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Gothic Rule and the Roman Senatorial Class

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  • faltin2001
    It is a popular belief, that in 476AD Roman power in Italy seized to exist, being replaced by Odoacer s rule and later Ostrogothic rule. Yet, there is strong
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 9 12:58 AM
      It is a popular belief, that in 476AD Roman power in Italy seized to
      exist, being replaced by Odoacer's rule and later Ostrogothic rule.
      Yet, there is strong evidence, that the Roman senatorial
      elites/aristocracy reasserted its power once the last Western Emperor
      was disposed off by Odoacer. Hence, the decline of central government
      was likely accompanied by a resurgence in the power of local elites.

      One indication of this increase in Roman senatorial power after 476AD
      is the revival of ancient privileges like the highly profitable
      minting of bronze coinage. From 477AD a new large bronze denomiation
      was introduced, which for the frist time since Diocletianus, bore the
      letters SC (Senatus Consulto) indicating that the coins were minted
      on the authority of the Roman Senate. Also, the choice of titles and
      formulas (IMP ZENO SEMPER AVG and IMP ZENO FELiCISSIMO SEN AVG)
      display a deliberate excursion into archaism, alluding to the Roman
      republic and early imperial period.

      Under Ostrogothis rule the powers of the Roman senate, but also of
      the key municipal elites were further extended in this respect. A
      first, so called heavy-series consisted of Folles and Half-Folles
      denominations. The design of the coins showed that the Roman senate
      had extensive authority of the minting. The coins depict Romulus and
      Remus with the wolf, the goddess of Victory and the inscription ROMA
      INVICTA. The light series shows a fig-tree with two eagles (Ficus
      Ruminalis) on the Half-Folles. This design was the symbol of the
      Roman goddess Rumina, the patron of nursing mothers. The Folles shows
      the Roman Eagle and the Roma bust borrowed from Republican denari.

      Ostrogothic bronze coinage was issued under the authority of the
      Roman senate and the municipalities of Ravenna and Pavia until the
      reign of Theodahat. During that time, this privileged will likely
      have generated massive profits for the Roman elites. It may thus have
      helped to sweeten the subordination under a foreign ruler. The
      priviledge was revoked (or became obsolete) under the rule of
      Witigis, during the Gothic-East Roman war, which ended in the
      submission of Witigis under the overlordship of the Emperor. However,
      the inscription 'ROMA INVICTA' was continued under Witigis and only
      abandoned under Baduela. The revocation of senatorial privileges like
      the minting of bronze coinage may have contributed to the downfall of
      Gothic rule, as it will have undermined Roman support for the Gothic
      kings. The most interesting aspect of this, however, is that instead
      of a replacement of Roman influence or rule after 476AD the
      dislodging of the last West Roman emperor has likely caused a
      strengthening of the Roman senatorial class which supported Gothic
      rule at least until the reign of Amalaswintha/Athalaric. The measures
      of the incompetent Theodahat have likely alienated many members of
      the Roman senatorial class and eventually caused them to support
      Iustinianus' re-conquest of Italy and thus contributed to the demise
      of Gothic rule.

      Any views?

      cheers,
      Dirk
    • andreas.schwarcz@univie.ac.at
      Dear Dirk, as in most cases I find your message extremely useful and of course support your opinion about the relation ship between the Senate and the
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 9 3:05 AM
        Dear Dirk,
        as in most cases I find your message extremely useful and of course support your
        opinion about the relation ship between the Senate and the Ostrogothic kings up to
        Theodahad. But I differ in one little point: the Ostrogothic kings were not "foreign
        rulers". Theoderic was born in the Empire, he had been consul and was therefore both
        a Roman citizen and a member of the East Roman Senate and he was the son-of-
        arms of the emperor Zenon. Up to Theodahad all his successors were confirmed by
        the emperor as rightful rulers of Italy and even Witigis had to abdicate formally to end
        the Ostrogothic rule legally. Only Hildebad, Eraric, Totila and Teja were never
        acknowledged by the East and of these kings only Totila got temporarily the support of
        a Roman Senate.
        Kind regards
        Andreas
        Ao.Univ.Prof.Dr.Andreas Schwarcz
        Institut für österreichische Geschichtsforschung
        Universität Wien
        Dr.Karl Lueger-Ring 1
        A-1010 Wien
        Österreich
        Tel.0043/1/42-77/272-16
        Fax 0043/142-77/92-72
      • faltin2001
        ... support your ... Ostrogothic kings up to ... were not foreign ... was therefore both ... the son-of- ... Hello Andreas, I agree the term foreign was not
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 9 4:08 AM
          --- In gothic-l@y..., andreas.schwarcz@u... wrote:
          > Dear Dirk,
          > as in most cases I find your message extremely useful and of course
          support your
          > opinion about the relation ship between the Senate and the
          Ostrogothic kings up to
          > Theodahad. But I differ in one little point: the Ostrogothic kings
          were not "foreign
          > rulers". Theoderic was born in the Empire, he had been consul and
          was therefore both
          > a Roman citizen and a member of the East Roman Senate and he was
          the son-of-
          > arms of the emperor Zenon.




