Procopius - History of the Wars, Books V. and VI.
by Procopius
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[106] Called also "scorpions"; described by Ammianus, l.c.

[107] This contrivance was not one familiar to classical times. The "lupi" of Livy XXVIII. iii. were hooks; Vegetius, De Re Militari, ii. 25 and iv. 23, mentions "lupi" (also hooks), used to put a battering-ram out of action.


On the eighteenth day from the beginning of the siege the Goths moved against the fortifications at about sunrise under the leadership of Vittigis in order to assault the wall, and all the Romans were struck with consternation at the sight of the advancing towers and rams, with which they were altogether unfamiliar. But Belisarius, seeing the ranks of the enemy as they advanced with the engines, began to laugh, and commanded the soldiers to remain quiet and under no circumstances to begin fighting until he himself should give the signal. Now the reason why he laughed he did not reveal at the moment, but later it became known. The Romans, however, supposing him to be hiding his real feelings by a jest, abused him and called him shameless, and were indignant that he did not try to check the enemy as they came forward. But when the Goths came near the moat, the general first of all stretched his bow and with a lucky aim hit in the neck and killed one of the men in armour who were leading the army on. And he fell on his back mortally wounded, while the whole Roman army raised an extraordinary shout such as was never heard before, thinking that they had received an excellent omen. And twice did Belisarius send forth his bolt, and the very same thing happened again a second time, and the shouting rose still louder from the circuit-wall, and the Romans thought that the enemy were conquered already. Then Belisarius gave the signal for the whole army to put their bows into action, but those near himself he commanded to shoot only at the oxen. And all the oxen fell immediately, so that the enemy could neither move the towers further nor in their perplexity do anything to meet the emergency while the fighting was in progress. In this way the forethought of Belisarius in not trying to check the enemy while still at a great distance came to be understood, as well as the reason why he had laughed at the simplicity of the barbarians, who had been so thoughtless as to hope to bring oxen up to the enemy's wall. Now all this took place at the Salarian Gate. But Vittigis, repulsed at this point, left there a large force of Goths, making of them a very deep phalanx and instructing the commanders on no condition to make an assault upon the fortifications, but remaining in position to shoot rapidly at the parapet, and give Belisarius no opportunity whatever to take reinforcements to any other part of the wall which he himself might propose to attack with a superior force; he then went to the Praenestine Gate with a great force, to a part of the fortifications which the Romans call the "Vivarium,"[108] where the wall was most assailable. Now it so happened that engines of war were already there, including towers and rams and a great number of ladders.

But in the meantime another Gothic assault was being made at the Aurelian Gate[109] in the following manner. The tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian[110] stands outside the Aurelian Gate, removed about a stone's throw from the fortifications, a very noteworthy sight. For it is made of Parian marble, and the stones fit closely one upon the other, having nothing at all[111] between them. And it has four sides which are all equal, each being about a stone's throw in length, while their height exceeds that of the city wall; and above there are statues of the same marble, representing men and horses, of wonderful workmanship.[112] But since this tomb seemed to the men of ancient times a fortress threatening the city, they enclosed it by two walls, which extend to it from the circuit-wall,[113] and thus made it a part of the wall. And, indeed, it gives the appearance of a high tower built as a bulwark before the gate there. So the fortifications at that point were most adequate. Now Constantinus, as it happened, had been appointed by Belisarius to have charge of the garrison at this tomb. And he had instructed him also to attend to the guarding of the adjoining wall, which had a small and inconsiderable garrison. For, since that part of the circuit-wall was the least assailable of all, because the river flows along it, he supposed that no assault would be made there, and so stationed an insignificant garrison at that place, and, since the soldiers he had were few, he assigned the great majority to the positions where there was most need of them. For the emperor's army gathered in Rome at the beginning of this siege amounted at most to only five thousand men. But since it was reported to Constantinus that the enemy were attempting the crossing of the Tiber, he became fearful for that part of the fortifications and went thither himself with all speed, accompanied by some few men to lend assistance, commanding the greater part of his men to attend to the guarding of the gate and the tomb. But meanwhile the Goths began an assault upon the Aurelian Gate and the Tower of Hadrian, and though they had no engines of war, they brought up a great quantity of ladders, and thought that by shooting a vast number of arrows they would very easily reduce the enemy to a state of helplessness and overpower the garrison there without any trouble on account of its small numbers. And as they advanced, they held before them shields no smaller than the long shields used by the Persians, and they succeeded in getting very close to their opponents without being perceived by them. For they came hidden under the colonnade which extends[114] to the church of the Apostle Peter. From that shelter they suddenly appeared and began the attack, so that the guards were neither able to use the engine called the ballista (for these engines do not send their missiles except straight out), nor, indeed, could they ward off their assailants with their arrows, since the situation was against them on account of the large shields. But the Goths kept pressing vigorously upon them, shooting many missiles at the battlements, and they were already about to set their ladders against the wall, having practically surrounded those who were fighting from the tomb; for whenever the Goths advanced they always got in the rear of the Romans on both flanks[115]; and for a short time consternation fell upon the Romans, who knew not what means of defence they should employ to save themselves, but afterwards by common agreement they broke in pieces the most of the statues, which were very large, and taking up great numbers of stones thus secured, threw them with both hands down upon the heads of the enemy, who gave way before this shower of missiles. And as they retreated a little way, the Romans, having by now the advantage, plucked up courage, and with a mighty shout began to drive back their assailants by using their bows and hurling stones at them. And putting their hands to the engines, they reduced their opponents to great fear, and their assault was quickly ended. And by this time Constantinus also was present, having frightened back those who had tried the river and easily driven them off, because they did not find the wall there entirely unguarded, as they had supposed they would. And thus safety was restored at the Aurelian Gate.[116]


[108] See chap. xxiii. 15-17 and note.

[109] Procopius errs again (cf. chap. xix. 4). He means the Porta Cornelia.

[110] Now called Castello di Sant' Angelo.

[111] i.e. No mortar or other binding material.

[112] The square structure was the base of the monument, each side measuring 300 Roman feet in length and 85 feet in height. Above this rose a cylindrical drum, surrounded by columns and carrying the statues, and perhaps capped by a second drum. For details see Jordan, Topographie der Stadt Rom, iii. 663 ff.

[113] Procopius neglects to say that the tomb was across the river from the circuit-wall at this point, at the end of a bridge (Pons Aelius) which faced the gate (Porta Cornelia) which he calls the Aurelian Gate.

[114] From the Pons Aelius.

[115] Because of the quadrangular shape of the building the Goths were able to take their enemy in flank and in rear by advancing beyond the corners.

[116] i.e. the Cornelian.


But at the gate beyond the Tiber River, which is called the Pancratian Gate, a force of the enemy came, but accomplished nothing worth mentioning because of the strength of the place; for the fortifications of the city at this point are on a steep elevation and are not favourably situated for assaults. Paulus was keeping guard there with an infantry detachment which he commanded in person. In like manner they made no attempt on the Flaminian Gate, because it is situated on a precipitous slope and is not very easy of access. The "Reges,"[117] an infantry detachment, were keeping guard there with Ursicinus, who commanded them. And between this gate and the small gate next on the right, which is called the Pincian, a certain portion of the wall had split open of its own accord in ancient times, not clear to the ground, however, but about half way down, but still it had not fallen or been otherwise destroyed, though it leaned so to either side that one part of it appeared outside the rest of the wall and the other inside. And from this circumstance the Romans from ancient times have called the place "Broken Wall"[118] in their own tongue. But when Belisarius in the beginning undertook to tear down this portion and rebuild it, the Romans prevented him, declaring that the Apostle Peter had promised them that he would care for the guarding of the wall there. This Apostle is reverenced by the Romans and held in awe above all others. And the outcome of events at this place was in all respects what the Romans contemplated and expected. For neither on that day nor throughout the whole time during which the Goths were besieging Rome did any hostile force come to that place, nor did any disturbance occur there. And we marvelled indeed that it never occurred to us nor to the enemy to remember this portion of the fortifications during the whole time, either while they were making their assaults or carrying out their designs against the wall by night; and yet many such attempts were made. It was for this reason, in fact, that at a later time also no one ventured to rebuild this part of the defences, but up to the present day the wall there is split open in this way. So much, then, for this.

