Procopius - History of the Wars, Books V. and VI.
by Procopius
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But the Goths who were at Rome and in the country round about had even before this regarded with great amazement the inactivity of Theodatus, because, though the enemy was in his neighbourhood, he was unwilling to engage them in battle, and they felt among themselves much suspicion toward him, believing that he was betraying the cause of the Goths to the Emperor Justinian of his own free will, and cared for nothing else than that he himself might live in quiet, possessed of as much money as possible. Accordingly, when they heard that Naples had been captured, they began immediately to make all these charges against him openly and gathered at a place two hundred and eighty stades distant from Rome, which the Romans call Regata.[40] And it seemed best to them to make camp in that place; for there are extensive plains there which furnish pasture for horses. And a river also flows by the place, which the inhabitants call Decennovium[41] in the Latin tongue, because it flows past nineteen milestones, a distance which amounts to one hundred and thirteen stades, before it empties into the sea near the city of Taracina; and very near that place is Mt. Circaeum, where they say Odysseus met Circe, though the story seems to me untrustworthy, for Homer declares that the habitation of Circe was on an island. This, however, I am able to say, that this Mt. Circaeum, extending as it does far into the sea, resembles an island, so that both to those who sail close to it and to those who walk to the shore in the neighbourhood it has every appearance of being an island. And only when a man gets on it does he realize that he was deceived in his former opinion. And for this reason Homer perhaps called the place an island. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

The Goths, after gathering at Regata, chose as king over them and the Italians Vittigis, a man who, though not of a conspicuous house, had previously won great renown in the battles about Sirmium, when Theoderic was carrying on the war against the Gepaedes.[42] Theodatus, therefore, upon hearing this, rushed off in flight and took the road to Ravenna. But Vittigis quickly sent Optaris, a Goth, instructing him to bring Theodatus alive or dead. Now it happened that this Optaris was hostile to Theodatus for the following cause. Optaris was wooing a certain young woman who was an heiress and also exceedingly beautiful to look upon. But Theodatus, being bribed to do so, took the woman he was wooing from him, and betrothed her to another. And so, since he was not only satisfying his own rage, but rendering a service to Vittigis as well, he pursued Theodatus with great eagerness and enthusiasm, stopping neither day nor night. And he overtook him while still on his way, laid him on his back on the ground, and slew him like a victim for sacrifice. Such was the end of Theodatus' life and of his rule, which had reached the third year.[M]

DATE: [M]Dec. 536 A.D.

And Vittigis, together with the Goths who were with him, marched to Rome. And when he learned what had befallen Theodatus, he was pleased and put Theodatus' son Theodegisclus under guard. But it seemed to him that the preparations of the Goths were by no means complete, and for this reason he thought it better first to go to Ravenna, and after making everything ready there in the best possible way, then at length to enter upon the war. He therefore called all the Goths together and spoke as follows:

"The success of the greatest enterprises, fellow-soldiers, generally depends, not upon hasty action at critical moments, but upon careful planning. For many a time a policy of delay adopted at the opportune moment has brought more benefit than the opposite course, and haste displayed at an unseasonable time has upset for many men their hope of success. For in most cases those who are unprepared, though they fight on equal terms so far as their forces are concerned, are more easily conquered than those who, with less strength, enter the struggle with the best possible preparation. Let us not, therefore, be so lifted up by the desire to win momentary honour as to do ourselves irreparable harm; for it is better to suffer shame for a short time and by so doing gain an undying glory, than to escape insult for the moment and thereby, as would probably be the case, be left in obscurity for all after time. And yet you doubtless know as well as I that the great body of the Goths and practically our whole equipment of arms is in Gaul and Venetia and the most distant lands. Furthermore, we are carrying on against the nations of the Franks a war which is no less important than this one, and it is great folly for us to proceed to another war without first settling that one satisfactorily. For it is natural that those who become exposed to attack on two sides and do not confine their attention to a single enemy should be worsted by their opponents. But I say that we must now go straight from here to Ravenna, and after bringing the war against the Franks to an end and settling all our other affairs as well as possible, then with the whole army of the Goths we must fight it out with Belisarius. And let no one of you, I say, try to dissemble regarding this withdrawal, nor hesitate to call it flight. For the title of coward, fittingly applied, has saved many, while the reputation for bravery which some men have gained at the wrong time, has afterward led them to defeat. For it is not the names of things, but the advantage which comes from what is done, that is worth seeking after. For a man's worth is revealed by his deeds, not at their commencement, but at their end. And those do not flee before the enemy who, when they have increased their preparation, forthwith go against them, but those who are so anxious to save their own lives for ever that they deliberately stand aside. And regarding the capture of this city, let no fear come to any one of you. For if, on the one hand, the Romans are loyal to us, they will guard the city in security for the Goths, and they will not experience any hardship, for we shall return to them in a short time. And if, on the other hand, they harbour any suspicions toward us, they will harm us less by receiving the enemy into the city; for it is better to fight in the open against one's enemies. None the less I shall take care that nothing of this sort shall happen. For we shall leave behind many men and a most discreet leader, and they will be sufficient to guard Rome so effectively that not only will the situation here be favourable for us, but also that no harm may possibly come from this withdrawal of ours."

Thus spoke Vittigis. And all the Goths expressed approval and prepared for the journey. After this Vittigis exhorted at length Silverius, the priest[43] of the city, and the senate and people of the Romans, reminding them of the rule of Theoderic, and he urged upon all to be loyal to the nation of the Goths, binding them by the most solemn oaths to do so; and he chose out no fewer than four thousand men, and set in command over them Leuderis, a man of mature years who enjoyed a great reputation for discretion, that they might guard Rome for the Goths. Then he set out for Ravenna with the rest of the army, keeping the most of the senators with him as hostages. And when he had reached that place, he made Matasuntha, the daughter of Amalasuntha, who was a maiden now of marriageable age, his wedded wife, much against her will, in order that he might make his rule more secure by marrying into the family of Theoderic. After this he began to gather all the Goths from every side and to organize and equip them, duly distributing arms and horses to each one; and only the Goths who were engaged in garrison duty in Gaul he was unable to summon, through fear of the Franks. These Franks were called "Germani" in ancient times. And the manner in which they first got a foothold in Gaul, and where they had lived before that, and how they became hostile to the Goths, I shall now proceed to relate.


[40] Near Terracina.

[41] The name is made from decem and novem, "nineteen,"—apparently a late formation. The "river" was in reality a canal, extending from Appii Forum to Terracina.

[42] Chap. iii. 15.

[43] Silverius was Pope 536-537 A.D.


As one sails from the ocean into the Mediterranean at Gadira, the land on the left, as was stated in the preceding narrative,[44] is named Europe, while the land opposite to this is called Libya, and, farther on, Asia. Now as to the region beyond Libya[45] I am unable to speak with accuracy;[46] for it is almost wholly destitute of men, and for this reason the first source of the Nile, which they say flows from that land toward Egypt, is quite unknown. But Europe at its very beginning is exceedingly like the Peloponnesus, and fronts the sea on either side. And the land which is first toward the ocean and the west is named Spain, extending as far as the alps of the Pyrenees range. For the men of this country are accustomed to call a narrow, shut-in pass "alps." And the land from there on as far as the boundaries of Liguria is called Gaul. And in that place other alps separate the Gauls and the Ligurians. Gaul, however, is much broader than Spain, and naturally so, because Europe, beginning with a narrow peninsula, gradually widens as one advances until it attains an extraordinary breadth. And this land is bounded by water on either side, being washed on the north by the ocean, and having on the south the sea called the Tuscan Sea. And in Gaul there flow numerous rivers, among which are the Rhone and the Rhine. But the course of these two being in opposite directions, the one empties into the Tuscan Sea, while the Rhine empties into the ocean. And there are many lakes[47] in that region, and this is where the Germans lived of old, a barbarous nation, not of much consequence in the beginning, who are now called Franks. Next to these lived the Arborychi,[48] who, together with all the rest of Gaul, and, indeed, Spain also, were subjects of the Romans from of old. And beyond them toward the east were settled the Thuringian barbarians, Augustus, the first emperor, having given them this country.[49] And the Burgundians lived not far from them toward the south,[50] and the Suevi[51] also lived beyond the Thuringians, and the Alamani,[52] powerful nations. All these were settled there as independent peoples in earlier times.

