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

ha--Justinian declares war.

Our special subject, the life of Theodoric, is ended, but so closely was

the king identified with the people that the narration can hardly close

without a sketch of the fortunes of the Ostrogothic nation during the

generation which followed his death. I shall not attempt any detailed

history of this period, but shall draw merely its broadest outlines.

Notwithstanding the melancholy and apparently threatening circumstances

which attended the death of Theodoric, his descendants succeeded to his

power without a contest. In Spain, his grandson, Amalaric, who had

probably by this time attained his majority, was hailed as king of the

Visigoths. In Italy, Athalaric, now barely ten years old, became the

nominal ruler, the real powers being exercised by his widowed mother,

Amalasuentha, who was guided more implicitly than her father had been by

the counsel of Cassiodorus, and availed herself of his fertile pen for

the proclamations in which she addressed the subjects of her son. In

writing to the Roman Senate, Cassiodorus made his child-sovereign

enlarge on the felicity of the country in which the accession of a new

ruler could take place without war or sedition or loss of any kind to

the republic. On account of the unsurpassed glory of the Amal race, the

promise of my youth has been preferred to the merits of all others. The

chiefs, glorious in council and in war, have flocked to recognise me as

King, so gladly that it seems like a Divine inspiration, and the kingdom

has been changed as one changes a garment. The general consent of Goths

and Romans has crowned one King, and they have confirmed their

allegiance by an oath. You, though distant from my person, are as near

to me in heart as they, and I therefore call on you to follow their

example. We all know that the most excellent fathers of the Senate love

their King more fervently than other ranks of the State, in proportion

to the greater benefits which they have received at his hand.

To the Senators, who had witnessed the denunciation of Albinus, and who

had been compelled with anguish of heart to vote the condemnation of

Boethius, this allusion to the great benefits which they had received

from their Gothic sovereign might seem almost like mockery: yet there

can be little doubt that the Senate did hail the accession of Athalaric

with acclamations, and that Amalasuentha's administration of affairs was

popular with the Roman inhabitants of Italy. It might well be so, for

this princess, born under an Italian sky, and accustomed from her

childhood to gaze upon the great works which Rome had constructed for

the embellishment of the peninsula, was no Goth at heart, but

enthusiastically, even unwisely, Roman. In religious matters we are

almost surprised to find that she adhered to the Arian creed of her

father and her husband, but all talk of persecution of the Catholics

ceased, and no more was heard of the enforced cession of their churches

to the Arians. And in everything else but religion the sympathies of the

new ruler were entirely on the side of the subject, not the dominant,

nationality. As it had been said of old that Captive Greece subdued her

conquerors, so now was it with subject Italy and its Gothic mistress. A

diligent student of Greek as well as of Latin literature, able to

discourse with the ambassadors of Constantinople in well-turned Attic

sentences, or to deliver a stately Latin oration to the messengers of

the Senate, she could also, when the occasion required brevity, wrap

herself in the robe of taciturnity which she inherited from her Teutonic

ancestors, and with few, diplomatically chosen words, make the hearer

feel his immeasurable inferiority to the Lady of the Kingdoms. A

woman with a mind thus richly stored with the literary treasure of

Greece and Rome was likely to look with impatient scorn on the barren

and barbarous annals of her people. We in whose ears the notes of the

Teutonic minstrelsy of the Middle Ages are still sounding, we who know

that Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe were all one day to arise from beneath

the soil of Germanic literature, can hardly conceive how dreary and

repulsive the national sagas, and even the every-day speech of her

people, would seem in that day to a woman of great intellectual

endowments, nor how strong would be the antagonism between culture and

national patriotism in the heart of a princess like Amalasuentha.

