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Theodahad: A Platonic King at the Collapse of Ostrogothic Italy

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Educated in Platonic philosophy rather than the military arts, the Ostrogothic king Theodahad was never meant to rule. His unexpected nomination as co-regent by his cousin Queen Amalasuintha plunged him into the intrigues of the Gothic court, and Theodahad soon conspired to assassinate the queen. But, once alone on the throne, his lack of political experience and military skill made him ineffective at best and dangerously incompetent at worst. Defeated by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Theodahad was killed by his own subjects.

    InTheodahad, Massimiliano Vitiello rigorously investigates the ancient sources in order to reconstruct the events of Theodahad's life and the contours of sixth-century diplomacy and political intrigues. Painting a picture of an unlikely king whose reign helped spell the end of Ostrogothic Italy, Vitiello's book not only illuminates Theodahad's own life but also offers new insight into the sixth-century Mediterranean world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6932-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    An author like Suetonius or like Plutarch, like Eusebius of Caesarea or the imaginative biographer of theHistoria Augustawould provide a scholar with the ideal material for writing a biography. But unlike the case of many kings and emperors, tradition has not handed down aLife of Theodahadand it is most likely that none was ever written. While modern historians, scholars, and even writers of novels have created fascinating biographies, both scientific and narrative, of figures like Justinian, Theodora, and Belisarius – those characters that Procopius in theSecret Historymade so unforgettable – and of course of Theoderic, and...

  6. Chapter One Theodahad the Man
    (pp. 14-40)

    Procopius’s position towards Theodahad in theGothic Waris usually critical. The only exception is represented by the letter that the king sent to Justinian by means of the legate Peter for the purpose of putting an end to the hostilities. According to the historian of Caesarea, this occurred when Theodahad, having learned that Belisarius had completed the conquest of Sicily, decided to negotiate with the emperor for the surrender of his kingdom.¹ This letter, which serves as the frame for the following chapter, contains all the elements that Procopius knew of Theodahad’s personality. The historian concisely references all the...

  7. Chapter Two Theodahad the Noble
    (pp. 41-58)

    As we have seen, it is reasonable to believe that Theodahad was born in the home of his uncle, and that he spent part of his youth in Ravenna, where he possibly stayed after his mother remarried, and which he had left by 510–11.¹ It was probably in the kingdom’s capital, in that imperial palace which Theoderic contributed to embellish and which is majestically represented in the mosaic of the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, that Theodahad was raised and also educated by Roman masters, receiving instruction in letters and in philosophy of which he would later boast.

    The influence...

  8. Chapter Three Theodahad the Co-Regent
    (pp. 59-93)

    The close comparison of Procopius’s narration, Cassiodorus’s letters and some other evidence has enabled us to sketch a profile of Theodahad, his education and some stages of his life as a young nobleman. Theodahad’s portrait as it has so far emerged finds strong support in his acts of government, beginning with the period of the co-regency, to which the following chapter is dedicated. This time our guide is mainly Cassiodorus, while Procopius’s account serves to balance our understanding of the events.

    The years that followed Theoderic’s death are among the most difficult to reconstruct.¹ We learn from Cassiodorus’s letters that...

  9. Chapter Four Theodahad the King
    (pp. 94-155)

    The historical framework of Theodahad’s reign after Amalasuintha’s deposition, to which the following chapter is dedicated, is mainly provided by Procopius of Caesarea, who offers in the initial pages of theGothic Wara detailed account of the causes that led to the conflict of Justinian with the Gothic kingdom.¹ The elements of his narration find in some points corroboration in the more concise evidence of Jordanes and of some chronicles. However, the most complex testimony is represented by Cassiodorus’s letters, which shed light on some particular events and complete, clarify, redefine, and sometimes even amend the generally valid information...

  10. Chapter Five Theodahad, the End
    (pp. 156-173)

    The conflict with Justinian had been raging for over a year now and Theodahad revealed himself to be anything but a strong ruler. With regard to domestic policy, he had tried to cope with the famine that afflicted the regions of the north, and to alleviate the citizens of the south from the tax pressure deriving from the costs of defence. However, in military matters he had relied entirely on his commanders for the defence of Sicily, for the operations in Dalmatia, and then in southern Italy. The king himself had remained comfortably in his palaces in Ravenna and then...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 174-178)

    In this work, we have tried to reconstruct the shadowy figure of Theodahad, to sketch his biography. In order to achieve these goals, we have relied especially upon Procopius and Cassiodorus, who provide most of the information that we know of this king. It is the comparative analysis of the sources that suggest the characteristics of Theodahad’s profile that we have outlined (chap. 1). We have therefore analysed fragments of his life during and after Theoderic’s reign (chap. 2), after the death of Athalaric (chap. 3), and after the murder of Amalasuintha (chap. 4), to conclude with his tragic end...

  12. Appendix 1: Cassiodorus’s Travels between Ravenna and Rome
    (pp. 180-184)
  13. Appendix 2: “A Roman of note among the Goths”
    (pp. 185-187)
  14. Appendix 3: The Embassies of Variae X 19–24 and XI 13: The “status quaestionis”
    (pp. 188-192)
  15. Genealogical Table
    (pp. 193-194)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 195-304)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-322)
  18. Index of Place Names
    (pp. 323-326)
  19. Index of People
    (pp. 327-333)