Page images
PDF
EPUB

with his European neighbours was extended even beyond the Mediterranean. He married his sister, Amalafrida, a widowed princess, no longer in her first youth, to Thrasamund, the old king of the Vandals. In virtue of this connection he seems to have treated Thrasamund as a younger brother, if not as a vassal. When the Vandal dared to help the usurper Gesalic in Spain, Theodoric imposed a tribute on him, and bade him for the future do nothing without the counsel of his wife Amalafrida. Thrasamund did not resent this treatment, and for the future did all he could to propitiate his brother-in-law.

The Vandal state, indeed, was not in a condition to risk a quarrel with Theodoric. Ever since the death of Hunneric it had been steadily on the decline. In the reigns of Gunthamund (484-496) and Thrasamund himself (496-523) it was continually losing ground to the insurgent Moors of Atlas. Gunthamund, who was not a persecutor like his predecessor Hunneric, had endeavoured to win the favour of the Catholics by allowing them to recall their exiled bishops and open their churches. But these boons did not check the falling away of his subjects, and during his reign the Moors conquered from him the whole sea-coast from Tangiers to the gates of Caesarea. His brother Thrasamund tried the opposite policy, vandal eer resumed the persecutions, deported two hundred secutions in Catholic bishops to Sardinia, and renewed the Africa. horrors of the days of Hunneric. Naturally, he was no more fortunate in dealing with the native rebels than his brother had been. A quarrel with Theodoric would have meant ruin, so he kept himself from all foreign war. He died in 523 at a great age, killed, it is said, by the news of a great defeat which his armies had suffered at the hands of the Moors. His successor was his cousin Hilderic, the son of Hunneric and the Roman princess Eudocia, the last scion of the house of Theodosius the Great. Educated by a Catholic mother, Hilderic was himself the first orthodox Vandal king, and ended the long African persecutions. But his reign was not happier than those of his two cousins. His enthusiastic championship of the Catholic cause brought him into collision with the bulk of his Vandal subjects, and he was attacked by a rebellious party, headed by Theodoric's sister, the queendowager Amalafrida, who wished to proclaim as king of Africa one of her late husband's nephews. Hilderic had the better of the fighting, defeated the rebels, and captured Amalafrida, whom he consigned to a dungeon, to the great wrath of her brother, the king of the Goths (523). As long as Theodoric lived he merely kept her in close confinement, but the moment he heard of the old man's death, in 526, he had the cruelty to slay the aged queen, a deed which alienated for ever the Vandals and the Ostrogoths. The captivity of his sister was not the only sorrow which clouded the last few years of Theodorics long life. He was left in some trouble as to the succession to his crown. He had married his only legitimate child, Amalaswintha, to a Visigothic prince named Eutharic, of whose prudence and valour much was expected. Theodoric intended him to reign with his daughter as colleague and king-consort, but in 522 Eutharic died, leaving as his heir a boy of only five years of age. Theodoric could not but see that on his death the accession of a woman and a child to the throne would be fraught with the gravest danger, more especially as his nephew Theodahat, the nearest male heir of the Amal house, was known to be an unscrupulous intriguer. It was perhaps owing to a temper embittered by these family troubles that Theodoric was led, during the last few years of his life, into an unhappy quarrel with some of the best of his Italian subjects. Rightly or wrongly, he had imbibed a notion that the Italians would take advantage of his death to stir up the emperor at Constantinople against his infant heir. The idea was very justifiable; for, in spite of all Theodoric's wisdom and goodness, most of his Roman subjects never learnt to look kindly upon a ruler who was at once an Arian and a Goth, and it seems that some, at least, of the Senate were secretly corresponding with the emperor Justin. That monarch, the first Eastern Emperor for fifty years who was undisputedly orthodox, had fired the enthusiasm of Catholics all over the world by his attempts to suppress Arianism, and the faithful in Italy were undoubtedly contrasting his action with the strict impartiality of Theodoric, to the latter's disadvantage. In 524 the patrician Albinus was accused by Cyprian, the magister officiarum, of sending the war... disloyal letters to Constantinople. At his trial he tunes of was defended by the Consular Boethius, at once a ** great official and the best-known author of the day, noted as philosopher, theologian, astronomer, and mechanist—in short, the chief representative of the intellect of Italy. Boethius resented the impeachment of Albinus in the most fiery terms. ‘If this man is guilty,’ he cried, ‘then both I and all the Senate are guilty too.” The accuser, Cyprian, proceeded to take him at his word, and brought forward further evidence to prove that Boethius himself had been one of the senators in correspondence with Justin, or had, at least, done his best to suppress evidence against those who actually were so engaged.” Such an accusation, even if not fully proved, seems to have fired the anger of the old king. He could not tolerate disloyalty in a man whom he had always distinguished by his favour, and preferred to the highest offices. By his orders Boethius was put on his trial before the Senate, and there condemned. For a year Theodoric kept him in prison—a year invaluable to future ages, for in it the captive composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a work which was to be the comfort of many a noble but unhappy soul in the Middle Ages, and to find countless readers from King Alfred down to Sir Thomas More. At the end of a year's confinement Boethius was tortured and put to death. Possibly he was altogether innocent of the charge laid to his account, that of secret correspondence with Constantinople;

