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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Buildings


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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Book IV (beginning)

 p219  1 1 To cross a great sea in an ill-appointed ship is a miserable task, I think, beset with the greatest dangers. And it is the same thing to recount the buildings of the Emperor Justinian with impotent words. 2 For through the greatness of his mind this  p221 Emperor has accomplished things which surpass description, in buildings no less than in practically all other matters. 3 And in Europe, being consumed by the desire to make his services fit the magnitude of the need which existed for them, he has carried out works which are not easy to enumerate or simple to describe in writing. 4 For these works have been executed with due regard for the nearness of the Ister River and for the consequent necessity imposed by the barbarians who threaten the land. 5 For it has as neighbours nations of Huns and of Goths, and the regions of Taurus and of Scythia rise up again it, as well as the haunts of the Sclaveni and of sundry other tribes — whether they are called by the writers of the most ancient history Hamaxibian or Metanastic Sauromatae,​1 and whatever other wild race of men really either roams about or leads a settled life in that region. 6 And in his determination to resist these barbarians who were endlessly making war, the Emperor Justinian, who did not take the matter lightly, was obliged to throw innumerable fortresses about the country, to assign to them untold garrisons of troops, and to set up all other possible obstacles to an enemy who attacked without warning and who permitted no intercourse. 7 Indeed it was the custom of these peoples to rise and make war upon their enemies for no particular cause, and to open hostilities without sending an embassy, and they did not bring their struggles to an end through any treaty or cease operations for any specified  p223 period, but they made their attacks without provocation and reached a decision by the sword alone. But still we must proceed owing to the remainder of our story. 8 For when we have begun a task it will be better to go through to the end in any fashion whatever than to depart leaving it unfinished. 9 Certainly my action would not be free from blame, if, after our Emperor has performed the work, I for my part, should shrink from telling of what he has done. 10 But now that we are on the point of enumerating the buildings of this Emperor in Europe, it is proper first to make a few observations regarding this land.

[link to original Greek text] 11 There is a narrow arm or bight which is pushed out from the Adriatic Sea, as it is called, and strays away from the remainder of the sea and goes up into the mainland, and dividing the continent for a great distance it forms the Ionian Gulf, having on the right the Epirotes and the other peoples of that region and on the left Calabria; then, being compressed into a narrow inlet for a very long way, the sea bounds practically the whole continent.​2 12 And the River Ister, flowing higher up,​3 and opposite the sea, makes the land of Europe an island, as it were. 13 In that region this Emperor built many noteworthy buildings. 14 Indeed he fortified the whole of Europe so safely that he rendered it inaccessible to the barbarians who live beyond the Ister River.

[link to original Greek text] 15 But I must commence from the native land of the Emperor, to which of all places must be given first rank in all other respects, and with this I must begin  p225 my present account. 16 For to this land alone is it given to rejoice and swell with pride and enjoy the solemn dignity of having bred and presented to the Romans an Emperor whose works it is impossible to tell in words or to record in writing.

[link to original Greek text] 17 Among the Dardanians of Europe who live beyond the boundaries of the Epidamnians, close to the fortress which is called Bederiana, there was a hamlet named Taurisium, whence sprang the Emperor Justinian, the founder of the civilised world.​4 18 He therefore built a wall of small compass about this place in the form of a square, pla­cing a tower at each corner, and caused it to be called, as it actually is, Tetrapyrgia.​5 19 And close by this place he built a very notable city which he named Justiniana Prima​6 (this means "first" in the Latin tongue), thus paying a debt of gratitude to the home that fostered him. 20 Yet all Romans should have shared this debt among themselves, for this land nourished a common saviour for all of them. 21 In that place also he constructed an aqueduct and so caused the city to be abundantly supplied with ever-running water. 22 And many other enterprises were carried out by the founder of this city — works of great size and worthy of especial note. 23 For to enumerate the churches is not easy, and it is impossible to tell in words of the lodgings for magistrates, the great stoas, the fine market-places, the fountains, the streets, the baths, the shops. 24 In brief, the city is both great and  p227 populous and blessed in every way — a city worthy to be the metropolis of the whole region, for it has attained this rank. 25 It has also been allotted to the Archbishop of Illyricum as his seat, the other cities conceding this honour to it, as being first in point of size. Thus this city has won honour for the Emperor in requital for his favour; 26 for while it prides itself upon its foster-son, he for his part takes a corresponding pride in that he built the city. But this will be enough for me to tell; 27 indeed it is impossible to describe everything in detail, for since the city is the Emperor's own, any account of it necessarily falls short of the reality.

