20. Gepids East Goths and Huns, Oh My

453 CE to 460 CE

Out of the wreckage of Attila’s empire, new peoples emerge. New actors inject new elements into the political game of the late Roman empire

British Museum entry for the Gepids, with some artefacts

History Files Article and Regnal List of the Gepids

Scirian Earring found at Bakod Puszta


Title Music:
“The Britons” by Kevin MacLeod at Free Music Archive
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

The problem with telling some of this story is if I’m not careful, it can feel like a tennis match, with our attention being pulled from west to east and back. So to avoid that feeling, I’ve focused on the western empire pretty much exclusively for the last five episodes. But now our attention must shift again to the east, beyond the Danube and the Carpathians, and catch up with what’s been going out there. It’ll give us a good reason to talk about the Huns again, and who doesn’t like talking about the Huns?

We’ll take a minute or two to find out what happened to the Huns after Attila’s death, and to the Goths that he’d ruled, and all the other smaller tribes and peoples that emerged from the wreckage of his empire. All kinds of wild card elements that will find their way into the story of the last decades of the Roman West. The chaotic swirl on the Hungarian Plains gave birth to new or re-emergent tribes that had been subdued before. New ethnic groups were created in this forge, and the nature and mechanics of ethnicity is a powerful subtext in the study of early medieval history, so now’s a perfect time to talk about it.

Ethnic conflict is a phrase that is pretty omnipresent in news reporting, it especially has a place in my brain because I was becoming politically aware during the wars in Yugoslavia. Ethnic conflict, ethnic cleansing, we know what those things mean, don’t we? I mean, don’t we?

This might be a big one folks. Let’s get into it.

An ethnic group is nothing more or less than a group of people who share a common identity, often based on language, culture, or an understanding of history. The news and our general understanding of such things can make it seem as though these are fixed and immutable. But that’s very much not the case. Ethnicities are created and change over the course of history. The process is called ethnogenesis, and the mechanics of it are much discussed and debated. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of room for partisan interpretations of this kind of thing, so the modern historian’s goal of avoiding bias is more important than ever. 

To that end, let me say up front that the models of ethnogenesis I’m about to offer come from an article by Patrick J. Geary, and there are plenty of criticisms available for each of them, and plenty of alternative theories. Three modes of ethnogenesis can be observed among the peoples around the fringes of the Roman empire: there was a steppe model, the kernel model, and the diffuse model. This is getting into college essay territory, isn’t it? I’ve told you what I’m going to tell you to prepare you for me telling it. 

Let’s start with the steppes.

The last time I brought up the Huns, it was to watch Attila bleed out in his wedding bed. I have a probably inappropriate vision of Attila’s sons gathered around his body like the beginning of The Death of Stalin. If you don’t get that reference, go watch The Death of Stalin immediately and get back to me. Go on, I’m not going anywhere, I’ll be here when you get back.

It’s good isn’t it?

Anyway, the political structure of the Huns made disintegration of the empire at that point almost inevitable. Because despite the sustained contact with the Romans and Goths, the Huns maintained the old structure of the steppes. They defined themselves as a people by that structure.

The Huns were never a unified entity, except during the brief period when they were ruled by Attila and Bleda and then Attila alone. Even then, it’s likely that independent tribes operated on the northern and eastern edges of Attila’s control, beyond the sight of our Roman historians. They defined themselves as Huns by adherence to a common set of rules and values.

Life was hard for those on the steppes. It revolved around the seasonal rhythm of the pastoralist: a nomadic cycle in search of grass for the herds on which their livelihood depended. You may remember way back in the first episodes about the huns, their relative poverty when they first appeared. That poverty was a constant among all the steppe tribes. Some materials that could not be made on the grasslands, large-scale metal work like swords, for example, had to be traded for or stolen from more settled neighbors, and so raiding was as much a part of life as herding was, and just as necessary for survival.

In such a precarious situation a variation in the weather, disease among the herd, or a single moment of bad luck, could easily be the difference between plenty and starvation. In those cases, trading became even more important, and so many steppe tribes would keep caches of unused luxury goods, taken in raids, for trading in emergencies. Roman observers never grasped this concept, and so a stereotype emerged of the greedy barbarians of the plains, who stole things they then did not use.

Steppe peoples, like the Huns, defined themselves through a shared language and lifestyle traditions, and so organization was loose and had little use for territorial distinctions. Much of the time, various tribes recognized each other as ‘huns like us’ without seeing any need for formal political associations. The importance of raiding to the economy though, meant that short term cooperation happened often, as a large raiding party is obviously likely to have more success than a smaller one. Occasionally, a charismatic leader would be able to keep one of these combined bands together, and through continual military success and the generous distribution of treasure, maintain and expand this raiding army into a larger confederation. We saw this a couple times in the early history of the huns’ interactions with the Romans, in the great raids of Uldin, for example. But Uldin’s example also demonstrates the fragility of such an arrangement. If even a few of the constituent groups under a leader could be discouraged or bought off, they would leave, damaging the leader’s prestige and his ability to keep the rest of the confederacy together. There was no larger ideology or identity binding them to each other. Put another way, their status as Huns was not dependent on membership in the confederation, and membership in such a confederation did not automatically make you a Hun if you weren’t one already.

By the same token, these confederations were extraordinarily adept at absorbing conquered peoples, since they made no demands that subjects abandon their identity in order to join. If you rode with the Hunnic army, you would be rewarded for success. You might never be recognized as a Hun, but what did that matter, if there was still wealth and advancement available? Besides, disobedience or defiance would achieve only an immoderately cruel death for yourself and your family and possibly your whole people. We saw in the descriptions of Priscus the extraordinary diversity of people that surrounded Attila in his heyday. Huns, Goths, Alans, and even some Romans and Greeks who had found that they could maintain their own identities while still finding great rewards with the horde.

But since only material reward, combined with terror, held Attila’s empire together, when he died, everything fell apart remarkably quickly. There was no immediately obvious successor, and while the Huns apparently had traditions governing the division of property among children, the constituents of the empire had no interest in being so divided. So the Huns’ empire fell apart, with consequences we’ll talk about in a few minutes.

Inside the Hunnic confederation, of course, were all the Gothic tribes that had not escaped into the empire. Before the Huns’ arrival, the Goths had been developing an identity and structure in their own way, in an entirely different context.

We have more information about the organization and values of the goths, thanks to their prolonged contact with the Romans, and we’ve discussed a lot of it in the early episodes of this podcast. Gothic settlements were villages, mostly populated by free men and women, and loosely joined into clans by kinship ties and an understanding of a common ancestry. Violence within the clan was taboo, and villages might cooperate in the pursuit of outside conflicts or feuds. Family being family, though, these cooperative units were flexible, since every village had multiple kinship ties to choose from. The clans, in turn, were collected together by a shared understanding of a common set of political, legal, and religious traditions, and maybe most importantly among the Goths, a set of shared ancestry and origin myths. To quote Geary directly: “All of these were flexible, multiple, and subject to negotiation and even dispute”.

As a settled agricultural people, the Goths placed a premium on peaceful relations within the clan and as far as possible among the clans. Religious and legal traditions focused on the arbitration of disputes to avoid violence, or at least to moderate it by controlling blood feuds and preventing them from expanding into wider violence. Meanwhile, prestige and wealth were to be had by raiding the neighbors outside the clan, and ambitious young men could make names for themselves in that way. These traditions were incarnate in the person of sacred kings, who personified the ancient and sacred ancestry of the people.

This model of kingship wasn’t exclusive to the Goths. Something similar was encountered by the Romans in their early interactions with the Celts of Gaul, and it continued long after the empire’s fall in the lands far from its influence, in Scandinavia and the deep interior of Germania.

But contact with the empire changed the Goths, as it did everyone else.

Faced with the military might of Rome, the sacred kings (who had had few practical responsibilities) were gradually replaced by strong military leaders, usually from the same royal families, but now having more direct control over fighting units. That change actually was a positive one from the empire’s perspective, since such leaders were more likely to act out of self-interest, and could therefore be manipulated and pitted against one another for the Romans’ benefit. To maintain harmony and some semblance of concerted action, the non-royal role of the judge emerged as the defining feature of Gothic society, as we talked about in the early days.

The process of creating Germanic kingdoms out of scattered and divided tribes is a subject of the kind of debate that makes academia seem slightly frightening from a distance. For a while the most widely accepted model was called the traditionskern model, the tradition kernel. Proposed by Wenskus and Wolfram (there he is again), it suggests the coalescence of groups of people around a successful aristocratic and/or military core. The group then carries a set of origin myths about themselves which form the basis of the group’s identity – its ethnic identity. In the case of the Germanic peoples, there are some common themes that can be traced. First, the crossing of a body of water as a people, second, the arrival of a new religious system, and I don’t mean the Christian conversion, rather the replacement of the ancient Vanir with the Aesir gods. Finally, there are stories about conflict with and defeat of some traditional enemies. Often ancestors appear in pairs, usually brothers. If you accepted these stories, the theory goes, that made you a member of the Group. 

