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Procopius - History of the Wars, Books V. and VI.
by Procopius
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So spoke the Romans. And Belisarius replied as follows: "Well, as for me, I have been quite prepared for your conduct in every respect, and nothing that has happened has been contrary to my expectation. For long have I known that a populace is a most unreasoning thing, and that by its very nature it cannot endure the present or provide for the future, but only knows how rashly in every case to attempt the impossible and recklessly to destroy itself. But as for me, I shall never, willingly at least, be led by your carelessness either to destroy you or to involve the emperor's cause in ruin with you. For war is wont to be brought to a successful issue, not by unreasoning haste, but by the use of good counsel and forethought in estimating the turn of the scale at decisive moments. You, however, act as though you were playing at dice, and want to risk all on a single cast; but it is not my custom to choose the short course in preference to the advantageous one. In the second place, you promise that you will help us do battle against the enemy; but when have you ever taken training in war? Or who that has learned such things by the use of arms does not know that battle affords no room for experiment? Nor does the enemy, on his part, give opportunity, while the struggle is on, to practise on him. This time, indeed, I admire your zeal and forgive you for making this disturbance; but that you have taken this action at an unseasonable time and that the policy of waiting which we are following is prudent, I shall now make clear. The emperor has gathered for us from the whole earth and despatched an army too great to number, and a fleet such as was never brought together by the Romans now covers the shore of Campania and the greater part of the Ionian Gulf. And within a few days these reinforcements will come to us and bring with them all kinds of provisions, to put an end to our destitution and to bury the camps of the barbarians under a multitude of missiles. I have therefore reasoned that it was better to put off the time of conflict until they are present, and thus gain the victory in the war with safety, than to make a show of daring in unreasoning haste and thus throw away the salvation of our whole cause. To secure their immediate arrival and to prevent their loitering longer shall be my concern."

FOOTNOTE:

[143] Torre Fiscale; but it is only about thirty stades from Rome.



IV

With these words Belisarius encouraged the Roman populace and then dismissed them; and Procopius, who wrote this history, he immediately commanded to go to Naples. For a rumour was going about that the emperor had sent an army there. And he commissioned him to load as many ships as possible with grain, to gather all the soldiers who at the moment had arrived from Byzantium, or had been left about Naples in charge of horses or for any other purpose whatever—for he had heard that many such were coming to the various places in Campania—and to withdraw some of the men from the garrisons there, and then to come back with them, convoying the grain to Ostia, where the harbour of the Romans was. And Procopius, accompanied by Mundilas the guardsman and a few horsemen, passed out by night through the gate which bears the name of the Apostle Paul,[144] eluding the enemy's camp which had been established very close to the Appian Way to keep guard over it. And when Mundilas and his men, returning to Rome, announced that Procopius had already arrived in Campania without meeting any of the barbarians,—for at night, they said, the enemy never went outside their camp,—everybody became hopeful, and Belisarius, now emboldened, devised the following plan. He sent out many of his horsemen to the neighbouring strongholds, directing them, in case any of the enemy should come that way in order to bring provisions into their camps, that they should constantly make sallies upon them from their positions and lay ambushes everywhere about this region, and thus keep them from succeeding; on the contrary, they should with all their might hedge them in, so that the city might be in less distress than formerly through lack of provisions, and also that the barbarians might seem to be besieged rather than to be themselves besieging the Romans. So he commanded Martinus and Trajan with a thousand men to go to Taracina. And with them he sent also his wife Antonina, commanding that she be sent with a few men to Naples, there to await in safety the fortune which would befall the Romans. And he sent Magnus and Sinthues the guardsman, who took with them about five hundred men, to the fortress of Tibur, one hundred and forty stades distant from Rome. But to the town of Albani,[145] which was situated on the Appian Way at the same distance from the city, he had already, as it happened, sent Gontharis with a number of Eruli, and these the Goths had driven out from there by force not long afterward.

Now there is a certain church of the Apostle Paul,[146] fourteen stades distant from the fortifications of Rome, and the Tiber River flows beside it. In that place there is no fortification, but a colonnade extends all the way from the city to the church, and many other buildings which are round about it render the place not easy of access. But the Goths shew a certain degree of actual respect for sanctuaries such as this. And indeed during the whole time of the war no harm came to either church of the two Apostles[147] at their hands, but all the rites were performed in them by the priests in the usual manner. At this spot, then, Belisarius commanded Valerian to take all the Huns and make a stockade by the bank of the Tiber, in order that their horses might be kept in greater security and that the Goths might be still further checked from going at their pleasure to great distances from their camps. And Valerian acted accordingly. Then, after the Huns had made their camp in the place where the general directed, he rode back to the city.

So Belisarius, having accomplished this, remained quiet, not offering battle, but eager to carry on the defence from the wall, if anyone should advance against it from outside with evil intent. And he also furnished grain to some of the Roman populace. But Martinus and Trajan passed by night between the camps of the enemy, and after reaching Taracina sent Antonina with a few men into Campania; and they themselves took possession of the fortified places in that district, and using them as their bases of operations and making thence their sudden attacks, they checked such of the Goths as were moving about in that region. As for Magnus and Sinthues, in a short time they rebuilt such parts of the fortress[148] as had fallen into ruin, and as soon as they had put themselves in safety, they began immediately to make more trouble for the enemy, whose fortress was not far away, not only by making frequent raids upon them, but also by keeping such of the barbarians as were escorting provision-trains in a constant state of terror by the unexpectedness of their movements; but finally Sinthues was wounded in his right hand by a spear in a certain battle, and since the sinews were severed, he became thereafter unfit for fighting. And the Huns likewise, after they had made their camp near by, as I have said, were on their part causing the Goths no less trouble, so that these as well as the Romans were now feeling the pressure of famine, since they no longer had freedom to bring in their food-supplies as formerly. And pestilence too fell upon them and was destroying many, and especially in the camp which they had last made, close by the Appian Way, as I have previously stated.[149] And the few of their number who had not perished withdrew from that camp to the other camps. The Huns also suffered in the same way, and so returned to Rome. Such was the course of events here. But as for Procopius, when he reached Campania, he collected not fewer than five hundred soldiers there, loaded a great number of ships with grain, and held them in readiness. And he was joined not long afterwards by Antonina, who immediately assisted him in making arrangements for the fleet.

At that time the mountain of Vesuvius rumbled, and though it did not break forth in eruption, still because of the rumbling it led people to expect with great certainty that there would be an eruption. And for this reason it came to pass that the inhabitants fell into great terror. Now this mountain is seventy stades distant from Naples and lies to the north[150] of it—an exceedingly steep mountain, whose lower parts spread out wide on all sides, while its upper portion is precipitous and exceedingly difficult of ascent. But on the summit of Vesuvius and at about the centre of it appears a cavern of such depth that one would judge that it extends all the way to the bottom of the mountain. And it is possible to see fire there, if one should dare to peer over the edge, and although the flames as a rule merely twist and turn upon one another, occasioning no trouble to the inhabitants of that region, yet, when the mountain gives forth a rumbling sound which resembles bellowing, it generally sends up not long afterward a great quantity of ashes. And if anyone travelling on the road is caught by this terrible shower, he cannot possibly survive, and if it falls upon houses, they too fall under the weight of the great quantity of ashes. But whenever it so happens that a strong wind comes on, the ashes rise to a great height, so that they are no longer visible to the eye, and are borne wherever the wind which drives them goes, falling on lands exceedingly far away. And once, they say, they fell in Byzantium[151] and so terrified the people there, that from that time up to the present the whole city has seen fit to propitiate God with prayers every year; and at another time they fell on Tripolis in Libya. Formerly this rumbling took place, they say, once in a hundred years or even more,[152] but in later times it has happened much more frequently. This, however, they declare emphatically, that whenever Vesuvius belches forth these ashes, the country round about is bound to flourish with an abundance of all crops. Furthermore, the air on this mountain is very light and by its nature the most favourable to health in the world. And indeed those who are attacked by consumption have been sent to this place by physicians from remote times. So much, then, may be said regarding Vesuvius.

FOOTNOTES:

[144] The Porta Ostiensis.

[145] See Book V. vi. 7, note.

[146] The Basilica of St. Paul stood south of the city, outside the Porta Ostiensis which is still called Porta S. Paolo.

[147] St. Peter and St. Paul.

[148] Tibur.

[149] Chap. iii. 7.

[150] This is an error on the part of Procopius. In point of fact it lies to the south-east of Naples.

[151] During the eruption of 472 A.D.

[152] Since the great eruption of 79 A.D.—the first in historical times—eruptions have succeeded one another at intervals varying from one to more than one hundred years.



