Category Archives: Other

From Crusader to King, the rise of Baldwin I of Jerusalem

Baldwin I of Jerusalem, formally Baldwin I of Edessa, born Baldwin of Boulogne, was born c.1058 in the Lower Lorraine region of France. He was one of the leaders of the first crusade and 1st Count of Edessa and first to be named King of Jerusalem once he gained power from his brother Godfrey of Boullion who refused the title of King.

Baldwin was the third son of Eustace II, Count of Boulonge and Ida of Lorraine.  Being the youngest son he was intended for a life in the church but he had given this up by 1080; according to William of Tyre.  Tyre didn’t know Baldwin and wrote later in the 12th century ‘in his youth, Baldwin was well nurtured in the liberal studies’.  Afterwards he lived in Normandy, where he married Godehilde (or Godvera) de Toeni who was the daughter of Raoul de Conches a noble Anglo-Norman family.  He returned to the Lower Lorraine in order to take control of the county of Verdun previously held by Godfrey.

In 1096 he went with his brothers Godfrey and Eustace IIII of Boulogne and joined the First Crusade.  Baldwin raised funds for his expenses by selling most of his property to the church, and took his wife Godehilde with him.  On the march to the Holy Lands when they reached Hungary, King Coloman demanded a hostage as a sign that the Crusaders would not wreak havoc on the lands as they passed through.  Baldwin was chosen and was handed over to King Coloman until all the Crusaders had passed through Hungarian territory

When they entered into Byzantium land there were skirmishes with Greek troops and Baldwin commanded a troop of soldiers that captured a bridge close to Constantinople.  On reaching Constantinople the mass of soldiers could not be controlled and went about the typical solder habit of pillaging the surrounding area.  The Byzantium Emperor Alexius I Comnenus was forced to give a hostage who was taken into the care of Baldwin, his son and future emperor John II Comnenus.

At Heraclea in Asia Minor he broke away from his brothers and the main band of Crusaders and with Tancred (future Prince of Galilee) he marched into Cilicia.  Then in September 1097 he takes Tarsus from Tancred with the help of Guynemer of Boulogne and his pirates.  Tancred and Baldwin’s armies skirmished around Mamistra but never committed to full battles with Tancred finally leaving and marching towards Antioch. Baldwin then joined the main force again at Marash, Baldwin then received an invitation from an Armenian named Bagrat and moved eastwards towards the Euphrates, where he occupied Turbessel

Baldwin then received another invitation from Thoros of Edessa.  Thoros adopted Baldwin as his own son and successor and after he was assassinated in March 1098 Baldwin became the first Count of Edessa.  His wife Godehilde had died whilst on the journey to the Holy Land, and Baldwin then married Thoros of Marash’s daughter Arda, acting as an ambassador between the Crusaders and the Armenians.  He ruled Edessa until 1100 and during these two years he captured Samosata and Surac from the Muslims.  During the siege of Antioch he sent money and food to aid his fellow Crusaders but did not participate in the siege himself.

Baldwin entering Edessa

Baldwin entering Edessa

Kerbogha, the governor of Mosul, was marching towards Antioch to help with the relief, when he laid siege to Edessa for three weeks.  Kerbogha was not successful in his siege and broke it heading later towards Antioch He was later defeated at Antioch which lead to the Crusaders being able to form a principality there.  Later that year Baldwin with the aid of his brother Godfrey also besieged Azaz where they defeated the forces of Ridwan of Aleppo.