But as time went on, the Visigoths forced their way into the Roman empire and seized all Spain and the portion of Gaul lying beyond[53] the Rhone River and made them subject and tributary to themselves. By that time it so happened that the Arborychi had become soldiers of the Romans. And the Germans, wishing to make this people subject to themselves, since their territory adjoined their own and they had changed the government under which they had lived from of old, began to plunder their land and, being eager to make war, marched against them with their whole people. But the Arborychi proved their valour and loyalty to the Romans and shewed themselves brave men in this war, and since the Germans were not able to overcome them by force, they wished to win them over and make the two peoples kin by intermarriage. This suggestion the Arborychi received not at all unwillingly; for both, as it happened, were Christians. And in this way they were united into one people, and came to have great power.

Now other Roman soldiers, also, had been stationed at the frontiers of Gaul to serve as guards. And these soldiers, having no means of returning to Rome, and at the same time being unwilling to yield to their enemy[54] who were Arians, gave themselves, together with their military standards and the land which they had long been guarding for the Romans, to the Arborychi and Germans; and they handed down to their offspring all the customs of their fathers, which were thus preserved, and this people has held them in sufficient reverence to guard them even up to my time. For even at the present day they are clearly recognized as belonging to the legions to which they were assigned when they served in ancient times, and they always carry their own standards when they enter battle, and always follow the customs of their fathers. And they preserve the dress of the Romans in every particular, even as regards their shoes.

Now as long as the Roman polity remained unchanged,[55] the emperor held all Gaul as far as the Rhone River; but when Odoacer changed the government into a tyranny, [N] then, since the tyrant yielded to them, the Visigoths took possession of all Gaul as far as the alps which mark the boundary between Gaul and Liguria. [O]But after the fall of Odoacer, the Thuringians and the Visigoths began to fear the power of the Germans, which was now growing greater (for their country had become exceedingly populous and they were forcing into subjection without any concealment those who from time to time came in their way), and so they were eager to win the alliance of the Goths and Theoderic. And since Theoderic wished to attach these peoples to himself, he did not refuse to intermarry with them. Accordingly he betrothed to Alaric the younger, who was then leader of the Visigoths, his own unmarried daughter Theodichusa, and to Hermenefridus, the ruler of the Thuringians, Amalaberga, the daughter of his sister Amalafrida. As a result of this the Franks refrained from violence against these peoples through fear of Theoderic, but they began a war against the Burgundians. But later on the Franks and the Goths entered into an offensive alliance against the Burgundians, agreeing that each of the two should send an army against them; and it was further agreed that if either army should be absent when the other took the field against the nation of the Burgundians and overthrew them and gained the land which they had, then the victors should receive as a penalty from those who had not joined in the expedition a fixed sum of gold, and that only on these terms should the conquered land belong to both peoples in common. So the Germans went against the Burgundians with a great army according to the agreement between themselves and the Goths; but Theoderic was still engaged with his preparations, as he said, and purposely kept putting off the departure of the army to the following day, and waiting for what would come to pass. Finally, however, he sent the army, but commanded the generals to march in a leisurely fashion, and if they should hear that the Franks had been victorious, they were thenceforth to go quickly, but if they should learn that any adversity had befallen them, they were to proceed no farther, but remain where they were. So they proceeded to carry out the commands of Theoderic, but meanwhile the Germans joined battle alone with the Burgundians.[P] The battle was stubbornly contested and a great slaughter took place on both sides, for the struggle was very evenly matched; but finally the Franks routed their enemy and drove them to the borders of the land which they inhabited at that time, where they had many strongholds, while the Franks took possession of all the rest. And the Goths, upon hearing this, were quickly at hand. And when they were bitterly reproached by their allies, they blamed the difficulty of the country, and laying down the amount of the penalty, they divided the land with the victors according to the agreement made. And thus the foresight of Theoderic was revealed more clearly than ever, because, without losing a single one of his subjects, he had with a little gold acquired half of the land of his enemy. Thus it was that the Goths and Germans in the beginning got possession of a certain part of Gaul.

DATES: [N]476 A.D. [O]493 A.D. [P]534 A.D.

But later on, when the power of the Germans was growing greater, they began to think slightingly of Theoderic and the fear he inspired, and took the field against Alaric and the Visigoths. And when Alaric learned this, he summoned Theoderic as quickly as possible. And he set out to his assistance with a great army. In the meantime, the Visigoths, upon learning that the Germans were in camp near the city of Carcasiana,[56] went to meet them, and making a camp remained quiet. But since much time was being spent by them in blocking the enemy in this way, they began to be vexed, and seeing that their land was being plundered by the enemy, they became indignant. And at length they began to heap many insults upon Alaric, reviling him on account of his fear of the enemy and taunting him with the delay of his father-in-law. For they declared that they by themselves were a match for the enemy in battle and that even though unaided they would easily overcome the Germans in the war. For this reason Alaric was compelled to do battle with the enemy before the Goths had as yet arrived. And the Germans, gaining the upper hand in this engagement, killed the most of the Visigoths and their ruler Alaric. [Q] Then they took possession of the greater part of Gaul and held it; and they laid siege to Carcasiana with great enthusiasm, because they had learned that the royal treasure was there, which Alaric the elder in earlier times had taken as booty when he captured Rome.[57] Among these were also the treasures of Solomon, the king of the Hebrews, a most noteworthy sight. [R]For the most of them were adorned with emeralds; and they had been taken from Jerusalem by the Romans in ancient times.[58] Then the survivors of the Visigoths declared Giselic, an illegitimate son of Alaric, ruler over them, Amalaric, the son of Theoderic's daughter, being still a very young child. And afterwards, when Theoderic had come with the army of the Goths, the Germans became afraid and broke up the siege. So they retired from there and took possession of the part of Gaul beyond the Rhone River as far as the ocean. And Theoderic, being unable to drive them out from there, allowed them to hold this territory, but he himself recovered the rest of Gaul. Then, after Giselic had been put out of the way, he conferred the rule of the Visigoths upon his grandson Amalaric, for whom, since he was still a child, he himself acted as regent. And taking all the money which lay in the city of Carcasiana, he marched quickly back to Ravenna; furthermore, he continued to send commanders and armies into Gaul and Spain, thus holding the real power of the government himself, and by way of providing that he should hold it securely and permanently, he ordained that the rulers of those countries should bring tribute to him. And though he received this every year, in order not to give the appearance of being greedy for money he sent it as an annual gift to the army of the Goths and Visigoths. And as a result of this, the Goths and Visigoths, as time went on, ruled as they were by one man and holding the same land, betrothed their children to one another and thus joined the two races in kinship.

DATES: [Q]507 A.D. [R]410 A.D.

But afterwards, Theudis, a Goth, whom Theoderic had sent as commander of the army, took to wife a woman from Spain; she was not, however, of the race of the Visigoths, but belonged to the house of one of the wealthy inhabitants of that land, and not only possessed great wealth but also owned a large estate in Spain. From this estate he gathered about two thousand soldiers and surrounded himself with a force of bodyguards, and while in name he was a ruler over the Goths by the gift of Theoderic, he was in fact an out and out tyrant. And Theoderic, who was wise and experienced in the highest degree, was afraid to carry on a war against his own slave, lest the Franks meanwhile should take the field against him, as they naturally would, or the Visigoths on their part should begin a revolution against him; accordingly he did not remove Theudis from his office, but even continued to command him, whenever the army went to war, to lead it forth. However, he directed the first men of the Goths to write to Theudis that he would be acting justly and in a manner worthy of his wisdom, if he should come to Ravenna and salute Theoderic. Theudis, however, although he carried out all the commands of Theoderic and never failed to send in the annual tribute, would not consent to go to Ravenna, nor would he promise those who had written to him that he would do so.


[44] Book III. i. 7.

[45] i.e. equatorial Africa.

[46] Cf. Book IV. xiii. 29.

[47] This vague statement is intended to describe the country west of the Rhine, at that time a land of forests and swamps.

