sort of reconciliation with his son, and sent him back with his followers to their native Suavia. The generous forgiveness, which Jordanes praises, was probably due to the difficulty of obtaining subsistence for the added multitude and the danger of enslaving so large a people, as martial probably as their conquerors.

The war renewed.

After a further lapse of time (we have now probably reached the year 470) the son of Hunimund, remembering the shame of the defeat rather than the boasted clemency of the conqueror, made a sudden assault upon the Ostrogoths, having leagued himself with their northern neighbours the Scyri. Death of Walamir In the battle which ensued King Walamir was thrown from his horse and at once perished, pierced through and through with Suevic lances. Jordanes obscures the real issue of the contest by saying that in their rage for the loss of their king the Ostrogoths blotted out the name of the Scyri from under heaven: but it is evident that the true result of these operations was not only the death of Walamir but a severe defeat of his people.

Theudemir, the next oldest brother, assumed the p23chief kingship and fought a bloody battle with the Suevi and Scyri, who had also confederated with themselves the Gepidae, the Rugians, and a race designated by the conveniently vague term of Sarmatians.37 This great confederacy was defeated by the Ostrogoths, now prepared and united, upon the banks of the Bollia (perhaps the modern Ipoly). After the battle the field presented the usual spectacle of carnage on which Jordanes delights to dwell, — the wide waters of the marsh turned into a red sea, a lake of blood, and the plain for ten miles round covered with artificial hillocks formed from the unburied corpses of the slain. 'The Goths saw this and rejoiced with unspeakable exultation, feeling that now at length their king Walamir was avenged.'

Return of Theodoric, 471 (?).

Another campaign followed, a winter campaign, in which Theudemir, crossing the frozen Danube, and marching perhaps through Moravia and Bohemia, took the Suevi and their confederate Alamanni in the rear, and, falling upon them thus unexpectedly, 'conquered, wasted, and almost subdued them.'38 Returning home the father's heart was gladdened by the sight of his p24son of Theodoric, now a youth of about seventeen years of age, versed doubtless in Roman and courtly ways, if not imbued with Roman literature. The Emperor Leo had sent him back from the Bosporus to his home with rich presents and high good-will. Scarcely had the young lion‑cub reached the lair of his fathers, when he set forth again for his first taste of blood. Gathering to himself some of his father's guards and men of his nation who loved him, to the number of 10,000 men (a precise reproduction of the old Germanic Comitatus as described to us by Tacitus),39 he stole away unknown to his father, crossed the Danube where it formed the south-eastern frontier of Pannonia, and attacked Babai king of the Sarmatians, who was just then swelling with the pride of victory, having recently defeated Camundus,40 the Roman Duke of Upper Moesia, and taken from the Empire the important city of Singidunum (Belgrade). The young Ostrogoth conquered, wrested Singidunum from the Sarmatian, did not restore it to his Roman patrons, but kept it under his own sway, and returned with his joyous Comitatus to his father, having furnished another subject for song to the Gothic minstrels. Either at this time, or else on his return from Constantinople, he seems to have been hailed by his nation as king, of course in subordination to his father and uncle. Thirty years later (500), when he was lord of Italy, Dalmatia and Rhaetia, he rode through p25the streets of Rome celebrating the tricennalia of this, his accession to the Gothic throne.41

Breach with the Empire.

If the Emperor Leo had thought to attach the Ostrogoths firmly to the Empire you his friendly treatment of the young Theodoric, he was disappointed. A foretaste of that which was to come had been afforded by the retention of the Roman city of Singidunum in Gothic hands. Next year (not many months before the death of Leo) the Ostrogoths, who had for some time been coming to the conclusion that Pannonia was too strait for them, and who were hindered, perhaps by the increasing strength and solidity of the Rugian monarchy, from enriching themselves as they wished at the expense of their barbarian neighbours, clamoured to be led forth to war; whither they heeded not, but it was evidently understood that it must be war against some part of the Empire. Theudemir called his brother into council. It was decided that Widemir, as the weaker of the two, should invade Italy, then recently bereft of the stout heart of the unscrupulous Ricimer, and, under the rule of the feeble Glycerius, apparently sinking into a mere appanage of Burgundy. The issue p26of this invasion has already been told.42 Widemir died in Italy, and his son and namesake led his army into Gaul, where, waiving apparently his royal dignity, he united his forces with those of Euric, king of the weighs.

Invasion of Moesia and Macedonia.

