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Heodoric's Tomb
Italy Under Odovacar
Roman Officials--cassiodorus
Rome And Ravenna
Storm And Stress
The Arian League
The Conquest Of Italy
The Might Of Attila
The Southward Migration
The Theodoric Of Saga
Theodoric's Ancestors
Theodoric's Boyhood

The Arian League

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.

The position of Theodoric in relation both to his own subjects and to
the Empire was seriously modified by one fact to which hitherto I have
only alluded casually, the fact that he, like the great majority of the
Teutonic invaders of the Empire, was an adherent of the Arian form of
Christianity. In order to estimate at its true value the bearing of
religion, or at least of religious profession, on politics, at the time
of the fall of the Roman State, we might well look at the condition of
another dominion, founded under the combined influence of martial
spirit and religious zeal, which is now going to pieces under our very
eyes, I mean the Empire of the Ottomans. In the lands which are still
under the sway of the Sultan, religion may not be a great spiritual
force, but it is at any rate a great political lever. When you have said
that a man is a Moslem or a Druse, a member of the Orthodox or of the
Catholic Church, an Armenian or a Protestant, you have almost always
said enough to define his political position. Without the need of
additional information you have already got the elements of his civic
equation, and can say whether he is a loyal subject of the Porte, or
whether he looks to Russia or Greece, to France, Austria, or England as
the sovereign of his future choice. In fact, as has been often pointed
out, in the East at this day Religion is Nationality.

Very similar to this was the condition of the ancient world at the time
when the general movement of the Northern nations began. The battle with
heathenism was virtually over, Christianity being the unquestioned
conqueror; but the question, which of the many modifications of
Christianity devised by the subtle Hellenic and Oriental intellects
should be the victor, was a question still unsettled, and debated with
the keenest interest on all the shores of the Mediterranean. So keen
indeed was the interest that it sometimes seems almost to have blinded
the disputants to the fact that the Roman Empire, the greatest political
work that the world has ever seen, was falling in ruins around them.
When we want information about the march of armies and the fall of
States, the chroniclers to whom we turn for guidance, withholding that
which we seek, deluge us with trivial talk about the squabbles of monks
and bishops, about Timothy the Weasel and Peter the Fuller, and a host
of other self-seeking ecclesiastics, to whose names, to whose
characters, and to whose often violent deaths we are profoundly and
absolutely indifferent. But though a feeling of utter weariness comes
over the mind of most readers, while watching the theological sword-play
of the fourth and fifth centuries, the historical student cannot afford
to shut his eyes altogether to the battle of the creeds, which produced
results of such infinite importance to the crystallising process by
which Mediaeval Europe was formed out of the Roman Empire.

As I have just said, Theodoric the Ostrogoth, like almost all the great
Teutonic swarm-leaders, like Alaric the Visigoth, like Gaiseric the
Vandal, like Gundobad the Burgundian, was an Arian. On the other hand,
the Emperors, Zeno, for instance, and Anastasius, and the great majority
of the population of Italy and of the provinces of the Empire, were
Catholic. What was the amount of theological divergence which was
conveyed by these terms Arian and Catholic, or to speak more judicially
(for the Arians averred that they were the true Catholics and that their
opponents were heretics) Arian and Athanasian? As this is not the place
for a disquisition on disputed points of theology, it is sufficient to
say that, while the Athanasian held for truth the whole of the Nicene
Creed, the Arian--at least that type of Arian with whom we are here
concerned--would, in that part which relates to the Son of God, leave
out the words being of one substance with the Father, and would
substitute for them being like unto the Father in such manner as the
Scriptures declare. He would also have refused to repeat the words
which assert the Godhead of the Holy Spirit. These were important
differences, but it will be seen at once that they were not so broad as
those which now generally separate orthodox from heterodox

The reasons which led the barbarian invaders of the Empire to accept the
Arian form of Christianity are not yet fully disclosed to us. The cause
could not be an uncultured people's preference for a simple faith, for
the Arian champions were at least as subtle and technical in their
theology as the Athanasian, and often surpassed them in these qualities.
It is possible that some remembrances of the mythology handed down to
them by their fathers made them willing to accept a subordinate Christ,
a spiritualised Balder the Beautiful, divine yet subject to death,
standing as it were upon the steps of his father's throne, rather than
the dogma, too highly spiritualised for their apprehension, of One God
in Three Persons. But probably the chief cause of the Arianism of the
German invaders was the fact that the Empire itself was to a great
extent Arian when they were in friendly relations with it, and were
accepting both religion and civilisation at its hands, in the middle
years of the fourth century.