Thus the position of things during the reign of the young Athalaric was

strangely altered from that which had existed under his grandfather. The

King of the Goths and Romans was under the sway of a mother who would

make him virtually King of the Romans, only leaving the Goths outside

in moody isolation. Of course every step that Amalasuentha, in the

enthusiasm of her love for things Roman, took towards the Roman Senate

carried her farther from the traditions of her people, and lost her the

love of some stern old Gothic warriors. And, moreover, with all her

great intellectual endowments, it is clear that this highly cultivated,

statuesque, and stately woman had little skill in reading character,

little power in estimating the force of human motives. She had read (we

may conjecture) Virgil and Sophocles, but she did not know what was in

the heart of a child, and she knew not how long a scoundrel will wait

for his revenge.

At the time that the Gothic kingdom was thus being administered by a

child and a woman, the Roman Empire, which had seemed effete and

decaying, was astonishing the world by its recovered and increasing

vigour. Since the death of Theodosius (more than one hundred and thirty

years before that of Theodoric) no great historic name had illustrated

the annals of the Eastern Empire, But now, a year after the accession of

Athalaric at Ravenna, the death of Justin, in the palace at

Constantinople, (1st Aug., 527) brought upon the scene an Emperor who,

whatever his faults, however disastrous (as I hold it to have been) his

influence on the general happiness of the human race, made for himself

undoubtedly one of the very greatest names in the whole series from

Julius to Palaeologus--the world-famous Emperor Justinian.

With Justinian's long wars on the Eastern frontier of his Empire we have

here no concern. He was matched there against a terrible rival, Chosroes

Nushirvan, and at most succeeded (and that not always) in upholding the

banner of Europe against triumphant Asia. His domestic affairs, his

marriage with the actress Theodora, the strange ascendancy which she

exerted over him through life, his magnificent buildings, the rebellion

in Constantinople (springing out of the factions of the Hippodrome)

which had all but hurled him from his throne,--these also are all beyond

our province. So too is his noblest title to immortality, the

composition by his orders of that magnificent legal trilogy, the Code,

the Digest, and the Institutes, which summed up whatever was most worthy

of preservation in the labours of Roman lawyers for nine centuries in

the past, and sent it forward for at least thirteen centuries into the

future to ascertain the rights and to mould the institutions of men

dwelling in lands of the very existence of which no Roman, from the

first Julius to the last Constantine, ever dreamed. Justinian as

legislator is as much out of our present focus as Justinian the

antagonist of Persia.

But what we have here briefly to concern ourselves with is that

marvellous display of renewed energy by which the Empire, under

Justinian, made its presence felt in Western Europe and Africa. During

the thirty-eight years of his reign the great world-kingdom, which for

five generations had been losing province after province to the

Barbarians, and which, when she had once lost a game had seemed never to

have the heart to try her fortune again on the same battle-field, now

sent out her fleets and her armies, apparently with the same confidence

of success which had once animated her Scipios and her Sullas, again

planted her victorious standards on the citadel of Carthage, made the

New Carthage in Spain, Malaga, and distant Cadiz her own, and--what

concerns our present subject more nearly--once more asserted the

unrestricted dominion of the Roman Augustus over Italy from the Alps to

the Sea. Let us beware of thinking of all these great changes as

strange and precarious extensions of the Byzantine Empire. To do so

is to import the language of much later ages into the politics of the

sixth century. However clearly we may now see that the relations thus

established between Constantinople and the western shores of the

Mediterranean were artificial, and destined not to endure, to Justinian

and his contemporaries these were not conquests by Constantinople, but

the recovery of Africa, Italy, and part of Spain for the Roman


The first of the Teutonic states to fall was the kingdom of the Vandals.