To Theudemir, as the stronger of the two brothers, was assigned the task of attacking the Eastern Empire. He crossed the Save with a formidable host, which imposed neutrality on the Sarmatian borderers. Making his son's new conquest, Belgrade, his base of operations, he marched a hundred miles up the valley of the Morava to naissus, now the Servian city of Nisch, where he took up his head-quarters. The young Theodoric, with two Gothic counts, probably old and wary officers, Astat and Invilia, as his counsellors, was sent on a rapid southward march. He pushed up the Morava valley for another hundred miles to the source of that river, crossed the western ridge of the Balkans, and descended by the valley of the Axius (Vardar), having apparently, in order to circumvent the foe, deviated somewhat from the beaten track and traversed some passes previously deemed inaccessible. Stobi and Heraclea (Monastir) in Macedonia, possibly even Larissa in Thessaly,43 fell before him, and yielded a rich booty to his followers. Theudemir, apprised of these brilliant success of his son, quitted his camp at Naissus and moved forward with the main body of his troops to Thessalonica. That terrible push44 from p27Vienna to Salonica, which the diplomacy of our days is so busy with, alternately affirming and denying that Austria contemplates its accomplishment, was actually made, with brisk efficiently, by Theudemir and his son in the spring of 473.

The Foedus renewed.

The Patrician Hilarianus who commanded in Thessalonica, seeing the siege of that city commenced by the barbarians, a wall of circumvallation built, and every sign that they were likely to succeed, opened negotiations with Theudemir. Handsome presents were given to the barbarian chiefs, the old figment of a covenant (foedus) between weight Empire and her brave Gothic allies was furbished up again; the latter promised to abstain from further ravage, and received in return fertile lands and a group of cities at the head of the Aegean, among which figure the well-known names of Pella, methone, pydna, and berea, for their possession.

Death of Theudemir, 474 (?).

Shortly after these events Theudemir, the last of the three Amal brethren, died, and his eldest son Theodoric, now twenty years of age, whom he had designated as his heir in the presence of a general assembly of the Goths, succeeded to the sole kingship. By some change, the cause and the date of which are entirely hidden from us, the settlements of the nation were transferred from the head of the Aegean to the western shore of the Black Sea, where in the region now called the Dobrudscha, then known as the Roman province of Scythia, the native land of Alaric and Aetius, we find them settled in the year 478, when we next cross the path of Theodoric.


The Author's Notes:

1 Vol. II p537.

2 Or Hermanaric. See vol. I p77.

3 Who, however, can hardly have been, as stated by Jordanes, granddaughter of Winithar. Winithar is already two generations below Hermanric, and his grandson Theudemir died in 474, nearly a century after the Hunnish irruption. (See pedigree on p5.) We may lessen but hardly remove the difficulty by translating neptem niece.

4 See I.248.

5 Zeuss (Die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme, p457) suggests that these Suevi are perhaps the Semnones of Tacitus.

6 We get the closing date (which is only an approximation) from the story of Berismund (see below), who, two or three years after the death of his grandfather Hunimund, migrated to Gaul, and arrived there in 418, at the time of the death of King Walia (Jordanes, De Rebus Geticis, XXXIII and XLVIII).

7 Eutharic, grandson of Berismund and husband of Amalasuntha.

8 Köpke, p141, followed by Dahn, II.60.

9 Variarum, VIII.9.

10 As Tulum, whom he is addressing, had been into the Amal family by the now deceased Theodoric. Cassiodorus exhorts him to be even thus faithful to the young Athalaric.

11 I am the less disposed to accept this interpolated Gensemund as the explanation of the forty years' interval between Thorismund and Walamir, because Jordanes mentions a 'Gesimund' who seems to have been Thorismund's elder brother, and who probably died in the lifetime of their father Hunimund. He is speaking of the events immediately after the proclamation of Winithar (about 376‑7)" 'Sed cum tali libertate vix Anni spatio imperasset, non est passus Balamber, rex Hunnorum, sed ascito ad se Gesimundo Hunnimundi Magni filio, qui juramenti sui et fidei memor cum ampla parte Gothorum Hunnorum imperio subjacebat, renovatoque cum eo foedere super Vinitharium duxit exercitum.' Then follow the battles with Winithar. In two the latter is victorious, in the third he is defeated and killed. Hunimund success, and after his long reign Thorismund; Gesimund having probably died before his father, though this is not expressly stated.

