Reign: 541 – 552
Summary: Totila was a formidable foe of the Byzantine Empire for a brief while in the middle of the 6th century. He was a relative of the Visigothic king Theudis and was chosen by the Ostrogoths to preside as king over them after King Witigis had been carted off as a prisoner to Constantinople. His uncle had briefly been king before him, followed by a cousin named Eraric. Totila was elected possibly as a usurper as later Byzantine texts make him out to be. When he became king, he set out reclaiming the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy from the Byzantines who had retaken it over the previous decades. When the Byzantines attacked Verona, Totila was there and scattered them, defeating them decisively at the Battle of Faventia the next spring. When the Byzantines invaded Florence, he routed them and treated the Roman prisoners so well that many defected to the Gothic side of the war. The remaining Roman army split and settled in Perugia, Spoleto, and Rome. Instead of sieging the three cities, Totila moved south and conquered all of Grecian Italy, taking over the collection of their taxes for the Ostrogoths. To avoid future sieges, Totila razed the walls of cities before leaving to conquer another region. After a short siege in Naples, Totila had control over the entire south of Italy. Meanwhile, the Roman armies in central Italy lost much of their support from the countryfolk.
By 545, Totila had moved to Tivoli and began the siege of Rome itself. An attempt by the pope and a Roman general both failed to relieve the city. Totila broke in before further efforts could be made. Rome was not razed to the ground as had been threatened, and Totila had to siege two more times before it finally fell back into Ostrogothic hands. In 549, Rome finally fell and the Ostrogoths controlled the whole of Italy. The three Italian islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia were all that remained, while Totila also had designs against Greece. Meanwhile, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I sent the general Narses to Italy to finally subdue the Ostrogothic threat. Totila had done too much to Roman society in Italy and Justinian hoped to restore Roman dominance to the region. At the Battle of Taginae, Narses and Totila met in open battle and the Ostrogoth king was killed. Justinian quickly marched through Italy and took all of it for Constantinople, killing Totila's successor, Teia, at the Battle of Mons Lactarius around six months later. The Ostrogoths were defeated and the kingdom was later absorbed into the Lombard domains when they rebelled against Constantinople and conquered Italy some ten years later.Date of Death: 1 July 552
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