Its ruin was certainly hastened by the estrangement between its royal

house and that of the Ostrogoths. We left Theodoric's sister, the

stately and somewhat domineering Amalafrida in prison at Carthage. Soon

after her brother's death she was executed or murdered, by order of her

cousin the Catholic reformer, Hilderic. This outrage was keenly resented

by the court of Ravenna. Hostilities between the two states were

apparently imminent, but probably Amalasuentha felt that war, whether

successful or unsuccessful, would be too dangerous for the dynasty, and

sullen alienation took the place of the preparation of fleets and

armies. In June, 531, five years after the accession of Athalaric, the

elderly and effeminate Hilderic was deposed by his martial subjects who

had long chafed under the rule of such a sovereign, and his cousin, the

warlike Gelimer, ascended the throne. The deposition of Hilderic,

followed for the present not by his death but by his close imprisonment,

furnished the ambitious Justinian with a fair pretext for war, since

Hilderic was not only the ally of the Empire, and a Catholic, but was

descended on his mother's side from the great Theodosius and related to

many of the Byzantine nobility. In spite of the opposition of the more

cautious among his counsellors, Justinian decided to despatch an

expedition for the conquest of Carthage, and about Midsummer, 533, a

fleet of 500 ships, manned by 20,000 sailors and conveying 15,000

soldiers (10,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry), sailed forth from the

Bosphorus into the Sea of Marmora, bound for the Libyan waters. At the

head of the army was Belisarius, now about twenty-eight years of age, a

man who came, like his Imperial master, from the highlands of Illyricum,

but who, unlike that master, was probably of noble lineage. Three years

before, he had won the battle of Daras, defeating the Persian general,

whose army was nearly twice as numerous as his own, and he had already

shown signs of that profound knowledge of the science, and that

wonderful mastery of the art of war which he was afterwards to display

in many a hard-fought campaign, and which entitled him to a place in the

innermost circle of the greatest generals that the world has seen.

The voyage of the Imperial fleet was slow and tedious, and had the

Vandal king been well served by his ambassadors there was ample time to

have anticipated its attack. But Gelimer seems to have been quite

ignorant of the projected expedition, and had actually sent off some of

his best troops under the command of his brother, Tzazo, to suppress a

rebellion which had broken out in Sardinia. Moreover, the estrangement

between Vandals and Ostrogoths was a most fortunate event for the

Imperial cause. In consequence of that estrangement Belisarius was able

to land in Sicily to refresh his soldiers wearied with a long voyage,

and to obtain accurate information as to the preparations, or rather

no-preparations, of the enemy.

Early in September the army landed at the promontory of Caput-vada,

about one hundred and thirty miles south-east of Carthage, and began

their march towards the capital. They journeyed unopposed through

friendly Catholic villages, and royal parks beautiful in verdure and

abounding in luscious fruits, until, after eleven days, they arrived at

the tenth milestone[141] from Carthage, and here came the shock of war.

Gelimer had planned a combined attack on (13th Sept., 533) the Imperial

army, by himself, operating on their rear, and his brother Ammatas

making a vigorous sally from Carthage and attacking them in front. If

the two attacks had been really simultaneous, it might have gone hardly

with the Imperial army; but Ammatas came too soon to the field, was

defeated and slain. Gelimer arriving later on in the day inflicted a

partial defeat on the troops of Belisarius, but, coming to the spot

where lay the dead body of his brother, he stayed so long to bewail and

to bury him that Belisarius had time to rally his forces and to convert

defeat into victory. Gelimer fled to the open country. Belisarius

pressed on and without further opposition entered the gates of Carthage,

where he was received by the majority of the citizens, who spoke the

Latin tongue, and professed the Catholic faith, with unconcealed

rejoicing. Some Roman merchants who had been confined for many weeks in

the dungeon were (15th Sept., 533) liberated by their anxious gaoler.

But the Imperial victory came too late for the captive Hilderic, as he

had been already put to death in prison by order of his successor. There

was thus neither friend nor foe left to bar Justinian's claim to rule as

Augustus over Africa.

Belisarius was accompanied in this, as in many subsequent expeditions,

by his secretary and counsellor, the rhetorician Procopius, who has

written the story of their wars in a style worthy of his hero-chief. He

describes the sensations of surprise at their own good fortune, with

which Belisarius and his suite found themselves at noon of the 15 th

September, sitting in Gelimer's gorgeous banquet-hall, served by the

Vandal's lackeys and partaking of the sumptuous repast which he had

ordered to be prepared in celebration of his anticipated victory. At

this point Procopius indulges in a strain of meditation which is not

unusual with him: We may see hereby how Fortune wantons in her pride,

how she teaches us that she is mistress of all things, and that she will

not suffer Man to have anything which he can call his own.

