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Coin reading in Latin, "D[OMINUS] N[OSTER] THEODAHATUS REX / VICTORIA PRINCIPUM" ('Our lord Theodahad the King' / 'Victory of the Princes').[1][2]
King of the Ostrogoths
Reign534 – c. December 536
Co-monarchAmalasuintha (until 535)
Bornc. 480
Tauresium, Eastern Roman Empire
DiedDecember 536 (aged 56)
IssueTheudigisel, Theodenantha[3]
Coin of a bust of Theodahad.
Another coin of Theodahad (534–536), minted in Rome. He is shown wearing a barbarian's moustache.

Theodahad, also known as Thiudahad (Latin: Flavius Theodahatus Rex, Theodahadus, Theodatus; c. 480 – December 536) was the co-monarch of the Ostrogothic Kingdom with his cousin Amalasuintha in 534 and sole ruler from April 535 through December 536. Compared to the reign of Theodoric the Great, his reign is generally considered a failure.[4]

Early life

Born in Tauresium in now North Macedonia around 480 C.E, Theodahad was a nephew of Theodoric the Great[5] through his mother Amalafrida. He was probably the son of Amalafrida's first husband because her second marriage was in about 500 AD.[citation needed] His sister was Amalaberga.[citation needed] His father's identity remains unknown.

He may have arrived in Italy with Theodoric and was elderly at the time of his accession. Massimiliano Vitiello states the name "Theodahad" is a compound of 'people' and 'conflict'.

He studied Plato and other Greek philosophers during his early life and collected wealth by owning many properties in Tuscany,[6] Italy. It was sometimes with the use of violent methods to acquire these lands. He was forced to pay back the citizens whose land he had stolen after and Byzantium envoy was sent to Rome, and Ravenna by Queen Amalaswintha who was still ruling in her son’s stead during this time according to the Chronicles of Procopius.[7] Along with the letters Amalaswintha would write to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1st.[8] Asking for his support for her rule and handling her cousin Theodahad and him trying to sell the land he had acquired to the Byzantine nobles and even Justinian himself. He is also had a wife, two sons, and a daughter, with one son Theodegisclus, and his daughter Theodenanthe being named in Procopius’s work.[9]

King and Accession to the Throne

While Theodahad was born into nobility in Ostrogothic Kingdom it could be he was never considered to be heir to the throne by Theodric. This is supported by historians and the way Theodahad had no experience on the battlefield, for a while this was considered slander by Procopius, but this has since been supported by historians. His cousin Amalaswintha had ruled for ten years in the place of her son Athalaric and after his death with Amalaswintha having a pro-Byzantine view and her sex, she came under fire from many of the Nobility of the Ostrogoths and even had some executed for suspected plots against her before she had Theodahad be made her Co-Monarch. Before being made co-monarch Theodahad had to swear loyalty to Amalaswintha as well as marry into the line of succession and to the throne in Constantinople to Emperor Justinan 1st. Amalaswintha had hoped to redeem her cousin's name after what he had done in Tuscany, asking those in the senate in Rome to look beyond what Theodahad had done and to see him as a brilliant land owner who could help bring prosperity to the Kingdom. This had mixed results while Amalaswintha lacked support due to her sex and ties to Constantinople, Theodahad was unpopular among nobles. Amalaswintha would also have to prepare him for what the throne required, as he wasn’t indeed to inherit the throne from her father Theodric.[10] Theodahad did not engage in any education that would have prepared him for the rule of the Ostrogothic Kingdom.[5] Why he did not engage in learning more about ruling has been seen as he did not want to rule. He had set up his early life collecting land and wealth to sell the land to be able to retire in the East. With Theodahad not forgetting what Amalaswintha had done to him when he had taken the land in Tuscany after a few months he had her sent to an island in Lake Bolsena[11] near a town called Orvieto, where she would be assassinated. Upon hearing of the Death of Amalaswintha Emperor Justinian, 1st would start to send troops to Sicily starting the Gothic Wars.

