History of the Wars, Books III and IV (of 8) - The Vandalic War
by Procopius
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With an English Translation by H. B. Dewing

In Seven Volumes



London William Heinemann Ltd Cambridge, Massachusetts Harvard University Press


First Printed 1916










Such, then, was the final outcome of the Persian War for the Emperor Justinian; and I shall now proceed to set forth all that he did against the Vandals and the Moors. But first shall be told whence came the host of the Vandals when they descended upon the land of the Romans. After Theodosius, the Roman Emperor, had departed from the world, having proved himself one of the most just of men and an able warrior, his kingdom was taken over by his two sons, Arcadius, the elder, receiving the Eastern portion, and Honorius, the younger, the Western. [Jan. 17, 395 A.D.] But the Roman power had been thus divided as far back as the time of Constantine and his sons; for he transferred his government to Byzantium, and making the city larger and much more renowned, allowed it to be named after him.

Now the earth is surrounded by a circle of ocean, either entirely or for the most part (for our knowledge is not as yet at all clear in this matter); and it is split into two continents by a sort of outflow from the ocean, a flow which enters at the western part and forms this Sea which we know, beginning at Gadira[1] and extending all the way to the Maeotic Lake.[2] Of these two continents the one to the right, as one sails into the Sea, as far as the Lake, has received the name of Asia, beginning at Gadira and at the southern[3] of the two Pillars of Heracles. Septem[4] is the name given by the natives to the fort at that point, since seven hills appear there; for "septem" has the force of "seven" in the Latin tongue. And the whole continent opposite this was named Europe. And the strait at that point separates the two continents[5] by about eighty-four stades, but from there on they are kept apart by wide expanses of sea as far as the Hellespont. For at this point they again approach each other at Sestus and Abydus, and once more at Byzantium and Chalcedon as far as the rocks called in ancient times the "Dark Blue Rocks," where even now is the place called Hieron. For at these places the continents are separated from one another by a distance of only ten stades and even less than that.

Now the distance from one of the Pillars of Heracles to the other, if one goes along the shore and does not pass around the Ionian Gulf and the sea called the Euxine but crosses from Chalcedon[6] to Byzantium and from Dryous[7] to the opposite mainland,[8] is a journey of two hundred and eighty-five days for an unencumbered traveller. For as to the land about the Euxine Sea, which extends from Byzantium to the Lake, it would be impossible to tell everything with precision, since the barbarians beyond the Ister River, which they also call the Danube, make the shore of that sea quite impossible for the Romans to traverse—except, indeed, that from Byzantium to the mouth of the Ister is a journey of twenty-two days, which should be added to the measure of Europe by one making the computation. And on the Asiatic side, that is from Chalcedon to the Phasis River, which, flowing from the country of the Colchians, descends into the Pontus, the journey is accomplished in forty days. So that the whole Roman domain, according to the distance along the sea at least, attains the measure of a three hundred and forty-seven days' journey, if, as has been said, one ferries over the Ionian Gulf, which extends about eight hundred stades from Dryous. For the passage across the gulf[9] amounts to a journey of not less than four days. Such, then, was the size of the Roman empire in the ancient times.

And there fell to him who held the power in the West the most of Libya, extending ninety days' journey—for such is the distance from Gadira to the boundaries of Tripolis in Libya; and in Europe he received as his portion territory extending seventy-five days' journey—for such is the distance from the northern[10] of the Pillars of Heracles to the Ionian Gulf.[11] And one might add also the distance around the gulf. And the emperor of the East received territory extending one hundred and twenty days' journey, from the boundaries of Cyrene in Libya as far as Epidamnus, which lies on the Ionian Gulf and is called at the present time Dyrrachium, as well as that portion of the country about the Euxine Sea which, as previously stated, is subject to the Romans. Now one day's journey extends two hundred and ten stades,[12] or as far as from Athens to Megara. Thus, then, the Roman emperors divided either continent between them. And among the islands Britain, which is outside the Pillars of Heracles and by far the largest of all islands, was counted, as is natural, with the West; and inside the Pillars, Ebusa,[13] which lies in the Mediterranean in what we may call the Propontis, just inside the opening where the ocean enters, about seven days' journey from the opening, and two others near it, Majorica and Minorica, as they are called by the natives, were also assigned to the Western empire. And each of the islands in the Sea itself fell to the share of that one of the two emperors within whose boundaries it happened to lie.


Now while Honorius was holding the imperial power in the West, barbarians took possession of his land; and I shall tell who they were and in what manner they did so. [395-423 A.D.] There were many Gothic nations in earlier times, just as also at the present, but the greatest and most important of all are the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepaedes. In ancient times, however, they were named Sauromatae and Melanchlaeni;[14] and there were some too who called these nations Getic. All these, while they are distinguished from one another by their names, as has been said, do not differ in anything else at all. For they all have white bodies and fair hair, and are tall and handsome to look upon, and they use the same laws and practise a common religion. For they are all of the Arian faith, and have one language called Gothic; and, as it seems to me, they all came originally from one tribe, and were distinguished later by the names of those who led each group. This people used to dwell above the Ister River from of old. Later on the Gepaedes got possession of the country about Singidunum[15] and Sirmium,[16] on both sides of the Ister River, where they have remained settled even down to my time.

But the Visigoths, separating from the others, removed from there and at first entered into an alliance with the Emperor Arcadius, but at a later time (for faith with the Romans cannot dwell in barbarians), under the leadership of Alaric, they became hostile to both emperors, and, beginning with Thrace, treated all Europe as an enemy's land. Now the Emperor Honorius had before this time been sitting in Rome, with never a thought of war in his mind, but glad, I think, if men allowed him to remain quiet in his palace. But when word was brought that the barbarians with a great army were not far off, but somewhere among the Taulantii,[17] he abandoned the palace and fled in disorderly fashion to Ravenna, a strong city lying just about at the end of the Ionian Gulf, while some say that he brought in the barbarians himself, because an uprising had been started against him among his subjects; but this does not seem to me trustworthy, as far, at least, as one can judge of the character of the man. And the barbarians, finding that they had no hostile force to encounter them, became the most cruel of all men. For they destroyed all the cities which they captured, especially those south of the Ionian Gulf, so completely that nothing has been left to my time to know them by, unless, indeed, it might be one tower or one gate or some such thing which chanced to remain. And they killed all the people, as many as came in their way, both old and young alike, sparing neither women nor children. Wherefore even up to the present time Italy is sparsely populated. They also gathered as plunder all the money out of all Europe, and, most important of all, they left in Rome nothing whatever of public or private wealth when they moved on to Gaul. But I shall now tell how Alaric captured Rome.

After much time had been spent by him in the siege, and he had not been able either by force or by any other device to capture the place, he formed the following plan. Among the youths in the army whose beards had not yet grown, but who had just come of age, he chose out three hundred whom he knew to be of good birth and possessed of valour beyond their years, and told them secretly that he was about to make a present of them to certain of the patricians in Rome, pretending that they were slaves. And he instructed them that, as soon as they got inside the houses of those men, they should display much gentleness and moderation and serve them eagerly in whatever tasks should be laid upon them by their owners; and he further directed them that not long afterwards, on an appointed day at about midday, when all those who were to be their masters would most likely be already asleep after their meal, they should all come to the gate called Salarian and with a sudden rush kill the guards, who would have no previous knowledge of the plot, and open the gates as quickly as possible. After giving these orders to the youths, Alaric straightway sent ambassadors to the members of the senate, stating that he admired them for their loyalty toward their emperor, and that he would trouble them no longer, because of their valour and faithfulness, with which it was plain that they were endowed to a remarkable degree, and in order that tokens of himself might be preserved among men both noble and brave, he wished to present each one of them with some domestics. After making this declaration and sending the youths not long afterwards, he commanded the barbarians to make preparations for the departure, and he let this be known to the Romans. And they heard his words gladly, and receiving the gifts began to be exceedingly happy, since they were completely ignorant of the plot of the barbarian. For the youths, by being unusually obedient to their owners, averted suspicion, and in the camp some were already seen moving from their positions and raising the siege, while it seemed that the others were just on the point of doing the very same thing. But when the appointed day had come, Alaric armed his whole force for the attack and was holding them in readiness close by the Salarian Gate; for it happened that he had encamped there at the beginning of the siege. And all the youths at the time of the day agreed upon came to this gate, and, assailing the guards suddenly, put them to death; then they opened the gates and received Alaric and the army into the city at their leisure. [Aug. 24, 410 A.D.] And they set fire to the houses which were next to the gate, among which was also the house of Sallust, who in ancient times wrote the history of the Romans, and the greater part of this house has stood half-burned up to my time; and after plundering the whole city and destroying the most of the Romans, they moved on. At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, "And yet it has just eaten from my hands!" For he had a very large cock, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: "But I, my good fellow, thought that my fowl Rome had perished." So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.

But some say that Rome was not captured in this way by Alaric, but that Proba, a woman of very unusual eminence in wealth and in fame among the Roman senatorial class, felt pity for the Romans who were being destroyed by hunger and the other suffering they endured; for they were already even tasting each other's flesh; and seeing that every good hope had left them, since both the river and the harbour were held by the enemy, she commanded her domestics, they say, to open the gates by night.

Now when Alaric was about to depart from Rome, he declared Attalus, one of their nobles, emperor of the Romans, investing him with the diadem and the purple and whatever else pertains to the imperial dignity. And he did this with the intention of removing Honorius from his throne and of giving over the whole power in the West to Attalus. With such a purpose, then, both Attalus and Alaric were going with a great army against Ravenna. But this Attalus was neither able to think wisely himself, nor to be persuaded by one who had wisdom to offer. So while Alaric did not by any means approve the plan, Attalus sent commanders to Libya without an army. Thus, then, were these things going on.

And the island of Britain revolted from the Romans, and the soldiers there chose as their king Constantinus, a man of no mean station. [407 A.D.] And he straightway gathered a fleet of ships and a formidable army and invaded both Spain and Gaul with a great force, thinking to enslave these countries. But Honorius was holding ships in readiness and waiting to see what would happen in Libya, in order that, if those sent by Attalus were repulsed, he might himself sail for Libya and keep some portion of his own kingdom, while if matters there should go against him, he might reach Theodosius and remain with him. For Arcadius had already died long before, and his son Theodosius, still a very young child,[18] held the power of the East. [408-450 A.D.] But while Honorius was thus anxiously awaiting the outcome of these events and tossed amid the billows of uncertain fortune, it so chanced that some wonderful pieces of good fortune befell him. For God is accustomed to succour those who are neither clever nor able to devise anything of themselves, and to lend them assistance, if they be not wicked, when they are in the last extremity of despair; such a thing, indeed, befell this emperor. For it was suddenly reported from Libya that the commanders of Attalus had been destroyed, and that a host of ships was at hand from Byzantium with a very great number of soldiers who had come to assist him, though he had not expected them, and that Alaric, having quarrelled with Attalus, had stripped him of the emperor's garb and was now keeping him under guard in the position of a private citizen. [411 A.D.] And afterwards Alaric died of disease, and the army of the Visigoths under the leadership of Adaulphus proceeded into Gaul, and Constantinus, defeated in battle, died with his sons. However the Romans never succeeded in recovering Britain, but it remained from that time on under tyrants. And the Goths, after making the crossing of the Ister, at first occupied Pannonia, but afterwards, since the emperor gave them the right, they inhabited the country of Thrace. And after spending no great time there they conquered the West. But this will be told in the narrative concerning the Goths.


Now the Vandals dwelling about the Maeotic Lake, since they were pressed by hunger, moved to the country of the Germans, who are now called Franks, and the river Rhine, associating with themselves the Alani, a Gothic people. Then from there, under the leadership of Godigisclus, they moved and settled in Spain, which is the first land of the Roman empire on the side of the ocean. At that time Honorius made an agreement with Godigisclus that they should settle there on condition that it should not be to the detriment of the country. But there was a law among the Romans, that if any persons should fail to keep their property in their own possession, and if, meanwhile, a time amounting to thirty years should pass, that these persons should thenceforth not be entitled to proceed against those who had forced them out, but they were excluded by demurrer[19] from access to the court; and in view of this he established a law that whatever time should be spent by the Vandals in the Roman domain should not by any means be counted toward this thirty-year demurrer. And Honorius himself, when the West had been driven by him to this pass, died of disease. [Aug. 27, 423 A.D.] Now before this, as it happened, the royal power had been shared by Honorius with Constantius, the husband of Placidia, the sister of Arcadius and Honorius; but he lived to exercise the power only a few days, and then, becoming seriously ill, he died while Honorius was still living, [421 A.D.] having never succeeded in saying or in doing anything worth recounting; for the time was not sufficient during which he lived in possession of the royal power. Now a son of this Constantius, Valentinian, a child just weaned, was being reared in the palace of Theodosius, but the members of the imperial court in Rome chose one of the soldiers there, John by name, as emperor. This man was both gentle and well-endowed with sagacity and thoroughly capable of valorous deeds. At any rate he held the tyranny five years[20] and directed it with moderation, and he neither gave ear to slanderers nor did he do any unjust murder, willingly at least, nor did he set his hand to robbing men of money; but he did not prove able to do anything at all against the barbarians, since his relations with Byzantium were hostile. Against this John, Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, sent a great army and Aspar and Ardaburius, the son of Aspar, as generals, and wrested from him the tyranny and gave over the royal power to Valentinian, who was still a child. And Valentinian took John alive, and he brought him out in the hippodrome of Aquileia with one of his hands cut off and caused him to ride in state on an ass, and then after he had suffered much ill treatment from the stage-performers there, both in word and in deed, he put him to death. [426 A.D.] Thus Valentinian took over the power of the West. But Placidia, his mother, had reared this emperor and educated him in an altogether effeminate manner, and in consequence he was filled with wickedness from childhood. For he associated mostly with sorcerers and those who busy themselves with the stars, and, being an extraordinarily zealous pursuer of love affairs with other men's wives, he conducted himself in a most indecent manner, although he was married to a woman of exceptional beauty. [455 A.D.] And not only was this true, but he also failed to recover for the empire anything of what had been wrested from it before, and he both lost Libya in addition to the territory previously lost and was himself destroyed. And when he perished, it fell to the lot of his wife and his children to become captives. Now the disaster in Libya came about as follows.

There were two Roman generals, Aetius and Boniface, especially valiant men and in experience of many wars inferior to none of that time at least. These two came to be at variance in regard to matters of state, but they attained to such a degree of highmindedness and excellence in every respect that if one should call either of them "the last of the Romans" he would not err, so true was it that all the excellent qualities of the Romans were summed up in these two men. One of these, Boniface, was appointed by Placidia general of all Libya. Now this was not in accord with the wishes of Aetius, but he by no means disclosed the fact that it did not please him. For their hostility had not as yet come to light, but was concealed behind the countenance of each. But when Boniface had got out of the way, Aetius slandered him to Placidia, saying that he was setting up a tyranny and had robbed her and the emperor of all Libya, and he said that it was very easy for her to find out the truth; for if she should summon Boniface to Rome, he would never come. And when the woman heard this, Aetius seemed to her to speak well and she acted accordingly. But Aetius, anticipating her, wrote to Boniface secretly that the mother of the emperor was plotting against him and wished to put him out of the way. And he predicted to him that there would be convincing proof of the plot; for he would be summoned very shortly for no reason at all. Such was the announcement of the letter. And Boniface did not disregard the message, for as soon as those arrived who were summoning him to the emperor, he refused to give heed to the emperor and his mother, disclosing to no one the warning of Aetius. So when Placidia heard this, she thought that Aetius was exceedingly well-disposed towards the emperor's cause and took under consideration the question of Boniface. But Boniface, since it did not seem to him that he was able to array himself against the emperor, and since if he returned to Rome there was clearly no safety for him, began to lay plans so that, if possible, he might have a defensive alliance with the Vandals, who, as previously stated, had established themselves in Spain not far from Libya. There Godigisclus had died and the royal power had fallen to his sons, Gontharis, who was born to him from his wedded wife, and Gizeric,[21] of illegitimate birth. But the former was still a child and not of very energetic temper, while Gizeric had been excellently trained in warfare, and was the cleverest of all men. Boniface accordingly sent to Spain those who were his own most intimate friends and gained the adherence of each of the sons of Godigisclus on terms of complete equality, it being agreed that each one of the three, holding a third part of Libya, should rule over his own subjects; but if a foe should come against any one of them to make war, that they should in common ward off the aggressors. On the basis of this agreement the Vandals crossed the strait at Gadira and came into Libya, and the Visigoths in later times settled in Spain. But in Rome the friends of Boniface, remembering the character of the man and considering how strange his action was, were greatly astonished to think that Boniface was setting up a tyranny, and some of them at the order of Placidia went to Carthage. There they met Boniface, and saw the letter of Aetius, and after hearing the whole story they returned to Rome as quickly as they could and reported to Placidia how Boniface stood in relation to her. And though the woman was dumbfounded, she did nothing unpleasant to Aetius nor did she upbraid him for what he had done to the emperor's house, for he himself wielded great power and the affairs of the empire were already in an evil plight; but she disclosed to the friends of Boniface the advice Aetius had given, and, offering oaths and pledges of safety, entreated them to persuade the man, if they could, to return to his fatherland and not to permit the empire of the Romans to lie under the hand of barbarians. And when Boniface heard this, he repented of his act and of his agreement with the barbarians, and he besought them incessantly, promising them everything, to remove from Libya. But since they did not receive his words with favour, but considered that they were being insulted, he was compelled to fight with them, and being defeated in the battle, he retired to Hippo[22] Regius, a strong city in the portion of Numidia that is on the sea. There the Vandals made camp under the leadership of Gizeric and began a siege; for Gontharis had already died. And they say that he perished at the hand of his brother. The Vandals, however, do not agree with those who make this statement, but say that Gontharis' was captured in battle by Germans in Spain and impaled, and that Gizeric was already sole ruler when he led the Vandals into Libya. This, indeed, I have heard from the Vandals, stated in this way. But after much time had passed by, since they were unable to secure Hippo Regius either by force or by surrender, and since at the same time they were being pressed by hunger, they raised the siege. And a little later Boniface and the Romans in Libya, since a numerous army had come from both Rome and Byzantium and Aspar with them as general, decided to renew the struggle, and a fierce battle was fought in which they were badly beaten by the enemy, and they made haste to flee as each one could. And Aspar betook himself homeward, and Boniface, coming before Placidia, acquitted himself of the suspicion, showing that it had arisen against him for no true cause.


