Procopius - History of the Wars, Books V. and VI.
by Procopius
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Such, then, were the fortunes of the Romans in Libya. I shall now proceed to the Gothic War, first telling all that befell the Goths and Italians before this war.

During the reign of Zeno[A] in Byzantium the power in the West was held by Augustus, whom the Romans used to call by the diminutive name Augustulus because he took over the empire while still a lad,[B] his father Orestes, a man of the greatest discretion, administering it as regent for him. Now it happened that the Romans a short time before had induced the Sciri and Alani and certain other Gothic nations to form an alliance with them; and from that time on it was their fortune to suffer at the hand of Alaric and Attila those things which have been told in the previous narrative.[1] And in proportion as the barbarian element among them became strong, just so did the prestige of the Roman soldiers forthwith decline, and under the fair name of alliance they were more and more tyrannized over by the intruders and oppressed by them; so that the barbarians ruthlessly forced many other measures upon the Romans much against their will and finally demanded that they should divide with them the entire land of Italy. And indeed they commanded Orestes to give them the third part of this, and when he would by no means agree to do so, they killed him immediately.[C] Now there was a certain man among the Romans named Odoacer, one of the bodyguards of the emperor, and he at that time agreed to carry out their commands, on condition that they should set him upon the throne. And when he had received the supreme power in this way, [D] he did the emperor no further harm, but allowed him to live thenceforth as a private citizen. And by giving the third part of the land to the barbarians, and in this way gaining their allegiance most firmly, he held the supreme power securely for ten years.[2]

DATES: [A]474-491 A.D. [B]July 31, 475 A.D. [C]July 28, 476 A.D. [D]July 28, 476 A.D.

It was at about this same time that the Goths also, who were dwelling in Thrace with the permission of the emperor, took up arms against the Romans under the leadership of Theoderic, a man who was of patrician rank and had attained the consular office in Byzantium. But the Emperor Zeno, who understood how to settle to his advantage any situation in which he found himself, advised Theoderic to proceed to Italy, attack Odoacer, and win for himself and the Goths the western dominion. For it was better for him, he said, especially as he had attained the senatorial dignity, to force out a usurper and be ruler over all the Romans and Italians than to incur the great risk of a decisive struggle with the emperor.

Now Theoderic was pleased with the suggestion and went to Italy, and he was followed by the Gothic host, who placed in their waggons the women and children and such of their chattels as they were able to take with them. And when they came near the Ionian Gulf,[3] they were quite unable to cross over it, since they had no ships at hand; and so they made the journey around the gulf, advancing through the land of the Taulantii and the other nations of that region. Here the forces of Odoacer encountered them, but after being defeated in many battles, they shut themselves up with their leader in Ravenna and such other towns as were especially strong. [E] And the Goths laid siege to these places and captured them all, in one way or another, as it chanced in each case, except that they were unable to capture, either by surrender or by storm, the fortress of Caesena,[4] which is three hundred stades distant from Ravenna, and Ravenna itself, where Odoacer happened to be. For this city of Ravenna lies in a level plain at the extremity of the Ionian Gulf, lacking two stades of being on the sea, and it is so situated as not to be easily approached either by ships or by a land army. Ships cannot possibly put in to shore there because the sea itself prevents them by forming shoals for not less than thirty stades; consequently the beach at Ravenna, although to the eye of mariners it is very near at hand, is in reality very far away by reason of the great extent of the shoal-water. And a land army cannot approach it at all; for the river Po, also called the Eridanus, which flows past Ravenna, coming from the boundaries of Celtica, and other navigable rivers together with some marshes, encircle it on all sides and so cause the city to be surrounded by water. In that place a very wonderful thing takes place every day. For early in the morning the sea forms a kind of river and comes up over the land for the distance of a day's journey for an unencumbered traveller and becomes navigable in the midst of the mainland, and then in the late afternoon it turns back again, causing the inlet to disappear, and gathers the stream to itself.[5] All those, therefore, who have to convey provisions into the city or carry them out from there for trade or for any other reason, place their cargoes in boats, and drawing them down to the place where the inlet is regularly formed, they await the inflow of the water. And when this comes, the boats are lifted little by little from the ground and float, and the sailors on them set to work and from that time on are seafaring men. And this is not the only place where this happens, but it is the regular occurrence along the whole coast in this region as far as the city of Aquileia. However, it does not always take place in the same way at every time, but when the light of the moon is faint, the advance of the sea is not strong either, but from the first[6] half-moon until the second the inflow has a tendency to be greater. So much for this matter.

DATES: [E] 489 A.D.

But when the third year had already been spent by the Goths and Theoderic in their siege of Ravenna, the Goths, who were weary of the siege, and the followers of Odoacer, who were hard pressed by the lack of provisions, came to an agreement with each other through the mediation of the priest of Ravenna, the understanding being that both Theoderic and Odoacer should reside in Ravenna on terms of complete equality. And for some time they observed the agreement; but afterward Theoderic caught Odoacer, as they say, plotting against him, and bidding him to a feast with treacherous intent slew him,[7] and in this way, after gaining the adherence of such of the hostile barbarians as chanced to survive, he himself secured the supremacy over both Goths and Italians. And though he did not claim the right to assume either the garb or the name of emperor of the Romans, but was called "rex" to the end of his life (for thus the barbarians are accustomed to call their leaders),[8] still, in governing his own subjects, he invested himself with all the qualities which appropriately belong to one who is by birth an emperor. For he was exceedingly careful to observe justice, he preserved the laws on a sure basis, he protected the land and kept it safe from the barbarians dwelling round about, and attained the highest possible degree of wisdom and manliness. And he himself committed scarcely a single act of injustice against his subjects, nor would he brook such conduct on the part of anyone else who attempted it, except, indeed, that the Goths distributed among themselves the portion of the lands which Odoacer had given to his own partisans. And although in name Theoderic was a usurper, yet in fact he was as truly an emperor as any who have distinguished themselves in this office from the beginning; and love for him among both Goths and Italians grew to be great, and that too contrary to the ordinary habits of men. For in all states men's preferences are divergent, with the result that the government in power pleases for the moment only those with whom its acts find favour, but offends those whose judgment it violates. But Theoderic reigned for thirty-seven years, and when he died, he had not only made himself an object of terror to all his enemies, but he also left to his subjects a keen sense of bereavement at his loss. And he died in the following manner.[F]

DATE: [F] 526 A.D.

Symmachus and his son-in-law Boetius were men of noble and ancient lineage, and both had been leading men[9] in the Roman senate and had been consuls. But because they practised philosophy and were mindful of justice in a manner surpassed by no other men, relieving the destitution of both citizens and strangers by generous gifts of money, they attained great fame and thus led men of the basest sort to envy them. Now such persons slandered them to Theoderic, and he, believing their slanders, put these two men to death, on the ground that they were setting about a revolution, and made their property confiscate to the public treasury. And a few days later, while he was dining, the servants set before him the head of a great fish. This seemed to Theoderic to be the head of Symmachus newly slain. Indeed, with its teeth set in its lower lip and its eyes looking at him with a grim and insane stare, it did resemble exceedingly a person threatening him. And becoming greatly frightened at the extraordinary prodigy and shivering excessively, he retired running to his own chamber, and bidding them place many covers upon him, remained quiet. But afterwards he disclosed to his physician Elpidius all that had happened and wept for the wrong he had done Symmachus and Boetius. Then, having lamented and grieved exceedingly over the unfortunate occurrence, he died not long afterward. This was the first and last act of injustice which he committed toward his subjects, and the cause of it was that he had not made a thorough investigation, as he was accustomed to do, before passing judgment on the two men.


[1] Book III. ii. 7 ff., iv. 29 ff.

[2] Odoacer was defeated and shut up in Ravenna by Theoderic in 489, surrendered to him in 493, and was put to death in the same year. His independent rule ([Greek: tyrannis]) therefore lasted thirteen years.

[3] Meaning the whole Adriatic; cf. chap. xv. 16, note.

[4] Modern Cesena.

[5] He means that an estuary ([Greek: porthmos]) is formed by the rising tide in the morning, and the water flows out again as the tide falls in the evening.

[6] From the first until the third quarter.

[7] See note in Bury's edition of Gibbon, Vol. IV. p. 180, for an interesting account of this event.

