Theodoric the Great

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Theodoric the Great,

c.454–526, king of the OstrogothsOstrogoths
(East Goths), division of the Goths, one of the most important groups of the Germans. According to their own unproven tradition, the ancestors of the Goths were the Gotar of S Sweden. By the 3d cent. A.D., the Goths settled in the region N of the Black Sea.
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 and conqueror of Italy, b. Pannonia. He spent part of his youth as a hostage in Constantinople. Elected king in 471 after his father's death, he became involved in intrigues in which he was by turns the ally and the enemy of Byzantine emperor ZenoZeno
, d. 491, Roman emperor of the East (474–491). An Isaurian, he succeeded his son Leo II and was the son-in-law of Leo I. During his reign he suppressed several revolts. He was driven from his throne for a period of 20 months (475–76) by the usurper Basiliscus.
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. In 483 he was appointed imperial master of soldiers and in 484 was consul. It was probably to be rid of him that Zeno commissioned him to lead a campaign against OdoacerOdoacer
or Odovacar
, c.435–493, chieftain of the Heruli, the Sciri, and the Rugii (see Germans). He and his troops were mercenaries in the service of Rome, but in 476 the Heruli revolted and proclaimed Odoacer their king.
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 in Italy. Theodoric with his Gothic army entered Italy in 488. He won battles at the Isonzo (489), at Milan (489), and at the Adda (490); he besieged and took Ravenna (493). Shortly after Odoacer's surrender Theodoric murdered him. Theodoric was now master in Italy; because of his great power he was able to avoid Byzantine supervision and thus was more than a mere official. His title was that of patrician. His long rule in Italy was most beneficent; he respected Roman institutions, preserved Roman laws, and appointed Romans to civil offices, at the same time retaining a Gothic army and settling Goths on the land. He improved the harbors and repaired the roads and public buildings. He allied himself by marriage with Clovis the Frank (Clovis I) and with the kings of the Visigoths, Vandals, and Burgundians. However, Clovis's ambition to rule all the Goths brought Theodoric into intermittent warfare with the Franks; between 506 and 523 Theodoric was several times successful in forestalling Frankish hegemony. An Arian, Theodoric was impartial in religious matters. The end of his reign was clouded by a quarrel with his Roman subjects and Pope John I over the edicts of Emperor Justin I against Arianism, and also by the hasty execution of the Roman statesman BoethiusBoethius
, Boetius
, or Boece
(Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius), c.475–525, Roman philosopher and statesman. An honored figure in the public life of Rome, where he was consul in 510, he became the able minister of the Emperor Theodoric.
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, whom he accused of treason. Theodoric is the prototype for Dietrich von Bern in the German epic poem Nibelungenlied. His tomb is one of the finest monuments of Ravenna. He was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric, under the regency of Theodoric's daughter Amalasuntha.

Bibliography

See T. Hodgkin, Theodoric the Goth (1891, repr. 1977); T. S. Burns, A History of the Ostrogoths (1984).

Theodoric the Great

 

(also Theodoricus, Theoderich). Born circa 454 in Pannonia; died Aug. 26, 526, in Ravenna.

Theodoric became king of the Ostrogoths in 493 and founded the Ostrogothic state in Italy. Having invaded Italy in 488, Theodoric seized power after he overthrew and assassinated Odoacer. He expressed the interests of the feudalized Ostrogothic aristocracy, which drew closer to the Roman aristocracy, and retained Roman institutions in his rule and legislation. The strengthening of central authority under Theodoric promoted the development of land cultivation, commerce, learning, and art.