So the Vandals, having wrested Libya from the Romans in this way, made it their own. And those of the enemy whom they took alive they reduced to slavery and held under guard. Among these happened to be Marcian, who later upon the death of Theodosius assumed the imperial power. At that time, however, Gizeric commanded that the captives be brought into the king's courtyard, in order that it might be possible for him, by looking at them, to know what master each of them might serve without degradation. And when they were gathered under the open sky, about midday, the season being summer, they were distressed by the sun and sat down. And somewhere or other among them Marcian, quite neglected, was sleeping. Then an eagle flew over him spreading out his wings, as they say, and always remaining in the same place in the air he cast a shadow over Marcian alone. And Gizeric, upon seeing from the upper storey what was happening, since he was an exceedingly discerning person, suspected that the thing was a divine manifestation, and summoning the man enquired of him who he might be. And he replied that he was a confidential adviser of Aspar; such a person the Romans call a "domesticus" in their own tongue. And when Gizeric heard this and considered first the meaning of the bird's action, and then remembered how great power Aspar exercised in Byzantium, it became evident to him that the man was being led to royal power. He therefore by no means deemed it right to kill him, reasoning that, if he should remove him from the world, it would be very clear that the thing which the bird had done was nothing (for he would not honour with his shadow a king who was about to die straightway), and he felt, too, that he would be killing him for no good cause; and if, on the other hand, it was fated that in later times the man should become king, it would never be within his power to inflict death upon him; for that which has been decided upon by God could never be prevented by a man's decision. But he bound Marcian by oaths that, if it should be in his power, he would never take up arms against the Vandals at least. [450 A.D.] Thus, then, Marcian was released and came to Byzantium, and when at a later time Theodosius died he received the empire. And in all other respects he proved himself a good emperor, but he paid no attention at all to affairs in Libya. But this happened in later times.

At that time Gizeric, after conquering Aspar and Boniface in battle, displayed a foresight worth recounting, whereby he made his good fortune most thoroughly secure. For fearing lest, if once again an army should come against him from both Rome and Byzantium, the Vandals might not be able to use the same strength and enjoy the same fortune, (since human affairs are wont to be overturned by Heaven and to fail by reason of the weakness of men's bodies), he was not lifted up by the good fortune he had enjoyed, but rather became moderate because of what he feared, and so he made a treaty with the Emperor Valentinian providing that each year he should pay to the emperor tribute from Libya, and he delivered over one of his sons, Honoric, as a hostage to make this agreement binding. So Gizeric both showed himself a brave man in the battle and guarded the victory as securely as possible, and, since the friendship between the two peoples increased greatly, he received back his son Honoric. And at Rome Placidia had died before this time, and after her, Valentinian, her son, also died, having no male offspring, but two daughters had been born to him from Eudoxia, the child of Theodosius. And I shall now relate in what manner Valentinian died.

There was a certain Maximus, a Roman senator, of the house of that Maximus[23] who, while usurping the imperial power, was overthrown by the elder Theodosius and put to death, and on whose account also the Romans celebrate the annual festival named from the defeat of Maximus. This younger Maximus was married to a woman discreet in her ways and exceedingly famous for her beauty. For this reason a desire came over Valentinian to have her to wife. And since it was impossible, much as he wished it, to meet her, he plotted an unholy deed and carried it to fulfilment. For he summoned Maximus to the palace and sat down with him to a game of draughts, and a certain sum was set as a penalty for the loser; and the emperor won in this game, and receiving Maximus' ring as a pledge for the agreed amount, he sent it to his house, instructing the messenger to tell the wife of Maximus that her husband bade her come as quickly as possible to the palace to salute the queen Eudoxia. And she, judging by the ring that the message was from Maximus, entered her litter and was conveyed to the emperor's court. And she was received by those who had been assigned this service by the emperor, and led into a certain room far removed from the women's apartments, where Valentinian met her and forced her, much against her will. And she, after the outrage, went to her husband's house weeping and feeling the deepest possible grief because of her misfortune, and she cast many curses upon Maximus as having provided the cause for what had been done. Maximus, accordingly, became exceedingly aggrieved at that which had come to pass, and straightway entered into a conspiracy against the emperor; but when he saw that Aetius was exceedingly powerful, for he had recently conquered Attila, who had invaded the Roman domain with a great army of Massagetae and the other Scythians, the thought occurred to him that Aetius would be in the way of his undertaking. And upon considering this matter, it seemed to him that it was the better course to put Aetius out of the way first, paying no heed to the fact that the whole hope of the Romans centred in him. And since the eunuchs who were in attendance upon the emperor were well-disposed toward him, he persuaded the emperor by their devices that Aetius was setting on foot a revolution. And Valentinian, judging by nothing else than the power and valour of Aetius that the report was true, put the man to death. [Sept. 21, 454 A.D.] Whereupon a certain Roman made himself famous by a saying which he uttered. For when the emperor enquired of him whether he had done well in putting Aetius to death, he replied saying that, as to this matter, he was not able to know whether he had done well or perhaps otherwise, but one thing he understood exceedingly well, that he had cut off his own right hand with the other.

So after the death of Aetius,[24] Attila, since no one was a match for him, plundered all Europe with no trouble and made both emperors subservient and tributary to himself. For tribute money was sent to him every year by the emperors. At that time, while Attila was besieging Aquileia, a city of great size and exceedingly populous situated near the sea and above the Ionian Gulf, they say that the following good fortune befell him. For they tell the story that, when he was able to capture the place neither by force nor by any other means, he gave up the siege in despair, since it had already lasted a long time, and commanded the whole army without any delay to make their preparations for the departure, in order that on the morrow all might move from there at sunrise. And the following day about sunrise, the barbarians had raised the siege and were already beginning the departure, when a single male stork which had a nest on a certain tower of the city wall and was rearing his nestlings there suddenly rose and left the place with his young. And the father stork was flying, but the little storks, since they were not yet quite ready to fly, were at times sharing their father's flight and at times riding upon his back, and thus they flew off and went far away from the city. And when Attila saw this (for he was most clever at comprehending and interpreting all things), he commanded the army, they say, to remain still in the same place, adding that the bird would never have gone flying off at random from there with his nestlings, unless he was prophesying that some evil would come to the place at no distant time. Thus, they say, the army of the barbarians settled down to the siege once more, and not long after that a portion of the wall—the very part which held the nest of that bird—for no apparent reason suddenly fell down, and it became possible for the enemy to enter the city at that point, and thus Aquileia was captured by storm. Such is the story touching Aquileia.

Later on Maximus slew the emperor with no trouble and secured the tyranny, and he married Eudoxia by force. [455 A.D.] For the wife to whom he had been wedded had died not long before. And on one occasion in private he made the statement to Eudoxia that it was all for the sake of her love that he had carried out all that he had done. And since she felt a repulsion for Maximus even before that time, and had been desirous of exacting vengeance from him for the wrong done Valentinian, his words made her swell with rage still more against him, and led her on to carry out her plot, since she had heard Maximus say that on account of her the misfortune had befallen her husband. And as soon as day came, she sent to Carthage entreating Gizeric to avenge Valentinian, who had been destroyed by an unholy man, in a manner unworthy both of himself and of his imperial station, and to deliver her, since she was suffering unholy treatment at the hand of the tyrant. And she impressed it upon Gizeric that, since he was a friend and ally and so great a calamity had befallen the imperial house, it was not a holy thing to fail to become an avenger. For from Byzantium she thought no vengeance would come, since Theodosius had already departed from the world and Marcian had taken over the empire. [Mar. 17, 455 A.D.]


And Gizeric, for no other reason than that he suspected that much money would come to him, set sail for Italy with a great fleet. And going up to Rome, since no one stood in his way, he took possession of the palace. Now while Maximus was trying to flee, the Romans threw stones at him and killed him, and they cut off his head and each of his other members and divided them among themselves. But Gizeric took Eudoxia captive, together with Eudocia and Placidia, the children of herself and Valentinian, and placing an exceedingly great amount of gold and other imperial treasure[25] in his ships sailed to Carthage, having spared neither bronze nor anything else whatsoever in the palace. He plundered also the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and tore off half of the roof. Now this roof was of bronze of the finest quality, and since gold was laid over it exceedingly thick, it shone as a magnificent and wonderful spectacle.[26] But of the ships with Gizeric, one, which was bearing the statues, was lost, they say, but with all the others the Vandals reached port in the harbour of Carthage. Gizeric then married Eudocia to Honoric, the elder of his sons; but the other of the two women, being the wife of Olybrius, a most distinguished man in the Roman senate, he sent to Byzantium together with her mother, Eudoxia, at the request of the emperor. Now the power of the East had by now fallen to Leon, who had been set in this position by Aspar, since Marcian had already passed from the world. [457 A.D.]

Afterwards Gizeric devised the following scheme. He tore down the walls of all the cities in Libya except Carthage, so that neither the Libyans themselves, espousing the cause of the Romans, might have a strong base from which to begin a rebellion, nor those sent by the emperor have any ground for hoping to capture a city and by establishing a garrison in it to make trouble for the Vandals. Now at that time it seemed that he had counselled well and had ensured prosperity for the Vandals in the safest possible manner; but in later times when these cities, being without walls, were captured by Belisarius all the more easily and with less exertion, Gizeric was then condemned to suffer much ridicule, and that which for the time he considered wise counsel turned out for him to be folly. For as fortunes change, men are always accustomed to change with them their judgments regarding what has been planned in the past. And among the Libyans all who happened to be men of note and conspicuous for their wealth he handed over as slaves, together with their estates and all their money, to his sons Honoric and Genzon. For Theodorus, the youngest son, had died already, being altogether without offspring, either male or female. And he robbed the rest of the Libyans of their estates, which were both very numerous and excellent, and distributed them among the nation of the Vandals, and as a result of this these lands have been called "Vandals' estates" up to the present time. And it fell to the lot of those who had formerly possessed these lands to be in extreme poverty and to be at the same time free men; and they had the privilege of going away wheresoever they wished. And Gizeric commanded that all the lands which he had given over to his sons and to the other Vandals should not be subject to any kind of taxation. But as much of the land as did not seem to him good he allowed to remain in the hands of the former owners, but assessed so large a sum to be paid on this land for taxes to the government that nothing whatever remained to those who retained their farms. And many of them were constantly being sent into exile or killed. For charges were brought against them of many sorts, and heavy ones too; but one charge seemed to be the greatest of all, that a man, having money of his own, was hiding it. Thus the Libyans were visited with every form of misfortune.

The Vandals and the Alani he arranged in companies, appointing over them no less than eighty captains, whom he called "chiliarchs,"[27] making it appear that his host of fighting men in active service amounted to eighty thousand. And yet the number of the Vandals and Alani was said in former times, at least, to amount to no more than fifty thousand men. However, after that time by their natural increase among themselves and by associating other barbarians with them they came to be an exceedingly numerous people. But the names of the Alani and all the other barbarians, except the Moors, were united in the name of Vandals. At that time, after the death of Valentinian, Gizeric gained the support of the Moors, and every year at the beginning of spring he made invasions into Sicily and Italy, enslaving some of the cities, razing others to the ground, and plundering everything; and when the land had become destitute of men and of money, he invaded the domain of the emperor of the East. And so he plundered Illyricum and the most of the Peloponnesus and of the rest of Greece and all the islands which lie near it. And again he went off to Sicily and Italy, and kept plundering and pillaging all places in turn. And one day when he had embarked on his ship in the harbour of Carthage, and the sails were already being spread, the pilot asked him, they say, against what men in the world he bade them go. And he in reply said: "Plainly against those with whom God is angry." Thus without any cause he kept making invasions wherever chance might lead him.


And the Emperor Leon, wishing to punish the Vandals because of these things, was gathering an army against them; and they say that this army amounted to about one hundred thousand men. And he collected a fleet of ships from the whole of the eastern Mediterranean, shewing great generosity to both soldiers and sailors, for he feared lest from a parsimonious policy some obstacle might arise to hinder him in his desire to carry out his punishment of the barbarians. Therefore, they say, thirteen hundred centenaria[28] were expended by him to no purpose. But since it was not fated that the Vandals should be destroyed by this expedition, he made Basiliscus commander-in-chief, the brother of his wife Berine, a man who was extraordinarily desirous of the royal power, which he hoped would come to him without a struggle if he won the friendship of Aspar. For Aspar himself, being an adherent of the Arian faith, and having no intention of changing it for another, was unable to enter upon the imperial office, but he was easily strong enough to establish another in it, and it already seemed likely that he would plot against the Emperor Leon, who had given him offence. So they say that since Aspar was then fearful lest, if the Vandals were defeated, Leon should establish his power most securely, he repeatedly urged upon Basiliscus that he should spare the Vandals and Gizeric.

[467 A.D.] Now before this time Leon had already appointed and sent Anthemius, as Emperor of the West, a man of the senate of great wealth and high birth, in order that he might assist him in the Vandalic war. And yet Gizeric kept asking and earnestly entreating that the imperial power be given to Olybrius, who was married to Placidia, the daughter of Valentinian, and on account of his relationship[29] well-disposed toward him, and when he failed in this he was still more angry and kept plundering the whole land of the emperor. Now there was in Dalmatia a certain Marcellianus, one of the acquaintances of Aetius and a man of repute, who, after Aetius had died in the manner told above,[30] no longer deigned to yield obedience to the emperor, but beginning a revolution and detaching all the others from allegiance, held the power of Dalmatia himself, since no one dared encounter him. But the Emperor Leon at that time won over this Marcellianus by very careful wheedling, and bade him go to the island of Sardinia, which was then subject to the Vandals. And he drove out the Vandals and gained possession of it with no great difficulty. And Heracleius was sent from Byzantium to Tripolis in Libya, and after conquering the Vandals of that district in battle, he easily captured the cities, and leaving his ships there, led his army on foot toward Carthage. Such, then, was the sequence of events which formed the prelude of the war.

But Basiliscus with his whole fleet put in at a town distant from Carthage no less than two hundred and eighty stades (now it so happened that a temple of Hermes had been there from of old, from which fact the place was named Mercurium; for the Romans call Hermes "Mercurius"), and if he had not purposely played the coward and hesitated, but had undertaken to go straight for Carthage, he would have captured it at the first onset, and he would have reduced the Vandals to subjection without their even thinking of resistance; so overcome was Gizeric with awe of Leon as an invincible emperor, when the report was brought to him that Sardinia and Tripolis had been captured, and he saw the fleet of Basiliscus to be such as the Romans were said never to have had before. But, as it was, the general's hesitation, whether caused by cowardice or treachery, prevented this success. And Gizeric, profiting by the negligence of Basiliscus, did as follows. Arming all his subjects in the best way he could, he filled his ships, but not all, for some he kept in readiness empty, and they were the ships which sailed most swiftly. And sending envoys to Basiliscus, he begged him to defer the war for the space of five days, in order that in the meantime he might take counsel and do those things which were especially desired by the emperor. They say, too, that he sent also a great amount of gold without the knowledge of the army of Basiliscus and thus purchased this armistice. And he did this, thinking, as actually did happen, that a favouring wind would rise for him during this time. And Basiliscus, either as doing a favour to Aspar in accordance with what he had promised, or selling the moment of opportunity for money, or perhaps thinking it the better course, did as he was requested and remained quietly in the camp, awaiting the moment favourable to the enemy.

