HEROES OF THE NATIONS
EVELYN ABBOTT, M.A. FELLOW OF BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD
FACTA CUCIS VIVENT OPEROSAQUE GLORIA RERUM—OVID, IN LIVIAM, 255
THE HERO'S DEEDS AND HARD-WON FAME SHALL LIVE
THEODORIC THE GOTH
THE BARBARIAN CHAMPION OF CIVILISATION
BY THOMAS HODGKIN, D.C.L.
FELLOW OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON; AUTHOR OF "ITALY AND HER INVADERS, A.D. 376-553", ETC., ETC.
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK.
27 W. TWENTY-THIRD STREET LONDON.
24 BEDFORD STREET, STRAND THE KNICKERBOCKER PRESS.
COPYRIGHT, 1891, BY
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London By G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Electrotyped, Printed, and Bound by The Knickerbocker Press, New York G.P. Putnam's Sons.
In the following pages I have endeavoured to portray the life and character of one of the most striking figures in the history of the Early Middle Ages, Theodoric the Ostrogoth. The plan of the series, for which this volume has been prepared, does not admit of minute discussion of the authorities on which the history rests. In my case the omission is of the less consequence, as I have treated the subject more fully in my larger work, "Italy and her Invaders", and as also the chief authorities are fully enumerated in that book which is or ought to be in the library of every educated Englishman and American, Gibbon's "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".
The fifth and sixth centuries do not supply us with many materials for pictorial illustrations, and I do not know where to look for authentic and contemporary representations of the civil or military life of Theodoric and his subjects. We have, however, a large and interesting store of nearly contemporary works of art at Ravenna, illustrating the ecclesiastical life of the period, and of these the engraver has made considerable use. The statue of Theodoric at Innsbruck, a representation of which is included with the illustrations, possesses, of course, no historical value, but is interesting as showing how deeply the memory of Theodoric's great deeds had impressed itself on the mind of the Middle Ages.
And here I will venture on a word of personal reminiscence. The figure of Theodoric the Ostrogoth has been an interesting and attractive one to me from the days of my boyhood. I well remember walking with a friend on a little hill (then silent and lonely, now covered with houses), looking down on London, and discussing European politics with the earnest interest which young debaters bring to such a theme. The time was in those dark days which followed the revolutions of 1848, when it seemed as if the life of the European nations would be crushed out under the heel of returned and triumphant despotism. For Italy especially, after the defeat of Novara, there seemed no hope. We talked of Mazzini, Cavour, Garibaldi, and discussed the possibility—which then seemed so infinitely remote—that there might one day be a free and united Italy. We both agreed that the vision was a beautiful one, but was there any hope of it ever becoming a reality? My friend thought there was not, and argued from the fact of Italy's divided condition in the past, that she must always be divided in the future. I, who was on the side of hope, felt the weakness of my position, and was driven backward through the centuries, till at length I took refuge in the reign of Theodoric. Surely, under the Ostrogothic king, Italy had been united, strong, and prosperous. My precedent was a remote one, but it was admitted, and it did a little help my cause.
Since that conversation more than forty years have passed. The beautiful land is now united, free, and mighty; and a new generation has arisen, which, though aware of the fact that she was not always thus, has but a faint conception how much blood and how many tears, what thousands of broken hearts and broken lives went to the winning of Italy's freedom. I, too, with fuller knowledge of her early history, am bound to confess that her unity even under Theodoric was not so complete as I then imagined it. But still, as I have more than once stated in the following pages, I look upon his reign as a time full of seeds of promise for Italy and the world, if only these seeds might have had time to germinate and ripen into harvest. Closer study has only confirmed me in the opinion that the Ostrogothic kingdom was one of the great "Might-have-beens" of History.
NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE, January 25, 1891.
Ostrogoths and Visigoths—Nations forming the Gothic Confederacy—Royal family of the Amals—Gothic invasion in the Second Century—Hermanic the Ostrogoth—Inroad of the Huns—Defeat of the Ostrogoths—Defeat of the Visigoths—The Visigoths within the Empire—Battle of Adrianople—Alaric in Rome.
THE MIGHT OF ATTILA
The Ostrogoths under the Huns—The three royal brothers—Attila, king of the Huns—He menaces the Eastern Empire—He strikes at Gaul—Battle of the Catalaunian plains—Invasion of Italy—Destruction of Aquileia—Death of Attila and disruption of his Empire—Settlement of the Ostrogoths in Pannonia.
Inroad of the Huns—Their defeat by Walamir—Birth of Theodoric—War with the Eastern Empire—Theodoric a hostage—Description of Constantinople—Its commerce and its monuments.
THE SOUTHWARD MIGRATION
Struggles with the Swabians, Sarmatians, Scyri, and Huns—Death of Walamir—Theudemir becomes king—Theodoric defeats Babai—The Teutonic custom of the Comitatus—An Ostrogothic Folc-mote—Theudemir invades the Eastern Empire—Macedonian settlement of the Ostrogoths.
STORM AND STRESS
Death of Theudemir, and accession of Theodoric—Leo the Butcher—The Emperor Zeno—The march of Theodoric against the son of Triarius—His invasion of Macedonia—Defeat of his rear-guard—His compact with the Emperor.
ITALY UNDER ODOVACAR
Condition of Italy—End of the line of Theodosius—Ricimer the Patrician—Struggles with the Vandals—Orestes the Patrician makes his son Emperor, who is called Augustulus—The fall of the Western Empire and elevation of Odovacar—Embassies to Constantinople.
THE CONQUEST OF ITALY
Odovacar invades Dalmatia—Conducts a successful campaign against the Rugians—Theodoric accepts from Zeno the commission to overthrow Odovacar—He invades Italy, overthrowing the Gepidae, who attempt to bar his passage—Battles of the Isonzo and Verona—Odovacar takes refuge in Ravenna—The treachery of Tufa—Gundobad, king of the Burgundians, comes to Italy to oppose Theodoric, while Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, comes as his ally—The battle of the Adda, and further defeat of Odovacar—Surrender of Ravenna—Assassination of Odovacar.
Transformation in the character of Theodoric—His title—Embassies to Zeno and Anastasius—Theodoric's care for the rebuilding of cities and repair of aqueducts—Encouragement of commerce and manufactures—Revival of agriculture—Anecdotes of Theodoric.
The government of Italy still carried on according to Roman precedents—Classification of the officials—The Consulship and the Senate—Cassiodorus, his character and his work—His history of the Goths—His letters and state papers.
THE ARIAN LEAGUE 175
Political bearings of the Arianism of the German invaders of the Empire—Vandals, Suevi, Visigoths, Burgundians—Uprise of the power of Clovis—His conversion to Christianity—His wars with Gundobad, king of the Burgundians—With Alaric II, king of the Visigoths—Downfall of the monarchy of Toulouse—Usurpation of Gesalic—Theodoric governs Spain as guardian of his grandson Amalaric.
Anastasius, the Eastern Emperor—His character—His disputes with his subjects—Theodoric and the king of the Gepidae—War of Sirmium and its consequences—Raid on the coast of Italy—Reconciliation between the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople—Anastasius confers on Clovis the title of Consul—Clovis removes many of his rivals—Death of Clovis—Death of Anastasius.
ROME AND RAVENNA
Theodoric's visit to Rome—Disputed Papal election—Theodoric's speech at the Golden Palm—The monk Fulgentius—Bread distributions—Races in the Circus—Conspiracy of Odoin—Return to Ravenna—Marriage festivities of Amalaberga—Description of Ravenna—Mosaics in the churches—S. Apollinare Dentro—Processions of virgins and martyrs—Arian baptistery—So-called palace of Theodoric—Vanished statues.
Clouds in the horizon—Anxiety as to the succession—Death of Eutharic, son-in-law of Theodoric—His son Athalaric proclaimed as Theodoric's heir—Pope and Emperor reconciled—Anti-Jewish riot at Ravenna—Strained relations of Theodoric and his Catholic subjects—- Leaders of the Roman party—Boethius and Symmachus—Break-down of the Arian leagues—Cyprian accuses Albinus of treason—Boethius, interposing, is included in the charge—His trial, condemnation and death—The "Consolation of Philosophy".
Embassy of Pope John to Constantinople—His imprisonment and death—Execution of Symmachus—Opportune death of Theodoric—Various stories respecting it—His mausoleum—- Ultimate fate of his remains.
Accession of the Emperor Justinian—His place in history—Overthrow of the Vandal kingdom in Africa by Belisarius—Battles of Ad Decimum and Tricamaron—Belisarius' triumph—Fall of the Burgundian kingdom—Death of Amalaric king of Spain—Amalasuentha's troubles with her subjects as to her son's education—Secret negotiations with Justinian—Death of Athalaric—Theodahad made partner in the throne—Murder of Amalasuentha—Justinian declares war.
Justinian begins his great Gothic war—Dalmatia recovered for the Empire—Belisarius lands in Sicily—Siege of Palermo—The south of Italy overrun—Naples taken by a stratagem—Theodahad deposed by the Goths—Witigis elected king—The Goths evacuate Rome—Belisarius enters it—The long siege of Rome by the Goths who fail to take it—Belisarius marches northward and captures Ravenna.
