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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

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    Why Attila Invaded Gaul—The Battle of Chalons—Battle of the Netad—Theodoric the Ostrogoth—The Ostrogothic Dominion

    FOUR years after the Saxons set their feet on the soil of Britain the Ostrogoths established their independence [A. D. 453] in the Western Empire, where they remained as long as they were a nation.GEP 652.1

    2. It will be remembered that before the permanent separation of the Visigoths from their Eastern brethren, the whole Gothic nation, both Ostrogoths and Visigoths, was subject to the great Hermanric, whose dominions extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea; that the great body of the united nations dwelt in the country drained by the river Dnieper; and that in A. D. 375 the inundation of the Huns swept away the Alani, who dwelt between the Volga and the Don, and poured like a mighty flood upon the dominions of Hermanric. We have already traced the Visigoths from there to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; we now return to the Ostrogoths, of whom, at the attack of the Huns, it is said: “The Ostrogoths submitted to their fate; and the royal race of the Amali will hereafter be found among the subjects of the haughty Attila.”—Gibbon. 1[Page 652] Chap. 26, par. 12.GEP 652.2

    3. The power of the Huns steadily spread until the reign of Attila. (A. D. 423-453), whose dominions extended from the Black Sea and the Lower Danube to the Baltic, and from the Upper Danube to unknown limits in the steppes of Scythia, over “an empire which did not contain in the space of several thousand miles a single city.” The capital—“an accidental camp which, by the long and frequent residence of Attila, had insensibly swelled into a huge village”—seems to have been near, if not exactly at the spot, where now Tokay is situated in Hungary.GEP 652.3

    4. “In the proud review of the nations who acknowledged the sovereignty of Attila, and who never entertained during his lifetime the thought of a revolt, the Gepidae and the Ostrogoths were distinguished by their numbers, their bravery, and the personal merit of their chiefs. The renowned Ardaric, king of the Gepidae, was the faithful and sagacious counselor of the monarch, who esteemed his intrepid genius, whilst he loved the mild and discreet virtues of the noble Walamir, king of the Ostrogoths.GEP 653.1

    5. “The crowd of vulgar kings, the leaders of so many martial tribes, who served under the standard of Attila, were ranged in the submissive order of guards and domestics round the person of their master. They watched his nod; they trembled at his frown; and at the first signal of his will they executed, without murmur or hesitation, his stern and absolute commands. In time of peace, the dependent princes, with their national troops, attended the royal camp in regular succession; but when Attila collected his military force, he was able to bring into the field an army of five, or, according to another account, of seven, hundred thousand barbarians.” 2[Page 653] Chap. 34, par. 5.GEP 653.2

    6. In A. D. 451 Attila, with an immense army, made a raid into Gaul, and the Ostrogoths went with him; the way in which it was brought about was this: Theodoric was at that time king of the Visigoths, in their country in southwestern Gaul; his two daughters “were given in marriage to the eldest sons of the kings of the Suevi and of the Vandals, who reigned in Spain and Africa.” 3[Page 653] Chap. 35, par. 4. The one who married the son of the king of the Vandals, thus became the daughter-in-law of the terrible Genseric. “The cruel Genseric suspected that his son’s wife had conspired to poison him; the supposed crime was punished by the amputation of her nose and ears; and the unhappy daughter of Theodoric was ignominiously returned to the court of Toulouse in that deformed and mutilated condition. This horrid act, which must seem incredible to a civilized age, drew tears from every spectator; but Theodoric was urged, by the feelings of a parent and a king, to revenge such irreparable injuries. The imperial ministers, who always cherished the discord of the barbarians, would have supplied the Goths with arms and ships and treasures for the African war, and the cruelty of Genseric might have been fatal to himself, if the artful Vandal had not armed in his cause the formidable power of the Huns. His rich gifts and pressing solicitations inflamed the ambition of Attila; and the designs of AEtius and Theodoric were prevented by the invasion of Gaul.GEP 653.3

    7. “The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike summons of Attila. From the royal village, in the plains of Hungary, his standard moved [A. D. 451] toward the west; and after a march of seven or eight hundred miles he reached the conflux of the Rhine and the Neckar, where he was joined by the Franks who adhered to his ally, the elder of the sons of Clodion. A troop of light barbarians who roamed in quest of plunder, might choose the winter for the convenience of passing the river on the ice; but the innumerable cavalry of the Huns required such plenty of forage and provisions as could be procured only in a milder season; the Hercynian forest supplied materials for a bridge of boats; and the hostile myriads were poured, with resistless violence, into the Belgic provinces.... From the Rhine and the Moselle, Attila advanced into the heart of Gaul; crossed the Seine at Auxerre; and after a long and laborious march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans.”GEP 654.1

    8. Orleans was besieged, and was obstinately defended. But when the defenses had been overcome, and the troops of Attila were entering the city, the imperial army appeared in sight, under the leadership of AEtius the Roman, and Theodoric the Visigoth, who pressed forward to the relief of the city.GEP 654.2

    9. “On their approach, the king of the Huns immediately raised the siege, and sounded a retreat to recall the foremost of his troops from the pillage of a city which they had already entered. The valor of Attila was always guided by his prudence; and as he foresaw the fatal consequences of a defeat in the heart of Gaul, he repassed the Seine, and expected the enemy in the plains of Chalons whose smooth and level surface was adapted to the operations of his Scythian cavalry.... The nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were assembled on the plain of Chalons, but many of these nations had been divided by faction, or conquest, or emigration: and the appearance of similar arms and ensigns which threatened each other, presented the image of a civil war. 10. “Cassiodorus had familiarly conversed with many Gothic warriors who served in that memorable engagement,—‘a conflict,’ as they informed him, ‘fierce, various, obstinate, and bloody; such as could not be paralleled, either in the present or in past ages.’ The number of the slain amounted to a hundred and sixty-two thousand, or according to another account, three hundred thousand persons; and these incredible exaggerations suppose a real and effective loss sufficient to justify the historian’s remark that whole generations may be swept away, by the madness of kings, in the space of a single hour.GEP 654.3

    11. “The Huns were undoubtedly vanquished, since Attila was compelled to retreat.... It was determined in a general council of war, to besiege the king of the Huns in his camp, to intercept his provisions, and to reduce him to the alternative of a disgraceful treaty, or an unequal combat. But the impatience of the barbarians soon disdained these cautions and dilatory measures; and the mature policy of AEtius was apprehensive that after the extirpation of the Huns, the republic would be oppressed by the pride and power of the Gothic nation.”GEP 655.1

    12. As Theodoric had been killed in the battle, AEtius “exerted the superior ascendent of authority and reason, to calm the passions which the son of Theodoric considered as a duty; represented, with seeming affection and real truth, the dangers of absence and delay; and persuaded Torismond to disappoint, by his speedy return, the ambitious designs of his brothers, who might occupy the throne and treasures of Toulouse. After the departure of the Goths, and the separation of the allied army, Attila was surprised at the vast silence that reigned over the plains of Chalons; the suspicion of some hostile stratagem detained him several days within the circle of his wagons; and his retreat beyond the Rhine confessed the last victory which was achieved in the name of the Western Empire.” 4[Page 655] Chap. 35, pars. 4, 7, 9, 11.GEP 655.2

    13. Before the raid into Gaul, Attila had demanded the hand of the princess Honoria, the daughter of Placidia, and sister to Valentinian III; but his offer was rejected. The next year after the battle of Chalons he renewed his demand, and it being again rejected, he, A. D. 452, again took the field, passed the Alps, invaded Italy, ravaging the country as he went, took possession of the royal palace of Milan, and “declared his resolution of carrying his victorious arms to the gates of Rome.” Valentinian III had fled to Rome, and it was there decided by him, the Senate, and the people, to send a “solemn and suppliant embassy,” headed by Pope Leo the Great, to deprecate the wrath of Attila. “The barbarian monarch listened with favorable, and even respectful attention; and the deliverance of Italy was purchased by the immense ransom, or dowry, of the princess Honoria.GEP 656.1

    14. “Before the king of the Huns evacuated Italy, he threatened to return more dreadful and more implacable, if his bride, the princess Honoria, were not delivered to his ambassadors within the term stipulated by the treaty. Yet, in the meanwhile, Attila relieved his tender anxiety by adding a beautiful maid, whose name was Ildico, to the list of his innumerable wives. Their marriage was celebrated with barbaric pomp and festivity, at his wooden palace beyond the Danube; and the monarch, oppressed with wine and sleep, retired at a late hour from the banquet to the nuptial bed. His attendants continued to respect his pleasures, or his repose, the greatest part of the ensuing day, till the unusual silence alarmed their fears and suspicions; and after attempting to awaken Attila by loud and repeated cries, they at length broke into the royal apartment. They found the trembling bride sitting by the bedside, hiding her face with her veil, and lamenting her own danger as well as the death [A. D. 453] of the king, who had expired during the night. An artery had suddenly burst; and as Attila lay in a supine posture, he was suffocated by a torrent of blood, which, instead of finding a passage through the nostrils, regurgitated into the lungs and stomach.GEP 656.2