[48] The people whom Procopius names Arborychi must be the Armorici. If so, they occupied the coast of what is now Belgium.

[49] Now south-eastern Germany.

[50] Now south-eastern France.

[51] Between the Germans and Burgundians.

[52] In modern Bavaria.

[53] i.e. west of the Rhone.

[54] i.e. the Visigoths.

[55] i.e. under a recognized imperial dynasty.

[56] In Gallia Narbonensis, modern Carcassone. Procopius has been misled. The battle here described was fought in the neighbourhood of Poitiers.

[57] Cf. Book III. ii. 14-24.

[58] At the capture of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D. The treasures here mentioned were removed from Rome in 410 A.D. The remainder of the Jewish treasure formed part of the spoil of Gizeric, the Vandal. Cf. Book IV. ix. 5 and note.


After Theoderic had departed from the world,[S] the Franks, now that there was no longer anyone to oppose them, took the field against the Thuringians, and not only killed their leader Hermenefridus but also reduced to subjection the entire people. But the wife of Hermenefridus took her children and secretly made her escape, coming to Theodatus, her brother, who was at that time ruling over the Goths. After this the Germans made an attack upon the Burgundians who had survived the former war,[59] and defeating them in battle confined their leader in one of the fortresses of the country and kept him under guard, while they reduced the people to subjection and compelled them, as prisoners of war, to march with them from that time forth against their enemies, and the whole land which the Burgundians had previously inhabited they made subject and tributary to themselves. And Amalaric, who was ruling over the Visigoths, upon coming to man's estate, became thoroughly frightened at the power of the Germans and so took to wife the sister of Theudibert, ruler of the Germans, and divided Gaul with the Goths and his cousin Atalaric. The Goths, namely, received as their portion the land to the east of the Rhone River, while that to the west fell under the control of the Visigoths. And it was agreed that the tribute which Theoderic had imposed should no longer be paid to the Goths, and Atalaric honestly and justly restored to Amalaric all the money which he had taken from the city of Carcasiana. Then, since these two nations had united with one another by intermarriage, they allowed each man who had espoused a wife of the other people to choose whether he wished to follow his wife, or bring her among his own people. And there were many who led their wives to the people they preferred and many also who were led by their wives. But later on Amalaric, having given offence to his wife's brother, suffered a great calamity. For while his wife was of the orthodox faith, he himself followed the heresy of Arius, and he would not allow her to hold to her customary beliefs or to perform the rites of religion according to the tradition of her fathers, and, furthermore, because she was unwilling to conform to his customs, he held her in great dishonour. And since the woman was unable to bear this, she disclosed the whole matter to her brother. For this reason, then, the Germans and Visigoths entered into war with each other. [T]And the battle which took place was for a long time very stoutly contested, but finally Amalaric was defeated, losing many of his men, and was himself slain. And Theudibert took his sister with all the money, and as much of Gaul as the Visigoths held as their portion. And the survivors of the vanquished emigrated from Gaul with their wives and children and went to Theudis in Spain, who was already acting the tyrant openly. Thus did the Goths and Germans gain possession of Gaul.

DATES: [S]526 A.D. [T]531 A.D.

But at a later time[60] Theodatus, the ruler of the Goths, upon learning that Belisarius had come to Sicily, made a compact with the Germans, in which it was agreed that the Germans should have that portion of Gaul which fell to the Goths, and should receive twenty centenaria[61] of gold, and that in return they should assist the Goths in this war. But before he had as yet carried out the agreement he fulfilled his destiny.[U] It was for this reason, then, that many of the noblest of the Goths, with Marcias as their leader, were keeping guard in Gaul. It was these men whom Vittigis was unable to recall from Gaul,[62] and indeed he did not think them numerous enough even to oppose the Franks, who would, in all probability, overrun both Gaul and Italy, if he should march with his whole army against Rome. He therefore called together all who were loyal among the Goths and spoke as follows:

DATE: [U]526 A.D.

"The advice which I have wished to give you, fellow-countrymen, in bringing you together here at the present time, is not pleasant, but it is necessary; and do you hear me kindly, and deliberate in a manner befitting the situation which is upon us. For when affairs do not go as men wish, it is inexpedient for them to go on with their present arrangements in disregard of necessity or fortune. Now in all other respects our preparations for war are in the best possible state. But the Franks are an obstacle to us; against them, our ancient enemies, we have indeed been spending both our lives and our money, but nevertheless we have succeeded in holding our own up to the present time, since no other hostile force has confronted us. But now that we are compelled to go against another foe, it will be necessary to put an end to the war against them, in the first place because, if they remain hostile to us, they will certainly array themselves with Belisarius against us; for those who have the same enemy are by the very nature of things induced to enter into friendship and alliance with each other. In the second place, even if we carry on the war separately against each army, we shall in the end be defeated by both of them. It is better, therefore, for us to accept a little loss and thus preserve the greatest part of our kingdom, than in our eagerness to hold everything to be destroyed by the enemy and lose at the same time the whole power of our supremacy. So my opinion is that if we give the Germans the provinces of Gaul which adjoin them, and together with this land all the money which Theodatus agreed to give them, they will not only be turned from their enmity against us, but will even lend us assistance in this war. But as to how at a later time, when matters are going well for us, we may regain possession of Gaul, let no one of you consider this question. For an ancient saying[63] comes to my mind, which bids us 'settle well the affairs of the present.'"

Upon hearing this speech the notables of the Goths, considering the plan advantageous, wished it to be put into effect. Accordingly envoys were immediately sent to the nation of the Germans, in order to give them the lands of Gaul together with the gold, and to make an offensive and defensive alliance. Now at that time the rulers of the Franks were Ildibert, Theudibert, and Cloadarius, and they received Gaul and the money, and divided the land among them according to the territory ruled by each one, and they agreed to be exceedingly friendly to the Goths, and secretly to send them auxiliary troops, not Franks, however, but soldiers drawn from the nations subject to them. For they were unable to make an alliance with them openly against the Romans, because they had a little before agreed to assist the emperor in this war. So the envoys, having accomplished the mission on which they had been sent, returned to Ravenna. At that time also Vittigis summoned Marcias with his followers.


[59] Cf. chap. xii. 24 ff.

[60] Procopius resumes his narrative, which was interrupted by the digression beginning in chap. xii.

[61] Cf. Book I. xxii. 4; III. vi. 2 and note.

[62] Cf. chap. xi. 28.

[63] Cf. Thuc. i. 35, [Greek: thesthai to paron], "to deal with the actual situation"; Hor. Od. iii. 29, 32, "quod adest memento Componere."


But while Vittigis was carrying on these negotiations, Belisarius was preparing to go to Rome. He accordingly selected three hundred men from the infantry forces with Herodian as their leader, and assigned them the duty of guarding Naples. And he also sent to Cumae as large a garrison as he thought would be sufficient to guard the fortress there. For there was no stronghold in Campania except those at Cumae and at Naples. It is in this city of Cumae that the inhabitants point out the cave of the Sibyl, where they say her oracular shrine was; and Cumae is on the sea, one hundred and twenty-eight stades distant from Naples. Belisarius, then, was thus engaged in putting his army in order; but the inhabitants of Rome, fearing lest all the calamities should befall them which had befallen the Neapolitans, decided after considering the matter that it was better to receive the emperor's army into the city. And more than any other Silverius,[64] the chief priest of the city, urged them to adopt this course. So they sent Fidelius, a native of Milan, which is situated in Liguria, a man who had been previously an adviser of Atalaric (such an official is called "quaestor"[65] by the Romans), and invited Belisarius to come to Rome, promising to put the city into his hands without a battle. So Belisarius led his army from Naples by the Latin Way, leaving on the left the Appian Way, which Appius, the consul of the Romans, had made nine hundred years before[66] and to which he had given his name.

