Page 1052


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