After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, an interval of fifty years, until the memorable reign of Justinian, is faintly marked by the obscure names and imperfect annals of Zeno, Anastasius and Justin, who successively ascended the throne of Constantinople. During the same period Italy revived and flourished under the government of a Gothic king, who might have deserved a statue among the best and bravest of the ancient Romans.
Theodoric the Ostrogoth, the fourteenth in lineal descent of the royal line of the Amali, was born in the neighbourhood of Vienna two years after the death of Attila. Sent, at the age of eight (463), as a hostage to the court of Leo, emperor of the East, he was educated at Constantinople, and succeeded, after his father's death, to the vacant throne of his people. In the domestic troubles that disturbed the reign of Leo's successor, Zeno (474-491), Theodoric alternately served or cruelly oppressed the subjects of the emperor.
The murmurs of the Goths, who complained that they were exposed to intolerable hardships while their king was dissolved in the luxury of Greece, determined Theodoric to attempt an adventure worthy of his courage and ambition. He boldly demanded the privilege of rescuing Rome from Odoacer, and at the head of his people forced his way, between the years 488 and 489, through hostile country into Italy. In three battles he triumphed over Odoacer, forced that monarch to capitulate on favourable terms at Ravenna (493), and after pretending to allow him to share his sovereignty of Italy, assassinated him in the same year.
The long reign of Theodoric (493-526) was marked by a transient return of peace and prosperity to Italy. His domestic and foreign policy were dictated alike by wisdom and necessity. His people were settled on the land, which they held by military tenure. A series of matrimonial alliances secured him the support of the Franks, the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Thuringians, and his sword preserved his territory from the incursions of rival barbarians and the two disastrous attacks (505 and 508) that envy prompted the Emperor Anastasius to attempt.
Himself an Arian, Theodoric treated with tolerance and justice his Catholic subjects A Catholic rising against the Jews, which was immediately suppressed, and a mandate issued by the Emperor Justinian threatening the Arians by dread of punishment to come within the pale of the Church, drove Theodoric to the brink of persecution. Boetius, the last of the Romans whom Cato could have acknowledged for a countryman, and the virtuous Symmachus were sacrificed by a monarch who was driven from his position of tolerance by his subjects; and on August 30, 526, Theodoric expired in the palace of Ravenna, full of remorse and justly alarmed by the invisible terrors of futurity.
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