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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapGoths (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

The East Germanic Goths were one of the first of the Germanic tribes to form a recognised kingdom, although little contemporary information exists to describe either it or their migrations other than brief mentions by Roman writers. According to their own traditions, the Goths originated in a land called Scandza, identified as southern Scandinavia (modern Sweden). Population pressure caused them to move en masse towards the southern shore of the Baltic Sea in the first century AD, to a land which they named 'Gothiscandza' (the same circumstances repeated themselves in the fifth century with the Danish migration). There is some general archaeological evidence to support the traditional Gothic origin story, but the best source of written information on the early Goths is the sixth century Byzantine historian, Jordanes. His work is thought to be unreliable to an extent and must be viewed with care, but the core story of the Goths' origins is generally accepted. Once out of Scandinavia and on the Baltic coastline of northern Germany and Poland, they appear to have settled between the Oder and Vistula, before beginning a slow, steady drift into Ukraine, or Scythia as it was known to the ancients.

FeatureJordanes stated that, according to Dio, the Goths were ever wiser than other barbarians and were nearly like the Greeks (although this would have been after their settling on the Black Sea coast). It is possible that this statement is the exact truth, as the name of the tribe has a common origin with the name of a god - Wotan or Wodan - and with the word 'god' itself. The original Indo-European root of all three means magic, incantation, or magician, depending on modifiers. Only a few names are known for the early kings, although even these are thought by many scholars to be later inventions by Jordanes. Mierow supplies dates for some of them although these do not seem to be repeated elsewhere. Apparently, those of noble birth amongst the Goths, from whom their kings and priests were appointed, were first known as Tarabostesei and then as Pilleati. The word 'tarabostesei' with its suffixes removed leaves 'tarabost'. The first part, 'tara' can have several meanings, including 'bull' or 'fast'; but more telling is the second half, 'bost'. It means 'hand' or 'fist'. The language is Celtic, so it is not a Gothic title or else it would be in their East German dialect. Pilleati is also not in East German - it appears to be Latin. If Goths had a tradition of honouring knowledge, their adoption of learning from other cultures would also have resulted in many words being adopted into the Gothic language.

The Goths were constantly attended by a subject tribe, the Heruli (who later emerged in Italy as part of the Gothic kingdom of Rome), and to an extent by the Scirii also. In their earliest stages, in Scandinavia, the Goths have been identified by some as the Geats of Beowulf, but this seems to rely solely on incorrect dating for the events of the poem. Given that the Goths seem to have exhibited external influences, Edward Dawson considers there to be a distinct possibility that the Goth name emerged as a result of Gaulish (Celtic) influence on a tribal name which derived from Woden/Wodan (the god rather than the Anglian king, not necessarily one and the same thing). The use of Godan instead of Wodan by the Langobard tribe is very tantalising, given the known tendency of Gaulish to convert a 'w' into a 'gw' or 'gu' sound. It appears that Wodan (Odin), Goth, and God are cognates.

FeatureNot all Goths migrated into Continental Europe. Some elements clearly remained behind, or at least were influential enough to leave their name behind. Both Old Norse and Old English records clearly separate the Geats from the Goths, but they are still depicted as being closely related to each other, and perhaps may have shared a common origin. The Swedish counties of Västergötland and Östergötland remember the Geats and Goths, while the Norse kingdom of Vingulmark is highly unlikely to be related to the Vinguligoth of Jordanes. This group have also been linked to the first century Reudigni of Tacitus.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes (Dodo Press - and C C Mierow supplies a different translation from this version alongside some dates for early kings), from the Complete Works of Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa Cerrato, from De situ orbis libri III, Pomponius Mela, from On the Ocean, Pytheas of Massalia (work lost, but frequently quoted by other ancient authors), from Geography, Ptolemy, and from External Links: Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and GEN-MEDIEVAL Archives (Rootsweb Ancestry.com - dead link), and The Herulli/Herulf possibly the ancestors of the Icelanders (Christogenea Christian Identity Forum).)

c.325 BC

FeatureAs reported much later by Pliny the Elder, around this time Pytheas of Massalia undertakes a voyage of exploration to north-western Europe, becoming the first scholar to note details about the Celtic and Germanic tribes there. One of the tribes he records is the Guttonibus of Thule (nominative Guttones) - in other words the Goths. Thule is generally thought of today as being Norway, but has also been attributed to locations between Greenland and Saaremaa (modern Estonia), so a general designation of Scandinavia is preferred here. Whatever their exact location, the fact that the Goths have been noted at all shows that they are a very old tribe - one of the earliest German tribes to be noted in history.