After Godfrey’s death in July 1100 Baldwin was invited to Jerusalem by supporters led by Warner of Graz.  He granted Edessa to his cousin Baldwin of Bourcq.  On his way to Jerusalem he was ambushed by the forces of Duqaq of Damascus near Beirut, but Baldwin defeated Duqaq continuing on his journey to Jerusalem, arriving in November 1100.  Once he had arrived in Jerusalem he was opposed by his old enemy Tancred, as well as the new patriarch (head of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem) Dagobert of Pisa.  On arrival he also set out on an expedition against the Egyptians to the south and didn’t return until December.  On his return he was crowned as King of Jerusalem on Christmas Day in Bethlehem by Dagobert who had since given up his opposition.  Baldwin was the first King of Jerusalem as Godfrey had refused the title saying there was only one King of Jerusalem that being Jesus Christ.

baldwin i

In 1101 Baldwin started a campaign of expanding his territory with capturing Arsuf and Caesarea.  In September of that year he then defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Ramlah.  Mis-communication regarding the battle was rife and it had been believed in Jerusalem that the Crusader army had been defeated and Baldwin killed.  Tancred was set to take up the regency when it was finally reported Baldwin was actually victorious.

In 1102 another battle was fought at Ramlah which included some of the original Crusaders including, Stephen of Blois, William IX Duke of Aquitaine and Hugh VI of Lusignan.  This time the Egyptians were victorious and Baldwin lost many of his army; including Stephen of Blois.  Baldwin managed to escape Arsuf on his horse, who we know was called Gazala.   He quickly arranged for his transport back to Jaffa moving by boat, led by Godric of Finchale before managing to return to Jerusalem in secret.  Baldwin then led another army against the Egyptians at Jaffa, this time winning the battle.

This led to Baldwin in 1103 besieging Acre without success with the city being relieved by an Egyptian fleet.  This didn’t deter Baldwin who with the aid of a Genoese fleet besieged the city once more in 1104, this time taking the city.  In 1105 another battle was fought at Ramlah and Baldwin was victorious once more.  In 1109 he assisted with the council of great barons outside the city of Tripoli.  The city was taken later that year setting up the County of Tripoli.  In 1110 Beirut was added to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Sidon was then captured with the aid of Ordelafo Faliero, with his Venetian fleet of 100 a hundred ships and Sigurd I of Norway.  In 1113 he defeated the combined forces of Toghtekin of Damascus and Askunk-ur of Mosu, with assistance from troops from Antioch and fresh arrivals from Europe.

In 1113 he married for the third time.  He had abandoned his second wife Arda in 1108, under the pretext she had been unfaithful.  She was still alive and in a monastery in Jerusalem so his third marriage to Adelaide del Vasto was bigamous.  This would cause him many problems in the future along with Patriarch Arnulf who had sanctioned the marriage.  It was agreed if the couple had n children that Adelaide’s son from her previous marriage Roger II of Sicily would become heir.

baldwin i 2

In 1117 Baldwin fell ill.  He was convinced that his sickness was punishment for his bigamous marriage to Adelaide, and she was sent away back to Sicily.  Baldwin recovered initially and in 1118 he marched with his army into Egypt and plundered Farama.  It was here that he then fell ill once more,   the army left Egypt heading back to Jerusalem but Baldwin died on the journey on the 2nd April at the village of Al-Arish and his body was then carried back on a litter to Jerusalem.  His cousin  Baldwin of Bourcq was chosen as his successor becoming Baldwin II of Jerusalem.

Baldwin surely must be seen as one of the main reasons that the Crusaders succeeded.  He was the first King in Jerusalem even if the second ruler and greatly expanded the lands of the Kingdom whilst pushing into and raiding Muslim lands.  He began life as the third son of the Count of Boulogne and almost missed his vocation in life for the Church, would life in the Crusader states have been different  if Baldwin has continued with life as a priest?  I think they would of surely missed him.

Countess Louise Henriette of Nassau

Louise Henriette was born in The Hague, on 27th November 1627 eldest daughrer of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and Armalia of Solms Braunfels.  Frederick was the Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders and Overijissel.  She grew up through her childhood at the court of her father.

Louise Henriette 1

She fell in love with Henri Charles de La Tremoille but had to give him up, as her mother had royal ambitions for Louise.  Attempts to arrange an engagement with King Charles II of England did not succeed.  She finally married Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg (1620-1688), ‘the Great Elector’ at The Hague on 7th December 1646.  Frederick Henry was believed to consider the marriage as beneficial with the connections to the House of Orange aiding with Brandenburg’s struggle for influence in Pomerania.