There are problems with this model, first of all the replacement of one set of gods by another is also prominent in Greek and Roman myth, it’s not an exclusively German thing. Sacred twins, also, are not exclusively a German idea. For maybe understandable reasons, anything that suggests that there was a unifying ideology that set the Germans apart can make modern historians a little twitchy.

So we have the steppe model of charismatic leadership and reward, the traditionkern model of groups bound to aristocratic leaders by a shared worldview and traditions, that leaves the third model, which I call the diffuse model. It’s the hardest one to visualize, and doesn’t directly affect our narrative as yet, but it doesn’t take long and I wouldn’t want to leave you hanging.

The essential difference between the gothic tradition and the diffuse model was how the traditions were transmitted. Among the east germans, the royal house and aristocracy seem to have personified and perpetuated the foundation myths, and the greater society arranged itself around them. Further to the west, among the Alamanni and the Bavarians, similar Germanic religion was in place, but the traditions were carried on at a communal level, with no need for the centralizing influence of a single royal house. A similar process was certainly underway north and east of the Goths, among the nascent Slavic peoples. It’s impossible to know now whether an individual of these groups would understand themselves to be “Alamanni” or “Slav” at all. They appear to us only in the Roman sources (not the slavs, of course) and the Romans were not particularly interested in capturing the nuances of their neighbors’ lives. Instead they sought to catalog and codify an unchanging world, where the inhabitants of Alemania were Alamanii forever, and the inhabitants of Scythia were Scythians, even as in reality Scythian was replaced by Sarmatian, Goth, and Hun in succession.

I have rambled a bit, I fear. 

Under Attila, the various Gothic tribes that had not abandoned their homelands more-or-less maintained their social structure. Gothic and other east german magnates who served Attila loyalty were rewarded with wealth and power, which in turn gave them greater influence over their own tribesmen. So when Attila died, his empire was already riddled with rival power bases that had only been attached to the Hun leader by mercenary bonds. They had no ideological or cultural incentive to follow any of his descendants. Attila’s sons, by contrast, were very much attached to the idea that they would step into the place of their father. Their cultural conditioning was that the empire was essentially a family business, to be divided and passed onto the next generation, as a herd might be. Between these two perspectives, conflict was inevitable.

Sources for the civil war that followed Attila’s death are naturally limited, we’re pretty much stuck with Jordanes and Priscus again. As such, nothing even remotely like an unbiased account is available, and details are thin on the ground. We know that Attila had many children, though only three sons are named for us. Jordanes puts it like this: “Attila’s sons … were almost a nation unto themselves thanks to his freewheeling libido … [they] demanded that the subject nations be divided by lot, as with household property, warlike kings and their people might be distributed by lot.” Jordanes disgust at such a crass arrangement is obvious, and it was a feeling that was apparently shared by many if not most of the non-huns who stood to be so divided.

Jordanes names a king called Ardaric as leader of the response to this insulting arrangement. Ardaric had been one of Attila’s greatest supporters, he and his people, the Gepids, had constituted the right wing of Attila’s forces at the Catalaunian Fields, and fought bravely and loyally. Now though, he raised his army against the sons of Attila, who were also fighting amongst themselves, and induced other tribes to join him.

We have no details about the course of the war that followed. Not how long it lasted or how the battle lines were drawn. It must have been at some points a multi-polar conflict, as various tribes of both Hun and non-Hun formed alliances and coalitions and then turned on each other as soon as was convenient. 

Among the peoples involved were the Ostrogoths, for whose king Jordanes was writing a hundred years later, so there is much debate about their role in the war and how honest Jordanes was about it. Jordanes of course puts the Ostrogoths on the right side of history, with the rebels. Modern scholars are pretty evenly split, some place them on the Hun side (though there were probably multiple Hun sides), others that they simply sat it out, and others accept Jordanes’ view. This is one debate I’m not going to weigh in on, in the end it doesn’t seem to matter much. Will get back to the Ostrogoths in a little bit.

However much back and forth there was, after about a year the war came to a head in 454 on the banks of the River Nedao. No one knows where the River Nedao was, but it was somewhere in Pannonia, one of the tributaries of the Sava, so probably in modern Croatia or Serbia. I’m going to read Jordanes’ description in full, starting with his rather labored metaphor. 