Now the Appian Way is in length a journey of five days for an unencumbered traveller; for it extends from Rome to Capua. And the breadth of this road is such that two waggons going in opposite directions can pass one another, and it is one of the noteworthy sights of the world. For all the stone, which is mill-stone[67] and hard by nature, Appius quarried in another place[68] far away and brought there; for it is not found anywhere in this district. And after working these stones until they were smooth and flat, and cutting them to a polygonal shape, he fastened them together without putting concrete or anything else between them. And they were fastened together so securely and the joints were so firmly closed, that they give the appearance, when one looks at them, not of being fitted together, but of having grown together. And after the passage of so long a time, and after being traversed by many waggons and all kinds of animals every day, they have neither separated at all at the joints, nor has any one of the stones been worn out or reduced in thickness,—nay, they have not even lost any of their polish. Such, then, is the Appian Way.

But as for the Goths who were keeping guard in Rome, it was not until they learned that the enemy were very near and became aware of the decision of the Romans, that they began to be concerned for the city, and, being unable to meet the attacking army in battle, they were at a loss; but later, with the permission of the Romans, they all departed thence and proceeded to Ravenna, except that Leuderis, who commanded them, being ashamed, I suppose, because of the situation in which he found himself, remained there. And it so happened on that day that at the very same time when Belisarius and the emperor's army were entering Rome through the gate which they call the Asinarian Gate, the Goths were withdrawing from the city through another gate which bears the name Flaminian; and Rome became subject to the Romans again after a space of sixty years, on the ninth day of the last month, which is called "December" by the Romans, in the eleventh year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian. [V] Now Belisarius sent Leuderis, the commander of the Goths, and the keys of the gates to the emperor, but he himself turned his attention to the circuit-wall, which had fallen into ruin in many places; and he constructed each merlon of the battlement with a wing, adding a sort of flanking wall on the left side,[69] in order that those fighting from the battlement against their assailants might never be hit by missiles thrown by those storming the wall on their left; and he also dug a moat about the wall of sufficient depth to form a very important part of the defences. And the Romans applauded the forethought of the general and especially the experience displayed in the matter of the battlement; but they marvelled greatly and were vexed that he should have thought it possible for him to enter Rome if he had any idea that he would be besieged, for it cannot possibly endure a siege because it cannot be supplied with provisions, since it is not on the sea, is enclosed by a wall of so huge a circumference,[70] and, above all, lying as it does in a very level plain, is naturally exceedingly easy of access for its assailants. But although Belisarius heard all these criticisms, he nevertheless continued to make all his preparations for a siege, and the grain which he had in his ships when he came from Sicily he stored in public granaries and kept under guard, and he compelled all the Romans, indignant though they were, to bring all their provisions in from the country.

DATE: [V]536 A.D.


[64] Cf. chap. xi. 26, note.

[65] The quaestor held an important position as counsellor ([Greek: paredros]) of the emperor in legal matters. It was his function, also, to formulate and publish new laws.

[66] Built in 312 B.C. by the censor, Appius Claudius.

[67] Chiefly basalt. As built by Appius, however, the surface was of gravel; the stone blocks date from later years.

[68] Apparently an error, for lava quarries have been found along the road.

[69] i.e. on the left of the defender. The battlement, then, in horizontal section, had this form , instead of the usual series of straight merlons. Winged merlons were used on the walls of Pompeii; for an excellent illustration see Overbeck, Pompeji^4, p. 46.

[70] i.e. too great to be defended at every point: the total length of the circuit-wall was about twelve miles.


At that time Pitzas, a Goth, coming from Samnium, also put himself and all the Goths who were living there with him into the hands of Belisarius, as well as the half of that part of Samnium which lies on the sea, as far as the river which flows through the middle of that district.[71] For the Goths who were settled on the other side of the river were neither willing to follow Pitzas nor to be subjects of the emperor. And Belisarius gave him a small number of soldiers to help him guard that territory. And before this the Calabrians and Apulians, since no Goths were present in their land, had willingly submitted themselves to Belisarius, both those on the coast and those who held the interior.

Among the interior towns is Beneventus,[72] which in ancient times the Romans had named "Maleventus," but now they call it Beneventus, avoiding the evil omen of the former name,[73] "ventus" having the meaning "wind" in the Latin tongue. For in Dalmatia, which lies across from this city on the opposite mainland, a wind of great violence and exceedingly wild is wont to fall upon the country, and when this begins to blow, it is impossible to find a man there who continues to travel on the road, but all shut themselves up at home and wait. Such, indeed, is the force of the wind that it seizes a man on horseback together with his horse and carries him through the air, and then, after whirling him about in the air to a great distance, it throws him down wherever he may chance to be and kills him. And it so happens that Beneventus, being opposite to Dalmatia, as I have said, and situated on rather high ground, gets some of the disadvantage of this same wind. This city was built of old by Diomedes, the son of Tydeus, when after the capture of Troy he was repulsed from Argos. And he left to the city as a token the tusks of the Calydonian boar, which his uncle Meleager had received as a prize of the hunt, and they are there even up to my time, a noteworthy sight and well worth seeing, measuring not less than three spans around and having the form of a crescent. There, too, they say that Diomedes met Aeneas, the son of Anchises, when he was coming from Ilium, and in obedience to the oracle gave him the statue of Athena which he had seized as plunder in company with Odysseus, when the two went into Troy as spies before the city was captured by the Greeks. For they tell the story that when he fell sick at a later time, and made enquiry concerning the disease, the oracle responded that he would never be freed from his malady unless he should give this statue to a man of Troy. And as to where in the world the statue itself is, the Romans say they do not know, but even up to my time they shew a copy of it chiselled on a certain stone in the temple of Fortune, where it lies before the bronze statue of Athena, which is set up under the open sky in the eastern part of the temple. And this copy on the stone represents a female figure in the pose of a warrior and extending her spear as if for combat; but in spite of this she has a chiton reaching to the feet. But the face does not resemble the Greek statues of Athena, but is altogether like the work of the ancient Aegyptians. The Byzantines, however, say that the Emperor Constantine dug up this statue in the forum which bears his name[74] and set it there. So much, then, for this.

In this way Belisarius won over the whole of that part of Italy which is south of the Ionian Gulf,[75] as far as Rome and Samnium, and the territory north of the gulf, as far as Liburnia, had been gained by Constantianus, as has been said.[76] But I shall now explain how Italy is divided among the inhabitants of the land. The Adriatic Sea[77] sends out a kind of outlet far into the continent and thus forms the Ionian Gulf, but it does not, as in other places where the sea enters the mainland, form an isthmus at its end. For example, the so-called Crisaean Gulf, ending at Lechaeum, where the city of Corinth is, forms the isthmus of that city, about forty stades in breadth; and the gulf off the Hellespont, which they call the Black Gulf,[78] makes the isthmus at the Chersonese no broader than the Corinthian, but of about the same size. But from the city of Ravenna, where the Ionian Gulf ends, to the Tuscan Sea is not less than eight days' journey for an unencumbered traveller. And the reason is that the arm of the sea, as it advances,[79] always inclines very far to the right. And below this gulf the first town is Dryus,[80] which is now called Hydrus. And on the right of this are the Calabrians, Apulians, and Samnites, and next to them dwell the Piceni, whose territory extends as far as the city of Ravenna. And on the other side are the remainder of the Calabrians, the Bruttii, and the Lucani, beyond whom dwell the Campani as far as the city of Taracina, and their territory is adjoined by that of Rome. These peoples hold the shores of the two seas, and all the interior of that part of Italy. And this is the country called Magna Graecia in former times. For among the Bruttii are the Epizephyrian Locrians and the inhabitants of Croton and Thurii. But north of the gulf the first inhabitants are Greeks, called Epirotes, as far as the city of Epidamnus, which is situated on the sea. And adjoining this is the land of Precalis, beyond which is the territory called Dalmatia, all of which is counted as part of the western empire. And beyond that point is Liburnia,[81] and Istria, and the land of the Veneti extending to the city of Ravenna. These countries are situated on the sea in that region. But above them are the Siscii and Suevi (not those who are subjects of the Franks, but another group), who inhabit the interior. And beyond these are settled the Carnii and Norici. On the right of these dwell the Dacians and Pannonians, who hold a number of towns, including Singidunum[82] and Sirmium, and extend as far as the Ister River. Now these peoples north of the Ionian Gulf were ruled by the Goths at the beginning of this war, but beyond the city of Ravenna on the left of the river Po the country was inhabited by the Ligurians.[83] And to the north of them live the Albani in an exceedingly good land called Langovilla, and beyond these are the nations subject to the Franks, while the country to the west is held by the Gauls and after them the Spaniards. On the right of the Po are Aemilia[84] and the Tuscan peoples, which extend as far as the boundaries of Rome. So much, then, for this.


