1052 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
arts of war and of government, was ready to
sweep down from the North and destroy the
brief ascendancy of the Heruli in Italy.
Having established themselves in Pannonia
and Gaul, the Ostrogoths had grown to be
first in influence among the barbarian states.
Friendly relations had been cultivated between
them and the Empire of the East. The Emperor Zeno had conferred on the nation many
marks of his favor, and upon Theodoric, their
king, the titles of patrician and consul. The
Goths, however, were still in a half-barbarous
condition, and the various donatives, made to
them by the Eastern Emperor, were quickly
consumed in the license of appetite. It was
in this condition of affairs that the far-seeing
mind of Theodoric perceived in the state of
Italy an inviting opportunity for the exercise
of his own genius and a vent for the restless.
activities of his people.
He accordingly applied to the Eastern emperor. "Italy, the inheritance of your predecessor," said he in a letter to the court at Constantinople, "and Rome itself, the head
and mistress of the world, now fluctuate under
the violence and oppression of Odoacer, the
mercenary. Direct me with my national
troops to march against the tyrant. If I fall,
you will be relieved from an expensive and
troublesome friend; but, if with the Divine
permission I succeed, I shall govern in your
name and to your glory the Roman Senate
and the part of the republic delivered from
slavery by my victorious arms." This proposal
of Theodoric was gladly entertained by the
Theodoric accordingly undertook the conquest of Italy. The invasion was in the
nature of an emigration of the whole Gothic
people. The aged, the infirm, the women and
children, were all borne along with the immense procession of warriors, and the whole
property was included with the baggage.
During the progress of the march of seven
hundred miles, undertaken in midwinter, the
Gothic host was frequently threatened with
famine. On the way Theodoric was actively
opposed by the Bulgarians, the Gepidae, and
the Sarmatians, who had been prompted to
such a course by Odoacer. Nevertheless, the Goth fought his way through every opposing
obstacle, passed the Julian Alps, and made
his way into Italy.
Odoacer went boldly forth to meet him.
The two hosts met on the river Sontius, and
a decisive battle was fought, in which the
Ostrogoths were successful. The country of
the Veneti as far south as Verona thus fell
into the hands of Theodoric. At the river
Adige a second battle was fought, in which
the Heruli were again defeated. Odoacer
took refuge in Ravenna, and Theodoric advanced to Milan. At this juncture, however,
the treachery of a deserter, to whom the
command of the vanguard had been entrusted,
suddenly reversed the fortunes of war and
brought Odoacer again into the field. Theodoric was reduced to the necessity of calling
for assistance to the Visigoths of Gaul; but,
after a brief continuance, all Italy, with the
exception of Ravenna, was delivered to the
Ostrogothic king. In that city Odoacer immured himself during a three years' siege.
Finally, however, he was obliged to yield, and
the Ostrogoths took possession of Ravenna.
After a few days, Odoacer, to whom an honorable capitulation had been granted, was
stabbed at a banquet; nor is it doubtful that the
blow was struck with the knowledge and connivance of Theodoric himself. Several of the
principal adherents of the Herulian king were
also killed, and Theodoric, proclaimed by his
Gothic subjects, was acknowledged throughout
Italy and reluctantly accepted by the Emperor
of the East. Thus, in the year A. D. 493,
the Ostrogothic kingdom was established in
Theodoric at once entered upon a reign of
thirty-three years' duration. In accordance
with the rights of conquest, a third of the
lands was apportioned to his followers. To
the Goths, long accustomed to the cheerless
rigors of the North, their new homes in Italy
seemed a paradise. The new nation that was
thus transported to the South was estimated
at two hundred thousand men of war, besides
the aged, the women, and the children.
The conquerors assumed the more elegant dress and many of the social customs
of the Romans; but the Gothic language