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The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Volume 4
by Edward Gibbon
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[Footnote 64: Jornandes, de Rebus Geticis, c. 60, p. 702, edit. Grot., and tom. i. p. 221. Muratori, de Success, Regn. p. 241.]

[Footnote 65: Nero (says Tacitus, Annal. xv. 35) Neapolim quasi Graecam urbem delegit. One hundred and fifty years afterwards, in the time of Septimius Severus, the Hellenism of the Neapolitans is praised by Philostratus. (Icon. l. i. p. 763, edit. Olear.)]

[Footnote 66: The otium of Naples is praised by the Roman poets, by Virgil, Horace, Silius Italicus, and Statius, (Cluver. Ital. Ant. l. iv. p. 1149, 1150.) In an elegant epistles, (Sylv. l. iii. 5, p. 94—98, edit. Markland,) Statius undertakes the difficult task of drawing his wife from the pleasures of Rome to that calm retreat.]

[Footnote 67: This measure was taken by Roger l., after the conquest of Naples, (A.D. 1139,) which he made the capital of his new kingdom, (Giannone, Istoria Civile, tom. ii. p. 169.) That city, the third in Christian Europe, is now at least twelve miles in circumference, (Jul. Caesar. Capaccii Hist. Neapol. l. i. p. 47,) and contains more inhabitants (350,000) in a given space, than any other spot in the known world.]

[Footnote 68: Not geometrical, but common, paces or steps, of 22 French inches, (D' Anville, Mesures Itineraires, p. 7, 8.) The 2363 do not take an English mile.]

[Footnote 69: Belisarius was reproved by Pope Silverius for the massacre. He repeopled Naples, and imported colonies of African captives into Sicily, Calabria, and Apulia, (Hist. Miscell. l. xvi. in Muratori, tom. i. p. 106, 107.)]

[Footnote 70: Beneventum was built by Diomede, the nephew of Meleager (Cluver. tom. ii. p. 1195, 1196.) The Calydonian hunt is a picture of savage life, (Ovid, Metamorph. l. viii.) Thirty or forty heroes were leagued against a hog: the brutes (not the hog) quarrelled with lady for the head.]

The faithful soldiers and citizens of Naples had expected their deliverance from a prince, who remained the inactive and almost indifferent spectator of their ruin. Theodatus secured his person within the walls of Rome, whilst his cavalry advanced forty miles on the Appian way, and encamped in the Pomptine marshes; which, by a canal of nineteen miles in length, had been recently drained and converted into excellent pastures. [71] But the principal forces of the Goths were dispersed in Dalmatia, Venetia, and Gaul; and the feeble mind of their king was confounded by the unsuccessful event of a divination, which seemed to presage the downfall of his empire. [72] The most abject slaves have arraigned the guilt or weakness of an unfortunate master. The character of Theodatus was rigorously scrutinized by a free and idle camp of Barbarians, conscious of their privilege and power: he was declared unworthy of his race, his nation, and his throne; and their general Vitiges, whose valor had been signalized in the Illyrian war, was raised with unanimous applause on the bucklers of his companions. On the first rumor, the abdicated monarch fled from the justice of his country; but he was pursued by private revenge. A Goth, whom he had injured in his love, overtook Theodatus on the Flaminian way, and, regardless of his unmanly cries, slaughtered him, as he lay, prostrate on the ground, like a victim (says the historian) at the foot of the altar. The choice of the people is the best and purest title to reign over them; yet such is the prejudice of every age, that Vitiges impatiently wished to return to Ravenna, where he might seize, with the reluctant hand of the daughter of Amalasontha, some faint shadow of hereditary right. A national council was immediately held, and the new monarch reconciled the impatient spirit of the Barbarians to a measure of disgrace, which the misconduct of his predecessor rendered wise and indispensable. The Goths consented to retreat in the presence of a victorious enemy; to delay till the next spring the operations of offensive war; to summon their scattered forces; to relinquish their distant possessions, and to trust even Rome itself to the faith of its inhabitants. Leuderis, an ancient warrior, was left in the capital with four thousand soldiers; a feeble garrison, which might have seconded the zeal, though it was incapable of opposing the wishes, of the Romans. But a momentary enthusiasm of religion and patriotism was kindled in their minds. They furiously exclaimed, that the apostolic throne should no longer be profaned by the triumph or toleration of Arianism; that the tombs of the Caesars should no longer be trampled by the savages of the North; and, without reflecting, that Italy must sink into a province of Constantinople, they fondly hailed the restoration of a Roman emperor as a new aera of freedom and prosperity. The deputies of the pope and clergy, of the senate and people, invited the lieutenant of Justinian to accept their voluntary allegiance, and to enter the city, whose gates would be thrown open for his reception. As soon as Belisarius had fortified his new conquests, Naples and Cumae, he advanced about twenty miles to the banks of the Vulturnus, contemplated the decayed grandeur of Capua, and halted at the separation of the Latin and Appian ways. The work of the censor, after the incessant use of nine centuries, still preserved its primaeval beauty, and not a flaw could be discovered in the large polished stones, of which that solid, though narrow road, was so firmly compacted. [73] Belisarius, however, preferred the Latin way, which, at a distance from the sea and the marshes, skirted in a space of one hundred and twenty miles along the foot of the mountains. His enemies had disappeared: when he made his entrance through the Asinarian gate, the garrison departed without molestation along the Flaminian way; and the city, after sixty years' servitude, was delivered from the yoke of the Barbarians. Leuderis alone, from a motive of pride or discontent, refused to accompany the fugitives; and the Gothic chief, himself a trophy of the victory, was sent with the keys of Rome to the throne of the emperor Justinian. [74]

[Footnote 71: The Decennovium is strangely confounded by Cluverius (tom. ii. p. 1007) with the River Ufens. It was in truth a canal of nineteen miles, from Forum Appii to Terracina, on which Horace embarked in the night. The Decennovium, which is mentioned by Lucan, Dion Cassius, and Cassiodorus, has been sufficiently ruined, restored, and obliterated, (D'Anville, Anayse de l'Italie, p. 185, &c.)]

[Footnote 72: A Jew, gratified his contempt and hatred for all the Christians, by enclosing three bands, each of ten hogs, and discriminated by the names of Goths, Greeks, and Romans. Of the first, almost all were found dead; almost all the second were alive: of the third, half died, and the rest lost their bristles. No unsuitable emblem of the event]

[Footnote 73: Bergier (Hist. des Grands Chemins des Romains, tom. i. p. 221-228, 440-444) examines the structure and materials, while D'Anville (Analyse d'Italie, p. 200—123) defines the geographical line.]

[Footnote 74: Of the first recovery of Rome, the year (536) is certain, from the series of events, rather than from the corrupt, or interpolated, text of Procopius. The month (December) is ascertained by Evagrius, (l. iv. v. 19;) and the day (the tenth) may be admitted on the slight evidence of Nicephorus Callistus, (l. xvii. c. 13.) For this accurate chronology, we are indebted to the diligence and judgment of Pagi, (tom, ii. p. 659, 560.) Note: Compare Maltret's note, in the edition of Dindorf the ninth is the day, according to his reading,—M.]

The first days, which coincided with the old Saturnalia, were devoted to mutual congratulation and the public joy; and the Catholics prepared to celebrate, without a rival, the approaching festival of the nativity of Christ. In the familiar conversation of a hero, the Romans acquired some notion of the virtues which history ascribed to their ancestors; they were edified by the apparent respect of Belisarius for the successor of St. Peter, and his rigid discipline secured in the midst of war the blessings of tranquillity and justice. They applauded the rapid success of his arms, which overran the adjacent country, as far as Narni, Perusia, and Spoleto; but they trembled, the senate, the clergy, and the unwarlike people, as soon as they understood that he had resolved, and would speedily be reduced, to sustain a siege against the powers of the Gothic monarchy. The designs of Vitiges were executed, during the winter season, with diligence and effect. From their rustic habitations, from their distant garrisons, the Goths assembled at Ravenna for the defence of their country; and such were their numbers, that, after an army had been detached for the relief of Dalmatia, one hundred and fifty thousand fighting men marched under the royal standard. According to the degrees of rank or merit, the Gothic king distributed arms and horses, rich gifts, and liberal promises; he moved along the Flaminian way, declined the useless sieges of Perusia and Spoleto, respected he impregnable rock of Narni, and arrived within two miles of Rome at the foot of the Milvian bridge. The narrow passage was fortified with a tower, and Belisarius had computed the value of the twenty days which must be lost in the construction of another bridge. But the consternation of the soldiers of the tower, who either fled or deserted, disappointed his hopes, and betrayed his person into the most imminent danger. At the head of one thousand horse, the Roman general sallied from the Flaminian gate to mark the ground of an advantageous position, and to survey the camp of the Barbarians; but while he still believed them on the other side of the Tyber, he was suddenly encompassed and assaulted by their numerous squadrons. The fate of Italy depended on his life; and the deserters pointed to the conspicuous horse a bay, [75] with a white face, which he rode on that memorable day. "Aim at the bay horse," was the universal cry. Every bow was bent, every javelin was directed, against that fatal object, and the command was repeated and obeyed by thousands who were ignorant of its real motive. The bolder Barbarians advanced to the more honorable combat of swords and spears; and the praise of an enemy has graced the fall of Visandus, the standard-bearer, [76] who maintained his foremost station, till he was pierced with thirteen wounds, perhaps by the hand of Belisarius himself. The Roman general was strong, active, and dexterous; on every side he discharged his weighty and mortal strokes: his faithful guards imitated his valor, and defended his person; and the Goths, after the loss of a thousand men, fled before the arms of a hero. They were rashly pursued to their camp; and the Romans, oppressed by multitudes, made a gradual, and at length a precipitate retreat to the gates of the city: the gates were shut against the fugitives; and the public terror was increased, by the report that Belisarius was slain. His countenance was indeed disfigured by sweat, dust, and blood; his voice was hoarse, his strength was almost exhausted; but his unconquerable spirit still remained; he imparted that spirit to his desponding companions; and their last desperate charge was felt by the flying Barbarians, as if a new army, vigorous and entire, had been poured from the city. The Flaminian gate was thrown open to a real triumph; but it was not before Belisarius had visited every post, and provided for the public safety, that he could be persuaded, by his wife and friends, to taste the needful refreshments of food and sleep. In the more improved state of the art of war, a general is seldom required, or even permitted to display the personal prowess of a soldier; and the example of Belisarius may be added to the rare examples of Henry IV., of Pyrrhus, and of Alexander.