And at the Salarian Gate a Goth of goodly stature and a capable warrior, wearing a corselet and having a helmet on his head, a man who was of no mean station in the Gothic nation, refused to remain in the ranks with his comrades, but stood by a tree and kept shooting many missiles at the parapet. But this man by some chance was hit by a missile from an engine which was on a tower at his left. And passing through the corselet and the body of the man, the missile sank more than half its length into the tree, and pinning him to the spot where it entered the tree, it suspended him there a corpse. And when this was seen by the Goths they fell into great fear, and getting outside the range of missiles, they still remained in line, but no longer harassed those on the wall.

But Bessas and Peranius summoned Belisarius, since Vittigis was pressing most vigorously upon them at the Vivarium. And he was fearful concerning the wall there (for it was most assailable at that point, as has been said[119]), and so came to the rescue himself with all speed, leaving one of his friends at the Salarian Gate. And finding that the soldiers in the Vivarium dreaded the attack of the enemy, which was being pressed with great vigour and by very large numbers, he bade them look with contempt upon the enemy and thus restored their confidence. Now the ground there[120] was very level, and consequently the place lay open to the attacks of any assailant. And for some reason the wall at that point had crumbled a great deal, and to such an extent that the binding of the bricks did not hold together very well. Consequently the ancient Romans had built another wall of short length outside of it and encircling it, not for the sake of safety (for it was neither strengthened with towers, nor indeed was there any battlement built upon it, nor any other means by which it would have been possible to repulse an enemy's assault upon the fortifications), but in order to provide for an unseemly kind of luxury, namely, that they might confine and keep there lions and other wild animals. And it is for this reason that this place has been named the Vivarium; for thus the Romans call a place where untamed animals are regularly cared for. So Vittigis began to make ready various engines at different places along the wall and commanded the Goths to mine the outside wall, thinking that, if they should get inside that, they would have no trouble in capturing the main wall, which he knew to be by no means strong. But Belisarius, seeing that the enemy was undermining the Vivarium and assaulting the fortifications at many places, neither allowed the soldiers to defend the wall nor to remain at the battlement, except a very few, although he had with him whatever men of distinction the army contained. But he held them all in readiness below about the gates, with their corselets on and carrying only swords in their hands. And when the Goths, after making a breach in the wall, got inside the Vivarium, he quickly sent Cyprian with some others into the enclosure against them, commanding them to set to work. And they slew all who had broken in, for these made no defence and at the same time were being destroyed by one another in the cramped space about the exit. And since the enemy were thrown into dismay by the sudden turn of events and were not drawn up in order, but were rushing one in one direction and one in another, Belisarius suddenly opened the gates of the circuit-wall and sent out his entire army against his opponents. And the Goths had not the least thought of resistance, but rushed off in flight in any and every direction, while the Romans, following them up, found no difficulty in killing all whom they fell in with, and the pursuit proved a long one, since the Goths, in assaulting the wall at that place, were far away from their own camps. Then Belisarius gave the order to burn the enemy's engines, and the flames, rising to a great height, naturally increased the consternation of the fugitives.

Meanwhile it chanced that the same thing happened at the Salarian Gate also. For the Romans suddenly opened the gates and fell unexpectedly upon the barbarians, and, as these made no resistance but turned their backs, slew them; and they burned the engines of war which were within their reach. And the flames at many parts of the wall rose to a great height, and the Goths were already being forced to retire from the whole circuit-wall; and the shouting on both sides was exceedingly loud, as the men on the wall urged on the pursuers, and those in the camps bewailed the overwhelming calamity they had suffered. Among the Goths there perished on that day thirty thousand, as their leaders declared, and a larger number were wounded; for since they were massed in great numbers, those fighting from the battlement generally hit somebody when they shot at them, and at the same time those who made the sallies destroyed an extraordinary number of terrified and fleeing men. And the fighting at the wall, which had commenced early in the morning, did not end until late in the afternoon. During that night, then, both armies bivouacked where they were, the Romans singing the song of victory on the fortifications and lauding Belisarius to the skies, having with them the spoils stripped from the fallen, while the Goths cared for their wounded and bewailed their dead.


[117] "No doubt these are the same as the Regii, one of the seventeen 'Auxilia Palatina' under the command of the Magister Militum Praesentalis, mentioned in the Notitia Orientis, chap. v."—HODGKIN.

[118] Murus Ruptus. "Here, to this day, notwithstanding some lamentable and perfectly unnecessary 'restorations' of recent years, may be seen some portions of the Muro Torto, a twisted, bulging, overhanging mass of opus reticulatum."—HODGKIN.

[119] Chap. xxii. 10.

[120] The exact location is hard to determine; the majority of the authorities agree on the location given in the plan (opposite p. 185), near the Porta Labicana.


And Belisarius wrote a letter to the emperor of the following purport: "We have arrived in Italy, as thou didst command, and we have made ourselves masters of much territory in it and have taken possession of Rome also, after driving out the barbarians who were here, whose leader, Leuderis, I have recently sent to you. But since we have stationed a great number of soldiers both in Sicily and in Italy to guard the strongholds which we have proved able to capture, our army has in consequence been reduced to only five thousand men. But the enemy have come against us, gathered together to the number of one hundred and fifty thousand. And first of all, when we went out to spy upon their forces along the Tiber River and were compelled, contrary to our intention, to engage with them, we lacked only a little of being buried under a multitude of spears. And after this, when the barbarians attacked the wall with their whole army and assaulted the fortifications at every point with sundry engines of war, they came within a little of capturing both us and the city at the first onset, and they would have succeeded had not some chance snatched us from ruin. For achievements which transcend the nature of things may not properly and fittingly be ascribed to man's valour, but to a stronger power. Now all that has been achieved by us hitherto, whether it has been due to some kind fortune or to valour, is for the best; but as to our prospects from now on, I could wish better things for thy cause. However, I shall never hide from you anything that it is my duty to say and yours to do, knowing that while human affairs follow whatever course may be in accordance with God's will, yet those who are in charge of any enterprise always win praise or blame according to their own deeds. Therefore let both arms and soldiers be sent to us in such numbers that from now on we may engage with the enemy in this war with an equality of strength. For one ought not to trust everything to fortune, since fortune, on its part, is not given to following the same course forever. But do thou, O Emperor, take this thought to heart, that if at this time the barbarians win the victory over us, we shall be cast out of Italy which is thine and shall lose the army in addition, and besides all this we shall have to bear the shame, however great it may be, that attaches to our conduct. For I refrain from saying that we should also be regarded as having ruined the Romans, men who have held their safety more lightly than their loyalty to thy kingdom. Consequently, if this should happen, the result for us will be that the successes we have won thus far will in the end prove to have been but a prelude to calamities. For if it had so happened that we had been repulsed from Rome and Campania and, at a much earlier time, from Sicily, we should only be feeling the sting of the lightest of all misfortunes, that of having found ourselves unable to grow wealthy on the possessions of others. And again, this too is worthy of consideration by you, that it has never been possible even for many times ten thousand men to guard Rome for any considerable length of time, since the city embraces a large territory, and, because it is not on the sea, is shut off from all supplies. And although at the present time the Romans are well disposed toward us, yet when their troubles are prolonged, they will probably not hesitate to choose the course which is better for their own interests. For when men have entered into friendship with others on the spur of the moment, it is not while they are in evil fortune, but while they prosper, that they are accustomed to keep faith with them. Furthermore, the Romans will be compelled by hunger to do many things they would prefer not to do. Now as for me, I know I am bound even to die for thy kingdom, and for this reason no man will ever be able to remove me from this city while I live; but I beg thee to consider what kind of a fame such an end of Belisarius would bring thee."

Such was the letter written by Belisarius. And the emperor, greatly distressed, began in haste to gather an army and ships, and sent orders to the troops of Valerian and Martinus[121] to proceed with all speed. For they had been sent, as it happened, with another army at about the winter solstice, with instructions to sail to Italy. But they had sailed as far as Greece, and since they were unable to force their way any farther, they were passing the winter in the land of Aetolia and Acarnania. And the Emperor Justinian sent word of all this to Belisarius, and thus filled him and all the Romans with still greater courage and confirmed their zeal.

At this time it so happened that the following event took place in Naples. There was in the market-place a picture of Theoderic, the ruler of the Goths, made by means of sundry stones which were exceedingly small and tinted with nearly every colour. At one time during the life of Theoderic it had come to pass that the head of this picture fell apart, the stones as they had been set having become disarranged without having been touched by anyone, and by a coincidence Theoderic finished his life forthwith. And eight years later the stones which formed the body of the picture fell apart suddenly, and Atalaric, the grandson of Theoderic, immediately died. And after the passage of a short time, the stones about the groin fell to the ground, and Amalasuntha, the child of Theoderic, passed from the world. Now these things had already happened as described. But when the Goths began the siege of Rome, as chance would have it, the portion of the picture from the thighs to the tips of the feet fell into ruin, and thus the whole picture disappeared from the wall. And the Romans, divining the meaning of the incident, maintained that the emperor's army would be victorious in the war, thinking that the feet of Theoderic were nothing else than the Gothic people whom he ruled, and, in consequence, they became still more hopeful.

In Rome, moreover, some of the patricians brought out the Sibylline oracles,[122] declaring that the danger which had come to the city would continue only up till the month of July. For it was fated that at that time someone should be appointed king over the Romans, and thenceforth Rome should have no longer any Getic peril to fear; for they say that the Goths are of the Getic race. And the oracle was as follows: "In the fifth (Quintilis) month . . . under . . . as king nothing Getic longer. . . ." And they declared that the "fifth month" was July, some because the siege began on the first day of March, from which July is the fifth month, others because March was considered the first month until the reign of Numa, the full year before that time containing ten months and our July for this reason having its name Quintilis. But after all, none of these predictions came true. For neither was a king appointed over the Romans at that time, nor was the siege destined to be broken up until a year later, and Rome was again to come into similar perils in the reign of Totila, ruler of the Goths, as will be told by me in the subsequent narrative.[123] For it seems to me that the oracle does not indicate this present attack of the barbarians, but some other attack which has either happened already or will come at some later time. Indeed, in my opinion, it is impossible for a mortal man to discover the meaning of the Sibyl's oracles before the actual event. The reason for this I shall now set forth, having read all the oracles in question. The Sibyl does not invariably mention events in their order, much less construct a well-arranged narrative, but after uttering some verse or other concerning the troubles in Libya she leaps straightway to the land of Persia, thence proceeds to mention the Romans, and then transfers the narrative to the Assyrians. And again, while uttering prophecies about the Romans, she foretells the misfortunes of the Britons. For this reason it is impossible for any man soever to comprehend the oracles of the Sibyl before the event, and it is only time itself, after the event has already come to pass and the words can be tested by experience, that can shew itself an accurate interpreter of her sayings. But as for these things, let each one reason as he desires. But I shall return to the point from which I have strayed.


[121] Leaders of foederati; see Book III. xi. 4-6; they had been recalled from Africa to Byzantium, cf. Book IV. xix. 2.

[122] The story of the origin of these oracles is given in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ant. Rom. IV. lxii. They were burned with the Capitol in 83 B.C. The second collection was burned by Stilicho in 405 A.D. The oracles Procopius saw (cf. Sec. 35 of this chapter) were therefore a third collection.

[123] Book VII. xx.


When the Goths had been repulsed in the fight at the wall, each army bivouacked that night in the manner already described.[124] But on the following day Belisarius commanded all the Romans to remove their women and children to Naples, and also such of their domestics as they thought would not be needed by them for the guarding of the wall, his purpose being, naturally, to forestall a scarcity of provisions. And he issued orders to the soldiers to do the same thing, in case anyone had a male or female attendant. For, he went on to say, he was no longer able while besieged to provide them with food to the customary amount, but they would have to accept one half their daily ration in actual supplies, taking the remainder in silver. So they proceeded to carry out his instructions. And immediately a great throng set out for Campania. Now some, who had the good fortune to secure such boats as were lying at anchor in the harbour[125] of Rome, secured passage, but the rest went on foot by the road which is called the Appian Way. And no danger or fear, as far as the besiegers were concerned, arose to disturb either those who travelled this way on foot or those who set out from the harbour. For, on the one hand, the enemy were unable to surround the whole of Rome with their camps on account of the great size of the city, and, on the other, they did not dare to be found far from the camps in small companies, fearing the sallies of their opponents. And on this account abundant opportunity was afforded for some time to the besieged both to move out of the city and to bring provisions into it from outside. And especially at night the barbarians were always in great fear, and so they merely posted guards and remained quietly in their camps. For parties were continually issuing from the city, and especially Moors in great numbers, and whenever they found their enemies either asleep or walking about in small companies (as is accustomed to happen often in a large army, the men going out not only to attend to the needs of nature, but also to pasture horses and mules and such animals as are suitable for food), they would kill them and speedily strip them, and if perchance a larger number of the enemy should fall upon them, they would retire on the run, being men swift of foot by nature and lightly equipped, and always distancing their pursuers in the flight. Consequently, the great majority were able to withdraw from Rome, and some went to Campania, some to Sicily, and others wherever they thought it was easier or better to go. But Belisarius saw that the number of soldiers at his command was by no means sufficient for the whole circuit of the wall, for they were few, as I have previously stated,[126] and the same men could not keep guard constantly without sleeping, but some would naturally be taking their sleep while others were stationed on guard. At the same time he saw that the greatest part of the populace were hard pressed by poverty and in want of the necessities of life; for since they were men who worked with their hands, and all they had was what they got from day to day, and since they had been compelled to be idle on account of the siege, they had no means of procuring provisions. For these reasons Belisarius mingled soldiers and citizens together and distributed them to each post, appointing a certain fixed wage for an unenlisted man for each day. In this way companies were made up which were sufficient for the guarding of the wall, and the duty of keeping guard on the fortifications during a stated night was assigned to each company, and the members of the companies all took turns in standing guard. In this manner, then, Belisarius did away with the distress of both soldiers and citizens.

But a suspicion arose against Silverius, the chief priest of the city, that he was engaged in treasonable negotiations with the Goths, and Belisarius sent him immediately to Greece, and a little later appointed another man, Vigilius by name, to the office of chief priest. And he banished from Rome on the same charge some of the senators, but later, when the enemy had abandoned the siege and retired, he restored them again to their homes. Among these was Maximus, whose ancestor Maximus[127] had committed the crime against the Emperor Valentinian. And fearing lest the guards at the gates should become involved in a plot, and lest someone should gain access from the outside with intent to corrupt them with money, twice in each month he destroyed all the keys and had new ones made, each time of a different design, and he also changed the guards to other posts which were far removed from those they had formerly occupied, and every night he set different men in charge of those who were doing guard-duty on the fortifications. And it was the duty of these officers to make the rounds of a section of the wall, taking turns in this work, and to write down the names of the guards, and if anyone was missing from that section, they put another man on duty in his stead for the moment, and on the morrow reported the missing man to Belisarius himself, whoever he might be, in order that the fitting punishment might be given him. And he ordered musicians to play their instruments on the fortifications at night, and he continually sent detachments of soldiers, especially Moors, outside the walls, whose duty it was always to pass the night about the moat, and he sent dogs with them in order that no one might approach the fortifications, even at a distance, without being detected.

At that time some of the Romans attempted secretly to force open the doors of the temple of Janus. This Janus was the first of the ancient gods whom the Romans call in their own tongue "Penates."[128] And he has his temple in that part of the forum in front of the senate-house which lies a little above the "Tria Fata"[129]; for thus the Romans are accustomed to call the Moirai.[130] And the temple is entirely of bronze and was erected in the form of a square, but it is only large enough to cover the statue of Janus. Now this statue, is of bronze, and not less than five cubits high; in all other respects it resembles a man, but its head has two faces, one of which is turned toward the east and the other toward the west. And there are brazen doors fronting each face, which the Romans in olden times were accustomed to close in time of peace and prosperity, but when they had war they opened them. But when the Romans came to honour, as truly as any others, the teachings of the Christians, they gave up the custom of opening these doors, even when they were at war. During this siege, however, some, I suppose, who had in mind the old belief, attempted secretly to open them, but they did not succeed entirely, and moved the doors only so far that they did not close tightly against one another as formerly. And those who had attempted to do this escaped detection; and no investigation of the act was made, as was natural in a time of great confusion, since it did not become known to the commanders, nor did it reach the ears of the multitude, except of a very few.


[124] Chap. xxiii. 27.

[125] At this time the town of Portus, on the north side of the Tiber's mouths, Ostia, on the south side, having been long neglected. Cf. chap. xxvi. 7, 8.

[126] Five thousand; cf. chap. xxiv. 2.

[127] Book III. iv. 36.

[128] Janus was an old Italian divinity, whose worship was said to have been introduced by Romulus. We are not told by anyone else that he was included among the Penates, but the statement is doubtless true.

[129] "This temple of Janus—the most celebrated, but not the only one in Rome—must have stood a little to the right of the Arch of Septimius Severus (as one looks toward the Capitol) and a little in front of the Mamertine Prison."—HODGKIN. The "Tria Fata" were three ancient statues of Sibyls which stood by the Rostra.

[130] i.e. the Fates.


Now Vittigis, in his anger and perplexity, first sent some of his bodyguards to Ravenna with orders to kill all the Roman senators whom he had taken there at the beginning of this war. And some of them, learning of this beforehand, succeeded in making their escape, among them being Vergentinus and Reparatus, the brother of Vigilius, the chief priest of Rome, both of whom betook themselves into Liguria and remained there; but all the rest were destroyed. After this Vittigis, seeing that the enemy were enjoying a large degree of freedom, not only in taking out of the city whatever they wished, but also in bringing in provisions both by land and by sea, decided to seize the harbour, which the Romans call "Portus."

This harbour is distant from the city one hundred and twenty-six stades; for Rome lacks only so much of being on the sea; and it is situated where the Tiber River has its mouth.[131] Now as the Tiber flows down from Rome, and reaches a point rather near the sea, about fifteen stades from it, the stream divides into two parts and makes there the Sacred Island, as it is called. As the river flows on the island becomes wider, so that the measure of its breadth corresponds to its length, for the two streams have between them a distance of fifteen stades; and the Tiber remains navigable on both sides. Now the portion of the river on the right empties into the harbour, and beyond the mouth the Romans in ancient times built on the shore a city,[132] which is surrounded by an exceedingly strong wall; and it is called, like the harbour, "Portus." But on the left at the point where the other part of the Tiber empties into the sea is situated the city of Ostia, lying beyond the place where the river-bank ends, a place of great consequence in olden times, but now entirely without walls. Moreover, the Romans at the very beginning made a road leading from Portus to Rome, which was smooth and presented no difficulty of any kind. And many barges are always anchored in the harbour ready for service, and no small number of oxen stand in readiness close by. Now when the merchants reach the harbour with their ships, they unload their cargoes and place them in the barges, and sail by way of the Tiber to Rome; but they do not use sails or oars at all, for the boats cannot be propelled in the stream by any wind since the river winds about exceedingly and does not follow a straight course, nor can oars be employed, either, since the force of the current is always against them. Instead of using such means, therefore, they fasten ropes from the barges to the necks of oxen, and so draw them just like waggons up to Rome. But on the other side of the river, as one goes from the city of Ostia to Rome, the road is shut in by woods and in general lies neglected, and is not even near the bank of the Tiber, since there is no towing of barges on that road.

So the Goths, finding the city at the harbour unguarded, captured it at the first onset and slew many of the Romans who lived there, and so took possession of the harbour as well as the city. And they established a thousand of their number there as guards, while the remainder returned to the camps. In consequence of this move it was impossible for the besieged to bring in the goods which came by sea, except by way of Ostia, a route which naturally involved great labour and danger besides. For the Roman ships were not even able to put in there any longer, but they anchored at Anthium,[133] a day's journey distant from Ostia. And they found great difficulty in carrying the cargoes thence to Rome, the reason for this being the scarcity of men. For Belisarius, fearing for the fortifications of Rome, had been unable to strengthen the harbour with any garrison at all, though I think that if even three hundred men had been on guard there, the barbarians would never have made an attempt on the place, which is exceedingly strong.


[131] The northern mouth.

[132] The Emperor Claudius cut the northern channel for the river, in order to prevent inundations of Rome, and made the "Portus Claudii," opening to the sea, near its mouth; a second enclosed harbour, adjoining that of Claudius, was built by Trajan.

[133] i.e. Antium.


This exploit, then, was accomplished by the Goths on the third day after they were repulsed in the assault on the wall. But twenty days after the city and harbour of Portus were captured, Martinus and Valerian arrived, bringing with them sixteen hundred horsemen, the most of whom were Huns and Sclaveni[134] and Antae,[135] who are settled above the Ister River not far from its banks. And Belisarius was pleased by their coming and thought that thenceforth his army ought to carry the war against the enemy. On the following day, accordingly, he commanded one of his own bodyguards, Trajan by name, an impetuous and active fighter, to take two hundred horsemen of the guards and go straight towards the enemy, and as soon as they came near the camps to go up on a high hill (which he pointed out to him) and remain quietly there. And if the enemy should come against them, he was not to allow the battle to come to close quarters, nor to touch sword or spear in any case, but to use bows only, and as soon as he should find that his quiver had no more arrows in it, he was to flee as hard as he could with no thought of shame and retire to the fortifications on the run. Having given these instructions, he held in readiness both the engines for shooting arrows and the men skilled in their use. Then Trajan with the two hundred men went out from the Salarian Gate against the camp of the enemy. And they, being filled with amazement at the suddenness of the thing, rushed out from the camps, each man equipping himself as well as he could. But the men under Trajan galloped to the top of the hill which Belisarius had shewn them, and from there began to ward off the barbarians with missiles. And since their shafts fell among a dense throng, they were for the most part successful in hitting a man or a horse. But when all their missiles had at last failed them, they rode off to the rear with all speed, and the Goths kept pressing upon them in pursuit. But when they came near the fortifications, the operators of the engines began to shoot arrows from them, and the barbarians became terrified and abandoned the pursuit. And it is said that not less than one thousand Goths perished in this action. A few days later Belisarius sent Mundilas, another of his own bodyguard, and Diogenes, both exceptionally capable warriors, with three hundred guardsmen, commanding them to do the same thing as the others had done before. And they acted according to his instructions. Then, when the enemy confronted them, the result of the encounter was that no fewer than in the former action, perhaps even more, perished in the same way. And sending even a third time the guardsman Oilas with three hundred horsemen, with instructions to handle the enemy in the same way, he accomplished the same result. So in making these three sallies, in the manner told by me, Belisarius destroyed about four thousand of his antagonists.

But Vittigis, failing to take into account the difference between the two armies in point of equipment of arms and of practice in warlike deeds, thought that he too would most easily inflict grave losses upon the enemy, if only he should make his attack upon them with a small force. He therefore sent five hundred horsemen, commanding them to go close to the fortifications, and to make a demonstration against the whole army of the enemy of the very same tactics as had time and again been used against them, to their sorrow, by small bands of the foe. And so, when they came to a high place not far from the city, but just beyond the range of missiles, they took their stand there. But Belisarius selected a thousand men, putting Bessas in command, and ordered them to engage with the enemy. And this force, by forming a circle around the enemy and always shooting at them from behind, killed a large number, and by pressing hard upon the rest compelled them to descend into the plain. There a hand-to-hand battle took place between forces not evenly matched in strength, and most of the Goths were destroyed, though some few with difficulty made their escape and returned to their own camp. And Vittigis reviled these men, insisting that cowardice had been the cause of their defeat, and undertaking to find another set of men to retrieve the loss after no long time, he remained quiet for the present; but three days later he selected men from all the camps, five hundred in number, and bade them make a display of valorous deeds against the enemy. Now as soon as Belisarius saw that these men had come rather near, he sent out against them fifteen hundred men under the commanders Martinus and Valerian. And a cavalry battle taking place immediately, the Romans, being greatly superior to the enemy in numbers, routed them without any trouble and destroyed practically all of them.

And to the enemy it seemed in every way a dreadful thing and a proof that fortune stood against them, if, when they were many and the enemy who came against them were few, they were defeated, and when, on the other hand, they in turn went in small numbers against their enemy, they were likewise destroyed. Belisarius, however, received a public vote of praise from the Romans for his wisdom, at which they not unnaturally marvelled greatly, but in private his friends asked him on what he had based his judgment on that day when he had escaped from the enemy after being so completely defeated,[136] and why he had been confident that he would overcome them decisively in the war. And he said that in engaging with them at the first with only a few men he had noticed just what the difference was between the two armies, so that if he should fight his battles with them with a force which was in strength proportionate to theirs,[137] the multitudes of the enemy could inflict no injury upon the Romans by reason of the smallness of their numbers. And the difference was this, that practically all the Romans and their allies, the Huns, are good mounted bowmen, but not a man among the Goths has had practice in this branch, for their horsemen are accustomed to use only spears and swords, while their bowmen enter battle on foot and under cover of the heavy-armed men. So the horsemen, unless the engagement is at close quarters, have no means of defending themselves against opponents who use the bow, and therefore can easily be reached by the arrows and destroyed; and as for the foot-soldiers, they can never be strong enough to make sallies against men on horseback. It was for these reasons, Belisarius declared, that the barbarians had been defeated by the Romans in these last engagements. And the Goths, remembering the unexpected outcome of their own experiences, desisted thereafter from assaulting the fortifications of Rome in small numbers and also from pursuing the enemy when harassed by them, except only so far as to drive them back from their own camps.


[134] i.e. Slavonians, described in Book VI. xxvi. and Book VII. xiv. ff.

[135] A Slavic people, described in Book VII. xiv.

[136] Referring to the battle described in chap. xviii.

[137] i.e. smaller, but equal in strength.


But later on the Romans, elated by the good fortune they had already enjoyed, were with one accord eager to do battle with the whole Gothic army and thought that they should make war in the open field. Belisarius, however, considering that the difference in size of the two armies was still very great, continued to be reluctant to risk a decisive battle with his whole army; and so he busied himself still more with his sallies and kept planning them against the enemy. But when at last he yielded his point because of the abuse heaped upon him by the army and the Romans in general, though he was willing to fight with the whole army, yet nevertheless he wished to open the engagement by a sudden sally. And many times he was frustrated when he was on the point of doing this, and was compelled to put off the attack to the following day, because he found to his surprise that the enemy had been previously informed by deserters as to what was to be done and were unexpectedly ready for him. For this reason, then, he was now willing to fight a decisive battle even in the open field, and the barbarians gladly came forth for the encounter. And when both sides had been made ready for the conflict as well as might be, Belisarius gathered his whole army and exhorted them as follows:

"It is not because I detected any cowardice on your part, fellow-soldiers, nor because I was terrified at the strength of the enemy, that I have shrunk from the engagement with them, but I saw that while we were carrying on the war by making sudden sallies matters stood well with us, and consequently I thought that we ought to adhere permanently to the tactics which were responsible for our success. For I think that when one's present affairs are going to one's satisfaction, it is inexpedient to change to another course of action. But since I see that you are eager for this danger, I am filled with confidence and shall never oppose your ardour. For I know that the greatest factor in the decision of war is always the attitude of the fighting men, and it is generally by their enthusiasm that successes are won. Now, therefore, the fact that a few men drawn up for battle with valour on their side are able to overcome a multitude of the enemy, is well known by every man of you, not by hearsay, but by daily experience of fighting. And it will rest with you not to bring shame upon the former glories of my career as general, nor upon the hope which this enthusiasm of yours inspires. For the whole of what has already been accomplished by us in this war must of necessity be judged in accordance with the issue of the present day. And I see that the present moment is also in our favour, for it will, in all probability, make it easier for us to gain the mastery over the enemy, because their spirit has been enslaved by what has gone before. For when men have often met with misfortune, their hearts are no longer wont to thrill even slightly with manly valour. And let no one of you spare horse or bow or any weapon. For I will immediately provide you with others in place of all that are destroyed in the battle."

After speaking these words of exhortation, Belisarius led out his army through the small Pincian Gate and the Salarian Gate, and commanded some few men to go through the Aurelian Gate into the Plain of Nero. These he put under the command of Valentinus, a commander of a cavalry detachment, and he directed him not to begin any fighting, or to go too close to the camp of the enemy, but constantly to give the appearance of being about to attack immediately, so that none of the enemy in that quarter might be able to cross the neighbouring bridge and come to the assistance of the soldiers from the other camps. For since, as I have previously stated,[138] the barbarians encamped in the Plain of Nero were many, it seemed to him sufficient if these should all be prevented from taking part in the engagement and be kept separated from the rest of the army. And when some of the Roman populace took up arms and followed as volunteers, he would not allow them to be drawn up for battle along with the regular troops, fearing lest, when they came to actual fighting, they should become terrified at the danger and throw the entire army into confusion, since they were labouring men and altogether unpractised in war. But outside the Pancratian Gate, which is beyond the Tiber River, he ordered them to form a phalanx and remain quiet until he himself should give the signal, reasoning, as actually proved to be the case, that if the enemy in the Plain of Nero should see both them and the men under Valentinus, they would never dare leave their camp and enter battle with the rest of the Gothic army against his own forces. And he considered it a stroke of good luck and a very important advantage that such a large number of men should be kept apart from the army of his opponents.

Such being the situation, he wished on that day to engage in a cavalry battle only; and indeed most of the regular infantry were now unwilling to remain in their accustomed condition, but, since they had captured horses as booty from the enemy and had become not unpractised in horsemanship, they were now mounted. And since the infantry were few in number and unable even to make a phalanx of any consequence, and had never had the courage to engage with the barbarians, but always turned to flight at the first onset, he considered it unsafe to draw them up at a distance from the fortifications, but thought it best that they should remain in position where they were, close by the moat, his purpose being that, if it should so happen that the Roman horsemen were routed, they should be able to receive the fugitives and, as a fresh body of men, help them to ward off the enemy.

But there were two men among his bodyguards, a certain Principius, who was a man of note and a Pisidian by birth, and Tarmutus, an Isaurian, brother of Ennes who was commander of the Isaurians. These men came before Belisarius and spoke as follows: "Most excellent of generals, we beg you neither to decide that your army, small as it is and about to fight with many tens of thousands of barbarians, be cut off from the phalanx of the infantry, nor to think that one ought to treat with contumely the infantry of the Romans, by means of which, as we hear, the power of the ancient Romans was brought to its present greatness. For if it so happens that they have done nothing of consequence in this war, this is no evidence of the cowardice of the soldiers, but it is the commanders of the infantry who would justly bear the blame, for they alone ride on horseback in the battle-line and are not willing to consider the fortunes of war as shared by all, but as a general thing each one of them by himself takes to flight before the struggle begins. But do you keep all the commanders of infantry, since you see that they have become cavalry and that they are quite unwilling to take their stand beside their subordinates, and include them with the rest of the cavalry and so enter this battle, but permit us to lead the infantry into the combat. For since we also are unmounted, as are these troops, we shall do our part in helping them to support the attack of the multitude of barbarians, full of hope that we shall inflict upon the enemy whatever chastisement God shall permit."

When Belisarius heard this request, at first he did not assent to it; for he was exceedingly fond of these two men, who were fighters of marked excellence, and he was unwilling to have a small body of infantry take such a risk. But finally, overborne by the eagerness of the men, he consented to leave only a small number of their soldiers, in company with the Roman populace, to man the gates and the battlement along the top of the wall where the engines of war were, and to put the rest under command of Principius and Tarmutus, ordering them to take position in the rear in regular formation. His purpose in this was, in the first place, to keep these troops from throwing the rest of the army into confusion if they themselves should become panic-stricken at the danger, and, in the second place, in case any division of the cavalry should be routed at any time, to prevent the retreat from extending to an indefinite distance, but to allow the cavalry simply to fall back upon the infantry and make it possible for them, with the infantry's help, to ward off the pursuers.


