Theodoric the Great

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Theodoric the Great (Gothic: Þiudareiks; Latin: Flāvius Theodericus; Greek: Θευδέριχος, Theuderikhos; Old English: Þēodrīc; Old Norse: Þjōðrēkr, Þīðrēkr; 454 – August 30, 526) was king of the Ostrogoths (471 – 526),[1] ruler of Italy (493 – 526), regent of the Visigoths (511 – 526), and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire. His Gothic name Þiudareiks translates into "people-king". He became a hero of Germanic legend.



The man who would later rule under the name of Theodoric was born in 454 AD on the banks of the Neusiedler See near Carnuntum, a year after the Ostrogoths had thrown off nearly a century of domination by the Huns. The son of the King Theodemir and Ereleuva, Theodoric went to Constantinople as a young boy, as a hostage to secure the Ostrogoths' compliance with a treaty Theodemir had concluded with the Byzantine Emperor Leo.

He lived at the court of Constantinople for many years and learned a great deal about Roman government and military tactics, which served him well when he became the Gothic ruler of a mixed but largely Romanized "barbarian people". Treated with favor by the Emperors Leo I and Zeno, he became magister militum (Master of Soldiers) in 483, and one year later he became consul. Afterwards, he returned to live among the Ostrogoths when he was 31 years old and became their king in 488.


At the time, the Ostrogoths were settled in Byzantine territory as foederati (allies) of the Romans, but were becoming restless and increasingly difficult for Zeno to manage. Not long after Theodoric became king, the two men worked out an arrangement beneficial to both sides. The Ostrogoths needed a place to live, and Zeno was having serious problems with Odoacer, the King of Italy who had overthrown the Western Roman Empire in 476. Ostensibly a viceroy for Zeno, Odoacer was menacing Byzantine territory and not respecting the rights of Roman citizens in Italy. At Zeno's encouragement, Theodoric invaded Odoacer's kingdom.

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