[Footnote 75: A horse of a bay or red color was styled by the Greeks, balan by the Barbarians, and spadix by the Romans. Honesti spadices, says Virgil, (Georgic. l. iii. 72, with the Observations of Martin and Heyne.) It signifies a branch of the palm-tree, whose name is synonymous to red, (Aulus Gellius, ii. 26.)]

[Footnote 76: I interpret it, not as a proper, name, but an office, standard-bearer, from bandum, (vexillum,) a Barbaric word adopted by the Greeks and Romans, (Paul Diacon. l. i. c. 20, p. 760. Grot. Nomina Hethica, p. 575. Ducange, Gloss. Latin. tom. i. p. 539, 540.)]

After this first and unsuccessful trial of their enemies, the whole army of the Goths passed the Tyber, and formed the siege of the city, which continued above a year, till their final departure. Whatever fancy may conceive, the severe compass of the geographer defines the circumference of Rome within a line of twelve miles and three hundred and forty-five paces; and that circumference, except in the Vatican, has invariably been the same from the triumph of Aurelian to the peaceful but obscure reign of the modern popes. [77] But in the day of her greatness, the space within her walls was crowded with habitations and inhabitants; and the populous suburbs, that stretched along the public roads, were darted like so many rays from one common centre. Adversity swept away these extraneous ornaments, and left naked and desolate a considerable part even of the seven hills. Yet Rome in its present state could send into the field about thirty thousand males of a military age; [78] and, notwithstanding the want of discipline and exercise, the far greater part, inured to the hardships of poverty, might be capable of bearing arms for the defence of their country and religion. The prudence of Belisarius did not neglect this important resource. His soldiers were relieved by the zeal and diligence of the people, who watched while they slept, and labored while they reposed: he accepted the voluntary service of the bravest and most indigent of the Roman youth; and the companies of townsmen sometimes represented, in a vacant post, the presence of the troops which had been drawn away to more essential duties. But his just confidence was placed in the veterans who had fought under his banner in the Persian and African wars; and although that gallant band was reduced to five thousand men, he undertook, with such contemptible numbers, to defend a circle of twelve miles, against an army of one hundred and fifty thousand Barbarians. In the walls of Rome, which Belisarius constructed or restored, the materials of ancient architecture may be discerned; [79] and the whole fortification was completed, except in a chasm still extant between the Pincian and Flaminian gates, which the prejudices of the Goths and Romans left under the effectual guard of St. Peter the apostle. [80]

[Footnote 77: M. D'Anville has given, in the Memoirs of the Academy for the year 1756, (tom. xxx. p. 198—236,) a plan of Rome on a smaller scale, but far more accurate than that which he had delineated in 1738 for Rollin's history. Experience had improved his knowledge and instead of Rossi's topography, he used the new and excellent map of Nolli. Pliny's old measure of thirteen must be reduced to eight miles. It is easier to alter a text, than to remove hills or buildings. * Note: Compare Gibbon, ch. xi. note 43, and xxxi. 67, and ch. lxxi. "It is quite clear," observes Sir J. Hobhouse, "that all these measurements differ, (in the first and second it is 21, in the text 12 and 345 paces, in the last 10,) yet it is equally clear that the historian avers that they are all the same." The present extent, 12 3/4 nearly agrees with the second statement of Gibbon. Sir. J. Hobhouse also observes that the walls were enlarged by Constantine; but there can be no doubt that the circuit has been much changed. Illust. of Ch. Harold, p. 180.—M.]

[Footnote 78: In the year 1709, Labat (Voyages en Italie, tom. iii. p. 218) reckoned 138,568 Christian souls, besides 8000 or 10,000 Jews—without souls? In the year 1763, the numbers exceeded 160,000.]

[Footnote 79: The accurate eye of Nardini (Roma Antica, l. i. c. viii. p. 31) could distinguish the tumultuarie opere di Belisario.]

[Footnote 80: The fissure and leaning in the upper part of the wall, which Procopius observed, (Goth. l. i. c. 13,) is visible to the present hour, (Douat. Roma Vetus, l. i. c. 17, p. 53, 54.)]

The battlements or bastions were shaped in sharp angles a ditch, broad and deep, protected the foot of the rampart; and the archers on the rampart were assisted by military engines; the balistri, a powerful cross-bow, which darted short but massy arrows; the onagri, or wild asses, which, on the principle of a sling, threw stones and bullets of an enormous size. [81] A chain was drawn across the Tyber; the arches of the aqueducts were made impervious, and the mole or sepulchre of Hadrian [82] was converted, for the first time, to the uses of a citadel. That venerable structure, which contained the ashes of the Antonines, was a circular turret rising from a quadrangular basis; it was covered with the white marble of Paros, and decorated by the statues of gods and heroes; and the lover of the arts must read with a sigh, that the works of Praxiteles or Lysippus were torn from their lofty pedestals, and hurled into the ditch on the heads of the besiegers. [83] To each of his lieutenants Belisarius assigned the defence of a gate, with the wise and peremptory instruction, that, whatever might be the alarm, they should steadily adhere to their respective posts, and trust their general for the safety of Rome. The formidable host of the Goths was insufficient to embrace the ample measure of the city, of the fourteen gates, seven only were invested from the Proenestine to the Flaminian way; and Vitiges divided his troops into six camps, each of which was fortified with a ditch and rampart. On the Tuscan side of the river, a seventh encampment was formed in the field or circus of the Vatican, for the important purpose of commanding the Milvian bridge and the course of the Tyber; but they approached with devotion the adjacent church of St. Peter; and the threshold of the holy apostles was respected during the siege by a Christian enemy. In the ages of victory, as often as the senate decreed some distant conquest, the consul denounced hostilities, by unbarring, in solemn pomp, the gates of the temple of Janus. [84] Domestic war now rendered the admonition superfluous, and the ceremony was superseded by the establishment of a new religion. But the brazen temple of Janus was left standing in the forum; of a size sufficient only to contain the statue of the god, five cubits in height, of a human form, but with two faces directed to the east and west. The double gates were likewise of brass; and a fruitless effort to turn them on their rusty hinges revealed the scandalous secret that some Romans were still attached to the superstition of their ancestors.

[Footnote 81: Lipsius (Opp. tom. iii. Poliorcet, l. iii.) was ignorant of this clear and conspicuous passage of Procopius, (Goth. l. i. c. 21.) The engine was named the wild ass, a calcitrando, (Hen. Steph. Thesaur. Linguae Graec. tom. ii. p. 1340, 1341, tom. iii. p. 877.) I have seen an ingenious model, contrived and executed by General Melville, which imitates or surpasses the art of antiquity.]

[Footnote 82: The description of this mausoleum, or mole, in Procopius, (l. i. c. 25.) is the first and best. The height above the walls. On Nolli's great plan, the sides measure 260 English feet. * Note: Donatus and Nardini suppose that Hadrian's tomb was fortified by Honorius; it was united to the wall by men of old, (Procop in loc.) Gibbon has mistaken the breadth for the height above the walls Hobhouse, Illust. of Childe Harold, p. 302.—M.]

[Footnote 83: Praxiteles excelled in Fauns, and that of Athens was his own masterpiece. Rome now contains about thirty of the same character. When the ditch of St. Angelo was cleansed under Urban VIII., the workmen found the sleeping Faun of the Barberini palace; but a leg, a thigh, and the right arm, had been broken from that beautiful statue, (Winkelman, Hist. de l'Art, tom. ii. p. 52, 53, tom iii. p. 265.)]

[Footnote 84: Procopius has given the best description of the temple of Janus a national deity of Latium, (Heyne, Excurs. v. ad l. vii. Aeneid.) It was once a gate in the primitive city of Romulus and Numa, (Nardini, p. 13, 256, 329.) Virgil has described the ancient rite like a poet and an antiquarian.] Eighteen days were employed by the besiegers, to provide all the instruments of attack which antiquity had invented. Fascines were prepared to fill the ditches, scaling-ladders to ascend the walls. The largest trees of the forest supplied the timbers of four battering-rams: their heads were armed with iron; they were suspended by ropes, and each of them was worked by the labor of fifty men. The lofty wooden turrets moved on wheels or rollers, and formed a spacious platform of the level of the rampart. On the morning of the nineteenth day, a general attack was made from the Praenestine gate to the Vatican: seven Gothic columns, with their military engines, advanced to the assault; and the Romans, who lined the ramparts, listened with doubt and anxiety to the cheerful assurances of their commander. As soon as the enemy approached the ditch, Belisarius himself drew the first arrow; and such was his strength and dexterity, that he transfixed the foremost of the Barbarian leaders.