The most powerful factor in this change, the man who more than all
others was responsible for the conversion of the Germanic races to
Christianity, in its Arian form, was the Gothic Bishop, Ulfilas
(311-381), whose construction of an Alphabet and translation of the
Scriptures into the language of his fellow-countrymen have secured for
him imperishable renown among all who are interested in the history of
human speech. Ulfilas, who has been well termed The Apostle of the
Goths, seems to have embraced Christianity as a young man when he was
dwelling in Constantinople as a hostage (thus in some measure
anticipating the part which one hundred and thirty years later was to be
played by Theodoric), and having been ordained first Lector (Reader) and
afterwards (341) Bishop of Gothia, he spent the remaining forty years of
his life in missionary journeys among his countrymen in Dacia, in
collecting those of his converts who fled from the persecution of their
still heathen rulers, and settling them as colonists in Moesia, and, most
important of all, in his great work of the translation of the Bible into
Gothic. Of this work, as is well known, some precious fragments still
remain; most precious of all, the glorious Silver Manuscript of the
Gospels (Codex Argenteus), which is supposed to have been written in
the sixth century, and which, after many wanderings and an eventful
history, rests now in a Scandinavian land, in the Library of the
University of Upsala, It is well worth while to make a pilgrimage to
that friendly and hospitable Swedish city, if for no other purpose than
to see the letters (traced in silver on parchment of rich purple dye)
in which the skilful amanuensis laboriously transcribed the sayings of
Christ rendered by Bishop Ulfilas into the language of Alaric. For that
Codex Argenteus is oldest of all extant monuments of Teutonic speech,
the first fruit of that mighty tree which now spreads its branches over
half the civilised world.

With the theological bearings of the Arian controversy we have no
present concern; but it is impossible not to notice the unfortunate
political results of the difference of creed between the German invaders
and the great majority of the inhabitants of the Empire. The cultivators
of the soil and the dwellers in the cities had suffered much from the
misgovernment of their rulers during the last two centuries of Imperial
sway; they could, to some extent, appreciate the nobler moral qualities
of the barbarian settlers--their manliness, their truthfulness, their
higher standard of chastity; nor is it idle to suppose that if there had
been perfect harmony of religious faith between the new-comers and the
old inhabitants they might soon have settled down into vigorous and
well-ordered communities, such as Theodoric and Cassiodorus longed to
behold, combining the Teutonic strength with the Roman reverence for
law. Religious discord made it impossible to realise this ideal The
orthodox clergy loathed and dreaded the invaders infected, as they
said, with the Arian pravity. The barbarian kings, unaccustomed to
have their will opposed by men who never wielded a broadsword, were
masterful and high-handed in their demand for absolute obedience, even
when their commands related to the things of God rather than to the
things of Caesar; and the Arian bishops and priests who stood beside
their thrones, and who had sometimes long arrears of vengeance for past
insult or oppression to exact, often wrought up the monarch's mind to a
perfect frenzy of fanatical rage, and goaded him to cruel deeds which
made reconciliation between the warring creeds hopelessly impossible. In
Africa, the Vandal kings set on foot a persecution of their Catholic
subjects which rivalled, nay exceeded, the horrors of the persecution
under Diocletian. Churches were destroyed, bishops banished, and their
flocks forbidden to elect their successors: nay, sometimes, in the
fierce quest after hidden treasure, eminent ecclesiastics were stretched
on the rack, their mouths were filled with noisome dirt, or cords were
twisted round their foreheads or their shins. In Gaul, under the
Visigothic King Euric, the persecution was less savage, but it was
stubborn and severe. Here, too, the congregations were forbidden to
elect successors to their exiled bishops; the paths to the churches were
stopped up with thorns and briers; cattle grazed on the grass-grown
altar steps, and the rain came through the shattered roofs into the
dismantled basilicas.

Thus all round the shores of the Mediterranean there was strife and
bitter heart-burning between the Roman provincial and his Teutonic
guest, not so much because one was or called himself a Roman, while
the other called himself Goth, Burgundian, or Vandal, but because one
was Athanasian and the other Arian. With this strife of creeds
Theodoric, for the greater part of his reign, refused to concern
himself. He remained an Arian, as his fathers had been before him, but
he protected the Catholic Church in the privileges which she had
acquired, and he refused to exert his royal authority to either threaten
or allure men into adopting his creed. So evenly for many years did he
hold the balance between the rival faiths, that it was reported of him
that he put to death a Catholic priest who apostatised to Arianism in
order to attain the royal favour; and though this story does not perhaps
rest on sufficient authority, there can be no doubt that the general
testimony of the marvelling Catholic subjects of Theodoric would have
coincided with that already quoted (See page 128.) from the Bishop of
Ravenna that he attempted nothing against the Catholic faith.

Still, though determined not to govern in the interests of a sect, it
was impossible that Theodoric's political relations should not be, to a
certain extent, modified by his religious affinities. Let us glance at
the position of the chief States with which a ruler of Italy at the
close of the fifth century necessarily came in contact.

First of all we have the Empire, practically confined at this time to
the Balkan peninsula south of the Danube, Asia Minor, Syria, and
Egypt, and presided over by the elderly, politic, but unpopular
Anastasius. This State is Catholic, though, as we shall hereafter see,
not in hearty alliance with the Church of Rome.