The couple lived in Cleves in the early part of their marriage, before moving to Brandenburg in 1648.  They continued to travel and Louise followed Frederick where ever he went as he moved between The Hague, Konigsberg, Berlin and Cleves, as well as the different battle fields of Denmark and Poland.  She acted as political advisor during the period, and was often called a pragmatist.  Through correspondence with the Queen of Poland, Marie Louise Gonzaga, Louise managed to make an alliance with Poland with the Polish recognising Prussia as a province within Brandenburg.  Louise and Frederick’s marriage was always considered to be a role model to others and her advice continued to be vital to Frederick.

Louise Henriette 2

In 1646 with the assistance of Johann Mauritz, a military engineer and Michael Hanff the landscape gardener, Louise converted a kitchen garden at the Berlin City Palace into a formal garden that became known as Lustgarten.  Louise built a new castle in Botzow beginning in 1650 and finishing in 1652  It was called Oranienburg which became the name of the entire town in 1653.  Also Louise began an orphanage in Orainienburg in 1665 with room for 24 children.

Louisa and Frederick had six children, William Henry (1648-1649), Charles (1655-1674), Frederick (1657-1713) the first King of Prussia, Amalia (1656-1664), Henry (1664-1664), Louis (1666-1687) who married Ludwika Karolina Radzwill who was titled Princess of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Louisa died on the 18th June 1667 aged just 39 and was buried in Berlin Cathedral.

Louise Henriette 3

Something different……..snowy Castles

Something different considering the weather we are having here in the West Midlands, England at the moment I thought I would share some of the pictures I have found having a play with google pictures.

Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle

Castle Menzies

Castle Menzies

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Hampton Court

hampton court winter

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

And last although not a castle itself, seeing as it is only a mile or two away from home I thought I would add Blakesley Hall, from Yardley in Birmingham and it is very pretty

blakesley hall

2013 Happy New Year, and where I would like the blog to go

I thought now I am in a New Year that I would write a little as to what my dream is for this blog and where I would like it to go.  Anyone who has seen any of my tweets previously would of maybe seen a little of what I would wish to do if enough time was available. 

My initial thoughts around the blog where regarding how the different royal families around Europe were formed together and it was always royals marrying royals and the claims of different families to claims of the thrones.  I also wanted to learn more about European royalty and more regarding different parts of European history that I didn’t know.  From my opening blogs regarding the Normans and focusing purely on that family this has now become a little disjointed and I seem to be jumping from here to there with no continuity.  I almost got there with Queen Victoria’s children but not the level I would like. 

So to try and bring some continuity around the blogs that I am doing I am trying to create a database that lists all the royals from the different families and also digging deeper into each of the families.   I have started this and this is why post’s have been sparse a little at times over the last month or so as I have been concentrating on this. 
My dream would be to create a website where all this information would then be available with details of each person, and also paintings, pictures or statues that I could find.    I have played around with a couple of free sites but at the moment it is all a bit strange to me, so that is still in the pipeline and for now I am hoping to focus more on certain families and be a little more concentrated.

So here is to a good 2013 to everyone and hopefully a successful one.

Good King Wenceslaus…..but was he really a king?

Statue of Saint Wenceslas on the same-named square in Prague

Statue of Saint Wenceslas on the same-named square in Prague

‘Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen.’  Did he really?  Let’s look.

Saint Wenceslaus was the Duke of Bohemia from 921 to 935 when he was assassinated by his own brother Boleslav the Cruel.  He was the son of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia and grandson of Borivoj I of Bohemia.  His mother was Drahomira, daughter to a pagan tribal chief and was baptised upon her marriage.  At the age of 13 in 921 Wenceslaus father died and he was then brought up by his grandmother Saint Ludima.  A dispute over who had the most influence over Wenceslaus led to his mother arranging for the murder by strangulation of Ludmila at Tetin Castle near Beroun on the 15th September 921.  Some legends state that Drahomira tried to then convert back Wenceslaus unsuccessfully to the old pagan religion.