Ptolemy's map of Britain
The details recorded by Pytheas were interpreted by Ptolemy in the second century AD, and this 1490 Italian reconstruction of the section covering the British Isles and northern Gaul shows Ptolemy's characteristically lopsided Scotland at the top

120 - 114 BC

A large-scale incursion of the sea into Jutland in this period is known as the Cimbrian Flood. It permanently alters the shape of the coastline and drastically affects the way people live in the region. It is probably this event which affects the semi-Germanic Teutones in the centre of the peninsula (modern Denmark) and their northern neighbours, the Cimbri, enough to force them into a southwards migration. It may also be this event which begins a population shift in southern Sweden which itself eventually triggers the migration of the Goths into Central Europe.

c.100 - 10 BC

The migration of Goths from Sweden to the southern shores of the Baltic seems to start in this period. In 10 BC the Cotini are first mentioned in history, in the Elogium of Tusculum, an inscription found in the town of that name to the south of Rome. By the very existence of its Germanic name which has the same roots as that of the Goths, that tribe would appear to gain a Germanic warrior elite which would most likely be Gothic in origin.

The Roman historians, Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder, name the Baltic Sea the 'Codanus Sinus' (Codan waterway), which is the deity form 'Godan' of which Wotan is a cognate, and the tribal name 'Goth' is also a cognate. Perhaps surprisingly therefore, 'Codanus' equates either to 'Wotan' or 'Goth'. Are the Goths so regionally dominant in this period that even the Baltic Sea should bear their name? (See the feature link in the introduction for a more detailed exploration of Wotan as Odin.)

AD 23

The first historical mention of the Lugii is by Strabo, who seems to place them as members of a tribal federation which includes the Butones (a questionable name, perhaps a misspelling of Gutones - the Cotini again), Mugilones, Semnones, Sibini and Zumi.

c.50 - 150

Traditionally, and also according to the sixth century Byzantine historian, Jordanes, King Berig leads three shiploads of his people from their homeland in southern Sweden to the Pomeranian region of Willenberg culture Poland. There, his Goths defeat the Rugii (Ulmerugi), driving them off and occupying their lands (the Rugii themselves have only just arrived, migrating probably from Norway). Then the Goths subdue the neighbouring Vandali.

River Vistula
The mouth of the Vistula in the first century AD was an ideal route for settlement for groups coming south from the Baltic Sea, such as the Belgae, but also for groups which were migrating out of the river, such as the Armorica Veneti

The generally peaceful arrival of the Gothic people on the southern Baltic shores in the first and second centuries AD (once they have cleared some land for their own use and made sure that the neighbours are cooperative) has a great impact on the population of Baltic peoples there, resulting in them shifting towards eastern Lithuania.

In all probability, due to the ethnic affinity of these peoples, Germanics and Balts, peaceful relations are established. The appearance of various new groups of pottery testifies to the further merging of these ethnic groupings. The Scandinavian Germanic Willenberg culture which follows the line of the Vistula south from Pomerania replaces the native Oksywie culture and is the earliest archaeological evidence for the Goths. To their north are the Gepids, with the Venedi to the east, the Burgundiones and Lugii to the south, and the Suevi and the displaced Rugii to the west.

fl c.50?


Leader of the Goths who left Scandinavia.

A translation of the name of this earliest-known (and legendary, as his existence outside tradition cannot be confirmed) Goth king looks like 'King Bee'. 'Bee' would be in the form of Beon, shortened to 'ber', plus the 'rig' suffix which is the Celtic 'rix', meaning king. It's clearly a Celtic name because the 'rix' is a suffix instead of a prefix. The use of 'Bee' as a Germanic name has support in the later Beowulf of the Geats.

A Celtic influence here may seem surprising as they are not mentioned historically, but their presence can be felt along the Vistula in the form of the Venedi, 'Eastern Celts' who may even predate the appearance of Celtic culture as Indo-European migrants of the Yamnaya Horizon.


Name unknown. Ruled the Goths in Gothiscandza.


Name unknown. Ruled the Goths in Gothiscandza.


Name unknown. Ruled the Goths in Gothiscandza.

Gadaric? / Gadareiks

Name uncertain. Ruled the Goths in Gothiscandza.