Though Carthage was taken, the war was not yet over. Tzazo, who, in the

midst of his victories in Sardinia, heard of the ruin of his country,

hastened home with a valiant and hitherto triumphant army, and joined

his brother, Gelimer, on the plain of Bulla, in Numidia. When the two

brothers met they clasped one another round the neck and for long could

not loosen their hold, yet could they speak no word to each other, but

wrung their hands and wept; and so did each one of the companions of

Gelimer with some one of the officers of the army of Sardinia. But tears

soon gave place to the longing for revenge, and the two armies, forming

one strong and determined host, moved eastward to Tricamaron, about

twenty miles distant from Carthage, and began a partial blockade of the

capital. On the 15 th December Belisarius met the Vandals in

battle-array. The fight was more stubbornly contested than that of Ad

Decimum; but Tzazo fell in the thickest of the battle, and again the

impulsive nature of Gelimer was so moved by the sight of a brother's

blood that he renounced the struggle for his crown and galloped away

from the field.

Now the conquest of Africa was indeed completed, but Belisarius was set

upon capturing the person of the fugitive king, as an ornament to his

triumph and the pledge of victory. The tedious task was delegated to a

Teutonic chief named Pharas, who for three months beleaguered the

impregnable hill on the confines of Mauritania, on the summit of which

was the fortress in which Gelimer had taken refuge. The incidents which

marked his final surrender have been often described. He who had been of

late the daintily-living lord of Africa found life hard indeed among the

rough, half-savage Moors, who were partly his body-guard and partly his

gaolers. An ambassador sent by Pharas to exhort him to surrender and

cast himself on the clemency of Justinian brought back his proud refusal

to submit to one who had done him so much undeserved wrong, but brought

back also a pathetic request that his courteous foe would grant him

three things, a lyre, a sponge, and a loaf of bread. The loaf was to

remind him of the taste of baked bread, which he had not eaten for

months; the sponge was to bathe his eyes, weakened with continual tears;

the lyre, to enable him to set to music an ode which he had composed on

the subject of his misfortunes. A few days more passed by, and then came

Gelimer's offer to surrender at discretion, trusting to the generosity

of the Emperor. What finally broke down his proud spirit was the sight

of a delicately nurtured child, the son of one of his Vandal courtiers,

fighting with a dirty little Moor for a half-baked piece of dough, which

the two boys had pulled out of the ashes where it was baking.

Gelimer, whose reason was perhaps somewhat unhinged by his hardships,

gave a loud laugh--professedly at the instability of human

greatness--when brought into the presence of Belisarius. He and his

captors soon embarked for Constantinople, where they arrived probably

about the middle of 534. It had thus taken less than a year to level

with the ground the whole fabric of Vandal dominion, reared a century

before by the terrible Gaiseric, and to reunite Africa to the Roman

Republic. Belisarius received a splendid triumph, the chief figure of

which was of course the captive Gelimer, who, with a purple robe on his

shoulders, paced through the streets, shouting ever and anon in a

melancholy voice, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. When the

procession reached the palace, Gelimer by constraint and Belisarius

willingly prostrated themselves at the feet of Justinianus Augustus.

The promises on the faith of which the Vandal king had surrendered

himself were well kept. He might have been raised to the dignity of

Patrician, if he would have renounced his Arian creed. As it was, he

lived in honourable exile on the large estates in Galatia, which he had

received from the bounty of the Emperor.

In the same year (534) which witnessed the triumph of Belisarius over

the conquered Vandals came the final overthrow of the Burgundian

monarchy. In 523 Sigismund, the son-in-law of Theodoric, the convert to

Catholicism who ordered the murder of his son, had been defeated in

battle by the sons of Clovis, and together with his wife and two sons

had been thrown down a deep well and so slain. Theodoric, incensed at

the murder of his grandson, had taken part against Sigismund and

obtained a large accession of territory in Dauphine as the price of his

alliance with the Franks. But a brother of Sigismund's, named Godamir,

rallied the beaten Burgundians, defeated the Franks in a battle in which

one of their kings was slain, and succeeded in maintaining for eleven

years longer the independence of his nation. In the year 532, however,

the Frankish kings again entered the valley of the Rhone with their

desolating hosts, and in 534 they completed its conquest and added it to

the great unwieldy monarchy over which they ruled in a kind of family


In Spain too the Frankish kings had achieved some successes, and at the

cost of a descendant of Theodoric. Amalaric, king of the Visigoths, had

married, probably after his grandfather's death, Clotilda, daughter of

Clovis, and for a time seems to have pursued a tolerant policy towards

the Catholics, but gradually drifted into a position of unreasoning and

barbarous hostility towards them, hostility from which his own wife was

not exempted. He caused filth to be cast at the devout Clotilda, when

she was on her way to the Catholic basilica, nay, he even lifted his

hand to strike her. The cowardly blow brought blood, and the drops of

this blood, royal and Frankish, collected on a handkerchief and sent

northward over the Pyrenees, brought the two brother-kings of the Franks

into Spain (431). Amalaric was defeated,[142] fled to Barcelona, and

sought to escape thence by sea, probably to Italy; but his passage to

the harbour was barred by his own mutinous soldiers, and he perished by

a javelin hurled by one of them. The Franks returned, enriched with

great booty, to their own land, and Theudis, the Ostrogothic noble,

whose power had long overshadowed his master's, and who was accused by

some of having caused the mutiny of his troops, succeeded to his throne.

So had the great Arian league and the network of family alliances, by

which Theodoric had sought to guard it from the spoiler, passed away

into nothingness: and thus did the Ostrogothic kingdom now stand alone

and without allies before the rejuvenated Empire, flushed with victory,

and possessing such a head as Justinian, such a terrible right arm as

Belisarius. Not many months had elapsed from the battle of Tricamaron

when the ambassadors of the Empire appeared at Ravenna to present those

claims out of which Greek ingenuity would soon fashion a pretext for

war. The town of Lilybaeum, in Sicily had long ago been handed over by

Theodoric to the Vandal king Thrasamund as part of Amalafrida's dowry.

Apparently it had been recaptured by the Goths after the death of the

Vandal queen, but Justinian urged that it was still the rightful

possession of Gelimer, and therefore of himself, who now by the fortune

of war was Gelimer's master. Then there were certain Huns, deserters

from the Emperor's service, who had been allowed by the governor of

Naples to enlist in the Gothic army. A Gothic general who had to conduct

some warlike operations near Sirmium had crossed the Danube and sacked

Gratiana, a city in Moesia. All these grievances were rehearsed by the

Imperial ambassador, who hinted, not obscurely, that war would follow if

they were not redressed.

In fact, however, the real object of the embassy which came with this

formal statement of grievances was to discuss a strange proposition

which had been made by Amalasuentha, one for the understanding of which

we must go back a few years (we are not told exactly how many) to an

event which illustrates the manner in which the Gothic princess

conducted the education of her son. She wished, we are told, to have him

brought up in all respects after the manner of the Romans, and forced

him every day to go to the house of a grammarian to learn his lessons.

