This paper discusses the widely held view that politics in fifth- and sixth-century Italy were largely driven by rivalry between the two great families of the Anicii and the Decii, supposedly following distinctive policies (pro- or anti-eastern, philo- or anti-barbarian, etc.). It is probable that individual members of these (and other) families had feuds and disagreements from time to time, but there is absolutely no evidence for continuing rivalry between Decii and Anicii as families, let alone on specific issues of public policy. Indeed by the mid-fifth century the Anicii fell into a rapid decline. The nobility continued to play a central rôle in the social and (especially) religious life of late fifth- and early sixth-century Italy. Their wealth gave them great power, but it was power that they exercised in relatively restricted, essentially traditional fields, mainly on their estates and in the city of Rome. The quite extraordinary sums they spent on games right down into the sixth century illustrate their overriding concern for popular favour at a purely local level. In this context there was continuing competition between all noble families rich enough to compete. Indeed, the barbarian kings encouraged the nobility to spend their fortunes competing with each other to the benefit of the city and population of Rome.