Misgovernment of Italy by Justinian's officers—The Gothic cause revives—Accession of Ildibad—Of Eraric—Of Totila—Totila's character and policy—His victorious progress—Belisarius sent again to Italy to oppose him—Siege and capture of Rome by the Goths—The fortifications of the City dismantled—Belisarius reoccupies it and Totila besieges it in vain—General success of the Gothic arms—Belisarius returns to Constantinople—His later fortunes—Never reduced to beggary.
Totila again takes Rome—High-water mark of the success of the Gothic arms—Narses, the Emperor's chamberlain, appointed to command another expedition for the recovery of Italy—His character—His semi-barbarous army—Enters Italy—Battle of the Apennines—Totila slain—End of the Gothic dominion in Italy.
THE THEODORIC OF SAGA 370
The fame of Theodoric attested by the Saga dealing with his name, utterly devoid as they are of historic truth—The Wilkina Saga—Story of Theodoric's ancestors—His own boyhood—His companions, Master Hildebrand, Heime, and Witig—Death of his father and his succession to the throne—Herbart wooes King Arthur's daughter, first for Theodoric and then for himself—Hermanric, his uncle, attacks Theodoric—Flight and exile at the Court of Attila—Attempt to return—Attila's sons slain in battle—The tragedy of the Nibelungs—Theodoric returns to his kingdom—His mysterious end.
STATUE OF THEODORIC IN THE CHURCH OF THE FRANCISCANS AT INNSBRUCK—TOMB OF MAXIMILIAN Frontispiece.
MAP OF EUROPE A.D. 493
THE BURNT COLUMN, CONSTANTINOPLE
OBELISK OF THEODOSIUS IN THE HIPPODROME AT CONSTANTINOPLE
PEDESTAL OF THE OBELISK OF THEODOSIUS
MAP OF THRACIA, DACIA, AND MACEDONIA IN THE 5TH CENTURY
GOLDEN SOLIDUS, LEO II., ZENO
HALF-SILIQUA OF SILVER, ODOVACAR
MAP OF ITALY UNDER THE OSTROGOTHS
THE ARENA OF VERONA, PRESENT CONDITION
HALF-SILIQUA OF THEODORIC (SILVER), BEARING THE HEAD OF ANASTASIUS
 A PAGE OF THE GOTHIC GOSPELS (CODEX ARGENTEUS), MARK VII., 3-7
 MAP OF GAUL A.D. 500-523
COIN OF THE GOTHIC KINGDOM IN ITALY
COPPER COIN OF ANASTASIUS (FORTY NUMMI)
PINE FOREST, RAVENNA
INTERIOR OF BASILICA, IN RAVENNA
MOSAIC IN THE CHURCH OF ST. APOLLINARE NUOVO AT RAVENNA, SHOWING THE PORT OF CLASSIS
PROCESSION OF MARTYRS, MOSAIC FROM ST. APOLLINARE NUOVO IN RAVENNA
PALACE OF THEODORIC, SIDE VIEW
COIN OF THE GOTHIC KINGDOM IN ITALY
VIEW OF MODERN CONSTANTINOPLE
COPPER PIECE OF ATHALARIC, TEN NUMMI (HEAD OF JUSTINIAN?)
THE TOMB OF THEODORIC, RAVENNA
CUIRASS OF THEODORIC (?) IN THE MUSEUM AT RAVENNA
JUSTINIAN AND HIS NOBLES, FROM THE MOSAICS AT RAVENNA
PIECE OF FORTY NUMMI OF THEODAHAD
COPPER SOLIDUS, JUSTIN I. AND JUSTINIAN
COIN OF BADUILA (TOTILA)
COIN OF TEIAS, SUCCESSOR OF TOTILA
VERONA, FROM PONTE VECCHIO, SITE OF PALACE OF THEODORIC IN THE DISTANCE
COIN OF WITIGIS, WITH HEAD OF ANASTASIUS
[Footnote 1: Based upon map from Hodgkin's Italy and Her Invaders.]
[Footnote 2: Bradley's Story of the Goths.]
[Footnote 3: Bradley's Story of the Goths.]
THEODORIC THE GOTH.
Theodoric the Ostrogoth is one of those men who did great deeds and filled a large space in the eyes of their contemporaries, but who, not through their own fault, but from the fact that the stage of the world was not yet ready for their appearance, have failed to occupy the very first rank among the founders of empires and the moulders of the fortunes of the human race.
He was born into the world at the time when the Roman Empire in the West was staggering blindly to ruin, under the crushing blows inflicted upon it by two generations of barbarian conquerors. That Empire had been for more than six centuries indisputably the strongest power in Europe, and had gathered into its bosom all that was best in the civilisation of the nations that were settled round the Mediterranean Sea. Rome had given her laws to all these peoples, had, at any rate in the West, made their roads, fostered the growth of their cities, taught them her language, administered justice, kept back the barbarians of the frontier, and for great spaces of time preserved "the Roman peace" throughout their habitations. Doubtless there was another side to this picture: heavy taxation, corrupt judges, national aspirations repressed, free peasants sinking down into hopeless bondage. Still it cannot be denied that during a considerable part of its existence the Roman Empire brought, at least to the western half of Europe, material prosperity and enjoyment of life which it had not known before, and which it often looked back to with vain regrets when the great Empire had fallen into ruins. But now, in the middle of the fifth century, when Theodoric was born amid the rude splendour of an Ostrogothic palace, the unquestioned ascendancy of Rome over the nations of Europe was a thing of the past. There were still two men, one at the Old Rome by the Tiber, and the other at the New Rome by the Bosphorus, who called themselves August, Pious, and Happy, who wore the diadem and the purple shoes of Diocletian, and professed to be joint lords of the universe. Before the Eastern Augustus and his successors there did in truth lie a long future of dominion, and once or twice they were to recover no inconsiderable portion of the broad lands which had formerly been the heritage of the Roman people. But the Roman Empire at Rome was stricken with an incurable malady. The three sieges and the final sack of Rome by Alaric (410) revealed to the world that she was no longer "Roma Invicta", and from that time forward every chief of Teutonic or Sclavonic barbarians who wandered with his tribe over the wasted plains between the Danube and the Adriatic, might cherish the secret hope that he, too, would one day be drawn in triumph up the Capitolian Hill, through the cowed ranks of the slavish citizens of Rome, and that he might be lodged on the Palatine in one of the sumptuous palaces which had been built long ago for "the lords of the world".
Thus there was everywhere unrest and, as it were, a prolonged moral earthquake. The old order of things was destroyed, and none could forecast the shape of the new order of things that would succeed to it. Something similar has been the state of Europe ever since the great French Revolution; only that her barbarians threaten her now from within, not from without. The social state which had been in existence for centuries, and which had come to be accepted as if it were one of the great ordinances of nature, is either menaced or is actually broken up, and how the new democracy will rearrange itself in the seats of the old civilisation the wisest statesman cannot foretell.
But to any "shepherd of his people", barbarian or Roman, who looked with foreseeing eye and understanding heart over the Europe of the fifth century, the duty of the hour was manifest. The great fabric of the Roman Empire must not be allowed to go to pieces in hopeless ruin. If not under Roman Augusti, under barbarian kings bearing one title or another, the organisation of the Empire must be preserved. The barbarians who had entered it, often it must be confessed merely for plunder, were remaining in it to rule, and they could not rule by their own unguided instincts. Their institutions, which had answered well enough for a half-civilised people, leading their simple, primitive life in the clearings of the forest of Germany, were quite unfitted for the complicated relations of the urban and social life of the Mediterranean lands. There is one passage which has been quoted almost to weariness, but which it seems necessary to quote again, in order to show how an enlightened barbarian chief looked upon the problem with which he found himself confronted, as an invader of the Empire. Ataulfus, brother-in-law and successor of Alaric, the first capturer of Rome, "was intimate with a certain citizen of Narbonne, a grave, wise, and religious person who had served with distinction under Theodosius, and often remarked to him that in the first ardour of his youth he had longed to obliterate the Roman name and turn all the Roman lands into an Empire which should be, and should be called, the Empire of the Goths, so that what used to be commonly known as Romania should now be 'Gothia,' and that he, Ataulfus, should be in the world what Caesar Augustus had been. But now that he had proved by long experience that the Goths, on account of their unbridled barbarism, could not be induced to obey the laws, and yet that, on the other hand, there must be laws, since without them the Commonwealth would cease to be a Commonwealth, he had chosen, for his part at any rate, that he would seek the glory of renewing and increasing the Roman name by the arms of his Gothic followers, and would be remembered by posterity as the restorer of Rome, since he could not be its changer".
[Footnote 4: Orosius Histor., vii., 43.]
