Volume 4:
by Edward Gibbon

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The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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David Reed

History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon, Esq.

With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman

Vol. 4

1782 (Written), 1845 (Revised)

Chapter XXXIX: Gothic Kingdom Of Italy.

Part I.

Zeno And Anastasius, Emperors Of The East. - Birth,
Education, And First Exploits Of Theodoric The Ostrogoth. - His
Invasion And Conquest Of Italy. - The Gothic Kingdom Of Italy. -
State Of The West. - Military And Civil Government. - The Senator
Boethius. - Last Acts And Death Of Theodoric.

After the fall of the Roman empire in the West, an interval
of fifty years, till the memorable reign of Justinian, is faintly
marked by the obscure names and imperfect annals of Zeno,
Anastasius, and Justin, who successively ascended to the throne
of Constantinople. During the same period, Italy revived and
flourished under the government of a Gothic king, who might have
deserved a statue among the best and bravest of the ancient

Theodoric the Ostrogoth, the fourteenth in lineal descent of
the royal line of the Amali, ^1 was born in the neighborhood of
Vienna ^2 two years after the death of Attila. ^! A recent
victory had restored the independence of the Ostrogoths; and the
three brothers, Walamir, Theodemir, and Widimir, who ruled that
warlike nation with united counsels, had separately pitched their
habitations in the fertile though desolate province of Pannonia.
The Huns still threatened their revolted subjects, but their
hasty attack was repelled by the single forces of Walamir, and
the news of his victory reached the distant camp of his brother
in the same auspicious moment that the favorite concubine of
Theodemir was delivered of a son and heir. In the eighth year of
his age, Theodoric was reluctantly yielded by his father to the
public interest, as the pledge of an alliance which Leo, emperor
of the East, had consented to purchase by an annual subsidy of
three hundred pounds of gold. The royal hostage was educated at
Constantinople with care and tenderness. His body was formed to
all the exercises of war, his mind was expanded by the habits of
liberal conversation; he frequented the schools of the most
skilful masters; but he disdained or neglected the arts of
Greece, and so ignorant did he always remain of the first
elements of science, that a rude mark was contrived to represent
the signature of the illiterate king of Italy. ^3 As soon as he
had attained the age of eighteen, he was restored to the wishes
of the Ostrogoths, whom the emperor aspired to gain by liberality
and confidence. Walamir had fallen in battle; the youngest of
the brothers, Widimir, had led away into Italy and Gaul an army
of Barbarians, and the whole nation acknowledged for their king
the father of Theodoric. His ferocious subjects admired the
strength and stature of their young prince; ^4 and he soon
convinced them that he had not degenerated from the valor of his
ancestors. At the head of six thousand volunteers, he secretly
left the camp in quest of adventures, descended the Danube as far
as Singidunum, or Belgrade, and soon returned to his father with
the spoils of a Sarmatian king whom he had vanquished and slain.
Such triumphs, however, were productive only of fame, and the
invincible Ostrogoths were reduced to extreme distress by the
want of clothing and food. They unanimously resolved to desert
their Pannonian encampments, and boldly to advance into the warm
and wealthy neighborhood of the Byzantine court, which already
maintained in pride and luxury so many bands of confederate
Goths. After proving, by some acts of hostility, that they could
be dangerous, or at least troublesome, enemies, the Ostrogoths
sold at a high price their reconciliation and fidelity, accepted
a donative of lands and money, and were intrusted with the
defence of the Lower Danube, under the command of Theodoric, who
succeeded after his father's death to the hereditary throne of
the Amali. ^5