454-567 AD

By Pascal Rey

This army represent the independent Kingdom of the Gepids – a Hunnic successor state that lasted from the defeat of the Huns at the Battle of the River Nedao in 454AD to their final conquest by the Longbards and their Avar allies in 567AD.

The Gepids were a tribe of the Goths that emigrated through north-eastern Europe in the early centuries AD. By the time of the Hunnic invasions in the late 4thC the Gepids were living in the Carpathian basin and appear to have been subject to the more numerous and powerful Ostrogoths. Along with the Ostrogoths they were conquered by and assimilated into the Hunnic Empire. Gepids fought fiercely as allies of the Huns at the Battle of Chalons in 451AD where, according to Jordanes, they engaged the Roman’s Frankish allies and fought them to a bloody standstill.

During the decades of Hunnic rule the Gepids enjoyed the trust of their masters and rose in power. Gepid settlements spread eastwards and Gepid Kings sat at the court of Attila. Hunnic cultural nfluence was strong; the Gepids followed the Hunnic practice of skull deformation for example. Following the death of Attila his successors fell to squabbling amongst themselves and the Gepids found they were well placed to lead the Goths and other subject tribes in rebellion. The Gepid King Ardaric eventually defeated Attilla’s son Ellac and drove the Huns out of the Carpathian basin. He established the Kingdom of the Gepids, or Gepidia, a region roughly equivalent to modern Romania and the old Roman province of Dacia.  The Kingdom of the Gepids was bounded by the Eastern Roman Empire to the south and by other Germanic states to the west – Ostrogoths, Langobards, and Heruls. Surrounding mountains bounded the kingdom to the north and east – beyond which were the Huns, Alans and other nomadic groups.

The Gepids fought against and were defeated by their old enemies the Ostrogoths, under Theoderic the Great, in the first decade of the 6thC and were driven to the south and eastern parts of their domain. They re-settled themselves in the area around Belgrade and established their capital at the old Illyrian city of Sirmium in modern Serbia, having captured it from the Byzantines.

Despite this set-back the Gepids remained firmly in control of the lower Danube region. In 539AD they were to affect a crossing of the Danube and inflict a bloody defeat on a Byzantine army capturing the towns of Dacia Ripensis and gaining control of a substantial Roman population. However, their chief enemies remained their western neighbours the Langobards – with successive Langobard and Gepid Kings feuding against each other throughout the mid 6thC. Initially the Gepids sought aid from the Byzantines, in return for the promise that they would restore territories previously captured by the Gepids including Sirmium. With the help of Byzantine troops the Gepids succeeded in keeping the Langobards at bay until 567AD when the Byzantines reneged on the treaty, effectively allowing the Langobards and their Avar allies to defeat the Gepid King Cunimund and bringing to an end an independent Gepidia.