During his reign continually had to negotiate against snips at his borders.  After the fall of Great Moravia the Bohemian Duchy had to deal with continuous raids by the Maygars and also the Saxon duke and early Eastern Frankish king Henry the Fowler.  Henry also raided lands of the Polabian Slavs which was the homeland of Wenceslaus’ mother.  Wenceslaus’ father had previously forged an alliance with the Bavarian duke Arnulf the Bad who was an opponent to Henry.  In 921 at Regensburg Arnulf and Henry put aside their differences which wiped out the alliance as useful.

In either 924 or 925 at the age of eighteen Wenceslaus assumed power for himself excelling his mother in the process.  He then defeated a rebellion by Radslav, Duke of Kourim.  In 929 joint forces of Arnulf and Henry reached Prague enforcing a previous tribute payment that Wenceslaus had no option but to pay.  Henry had previously been made to make payments to the Maygars which needed funding.  This is believed the reason that made him enforce the payments once more from Wenceslaus.

In 935 a group of nobles aligned to Wenceslaus brother Boleslav plotted his death.   Boleslav invited Wenceslaus to the feast of Saint Cosmas and Damian.  On his way to the church at Stara Boleslav three of Boleslav companions –Tira, Csta and Hnevsa – murdered him.  Boreslav then succeeded Wenceslaus as Duke of Bohemia.

Wenceslaus' assassination: the duke flees from his brother (with sword) to a church, but the priest closes the door, Gumpold von Mantua, 10th century

Wenceslaus’ assassination: the duke flees from his brother (with sword) to a church, but the priest closes the door,
Gumpold von Mantua, 10th century

Wenceslaus was immediately considered as a martyr and a saint after his death and a cult grew up in Bohemia.  Although only a duke during his life, Wenceslaus was bestowed the title of king by Otto I of the Holy Roman Empire posthumously.  This is why during the song and legend he is referred to as king.

In the Czech Republic Saint Wenceslaus’ feast day September 28th has been a public holiday since 2000.

The carol was written by John Mason Neale and published in 1853.  The music itself originates from Finland about 300 years earlier.

So there we are a little bit more about one of the more famous ‘kings’ we associate with Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas to all who are reading this blog!



Who’s died today?

One thing I noticed scrolling down my twitter feed today was that it seems to be a few people that have died in history today.  So here we go this isn’t a conclusive list but one I have tried to put together of different people I have seen…..oh and it also takes the blog out of Europe for the first time to..

Emperor Tsuchimikado of Japan, was born 3rd January 1196 and died 6th November 1231.  He was the 83rd emperor of Japan reigning between 1198 till 1210.


Ulrich, Duke of Wuttemberg was born 8th February 1487 and died 6th November 1550.  He succeeded Eberhard II as Duke in 1498, being declared of age in 1503.


Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales was born 19th February 1594 and died 6th November 1612 and was the the elder son of James I and VI of England and Scotland and Anne of Denmark.  He died at the age of 18 of a typhoid fever with his younger brother Charles becoming the heir to the thrones of England and Scotland.


Gustavus Aldolphus of Sweden, was born 9th December 1594 and died 6th November 1632 at the Battle of Lutzen.  He reigned as King of Sweden between 1611 and 1632.  he also became known as ‘The Golden King’ and ‘The Lion of the North’ leading Swden to be a great power during his reign.


William II, Prince of Orange lived between 27th May 1626 and 6th November 1650.  He was sovereign Prince of Orange and stateholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands from 1647 till his death in 1650 of small pox.


John IV of Portugal was born 18th March 1603 and died 6th November 1656.  He was King of Portugal from 1640 till his death, and also nicknamed John the Restorer.