As shout of applause and victory was reechoed along the wall. He drew a second arrow, and the stroke was followed with the same success and the same acclamation. The Roman general then gave the word, that the archers should aim at the teams of oxen; they were instantly covered with mortal wounds; the towers which they drew remained useless and immovable, and a single moment disconcerted the laborious projects of the king of the Goths. After this disappointment, Vitiges still continued, or feigned to continue, the assault of the Salarian gate, that he might divert the attention of his adversary, while his principal forces more strenuously attacked the Praenestine gate and the sepulchre of Hadrian, at the distance of three miles from each other. Near the former, the double walls of the Vivarium [85] were low or broken; the fortifications of the latter were feebly guarded: the vigor of the Goths was excited by the hope of victory and spoil; and if a single post had given way, the Romans, and Rome itself, were irrecoverably lost. This perilous day was the most glorious in the life of Belisarius. Amidst tumult and dismay, the whole plan of the attack and defence was distinctly present to his mind; he observed the changes of each instant, weighed every possible advantage, transported his person to the scenes of danger, and communicated his spirit in calm and decisive orders. The contest was fiercely maintained from the morning to the evening; the Goths were repulsed on all sides; and each Roman might boast that he had vanquished thirty Barbarians, if the strange disproportion of numbers were not counterbalanced by the merit of one man. Thirty thousand Goths, according to the confession of their own chiefs, perished in this bloody action; and the multitude of the wounded was equal to that of the slain. When they advanced to the assault, their close disorder suffered not a javelin to fall without effect; and as they retired, the populace of the city joined the pursuit, and slaughtered, with impunity, the backs of their flying enemies. Belisarius instantly sallied from the gates; and while the soldiers chanted his name and victory, the hostile engines of war were reduced to ashes. Such was the loss and consternation of the Goths, that, from this day, the siege of Rome degenerated into a tedious and indolent blockade; and they were incessantly harassed by the Roman general, who, in frequent skirmishes, destroyed above five thousand of their bravest troops. Their cavalry was unpractised in the use of the bow; their archers served on foot; and this divided force was incapable of contending with their adversaries, whose lances and arrows, at a distance, or at hand, were alike formidable. The consummate skill of Belisarius embraced the favorable opportunities; and as he chose the ground and the moment, as he pressed the charge or sounded the retreat, [86] the squadrons which he detached were seldom unsuccessful. These partial advantages diffused an impatient ardor among the soldiers and people, who began to feel the hardships of a siege, and to disregard the dangers of a general engagement. Each plebeian conceived himself to be a hero, and the infantry, who, since the decay of discipline, were rejected from the line of battle, aspired to the ancient honors of the Roman legion. Belisarius praised the spirit of his troops, condemned their presumption, yielded to their clamors, and prepared the remedies of a defeat, the possibility of which he alone had courage to suspect. In the quarter of the Vatican, the Romans prevailed; and if the irreparable moments had not been wasted in the pillage of the camp, they might have occupied the Milvian bridge, and charged in the rear of the Gothic host. On the other side of the Tyber, Belisarius advanced from the Pincian and Salarian gates. But his army, four thousand soldiers perhaps, was lost in a spacious plain; they were encompassed and oppressed by fresh multitudes, who continually relieved the broken ranks of the Barbarians. The valiant leaders of the infantry were unskilled to conquer; they died: the retreat (a hasty retreat) was covered by the prudence of the general, and the victors started back with affright from the formidable aspect of an armed rampart. The reputation of Belisarius was unsullied by a defeat; and the vain confidence of the Goths was not less serviceable to his designs than the repentance and modesty of the Roman troops.

[Footnote 85: Vivarium was an angle in the new wall enclosed for wild beasts, (Procopius, Goth. l. i. c. 23.) The spot is still visible in Nardini (l iv. c. 2, p. 159, 160,) and Nolli's great plan of Rome.]

[Footnote 86: For the Roman trumpet, and its various notes, consult Lipsius de Militia Romana, (Opp. tom. iii. l. iv. Dialog. x. p. 125-129.) A mode of distinguishing the charge by the horse-trumpet of solid brass, and the retreat by the foot-trumpet of leather and light wood, was recommended by Procopius, and adopted by Belisarius.]



Chapter XLI: Conquests Of Justinian, Charact Of Balisarius.—Part IV.

From the moment that Belisarius had determined to sustain a siege, his assiduous care provided Rome against the danger of famine, more dreadful than the Gothic arms. An extraordinary supply of corn was imported from Sicily: the harvests of Campania and Tuscany were forcibly swept for the use of the city; and the rights of private property were infringed by the strong plea of the public safety. It might easily be foreseen that the enemy would intercept the aqueducts; and the cessation of the water-mills was the first inconvenience, which was speedily removed by mooring large vessels, and fixing mill-stones in the current of the river. The stream was soon embarrassed by the trunks of trees, and polluted with dead bodies; yet so effectual were the precautions of the Roman general, that the waters of the Tyber still continued to give motion to the mills and drink to the inhabitants: the more distant quarters were supplied from domestic wells; and a besieged city might support, without impatience, the privation of her public baths. A large portion of Rome, from the Praenestine gate to the church of St. Paul, was never invested by the Goths; their excursions were restrained by the activity of the Moorish troops: the navigation of the Tyber, and the Latin, Appian, and Ostian ways, were left free and unmolested for the introduction of corn and cattle, or the retreat of the inhabitants, who sought refuge in Campania or Sicily. Anxious to relieve himself from a useless and devouring multitude, Belisarius issued his peremptory orders for the instant departure of the women, the children, and slaves; required his soldiers to dismiss their male and female attendants, and regulated their allowance that one moiety should be given in provisions, and the other in money. His foresight was justified by the increase of the public distress, as soon as the Goths had occupied two important posts in the neighborhood of Rome. By the loss of the port, or, as it is now called, the city of Porto, he was deprived of the country on the right of the Tyber, and the best communication with the sea; and he reflected, with grief and anger, that three hundred men, could he have spared such a feeble band, might have defended its impregnable works. Seven miles from the capital, between the Appian and the Latin ways, two principal aqueducts crossing, and again crossing each other: enclosed within their solid and lofty arches a fortified space, [87] where Vitiges established a camp of seven thousand Goths to intercept the convoy of Sicily and Campania. The granaries of Rome were insensibly exhausted, the adjacent country had been wasted with fire and sword; such scanty supplies as might yet be obtained by hasty excursions were the reward of valor, and the purchase of wealth: the forage of the horses, and the bread of the soldiers, never failed: but in the last months of the siege, the people were exposed to the miseries of scarcity, unwholesome food, [88] and contagious disorders. Belisarius saw and pitied their sufferings; but he had foreseen, and he watched the decay of their loyalty, and the progress of their discontent. Adversity had awakened the Romans from the dreams of grandeur and freedom, and taught them the humiliating lesson, that it was of small moment to their real happiness, whether the name of their master was derived from the Gothic or the Latin language. The lieutenant of Justinian listened to their just complaints, but he rejected with disdain the idea of flight or capitulation; repressed their clamorous impatience for battle; amused them with the prospect of a sure and speedy relief; and secured himself and the city from the effects of their despair or treachery. Twice in each month he changed the station of the officers to whom the custody of the gates was committed: the various precautions of patroles, watch words, lights, and music, were repeatedly employed to discover whatever passed on the ramparts; out-guards were posted beyond the ditch, and the trusty vigilance of dogs supplied the more doubtful fidelity of mankind. A letter was intercepted, which assured the king of the Goths that the Asinarian gate, adjoining to the Lateran church, should be secretly opened to his troops. On the proof or suspicion of treason, several senators were banished, and the pope Sylverius was summoned to attend the representative of his sovereign, at his head-quarters in the Pincian palace. [89] The ecclesiastics, who followed their bishop, were detained in the first or second apartment, [90] and he alone was admitted to the presence of Belisarius. The conqueror of Rome and Carthage was modestly seated at the feet of Antonina, who reclined on a stately couch: the general was silent, but the voice of reproach and menace issued from the mouth of his imperious wife. Accused by credible witnesses, and the evidence of his own subscription, the successor of St. Peter was despoiled of his pontifical ornaments, clad in the mean habit of a monk, and embarked, without delay, for a distant exile in the East. [9011] At the emperor's command, the clergy of Rome proceeded to the choice of a new bishop; and after a solemn invocation of the Holy Ghost, elected the deacon Vigilius, who had purchased the papal throne by a bribe of two hundred pounds of gold. The profit, and consequently the guilt, of this simony, was imputed to Belisarius: but the hero obeyed the orders of his wife; Antonina served the passions of the empress; and Theodora lavished her treasures, in the vain hope of obtaining a pontiff hostile or indifferent to the council of Chalcedon. [91]

[Footnote 87: Procopius (Goth. l. ii. c. 3) has forgot to name these aqueducts nor can such a double intersection, at such a distance from Rome, be clearly ascertained from the writings of Frontinus, Fabretti, and Eschinard, de Aquis and de Agro Romano, or from the local maps of Lameti and Cingolani. Seven or eight miles from the city, (50 stadia,) on the road to Albano, between the Latin and Appian ways, I discern the remains of an aqueduct, (probably the Septimian,) a series (630 paces) of arches twenty-five feet high.]

[Footnote 88: They made sausages of mule's flesh; unwholesome, if the animals had died of the plague. Otherwise, the famous Bologna sausages are said to be made of ass flesh, (Voyages de Labat, tom. ii. p. 218.)]

[Footnote 89: The name of the palace, the hill, and the adjoining gate, were all derived from the senator Pincius. Some recent vestiges of temples and churches are now smoothed in the garden of the Minims of the Trinita del Monte, (Nardini, l. iv. c. 7, p. 196. Eschinard, p. 209, 210, the old plan of Buffalino, and the great plan of Nolli.) Belisarius had fixed his station between the Pincian and Salarian gates, (Procop. Goth. l. i. c. 15.)]

[Footnote 90: From the mention of the primum et secundum velum, it should seem that Belisarius, even in a siege, represented the emperor, and maintained the proud ceremonial of the Byzantine palace.]

[Footnote 9011: De Beau, as a good Catholic, makes the Pope the victim of a dark intrigue. Lord Mahon, (p. 225.) with whom I concur, summed up against him.—M.]

[Footnote 91: Of this act of sacrilege, Procopius (Goth. l. i. c. 25) is a dry and reluctant witness. The narratives of Liberatus (Breviarium, c. 22) and Anastasius (de Vit. Pont. p. 39) are characteristic, but passionate. Hear the execrations of Cardinal Baronius, (A.D. 536, No. 123 A.D. 538, No. 4—20:) portentum, facinus omni execratione dignum.]