[71] Probably either the Biferno or the Sangro.

[72] sic Procopius. The customary form "Beneventum" shews less clearly the derivation from "ventus" which Procopius favours. Other possible explanations are "bene" + "venio" or "bene" + (suff.) "entum."

[73] Cf. Pliny III. xi. 16, Sec. 105, who says that the name was originally "Maleventum," on account of its unwholesome air.

[74] The Forum of Constantine was a short distance west of the Hippodrome. One of its principle monuments, a huge porphyry column, still stands and is known as the "Burnt Column."

[75] i.e. the Adriatic Sea; see note 4.

[76] Chap. vii. 36.

[77] By the "Adriatic" is meant the part of the Mediterranean which lies between Africa on the south, Sicily and Italy on the west, and Greece and Epirus on the east; Procopius' "Ionian Gulf" is therefore our Adriatic Sea.

[78] Now the Gulf of Saros, north and west of the Gallipoli peninsula.

[79] i.e. to the north-west. Procopius means that the Adriatic should incline at its upper end more toward the left (the west) in order to form the isthmus which he is surprised to find lacking.

[80] Hydruntum; cf. Book III. i. 9, note.

[81] Modern Croatia.

[82] Modern Belgrade.

[83] Procopius seems to have erred: Liguria, as well as Aemilia (below), was south of the Po. Cf. chap. xii. 4, where Liguria is represented as extending to the Alps.

[84] Whose capital was Placentia (Piacenzo).


So Belisarius took possession of all the territory of Rome as far as the river Tiber, and strengthened it. And when all had been settled by him in the best possible manner, he gave to Constantinus a large number of his own guards together with many spearmen, including the Massagetae Zarter, Chorsomanus, and Aeschmanus, and an army besides, commanding him to go into Tuscany, in order to win over the towns of that region. And he gave orders to Bessas to take possession of Narnia, a very strong city in Tuscany. Now this Bessas was a Goth by birth, one of those who had dwelt in Thrace from of old and had not followed Theoderic when he led the Gothic nation thence into Italy, and he was an energetic man and a capable warrior. For he was both a general of the first rank, and a skilful man in action. And Bessas took Narnia not at all against the will of the inhabitants, and Constantinus won over Spolitium[85] and Perusia[86] and certain other towns without any trouble. For the Tuscans received him into their cities willingly. So after establishing a garrison in Spolitium, he himself remained quietly with his army in Perusia, the first city in Tuscany.

Now when Vittigis heard this, he sent against them an army with Unilas and Pissas as its commanders. And Constantinus confronted these troops in the outskirts of Perusia and engaged with them. The battle was at first evenly disputed, since the barbarians were superior in numbers, but afterwards the Romans by their valour gained the upper hand and routed the enemy, and while they were fleeing in complete disorder the Romans killed almost all of them; and they captured alive the commanders of the enemy and sent them to Belisarius. Now when Vittigis heard this, he was no longer willing to remain quietly in Ravenna, where he was embarrassed by the absence of Marcias and his men, who had not yet come from Gaul. So he sent to Dalmatia a great army with Asinarius and Uligisalus as its commanders, in order to recover Dalmatia for the Gothic rule. And he directed them to add to their own troops an army from the land of the Suevi, composed of the barbarians there, and then to proceed directly to Dalmatia and Salones. And he also sent with them many ships of war, in order that they might be able to besiege Salones both by land and by sea. But he himself was hastening to go with his whole army against Belisarius and Rome, leading against him horsemen and infantry to the number of not less than one hundred and fifty thousand, and the most of them as well as their horses were clad in armour.

So Asinarius, upon reaching the country of the Suevi, began to gather the army of the barbarians, while Uligisalus alone led the Goths into Liburnia. And when the Romans engaged with them at a place called Scardon, they were defeated in the battle and retired to the city of Burnus; and there Uligisalus awaited his colleague. But Constantianus, upon hearing of the preparations of Asinarius, became afraid for Salones, and summoned the soldiers who were holding all the fortresses in that region. He then dug a moat around the whole circuit-wall and made all the other preparations for the siege in the best manner possible. And Asinarius, after gathering an exceedingly large army of barbarians, came to the city of Burnus. There he joined Uligisalus and the Gothic army and proceeded to Salones. And they made a stockade about the circuit-wall, and also, filling their ships with soldiers, kept guard over the side of the fortifications which faced the sea. In this manner they proceeded to besiege Salones both by land and by sea; but the Romans suddenly made an attack upon the ships of the enemy and turned them to flight, and many of them they sunk, men and all, and also captured many without their crews. However, the Goths did not raise the siege, but maintained it vigorously and kept the Romans still more closely confined to the city than before. Such, then, were the fortunes of the Roman and Gothic armies in Dalmatia.

But Vittigis, upon hearing from the natives who came from Rome that the army which Belisarius had was very small, began to repent of his withdrawal from Rome, and was no longer able to endure the situation, but was now so carried away by fury that he advanced against them. And on his way thither he fell in with a priest who was coming from Rome. Whereupon they say that Vittigis in great excitement enquired of this man whether Belisarius was still in Rome, shewing that he was afraid he would not be able to catch him, but that Belisarius would forestall him by running away. But the priest, they say, replied that he need not be at all concerned about that; for he, the priest, was able to guarantee that Belisarius would never resort to flight, but was remaining where he was. But Vittigis, they say, kept hastening still more than before, praying that he might see with his own eyes the walls of Rome before Belisarius made his escape from the city.


[85] Modern Spoleto.

[86] Modern Perugia.


But Belisarius, when he heard that the Goths were marching against him with their whole force, was in a dilemma. For he was unwilling, on the one hand, to dispense with the troops of Constantinus and Bessas, especially since his army was exceedingly small, and, on the other, it seemed to him inexpedient to abandon the strongholds in Tuscany, lest the Goths should hold these as fortresses against the Romans. So after considering the matter he sent word to Constantinus and Bessas to leave garrisons in the positions which absolutely required them, large enough to guard them, while they themselves with the rest of the army should come to Rome with all speed. And Constantinus acted accordingly. For he established garrisons in Perusia and Spolitium, and with all the rest of his troops marched off to Rome. But while Bessas, in a more leisurely manner, was making his dispositions in Narnia, it so happened that, since the enemy were passing that way, the plains in the outskirts of the city were filled with Goths. These were an advance guard preceding the rest of the army; and Bessas engaged with them and unexpectedly routed those whom he encountered and killed many; but then, since he was overpowered by their superior numbers, he retired into Narnia. And leaving a garrison there according to the instructions of Belisarius, he went with all speed to Rome, and reported that the enemy would be at hand almost instantly. For Narnia is only three hundred and fifty stades distant from Rome. But Vittigis made no attempt at all to capture Perusia and Spolitium; for these places are exceedingly strong and he was quite unwilling that his time should be wasted there, his one desire having come to be to find Belisarius not yet fled from Rome. Moreover, even when he learned that Narnia also was held by the enemy, he was unwilling to attempt anything there, knowing that the place was difficult of access and on steep ground besides; for it is situated on a lofty hill. And the river Narnus flows by the foot of the hill, and it is this which has given the city its name. There are two roads leading up to the city, the one on the east, and the other on the west. One of these is very narrow and difficult by reason of precipitous rocks, while the other cannot be reached except by way of the bridge which spans the river and provides a passage over it at that point. This bridge was built by Caesar Augustus in early times, and is a very noteworthy sight; for its arches are the highest of any known to us.

