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Ostrogoths (East Goths), division of the Goths, one of the most important groups of the Germans. According to their own unproved 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. They split into two divisions, their names reflecting the areas in which they settled; the Ostrogoths settled in Ukraine, while the Visigoths, or West Goths, moved further west of them. By c.375 the Huns conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom ruled by Ermanaric, which extended from the Dniester River, north and east to the headwaters of the Volga River. The Ostrogoths were subject to the Huns until the death (453) of Attila, when they settled in Pannonia (roughly modern Hungary) as allies of the Byzantine (East Roman) empire. The Ostrogoths, who had long elected their rulers, chose (471) Theodoric the Great as king. A turbulent ally, the Byzantine emperor, Zeno, commissioned Theodoric to reconquer Italy from Odoacer. The Ostrogoths entered Italy in 488, defeated and slew (493) Odoacer, and set up the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy, with Ravenna as their capital. After Theodoric's death (526) his daughter Amalasuntha was regent for her son Athalric. She placed herself under the protection of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Her murder (535) served as pretext for Justinian to send Belisarius to reconquer Italy. He crushed the Ostrogothic kingdom, but on his recall (541) the Ostrogoths rebelled under the leadership of Totila. In 552 the Byzantine general Narses defeated Totila, who fell in battle. As a result, the Ostrogoths lost their national identity, and the hegemony over Italy passed to Byzantium and shortly afterward to the Lombards. Under the Ostrogothic kings, the culture of late antiquity was revived by Boethius and Cassiodorus; Dionysius Exiguus compiled church law; and Saint Benedict laid the basis of Western monasticism. Roman law and institutions were for the most part maintained; however, the Ostrogoths were resented as aliens by the Italians, from whom they differed not only in culture but also in religion, since they were Arians.


See T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. I–III (2d ed. 1892–96, repr. 1967); T. S. Burns A History of the Ostrogoths (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(East Goths), a Germanic tribe, the eastern branch of the Goths. In the third century they settled in the steppes of the northern Black Sea region, and partly in the Crimea (Crimean Ostrogoths). In the second half of the fourth century they formed a tribal confederation headed by Ermanaric, which included other Germanic tribes, as well as Scythian-Sarmatian and Slavic tribes. In 375 the confederation was defeated by the Huns, and most of the Ostrogoths migrated westward and settled in Pannonia. Under Theodoric the Ostrogoths moved on to Italy in 488, defeating the forces of Odovacar and forming their own kingdom in 493 with Ravenna as its capital. At its height the kingdom included Italy, Sicily, the Cisalpine regions, Dalmatia, and Provence. Most of the Ostrogoths settled in northern and eastern Italy.

The vestiges of Roman social, governmental, and legal institutions exerted a strong influence on the social system of the Ostrogoths, who had reached the stage of disintegration of the clan system at the time of their conquest of Italy. Some of the Ostrogoth elite merged with the Roman-Italic aristocracy. The policies of Theodoric (ruled 493–526), strongly opposed by some Ostrogoths and Italo-Romans, represented an attempt to reach a compromise between the Ostrogoth and Roman-Italic elites. The murder of Amalasuntha, Theodoric’s daughter (ruled 526–534), who had favored an alliance with the Roman aristocracy, served as a pretext for the invasion of Italy by the army of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor Justinian I in 535. The Ostrogoths were defeated in the early stage of the war by the Byzantine general Belisarius. The next Ostrogoth king, Totila (ruled 541–552), united all the enemies of the Eastern Roman Empire, including slaves and coloni (bondmen), whom he accepted into his army and emancipated, and won a series of brilliant victories over the Byzantine forces. In 552, however, the Ostrogoths were defeated by the Byzantine general Narses at Tagina. By 554 most of the Ostrogoth kingdom was conquered by Byzantium and ceased to exist.


Udal’tsova, Z. V. Italiia i Vizantiia v VI veke. Moscow, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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