Westward from the Empire, along the southern shore of the
Mediterranean, stretches the great kingdom of the Vandals, with
Carthage for its capital. They have a powerful navy, but their kings,
Gunthamund (484-496) and Thrasamund (496-523), do not seem to be
disposed to renew the buccaneering expeditions of their grandfather, the
great Vandal Gaiseric. They are decided Arians, and keep up a stern,
steady pressure on their Catholic subjects, who are spared, however, the
ruthless brutalities practised upon them by the earlier Vandal kings.
The relations of the Vandals with the Ostrogothic kingdom seem to have
been of a friendly character during almost the whole reign of Theodoric.
Thrasamund, the fourth king who reigned at Carthage, married Amalafrida,
Theodoric's sister, who brought with her, as dowry, possession of the
strong fortress of Lilybaeum (Marsala), in the west of Sicily, and who
was accompanied to her new home by a brilliant train of one thousand
Gothic nobles with five thousand mounted retainers.

In the north and west of Spain dwell the nation of the Suevi, Teutonic
and Arian, but practically out of the sphere of European politics, and
who, half a century after the death of Theodoric, will be absorbed by
their Visigothic neighbours.

This latter state, the kingdom of the Visigoths, is apparently, at the
end of the fifth century, by far the most powerful of the new barbarian
monarchies. All Spain, except its north-western corner, and something
like half of Gaul--namely, that region which is contained between the
Pyrenees and the Loire, owns the sway of the young king, whose capital
city is Toulouse, and who, though a stranger in blood, bears the name
of the great Visigoth who first battered a breach in the walls of Rome,
the mighty Alaric. This Alaric II. (485-507), the son of Euric, who had
been the most powerful sovereign of his dynasty, inherited neither his
father's force of character (485-507) nor the bitterness of his
Arianism. The persecution of the Catholics was suspended, or ceased
altogether, and we may picture to ourselves the congregations again
wending their way by unblockaded paths to the house of prayer, the
churches once more roofed in and again made gorgeous by the stately
ceremonial of the Catholic rite. In other ways, too, Alaric showed
himself anxious to conciliate the favour of his Roman subjects. He
ordered an abstract of the Imperial Code to be prepared, and this
abstract, under the name of the Breviarium Alaricianum[92] is to this
day one of our most valuable sources of information as to Roman Law. He
is also said to have directed the construction of the canal, which still
bears his name (Canal d'Alaric), and which, connecting the Adour with
the Aisne, assists the irrigation of the meadows of Gascony. But all
these attempts to close the feud between the king and his orthodox
subjects were vain. When the day of trial came, it was seen, as it had
long been suspected, that the sympathies and the powerful influence of
the bishops and clergy were thrown entirely on the side of the Catholic

[Footnote 92: Sometimes called the Breviarium Aniani, from the name of
the Registrar whose signature attested each copy of the Breviarium.]

Between the Visigothic and Ostrogothic courts there was firm friendship
and alliance, the remembrance of their common origin and of many perils
and hardships shared together on the shores of the Euxine and in the
passes of the Balkans being fortified by the knowledge of the dangers to
which their common profession of Arianism exposed them amidst the
Catholic population of the Empire. The alliance, which had served
Theodoric in good stead when the Visigoths helped him in his struggle
with Odovacar, was yet further strengthened by kinship, the young king
of Toulouse having received in marriage a princess from Ravenna, whose
name is variously given as Arevagni or Ostrogotho.

A matrimonial alliance also connected Theodoric with the king of the
Burgundians. These invaders, who were destined so strangely to
disappear out of history themselves, while giving their name to such
wide and rich regions of mediaeval Europe, occupied at this time the
valleys of the Saone and the Rhone, as well as the country which we now
call Switzerland. Their king, Gundobad, a man somewhat older than
Theodoric, had once interfered zealously in the politics of Italy,
making and unmaking Emperors and striking for Odovacar against his
Ostrogothic rival. Now, however, his whole energies were directed to
extending his dominions in Gaul, and to securing his somewhat precarious
throne from the machinations of the Catholic bishops, his subjects. For
he, too, was by profession an Arian, though of a tolerant type, and
though he sometimes seemed on the point of crossing the abyss and
declaring himself a convert to the Nicene faith. Theudegotho, sister of
Arevagni, was given by her father, Theodoric in marriage to Sigismund,
the son and heir of Gundobad.

The event which intensified the fears of all these Arian kings, and
which left to each one little more than the hope that he might be the
last to be devoured, was the conversion to Catholicism of Clovis,[93]
the heathen king of the Franks, that fortunate barbarian who, by a
well-timed baptism, won for his tribe of rude warriors the possession of
the fairest land in Europe and the glory of giving birth to one of the
foremost nations in the world.

[Footnote 93: I call the Frankish king by the name by which he is best
known in history, though no doubt the more correct form is either
Hlodwig or Chlodovech. It is of course the same name with Ludovicus or
Louis I do not know whether the barbarian sound of Hlodwig offended the
delicate taste of Cassiodorus, but in the Various Letters he addresses
the king of the Franks as Ludum. It seems probable that there was some
harsh guttural before the L which Gregory of Tours endeavoured to
represent by Ch (Chlodovech), while Cassiodorus, receiving the name from
the Frankish barbarians, thought it safer to leave it unrepresented
(Ludum). In any case his n must have been due to some defective
understanding of the final sound.]