Son. Fifth generation king since the settlement.

c.150 - 200

Far from remaining settled where they are in Willenberg Poland, the Goths gradually renew their migration, now shifting slowly southwards from the Oder and Vistula, heading on a path that will eventually take them into Ukraine and the northern Black Sea coastline, an area known to the ancients as Scythia. Jordanes states that Filimer leads their first migration, taking them to Lake Maeotis (the modern Sea of Azov, at the north-eastern corner of the Black Sea). Then a second migration takes them westwards along the northern Black Sea coast into Moesia (on the southern bank of the Danube), Thrace (to the south of Moesia), and Dacia (north of the Danube). A third migration takes them back into Scythia.

The initial migration could be caused by pressure from the Baltic tribes, early segments of the later Old Prussians and Lithuanians who are expanding back into territory they had lost to the Germanic tribes in the first century AD. The later bouncing around between Lake Maeotis and the Danube is less easy to explain, unless the Scythians who dwell close by Maeotis manage to expel them. Then they are pushed back from the west (possibly by the Romans in their Danubian campaigns in this century), before they finally decide to take control of the northern Black Sea coast.

FeatureThree kings of the Goths during this period remain unnamed in any contemporary record while they appear to draw the neighbouring Gepids and Rugii in their wake, along with the Scirii, who enter Galicia in this period. They soon also dominate the Scythians on their eastern flank but are culturally influenced by them nonetheless (see feature link).

Ukrainian steppe
Migrating to the open steppeland of Ukraine (Scythia to the ancients, this photo being of Askania-Nova, immediately to the north of Crimea) also marked a return by the Goths to their Indo-European homeland of at least two thousand years previously, although they wouldn't have known anything about that


Name uncertain, and timeline for rulers now highly uncertain.


Possibly confused with the sixth century Byzantine general.

c.200 - 225

Gepid and Goth migration is still apparently taking them across areas of central Willenberg Poland, including Galicia and Silesia. Archaeology shows that the Willenberg culture transfers south during this century which, having been associated with Germanic groups anyway, serves as evidence of the Goth migration. This merges with the indigenous Zarubintsy culture in Ukraine to form the Chernyakhiv culture. The main body of Goths remains around the Lake Maeotis region at the north-eastern corner of the Black Sea coast, but it seems that there is a good deal of straggling, or a process of migratory jumps and rests along the way by one or more other Goth groups.


Possibly confused with Burebista of the Getae.

c.225 - 250

During this period the main body of Goths begin to migrate south-westwards (the 'second migration' of Jordanes), entering Moldavia and western Ukraine. Defeating the Spali, they form a loose hegemony over the tribes of the region, almost certainly including the Bastarnae. The sixth century Eastern Roman historian, Jordanes, calls this new realm Oium, or Aujum.

c.218 - 249


Dates provided by Mierow.

c.251 - 283


Son. Dates provided by Mierow.


One of the earliest-known raids on Roman territory is when the Goths attack and sack Histria, a former Greek colony on the Black Sea coast near the mouth of the Danube which had been established by the Milesians in order that they could trade with the Getae of Thrace. The empire itself is preoccupied with usurpation in Africa and conflict between the Senate and Emperor Maximinus Thrax.

249 - 250

The Goths attack Marcianopolis (known as Parthenopolis until it had been renamed by Emperor Trajan after AD 106, and now known as Devnya in modern Bulgaria) and, under Kniva's leadership, sack several Balkan cities in the following year. Marcianopolis' prosperity is ended by the attack and it remains vulnerable to further barbarian attack thereafter.

fl 250 - 251

Kniva / Cniva

Brother. Chieftain. Led the 'Second Invasion' across the Danube.


Kniva - claimed as a brother of Ovida and a chieftain, not the ruling king of the Goths - leads his war party across the Danube to raid districts of Moesia and Thrace - the first occasion in which the Goths appear in any detail in the historical record. The Taifali form part of his fighting force.

Kniva is surprised by Roman Emperor Decius while besieging Nicopolis on the Danube. The Goths flee through the Balkans, but double back and surprise the Romans near Beroë (modern Stara Zagora). Then they attack Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv in Bulgaria), which falls into their hands. Its commander, Titus Julius Priscus, declares himself emperor under Gothic protection.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus Goth depiction
The Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus depicts a Roman victory over Goths around AD 250, but victory in the many Roman-Goth conflicts of this period was just as likely to go the other way

The siege has so exhausted the numbers and resources of this vast Goth war party that it offers to surrender its booty and prisoners on condition of being allowed to retire unmolested. But Emperor Decius refuses to entertain such proposals and engages the Goths at the Battle of Abrittus. Decius' army is annihilated and the emperor is slain.

The Goths are eventually defeated by Aemilianus, Roman governor of Moesia Superior and Pannonia, but are allowed (and even helped) to leave the empire. This should probably signal the start of the 'third migration' of the Goths in which they settle more permanently along the northern Black Sea coast.

