His life's work was the restoration of the Gothic kingdom in Italy and he entered upon the task at the very beginning of his reign, collecting together and inspiring the Goths and winning a victory over the troops of the emperor Justinian, near Faenza.
Having gained another victory in 542, this time in the valley of Mugello, he left Tuscany for Naples, captured that city and then received the submission of the provinces of Lucania, Apulia and Calabria. Totila's conquest of Italy was marked not only by celerity but also by mercy, and Gibbon says "none were deceived, either friends or enemies, who depended on his faith or his clemency."
Towards the end of 545 the Gothic king took up his station at Tivoli and prepared to starve Rome into surrender, making at the same time elaborate preparations for checking the progress of Belisarius who was advancing to its relief. The Imperial fleet, moving up the Tiber and led by the great general, only just failed to succour the city, which must then, perforce, open its gates to the Goths. It was plundered, although Totila did not carry out his threat to make it a pasture for cattle, and when the Gothic army withdrew into Apulia it was from a scene of desolation. But its walls and other fortifications were soon restored, and Totila again marching against it. He was defeated by Belisarius, who, however, did not follow up his advantage. Several cities were taken by the Goths, while Belisarius remained inactive and then left Italy, and in 549 Totila advanced a third time against Rome, which he captured through the treachery of some of its defenders.
His next exploit was the conquest and plunder of Sicily, after which he subdued Corsica and Sardinia and sent a Gothic fleet against the coasts of Greece. By this time the emperor Justinian was taking energetic measures to check the Goths. The conduct of a new campaign was entrusted to the eunuch Narses; Totila marched against him and was defeated and killed at the battle of Taginae in July 552.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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