An Excerpt from the Gothic History, 6th Century

An Excerpt from the Gothic History, 6th Century

Jordanes was of Gothic descent and wrote the “Gothic History” as a summary of Cassiodorus’ much longer treatment of their history. Because Cassiodorus’ book no longer survives, Jordanes’ sixth century treatment is often our only source for some of the events it describes, and is generally believed to be quite reliable.

The excerpt below tells of a request made to the Britons, by the Roman Emperor Anthemius, for help in battling the Visigoths. The British responded by sending Riothamus, King of the Britons, along with 12,000 men to the aid of Rome. The Romans failed to arrive on time, leaving the British forces to do battle with Euric of the Visigoths, alone. Euric won the battle, killing most of the British army.

The theory has been advanced, most convincingly by Geoffrey Ashe, that King Riothamus is the “original” of King Arthur. The theory states that Arthur is merely the figure upon which has been hung, over the years, the real historical exploits of others. Whether or not that is the case is an open question, still, but the historically significant thing about this account is that 12,000 British men were sent overseas to battle a foe of Rome when their attention, it could be argued, should have been on the battles with the Saxon invaders raging on their own home territory.

Theodorid (King of the Visigoths) died in the thirteenth year of his reign.

His brother Euric succeeded him with such eager haste that he fell under dark suspicion. Now while these and various other matters were happening among the people of the Visigoths, the Emperor Valentinian was slain by the treachery of Maximus, and Maximus himself, like a tyrant, usurped the rule. Gaiseric, king of the Vandals, heard of this and came from Africa to Italy with ships of war, entered Rome and laid it waste. Maximus fled and was slain by a certain Ursus, a Roman soldier.

After him Majorian undertook the government of the Western Empire at the bidding of Marcian, Emperor of the East. But he too ruled but a short time. For when he had moved his forces against the Alani who were harassing Gaul, he was killed at Dertona near the river named Ira. Severus succeeded him and died at Rome in the third year of his reign. When the Emperor Leo, who had succeeded Marcian in the Eastern Empire, learned of this, he chose as emperor his Patrician Anthemius and sent him to Rome. Upon his arrival he sent against the Alani his son-in-law Ricimer, who was an excellent man and almost the only one in Italy at that time fit to command the army. In the very first engagement he conquered and destroyed the host of the Alani, together with their king, Beorg.

Now Euric, king of the Visigoths, perceived the frequent change of Roman Emperors and strove to hold Gaul by his own right. The Emperor Anthemius heard of it and asked the Brittones for aid. Their King Riotimus came with twelve thousand men into the state of the Bituriges by the way of Ocean, and was received as he disembarked from his ships.

Euric, king of the Visigoths, came against them with an innumerable army, and after a long fight he routed Riotimus, king of the Brittones, before the Romans could join him. So when he had lost a great part of his army, he fled with all the men he could gather together, and came to the Burgundians, a neighboring tribe then allied to the Romans. But Euric, king of the Visigoths, seized the Gallic city of Arverna; for the Emperor Anthemius was now dead.

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