V

At this time another army also arrived by sea from Byzantium, three thousand Isaurians who put in at the harbour of Naples, led by Paulus and Conon, and eight hundred Thracian horsemen who landed at Dryus, led by John, the nephew of the Vitalian who had formerly been tyrant, and with them a thousand other soldiers of the regular cavalry, under various commanders, among whom were Alexander and Marcentius. And it happened that Zeno with three hundred horsemen had already reached Rome by way of Samnium and the Latin Way. And when John with all the others came to Campania, provided with many waggons by the inhabitants of Calabria, his troops were joined by five hundred men who, as I have said, had been collected in Campania. These set out by the coast road with the waggons, having in mind, if any hostile force should confront them, to make a circle of the waggons in the form of a stockade and thus to ward off the enemy; and they commanded the men under Paulus and Conon to sail with all speed and join them at Ostia, the harbour of Rome[153]; and they put sufficient grain in the waggons and loaded all the ships, not only with grain, but also with wine and all kinds of provisions. And they, indeed, expected to find the forces of Martinus and Trajan in the neighbourhood of Taracina and to have their company from that point on, but when they approached Taracina, they learned that these forces had recently been recalled and had retired to Rome.

But Belisarius, learning that the forces of John were approaching and fearing that the enemy might confront them in greatly superior numbers and destroy them, took the following measures. It so happened that the enemy had encamped very close to the Flaminian Gate; this gate Belisarius himself had blocked up at the beginning of this war by a structure of stone, as has been told by me in the previous narrative,[154] his purpose of course being to make it difficult for the enemy either to force their way in or to make any attempt upon the city at that point. Consequently no engagement had taken place at this gate, and the barbarians had no suspicion that there would be any attack upon them from there. Now Belisarius tore down by night the masonry which blocked this gate, without giving notice to anyone at all, and made ready the greatest part of the army there. And at daybreak he sent Trajan and Diogenes with a thousand horsemen through the Pincian Gate, commanding them to shoot missiles into the camps, and as soon as their opponents came against them, to flee without the least shame and to ride up to the fortifications at full speed. And he also stationed some men inside this gate. So the men under Trajan began to harass the barbarians, as Belisarius had directed them to do, and the Goths, gathering from all the camps, began to defend themselves. And both armies began to move as fast as they could toward the fortifications of the city, the one giving the appearance of fleeing, and the other supposing that they were pursuing the enemy.

But as soon as Belisarius saw the enemy take up the pursuit, he opened the Flaminian Gate and sent his army out against the barbarians, who were thus taken unawares. Now it so happened that one of the Gothic camps was on the road near this gate, and in front of it there was a narrow passage between steep banks which was exceedingly difficult of access. And one of the barbarians, a man of splendid physique and clad in a corselet, when he saw the enemy advancing, reached this place before them and took his stand there, at the same time calling his comrades and urging them to help in guarding the narrow passage. But before any move could be made Mundilas slew him and thereafter allowed none of the barbarians to go into this passage. The Romans therefore passed through it without encountering opposition, and some of them, arriving at the Gothic camp near by, for a short time tried to take it, but were unable to do so because of the strength of the stockade, although not many barbarians had been left behind in it. For the trench had been dug to an extraordinary depth, and since the earth taken from it had invariably been placed along its inner side, this reached a great height and so served as a wall[155]; and it was abundantly supplied with stakes, which were very sharp and close together, thus making a palisade. These defences so emboldened the barbarians that they began to repel the enemy vigorously. But one of the guards of Belisarius, Aquilinus by name, an exceedingly active man, seized a horse by the bridle and, bestriding it, leaped from the trench into the middle of the camp, where he slew some of the enemy. And when his opponents gathered about him and hurled great numbers of missiles, the horse was wounded and fell, but he himself unexpectedly made his escape through the midst of the enemy. So he went on foot with his companions toward the Pincian Gate. And overtaking the barbarians, who were still engaged in pursuing Roman horsemen,[156] they began to shoot at them from behind and killed some of them.

Now when Trajan and his men perceived this, since they had meanwhile been reinforced by the horsemen who had been standing near by in readiness, they charged at full speed against their pursuers. Then at length the Goths, being now outgeneraled and unexpectedly caught between the forces of their enemy, began to be killed indiscriminately. And there was great slaughter of them, and very few escaped to their camps, and that with difficulty; meanwhile the others, fearing for the safety of all their strongholds, shut themselves in and remained in them thereafter, thinking that the Romans would come against them without the least delay. In this action one of the barbarians shot Trajan in the face, above the right eye and not far from the nose. And the whole of the iron point, penetrated the head and disappeared entirely, although the barb on it was large and exceedingly long, but the remainder of the arrow immediately fell to the ground without the application of force by anyone, in my opinion because the iron point had never been securely fastened to the shaft. Trajan, however, paid no heed to this at all, but continued none the less killing and pursuing the enemy. But in the fifth year afterward the tip of the iron of its own accord began to project visibly from his face. And this is now the third year since it has been slowly but steadily coming out. It is to be expected, therefore, that the whole barb will eventually come out, though not for a long time. But it has not been an impediment to the man in any way. So much then for these matters.

FOOTNOTES:

[153] The regular harbour, Portus, was held by the Goths.

[154] Book V. xix. 6.

[155] Cf. Book V. xix. 11.

[156] These were the forces of Trajan and Diogenes.



VI

Now the barbarians straightway began to despair of winning the war and were considering how they might withdraw from Rome, inasmuch as they had suffered the ravages both of the pestilence and of the enemy, and were now reduced from many tens of thousands to a few men; and, not least of all, they were in a state of distress by reason of the famine, and while in name they were carrying on a siege, they were in fact being besieged by their opponents and were shut off from all necessities. And when they learned that still another army had come to their enemy from Byzantium both by land and by sea—not being informed as to its actual size, but supposing it to be as large as the free play of rumour was able to make it,—they became terrified at the danger and began to plan for their departure. They accordingly sent three envoys to Rome, one of whom was a Roman of note among the Goths, and he, coming before Belisarius, spoke as follows:

"That the war has not turned out to the advantage of either side each of us knows well, since we both have had actual experience of its hardships. For why should anyone in either army deny facts of which neither now remains in ignorance. And no one, I think, could deny, at least no one who does not lack understanding, that it is only senseless men who choose to go on suffering indefinitely merely to satisfy the contentious spirit which moves them for the moment, and refuse to find a solution of the troubles which harass them. And whenever this situation arises, it is the duty of the commanders on both sides not to sacrifice the lives of their subjects to their own glory, but to choose the course which is just and expedient, not for themselves alone, but also for their opponents, and thus to put an end to present hardships. For moderation in one's demands affords a way out of all difficulties, but it is the very nature of contentiousness that it cannot accomplish any of the objects which are essential. Now we, on our part, have deliberated concerning the conclusion of this war and have come before you with proposals which are of advantage to both sides, wherein we waive, as we think, some portion even of our rights. And see to it that you likewise in your deliberations do not yield to a spirit of contentiousness respecting us and thus destroy yourselves as well as us, in preference to choosing the course which will be of advantage to yourselves. And it is fitting that both sides should state their case, not in continuous speech, but each interrupting the other on the spur of the moment, if anything that is said shall seem inappropriate. For in this way each side will be able to say briefly whatever it is minded to say, and at the same time the essential things will be accomplished." Belisarius replied: "There will be nothing to prevent the debate from proceeding in the manner you suggest, only let the words spoken by you be words of peace and of justice."

