Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why was Gregory of Tours wrong about Amalasuntha?

      Considering that he is an otherwise reliable source, it must be strange to see this passage on Theodoric's daughter that has no basis in fact except the part that she was murdered, possibly  by complicity with the empress Theodora, by her cousin, Theodat.  Why do I say Gregory of Tours is wrong?
       There are three other historians with first hand knowledge of the situation in Ravenna.  There is Cassiodorus, who was Theodoric's and then Amalasunth's secretary.  His History of the Goths did not survive but many of his letters did and they support much of what Jordanes put in his abbreviated version of the history.  Jordanes was writing at the court of Constantinople about fifteen years after Cassiodorus left Ravenna and moved to Constantinople.  Jordanes had contact with people who had first hand knowledge of the events in Ravenna, especially since Amalasuntha's daughter Mathesuntha had moved to Constantinople with her husband Germanus, nephew of the emperor, Justinian.
      The last historian was Procopius, who was the legal adviser to Justinian's general Belisarius, the man who was sent to Ravenna to punish Theodat.  It is not known if Procopius accompanied Belisarius on this campaign but he had accompanied him on others so it is possible that he was there also. 
     Gregory was born about five years after Amalasuntha died and he was a Frank not a Goth.  The Ostrogoths were Arians, on the wrong side of the Trinity debate to Gregory, but still Gregory does not give such an unflattering and erroneous portrait of other Ostrogoths.  There is no doubt that he is wrong.  Amalasuntha not only married a prince like her parents wanted her to but she had children, which Gregory denies.  She is also the niece of Clovis, whom Gregory approved of .  It is so strange. 

Beatles Song of the Week

Pro commodum Milvorum Papyraceus,
Spectaculum hodie nocte in petaurum erit,
Hendersoni toti illic erunt,
Recens Pablorum Fanquorum de nundino.
Quam spectaculum!

Super viros et equos et trochos et rebus,
Et ultime per cado de flamma vera!
Sic M.P mundum provocabit.


Anonymous said...

That is really odd. There is no compelling reason for him to hate her the way he does. He didn't even know her.

Maybe he just didn't like strong women? Then again, if she was an Arian, that might explain some of it.


AWench said...

I know this is a bit late in the day but I am doing a bit of research into this period and tracking down the rumour that Amalasuntha was either the mother or sister of Chrotechild the Ostrogoth, wife of Branulphe d'Ardennes. The rumour goes that Chrotechild and Branulphe were the parents of Fredegund, who far from being a slave or servant was the descendent of both Clovis and Theoderic. Now Gregory REALLY hated Fredegund and is responsible for her complete defamation, so the rumours might explain Gregory's attitude. What do you think?

The Red Witch said...

Herwig Wolfram wrote a good book called History of the Goths. It might be worth your while to have a look at it. Theodoric had concubines but Amalasuntha was his only child with Audefleda, Clovis' sister. He had illegitimate daughters, Thuidigotho, who married Alaric II the king of the Visigoths and Ostrogotho who married Sigismund king of the Burgundians. There were possibly two others but their names are not known. According to Cassiodorus and Procopius, Amalasuntha had two children Mathesuntha and Athalaric.
Chrotechilde looks to be Clotilde, the Burgundian princess who became Clovis I's wife. Branulphe may be Brodulf, from Gesta Dagoberti or the chronicles of Fredegar, who may have been the brother or father of Sichilde the third wife of Clotaire II. But I have never read that there was any question that Fredegund was of humble origins.
It looks like some online genealogies put the two together but records from those days often contradict each other if any record remains. Looking at a French book on the subject, there is a Brunulphe who was Count of Ardennes, whose wife Clotilde was the sister of St. Agia of Hainault. You have some looking to do. Googling these names doesn't turn up any scholarly papers on Fredegund being possibly of Merovingian birth. Since she died in 597 and was Chilperic's mistress after 568, odds are she was born after Amalasuentha died. Check Liber Historiae Francorum. I really doubt Fredegund was a descendant of Clovis. Look at Theodora, Justinian's wife and you can see that a talented woman of humble birth could marry an emperor. Good luck. Hope this helps.