“War was waged in Pannonia, next to a river called Nedao. Various nations Attila had held in his sway came into combat there. Kingdoms and their people are divided, from a single body distinct limbs are formed, not such limbs as have compassion at the suffering of the single whole, but limbs that are reciprocally insensate when the head is cut off, that never find equal to themselves unless they themselves injure themselves with mutual wounds – and thereby the strongest nations destroyed themselves. [the joys of late antique latin prose] I think the scene there must cause wonderment, where was it possible to see a Goth fighting with pikes, a Gepid raging with a sword, a Rugian breaking off spears from his wound, possible to picture a Suevian with a stone, a Hun with an arrow, possible to construct an Alanic line with heavy armor, a Herulean rank with light armor.

“After many grim clashes, an unexpected victory fell to the Gepids. Ardaric’s sword and unity annihilated nearly 30,000 men from the Huns and their allied nations. In the battle Attila’s son Ellac was killed, whom his father is said to have loved so much beyond his other children…”

Ardaric and his Gepids’ triumph broke the last Hun power in Pannonia. It also set up a struggle for supremacy in Attila’s former territories, and so in their defeat, as in their victory, the Huns sent another round of news people spinning, like the shards of a broken plate, across the map and into the Roman empire.

But the Huns didn’t just disappear, they didn’t all suddenly decide to join with the Goths or Gepids, nor were they hunted down and exterminated. In a much diminished state, they continued on, under the leadership of two of Attila’s surviving sons, Dengizich and Ernak. The brothers seem to have divided the leadership of the tribes between them, with Dengizich in the west and Ernak in the east. Dengizich’s Huns maintained just enough juice to continue to conduct raids into the Eastern Roman Empire, and even to re-subjugate some Ostrogothic tribes. With these, he attempted to strongarm a renewal of tribute payments from Constantinople, but was refused. His subsequent attempt at invasion was headed off by Roman diplomacy, who in an echo of the trials of Uldin, convinced the Goths under his command to rebel against Denzigich. Denzigich was less fortunate than uldin, and was killed by his rebellious men, his head sent in a box back to Constantinople, his tribesmen scattered, to make their way as best they could.

It’s not really known what happened to Ernak. He and his followers may have settled (insofar as that word applies) in the Dobruja, the region between the Carpathians and the Black Sea. But they seem to have abandoned it by the time of his brother’s aborted invasion. It seems most likely that the eastern huns were eventually incorporated into the new rising power on the steppes, the Turkic speaking peoples that would become the Avars and Bulgars.

Huns continued to appear as mercenaries well into the sixth century, mostly in the eastern mediterranean or in Persia, but as a power to be reckoned with, they were spent.

I should take one sentence and mention the hephthalites, who sometimes crop up in sources and are also called the “white Huns”. Whether that name is a race thing or something else entirely is unknown, but they seem to have occupied the foothills of the Caucasus, and their relationship to the Huns of Attila is murky at best. 

Their replacements in the Carpathian basin, the Gepids, aren’t very familiar to us here on the dark ages podcast. Looking back, I find that they have only appeared in passing in only four episodes. I also find that I already told you some of the story of the Battle of Nedao in episode thirteen. Whatever, repetition is the mother of Ed the Haitian, whoever that is.

 The Gepids have been around since the beginning, at least according to Jordanes. He, again, is the only source we have for the early, legendary history of the Goths, and according to him, the Goths and Gepids are intimately related and consistently antagonistic. The story Jordanes tells is that the Goths left their homeland and crossed the seas in three ships. (The whole population, enough to begin a new life in a new land, in just three ships. Like I said, legendary history.) One of those ships was significantly slower than the others, and arrived late. The passengers on that ship were mocked as gepanta, meaning “the lazy, sluggish ones”, and so the divergence between Goth and Gepid began. Since Jordanes is deeply unreliable and consistently hostile on the subject of the Gepids, it falls to archaeology to fill in the story, and as usual, the archaeology is tantalizing and vague.