So Vittigis, not enduring to have his time wasted there, departed thence with all speed and went with the whole army against Rome, making the journey through Sabine territory. [W]And when he drew near to Rome, and was not more than fourteen stades away from it, he came upon a bridge over the Tiber River.[87] There a little while before Belisarius had built a tower, furnished it with gates, and stationed in it a guard of soldiers, not because this is the only point at which the Tiber could be crossed by the enemy (for there are both boats and bridges at many places along the river), but because he wished the enemy to have to spend more time in the journey, since he was expecting another army from the emperor, and also in order that the Romans might bring in still more provisions. For if the barbarians, repulsed at that point, should try to cross on a bridge somewhere else, he thought that not less than twenty days would be consumed by them, and if they wished to launch boats in the Tiber to the necessary number, a still longer time would probably be wasted by them. These, then, were the considerations which led him to establish the garrison at that point; and the Goths bivouacked there that day, being at a loss and supposing that they would be obliged to storm the tower on the following day; but twenty-two deserters came to them, men who were barbarians by race but Roman soldiers, from the cavalry troop commanded by Innocentius.[88] Just at that time it occurred to Belisarius to establish a camp near the Tiber River, in order that they might hinder still more the crossing of the enemy and make some kind of a display of their own daring to their opponents. But all the soldiers who, as has been stated, were keeping guard at the bridge, being overcome with terror at the throng of Goths and quailing at the magnitude of their danger, abandoned by night the tower they were guarding and rushed off in flight. But thinking that they could not enter Rome, they stealthily marched off toward Campania, either because they were afraid of the punishment the general would inflict or because they were ashamed to appear before their comrades.

DATE: [W]Feb. 21, 537 A.D.


[87] The Mulvian Bridge.

[88] Cf. chap. v. 3.


On the following day the Goths destroyed the gates of the tower with no trouble and made the crossing, since no one tried to oppose them. But Belisarius, who had not as yet learned what had happened to the garrison, was bringing up a thousand horsemen to the bridge over the river, in order to look over the ground and decide where it would be best for his forces to make camp. But when they had come rather close, they met the enemy already across the river, and not at all willingly they engaged with some of them. And the battle was carried on by horsemen on both sides. Then Belisarius, though he was safe before, would no longer keep the general's post, but began to fight in the front ranks like a soldier; and consequently the cause of the Romans was thrown into great danger, for the whole decision of the war rested with him. But it happened that the horse he was riding at that time was unusually experienced in warfare and knew well how to save his rider; and his whole body was dark grey, except that his face from the top of his head to the nostrils was the purest white. Such a horse the Greeks call "phalius"[89] and the barbarians "balan." And it so happened that the most of the Goths threw their javelins and other missiles at him and at Belisarius for the following reason. Those deserters who on the previous day had come to the Goths, when they saw Belisarius fighting in the front ranks, knowing well that, if he should fall, the cause of the Romans would be ruined instantly, cried aloud urging them to "shoot at the white-faced horse." Consequently this saying was passed around and reached the whole Gothic army, and they did not question it at all, since they were in a great tumult of fighting, nor did they know clearly that it referred to Belisarius. But conjecturing that it was not by mere accident that the saying had gained such currency as to reach all, the most of them, neglecting all others, began to shoot at Belisarius. And every man among them who laid any claim to valour was immediately possessed with a great eagerness to win honour, and getting as close as possible they kept trying to lay hold of him and in a great fury kept striking with their spears and swords. But Belisarius himself, turning from side to side, kept killing as they came those who encountered him, and he also profited very greatly by the loyalty of his own spearmen and guards in this moment of danger. For they all surrounded him and made a display of valour such, I imagine, as has never been shewn by any man in the world to this day; for, holding out their shields in defence of both the general and his horse, they not only received all the missiles, but also forced back and beat off those who from time to time assailed him. And thus the whole engagement was centred about the body of one man. In this struggle there fell among the Goths no fewer than a thousand, and they were men who fought in the front ranks; and of the household of Belisarius many of the noblest were slain, and Maxentius, the spearman, after making a display of great exploits against the enemy. But by some chance Belisarius was neither wounded nor hit by a missile on that day, although the battle was waged around him alone.

Finally by their valour the Romans turned the enemy to flight, and an exceedingly great multitude of barbarians fled until they reached their main army. For there the Gothic infantry, being entirely fresh, withstood their enemy and forced them back without any trouble. And when another body of cavalry in turn reinforced the Goths, the Romans fled at top speed until they reached a certain hill, which they climbed, and there held their position. But the enemy's horsemen were upon them directly, and a second cavalry battle took place. There Valentinus, the groom of Photius, the son of Antonina, made a remarkable exhibition of valour. For by leaping alone into the throng of the enemy he opposed himself to the onrush of the Goths and thus saved his companions. In this way the Romans escaped, and arrived at the fortifications of Rome, and the barbarians in pursuit pressed upon them as far as the wall by the gate which has been named the Salarian Gate.[90] But the people of Rome, fearing lest the enemy should rush in together with the fugitives and thus get inside the fortifications, were quite unwilling to open the gates, although Belisarius urged them again and again and called upon them with threats to do so. For, on the one hand, those who peered out of the tower were unable to recognise the man, for his face and his whole head were covered with gore and dust, and at the same time no one was able to see very clearly, either; for it was late in the day, about sunset. Moreover, the Romans had no reason to suppose that the general survived; for those who had come in flight from the rout which had taken place earlier reported that Belisarius had died fighting bravely in the front ranks. So the throng of the enemy, which had rushed up in strength and possessed with great fury, were purposing to cross the moat straightway and attack the fugitives there; and the Romans, finding themselves massed along the wall, after they had come inside the moat, and so close together that they touched one another, were being crowded into a small space. Those inside the fortifications, however, since they were without a general and altogether unprepared, and being in a panic of fear for themselves and for the city, were quite unable to defend their own men, although these were now in so perilous a situation.

Then a daring thought came to Belisarius, which unexpectedly saved the day for the Romans. For urging on all his men he suddenly fell upon the enemy. And they, even before this, had been in great disorder because of the darkness and the fact that they were making a pursuit, and now when, much to their surprise, they saw the fugitives attacking them, they supposed that another army also had come to their assistance from the city, and so were thrown into a great panic and all fled immediately at top speed. But Belisarius by no means rushed out to pursue them, but returned straightway to the wall. And at this the Romans took courage and received him and all his men into the city. So narrowly did Belisarius and the emperor's cause escape peril; and the battle which had begun early in the morning did not end until night. And those who distinguished themselves above all others by their valour in this battle were, among the Romans, Belisarius, and among the Goths, Visandus Vandalarius, who had fallen upon Belisarius at the first when the battle took place about him, and did not desist until he had received thirteen wounds on his body and fell. And since he was supposed to have died immediately, he was not cared for by his companions, although they were victorious, and he lay there with the dead. But on the third day, when the barbarians had made camp hard by the circuit-wall of Rome and had sent some men in order to bury their dead and to perform the customary rites of burial, those who were searching out the bodies of the fallen found Visandus Vandalarius with life still in him, and one of his companions entreated him to speak some word to him. But he could not do even this, for the inside of his body was on fire because of the lack of food and the thirst caused by his suffering, and so he nodded to him to put water into his mouth. Then when he had drunk and become himself again, they lifted and carried him to the camp. And Visandus Vandalarius won a great name for this deed among the Goths, and he lived on a very considerable time, enjoying the greatest renown. This, then, took place on the third day after the battle.

But at that time Belisarius, after reaching safety with his followers, gathered the soldiers and almost the whole Roman populace to the wall, and commanded them to burn many fires and keep watch throughout the whole night. And going about the circuit of the fortifications, he set everything in order and put one of his commanders in charge of each gate. But Bessas, who took command of the guard at the gate called the Praenestine,[91] sent a messenger to Belisarius with orders to say that the city was held by the enemy, who had broken in through another gate which is across the Tiber River[92] and bears the name of Pancratius, a holy man. And all those who were in the company of Belisarius, upon hearing this, urged him to save himself as quickly as possible through some other gate. He, however, neither became panic-stricken, nor did he hesitate to declare that the report was false. And he also sent some of his horsemen across the Tiber with all speed, and they, after looking over the ground there, brought back word that no hostile attack had been made on the city in that quarter. He therefore sent immediately to each gate and instructed the commanders everywhere that, whenever they heard that the enemy had broken in at any other part of the fortifications, they should not try to assist in the defence nor abandon their post, but should remain quiet; for he himself would take care of such matters. And he did this in order that they might not be thrown into disorder a second time by a rumour which was not true.