Charles X of France, born 9th October 1757 till 6th November 1836.  He reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 1824 till 1830.  His rule ended due to the July Revolution which resulted in his abdication and the election of Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans.


Princess Charlotte of Wales was born 7th January 1796 and died 6th November 1817 at just the age of 21.  She was the only daughter of George IV of Great Britain.


Emperor Khai Dinh was born Nguyen Phuc Buu Dao on the 8th October 1885 and died 6th November 1925,  He was the 12th Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam.



Remember, Remember the King that died on the 5th of November

‘Remember remember the fifth of November, for Gunpowder, treason and plot.’

We all remember today as the day that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up King James in the Houses of Parliament, but to some it is of note for other reasons.  Keeping with the Eastern European theme of my last post I have decided to look at someone else whose history is marked on this day.

Casimir III the Great was born 30th April 1310 and died 5th November 1370.  He was the last of the Piast dynasty to be King of Poland reigning between 1333 and 1370.  Born in Kowal, he was the son of King Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high and Duchess Hedwig of Kalisz.

He founded Poland’s first university, at Krakow in 1364.    He was a skilful diplomat also and through his diplomacy he annexed lands from western Russia and eastern Germany.  Casimir was the second king of the reunited Greater and Lower Poland following in his father’s footsteps.  Ciasimir continued to use his diplomacy skills for his father adding both the important regions Red Russia and Masovia to the country.  On the completion of the annexations it brought Poland to the next level of respect within Central Europe earing its place amongst the more powerful nations.   After his elder brother died in 1312 he was regarded as heir and prepared for kingship by Jaroslaw the future archbishop of Gniezno.  He became king in 1333 on his father’s death.  His sister Elisabeth was married to King Charles Robert of Hungary in 1320 and figured within Casimir’s diplomatic relations with Hungary who he treated as a strong ally.  Within the treaties Casimir dropped Poland’s claims on Silesia and East Pomerania.  In exchange for this the King of Bohemia dropped his claims on Poland all together whilst he managed obtain the Teutonic Orders withdrawl from Kujawy and Dobrzyn.

By his death in 1370 Casimir had managed to increase his lands from 50,000 square miles to about 90,000 square miles.  He was renowned throughout Europe.  In 1364 a congress was held in Krakow and was attended by the Kings of Hungary, Bohemia, Denmark and Cyprus as well as many other local princes.

Casimir the Great by Leopold Löffler

He married four times –

He married first Aldona of Lithuania in 1325.  She was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas and Jewna.  They had two daughters Elisabeth of Poland (who married Boguslaw V, Duke of Pomerania) and Cunigunde of Poland (who married Louis VI the Roman).  Aldona dies on 26th May 1339.  His second wife was Adelheid of Hesse, they married on 29th September 1341.  She was the daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse and Elizabeth of Messien.  It was said to be a loveless marriage and Casimir soon started to live away from his wife.  The marriage lasted till 1356.  Casimir then married his mistress Christina.  Christina was the widow of a wealthy merchant called Miklusz Rokiczani.  Casimir met Christina at the court of Bohemia in Prague where she was a lady in waiting after Miklusz death.  Casimir persuaded the abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Tyniec to marry them in secret.  The secret didn’t remain that way for long and on hearing the news Queen Adelaide renounced it as bigamous and returned to Hesse without permission.  Casimir ignored the complaints of Pope Innocent VI and continued to live with Christina until he once again declared himself as divorced in 1363/1364.   In 1365 Casimir married his fourth wife Hedwig of Zagan the daughter of Henry V of Iron, Duke of Zagari and Anna of Mazovia.  They had three children, Anna of Poland, Countess of Celje (who married William of Celje and Ulrich, Duke of Teck), Kunigunde of Poland and Hedwig of Poland.  The marriage was considered bigamous again as Adelaide and possibly Christine surviving still.  The legitimacy of the three children was disputed, although later legitimised by different Popes.  Casimir also had three other illegitimate sons with his mistress Cudka.

