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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 28

This webpage reproduces a Chapter of
The Secret History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 30

The Anecdota
or Secret History

Chapter XXIX

 p335  That he was insincere and a dissembler I shall straightway make clear. The Liberius whom I have just mentioned1 he dismissed from the office he held and appointed in his place John surnamed Laxarion, an Egyptian by birth. 2 And when Pelagius, who was a very close friend of Liberius, learned of this, he enquired of the Emperor whether the report about Laxarion was true. 3 And he straightway denied the report, insisting that he had not done any such thing, and he put in his hands a letter to Liberius, instructing him to hold on to this office most firmly and by no means to relinquish it. 4 For it was not his will, he said, to remove him from the office at the present time. And John had an uncle in Byzantium named Eudaemon, who, having risen to senatorial rank and having acquired great wealth, was for a time administrator of the Emperor's personal estate. 5 This Eudaemon, upon hearing the  p337 statements we have mentioned, also enquired of the Emperor whether his nephew's office was secure. 6 Whereupon the Emperor denied what he had written to Liberius and wrote a letter to John instructing him to lay claim to the office with all his might; 7 for, he said, he on his part had not planned any change regarding it. And John, having been convinced by these statements, commanded Liberius to retire from his official quarters as having been dismissed from his office. 8 But Liberius refused absolutely to obey him, he also obviously having been led to do so by the Emperor's letters. 9 So John armed his followers and proceeded to attack Liberius, while the latter, together with his supporters, prepared for resistance. And a fight took place in which many were killed, including John himself, the holder of the office. 10 Liberius was therefore immediately summoned to Byzantium, Eudaemon urging this step vigorously, and the Senate, making a determination of the facts in the case, acquitted the man on the ground that the outrage had occurred while he was not an aggressor, but was acting in self-defence. 11 But the Emperor did not drop the matter until he had punished him by a fine of money, imposed secretly.

12 It was in this wise, in sooth, that Justinian knew how to tell the truth and practised straightforwardness of speech! But it is not, I think, inopportune to add a matter that is incidental to this narrative. For this Eudaemon died not long afterwards, having  p339 neither disposed of his estate by will nor made any statement whatever, although he had many relatives surviving. 13 And at about the same time a certain man, Euphratas by name,2 who had been overseer of the Palace eunuchs, departed this life, leaving a nephew but without having made any disposition of his estate, which was very great. 14 And the Emperor seized both these estates, of his own arbitrary act making himself the heir and giving not a farthing to any of the lawful heirs. 15 Such respect for the law and for the kinsmen of his intimates was shewn by this Emperor! 16 In the same way he had seized the property of Eirenaeus who had died a long time before, although he had not a shadow of a claim to it.

17 And the incident directly connected with those just mentioned, which occurred at about the same time, I could not pass by in silence. There was a certain Anatolius who held chief place in the senatorial roster of Ascalon.3 This man's daughter had been duly married by one of the Caesareans,4 Mamilianus by name, a man of a very notable house. 18 And the girl was an heiress, since she was the only child of Anatolius. 19 Now it had been prescribed by ancient law that whenever a Senator of any one of the cities should depart this life without leaving male children, the fourth part of the property left by this man should be given to the Council of the city, while the natural heirs of the deceased should enjoy the rest; but the Emperor here too gave evidence of his own true character, for he  p341 happened to have promulgated a law recently, which arranged matters in just the opposite way, providing, namely, that when a Senator died without male issue, his natural heirs should receive the fourth part of his estate but that all the rest should be taken over by the Treasury and entered in the roster of the city's Senate.5 20 And yet never since the creation of man has either Treasurer or Emperor been empowered to share in senatorial property. 21 So while this law was in force, the final day of life came upon Anatolius, and his daughter divided the estate with the Treasury and the Council of the city in accordance with the law, and both the Emperor himself and the magistrates in charge of the roster of Ascalon wrote letters to her releasing her from the counter-claim6 in this matter, since they had received their due correctly and justly. 22 Later on Mamilianus also departed this life, the man who had been son-in‑law to Anatolius, and he left a single daughter, who alone acquired her father's estate, as was to be expected. 23 But later on she too, while her mother still survived, reached the term of her life, having been married to one of the notables but having become mother of neither female nor male child. 24 But Justinian seized upon all the property forthwith, letting fall the amazing statement that for the daughter of Anatolius, now an old woman, to be enriched by her  p343 husband's and her father's money was an impious thing! 25 But in order that the woman might not henceforth be assigned to the ranks of the beggars, he ordered that this woman should receive a gold stater each day, as long as she lived, inserting in the document by means of which he had plundered all this money the statement that he relinquished the stater for the sake of piety: "For it is my custom," he said, "to do whatever is pious and righteous."

26 But concerning these matters it suffices to give these facts, that my account may not lead to surfeit, since it is not possible for any human being to mention them all. 27 But that he has taken no account even of any adherent of the Blues, who were supposed to be his favourites, when money was at stake, I shall now make clear. 28 There was a certain Malthanes in Cilicia, son-in‑law of that Leon who held, as mentioned above,7 the office of Referendarius8 as it is called. 29 This man he directed to put a stop to the acts of violence in Cilicia. And laying hold of this pretext, Malthanes committed outrageous wrongs upon the majority of the Cilicians, and as he plundered their money, he sent some to the tyrant, while he saw fit to enrich himself with the remainder. 30 Now all the rest endured their misfortunes in silence, but such of the men of Tarsus as were Blues, being bold in the licence which the Emperor's favour gave them, heaped many insults upon Malthanes in the public market-place when he was not present among them. 31 And when Malthanes learned this, he  p345 straightway came to Tarsus by night, bringing a large force of soldiers, and sending them around to the houses at early dawn, he ordered them to take lodgings therein. 32 And the Blues, thinking this to be a raid, defended themselves as well as they could. And many other mishaps took place in the darkness, but the worst was that Damianus, a member of the Senate, fell by a shot from a bow. 33 Now this Damianus was the patron of the Blues there. And when news of this came to Byzantium, the Blues were angry and raised a great tumult throughout the city, and they plagued the Emperor about the matter exceedingly, and they vilified Leon and Malthanes roundly together with most terrible threats. 34 And the Emperor pretended to be no less angry than they at what had happened. So he straightway wrote a letter ordering an investigation and punishment of the public acts of Malthanes. 35 But Leon, by handing over to him a vast quantity of gold, caused him to give up at once both his anger and his fondness for the Blues, and though the matter had remained uninvestigated, when Malthanes came into the Emperor's presence in Byzantium, the latter received him with great friendliness and held him in honour. 36 But when he went out from the Emperor's presence, the Blues, who had been watching for him, rained blows upon him in the Palace, and they would have destroyed him had not some of them prevented it, these being the men who chanced to have already received money in secret from Leon. 37 And yet who would not call that State most pitiable in which an Emperor, having accepted a bribe, left the briber's crimes  p347 uninvestigated, and factionists, on the other hand, while the Emperor was there in the Palace, dared without any compunction to set upon one of the magistrates and to commit an unjust attack upon him? 38 As for punishment, however, none was inflicted on account of these misdeeds, either upon Malthanes or upon his assailants. From these things, if anyone should wish, let him estimate the character of the Emperor Justinian.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Chap. xxvii.17.

2 Cf. Book VIII.iii.19.

3 In Palestine.

4 Caesarea, in Palestine, was the birth-place of Procopius. Cf. Chap. xi.25.

5 The official senatorial record, like the album senatorium at Rome.

6 i.e. from further claims by the Treasury upon the one quarter of the estate which the new law assigned to her as heiress.

7 Chap. xiv.16, xvii.32.

8 Private secretary; cf. Book II.xxiii.6.

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Page updated: 8 May 12