267/268 - 269

The Peucini Bastarnae are specifically mentioned in the invasion across the Roman frontier. Part of the barbarian coalition which includes Goths and Heruli, they use their knowledge of boat building from several centuries of living on the Black Sea coast and in the Danube estuary to help build a fleet in the estuary of the River Tyras (now the Dniester). The force of which they are part sails along the coast to Tomis in Moesia Inferior. They attack the town but are unable to take it. Sailing on, they are frustrated twice more, at Marcianopolis and Thessalonica in Macedonia. Athens is also attacked, captured, and plundered by the Heruli (in 267-268). Finally, they move into Thrace where they are crushed by Emperor Claudius II at Naissus in 269.

fl c.268 - 271


Chief or king? Killed by Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275).


The status of Cannabaudes is uncertain. He is claimed as the king of the Goths, but his dates clash with those of Ovida given above (and supplied by Mierow). Possibly he is only a regional chieftain instead, but possibly also the Goths are already beginning to fracture and divide, and there is no one king over all their number. If Cannabaudes can be equated with one Cannibas then this chief is another son of Ovida along with Respa, Ilderic, and Veduc, all of whom play important roles in subsequent events.

The death of Cannabaudes precipitates a major shift in the balance of power in Eastern Europe (suggesting that he really is more powerful than a mere regional chieftain). According to Jordanes the Goths, now in their third dwelling place along the northern Black Sea coast, have become more civilised and more learned (an effect of interaction with the various Greek colonies around the Black Sea coast).

The people have become divided under ruling families, with the western Goths on the western side of the Dniester becoming known as the Tervingi Goths. The eastern Goths to the east of the Sea of Azov are becoming the Greutungi Goths. The Tervingi are governed by the family of the Balthi or Balti, while the Greutungi serve the renowned Amali family. The Taifali seem to select this period to settle themselves along the Danube, close to the Victohali.

The appearance of the Gepids to fill the vacuum drives a wedge between the Tervingi Goths and the Greutungi Goths. The Tervingi consolidate their realm between the Dniester and the Danube and become known to the Romans as the Visigoths. The Greutungi, or Ostrogoths, remain to the east of the Dniester, in what is now eastern Ukraine and southern Russia.

Ostrogoths (Germanic)

The Germanic Ostrogoths (meaning eastern Goths), dominated a vast swathe of what is now southern Russia and Ukraine by the mid-third century. In the Old English epic poem Widsith, the Ostrogoths are known as the Hreð-Gotum or Hreiðgoths ('Victory Goths'). According to Jordanes they became more civilised and more learned after settling this region, probably thanks to interaction with the Eastern Romans. The Goths themselves gradually formed tribal divisions which were under the control of ruling families. The western Goths on the western side of the Dniester (which empties into the Black Sea near Odessa) became known as the Tervingi Goths. The eastern Goths to the east of the Sea of Azov became the Greutungi Goths. The Tervingi (Thervingi or Teruingi) were governed by the family of the Balthi or Balti, while the Greutungi served the renowned Amali family.

With the death of the great Gothic chief (or king) Cannabaudes around AD 271, the Gepids were able to take the opportunity to grab some of the territory occupied by the Goths. Migrating eastwards themselves, they drove a wedge between the Tervingi Goths and the Greutungi Goths. The Tervingi consolidated their western realm between the Dniester and the Danube and became known to the Romans as the Visigoths, commanded by Ilderic, son of one of the last universal Goth kings, Ovida. The Greutungi, or Ostrogoths, remained to the east of the Dniester (and presumably to the east of the Sea of Azov too), in what is now eastern Ukraine and southern Russia. Their king was Respa, brother of Ilderic.

Their settlements there did not remain untroubled for long. After AD 372 they were forced west by the Hunnic invasion, and were later enslaved by those very same Huns. From this point until the death of Attila, nearly a hundred years later, little is known of the Ostrogoths other than what Jordanes can relate. However, it is certain that the vast majority of them remained relatively loyal vassals of their Hunnic overlords. They formed a significant contingent of Attila's army, and at the Battle of Châlons in 451 found themselves on the opposite side to their Visigothic cousins who were serving as allies of Aëtius, the Roman patrician. Although the battle was inconclusive, in effect the Huns were defeated, but it was not until Attila's death two years later that the Hunnic empire collapsed and the Ostrogoths were free to go on their way.

