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Battle of Taginae

At the battle of Taginae (also known as the Battle of Busta Gallorum) in July of 552, the Byzantine Empire under the eunuch Narses broke the power of the Ostrogoths in Italy, and brought the entire peninsula under the rule of Constantinople.

In 551, Justinian I decided to retake Italy from the Ostrogoths, who had themselves retaken it in the 540s. So in the spring of 552, his elderly general Narses recruited an army of 20,000, including East Romans, Lombards, and Heruli, then moved up the Balkan Peninsula and then down into northern Italy along the Via Flaminia, heading for Rome.

At the village of Taginae (modern Gualdo Tadino), Narses ran into the Goth army commanded by Totila, which had been advancing to intercept. Totila found that he was outnumbered, negotiated for awhile, then attempted to surprise the Byzantines, succeeding only in occupying a small hill. He then waited for reinforcements of 2,000 additional cavalry.

Narses' army deployed in a arc, with the Lombard and Heruli infantry in the center, then cavalry behind archers on either side. Totila massed his horsemen in front, with the infantry in a group behind them.

Initially, a Byzantine deserter in the Ostrogoth army came out, and issued a challenge to single combat, but was defeated, upon which Totila came out and did some sort of war dance or equestrian exercise (the sources are vague on this point). Then his reinforcements arrived, everybody had lunch, and only then did Totila charge the center, apparently hoping that the shock would somehow cause Narses' army to collapse.

Of course, Narses was ready for this, and moved his archers in so that the charging cavalry were running a deadly gauntlet of arrows from both sides, with terrible casualties. Then as the Ostrogoths struggled to maintain their momentum, Narses brought his cavalry around to attack the flanks.

By early evening, the Ostrogoths were completely disorganized and when Narses ordered a general advance, they broke and ran. The Ostrogoths suffered a total of 6,000 casualties, Totila among them.

By the end of the year, Rome was again under Roman rule, and the rest of Italy in the following year after the defeat of Totila's successor Teia (Teja) at battle of Mons Lactarius (near Mount Vesuvius) - the Ostrogoths fade into obscurity. But the Lombards soon turned on the Byzantines and took most of Italy away again (568-570).

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Locations of this battle and battle of Mons Lactarius