[8] This is a general observation; the title "rex" was current among the barbarians to indicate a position inferior to that of a [Greek: basileus] or "imperator"; cf. VI. xiv. 38.

[9] Probably a reminiscence of the "princeps senatus" of classical times.


After his death[G] the kingdom was taken over by Atalaric, the son of Theoderic's daughter; he had reached the age of eight years and was being reared under the care of his mother Amalasuntha. For his father had already departed from among men. And not long afterward Justinian succeeded to the imperial power in Byzantium. [H]Now Amalasuntha, as guardian of her child, administered the government, and she proved to be endowed with wisdom and regard for justice in the highest degree, displaying to a great extent the masculine temper. As long as she stood at the head of the government she inflicted punishment upon no Roman in any case either by touching his person or by imposing a fine. Furthermore, she did not give way to the Goths in their mad desire to wrong them, but she even restored to the children of Symmachus and Boetius their fathers' estates. Now Amalasuntha wished to make her son resemble the Roman princes in his manner of life, and was already compelling him to attend the school of a teacher of letters. And she chose out three among the old men of the Goths whom she knew to be prudent and refined above all the others, and bade them live with Atalaric. But the Goths were by no means pleased with this. For because of their eagerness to wrong their subjects they wished to be ruled by him more after the barbarian fashion. On one occasion the mother, finding the boy doing some wrong in his chamber, chastised him; and he in tears went off thence to the men's apartments. And some Goths who met him made a great to-do about this, and reviling Amalasuntha insisted that she wished to put the boy out of the world as quickly as possible, in order that she might marry a second husband and with him rule over the Goths and Italians. And all the notable men among them gathered together, and coming before Amalasuntha made the charge that their king was not being educated correctly from their point of view nor to his own advantage. For letters, they said, are far removed from manliness, and the teaching of old men results for the most part in a cowardly and submissive spirit. Therefore the man who is to shew daring in any work and be great in renown ought to be freed from the timidity which teachers inspire and to take his training in arms. They added that even Theoderic would never allow any of the Goths to send their children to school; for he used to say to them all that, if the fear of the strap once came over them, they would never have the resolution to despise sword or spear. And they asked her to reflect that her father Theoderic before he died had become master of all this territory and had invested himself with a kingdom which was his by no sort of right, although he had not so much as heard of letters. "Therefore, O Queen," they said, "have done with these tutors now, and do you give to Atalaric some men of his own age to be his companions, who will pass through the period of youth with him and thus give him an impulse toward that excellence which is in keeping with the custom of barbarians."

DATES: [G]526 A.D. [H]527 A.D.

When Amalasuntha heard this, although she did not approve, yet because she feared the plotting of these men, she made it appear that their words found favour with her, and granted everything the barbarians desired of her. And when the old men had left Atalaric, he was given the company of some boys who were to share his daily life,—lads who had not yet come of age but were only a little in advance of him in years; and these boys, as soon as he came of age, by enticing him to drunkenness and to intercourse with women, made him an exceptionally depraved youth, and of such stupid folly that he was disinclined to follow his mother's advice. Consequently he utterly refused to champion her cause, although the barbarians were by now openly leaguing together against her; for they were boldly commanding the woman to withdraw from the palace. But Amalasuntha neither became frightened at the plotting of the Goths nor did she, womanlike, weakly give way, but still displaying the dignity befitting a queen, she chose out three men who were the most notable among the barbarians and at the same time the most responsible for the sedition against her, and bade them go to the limits of Italy, not together, however, but as far apart as possible from one another; but it was made to appear that they were being sent in order to guard the land against the enemy's attack. But nevertheless these men by the help of their friends and relations, who were all still in communication with them, even travelling a long journey for the purpose, continued to make ready the details of their plot against Amalasuntha.

And the woman, being unable to endure these things any longer, devised the following plan. Sending to Byzantium she enquired of the Emperor Justinian whether it was his wish that Amalasuntha, the daughter of Theoderic, should come to him; for she wished to depart from Italy as quickly as possible. And the emperor, being pleased by the suggestion, bade her come and sent orders that the finest of the houses in Epidamnus should be put in readiness, in order that when Amalasuntha should come there, she might lodge in it and after spending such time there as she wished might then betake herself to Byzantium. When Amalasuntha learned this, she chose out certain Goths who were energetic men and especially devoted to her and sent them to kill the three whom I have just mentioned, as having been chiefly responsible for the sedition against her. And she herself placed all her possessions, including four hundred centenaria[10] of gold, in a single ship and embarked on it some of those most faithful to her and bade them sail to Epidamnus, and, upon arriving there, to anchor in its harbour, but to discharge from the ship nothing whatever of its cargo until she herself should send orders. And she did this in order that, if she should learn that the three men had been destroyed, she might remain there and summon the ship back, having no further fear from her enemies; but if it should chance that any one of them was left alive, no good hope being left her, she purposed to sail with all speed and find safety for herself and her possessions in the emperor's land. Such was the purpose with which Amalasuntha was sending the ship to Epidamnus; and when it arrived at the harbour of that city, those who had the money carried out her orders. But a little later, when the murders had been accomplished as she wished, Amalasuntha summoned the ship back and remaining at Ravenna strengthened her rule and made it as secure as might be.


[10] See Book I. xxii. 4; III. vi. 2 and note.


There was among the Goths one Theodatus by name, son of Amalafrida, the sister of Theoderic, a man already of mature years, versed in the Latin literature and the teachings of Plato, but without any experience whatever in war and taking no part in active life, and yet extraordinarily devoted to the pursuit of money. This Theodatus had gained possession of most of the lands in Tuscany, and he was eager by violent methods to wrest the remainder from their owners. For to have a neighbour seemed to Theodatus a kind of misfortune. Now Amalasuntha was exerting herself to curb this desire of his, and consequently he was always vexed with her and resentful. He formed the plan, therefore, of handing over Tuscany to the Emperor Justinian, in order that, upon receiving from him a great sum of money and the senatorial dignity, he might pass the rest of his life in Byzantium. After Theodatus had formed this plan, there came from Byzantium to the chief priest of Rome two envoys, Hypatius, the priest of Ephesus, and Demetrius, from Philippi in Macedonia, to confer about a tenet of faith, which is a subject of disagreement and controversy among the Christians. As for the points in dispute, although I know them well, I shall by no means make mention of them; for I consider it a sort of insane folly to investigate the nature of God, enquiring of what sort it is. For man cannot, I think, apprehend even human affairs with accuracy, much less those things which pertain to the nature of God. As for me, therefore, I shall maintain a discreet silence concerning these matters, with the sole object that old and venerable beliefs may not be discredited. For I, for my part, will say nothing whatever about God save that He is altogether good and has all things in His power. But let each one say whatever he thinks he knows about these matters, both priest and layman. As for Theodatus, he met these envoys secretly and directed them to report to the Emperor Justinian what he had planned, explaining what has just been set forth by me.

But at this juncture Atalaric, having plunged into a drunken revel which passed all bounds, was seized with a wasting disease. Wherefore Amalasuntha was in great perplexity; for, on the one hand, she had no confidence in the loyalty of her son, now that he had gone so far in his depravity, and, on the other, she thought that if Atalaric also should be removed from among men, her life would not be safe thereafter, since she had given offence to the most notable of the Goths. For this reason she was desirous of handing over the power of the Goths and Italians to the Emperor Justinian, in order that she herself might be saved. And it happened that Alexander, a man of the senate, together with Demetrius and Hypatius, had come to Ravenna. For when the emperor had heard that Amalasuntha's boat was anchored in the harbour of Epidamnus, but that she herself was still tarrying, although much time had passed, he had sent Alexander to investigate and report to him the whole situation with regard to Amalasuntha; but it was given out that the emperor had sent Alexander as an envoy to her because he was greatly disturbed by the events at Lilybaeum which have been set forth by me in the preceding narrative,[11] and because ten Huns from the army in Libya had taken flight and reached Campania, and Uliaris, who was guarding Naples, had received them not at all against the will of Amalasuntha, and also because the Goths, in making war on the Gepaedes about Sirmium,[12] had treated the city of Gratiana, situated at the extremity of Illyricum, as a hostile town. So by way of protesting to Amalasuntha with regard to these things, he wrote a letter and sent Alexander.