* This would seem to have been the charge which Boethius himself

expressed by saying that he was accused of ‘having endeavoured to preserve the senators.”

[ocr errors]

but more probably he had actually written harmless letters into which a treasonable purpose was read by the malice of his accusers and the fears of the king. The death of Boethius was followed by another execution, that of his aged father-in-law, Symmachus, the chief of the senate, whom Theodoric put to death on the mere suspicion that he resented his son-in-law's cruel end. There seems to have been no further charge laid against him, and no formal trial, so that this action ranks with the murder of Odoacer as the second unpardonable sin of Theodoric's life (525). Others also suffered during the last two years of the old king's reign. In anger at Justin's persecution of the Arians, he threatened reprisals against the Catholics of Italy, and charged John the bishop of Rome to sail at once to Constantinople, and inform the emperor that further persecution would mean war with the Goths, and involve an attack on the orthodox throughout the Ostrogothic dominions. Moved by these threats, Justin suspended his harrying of the Arians, and treated the Pope with such respect and distinction that he roused the suspicions of the king of Italy. Theodoric thought that John had been too friendly with the emperor, and suspected that the honours and reverence shown him at Constantinople were part of a plan for seducing away the allegiance of his Roman subjects. When the Pope returned he was thrown into prison, where, being already in ill-health, he soon died. He was at once hailed as a martyr by all the Western Church (526). The Italians thought that the execution of Symmachus and the imprisonment of Pope John foreboded a general persecution throughout Italy. It was rumoured that the Arians had won from the king his consent to an edict closing the Catholic Churches, and that the Goths were to take arms against their fellow-subjects. Considering the tenor of the whole of Theodoric's previous life, it is most improbable that he had any such wild scheme of intolerance in hand. But he had certainly grown gloomy, suspicious, and hard in his declining days, and it was well for his own fame, as well as peau of for his subjects, that he was carried off by dysenTheodoric, tery not long after the death of Pope John. It 526. would have been still better, both for king and people, had the end come three years earlier, before his first harsh dealings with Boethius. His unpopularity at the moment of his death is shown by the survival of several curious legends, which tell how holy hermits saw his soul dragged down to hell by the injured ghosts of John and Symmachus, or carried off by the fiend himself. So, after reigning thirty-three years over Italy, and twelve years over Spain, Theodoric died, aged seventy-two, and was buried by the Goths in the round mausoleum outside the gate of Ravenna, which he had built for himself many years before. His body has long disappeared, but his empty tomb still survives, well-nigh the only perfect and unbroken monument that recalls the sixty years of Gothic dominion in Italy.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »