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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

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Page 4

In western Europe further important changes were taking place in the time of Anastasius. Theodoric became the king of Italy; and in the far north-west Clovis founded a strong Frankish kingdom even before Anastasius ascended the throne. Both these kingdoms were established on territory which theoretically belonged to the Roman, in this case the Byzantine, emperor. Quite naturally, the distant Frankish kingdom could in no way be dependent upon Constantinople; yet in the eyes of the conquered natives the power of the newcomers had real authority only after official approval from the shores of the Bosporus. So it was that when the Goths proclaimed Theodoric king of Italy without waiting, said a contemporary chronicler, for directions from the new princeps (Anastasius), Theodoric nevertheless asked the latter to send him the insignia of imperial power previously returned to Zeno by Odovacar. After long negotiations and the sending of several envoys to Constantinople, Anastasius recognized Theodoric as the ruler of Italy, and the latter then became the legal sovereign in the eyes of the native population. The Arian beliefs of the Goths stood in the way of a closer friendship between the Goths and the natives of Italy.

To Clovis, the king of the Franks, Anastasius sent a diploma conferring upon him the consulship, which Clovis accepted with gratitude. This, of course, was only an honorary consulship, which did not involve the exercise of the duties of the position. Nevertheless it was of great importance to Clovis. The Roman population in Gaul looked upon the eastern emperor as the bearer of supreme authority, who alone could bestow all other power. The diploma of Anastasius conferring the consulship proved to the Gallic population the legality of Clovis rule over them. It made him a sort of viceroy of the province, which theoretically still remained a part of the Roman Empire. These relations of the Byzantine emperor with the Germanic kingdom show clearly that in the late fifth and early sixth centuries the idea of a single empire was still very strong.

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