As we are here come to one of the common-places of history, I need but
very briefly remind the reader of the chief stages in the upward course
of the young Frankish king. Born in 466, he succeeded his father,
Childeric, as one of the kings of the Salian Franks in 481. The lands of
the Salians occupied but the extreme northern corner of modern France,
and a portion of Flanders, and even here Clovis was but one of many
kinglets allied by blood but frequently engaged in petty and inglorious
wars one with another.

For five years the young Salian chieftain lived in peace with his
neighbours. In the twentieth year of his age (486) he sprang with one
bound into fame and dominion by attacking and overcoming the Roman
Syagrius, who with ill-defined prerogatives, and bearing the title not
of Emperor or of Prefect, but of King, had succeeded amidst the wreck of
the Western Empire in preserving some of the fairest districts of the
north of Gaul from barbarian domination. With the help of some of his
brother chiefs, Clovis overthrew this King of Soissons. Syagrius took
refuge at the court of Toulouse, and the Frankish king now felt himself
strong enough to send to the young Alaric, who had ascended the throne
only a year before, a peremptory message, insisting, under the penalty
of a declaration of war, on the surrender of the Roman fugitive. The
Visigoth was mean-spirited enough to purchase peace by delivering up his
guest, bound in fetters, to the ambassadors of Clovis, who shortly after
ordered him to be privily done to death. From that time, we may well
believe, Clovis felt confident that he should one day vanquish Alaric.

About seven years after this event (493) came his memorable marriage
with Clotilda,[94] a Burgundian princess, who, unlike her Arian uncle,
Gundobad, was enthusiastically devoted to the Catholic faith, and who
ceased not by private conversations and by inducing him to listen to the
sermons of the eloquent Bishop Remigius, to endeavour to win her husband
from the religion of his heathen forefathers to the creed of Rome and
of the Empire. Clovis, however, for some years wavered. Sprung himself,
according to the traditions of his people, from the sea-god Meroveus, he
was not in haste to renounce this fabulous glory, nor to acknowledge as
Lord, One who had been reared in a carpenter's shop at Nazareth. He
allowed Clotilda to have her eldest son baptised, but when the child
soon after died, he took that as a sign of the power and vengeance of
the old gods. A second son was born, was baptised, fell sick. Had that
child died, Clovis would probably have remained an obstinate heathen,
but the little one recovered, given back, as was believed, to the
earnest prayers of his mother.

It was perhaps during these years of indecision as to his future
religious profession, that Clovis consented to a matrimonial alliance
between his house and that of the Arian Theodoric. The great Ostrogoth
married, probably about the year 495, the sister of Clovis, Augofleda,
who, as we may reasonably conjecture, renounced the worship of the gods
of her people, and was baptised by an Arian bishop on becoming Queen of
the Goths and Romans. Unfortunately the meagre annals of the time give
us no hint of the character or history of the princess who was thus
transferred from the fens of Flanders to the marshes of Ravenna. Every
indication shows that she came from a far lower level of civilisation
than that which her husband's people occupied. Did she soon learn to
conform herself to the stately ceremonial which Ravenna borrowed from
Constantinople? Did she too speak of civilitas and the necessity of
obeying the Roman laws, and did she share the glorious colloquies
which her husband held with the exuberant Cassiodorus? When war came
between the Ostrogoth and the Frank, did she openly show her sympathy
with her brother Clovis, or did she forget her people and her father's
house and cleave with all her soul to the fortunes of Theodoric? As to
all these interesting questions the Various Letters, with all their
diffuseness, give us no more information than the most jejune of the
annalists. The only fact upon which we might found a conjecture is the
love of literature and of Roman civilisation displayed by her daughter,
Amalasuentha, which inclines us to guess that the mother may have thrown
off her Frankish wildness when she came into the softening atmosphere of

We return to the event so memorable in the history of the world, Clovis'
conversion to Christianity. In the year 486 he went forth to fight his
barbarian neighbours in the south-east, the Alamanni, The battle was a
stubborn and a bloody one, as well it might be when two such
thunder-clouds met, the savage Frank and the savage Alaman. Already the
Frankish host seemed wavering, when Clovis, lifting his eyes to heaven
and shedding tears in the agony of his soul, said: O Jesus Christ! whom
Clotilda declares to be the son of the living God, who art said to give
help to the weary, and victory to them that trust in thee, I humbly pray
for thy glorious aid, and promise that if thou wilt indulge me with the
victory over these enemies, I will believe in thee and be baptised in
thy name. For I have called on my own gods and have found that they are
of no power and do not help those who call upon them. Scarcely had he
spoken the words when the tide of battle turned. The Franks recovered
from their panic, the Alamanni turned to flight. Their king was slain,
and his people submitted to Clovis, who, returning, told his queen how
he had called upon her God in the day of battle and been delivered.

Then followed, after a short consultation with the leading men of his
kingdom, which made the change of faith in some degree a national act,
the celebrated scene in the cathedral of Rheims, where the king, having
confessed his faith in the Holy Trinity, was baptised in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the poetical bishop uttering the
well-known words: Bow down thy head in lowliness, O Sicambrian; adore
what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast adored. The streets of
the city were hung with bright banners, white curtains adorned the
churches, and clouds of sweet incense filled all the great basilica in
which the new Constantine stooped to the baptismal water. He entered
the cathedral a mere Sicambrian chieftain, the descendant of the
sea-god: he emerged from it amid the acclamations of the joyous
provincials, the eldest son of the Church.

The result of this ceremony was to change the political relations of
every state in Gaul. Though the Franks were among the roughest and most
uncivilised of the tribes that had poured westwards across the Rhine, as
Catholics they were now sure of a welcome from the Catholic clergy of
every city, and where the clergy led, the Roman provincials, or in
other words the Latin-speaking laity, generally followed. Immediately
after his baptism Clovis received a letter of enthusiastic welcome Into
the true fold, written by Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, the most eminent
ecclesiastic of the Burgundian kingdom. I regret, says Avitus, that I
could not be present in the flesh at that most glorious solemnity. But
as your most sublime Humility had sent me a messenger to inform me of
your intention, when night fell I retired to rest already secure of your
conversion. How often my friends and I went over the scene in our
imaginations! We saw the band of holy prelates vying with one another in
the ambition of lowly service, each one wishing to comfort the royal
limbs with the water of life. We saw that head, so terrible to the
nations, bowed low before the servants of God; the hair which had grown
long under the helmet now crowned with the diadem of the holy anointing;
the coat of mail laid aside and the white limbs wrapped in linen robes
as white and spotless as themselves.

One thing only have I to ask of you, that you will spread the light
which you have yourself received to the nations around you. Scatter the
seeds of faith from out of the good treasure of your heart, and be not
ashamed, by embassies directed to this very end, to strengthen in other
States the cause of that God who has so greatly exalted your fortunes.
Shine on, for ever, upon those who are present, by lustre of your
diadem, upon those who are absent, by the glory of your name. We are
touched by your happiness; as often as you fight in those (heretical)
lands, we conquer.

The use of language like this, showing such earnest devotion to the
cause of Clovis in the subject of a rival monarch, well illustrates the
tendency of the Frankish king's conversion to loosen the bonds of
loyalty in the neighbouring States, and to facilitate the spread of his
dominion over the whole of Gaul. In fact, the Frankish kingdom, having
become Catholic, was like the magnetic mountain of Oriental fable, which
drew to itself all the iron nails of the ships which approached it, and
so caused them to sink in hopeless dissolution. Seeing this obvious
result of the conversion of the Frank, some historians, especially in
the last century, were disposed to look upon that conversion as a mere
hypocritical pretence. Later critics[95] have shown that this is not an
accurate account of the matter. Doubtless the motives which induced
Clovis to accept baptism and to profess faith in the Crucified One were
of the meanest, poorest, and most unspiritual kind. Few men have ever
been further from that which Christ called the Kingdom of Heaven than
this grasping and brutal Frankish chief, to whom robbery, falsehood,
murder were, after his baptism, as much as before it (perhaps even more
than before it), the ordinary steps in the ladder of his elevation. But
the rough barbaric soul had in its dim fashion a faith that the God of
the Christians was the mightiest God, and that it would go well with
those who submitted to him. In his rude style he made imaginary bargains
with the Most High: so much reverence to 'Clotilda's God,' so many
offerings at the shrine of St. Martin, so much land to the church of St.
Genovefa, on condition that I shall beat down my enemies before me and
extend my dominions from the Seine to the Pyrenees. This is the kind of
calculation which the missionaries in our own day are only too well
accustomed to hear from the lips of barbarous potentates like those of
Uganda and Fiji. A conversion thus effected brings no honour to any
church, and the utter selfishness and even profanity of the transaction
disgusts the devout souls of every communion. Still the conversion of
Clovis was not in its essence and origin a hypocritical scheme for
obtaining the support of the Catholic clergy in Gaul, how clearly so
ever the new convert may have soon perceived that from that support he
would suck no small advantage.

The first of his Arian neighbours whom Clovis struck at was the
Burgundian, Gundobad. In the year 500 he beseiged Dijon with a large
army. Gundobad called on his brother Godegisel, who reigned at Geneva,
for help, but that brother was secretly in league with Clovis, and at a
critical moment joined the invaders, who were for a time completely
successful. Gundobad was driven into exile and Godegisel accepting the
position of a tributary ally of his powerful Frankish friend, ruled over
the whole Burgundian kingdom. His rule however seems not to have been
heartily accepted by the Burgundian people. The exiled Gundobad
returned with a few followers, who daily increased in number; he found
himself strong enough to besiege Godegisel in Vienne; he at length
entered the city through the blow-hole of an aqueduct, slew his brother
with his own hand, and put his chief adherents to death with exquisite
torments. The Frankish troops who garrisoned Vienne were taken
prisoners, but honourably treated and sent to Toulouse to be guarded by
Alaric the Visigoth, who had probably assisted the enterprise of

The inactivity of Clovis during this counter-revolution in Burgundy is
not easily explained. Either there was some great explosion of
Burgundian national feeling against the Franks, which for the time made
further interference dangerous, or Gundobad, having added his brother's
dominions to his own, was now too strong for Clovis to meddle with, or,
which seems on the whole the most probable supposition, Gundobad
himself, secretly inclining towards the Catholic cause, had made peace
with Clovis through the mediation of the clergy, and came back to Vienne
to rule thenceforward as a dependent ally, though not an avowed
tributary, of Clovis and the Franks. We shall soon have occasion to
observe that in the crisis of its fortunes the confederacy of Arian
states could not count on the co-operation of Gundobad.