What’s clear from both is that the Gepids were ultimately the most successful group within the old Hunnic domains. They eventually succeeded in subjugating or pushing out the other East German peoples of the area, and established their own kingdom. Called simply “the kingdom of the Gepids” or sometimes Gepidia, this kingdom encompassed basically the long abandoned Roman province of Dacia – mostly Romania on the western side of the Carpathian mountains. Later on, they would lay claim to cities on the south side of the Danube, the old Roman strongholds of Sirimium and Sinigdunum. The Gepid kings established mostly friendly relations with the Eastern Empire and even minted coins with the emperor’s name. In time, they became impressively wealthy, as evidenced by richly furnished graves found around their territory, with heavy gold ornaments in relative abundance. I’m going to put some additional links in the notes to this episode, because I’m really doing these people a disservice here. They deserve more time than I’m giving them.

Around the edges of the Huns’ former dominions were smaller Germanic people who fought for and won new territories for themselves. Some of them are familiar to us, like the Herules, who have been involved with the Goths in one way or another since episode one. The Herules managed to grab territory in Moravia, while further to the west there were the Rugii in lower Austria, who were the main antagonists in the story of Saint Severinus. There was a short lived kingdom of Suevi who had not migrated with the Vandals, and a tribe called the Sciri held for a while land along the middle Tisza river in Hungary. There is an archaeological site at Bakod Puszta that is linked to the Scirian royal family – it contained an earring with a really interesting and modern-looking polyhedral bead, I’ll put up a link to the images. All of these peoples would probably have been considered Goths by those imprecise Roman commentators back in earlier times. They certainly spoke languages related to Gothic, and may once have been part of the various Gothic coalitions that formed and dissipated through the third century, but now they were striking out on their own. 

The Sciri are particularly interesting because they seem to have retained a Hun leader, who we’ve met before. Edeco, who had served Attila, and escorted Priscus when he went to meet the Hunnic king on his unprepossessing diplomatic mission. This was in episode 11, beyond the River. Priscus’ other escort, the Roman born Orestes, was also in the wind after Attila’s death, and will have his own part to play shortly. Some of you are reading ahead, don’t spoil it for the others.

Out of all of these groups, the most significant would be the Ostrogoths.

Ostrogoth means Eastern Goth, which isn’t news, I’m sure. The distinction between Visigoth and Ostrogoth is sometimes carried all the way back to before the Huns invaded scythia, but that’s anachronistic and incorrect. Both developed (had their ethnogenesis) under the influence of conditions following the Huns arrival. Before the Huns there were Tervingi and Greuthungi, with other gothic and sarmatian tribes mixed in. Many but not all of the Tervingi crossed the Danube into the Roman Empire, and over the next forty years became Visigoths. Most but not all of the greuthungi stayed behind the Danube, living under the rule of the Huns and turning into the Ostrogoths. It’s not accurate to say that the Ostrogoths were Grethungi by another name, it was much more complicated than that, and the connection between the two had more to do with the legitimizing efforts of later Ostrogothic commentators than it did with objective reality. 

The leadership of the Ostrogoths, the Amal dynasty, was at pains to connect itself to the ancient Greuthungi chieftains, back to Ermanaric, who had died fighting the Hun invasion. Whether such a connection actually existed is open to debate. What is clear is that by the time of Attila’s death, the Amali and the Ostrogoths were inextricably linked.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, if you’re getting concerned about the length of this episode, the history of the Ostrogothic leadership within the Hunnic confederation is convoluted and contradictory in the extreme. The sources suggest impossibilities like princes who achieved great feats at age five, and things like that. The archaeology is lacking, and even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be able to solve those kinds of chronological problems. So I have to skip over about seventy years of specific historical narrative and just make some broad general statements. I’m sure you are all devastated.

It’s probably belaboring the point to say again that Gothic leaders that were willing to work within the new Hunnish power structure found that their influence was undiminished. The close relationship that developed was a source of wealth and power for the Ostrogothic elite, but also acute embarrassment for their descendents. Thus we hear the story in Jordanes explaining the origin of the Huns, as the offspring of Gothic witches and the demonic forces of the plains. Jordanes (or Cassiodorus through Jordanes) could not deny that there was a relationship between his own people and their overlords, but he took pains to emphasize the invaders’ unholy nature and separateness. The relationship was probably not actually that direct, there’s nothing to suggest that the Huns were really a long lost tribe of the Gothic people or anything like that, rather, the story grew up over time as the Goths found that with Hunnic patronage they could grow power centers and maintain many of their old traditions while adopting some of the newcomers’ practices and attitudes as well.