So the ambassadors of the Goths in their turn said: "You have done us an injustice, O Romans, in taking up arms wrongfully against us, your friends and allies. And what we shall say is, we think, well known to each one of you as well as to ourselves. For the Goths did not obtain the land of Italy by wresting it from the Romans by force, but Odoacer in former times dethroned the emperor, changed the government of Italy to a tyranny, and so held it.[157] And Zeno, who then held the power of the East, though he wished to avenge his partner in the imperial office and to free this land from the usurper, was unable to destroy the authority of Odoacer. Accordingly he persuaded Theoderic, our ruler, although he was on the point of besieging him and Byzantium, not only to put an end to his hostility towards himself, in recollection of the honour which Theoderic had already received at his hands in having been made a patrician and consul of the Romans,[158] but also to punish Odoacer for his unjust treatment of Augustulus, and thereafter, in company with the Goths, to hold sway over the land as its legitimate and rightful rulers. It was in this way, therefore, that we took over the dominion of Italy, and we have preserved both the laws and the form of government as strictly as any who have ever been Roman emperors, and there is absolutely no law, either written or unwritten, introduced by Theoderic or by any of his successors on the throne of the Goths. And we have so scrupulously guarded for the Romans their practices pertaining to the worship of God and faith in Him, that not one of the Italians has changed his belief, either willingly or unwillingly, up to the present day, and when Goths have changed,[159] we have taken no notice of the matter. And indeed the sanctuaries of the Romans have received from us the highest honour; for no one who has taken refuge in any of them has ever been treated with violence by any man; nay, more, the Romans themselves have continued to hold all the offices of the state, and not a single Goth has had a share in them. Let someone come forward and refute us, if he thinks that this statement of ours is not true. And one might add that the Goths have conceded that the dignity of the consulship should be conferred upon Romans each year by the emperor of the East. Such has been the course followed by us; but you, on your side, did not take the part of Italy while it was suffering at the hands of the barbarians and Odoacer, although it was not for a short time, but for ten years, that he treated the land outrageously; but now you do violence to us who have acquired it legitimately, though you have no business here. Do you therefore depart hence out of our way, keeping both that which is your own and whatever you have gained by plunder."

And Belisarius said: "Although your promise gave us to understand that your words would be brief and temperate, yet your discourse has been both long and not far from fraudulent in its pretensions. For Theoderic was sent by the Emperor Zeno in order to make war on Odoacer, not in order to hold the dominion of Italy for himself. For why should the emperor have been concerned to exchange one tyrant for another? But he sent him in order that Italy might be free and obedient to the emperor. And though Theoderic disposed of the tyrant in a satisfactory manner, in everything else he shewed an extraordinary lack of proper feeling; for he never thought of restoring the land to its rightful owner. But I, for my part, think that he who robs another by violence and he who of his own will does not restore his neighbour's goods are equal. Now, as for me, I shall never surrender the emperor's country to any other. But if there is anything you wish to receive in place of it, I give you leave to speak."

And the barbarians said: "That everything which we have said is true no one of you can be unaware. But in order that we may not seem to be contentious, we give up to you Sicily, great as it is and of such wealth, seeing that without it you cannot possess Libya in security."

And Belisarius replied: "And we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain, which is much larger than Sicily and was subject to the Romans in early times. For it is only fair to make an equal return to those who first do a good deed or perform a kindness."

The barbarians: "Well, then, if we should make you a proposal concerning Campania also, or about Naples itself, will you listen to it?"

Belisarius: "No, for we are not empowered to administer the emperor's affairs in a way which is not in accord with his wish."

The barbarians: "Not even if we impose upon ourselves the payment of a fixed sum of money every year?"

Belisarius: "No, indeed. For we are not empowered to do anything else than guard the land for its owner."

The barbarians: "Come now, we must send envoys to the emperor and make with him our treaty concerning the whole matter. And a definite time must also be appointed during which the armies will be bound to observe an armistice."

Belisarius: "Very well; let this be done. For never shall I stand in your way when you are making plans for peace."

After saying these things they each left the conference, and the envoys of the Goths withdrew to their own camp. And during the ensuing days they visited each other frequently and made the arrangements for the armistice, and they agreed that each side should put into the hands of the other some of its notable men as hostages to ensure the keeping of the armistice.

FOOTNOTES:

[157] 476 A.D. Cf. Book V. i. 6-8 and note.

[158] Cf. Book V. i. 10, 11.

[159] The Goths were Christians, but followed the Arian heresy.



VII

But while these negotiations were in progress at Rome, meanwhile the fleet of the Isaurians put in at the harbour[160] of the Romans and John with his men came to Ostia, and not one of the enemy hindered them either while bringing their ships to land or while making their camp. But in order that they might be able to pass the night safe from a sudden attack by the enemy, the Isaurians dug a deep trench close to the harbour and kept a constant guard by shifts of men, while John's soldiers made a barricade of their waggons about the camp and remained quiet. And when night came on Belisarius went to Ostia with a hundred horsemen, and after telling what had taken place in the engagement and the agreement which had been made between the Romans and the Goths and otherwise encouraging them, he bade them bring their cargoes and come with all zeal to Rome. "For," he said, "I shall take care that the journey is free from danger." So he himself at early dawn rode back to the city, and Antonina together with the commanders began at daybreak to consider means of transporting the cargoes. But it seemed to them that the task was a hard one and beset with the greatest difficulties. For the oxen could hold out no longer, but all lay half-dead, and, furthermore, it was dangerous to travel over a rather narrow road with the waggons, and impossible to tow the barges on the river, as had formerly been the custom. For the road which is on the left[2] of the river was held by the enemy, as stated by me in the previous narrative,[162] and not available for the use of the Romans at that time, while the road on the other side of it is altogether unused, at least that part of it which follows the river-bank. They therefore selected the small boats belonging to the larger ships, put a fence of high planks around them on all sides, in order that the men on board might not be exposed to the enemy's shots, and embarked archers and sailors on them in numbers suitable for each boat. And after they had loaded the boats with all the freight they could carry, they waited for a favouring wind and set sail toward Rome by the Tiber, and a portion of the army followed them along the right[161] bank of the river to support them. But they left a large number of Isaurians to guard the ships. Now where the course of the river was straight, they found no trouble in sailing, simply raising the sails of the boats; but where the stream wound about and took a course athwart the wind, and the sails received no impulse from it, the sailors had no slight toil in rowing and forcing the boats against the current. As for the barbarians, they sat in their camps and had no wish to hinder their enemy, either because they were terrified at the danger, or because they thought that the Romans would never by such means succeed in bringing in any provisions, and considered it contrary to their own interest, when a matter of no consequence was involved, to frustrate their hope of the armistice which Belisarius had already promised. Moreover, the Goths who were in Portus, though they could see their enemy constantly sailing by almost near enough to touch, made no move against them, but sat there wondering in amazement at the plan they had hit upon. And when the Romans had made the voyage up the river many times in the same way, and had thus conveyed all the cargoes into the city without interference, the sailors took the ships and withdrew with all speed, for it was already about the time of the winter solstice; and the rest of the army entered Rome, except, indeed, that Paulus remained in Ostia with some of the Isaurians.

And afterwards they gave hostages to one another to secure the keeping of the armistice, the Romans giving Zeno, and the Goths Ulias, a man of no mean station, with the understanding that during three months they should make no attack upon one another, until the envoys should return from Byzantium and report the will of the emperor. And even if the one side or the other should initiate offences against their opponents, the envoys were nevertheless to be returned to their own nation. So the envoys of the barbarians went to Byzantium escorted by Romans, and Ildiger, the son-in-law of Antonina, came to Rome from Libya with not a few horsemen. And the Goths who were holding the stronghold at Portus abandoned the place by the order of Vittigis because their supplies were exhausted, and came to the camp in obedience to his summons. Whereupon Paulus with his Isaurians came from Ostia and took possession of it and held it. Now the chief reason why these barbarians were without provisions was that the Romans commanded the sea and did not allow any of the necessary supplies to be brought in to them. And it was for this reason that they also abandoned at about the same time a sea-coast city of great importance, Centumcellae[163] by name, that is, because they were short of provisions. This city is large and populous, lying to the west of Rome, in Tuscany, distant from it about two hundred and eighty stades. And after taking possession of it the Romans went on and extended their power still more, for they took also the town of Albani, which lies to the east of Rome, the enemy having evacuated it at that time for the same reason, and they had already surrounded the barbarians on all sides and now held them between their forces. The Goths, therefore, were in a mood to break the agreement and do some harm to the Romans. So they sent envoys to Belisarius and asserted that they had been unjustly treated during a truce; for when Vittigis had summoned the Goths who were in Portus to perform some service for him, Paulus and the Isaurians had seized and taken possession of the fort there for no good reason. And they made this same false charge regarding Albani and Centumcellae, and threatened that, unless he should give these places back to them, they would resent it. But Belisarius laughed and sent them away, saying that this charge was but a pretext, and that no one was ignorant of the reason why the Goths had abandoned these places. And thereafter the two sides were somewhat suspicious of one another.

But later, when Belisarius saw that Rome was abundantly supplied with soldiers, he sent many horsemen to places far distant from Rome, and commanded John, the nephew of Vitalian, and the horsemen under his command, eight hundred in number, to pass the winter near the city of Alba, which lies in Picenum; and with him he sent four hundred of the men of Valerian, whom Damianus, the nephew of Valerian, commanded, and eight hundred men of his own guards who were especially able warriors. And in command of these he put two spearmen, Suntas and Adegis, and ordered them to follow John wherever he should lead; and he gave John instructions that as long as he saw the enemy was keeping the agreement made between them, he should remain quiet; but whenever he found that the armistice had been violated by them, he should do as follows: With his whole force he was to make a sudden raid and overrun the land of Picenum, visiting all the districts of that region and reaching each one before the report of his coming. For in this whole land there was virtually not a single man left, since all, as it appeared, had marched against Rome, but everywhere there were women and children of the enemy and money. He was instructed, therefore, to enslave or plunder whatever he found, taking care never to injure any of the Romans living there. And if he should happen upon any place which had men and defences, as he probably would, he was to make an attempt upon it with his whole force. And if he was able to capture it, he was to go forward, but if it should so happen that his attempt was unsuccessful, he was to march back or remain there. For if he should go forward and leave such a fortress in his rear, he would be involved in the greatest danger, since his men would never be able to defend themselves easily, if they should be harassed by their opponents. He was also to keep the whole booty intact, in order that it might be divided fairly and properly among the army. Then with a laugh he added this also: "For it is not fair that the drones should be destroyed with great labour by one force, while others, without having endured any hardship at all, enjoy the honey." So after giving these instructions, Belisarius sent John with his army.

And at about the same time Datius, the priest of Milan, and some notable men among the citizens came to Rome and begged Belisarius to send them a few guards. For they declared that they were themselves able without any trouble to detach from the Goths not only Milan, but the whole of Liguria also, and to recover them for the emperor. Now this city is situated in Liguria, and lies about half way between the city of Ravenna and the Alps on the borders of Gaul; for from either one it is a journey of eight days to Milan for an unencumbered traveller; and it is the first of the cities of the West, after Rome at least, both in size and in population and in general prosperity. And Belisarius promised to fulfil their request, but detained them there during the winter season.

FOOTNOTES:

[160] Ostia, since the regular harbour, Portus, was held by the Goths.

[161] i.e. facing upstream.

[162] Book IV. xxvi. 14.

[163] Modern Civita Vecchia.



VIII

Such was the course of these events. But the envy of fortune was already swelling against the Romans, when she saw their affairs progressing successfully and well, and wishing to mingle some evil with this good, she inspired a quarrel, on a trifling pretext, between Belisarius and Constantinus; and how this grew and to what end it came I shall now go on to relate. There was a certain Presidius, a Roman living at Ravenna, and a man of no mean station. This Presidius had given offence to the Goths at the time when Vittigis was about to march against Rome, and so he set out with some few of his domestics ostensibly on a hunting expedition, and went into exile; he had communicated his plan to no one and took none of his property with him, except indeed that he himself carried two daggers, the scabbards of which happened to be adorned with much gold and precious stones. And when he came to Spolitium, he lodged in a certain temple outside the fortifications. And when Constantinus, who happened to be still tarrying there,[164] heard of this, he sent one of his guards, Maxentiolus, and took away from him both the daggers for no good reason. The man was deeply offended by what had taken place, and set out for Rome with all speed and came to Belisarius, and Constantinus also arrived there not long afterward; for the Gothic army was already reported to be not far away. Now as long as the affairs of the Romans were critical and in confusion, Presidius remained silent; but when he saw that the Romans were gaining the upper hand and that the envoys of the Goths had been sent to the emperor, as has been told by me above, he frequently approached Belisarius reporting the injustice and demanding that he assist him in obtaining his rights. And Belisarius reproached Constantinus many times himself, and many times through others, urging him to clear himself of the guilt of an unjust deed and of a dishonouring report. But Constantinus—for it must needs be that evil befall him—always lightly evaded the charge and taunted the wronged man. But on one occasion Presidius met Belisarius riding on horseback in the forum, and he laid hold of the horse's bridle, and crying out with a loud voice asked whether the laws of the emperor said that, whenever anyone fleeing from the barbarians comes to them as a suppliant, they should rob him by violence of whatever he may chance to have in his hands. And though many men gathered about and commanded him with threats to let go his hold of the bridle, he did not let go until at last Belisarius promised to give him the daggers. On the following day, therefore, Belisarius called Constantinus and many of the commanders to an apartment in the palace, and after going over what had happened on the previous day urged him even at that late time to restore the daggers. But Constantinus refused to do so; nay, he would more gladly throw them into the waters of the Tiber than give them to Presidius. And Belisarius, being by now mastered by anger, enquired whether Constantinus did not think that he was subject to his orders. And he agreed to obey him in all other things, for this was the emperor's will; this command, however, which at the present time he was laying upon him, he would never obey. Belisarius then commanded his guards to enter, whereupon Constantinus said: "In order, plainly, to have them kill me." "By no means," said Belisarius, "but to have them compel your bodyguard Maxentiolus, who forcibly carried away the daggers for you, to restore to the man what he took from him by violence." But Constantinus, thinking that he was to die that very instant, wished to do some great deed before he should suffer anything himself. He accordingly drew the dagger which hung by his thigh and suddenly thrust it at the belly of Belisarius. And he in consternation stepped back, and by throwing his arms around Bessas, who was standing near, succeeded in escaping the blow. Then Constantinus, still boiling with anger, made after him; but Ildiger and Valerian, seeing what was being done, laid hold of his hands, one of the right and the other of the left, and dragged him back. And at this point the guards entered whom Belisarius had summoned a moment before, snatched the dagger of Constantinus from his hand with great violence, and seized him amid a great uproar. At the moment they did him no harm, out of respect, I suppose, to the officers present, but led him away to another room at the command of Belisarius, and at a somewhat later time put him to death. This was the only unholy deed done by Belisarius, and it was in no way worthy of the character of the man; for he always shewed great gentleness in his treatment of all others. But it had to be, as I have said, that evil should befall Constantinus.

FOOTNOTE:

[164] Cf. Book V. xvi. 1 ff.



IX

And the Goths not long after this wished to strike a blow at the fortifications of Rome. And first they sent some men by night into one of the aqueducts, from which they themselves had taken out the water at the beginning of this war.[165] And with lamps and torches in their hands they explored the entrance into the city by this way. Now it happened that not far from the small Pincian Gate an arch of this aqueduct[166] had a sort of crevice in it, and one of the guards saw the light through this and told his companions; but they said that he had seen a wolf passing by his post. For at that point it so happened that the structure of the aqueduct did not rise high above the ground, and they thought that the guard had imagined the wolf's eyes to be fire. So those barbarians who explored the aqueduct, upon reaching the middle of the city, where there was an upward passage built in olden times leading to the palace itself, came upon some masonry there which allowed them neither to advance beyond that point nor to use the ascent at all. This masonry had been put in by Belisarius as an act of precaution at the beginning of this siege, as has been set forth by me in the preceding narrative.[167] So they decided first to remove one small stone from the wall and then to go back immediately, and when they returned to Vittigis, they displayed the stone and reported the whole situation. And while he was considering his scheme with the best of the Goths, the Romans who were on guard at the Pincian Gate recalled among themselves on the following day the suspicion of the wolf. But when the story was passed around and came to Belisarius, the general did not treat the matter carelessly, but immediately sent some of the notable men in the army, together with the guardsman Diogenes, down into the aqueduct and bade them investigate everything with all speed. And they found all along the aqueduct the lamps of the enemy and the ashes which had dropped from their torches, and after observing the masonry where the stone had been taken out by the Goths, they reported to Belisarius. For this reason he personally kept the aqueduct under close guard; and the Goths, perceiving it, desisted from this attempt.

But later on the barbarians went so far as to plan an open attack against the fortifications. So they waited for the time of lunch, and bringing up ladders and fire, when their enemy were least expecting them, made an assault upon the small Pincian Gate, emboldened by the hope of capturing the city by a sudden attack, since not many soldiers had been left there. But it happened that Ildiger and his men were keeping guard at that time; for all were assigned by turns to guard-duty. So when he saw the enemy advancing in disorder, he went out against them before they were yet drawn up in line of battle and while they were advancing in great disarray, and routing those who were opposite him without any trouble he slew many. And a great outcry and commotion arose throughout the city, as was to be expected, and the Romans gathered as quickly as possible to all parts of the fortifications; whereupon the barbarians after a short time retired to their camp baffled.