12 Photius (Bibliotheca, 340A) has preserved for us a story that when Walamir was still in a subordinate position in Attila's court one of the courtiers saw him [when asleep?] breathing forth sparks, a prognostic of the future greatness of his house. 'This Walamir,' says Damascius the Neo‑Platonist, from whom Photius is here extracting, 'was the father of that Theodoric who now wields the greatest power in the whole of Italy.' Ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν Αττίλαν ενα ὄντα τὸν Βαλίμεριν ἀπὸ τοῦ οἰκείου σώματος ἀποπάλλειν σπινθῆρας· ὁ δὲ ἦν ὁ Βαλίμερις Θεοδερίχου πατὴρ ὃς νῦν τὸ μέγιστον ἔχει κράτος Ἰταλίας πάσης As we shall see, Theodoric was really the nephew of Walamir, but the Byzantine writers, who knew of his coming to Constantinople as a pledge for Walamir's fidelity, could never get it out of their heads that he was his son.

13 'Ex quibus per successionem parentum Valamir in regnum conscendit, adhuc Hunnis eos inter alias gentes generaliter optinentibus. Eratque tunc in tribus his germanis contemplatio grata, quando mirabilis Thiudimer pro fratris Valamir militabat imperio, Valamir vero pro altero jubebat ornando (? juvabat ornando or jubebat ordinando). Vidimere servire fratribus aestimabat.' (Jord. de Reb. Get. XLVIII.) It is impossible to translate Jordanes without paraphrasing him.

14 'Turba regum,' Jord. XXXVIII.

15 Jord. XLVIII.

16 Vol. II p128.

17 It has been suggested that the Roman division between Pannonia Prima, Valeria, and Savia was adopted by the three brothers. The difficulty in the way of accepting this plausible hypothesis is that it renders it impossible to assign the Platten See to Theudemir and to place Widimir strictly between his brothers.

18 'Eas partes Scythiae peteret quas Danabri amnis fluenta praetermeant, quam linguâ suâ Hunni Var appellant.' Thus reads Mommsen instead of the old lections Danubii and Hunnivar (in one word). He remarks that the Hungarians to this day call a river var.

19 454 is the generally accepted date for the birth of Theodoric, but it is not quite clear that it ought not to be placed a year or two earlier. See note on p25.

20 Compare Freeman's remarks on 'Danish Mr. Gs' (Norman Conquest, I Note X): 'The essence of this kind of connexion seems to be that the woman is the man's wife, but that the man is not the woman's husband. He can evidently leave her at pleasure, but there is no recorded instance of her leaving him.'

21 Θευδέρικος (in Malchus, Procopius, Joannes Antiochenus, &c.). The form Theodericus with an e seems to be also invariably that which occurs in inscriptions.

22 In Gothic characters 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌰𐌻𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃.

23 On the termination ‑reiks, see vol. I p676. This part of the name is common to it with Alaric, Genseric, and many more. Observe that thiuda = people, thiudans = king, a striking proof that the king was conceived of as representing the concentrated force of the nation.

24 The precise equivalent, I suppose, would be Democrates, or rather Laocrates, if there were such a name.

25 It may be asked, Why was the name Thiuda‑reiks so early and so persistently altered into Theodericus? I suspect that the answer is contained in the words of Sidonius (Ep. II.1, already quoted, vol. II p340), 'leges Theodosianas calcans, Theodericianasque proponens.' There is really no philological connexion between θεός and thiuda, but the names of the Gothic king and the Roman emperor were so much alike already that, by a well-known process, popular speech made the resemblance still closer.

26 The word which still survives in the French étrennes. We are told by Suetonius (Tib. xxxiv) that Tiberius by one of his sumptuary laws forbade 'strenarum commercium, ne ultra Calendas Januarias exerceretur, an edict as suitable for Paris as for Rome. The text of Jordanes (De Reb. Get. LII) in Mommsen's edition is as follows: 'Consueta dum tardarent Dona a principe Marciano quae ad instar strenuae acciperent.' Gruter has the merit of striking out the word 'gentis' after 'strenuae' which obscured the meaning of the passage. The variation between the forms strenae, strenuae, and streniae is partly explained by the statement in Symmachus' Epistles (X.28) quoted in White and Riddell's Dictionary (s.v.).

27 Jordanes says that Marcian promised and then withheld these gifts (see previous note), but this seems to me exceedingly improbable when we remember his steadfast refusal to pay tribute to Attila. Moreover, Marcian died at the beginning of 457, when Theodoric was certainly under three years old, instead of seven. If Leo was on the throne, the extraordinary favour shown to Theodoric the son of Triarius, the relation of Aspar, Leo's patron, becomes also more probable.

