Mar 25 2009
In the late 19th century just outside the Italian city of Ravenna workers excavated stone building that was partially submerged in water. It turned out to be the burial mausoleum of Theodoric the Great, king of Ostrogoths. In the center of this personal mausoleum built in 520 there was a porphyry tub, where once the warriors put the body of the late king. However, later, when the city was under Byzantine ruling, the remains were thrown out and the former mausoleum tomb became a Christian chapel.
Theodoric the Great was so popular among Germanic tribes that he became a legend in English, German and Norse mythology. He was not only the king of Ostrogoths, but also the regent of Visigoths and the ruler of Italy. Epic poems of Middle Ages tell stories about the way he dealt with Odoacer – Germanic general who deposed the last emperor of Western Roman empire Romulus Augustulus in 476.
After Odoacer put an end to Western Roman empire, he proclaimed himself a King of Italy. He was an illiterate man and Arian Christian. Odoacer defeated Vandals in Sicily and added ancient Dalmatia to his kingdom. His actions angered Zeno, the Eastern Emperor, who persuaded his Ostrogothic vassals that Odoacer was their enemy. He sent Goths headed by Theodoric get rid of Odoacer once and for all.
Ostrogoths crossed the Alps and poured into Italy. Three times Theodoric defeated armies of Odoacer and at last besieged him in his capital of Ravenna. However, Ostrogoths tried in vain to capture the city for almost three years and in February 2, 493 Theodoric and Odoacer signed a treaty that ensured a shared rule over Italy. Happy Odoacer organized a lavish banquet to celebrate the treaty. During this celebration, Theodoric, after making a first toast murdered Odoacer in cold blood. He strangled the king of Italy with his bare hands.
Unlike his predecessor, Theodoric restored Roman law and judicial system for Roman citizens while Goths were obeying their custom laws and customs. His kingdom kept on expanding. However he was Arian Christian and that led to the deterioration of his ties with Eastern Roman empire. And after his death, Theodoric’s achievements began to unravel pretty fast.
His mausoleum is one of the greatest and priceless monuments in Ravenna. It has its own Gothic style and decoration which UNESCO considers it among the world heritage sites. This memorial mausoleum is also the only surviving burial tomb of a barbarian king of that period.