Last Coin-------------------Next Coin

Ruler: Ostrogoths: Theoderic
Reigned: (Italy) 493 - 536 A.D.
Denomination: AE 10 Nummi
Mint: Rome c. 493-518
Obverse: Turreted bust of Ravenna right.
Reverse: Monogram within wreath.
Reference: COI 78; MEC 1, 145
Weight: 2.73 gms
Diameter: 18.9 mm

Theoderic the Great

Theoderic the Great (454 - August 30, 526), was king of the Germanic Ostrogoths (475-526), ruler of Italy (493-526), regent of the Visigoths (511-526), and a patricius of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Theoderic was born in 454 AD, near Carnuntum. This was just a year after the Ostrogoths had thrown off nearly a century of domination by the Huns. The son of the King Theodemir, Theoderic went to Constantinople as a young boy, as a hostage to secure the Ostrogoths' compliance with a treaty Theodemir had concluded with the Byzantine Emperor Leo I.

Living as a hostage at the court of Constantinople, he learned a great deal about Roman government and military tactics, which served him well in later years. He was treated with favour by the Emperors Leo I and Zeno and he became magister militum (Master of Soldiers) in 483, and one year later he became consul. Afterwards, he returned to live among the Ostrogoths when he was 31 years old and became their king in 488.

At the time, the Ostrogoths were settled in Byzantine territory as foederati (allies) of the Romans, but were becoming restless, creating problems for Zeno. The emperor was also having problems with Odoacer, the King of Italy who had come to power in 476. Although theoretically a viceroy for Zeno, Odoacer was menacing Byzantine territory and not respecting the rights of Roman citizens in Italy. At Zeno's encouragement, Theoderic invaded Odoacer's kingdom.

Theoderic came with his army to Italy in 488, where he won the battles of Isonzo and Verona in 489 and at the Adda in 490. In 493 he took Ravenna. On February 2, 493, Theoderic and Odoacer signed a treaty that would allow both parties to rule over Italy. A banquet was organised in order to celebrate this treaty. At this banquet Theoderic, after making a toast, killed Odoacer with his own hands.

Like Odoacer, Theoderic was ostensibly only a viceroy for the emperor in Constantinople. In reality, he was able to avoid imperial supervision, and dealings between the emperor and Theoderic were as equals. Unlike Odoacer, however, Theoderic respected the agreement he had made and allowed Roman citizens within his kingdom to be subject to Roman law and the Roman judicial system. The Goths, meanwhile, lived under their own laws and customs. In 519, when a mob had burned down the synagogues of Ravenna, Theoderic ordered the town to rebuild them at its own expense.

Theoderic sought alliances with the other Germanic kingdoms in the west. He allied with the Franks by his marriage to Audofleda, sister of Clovis I, and married his own female relatives to princes or kings of the Visigoths, Vandals and Burgundians. He stopped the Vandals from raiding his territories. For much of his reign, Theoderic was the de facto king of the Visigoths, becoming regent for the infant Visigothic king, his grandson Amalaric, following the defeat of Alaric II by the Franks under Clovis in 507. The Franks were able to wrest control of Aquitaine from the Visigoths, but otherwise Theoderic was able to defeat their incursions.

Theoderic was planning an expedition to restore his power over the Vandal kingdom when he died in 526. Theoderic was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric. Athalaric was at first represented by his mother Amalasuntha, who was a regent queen from 526 until 534. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths, however, began to wane and was conquered by Justinian I starting after the rebellion of 535 and finally ending in 553 with the Battle of Mons Lactarius.

Back to main page