But Vittigis, while the Romans were still in great confusion, sent to the Salarian Gate[93] one of his commanders, Vacis by name, a man of no mean station. And when he had arrived there, he began to reproach the Romans for their faithlessness to the Goths and upbraided them for the treason which he said they had committed against both their fatherland and themselves, for they had exchanged the power of the Goths for Greeks who were not able to defend them, although they had never before seen any men of the Greek race come to Italy except actors of tragedy and mimes and thieving sailors.[94] Such words and many like them were spoken by Vacis, but since no one replied to him, he returned to the Goths and Vittigis. As for Belisarius, he brought upon himself much ridicule on the part of the Romans, for though he had barely escaped from the enemy, he bade them take courage thenceforth and look with contempt upon the barbarians; for he knew well, he said, that he would conquer them decisively. Now the manner in which he had come to know this with certainty will be told in the following narrative.[95] At length, when it was well on in the night, Belisarius, who had been fasting up to this time, was with difficulty compelled by his wife and those of his friends who were present to taste a very little bread. Thus, then, the two armies passed this night.


[89] Having a white spot, "White-face."

[90] See plan opposite p. 185.

[91] See plan opposite p. 185.

[92] For Procopius' description of the wall "across the Tiber," see chap. xix. 6-10.

[93] See plan opposite p. 185.

[94] Cf. Book IV. xxvii. 38, note.

[95] Chap. xxvii. 25-29.


But on the following day they arrayed themselves for the struggle, the Goths thinking to capture Rome by siege without any trouble on account of the great size of the city, and the Romans defending it. Now the wall of the city has fourteen large gates and several smaller ones. And the Goths, being unable with their entire army to envelop the wall on every side, made six fortified camps from which they harassed the portion of the wall containing five gates, from the Flaminian as far as the one called the Praenestine Gate; and all these camps were made by them on the left bank of the Tiber River. Wherefore the barbarians feared lest their enemy, by destroying the bridge which bears the name of Mulvius, should render inaccessible to them all the land on the right bank of the river as far as the sea, and in this way have not the slightest experience of the evils of a siege, and so they fixed a seventh camp across the Tiber in the Plain of Nero, in order that the bridge might be between their two armies. So in this way two other gates came to be exposed to the attacks of the enemy, the Aurelian[96] (which is now named after Peter, the chief of the Apostles of Christ, since he lies not far from there[97]) and the Transtiburtine Gate.[98] Thus the Goths surrounded only about one-half of the wall with their army, but since they were in no direction wholly shut off from the wall by the river, they made attacks upon it throughout its whole extent whenever they wished.

Now the way the Romans came to build the city-wall on both sides of the river I shall now proceed to tell. In ancient times the Tiber used to flow alongside the circuit-wall for a considerable distance, even at the place where it is now enclosed. But this ground, on which the wall rises along the stream of the river, is flat and very accessible. And opposite this flat ground, across the Tiber, it happens that there is a great hill[99] where all the mills of the city have been built from of old, because much water is brought by an aqueduct to the crest of the hill, and rushes thence down the incline with great force. For this reason the ancient Romans[100] determined to surround the hill and the river bank near it with a wall, so that it might never be possible for an enemy to destroy the mills, and crossing the river, to carry on operations with ease against the circuit-wall of the city. So they decided to span the river at this point with a bridge, and to attach it to the wall; and by building many houses in the district across the river they caused the stream of the Tiber to be in the middle of the city. So much then for this.

And the Goths dug deep trenches about all their camps, and heaped up the earth, which they took out from them, on the inner side of the trenches, making this bank exceedingly high, and they planted great numbers of sharp stakes on the top, thus making all their camps in no way inferior to fortified strongholds. And the camp in the Plain of Nero was commanded by Marcias (for he had by now arrived from Gaul with his followers, with whom he was encamped there), and the rest of the camps were commanded by Vittigis with five others; for there was one commander for each camp. So the Goths, having taken their positions in this way, tore open all the aqueducts, so that no water at all might enter the city from them. Now the aqueducts of Rome are fourteen in number, and were made of baked brick by the men of old, being of such breadth and height that it is possible for a man on horseback to ride in them.[101] And Belisarius arranged for the defence of the city in the following manner. He himself held the small Pincian Gate and the gate next to this on the right, which is named the Salarian. For at these gates the circuit-wall was assailable, and at the same time it was possible for the Romans to go out from them against the enemy. The Praenestine Gate he gave to Bessas. And at the Flaminian, which is on the other side of the Pincian, he put Constantinus in command, having previously closed the gates and blocked them up most securely by building a wall of great stones on the inside, so that it might be impossible for anyone to open them. For since one of the camps was very near, he feared least some secret plot against the city should be made there by the enemy. And the remaining gates he ordered the commanders of the infantry forces to keep under guard. And he closed each of the aqueducts as securely as possible by filling their channels with masonry for a considerable distance, to prevent anyone from entering through them from the outside to do mischief.

But after the aqueducts had been broken open, as I have stated, the water no longer worked the mills, and the Romans were quite unable to operate them with any kind of animals owing to the scarcity of all food in time of siege; indeed they were scarcely able to provide for the horses which were indispensable to them. And so Belisarius hit upon the following device. Just below the bridge[102] which I lately mentioned as being connected with the circuit-wall, he fastened ropes from the two banks of the river and stretched them as tight as he could, and then attached to them two boats side by side and two feet apart, where the flow of the water comes down from the arch of the bridge with the greatest force, and placing two mills on either boat, he hung between them the mechanism by which mills are customarily turned. And below these he fastened other boats, each attached to the one next behind in order, and he set the water-wheels between them in the same manner for a great distance. So by the force of the flowing water all the wheels, one after the other, were made to revolve independently, and thus they worked the mills with which they were connected and ground sufficient flour for the city. Now when the enemy learned this from the deserters, they destroyed the wheels in the following manner. They gathered large trees and bodies of Romans newly slain and kept throwing them into the river; and the most of these were carried with the current between the boats and broke off the mill-wheels. But Belisarius, observing what was being done, contrived the following device against it. He fastened above the bridge long iron chains, which reached completely across the Tiber. All the objects which the river brought down struck upon these chains, and gathered there and went no farther. And those to whom this work was assigned kept pulling out these objects as they came and bore them to the land. And Belisarius did this, not so much on account of the mills, as because he began to think with alarm that the enemy might get inside the bridge at this point with many boats and be in the middle of the city before their presence became known. Thus the barbarians abandoned the attempt, since they met with no success in it. And thereafter the Romans continued to use these mills; but they were entirely excluded from the baths because of the scarcity of water. However, they had sufficient water to drink, since even for those who lived very far from the river it was possible to draw water from wells. But as for the sewers, which carry out from the city whatever is unclean, Belisarius was not forced to devise any plan of safety, for they all discharge into the Tiber River, and therefore it was impossible for any plot to be made against the city by the enemy in connection with them.


[96] This is an error. Procopius means the Porta Cornelia.

[97] According to tradition the Basilica of St. Peter was built over the grave of the Apostle.

[98] The Aurelian.

[99] The Janiculum.

[100] The wall described was a part of the wall of Aurelian.

[101] This is an exaggeration; the channels vary from four to eight feet in height.

[102] The Pons Aurelius. See section 10 of this chapter.


Thus, then, did Belisarius make his arrangements for the siege. And among the Samnites a large company of children, who were pasturing flocks in their own country, chose out two among them who were well favoured in strength of body, and calling one of them by the name of Belisarius, and naming the other Vittigis, bade them wrestle. And they entered into the struggle with the greatest vehemence and it so fell out that the one who impersonated Vittigis was thrown. Then the crowd of boys in play hung him to a tree. But a wolf by some chance appeared there, whereupon the boys all fled, and the one called Vittigis, who was suspended from the tree, remained for some time suffering this punishment and then died. And when this became known to the Samnites, they did not inflict any punishment upon these children, but divining the meaning of the incident declared that Belisarius would conquer decisively. So much for this.