And when Alexander arrived in Rome, he left there the priests busied with the matters for which they had come, and he himself, journeying on to Ravenna and coming before Amalasuntha, reported the emperor's message secretly, and openly delivered the letter to her. And the purport of the writing was as follows: "The fortress of Lilybaeum, which is ours, you have taken by force and are now holding, and barbarians, slaves of mine who have run away, you have received and have not even yet decided to restore them to me, and besides all this you have treated outrageously my city of Gratiana, though it belongs to you in no way whatever. Wherefore it is time for you to consider what the end of these things will some day be." And when this letter had been delivered to her and she had read it, she replied in the following words: "One may reasonably expect an emperor who is great and lays claim to virtue to assist an orphan child who does not in the least comprehend what is being done, rather than for no cause at all to quarrel with him. For unless a struggle be waged on even terms, even the victory it gains brings no honour. But thou dost threaten Atalaric on account of Lilybaeum, and ten runaways, and a mistake, made by soldiers in going against their enemies, which through some misapprehension chanced to affect a friendly city. Nay! do not thus; do not thou thus, O Emperor, but call to mind that when them wast making war upon the Vandals, we not only refrained from hindering thee, but quite zealously even gave thee free passage against the enemy and provided a market in which to buy the indispensable supplies,[13] furnishing especially the multitude of horses to which thy final mastery over the enemy was chiefly due. And yet it is not merely the man who offers an alliance of arms to his neighbours that would in justice be called their ally and friend, but also the man who actually is found assisting another in war in regard to his every need. And consider that at that time thy fleet had no other place at which to put in from the sea except Sicily, and that without the supplies bought there it could not go on to Libya. Therefore thou art indebted to us for the chief cause of thy victory; for the one who provides a solution for a difficult situation is justly entitled also to the credit for the results which flow from his help. And what could be sweeter for a man, O Emperor, than gaining the mastery over his enemies? And yet in our case the outcome is that we suffer no slight disadvantage, in that we do not, in accordance with the custom of war, enjoy our share of the spoils. And now thou art also claiming the right to despoil us of Lilybaeum in Sicily, which has belonged to the Goths from ancient times, a lone rock, O Emperor, worth not so much as a piece of silver, which, had it happened to belong to thy kingdom from ancient times, thou mightest in equity at least have granted to Atalaric as a reward for his services, since he lent thee assistance in the times of thy most pressing necessity." Such was the message which Amalasuntha wrote openly to the emperor; but secretly she agreed to put the whole of Italy into his hands. And the envoys, returning to Byzantium, reported everything to the Emperor Justinian, Alexander telling him the course which had been decided upon by Amalasuntha, and Demetrius and Hypatius all that they had heard Theodatus say, adding that Theodatus enjoyed great power in Tuscany, where he had become owner of the most of the land and consequently would be able with no trouble at all to carry his agreement into effect. And the emperor, overjoyed at this situation, immediately sent to Italy Peter, an Illyrian by birth, but a citizen of Thessalonica, a man who was one of the trained speakers in Byzantium, a discreet and gentle person withal and fitted by nature to persuade men.


[11] Book IV. v. 11 ff.

[12] Near modern Mitrowitz.

[13] Cf. Book III. xiv. 5, 6.


But while these things were going on as I have explained, Theodatus was denounced before Amalasuntha by many Tuscans, who stated that he had done violence to all the people of Tuscany and had without cause seized their estates, taking not only all private estates but especially those belonging to the royal household, which the Romans are accustomed to call "patrimonium." For this reason the woman called Theodatus to an investigation, and when, being confronted by his denouncers, he had been proved guilty without any question, she compelled him to pay back everything which he had wrongfully seized and then dismissed him. And since in this way she had given the greatest offence to the man, from that time she was on hostile terms with him, exceedingly vexed as he was by reason of his fondness for money, because he was unable to continue his unlawful and violent practices.

At about this same time[I] Atalaric, being quite wasted away by the disease, came to his end, having lived eight years in office. As for Amalasuntha, since it was fated that she should fare ill, she took no account of the nature of Theodatus and of what she had recently done to him, and supposed that she would suffer no unpleasant treatment at his hands if she should do the man some rather unusual favour. She accordingly summoned him, and when he came, set out to cajole him, saying that for some time she had known well that it was to be expected that her son would soon die; for she had heard the opinion of all the physicians, who agreed in their judgment, and had herself perceived that the body of Atalaric continued to waste away. And since she saw that both Goths and Italians had an unfavourable opinion regarding Theodatus, who had now come to represent the race of Theoderic, she had conceived the desire to clear him of this evil name, in order that it might not stand in his way if he were called to the throne. But at the same time, she explained, the question of justice disturbed her, at the thought that those who claimed to have been wronged by him already should find that they had no one to whom they might report what had befallen them, but that they now had their enemy as their master. For these reasons, then, although she invited him to the throne after his name should have been cleared in this way, yet it was necessary, she said, that he should be bound by the most solemn oaths that while the title of the office should be conferred upon Theodatus, she herself should in fact hold the power no less than before. When Theodatus heard this, although he swore to all the conditions which Amalasuntha wished, he entered into the agreement with treacherous intent, remembering all that she had previously done to him. Thus Amalasuntha, being deceived by her own judgment and the oaths of Theodatus, established him in the office. And sending some Goths as envoys to Byzantium, she made this known to the Emperor Justinian.

DATE: [I]Oct. 10, 534 A.D.

But Theodatus, upon receiving the supreme power, began to act in all things contrary to the hopes she had entertained and to the promises he had made. And after winning the adherence of the relatives of the Goths who had been slain by her—and they were both numerous and men of very high standing among the Goths—he suddenly put to death some of the connections of Amalasuntha and imprisoned her, the envoys not having as yet reached Byzantium. Now there is a certain lake in Tuscany called Vulsina,[14] within which rises an island,[15] exceedingly small but having a strong fortress upon it. There Theodatus confined Amalasuntha and kept her under guard.[J] But fearing that by this act he had given offence to the emperor, as actually proved to be the case, he sent some men of the Roman senate, Liberius and Opilio and certain others, directing them to excuse his conduct to the emperor with all their power by assuring him that Amalasuntha had met with no harsh treatment at his hands, although she had perpetrated irreparable outrages upon him before. And he himself wrote in this sense to the emperor, and also compelled Amalasuntha, much against her will, to write the same thing.

DATE: [J]Apr. 30, 535 A.D.

Such was the course of these events. But Peter had already been despatched by the emperor on an embassy to Italy with instructions to meet Theodatus without the knowledge of any others, and after Theodatus had given pledges by an oath that none of their dealings should be divulged, he was then to make a secure settlement with him regarding Tuscany; and meeting Amalasuntha stealthily he was to make such an arrangement with her regarding the whole of Italy as would be to the profit of either party. But openly his mission was to negotiate with regard to Lilybaeum and the other matters which I have lately mentioned. For as yet the emperor had heard nothing about the death of Atalaric or the succession of Theodatus to the throne, or the fate which had befallen Amalasuntha. And Peter was already on his way when he met the envoys of Amalasuntha and learned, in the first place, that Theodatus had come to the throne; and a little later, upon reaching the city of Aulon,[16] which lies on the Ionian Gulf, he met there the company of Liberius and Opilio, and learned everything which had taken place, and reporting this to the emperor he remained there.

And when the Emperor Justinian heard these things, he formed the purpose of throwing the Goths and Theodatus into confusion; accordingly he wrote a letter to Amalasuntha, stating that he was eager to give her every possible support, and at the same time he directed Peter by no means to conceal this message, but to make it known to Theodatus himself and to all the Goths. And when the envoys from Italy arrived in Byzantium, they all, with a single exception, reported the whole matter to the emperor, and especially Liberius; for he was a man unusually upright and honourable, and one who knew well how to shew regard for the truth; but Opilio alone declared with the greatest persistence that Theodatus had committed no offence against Amalasuntha. Now when Peter arrived in Italy, it so happened that Amalasuntha had been removed from among men. For the relatives of the Goths who had been slain by her came before Theodatus declaring that neither his life nor theirs was secure unless Amalasuntha should be put out of their way as quickly as possible. And as soon as he gave in to them, they went to the island and killed Amalasuntha,—an act which grieved exceedingly all the Italians and the Goths as well. For the woman had the strictest regard for every kind of virtue, as has been stated by me a little earlier.[17] Now Peter protested openly[18] to Theodatus and the other Goths that because this base deed had been committed by them, there would be war without truce between the emperor and themselves. But Theodatus, such was his stupid folly, while still holding the slayers of Amalasuntha in honour and favour kept trying to persuade Peter and the emperor that this unholy deed had been committed by the Goths by no means with his approval, but decidedly against his will.


