|King of the Visigoths|
Imagined portrayal of Theodoric, King of the Goths, by Félix Costello, 1635.
Peuce Island, Dobruja
|Died||20 June 451 (aged 60–61)|
Battle of Chalons
Theodoric I[a] (c. 390 or 393 - 20 or 24 June 451) was the King of the Visigoths from 418 to 451. Theodoric is famous for his part in defeating Attila (the Hun) at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451, where he was killed.
In 418 he succeeded King Wallia. The Romans had ordered King Wallia to move his people from Iberia to Gaul. As king, Theodoric completed the settlements of the Visigoths in Gallia Aquitania II, Novempopulana and Gallia Narbonensis, and then used the declining power of the Roman Empire to extend his territory to the south.
After the death of Emperor Honorius and the usurpation of Joannes in 423 internal power struggles broke out in the Roman Empire. Theodoric used this situation and tried to capture the important road junction Arelate, but the Magister militum Aëtius, who was assisted by the Huns, was able to save the city.
Because the Romans had to fight against the Franks, who plundered Cologne and Trier in 435, and because of other events Theodoric saw the chance to conquer Narbo Martius (in 436) to obtain access to the Mediterranean Sea and the roads to the Pyrenees. But Litorius, with the aid of the Huns, prevented the capture of the city and drove the Visigoths back to their capital Tolosa. Theodoric's offer of peace was refused, but the king won the decisive battle at Tolosa, and Litorius soon died in Gothic imprisonment from the injuries which he had received in this battle. Avitus went - according to the orders of Aëtius - to Tolosa and offered a peace treaty which Theodoric accepted. Perhaps the Romans recognized at that time the sovereignty of the Visigoth state.
A daughter of Theodoric had been married to Huneric, a son of the Vandal ruler Genseric (in 429?), but Huneric later had ambitions to wed Eudocia, a daughter of the Emperor Valentinian III. He therefore accused the daughter of Theodoric of planning to kill him, and in 444 had her mutilated - her ears and nose cut off - and sent back to her father, which earned the enmity of the Vandals.
In 444, an enemy of Aëtius, the former magister militum Sebastianus, came to Tolosa. This could have strained relations with Aëtius, but Theodoric soon sent his unwelcome guest away, after which the latter captured Barcelona and then was executed on Geiseric's orders in 450.
Theodoric was also an enemy of the Suevic king Rechila in Iberia, because Visigoth troops assisted the imperial commander Vitus in his campaign against the Suevi in 446. But the ability of this people to conduct a strong defence and the better relations between Geiseric and the Roman Empire led Theodoric to change his foreign policy. He therefore, in February 449, married one of his daughters to the new Suevic king Rechiar, who visited his father-in-law at Tolosa in July 449. On his return - according to the author Isidore of Seville - Rechiar, with the assistance of Visigoth troops, devastated the area surrounding the city of Caesaraugusta and managed by guile to take Ilerda.
Some recent scholars doubt that Theodoric issued legislation, as it was assumed in earlier times.
When Attila the Hun finally invaded Gaul, Avitus arranged an alliance between Theodoric and his long-standing enemy Aëtius against the Huns. Theodoric joined this coalition because he recognized the danger of the Huns to his own realm. With his whole army and his sons, Thorismund and Theodoric, he joined Aëtius.
Then Aëtius and Theodoric followed the Huns and fought against them at the Battle of Châlons near Troyes in about June 451. Most Visigoths fought at the right wing under the command of Theodoric but a smaller force fought at the left under the command of Thorismund.
Theodoric's forces contributed decisively to the victory of the Romans, but he himself was killed during the battle. Jordanes records two different accounts of his death: one was that Theodoric was thrown from his horse and trampled to death; the second was that Theodoric was slain by the spear of the Ostrogoth Andag, who was the father of Jordanes's patron Gunthigis.
The body of Theodoric wasn't found until the next day. According to Gothic tradition he was mourned and buried by his warriors on the battlefield. Immediately Thorismund was elected as successor of his father. Other sons of Theodoric were Theodoric II, Frederic, Euric I, Retimer and Himnerith.
For his sacrifice and subsequent victory over Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, Theodoric became a revered figure in Western historiography, and served as an inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien in his creation of king Théoden of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings.