Home Middle Ages The Goths Ostrogoths prior to their arrival in Italy

Ostrogoths prior to their arrival in Italy

Map of Germanic tribes in 480 AD created by Thomas Lessman

The Ostrogothic king Hermanarich (also Ermanaric 350 – 375 AD) formed a tribal alliance in the 4th century. It was composed of Germanic, Sarmatian and Slav tribes. An opposed alliance was formed by the Huns. In 375 the Huns defeated the Goths, and Hermanarich committed suicide. The Ostrogoths were integrated into the Hunnic tribal alliance. In the 5th century they raided the Roman province of Pannonia. In 405 the Ostrogoth ruler Radagast led his army of Germans and Sarmatians into Italy, but he was defeated by Stilicho, the chief commander of the western Roman emperor. Since the Hun ruler Attila died (453), the Ostrogoths rebelled and gained their independence from the Huns. In 454 the eastern Roman emperor Marcian (450-457 AD) granted them the status of foederati (allies) and allowed them to settle in northern Pannonia.

Around 469 the Ostrogoths settled in the middle Danube region. They were led by three brothers of the aristocratic Amali dynasty: Valamir, Videmir and Theodemir. Valamir died before 471. Videmir planned on settling in Italy with his fraction of the tribe, but the western Roman emperor Glycerius (473 – 474) discouraged him by diplomatic means. Videmir moved to Gaul instead where he joined the Visigoths. Theodoric succeeded Teodomir.

Theodoric the Great (before the conquest of Italy)

Theodoric descended from the aristocratic Amali dynasty. He spent his youth in Constantinople, where he learned a lot about the Roman way of governing. He was illiterate, but nevertheless had great respect for classical ancient culture.
Upon inheriting the throne from his father Teodomir he led most of the Ostrogoths to the Balkans, to the prefecture Illyricum. The eastern Roman emperor Zeno (474 – 475; 476 – 491) granted him the title of Patrician and Magister militum to bind him to his service. Although this didn’t bind Theodoric, he rebelled against the emperor and even endangered Constantinople itself.
Theodoric the Amal found an ally in Theodoric Strabo, who served as a mercenary captain in Thrace. The government in Constantinople made every effort to sow discontent between these factions. This led to an escalation, in which the Ostrogoths from Thrace were defeated. Theodoric Strabo was slain in 484., and Theodoric the Amal unified all the Ostrogoths and became a danger to Constantinople itself.
In 488 the eastern Roman emperor Zeno ordered Theodoric to overthrow Odoacer who was ruling in Italy. Theodoric defeated Odoacer in the battles of Aquileia and Verona in 489. In 493 these two Germanic rulers met to discuss the partition of Italy. Theodoric killed Odoacer with his own hands at a feast. Even though he still accepted the eastern Roman emperor as his ruler, he became the sovereign ruler of Italy, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Rhaetia, Noricum and Sicilia.

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