Totila, original name Baduila, was the penultimate King of the Ostrogoths, reigning from 541 to 552 AD. A skilled military and political leader, Totila reversed the tide of the Gothic War, recovering by 543 all the territories in Italy that the Eastern Roman Empire had captured from his Kingdom in 540. A relative of Theudis, sword-bearer of Theodoric the Great and king of the Visigoths, Totila was elected king by Ostrogothic nobles in the autumn of 541 after King Witigis had been carried off prisoner to Constantinople. Totila proved himself both as a military and political leader, winning the support of the lower classes by liberating slaves and distributing land to the peasants. After a successful defence at Verona, Totila pursued and defeated a numerically superior army at the Battle of Faventia in 542 AD. Totila followed these victories by capturing Naples. By 543, fighting on land and sea, he had reconquered the bulk of the lost territory. Rome held out, Totila appealed unsuccessfully to the Senate in a letter reminding them of the loyalty of the Romans to his predecessor Theodoric the Great.

In the spring of 544 the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I sent his general Belisarius to Italy to counterattack, but Totila captured Rome in 546 from Belisarius and depopulated the city after a yearlong siege. When Totila left to fight the Byzantines in Lucania, south of Naples, Belisarius retook Rome and rebuilt its fortifications. After Belisarius retreated to Constantinople in 549, Totila recaptured Rome, going on to complete the reconquest of Italy and Sicily. By the end of 550, Totila had recaptured all but four coastal towns; the following year Justinian sent his general Narses with a force of 35,000 Lombards and Heruli to Italy in a march around the Adriatic to approach Ravenna from the north. In the Battle of Taginae, a decisive engagement during the summer of 552, in the Apennines near present-day Fabriano, the Gothic army was defeated, Totila was mortally wounded. Totila was succeeded by his relative, who died at the Battle of Mons Lactarius. Pockets of resistance, reinforced by Franks and Alemanni who had invaded Italy in 553, continued until 562, when the Byzantines were in control of the whole of the country.

The country was so ravaged by war that any return to normal life proved impossible, only three years after Justinian's death in 565, most of the country was conquered by Alboin of the Lombards, who absorbed the remaining Ostrogothic population. "Totila" was the nom de guerre of a man whose real name was Baduila, as can be seen from the coinage he issued. "Totila" is the name used by the Byzantine historian Procopius, who accompanied the Byzantine general Belisarius during the Gothic War, whose chronicles are the main source of our information for Totila. According to Henry Bradley,'Totila' and'Baduila' are diminutives of'Totabadws'. Born in Treviso, Totila was a relative of king of the Visigoths. Elected king of the Ostrogoths in 541 after the assassination of his uncle Ildibad, having engineered the assassination of Ildibad's short-lived successor, his cousin Eraric, in 541; the official Byzantine position, adopted by Procopius and by the Romanized Goth Jordanes, writing just before the conclusion of the Gothic Wars, was that Totila was a usurper: Jordanes' Getica overlooks the then-recent successes of Totila.

His life's work was the restoration of the Gothic kingdom in Italy, he entered upon the task from the beginning of his reign, collecting together and inspiring the Goths, defeating a poorly led Byzantine attack on the Gothic stronghold of Verona in the winter of 541, scattering the stronger Byzantine army at Faenza in the spring of 542. Having gained another victory in 542, Totila avoided the stoutly-defended Florence, in the Mugello valley. Totila treated his prisoners so well, some served under his banner, he left well-defended Tuscany with his enlarged forces, while three Byzantine generals withdrew from Florence, dividing their forces to Perugia and Rome, cities which Totila would have to take by siege. In the meantime, instead of pursuing the conquest of central Italy, where the Imperial forces were too formidable for his small army, he decided to transfer his operations to the south of the peninsula, he captured Beneventum and received the submission of the provinces of Lucania and Bruttium and Calabria the whole of the Greek south.

Totila's strategy was to move fast and take control of the countryside, leaving the Byzantine forces in control of well-defended cities, the ports. When Belisarius returned to Italy, Procopius relates that "during a space of five years he did not succeed once in setting foot on any part of the land … except where some fortress was, but during this whole period he kept sailing about visiting one port after another." Totila circumvented those cities where a drawn-out siege would have been required, razing the walls of cities that capitulated to him, such as Beneventum. Totila's conquest of Italy was marked not only by celerity but by mercy, Gibbon says "none were deceived, either friends or enemies, who depended on his faith or his clemency." After a successful siege of a resisting city, such as at Perugia, Totila could be merciless, as Procopius recounts. Procopius left a written portrayal of Totila before his troops were drawn up for battle: The armor in which he was clad was abundantly plated with gold and the ample adornments which hung from his cheek plates as well as his helmet and spear were not only purple, but in other respects befitting a king … And he himself, sitting upon a large horse, began to dance under arms skillfully b

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