[138] Chap. xix. 12, xiii. 15.


In this fashion the Romans had made their preparations for the encounter. As for Vittigis, he had armed all the Goths, leaving not a man behind in the camps, except those unfit for fighting. And he commanded the men under Marcias to remain in the Plain of Nero, and to attend to the guarding of the bridge, that the enemy might not attack his men from that direction. He himself then called together the rest of the army and spoke as follows:

"It may perhaps seem to some of you that I am fearful about my sovereignty, and that this is the motive which has led me, in the past, to shew a friendly spirit toward you and, on the present occasion, to address you with seductive words in order to inspire you with courage. And such reasoning is not out of accord with the ways of men. For unenlightened men are accustomed to shew gentleness toward those whom they want to make use of, even though these happen to be in a much humbler station than they, but to be difficult of access to others whose assistance they do not desire. As for me, however, I care neither for the end of life nor for the loss of power. Nay, I should even pray that I might put off this purple to-day, if a Goth were to put it on. And I have always regarded the end of Theodatus as one of the most fortunate, in that he was privileged to lose both his sovereignty and his life at the hands of men of his own nation. For a calamity which falls upon an individual without involving his nation also in destruction does not lack an element of consolation, in the view, at least, of men who are not wanting in wisdom. But when I reflect upon the fate of the Vandals and the end of Gelimer, the thoughts which come to my mind are of no ordinary kind; nay, I seem to see the Goths and their children reduced to slavery, your wives ministering in the most shameful of all ways to the most hateful of men, and myself and the granddaughter[139] of Theoderic led wherever it suits the pleasure of those who are now our enemies; and I would have you also enter this battle fearing lest this fate befall us. For if you do this, on the field of battle you will count the end of life as more to be desired than safety after defeat. For noble men consider that there is only one misfortune—to survive defeat at the hands of their enemy. But as for death, and especially death which comes quickly, it always brings happiness to those who were before not blest by fortune. It is very clear that if you keep these thoughts in mind as you go through the present engagement, you will not only conquer your opponents most easily, few as they are and Greeks,[140] but will also punish them forthwith for the injustice and insolence with which they, without provocation, have treated us. For although we boast that we are their superiors in valour, in numbers, and in every other respect, the boldness which they feel in confronting us is due merely to elation at our misfortunes; and the only asset they have is the indifference we have shewn. For their self-confidence is fed by their undeserved good fortune."

With these words of exhortation Vittigis proceeded to array his army for battle, stationing the infantry in the centre and the cavalry on the two wings. He did not, however, draw up his phalanx far from the camps, but very near them, in order that, as soon as the rout should take place, the enemy might easily be overtaken and killed, there being abundance of room for the pursuit. For he expected that if the struggle should become a pitched battle in the plain, they would not withstand him even a short time; since he judged by the great disparity of numbers that the army of the enemy was no match for his own.

So the soldiers on both sides, beginning in the early morning, opened battle; and Vittigis and Belisarius were in the rear urging on both armies and inciting them to fortitude. And at first the Roman arms prevailed, and the barbarians kept falling in great numbers before their archery, but no pursuit of them was made. For since the Gothic cavalry stood in dense masses, other men very easily stepped into the places of those who were killed, and so the loss of those who fell among them was in no way apparent. And the Romans evidently were satisfied, in view of their very small number, that the struggle should have such a result for them. So after they had by midday carried the battle as far as the camps of their opponents, and had already slain many of the enemy, they were anxious to return to the city if any pretext should present itself to them. In this part of the action three among the Romans proved themselves brave men above all others, Athenodorus, an Isaurian, a man of fair fame among the guards of Belisarius, and Theodoriscus and George, spearmen of Martinus and Cappadocians by birth. For they constantly kept going out beyond the front of the phalanx, and there despatched many of the barbarians with their spears. Such was the course of events here.

But in the Plain of Nero the two armies remained for a long time facing one another, and the Moors, by making constant sallies and hurling their javelins among the enemy, kept harrying the Goths. For the Goths were quite unwilling to go out against them through fear of the forces of the Roman populace which were not far away, thinking, of course, that they were soldiers and were remaining quiet because they had in mind some sort of an ambush against themselves with the object of getting in their rear, exposing them to attack on both sides, and thus destroying them. But when it was now the middle of the day, the Roman army suddenly made a rush against the enemy, and the Goths were unexpectedly routed, being paralyzed by the suddenness of the attack. And they did not succeed even in fleeing to their camp, but climbed the hills near by and remained quiet. Now the Romans, though many in number, were not all soldiers, but were for the most part a throng of men without defensive armour. For inasmuch as the general was elsewhere, many sailors and servants in the Roman camp, in their eagerness to have a share in the war, mingled with that part of the army. And although by their mere numbers they did fill the barbarians with consternation and turn them to flight, as has been said, yet by reason of their lack of order they lost the day for the Romans. For the intermixture of the above-mentioned men caused the soldiers to be thrown into great disorder, and although Valentinus kept constantly shouting orders to them, they could not hear his commands at all. For this reason they did not even follow up the fugitives or kill a man, but allowed them to stand at rest on the hills and in security to view what was going on. Nor did they take thought to destroy the bridge there, and thus prevent the city from being afterwards besieged on both sides; for, had they done so, the barbarians would have been unable to encamp any longer on the farther side of the Tiber River. Furthermore, they did not even cross the bridge and get in the rear of their opponents who were fighting there with the troops of Belisarius. And if this had been done, the Goths, I think, would no longer have thought of resistance, but they would have turned instantly to flight, each man as he could. But as it was, they took possession of the enemy's camp and turned to plundering his goods, and they set to work carrying thence many vessels of silver and many other valuables. Meanwhile the barbarians for some time remained quietly where they were and observed what was going on, but finally by common consent they advanced against their opponents with great fury and shouting. And finding men in complete disorder engaged in plundering their property, they slew many and quickly drove out the rest. For all who were caught inside the camp and escaped slaughter were glad to cast their plunder from their shoulders and take to flight.

While these things were taking place in the Plain of Nero, meantime the rest of the barbarian army stayed very near their camps and, protecting themselves with their shields, vigorously warded off their opponents, destroying many men and a much larger number of horses. But on the Roman side, when those who had been wounded and those whose horses had been killed left the ranks, then, in an army which had been small even before, the smallness of their numbers was still more evident, and the difference between them and the Gothic host was manifestly great. Finally the horsemen of the barbarians who were on the right wing, taking note of this, advanced at a gallop against the enemy opposite them. And the Romans there, unable to withstand their spears, rushed off in flight and came to the infantry phalanx. However, the infantry also were unable to hold their ground against the oncoming horsemen, and most of them began to join the cavalry in flight. And immediately the rest of the Roman army also began to retire, the enemy pressing upon their heels, and the rout became decisive. But Principius and Tarmutus with some few of the infantry of their command made a display of valorous deeds against the Goths. For as they continued to fight and disdained to turn to flight with the others, most of the Goths were so amazed that they halted. And consequently the rest of the infantry and most of the horsemen made their escape in greater security. Now Principius fell where he stood, his whole body hacked to pieces, and around him fell forty-two foot-soldiers. But Tarmutus, holding two Isaurian javelins, one in each hand, continued to thrust them into his assailants as he turned from side to side, until, finally, he desisted because his body was covered with wounds; but when his brother Ennes came to the rescue with a detachment of cavalry, he revived, and running swiftly, covered as he was with gore and wounds, he made for the fortifications without throwing down either of his javelins. And being fleet of foot by nature, he succeeded in making his escape, in spite of the plight of his body, and did not fall until he had just reached the Pincian Gate. And some of his comrades, supposing him to be dead, lifted him on a shield and carried him. But he lived on two days before he died, leaving a high reputation both among the Isaurians and in the rest of the army.