But Vittigis resorted again to a plot against the wall. Now there was a certain part of it that was especially vulnerable, where the bank of the Tiber is, because at this place the Romans of old, confident in the protection afforded by the stream, had built the wall carelessly, making it low and altogether without towers; Vittigis therefore hoped to capture the city rather easily from that quarter. For indeed there was not even any garrison there of any consequence, as it happened. He therefore bribed with money two Romans who lived near the church of Peter the Apostle to pass along by the guards there at about nightfall carrying a skin full of wine, and in some way or other, by making a show of friendship, to give it to them, and then to sit drinking with them well on into the night; and they were to throw into the cup of each guard a sleep-producing drug which Vittigis had given them. And he stealthily got ready some skiffs, which he kept at the other bank; as soon as the guards should be overcome by sleep, some of the barbarians, acting in concert, were to cross the river in these, taking ladders with them, and make the assault on the wall. And he made ready the entire army with the intention of capturing the whole city by storm. After these arrangements were all complete, one of the two men who had been prepared by Vittigis for this service (for it was not fated that Rome should be captured by this army of the Goths) came of his own accord to Belisarius and revealed everything, and told who the other man was. So this man under torture brought to light all that he was about to do and displayed the drug which Vittigis had given him. And Belisarius first mutilated his nose and ears and then sent him riding on an ass into the enemy's camp. And when the barbarians saw him, they realised that God would not allow their purposes to have free course, and that therefore the city could never be captured by them.

FOOTNOTES:

[165] Book V. xix. 13.

[166] The Aqua Virgo.

[167] Book V. xix. 18.



X

But while these things were happening, Belisarius wrote to John and commanded him to begin operations. And he with his two thousand horsemen began to go about the land of Picenum and to plunder everything before him, treating the women and children of the enemy as slaves. And when Ulitheus, the uncle of Vittigis, confronted him with an army of Goths, he defeated them in battle and killed Ulitheus himself and almost the whole army of the enemy. For this reason no one dared any longer to engage with him. But when he came to the city of Auximus,[168] though he learned that it contained a Gothic garrison of inconsiderable size, yet in other respects he observed that the place was strong and impossible to capture. And for this reason he was quite unwilling to lay siege to it, but departing from there as quickly as he could, he moved forward. And he did this same thing at the city of Urbinus,[169] but at Ariminum,[170] which is one day's journey distant from Ravenna, he marched into the city at the invitation of the Romans. Now all the barbarians who were keeping guard there were very suspicious of the Roman inhabitants, and as soon as they learned that this army was approaching, they withdrew and ran until they reached Ravenna. And thus John secured Ariminum; but he had meanwhile left in his rear a garrison of the enemy both at Auximus and at Urbinus, not because he had forgotten the commands of Belisarius, nor because he was carried away by unreasoning boldness, since he had wisdom as well as energy, but because he reasoned—correctly, as it turned out—that if the Goths learned that the Roman army was close to Ravenna, they would instantly break up the siege of Rome because of their fears regarding this place. And in fact his reasoning proved to be true. For as soon as Vittigis and the army of the Goths heard that Ariminum was held by him, they were plunged into great fear regarding Ravenna, and abandoning all other considerations, they straightway made their withdrawal, as will be told by me directly. And John won great fame from this deed, though he was renowned even before. For he was a daring and efficient man in the highest degree, unflinching before danger, and in his daily life shewing at all times a certain austerity and ability to endure hardship unsurpassed by any barbarian or common soldier. Such a man was John. And Matasuntha, the wife of Vittigis, who was exceedingly hostile to her husband because he had taken her to wife by violence in the beginning,[171] upon learning that John had come to Ariminum was absolutely overcome by joy, and sending a messenger to him opened secret negotiations with him concerning marriage and the betrayal of the city.

So these two kept sending messengers to each other without the knowledge of the rest and arranging these matters. But when the Goths learned what had happened at Ariminum, and when at the same time all their provisions had failed them, and the three months' time had already expired, they began to make their withdrawal, although they had not as yet received any information as far as the envoys were concerned. Now it was about the spring equinox, and one year had been spent in the siege and nine days in addition, when the Goths, having burned all their camps, set out at daybreak. And the Romans, seeing their opponents in flight, were at a loss how to deal with the situation. For it so happened that the majority of the horsemen were not present at that time, since they had been sent to various places, as has been stated by me above,[172] and they did not think that by themselves they were a match for so great a multitude of the enemy. However, Belisarius armed all the infantry and cavalry. And when he saw that more than half of the enemy had crossed the bridge, he led the army out through the small Pincian Gate, and the hand-to-hand battle which ensued proved to be equal to any that had preceded it. At the beginning the barbarians withstood their enemy vigorously, and many on both sides fell in the first encounter; but afterwards the Goths turned to flight and brought upon themselves a great and overwhelming calamity; for each man for himself was rushing to cross the bridge first. As a result of this they became very much crowded and suffered most cruelly, for they were being killed both by each other and by the enemy. Many, too, fell off the bridge on either side into the Tiber, sank with all their arms, and perished. Finally, after losing in this way the most of their number, the remainder joined those who had crossed before. And Longinus the Isaurian and Mundilas, the guards of Belisarius, made themselves conspicuous for their valour in this battle. But while Mundilas, after engaging with four barbarians in turn and killing them all, was himself saved, Longinus, having proved himself the chief cause of the rout of the enemy, fell where he fought, leaving the Roman army great regret for his loss.

FOOTNOTES:

[168] Modern Osimo.

[169] Modern Urbino.

[170] Modern Rimini.

[171] Cf. Book V. xi. 27.

[172] Chap. vii. 25.



XI

Now Vittigis with the remainder of his army marched toward Ravenna; and he strengthened the fortified places with a great number of guards, leaving in Clusium,[173] the city of Tuscany, one thousand men and Gibimer as commander, and in Urviventus[174] an equal number, over whom he set Albilas, a Goth, as commander. And he left Uligisalus in Tudera[175] with four hundred men. And in the land of Picenum he left in the fortress of Petra four hundred men who had lived there previously, and in Auximus, which is the largest of all the cities of that country, he left four thousand Goths selected for their valour and a very energetic commander, Visandus by name, and two thousand men with Moras in the city of Urbinus. There are also two other fortresses, Caesena and Monteferetra,[176] in each of which he established a garrison of not less than five hundred men. Then he himself with the rest of the army moved straight for Ariminum with the purpose of laying siege to it.

But it happened that Belisarius, as soon as the Goths had broken up the siege of Rome, had sent Ildiger and Martinus with a thousand horsemen, in order that by travelling more quickly by another road they might arrive at Ariminum first, and he directed them promptly to remove John from the city and all those with him, and to put in their place fully enough men to guard the city, taking them from the fortress which is on the Ionian Gulf, Ancon by name, two days' journey distant from Ariminum. For he had already taken possession of it not long before, having sent Conon with no small force of Isaurians and Thracians. It was his hope that if unsupported infantry under commanders of no great note should hold Ariminum, the Gothic forces would never undertake its siege, but would regard it with contempt and so go at once to Ravenna, and that if they should decide to besiege Ariminum, the provisions there would suffice for the infantry for a somewhat longer time; and he thought also that two thousand horsemen,[177] attacking from outside with the rest of the army, would in all probability do the enemy great harm and drive them more easily to abandon the siege. It was with this purpose that Belisarius gave such orders to Martinus and Ildiger and their men. And they, by travelling over the Flaminian Way, arrived long before the barbarians. For since the Goths were moving in a great throng, they proceeded in a more leisurely manner, and they were compelled to make certain long detours, both because of the lack of provisions, and because they preferred not to pass close to the fortresses on the Flaminian Way, Narnia and Spolitium and Perusia, since these were in the hands of the enemy, as has been stated above.[178]

When the Roman army arrived at Petra, they made an attack upon the fortress there, regarding it as an incident of their expedition. Now this fortress was not devised by man, but it was made by the nature of the place; for the road passes through an extremely mountainous country at that place. On the right of this road a river descends which no man can ford because of the swiftness of the current, and on the left not far away rises a sheer rock which reaches to such a height that men who might chance to be standing on its summit, as seen by those below, resemble in size the smallest birds. And in olden times there was no passage through as one went forward. For the end of the rock reaches to the very stream of the river, affording no room for those who travel that way to pass by. So the men of ancient times constructed a tunnel at that point, and made there a gate for the place.[179] And they also closed up the greatest part of the other[180] entrance, leaving only enough space for a small gate there also, and thus rendered the place a natural fortress, which they call by the fitting name of Petra. So the men of Martinus and Ildiger first made an attack upon one of the two gates,[181] and shot many missiles, but they accomplished nothing, although the barbarians there made no defence at all; but afterwards they forced their way up the cliff behind the fortress and hurled stones from there upon the heads of the Goths. And they, hurriedly and in great confusion, entered their houses and remained quiet. And then the Romans, unable to hit any of the enemy with the stones they threw, devised the following plan. They broke off large pieces from the cliff and, many of them pushing together, hurled them down, aiming at the houses. And wherever these in their fall did no more than just graze the building, they yet gave the whole fortress a considerable shock and reduced the barbarians to great fear. Consequently the Goths stretched out their hands to those who were still about the gate and surrendered themselves and the fort, with the condition that they themselves should remain free from harm, being slaves of the emperor and subject to Belisarius. And Ildiger and Martinus removed the most of them and led them away, putting them on a basis of complete equality with themselves, but some few they left there, together with their wives and children. And they also left something of a garrison of Romans. Thence they proceeded to Ancon, and taking with them many of the infantry in that place on the third day reached Ariminum, and announced the will of Belisarius. But John was not only unwilling himself to follow them, but also proposed to retain Damianus with the four hundred.[182] So they left there the infantry and retired thence with all speed, taking the spearmen and guards of Belisarius.

