The Info List - Theodoric The Great

Theoderic the Great
Theoderic the Great
(Gothic: *𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃; *Þiudareiks; Latin: Flāvius Theodericus; Greek: Θευδέριχος, Theuderikhos; Old English: Þēodrīc; Old Norse: Þjōðrēkr; German: Theoderich; 454 – August 30, 526 AD), often referred to as Theodoric, was king of the Ostrogoths
(475–526),[1] ruler of Italy
(493–526), regent of the Visigoths
(511–526), and a patricius of the Roman Empire. His Gothic name, which is reconstructed by linguists as *Þiudareiks, translates into "people-king" or "ruler of the people".[2] Theodoric was born in Pannonia
in 454, after his people had defeated the Huns
at the Battle of Nedao. His father was King Theodemir, a Germanic Amali nobleman, and his mother was Ereleuva. Theodoric from the age of ten to eighteen grew up as a hostage in Constantinople, received a privileged education under imperial direction, and succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostrogoths
in 473.[3] Settling his people in lower Moesia, Theoderic came into conflict with Thracian Ostrogoths
led by Theodoric Strabo, whom he eventually supplanted, uniting the peoples in 484. Emperor Zeno subsequently gave him the title of Patrician, Vir gloriosus, and the office of Magister militum
Magister militum
(master of the soldiers), and even appointed him as Roman Consul. Seeking further gains, Theoderic frequently ravaged the provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire, eventually threatening Constantinople
itself. In 488, Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow the German Foederatus Odoacer, who had likewise been made patrician and even King of Italy, but who had since betrayed Zeno, supporting the rebellious Leontius. After a victorious three-year war, Theoderic killed Odoacer
with his own hands while they shared a meal, settled his 200,000 to 250,000 people in Italy, and founded an Ostrogothic Kingdom
Ostrogothic Kingdom
based in Ravenna.[4] While he promoted separation between the Arian Ostrogoths
and the Roman population, Theoderic stressed the importance of racial harmony, though intermarriage was outlawed.[5] Seeking to restore the glory of Ancient Rome, he ruled Italy
in its most peaceful and prosperous period since Valentinian, until his death in 526. Memories of his reign made him a hero of German legend as Dietrich von Bern.


1 Youth 2 Reign 3 Family and progeny 4 Religion 5 Legacy

5.1 Mausoleum 5.2 Medieval reception

6 Notes 7 References 8 Related links

Youth[edit] The man who would later rule under the name of Theoderic was born in 454 AD, on the banks of the Neusiedler See
Neusiedler See
near Carnuntum. This was just a year after the Ostrogoths
had thrown off nearly a century of domination by the Huns. The son of the King Theodemir and Ereleuva, Theoderic went to Constantinople
as a young boy, as a hostage to secure the Ostrogoths' compliance with a treaty Theodemir had concluded with the Byzantine Emperor
Byzantine Emperor
Leo the Thracian (ruled 457–474). He lived as a hostage at the court of Constantinople
for many years and learned a great deal about Roman government and military tactics, which served him well when he became the Gothic ruler of a mixed but largely Romanized "barbarian people". Treated with favor by the Emperors Leo I and Zeno (ruled 474–475 and 476–491), he became magister militum (Master of Soldiers) in 483, and one year later he became consul. Afterwards, he returned to live among the Ostrogoths when he was 31 years old and became their king in 488. The legend that he was illiterate arose from the fact that he used a stamp to affix his approval of laws; he no doubt spoke Latin and Greek and could read these languages although one cannot know how well. Reign[edit]

v t e

Conquest of Italy by Theoderic the Great

Isonzo Verona Ravenna

Further information: Ostrogothic Kingdom

The Ostrogothic Kingdom
Ostrogothic Kingdom
(in yellow) at the death of Theoderic the Great (526AD)

At the time, the Ostrogoths
were settled in Byzantine territory as foederati (allies) of the Romans, but were becoming restless and increasingly difficult for Zeno to manage. Not long after Theoderic became king, the two men worked out an arrangement beneficial to both sides. The Ostrogoths
needed a place to live, and Zeno was having serious problems with Odoacer, the King of Italy
King of Italy
who had come to power in 476. Ostensibly a viceroy for Zeno, Odoacer
was menacing Byzantine territory and not respecting the rights of Roman citizens in Italy. At Zeno's encouragement, Theoderic invaded Odoacer's kingdom. Theoderic came with his army to Italy
in 488, where he won the battles of Isonzo and Verona in 489 and at the Adda in 490. In 493 he took Ravenna. 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.

