Butilin, King of the Alemanni von Herzog

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Haming, King of the Alemanni von Herzog
Butilin, King of the Alemanni von Herzog
  • Born: Abt 516, Alemmania

    King of the Allemanni

    The Alemanni were a confederation of German tribes, an old adversary of Rome, from the 3rd century. While they occupied the left bank of the Rhine during the collapse of the Western Empire, they otherwise were not particularly active in the "fall" of Rome. Then they became targets of Clovis, first Christian King of the Franks, who defeated them in 496 and 505. Henceforth, until annexation by Charlemagne in 806, they were dependents of the Franks.

    Their domain, revived as the Duchy of Swabia, lost its name in Germany, but the name of the Alemanni nevertheless surives as the name for Germany itself in the Romance languages, like Allemagne in French.

    The Batlle of Casilinum

    Prelude to the Battle

    After their defeat at Taginae and the subsequent death of their last great leader, Teia, the Ostrogoths appealed to the Frankish leader Theudibald for help against the Imperial forces. Theudibald, no doubt eager to seize a share of the rich spoils of northern Italy, dispatched a mixed army of Franks and Alamanni led by the two Alamannic dukes, Lothar and Butilin.

    The Byzantine commander, Narses, was busy mopping up the last of the Gothic resistance in central Italy when word came that the Franks had crossed the River Po. The following Spring (554), he began to concentrate his forces in Rome and waited as two Frankish columns marched southwards, looting and pillaging as they came.

    For some reason, Lothar, leading one of the columns, headed home, leaving the conquest of Italy to Butilin. Returning along the coast, however, Lothar's advance guard was heavily defeated by the Byzantines. His army staggered back into Frankish-held territory north of Venice, where the hapless duke died of disease.

    Butilin's army, meanwhile, having reached as far as the Straits of Messina, was suffering in the unaccustomed heat, which was helping spread disease through the ranks. He encamped in Campania, next to the River Casilinus, surrounding his camp with a rampart topped with wagon wheels, buried up to the hub. Narses' army marched south towards him and established their own fortified camp nearby.


    The Franks - who were mostly infantry - tended to advance in deep columns, too solid easily to be broken by flank attacks - if attacked from the side the column would halt and turn to face the direction of the attack. With this in mind, Narses positioned his infantry (including archers) in the centre, with Herul Phoideratoi (allies) in reserve behind them. Then he positioned his native Roman cavalry (horse-archers) in two long wings.

    The Battle

    The Frankish column began the battle by moving forwards and scattering the first line of Byzantine infantry, and the second line of archers behind them, without any great difficulty. The Franks then came into contact with Narses' Heruli, who began to give way before them.

    Wheeling his Roman cavalry inwards, Narses had them threaten to charge both flanks of the Frankish mass. The Franks were forced to halt their advance, and to ready themselves to receive the charge.

    However, instead of letting the horsemen charge, Narses halted them a hundred yards from the enemy. The horse-archers now let loose a hail of arrows into the dense Frankish column. It was an easy target, and the Franks dared not move either to front or to flank for fear of breaking ranks and allowing the cavalry to ride them down. All they could do was to stand there helplessly while the Roman horse-archers cut them to ribbons.

    The heroic Frankish infantry stood for several hours under the deadly shower, but eventually their nerve broke, and some men began to flee to the rear - the only remaining escape route. Waiting until he judged them sufficiently disordered, Narses at last ordered his cavalry to charge. The Roman horsemen rode repeatedly through the broken column and hacked it to pieces. The victory was total.
    After the death of Clovis, therefore, his four sons divided his kingdom, each reigning from a different centre: Thierry at Metz, Clodomir at Orléans, Childebert at Paris, and Clotaire at Soissons. They continued the career of conquest inaugurated by their father, and, in spite of the frequent discords that divided them, augmented the estates he had left them. The principal events of their reign were:

    The destruction of the Kingdom of Thuringia by Thierry in 531, which extended Frankish power into the heart of what is now Germany;
    the conquest of the Kingdom of the Burgundians by Childebert and Clotaire in 532, after their brother Clodomir had perished in a previous attempt to overthrow it in 524;
    the cession of Provence to the Franks by the Ostrogoths in 536, on condition that the former would assist them in the war just declared against them by Emperor Justinian. But instead of helping the Ostrogoths, the Franks under Theudebert, son of Thierry, taking shameful advantage of this oppressed people, cruelly pillaged Italy until the bands under the command of Leuthar and Butilin were exterminated by Narses in 553.

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