Part of Casimir’s legacy is the fact that even though he had no legal heir there was no attempt to split Poland back up, restoring the former duchies and principalities. His governance had given confidence in the monarchy for it to be able to continue.   On his death 642 years ago today the crown of Poland then passed on to his nephew King Louis I Hungary.

The Legend of Lech, Czech and Rus.

Eastern Europe isn’t something I know a great deal about, so when I came across the below legend I was really in awe with its story.

It seems there are many versions of the legend that gives the beginnings of three of Eastern Europe’s most famous states.  To give a synopsis hear below is a brief outline and condensed version of the legend.

‘Lech, Czech and Rus were three brothers who all decided to go in different directions.  Czech travelled to the south and Rus went to the east.  Lech travelled to the North until he came across a giant oak tree.  Within the oak tree was a giant white eagle guarding its nest, Lech took this as a good omen and decided to begin his settlement on the same spot and this place went on to be called Gniezno the first capital of Poland. ‘

Lech, Czech, Rus and the White Eagle, as painted by Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski (1841–1905)

The earliest Polish mention of the legend is found in the ‘Chronicle of Greater Poland’ which was written in 1295 in Gniezno.  In Bohemian chronicles Czech appears on his own or sometimes with Lech.  His earliest known mention as Bohemus is in Cosmas chronicle from 1125.

It seems most of the varients of the legends do stem around Poland, and then the Czechs being the other most mentioned out of the three.

It really does continue to amaze me even going back over a thousand years how inter mingled everyone was.  The beginnings of Poland, Czech Republic and Russia all falling under the same family really is quite amazing.

Lech, Czech and Rus oaks in Rogalin, Poland

Odoacer, first barbarian King of Italy

Previously I have tried to look through the Holy Roman Empire and try and get an understanding to the system of Electoral Emperors and the system throughout central Europe.  To gain a true feeling  and to broaden my knowledge I have often try to distinguish where to start and to look at to try and work out how this complex kingdom came about and worked its way together.

Previously this has led me through time to Otto I (November 23, 912 – May 7, 973) and the beginning of the Ottonian dynasty, but still even this far back Otto doesn’t give me the beginning as I wish to look at it.  So pushing even further back I have picked out a name that flashes with lights to me Charlemagne (c. 742 – January 28, 814).  A complex character with four wives, numerous concubines and over ten children I still felt that I  was not getting  a true beginning as I was looking for.   So I kept pushing back until I reached the middle of the 5th Century and now I believe a starting point at where I can start to try and look at the building of a nation that monopolized central Europe for over a thousand years.

In 476 the collapse of the Western Roman Empire was complete.  A barbarian was now termed ‘King of Italy’.  Flavius Odovacer ‘Odoacer’ a Scirian (Eastern European Germanic tribe) was to become the first of a new generation of Kings and be the lynch pin between the old and the new Empires.

The believed first mention of Odoacer is from a fragment of a chronicle preserved in the Decem Libri Historiarum of Gregory of Tours.  Part of his work recalls the battles of King Childeric I of the Franks, Aegidius, Count Paul and ‘Adovacrius’ or  ‘Odavacrius’.  It is believed the fragment tells the story of Aegidius’ victory over the Visgoths with occurred in 463 if this is so then the ‘Odavacrius is believed to be the same as Odoacer the later King of Italy.  The first definite mention of Odoacer is by Eugippius in his Life of Saint Serverinus.  This records how a group of barbarians stopped to their respect to the holy man on their way to Italy.  As Odoacer left Serverinus made one final comment that would come to fruit, ‘Go to Italy, go, now covered with mean hides; soon you will make rich gifts to many.’  Which is what he did.

