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Medieval Sourcebook:
Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths

Davis Introduction: The Ostrogoths had been reduced to vassalage by the Huns. After the breakup of Attila's empire, they recovered their liberty, and entered the Eastern Empire seeking a place of settlement and loot----something after the manner of their kinsfolk the Visigoths.

At the time peace was made between the Ostrogoths and the Romans, the Romans received as a hostage of peace, Theodoric the son of Thiudimir. He had now attained the age of seven years and was entering upon his eighth [461 A.D.]. While his father hesitated about giving him up, his uncle Valamir, besought him to do it, hoping that peace between the Romans and the Goths might thus be assured. Therefore, Theodoric was given as a hostage by the Goths and brought to the city of Constantinople to the Emperor Leo, and, being a goodly child, deservedly gained the imperial favor.

After a while Theodoric returned as a young man to his people and became king over them. He was treated with great favor by the Emperor Zeno but resolved to go as the Emperor's deputy to Italy, and deliver it from the Rugi and other barbarians oppressing it, saying to Zeno, "If I prevail I shall retain Italy as your grant and gift: if I am conquered Your Piety will lose nothing." So the Emperor sent him forth enriched by great gifts and commended to his charge the Senate and the Roman People.

Therefore, Theodoric departed from the royal city and returned to his own people. In company with the whole tribe of the Goths who gave him their unanimous consent he set out for Hesperia. He went in a straight march through Sirmium to the places bordering on Pannonia and, advancing into the territory of Venetia, as far as the bridge of the Sontius, encamped there. When he had halted there for some time to rest the bodies of his men and pack animals, Odovocar sent an armed force against him which he met on the plains of Verona, and destroyed with great slaughter. Then he broke camp and advanced through Italy with greater boldness. Crossing the river Po, he pitched camp near the royal city of Ravenna.

When Odovocar saw this, he fortified himself within the city. He frequently harassed the army of the Goths at night, sallying forth stealthily with his men, and this not once or twice, but often; and thus he struggled for almost three whole years. But he labored in vain, for all Italy at last called Theodoric its lord and the Empire obeyed his nod. But Odovocar suffered daily from war and famine in Ravenna. Since he accomplished nothing he sent an embassy and begged for mercy. Theodoric first granted it, then deprived him of his life.

It was in the third year [493 A.D.] after his entrance into Italy that Theodoric, by the advice of the Emperor Zeno, laid aside the garb of a private citizen and the dress of his race, and assumed a costume with a royal mantle, as he had now become a ruler over both Goths and Romans.


From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols., (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-1913), pp. 325-327.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text may have been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, August 1998
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