The Romans, meanwhile, being by now thoroughly frightened, attended to the guarding of the wall, and shutting the gates they refused, in their great excitement, to receive the fugitives into the city, fearing that the enemy would rush in with them. And such of the fugitives as had not already got inside the fortifications, crossed the moat, and standing with their backs braced against the wall were trembling with fear, and stood there forgetful of all valour and utterly unable to ward off the barbarians, although they were pressing upon them and were about to cross the moat to attack them. And the reason was that most of them had lost their spears, which had been broken in the engagement and during the flight, and they were not able to use their bows because they were huddled so closely together. Now so long as not many defenders were seen at the battlement, the Goths kept pressing on, having hopes of destroying all those who had been shut out and of overpowering the men who held the circuit-wall. But when they saw a very great number both of soldiers and of the Roman populace at the battlements defending the wall, they immediately abandoned their purpose and rode off thence to the rear, heaping much abuse upon their opponents. And the battle, having begun at the camps of the barbarians, ended at the moat and the wall of the city.


[139] Matasuntha.

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


THE GOTHIC WAR (continued)


After this the Romans no longer dared risk a battle with their whole army; but they engaged in cavalry battles, making sudden sallies in the same manner as before, and were generally victorious over the barbarians. Foot-soldiers also went out from both sides, not, however, arrayed in a phalanx, but accompanying the horsemen. And once Bessas in the first rush dashed in among the enemy carrying his spear and killed three of their best horsemen and turned the rest to flight. And another time, when Constantinus had led out the Huns in the Plain of Nero in the late afternoon, and saw that they were being overpowered by the superior numbers of their opponents, he took the following measures. There has been in that place from of old a great stadium[141] where the gladiators of the city used to fight in former times, and the men of old built many other buildings round about this stadium; consequently there are, as one would expect, narrow passages all about this place. Now on the occasion in question, since Constantinus could neither overcome the throng of the Goths nor flee without great danger, he caused all the Huns to dismount from their horses, and on foot, in company with them, took his stand in one of the narrow passages there. Then by shooting from that safe position they slew large numbers of the enemy. And for some time the Goths withstood their missiles. For they hoped, as soon as the supply of missiles in the quivers of the Huns should be exhausted, to be able to surround them without any trouble, take them prisoners, and lead them back to their camp. But since the Massagetae, who were not only good bowmen but also had a dense throng to shoot into, hit an enemy with practically every shot, the Goths perceived that above half their number had perished, and since the sun was about to set, they knew not what to do and so rushed off in flight. Then indeed many of them fell; for the Massagetae followed them up, and since they know how to shoot the bow with the greatest accuracy even when running at great speed, they continued to discharge their arrows no less than before, shooting at their backs, and kept up the slaughter. And thus Constantinus with his Huns came back to Rome at night.

And when Peranius, not many days later, led some of the Romans through the Salarian Gate against the enemy, the Goths, indeed, fled as hard as they could, but about sunset a counter-pursuit was made suddenly, and a Roman foot-soldier, becoming greatly confused, fell into a deep hole, many of which were made there by the men of old, for the storage of grain, I suppose. And he did not dare to cry out, supposing that the enemy were encamped near by, and was not able in any way whatever to get out of the pit, for it afforded no means of climbing up; he was therefore compelled to pass the night there. Now on the next day, when the barbarians had again been put to flight, one of the Goths fell into the same hole. And there the two men were reconciled to mutual friendship and good-will, brought together as they were by their necessity, and they exchanged solemn pledges, each that he would work earnestly for the salvation of the other; and then both of them began shouting with loud and frantic cries. Now the Goths, following the sound, came and peered over the edge of the hole, and enquired who it was who shouted. At this, the Roman, in accordance with the plan decided upon by the two men, kept silence, and the Goth in his native tongue said that he had just recently fallen in there during the rout which had taken place, and asked them to let down a rope that he might come up. And they as quickly as possible threw down the ends of ropes, and, as they thought, were pulling up the Goth, but the Roman laid hold of the ropes and was pulled up, saying only that if he should go up first the Goths would never abandon their comrade, but if they should learn that merely one of the enemy was there they would take no account of him. So saying, he went up. And when the Goths saw him, they wondered and were in great perplexity, but upon hearing the whole story from him they drew up his comrade next, and he told them of the agreement they had made and of the pledges both had given. So he went off with his companions, and the Roman was released unharmed and permitted to return to the city. After this horsemen in no great numbers armed themselves many times for battle, but the struggles always ended in single combats, and the Romans were victorious in all of them. Such, then, was the course of these events.

A little after this an engagement took place in the Plain of Nero, wherein various small groups of horsemen were engaged in pursuing their opponents in various directions; in one group was Chorsamantis, a man of note among the guards of Belisarius, by birth a Massagete, who with some others was pursuing seventy of the enemy. And when he had got well out in the plain the other Romans rode back, but Chorsamantis went on with the pursuit alone. As soon as the Goths perceived this, they turned their horses about and came against him. And he advanced into their midst, killed one of the best of them with his spear, and then went after the others, but they again turned and rushed off in flight. But they were ashamed before their comrades in the camp, who, they suspected, could already see them, and wished to attack him again. They had, however, precisely the same experience as before and lost one of their best men, and so turned to flight in spite of their shame, and after Chorsamantis had pursued them as far as their stockade he returned alone. And a little later, in another battle, this man was wounded in the left shin, and it was his opinion that the weapon had merely grazed the bone. However, he was rendered unfit for fighting for a certain number of days by reason of this wound, and since he was a barbarian he did not endure this patiently, but threatened that he would right speedily have vengeance upon the Goths for this insult to his leg. So when not long afterwards he had recovered and was drunk at lunch time, as was his custom, he purposed to go alone against the enemy and avenge the insult to his leg; and when he had come to the small Pincian Gate he stated that he was sent by Belisarius to the enemy's camp. And the guards at the gate, who could not doubt the word of a man who was the best of the guards of Belisarius, opened the gates and allowed him to go wherever he would. And when the enemy spied him, they thought at first that some deserter was coming over to them, but when he came near and put his hand to his bow, twenty men, not knowing who he might be, went out against him. These he easily drove off, and then began to ride back at a walk, and when more Goths came against him he did not flee. But when a great throng gathered about him and he still insisted upon fighting them, the Romans, watching the sight from the towers, suspected that the man was crazy, but they did not yet know that it was Chorsamantis. At length, after making a display of great and very noteworthy deeds, he found himself surrounded by the army of the enemy, and paid the penalty for his unreasonable daring. And when Belisarius and the Roman army learned this, they mourned greatly, lamenting that the hope which all placed in the man had come to naught.


[141] Perhaps the Stadium of Caligula.


Now a certain Euthalius, at about the spring equinox, came to Taracina from Byzantium with the money which the emperor owed the soldiers. And fearing lest the enemy should come upon him on the road and both rob him of the money and kill him, he wrote to Belisarius requesting him to make the journey to Rome safe for him. Belisarius accordingly selected one hundred men of note from among his own bodyguards and sent them with two spearmen to Taracina to assist him in bringing the money. And at the same time he kept trying to make the barbarians believe that he was about to fight with his whole army, his purpose being to prevent any of the enemy from leaving the vicinity, either to bring in provisions or for any other purpose. But when he found out that Euthalius and his men would arrive on the morrow, he arrayed his army and set it in order for battle, and the barbarians were in readiness. Now throughout the whole forenoon he merely held his soldiers near the gates; for he knew that Euthalius and those who accompanied him would arrive at night. Then, at midday, he commanded the army to take their lunch, and the Goths did the same thing, supposing that he was putting off the engagement to the following day. A little later, however, Belisarius sent Martinus and Valerian to the Plain of Nero with the troops under their command, directing them to throw the enemy's camp into the greatest possible confusion. And from the small Pincian Gate he sent out six hundred horsemen against the camps of the barbarians, placing them under command of three of his own spearmen, Artasires, a Persian, and Bochas, of the race of the Massagetae, and Cutilas, a Thracian. And many of the enemy came out to meet them. For a long time, however, the battle did not come to close quarters, but each side kept retreating when the other advanced and making pursuits in which they quickly turned back, until it looked as if they intended to spend the rest of the day at this sort of thing. But as they continued, they began at last to be filled with rage against each other. The battle then settled down to a fierce struggle in which many of the best men on both sides fell, and support came up for each of the two armies, both from the city and from the camps. And when these fresh troops were mingled with the fighters the struggle became still greater. And the shouting which filled the city and the camps terrified the combatants. But finally the Romans by their valour forced back the enemy and routed them.