But the populace of Rome were entirely unacquainted with the evils of war and siege. When, therefore, they began to be distressed by their inability to bathe and the scarcity of provisions, and found themselves obliged to forgo sleep in guarding the circuit-wall, and suspected that the city would be captured at no distant date; and when, at the same time, they saw the enemy plundering their fields and other possessions, they began to be dissatisfied and indignant that they, who had done no wrong, should suffer siege and be brought into peril of such magnitude. And gathering in groups by themselves, they railed openly against Belisarius, on the ground that he had dared to take the field against the Goths before he had received an adequate force from the emperor. And these reproaches against Belisarius were secretly indulged in also by the members of the council which they call the senate. And Vittigis, hearing all this from the deserters and desiring to embroil them with one another still more, and thinking that in this way the affairs of the Romans would be thrown into great confusion, sent to Belisarius some envoys, among whom was Albis. And when these men came before Belisarius, they spoke as follows in the presence of the Roman senators and all the commanders of the army:

"From of old, general, mankind has made true and proper distinctions in the names they give to things; and one of these distinctions is this—rashness is different from bravery. For rashness, when it takes possession of a man, brings him into danger with discredit, but bravery bestows upon him an adequate prize in reputation for valour. Now one of these two has brought you against us, but which it is you will straightway make clear. For if, on the one hand, you placed your confidence in bravery when you took the field against the Goths, there is ample opportunity, noble sir, for you to do the deeds of a brave man, since you have only to look down from your wall to see the army of the enemy; but if, on the other hand, it was because you were possessed by rashness that you came to attack us, certainly you now repent you of the reckless undertaking. For the opinions of those who have made a desperate venture are wont to undergo a change whenever they find themselves in serious straits. Now, therefore, do not cause the sufferings of these Romans to be prolonged any further, men whom Theoderic fostered in a life not only of soft luxury but also of freedom, and cease your resistance to him who is the master both of the Goths and of the Italians. Is it not monstrous that you should sit in Rome hemmed in as you are and in abject terror of the enemy, while the king of this city passes his time in a fortified camp and inflicts the evils of war upon his own subjects? But we shall give both you and your followers an opportunity to take your departure forthwith in security, retaining all your possessions. For to trample upon those who have learned to take a new view of prudence we consider neither holy nor worthy of the ways of men. And, further, we should gladly ask these Romans what complaints they could have had against the Goths that they betrayed both us and themselves, seeing that up to this time they have enjoyed our kindness, and now are acquainted by experience with the assistance to be expected from you."

Thus spoke the envoys. And Belisarius replied as follows: "It is not to rest with you to choose the moment for conference. For men are by no means wont to wage war according to the judgment of their enemies, but it is customary for each one to arrange his own affairs for himself, in whatever manner seems to him best. But I say to you that there will come a time when you will want to hide your heads under the thistles but will find no shelter anywhere. As for Rome, moreover, which we have captured, in holding it we hold nothing which belongs to others, but it was you who trespassed upon this city in former times, though it did not belong to you at all, and now you have given it back, however unwillingly, to its ancient possessors. And whoever of you has hopes of setting foot in Rome without a fight is mistaken in his judgment. For as long as Belisarius lives, it is impossible for him to relinquish this city." Such were the words of Belisarius. But the Romans, being overcome by a great fear, sat in silence, and, even though they were abused by the envoys at length for their treason to the Goths, dared make no reply to them, except, indeed, that Fidelius saw fit to taunt them. This man was then praetorian prefect, having been appointed to the office by Belisarius, and for this reason he seemed above all others to be well disposed toward the emperor.


The envoys then betook themselves to their own army. And when Vittigis enquired of them what manner of man Belisarius was and how his purpose stood with regard to the question of withdrawing from Rome, they replied that the Goths were hoping for vain things if they supposed that they would frighten Belisarius in any way whatsoever. And when Vittigis heard this, he began in great earnest to plan an assault upon the wall, and the preparations he made for the attempt upon the fortifications were as follows. He constructed wooden towers equal in height to the enemy's wall, and he discovered its true measure by making many calculations based upon the courses of stone. And wheels were attached to the floor of these towers under each corner, which were intended, as they turned, to move the towers to any point the attacking army might wish at a given time, and the towers were drawn by oxen yoked together. After this he made ready a great number of ladders, that would reach as far as the parapet, and four engines which are called rams. Now this engine is of the following sort. Four upright wooden beams, equal in length, are set up opposite one another. To these beams they fit eight horizontal timbers, four above and an equal number at the base, thus binding them together. After they have thus made the frame of a four-sided building, they surround it on all sides, not with walls of wood or stone, but with a covering of hides, in order that the engine may be light for those who draw it and that those within may still be in the least possible danger of being shot by their opponents. And on the inside they hang another horizontal beam from the top by means of chains which swing free, and they keep it at about the middle of the interior. They then sharpen the end of this beam and cover it with a large iron head, precisely as they cover the round point of a missile, or they sometimes make the iron head square like an anvil. And the whole structure is raised upon four wheels, one being attached to each upright beam, and men to the number of no fewer than fifty to each ram move it from the inside. Then when they apply it to the wall, they draw back the beam which I have just mentioned by turning a certain mechanism, and then they let it swing forward with great force against the wall. And this beam by frequent blows is able quite easily to batter down and tear open a wall wherever it strikes, and it is for this reason that the engine has the name it bears, because the striking end of the beam, projecting as it does, is accustomed to butt against whatever it may encounter, precisely as do the males among sheep. Such, then, are the rams used by the assailants of a wall. And the Goths were holding in readiness an exceedingly great number of bundles of faggots, which they had made of pieces of wood and reeds, in order that by throwing them into the moat they might make the ground level, and that their engines might not be prevented from crossing it. Now after the Goths had made their preparations in this manner, they were eager to make an assault upon the wall.

But Belisarius placed upon the towers engines which they call "ballistae."[103] Now these engines have the form of a bow, but on the under side of them a grooved wooden shaft projects; this shaft is so fitted to the bow that it is free to move, and rests upon a straight iron bed. So when men wish to shoot at the enemy with this, they make the parts of the bow which form the ends bend toward one another by means of a short rope fastened to them, and they place in the grooved shaft the arrow, which is about one half the length of the ordinary missiles which they shoot from bows, but about four times as wide. However, it does not have feathers of the usual sort attached to it, but by inserting thin pieces of wood in place of feathers, they give it in all respects the form of an arrow, making the point which they put on very large and in keeping with its thickness. And the men who stand on either side wind it up tight by means of certain appliances, and then the grooved shaft shoots forward and stops, but the missile is discharged from the shaft,[104] and with such force that it attains the distance of not less than two bow-shots, and that, when it hits a tree or a rock, it pierces it easily. Such is the engine which bears this name, being so called because it shoots with very great force.[105] And they fixed other engines along the parapet of the wall adapted for throwing stones. Now these resemble slings and are called "wild asses."[106] And outside the gates they placed "wolves,"[107] which they make in the following manner. They set up two timbers which reach from the ground to the battlements; then they fit together beams which have been mortised to one another, placing some upright and others crosswise, so that the spaces between the intersections appear as a succession of holes. And from every joint there projects a kind of beak, which resembles very closely a thick goad. Then they fasten the cross-beams to the two upright timbers, beginning at the top and letting them extend half way down, and then lean the timbers back against the gates. And whenever the enemy come up near them, those above lay hold of the ends of the timbers and push, and these, falling suddenly upon the assailants, easily kill with the projecting beaks as many as they may catch. So Belisarius was thus engaged.


[103] Cf. The description of the ballista and other engines of war in Ammianus Marcellinus, XXII. iv. The engine here described by Procopius is the catapult of earlier times; the ballista hurled stones, not arrows. See the Classical Dictionaries for illustrations.

[104] The "shaft" is a holder for the missile, and it (not the missile) is driven by the bowstring. When the holder stops, the missile goes on.

[105] A popular etymology of [Greek: ballistra], a corrupted form of [Greek: ballista]; the point is in the Greek words [Greek: ballo] + [Greek: malista], an etymology correct only as far as [Greek: ballo] is concerned.

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