FOOTNOTES:

[173] Modern Chiusi.

[174] Urbs Vetus, modern Orvieto.

[175] Tuder or Tudertum, modern Todi.

[176] Modern Montefeltro.

[177] i.e. the force which John had when he had set out on his raid of Picenum (cf. Chap. x. 1) and with which he was now holding Ariminum.

[178] Book V. xxix. 3.

[179] The tunnel was made by the Emperor Vespasian, 76 A.D. This gate was at the southern end.

[180] i.e. northern.

[181] The upper, or southern, gate.

[182] Cf. Chap. vii. 26.



XII

And not long afterward Vittigis and his whole army arrived at Ariminum, where they established their camp and began the siege. And they immediately constructed a wooden tower higher than the circuit-wall of the city and resting on four wheels, and drew it toward that part of the wall which seemed to them most vulnerable. But in order that they might not have the same experience here which they had before the fortifications of Rome, they did not use oxen to draw the tower, but hid themselves within it and thus hauled it forward. And there was a stairway of great breadth inside the tower on which the barbarians in great numbers were to make the ascent easily, for they hoped that as soon as they should place the tower against the fortifications, they would have no trouble in stepping thence to the parapet of the wall; for they had made the tower high with this in view. So when they had come close to the fortifications with this engine of war, they remained quiet for the time, since it was already growing dark, and stationing guards about the tower they all went off to pass the night, supposing that they would meet with no obstacle whatever. And indeed there was nothing in their way, not even a trench between them and the wall, except an exceedingly small one.

As for the Romans, they passed the night in great fear, supposing that on the morrow they would perish. But John, neither yielding to despair in face of the danger nor being greatly agitated by fear, devised the following plan. Leaving the others on guard at their posts, he himself took the Isaurians, who carried pickaxes and various other tools of this kind, and went outside the fortifications; it was late in the night and no word had been given beforehand to anyone in the city; and once outside the wall, he commanded his men in silence to dig the trench deeper. So they did as directed, and as they dug they kept putting the earth which they took out of the trench upon the side of it nearer the city-wall, and there it served them as an earthwork. And since they were unobserved for a long time by the enemy, who were sleeping, they soon made the trench both deep and sufficiently wide, at the place where the fortifications were especially vulnerable and where the barbarians were going to make the assault with their engine of war. But far on in the night the enemy, perceiving what was being done, charged at full speed against those who were digging, and John went inside the fortifications with the Isaurians, since the trench was now in a most satisfactory condition.

But at daybreak Vittigis noted what had been accomplished and in his exceeding vexation at the occurrence executed some of the guards; however, he was as eager as before to bring his engine to bear, and so commanded the Goths to throw a great number of faggots as quickly as possible into the trench, and then by drawing the tower over them to bring it into position. This they proceeded to do as Vittigis commanded, with all zeal, although their opponents kept fighting them back from the wall with the utmost vigour. But when the weight of the tower came upon the faggots they naturally yielded and sank down. For this reason the barbarians were quite unable to go forward with the engine, because the ground became still more steep before them, where the Romans had heaped up the earth as I have stated. Fearing, therefore, that when night came on the enemy would sally forth and set fire to the engine, they began to draw it back again. This was precisely what John was eager to prevent with all his power, and so he armed his soldiers, called them all together, and exhorted them as follows:

"My men, who share this danger common to us all, if it would please any man among you to live and see those whom he has left at home, let him realize that the only hope he has of obtaining these things lies in nothing but his own hands. For when Belisarius sent us forth in the beginning, hope and desire for many things made us eager for the task. For we never suspected that we should be besieged in the country along the coast, since the Romans command the sea so completely, nor would one have supposed that the emperor's army would so far neglect us. But apart from these considerations, at that time we were prompted to boldness by an opportunity to display our loyalty to the state and by the glory which we should acquire in the sight of all men as the result of our struggles. But as things now stand, we cannot possibly survive save by courage, and we are obliged to undergo this danger with no other end in view than the saving of our own lives. Therefore, if any of you perchance lay claim to valour, all such have the opportunity to prove themselves brave men, if any men in the world have, and thereby to cover themselves with glory. For they achieve a fair name, not who overpower those weaker than themselves, but who, though inferior in equipment, still win the victory by the greatness of their souls. And as for those in whom the love of life has been more deeply implanted, it will be of advantage to these especially to be bold, for it is true of all men, as a general thing, that when their fortunes stand on the razor's edge, as is now the case with us, they may be saved only by scorning the danger."

With these words John led his army out against the enemy, leaving some few men to guard the battlement. But the enemy withstood them bravely, and the battle became exceedingly fierce. And with great difficulty and late in the day the barbarians succeeded in bringing the tower back to their own camp. However, they lost so great a number of their fighting men that they decided thenceforth to make no further attacks upon the wall, but in despair of succeeding that way, they remained quiet, expecting that their enemy would yield to them under stress of famine. For all their provisions had already failed them completely, since they had not found any place from which they could bring in a sufficient supply.

Such was the course of events here. But as for Belisarius, he sent to the representatives of Milan[183] a thousand men, Isaurians and Thracians. The Isaurians were commanded by Ennes, the Thracians by Paulus, while Mundilas was set over them all and commanded in person, having as his guard some few of the guardsmen of Belisarius. And with them was also Fidelius, who had been made praetorian prefect. For since he was a native of Milan, he was regarded as a suitable person to go with this army, having as he did some influence in Liguria. They set sail, accordingly, from the harbour of Rome and put in at Genoa, which is the last city in Tuscany and well situated as a port of call for the voyage to Gaul and to Spain. There they left their ships and travelling by land moved forward, placing the boats of the ships on their waggons, in order that nothing might prevent their crossing the river Po. It was by this means, in any event, that they made the crossing of the river. And when they reached the city of Ticinum,[184] after crossing the Po, the Goths came out against them and engaged them in battle. And they were not only numerous but also excellent troops, since all the barbarians who lived in that region had deposited the most valuable of their possessions in Ticinum, as being a place which had strong defences, and had left there a considerable garrison. So a fierce battle took place, but the Romans were victorious, and routing their opponents, they slew a great number and came within a little of capturing the city in the pursuit. For it was only with difficulty that the barbarians succeeded in shutting the gates, so closely did their enemy press upon their heels. And as the Romans were marching away, Fidelius went into a temple there to pray, and was the last to leave. But by some chance his horse stumbled and he fell. And since he had fallen very near the fortifications, the Goths seeing him came out and killed him without being observed by the enemy. Wherefore, when this was afterwards discovered by Mundilas and the Romans, they were greatly distressed.

Then, leaving Ticinum, they arrived at the city of Milan and secured this city with the rest of Liguria without a battle. When Vittigis learned about this, he sent a large army with all speed and Uraias, his own nephew, as commander. And Theudibert, the leader of the Franks, sent him at his request ten thousand men as allies, not of the Franks themselves, but Burgundians, in order not to appear to be doing injury to the emperor's cause. For it was given out that the Burgundians made the expedition willingly and of their own choice, not as obeying the command of Theudibert. And the Goths, joined by these troops, came to Milan, made camp and began a siege when the Romans were least expecting them. At any rate the Romans, through this action, found it impossible to bring in any kind of provisions, but they were immediately in distress for want of necessities. Indeed, even the guarding of the walls was not being maintained by the regular soldiers, for it so happened that Mundilas had occupied all the cities near Milan which had defences, namely Bergomum, Comum, and Novaria,[185] as well as some other strongholds, and in every place had established a considerable garrison, while he himself with about three hundred men remained in Milan, and with him Ennes and Paulus. Consequently and of necessity the inhabitants of the city were regularly keeping guard in turn. Such was the progress of events in Liguria, and the winter drew to its close, and the third year came to an end in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

FOOTNOTES:

[183] Cf. Chap. vii. 35.