    15. “The revolution which subverted the empire of the Huns established the fame of Attila, whose genius alone had sustained the huge and disjointed fabric. After his death, the boldest chieftains aspired to the rank of kings; the most powerful kings refused to acknowledge a superior; and the numerous sons, whom so many various mothers bore to the deceased monarch, divided and disputed, like a private inheritance, the sovereign command of the nations of Germany and Scythia. The bold Ardaric felt and resented the disgrace of this servile partition; and his subjects, the warlike Gepidae, with the Ostrogoths, under the conduct of three valiant brothers, encouraged their allies to vindicate the rights of freedom and royalty. In a bloody and decisive conflict on the banks of the river Netad, in Pannonia, the lance of the Gepidae, the sword of the Goths, the arrows of the Huns, the Suevic infantry, the light arms of the Heruli, and the heavy weapons of the Alani, encountered or supported each other; and the victory of Ardaric was accompanied with the slaughter of thirty thousand of his enemies.” 5[Page 657] Chap. 35, pars. 15, 16.GEP 656.3

    16. “The battle was joined near the river Nedao, a stream in Pannonia, which modern geographers have not identified, but which was probably situated in that part of Hungary which is west of the Danube. There, says Jordanes, ‘did all the various nations whom Attila had kept under his dominion, meet and look one another in the face. Kingdoms and peoples are divided against one another, and out of one body divers limbs are made, no longer governed by one impulse, but animated by mutual rage, having lost their presiding head. Such were those most mighty nations which had never found their peers in the world if they had not been sundered the one from the other, and gashed one another with mutual wounds. I trow it was a marvelous sight to look upon. There should you have seen the Goth fighting with his pike, the Gepid raging with his sword, the Rugian breaking the darts of the enemy at the cost of his own wounds, the Sueve pressing on with nimble foot, the Hun covering his advance with a cloud of arrows, the Alan drawing up his heavy-armed troops, the Herul his lighter companies, in battle array.’GEP 657.1

    17. “We are not distinctly told what was the share of the Ostrogoths in this great encounter, and we may reasonably doubt whether all the German tribes were arranged on one side and all the Tartars on the other with such precision as a modern ethnologist would have used in an ideal battle of the nationalities. But the result is not doubtful. After many desperate charges, victory, which they scarcely hoped for, sat upon the standards of the Gepidae. Thirty thousand of the Huns and their confederates lay dead upon the field, among them Ellak, Attila’s first-born, ‘by such a glorious death that it would have done his father’s heart good to witness it.’ The rest of his nation fled away across the Dacian plains, and over the Carpathian Mountains to those wide steppes of southern Russia, in which at the commencement of our history we saw the three Gothic nations taking up their abode.”—Hodgkin. 6[Page 658] “Italy and Her Invaders,” book iii, chap 1, par. 3.GEP 657.2

    18. “Ellac, the eldest son of Attila, lost his life and crown in the memorable battle of Netad; his early valor had raised him to the throne of the Acatzires, a Scythian people, whom he subdued; and his father, who loved the superior merit, would have envied the death of Ellac. His brother Dengisich, with an army of Huns, still formidable in their flight and ruin, maintained his ground above fifteen years on the banks of the Danube. The palace of Attila, with the old country of Dacia, from the Carpathian Hills to the Euxine, became the seat of a new power, which was erected by Ardaric, king of the Gepidae. The Pannonia conquests from Vienna to Sirmium, were occupied by the Ostrogoths; and the settlements of the tribes, who had so bravely asserted their native freedom were irregularly distributed according to the measure of their respective strength.” 7[Page 658] Chap. 35, par. 16.GEP 658.1

    19. “When the Hunnish Empire broke in pieces on the death of Attila [A. D. 453], the East-Goths recovered their full independence. They now entered into relations with the empire, and settled on lands in Pannonia. During the greater part of the latter half of the fifth century, the East-Goths play in southeastern Europe nearly the same part which the West-Goths played [there] in the century before. They were seen going to and fro, in every conceivable relation of friendship and enmity with the Eastern Roman power, till, just as the West-Goths had done before them, they pass from the East to the West.” 8[Page 658] Encyclopedia Britannica, part. Goths, par. 14.GEP 658.2

