or THEODERICUS I., king of the Visigoths from A. D. 418 1
to 451, was the successor of Wallia, but appears to have been the son of the great Alaric. (Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
c. xxxv. note 10.) Not content with the limits of his dominions, Theodoric broke the peace which existed between the Visigoths and the Romans, took several places in Gaul, and laid siege to Arles in A. D. 425.
He was, however, obliged to retire on the approach of Aetius, with whom he concluded a peace; and he then turned his arms against the Vandals in Spain, upon receiving a sufficient subsidy from the Roman general. Theodoric however was only waiting for a favourable opportunity to attack the Romans again; and accordingly, while the Burgundians invaded the Belgic provinces, Theodoric laid siege to Narbonne in A. D. 436. Aetius displayed his usual activity ; he defeated the Burgundians in battle, and sent Litorius to oppose Theodoric.
The inhabitants of Narbonne had resisted many months all the efforts of Theodoric to take the town; but they were reduced to the last extremities of famine, when Litorius, in the following year (A. D. 437) cut his way through the entrenchments of the besiegers.
The siege was immediately raised; and Aetius, who arrived shortly afterwards, defeated Theodoric with great slaughter, and obliged him to retire into his own dominions. The Gothic king was now obliged to act on the defensive; and Aetius, on his return to Italy, left Litorius at the head of an army, chiefly consisting of Huns, to prosecute the war. Unable to resist the Romans in the field, Theodoric retired to Toulouse, where he was besieged by Litorius in A. D. 439. Despairing of success, Theodoric now endeavoured to obtain a peace by the mediation of his Christian bishops ; but Litorius, confident of success, and relying upon the predictions of the pagan augurs, that he should enter the Gothic capital in triumph, refused all the proposals which were repeatedly made him.
The presumption of Litorius appears to have made him careless. The Goths availed themselves of a favourable opportunity, sallied out of their city, and, after a long and obstinate battle, defeated the Roman army, made their general prisoner, and conducted him in triumph through the streets of Toulouse.
This victory turned the fortune of the war; and the whole of the country as far as the Rhone lay exposed to the ravages of the barbarians. Avitus, who was then praefectus praetorio in Gaul, had no army to resist the Visigoths, and accordingly entered into negotiations with Theodoric, which ended in a peace, the terms of which are not related, but which must have been in favour of the barbarians.
This last peace between Theodoric and the Romans does not appear to have been interrupted. Theodoric had sought to strengthen his power by giving one of his daughters in marriage to the eldest son of Genseric, king of the Vandals in Africa; but Genseric, who suspected that his son's wife had conspired to poison him, ignominiously deprived her of her nose and ears, and sent her back in this mutilated condition to her father at Toulouse. To revenge this unpardonable outrage, Theodoric made formidable preparations for an invasion of Africa; and the Romans, who always encouraged the discords of the barbarians, readily offered to supply him with men and arms. But Genseric averted the threatening danger by persuading Attila to attack both the Romans and the Goths.
With an enormous army composed of various nations, Attila crossed the Rhine at Strasburg, and marched into Gaul. Aetius collected a powerful force to oppose him, and Theodoric, at the head of his Visigoths, and accompanied by his two sons Thorismond and Theodoric, joined the Roman general. On the approach of Aetius, Attila, who had laid siege to Orleans, retreated to the plains of Champagne. Aetius followed close upon his rear.
The hostile armies at length met in the neighbourhood of Châlons on the Marne, and in a short but most bloody engagement, Attila was defeated with great loss.
The victory was mainly owing to the courage of the Visigoths and of the youthful Thorismond; but their king Theodoric fell at the commencement of the engagement, as he was riding along the ranks to animate his troops (A. D. 451).
He was succeeded by his son Thorismond. Theodoric was a wise and prudent monarch; and by his courage in war, and his just administration at home, he earned the love of his subjects and the respect of his enemies.
He introduced among his subjects a love of Latin literature, and his sons were carefully trained in the study of the writers and the jurisprudence of Rome. (Jornandes, de Reb. Get. 34, 36-41 ;
Sidon. Apoll. Panegyricus Avito ;
the Chronicles of Idatius and the two Prospers; Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
c. xxxv.; Tillemont, Histoire, des Empereurs,