          Hello Andreas,

          I agree the term 'foreign' was not well chosen. I suppose I wanted to
          refere to some form of loosely defined ethnic difference not so much
          of the Gothic king himself, but of his Gothic following. I am aware
          that many Roman Emperors were 'non-Italians', (e.g. Philippus Arabs
          (from Arabia), Maximinus Thrax (from Trakia) or the Franks Silvanus
          and probably Magnentius) and many were not even members of the
          senatorial elites. As such a Roman senator Flavius Theodericus would
          probably have fitted in easily into the ranks of West Roman rulers.

          I suppose the resurgence of some senatorial privileges (like the
          minting of bronze coinage, which is not only profitable but also of
          high propagandistic value because of its wide circulation) had to do
          first and foremost with the breakdown of central government at the
          advent of Odoacer and later Theoderic. In addition, it might have
          been useful in placating the Roman elites and ensuring their support.




          > Up to Theodahad all his successors were confirmed by
          > the emperor as rightful rulers of Italy and even Witigis had to
          abdicate formally to end
          > the Ostrogothic rule legally.



          This is also well documented by Jordanes who regarded Witigis as the
          last legitimate Ostrogothic ruler in Italy. Interestingly, the
          propagandistic value of coins is well displayed in the reign of
          Witigis, who 'restored' the monogramm of Theoderic to the most common
          denomination the quarter-siliqua, thus professing some form of
          continuity within the Amal-dynasty to which he only belonged by
          marriage.



          > Only Hildebad, Eraric, Totila and Teja were never
          > acknowledged by the East and of these kings only Totila got
          temporarily the support of
          > a Roman Senate.


          That is interesting, because it might (at least partly) explain the
          existence of bronze coins in the name of Baduela/Totila, while no
          bronze coins are known of Teja and no coins at all were minted by
          Hildebad and Eraric. While the Senatus Consulto (SC) formular was
          abandoned in the reign of Totila, the actual minting may still have
          been under the authority and/or organisation of the senate of Rome
          and the municipal authorities of Ticinium/Pavia. In fact, Totila's
          bronze coinage comprises the full set of denomiations (Dekanummia,
          Pentanumia, 2.5-Nummus and Nummus). They show the frontal bust of
          Totila with the inscription (DN BADUELA REX) with the reverse
          inscription repeating in four lines DN BADUELA REX in a wreath. The
          pieces minted in Rome show the full figure of Totila dressed as Roman
          officer (!) with shield and lance and a value mark X. His 2.5-nummi
          show a walking lion. A picture not seen on Roman coins since the time
          of Caracalla some 300 years earlier. The reason for its re-emergence
          remains an open question.

          Interestingly, Totila (who is always called Baduela/Baduila on his
          coins) abandoned the use of Justinian's name on gold coins. Instead,
          he minted tremisses in the name of the long dead Anastasius. The
          latter act must have been an insult to Justinian, because it implied
          that he was not the legitimate emperor. On the other hand, Totila
          refrained from mining gold in his own name as the Frankish king
          Theodebert was doing at about the same time. Hence, while rejecting
          the authority of Justinian, Totila may have been careful not to
          openly infringe on this imperial prerogative in view of animosities
          of the Roman senate.


          cheers,

          Dirk
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