Moreover, she chose out three Gothic ancients, men of wisdom and of

calm, reasonable temperament, and assigned these venerable persons to

Athalaric as his constant companions. This manner of training the kingly

boy did not at all suit the ideas of the Goths, the Roman historian

says, because they wished him to be trained in more barbaric style in

order that they might have the more liberty for oppressing their

subjects: a modern historian may suggest, because they remembered

their own childhood and knew what was in the heart of a boy, of which

Amalasuentha, who was evidently elderly and wise in her cradle, had no

conception. One day, for some childish offence, the young king was

slapped in the face by his mother, and thereupon, in a tempest of

passionate tears, he burst out of the women's apartments and appeared

sobbing in the men's hall of audience. All Gothic hearts were stirred

when they saw the princely Amal thus mishandled, and the warriors began

to hint the insulting suspicion that Amalasuentha wished to educate her

child into his grave, that she might marry again and make her new

husband king of the Goths and Romans. The nobles of the nation were

gathered together, and seeking an audience with the princess, their

spokesman thus addressed her: O lady, you are not dealing justly by us,

nor doing that which is expedient for the nation, in your way of

educating your son. Letters and book-learning are very different from

manly courage and fortitude, and to hand a lad over to the teaching of

greybeards is generally the way to make him a coward and a caitiff. He

who is to do daring deeds and win glory in the world must be emancipated

from fear of the pedagogue and be practising martial exercises. Your

father Theodoric would never suffer his Goths to send their sons to the

grammarian-school, for he used to say: 'If they fear their teacher's

strap now they will never look on sword or javelin without a shudder.'

And he himself, who won the lordship of such wide lands, and died king

of so fair a kingdom which he had not inherited from his fathers, knew

nothing even by hearsay of this book-learning. Therefore, lady, you must

say 'good-bye' to these pedagogues, and give Athalaric companions of his

own age, who may grow up with him to manhood and make of him a valiant

king after the pattern of the barbarians.

Amalasuentha listened with outward calmness to this harangue, and though

filled with secret indignation recognised the people's voice to which

she was forced to bow. The meek old men were removed from Athalaric's

bed-chamber; he was released from his daily attendance on the

grammarian; and some young Gothic nobles were assigned to him as

associates. But the rebound was too sudden. His barbarian comrades led

astray the young king's heart after wine and women. His health began to

be undermined by his excesses, and the surly ill-nature which he

manifested towards his mother was a sure indication of the defenceless

position in which she would find herself as soon as her son should

assume the reins of government. Feeling these reins slipping from her

grasp, she opened secret negotiations with Justinian to assure herself

of his protection in case she should be driven from Italy by rebellion.

But in the meantime she singled out three of the Gothic nobles who had

been prominent in the revolt against her authority and sent them, on one

pretext or another connected with the defence of the realm, to widely

separated towns on the extreme borders of Italy. Though severed, they

still found means to hold mutual communications and to plot the downfall

of the princess. Informed of this conspiracy, she freighted a vessel

with forty thousand pounds' weight of gold (L1,6000,000) and sent it to

Dyrrhachium, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, to await her further

orders. If things should go ill with her she would thus, in any event,

have a line of retreat opened towards Constantinople and a comfortable

subsistence assured to her in that capital. Having taken these

precautions, she gave a commission to some of her bravest and most

devoted followers (for she evidently had a strong party in her favour)

to seek out the three disaffected nobles in their various places of

banishment and put them to death. Her henchmen obeyed her bidding; no

popular tumult was excited; the sceptre seemed to be more firmly than

ever grasped by the hand of the princess; the ship, without having

discharged its cargo, was ordered back from Dyrrhachium, and there came

a slight lull in the underground negotiations with Constantinople.