The epistle of Belisarius to the emperor announced his victory, his danger, and his resolution. "According to your commands, we have entered the dominions of the Goths, and reduced to your obedience Sicily, Campania, and the city of Rome; but the loss of these conquests will be more disgraceful than their acquisition was glorious. Hitherto we have successfully fought against the multitudes of the Barbarians, but their multitudes may finally prevail. Victory is the gift of Providence, but the reputation of kings and generals depends on the success or the failure of their designs. Permit me to speak with freedom: if you wish that we should live, send us subsistence; if you desire that we should conquer, send us arms, horses, and men. The Romans have received us as friends and deliverers: but in our present distress, they will be either betrayed by their confidence, or we shall be oppressed by their treachery and hatred. For myself, my life is consecrated to your service: it is yours to reflect, whether my death in this situation will contribute to the glory and prosperity of your reign." Perhaps that reign would have been equally prosperous if the peaceful master of the East had abstained from the conquest of Africa and Italy: but as Justinian was ambitious of fame, he made some efforts (they were feeble and languid) to support and rescue his victorious general. A reenforcement of sixteen hundred Sclavonians and Huns was led by Martin and Valerian; and as they reposed during the winter season in the harbors of Greece, the strength of the men and horses was not impaired by the fatigues of a sea-voyage; and they distinguished their valor in the first sally against the besiegers. About the time of the summer solstice, Euthalius landed at Terracina with large sums of money for the payment of the troops: he cautiously proceeded along the Appian way, and this convoy entered Rome through the gate Capena, [92] while Belisarius, on the other side, diverted the attention of the Goths by a vigorous and successful skirmish. These seasonable aids, the use and reputation of which were dexterously managed by the Roman general, revived the courage, or at least the hopes, of the soldiers and people. The historian Procopius was despatched with an important commission to collect the troops and provisions which Campania could furnish, or Constantinople had sent; and the secretary of Belisarius was soon followed by Antonina herself, [93] who boldly traversed the posts of the enemy, and returned with the Oriental succors to the relief of her husband and the besieged city. A fleet of three thousand Isaurians cast anchor in the Bay of Naples and afterwards at Ostia. Above two thousand horse, of whom a part were Thracians, landed at Tarentum; and, after the junction of five hundred soldiers of Campania, and a train of wagons laden with wine and flour, they directed their march on the Appian way, from Capua to the neighborhood of Rome. The forces that arrived by land and sea were united at the mouth of the Tyber. Antonina convened a council of war: it was resolved to surmount, with sails and oars, the adverse stream of the river; and the Goths were apprehensive of disturbing, by any rash hostilities, the negotiation to which Belisarius had craftily listened. They credulously believed that they saw no more than the vanguard of a fleet and army, which already covered the Ionian Sea and the plains of Campania; and the illusion was supported by the haughty language of the Roman general, when he gave audience to the ambassadors of Vitiges. After a specious discourse to vindicate the justice of his cause, they declared, that, for the sake of peace, they were disposed to renounce the possession of Sicily. "The emperor is not less generous," replied his lieutenant, with a disdainful smile, "in return for a gift which you no longer possess: he presents you with an ancient province of the empire; he resigns to the Goths the sovereignty of the British island." Belisarius rejected with equal firmness and contempt the offer of a tribute; but he allowed the Gothic ambassadors to seek their fate from the mouth of Justinian himself; and consented, with seeming reluctance, to a truce of three months, from the winter solstice to the equinox of spring. Prudence might not safely trust either the oaths or hostages of the Barbarians, and the conscious superiority of the Roman chief was expressed in the distribution of his troops. As soon as fear or hunger compelled the Goths to evacuate Alba, Porto, and Centumcellae, their place was instantly supplied; the garrisons of Narni, Spoleto, and Perusia, were reenforced, and the seven camps of the besiegers were gradually encompassed with the calamities of a siege. The prayers and pilgrimage of Datius, bishop of Milan, were not without effect; and he obtained one thousand Thracians and Isaurians, to assist the revolt of Liguria against her Arian tyrant. At the same time, John the Sanguinary, [94] the nephew of Vitalian, was detached with two thousand chosen horse, first to Alba, on the Fucine Lake, and afterwards to the frontiers of Picenum, on the Hadriatic Sea. "In the province," said Belisarius, "the Goths have deposited their families and treasures, without a guard or the suspicion of danger. Doubtless they will violate the truce: let them feel your presence, before they hear of your motions. Spare the Italians; suffer not any fortified places to remain hostile in your rear; and faithfully reserve the spoil for an equal and common partition. It would not be reasonable," he added with a laugh, "that whilst we are toiling to the destruction of the drones, our more fortunate brethren should rifle and enjoy the honey."

[Footnote 92: The old Capena was removed by Aurelian to, or near, the modern gate of St. Sebastian, (see Nolli's plan.) That memorable spot has been consecrated by the Egerian grove, the memory of Numa two umphal arches, the sepulchres of the Scipios, Metelli, &c.]

[Footnote 93: The expression of Procopius has an invidious cast, (Goth. l. ii. c. 4.) Yet he is speaking of a woman.]

[Footnote 94: Anastasius (p. 40) has preserved this epithet of Sanguinarius which might do honor to a tiger.]

The whole nation of the Ostrogoths had been assembled for the attack, and was almost entirely consumed in the siege of Rome. If any credit be due to an intelligent spectator, one third at least of their enormous host was destroyed, in frequent and bloody combats under the walls of the city. The bad fame and pernicious qualities of the summer air might already be imputed to the decay of agriculture and population; and the evils of famine and pestilence were aggravated by their own licentiousness, and the unfriendly disposition of the country. While Vitiges struggled with his fortune, while he hesitated between shame and ruin, his retreat was hastened by domestic alarms. The king of the Goths was informed by trembling messengers, that John the Sanguinary spread the devastations of war from the Apennine to the Hadriatic; that the rich spoils and innumerable captives of Picenum were lodged in the fortifications of Rimini; and that this formidable chief had defeated his uncle, insulted his capital, and seduced, by secret correspondence, the fidelity of his wife, the imperious daughter of Amalasontha. Yet, before he retired, Vitiges made a last effort, either to storm or to surprise the city. A secret passage was discovered in one of the aqueducts; two citizens of the Vatican were tempted by bribes to intoxicate the guards of the Aurelian gate; an attack was meditated on the walls beyond the Tyber, in a place which was not fortified with towers; and the Barbarians advanced, with torches and scaling-ladders, to the assault of the Pincian gate. But every attempt was defeated by the intrepid vigilance of Belisarius and his band of veterans, who, in the most perilous moments, did not regret the absence of their companions; and the Goths, alike destitute of hope and subsistence, clamorously urged their departure before the truce should expire, and the Roman cavalry should again be united. One year and nine days after the commencement of the siege, an army, so lately strong and triumphant, burnt their tents, and tumultuously repassed the Milvian bridge. They repassed not with impunity: their thronging multitudes, oppressed in a narrow passage, were driven headlong into the Tyber, by their own fears and the pursuit of the enemy; and the Roman general, sallying from the Pincian gate, inflicted a severe and disgraceful wound on their retreat. The slow length of a sickly and desponding host was heavily dragged along the Flaminian way; from whence the Barbarians were sometimes compelled to deviate, lest they should encounter the hostile garrisons that guarded the high road to Rimini and Ravenna. Yet so powerful was this flying army, that Vitiges spared ten thousand men for the defence of the cities which he was most solicitous to preserve, and detached his nephew Uraias, with an adequate force, for the chastisement of rebellious Milan. At the head of his principal army, he besieged Rimini, only thirty-three miles distant from the Gothic capital. A feeble rampart, and a shallow ditch, were maintained by the skill and valor of John the Sanguinary, who shared the danger and fatigue of the meanest soldier, and emulated, on a theatre less illustrious, the military virtues of his great commander. The towers and battering-engines of the Barbarians were rendered useless; their attacks were repulsed; and the tedious blockade, which reduced the garrison to the last extremity of hunger, afforded time for the union and march of the Roman forces. A fleet, which had surprised Ancona, sailed along the coast of the Hadriatic, to the relief of the besieged city. The eunuch Narses landed in Picenum with two thousand Heruli and five thousand of the bravest troops of the East. The rock of the Apennine was forced; ten thousand veterans moved round the foot of the mountains, under the command of Belisarius himself; and a new army, whose encampment blazed with innumerable lights, appeared to advance along the Flaminian way. Overwhelmed with astonishment and despair, the Goths abandoned the siege of Rimini, their tents, their standards, and their leaders; and Vitiges, who gave or followed the example of flight, never halted till he found a shelter within the walls and morasses of Ravenna. To these walls, and to some fortresses destitute of any mutual support, the Gothic monarchy was now reduced. The provinces of Italy had embraced the party of the emperor and his army, gradually recruited to the number of twenty thousand men, must have achieved an easy and rapid conquest, if their invincible powers had not been weakened by the discord of the Roman chiefs. Before the end of the siege, an act of blood, ambiguous and indiscreet, sullied the fair fame of Belisarius. Presidius, a loyal Italian, as he fled from Ravenna to Rome, was rudely stopped by Constantine, the military governor of Spoleto, and despoiled, even in a church, of two daggers richly inlaid with gold and precious stones. As soon as the public danger had subsided, Presidius complained of the loss and injury: his complaint was heard, but the order of restitution was disobeyed by the pride and avarice of the offender. Exasperated by the delay, Presidius boldly arrested the general's horse as he passed through the forum; and, with the spirit of a citizen, demanded the common benefit of the Roman laws. The honor of Belisarius was engaged; he summoned a council; claimed the obedience of his subordinate officer; and was provoked, by an insolent reply, to call hastily for the presence of his guards. Constantine, viewing their entrance as the signal of death, drew his sword, and rushed on the general, who nimbly eluded the stroke, and was protected by his friends; while the desperate assassin was disarmed, dragged into a neighboring chamber, and executed, or rather murdered, by the guards, at the arbitrary command of Belisarius. [95] In this hasty act of violence, the guilt of Constantine was no longer remembered; the despair and death of that valiant officer were secretly imputed to the revenge of Antonina; and each of his colleagues, conscious of the same rapine, was apprehensive of the same fate. The fear of a common enemy suspended the effects of their envy and discontent; but in the confidence of approaching victory, they instigated a powerful rival to oppose the conqueror of Rome and Africa. From the domestic service of the palace, and the administration of the private revenue, Narses the eunuch was suddenly exalted to the head of an army; and the spirit of a hero, who afterwards equalled the merit and glory of Belisarius, served only to perplex the operations of the Gothic war. To his prudent counsels, the relief of Rimini was ascribed by the leaders of the discontented faction, who exhorted Narses to assume an independent and separate command. The epistle of Justinian had indeed enjoined his obedience to the general; but the dangerous exception, "as far as may be advantageous to the public service," reserved some freedom of judgment to the discreet favorite, who had so lately departed from the sacred and familiar conversation of his sovereign. In the exercise of this doubtful right, the eunuch perpetually dissented from the opinions of Belisarius; and, after yielding with reluctance to the siege of Urbino, he deserted his colleague in the night, and marched away to the conquest of the Aemilian province. The fierce and formidable bands of the Heruli were attached to the person of Narses; [96] ten thousand Romans and confederates were persuaded to march under his banners; every malecontent embraced the fair opportunity of revenging his private or imaginary wrongs; and the remaining troops of Belisarius were divided and dispersed from the garrisons of Sicily to the shores of the Hadriatic. His skill and perseverance overcame every obstacle: Urbino was taken, the sieges of Faesulae Orvieto, and Auximum, were undertaken and vigorously prosecuted; and the eunuch Narses was at length recalled to the domestic cares of the palace. All dissensions were healed, and all opposition was subdued, by the temperate authority of the Roman general, to whom his enemies could not refuse their esteem; and Belisarius inculcated the salutary lesson that the forces of the state should compose one body, and be animated by one soul. But in the interval of discord, the Goths were permitted to breathe; an important season was lost, Milan was destroyed, and the northern provinces of Italy were afflicted by an inundation of the Franks.