This conversation will be found to express the thoughts of Theodoric the Ostrogoth, as well as those of Ataulfus the Visigoth, Theodoric also, in his hot youth, was the enemy of the Roman name and did his best to overturn the Roman State. But he, too, saw that a nobler career was open to him as the preserver of the priceless blessings of Roman civilisation, and he spent his life in the endeavour to induce the Goths to copy those laws, without which a Commonwealth ceases to be a Commonwealth. In this great and noble design he failed, as has been already said, because the times were not ripe for it, because a continuation of adverse events, which we should call persistent ill-luck if we did not believe in an overruling Providence, blighted and blasted his infant state before it had time to root itself firmly in the soil. None the less, however, does Theodoric deserve credit for having seen what was the need of Europe, and pre-eminently of Italy, and for having done his best to supply that need. The great work in which he failed was accomplished three centuries later by Charles the Frank, who has won for himself that place in the first rank of world-moulders which Theodoric has missed. But we may fairly say that Theodoric's designs were as noble and as statesmanlike as those of the great Emperor Charles, and that if they had been crowned with the success which they deserved, three centuries of needless barbarism and misery would have been spared to Europe.
Ostrogoths and Visigoths—Nations forming the Gothic Confederacy—Royal family of the Amals—Gothic invasion in the Second Century—Hermanric the Ostrogoth—Inroad of the Huns—Defeat of the Ostrogoths—Defeat of the Visigoths—The Visigoths within the Empire—Battle of Adrianople—Alaric in Rome.
Towards the end of the second century of the Christian Era a great confederacy of Teutonic nations occupied those vast plains in the south of Russia which are now, and have been for more than a thousand years, the homes of Sclavonic peoples. These nations were the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, and the Gepidae. Approximately we may say that the Ostrogoths (or East Goths) dwelt from the Don to the Dnieper, the Visigoths (or West Goths) from the Dnieper to the Pruth, and the Gepidae to the north of both, in the district which has since been known as Little Russia. These three nations were, as has been said, Teutons, and they belonged to that division of the Teutonic race which is called Low-German, man; that is to say, that they were more nearly allied to the Frisians, the Dutch, and to our own Saxon forefathers than they were to the ancestors of the modern Swabian, Bavarian, and Austrian. They worshipped Odin and Thunnor; they wrote the scanty records of their race in Runic characters; they were probably chiefly a pastoral folk, but may have begun to practise agriculture in the rich cornlands of the Ukraine. They were essentially a monarchic people, following their kings, whom they believed to be sprung from the seed of gods, loyally to the field, and shedding their blood with readiness at their command; but their monarchy was of the early Teutonic type, always more or less limited by the deliberations of the great armed assembly of the nation, which (in some tribes at least) was called the Folc-mote or the Folc-thing; and there were no strict rules of hereditary succession, the crown being elective but limited in practice to the members of one ruling and heaven-descended family.
This family, sprung from the seed of gods, but ruling by the popular will over the Ostrogothic people, was known as the family of the Amals. It is true that the divine and exclusive prerogatives of the family have been somewhat magnified by the minstrels who sang in the courts of their descendants, for there are manifest traces of kings ruling over the Ostrogothic people, who are not included in the Amal genealogy. Still, as far as we can peer through the obscurity of the early history of the people, we may safely say that there was no other family of higher position than the Amals, and that gradually all that consciousness of national life and determination to cherish national unity, which among the Germanic peoples was inseparably connected with the institution of royalty, centred round the race of the divine Amala.
The following is the pedigree of this royal clan, as given by the historian of the Goths, and with those epithets which the secretary of Theodoric attached to the names of some of the ancestors of his lord. (The names of those who wore the crown are marked in italics.)
Gapt (possibly=Gaut, the eponymous hero of the Gothic nation) Hulmul Augis Amal ("the fortunate") Hisarna (=the man of iron) OSTROGOTHA ("the patient") Hunuil Athal ("the mild") Achiulf Odwulf Ansila Ediulf Vultwulf Hermanric Walaravans Hunimund ("the beautiful") Winithar ("the just") Thorismund ("the chaste") Wideric Wandalar Walamir Theudemir Widemir ("the faithful") ("the affectionate") THEODORIC.
[Footnote 5: Jordanes.]
[Footnote 6: Cassiodorus.]
These fifteen generations, which should carry back the Amal ancestry four hundred and fifty years, or almost precisely to the Christian Era, seem to have marked the utmost limit to which the memory of the Gothic heralds, aided by the songs of the Gothic minstrels, could reach. The forms of many of the names, the initial "Wala" and "Theude", the terminal "wulf", "mir", and "mund" will be at once recognised as purely Teutonic, recalling many similar names in the royal lines of the Franks, the Visigoths and the Vandals, and the West Saxons.
In the great, loosely knit confederacy which has been described as filling the regions of Southern Russia in the third and fourth centuries of our Era, the predominant power seems to have been held by the Ostrogothic nation. In the third century, when a succession of weak ephemeral emperors ruled and all but ruined the Roman State, the Goths swarmed forth in their myriads, both by sea and land, to ravage the coast of the Euxine and the AEgean, to cross the passes of the Balkans, to make their desolating presence felt at Ephesus and at Athens. Two great Emperors of Illyrian origin, Claudius and Aurelian, succeeded, at a fearful cost of life, in repelling the invasion and driving back the human torrent. But it was impossible to recover from the barbarians Trajan's province of Dacia, which they had overrun, and the Emperors wisely compromised the dispute by abandoning to the Goths and their allies all the territory north of the Danube. This abandoned province was chiefly occupied by the Visigoths, the Western members of the confederacy, who for the century from 275 to 375 were the neighbours, generally the allies, by fitful impulses the enemies, of Rome. With Constantine the Great especially the Visigoths came powerfully in contact, first as invaders and then as allies (foederati) bound to furnish a certain number of auxiliaries to serve under the eagles of the Empire.
Meanwhile the Ostrogoths, with their faces turned for the time northward instead of southward, were battling daily with the nations of Finnish or Sclavonic stock that dwelt by the upper waters of the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga, and were extending their dominion over the greater part of what we now call Russia-in-Europe. The lord of this wide but most loosely compacted kingdom, in the middle of the fourth century, was a certain Hermanric, whom his flatterers, with some slight knowledge of the names held in highest repute among their Southern neighbours, likened to Alexander the Great for the magnitude of his conquests. However shadowy some of these conquests may appear in the light of modern criticism, there can be little doubt that the Visigoths owned his over-lordship, and that when Constantius and Julian were reigning in Constantinople, the greatest name over a wide extent of territory north of the Black Sea was that of Hermanric the Ostrogoth.
When this warrior was in extreme old age, a terrible disaster befell his nation and himself. It was probably about the year 374 that a horde of Asiatic savages made their appearance in the south-eastern corner of his dominions, having, so it is said, crossed the Sea of Azof in its shallowest part by a ford. These men rode upon little ponies of great speed and endurance, each of which seemed to be incorporated with its rider, so perfect was the understanding between the horseman, who spent his days and nights in the saddle, and the steed which he bestrode. Little black restless eyes gleamed beneath their low foreheads and matted hair; no beard or whisker adorned their uncouth yellow faces; the Turanian type in its ugliest form was displayed by these Mongolian sons of the wilderness. They bore a name destined to be of disastrous and yet also indirectly of most beneficent import in the history of the world; for these are the true shatterers of the Roman Empire. They were the terrible Huns.
Before the impact of this new and strange enemy the Empire of Hermanric—an Empire which rested probably rather on the reputation of warlike prowess than on any great inherent strength, military or political—went down with a terrible crash. Dissimilar as are the times and the circumstances, we are reminded of the collapse of the military systems of Austria and Prussia under the onset of the ragged Jacobins of France, shivering and shoeless, but full of demonic energy, when we read of the humiliating discomfiture of this stately Ostrogothic monarchy—doubtless possessing an ordered hierarchy of nobles, free warriors, and slaves—by the squalid, hard-faring and, so to say, democratic savages from Asia.
The death of Hermanric, which was evidently due to the Hunnish victory, is assigned by the Gothic historian to a cause less humiliating to the national vanity. The king of the Rosomones, "a perfidious nation", had taken the opportunity of the appearance of the savage invaders to renounce his allegiance, perhaps to desert his master treacherously on the field of battle. The enraged Hermanric, unable to vent his fury on the king himself, caused his wife, Swanhilda, to be torn asunder by wild horses to whom she was tied by the hands and feet. Her brothers, Sarus and Ammius, avenged her cruel death by a spear-thrust, which wounded the aged monarch, but did not kill him outright. Then came the crisis of the invasion of the Huns under their King Balamber. The Visigoths, who had some cause of complaint against Hermanric, left him to fight his battle without their aid; and the old king, in sore pain with his wound and deeply mortified by the incursion of the Huns, breathed out his life in the one hundred and tenth year of his age. All of which is probably a judicious veiling of the fact, that the great Hermanric was defeated by the Hunnish invaders, and in his despair laid violent hands on himself.
[Footnote 7: Mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus.]
