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The Ostrogoths

The Ostrogoths are the eastern division of the Goths that had split into western and eastern kingdoms. The Ostrogoth King Ermanarich created a huge kingdom that was attacked and soon overrun by the Huns from central Asia in about 370. They were then put into the army of the victors, and the Ostrogoths did not regain their freedom until 453, with the death of Attila. Until this time they had settled in Pannonia. From there they migrated into Italy.

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When they went into Italy they wanted to adopt Roman culture and to be accepted and equals with the Romans. They helped protect the civilized world against other barbarians. Although the Ostrogoths were a barbarian people, they fought against them. The Ostrogoths became Arian Christians, which caused conflict between them and orthodox Roman Catholics.

The most important Ostrogoth leader was Theodoric the Great, who reigned from AD 493 to 526. In 488 the Ostrogoths were commissioned by the Emperor Zeno to attack Odoacer, a German usuper, in Italy. Odoacer surrendered in 493 on the condition that he was allowed to retain his half of the kingdom but he was killed by Theodoric, who then became sole ruler of Italy. Under Theodoric the old Roman law, taxation, and administrative systems were continued unbroken. There was also a great deal of peace and prosperity. He attempted to secure good diplomatic relations with his German neighbors by offering his daughters and sons to their kings in marriage.

After Theodoric's reign, the Ostrogothic kingdom continued to exist until the middle of the sixth century, when it was overthrown by Emperor Justinian. Eighteen years of hard fighting and devastation of the countryside were needed before the last Ostrogothic army was destroyed. Then the Ostrogothic state and people disappeared from history.


Civilization Past & Present Volume I, Sixth Edition. (F. S. Crofts Company, New York. 1993).

Lerner, Robert E., Western Civilization Volume I, Ninth Edition. (N. W. Norton Company, Inc. 1941).

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