To form such a confederacy and to league together all the older Arian
monarchies against this one aspiring Catholic state, which threatened to
absorb them all, was now the main purpose of Theodoric. He seems,
however, to have remained meanwhile on terms of courtesy and apparent
harmony with his powerful brother-in-law.

He congratulated him on a second victorious campaign against the
Alamanni (about 503 or 504), and he took some trouble to comply with a
request, which Clovis had made to him, to find out a skilful harper who
might be sent to his court. The letter[96] which relates to this
transaction is a curious specimen of Cassiodorus' style. It is addressed
to the young philosopher Boethius, a man whose varied accomplishments
adorned the middle period of the reign of Theodoric, and whose tragical
death was to bring sadness over its close. To this man, whose knowledge
of the musical art was pre-eminent in his generation, Cassiodorus
addresses one of the longest letters in his collection (it would occupy
about six pages of an ordinary octavo), only one or two sentences of
which relate to the business in hand. The letter begins: Since the king
of the Franks, attracted by the fame of our banquets, has with earnest
prayers besought us to send him a harper (citharoedus), our only hope
of executing his commission lies in you, whom we know to be accomplished
in musical learning. For it will be easy for you to choose a
well-skilled man, having yourself been able to attain to that high and
abstruse study. Then follow a string of reflections on the soothing
power of music, a description of the five modes [97] (Dorian,
Phrygian, Aeolian, Ionian, and Lydian) and of the diapason; instances of
the power of music drawn from the Scriptures and from heathen mythology,
a discussion on the harmony of the spheres, and a doubt whether the
enjoyment of this astral music be rightly placed among the delights of
heaven. At length the marvellous state-paper draws to a close, But
since we have made this pleasing digression[98] (because it is always
agreeable to talk about learning with learned men) let your Wisdom
choose out for us the best harper of the day, for the purpose that we
have mentioned. Herein will you accomplish a task somewhat like that of
Orpheus, when he with sweet sounds tamed the fierce hearts of savage
creatures. The thanks which we owe you will be expressed by liberal
compensation, for you obey our rule, and to the utmost of your power
render it illustrious by your attainments.

Evidently the court of Theodoric was regarded as a centre of light and
civilisation by his Teutonic neighbours, the lords of the new kingdoms
to the north of him. King Gundobad desired to become the possessor of a
clepsydra or water-clock, such as had long been used in Athens and
Rome, to regulate the time allotted to the orators in public debates. He
also wished to obtain an accurately graduated sun-dial. For both he made
request to Theodoric, and again[99] the universal genius Boethius was
applied to, Cassiodorus writes him, in his master's name, a letter which
gives us some interesting information as to the past career of Boethius,
and then proceeds to give a specification of the required machines, in
language so magnificent as to be, at any rate to modern mechanicians,
hopelessly unintelligible. Then a shorter letter, to accompany the clock
and dial, is written to King Gundobad. This letter, which is written in
a slightly condescending tone, says that the tie of affinity between the
two kings makes it right that Gundobad should receive benefits from
Theodoric: Let Burgundy under your sway learn to examine the most
curious objects, and to praise the inventions of the ancients. Through
you she is laying aside her old barbarian tastes, and while she admires
the prudence of her King she rightly desires the works of wise men of
old. Let her mark out the different intervals of the day by her actions:
let her in the most fitting manner assign the occupation of each hour.
This is to lead the true human life, as distinguished from that of the
brutes, who know the flight of time only by the cravings of their

[Footnote 99: Strictly speaking not again but previously, for the
letter about the water-clock precedes the letter about the harper.]

A time, however, was approaching when this pleasant interchange of
courtesies between the three sovereigns, Ostrogothic, Frankish, and
Burgundian, was to be succeeded by the din of wan Alaric the Visigoth,
alarmed at the victorious progress of the Frankish king, sent a message
to this effect: If my brother is willing, let him consider my proposal
that, by the favour of God, we should have an interview with one
another. Clovis accepted the offer, and the two kings met on an island
in the Loire near Amboise.[100] But either no alliance could be formed,
owing to religious differences, or the treaty so made was too weak for
the strain which it had to bear, and it became manifest before long that
war would soon break out between Francia and Gothia.

Theodoric exerted himself strenuously to prevent the impending struggle,
which, as he too surely foresaw, would bring only disaster to his
Visigothic allies. He caused his eloquent secretary to write letters to
Clovis, to Alaric, to Gundobad, to the neighbours of the Franks on their
eastern border, the kings of the Heruli, the Warni, and the Thuringians.
To Clovis he dilated on the horrors which war brings upon the
inhabitants of the warring lands, who have a right to expect that the
kinship of their lords will keep them at peace. A few paltry words were
no sufficient cause of war between two such monarchs, and it was the act
of a passionate and hot-headed man to be mobilising his troops while he
was sending his first embassy. To Alaric he sent an earnest warning
against engaging in war with Clovis: You are surrounded by an
innumerable multitude of subjects, and you are proud of the remembrance
of the defeat of Attila, but war is a terribly dangerous game, and you
know not how the long peace may have softened the warlike fibre of your
people. He besought Gundobad to join with him in preserving peace
between the combatants, to each of whom he had offered his arbitration.
It behoves us old, men to moderate the wrath of the royal youths, who
should reverence our age, though they are still in the flower of their
hot youth.[101] The kings of the barbarians were reminded of the
friendship which Alaric's father, Euric, had shown them in old days, and
invited to join in a League of Peace, in order to check the lawless
aggressions of Clovis, which threatened danger to all.

