On This Day In History: First Siege Of Rome Began – On March 2, 537

On March 2, 537, during the Gothic War, the First Siege of Rome began and lasted for a year and nine days, from 2 March 537 to 12 March 538.

It was laid by Ostrogothic army under king Vitiges, Ostrogoth soldier who became king of Italy and led his people in an unsuccessful last-ditch struggle against the Eastern Roman Empire.

Witigis was elected king in the autumn of 536 to replace Theodahad, who had been deposed and killed as the Byzantine general Belisarius advanced on Rome.

Leaving a small garrison to defend Rome, Witigis massed his forces in Ravenna but in March 537, he returned to besiege Rome, cutting the aqueducts to reduce Belisarius’ garrison, a maneuver that backfired by turning Witigis’ own camp into a malaria-breeding marsh.

When the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I sent reinforcements, Witigis was forced to agree to a three-month truce, which Belisarius broke, invading Picenum and threatening Ravenna.

In March 538 the Goths abandoned the siege of Rome.

The siege was the first major encounter between the forces of the two opponents, and played a decisive role in the subsequent development of the war.

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