In this action Cutilas was struck in the middle of the head by a javelin, and he kept on pursuing with the javelin still embedded in his head. And after the rout had taken place, he rode into the city at about sunset together with the other survivors, the javelin in his head waving about, a most extraordinary sight. During the same encounter Arzes, one of the guards of Belisarius, was hit by one of the Gothic archers between the nose and the right eye. And the point of the arrow penetrated as far as the neck behind, but it did not shew through, and the rest of the shaft projected from his face and shook as the man rode. And when the Romans saw him and Cutilas they marvelled greatly that both men continued to ride, paying no heed to their hurt. Such, then, was the course of events in that quarter.

But in the Plain of Nero the barbarians had the upper hand. For the men of Valerian and Martinus, fighting with a great multitude of the enemy, withstood them stoutly, to be sure, but suffered most terribly, and came into exceedingly great danger. And then Belisarius commanded Bochas to take his troops, which had returned from the engagement unwearied, men as well as horses, and go to the Plain of Nero. Now it was already late in the day. And when the men under Bochas had come to the assistance of the Romans, suddenly the barbarians were turned to flight, and Bochas, who had impetuously followed the pursuit to a great distance, came to be surrounded by twelve of the enemy, who carried spears. And they all struck him at once with their spears. But his corselet withstood the other blows, which therefore did not hurt him much; but one of the Goths succeeded in hitting him from behind, at a place where his body was uncovered, above the right armpit, very close to the shoulder, and smote the youth, though not with a mortal stroke, nor even one which brought him into danger of death. But another Goth struck him in front and pierced his left thigh, and cut the muscles there; it was not a straight blow, however, but only a slanting cut. But Valerian and Martinus saw what was happening, and coming to his rescue as quickly as possible, they routed the enemy, and both took hold of the bridle of Bochas' horse, and so came into the city. Then night came on and Euthalius entered the city with the money.

And when all had returned to the city, they attended to the wounded men. Now in the case of Arzes, though the physicians wished to draw the weapon from his face, they were for some time reluctant to do so, not so much on account of the eye, which they supposed could not possibly be saved, but for fear lest, by the cutting of membranes and tissues such as are very numerous in that region, they should cause the death of a man who was one of the best of the household of Belisarius. But afterwards one of the physicians, Theoctistus by name, pressed on the back of his neck and asked whether he felt much pain. And when the man said that he did feel pain, he said, "Then both you yourself will be saved and your sight will not be injured." And he made this declaration because he inferred that the barb of the weapon had penetrated to a point not far from the skin. Accordingly he cut off that part of the shaft which shewed outside and threw it away, and cutting open the skin at the back of the head, at the place where the man felt the most pain, he easily drew toward him the barb, which with its three sharp points now stuck out behind and brought with it the remaining portion of the weapon. Thus Arzes remained entirely free from serious harm, and not even a trace of his wound was left on his face. But as for Cutilas, when the javelin was drawn rather violently from his head (for it was very deeply embedded), he fell into a swoon. And since the membranes about the wound began to be inflamed, he fell a victim to phrenitis[142] and died not long afterwards. Bochas, however, immediately had a very severe hemorrhage in the thigh, and seemed like one who was presently to die. And the reason for the hemorrhage, according to what the physicians said, was that the blow had severed the muscle, not directly from the front, but by a slanting cut. In any event he died three days later. Because of these things, then, the Romans spent that whole night in deep grief; while from the Gothic camps were heard many sounds of wailing and loud lamentation. And the Romans indeed wondered, because they thought that no calamity of any consequence had befallen the enemy on the previous day, except, to be sure, that no small number of them had perished in the encounters. This had happened to them before in no less degree, perhaps even to a greater degree, but it had not greatly distressed them, so great were their numbers. However, it was learned on the following day that men of the greatest note from the camp in the Plain of Nero were being bewailed by the Goths, men whom Bochas had killed in his first charge.

And other encounters also, though of no great importance, took place, which it has seemed to me unnecessary to chronicle. This, however, I will state, that altogether sixty-seven encounters occurred during this siege, besides two final ones which will be described in the following narrative. And at that time the winter drew to its close, and thus ended the second year of this war, the history of which Procopius has written.


[142] Inflammation of the brain.


But at the beginning of the spring equinox famine and pestilence together fell upon the inhabitants of the city. There was still, it is true, some grain for the soldiers, though no other kind of provisions, but the grain-supply of the rest of the Romans had been exhausted, and actual famine as well as pestilence was pressing hard upon them. And the Goths, perceiving this, no longer cared to risk a decisive battle with their enemy, but they kept guard that nothing in future should be brought in to them. Now there are two aqueducts between the Latin and the Appian Ways, exceedingly high and carried on arches for a great distance. These two aqueducts meet at a place fifty stades distant from Rome[143] and cross each other, so that for a little space they reverse their relative position. For the one which previously lay to the right from then on continues on the left side. And again coming together, they resume their former places, and thereafter remain apart. Consequently the space between them, enclosed, as it is, by the aqueducts, comes to be a fortress. And the barbarians walled up the lower arches of the aqueducts here with stones and mud and in this way gave it the form of a fort, and encamping there to the number of no fewer than seven thousand men, they kept guard that no provisions should thereafter be brought into the city by the enemy.

Then indeed every hope of better things abandoned the Romans, and every form of evil encompassed them round about. As long as there was ripe grain, however, the most daring of the soldiers, led on by lust of money, went by night to the grain-fields not far from the city mounted on horses and leading other horses after them. Then they cut off the heads of grain, and putting them on the horses which they led, would carry them into the city without being seen by the enemy and sell them at a great price to such of the Romans as were wealthy. But the other inhabitants lived on various herbs such as grow in abundance not only in the outskirts but also inside the fortifications. For the land of the Romans is never lacking in herbs either in winter or at any other season, but they always flourish and grow luxuriantly at all times. Wherefore the besieged also pastured their horses in those places. And some too made sausages of the mules that died in Rome and secretly sold them. But when the corn-lands had no more grain and all the Romans had come into an exceedingly evil plight, they surrounded Belisarius and tried to compel him to stake everything on a single battle with the enemy, promising that not one of the Romans would be absent from the engagement. And when he was at a loss what to do in that situation and greatly distressed, some of the populace spoke to him as follows:

"General, we were not prepared for the fortune which has overtaken us at the present time; on the contrary, what has happened has been altogether the opposite of our expectations. For after achieving what we had formerly set our hearts upon, we have now come into the present misfortune, and we realize at length that our previous opinion that we did well to crave the emperor's watchful care was but folly and the beginning of the greatest evils. Indeed, this course has brought us to such straits that at the present time we have taken courage to use force once more and to arm ourselves against the barbarians. And while we may claim forgiveness if we boldly come into the presence of Belisarius—for the belly knows not shame when it lacks its necessities—our plight must be the apology for our rashness; for it will be readily agreed that there is no plight more intolerable for men than a life prolonged amid the adversities of fortune. And as to the fortune which has fallen upon us, you cannot fail to see our distress. These fields and the whole country have fallen under the hand of the enemy; and this city has been shut off from all good things for we know not how long a time. And as for the Romans, some already lie in death, and it has not been their portion to be hidden in the earth, and we who survive, to put all our terrible misfortunes in a word, only pray to be placed beside those who lie thus. For starvation shews to those upon whom it comes that all other evils can be endured, and wherever it appears it is attended by oblivion of all other sufferings, and causes all other forms of death, except that which proceeds from itself, to seem pleasant to men. Now, therefore, before the evil has yet mastered us, grant us leave on our own behalf to take up the struggle, which will result either in our overcoming the enemy or in deliverance from our troubles. For when delay brings men hope of safety, it would be great folly for them prematurely to enter into a danger which involves their all, but when tarrying makes the struggle more difficult, to put off action even for a little time is more reprehensible than immediate and precipitate haste."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse