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One of the two chief tribes of the Goths, a Germanic people. Their traditions relate that the Goths originally lived on both sides of the Baltic Sea, in Scandinavia and on the Continent. Their oldest habitations recorded in history were situated on the right bank of the Vistula. They left these, all or in part, about the middle of the second century, and settled near the Black Sea, between the Don and Danube. Thence they emerged frequently to attack and pillage the cities of Greece and Asia Minor, and fought continuously with the Romans and the neighbouring Germanic tribes. The emperor Decius fell in battle with them in 251. Crossing the Danube into Thracia in 269 they were defeated by Claudius; Aurelian drove them back across the Danube and gave them Dacia. We now find the Ostrogoths east of the River Dniester, and the Visigoths to the west. During the reign of Constantine they again attempted to cross the Danube but were repulsed. During the years 350-75 the Goths were united under the leadership of Ermanaric, the Ostrogoth. In 375 they were conquered by the Huns. Some escaped into the Crimea, where they retained their language up to the sixteenth century; the mass of the people, however, remained in their own lands and paid tribute to the Huns; but were otherwise fairly independent and elected their own kings. When the empire of the Huns collapsed after the death of Attila (453), the Ostrogoths regained independence. Their old lands between Don and Danube, however, they had to surrender to the Huns, while they obtained Pannonia from the Romans. Theodoric, the Amaling, who was their king from 474 or 475, fought with the Byzantine emperor Zeno at various times, although he obtained peaceful relations during most of his reign. He endeavoured to secure permanent domiciles for his people. In 488 he started for Italy, aided and abetted by Zeno. Theodoric defeated Odoacer, who reigned as king in Italy, and founded in 493 the great Ostrogothic Empire, which included Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia, Upper Rhaetia, and later on Provence, with the capital Ravenna, and which stood under Byzantine suzerainty. Theodoric dreamed of an amalgamation of the Teutons and the Romans, of a Germanic state, in which the Ostrogoths were to dominate. He succeeded in establishing law and order in his lands; Roman art and literature flourished. He was tolerant towards the Catholic Church and did not interfere in dogmatic matters. He remained as neutral as possible towards the pope, though he exercised a preponderant influence in the affairs of the papacy. He and his people were Arians and Theodoric considered himself as protector and chief representative of the sect. His successor did not possess the necessary vigour and ability to continue this work. His daughter Amalasvintha succeeded him in 526, first as regent for her son Athalaric, and after the latter's death, in 534, as queen. She was assassinated by her cousin Theodahad, the rightful heir to the throne. The Byzantine emperor Justinian now made himself her avenger and declared war upon the Ostrogoths. His general Belisarius captured Naples in 536. In place of the incompetent Theodahad the Goths chose Witiches as king, but he also proved to be an incapable general. Belisarius succeeded in entering Ravenna in 539 and in taking Witiches prisoner. After his recall in 540, the Goths reconquered Italy under their new king Totila. In 544 Belisarius appeared once more and the war was continued with varying success. In 551 Narses became commander-in-chief in place of Belisarius, and in the following year he defeated Totila at Taginae in the Apennines. Totila was killed in the battle. The survivors of the Ostrogoths chose Teja as their king, but were practically annihilated in the battle near Mount Vesuvius in 553, after a desperate struggle in which Teja was killed. Their last fortress fell in 555, after which the Ostrogoths disappear. The few survivors mingled with other peoples and nations; some were romanized in Italy, and others wandered north where they disappeared among the various Germanic tribes. Italy became a Byzantine province.
BRADLEY, The Goths (London, 1898); DAHN, Die Könige der Germanen, II-IV (Würzburg, 1861-66); MANSO, Geschichte des ostgotischen Reichs in Italien (Breslau, 1824); HODGKIN, Italy and her invaders, III, IV (London, 1885); HARTMANN, Das italienische Königreich (Gotha, 1897); WIETERSHEIM, Geschichte der Völkerwanderung, I, II (Leipzig, 1880, 81).