Totila

(d. 552)
   Eventual successor of Witigis as king of the Ostrogoths in Italy and the greatest Gothic military commander since Theodoric the Great, Totila (r. 541-552) led his people for eleven years and mounted a major challenge to Justinian's efforts to conquer Italy and restore it to imperial control. His early and dramatic military victories restored Gothic confidence and rallied them against the Byzantine general Belisarius. Although unable to inflict a total defeat on the Byzantines, Totila effectively wore down imperial resistance until his defeat by Narses and death in battle. His strategy to make the conquest of Italy so bloody and difficult that Justinian would abandon his effort nearly succeeded, but at great cost to the people, cities, and countryside of Italy. Totila's successor, Teja, did not survive long after Totila's death, and the Goths themselves fell to the armies of Justinian in 555.
   After the failure of Witigis against the Byzantine armies in Italy, along with the failure of the Goths' efforts to promote Belisarius, the commander of the Byzantine troops in Italy, to the office of western emperor, the Goths fell into a short period of political turmoil, as two Gothic leaders rose to prominence only to fall to political murders. Totila was the nephew of one of these murdered leaders; he was elected king in the fall of 541 with the duty of restoring Gothic authority in Italy. Totila was a skilled commander who was also blessed with some good fortune, which aided him throughout the 540s. The efforts that the Goths had made to promote Belisarius to the imperial dignity made him suspect in Constantinople, and Persian efforts on the empire's eastern frontier limited the number of troops and resources that could be committed to the war in Italy. Moreover, in the spring of 542 Totila won a major battle at Faenza, rallying the Goths to his side. He once again raised a rebellion against the invaders, and imperial armies moved north to contain him and lay siege to Verona. With some 5,000 troops, Totila moved against an imperial force of some 12,000 troops, and in a brilliant tactical move defeated them. His smaller force managed to catch its rival in a pincer movement, and a reserve of 300 Gothic lancers fell on the imperial army's rear at a crucial moment. His ranks swelling to some 20,000 troops, Totila followed this victory with another major success over the imperial army near Florence and a rapid move to southern Italy to lay claim to the entire peninsula.
   Totila's fortunes improved even more in 543 as he moved into the south. He managed to enter Naples and treated both the civilian population and the imperial garrison leniently-a clever strategy that gained the support and respect of many in Italy. He repeated this policy of leniency when he took the city of Rome after a siege that lasted from late 545 until December 546. Even the return of Belisarius, who had been recalled to Constantinople after the defeat of Witigis, could not stop the advance of Totila, who hoped that his military victories would force the emperor to negotiate. Although Justinian was unwilling to come to the table, Totila was not without diplomatic successes; he managed to remove the Frankish threat by ceding part of northern Italy to the Merovingian king Theudebert. Totila's next move, however, was not as successful. He led his army north in the spring of 547 against Ravenna, an imperial stronghold, and lost Rome to Belisarius, a loss that undermined confidence in Totila. His failure to retake the city diminished his prestige even more and led to a breakdown in marriage negotiations with the Merovingian Franks. He did, however, manage to retake the city in 549, seize a number of fortresses in 549 and 550, and take the offensive in Dalmatia and Sicily.
   Although enjoying a measure of success and forcing the recall of the great Belisarius, Totila was not able to overcome the Byzantine advantage in wealth and soldiers. Justinian refused to negotiate with the Gothic king and would not even meet with the envoys Totila sent to Constantinople. Instead, Justinian responded to Totila's efforts with total war in Italy. His first replacement for Belisarius died, but this only delayed the inevitable, as the emperor sent the great general Narses to prosecute the war with renewed vigor. After a successful march into Italy, Narses secured Ravenna and proceeded on to Rome. In July 552, the armies of Totila and Narses clashed at Busta Gallorum, the decisive battle of the war. Although outnumbered, Totila decided to accept battle, hoping that late reinforcements or an unexpected attack would bring him victory. A cavalry charge at the center of the larger imperial force was the main act of the battle. The Gothic cavalry was broken in the assault, the Gothic armies fled from the field, and some 6,000 Gothic soldiers were killed in the rout. Totila died in battle, as did the hopes of any success for the Goths. Although Totila's nephew continued the struggle, the Goths were essentially broken on the field of Busta Gallorum, and the Gothic people disappeared from history by 555, the date of the final Byzantine victory.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Browning, Robert. Justinian and Theodora, rev. ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1987.
 ♦ Burns, Thomas. A History of the Ostrogoths. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1984.
 ♦ Bury, John B. History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian. 2 vols. 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1959.
 ♦ Cassiodorus. The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus. Trans. S. J. B. Barnish. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 ♦ Procopius. History of the Wars. Trans H. B. Dewing. 1962.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
 ♦ ---. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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  • Totila — (died Jul 1 552) was king of the Ostrogoths from 541 until his death. He waged the Gothic War against the Byzantine Empire for the mastery of Italy. Most of the historical evidence for Totila consists of chronicles by the Byzantine historian… …   Wikipedia

  • Totila — Totila, auch bekannt unter dem Namen Baduila,[1] († nach 30. Juni 552 bei Taginae, Umbrien) war von 542 bis 552 König der Ostgoten. Er fiel 552 in der Schlacht von Busta Gallorum. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 1.1 Herkunft …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Totila — ou Baduila (l « Immortel ») (né à Trévise mort en 552 à Taginae, (auj. Gualdo Tadino), près d Urbino, Ombrie) est un roi ostrogoth d Italie de 541 à 552[1] . Sommaire 1 Biographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Totila — destruyendo las murallas de Florencia. Totila, conocido también con el nombre de Baduila, nació en Treviso, y fue rey de los ostrogodos de 542 a 552, tras la muerte de su tío Hildibaldo y el asesinato de Erarico. Murió en la batalla de Busta …   Wikipedia Español

  • TOTILA — (mort en 552) roi des Ostrogoths (541 552) Depuis 535, Justinien a entrepris de reconquérir l’Italie ostrogothique. En 540, il a repris la capitale, Ravenne. Mais les Ostrogoths résistent et élisent en 541 un jeune prince, Badvila ou Totila. Dès… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Totila — Totila,   eigentlich wohl Baduila [»der Streiter«, »der Kämpfer«], Badua, König (seit 541) der Ostgoten in Italien, ✝ Caprae (heute Caprara, Gemeinde Gualdo Tadino, Provinz Perugia) Ende Juni/Anfang Juli 552; nahm 542 550 den Byzantinern Rom und… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Totĭla — (besser: Badvila), König der Ostgoten, Neffe des Königs Ildiba(l)d, ward nach dessen Ermordung 541 auf den Thron erhoben, eroberte bis 543 das von Belisar den Goten entrissene Italien wieder, 546 nach hartnäckiger Belagerung auch Rom, gab es 547… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Totila — Totĭla, König der Ostgoten 542 552, fiel 552 bei Taginä gegen Narses …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Totila — Totila, König der Ostgothen in Italien 541–552 n. Chr., vertheidigte sich mit Heldenmuth gegen die Angriffe der Byzantiner unter Belisar u. Narses, mußte aber bei der Schwäche seines Volks, der Abneigung der Italiener und den Hilfsquellen des… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Totila — ▪ Ostrogoth king original name  Baduila   died 552       Ostrogoth king who recovered most of central and southern Italy, which had been conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 540.       A relative of Theudis, king of the Visigoths, Totila was… …   Universalium

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