1057 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-KINGDOMS IN ITALY.
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