Ermanaric

King of the Ostrogoths (c.320-375)

Ermanaric (Gothic Airmanareiks, or "lofty-king") was the first great king of the Ostrogoths and a dominant figure in eastern Europe for much of the third century.

Reportedly born sometime between 275 and 300 in the Crimean peninsula of modern Ukraine, Ermanaric became king of the Ostrogoths sometime around 320. At the time, the Ostrogoths reigned surpreme over the Crimea and part of southern Ukraine, a territory they had settled in the third century. Ermanaric, in a series of wars against the Sarmatians and other tribes, expanded the kingdom in all directions. His soldiers moved eastward all the way to the mouth of the Volga River near modern Astrakhan', to the west all the way to the Dniester River, and northwards all the way to the North Sea--the lands that the Goths had once resided in 200 years before. By 350, Ermanaric had secured his place as one of the world's great conquerors, having won more land than any one king since Alexander the Great.

About 15 years later, however, his empire was invaded from the east by the Huns, an Asiatic tribe known originally as the Hsiung-Nu. One group of Huns had briefly destroyed the Chinese kingdom in the second century, the others went west toward the Ural Mountains, destroying everything in their wake. By 365, they were across the Urals into Europe and clashed with Ermanaric's Goths.

The war went on for many years, with Ermanaric winning many battles and skillfully playing one faction of Huns off against another. A very old man by this time (some sources suggest that he may have been close to 100 years old at his death), he nevertheless continued to lead his men in battle.

By 375, however, the sheer numbers of the Huns began to overcome the Ostrogoths, and they were closing in on the Crimea, where Ermanaric had his capital. Rather than surrender to the Huns, the old king committed suicide shortly before his armies collapsed. The Ostrogoths surrendered to the Huns, and the Hun king became King of the Ostrogoths.

The Huns would rule the Ostrogoths for the next 79 years, until the latter overthrew them in 454.

The name "Ermanaric" is the equivalent of the modern German name of "Hermann", and accounts for much of that name's popularity among modern Germans.

Ermanaric was the last Ostrogothic king to follow the ancestral Germanic pagan religion, now known as Asatru.

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