But the Vandals, as soon as the wind had arisen for them which they had been expecting during the time they lay at rest, raised their sails and, taking in tow the boats which, as has been stated above, they had made ready with no men in them, they sailed against the enemy. And when they came near, they set fire to the boats which they were towing, when their sails were bellied by the wind, and let them go against the Roman fleet. And since there were a great number of ships there, these boats easily spread fire wherever they struck, and were themselves readily destroyed together with those with which they came in contact. And as the fire advanced in this way the Roman fleet was filled with tumult, as was natural, and with a great din that rivalled the noise caused by the wind and the roaring of the flames, as the soldiers together with the sailors shouted orders to one another and pushed off with their poles the fire-boats and their own ships as well, which were being destroyed by one another in complete disorder. And already the Vandals too were at hand ramming and sinking the ships, and making booty of such of the soldiers as attempted to escape, and of their arms as well. But there were also some of the Romans who proved themselves brave men in this struggle, and most of all John, who was a general under Basiliscus and who had no share whatever in his treason. For a great throng having surrounded his ship, he stood on the deck, and turning from side to side kept killing very great numbers of the enemy from there, and when he perceived that the ship was being captured, he leaped with his whole equipment of arms from the deck into the sea. And though Genzon, the son of Gizeric, entreated him earnestly not to do this, offering pledges and holding out promises of safety, he nevertheless threw himself into the sea, uttering this one word, that John would never come under the hands of dogs.

So this war came to an end, and Heracleius departed for home; for Marcellianus had been destroyed treacherously by one of his fellow-officers. And Basiliscus, coming to Byzantium, seated himself as a suppliant in the sanctuary of Christ the Great God ("Sophia"[31] the temple is called by the men of Byzantium who consider that this designation is especially appropriate to God), and although, by the intercession of Berine, the queen, he escaped this danger, he was not able at that time to reach the throne, the thing for the sake of which everything had been done by him. For the Emperor Leon not long afterwards destroyed both Aspar and Ardaburius in the palace, because he suspected that they were plotting against his life. [471 A.D.] Thus, then, did these events take place.


[Aug. 11, 472 A.D.] Now Anthemius, the emperor of the West, died at the hand of his son-in-law Rhecimer, and Olybrius, succeeding to the throne, a short time afterward suffered the same fate. [Oct. 10, 472 A.D.] And when Leon also had died in Byzantium, the imperial office was taken over by the younger Leon, the son of Zeno and Ariadne, the daughter of Leon, while he was still only a few days old. And his father having been chosen as partner in the royal power, the child forthwith passed from the world. [474 A.D.] Majorinus also deserves mention, who had gained the power of the West before this time. For this Majorinus, who surpassed in every virtue all who have ever been emperors of the Romans, did not bear lightly the loss of Libya, but collected a very considerable army against the Vandals and came to Liguria, intending himself to lead the army against the enemy. For Majorinus never showed the least hesitation before any task and least of all before the dangers of war. But thinking it not inexpedient for him to investigate first the strength of the Vandals and the character of Gizeric and to discover how the Moors and Libyans stood with regard to friendship or hostility toward the Romans, he decided to trust no eyes other than his own in such a matter. Accordingly he set out as if an envoy from the emperor to Gizeric, assuming some fictitious name. And fearing lest, by becoming known, he should himself receive some harm and at the same time prevent the success of the enterprise, he devised the following scheme. His hair, which was famous among all men as being so fair as to resemble pure gold, he anointed with some kind of dye, which was especially invented for this purpose, and so succeeded completely in changing it for the time to a dark hue. And when he came before Gizeric, the barbarian attempted in many ways to terrify him, and in particular, while treating him with engaging attention, as if a friend, he brought him into the house where all his weapons were stored, a numerous and exceedingly noteworthy array. Thereupon they say that the weapons shook of their own accord and gave forth a sound of no ordinary or casual sort, and then it seemed to Gizeric that there had been an earthquake, but when he got outside and made enquiries concerning the earthquake, since no one else agreed with him, a great wonder, they say, came over him, but he was not able to comprehend the meaning of what had happened. So Majorinus, having accomplished the very things he wished, returned to Liguria, and leading his army on foot, came to the Pillars of Heracles, purposing to cross over the strait at that point, and then to march by land from there against Carthage. And when Gizeric became aware of this, and perceived that he had been tricked by Majorinus in the matter of the embassy, he became alarmed and made his preparations for war. And the Romans, basing their confidence on the valour of Majorinus, already began to have fair hopes of recovering Libya for the empire. [461 A.D.] But meantime Majorinus was attacked by the disease of dysentery and died, a man who had shewn himself moderate toward his subjects, and an object of fear to his enemies. [July 24, 474 A.D.] And another emperor, Nepos, upon taking over the empire, and living to enjoy it only a few days, died of disease, and Glycerius after him entered into this office and suffered a similar fate. [474-475 A.D.] And after him Augustus assumed the imperial power. There were, moreover, still other emperors in the West before this time, but though I know their names well, I shall make no mention of them whatever. For it so fell out that they lived only a short time after attaining the office, and as a result of this accomplished nothing worthy of mention. Such was the course of events in the West.

But in Byzantium Basiliscus, being no longer able to master his passion for royal power, made an attempt to usurp the throne, and succeeded without difficulty, since Zeno, together with his wife, sought refuge in Isauria, which was his native home. [471 A.D.] And while he was maintaining his tyranny for a year and eight months he was detested by practically everyone and in particular by the soldiers of the court on account of the greatness of his avarice. And Zeno, perceiving this, collected an army and came against him. And Basiliscus sent an army under the general Harmatus in order to array himself against Zeno. But when they had made camp near one another, Harmatus surrendered his army to Zeno, on the condition that Zeno should appoint as Caesar Harmatus' son Basiliscus, who was a very young child, and leave him as successor to the throne upon his death. And Basiliscus, deserted by all, fled for refuge to the same sanctuary as formerly. And Acacius, the priest of the city, put him into the hands of Zeno, charging him with impiety and with having brought great confusion and many innovations into the Christian doctrine, having inclined toward the heresy of Eutyches. And this was so. And after Zeno had thus taken over the empire a second time, he carried out his pledge to Harmatus formally by appointing his son Basiliscus Caesar, but not long afterwards he both stripped him of the office and put Harmatus to death. And he sent Basiliscus together with his children and his wife into Cappadocia in the winter season, commanding that they should be destitute of food and clothes and every kind of care. And there, being hard pressed by both cold and hunger, they took refuge in one another's arms, and embracing their loved ones, perished. And this punishment overtook Basiliscus for the policy he had pursued. These things, however, happened in later times.

But at that time Gizeric was plundering the whole Roman domain just as much as before, if not more, circumventing his enemy by craft and driving them out of their possessions by force, as has been previously said, and he continued to do so until the emperor Zeno came to an agreement with him and an endless peace was established between them, by which it was provided that the Vandals should never in all time perform any hostile act against the Romans nor suffer such a thing at their hands. And this peace was preserved by Zeno himself and also by his successor in the empire, Anastasius And it remained in force until the time of the emperor Justinus. But Justinian, who was the nephew of Justinus, succeeded him in the imperial power, and it was in the reign of this Justinian that the war with which we are concerned came to pass, in the manner which will be told in the following narrative. [477 A.D.] Gizeric, after living on a short time, died at an advanced age, having made a will in which he enjoined many things upon the Vandals and in particular that the royal power among them should always fall to that one who should be the first in years among all the male offspring descended from Gizeric himself. So Gizeric, having ruled over the Vandals thirty-nine years from the time when he captured Carthage, died, as I have said.


And Honoric, the eldest of his sons, succeeded to the throne, Genzon having already departed from the world. During the time when this Honoric ruled the Vandals they had no war against anyone at all, except the Moors. For through fear of Gizeric the Moors had remained quiet before that time, but as soon as he was out of their way they both did much harm to the Vandals and suffered the same themselves. And Honoric shewed himself the most cruel and unjust of all men toward the Christians in Libya. For he forced them to change over to the Arian faith, and as many as he found not readily yielding to him he burned, or destroyed by other forms of death; and he also cut off the tongues of many from the very throat, who even up to my time were going about in Byzantium having their speech uninjured, and perceiving not the least effect from this punishment; but two of these, since they saw fit to go in to harlots, were thenceforth no longer able to speak. And after ruling over the Vandals eight years he died of disease; and by that time the Moors dwelling on Mt. Aurasium[32] had revolted from the Vandals and were independent (this Aurasium is a mountain of Numidia, about thirteen days' journey distant from Carthage and fronting the south); and indeed they never came under the Vandals again, since the latter were unable to carry on a war against Moors on a mountain difficult of access and exceedingly steep.