The huge and savage horde rolled on over the wide plains of Russia. The Ostrogothic resistance was at an end; and soon the invaders were on the banks of the Dniester threatening the kindred nation of the Visigoths. Athanaric, "Judge" (as he was called) of the Visigoths, a brave, old soldier, but not a very skilful general, was soon out-manoeuvred by these wild nomads from the desert, who crossed the rivers by unexpected fords, and by rapid night-marches turned the flank of his most carefully chosen positions. The line of the Dniester was abandoned; the line of the Pruth was lost. It was plain that the Visigoths, like their Eastern brethren, if they remained in the land, must bow their heads beneath the Hunnish yoke. To avoid so degrading a necessity, and if they must lose their independence, to lose it to the stately Emperors of Rome rather than to the chief of a filthy Tartar horde, the great majority of the Visigothic nation flocked southward through the region which is now called Wallachia, and, standing on the northern shore of the Danube, prayed for admission within the province of Moesia and the Empire of Rome. In 376 an evil hour for himself Valens, the then reigning Emperor of the East, granted this petition and received into his dominions the Visigothic fugitives, a great and warlike nation, without taking any proper precautions, on the one hand, that they should be disarmed, on the other, that they should be supplied with food for their present necessities and enabled for the future to become peaceful cultivators of the soil. The inevitable result followed. Before many months had elapsed the Visigoths were in arms against the Empire, and under the leadership of their hereditary chiefs were wandering up and down through the provinces of Moesia and Thrace, wresting from the terror-stricken provincials not only the food which the parsimony of Valens had failed to supply them with, but the treasures which centuries of peace had stored up in villa and unwalled town. In 378 they achieved a brilliant, and perhaps unexpected, triumph, defeating a large army commanded by the Roman Emperor Valens in person, in a pitched battle near Adrianople. Valens himself perished on the field of battle, and his unburied corpse disappeared among the embers of a Thracian hut which had been set fire to by the barbarians. That fatal day (August 9, 378) was admitted to be more disastrous for Rome than any which had befallen her since the terrible defeat of Cannae, and from it we may fitly date the beginning of that long process of dissolution, lasting, in a certain sense, more than a thousand years, which we call the Fall of the Roman Empire.
In this long tragedy the part of chief actor fell, during the first act, to the Visigothic nation. With their doings we have here no special concern. It is enough to say that for one generation they remained in the lands south of the Danube, first warring against Rome, then, by the wise policy of their conqueror, Theodosius, incorporated in her armies under the title of foederati and serving her in the main with zeal and fidelity. In 395 a Visigothic chief, Alaric by name, of the god-descended seed of Balthae, was raised upon the shield by the warriors of his tribe and hailed as their king. His elevation seems to have been understood as a defiance to the Empire and a re-assertion of the old national freedom which had prevailed on the other side of the Danube. At any rate the rest of his life was spent either in hostility to the Empire or in a pretence of friendship almost more menacing than hostility. He began by invading Greece and penetrated far south into the Peloponnesus. He then took up a position in the province of Illyricum—probably in the countries now known as Bosnia and Servia—from which he could threaten the Eastern or Western Empire at pleasure. Finally, with the beginning of the fifth century after Christ, he descended into Italy, and though at first successful only in ravage, in the second invasion he penetrated to the very heart of the Empire. His three sieges of Rome, ending in the awful event of the capture and sack of the Eternal City in 410, are events in the history of the world with which every student is familiar. Only it may be remarked that the word awful, which is here used designedly, is not meant to imply that the loss of life was unusually large or the cruelty of the captors outrageous; in both respects Alaric and his Goths would compare favourably with some generals and some armies making much higher pretensions to civilisation. Nor is it meant that the destruction of the public buildings of the city was extensive. There can be little doubt that Paris, on the day after the suppression of the "Commune" in 1871, presented a far greater appearance of desolation and ruin than Rome in 410, when she lay trembling in the hand of Alaric. But the bare fact that Rome herself, the Roma AEterna, the Roma Invicta of a thousand coins of a hundred Emperors,—Rome, whose name for centuries on the shores of the Mediterranean had been synonymous with worldwide dominion,—should herself be taken, sacked, dishonoured by the presence of a flaxen-haired barbarian conqueror from the North, was one of those events apparently so contrary to the very course of Nature itself, that the nations which heard the tidings, many of them old and bitter enemies of Rome, now her subjects and her friends, held their breath with awe at the terrible recital.
[Footnote 8: Probably. Some historians put the date in 382, others in 400.]
Alaric died shortly after his sack of Rome, and after a few years of aimless fighting his nation quitted Italy, disappearing over the north-western Alpine boundary to win for themselves new settlements by the banks of the Garonne and the Ebro. Their leader was that Ataulfus whose truly statesmanlike reflections on the unwisdom of destroying the Roman Empire and the necessity of incorporating the barbarians with its polity have been already quoted. There, in the south-western corner of Gaul and the northern regions of Spain, we must for the present leave the Western branch of the great Gothic nationality, while our narrative returns to its Eastern representatives.
THE MIGHT OF ATTILA.
The Ostrogoths under the Huns—The three royal brothers—Attila king of the Huns—He menaces the Eastern Empire—He strikes at Gaul—Battle of the Catalaunian plains—Invasion of Italy—Destruction of Aquileia—Death of Attila and disruption of his Empire—Settlement of the Ostrogoths in Pannonia.
For eighty years the power of the Ostrogoths suffered eclipse under the shadow of Hunnish barbarism. As to this period we have little historical information that is of any value. We hear of resistance to the Hunnish supremacy vainly attempted and sullenly abandoned. The son and the grandson of Hermanric figure as the shadowy heroes of this vain resistance. After the death of the latter (King Thorismund) a strange story is told us of the nation mourning his decease for forty years, during all which time they refused to elect any other king to replace him whom they had lost. There can be little doubt that this legend veils the prosaic fact that the nation, depressed and dispirited under the yoke of the conquering Huns, had not energy or patriotism enough to choose a king; since almost invariably among the Teutons of that age, kingship and national unity flourished or faded together.
At length, towards the middle of the fifth century after Christ, the darkness is partially dispelled, and we find the Ostrogothic nation owning the sovereignty of three brothers sprung from the Amal race, but not direct descendants of Hermanric, whose names are Walamir, Theudemir, and Widemir. "Beautiful it was", says the Gothic historian, "to behold the mutual affection of these three brothers, when the admirable Theudemir served like a common soldier under the orders of Walamir; when Walamir adorned him with the crown at the same time that he conveyed to him his orders; when Widemir gladly rendered his services to both of his brothers". Theudemir, the second in this royal brotherhood, was the father of our hero, Theodoric.
[Footnote 9: This is a partly paraphrastic and conjectural translation of a very obscure sentence of Jordanes.]
The three Ostrogothic brethren, kings towards their own countrymen, were subjects—almost, we might say, servants—of the wide-ruling king of the Huns, who was now no longer one of those forgotten chiefs by whom the conquering tribe had been first led into Europe, but ATTILA, a name of fear to his contemporaries and long remembered in the Roman world. He, with his brother Bleda, mounted the barbarian throne in the year 433, and after twelve years the death of Bleda (who was perhaps murdered by order of his brother) left Attila sole wielder of the forces which made him the terror of the world. He dwelt in rude magnificence in a village not far from the Danube, and his own special dominions seem to have pretty nearly corresponded with the modern kingdom of Hungary. But he held in leash a vast confederacy of nations—Teutonic, Sclavonic, and what we now call Turanian,—whose territories stretched from the Rhine to the Caucasus, and he is said to have made "the isles of the Ocean", which expression probably denotes the islands and peninsulas of Scandinavia, subject to his sway. Neither, however, over the Ostrogoths nor over any of the other subject nations included in this vast dominion are we to think of Attila's rule as an organised, all-permeating, assimilating influence, such as was the rule of a Roman Emperor. It was rather the influence of one great robber-chief over his freebooting companions. The kings of the Ostrogoths and Gepidae came at certain times to share the revelries of their lord in his great log-palace on the Danubian plain; they received his orders to put their subjects in array when he would ride forth to war, and woe was unto them if they failed to stand by his side on the day of battle; but these things being done, they probably ruled their own peoples with little interference from their over-lord. The Teutonic members of the confederacy, notably the Ostrogoths and the kindred tribe of Gepidae seem to have exercised upon the court and the councils of Attila an influence not unlike that wielded by German statesmen at the court of Russia during the last century. The Huns, during their eighty years of contact with Europe, had lost a little of that utter savageness which they brought with them from the Tartar deserts. If they were not yet in any sense civilised, they could in some degree appreciate the higher civilisation of their Teutonic subjects. A Pagan himself, with scarcely any religion except some rude cult of the sword of the war-god, Attila seems never to have interfered in the slightest degree with the religious practices of the Gepidae or the Ostrogoths, the large majority of whom were by this time Christians, holding the Arian form of faith. And not only did he not discourage the finer civilisation which he saw prevailing among these German subjects of his, but he seems to have had statesmanship enough to value and respect a culture which he did not share, and especially to have prized the temperate wisdom of their chiefs, when they helped him to array his great host of barbarians for war against the Empire.
From his position in Central Europe, Attila, like Alaric before him, was able to threaten either the Eastern or the Western Empire at pleasure. For almost ten years (440-450) he seemed to be bent on picking a quarrel with Theodosius II., the feeble and unwarlike prince who reigned at Constantinople. He laid waste the provinces south of the Danube with his desolating raids; he worried the Imperial Court with incessant embassies, each more exacting and greedy than the last (for the favour of the rude Hunnish envoy had to be purchased by large gifts from the Imperial Treasury); he himself insisted on the payment of yearly stipendia by the Emperor; he constantly demanded that these payments should be doubled; he openly stated that they were nothing else than tribute, and that the Roman Augustus who paid them was his slave.