[14] Modern Bolsena.

[15] Marta; "now entirely uninhabited, but with a few steps cut in the rock which are said to have led to the prison of Amalasuntha."—HODGKIN.

[16] Modern Avlona in Albania.

[17] Chap. ii. 3.

[18] See Gibbon's note (chap. xli.), amplified in Bury's edition, Vol. IV. p. 304, for additional light on the part played by Justinian and Peter in this affair.


Meanwhile it happened that Belisarius had distinguished himself by the defeat of Gelimer and the Vandals. And the emperor, upon learning what had befallen Amalasuntha, immediately entered upon the war, being in the ninth year of his reign. And he first commanded Mundus, the general of Illyricum, to go to Dalmatia, which was subject to the Goths, and make trial of Salones.[19] Now Mundus was by birth a barbarian, but exceedingly loyal to the cause of the emperor and an able warrior. Then he sent Belisarius by sea with four thousand soldiers from the regular troops and the foederati,[20] and about three thousand of the Isaurians. And the commanders were men of note: Constantinus and Bessas from the land of Thrace, and Peranius from Iberia[21] which is hard by Media, a man who was by birth a member of the royal family of the Iberians, but had before this time come as a deserter to the Romans through enmity toward the Persians; and the levies of cavalry were commanded by Valentinus, Magnus, and Innocentius, and the infantry by Herodian, Paulus, Demetrius, and Ursicinus, while the leader of the Isaurians was Ennes. And there were also two hundred Huns as allies and three hundred Moors. But the general in supreme command over all was Belisarius, and he had with him many notable men as spearmen and guards. And he was accompanied also by Photius, the son of his wife Antonina by a previous marriage; he was still a young man wearing his first beard, but possessed the greatest discretion and shewed a strength of character beyond his years. And the emperor instructed Belisarius to give out that his destination was Carthage, but as soon as they should arrive at Sicily, they were to disembark there as it obliged for some reason to do so, and make trial of the island. And if it should be possible to reduce it to subjection without any trouble, they were to take possession and not let it go again; but if they should meet with any obstacle, they were to sail with all speed to Libya, giving no one an opportunity to perceive what their intention was.

And he also sent a letter to the leaders of the Franks as follows: "The Goths, having seized by violence Italy, which was ours, have not only refused absolutely to give it back, but have committed further acts of injustice against us which are unendurable and pass beyond all bounds. For this reason we have been compelled to take the field against them, and it is proper that you should join with us in waging this war, which is rendered yours as well as ours not only by the orthodox faith, which rejects the opinion of the Arians, but also by the enmity we both feel toward the Goths." Such was the emperor's letter; and making a gift of money to them, he agreed to give more as soon as they should take an active part. And they with all zeal promised to fight in alliance with him.

Now Mundus and the army under his command entered Dalmatia, and engaging with the Goths who encountered them there, defeated them in the battle and took possession of Salones. As for Belisarius, he put in at Sicily and took Catana. And making that place his base of operations, he took over Syracuse and the other cities by surrender without any trouble; except, indeed, that the Goths who were keeping guard in Panormus,[22] having confidence in the fortifications of the place, which was a strong one, were quite unwilling to yield to Belisarius and ordered him to lead his army away from there with all speed. But Belisarius, considering that it was impossible to capture the place from the landward side, ordered the fleet to sail into the harbour, which extended right up to the wall. For it was outside the circuit-wall and entirely without defenders. Now when the ships had anchored there, it was seen that the masts were higher than the parapet. Straightway, therefore, he filled all the small boats of the ships with bowmen and hoisted them to the tops of the masts. And when from these boats the enemy were shot at from above, they fell into such an irresistible fear that they immediately delivered Panormus to Belisarius by surrender. As a result of this the emperor held all Sicily subject and tributary to himself. And at that time it so happened that there fell to Belisarius a piece of good fortune beyond the power of words to describe. For, having received the dignity of the consulship because of his victory over the Vandals, while he was still holding this honour, and after he had won the whole of Sicily, on the last day of his consulship,[K] he marched into Syracuse, loudly applauded by the army and by the Sicilians and throwing golden coins to all. This coincidence, however, was not intentionally arranged by him, but it was a happy chance which befell the man, that after having recovered the whole of the island for the Romans he marched into Syracuse on that particular day; and so it was not in the senate house in Byzantium, as was customary, but there that he laid down the office of the consuls and so became an ex-consul. Thus, then, did good fortune attend Belisarius.

DATE: [K]Dec. 31, 535 A.D.


[19] Or Salona, near modern Spalato.

[20] Auxiliaries; see Book III. xi. 3, 4, and note.

[21] Corresponding roughly to modern Georgia, just south of the Caucasus.

[22] Modern Palermo.


And when Peter learned of the conquest of Sicily, he was still more insistent in his efforts to frighten Theodatus and would not let him go. But he, turning coward and reduced to speechlessness no less than if he himself had become a captive with Gelimer,[23] entered into negotiations with Peter without the knowledge of any others, and between them they formed an agreement, providing that Theodatus should retire from all Sicily in favour of the Emperor Justinian, and should send him also a golden crown every year weighing three hundred litrae,[24] and Gothic warriors to the number of three thousand whenever he should wish; and that Theodatus himself should have no authority to kill any priest or senator, or to confiscate his property for the public treasury except by the decision of the emperor; and that if Theodatus wished to advance any of his subjects to the patrician or some other senatorial rank this honour should not be bestowed by him, but he should ask the emperor to bestow it; and that the Roman populace, in acclaiming their sovereign, should always shout the name of the emperor first, and afterward that of Theodatus, both in the theatres and in the hippodromes and wherever else it should be necessary for such a thing to be done; furthermore, that no statue of bronze nor of any other material should ever be set up to Theodatus alone, but statues must always be made for both, and they must stand thus: on the right that of the emperor, and on the other side that of Theodatus. And after Theodatus had written in confirmation of this agreement he dismissed the ambassador.

But, a little later, terror laid hold upon the man's soul and brought him into fears which knew no bound and tortured his mind, filling him with dread at the name of war, and reminding him that if the agreement drawn up by Peter and himself did not please the emperor at all, war would straightway come upon him. Once more, therefore, he summoned Peter, who had already reached Albani,[25] for a secret conference, and enquired of the man whether he thought that the agreement would be pleasing to the emperor. And he replied that he supposed it would. "But if," said Theodatus, "these things do not please the man at all, what will happen then?" And Peter replied "After that you will have to wage war, most noble Sir." "But what is this," he said; "is it just, my dear ambassador?" And Peter, immediately taking him up, said "And how is it not just, my good Sir, that the pursuits appropriate to each man's nature should be preserved?" "What, pray, may this mean?" asked Theodatus. "It means," was the reply, "that your great interest is to philosophize, while Justinian's is to be a worthy emperor of the Romans. And there is this difference, that for one who has practised philosophy it would never be seemly to bring about the death of men, especially in such great numbers, and it should be added that this view accords with the teachings of Plato, which you have evidently espoused, and hence it is unholy for you not to be free from all bloodshed; but for him it is not at all inappropriate to seek to acquire a land which has belonged from of old to the realm which is his own." Thereupon Theodatus, being convinced by this advice, agreed to retire from the kingship in favour of the Emperor Justinian, and both he and his wife took an oath to this effect. He then bound Peter by oaths that he would not divulge this agreement until he should see that the emperor would not accept the former convention. And he sent with him Rusticus, a priest who was especially devoted to him and a Roman citizen, to negotiate on the basis of this agreement. And he also entrusted a letter to these men.