    20. Theodoric was the great king of the Ostrogothic power. And the course of events from the establishment of their independence till his accession to the Ostrogothic throne, A. D. 475, is thus told: “Theodoric the Ostrogoth, the fourteenth in lineal descent of the royal line of the Amali, was born in the neighborhood of Vienna [A. D. 455] two years after the death of Attila. A recent victory had restored the independence of the Ostrogoths; and the three brothers, Walamir, Theodemir, and Widimir, who ruled that warlike nation with united counsels, had separately pitched their habitations in the fertile though desolate province of Pannonia. The Huns still threatened their revolted subjects, but their hasty attack was repelled by the single forces of Walamir, and the news of his victory reached the distant camp of his brother in the same auspicious moment that the favorite concubine of Theodemir was delivered of a son and heir. In the eighth year of his age, Theodoric was reluctantly yielded by his father to the public interest, as the pledge of the alliance which Leo, emperor of, the East, had consented to purchase by an annual subsidy of three hundred pounds of gold.GEP 659.1

    21. “The royal hostage was educated at Constantinople with care and tenderness. His body was formed to all the exercises of war, his mind was expanded by the habits of liberal conversation; he frequented the schools of the most skilful masters; but he disdained or neglected the arts of Greece; and so ignorant did he always remain of the first elements of science, that a rude mark was contrived to represent the signature of the illiterate king of Italy. The first four letters of his name were inscribed on a gold plate, and when it was fixed on the paper, the king drew his pen through the intervals. As soon as he had attained the age of eighteen, he was restored to the wishes of the Ostrogoths, whom the emperor aspired to gain by liberality and confidence.GEP 659.2

    22. “Walamir had fallen in battle; the youngest of the brothers, Widimir, had led away into Italy and Gaul an army of barbarians, and the whole nation acknowledged [A. D. 455-475] for their king the father of Theodoric. His ferocious subjects admired the strength and stature of their young prince; and he soon convinced them that he had not degenerated from the valor of his ancestors. At the head of six thousand volunteers, he secretly left the camp in quest of adventures, descended the Danube as far as Singidunum, or Belgrade, and soon returned to his father with the spoils of a Sarmatian king whom he had vanquished and slain.GEP 659.3

    23. “Such triumphs, however, were productive only of fame, and the invincible Ostrogoths were reduced to extreme distress by the want of clothing and food. They unanimously resolved to desert their Pannonian encampments, and boldly to advance into the warm and wealthy neighborhood of the Byzantine court, which already maintained in pride and luxury so many bands of confederate Goths. After proving by some acts of hostility that they could be dangerous, or at least troublesome, enemies, the Ostrogoths sold at a high price their reconciliation and fidelity, accepted a donative of lands and money, and were entrusted with the defense of the Lower Danube, under the command of Theodoric, who succeeded, after his father’s death [A. D. 475], to the hereditary throne of the Amali.” 9[Page 660] Chap. 39, par. 2, and note.GEP 660.1

    24. Although Gibbon says they “resolved to desert their Pannonian encampments,” it must not be understood that this is spoken of the whole nation, but rather the principal warriors; nor that these renounced either their claim or their possessions there; because the history that follows clearly shows that the Ostrogoths dwelt in Pannonia, and that their superior power was exercised and gratefully acknowledged over all that province during the whole fifty-one years (A. D. 475-526) of the reign of Theodoric.GEP 660.2

    25. This was so even after the seat of the kingdom had been removed to Italy, as it was, in A. D. 489. “He reduced under a strong and regular government, the unprofitable countries of Rhaeetia, Noricum, Dalmatia, and Pannonia, from the source of the Danube and the territory of the Bavarians, to the petty kingdom erected by the Gepidae on the ruins of Sirmium.... The Alemanni were protected, an inroad of the Burgundians was severely chastised, the conquest of Arles and Marseilles opened a free communication with the Visigoths, who revered him as their national protector, and as the guardian of his grandchild, the infant son of Alaric [II].”GEP 660.3

    26. “His domestic alliances—a wife, two daughters, a sister, and a niece—united the family of Theodoric with the kings of the Franks, the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Vandals, and the Thuringians, and contributed to maintain the harmony, or at least the balance, of the great republic of the West.... The Gothic sovereignty was established from Sicily to the Danube; from Sirmium, or Belgrade, to the Atlantic Ocean; and the Greeks themselves have acknowledged that Theodoric reigned over the fairest portion of the Western Empire.” 10[Page 661] Id., pars. 10, 11.GEP 661.1

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