[Footnote 95: This transaction is related in the public history (Goth. l. ii. c. 8) with candor or caution; in the Anecdotes (c. 7) with malevolence or freedom; but Marcellinus, or rather his continuator, (in Chron.,) casts a shade of premeditated assassination over the death of Constantine. He had performed good service at Rome and Spoleto, (Procop. Goth l. i. c. 7, 14;) but Alemannus confounds him with a Constantianus comes stabuli.]

[Footnote 96: They refused to serve after his departure; sold their captives and cattle to the Goths; and swore never to fight against them. Procopius introduces a curious digression on the manners and adventures of this wandering nation, a part of whom finally emigrated to Thule or Scandinavia. (Goth. l. ii. c. 14, 15.)]

When Justinian first meditated the conquest of Italy, he sent ambassadors to the kings of the Franks, and adjured them, by the common ties of alliance and religion, to join in the holy enterprise against the Arians. The Goths, as their want were more urgent, employed a more effectual mode of persuasion, and vainly strove, by the gift of lands and money, to purchase the friendship, or at least the neutrality, of a light and perfidious nation. [97] But the arms of Belisarius, and the revolt of the Italians, had no sooner shaken the Gothic monarchy, than Theodebert of Austrasia, the most powerful and warlike of the Merovingian kings, was persuaded to succor their distress by an indirect and seasonable aid. Without expecting the consent of their sovereign, the thousand Burgundians, his recent subjects, descended from the Alps, and joined the troops which Vitiges had sent to chastise the revolt of Milan. After an obstinate siege, the capital of Liguria was reduced by famine; but no capitulation could be obtained, except for the safe retreat of the Roman garrison. Datius, the orthodox bishop, who had seduced his countrymen to rebellion [98] and ruin, escaped to the luxury and honors of the Byzantine court; [99] but the clergy, perhaps the Arian clergy, were slaughtered at the foot of their own altars by the defenders of the Catholic faith. Three hundred thousand males were reported to be slain; [100] the female sex, and the more precious spoil, was resigned to the Burgundians; and the houses, or at least the walls, of Milan, were levelled with the ground. The Goths, in their last moments, were revenged by the destruction of a city, second only to Rome in size and opulence, in the splendor of its buildings, or the number of its inhabitants; and Belisarius sympathized alone in the fate of his deserted and devoted friends. Encouraged by this successful inroad, Theodebert himself, in the ensuing spring, invaded the plains of Italy with an army of one hundred thousand Barbarians. [101] The king, and some chosen followers, were mounted on horseback, and armed with lances; the infantry, without bows or spears, were satisfied with a shield, a sword, and a double-edged battle-axe, which, in their hands, became a deadly and unerring weapon. Italy trembled at the march of the Franks; and both the Gothic prince and the Roman general, alike ignorant of their designs, solicited, with hope and terror, the friendship of these dangerous allies. Till he had secured the passage of the Po on the bridge of Pavia, the grandson of Clovis dissembled his intentions, which he at length declared, by assaulting, almost at the same instant, the hostile camps of the Romans and Goths. Instead of uniting their arms, they fled with equal precipitation; and the fertile, though desolate provinces of Liguria and Aemilia, were abandoned to a licentious host of Barbarians, whose rage was not mitigated by any thoughts of settlement or conquest. Among the cities which they ruined, Genoa, not yet constructed of marble, is particularly enumerated; and the deaths of thousands, according to the regular practice of war, appear to have excited less horror than some idolatrous sacrifices of women and children, which were performed with impunity in the camp of the most Christian king. If it were not a melancholy truth, that the first and most cruel sufferings must be the lot of the innocent and helpless, history might exult in the misery of the conquerors, who, in the midst of riches, were left destitute of bread or wine, reduced to drink the waters of the Po, and to feed on the flesh of distempered cattle. The dysentery swept away one third of their army; and the clamors of his subjects, who were impatient to pass the Alps, disposed Theodebert to listen with respect to the mild exhortations of Belisarius. The memory of this inglorious and destructive warfare was perpetuated on the medals of Gaul; and Justinian, without unsheathing his sword, assumed the title of conqueror of the Franks. The Merovingian prince was offended by the vanity of the emperor; he affected to pity the fallen fortunes of the Goths; and his insidious offer of a federal union was fortified by the promise or menace of descending from the Alps at the head of five hundred thousand men. His plans of conquest were boundless, and perhaps chimerical. The king of Austrasia threatened to chastise Justinian, and to march to the gates of Constantinople: [102] he was overthrown and slain [103] by a wild bull, [104] as he hunted in the Belgic or German forests. [Footnote 97: This national reproach of perfidy (Procop. Goth. l. ii. c. 25) offends the ear of La Mothe le Vayer, (tom. viii. p. 163—165,) who criticizes, as if he had not read, the Greek historian.]

[Footnote 98: Baronius applauds his treason, and justifies the Catholic bishops—qui ne sub heretico principe degant omnem lapidem movent—a useful caution. The more rational Muratori (Annali d'Italia, tom. v. p. 54) hints at the guilt of perjury, and blames at least the imprudence of Datius.]

[Footnote 99: St. Datius was more successful against devils than against Barbarians. He travelled with a numerons retinue, and occupied at Corinth a large house. (Baronius, A.D. 538, No. 89, A.D. 539, No. 20.)]

[Footnote 100: (Compare Procopius, Goth. l. ii. c. 7, 21.) Yet such population is incredible; and the second or third city of Italy need not repine if we only decimate the numbers of the present text Both Milan and Genoa revived in less than thirty years, (Paul Diacon de Gestis Langobard. l. ii. c. 38.) Note: Procopius says distinctly that Milan was the second city of the West. Which did Gibbon suppose could compete with it, Ravenna or Naples; the next page he calls it the second.—M.]

[Footnote 101: Besides Procopius, perhaps too Roman, see the Chronicles of Marius and Marcellinus, Jornandes, (in Success. Regn. in Muratori, tom. i. p. 241,) and Gregory of Tours, (l. iii. c. 32, in tom. ii. of the Historians of France.) Gregory supposes a defeat of Belisarius, who, in Aimoin, (de Gestis Franc. l. ii. c. 23, in tom. iii. p. 59,) is slain by the Franks.]

[Footnote 102: Agathias, l. i. p. 14, 15. Could he have seduced or subdued the Gepidae or Lombards of Pannonia, the Greek historian is confident that he must have been destroyed in Thrace.]

[Footnote 103: The king pointed his spear—the bull overturned a tree on his head—he expired the same day. Such is the story of Agathias; but the original historians of France (tom. ii. p. 202, 403, 558, 667) impute his death to a fever.]

[Footnote 104: Without losing myself in a labyrinth of species and names—the aurochs, urus, bisons, bubalus, bonasus, buffalo, &c., (Buffon. Hist. Nat. tom. xi., and Supplement, tom. iii. vi.,) it is certain, that in the sixth century a large wild species of horned cattle was hunted in the great forests of the Vosges in Lorraine, and the Ardennes, (Greg. Turon. tom. ii. l. x. c. 10, p. 369.)]



Chapter XLI: Conquests Of Justinian, Charact Of Balisarius.—Part V.

As soon as Belisarius was delivered from his foreign and domestic enemies, he seriously applied his forces to the final reduction of Italy. In the siege of Osimo, the general was nearly transpierced with an arrow, if the mortal stroke had not been intercepted by one of his guards, who lost, in that pious office, the use of his hand. The Goths of Osimo, [1041] four thousand warriors, with those of Faesulae and the Cottian Alps, were among the last who maintained their independence; and their gallant resistance, which almost tired the patience, deserved the esteem, of the conqueror. His prudence refused to subscribe the safe conduct which they asked, to join their brethren of Ravenna; but they saved, by an honorable capitulation, one moiety at least of their wealth, with the free alternative of retiring peaceably to their estates, or enlisting to serve the emperor in his Persian wars. The multitudes which yet adhered to the standard of Vitiges far surpassed the number of the Roman troops; but neither prayers nor defiance, nor the extreme danger of his most faithful subjects, could tempt the Gothic king beyond the fortifications of Ravenna. These fortifications were, indeed, impregnable to the assaults of art or violence; and when Belisarius invested the capital, he was soon convinced that famine only could tame the stubborn spirit of the Barbarians. The sea, the land, and the channels of the Po, were guarded by the vigilance of the Roman general; and his morality extended the rights of war to the practice of poisoning the waters, [105] and secretly firing the granaries [106] of a besieged city. [107] While he pressed the blockade of Ravenna, he was surprised by the arrival of two ambassadors from Constantinople, with a treaty of peace, which Justinian had imprudently signed, without deigning to consult the author of his victory. By this disgraceful and precarious agreement, Italy and the Gothic treasure were divided, and the provinces beyond the Po were left with the regal title to the successor of Theodoric. The ambassadors were eager to accomplish their salutary commission; the captive Vitiges accepted, with transport, the unexpected offer of a crown; honor was less prevalent among the Goths, than the want and appetite of food; and the Roman chiefs, who murmured at the continuance of the war, professed implicit submission to the commands of the emperor. If Belisarius had possessed only the courage of a soldier, the laurel would have been snatched from his hand by timid and envious counsels; but in this decisive moment, he resolved, with the magnanimity of a statesman, to sustain alone the danger and merit of generous disobedience. Each of his officers gave a written opinion that the siege of Ravenna was impracticable and hopeless: the general then rejected the treaty of partition, and declared his own resolution of leading Vitiges in chains to the feet of Justinian. The Goths retired with doubt and dismay: this peremptory refusal deprived them of the only signature which they could trust, and filled their minds with a just apprehension, that a sagacious enemy had discovered the full extent of their deplorable state. They compared the fame and fortune of Belisarius with the weakness of their ill-fated king; and the comparison suggested an extraordinary project, to which Vitiges, with apparent resignation, was compelled to acquiesce. Partition would ruin the strength, exile would disgrace the honor, of the nation; but they offered their arms, their treasures, and the fortifications of Ravenna, if Belisarius would disclaim the authority of a master, accept the choice of the Goths, and assume, as he had deserved, the kingdom of Italy. If the false lustre of a diadem could have tempted the loyalty of a faithful subject, his prudence must have foreseen the inconstancy of the Barbarians, and his rational ambition would prefer the safe and honorable station of a Roman general. Even the patience and seeming satisfaction with which he entertained a proposal of treason, might be susceptible of a malignant interpretation. But the lieutenant of Justinian was conscious of his own rectitude; he entered into a dark and crooked path, as it might lead to the voluntary submission of the Goths; and his dexterous policy persuaded them that he was disposed to comply with their wishes, without engaging an oath or a promise for the performance of a treaty which he secretly abhorred. The day of the surrender of Ravenna was stipulated by the Gothic ambassadors: a fleet, laden with provisions, sailed as a welcome guest into the deepest recess of the harbor: the gates were opened to the fancied king of Italy; and Belisarius, without meeting an enemy, triumphantly marched through the streets of an impregnable city. [108] The Romans were astonished by their success; the multitudes of tall and robust Barbarians were confounded by the image of their own patience and the masculine females, spitting in the faces of their sons and husbands, most bitterly reproached them for betraying their dominion and freedom to these pygmies of the south, contemptible in their numbers, diminutive in their stature. Before the Goths could recover from the first surprise, and claim the accomplishment of their doubtful hopes, the victor established his power in Ravenna, beyond the danger of repentance and revolt.