So Peter and Rusticus, upon reaching Byzantium, reported the first decision to the emperor, just as Theodatus had directed them to do. But when the emperor was quite unwilling to accept the proposal, they revealed the plan which had been committed to writing afterwards. This was to the following effect: "I am no stranger to royal courts, but it was my fortune to have been born in the house of my uncle while he was king and to have been reared in a manner worthy of my race; and yet I have had little experience of wars and of the turmoils which wars entail. For since from my earliest years I have been passionately addicted to scholarly disputations and have always devoted my time to this sort of thing, I have consequently been up to the present time very far removed from the confusion of battles. Therefore it is utterly absurd that I should aspire to the honours which royalty confers and thus lead a life fraught with danger, when it is possible for me to avoid them both. For neither one of these is a pleasure to me; the first, because it is liable to satiety, for it is a surfeit of all sweet things, and the second, because lack of familiarity with such a life throws one into confusion. But as for me, if estates should be provided me which yielded an annual income of no less than twelve centenaria,[26] I should regard the kingdom as of less account than them, and I shall hand over to thee forthwith the power of the Goths and Italians. For I should find more pleasure in being a farmer free from all cares than in passing my life amid a king's anxieties, attended as they are by danger after danger. Pray send a man as quickly as possible into whose hands I may fittingly deliver Italy and the affairs of the kingdom."

Such was the purport of the letter of Theodatus. And the emperor, being exceedingly pleased, replied as follows: "From of old have I heard by report that you were a man of discretion, but now, taught by experience, I know it by the decision you have reached not to await the issue of the war. For certain men who in the past have followed such a course have been completely undone. And you will never repent having made us friends instead of enemies. But you will not only have this that you ask at our hands, but you will also have the distinction of being enrolled in the highest honours of the Romans. Now for the present I have sent Athanasius and Peter, so that each party may have surety by some agreement. And almost immediately Belisarius also will visit you to complete all the arrangements which have been agreed upon between us." After writing this the emperor sent Athanasius, the brother of Alexander, who had previously gone on an embassy to Atalaric, as has been said,[27] and for the second time Peter the orator, whom I have mentioned above,[28] enjoining upon them to assign to Theodatus the estates of the royal household, which they call "patrimonium"; and not until after they had drawn up a written document and had secured oaths to fortify the agreement were they to summon Belisarius from Sicily, in order that he might take over the palace and all Italy and hold them under guard. And he wrote to Belisarius that as soon as they should summon him he should go thither with all speed.


[23] The captivity of Gelimer is described in Book IV. vii. 12-17; ix. 11-14.

[24] At present values "worth about L12,000."—HODGKIN.

[25] Modern Albano; on the Appian Way. Cf. Book VI. iv. 8.

[26] See Book I. xxii. 4; III. vi. 2, note.

[27] Chap. iii. 13.

[28] Chap. iii. 30, iv. 17 ff.


But meantime, while the emperor was engaged in these negotiations and these envoys were travelling to Italy, the Goths, under command of Asinarius and Gripas and some others, had come with a great army into Dalmatia. And when they had reached the neighbourhood of Salones, Mauricius, the son of Mundus, who was not marching out for battle but, with a few men, was on a scouting expedition, encountered them. A violent engagement ensued in which the Goths lost their foremost and noblest men, but the Romans almost their whole company, including their general Mauricius. And when Mundus heard of this, being overcome with grief at the misfortune and by this time dominated by a mighty fury, he went against the enemy without the least delay and regardless of order. The battle which took place was stubbornly contested, and the result was a Cadmean victory[29] for the Romans. For although the most of the enemy fell there and their rout had been decisive, Mundus, who went on killing and following up the enemy wherever he chanced to find them and was quite unable to restrain his mind because of the misfortune of his son, was wounded by some fugitive or other and fell. Thereupon the pursuit ended and the two armies separated. And at that time the Romans recalled the verse of the Sibyl, which had been pronounced in earlier times and seemed to them a portent. For the words of the saying were that when Africa should be held, the "world" would perish together with its offspring. This, however, was not the real meaning of the oracle, but after intimating that Libya would be once more subject to the Romans, it added this statement also, that when that time came Mundus would perish together with his son. For it runs as follows: "Africa capta Mundus cum nato peribit."[30] But since "mundus" in the Latin tongue has the force of "world," they thought that the saying had reference to the world. So much, then, for this. As for Salones, it was not entered by anyone. For the Romans went back home, since they were left altogether without a commander, and the Goths, seeing that not one of their nobles was left them, fell into fear and took possession of the strongholds in the neighbourhood; for they had no confidence in the defences of Salones, and, besides, the Romans who lived there were not very well disposed towards them.

When Theodatus heard this, he took no account of the envoys who by now had come to him. For he was by nature much given to distrust, and he by no means kept his mind steadfast, but the present fortune always reduced him now to a state of terror which knew no measure, and this contrary to reason and the proper understanding of the situation, and again brought him to the opposite extreme of unspeakable boldness. And so at that time, when he heard of the death of Mundus and Mauricius, he was lifted up exceedingly and in a manner altogether unjustified by what had happened, and he saw fit to taunt the envoys when they at length appeared before him. And when Peter on one occasion remonstrated with him because he had transgressed his agreement with the emperor, Theodatus called both of them publicly and spoke as follows: "The position of envoys is a proud one and in general has come to be held in honour among all men; but envoys preserve for themselves these their prerogatives only so long as they guard the dignity of their embassy by the propriety of their own conduct. For men have sanctioned as just the killing of an envoy whenever he is either found to have insulted a sovereign or has had knowledge of a woman who is the wife of another." Such were the words with which Theodatus inveighed against Peter, not because he had approached a woman, but, apparently, in order to make good his claim that there were charges which might lead to the death of an ambassador. But the envoys replied as follows: "The facts are not, O Ruler of the Goths, as thou hast stated them, nor canst thou, under cover of flimsy pretexts, wantonly perpetrate unholy deeds upon men who are envoys. For it is not possible for an ambassador, even if he wishes it, to become an adulterer, since it is not easy for him even to partake of water except by the will of those who guard him. And as for the proposals which he has received from the lips of him who has sent him and then delivers, he himself cannot reasonably incur the blame which arises from them, in case they be not good, but he who has given the command would justly bear this charge, while the sole responsibility of the ambassador is to have discharged his mission. We, therefore, shall say all that we were instructed by the emperor to say when we were sent, and do thou hear us quietly; for if thou art stirred to excitement, all thou canst do will be to wrong men who are ambassadors. It is time, therefore, for thee of thine own free will to perform all that thou didst promise the emperor. This, indeed, is the purpose for which we have come. And the letter which he wrote to thee thou hast already received, but as for the writing which he sent to the foremost of the Goths, to no others shall we give it than to them." When the leading men of the barbarians, who were present, heard this speech of the envoys, they bade them give to Theodatus what had been written to them. And it ran as follows: "It has been the object of our care to receive you back into our state, whereat you may well be pleased. For you will come to us, not in order to be made of less consequence, but that you may be more honoured. And, besides, we are not bidding the Goths enter into strange or alien customs, but into those of a people with whom you were once familiar, though you have by chance been separated from them for a season. For these reasons Athanasius and Peter have been sent to you, and you ought to assist them in all things." Such was the purport of this letter. But after Theodatus had read everything, he not only decided not to perform in deed the promises he had made to the emperor, but also put the envoys under a strict guard.

But when the Emperor Justinian heard these things and what had taken place in Dalmatia, he sent Constantianus, who commanded the royal grooms, into Illyricum, bidding him gather an army from there and make an attempt on Salones, in whatever manner he might be able; and he commanded Belisarius to enter Italy with all speed and to treat the Goths as enemies. So Constantianus came to Epidamnus and spent some time there gathering an army. But in the meantime the Goths, under the leadership of Gripas, came with another army into Dalmatia and took possession of Salones; and Constantianus, when all his preparations were as complete as possible, departed from Epidamnus with his whole force and cast anchor at Epidaurus[31] which is on the right as one sails into the Ionian Gulf. Now it so happened that some men were there whom Gripas had sent out as spies. And when they took note of the ships and the army of Constantianus it seemed to them that both the sea and the whole land were full of soldiers, and returning to Gripas they declared that Constantianus was bringing against them an army of men numbering many tens of thousands. And he, being plunged into great fear, thought it inexpedient to meet their attack, and at the same time he was quite unwilling to be besieged by the emperor's army, since it so completely commanded the sea; but he was disturbed most of all by the fortifications of Salones (since the greater part of them had already fallen down), and by the exceedingly suspicious attitude on the part of the inhabitants of the place toward the Goths. And for this reason he departed thence with his whole army as quickly as possible and made camp in the plain which is between Salones and the city of Scardon.[32] And Constantianus, sailing with all his ships from Epidaurus, put in at Lysina,[33] which is an island in the gulf. Thence he sent forward some of his men, in order that they might make enquiry concerning the plans of Gripas and report them to him. Then, after learning from them the whole situation, he sailed straight for Salones with all speed. And when he had put in at a place close to the city, he disembarked his army on the mainland and himself remained quiet there; but he selected five hundred from the army, and setting over them as commander Siphilas, one of his own bodyguards, he commanded them to seize the narrow pass[34] which, as he had been informed, was in the outskirts of the city. And this Siphilas did. And Constantianus and his whole land army entered Salones on the following day, and the fleet anchored close by. Then Constantianus proceeded to look after the fortifications of the city, building up in haste all such parts of them as had fallen down; and Gripas, with the Gothic army, on the seventh day after the Romans had taken possession of Salones, departed from there and betook themselves to Ravenna; and thus Constantianus gained possession of all Dalmatia and Liburnia, bringing over to his side all the Goths who were settled there. Such were the events in Dalmatia. And the winter drew to a close, and thus ended the first year of this war, the history of which Procopius has written.