[184] Modern Pavia.

[185] Modern Bergamo, Como, and Novara.



XIII

And Belisarius at about the time of the summer solstice marched against Vittigis and the Gothic army, leaving a few men to act as a garrison in Rome, but taking all the others with him. And he sent some men to Tudera and Clusium, with orders to make fortified camps there, and he was intending to follow them and assist in besieging the barbarians at those places. But when the barbarians learned that the army was approaching, they did not wait to face the danger, but sent envoys to Belisarius, promising to surrender both themselves and the two cities, with the condition that they should remain free from harm. And when he came there, they fulfilled their promise. And Belisarius removed all the Goths from these towns and sent them to Sicily and Naples, and after establishing a garrison in Clusium and in Tudera, he led his army forward.

But meanwhile Vittigis had sent another army, under command of Vacimus, to Auximus, commanding it to join forces with the Goths there, and with them to go against the enemy in Ancon and make an attempt upon that fortress. Now this Ancon is a sort of pointed rock, and indeed it is from this circumstance that it has taken its name; for it is exceedingly like an "elbow." And it is about eighty stades distant from the city of Auximus, whose port it is. And the defences of the fortress lie upon the pointed rock in a position of security, but all the buildings outside, though they are many, have been from ancient times unprotected by a wall. Now as soon as Conon, who was in command of the garrison of the place, heard that the forces of Vacimus were coming against him and were already not far away, he made an exhibition of thoughtless folly. For thinking it too small a thing to preserve free from harm merely the fortress and its inhabitants together with the soldiers, he left the fortifications entirely destitute of soldiers, and leading them all out to a distance of about five stades, arrayed them in line of battle, without, however, making the phalanx a deep one at all, but thin enough to surround the entire base of the mountain, as if for a hunt. But when these troops saw that the enemy were greatly superior to them in number, they turned their backs and straightway fled to the fortress. And the barbarians, following close upon them, slew on the spot most of their number—those who did not succeed in getting inside the circuit-wall in time—and then placed ladders against the wall and attempted the ascent. Some also began burning the houses outside the fortress. And the Romans who resided habitually in the fortress, being terror-stricken at what was taking place, at first opened the small gate and received the soldiers as they fled in complete disorder. But when they saw the barbarians close at hand and pressing upon the fugitives, fearing that they would charge in with them, they closed the gates as quickly as they could, and letting down ropes from the battlement, saved a number by drawing them up, and among them Conon himself. But the barbarians scaled the wall by means of their ladders and came within a little of capturing the fortress by storm, and would have succeeded if two men had not made a display of remarkable deeds by valorously pushing off the battlements those who had already got upon the wall; one of these two was a bodyguard of Belisarius, a Thracian named Ulimuth, and the other a bodyguard of Valerian, named Gouboulgoudou, a Massagete by birth. These two men had happened by some chance to come by ship to Ancon a little before; and in this struggle, by warding off with their swords those who were scaling the wall, they saved the fortress contrary to expectation, but they themselves were carried from the battlement half dead, their whole bodies hacked with many wounds.

At that time it was reported to Belisarius that Narses had come with a great army from Byzantium and was in Picenum. Now this Narses[186] was a eunuch and guardian of the royal treasures, but for the rest keen and more energetic than would be expected of a eunuch. And five thousand soldiers followed him, of whom the several detachments were commanded by different men, among whom were Justinus, the general of Illyricum, and another Narses, who had previously come to the land of the Romans as a deserter from the Armenians who are subject to the Persians; with him had come his brother Aratius,[187] who, as it happened, had joined Belisarius a little before this with another army. And about two thousand of the Erulian nation also followed him, commanded by Visandus and Aluith and Phanitheus.

FOOTNOTES:

[186] He was an Armenian of Persia; see Book I. xv. 31.

[187] Book I. xv. 31.



XIV

Now as to who in the world the Eruli are, and how they entered into alliance with the Romans, I shall forthwith explain.[188] They used to dwell beyond the Ister[189] River from of old, worshipping a great host of gods, whom it seemed to them holy to appease even by human sacrifices. And they observed many customs which were not in accord with those of other men. For they were not permitted to live either when they grew old or when they fell sick, but as soon as one of them was overtaken by old age or by sickness, it became necessary for him to ask his relatives to remove him from the world as quickly as possible. And these relatives would pile up a quantity of wood to a great height and lay the man on top of the wood, and then they would send one of the Eruli, but not a relative of the man, to his side with a dagger; for it was not lawful for a kinsman to be his slayer. And when the slayer of their relative had returned, they would straightway burn the whole pile of wood, beginning at the edges. And after the lire had ceased, they would immediately collect the bones and bury them in the earth. And when a man of the Eruli died, it was necessary for his wife, if she laid claim to virtue and wished to leave a fair name behind her, to die not long afterward beside the tomb of her husband by hanging herself with a rope. And if she did not do this, the result was that she was in ill repute thereafter and an offence to the relatives of her husband. Such were the customs observed by the Eruli in ancient times.

But as time went on they became superior to all the barbarians who dwelt about them both in power and in numbers, and, as was natural, they attacked and vanquished them severally and kept plundering their possessions by force. And finally they made the Lombards, who were Christians, together with several other nations, subject and tributary to themselves, though the barbarians of that region were not accustomed to that sort of thing; but the Eruli were led to take this course by love of money and a lawless spirit. [X]When, however, Anastasius took over the Roman empire, the Eruli, having no longer anyone in the world whom they could assail, laid down their arms and remained quiet, and they observed peace in this way for a space of three years. But the people themselves, being exceedingly vexed, began to abuse their leader Rodolphus without restraint, and going to him constantly they called him cowardly and effeminate, and railed at him in a most unruly manner, taunting him with certain other names besides. And Rodolphus, being quite unable to bear the insult, marched against the Lombards, who were doing no wrong, without charging against them any fault or alleging any violation of their agreement, but bringing upon them a war which had no real cause. And when the Lombards got word of this, they sent to Rodolphus and made enquiry and demanded that he should state the charge on account of which the Eruli were coming against them in arms, agreeing that if they had deprived the Eruli of any of the tribute, then they would instantly pay it with large interest; and if their grievance was that only a moderate tribute had been imposed upon them, then the Lombards would never be reluctant to make it greater. Such were the offers which the envoys made, but Rodolphus with a threat sent them away and marched forward. And they again sent other envoys to him on the same mission and supplicated him with many entreaties. And when the second envoys had fared in the same way, a third embassy came to him and forbade the Eruli on any account to bring upon them a war without excuse. For if they should come against them with such a purpose, they too, not willingly, but under the direst necessity, would array themselves against their assailants, calling upon God as their witness, the slightest breath of whose favour, turning the scales, would be a match for all the strength of men; and He, in all likelihood, would be moved by the causes of the war and would determine the issue of the fight for both sides accordingly. So they spoke, thinking in this way to terrify their assailants, but the Eruli, shrinking from nothing whatever, decided to meet the Lombards in battle. And when the two armies came close to one another, it so happened that the sky above the Lombards was obscured by a sort of cloud, black and very thick, but above the Eruli it was exceedingly clear. And judging by this one would have supposed that the Eruli were entering the conflict to their own harm; for there ran be no more forbidding portent than this for barbarians as they go into battle. However, the Eruli gave no heed even to this, but in absolute disregard of it they advanced against their enemy with utter contempt, estimating the outcome of war by mere superiority of numbers. But when the battle came to close quarters, many of the Eruli perished and Rodolphus himself also perished, and the rest fled at full speed, forgetting all their courage. And since their enemy followed them up, the most of them fell on the field of battle and only a few succeeded in saving themselves.

DATE: [X]491 A.D.

For this reason the Eruli were no longer able to tarry in their ancestral homes, but departing from there as quickly as possible they kept moving forward, traversing the whole country which is beyond the Ister River, together with their wives and children. But when they reached a land where the Rogi dwelt of old, a people who had joined the Gothic host and gone to Italy, they settled in that place. But since they were pressed by famine, because they were in a barren land, they removed from there not long afterward, and came to a place close to the country of the Gepaedes.[190] And at first the Gepaedes permitted them to dwell there and be neighbours to them, since they came as suppliants. But afterwards for no good reason the Gepaedes began to practise unholy deeds upon them. For they violated their women and seized their cattle and other property, and abstained from no wickedness whatever, and finally began an unjust attack upon them. And the Eruli, unable to bear all this any longer, crossed the Ister River and decided to live as neighbours to the Romans in that region; this was during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius, who received them with great friendliness and allowed them to settle where they were. But a short time afterwards these barbarians gave him offence by their lawless treatment of the Romans there, and for this reason he sent an army against them. And the Romans, after defeating them in battle, slew most of their number, and had ample opportunity to destroy them all. But the remainder of them threw themselves upon the mercy of the generals and begged them to spare their lives and to have them as allies and servants of the emperor thereafter. And when Anastasius learned this, he was pleased, and consequently a number of the Eruli were left; however, they neither became allies of the Romans, nor did they do them any good.

But when Justinian took over the empire,[Y] he bestowed upon them good lands and other possessions, and thus completely succeeded in winning their friendship and persuaded them all to become Christians. As a result of this they adopted a gentler manner of life and decided to submit themselves wholly to the laws of the Christians, and in keeping with the terms of their alliance they are generally arrayed with the Romans against their enemies. They are still, however, faithless toward them, and since they are given to avarice, they are eager to do violence to their neighbours, feeling no shame at such conduct. And they mate in an unholy manner, especially men with asses, and they are the basest of all men and utterly abandoned rascals.

DATE: [Y]527 A.D.

Afterwards, although some few of them remained at peace with the Romans, as will be told by me in the following narrative,[191] all the rest revolted for the following reason. The Eruli, displaying their beastly and fanatical character against their own "rex," one Ochus by name, suddenly killed the man for no good reason at all, laying against him no other charge than that they wished to be without a king thereafter. And yet even before this, while their king did have the title, he had practically no advantage over any private citizen whomsoever. But all claimed the right to sit with him and eat with him, and whoever wished insulted him without restraint; for no men in the world are less bound by convention or more unstable than the Eruli. Now when the evil deed had been accomplished, they were immediately repentant. For they said that they were not able to live without a ruler and without a general; so after much deliberation it seemed to them best in every way to summon one of their royal family from the island of Thule. And the reason for this I shall now explain.

FOOTNOTES:

[188] Cf. Book IV. iv. 30.

[189] Modern Danube.

[190] Cf. Book III. ii. 2-6, VII. xxiv. 10.

[191] Book VII. xxxiv. 42.



XV

When the Eruli, being defeated by the Lombards in the above-mentioned battle, migrated from their ancestral homes, some of them, as has been told by me above,[192] made their home in the country of Illyricum, but the rest were averse to crossing the Ister River, but settled at the very extremity of the world; at any rate, these men, led by many of the royal blood, traversed all the nations of the Sclaveni one after the other, and after next crossing a large tract of barren country, they came to the Varni,[193] as they are called. After these they passed by the nations of the Dani,[194] without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there. Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule,[195] remained there on the island.

Now Thule is exceedingly large; for it is more than ten times greater than Britain. And it lies far distant from it toward the north. On this island the land is for the most part barren, but in the inhabited country thirteen very numerous nations are settled; and there are kings over each nation. In that place a very wonderful thing takes place each year. For the sun at the time of the summer solstice never sets for forty days, but appears constantly during this whole time above the earth. But not less than six months later, at about the time of the winter solstice, the sun is never seen on this island for forty days, but never-ending night envelops it; and as a result of this dejection holds the people there during this whole time, because they are unable by any means to mingle with one another during this interval. And although I was eager to go to this island and become an eye-witness of the things I have told, no opportunity ever presented itself. However, I made enquiry from those who come to us from the island as to how in the world they are able to reckon the length of the days, since the sun never rises nor sets there at the appointed times. And they gave me an account which is true and trustworthy. For they said that the sun during those forty days does not indeed set just as has been stated, but is visible to the people there at one time toward the east, and again toward the west. Whenever, therefore, on its return, it reaches the same place on the horizon where they had previously been accustomed to see it rise, they reckon in this way that one day and night have passed. When, however, the time of the nights arrives, they always take note of the courses of the moon and stars and thus reckon the measure of the days. And when a time amounting to thirty-five days has passed in this long night, certain men are sent to the summits of the mountains—for this is the custom among them—and when they are able from that point barely to see the sun, they bring back word to the people below that within five days the sun will shine upon them. And the whole population celebrates a festival at the good news, and that too in the darkness. And this is the greatest festival which the natives of Thule have; for, I imagine, these islanders always become terrified, although they see the same thing happen every year, fearing that the sun may at some time fail them entirely.

But among the barbarians who are settled in Thule, one nation only, who are called the Scrithiphini, live a kind of life akin to that of the beasts. For they neither wear garments of cloth nor do they walk with shoes on their feet, nor do they drink wine nor derive anything edible from the earth. For they neither till the land themselves, nor do their women work it for them, but the women regularly join the men in hunting, which is their only pursuit. For the forests, which are exceedingly large, produce for them a great abundance of wild beasts and other animals, as do also the mountains which rise there. And they feed exclusively upon the flesh of the wild beasts slain by them, and clothe themselves in their skins, and since they have neither flax nor any implement with which to sew, they fasten these skins together by the sinews of the animals, and in this way manage to cover the whole body. And indeed not even their infants are nursed in the same way as among the rest of mankind. For the children of the Scrithiphini do not feed upon the milk of women nor do they touch their mother's breast, but they are nourished upon the marrow of the animals killed in the hunt, and upon this alone. Now as soon as a woman gives birth to a child, she throws it into a skin and straightway hangs it to a tree, and after putting marrow into its mouth she immediately sets out with her husband for the customary hunt. For they do everything in common and likewise engage in this pursuit together. So much for the daily life of these barbarians.

But all the other inhabitants of Thule, practically speaking, do not differ very much from the rest of men, but they reverence in great numbers gods and demons both of the heavens and of the air, of the earth and of the sea, and sundry other demons which are said to be in the waters of springs and rivers. And they incessantly offer up all kinds of sacrifices, and make oblations to the dead, but the noblest of sacrifices, in their eyes, is the first human being whom they have taken captive in war; for they sacrifice him to Ares, whom they regard as the greatest god. And the manner in which they offer up the captive is not by sacrificing him on an altar only, but also by hanging him to a tree, or throwing him among thorns, or killing him by some of the other most cruel forms of death. Thus, then, do the inhabitants of Thule live. And one of their most numerous nations is the Gauti, and it was next to them that the incoming Eruli settled at the time in question.

On the present occasion,[196] therefore, the Eruli who dwelt among the Romans, after the murder of their king had been perpetrated by them, sent some of their notables to the island of Thule to search out and bring back whomsoever they were able to find there of the royal blood. And when these men reached the island, they found many there of the royal blood, but they selected the one man who pleased them most and set out with him on the return journey. But this man fell sick and died when he had come to the country of the Dani. These men therefore went a second time to the island and secured another man, Datius by name. And he was followed by his brother Aordus and two hundred youths of the Eruli in Thule. But since much time passed while they were absent on this journey, it occurred to the Eruli in the neighbourhood of Singidunum that they were not consulting their own interests in importing a leader from Thule against the wishes of the Emperor Justinian. They therefore sent envoys to Byzantium, begging the emperor to send them a ruler of his own choice. And he straightway sent them one of the Eruli who had long been sojourning in Byzantium, Suartuas by name. At first the Eruli welcomed him and did obeisance to him and rendered the customary obedience to his commands; but not many days later a messenger arrived with the tidings that the men from the island of Thule were near at hand. And Suartuas commanded them to go out to meet those men, his intention being to destroy them, and the Eruli, approving his purpose, immediately went with him. But when the two forces were one day's journey distant from each other, the king's men all abandoned him at night and went over of their own accord to the newcomers, while he himself took to flight and set out unattended for Byzantium. Thereupon the emperor earnestly undertook with all his power to restore him to his office, and the Eruli, fearing the power of the Romans, decided to submit themselves to the Gepaedes. This, then, was the cause of the revolt of the Eruli.[197]

FOOTNOTES:

[192] This has not been stated before by Procopius.

[193] Or Varini, a tribe living on the coast near the mouth of the Rhine.

[194] A group of tribes inhabiting the Danish Peninsula.

[195] Probably Iceland or the northern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, which was then regarded as an island and called "Scanza." The name of Thule was familiar from earlier times. It was described by the navigator Pytheas in the age of Alexander the Great, and he claimed to have visited the island. It was variously placed, but always considered the northernmost land in the world—"ultima Thule."

[196] Cf. Chap. xiv. 42.

[197] Chap. xiv. 37 introduces this topic.



INDEX

Acarnania, a Roman fleet winters there, V. xxiv. 20

Adegis, bodyguard of Belisarius, VI. vii. 27

Adriatic Sea, of which the modern Adriatic was an inlet, V. xv. 16

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