In the subsequent redistribution of power, the Ostrogoths (still led by the Amali family) found themselves in possession of Pannonia (roughly modern western Hungary, and parts of countries in a line from Austria to Bosnia) as Eastern Roman foederati. But this was an unsettled period, leaving the Ostrogoths with hostile neighbours on all sides and forcing them to become increasingly dependant upon subsidies from their new masters in Constantinople. In 474 Theodoric, son of King Thiudimir, rose to become the ruler of his people. He led them out of the unpromising lands in which they had settled and moved them into Moesia, close to Constantinople itself. Only a fragment of the Greutungi Ostrogoths remained behind where they formed their own small kingdom and became known as Tauric Ostrogoths.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), and from External Links: Widsith (full text on the Internet Archive), and GEN-MEDIEVAL Archives (Rootsweb Ancestry.com - dead link).)

fl c.270s


Son of Ovida. First ruler of the Ostrogoths after their division.


While probably prominent throughout the 270s, Respa is responsible for a raid in 268 upon which he is accompanied by Veduc and Thuruar. It is not entirely clear whether the latter two are co-rulers or deputies, as they are all lumped in together as kings by Jordanes, but at least two of them are supposedly brothers of Ilderic, first king of the Visigoths, and all are sons of Ovida, one of the last universal Goth kings. During the reign of Roman Emperor Gallienus, the Goths board their ships and mount a raid on the Hellespont. They lay waste to many cities and set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (now in Turkey).

fl c.270s

Veduc / Veduca

Brother. Co-ruler or deputy during the time of Respa?

fl c.270s


Co-ruler or deputy during the time of Respa?


Following this raid, the Ostrogoths drift out of the historical record for up to seventy years or so as they lay down roots and build the basis of the later domain of Ermanaric. The death of Cannabaudes of the Goths around this time precipitates a major shift in the balance of power in Eastern Europe, which is responsible for this sudden cessation of Gothic piracy on the Black Sea as the Goths have to cope with a Gepid invasion of sorts and the division of their own people into Tervingi-led Visigoths around the Danube and Greutungi-led Ostrogoths who remain to the east of the Dniester.

Ariaric / Ascaric

Claimed as king of Ostrogoths and also Visigoth co-ruler.


fl c.317 - c.330s

Geberic / Geberich

Son of Ilderic. Claimed as king of Ostrogoths & Visigoths.


The names of kings of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths contains at least two crossovers during the late third and early fourth centuries, suggesting perhaps that the divisions are not quite so divided after all until the coming of the Huns. It is possible, given the approximate dates for Geberic, that he rules both groups until the rise of Ermanaric re-establishes the division between Visigoth and Ostrogoth.

fl c.330s - c.376

Ermanaric / Ermanarich / Aírmanareiks

Killed himself as the Ostrogothic kingdom was overrun.

c.330s - 360s

Ermanaric (or variously, Eormanric, Ermanaricus, Hermanaric, Hermanerich, Jörmunrekkr, or Ermeric) is the great warrior-king of the Goths who subdues the surrounding Germanic peoples, subsequently leaving them to observe their own laws and rulers on the condition that they pay homage to him. By these means, Ermanaric becomes the head of a confederation which Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople in the sixth century, believes to include all the tribes of Germany and Scythia, covering a vast territory in what is now Ukraine and areas of southern Russia. He calls the realm Oium, or Aujum. Included in this number are probably the Visigoths.

Ermanaric's death
In the face of an unstoppable and destructive Hunnic invasion, Ermanaric's final act as king of the Goths was a (probable) ritualistic death ceremony in which he ended his own life


The Huns cross the River Volga which empties into the Caspian Sea. They burst into Scythia and stir up a wave of rumours and horror stories which sweep through Europe, and reach the ears of the Romans by 376. They clash with a group of steppe people called the Alani, defeating them. The Alani have little choice but to become Hunnic allies.


In extreme old age, Ermanaric finds his dominions laid waste by the Huns as they overrun the Ostrogoths in their westwards push. His strength is enfeebled by a combination of age and by a wound in his side, given to him by two brothers who have avenged a sister's cruel death. Pained by the destruction of all he has built, he kills himself in the face of the Hunnic advance across Eastern Europe (possibly in a ritualistic manner as his final act).

The Huns subjugate the Ostrogoths and their allies, the Rugii and Heruli, and their vassals or mercenary sources, such as the Venedi (the 'Venethi' or 'Venethae' are associated with the Ostrogoths - and specifically with Hermanerich - by Jordanes). In doing so they create a vast kingdom of their own which survives until the death of Attila in 453. Possibly the Taifali are included in this subjugation, their confederation with the Visigoths having been terminated by this act.

c.376 - c.380

Vinithar / Winithar / Vinitharius

Last free Ostrogoth ruler, now in Pannonia.


The last ruler of the Ostrogoths for generations to remain free of Hunnic vassalage, Vinithar leads the free remnants of his people to Pannonia where they apparently resist the Huns for a few brief years. Associated with Vinithar by Jordanes are the second of three great groups of professional warriors, an early Slavic tribal polity known as the Antes (the others being the Venedi and the yet-to-be-instituted Sclaveni warriors, the later Slavs).

Vinithar's name is curious. It is commonly formed of three elements, 'vinith', plus '-ar', plus '-ius'. The first part, 'vinith' refers to the Venedi. The '-ius' is a Latin suffix which can be discarded, so the name was probably pronounced Winithara in East Germanic. The second element, '-ar', may just be indicating action, a doer (essentially describing him as a warrior in the style of the Venedi), or perhaps a compressed form of 'uari', meaning 'man of, men of' (perhaps producing 'man of the Venedi').

This implies that 'Vinith' has evolved to become the name of a military style of warrior. Since the Venedi style of travel is by water (their whole process of settlement has been driven by their exploration of river courses), an educated guess is that a 'vinith' is a boat-borne fighter. The early description of Slavs as boat-using raiders seems to occur because they have learned this from Venedi fighters amongst whom they had been stationed by their masters, the Avars. Naming Vinithar this way might be akin to a modern child being called 'SASer' or 'Navy Sealer' in the first instance or 'man of the SAS' in the second, although clearly this concept has lost something over time!

? - 377


Chieftain of a Greutungi tribe. Killed.

377 - 378

The Taifali ally with a Greutungi tribe which is led by Farnobius. They cross the Danube but are defeated in the late autumn of the year. A Taifali presence amongst the survivors of the defeat remain notable. However, the Visigoth victory under Fritigern at Adrianople seems to release his Tervingi rival, Athanaric, to begin attacks on the Taifali.

c.380 - c.405


Vassal of the Huns in Pannonia.

405 - 407

Radagaisus, a barbarian leader of unknown origin, and his army of Goths, Vandali, Suevi, Burgundians, and Alani is defeated by Roman commander Stilicho when they invade Italy in 405. The barbarians are incorporated into the Roman forces.

c.405 - c.447?


Vassal of the Huns in Pannonia.

447 - c.465


Son of Vandalarius. Cousin of Thorismund of the Visigoths.


To preserve their new domains, the Visigoths fight on the side of Rome and the Franks to halt the advance of the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (otherwise known as the Battle of Chalons in the former territory of the Catalauni Celts), in north-eastern Gaul. Their cousins, the Ostrogoths (literally, in the case of King Valamir whose cousin is Thorismund) are forced to fight on the side of the Huns. The Hunnic army is fought to a standstill and is forced to withdraw along with its allies which also include Gepids, Rugii, Scirii,and Taifali.

Attila the Hun
Despite his great success over the barbarian tribes of eastern and Central Europe, Attila's stalemate against an allied Roman-led army in 451 was a blow to his prestige, and his death soon afterwards caused his empire to crumble

456 - 457

In their fight for independence from the Huns, the Ostrogoths under Valamir defeat and rout Attila's sons. They inherit control of Pannonia as a result (essentially modern western Hungary, northern Croatia, Slovenia, and eastern Austria), and absorb elements from other, smaller tribes, such as the Scirii. During the subsequent thirty years, the Ostrogoths edge slowly southwards into the Balkans, and then head westwards towards Illyria and the borders of Italy.

459 - 462

Unchallenged by the now-dissipated power of the Huns, the Ostrogoths under Valamir are themselves powerful. A dispute with the Eastern Roman emperor at Constantinople causes Valamir to lead his Ostrogoths against him. With the barbarians at the gates, Emperor Leo I agrees to pay an annual subsidy of gold.

468 - 474

Thiudimir / Theodomar / Theodemir



Spending much of his youth at the imperial court at Constantinople, Theodoric gains a thoroughly Roman education. This includes the areas of administrative and military tactics, and he rises to become magister militum in 483 and consul in 484. He returns to live with the Ostrogoths in 488.

474 - 493

Theodoric the Great

Son. Became king of Ostrogothic Italy.


The Scirian commander of Rome, Odoacer, destroys the Rugii tribe, who are long-time allies of the Ostrogoths. This allows a future threat for Italy, the Langobards, to migrate into their territory in Lower Austria.


The Ostrogoths are now largely settled in Moesia, distancing them from the remaining Ostrogoths who have remained further east, in the Crimean peninsula. These 'remainers' become known to history as the Tauric Ostrogoths. The main body, though, while nominally Eastern Roman allies, is problematic at best. Their restlessness is creating increasing problems in their management for Emperor Zeno. Working with Theodoric to find a solution, the emperor invites him to invade Italy and overthrow Odoacer, the troublesome Gothic viceroy there. The remains of the Rugii join them and soon become indivisible from the Ostrogoths. The Ostrogoths immediately win the Battle of Isonzo on 28 August 489, close to Aquileia, and Odoacer is forced to withdraw. A second battle is fought at Verona in the same year.

490 - 493

A further battle is fought on the River Adda in 490, and in 493 Theodoric takes Ravenna. On 2 February the same year, Theodoric and Odoacer sign a treaty that divides Italy between them, but at a banquet to celebrate the terms, Theodoric murders Odoacer with his own hands. Now unopposed, he is able to found an Ostrogothic kingdom based in Rome.

Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy
AD 493 - 552

Theodoric led the Ostrogothic invasion of Italy (supported by elements of the Rugii). During the course of four years of fighting, the invasion swept away Odoacer's Post-Imperial Romano-Gothic kingdom. In its place Theodoric created an Ostrogothic kingdom which held much of Italy until the Eastern Roman empire began a re-conquest of the western empire in southern Italy. Despite the fact that the invasion had been devised by Emperor Zeno, the Ostrogoths ruled independently, and Theodoric and Zeno addressed each other as equals. Overtures to Byzantium were only made by some Ostrogoth leaders after Theodoric's death.

A Roman consul was given nominal authority, and the two peoples lived together amicably, with Roman culture greatly influencing the barbarians. The Goths took one third of the land while the Romans retained the rest. Each side observed their own laws and intermarriage between Roman and Goth was forbidden. One area in which they didn't agree was in Christianity. The Ostrogoths were confirmed Arians, something that the Catholics of the Roman Church found hard to stomach.

Not all the Ostrogoths pursued this path into Italy and eventual Italianisation. A branch known as the Tauric Ostrogoths ventured further eastwards, ending up in Crimea by the end of the fifth century. They settled in the region and established an East Germanic Gothic principality which was later known as Doros. Additionally, some elements of the Gothic peoples in southern Germany formed part of the Bavarii confederation at the start of the sixth century.

493 - 526

Theodoric the Great

Murdered Odoacer at a banquet. King of the Visigoths (514-526).

490 - 497

Theodoric asks the Eastern Roman emperor for permission to wear the purple, but this is refused. After he seizes Ravenna and is proclaimed king of the Goths in 493 the position changes. In 497 Anastasius sends back the western imperial regalia which Constantinople had received in 476. Theodoric nevertheless continues to be titled rex.

Theodoric coin
Shown here is an example of the coinage that was minted in Italy during the reign of Theodoric


Theodoric arranges a dynastic marriage between his sister, Amalafrida, and the weak Thrasamund of the Vandali. It is part of the process by which the Ostrogothic king is extending his influence through the various Germanic kingdoms of Western Europe and Africa. The arrangement ends Thrasamund's attempts to raid Ostrogothic territories, and the might of the ruler of Italy is underlined when a guard of 5,000 men arrive with Amalafrida.


Gepid power suffers a decisive blow when the Ostrogoths cut off the expansion of the kingdom of Gepidia into the Danubian plains. This forces the Gepids to restrict themselves to the Pannonian basin.

early 6th century

According to Jordanes, Roduulf rules the Ranii in Norway until, apparently despising his own kingdom, he flees to join Theodoric. There are signs of cross-European communications and some trading during this period, despite migrations and shifting tribal associations, so perhaps the idea of a Scandinavian king travelling to Rome to join the famous Ostrogoths is not so surprising.

509 - 526

Theodoric intervenes at Narbonne, driving out both Visigoths and Burgundians. This forces the Franks and Burgundians to withdraw from the Mediterranean coast. The following year the Ostrogoths defeat Gesalec in battle and he flees. After a year spent in Aquitaine to gather his forces, Gesalec makes another attempt to recapture Narbonne. He loses a second battle and is soon captured by the Ostrogoths. Theodoric assumes the Visigothic crown until his death in 526, nominally acting as regent for the infant Amalaric who is able to take his rightful place as king after Theodoric's death.

526 - 534


Grandson, aged 10. Son of Eutharic.

526 - 534


Regent and mother. Murdered by her cousin.