[29] Proverbial for a victory in which the victor is slain; probably from the story of the Theban, or "Cadmean," heroes Eteocles and Polynices.

[30] See Bury's edition of Gibbon, Vol. IV. App. 15, for a discussion of this oracle.

[31] Modern Ragusa Vecchia.

[32] Near Sebenico.

[33] Modern Lesina.

[34] An important approach to the city from the west.


And Belisarius, leaving guards in Syracuse and Panormus, crossed with the rest of the army from Messana to Rhegium (where the myths of the poets say Scylla and Charybdis were), and every day the people of that region kept coming over to him. For since their towns had from of old been without walls, they had no means at all of guarding them, and because of their hostility toward the Goths they were, as was natural, greatly dissatisfied with their present government. And Ebrimous came over to Belisarius as a deserter from the Goths, together with all his followers; this man was the son-in-law of Theodatus, being married to Theodenanthe, his daughter. And he was straightway sent to the emperor and received many gifts of honour and in particular attained the patrician dignity. And the army of Belisarius marched from Rhegium through Bruttium and Lucania, and the fleet of ships accompanied it, sailing close to the mainland. But when they reached Campania, they came upon a city on the sea, Naples by name, which was strong not only because of the nature of its site, but also because it contained a numerous garrison of Goths. And Belisarius commanded the ships to anchor in the harbour, which was beyond the range of missiles, while he himself made his camp near the city. He then first took possession by surrender of the fort which is in the suburb, and afterwards permitted the inhabitants of the city at their own request to send some of their notables into his camp, in order that they might tell what their wish was and, after receiving his reply, report to the populace. Straightway, therefore, the Neapolitans sent Stephanus. And he, upon coming before Belisarius, spoke as follows:

"You are not acting justly, O general, in taking the field against men who are Romans and have done no wrong, who inhabit but a small city and have over us a guard of barbarians as masters, so that it does not even lie in our power, if we desire to do so, to oppose them. But it so happens that even these guards had to leave their wives and children, and their most precious possessions in the hands of Theodatus before they came to keep guard over us. Therefore, if they treat with you at all, they will plainly be betraying, not the city, but themselves. And if one must speak the truth with no concealment, you have not counselled to your advantage, either, in coming against us. For if you capture Rome, Naples will be subject to you without any further trouble, whereas if you are repulsed from there, it is probable that you will not be able to hold even this city securely. Consequently the time you spend on this siege will be spent to no purpose."

So spoke Stephanus. And Belisarius replied as follows:

"Whether we have acted wisely or foolishly in coming here is not a question which we propose to submit to the Neapolitans. But we desire that you first weigh carefully such matters as are appropriate to your deliberations and then act solely in accordance with your own interests. Receive into your city, therefore, the emperor's army, which has come to secure your freedom and that of the other Italians, and do not choose the course which will bring upon you the most grievous misfortunes. For those who, in order to rid themselves of slavery or any other shameful thing, go into war, such men, if they fare well in the struggle, have double good fortune, because along with their victory they have also acquired freedom from their troubles, and if defeated they gain some consolation for themselves, in that, they have not of their own free will chosen to follow the worse fortune. But as for those who have the opportunity to be free without fighting, but yet enter into a struggle in order to make their condition of slavery permanent, such men, even if it so happens that they conquer, have failed in the most vital point, and if in the battle they fare less happily than they wished, they will have, along with their general ill-fortune, also the calamity of defeat. As for the Neapolitans, then, let these words suffice. But as for these Goths who are present, we give them the choice, either to array themselves hereafter on our side under the great emperor, or to go to their homes altogether immune from harm. Because, if both you and they, disregarding all these considerations, dare to raise arms against us, it will be necessary for us also, if God so wills, to treat whomever we meet as an enemy. If, however, it is the will of the Neapolitans to choose the cause of the emperor and thus to be rid of so cruel a slavery, I take it upon myself, giving you pledges, to promise that you will receive at our hands those benefits which the Sicilians lately hoped for, and with regard to which they were unable to say that we had sworn falsely."

Such was the message which Belisarius bade Stephanus take back to the people. But privately he promised him large rewards if he should inspire the Neapolitans with good-will toward the emperor. And Stephanus, upon coming into the city, reported the words of Belisarius and expressed his own opinion that it was inexpedient to fight against the emperor. And he was assisted in his efforts by Antiochus, a man of Syria, but long resident in Naples for the purpose of carrying on a shipping business, who had a great reputation there for wisdom and justice. But there were two men, Pastor and Asclepiodotus, trained speakers and very notable men among the Neapolitans, who were exceedingly friendly toward the Goths, and quite unwilling to have any change made in the present state of affairs. These two men, planning how they might block the negotiations, induced the multitude to demand many serious concessions, and to try to force Belisarius to promise on oath that they should forthwith obtain what they asked for. And after writing down in a document such demands as nobody would have supposed that Belisarius would accept, they gave it to Stephanus. And he, returning to the emperor's army, shewed the writing to the general, and enquired of him whether he was willing to carry out all the proposals which the Neapolitans made and to take an oath concerning them. And Belisarius promised that they should all be fulfilled for them and so sent him back. Now when the Neapolitans heard this, they were in favour of accepting the general's assurances at once and began to urge that the emperor's army be received into the city with all speed. For he declared that nothing unpleasant would befall them, if the case of the Sicilians was sufficient evidence for anyone to judge by, since, as he pointed out, it had only recently been their lot, after they had exchanged their barbarian tyrants for the sovereignty of Justinian, to be, not only free men, but also immune from all difficulties. And swayed by great excitement they were about to go to the gates with the purpose of throwing them open. And though the Goths were not pleased with what they were doing, still, since they were unable to prevent it, they stood out of the way.

But Pastor and Asclepiodotus called together the people and all the Goths in one place, and spoke as follows: "It is not at all unnatural that the populace of a city should abandon themselves and their own safety, especially if, without consulting any of their notables, they make an independent decision regarding their all. But it is necessary for us, who are on the very point of perishing together with you, to offer as a last contribution to the fatherland this advice. We see, then, fellow citizens, that you are intent upon betraying both yourselves and the city to Belisarius, who promises to confer many benefits upon you and to swear the most solemn oaths in confirmation of his promises. Now if he is able to promise you this also, that to him will come the victory in the war, no one could deny that the course you are taking is to your advantage. For it is great folly not to gratify every whim of him who is to become master. But if this outcome lies in uncertainty, and no man in the world is competent to guarantee the decision of fortune, consider what sort of misfortunes your haste is seeking to attain. For if the Goths overcome their adversaries in the war, they will punish you as enemies and as having done them the foulest wrong. For you are resorting to this act of treason, not under constraint of necessity, but out of deliberate cowardice. So that even to Belisarius, if he wins the victory over his enemies, we shall perhaps appear faithless and betrayers of our rulers, and having proved ourselves deserters, we shall in all probability have a guard set over us permanently by the emperor. For though he who has found a traitor is pleased at the moment of victory by the service rendered, yet afterwards, moved by suspicion based upon the traitor's past, he hates and fears his benefactor, since he himself has in his own possession the evidences of the other's faithlessness. If, however, we shew ourselves faithful to the Goths at the present time, manfully submitting to the danger, they will give us great rewards in case they win the mastery over the enemy, and Belisarius, if it should so happen that he is the victor, will be prone to forgive. For loyalty which fails is punished by no man unless he be lacking in understanding. But what has happened to you that you are in terror of being besieged by the enemy, you who have no lack of provisions, have not been deprived by blockade of any of the necessities of life, and hence may sit at home, confident in the fortifications and in your garrison here?[35] And in our opinion even Belisarius would not have consented to this agreement with us if he had any hope of capturing the city by force. And yet if what he desired were that which is just and that which will be to our advantage, he ought not to be trying to frighten the Neapolitans or to establish his own power by means of an act of injustice on our part toward the Goths; but he should do battle with Theodatus and the Goths, so that without danger to us or treason on our part the city might come into the power of the victors."