For instance, Hunnic styles of dress became ubiquitous, as we heard in Priscus’ account. The steppe practice of princes embracing each other in public became commonplace among them as well. Most significant was the new attitude to desertion that the Ostrogoths incorporated from the Huns. A great deal of the diplomatic back and forth with Constantinople revolved around the return of deserters and defectors, who the Huns regarded as runaway slaves and treated accordingly if they were returned. The Goths inherited the same attitude; those that broke away from the center, and rule by the Amal dynasty, were anathematized and lost their gothic identity in the eyes of their people.

There had been Grethungi migrating into the empire ever since the Huns arrived on the scene. Accompanied by a contingent of Alan refugees and led by Alatheus and Safrax, these Grethungi were instrumental in the victory at Adrianople. THey then separated themselves from the Tervingi and made a separate deal with the Romans, settling as federates along the Sava river in Pannonia. Roman sources refer to these as “the double people under two duces’ which presumably references the duo of Goths and Alans. This settlement was successful but short-lived, as Aetius allowed the Huns to settle in the territories in return for their support in Gaul. So the Hun-Goth-Alan complex was extended. Groups of Goths and their cousins continued to escape the Hun’s overlordship and seek refuge in the empire, and were settled in various places, but their numbers were never very large, and by the end of the 420s the flow had slowed to a trickle as the Huns consolidated and extended their power.

I feel the tickle of deep weeds around my ankles, warning of boggy ground ahead, so let’s skip over the extremely tenuous and convoluted story of the Amal dynasty’s development and find the former ground of 453 and the situation upon Attila’s death.

The main body of Ostrogoths at that time were led by an Amal king named Valamir. He, along with his two brothers, Thiudimir and Vidimer. After the wars that established the Gepids as the strongest inheritors of the Hunnic territory, the brothers crossed the Danube and received lands once again in Pannonia. Life for the peasantry of the middle empire continued to be uncertain and extremely confusing, it would seem. The three brothers took responsibility for the security of the lands along the right bank of the Danube roughly from modern Budapest down to Sirmium, now Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia.

On the surface, this arrangement looks like an eastern analog to the Visigoths’ kingdom in Aquitaine, but only on the surface. Valamir’s goths were unable to co-opt the administration of the Pannonian lands, mainly because that administration had been pretty well devastated by the rolling conflicts in the area. They could not establish any kind of system for raising revenues for themselves aside from violent expropriations, and so remained dependent on subsidies from Constantinople.

The combination of poor administration and constant external threat made the long-term survival of the Pannonian “kingdom” a losing proposition. Various waves of Hunnic raiders attacked, the first wave in 456, so suddenly Valamir was unable to call on his brothers for help. The Goth was victorious though, so much so that we are told by Jordandes that the invaders retreated all the way back to Ukraine. That might actually be true, as there are reports that the Goths that still lived in the Crimea had to fend off a sudden influx of Huns from the west at about the same time. 

When Leo I took the eastern throne, just the next year, he attempted to revise the foedus with Valamir’s goths. He seems to have taken the same approach as was taken toward Milton in Office Space – just stop paying him and the problem will take care of itself. It worked about as well for Leo as it did in the movie. After two years, Valamir sent a message asking what the emperor thought treaties were for, and would he please return that stapler? No answer was forthcoming, and fire followed. Valamir led his army a-plundering up the Morava River, penetrating into Epirus, and even occupying the provincial capital, the modern town of Durës, in Albania, which I’m certainly mispronouncing. The basic mechanics of negotiation with the imperium remained unchanged from the days of Alaric.

After several rounds of this negotiation, Leo relented, and reinstated the previous agreement, with annual payments specified of 300 pounds of gold per year, plus one red swingline stapler. Not exactly Attila the Hun money, but it would keep Valamir’s people fed through the winter. As surety for the agreement, Valamir’s nephew, the son of Thiudimir, was sent to Constantinople as a hostage. He was about seven or eight years old, and would spend his formative years in New Rome. His name was Theodoric, and I promise he will be the one and only Theodoric that will be on the final exam at the end of this season. Did I forget to mention the exam? Oh dear.

I have left several threads dangling, but I feel that we have reached a decent stopping point, and I don’t want to overstay my welcome. Next time, the tennis match will bring our attention back to the west, where we will finally finally finally talk about what’s been happening on the sceptered isle, the shining jewel set in the silver sea. But the silver sea will turn out to be more of a marsh, and we will find ourselves in the weeds very quickly indeed as we attempt to untangle the problem of Britannia. And Scotland and Ireland too, because I like to make life difficult for myself.


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