These practices were continued until, in the year 450 the gentle Theodosius died. He was succeeded by his sister Pulcheria and her husband Marcian, who soon gave a manlier tone to the counsels of the Eastern Empire. Attila marked the change and turned his harassing attentions to the Western State, with which he had always a sufficient number of pretexts for war ready for use. In fact he had made up his mind for war, and no concessions, however humiliating, on the part of Valentinian III., the then Emperor of the West, would have availed to stay his progress. Not Italy however, to some extent protected by the barrier of the Alps, but the rich cities and comparatively unwasted plains of Gaul attracted the royal freebooter. Having summoned his vast and heterogeneous army from every quarter of Central and North-eastern Europe, and surrounded himself by a crowd of subject kings, the captains of his host, he set forward in the spring of 451 for the lands of the Rhine. The trees which his soldiers felled in the great Hercynian forest of Central Germany were fashioned into rude rafts or canoes, on which they crossed the Rhine; and soon the terrible Hun and his "horde of many-nationed spoilers" were passing over the regions which we now call Belgium and Lorraine in a desolating stream. The Huns, not only barbarians, but heathens, seem in this invasion to have been animated by an especial hatred to Christianity. Many a fair church of Gallia Belgica was laid in ashes: many a priest was slain before the altar, whose sanctity was vain for his protection. The real cruelties thus committed are wildly exaggerated by the mythical fancy of the Middle Ages, and upon the slenderest foundations of historical fact arose stately edifices of fable, like the story of the Cornish Princess Ursula, who with her eleven thousand virgin companions was fabled to have suffered death at the hands of the Huns in the city of Cologne.
The barbarian tide was at length arrested by the strong walls of Orleans, whose stubborn defence saved all that part of Gaul which lies within the protecting curve of the Loire from the horrors of their invasion. At midsummer Attila and his host were retiring from the untaken city, and beginning their retreat towards the Rhine, a retreat which they were not to accomplish unhindered. The extremity of the danger from these utterly savage foes had welded together the old Empire and the new Gothic kingdom, the civilised and the half-civilised power, in one great confederacy, for the defence of all that was worth saving in human society. The tidings of the approach of the Gothic king had hastened the departure of Attila from the environs of Orleans, and, perhaps about a fortnight later, the allied armies of Romans and Goths came up with the retreating Huns in "the Catalaunian plains" not far from the city of Troyes. The general of the Imperial army was Aetius; the general and king of the Visigoths was Theodoric, a namesake of our hero. Both were capable and valiant soldiers. On the other side, conspicuous among the subject kings who formed the staff of Attila, were the three Ostrogothic brethren, and Ardaric, king of the Gepidae. The loyalty of Walamir, the firm grasp with which he kept his master's secrets, and Ardaric's resourcefulness in counsel were especially prized by Attila. And truly he had need of all their help, for, though it is difficult to ascertain with any degree of accuracy the numbers actually engaged (162,000 are said to have fallen on both sides), it is clear that this was a collision of nations rather than of armies, and that it required greater skill than any that the rude Hunnish leader possessed, to win the victory for his enormous host. After "a battle ruthless, manifold, gigantic, obstinate, such as antiquity never described when she told of warlike deeds, such as no man who missed the sight of that marvel might ever hope to have another chance of beholding", night fell upon the virtually defeated Huns. The Gothic king had lost his life, but Attila had lost the victory. All night long the Huns kept up a barbarous dissonance to prevent the enemy from attacking them, but their king's thoughts were of suicide. He had prepared a huge funeral pyre, on which, if the enemy next day successfully attacked his camp, he was determined to slay himself amid the kindled flames, in order that neither living nor dead the mighty Attila might fall into the hands of his enemies. These desperate expedients, however, were not required. The death of Theodoric, the caution of Aetius, some jealousy perhaps between the Roman and the Goth, some anxiety on the part of the eldest Gothic prince as to the succession to his father's throne,—all these causes combined to procure for Attila a safe but closely watched return into his own land.
[Footnote 10: These are the words of the Gothic historian, Jordanes.]
The battle of the Catalaunian plains (usually but not quite correctly called the battle of Chalons) was a memorable event in the history of the Gothic race, of Europe, and of the world. It was a sad necessity which on this one occasion arrayed the two great branches of the Gothic people, the Visigoths under Theodoric, and the Ostrogoths under Walamir, in fratricidal strife against each other. For Europe the alliance between Roman and Goth, between the grandson of Theodosius, Emperor of Rome, and the successor of Alaric, the besieger of Rome, was of priceless value and showed that the great and statesmanlike thought of Ataulfus was ripening in the minds of those who came after him. For the world, yes even for us in the nineteenth century, and for the great undiscovered continents beyond the sea, the repulse of the squalid and unprogressive Turanian from the seats of the old historic civilisation, was essential to the preservation of whatever makes human life worth living. Had Attila conquered on the Catalaunian plains, an endless succession of Jenghiz Khans and Tamerlanes would probably have swept over the desolated plains of Europe; Paris and Florence would have been even as Khiva and Bokhara, and the island of Britain would not have yet attained to the degree of civilisation reached by the peninsula of Corea.
In the year after the fruitless invasion of Gaul, Attila crossed the Julian Alps and entered Italy, intending (452) doubtless to rival the fame of Alaric by his capture of Rome, an operation which would have been attended with infinitely greater ruin to
"the seven-hilled city's pride",
than any which she had sustained at the hands of the Visigothic leader. But the Huns, unskilful in siege work, were long detained before the walls of Aquileia, that great and flourishing frontier city, hitherto deemed impregnable, which gathered in the wealth of the Venetian province, and guarded the north-eastern approaches to Italy. At length by a sudden assault they made themselves masters of the city, which they destroyed with utter destruction, putting all the inhabitants to the sword, and then wrapping in fire and smoke the stately palaces, the wharves, the mint, the forum, the theatres of the fourth city of Italy. The terror of this brutal destruction took from the other cities of Venetia all heart for resistance to the terrible invader. From Concordia, Altino, Padua, crowds of trembling fugitives walked, waded, or sailed with their hastily gathered and most precious possessions to the islands, surrounded by shallow lagoons, which fringed the Adriatic coast, near the mouths of the Brenta and Adige. There at Torcello, Burano, Rialto, Malamocco, and their sister islets, they laid the humble foundations of that which was one day to be the gorgeous and wide-ruling Republic of Venice.
Attila meanwhile marched on through the valley of the Po ravaging and plundering, but a little slackening in the work of mere destruction, as the remembrance of the stubborn defence of Aquileia faded from his memory. Entering Milan as a conqueror, and seeing there a picture representing the Emperors of the Romans sitting on golden thrones, and the Scythian barbarians crouching at their feet, he sought out a Milanese painter, and bade the trembling artist represent him, Attila, sitting on the throne, and the two Roman Emperors staggering under sacks full of gold coin, which they bore upon their shoulders, and pouring out their precious contents at his feet.
This little incident helps us to understand the next strange act in the drama of Attila's invasion. To enjoy the luxury of humbling the great Empire, and of trampling on the pride of her statesmen, seems to have been the sweetest pleasure of his life. This mere gratification of his pride, the pride of an upstart barbarian, at the expense of the inheritors of a mighty name and the representatives of venerable traditions, was the object which took him into Italy, rather than any carefully prepared scheme of worldwide conquest. Accordingly when that august body, the Senate of Rome, sent a consul, a prefect, and more than all a pope, the majestic and fitly-named Leo, to plead humbly in the name of the Roman people for peace, and to promise acquiescence at some future day in the most unreasonable of his demands, Attila granted the ambassadors an interview by the banks of the Mincio, listened with haughty tranquillity to their petition, allowed himself to be soothed and, as it were, magnetised by the words and gestures of the venerable pontiff, accepted the rich presents which were doubtless laid at his feet, and turning his face homewards recrossed the Julian Alps, leaving the Apennines untraversed and Rome unvisited.
Even in the act of granting peace Attila used words which showed that it would be only a truce, and that (452) if there were any failure to abide by any one of his conditions, he would return and work yet greater mischief to Italy than any which she had yet suffered at his hands. But he had missed the fateful moment, and the delight of standing on the conquered Palatine, and seeing the smoke ascend from the ruined City of the World, was never to be his. In the year after his invasion of Italy he died suddenly at night, apparently the victim of the drunken debauch with which the polygamous barbarian had celebrated the latest addition to the numerous company of his wives.
With Attila's death the might of the Hunnish Empire was broken. The great robber-camp needed the ascendancy of one strong chief-robber to hold it together, and that ascendancy no one of the multitudinous sons who emerged from the chambers of his harem was able to exert. Unable to agree as to the succession of the throne, they talked of dividing the Hunnish dominions between them, and in the discussions which ensued they showed too plainly that they looked upon the subject nations as their slaves, to be partitioned as a large household of such domestics would be partitioned among the heirs of their dead master. The pride of the Teutons was touched, and they determined to strike a blow for the recovery of their lost freedom. Ardaric, king of the Gepidae, so long the trusty counsellor of Attila, was prime mover in the revolt against his sons. A battle was fought by the banks of the river Nedao between the Huns (with those subject allies who still remained faithful to them) and the revolted nations.
[Footnote 11: Situation unknown, except that it was in Pannonia, that is, probably in Hungary, somewhere between the Save and the Danube.]
Among these revolted nations there can be but little doubt that the Ostrogoths held a high place, though the matter is not so clearly stated as we should have expected, by the Gothic historian, and even on his showing the glory of the struggle for independence was mainly Ardaric's. After a terrible battle the Gepidae were victorious, and Ellak, eldest son of Attila, with, it is said, thirty thousand of his soldiers, lay dead upon the field. "He had wrought a great slaughter of his enemies, and so glorious was his end", says Jordanes, "that his father might well have envied him his manner of dying".
The battle of Nedao, whatever may have been the share of the Ostrogoths in the actual fighting, certainly brought them freedom. From this time the great Hunnish Empire was at an end, and there was a general resettlement of territory among the nations which had been subject to its yoke. While the Huns themselves, abandoning their former habitations, moved, for the most part, down the Danube, and became the humble servants of the Eastern Empire, the Gepidae, perhaps marching southward occupied the great Hungarian plains on the left bank of the Danube, which had been the home of Attila and his Huns; and the Ostrogoths going westwards (perhaps with some dim notion of following their Visigothic kindred) took up their abode in that which had once been the Roman province of Pannonia, now doubtless known to be hopelessly lost to the Empire.
Pannonia, the new home of the Ostrogoths, was the name of a region, rectangular in shape, about two hundred miles from north to south and one hundred and sixty miles from east to west, whose northern and eastern sides were washed by the river Danube, and whose north-eastern corner was formed by the sudden bend to the south which that river makes, a little above Buda-Pest. This region includes Vienna and the eastern part of the Archduchy of Austria, Graetz, and the eastern part of the Duchy of Styria, but it is chiefly composed of the great corn-growing plain of Western Hungary, and contains the two considerable lakes of Balaton and Neusiedler See. Here then the three Ostrogothic brethren took up their abode, and of this province they made a kind of rude partition between them, while still treating it as one kingdom, of which Walamir was the head. The precise details of this division of territory cannot now be recovered, nor are they of much importance, as the settlement was of short duration. We can only say that Walamir and Theudemir occupied the two ends of the territory, and Widemir dwelt between them. What is most interesting to us is the fact that Theudemir's territory included Lake Balaton (or Platten See), and that his palace may very possibly have stood upon the shores of that noble piece of water, which is forty-seven miles in length and varies from three to nine miles in width. To the neighbourhood of this lake, in the absence of more precise information, we may with some probability assign the birth-place and the childish home of Theodoric.
[Footnote 12: Jordanes (Getica) says: "Valamer inter Scarniungam et Aquam Nigram fluvios, Thiudimer juxta lacum Pelsois, Vidimer inter utrosque manebat". It seems to be hopeless to determine what rivers are denoted by "Scarniunga" and "Aqua Nigra".]
[Footnote 13: Of course the location of Theudemir's palace on the actual shore of Lake Balaton can only be treated as a conjecture, but the pointed way in which Jordanes, in the passage last quoted, speaks of him as "juxta lacuna Pelsois", seems to make the conjecture a probable one. Some geographers have identified Pelso Lacus with the Neusiedler See, but apparently on insufficient grounds.]
Inroad of the Huns—Their defeat by Walamir—Birth of Theodoric—War with the Eastern Empire—Theodoric a hostage—Description of Constantinople—Its commerce and its monuments.
The Ostrogoths had yet one or two battles to fight before they were quite rid of their old masters. The sons of Attila still talked of them as deserters and fugitive slaves, and a day came when Walamir found himself compelled to face a sudden inroad of the Huns. He had few men with him, and being taken unawares, he had no time to summon his brethren to his aid. But he held his own bravely: the warriors of his nation had time to gather round him; and at last, after he had long wearied the enemy with his defensive tactics, he made a sudden onset, destroyed the greater part of the Hunnish army, and sent the rest scattered in hopeless flight far into the deserts of Scythia.
[Footnote 14: Jordanes (cap. iii) says that the fugitive Huns "sought those parts of Scythia past which flow the streams of the river Dnieper which the Huns in their own tongue call 'Var' (the river)". If this is correctly stated it is almost certain that it must describe some battle which happened before the great Western migration of the Ostrogoths, which was mentioned in the last chapter, for it would be impossible, if the Gepidae were in Trans-danubian Hungary and the Ostrogoths in Pannonia that the Ostrogoths should have driven the Huns into the countries watered by the Dnieper. I am rather inclined to believe that this reference of the battle to an earlier period may be the correct explanation. But Danapri (Dnieper) may be only a blunder of Jordanes, who is often hopelessly wrong in his geography.]
Walamir at once sent tidings of the victory to his brother Theudemir. The messenger arrived at an opportune moment, for on that very day Erelieva, the unwedded wife of Theudemir, had given birth to a man-child. This infant, born on such an auspicious day and looked upon as a pledge of happy fortunes for the Ostrogothic nation, was named Thiuda-reiks (the people-ruler), a name which Latin historians, influenced perhaps by the analogy of Theodosius, changed into Theodoricus, and which will here be spoken of under the well-known form THEODORIC.
[Footnote 15: Jordanes wavers between Theodericus and Theodoricus. The Greek historians generally use the form (Greek: Theuderichos). German scholars seem to prefer Theoderich. As it is useless now to try to revert to the philologically correct Thiuda-reiks, I use that form of the name with which I suppose English readers to be most familiar—namely, Theodoric.]
It will be observed that I have spoken of Erelieva as the unwedded wife of Theudemir. The Gothic historian calls her his concubine, but this word of reproach hardly does justice to her position. In many of the Teutonic nations, as among the Norsemen of a later century, there seems to have been a certain laxity as to the marriage rite, which was nevertheless coincident with a high and pure morality. It has been suggested that the severe conditions imposed by the Church on divorces may have had something to do with the peculiar marital usages of the Teutonic and Norse chieftains. Reasons of state might require Theudemir the Ostrogoth, or William Longsword the Norman, to ally himself some day with a powerful king's daughter, and therefore he would not go through the marriage rite with the woman, really and truly his wife, but generally his inferior in social position, who meanwhile governed his house and bore him children. If the separation never came, and the powerful king's daughter never had to be wooed, she who was wife in all but name, retained her position unquestioned till her death, and her children succeeded without dispute to the inheritance of their father. The nearest approach to an illustration which the social usages of modern Europe afford, is probably furnished by the "morganatic marriages" of modern German royalties and serenities: and we might say that Theodoric was the offspring of such an union. Notwithstanding the want of strict legitimacy in his position, I do not remember any occasion on which the taunt of bastard birth was thrown in his teeth, even by the bitterest of his foes.
[Footnote 16: "Ipso siquidem die Theodoricus ejus filius quamvis de Erelieva concubina, bonae tamen spei natus est" (Jordanes: Getica, 52).]
It would be satisfactory if we could fix with exactness the great Ostrogoth's birth-year, but though several circumstances point to 454 as a probable date, we are not able to define it with greater precision.
[Footnote 17: If there be any truth in the suggestion made above, that the Hunnish attack on Walamir was made before the Ostrogothic migration into Pannonia, the birth-year must be moved up to 452.]
The next event of which we are informed in the history of the Ostrogothic nation, a war with the Eastern Empire, was one destined to exert a most important influence on the life of the kingly child, The Ostrogoths settling in Pannonia, one of the provinces of the Roman Empire, were in theory allies and auxiliary soldiers of the Emperor. Similar arrangements had been made with the Visigoths in Spain, with the Vandals in that very province of Pannonia, probably with many other barbarian tribes in many other provinces. There was sometimes more, sometimes less, actual truth in the theoretical relations thus established, and it was one which in the nature of things was not likely long to endure: but for the time, so long as the Imperial treasury was tolerably full and the barbarian allies tolerably amenable to control, the arrangement suited both parties. In the case before us the position of the Ostrogoths in Pannonia was legalised by the alliance, and such portions of the political machinery of the Empire as might still remain were thereby placed at their disposal. The Emperor, on the other hand, was able to boast of a province recovered for the Empire, which was now guarded by the broadswords of his loyal Ostrogoths against the more savage nations outside, who were ever trying to enter the charmed circle of the Roman State. But as the Ostrogothic foederati were his soldiers, there was evidently a necessity that he must send them pay, and this pay, which was called wages when the Empire was strong, and tribute when it was weak, consisted, partly at any rate, of heavy chests of Imperial aurei, sent as strenae or New Year's presents, to the barbarian king and his chief nobles.
[Footnote 18: Foederati.]
[Footnote 19: The solidus aureus, the chief Imperial coin of this time, was worth about twelve shillings of our money.]
[Footnote 20: The same word as the French Etrennes.]
Now, about the year 461, the Emperor Leo (successor of the brave soldier Marcian), whether from a special emptiness in the Imperial treasury or from some other cause, omitted to send the accustomed strenae to the Ostrogothic brother-kings. Much disturbed at the failure of the aurei to appear, they sent envoys to Constantinople, who returned with tidings which filled the three palaces of Pannonia with the clamour of angry men. Not only were the strenae withheld, and likely to be still withheld, but there was another Goth, a low-born pretender, not of Amal blood, who was boasting of the title of foederatus of the Empire, and enjoying the strenae which ought to come only to Amal kings and their nobles. This man, who was destined to cross the path of our Theodoric through many weary years, was named like him Theodoric, and was surnamed Strabo (the squinter) from his devious vision, and son of Triarius, from his parentage. He was brother-in-law, or nephew, of a certain Aspar, a successful barbarian, who had mounted high in the Imperial service and had placed two Emperors on the throne. It was doubtless through his kinsman's influence that the squinting adventurer had obtained a position in the court of the Roman Augustus so disproportioned to his birth, and so outrageous to every loyal Ostrogoth.
When the news of these insults to the lineage of the Amals reached Pannonia, the three brothers in fury snatched up their arms and laid waste almost the whole province of Illyricum. Then the Emperor changed his mind, and desired to renew the old friendship. He sent an embassy bearing the arrears of the past-due strenae, those which were then again falling due, and a promise that all future strenae should be punctually paid. Only, as a hostage for the observance of peace he desired that Theudemir's little son, Theodoric, then just entering his eighth year, should be sent to Constantinople. The fact that this request or demand was made by the ostensibly beaten side, may make us doubt whether the humiliation of the Empire was so complete as the preceding sentences (translated from the words of the Gothic historian) would lead us to suppose.
Theudemir was reluctant to part with his first-born son, even to the great Roman Emperor. But his brother Walamir earnestly besought him not to interpose any hindrance to the establishment of a firm peace between the Romans and Goths. He yielded therefore, and the little lad, carried by the returning ambassadors to Constantinople, soon earned the favour of the Emperor by his handsome face and his winning ways.
[Footnote 21: An expansion of the words of Jordanes, "et quia puerulus elegans erat meruit gratiam imperialem habere".]
Thus was the young Ostrogoth brought from his home in Pannonia, by the banks of lonely Lake Balaton, to the New Rome, the busy and stately city by the Bosphorus, the city which was now, more truly than her worn and faded mother by the Tiber, the "Lady of Kingdoms" the "Mistress of the World". Of the Constantinople which the boyish eyes of Theodoric beheld, scarcely a vestige now remains for the traveller to gaze upon. Let us try, therefore, to find a contemporary description. These are the words in which the visit of the Gothic chief Athanaric to that city about eighty years previously is described by Jordanes:
"Entering the royal city, and marvelling thereat, 'Lo! now I behold,' said he, 'what I often heard of without believing, the glory of so great a city.' Then turning his eyes this way and that, beholding the situation of the city and the concourse of ships, now he marvels at the long perspective of lofty walls, then he sees the multitudes of various nations like the wave gushing forth from one fountain which has been fed by divers springs, then he beholds the marshalled ranks of the soldiery. 'A God,' said he, 'without doubt a God upon Earth is the Emperor of this realm, and whoso lifts his hand against him, that man's blood be on his own head."
Still can we behold "the situation of the city", that unrivalled situation which no map can adequately explain, but which the traveller gazes upon from the deck of his vessel as he rounds Seraglio Point, and the sight of which seems to bind together in one, two continents of space and twenty-five centuries of time. On his right hand Asia with her camels, on his left Europe with her railroads. Behind him are the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, with their memories of Lysander and AEgospotami, of Hero, Leander, and Byron, with the throne of Xerxes and the tomb of Achilles, and farther back still the island-studded Archipelago, the true cradle of the Greek nation. Immediately in front of him is the Golden Horn, now bridged and with populous cities on both its banks, but the farther shore of which, where Pera and Galata now stand, was probably covered with fields and gardens when Theodoric beheld it. There also in front of him, but a little to the right, comes rushing down the impetuous Bosphorus, that river which is also an arm of the sea. Lined now with the marble palaces of bankrupt Sultans, it was once a lonely and desolate strait, on whose farther shore the hapless Io, transformed into a heifer, sought a refuge from her heaven-sent tormentor. Up through its difficult windings pressed the adventurous mariners of Miletus in those early voyages which opened up the Euxine to the Greeks, as the voyage of Columbus opened up the Atlantic to the Spaniards. It is impossible now to survey the beautiful panorama without thinking of that great inland sea which, as we all know, begins but a few miles to the north of the place where we are standing, and whose cloudy shores are perhaps concealing in their recesses the future lords of Constantinople. We look towards that point of the compass, and think of Sebastopol. The great lords of Theudemir's court, who brought the young Theodoric to his new patron, may have looked northwards too, remembering the sagas about the mighty Hermanric, who dwelt where now the Russians dwell, and the fateful march of the terrible Huns across the shallows of the Sea of Azof.
The great physical features of the scene are of course unchanged, but almost everything else, how changed by four centuries and a half of Ottoman domination! The first view of Stamboul, with its mosques, its minarets, its latticed houses, its stream of manifold life both civilised and barbarous, flowing through the streets, is delightful to the traveller; but if he be more of an archaeologist than an artist, and seeks to reproduce before his mind's eye something of the Constantinople of the Caesars rather than the Stamboul of the Sultans, he will experience a bitter disappointment in finding how little of the former is left.
He may still see indeed the land-ward walls of the city, and a most interesting historical relic they are. They stretch for about four miles, from the Sea of Marmora to the Golden Horn. It is still, comparatively speaking, all city inside of them, all country on the outside. There is a double line of walls with towers at frequent intervals, some square, some octagonal, and deep fosses running along beside the walls, now in spring often bright green with growing corn. These walls and towers, seen stretching up hill and down dale, are a very notable feature in the landscape, and ruinous and dismantled as they are after fourteen centuries of siege, of earthquake, and of neglect, they still help us vividly to imagine what they must have looked like when the young Theodoric beheld them little more than ten years after their erection.
[Footnote 22: For the fact that these walls are still visible we have to thank the good offices of a recent British ambassador, I believe Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. The Sultana Valide (Sultan's mother) had obtained from her son an order to pull down the walls, and sell the materials for the benefit of her privy purse. The ambassador, however, protested against this act of Ottomanism (rather than Vandalism), and the walls were saved.]
[Footnote 23: The walls of Constantinople were first built in 412, but having been much injured by an earthquake were rebuilt (we are told in the short space of sixty days) by the Prefect of the City, Constantine, at the command of Theodosius II. This rebuilding, which was partly due to the terror caused by Attila, took place in the year 447.]
Of the gates, some six or seven in number, two are especially interesting to us. The first is the Tep-Kapou (Cannon Gate), or Porta Sancti Romani. This was the weakest part of the fortifications of Constantinople, the "heel of Achilles", as it has been well called, and here the last Roman Emperor of the East, Constantine Palaeologus, died bravely in the breach for the cause of Christianity and civilisation, The other gate is the Porta Aurea, a fine triple gateway, the centre arch of which rests on two Corinthian pilasters. Through this gateway—the nearest representative of the Capitoline Hill at Rome—the Eastern Emperors rode in triumphant procession when a new Augustus had to be proclaimed, or when an enemy of the Republic had been defeated. It is possible that Theodoric may have seen Anthemius, the Emperor whom Constantinople gave to Rome, ride forth through this gate (467) to take possession of the Western throne: possible too that the great but unsuccessful expedition planned by the joint forces of the East and West against the Vandals of Africa may have had its ignominious failure hidden from the people for a time by a triumphal procession through the Golden Gate in the following year (468). This gate is now walled up, and tradition says that the order for its closure was given by Mohammed, the Conqueror, immediately after his entry into the city, through fear of an old Turkish prophecy, which declared that through this gate the next conquerors should enter Constantinople.
[Footnote 24: By Dr. Dethier. "Bosphore et Constantinople", p. 51.]
Of the palace of the Emperor, into which the young Goth was ushered by the eunuch-chamberlain, no vestige probably now remains. The Seraglio has replaced the Palation, and is itself now abandoned to loneliness and decay, being only the recipient of one annual visit from the Sultan, when he goes in state to kiss the cloak of Mohammed. The great mosque of St. Sophia on the right is a genuine and a glorious monument of Imperial Constantinople, but not of Constantinople as Theodoric saw it. The basilica, in which he probably listened with childish bewilderment to many a sermon for or against the decrees of the council of Chalcedon, was burnt down sixty years after his visit in the great Insurrection of the "Nika", and the noble edifice in which ten thousand Mussulmans now assemble to listen to the reading of the Koran, while above them the Arabic names of the companions of the Prophet replace the mosaics of the Evangelists, is itself the work of the great Emperor Justinian, the destroyer of the State which Theodoric founded.
But almost between the Church of St. Sophia and the Imperial Palace lay in old times the Great Hippodrome, centre of the popular life of the capital, where the excited multitudes cheered with rapture, or howled in execration, at the victory of the Blue or the Green charioteer; where many a time the elevation or the deposition of an Emperor was accomplished by the acclamations of the same roaring throng. Of this Hippodrome we have still a most interesting memorial in the Atmeidan (the Place of Horses), which, though with diminished area, still preserves something of the form of the old racecourse. And here to this day are two monuments on which the young hostage may have often gazed, wondering at their form and meaning. The obelisk of Thothmes I., already two thousand years old when Constantinople was founded, was reared in the Hippodrome, by order of the great Emperor Theodosius, and some of the bas-reliefs on its pedestal still explain to us the mechanical devices by which it was lifted into position, while in others Theodosius, his wife, his sons, and his colleague sit in solemn state, but, alas! with grievously mutilated countenances. Near it is a spiral column of bronze which, almost till our own day, bore three serpents twined together, whose heads long ago supported a golden tripod. This bronze monument is none other than the votive offering to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, presented by the confederated states of Greece, to celebrate the victory of Plataea. The golden tripod was melted down at the time of Philip of Macedon, but the twisted serpents, brought by Constantine to adorn and hallow his new capital by the Bosphorus, bore and still bear the names, written in archaic characters, of all the Hellenic states which took part in that great deliverance.
