#19 – Burn Them in the Fire
June 23, 2018
#21 – Enter The Lombards
August 4, 2018

#20 – The Ostrogothic Kingdom

  • In 423, Honorius, the son of Theodosius who ruled the Western part of the empire, died, of natural causes.
  • He had ruled for 30 years.
  • He was only 38 years old.
  • Over the next 50 years, the Western empire had a 11 emperors.
  • Some last for years – others lasted only months.
  • The last emperor of the West is usually considered to be Flavius Romulus Augustus.
  • Also known as Romulus Augustulus – which means “Little Augustus”
  • He was the son of Orestes, a Roman aristocrat who once served as a secretary in the court of Attila the Hun before coming into the service of one of the Roman emperors, Julius Nepos, in 475.
  • Attila ruled the huns for nearly 20 years, from 434 to 453.
  • The Huns came from Scythia, think modern Kazahstan, south Russia, north of Iran.
  • Unlike the Goths, who were Arian Christians, it is believed that the Huns practiced a form of shamanism, called Tengerism.
  • It was the prevailing religion of the Turks, Mongols, Hungarians, Xiongnu and Huns.
  • Shamanism is an animistic belief system in which all things have spirits.
  • This includes everything from animals and plants, to rocks and rivers.
  • Animals can also have significance.
  • Among the Huns, bears symbolized peace while wolverines symbolized war.
  • Still practiced today in places like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
  • Khukh tengri means “blue sky” in Mongolian, Mongolians still pray to Munkh Khukh Tengri (“Eternal Blue Sky”)
  • Attila was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans.
  • He was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
  • He crossed the Danube twice and plundered the Balkans, but was unable to take Constantinople.
  • But he defeated the Roman army, which left the Huns virtually unchallenged in Eastern Roman lands and they raided as far south as Thermopylae.
  • The war came to an end in 449 with an agreement in which the Romans agreed to pay Attila 6,000 Roman pounds of golds and an annual tribute of 2100 pounds of gold.
  • In 450, Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, sent Attila her engagement ring and begged him to help her escape from having to marry a Roman senator.
  • Imagine being THAT guy.
  • Attila claimed her as his bride and half the Western Roman Empire as dowry.
  • Attila went to Gallia Belgica to claim his dowry with an army said to be 500,000
  • He was eventually defeated by an alliance of the Goths in Gaul and the Romans.
  • But he returned a couple of years later, and attacked Italy.
  • Venice was invented as a result of his attacks.
  • People escaped his assaults by moving to the Venetian lagoons.
  • It was mostly just a series of small fishing villages before then.
  • Italy had suffered from a terrible famine in 451 and her crops were faring little better in 452.
  • Attila’s ravaging of the countryside didn’t help.
  • But then Attila suddenly died while celebrating his latest marriage to a very beautiful young woman called Ildico.
  • According to Priscus, the 5th-century Roman diplomat and Greek historian: He had given himself up to excessive joy at his wedding, and as he lay on his back, heavy with wine and sleep, a rush of superfluous blood, which would ordinarily have flowed from his nose, streamed in deadly course down his throat and killed him, since it was hindered in the usual passages. Thus did drunkenness put a disgraceful end to a king renowned in war.
  • His empire fell apart from soon after his death.
  • Oh and Honoria, the princess?
  • When her brother found out what she’s done, he sent her into exile, married her quickly off to some nobody, and then she spent the rest of her life under house arrest.
  • So – back to Orestes.
  • In the same year he went to work for Nepos, the Roman emperor, he was promoted to the rank of magister militum.
  • But then he led a military revolt that forced Nepos to flee into exile.
  • His partners in the revolt were the foederati.
  • A Foederatus was any one of several outlying nations to which ancient Rome provided benefits in exchange for military assistance.
  • The term was also used, especially under the Roman Empire for groups of “barbarian” mercenaries of various sizes, who were typically allowed to settle within the Roman Empire.
  • It’s also the basis of our word FEDERATION.
  • Orestes promised his barbarian soldiers a third of Italian territory in exchange for assisting with getting rid of the emperor.
  • Orestes then elevated his son Romulus to the rank of Augustus – the boy was only 15 years old.
  • But when Orestes reneged on his deal with the barbarians, they revolted under the German Odoacer, whom they declared to be their king on August 23, 476.
  • Odoacer led them against their former employer, ravaging every town and village in northern Italy and meeting little resistance.
  • Orestes fled to the city of Pavia, where the city’s bishop gave him sanctuary within the city walls.
  • Despite the protection he received from the bishop, Orestes was forced to flee for his life when Odoacer and his men broke through the city defenses and ravaged the church, stealing all the money that the bishop had collected for the poor and razing many of the city buildings to the ground.
  • After escaping from the city of Pavia, Orestes rallied the few surviving units of Roman troops stationed in northern Italy and was able to move his small army to the city of Piacenza.
