INTRODUCTION: THE JUSTIFICATION FOR THE STUDY OF THEODERIC THE GREAT AND THE ROLE PLAYED BY PRIMARY TEXTUAL SOURCES IN THE ASSESSMENT OF HIS REIGN.
This dissertation will focus on the reign of Theoderic the Great (454-526), king of the Ostrogoths, who ruled in Italy between 493 and 526 AD. It will consider how contemporary and modern historians have assessed the impact of his reign on the development of the Italian peninsula in terms of political, economic, social and religious change. It will attempt to answer questions about the decline and regeneration of Italy during this late Roman period, and whether Theoderic was an astute statesman or a naïve showman. In other words, did his reign have any noticeable impact on the fate of the late Roman Empire in Italy, or was his reign no more than ‘smoke and mirrors’, prolonging the inevitable end of the Romanised West? Furthermore, how does Theoderic inform the continuitist/catastrophist debate? To this end, the entry of Theoderic into this discussion will be delayed, so that consideration may be paid to the key primary sources (Introduction), the changing historiography of post-Roman Italy (Chapter 1), and the development of the Italian peninsula between the 4th and 6th centuries without Theoderic’s presence (Chapter 2). In Chapter 3, Theoderic will be ‘layered’ on top of this contextual picture, so that the impact of his reign and the assessment of modern historians can be evaluated.
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