All these monuments are on the first of the seven hills on which Constantinople is built. On the second hill stands a strange and blackened pillar, which once stood in the middle of the Forum of Constantine; and this too was there in the days of Theodoric. It is called the Burnt Column, because it has been more than once struck by lightning, and is blackened with the smoke of the frequent fires which have consumed the wooden shanties at its base. But
"there it stands, as stands a lofty mind, Worn, but unstooping to the baser crowd".
It was once 150 feet high, but is now 115, and it consists of six huge cylinders of porphyry, one above another, whose junction is veiled by sculptured laurel wreaths. On its summit stood the statue of Constantine with the garb and attributes of the Grecian Sun-God, but having his head surrounded with the nails of the True Cross, brought from Jerusalem to serve instead of the golden rays of far-darting Apollo. Underneath the column was placed (and remains probably to this day) the Palladium, that mysterious image of Minerva, which AEneas carried from Troy to Alba Longa, which his descendants removed to Rome, and which was now brought by Constantine to his new capital, so near to its first legendary home, to be the pledge of abiding security to the city by the Bosphorus.
These are the chief relics of Constantinople in the fifth century which are still visible to the traveller. I have described with some little detail the outward appearance of the city and its monuments, because these would naturally be the objects which would most attract the attention of a child brought from such far different scenes into the midst of so stately a city. But during the ten or eleven years that Theodoric remained in honourable captivity at the court of Leo, while he was growing up from childhood to manhood, it cannot be doubted that he gradually learned the deeper lessons which lay below the glory and the glitter of the great city's life, and that the knowledge thus acquired in those years which are so powerful in moulding character, had a mighty influence on all his subsequent career.
He saw here for the first time, and by degrees he apprehended, the results of that state of civilitas which in after years he was to be constantly recommending to his people. Sprung from a race of hunters and shepherds, having slowly learned the arts of agriculture, and then perhaps partly unlearned them under the over-lordship of the nomad Huns, the Ostrogoths at this time knew nothing of a city life. A city was probably in their eyes little else than a hindrance to their freebooting raids, a lair of enemies, a place behind whose sheltering walls, so hard to batter down, cowards lurked in order to sally forth at a favourable moment and attack brave men in their rear. At best it was a treasure-house, which valiant Goths, if Fortune favoured them, might sack and plunder: but Fortune seldom did favour the children of Gaut in their assaults upon the fenced cities of the Empire.
Now, however, the lad Theodoric began to perceive, as the man Ataulfus had perceived before him, that the city life upon which all the proverbs and the songs of his countrymen poured contempt, had its advantages. To the New Rome came the incessant ships of Alexandria, bringing corn for the sustenance of her citizens. Long caravans journeyed over the highlands of Asia Minor loaded with the spices and jewels of India and the silks of China. Men of every conceivable Asiatic country were drawn by the irresistible attraction of hoped-for profit to the quays and the Fora of Byzantium. The scattered homesteads of the Ostrogothic farmers had no such wonderful power of drawing men over thousands of miles of land and sea to visit them. Then the bright and varied life of the Imperial City could not fail to fill the boy's soul with pleasure and admiration. The thrill of excitement in the Hippodrome as the two charioteers, Green and Blue, rounded the spina, neck and neck, the tragedies acted in the theatre amid rapturous applause, the strange beasts from every part of the Roman world that roared and fought in the Amphitheatre, the delicious idleness of the Baths, the chatter and bargaining and banter of the Forum,—all this made a day in beautiful Constantinople very unlike a day in the solemn and somewhat rude palace by Lake Balaton.
As the boy grew to manhood, the deep underlying cause of this difference perhaps became clearer to his mind. He could see more or less plainly that the soul which held all this marvellous body of civilisation together was reverence for Law. He visited perhaps some of the courts of law; he may have seen the Illustrious Praetorian Prefect, clothed in Imperial purple, move majestically to the judgment-seat, amid the obsequious salutations of the dignified officials, who in their various ranks and orders surrounded the hall. The costly golden reed-case, the massive silver inkstand, the silver bowl for the petitions of suitors, all emblems of his office, were placed solemnly before him, and the pleadings began. Practised advocates arose to plead the cause of plaintiff or defendant; busy short-hand writers took notes of the proceedings; at length in calm and measured words the Prefect gave his judgment; a judgment which was necessarily based on law, which had to take account of the sayings of jurisconsults, of the stored-up wisdom of twenty generations of men; a judgment which, notwithstanding the venality which was the curse of the Empire, was in most instances in accordance with truth and justice. How different, must Theodoric often have thought, in after years, when he had returned to Gothland,—how different was this settled and orderly procedure from the usage of the barbarians. With them the "blood-feud", the "wild justice of revenge", often prolonged from generation to generation, had been long the chief righter of wrongs done; and if this was now slowly giving place to judicial trial, that trial was probably a coarse and almost lawless proceeding, in which the head man of the district, with a hundred assessors, as ignorant as himself, amid the wild cries of the opposed parties, roughly fixed the amount of blood-money to be paid by a murderer, or decided at hap-hazard, often with an obvious reference to the superior force at the command of one or other of the litigants, some obscure dispute as to the ownership of a slave or the right to succeed to a dead man's inheritance.
[Footnote 25: Officium, or Militia Literata.]
Law carefully thought out, systematised, and in the main softened and liberalised, from generation to generation, was the great gift of the Roman Empire to the world, and by her strong, and uniform, and, in the main, just administration of this law, that Empire had kept, and in the days of Theodoric was still keeping, her hold upon a hundred jarring nationalities. What hope was there that the German intruders into the lands of the Mediterranean could ever vie with this great achievement? Yet if they could not, if it was out of their power to reform and reinvigorate the shattered state, if they could only destroy and not rebuild, they would exert no abiding influence on the destinies of Europe.
I do not say that all these thoughts passed at this time through the mind of Theodoric, but I have no doubt that the germs of them were sown by his residence in Constantinople. When he returned, a young man of eighteen years and of noble presence to the palace of his father, he had certainly some conception of what the Greeks meant when he heard them talking about politeia, some foreshadowing of what he himself would mean when in after days he should speak alike to his Goth and Roman subjects of the blessings of civilitas.
THE SOUTHWARD MIGRATION.
Struggles with the Swabians, Sarmatians, Scyri, and Huns—Death of Walamir—Theudemir becomes king—Theodoric defeats Babai—The Teutonic custom of the comitatus—An Ostrogothic Folc-mote—Theudemir invades the Eastern Empire—Macedonian settlement of the Ostrogoths.
The young Theodoric, who was now in his nineteenth year, was sent back by Leo to his father with large presents, and both the recovered son and the tokens of Imperial favour brought joy to the heart of the father. There had been some changes in the Ostrogothic kingdom during the boy's absence. There had been vague and purposeless wars with the savage nations around them,—Swabians, Sarmatians, Scyri—besides one final encounter with their old lords, the Huns. These last, we are told, they had driven forth so hopelessly beaten from their territory, that for a century from that time all that was left of the Hunnish nation trembled at the very name of the Goths. But in a battle with another people of far less renown, the barbarous Scyri beyond the Danube, Walamir, while cheering on his men to the combat, was thrown from his horse and being pierced by the lances of the enemy was left dead on the field. His death, it is said, was avenged most ruthlessly on the Scyri, and Theudemir, the brother who was next him in age, became chief king of the Ostrogoths.
Scarcely had Theodoric returned to his home when, without communicating his purpose to his father, he distinguished himself by a gallant deed of arms. On the south-east of the Ostrogothic kingdom, in the country which we now call Servia, there reigned at this time a Sclavonic chief called Babai, who was full of pride and self-importance because of a victory which he had lately gained over the forces of the Empire. Theodoric had probably heard at Constantinople the other side of this story: on his journey to the north-west he had passed through those regions, and marked the pride of the insolent barbarian. Sympathy with the humiliated Empire, but, far more, the young warrior's desire at once to find "a foeman worthy of his steel", and to win laurels for himself wherewith he might surprise his father, drove him into his new enterprise. Having collected some of his father's guardsmen, and those of his people with whom he was personally popular, or who were dependent upon him, he thus mustered a little army of six thousand men, with whom he crossed the Danube. Falling suddenly upon King Babai, he defeated and slew him, took his family prisoners, and returned with large booty in slaves and the rude wealth of the barbarian to his surprised but joyful father. The result of this expedition was the capture of the important frontier city of Singidunum (whose site is now occupied by Belgrade), a city which Babai had wrested from the Empire, but which Theodoric, whatever may have been his inclination to favour Constantinople, did not deem it necessary to restore to his late host.