Brick with the emblem of Theodoric, found in the temple of Vesta, Rome. It reads "+REG(nante) D(omino) N(ostro) THEODE/RICO [b]O[n]O ROM(a)E", which translates as With our master Theodoric the Good reigning in Rome [this brick was made].

Like Odoacer, Theoderic was ostensibly only a viceroy for the emperor in Constantinople. In reality, he was able to avoid imperial supervision, and dealings between the emperor and Theoderic were as equals. Unlike Odoacer, however, Theoderic respected the agreement he had made and allowed Roman citizens within his kingdom to be subject to Roman law and the Roman judicial system. The Goths, meanwhile, lived under their own laws and customs. In 519, when a mob had burned down the synagogues of Ravenna, Theoderic ordered the town to rebuild them at its own expense. Theoderic the Great
Theoderic the Great
sought alliances with, or hegemony over, the other Germanic kingdoms in the west. He allied with the Franks
by his marriage to Audofleda, sister of Clovis I, and married his own female relatives to princes or kings of the Visigoths, Vandals
and Burgundians. He stopped the Vandals
from raiding his territories by threatening the weak Vandal king Thrasamund with invasion, and sent a guard of 5,000 troops with his sister Amalafrida when she married Thrasamund in 500. For much of his reign, Theoderic was the de facto king of the Visigoths
as well, becoming regent for the infant Visigothic king, his grandson Amalaric, following the defeat of Alaric II by the Franks
under Clovis in 507. The Franks
were able to wrest control of Aquitaine
from the Visigoths, but otherwise Theoderic was able to defeat their incursions. Theoderic's achievements began to unravel even before his death. He had married off his daughter Amalasuntha to the Visigoth Eutharic, but Eutharic
died in August 522 or 523, so no lasting dynastic connection of Ostrogoths
and Visigoths
was established. In 522, the Catholic Burgundian king Sigismund killed his own son, Theoderic's grandson, Sergeric. Theoderic retaliated by invading the Burgundian kingdom and then annexing its southern part, probably in 523. The rest was ruled by Sigismund's Arian brother Godomar, under Gothic protection against the Franks
who had captured Sigismund. This brought the territory ruled by Theoderic to its height (see map), but in 523 or 524 the new Catholic
Vandal king Hilderic
imprisoned Amalafrida and killed her Gothic guard. Theoderic was planning an expedition to restore his power over the Vandal kingdom when he died in 526.

Bronze weight, inlaid with silver, with the name of Theoderic, issued by prefect Catulinus in Rome, 493–526.

Family and progeny[edit] Theoderic was married once. He had a concubine in Moesia, name unknown, with whom he had two daughters:

Theodegotha (ca. 473 – ?). In 494, she was married to Alaric II as a part of her father's alliance with the Visigoths. Ostrogotha or Arevagni (ca. 475 – ?).[6] In 494 or 496, she was married to the king Sigismund of Burgundy
Sigismund of Burgundy
as a part of her father's alliance with the Burgundians.

By his marriage to Audofleda in 493 he had one daughter:

Amalasuntha, Queen of the Goths. She was married to Eutharic
and had two children: Athalaric
and Matasuntha (the latter being married to Witiges
first, then, after Witiges' death, married to Germanus Justinus, neither had children). Any hope for a reconciliation between the Goths and the Romans in the person of a Gotho-Roman Emperor from this family lineage was shattered.

After his death in Ravenna
in 526, Theoderic was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric. Athalaric
was at first represented by his mother Amalasuntha, who was a regent queen from 526 until 534. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths, however, began to wane and was conquered by Justinian I starting after the rebellion of 535 and finally ending in 553 with the Battle of Mons Lactarius. Religion[edit] In 522 the philosopher Boethius
became his magister officiorum (head of all the government and court services). Boethius
was a dedicated Hellenist bent on translating all the works of Aristotle
into Latin and harmonizing them with the works of Plato. A year later, he was imprisoned and put to death after being accused of treasonous correspondence with the Eastern emperor Justin I.

The Mausoleum of Theoderic
Mausoleum of Theoderic
in Ravenna.

In the meantime Cassiodorus
had succeeded Boethius
as magister in 523. The pliant historian and courtier could be counted on to provide refined touches to official correspondence. "To the monarch you [Cassiodorus] were a friendly judge and an honored intimate. For when he became free from his official cares, he looked to your conversation for the precepts of the sages, that he might make himself a worthy equal to the great men of old. Ever curious, he desired to hear about the courses of the stars, the tides of the sea, and legendary fountains, that his earnest study of natural science might make him seem to be a veritable philosopher in the purple" (Cassiodorus' letterbook, Variae 9.24.8). The gulf was widening between the ancient senatorial aristocracy, whose center was Rome, and the adherents of Gothic rule at Ravenna: other distinguished public figures followed Boethius
to the block. Theoderic in his final years was no longer the disengaged Arian patron of religious toleration that he had seemed earlier in his reign. "Indeed, his death cut short what could well have developed into a major persecution of Catholic
churches in retaliation for measures taken by Justinian in Constantinople
against Arians there"[7] Theoderic was of the Arian faith. At the end of his reign quarrels arose with his Roman subjects and the Byzantine emperor Justin I
Justin I
over the Arianism
issue. Relations between the two nations deteriorated, although Theoderic's ability dissuaded the Byzantines from waging war against him. After his death, that reluctance faded quickly. Legacy[edit]

Bronze statue of Theoderic the Great
Theoderic the Great
(Peter Vischer, 1512–13), from the monument of Emperor Maximilian I in the Court Church at Innsbruck.

Mausoleum[edit] Theoderic the Great
Theoderic the Great
was interred in Ravenna, but his bones were scattered and his mausoleum was converted to a church after Belisarius conquered the city in 540.[8] His mausoleum is one of the finest monuments in Ravenna, but an equestrian statue originally there, the Regisole, which may have been of him, was moved to Pavia, then destroyed during the French Revolution
French Revolution
by the local Jacobin
Club. Medieval reception[edit] Main article: Legends about Theoderic the Great Theoderich as Dietrich von Bern
Dietrich von Bern
is an important figure in Middle High German literature, and as Þiðrekr in Old Icelandic. Notes[edit]

^ Grun, Bernard (1991) [1946]. The Timetable of History (New Third Revised ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-671-74271-X.  ^ Langer, William Leonard (1968). "Italy, 489–554". An Encyclopedia of World History. Harrap. p. 159. Thiudareiks (ruler of the people)  ^ Thomas burns, a history of ostrogoths p57 ^ S. Burns, Thomas (1984). A History of the Ostrogoths. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 44.  ^ Theodoric led the Ostrogothic invasion of Italy
(supported by elements of the Rugii). During the course of four years of fighting, the invasion swept away Odoacer's Post-Imperial Romano-Gothic kingdom. In its place Theodoric created an Ostrogothic kingdom which held much of Italy
until Byzantium began a re-conquest of the western empire in southern Italy. Despite the fact that the invasion had been devised by Emperor Zeno, the Ostrogoths
ruled independently, and Theodoric and Zeno addressed each other as equals. Overtures to Byzantium were only made by some Ostrogoth
leaders after Theodoric's death. A Roman consul was given nominal authority, and the two peoples lived together amicably, with Roman culture greatly influencing the barbarians. The Goths took one-third of the land while the Romans retained the rest. Each side observed their own laws, and intermarriage between Roman and Goth was forbidden. One area in which they didn't agree was in Christianity. The Ostrogoths
were confirmed Arians, which the Catholics of the Roman Church found hard to stomach. Not all the Ostrogoths
pursued this path into Italy
and eventual Italianisation. A branch known as the Tauric Ostrogoths
ventured further eastwards, ending up in Crimea by the end of the 5th century. They settled in the region and established an Eastern Germanic Gothic principality, later known as Doros. Additionally, some elements of the Gothic peoples in southern Germany formed part of the Bavarii confederation at the start of the 6th century. Germanic Tribes: Goths ^ E. T Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines: Gregory of Tours and Women of the Merovingian Elite, (Brill, 2015), 88. ^ O'Donnell 1979, ch. 1. ^ Trudy Ring; Robert M. Salkin; Sharon La Boda (1 January 1996). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Taylor & Francis. pp. 556–. ISBN 978-1-884964-02-2. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 


Peter Heather, The Goths (Oxford, Blackwell, 1996). O'Donnell, James J. Cassiodorus. (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1979) [1]. John Moorhead, Theoderic in Italy
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Andreas Goltz, Barbar - König - Tyrann. Das Bild Theoderichs des Großen in der Überlieferung des 5. bis 9. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: de Gruyter 2008) (Millenium-Studien zu Kultur und Geschichte des ersten Jahrtausends n. Chr., 12).  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Theodoric". Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.   Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dietrich of Bern". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.   Kampers, Franz (1912). "Theodoric the Great". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic
Encyclopedia. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company.  Rolf Badenhausen, "Merovingians by the Svava?": discussion based on the Skokloster Svava, Stockholm catalogued as Skokloster-Codex-I/115&116 quarto, E 9013. Theodoric the Great at MiddleAges.net Theodoric the Goth, 1897, by Thomas Hodgkin, from Project Gutenberg Medieval Lands Project on Theoderic the Great, King of Italy Theodoric the Goth public domain audiobook at LibriVox

Related links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Theoderic the Great.

Boethius Odoacer Ostrogothic Kingdom

Preceded by Theodemir King of the Ostrogoths 474–526 Succeeded by Athalaric

Preceded by Odoacer King of Italy 493–526

Preceded by Anicius Acilius Aginatius Faustus, Post consulatum Trocundis (East) Consul of the Roman Empire 484 with Decius Marius Venantius Basilius Succeeded by Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, Post consulatum Theoderici (East)

v t e

Kings of Italy
between 476 and 1556




Theoderic (493–526) Athalaric
(526–534) Theodahad
(534–536) Vitiges
(536–540) Ildibad
(540–541) Eraric
(541) Totila
(541–552) Teia


(568–572) Cleph
(572–574) Interregnum (574–584) Authari
(584–590) Agilulf
(590–616) Adaloald
(616–626) Arioald
(626–636) Rothari
(636-652) Rodoald
(652–653) Aripert I
Aripert I
(653–661) Godepert
(661–662) Perctarit
(661–662) Grimoald (662–671) Garibald
(671) Perctarit
(671–688) Cunipert
(688–689) Alahis
(689) Cunipert
(689–700) Liutpert
(700–702) Raginpert
(701) Aripert II
Aripert II
(702–712) Ansprand
(712) Liutprand (712–744) Hildeprand
(744) Ratchis
(744–749) Aistulf
(749–756) Desiderius


Charles I (774–814) Pepin (781–810) Bernard (810–818) Lothair I
Lothair I
(818–855) Louis I (855–875) Charles II (875–877) Carloman (877–879) Charles III (879–887) Arnulf (896–899) Ratold (896)

Non-dynastic (title disputed 887–933)

Unruochings: Berengar I (887–924) Guideschi: Guy (889–894) Lambert (891–897) Welfs: Rudolph (922–933) Bosonids: Louis II (900–905) Hugh (926–947) Lothair II (945–950) Anscarids: Berengar II (950–963) Adalbert (950–963)

Kingdom of Italy
within the Holy Roman Empire (962–1556)

Otto I (962–973) Otto II (980–983) Otto III (996–1002) Arduin I (1002–1014) Henry II (1004–1024) Conrad II (1026–1039) Henry III (1039–1056) Henry IV (1056–1105) Conrad II (1093–1101) Henry V (1106–1125) Lothair III (or II) (1125–1137) Conrad III (1138–1152) Frederick I (1154–1186) Henry VI (1186–1197) Otto IV (1209–1212) Frederick II (1212–1250) Henry VII (1311–1313) Louis IV (1327–1347) Charles IV (1355–1378) Sigismund (1431–1437) Frederick III (1452–1493) Charles V (1530–1556)

v t e

The Dietrich von Bern
Dietrich von Bern

Legends about Theoderic the Great

The Historical Poems

Dietrichs Flucht Die Rabenschlacht Alpharts Tod Dietrich und Wenezlan

The Fantastic Poems

Virginal Laurin Der Rosengarten zu Worms Das Eckenlied Goldemar Sigenot Der Wunderer

Related works

Hildebrandslied Nibelungenlied Thidrekssaga Jüngeres Hildebrandslied Ermenrichs Tod Wolfdietrich Ortnit


Ambraser Heldenbuch Heldenbuch

Legendary characters

Theoderic the Great Etzel (Attila) Hildebrand Ermanaric King Laurin King Goldemar

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 27864382 LCCN: n80060662 ISNI: 0000 0001 1611 940X GND: 11862167X SELIBR: 237127 SUDOC: 027442659 BNF: cb11948303g (data) NLA: 35413335 NKC: jn20000701796 SN