Amalasuintha (c. 495 – 30 April 534/535) was an Ostrogoth queen and regent. She ruled the Ostrogoths as regent during the minority of her son from 526 to 534 and then as queen regnant from 534 to 535. She was the youngest daughter of Theoderic the Great, and firmly believed in the upholding of Roman virtues and values. She is best known for her diplomatic relationship with Justinian I, who invaded Italy in response to her assassination.
|Queen of the Ostrogoths|
|Reign||534 – 535|
|Died||535 (aged 39–40)|
|Father||Theoderic the Great|
In 515, Amalasuintha married Eutharic (c. 480 – 522), an Ostrogoth noble of the old Amali dynasty who had been previously living in the Arian Kingdom of Hispania. Her husband was the son of Widerich (born c. 450), grandson of Berismund (born c. 410), and great-grandson of Thorismund (died after 400), king of the Ostrogoths c. 400. It was important to Amalasuintha's father, Theoderic the Great, that she marry into a legitimate royal family, lest her own family's legitimacy be questioned.[page needed]
She was very much an intellectual, and was well known for her extensive knowledge and reading, which included fluency in Latin, Greek and Gothic. In addition, she was a student of philosophy and was said to possess the wisdom of Solomon.[page needed] Amalasuintha was also described in her day as possessing all of the central Roman virtues expected of a noble woman: happiness, fertility, and patience, although more emphasis was placed on her virtues within the political realm versus the feminine, something that separates her from other Ostrogoth princesses.[page needed] Like most Ostrogoths, Amalasuintha was an Arian Christian.[unreliable source?]
On the death of her father on 30 August 526, her son succeeded him at the age of ten, but she held the power as regent for her son. Her tremendous influence in her position as regent can be seen in a diptych of Rufius Gennadius Probus Orestes in which she appears alongside her son, Athalaric, in 530. Deeply imbued with the old Roman culture, she gave to that son's education a more refined and literary turn than suited the ideas of her Gothic subjects. Conscious of her unpopularity she banished – and afterwards put to death – three Gothic nobles whom she suspected of conspiring against her rule. At the same time, she opened negotiations with the Byzantine emperor Justinian I with the view of removing herself and the Gothic treasure to Constantinople. Her son's death on 2 October 534 initially made little apparent change in the state of affairs.
After Athalaric's death, Amalasuintha became queen, ruling alone only for a short while before making her cousin Theodahad co-ruler (not, as sometimes stated, her husband, for his wife was still living), with the intent of strengthening her position. Theodahad was a prominent leader of the Gothic military aristocracy, the very group that so opposed her pro-Roman stances. Amalasuintha believed this pairing would help to make supporters out of her harshest critics. However, Theodahad fostered the disaffection of the Goths, and either by his orders or with his permission, Amalasuintha was imprisoned on the island of Martana, located in the lake of Bolsena in northern Lazio, where on 30 April in the spring of 534/535, she was murdered in her bath.
The death of Amalasuintha gave Justinian I a reason to go to war with the Ostrogoths and attempt to take Italy. According to the Eastern Roman historian Procopius, it is believed that Amalasuintha and Justinian I had a very close diplomatic relationship. More specifically, Procopius believed that Amalasuintha was thinking about handing over Italy to Justinian around the time of her death.[page range too broad] Shortly after Amalasuintha's murder, Theodahad was replaced by Witigis, Amalasuintha's son-in-law. With the people's support, Witigis had Theodahad put to death.
The letters of Cassiodorus, chief minister and literary adviser of Amalasuintha, and the histories of Procopius and Jordanes, give us our chief information as to the character of Amalasuintha. Cassiodorus was a part of a greater pro-Roman party that desired to Romanize the traditional Ostrogothic kingship, further evidence of the pro-Roman circle that Amalasuintha surrounded herself with.
Romanian poet George Coșbuc wrote a poem entitled The Queen of the Ostrogoths in which Amalasuintha (named Amalasunda in the poem) speaks to Theodahad (mentioned as Teodat in the poem) shortly before he kills her.
- The name is also spelled Amalasuentha, Amalaswintha, Amalasuntha, Amalswinthe, Amalasontha, Amalasiuntha, and Amalsenta.
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