The last known decree to be issued by the Roman Senate concerns the practice of preferment, the purchase or sale of offices, which is rife in the Roman Church. The practice is banned under Pope Boniface's pontificate and confirmed by Athalaric.


Amalasuntha is imbibed with traditional Roman learning, and during the regency had tried to pass on her teachings to her son, Athalaric. With his early death she is now sole queen, and she raises the unpopular and elderly Theodatus as her co-ruler. The Gothic nobles turn against her, and Theodatus imprisons her on the island of Martana in Lake Bolsena in Tuscany, where she is murdered in her bath. Theodatus does not last long as sole ruler himself.

534 - 536

Theodatus / Theodahad

Nephew of Theodoric. Killed on the orders of Vittigis.

535 - 536

After the death of Theodoric, Ostrogothic control in Italy had never been quite so complete. The disruption has increased to such an extent that in 535 the Eastern Roman empire sends General Belisarius to conquer the peninsula and bring it back under imperial control. In 536, General Belisarius enters Rome shortly before it is besieged by King Vittigis. The city suffers starvation until the siege is lifted and Belisarius pursues his opponents. The Goths are subjugated in the same year, and around this time Provence is lost to Italian control, with probably the Burgundians being responsible.

536 - 540

Vittigis / Witiges

Son-in-law of Amalasuntha. Fled to Ravenna in 536. Killed 540.


Theobald / Theodobald

May not have ruled, and may in fact be Theodatus.


There is a bewildering succession of rulers in this period and Theobald is perhaps the most uncertain. He is sometimes claimed as ruling between 536, shortly after his murder of Amalasuntha, to 540, or just in 540 alone. He is presumed to have entered Italy with Theodoric and must be fairly elderly by this time, and his rule is cut short when he is killed by a fellow Goth (claimed as being Vittigis, which somewhat confuses matters as the pair of them would appear to have been simultaneously ruling as sole king. This may be due to some confusion creeping in between Theobald and Theodatus).

540 - 541

Ildibad / Hildebad

A Visigoth. Killed by a Gepid at a palace banquet.



Killed by one of his royal guard, as plotted by Baduila.

541 - 552

Totila / Baduila / Baduela

A strong leader. Killed at the Battle of Taginae.


At last blessed with a strong and determined ruler once again, the Ostrogoths under Baduila immediately collect together to throw off a badly organised Eastern Roman attack on their stronghold at Verona. Baduila is determined to win back control of Italy in the face of the creeping Byzantine conquest.

542 - 544

The Ostrogoths win the Battle of Faventia (modern Faenza) in spring 542, but very quickly an even greater success aids them. Shortly after the 'Plague of Justinian' strikes Constantinople with the arrival of bubonic plague, it quickly spreads to Italy. The Eastern Roman empire is devastated by it, and is critically weakened at the point at which it is about to conquer all of Italy and bring it under the rule of one Roman emperor for the first time since 395.

Siege of Perugia
Baduila besieged Perugia in 543 and successfully won the town's surrender

545 - 546

After sacking and razing the walls of Benevento in 545, the following year the Ostrogoths recapture Rome under the leadership of Baduila (his real name rather than the Eastern Roman version, Totila, which is coined by Procopius). An attempt by the much larger Byzantine forces to relieve it narrowly fails and it is sacked by the otherwise merciful and disciplined Ostrogoths. However, they withdraw to Apulia and the see-saw battles continue, with the Ostrogoths generally avoiding the strongly-defended cities.

552 - 553

Teias / Theia / Teja

Former military officer. Last king of the Ostrogoths. Killed.


The death of Totila at the Battle of Taginae allows Rome to be retaken by the Eastern Roman, empire which governs Italy from Ravenna. A final defeat in battle near Mount Vesuvius in 553 means the death of the last Ostrogothic king and the end of their rule in Italy. The city of Rome remains under domination by Byzantium until the eighth century but a civil government slowly emerges to take control of Roman regional affairs in the late ninth century, often vying for power with the pope

The Ostrogoths as a fighting body march out of Italy to join other barbarian groups north of the Alps, most probably the Bavarii confederation, where they quickly lose their identity as a separate people. Their Rugii supporters also disappear at this time, probably following the Ostrogoths to join the confederation which already contains Rugii elements. In Italy, an Ostrogothic noble called Widin leads a revolt in the late 550s, but he is captured in 561 or 562. The remaining Goths in the country eventually merge into the general Italian population, becoming indivisible from them. However, the Visigoths and Tauric Ostrogoths still retain an independent identity.

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