Page 1057


the barbarians forbade the occupancy of their

throne by a woman. Such, however, were the

peculiar circumstances other condition that,

with the death of her father, the Goths were

almost obliged to concede to her the prerogatives of sovereignty. She had contracted a

fortunate marriage with prince Eutharic, of

which union was born the youth, Athalaric,

whom Theodoric designated as his successor.

In the mean time Eutharic died, and the

young widow became of necessity the chief

personage in the Gothic state.

In the beginning of her regency, Amalasontha strove to obliterate the bitter memories

which the last years of her father's reign had

left in the minds of her subjects by restoring

the children of Boethius and Symmachus to

their lost inheritance. She also conciliated her

Roman subjects and quieted the Goths by salutary restraints. The chief of her counselors

was the statesman and orator, Cassiodorus,

by whose wise advice she was generally guided.

Meanwhile, she devoted herself assiduously to

the education of her son. That youth, however, soon proved himself to be unworthy of

his parentage. Having been properly punished

by his mother for some neglected duty, he escaped from the palace and threw himself upon

the sympathies of the half-barbarous Gothic

chiefs, already become malcontent under the

reign of a woman. They espoused the cause

of their boy king, and determined to rescue

him from the control of Amalasontha and her

ministry. The lad was accordingly set free

and the queen found herself environed

with enemies. Opposition stirred up the

worst elements of her nature, and in order to

maintain herself she resorted to assassination.

Several of the Gothic nobles fell by treachery.

She then contracted a marriage with the prince

Theobatus, hoping to associate him with herself in the government. The Gothic faction,

however, obtained control over the mind of

Theodatus, and in 535 the queen was deposed

from power, and subjected to imprisonment on

an island in Lake Bolsena.

Now it was that the Emperor Justinian undertook to avail himself of the dissension of

the Goths, and thereby recover Italy. By

his agents he procured the signature of the captive queen to a document surrendering her

claims in his favor. The Emperor thus found

opportunity for interference in the affairs of

the West; but before any serious measures

could be taken, Amalasontha was strangled in

her bath by order of Theodatus. Such, however, was the condition of affairs in Italy and

Africa that abundant excuse was offered to

the Byzantine court for prosecuting its designs

against the barbarian kingdoms. The state of

the Vandals was distracted with civil commotions. Hilderic, the rightful sovereign, had

been deposed and imprisoned, and the usurping Gelimer was seated on the throne. The

Catholic party of the West favored the restoration of the deposed sovereign, and appealed

to Justinian to aid in that work. The latter

fitted out a powerful expedition, the command

of which was entrusted to Belisarius. In the

year 533, the armament proceeded to the African coast. A battle was fought with the

Vandals a few miles from Carthage, and Belisarius was completely victorious. The Eastern army entered the Vandal capital. Gelimer was again defeated and obliged to surrender.

Within three months, order was restored in

Africa and Belisarius returned to Constantinople to be received with distrust by his suspicious sovereign. Such was his popularity,

however, that a great triumph was celebrated

in his honor in the capital of the East.

An excuse was soon found for the continuance of Greek interference in the affairs of

Italy. On the occasion of the marriage of a

sister of Theodoric the Great to Thrasimond,

king of Africa, the fortress of Lilybaeum in

the island of Sicily was given as a bridal present to the Vandals. An army of Gothic

warriors accompanied the gift and participated

in the conflict of the Vandals with the Moors.

Soon, however, the Goths and the Vandals

quarreled, and Belisarius was invited by the

former to aid them in restoring Lilybaeum to

the kingdom of Italy. To this was added the

motive of vengeance against the murderers of

Amalasontha. Accordingly in A. D. 535,

Belisarius was again sent out from Constantinople to reduce Sicily. That work was accomplished without serious opposition, and in

the following spring Belisarius crossed over