  • The forces of Odoacer and Orestes finally met on the battlefield, but the inexperienced Roman commander and his few and sparse Imperial troops, disorganized and unprepared, stood no chance against the savagery of Odoacer’s mercenary army.
  • The majority of the Roman soldiers were either killed, captured, or driven off, while Orestes was captured near the city on August 28 and was swiftly executed.
  • Within weeks, Ravenna was captured and Romulus Augustus was deposed on 4 September 476.
  • What happened to him is a mystery.
  • He seems to have been sent to live with relatives in Campania, somewhere near Naples.
  • But Odoacer didn’t make himself Emperor.
  • After the abdication of Romulus, the Roman Senate, on behalf of Odoacer, sent representatives to the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno, whom it asked to formally reunite the two halves of the Empire: “the west… no longer required an emperor of its own: one monarch sufficed for the world”.
  • He was also asked to make Odoacer a patrician, and administrator of Italy in Zeno’s name.
  • Zeno pointed out that the Senate should rightfully have first requested that Julius Nepos take the throne once more, but he nonetheless agreed to their requests.
  • Odoacer then ruled Italy in Zeno’s name.
  • Jordanes in his history of the Goths, written around 551, says: Thus the Western Empire of the Roman race, which Octavianus Augustus, the first of the Augusti, began to govern in the seven hundred and ninth year from the founding of the city, perished with this Augustulus in the five hundred and twenty second year from the beginning of the rule of his predecessors and those before them, and from this time onward kings of the Goths held Rome and Italy.
  • So for the first time in 506 years – since Actium – there isn’t an emperor on the throne of the Western empire.
  • Odoacer was a king in all but name.
  • Following Nepos’s murder in 480, Zeno legally abolished the co-emperorship and ruled as sole Emperor.
  • Although Odoacer was an Arian Christian, his relations with the Chalcedonian church, as they were known after the Council of Chalcedon, were pretty good.
  • It’s all about the nature of Jesus, how much human and how much divine, blah blah, they were STILL fighting about it, 500 years after Jesus died.
  • BTW the vast majority of Christians in the 21st century are Chalcedonians.
  • And probably have no idea how long their forefathers fought about it.
  • Odoacer ruled Italy for 13 years.
  • As his power increased, Zeno, whose original name by the way was Tarasis Kodisa Rousombladadiotes – started to get jealous of how much power Odie had.
  • He promised Theoderic the Great and his Ostrogoths the Italian peninsula if they were to defeat and remove Odoacer.
  • Theoderic had grown up as a hostage in Constantinople.
  • So he launched an attack of the Odie and they fought a three-year war.
  • Theoderic came with his army to Italy in 488, where he won some battles in 489 and 490.
  • In 493 he even laid seige to Ravenna.
  • but since they lacked a fleet and the city could be resupplied by sea, the siege could be endured almost indefinitely.
  • It was not until 492 that Theoderic was able to procure a fleet and capture Ravenna’s harbours, entirely cutting off communication with the outside world.
  • Six months later, the city’s bishop started negotiation between the two parties.
  • He said he’d organise a sit down in his territory.
  • His name was Tessio.
  • Then on February 2, 493, Theoderic and Odoacer signed a treaty that assured both parties would rule over Italy.
  • A banquet was organised in order to celebrate this treaty.
  • It was at this banquet that Theoderic, after making a toast, killed Odoacer; Theoderic drew his sword and struck him on the collarbone.
  • He then settled his 250,000 people in Italy, and founded the Ostrogothic Kingdom based in Ravenna.
  • He was of course another Arian and he promoted segregation between the Arian Ostrogoths and the Catholic Roman population.
  • But he stressed the importance of racial harmony.
  • Though intermarriage was outlawed.
  • So treat each other well, just don’t fuck each other.
  • Don’t want to mix the bloodlines.
  • Under Theoderic, the Ostrogothic kingdom reached its zenith, stretching from modern France in the west into modern Serbia in the southeast.
  • Most of the social institutions of the late Western Roman Empire were preserved during his rule.
  • He kept the Senate and the consuls.
  • Theodoric called himself Gothorum Romanorumque rex (“King of the Goths and Romans”), demonstrating his desire to be a leader for both peoples.
  • When Theodoric died in 526, his relationship with the Eastern empire was on shaky ground.
  • Partly because of wars going on in Gaul between the Franks, under Clovis I, who styled himself the champion of the Catholic faith, and the Visigothic king Alaric II, who was aligned with Theodoric.
  • Clovis was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs.
  • He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.
  • And of course, anyone who has read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail will know that they the Merovingians were descendants of Jesus.
  • When Justin I became the Eastern Roman Emperor, things got nasty.

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