There are many different theories on Odoacer’s exact links with the Roman army.  By 470 it is believed that he was an officer and John of Antioch states that he was on the side of Ricimer at the beginning of his battle with Anthemius in 472.  While Procopious goes as far to say that he was actually part of the bodyguard for the Emperor.  Jordanes contradicts Odoacer’s loyalty to the Roman army by calling him the ‘leader of Sciri, the Heruli and allies of various races’ that invaded Italy.  I suppose the question is which came first.  Maybe he was a invading commander who was brought round onto the side of the Roman way of thinking and because of this was then given office within the Army.  The invading army thought would tie in with Eugippius story of Serverinus as well.

In 475 he was appointed head of the Germanic foederati (section of troops from the Scrian and Herulic tribes based in Italy) by Orestes the Magister militum of Emperor Julius Nepos.  Orestes revolted and looked to gain power himself, driving Nepos from Italy before the end of year and appointing his own son Romulus Augustus as the new Emperor.  At this point the foedrati were becoming restless with service in Rome and wished for better things.  They petitioned Orestes for rewards with grants of land for their service.  Orestes refused and the foederati turned to Odoacer for leadership.  Osrestes was murdered outside Ravenna by Paulus his brother, leaving the door open for Odoacer.  Odoacer and the Germanic foederati and a large section of the Roman army marched on Ravenna in 476 and Odoacer forced Romulus to abdicate on the 4th September.  The army then declared Odoacer ‘rex Italiae’ King of Italy.

The senate of Rome backed Odoacer and even though the Senate first appointed Zeno (Eastern Emperor at the time) as Emperor reuniting the two sides of the vast Empire once more it seemed that the power was with Odoacer.  This is further backed up with Zeno appointing Odoacer as Partician.  Zeno suggested that Odoacer invited Julius Nepos back from Dalmatia to become Emperor once more, but Odoacer did not take this piece of advice.  This leads me to believe that Zeno only truly acted as an advisor to Odoacer and he had the final say on matters of state.

Coin of Odoacer, Ravenna, 477

Odoacer acted quickly to try and establish his power base and extend his control over Italy.  He managed to persuade the Vandal King Gaiseric to cede Sicily to him in c.September/October 476 and on the death of Julius Nepos (May, 480) the former Emperor who had ran to Dalmatia, Odoacer quickly pushed his control and own rule her also.

In 487 Odoacer led an army against the Rugians of Noricum taking their King Feletheus into captivity.  Feletheus’ son Fredericus fled back to Noricum Odoacer sent his brother Onoulphus against him.  The Rugiuns then fled and took refuge with the Ostrogoths while Onolphus settled the remaining Romans back into Italy for their own safety.  The abandoned province was then settled by the Lombards by 493.

In 489 Theodoric led the Ostrogoths across the Julian Alps and into Italy.  Within a space of a week Odoacer was taking refuge within Ravenna after being defeated twice.  Theodoric went to Mediolanum where part of Odoacer’s army and chief general Tufa surrendered.  The following summer the Visigothic King Alaric II sent military aid to Theodoric and the two clashed again at the Adda River.  Once more this led to defeat for Odoacer.  Odoacer then retreated once more to Ravenna where Theodoric now laid siege.  Odoacer was losing hope and he led a unsuccessful push from Ravenna on the night 9/10 July 491.  Odoacer then went back to Ravenna where the siege continued till 25th February 493 when John, Bishop of Ravenna  negotiated a truce where both Odoacer and Theodoric ruled together.

Theodoric entered Ravenna on the 5th March 493 and within ten days of the truce Odoacer was dead  killed by Theodoric whilst feasting together.  Odoacer’s wife Sunigilda was stoned to death and his brother was shot by archers while taking refuge in a church.  His son Thela was exiled to Gaul, but on later after trying to re-enter Italy Theodoric had him killed also.

So the first barbarian King of Italy was dead.  The Roman Emperors as we know them had eneded, the Lombards had entered Italy.  Odoacer reign and time I beleive is as important as a changing point as that of Charlemagne or Otto I and he definatly deserves to be mentioned along side them as important a figure in the future and making of Europe.