[Footnote 1041: Auximum, p. 175.—M.]

[Footnote 105: In the siege of Auximum, he first labored to demolish an old aqueduct, and then cast into the stream, 1. dead bodies; 2. mischievous herbs; and 3. quicklime. (says Procopius, l. ii. c. 27) Yet both words are used as synonymous in Galen, Dioscorides, and Lucian, (Hen. Steph. Thesaur. Ling. Graec. tom. iii. p. 748.)]

[Footnote 106: The Goths suspected Mathasuintha as an accomplice in the mischief, which perhaps was occasioned by accidental lightning.]

[Footnote 107: In strict philosophy, a limitation of the rights of war seems to imply nonsense and contradiction. Grotius himself is lost in an idle distinction between the jus naturae and the jus gentium, between poison and infection. He balances in one scale the passages of Homer (Odyss. A 259, &c.) and Florus, (l. ii. c. 20, No. 7, ult.;) and in the other, the examples of Solon (Pausanias, l. x. c. 37) and Belisarius. See his great work De Jure Belli et Pacis, (l. iii. c. 4, s. 15, 16, 17, and in Barbeyrac's version, tom. ii. p. 257, &c.) Yet I can understand the benefit and validity of an agreement, tacit or express, mutually to abstain from certain modes of hostility. See the Amphictyonic oath in Aeschines, de falsa Legatione.]

[Footnote 108: Ravenna was taken, not in the year 540, but in the latter end of 539; and Pagi (tom. ii. p. 569) is rectified by Muratori. (Annali d'Italia, tom. v. p. 62,) who proves from an original act on papyrus, (Antiquit. Italiae Medii Aevi, tom. ii. dissert. xxxii. p. 999—1007,) Maffei, (Istoria Diplomat. p. 155-160,) that before the third of January, 540, peace and free correspondence were restored between Ravenna and Faenza.] Vitiges, who perhaps had attempted to escape, was honorably guarded in his palace; [109] the flower of the Gothic youth was selected for the service of the emperor; the remainder of the people was dismissed to their peaceful habitations in the southern provinces; and a colony of Italians was invited to replenish the depopulated city. The submission of the capital was imitated in the towns and villages of Italy, which had not been subdued, or even visited, by the Romans; and the independent Goths, who remained in arms at Pavia and Verona, were ambitious only to become the subjects of Belisarius. But his inflexible loyalty rejected, except as the substitute of Justinian, their oaths of allegiance; and he was not offended by the reproach of their deputies, that he rather chose to be a slave than a king.

[Footnote 109: He was seized by John the Sanguinary, but an oath or sacrament was pledged for his safety in the Basilica Julii, (Hist. Miscell. l. xvii. in Muratori, tom. i. p. 107.) Anastasius (in Vit. Pont. p. 40) gives a dark but probable account. Montfaucon is quoted by Mascou (Hist. of the Germans, xii. 21) for a votive shield representing the captivity of Vitiges and now in the collection of Signor Landi at Rome.]

After the second victory of Belisarius, envy again whispered, Justinian listened, and the hero was recalled. "The remnant of the Gothic war was no longer worthy of his presence: a gracious sovereign was impatient to reward his services, and to consult his wisdom; and he alone was capable of defending the East against the innumerable armies of Persia." Belisarius understood the suspicion, accepted the excuse, embarked at Ravenna his spoils and trophies; and proved, by his ready obedience, that such an abrupt removal from the government of Italy was not less unjust than it might have been indiscreet. The emperor received with honorable courtesy both Vitiges and his more noble consort; and as the king of the Goths conformed to the Athanasian faith, he obtained, with a rich inheritance of land in Asia, the rank of senator and patrician. [110] Every spectator admired, without peril, the strength and stature of the young Barbarians: they adored the majesty of the throne, and promised to shed their blood in the service of their benefactor. Justinian deposited in the Byzantine palace the treasures of the Gothic monarchy. A flattering senate was sometime admitted to gaze on the magnificent spectacle; but it was enviously secluded from the public view: and the conqueror of Italy renounced, without a murmur, perhaps without a sigh, the well-earned honors of a second triumph. His glory was indeed exalted above all external pomp; and the faint and hollow praises of the court were supplied, even in a servile age, by the respect and admiration of his country. Whenever he appeared in the streets and public places of Constantinople, Belisarius attracted and satisfied the eyes of the people. His lofty stature and majestic countenance fulfilled their expectations of a hero; the meanest of his fellow-citizens were emboldened by his gentle and gracious demeanor; and the martial train which attended his footsteps left his person more accessible than in a day of battle. Seven thousand horsemen, matchless for beauty and valor, were maintained in the service, and at the private expense, of the general. [111] Their prowess was always conspicuous in single combats, or in the foremost ranks; and both parties confessed that in the siege of Rome, the guards of Belisarius had alone vanquished the Barbarian host. Their numbers were continually augmented by the bravest and most faithful of the enemy; and his fortunate captives, the Vandals, the Moors, and the Goths, emulated the attachment of his domestic followers. By the union of liberality and justice, he acquired the love of the soldiers, without alienating the affections of the people. The sick and wounded were relieved with medicines and money; and still more efficaciously, by the healing visits and smiles of their commander. The loss of a weapon or a horse was instantly repaired, and each deed of valor was rewarded by the rich and honorable gifts of a bracelet or a collar, which were rendered more precious by the judgment of Belisarius. He was endeared to the husbandmen by the peace and plenty which they enjoyed under the shadow of his standard. Instead of being injured, the country was enriched by the march of the Roman armies; and such was the rigid discipline of their camp, that not an apple was gathered from the tree, not a path could be traced in the fields of corn. Belisarius was chaste and sober. In the license of a military life, none could boast that they had seen him intoxicated with wine: the most beautiful captives of Gothic or Vandal race were offered to his embraces; but he turned aside from their charms, and the husband of Antonina was never suspected of violating the laws of conjugal fidelity. The spectator and historian of his exploits has observed, that amidst the perils of war, he was daring without rashness, prudent without fear, slow or rapid according to the exigencies of the moment; that in the deepest distress he was animated by real or apparent hope, but that he was modest and humble in the most prosperous fortune. By these virtues, he equalled or excelled the ancient masters of the military art. Victory, by sea and land, attended his arms. He subdued Africa, Italy, and the adjacent islands; led away captives the successors of Genseric and Theodoric; filled Constantinople with the spoils of their palaces; and in the space of six years recovered half the provinces of the Western empire. In his fame and merit, in wealth and power, he remained without a rival, the first of the Roman subjects; the voice of envy could only magnify his dangerous importance; and the emperor might applaud his own discerning spirit, which had discovered and raised the genius of Belisarius. [Footnote 110: Vitiges lived two years at Constantinople, and imperatoris in affectu convictus (or conjunctus) rebus excessit humanis. His widow Mathasuenta, the wife and mother of the patricians, the elder and younger Germanus, united the streams of Anician and Amali blood, (Jornandes, c. 60, p. 221, in Muratori, tom. i.)]

[Footnote 111: Procopius, Goth. l. iii. c. 1. Aimoin, a French monk of the xith century, who had obtained, and has disfigured, some authentic information of Belisarius, mentions, in his name, 12,000, pueri or slaves—quos propriis alimus stipendiis—besides 18,000 soldiers, (Historians of France, tom. iii. De Gestis Franc. l. ii. c. 6, p. 48.)]

It was the custom of the Roman triumphs, that a slave should be placed behind the chariot to remind the conqueror of the instability of fortune, and the infirmities of human nature. Procopius, in his Anecdotes, has assumed that servile and ungrateful office. The generous reader may cast away the libel, but the evidence of facts will adhere to his memory; and he will reluctantly confess, that the fame, and even the virtue, of Belisarius, were polluted by the lust and cruelty of his wife; and that hero deserved an appellation which may not drop from the pen of the decent historian. The mother of Antonina [112] was a theatrical prostitute, and both her father and grandfather exercised, at Thessalonica and Constantinople, the vile, though lucrative, profession of charioteers. In the various situations of their fortune she became the companion, the enemy, the servant, and the favorite of the empress Theodora: these loose and ambitious females had been connected by similar pleasures; they were separated by the jealousy of vice, and at length reconciled by the partnership of guilt. Before her marriage with Belisarius, Antonina had one husband and many lovers: Photius, the son of her former nuptials, was of an age to distinguish himself at the siege of Naples; and it was not till the autumn of her age and beauty [113] that she indulged a scandalous attachment to a Thracian youth. Theodosius had been educated in the Eunomian heresy; the African voyage was consecrated by the baptism and auspicious name of the first soldier who embarked; and the proselyte was adopted into the family of his spiritual parents, [114] Belisarius and Antonina. Before they touched the shores of Africa, this holy kindred degenerated into sensual love: and as Antonina soon overleaped the bounds of modesty and caution, the Roman general was alone ignorant of his own dishonor. During their residence at Carthage, he surprised the two lovers in a subterraneous chamber, solitary, warm, and almost naked. Anger flashed from his eyes. "With the help of this young man," said the unblushing Antonina, "I was secreting our most precious effects from the knowledge of Justinian." The youth resumed his garments, and the pious husband consented to disbelieve the evidence of his own senses. From this pleasing and perhaps voluntary delusion, Belisarius was awakened at Syracuse, by the officious information of Macedonia; and that female attendant, after requiring an oath for her security, produced two chamberlains, who, like herself, had often beheld the adulteries of Antonina. A hasty flight into Asia saved Theodosius from the justice of an injured husband, who had signified to one of his guards the order of his death; but the tears of Antonina, and her artful seductions, assured the credulous hero of her innocence: and he stooped, against his faith and judgment, to abandon those imprudent friends, who had presumed to accuse or doubt the chastity of his wife. The revenge of a guilty woman is implacable and bloody: the unfortunate Macedonia, with the two witnesses, were secretly arrested by the minister of her cruelty; their tongues were cut out, their bodies were hacked into small pieces, and their remains were cast into the Sea of Syracuse. A rash though judicious saying of Constantine, "I would sooner have punished the adulteress than the boy," was deeply remembered by Antonina; and two years afterwards, when despair had armed that officer against his general, her sanguinary advice decided and hastened his execution. Even the indignation of Photius was not forgiven by his mother; the exile of her son prepared the recall of her lover; and Theodosius condescended to accept the pressing and humble invitation of the conqueror of Italy. In the absolute direction of his household, and in the important commissions of peace and war, [115] the favorite youth most rapidly acquired a fortune of four hundred thousand pounds sterling; and after their return to Constantinople, the passion of Antonina, at least, continued ardent and unabated. But fear, devotion, and lassitude perhaps, inspired Theodosius with more serious thoughts. He dreaded the busy scandal of the capital, and the indiscreet fondness of the wife of Belisarius; escaped from her embraces, and retiring to Ephesus, shaved his head, and took refuge in the sanctuary of a monastic life. The despair of the new Ariadne could scarcely have been excused by the death of her husband. She wept, she tore her hair, she filled the palace with her cries; "she had lost the dearest of friends, a tender, a faithful, a laborious friend!" But her warm entreaties, fortified by the prayers of Belisarius, were insufficient to draw the holy monk from the solitude of Ephesus. It was not till the general moved forward for the Persian war, that Theodosius could be tempted to return to Constantinople; and the short interval before the departure of Antonina herself was boldly devoted to love and pleasure. [Footnote 112: The diligence of Alemannus could add but little to the four first and most curious chapters of the Anecdotes. Of these strange Anecdotes, a part may be true, because probable—and a part true, because improbable. Procopius must have known the former, and the latter he could scarcely invent. Note: The malice of court scandal is proverbially inventive; and of such scandal the "Anecdota" may be an embellished record.—M.]

[Footnote 113: Procopius intimates (Anecdot. c. 4) that when Belisarius returned to Italy, (A.D. 543,) Antonina was sixty years of age. A forced, but more polite construction, which refers that date to the moment when he was writing, (A.D. 559,) would be compatible with the manhood of Photius, (Gothic. l. i. c. 10) in 536.]

[Footnote 114: Gompare the Vandalic War (l. i. c. 12) with the Anecdotes (c. i.) and Alemannus, (p. 2, 3.) This mode of baptismal adoption was revived by Leo the philosopher.]

[Footnote 115: In November, 537, Photius arrested the pope, (Liberat. Brev. c. 22. Pagi, tom. ii. p. 562) About the end of 539, Belisarius sent Theodosius on an important and lucrative commission to Ravenna, (Goth. l. ii. c. 18.)]

A philosopher may pity and forgive the infirmities of female nature, from which he receives no real injury: but contemptible is the husband who feels, and yet endures, his own infamy in that of his wife. Antonina pursued her son with implacable hatred; and the gallant Photius [116] was exposed to her secret persecutions in the camp beyond the Tigris. Enraged by his own wrongs, and by the dishonor of his blood, he cast away in his turn the sentiments of nature, and revealed to Belisarius the turpitude of a woman who had violated all the duties of a mother and a wife. From the surprise and indignation of the Roman general, his former credulity appears to have been sincere: he embraced the knees of the son of Antonina, adjured him to remember his obligations rather than his birth, and confirmed at the altar their holy vows of revenge and mutual defence. The dominion of Antonina was impaired by absence; and when she met her husband, on his return from the Persian confines, Belisarius, in his first and transient emotions, confined her person, and threatened her life. Photius was more resolved to punish, and less prompt to pardon: he flew to Ephesus; extorted from a trusty eunuch of his another the full confession of her guilt; arrested Theodosius and his treasures in the church of St. John the Apostle, and concealed his captives, whose execution was only delayed, in a secure and sequestered fortress of Cilicia. Such a daring outrage against public justice could not pass with impunity; and the cause of Antonina was espoused by the empress, whose favor she had deserved by the recent services of the disgrace of a praefect, and the exile and murder of a pope. At the end of the campaign, Belisarius was recalled; he complied, as usual, with the Imperial mandate. His mind was not prepared for rebellion: his obedience, however adverse to the dictates of honor, was consonant to the wishes of his heart; and when he embraced his wife, at the command, and perhaps in the presence, of the empress, the tender husband was disposed to forgive or to be forgiven. The bounty of Theodora reserved for her companion a more precious favor. "I have found," she said, "my dearest patrician, a pearl of inestimable value; it has not yet been viewed by any mortal eye; but the sight and the possession of this jewel are destined for my friend." [1161] As soon as the curiosity and impatience of Antonina were kindled, the door of a bed-chamber was thrown open, and she beheld her lover, whom the diligence of the eunuchs had discovered in his secret prison. Her silent wonder burst into passionate exclamations of gratitude and joy, and she named Theodora her queen, her benefactress, and her savior. The monk of Ephesus was nourished in the palace with luxury and ambition; but instead of assuming, as he was promised, the command of the Roman armies, Theodosius expired in the first fatigues of an amorous interview. [1162] The grief of Antonina could only be assuaged by the sufferings of her son. A youth of consular rank, and a sickly constitution, was punished, without a trial, like a malefactor and a slave: yet such was the constancy of his mind, that Photius sustained the tortures of the scourge and the rack, [1163] without violating the faith which he had sworn to Belisarius. After this fruitless cruelty, the son of Antonina, while his mother feasted with the empress, was buried in her subterraneous prisons, which admitted not the distinction of night and day. He twice escaped to the most venerable sanctuaries of Constantinople, the churches of St. Sophia, and of the Virgin: but his tyrants were insensible of religion as of pity; and the helpless youth, amidst the clamors of the clergy and people, was twice dragged from the altar to the dungeon. His third attempt was more successful. At the end of three years, the prophet Zachariah, or some mortal friend, indicated the means of an escape: he eluded the spies and guards of the empress, reached the holy sepulchre of Jerusalem, embraced the profession of a monk; and the abbot Photius was employed, after the death of Justinian, to reconcile and regulate the churches of Egypt. The son of Antonina suffered all that an enemy can inflict: her patient husband imposed on himself the more exquisite misery of violating his promise and deserting his friend.

[Footnote 116: Theophanes (Chronograph. p. 204) styles him Photinus, the son-in-law of Belisarius; and he is copied by the Historia Miscella and Anastasius.]

[Footnote 1161: This and much of the private scandal in the "Anecdota" is liable to serious doubt. Who reported all these private conversations, and how did they reach the ears of Procopius?—M.]

[Footnote 1162: This is a strange misrepresentation—he died of a dysentery; nor does it appear that it was immediately after this scene. Antonina proposed to raise him to the generalship of the army. Procop. Anecd. p. 14. The sudden change from the abstemious diet of a monk to the luxury of the court is a much more probable cause of his death.—M.]

[Footnote 1163: The expression of Procopius does not appear to me to mean this kind of torture. Ibid.—M.]

In the succeeding campaign, Belisarius was again sent against the Persians: he saved the East, but he offended Theodora, and perhaps the emperor himself. The malady of Justinian had countenanced the rumor of his death; and the Roman general, on the supposition of that probable event spoke the free language of a citizen and a soldier. His colleague Buzes, who concurred in the same sentiments, lost his rank, his liberty, and his health, by the persecution of the empress: but the disgrace of Belisarius was alleviated by the dignity of his own character, and the influence of his wife, who might wish to humble, but could not desire to ruin, the partner of her fortunes. Even his removal was colored by the assurance, that the sinking state of Italy would be retrieved by the single presence of its conqueror.

But no sooner had he returned, alone and defenceless, than a hostile commission was sent to the East, to seize his treasures and criminate his actions; the guards and veterans, who followed his private banner, were distributed among the chiefs of the army, and even the eunuchs presumed to cast lots for the partition of his martial domestics. When he passed with a small and sordid retinue through the streets of Constantinople, his forlorn appearance excited the amazement and compassion of the people. Justinian and Theodora received him with cold ingratitude; the servile crowd, with insolence and contempt; and in the evening he retired with trembling steps to his deserted palace. An indisposition, feigned or real, had confined Antonina to her apartment; and she walked disdainfully silent in the adjacent portico, while Belisarius threw himself on his bed, and expected, in an agony of grief and terror, the death which he had so often braved under the walls of Rome. Long after sunset a messenger was announced from the empress: he opened, with anxious curiosity, the letter which contained the sentence of his fate. "You cannot be ignorant how much you have deserved my displeasure. I am not insensible of the services of Antonina. To her merits and intercession I have granted your life, and permit you to retain a part of your treasures, which might be justly forfeited to the state. Let your gratitude, where it is due, be displayed, not in words, but in your future behavior." I know not how to believe or to relate the transports with which the hero is said to have received this ignominious pardon. He fell prostrate before his wife, he kissed the feet of his savior, and he devoutly promised to live the grateful and submissive slave of Antonina. A fine of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds sterling was levied on the fortunes of Belisarius; and with the office of count, or master of the royal stables, he accepted the conduct of the Italian war. At his departure from Constantinople, his friends, and even the public, were persuaded that as soon as he regained his freedom, he would renounce his dissimulation, and that his wife, Theodora, and perhaps the emperor himself, would be sacrificed to the just revenge of a virtuous rebel. Their hopes were deceived; and the unconquerable patience and loyalty of Belisarius appear either below or above the character of a man. [117]

[Footnote 117: The continuator of the Chronicle of Marcellinus gives, in a few decent words, the substance of the Anecdotes: Belisarius de Oriente evocatus, in offensam periculumque incurrens grave, et invidiae subeacens rursus remittitur in Italiam, (p. 54.)]



