To the east of them, in Dacia, there had arisen the kingdom of the Gepidae, a people akin to the Goths. In that region, also, were the Turanian Avars, with whom the Lombards allied themselves, and overthrew the kingdom of the Gepidae. After the conquest of Italy, Narses had established there the Byzantine system of rule and of grinding taxation. Discontent was the natural result.
Then the Gepidae call in Cutuguri, a Hunnic tribe, to help them; then, says Procopius, Aldwin, helped by Roman mercenaries, under Amalfrid the Goth, Theodoric's great nephew, and brother-in-law of Aldwin, has a great fight with the Gepidae. But Paul knows naught of all this: with him it is not Aldwin, but Alboin his son, who destroys the Gepidae.
Attila commanded his centre in person, at the head of his own countrymen, while the Ostrogoths, the Gepidae, and the other subject allies of the Huns, were drawn up on the wings. Some manoeuvring appears to have occurred before the engagement, in which Attila had the advantage, inasmuch as he succeeded in occupying a sloping hill, which commanded the left flank of the Huns.
We swear by Christ: but what do we do but blaspheme him, when we swear 'Per Christum tollo eum, 'I will make away with him, 'Per Christum hunc jugulo, 'I will cut his throat, and then believe ourselves bound to commit the murder which we have vowed? . . . 'The Saxons, he says, 'are fierce, the Franks faithless, the Gepidae inhuman, the Huns shameless.
Aldwin, Paul says, and Thorisend fought in the Asfeld, wherever that may be, and Alboin the Lombard prince slew Thorisend the Gepid prince, and the Gepidae were defeated with a great slaughter. Then young Alboin asked his father to let him sit at the table with him. No, he could not do that, by Lombard custom, till he has become son-at- arms to some neighbouring king.
They have one more struggle, the most terrible of all; and then they will be for a while the most important people of the then world. The Gepidae are in Hungary before them, now a great people. Ever since they helped to beat the Huns at Netad, they have been holding Attila's old kingdom for themselves and not attempting to move southward into the Empire; so fulfilling their name.
History told him how the Roman world had ever been assailed by fresh swarms of Barbarians, coming from the outer darkness, and that the Eastern Empire had already, in its fifty years of existence since Constantine had moved the capital of the world to the shores of the Bosphorus, been tormented in the same way. Gepidae and Heruli, Ostrogoths and Sarmatians, he was familiar with them all.
He gathered all Teutonic heroes of every tribe, as well as his own; and through Roumelia, and through the Alps, a long and dangerous journey, went Dietrich and his Goths, with their wives and children, and all they had, packed on waggons; living on their flocks and herds, grinding their corn in hand- mills, and hunting as they went, for seven hundred miles of march; fighting as they went with Bulgars and Sarmatians, who had swarmed into the waste marches of Hungary and Carniola, once populous, cultivated, and full of noble cities; fighting a desperate battle with the Gepidae, up to their knees in a morass; till over the passes of the Julian Alps, where icicles hung upon their beards, and their clothes cracked with frost, they poured into the Venetian plains.
Before the Italian war, the Empire of the Goths extended from the territory of the Gauls to the boundaries of Dacia, and the city of Sirmium; but, when the Roman army arrived in Italy, the greater part of Cisalpine Gaul and of the territory of the Venetians was in the occupation of the Germans. Sirmium and the adjacent country was in the hands of the Gepidae.