[link to original Greek text] 28 He also rebuilt the entire fortress of Bederiana and made it much stronger. And there was a certain city among the Dardanians, dating from ancient times, which was named Ulpiana;​7 29 he tore down most of its circuit-wall, for it was seriously damaged and altogether useless, and he added a very great number of improvements to the city, changing it to its present fair aspect; and he named it Justiniana Secunda 30 (secunda is the Latin word for second). Near it he built another city where none had existed before, which he called Justinopolis from his uncle's name. 31 Furthermore, he found the walls of Sardica​8 and Naïsopolis,​9 as well as those of Germaê and of Pantalia,​10 in ruins from the passage of time, and he built them up securely and made them such that they could defy the enemy. 32 Between these he built  p229 three small forts, Cratiscara and Quimedaba and Roumisiana. Thus he raised these cities from their foundations. 33 And wishing, as he did, to make the Ister River the strongest possible line of first defence before them and before the whole of Europe, he distributed numerous forts along the bank of the river, as I shall soon describe, and he placed garrisons of troops everywhere along the shore, in order to put the most rigid check upon the crossing of the barbarians there. 34 But even after he had completed all these precautions, he was still uneasy because of the uncertainty of human plans; and since he reflected that if it should ever be possible for the enemy to break through somehow, they would then fall upon fields which would be entirely unguarded, would enslave the whole population, from the youths upwards, and would plunder all their property, he did not leave their common safety to depend upon the forts along the river alone, but he also provided individual safeguards for them; 35 for he made the defences so continuous in the estates that each farm either has been converted into a stronghold or lies adjacent to one which is fortified; and he did this both here and in New Epirus, as it is called, and in Old Epirus.​11 36 Here too he built the city of Justinianopolis, which formerly was called Adrianopolis.12

[link to original Greek text] 37 And he restored Nicopolis and Photicê and the place called Phoenicê. These two towns, namely Photicê and Phoenicê, stood on low-lying ground and were surrounded by stagnant water which collected there. 38 Consequently the Emperor Justinian, reasoning that it was impossible for walls to be built about  p231 them on foundations of solid construction, left them just as they were, but close to them he built forts on rising ground which is exceedingly steep. 39 There was a certain ancient city in this region, abundantly supplied with water and endowed with a name worthy of the place; for it was called Euroea​13 from ancient times. 40 Not far from this Euroea a lake spreads out with an island in its midst upon which rises a hill. 41 And a break is left in the lake just large enough so that a kind of approach to the island remains. 42 The Emperor moved the inhabitants of Euroea to this place, built a very strong city, and put a wall about it.14