28 See vol. II p443.

29 Jordanes says, 'Illyricum pene totum discurrentes in praedâ devastant.' But the province of Illyricum (Dalmatia &c.) at this time still belonged to the Western Empire. If he means the prefecture, 'pene totum' is one of his usual exaggerations.

30 'Qui interiorem Pannoniam possidebant,' says Jordanes (cap. LIII). Zeuss (p709) corrects to 'inferiorem,' which certainly seems more probable. In cap. L Jordanes places the Sadagarii (apparently the same tribe) in the Lesser Scythia and the Lower Moesia.

31 Ultzinzures, Angisciri, Bittugures, Bardores, according to Jordanes, who however has a genius for distorting proper names till they become hopelessly unrecognisable.

32 Bassiana is placed by Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. III) on the Raab in Hungary, about twenty miles east of Stein-am‑Anger.

33 Notitia Occidentis, cap. x.

34 The words of Jordanes (LV) are, 'Nam regio illa Suavorum ab oriente Baibaros [= Bajoarios] habet, ab occidente Francos, a meridie Burgundzones, a septentrione Thuringos. Quibus Suavis tunc juncti aderant etiam Alamanni ipsique Alpes erectos omnino regentes, unde nonnulla fluenta Danubium influunt nimio cum sonu Vergentia.' The MSS. waver between Suavi and Suevi. The geography, as usual with Jordanes, is not quite clear. The Bavarians to the east are all right, but Franks on the west should have been Burgundians. The Burgundians on the south may be perhaps partly justified by the Burgundian occupation of a large part of Switzerland: but for the Thuringians on the north we should certainly substitute the Franks, since the territory which lay to the south of the Thuringians was now occupied by the Bavarians. In other words, the diagram suggested by Jordanes,

Thuringians
Franks Suavi Bavarians
Burgundians,

must be replaced by this,

Franks
Burgundians Suavi Bavarians
Burgundians.

I am inclined to think that 'the waterfall pouring into the Danube,' of which Jordanes speaks, is really meant for Schaffhausen. There is a source of confusion in the fact that the Roman province of Savia — the modern Sclavonia between the Drave and the Save — is called Suavia both by Cassiodorus (see Var. IX.8) and his copyist Jordanes (LIII, 'Dalmatia Suaviae vicina erat'). Of course this has nothing to do with Sueves or Swabians, though Jordanes confuses the two.

35 Dalmatia, says Jordanes, but a march from the sources of the Danube across Pannonia to Dalmatia is highly improbable.

36 Faihu (connected with the German 'Vieh'), originally meaning 'cattle,' is used in Ulfilas also for wealth in the abstract, and the Aramaic Mammon is translated by Faihu-thraihns, a'heap of treasure.'

37 It is on this occasion that Jordanes mentions (LIV) the names of Edica and Hunuulf, the primates of the Scyri. The names certainly resemble those of the father and brother of Odovacar, but I must repeat, more emphatically, the conviction previously expressed (vol. II, p530, n. 1) that the resemblance is purely accidental, and that this passage throws no light on Odovacar's parentage.

38 'Devicit, vastavit et pene subegit,' is the curious expression of Jordanes. The 'pene,' which he has been truthful enough to express here, should probably be understood in connexion with many of the Gothic victories described by him.

39 'Haec dignitas, hae vires: magno semper electorum juvenum globo circumdari in pace decus, in bello praesidium.' Tacitus, Germania, XIII.

40 Jordanes is responsible for this name. If it was really borne by a Roman general, he was no doubt of barbarian origin.

41 It occurs to me that this must be the meaning of the words of the Anon. Valesii (§ 67), 'Per tricennalem zzzzz populo ingressus palatium.' The only difficulty is, that as that triumphal entry into Rome took place in A.D. 500, we must date Theodoric's accession not later than 471. But his birth is generally dated in 454, and Jordanes states that he was eight years old when sent to Constantinople and resided there ten years, which would bring usto 472. It is perhaps deserving of consideration whether the battle with the Huns which was contemporary with the birth of Theodoric may not have taken place as early as 452, before the migration into Pannonia. In that case our difficulty disappears.

42 Vol. II p481.

43 Jordanes asserts this, but there may be some confusion with Theodoric's later operations in Thessaly.

44 'Der Stoss sudwärts' of German politics.

Page updated: 13 Apr 12