The diplomatic action of Theodoric was powerless to avert the war;
possibly even it may have stimulated Clovis to strike rapidly before a
hostile coalition could be formed against him.

At an assembly of his nation (perhaps the Camp of March) in the early
part of 507, he impetuously declared: I take it grievously amiss that
these Arians should hold so large a part of Gaul. Let us go and overcome
them with God's help, and bring the land into subjection to us. The
saying pleased the whole multitude, and the collected army inarched
southward to the Loire. On their way they passed through the territory
owned by the monastery of St. Martin of Tours, the greatest saint of
Gaul. Here the king commanded them to abstain religiously from all
depredations, taking only grass for their horses, and water from the
streams. One of the soldiers, finding a quantity of hay in the
possession of a peasant, took it from him, arguing that hay was grass,
and so came within the permitted exception. He was, however, at once cut
down with a sword, the king exclaiming. What hope shall we have of
victory if we offend the blessed Martin? Having first prayed for a
sign, Clovis sent his messengers with gifts to the great basilica of
Tours, and behold! when these messengers set foot in the sacred
building, the choristers were singing an antiphon, taken from the 18th
Psalm: Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle, thou hast
subdued under me those that rose up against me.

Meanwhile, Alaric, taken at unawares, short of men and short of money,
was endeavouring to remedy the latter deficiency by a depreciation of
the currency. To swell his slender battalions he evidently looked to his
father-in-law, Theodoric, whose peace-making letter had ended with these
words: We look upon your enemy as the common enemy of all. Whoever
strives against you will rightly have to deal with me, as a foe. Yet
notwithstanding this assurance, no Ostrogothic troops came at this time
to the help of the Visigoths. In the great dearth of historical
material, our account of these transactions has to be made up from
scattered and fragmentary notices, which do not enable us to explain
this strange inaction of so true-hearted an ally. It is not imputed to
him as a fault by any contemporary authority, and it seems reasonable to
suppose that not the will, but the power, to help his menaced son-in-law
was wanting. One alarming change in the situation had revealed itself
since Theodoric ordered his secretary to write the letters recommending
an anti-Frankish confederacy of kings. Gundobad the Burgundian was now
the declared ally of Clovis, and promised himself a share of the spoil.
So powerful an enemy on the flank, threatening the communications of the
two Gothic states, may very probably have been the reason why no timely
succour was sent from Ravenna to Toulouse.

Clovis and his Frankish host, hungering for the spoil, pressed forwards,
and succeeded, apparently without opposition, in crossing the broad
river Loire. Alaric had taken up a strong position at the Campus
Vogladensis (Vouille: dep. Vienne), about ten miles from Poitiers.
Here he wished to remain on the defensive till the expected succours
from Theodoric could arrive, but his soldiers, confident in their power
to beat the Franks unassisted, began to revile their king's over-caution
and his father-in-law's delay, and forced Alaric to fight.[102] The
Goths began hurling their missile weapons, but the daring Franks rushed
in upon them and commenced a hand-to-hand encounter, in which they were
completely victorious. The Goths turned to flee, and Clovis, riding up
to where Alaric was fighting, slew him with his own hand. He himself had
immediately afterwards a narrow escape from two of the enemy, who,
coming suddenly upon him, thrust their long spears at him, one on each
side. The strength of his coat of mail, however, and the speed of his
horse saved him from a disaster which might possibly even then have
turned the tide of victory.

The result of this battle was the complete overthrow of the Visigothic
kingdom of Toulouse. In a certain sense it survived, and for two
centuries played a great part in Europe as the Spanish kingdom of
Toledo, but, as competitors for dominion in Gaul, the Visigoths
henceforward disappear from history. There seems to have been a certain
want of toughness in the Visigothic fibre, a tendency to rashness
combined with a tendency to panic, which made it possible for their
enemies to achieve a complete triumph over them in a single battle.
(376) Athanaric staked his all on one battle with the Huns, and lost, by
the rivers of Bessarabia. (507) Alaric II., as we have seen, staked his
all on one battle with the Franks, and lost, on the Campus Vogladensis.
(701) Two centuries later Roderic staked his all upon one battle with
the Moors, and lost, at Xeres de la Frontera.

All through the year 507 the allied forces of Franks and Burgundians
seem to have poured over the south-west and south of Gaul, annexing
Angouleme, Saintonge, Auvergne, and Gascony to the dominions of Clovis,
and Provence to the dominions of Gundobad. Only the strong city of
Aries, and perhaps the fortress of Carcassonne (that most interesting
relic of the early Middle Ages, which still shows the handiwork of
Visigothic kings in its walls), still held out for the son of Alaric.