After the death of Honoric the rule of the Vandals fell to Gundamundus, the son of Genzon, the son of Gizeric. [485 A.D.] For he, in point of years, was the first of the offspring of Gizeric. This Gundamundus fought against the Moors in numerous encounters, and after subjecting the Christians to still greater suffering, he died of disease, being now at about the middle of the twelfth year of his reign. [496 A.D.] And his brother Trasamundus took over the kingdom, a man well-favoured in appearance and especially gifted with discretion and highmindedness. However he continued to force the Christians to change their ancestral faith, not by torturing their bodies as his predecessors had done, but by seeking to win them with honours and offices and presenting them with great sums of money; and in the case of those who would not be persuaded, he pretended he had not the least knowledge of what manner of men they were.[33] And if he caught any guilty of great crimes which they had committed either by accident or deliberate intent, he would offer such men, as a reward for changing their faith, that they should not be punished for their offences. And when his wife died without becoming the mother of either male or female offspring, wishing to establish the kingdom as securely as possible, he sent to Theoderic, the king of the Goths, asking him to give him his sister Amalafrida to wife, for her husband had just died. And Theoderic sent him not only his sister but also a thousand of the notable Goths as a bodyguard, who were followed by a host of attendants amounting to about five thousand fighting men. And Theoderic also presented his sister with one of the promontories of Sicily, which are three in number,—the one which they call Lilybaeum,—and as a result of this Trasamundus was accounted the strongest and most powerful of all those who had ruled over the Vandals. He became also a very special friend of the emperor Anastasius. It was during the reign of Trasamundus that it came about that the Vandals suffered a disaster at the hands of the Moors such as had never befallen them before that time.

There was a certain Cabaon ruling over the Moors of Tripolis, a man experienced in many wars and exceedingly shrewd. This Cabaon, upon learning that the Vandals were marching against him, did as follows. First of all he issued orders to his subjects to abstain from all injustice and from all foods tending towards luxury and most of all from association with women; and setting up two palisaded enclosures, he encamped himself with all the men in one, and in the other he shut the women, and he threatened that death would be the penalty if anyone should go to the women's palisade. And after this he sent spies to Carthage with the following instructions: whenever the Vandals in going forth on the expedition should offer insult to any temple which the Christians reverence, they were to look on and see what took place; and when the Vandals had passed the place, they were to do the opposite of everything which the Vandals had done to the sanctuary before their departure. And they say that he added this also, that he was ignorant of the God whom the Christians worshipped, but it was probable that if He was powerful, as He was said to be, He should wreak vengeance upon those who insulted Him and defend those who honoured Him. So the spies came to Carthage and waited quietly, observing the preparation of the Vandals; but when the army set out on the march to Tripolis, they followed, clothing themselves in humble garb. And the Vandals, upon making camp the first day, led their horses and their other animals into the temples of the Christians, and sparing no insult, they acted with all the unrestrained lawlessness natural to them, beating as many priests as they caught and lashing them with many blows over the back and commanding them to render such service to the Vandals as they were accustomed to assign to the most dishonoured of their domestics. And as soon as they had departed from there, the spies of Cabaon did as they had been directed to do; for they straightway cleansed the sanctuaries and took away with great care the filth and whatever other unholy thing lay in them, and they lighted all the lamps and bowed down before the priests with great reverence and saluted them with all friendliness; and after giving pieces of silver to the poor who sat about these sanctuaries, they then followed after the army of the Vandals. And from then on along the whole route the Vandals continued to commit the same offences and the spies to render the same service. And when they were coming near the Moors, the spies anticipated them and reported to Cabaon what had been done by the Vandals and by themselves to the temples of the Christians, and that the enemy were somewhere near by. And Cabaon, upon learning this, arranged for the encounter as follows. He marked off a circle in the plain where he was about to make his palisade, and placed his camels turned sideways in a circle as a protection for the camp, making his line fronting the enemy about twelve camels deep. Then he placed the children and the women and all those who were unfit for fighting together with their possessions in the middle, while he commanded the host of fighting men to stand between the feet of those animals, covering themselves with their shields.[34] And since the phalanx of the Moors was of such a sort, the Vandals were at a loss how to handle the situation; for they were neither good with the javelin nor with the bow, nor did they know how to go into battle on foot, but they were all horsemen, and used spears and swords for the most part, so that they were unable to do the enemy any harm at a distance; and their horses, annoyed at the sight of the camels, refused absolutely to be driven against the enemy. And since the Moors, by hurling javelins in great numbers among them from their safe position, kept killing both their horses and men without difficulty, because they were a vast throng, they began to flee, and, when the Moors came out against them, the most of them were destroyed, while some fell into the hands of the enemy; and an exceedingly small number from this army returned home. Such was the fortune which Trasamundus suffered at the hands of the Moors. And he died at a later time, having ruled over the Moors twenty-seven years.


[523 A.D.] And Ilderic, the son of Honoric, the son of Gizeric, next received the kingdom, a ruler who was easily approached by his subjects and altogether gentle, and he shewed himself harsh neither to the Christians nor to anyone else, but in regard to affairs of war he was a weakling and did not wish this thing even to come to his ears. Hoamer, accordingly, his nephew and an able warrior, led the armies against any with whom the Vandals were at war; he it was whom they called the Achilles of the Vandals. During the reign of this Ilderic the Vandals were defeated in Byzacium by the Moors, who were ruled by Antalas, and it so fell out that they became enemies instead of allies and friends to Theoderic and the Goths in Italy. For they put Amalafrida in prison and destroyed all the Goths, charging them with revolutionary designs against the Vandals and Ilderic. However, no revenge came from Theoderic, for he considered himself unable to gather a great fleet and make an expedition into Libya, and Ilderic was a very particular friend and guest-friend of Justinian, who had not yet come to the throne, but was administering the government according to his pleasure; for his uncle Justinus, who was emperor, was very old and not altogether experienced in matters of state. And Ilderic and Justinian made large presents of money to each other.

Now there was a certain man in the family of Gizeric, Gelimer, the son of Geilaris, the son of Genzon, the son of Gizeric, who was of such age as to be second only to Ilderic, and for this reason he was expected to come into the kingdom very soon. This man was thought to be the best warrior of his time, but for the rest he was a cunning fellow and base at heart and well versed in undertaking revolutionary enterprises and in laying hold upon the money of others. Now this Gelimer, when he saw the power coming to him, was not able to live in his accustomed way, but assumed to himself the tasks of a king and usurped the rule, though it was not yet due him; and since Ilderic in a spirit of friendliness gave in to him, he was no longer able to restrain his thoughts, but allying with himself all the noblest of the Vandals, he persuaded them to wrest the kingdom from Ilderic, as being an unwarlike king who had been defeated by the Moors, and as betraying the power of the Vandals into the hand of the Emperor Justinus, in order that the kingdom might not come to him, because he was of the other branch of the family; for he asserted slanderously that this was the meaning of Ilderic's embassy to Byzantium, and that he was giving over the empire of the Vandals to Justinus. And they, being persuaded, carried out this plan. [530 A.D.] Thus Gelimer seized the supreme power, and imprisoned Ilderic, after he had ruled over the Vandals seven years, and also Hoamer and his brother Euagees.

[527 A.D.] But when Justinian heard these things, having already received the imperial power, he sent envoys to Gelimer in Libya with the following letter: "You are not acting in a holy manner nor worthily of the will of Gizeric, keeping in prison an old man and a kinsman and the king of the Vandals (if the counsels of Gizeric are to be of effect), and robbing him of his office by violence, though it would be possible for you to receive it after a short time in a lawful manner. Do you therefore do no further wrong and do not exchange the name of king for the title of tyrant, which comes but a short time earlier. But as for this man, whose death may be expected at any moment, allow him to bear in appearance the form of royal power, while you do all the things which it is proper that a king should do; and wait until you can receive from time and the law of Gizeric, and from them alone, the name which belongs to the position. For if you do this, the attitude of the Almighty will be favourable and at the same time our relations with you will be friendly." Such was his message. But Gelimer sent the envoys away with nothing accomplished, and he blinded Hoamer and also kept Ilderic and Euagees in closer confinement, charging them with planning flight to Byzantium. And when this too was heard by the Emperor Justinian, he sent envoys a second time and wrote as follows: "We, indeed, supposed that you would never go contrary to our advice when we wrote you the former letter. But since it pleases you to have secured possession of the royal power in the manner in which you have taken and now hold it, get from it whatever Heaven grants. But do you send to us Ilderic, and Hoamer whom you have blinded, and his brother, to receive what comfort they can who have been robbed of a kingdom or of sight; for we shall not let the matter rest if you do not do this. And I speak thus because we are led by the hope which I had based on our friendship. And the treaty with Gizeric will not stand as an obstacle for us. For it is not to make war upon him who has succeeded to the kingdom of Gizeric that we come, but to avenge Gizeric with all our power."

When Gelimer had read this, he replied as follows: "King Gelimer to the Emperor Justinian. Neither have I taken the office by violence nor has anything unholy been done by me to my kinsmen. For Ilderic, while planning a revolution against the house of Gizeric, was dethroned by the nation of the Vandals; and I was called to the kingdom by my years, which gave me the preference, according to the law at least. Now it is well for one to administer the kingly office which belongs to him and not to make the concerns of others his own. Hence for you also, who have a kingdom, meddling in other's affairs is not just; and if you break the treaty and come against us, we shall oppose you with all our power, calling to witness the oaths which were sworn by Zeno, from whom you have received the kingdom which you hold." The Emperor Justinian, upon receiving this letter, having been angry with Gelimer even before then, was still more eager to punish him. And it seemed to him best to put an end to the Persian war as soon as possible and then to make an expedition to Libya; and since he was quick at forming a plan and prompt in carrying out his decisions, Belisarius, the General of the East, was summoned and came to him immediately, no announcement having been made to him nor to anyone else that he was about to lead an army against Libya, but it was given out that he had been removed from the office which he held. And straightway the treaty with Persia was made, as has been told in the preceding narrative.[35]


And when the Emperor Justinian considered that the situation was as favourable as possible, both as to domestic affairs and as to his relations with Persia, he took under consideration the situation in Libya. But when he disclosed to the magistrates that he was gathering an army against the Vandals and Gelimer, the most of them began immediately to show hostility to the plan, and they lamented it as a misfortune, recalling the expedition of the Emperor Leon and the disaster of Basiliscus, and reciting how many soldiers had perished and how much money the state had lost. But the men who were the most sorrowful of all, and who, by reason of their anxiety, felt the keenest regret, were the pretorian prefect, whom the Romans call "praetor," and the administrator of the treasury, and all to whom had been assigned the collection of either public or imperial[36] taxes, for they reasoned that while it would be necessary for them to produce countless sums for the needs of the war, they would be granted neither pardon in case of failure nor extension of time in which to raise these sums. And every one of the generals, supposing that he himself would command the army, was in terror and dread at the greatness of the danger, if it should be necessary for him, if he were preserved from the perils of the sea, to encamp in the enemy's land, and, using his ships as a base, to engage in a struggle against a kingdom both large and formidable. The soldiers, also, having recently returned from a long, hard war, and having not yet tasted to the full the blessings of home, were in despair, both because they were being led into sea-fighting,—a thing which they had not learned even from tradition before then,—and because they were sent from the eastern frontier to the West, in order to risk their lives against Vandals and Moors. But all the rest, as usually happens in a great throng, wished to be spectators of new adventures while others faced the dangers.

But as for saying anything to the emperor to prevent the expedition, no one dared to do this except John the Cappadocian, the pretorian prefect, a man of the greatest daring and the cleverest of all men of his time. For this John, while all the others were bewailing in silence the fortune which was upon them, came before the emperor and spoke as follows: "O Emperor, the good faith which thou dost shew in dealing with thy subjects enables us to speak frankly regarding anything which will be of advantage to thy government, even though what is said and done may not be agreeable to thee. For thus does thy wisdom temper thy authority with justice, in that thou dost not consider that man only as loyal to thy cause who serves thee under any and all conditions, nor art thou angry with the man who speaks against thee, but by weighing all things by pure reason alone, thou hast often shewn that it involves us in no danger to oppose thy purposes. Led by these considerations, O Emperor, I have come to offer this advice, knowing that, though I shall give perhaps offence at the moment, if it so chance, yet in the future the loyalty which I bear you will be made clear, and that for this I shall be able to shew thee as a witness. For if, through not hearkening to my words, thou shalt carry out the war against the Vandals, it will come about, if the struggle is prolonged for thee, that my advice will win renown. For if thou hast confidence that thou wilt conquer the enemy, it is not at all unreasonable that thou shouldst sacrifice the lives of men and expend a vast amount of treasure, and undergo the difficulties of the struggle; for victory, coming at the end, covers up all the calamities of war. But if in reality these things lie on the knees of God, and if it behoves us, taking example from what has happened in the past, to fear the outcome of war, on what grounds is it not better to love a state of quiet rather than the dangers of mortal strife? Thou art purposing to make an expedition against Carthage, to which, if one goes by land, the journey is one of a hundred and forty days, and if one goes by water, he is forced to cross the whole open sea and go to its very end. So that he who brings thee news of what will happen in the camp must needs reach thee a year after the event. And one might add that if thou art victorious over thy enemy, thou couldst not take possession of Libya while Sicily and Italy lie in the hands of others; and at the same time, if any reverse befall thee, O Emperor, the treaty having already been broken by thee, thou wilt bring the danger upon our own land. In fact, putting all in a word, it will not be possible for thee to reap the fruits of victory, and at the same time any reversal of fortune will bring harm to what is well established. It is before an enterprise that wise planning is useful. For when men have failed, repentance is of no avail, but before disaster comes there is no danger in altering plans. Therefore it will be of advantage above all else to make fitting use of the decisive moment."

Thus spoke John; and the Emperor Justinian, hearkening to his words, checked his eager desire for the war. But one of the priests whom they call bishops, who had come from the East, said that he wished to have a word with the emperor. And when he met Justinian, he said that God had visited him in a dream, and bidden him go to the emperor and rebuke him, because, after undertaking the task of protecting the Christians in Libya from tyrants, he had for no good reason become afraid. "And yet," He had said, "I will Myself join with him in waging war and make him lord of Libya." When the emperor heard this, he was no longer able to restrain his purpose, and he began to collect the army and the ships, and to make ready supplies of weapons and of food, and he announced to Belisarius that he should be in readiness, because he was very soon to act as general in Libya. Meanwhile Pudentius, one of the natives of Tripolis in Libya, caused this district to revolt from the Vandals, and sending to the emperor he begged that he should despatch an army to him; for, he said, he would with no trouble win the land for the emperor. And Justinian sent him Tattimuth and an army of no very great size. This force Pudentius joined with his own troops and, the Vandals being absent, he gained possession of the land and made it subject to the emperor. And Gelimer, though wishing to inflict punishment upon Pudentius, found the following obstacle in his way.

There was a certain Godas among the slaves of Gelimer, a Goth by birth, a passionate and energetic fellow possessed of great bodily strength, but appearing to be well-disposed to the cause of his master. To this Godas Gelimer entrusted the island of Sardinia, in order both to guard the island and to pay over the annual tribute. But he neither could digest the prosperity brought by fortune nor had he the spirit to endure it, and so he undertook to establish a tyranny, and he refused to continue the payment of the tribute, and actually detached the island from the Vandals and held it himself. And when he perceived that the Emperor Justinian was eager to make war against Libya and Gelimer, he wrote to him as follows:

"It was neither because I yielded to folly nor because I had suffered anything unpleasant at my master's hands that I turned my thoughts towards rebellion, but seeing the extreme cruelty of the man both toward his kinsmen and toward his subjects, I could not, willingly at least, be reputed to have a share in his inhumanity. For it is better to serve a just king than a tyrant whose commands are unlawful. But do thou join with me to assist in this my effort and send soldiers so that I may be able to ward off my assailants."

And the emperor, on receiving this letter, was pleased, and he sent Eulogius as envoy and wrote a letter praising Godas for his wisdom and his zeal for justice, and he promised an alliance and soldiers and a general, who would be able to guard the island with him and to assist him in every other way, so that no trouble should come to him from the Vandals. But Eulogius, upon coming to Sardinia, found that Godas was assuming the name and wearing the dress of a king and that he had attached a body-guard to his person. And when Godas read the emperor's letter, he said that it was his wish to have soldiers, indeed, come to fight along with him, but as for a commander, he had absolutely no desire for one. And having written to the emperor in this sense, he dismissed Eulogius.