But another candidate for the favours of Justinian was also appearing in

the royal family of the Goths. Theodahad, son of Amalfrida, and

therefore nephew of Theodoric, was a man now pretty far advanced in

middle life. He had received in his boyhood that literary and rhetorical

training which Amalasuentha yearned to bestow on her son; he was well

versed in the works of the Roman orators and could discourse learnedly

on the dialogues of Plato. Unhappily, this varnish of intellectual

culture covered a thoroughly vile and rotten character. He was averse to

all the warlike employments of his forefathers, but his whole heart was

set on robbery, under the form of civilisation, by means of extortion

and chicane. He had received from his uncle ample estates in the fertile

province of Tuscany, but he was one who, as the common people said,

could not endure a neighbour, and, on one pretence or other, he was

perpetually adding farm after farm and villa after villa to his enormous

property. Already during his uncle's reign the grave pen of Cassiodorus

had been twice employed to censure Theodahad's avarice, a vulgar vice,

which the kinsman of the king and a man of Amal blood is especially

bound to avoid, and to complain that you, who should have shown an

example of glorious moderation, have caused the scandal of high-handed

spoliation. After Theodoric's death the process of unjust accumulation

went on rapidly. From every part of Tuscany the cry went up that the

provincials were being oppressed and their lands taken from them on no

pretext whatever; and the Counts of the Royal Patrimony had to complain

that even the king's domain was suffering from Theodahad's depredations.

He was summoned to the Comitatus or King's Court, at Ravenna; his

various acts of alleged spoliation were inquired into; their injustice

was clearly proved, and he was compelled by Amalasuentha to restore the

wrongfully appropriated lands.

It was perhaps before this process was actually begun, but after

Theodahad was made aware that the clamour against him was growing louder

and had reached the ears of his cousin, that he sought an interview with

the Bishops of Ephesus and Philippi, who had come over to Italy on some

ecclesiastical errand from the Emperor to the Pope. To these clerical

ambassadors Theodahad made the extraordinary proposal that Justinian

should buy of him the province of Tuscany for a certain large sum of

money, to which was to be added the dignity of a Senator of

Constantinople. If this negotiation could be carried through, the

diligent student of Plato and Cicero proposed to end his days in

dignified retirement at the Eastern capital.

We may now return to the palace of Ravenna and be present at the

audience granted, probably in the summer of 534, by Amalasuentha to

Alexander, the ambassador of Justinian. To the demands for the surrender

of Lilybaeum and the complaints as to the enlistment of Hunnish

deserters, Amalasuentha made, in public, a suitable and sprited reply:

It was not the part of a great and courageous monarch to pick a quarrel

with an orphaned king, too young to be accurately informed of what was

going on in all parts of his dominions, about such paltry matters as the

possession of Lilybaeum, a barren and worthless rock of Sicily, about

ten wild Huns who had sought refuge in Italy, and about the offence

which the Gothic soldiers had, in their ignorance, committed against a

friendly city in Moesia. Justinian should look at the other side of the

account, should remember the aid and comfort which his soldiers, on

their expedition against the Vandals, had received from the friendly

Ostrogoths in Sicily, and should ask himself whether without that aid he

would ever have recovered possession of Africa. If Lilybaeum did belong

by right to the Emperor it was not too great a reward for him to bestow

on his young ally for such opportune assistance.

This was publicly the answer of Amalasuentha--a bold and determined

refusal to surrender the rock of Lilybaeum. In her private interview with

the ambassador, she assured him that she was ready to fulfil her compact

and to make arrangements for the transfer to the Emperor of the whole of


When the two sets of ambassadors, civil and ecclesiastical, returned to

Constantinople the Emperor perceived that here were two negotiations to

be carried on of the most delicate kind and requiring the presence of a

master of diplomacy. He accordingly despatched to Ravenna a rhetorician

named Peter, a man of considerable intellectual endowments--he was a

historian as well as an orator--and one who had, eighteen years before,

held the high office of consul. But it was apparently winter before

Peter started on his journey, and when he arrived at Aulon (now Valona),

just opposite Brindisi, he heard such startling tidings as to the events

which had occurred on the Italian side of the Adriatic, that he waited

there and asked for further instructions from his master as to the

course which he was to pursue in the existing position of affairs. (2nd

Oct., 534.)

