Theodric, perhaps the most famous Ostrogothic king, and his wife
Audofleda (the sister of Clovis, the previous ruler) had no sons and only
one daughter. Their daughter's name was Amalasuntha, and she was given the best
Roman education available. She was said to be handsome, intelligent, educated,
cultured and strong-willed.
In her youth, Amalasuntha loved and secretly married Traguilla, a slave.
When Audofleda happened upon the couple, she ordered Traguilla killed, and
Amalasuntha beaten, and hastily arranged a marriage for her with Eutheric, an
Amalasuntha and Eutheric had two children; a daughter named Matasuntha (who
married, serially, Witigs, who ruled the Ostrogoth kingdom in his turn, and
Germanus, nephew of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian) and a son, Athalaric
(born in 516 or 518), who succeeded his grandfather on the throne in 526, four
years after Eutharic died, leaving Amalasuntha a widow to raise their young
The inheritance custom of the Ostrogoths at this time was for a king to
name his successor, who would then be approved and confirmed in his position by
the Gothic nobility. In the final months of his life, Theoderic named
Athalaric to be his successor, under the regency of his mother, Amalasuntha.
Amalasuntha, having been brought up with a classical education, wished the
same for her son. Her nobles, on the other hand, felt that a king needed to be
strong and courageous, and that bending to a tutor's authority would weaken
the man's resolve in battle and politics in the future. The feelings ran
high, and eventually, Amalasuntha uncovered a plot against her life, and had the
three nobles involved executed.
To soften this blow to the remaining nobles, she allowed Athalaric to have
the companionship of some rough Gothic boys of his own age, to help harden him. Sadly,
instead of teaching him the arts of war they taught him the arts of drinking and
Amalasuntha, feeling understandably frightened, made a deal with the Byzantine
Emperor, Justinian, that if she were removed from power she would bring
herself and the entire Ostrogoth treasury to Constantinople.
At seventeen, Athalaric lost the last of his power and fled to
Constantinople, seeking asylum. Within a year he was dead.
It was 534 when Athalaric died, and Amalasuntha knew there was no possibility
of the Ostragoths accepting her as ruler in her own right. She approached her
cousin, Theodahad, and offered to marry him, sharing power in return for his
political and military protection.
This was probably a mistake. In the past, Amalasuntha had acceded to
requests from landowners in Tuscany for help. It seems Theodohad had been
using extortion and strong-arm tactics to seize property belonging to his neighbors,
and Amalasuntha had, as regent, required him to return these properties.
This led to resentment between the two.
When Amalasuntha invited Theodohad to become king of the Ostragoths, however,
it seemed all was forgiven and forgotten. Theodohad went to far as to write
letters to the roman senate praising Amalasuntha's wisdom, and promising to
emulate her rule during his own.
As soon as Theodohad had the kingship in his grasp, he banished
Amalasuntha. Soon, Justinian removed her to an island in the middle of Lake
It was probably in April, 535 that Amalasuntha was murdered.
We are told that she was strangled in her bath by relatives of the three
nobles she had had executed. She was probably no more than thirty five years
The emperor Justinian used her death as an excuse to invade and reconquer