The emperor, meanwhile, not having yet ascertained these things, was preparing four hundred soldiers with Cyril as commander, who were to assist Godas in guarding the island. And with them he also had in readiness the expedition against Carthage, ten thousand foot-soldiers, and five thousand horsemen, gathered from the regular troops and from the "foederati." Now at an earlier time only barbarians were enlisted among the foederati, those, namely, who had come into the Roman political system, not in the condition of slaves, since they had not been conquered by the Romans, but on the basis of complete equality.[37] For the Romans call treaties with their enemies "foedera." But at the present time there is nothing to prevent anyone from assuming this name, since time will by no means consent to keep names attached to the things to which they were formerly applied, but conditions are ever changing about according to the desire of men who control them, and men pay little heed to the meaning which they originally attached to a name. And the commanders of the foederati were Dorotheus, the general of the troops in Armenia, and Solomon, who was acting as manager for the general Belisarius; (such a person the Romans call "domesticus." Now this Solomon was a eunuch, but it was not by the devising of man that he had suffered mutilation, but some accident which befell him while in swaddling clothes had imposed this lot upon him); and there were also Cyprian, Valerian, Martinus, Althias, John, Marcellus, and the Cyril whom I have mentioned above; and the commanders of the regular cavalry were Rufinus and Aigan, who were of the house of Belisarius, and Barbatus and Pappus, while the regular infantry was commanded by Theodorus, who was surnamed Cteanus, and Terentius, Zaidus, Marcian, and Sarapis. And a certain John, a native of Epidamnus, which is now called Dyrrachium, held supreme command over all the leaders of infantry. Among all these commanders Solomon was from a place in the East, at the very extremity of the Roman domain, where the city called Daras now stands, and Aigan was by birth of the Massagetae whom they now call Huns; and the rest were almost all inhabitants of the land of Thrace. And there followed with them also four hundred Eruli, whom Pharas led, and about six hundred barbarian allies from the nation of the Massagetae, all mounted bowmen; these were led by Sinnion and Balas, men endowed with bravery and endurance in the highest degree. And for the whole force five hundred ships were required, no one of which was able to carry more than fifty thousand medimni,[38] nor any one less than three thousand. And in all the vessels together there were thirty thousand sailors, Egyptians and Ionians for the most part, and Cilicians, and one commander was appointed over all the ships, Calonymus of Alexandria. And they had also ships of war prepared as for sea-fighting, to the number of ninety-two, and they were single-banked ships covered by decks, in order that the men rowing them might if possible not be exposed to the bolts of the enemy. Such boats are called "dromones"[39] by those of the present time; for they are able to attain a great speed. In these sailed two thousand men of Byzantium, who were all rowers as well as fighting men; for there was not a single superfluous man among them. And Archelaus was also sent, a man of patrician standing who had already been pretorian prefect both in Byzantium and in Illyricum, but he then held the position of prefect of the army; for thus the officer charged with the maintenance of the army is designated. But as general with supreme authority over all the emperor sent Belisarius, who was in command of the troops of the East for the second time. And he was followed by many spearmen and many guards as well, men who were capable warriors and thoroughly experienced in the dangers of fighting. And the emperor gave him written instructions, bidding him do everything as seemed best to him, and stating that his acts would be final, as if the emperor himself had done them. The writing, in fact, gave him the power of a king. Now Belisarius was a native of Germania, which lies between Thrace and Illyricum. These things, then, took place in this way.

Gelimer, however, being deprived of Tripolis by Pudentius and of Sardinia by Godas, scarcely hoped to regain Tripolis, since it was situated at a great distance and the rebels were already being assisted by the Romans, against whom just at that moment it seemed to him best not to take the field; but he was eager to get to the island before any army sent by the emperor to fight for his enemies should arrive there. He accordingly selected five thousand of the Vandals and one hundred and twenty ships of the fastest kind, and appointing as general his brother Tzazon, he sent them off. And so they were sailing with great enthusiasm and eagerness against Godas and Sardinia. In the meantime the Emperor Justinian was sending off Valerian and Martinus in advance of the others in order to await the rest of the army in the Peloponnesus. And when these two had embarked upon their ships, it came to the emperor's mind that there was something which he wished to enjoin upon them,—a thing which he had wished to say previously, but he had been so busied with the other matters of which he had to speak that his mind had been occupied with them and this subject had been driven out. He summoned them, accordingly, intending to say what he wished, but upon considering the matter, he saw that it would not be propitious for them to interrupt their journey. He therefore sent men to forbid them either to return to him or to disembark from their ships. And these men, upon coming near the ships, commanded them with much shouting and loud cries by no means to turn back, and it seemed to those present that the thing which had happened was no good omen and that never would one of the men in those ships return from Libya to Byzantium. For besides the omen they suspected that a curse also had come to the men from the emperor, not at all by his own will, so that they would not return. Now if anyone should so interpret the incident with regard to these two commanders, Valerian and Martinus, he will find the original opinion untrue. But there was a certain man among the body-guards of Martinus, Stotzas by name, who was destined to be an enemy of the emperor, to make an attempt to set up a tyranny, and by no means to return to Byzantium, and one might suppose that curse to have been turned upon him by Heaven. But whether this matter stands thus or otherwise, I leave to each one to reason out as he wishes. But I shall proceed to tell how the general Belisarius and the army departed.


[533 A.D.] In the seventh year of Justinian's reign, at about the spring equinox, the emperor commanded the general's ship to anchor off the point which is before the royal palace. Thither came also Epiphanius, the chief priest of the city, and after uttering an appropriate prayer, he put on the ships one of the soldiers who had lately been baptized and had taken the Christian name. And after this the general Belisarius and Antonina, his wife, set sail. And there was with them also Procopius, who wrote this history; now previously he had been exceedingly terrified at the danger, but later he had seen a vision in his sleep which caused him to take courage and made him eager to go on the expedition. For it seemed in the dream that he was in the house of Belisarius, and one of the servants entering announced that some men had come bearing gifts; and Belisarius bade him investigate what sort of gifts they were, and he went out into the court and saw men who carried on their shoulders earth with the flowers and all. And he bade him bring these men into the house and deposit the earth they were carrying in the portico; and Belisarius together with his guardsmen came there, and he himself reclined on that earth and ate of the flowers, and urged the others to do likewise; and as they reclined and ate, as if upon a couch, the food seemed to them exceedingly sweet. Such, then, was the vision of the dream.

And the whole fleet followed the general's ship, and they put in at Perinthus, which is now called Heracleia,[40] where five days' time was spent by the army, since at that place the general received as a present from the emperor an exceedingly great number of horses from the royal pastures, which are kept for him in the territory of Thrace. And setting sail from there, they anchored off Abydus, and it came about as they were delaying there four days on account of the lack of wind that the following event took place. Two Massagetae killed one of their comrades who was ridiculing them, in the midst of their intemperate drinking; for they were intoxicated. For of all men the Massagetae are the most intemperate drinkers. Belisarius, accordingly, straightway impaled these two men on the hill which is near Abydus. And since all, and especially the relatives of these two men, were angry and declared that it was not in order to be punished nor to be subject to the laws of the Romans that they had entered into an alliance (for their own laws did not make the punishment for murder such as this, they said); and since they were joined in voicing the accusation against the general even by Roman soldiers, who were anxious that there should be no punishment for their offences, Belisarius called together both the Massagetae and the rest of the army and spoke as follows: "If my words were addressed to men now for the first time entering into war, it would require a long time for me to convince you by speech how great a help justice is for gaining the victory. For those who do not understand the fortunes of such struggles think that the outcome of war lies in strength of arm alone. But you, who have often conquered an enemy not inferior to you in strength of body and well endowed with valour, you who have often tried your strength against your opponents, you, I think, are not ignorant that, while it is men who always do the fighting in either army, it is God who judges the contest as seems best to Him and bestows the victory in battle. Now since this is so, it is fitting to consider good bodily condition and practice in arms and all the other provision for war of less account than justice and those things which pertain to God. For that which may possibly be of greatest advantage to men in need would naturally be honoured by them above all other things. Now the first proof of justice would be the punishment of those who have committed unjust murder. For if it is incumbent upon us to sit in judgment upon the actions which from time to time are committed by men toward their neighbours, and to adjudge and to name the just and the unjust action, we should find that nothing is more precious to a man than his life. And if any barbarian who has slain his kinsman expects to find indulgence in his trial on the ground that he was drunk, in all fairness he makes the charge so much the worse by reason of the very circumstance by which, as he alleges, his guilt is removed. For it is not right for a man under any circumstances, and especially when serving in an army, to be so drunk as readily to kill his dearest friends; nay, the drunkenness itself, even if the murder is not added at all, is worthy of punishment; and when a kinsman is wronged, the crime would clearly be of greater moment as regards punishment than when committed against those who are not kinsmen, at least in the eyes of men of sense. Now the example is before you and you may see what sort of an outcome such actions have. But as for you, it is your duty to avoid laying violent hands upon anyone without provocation, or carrying off the possessions of others; for I shall not overlook it, be assured, and I shall not consider anyone of you a fellow-soldier of mine, no matter how terrible he is reputed to be to the foe, who is not able to use clean hands against the enemy. For bravery cannot be victorious unless it be arrayed along with justice." So spoke Belisarius. And the whole army, hearing what was said and looking up at the two men impaled, felt an overwhelming fear come over them and took thought to conduct their lives with moderation, for they saw that they would not be free from great danger if they should be caught doing anything unlawful.

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