Gothic War

With the Death of Amalaswintha, Emperor Justinian 1st would use this to invade Sicily and conquer it quickly with Justinian 1st hoping to use this to help reunify the territories Eastern Roman Empire with the Western Roman Empire. After hearing this, Theodahad would engage in peace negotiations with envoys that had been sent before the invasion of Sicily by Emperor Justinian 1st with the hope that Theodahad would be able to sell the kingdom for his freedom. Justinian sent out one of his best commanders a man named Belisarius to conquer Italy from Theodahad and the rest of the Goths. Theodahad having no experience and no knowledge, of war made him ill-prepared for what the demands of war may be.[9]

Theodahad sent his son-in-law Ebremud but upon facing Belisarius Ebremud would desert the gothic armies. Even though Theodahad had studied Plato, he made no effort to build up his armies after entering negotiations with Constantinople. With Theodahad being in the safety of the City of Ravenna and then Rome It wasn’t until Goths who were unhappy with Theodahad due to his inability to prepare for war and his unwillingness to aid the city of Naples that was under siege elected a new king, one who had been a general under his uncle Theoderic, a man named Witiges. Upon hearing this, Theodahad would head back to Ravenna to regain control and secure his safety from the advancing Byzantium armies. It was during this route back that Witiges would send a Goth named Optaris to either capture or kill Theodahad. It was on his way back would Optaris who had been already hostile to Theodahad due to his actions taken toward a woman Optaris had wooed killed Theodahad. Following his death Witiges would be named king of the Ostrogoths.[6]

In fiction

Theodahad makes an appearance in Felix Dahn's 1876 historical novel Ein Kampf um Rom, which appeared in English translation in 1878 as A Struggle for Rome. In the book he is depicted as weak and subservient to his wife, Gothelinda, who is portrayed as the true culprit behind Amalaswintha's murder.

Theodahad also appears (as "Thiudahad") as a character in L. Sprague de Camp's 1939 alternate history novel Lest Darkness Fall.[11][12]


  1. ^ Hodgkin, Thomas (1896). Italy and Her Invaders. Clarendon Press. p. 651. ISBN 9788482770321.
  2. ^ Lillington-Martin, C. (2016), a review of Theodahad: A Platonic King at the Collapse of Ostrogothic Italy by Massimiliano Vitiello (2014) for University of Toronto Quarterly, Issue 85:3 (2016), 470-472.
  3. ^ Arnold H.M. Jones et al. (ed.), The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume 2, AD 395-527, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press 1980, p. 1067.
  4. ^ Heather, Peter J. Empires, and barbarians: The fall of Rome and the birth of Europe. New York, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Arnold, Jonathan J. Theoderic, and the Roman Imperial Restoration. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Procopius. “History of the Wars, Books V and VI: The Gothic War.” Translated by Charles C Mierow. The Project Gutenberg eBook of Procopius’ History of the Wars, Books V And VI: The Gothic War, by Procopius., January 2019. .
  7. ^ Jordanes. “Jordanes : Getica: The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, c. 551 CE.” Translated by Charles  C Mierow. Internet history sourcebooks: Medieval sourcebook, 2019. .
  8. ^ Amalasuntha. “Amalasuntha.” Translated by H B Dewing. Epistolae, 2014. .
  9. ^ a b Vitiello, Massimiliano. Theodahad: A Platonic king at the collapse of Ostrogothic Italy. PDF. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2014.
  10. ^ Amory, Patrick. People and Identity in Ostrogothic Italy: 489-554. New York, New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
  11. ^ a b Walton Beacham; Suzanne Niemeyer (1987). Popular World Fiction, 1900-present: A-De. Beacham Publishing. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-933833-08-1.
  12. ^ Frank Northen Magill (1979). Survey of Science Fiction Literature: Five Hundred 2,000-word Essay Reviews of World-famous Science Fiction Novels with 2,500 Bibliographical References. Salem Press. pp. 1198–1201. ISBN 978-0-89356-194-9.
Regnal titles Preceded byAmalasuntha King of the Ostrogoths 534–536 Succeeded byWitiges