First of all came the death of the unhappy lad, Athalaric, in his

eighteenth year, the victim of unwise strictness, followed by unwise

licence, and of the barbarian's passion for swinish and sensual

pleasures. When her son was dead, Amalasuentha, who had an instinctive

feeling that the Goths would never submit to undisguised female

sovereignty, took a strange and desperate resolution. She sent for

Theodahad, now the only surviving male of the stock of Theodoric, and,

fashioning her lips to a smile, began to apologise for the humiliating

sentence which had issued against him from the King's Court. She had

known all along, she said, that her boy would die, and as he,

Theodahad, would then be the one hope of Theodoric's line, she had

wished to abate his unpopularity and set him straight with his future

subjects by strictly enforcing their rights against him. Now all that

was over: his record was clear and she was ready to invite him to become

the partner of her throne;[143] but he must first swear the most solemn

oaths that he would be satisfied with the name of royalty and that the

actual power should remain, as it had done for nine years, in the hands

of Amalasuentha.

[Footnote 143: As colleague, not as husband; Theodahad's wife, Gudelina,

was still living when he ascended the throne.]

Theodahad cheerfully swore tremendous oaths to the observance of this

compact. Proclamations in the name of the two new sovereigns were put

forth to all the Goths and Italians. In them Theodahad grovelled in

admiration of the wisdom, the virtue, the eloquence of the noble lady

who had raised him to so high a station and who had done him the

inestimable favour of making him feel her justice before she bestowed

upon him her grace. Few weeks, however, passed, before Amalasuentha was

a prisoner, hurried away to a little lonely island in the Lake of

Bolsena in Tuscany by order of the partner of her throne. Having taken

this step, Theodahad began with craven apologies to excuse it to the

Eastern Caesar. He had done no harm to Amalasuentha; he would do no harm

to her, though she had been guilty of the most nefarious designs against

him: he only sought to protect her from the vengeance of the kinsmen of

the three Gothic nobles whom she had murdered. An embassy composed of

Roman Senators was ordered to carry this tale to Justinian and to

confirm it by a letter which, under duresse, had been wrung from the

unfortunate princess in her prison. When the ambassadors arrived at

Constantinople one of them spoke the words of the part which had been

set down for him and declared that Theodahad had done nothing against

Amalasuentha of which any reasonable complaint could be made; but the

others, headed by the brave Liberius, a man of singularly high and

noble nature, and of the most watchful regard to truth, told the whole

story exactly as it had happened to the Emperor. The result was a

despatch to the ambassador Peter enjoining him to find means of

assuring Amalasuentha that Justinian would exert all his influence for

her safety, and to inform Theodahad publicly, in presence of all his

counsellors, that it was at his own peril that he would touch a hair of

the head of the Gothic queen.

Scarcely, however, had Peter touched the Italian shore--he had not

conveyed a letter to the prison nor uttered a word in the palace--when

the sad tragedy was ended. The relations of the three nobles, who had

blood-feud with the queen, and who were perhaps, according to the code

of barbarian morality, justified in avenging their death, made their way

to Amalasuentha's island prison, and there, in that desolate abode, the

daughter of Theodoric met her death at their hands, dying with all that

stately dignity and cold self-possession with which she had lived.

Justinian's ambassador at once proceeded to the King's Court, and there,

in the presence of all the Gothic nobles, denounced the foul deed which

they had permitted to be done, and declared that for this there must be

truceless war between the Emperor and them. Theodahad, as stupid as he

was vile, renewed his ridiculous protestations that he had no part in

the violence done to Amalasuentha, but had heard of it with the utmost

regret, and this although he had already rewarded the murderers with

signal tokens of his favour.

Thus, by the folly of the wise and the criminal audacity of the coward,

had a train been laid for the destruction of the Ostrogothic kingdom.

All the petty pretexts for war, the affair of Lilybaeum, the Hunnish

deserters, the sack of Gratiana, faded into insignificance before this

new and most righteous cause of quarrel. If Hilderic's deposition had

been avenged by the capture of Carthage, with far more justice might the

death of the noble Amalasuentha be avenged by the capture of Ravenna and

of Rome. In the great war which was soon to burst upon Italy Justinian

could figure not only as the protector of the provincials, not only as

the defender of the Catholics, but as the avenger of the blood of the

daughter of Theodoric.