When they had finished speaking, Pastor and Asclepiodotus brought forward the Jews, who promised that the city should be in want of none of the necessities, and the Goths on their part promised that they would guard the circuit-wall safely. And the Neapolitans, moved by these arguments, bade Belisarius depart thence with all speed. He, however, began the siege. And he made many attempts upon the circuit-wall, but was always repulsed, losing many of his soldiers, and especially those who laid some claim to valour. For the wall of Naples was inaccessible, on one side by reason of the sea, and on the other because of some difficult country, and those who planned to attack it could gain entrance at no point, not only because of its general situation, but also because the ground sloped steeply. However, Belisarius cut the aqueduct which brought water into the city; but he did not in this way seriously disturb the Neapolitans, since there were wells inside the circuit-wall which sufficed for their needs and kept them from feeling too keenly the loss of the aqueduct.


[35] i.e. the Goths; cf. Sec. 5 above.


So the besieged, without the knowledge of the enemy, sent to Theodatus in Rome begging him to come to their help with all speed. But Theodatus was not making the least preparation for war, being by nature unmanly, as has been said before.[36] And they say that something else happened to him, which terrified him exceedingly and reduced him to still greater anxiety. I, for my part, do not credit this report, but even so it shall be told. Theodatus even before this time had been prone to make enquiries of those who professed to foretell the future, and on the present occasion he was at a loss what to do in the situation which confronted him—a state which more than anything else is accustomed to drive men to seek prophecies; so he enquired of one of the Hebrews, who had a great reputation for prophecy, what sort of an outcome the present war would have. The Hebrew commanded him to confine three groups of ten swine each in three huts, and after giving them respectively the names of Goths, Romans, and the soldiers of the emperor, to wait quietly for a certain number of days. And Theodatus did as he was told. And when the appointed day had come, they both went into the huts and looked at the swine; and they found that of those which had been given the name of Goths all save two were dead, whereas all except a few were living of those which had received the name of the emperor's soldiers; and as for those which had been called Romans, it so happened that, although the hair of all of them had fallen out, yet about half of them survived. When Theodatus beheld this and divined the outcome of the war, a great fear, they say, came upon him, since he knew well that it would certainly be the fate of the Romans to die to half their number and be deprived of their possessions, but that the Goths would be defeated and their race reduced to a few, and that to the emperor would come, with the loss of but a few of his soldiers, the victory in the war. And for this reason, they say, Theodatus felt no impulse to enter into a struggle with Belisarius. As for this story, then, let each one express his views according to the belief or disbelief which he feels regarding it.

But Belisarius, as he besieged the Neapolitans both by land and by sea, was beginning to be vexed. For he was coming to think that they would never yield to him, and, furthermore, he could not hope that the city would be captured, since he was finding that the difficulty of its position was proving to be a very serious obstacle. And the loss of the time which was being spent there distressed him, for he was making his calculations so as to avoid being compelled to go against Theodatus and Rome in the winter season. Indeed he had already even given orders to the army to pack up, his intention being to depart from there as quickly as possible. But while he was in the greatest perplexity, it came to pass that he met with the following good fortune. One of the Isaurians was seized with the desire to observe the construction of the aqueduct, and to discover in what manner it provided the supply of water to the city. So he entered it at a place far distant from the city, where Belisarius had broken it open, and proceeded to walk along it, finding no difficulty, since the water had stopped running because the aqueduct had been broken open. But when he reached a point near the circuit-wall, he came upon a large rock, not placed there by the hand of man, but a part of the natural formation of the place. And those who had built the aqueduct many years before, after they had attached the masonry to this rock, proceeded to make a tunnel from that point on, not sufficiently large, however, for a man to pass through, but large enough to furnish a passage for the water. And for this reason it came about that the channel of the aqueduct was not everywhere of the same breadth, but one was confronted by a narrow place at that rock, impassable for a man, especially if he wore armour or carried a shield. And when the Isaurian observed this, it seemed to him not impossible for the army to penetrate into the city, if they should make the tunnel at that point broader by a little. But since he himself was a humble person, and never had come into conversation with any of the commanders, he brought the matter before Paucaris, an Isaurian, who had distinguished himself among the guards of Belisarius. So Paucaris immediately reported the whole matter to the general. And Belisarius, being pleased by the report, took new courage, and by promising to reward the man with great sums of money induced him to attempt the undertaking, and commanded him to associate with himself some of the Isaurians and cut out a passage in the rock as quickly as possible, taking care to allow no one to become aware of what they were doing. Paucaris then selected some Isaurians who were thoroughly suitable for the work, and secretly got inside the aqueduct with them. And coming to the place where the rock caused the passage to be narrow, they began their work, not cutting the rock with picks or mattocks, lest by their blows they should reveal to the enemy what they were doing, but scraping it very persistently with sharp instruments of iron. And in a short time the work was done, so that a man wearing a corselet and carrying a shield was able to go through at that point.

But when all his arrangements were at length in complete readiness, the thought occurred to Belisarius that if he should by act of war make his entry into Naples with the army, the result would be that lives would be lost and that all the other things would happen which usually attend the capture of a city by an enemy. And straightway summoning Stephanus, he spoke as follows: "Many times have I witnessed the capture of cities and I am well acquainted with what takes place at such a time. For they slay all the men of every age, and as for the women, though they beg to die, they are not granted the boon of death, but are carried off for outrage and are made to suffer treatment that is abominable and most pitiable. And the children, who are thus deprived of their proper maintenance and education, are forced to be slaves, and that, too, of the men who are the most odious of all—those on whose hands they see the blood of their fathers. And this is not all, my dear Stephanus, for I make no mention of the conflagration which destroys all the property and blots out the beauty of the city. When I see, as in the mirror of the cities which have been captured in times past, this city of Naples falling victim to such a fate, I am moved to pity both it and you its inhabitants. For such means have now been perfected by me against the city that its capture is inevitable. But I pray that an ancient city, which has for ages been inhabited by both Christians and Romans, may not meet with such a fortune, especially at my hands as commander of Roman troops, not least because in my army are a multitude of barbarians, who have lost brothers or relatives before the wall of this town; for the fury of these men I should be unable to control, if they should capture the city by act of war. While, therefore, it is still within your power to choose and to put into effect that which will be to your advantage, adopt the better course and escape misfortune; for when it falls upon you, as it probably will, you will not justly blame fortune but your own judgment." With these words Belisarius dismissed Stephanus. And he went before the people of Naples weeping and reporting with bitter lamentations all that he had heard Belisarius say. But they, since it was not fated that the Neapolitans should become subjects of the emperor without chastisement, neither became afraid nor did they decide to yield to Belisarius.


[36] Chap. iii. 1.


Then at length Belisarius, on his part, made his preparations to enter the city as follows. Selecting at nightfall about four hundred men and appointing as commander over them Magnus, who led a detachment of cavalry, and Ennes, the leader of the Isaurians, he commanded them all to put on their corselets, take in hand their shields and swords, and remain quiet until he himself should give the signal. And he summoned Bessas[37] and gave him orders to stay with him, for he wished to consult with him concerning a certain matter pertaining to the army. And when it was well on in the night, he explained to Magnus and Ennes the task before them, pointed out the place where he had previously broken open the aqueduct, and ordered them to lead the four hundred men into the city, taking lights with them And he sent with them two men skilled in the use of the trumpet, so that as soon as they should get inside the circuit-wall, they might be able both to throw the city into confusion and to notify their own men what they were doing. And he himself was holding in readiness a very great number of ladders which had been constructed previously.