Chapter XLII: State Of The Barbaric World.—Part I.

State Of The Barbaric World.—Establishment Of The Lombards On the Danube.—Tribes And Inroads Of The Sclavonians.— Origin, Empire, And Embassies Of The Turks.—The Flight Of The Avars.—Chosroes I, Or Nushirvan, King Of Persia.—His Prosperous Reign And Wars With The Romans.—The Colchian Or Lazic War.—The Aethiopians.

Our estimate of personal merit, is relative to the common faculties of mankind. The aspiring efforts of genius, or virtue, either in active or speculative life, are measured, not so much by their real elevation, as by the height to which they ascend above the level of their age and country; and the same stature, which in a people of giants would pass unnoticed, must appear conspicuous in a race of pygmies. Leonidas, and his three hundred companions, devoted their lives at Thermopylae; but the education of the infant, the boy, and the man, had prepared, and almost insured, this memorable sacrifice; and each Spartan would approve, rather than admire, an act of duty, of which himself and eight thousand of his fellow-citizens were equally capable. [1] The great Pompey might inscribe on his trophies, that he had defeated in battle two millions of enemies, and reduced fifteen hundred cities from the Lake Maeotis to the Red Sea: [2] but the fortune of Rome flew before his eagles; the nations were oppressed by their own fears, and the invincible legions which he commanded, had been formed by the habits of conquest and the discipline of ages. In this view, the character of Belisarius may be deservedly placed above the heroes of the ancient republics. His imperfections flowed from the contagion of the times; his virtues were his own, the free gift of nature or reflection; he raised himself without a master or a rival; and so inadequate were the arms committed to his hand, that his sole advantage was derived from the pride and presumption of his adversaries. Under his command, the subjects of Justinian often deserved to be called Romans: but the unwarlike appellation of Greeks was imposed as a term of reproach by the haughty Goths; who affected to blush, that they must dispute the kingdom of Italy with a nation of tragedians pantomimes, and pirates. [3] The climate of Asia has indeed been found less congenial than that of Europe to military spirit: those populous countries were enervated by luxury, despotism, and superstition; and the monks were more expensive and more numerous than the soldiers of the East. The regular force of the empire had once amounted to six hundred and forty-five thousand men: it was reduced, in the time of Justinian, to one hundred and fifty thousand; and this number, large as it may seem, was thinly scattered over the sea and land; in Spain and Italy, in Africa and Egypt, on the banks of the Danube, the coast of the Euxine, and the frontiers of Persia. The citizen was exhausted, yet the soldier was unpaid; his poverty was mischievously soothed by the privilege of rapine and indolence; and the tardy payments were detained and intercepted by the fraud of those agents who usurp, without courage or danger, the emoluments of war. Public and private distress recruited the armies of the state; but in the field, and still more in the presence of the enemy, their numbers were always defective. The want of national spirit was supplied by the precarious faith and disorderly service of Barbarian mercenaries.

Even military honor, which has often survived the loss of virtue and freedom, was almost totally extinct. The generals, who were multiplied beyond the example of former times, labored only to prevent the success, or to sully the reputation of their colleagues; and they had been taught by experience, that if merit sometimes provoked the jealousy, error, or even guilt, would obtain the indulgence, of a gracious emperor. [4] In such an age, the triumphs of Belisarius, and afterwards of Narses, shine with incomparable lustre; but they are encompassed with the darkest shades of disgrace and calamity. While the lieutenant of Justinian subdued the kingdoms of the Goths and Vandals, the emperor, [5] timid, though ambitious, balanced the forces of the Barbarians, fomented their divisions by flattery and falsehood, and invited by his patience and liberality the repetition of injuries. [6] The keys of Carthage, Rome, and Ravenna, were presented to their conqueror, while Antioch was destroyed by the Persians, and Justinian trembled for the safety of Constantinople.

[Footnote 1: It will be a pleasure, not a task, to read Herodotus, (l. vii. c. 104, 134, p. 550, 615.) The conversation of Xerxes and Demaratus at Thermopylae is one of the most interesting and moral scenes in history. It was the torture of the royal Spartan to behold, with anguish and remorse, the virtue of his country.]

[Footnote 2: See this proud inscription in Pliny, (Hist. Natur. vii. 27.) Few men have more exquisitely tasted of glory and disgrace; nor could Juvenal (Satir. x.) produce a more striking example of the vicissitudes of fortune, and the vanity of human wishes.]

[Footnote 3: This last epithet of Procopius is too nobly translated by pirates; naval thieves is the proper word; strippers of garments, either for injury or insult, (Demosthenes contra Conon Reiske, Orator, Graec. tom. ii. p. 1264.)]

[Footnote 4: See the third and fourth books of the Gothic War: the writer of the Anecdotes cannot aggravate these abuses.]

[Footnote 5: Agathias, l. v. p. 157, 158. He confines this weakness of the emperor and the empire to the old age of Justinian; but alas! he was never young.]

[Footnote 6: This mischievous policy, which Procopius (Anecdot. c. 19) imputes to the emperor, is revealed in his epistle to a Scythian prince, who was capable of understanding it.]

Even the Gothic victories of Belisarius were prejudicial to the state, since they abolished the important barrier of the Upper Danube, which had been so faithfully guarded by Theodoric and his daughter. For the defence of Italy, the Goths evacuated Pannonia and Noricum, which they left in a peaceful and flourishing condition: the sovereignty was claimed by the emperor of the Romans; the actual possession was abandoned to the boldness of the first invader. On the opposite banks of the Danube, the plains of Upper Hungary and the Transylvanian hills were possessed, since the death of Attila, by the tribes of the Gepidae, who respected the Gothic arms, and despised, not indeed the gold of the Romans, but the secret motive of their annual subsidies. The vacant fortifications of the river were instantly occupied by these Barbarians; their standards were planted on the walls of Sirmium and Belgrade; and the ironical tone of their apology aggravated this insult on the majesty of the empire. "So extensive, O Caesar, are your dominions, so numerous are your cities, that you are continually seeking for nations to whom, either in peace or in war, you may relinquish these useless possessions. The Gepidae are your brave and faithful allies; and if they have anticipated your gifts, they have shown a just confidence in your bounty." Their presumption was excused by the mode of revenge which Justinian embraced. Instead of asserting the rights of a sovereign for the protection of his subjects, the emperor invited a strange people to invade and possess the Roman provinces between the Danube and the Alps and the ambition of the Gepidae was checked by the rising power and fame of the Lombards. [7] This corrupt appellation has been diffused in the thirteenth century by the merchants and bankers, the Italian posterity of these savage warriors: but the original name of Langobards is expressive only of the peculiar length and fashion of their beards. I am not disposed either to question or to justify their Scandinavian origin; [8] nor to pursue the migrations of the Lombards through unknown regions and marvellous adventures. About the time of Augustus and Trajan, a ray of historic light breaks on the darkness of their antiquities, and they are discovered, for the first time, between the Elbe and the Oder. Fierce, beyond the example of the Germans, they delighted to propagate the tremendous belief, that their heads were formed like the heads of dogs, and that they drank the blood of their enemies, whom they vanquished in battle. The smallness of their numbers was recruited by the adoption of their bravest slaves; and alone, amidst their powerful neighbors, they defended by arms their high-spirited independence. In the tempests of the north, which overwhelmed so many names and nations, this little bark of the Lombards still floated on the surface: they gradually descended towards the south and the Danube, and, at the end of four hundred years, they again appear with their ancient valor and renown. Their manners were not less ferocious. The assassination of a royal guest was executed in the presence, and by the command, of the king's daughter, who had been provoked by some words of insult, and disappointed by his diminutive stature; and a tribute, the price of blood, was imposed on the Lombards, by his brother the king of the Heruli. Adversity revived a sense of moderation and justice, and the insolence of conquest was chastised by the signal defeat and irreparable dispersion of the Heruli, who were seated in the southern provinces of Poland. [9] The victories of the Lombards recommended them to the friendship of the emperors; and at the solicitations of Justinian, they passed the Danube, to reduce, according to their treaty, the cities of Noricum and the fortresses of Pannonia. But the spirit of rapine soon tempted them beyond these ample limits; they wandered along the coast of the Hadriatic as far as Dyrrachium, and presumed, with familiar rudeness to enter the towns and houses of their Roman allies, and to seize the captives who had escaped from their audacious hands. These acts of hostility, the sallies, as it might be pretended, of some loose adventurers, were disowned by the nation, and excused by the emperor; but the arms of the Lombards were more seriously engaged by a contest of thirty years, which was terminated only by the extirpation of the Gepidae. The hostile nations often pleaded their cause before the throne of Constantinople; and the crafty Justinian, to whom the Barbarians were almost equally odious, pronounced a partial and ambiguous sentence, and dexterously protracted the war by slow and ineffectual succors. Their strength was formidable, since the Lombards, who sent into the field several myriads of soldiers, still claimed, as the weaker side, the protection of the Romans. Their spirit was intrepid; yet such is the uncertainty of courage, that the two armies were suddenly struck with a panic; they fled from each other, and the rival kings remained with their guards in the midst of an empty plain. A short truce was obtained; but their mutual resentment again kindled; and the remembrance of their shame rendered the next encounter more desperate and bloody Forty thousand of the Barbarians perished in the decisive battle, which broke the power of the Gepidae, transferred the fears and wishes of Justinian, and first displayed the character of Alboin, the youthful prince of the Lombards, and the future conqueror of Italy. [10]

[Footnote 7: Gens Germana feritate ferocior, says Velleius Paterculus of the Lombards, (ii. 106.) Langobardos paucitas nobilitat. Plurimis ac valentissimis nationibus cincti non per obsequium, sed praeliis et perilitando, tuti sunt, (Tacit. de Moribus German. c. 40.) See likewise Strabo, (l. viii. p. 446.) The best geographers place them beyond the Elbe, in the bishopric of Magdeburgh and the middle march of Brandenburgh; and their situation will agree with the patriotic remark of the count de Hertzberg, that most of the Barbarian conquerors issued from the same countries which still produce the armies of Prussia. * Note: See Malte Brun, vol. i. p 402.—M]

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