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Totila, original name Baduila (died July 1, 552), was the penultimate King of the Ostrogoths, reigning from 541 to 552 AD. A skilled military and political leader, Totila reversed the tide of the Gothic War, recovering by 543 almost all the territories in Italy that the Eastern Roman Empire had captured from his Kingdom in 540.

A relative of Theudis, sword-bearer of Theodoric the Great and king of the Visigoths, Totila was elected king by Ostrogothic nobles in the autumn of 541 after King Witigis had been carried off prisoner to Constantinople. Totila proved himself both as a military and political leader, winning the support of the lower classes by liberating slaves and distributing land to the peasants. After a successful defence at Verona, Totila pursued and defeated a numerically superior army at the Battle of Faventia in 542 AD. Totila followed these victories by defeating the Romans outside Florence and capturing Naples. By 543, fighting on land and sea, he had reconquered the bulk of the lost territory. Rome held out, and Totila appealed unsuccessfully to the Senate in a letter reminding them of the loyalty of the Romans to his predecessor Theodoric the Great. In the spring of 544 the Lazic War

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Totila, original name Baduila (died July 1, 552), was the penultimate King of the Ostrogoths, reigning from 541 to 552 AD. A skilled military and political leader, Totila reversed the tide of the Gothic War, recovering by 543 almost all the territories in Italy that the Eastern Roman Empire had captured from his Kingdom in 540.

A relative of Theudis, sword-bearer of Theodoric the Great and king of the Visigoths, Totila was elected king by Ostrogothic nobles in the autumn of 541 after King Witigis had been carried off prisoner to Constantinople. Totila proved himself both as a military and political leader, winning the support of the lower classes by liberating slaves and distributing land to the peasants. After a successful defence at Verona, Totila pursued and defeated a numerically superior army at the Battle of Faventia in 542 AD. Totila followed these victories by defeating the Romans outside Florence and capturing Naples. By 543, fighting on land and sea, he had reconquered the bulk of the lost territory. Rome held out, and Totila appealed unsuccessfully to the Senate in a letter reminding them of the loyalty of the Romans to his predecessor Theodoric the Great. In the spring of 544 the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I sent his general Belisarius to Italy to counterattack, but Totila captured Rome in 546 from Belisarius and depopulated the city after a yearlong siege. When Totila left to fight the Byzantines in Lucania, south of Naples, Belisarius retook Rome and rebuilt its fortifications.

After Belisarius retreated to Constantinople in 549, Totila recaptured Rome, going on to complete the reconquest of Italy and Sicily. By the end of 550, Totila had recaptured all but Ravenna and four coastal towns. The following year Justinian sent his general Narses with a force of 35,000 Lombards, Gepids and Heruli to Italy in a march around the Adriatic to approach Ravenna from the north. In the Battle of Taginae, a decisive engagement during the summer of 552, in the Apennines near present-day Fabriano, the Gothic army was defeated, and Totila was mortally wounded. Totila was succeeded by his relative, Teia, who later died at the Battle of Mons Lactarius. Pockets of resistance, reinforced by Franks and Alemanni who had invaded Italy in 553, continued until 562, when the Byzantines were in control of the whole of the country. The country was so ravaged by war that any return to normal life proved impossible and in 568, only three years after Justinian's death, most of the country was conquered by Alboin of the Lombards,[1] who absorbed the remaining Ostrogothic population.

The fortifications were partly razed. Totila spent the following season establishing himself in the south and reducing pockets of resistance, while the unpaid Imperial troops in central Italy made such poor reputations pillaging the countryside that, when Totila turned his attention to taking Rome, he was able proudly to contrast Goth and Greek behavior in his initial negotiations with the senate. They were refused, however, and all the Arian priests were expelled from the city, on suspicion of collaboration.

Towards the end of 545 the Gothic king took up his station at Tivoli and prepared to starve Rome into surrender, making at the same time elaborate preparations for checking the progress of Belisarius who was advancing to its relief. Pope Vigilius fled to the safety of Syracuse; when he sent a flotilla of grain ships to feed the city, Totila's navy fell on them near the mouth of the Tiber and captured the fleet. The imperial fleet, moving up the Tiber and led by the great general, only just failed to relieve the city, which then was forced to open its gates to the Goths.

It was plundered, although Totila did not carry out his threat to make it a pasture for cattle, and when the Gothic army withdrew into Apulia it was from a scene of desolation. Yet, its walls and other fortifications were soon restored, and Totila again marched against it. He was defeated by Belisarius, who, however, did not follow up his advantage. Several cities, including Perugia, were taken by the Goths, while Belisarius remained inactive and then was recalled from Italy. In 549 Totila advanced a third time against Rome, which he captured through the treachery of some of its starving defenders.

Totila's meeting with Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino is preserved in Pope Gregory I's Dialogues (ii.14–15). It occurred either before or soon after the siege of Naples; the Benedictines' traditional date is March 21, 543. It includes a telling of the abbot's discernment of an aide of Totila's, his sword-bearer Riggio, dressed in royal robes, as an impostor, and also his predictions for Totila, who knelt to him. This event was a favorite subject for Italian painters.

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