So these men entered the aqueduct and were proceeding toward the city, while he with Bessas and Photius[38] remained at his post and with their help was attending to all details. And he also sent to the camp, commanding the men to remain awake and to keep their arms in their hands. At the same time he kept near him a large force—men whom he considered most courageous. Now of the men who were on their way to the city above half became terrified at the danger and turned back. And since Magnus could not persuade them to follow him, although he urged them again and again, he returned with them to the general. And Belisarius, after reviling these men, selected two hundred of the troops at hand, and ordered them to go with Magnus. And Photius also, wishing to lead them, leaped into the channel of the aqueduct, but Belisarius prevented him. Then those who were fleeing from the danger, put to shame by the railings of the general and of Photius, took heart to face it once more and followed with the others. And Belisarius, fearing lest their operations should be perceived by some of the enemy, who were maintaining a guard on the tower which happened to be nearest to the aqueduct, went to that place and commanded Bessas to carry on a conversation in the Gothic tongue with the barbarians there, his purpose being to prevent any clanging of the weapons from being audible to them. And so Bessas shouted to them in a loud voice, urging the Goths to yield to Belisarius and promising that they should have many rewards. But they jeered at him, indulging in many insults directed at both Belisarius and the emperor. Belisarius and Bessas, then, were thus occupied.

Now the aqueduct of Naples is not only covered until it reaches the wall, but remains covered as it extends to a great distance inside the city, being carried on a high arch of baked brick. Consequently, when the men under the command of Magnus and Ennes had got inside the fortifications, they were one and all unable even to conjecture where in the world they were. Furthermore, they could not leave the aqueduct at any point until the foremost of them came to a place where the aqueduct chanced to be without a roof and where stood a building which had entirely fallen into neglect. Inside this building a certain woman had her dwelling, living alone with utter poverty as her only companion; and an olive tree had grown out over the aqueduct. So when these men saw the sky and perceived that they were in the midst of the city, they began to plan how they might get out, but they had no means of leaving the aqueduct either with or without their arms. For the structure happened to be very high at that point and, besides, offered no means of climbing to the top. But as the soldiers were in a state of great perplexity and were beginning to crowd each other greatly as they collected there (for already, as the men in the rear kept coming up, a great throng was beginning to gather), the thought occurred to one of them to make trial of the ascent. He immediately therefore laid down his arms, and forcing his way up with hands and feet, reached the woman's house. And seeing her there, he threatened to kill her unless she should remain silent. And she was terror-stricken and remained speechless. He then fastened to the trunk of the olive tree a strong strap, and threw the other end of it into the aqueduct. So the soldiers, laying hold of it one at a time, managed with difficulty to make the ascent. And after all had come up and a fourth part of the night still remained, they proceeded toward the wall; and they slew the garrison of two of the towers before the men in them had an inkling of the trouble. These towers were on the northern portion of the circuit-wall, where Belisarius was stationed with Bessas and Photius, anxiously awaiting the progress of events. So while the trumpeters were summoning the army to the wall, Belisarius was placing the ladders against the fortifications and commanding the soldiers to mount them. But it so happened that not one of the ladders reached as far as the parapet. For since the workmen had not made them in sight of the wall, they had not been able to arrive at the proper measure. For this reason they bound two together, and it was only by using both of them for the ascent that the soldiers got above the level of the parapet. Such was the progress of these events where Belisarius was engaged.

But on the side of the circuit-wall which faces the sea, where the forces on guard were not barbarians, but Jews, the soldiers were unable either to use the ladders or to scale the wall. For the Jews had already given offence to their enemy by having opposed their efforts to capture the city without a fight, and for this reason they had no hope if they should fall into their hands; so they kept fighting stubbornly, although they could see that the city had already been captured, and held out beyond all expectation against the assaults of their opponents. But when day came and some of those who had mounted the wall marched against them, then at last they also, now that they were being shot at from behind, took to flight, and Naples was captured by storm. By this time the gates were thrown open and the whole Roman army came in. [L] But those who were stationed about the gates which fronted the east, since, as it happened, they had no ladders at hand, set fire to these gates, which were altogether unguarded; for that part of the wall had been deserted, the guards having taken to flight. And then a great slaughter took place; for all of them were possessed with fury, especially those who had chanced to have a brother or other relative slain in the fighting at the wall. And they kept killing all whom they encountered, sparing neither old nor young, and dashing into the houses they made slaves of the women and children and secured the valuables as plunder; and in this the Massagetae outdid all the rest, for they did not even withhold their hand from the sanctuaries, but slew many of those who had taken refuge in them, until Belisarius, visiting every part of the city, put a stop to this, and calling all together, spoke as follows:

DATE: [L] 536 A.D.

"Inasmuch as God has given us the victory and has permitted us to attain the greatest height of glory, by putting under our hand a city which has never been captured before, it behooves us on our part to shew ourselves not unworthy of His grace, but by our humane treatment of the vanquished, to make it plain that we have conquered these men justly. Do not, therefore, hate the Neapolitans with a boundless hatred, and do not allow your hostility toward them to continue beyond the limits of the war. For when men have been vanquished, their victors never hate them any longer. And by killing them you will not be ridding yourselves of enemies for the future, but you will be suffering a loss through the death of your subjects. Therefore, do these men no further harm, nor continue to give way wholly to anger. For it is a disgrace to prevail over the enemy and then to shew yourselves vanquished by passion. So let all the possessions of these men suffice for you as the rewards of your valour, but let their wives, together with the children, be given back to the men. And let the conquered learn by experience what kind of friends they have forfeited by reason of foolish counsel."

After speaking thus, Belisarius released to the Neapolitans their women and children and the slaves, one and all, no insult having been experienced by them, and he reconciled the soldiers to the citizens. And thus it came to pass for the Neapolitans that on that day they both became captives and regained their liberty, and that they recovered the most precious of their possessions. For those of them who happened to have gold or anything else of value had previously concealed it by burying it in the earth, and in this way they succeeded in hiding from the enemy the fact that in getting back their houses they were recovering their money also. And the siege, which had lasted about twenty days, ended thus. As for the Goths who were captured in the city, not less than eight hundred in number, Belisarius put them under guard and kept them from all harm, holding them in no less honour than his own soldiers.

And Pastor, who had been leading the people upon a course of folly, as has been previously[39] set forth by me, upon seeing the city captured, fell into a fit of apoplexy and died suddenly, though he had neither been ill before nor suffered any harm from anyone. But Asclepiodotus, who was engaged in this intrigue with him, came before Belisarius with those of the notables who survived. And Stephanus mocked and reviled him with these words: "See, O basest of all men, what evils you have brought to your fatherland, by selling the safety of the citizens for loyalty to the Goths. And furthermore, if things had gone well for the barbarians, you would have claimed the right to be yourself a hireling in their service and to bring to court on the charge of trying to betray the city to the Romans each one of us who have given the better counsel. But now that the emperor has captured the city, and we have been saved by the uprightness of this man, and you even so have had the hardihood recklessly to come into the presence of the general as if you had done no harm to the Neapolitans or to the emperor's army, you will meet with the punishment you deserve." Such were the words which Stephanus, who was deeply grieved by the misfortune of the city, hurled against Asclepiodotus. And Asclepiodotus replied to him as follows: "Quite unwittingly, noble Sir, you have been heaping praise upon us, when you reproach us for our loyalty to the Goths. For no one could ever be loyal to his masters when they are in danger, except it be by firm conviction. As for me, then, the victors will have in me as true a guardian of the state as they lately found in me an enemy, since he whom nature has endowed with the quality of fidelity does not change his conviction when he changes his fortune. But you, should their fortunes not continue to prosper as before, would readily listen to the overtures of their assailants. For he who has the disease of inconstancy of mind no sooner takes fright than he denies his pledge to those most dear." Such were the words of Asclepiodotus. But the populace of the Neapolitans, when they saw him returning from Belisarius, gathered in a body and began to charge him with responsibility for all that had befallen them. And they did not leave him until they had killed him and torn his body into small pieces. After that they came to the house of Pastor, seeking for the man. And when the servants insisted that Pastor was dead, they were quite unwilling to believe them until they were shown the man's body. And the Neapolitans impaled him in the outskirts of the town. Then they begged Belisarius to pardon them for what they had done while moved with just anger, and receiving his forgiveness, they dispersed. Such was the fate of the Neapolitans.


[37] Cf. chap. v. 3.

[38] Cf. chap. v. 5.

[39] Chap. viii. 22.


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