In 508 the long delayed forces of Theodoric appeared upon the scene
under his brave general, Tulum, and dealt some severe blows at the
allied Frankish and Burgundian armies. In 509 another army, under Duke
Mammo, crossed the Cottian Alps near Briancon, laid waste part of
Dauphine, and probably compelled a large detachment of the Burgundian
army to return for the defence of their homes. And lastly, in 510,
Theodoric's general, Ibbas, inflicted a crushing defeat on the allied
armies, leaving, it is said, thirty thousand Franks dead upon the field.
The number is probably much exaggerated (as these historical bulletins
are apt to be), but there can be no doubt that a great and important
victory was won by the troops of Theodoric. The immediate result of this
victory was the raising of the siege of Aries, whose valiant defenders
had held out against storm and blockade, famine and treachery within,
Franks and Burgundians without, for the space of two years and a half.
Ultimately, and perhaps before many months had passed, the victory of
Ibbas led to a cessation of hostilities, if not to a formal treaty of
peace, between the three powers which disputed the possession of Gaul.
The terms practically arranged were these. Clovis remained in possession
of far the largest part of Alaric's dominions, Aquitaine nearly up to
the roots of the Pyrenees, and so much of Languedoc (including Toulouse,
the late capital of the Visigoths) as lay west of the mountains of the
Cevennes. Theodoric obtained the rest of Languedoc and Provence, the
first province being deemed to be a part of the Visigothic, the second
of the Ostrogothic, dominions, Gundobad obtained nothing, but lost some
towns on his southern frontier--a fitting reward for his tortuous and
shifty policy.

In the meantime something like civil war had been waged on the other
side of the Pyrenees for the Spanish portion of the Visigothic
inheritance. Alaric, slain on the field of Vouille, had left two sons,
one Amalaric, his legitimate heir and the grandson of Theodoric, but
still a child, the other a young man, but of illegitimate birth, named
Gesalic. This latter was, on the death of his father, proclaimed king by
some fraction of the Visigothic people. Had Gesalic shown courage and
skill in winning back the lost inheritance of his father, Theodoric,
whose own descent was not legitimate according to strict church law,
would not, perhaps, have interfered with his claim to the succession.
But the young man was as weak and cowardly as his birth was base, and
the strenuous efforts of Theodoric, seconded probably by many of the
Visigoths who had first acclaimed him as king, were directed to getting
rid of this futile pretender. Gesalic, defeated by Gundobad at Narbonne
(which, for a time, became the possession of the Burgundians), fled over
the Pyrenees to Barcelona, and from thence across the sea to Carthage.
Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, aided him with money and promised him
support, being probably deceived by the glozing tongue of Gesalic, and
looking upon him simply as a brave young Visigoth battling for his
rightful inheritance with the Franks. A correspondence followed between
Ravenna and Carthage, in which Theodoric bitterly complained of the
protection given by his brother-in-law to an intriguer and a rebel; and,
on the receipt of Theodoric's letter, Thrasamund at once disclaimed all
further intention of helping the pretender and sent rich presents to his
offended kinsman, which Theodoric graciously returned. Gesalic again
appeared in Barcelona, still doubtless wearing the insignia of kingship,
but was defeated by the same Duke Ibbas who had raised the siege of
Aries, and, fleeing into Gaul, probably in order to claim the protection
of the enemy of his house, King Gundobad, he was overtaken by the
soldiers of Theodoric near the river Durance, and was put to death by
his captors. Thus there remained but one undisputed heir to what was
left of the great Visigothic kingdom, the little child Amalaric,
Theodoric's grandson. He was brought up in Spain, but, apparently with
the full consent of the Visigothic people, his grandsire assumed the
reins of government, ruling in his own name but with a tacit
understanding that Amalaric and no other should succeed him.

(510-525) There was thus for fifteen years a combination of states which
Europe has not witnessed before or since, though Charles V. and some of
his descendants were not far from achieving it. All of Italy and all of
Spain (except the north-west corner, which was held by the Suevi) obeyed
the rule of Theodoric, and the fair regions of Provence and
Languedoc,[103] acknowledging the same master, were the ligament that
united them. Of the character of the government of Theodoric in Spain,
history tells us scarcely anything; but there is reason to think that it
was as wise and beneficent as his government of Italy, its chief fault
being probably the undue share of power which was grasped by the
Ostrogothic minister Theudis, whom Theodoric had appointed as guardian
to his grandson, and who, having married a wealthy Spanish lady, assumed
a semi-royal state, and became at last so mighty that Theodoric himself
did not dare to insist upon the recall which he had veiled under the
courteous semblance of an invitation to his palace at Ravenna.

Thus then the policy of Theodoric towards his kinsmen and
co-religionists in Gaul had failed, but it had not been a hopeless
failure. He had missed, probably through no fault of his own, through
the rashness of Alaric and the treachery of Gundobad, the right moment
for saving the kingdom of Toulouse from shipwreck, but he had vindicated
in adversity the honour of the Gothic name, and he had succeeded in
saving a considerable part of the cargo which the stately vessel had

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