[link to original Greek text] 2 1 Beyond​15 the whole of Epirus and Aetolia and Acarnania, as one skirts the coast, one comes to the Crisaean Gulf​16 and the Isthmus and Corinth and the other parts of Greece. These regions made demands upon his very utmost wisdom. 2 And above all else one might wonder at the number of walled cities with which he fortified the Roman Empire. For he made provision for all of them and especially for the by-paths up the mountains at Thermopylae. 3 First of all he raised the walls there to a very great height. For the mountains which rise in that region were easy to capture, if one should assault them, they being not really walled, but simply supplied with what appeared to be a cornice of masonry. 4 On all these walls he even placed double battlements, and he likewise carried out this same improvement  p233 in the fortress which had stood there from an ancient date, carelessly constructed, as it was, by men of former times. 5 For he built it up to an adequate height and made the ramparts double. 6 In addition to this he also devised for the fort, which was entirely without water, a storage-cistern for rain-water. 7 Furthermore, he carefully walled off many paths up the mountains which previously had been both unguarded and unwalled. 8 One might marvel with good reason at the Persian King for spending so much time there and finding only a single narrow path, and that too with the help of Grecian traitors, while in fact there are many unwalled routes there which are practically waggon-roads. 9 The sea, washing the base of the mountains, continually made new ascents from this point; and since glens and impassable ravines abound there, it seemed to the men of ancient times impossible to close up thoroughly with walls the openings which had been made by nature; and because of their reluctance to undertake a difficult task, they carelessly abandoned their safety to chance, basing their hope of salvation on the assumption that the barbarians would be ignorant of the road. 10 For since men always shrink from hard work, they imagine that what has seemed very difficult to them will not be easy for any others. 11 So no man will any longer dispute the assertion that the Emperor Justinian has shewn himself most provident and most exceptionally careful as compared with all other men who have ever lived, seeing that even the sea, though it comes close to the mountains and surrounds them and beats against them, has not proved  p235 an obstacle sufficient to prevent the foundations from being securely laid in the midst of the surging water and on the wet sand, or to forestall the most striking union of the most opposite elements, which are thus forced to yield to man's skill and to bow to his superior power. 12 Yet this Emperor, even after joining the forests and the glens to each other, and fastening the sea to the mountain, and encircling all Greece with strongholds, did not stop his zeal for his subjects, but he also constructed many forts inside the wall, planning for all the contingencies which sway man's fortune, 13 so that if these walls in any manner or at any time chanced to be captured, the garrisons might still be maintained in the fortresses. 14 Furthermore, he placed granaries and reservoirs of water in safe places everywhere and established there about two thousand soldiers as a garrison, a thing which not one of the former Emperors has done in all time.​17 15 For these walls were entirely unguarded from early times even to my day, and some of the peasants from the neighbourhood, when the enemy came down, would suddenly change their mode of life, and becoming makeshift soldiers for the occasion, would keep guard there in turn; and because of their inexperience in the business they, together with Greece itself, proved an easy prey to the enemy, and on account of this niggardliness the country through its whole extent lay open to the oncoming barbarians.

[link to original Greek text] 16 Thus did the Emperor Justinian secure the defences at Thermopylae. And in all the cities outside the pass, which in that region are sufficiently numerous,  p237 he very carefully built strong walls, both at Saccus and Hypatê and Coracii and Unnum and Baleae and at Leontarium, as it is called. 17 At Heraclea he did as follows. As one descends from Illyricum into Greece, one is confronted by two mountains which rise very close together for a long distance, forming between them a narrow pass of the sort which they are wont to call cleisurae.​18 18 A small stream comes down between them, in the summer season flowing with pure drinking-water from the mountains which rise there and forming a tiny brook. 19 Whenever it rains, however, an exceedingly deep and very violent torrent billows down, gathering its volume chiefly from the streams which course down from the mountain peaks thereabout. 20 At that point it was possible for the barbarians with no difficulty to effect an entrance both against Thermopylae and into that part of Greece. 21 But on either side of the pass there had been two fortresses from early times, on the one side the city of Heraclea, which I have just mentioned, and on the other, separated by no small distance, Myropoles, as it is called.​19 22 Both these fortresses had lain in ruin from ancient times, so the Emperor Justinian rebuilt them and closed the pass with a very strong cross-wall which he made fast to each of the two mountains, thus blocking the entrance for the barbarians, and the stream when it is in flood is now forced to form a pond inside the wall and then to flow over it and go on wherever it chances.

 p239  23 He also rendered secure all the cities of Greece which are inside the walls at Thermopylae, renewing their circuit-walls in every case. 24 For they had fallen into ruin long before, at Corinth because of terrible earthquakes which had visited the city; and at Athens and Plataea and the towns of Boeotia they had suffered from the long passage of time, while no man in the whole world took thought for them. 25 But he left nothing vulnerable or unguarded, for after vigilantly caring for the safety of his subjects, he felt convinced that even if the barbarians should chance to overrun the country about Thermopylae, they would, as soon as they learned that after surmounting this obstacle they would have gained no advantage (the rest of Greece having been fortified at every point), give up immediately in despair, knowing that it would be necessary for them to besiege each individual city. 26 For when expectation is prolonged, it cannot endure the strain, nor does it even desire a profit which is delayed; but it simply abandons the contingent chance of success through waiting.

[link to original Greek text] 27 When the Emperor Justinian, after he had accomplished all this, learned that all the cities of the Peloponnesus were unwalled, he reasoned that obviously a long time would be consumed if he attended to them one by one, and so he walled the whole Isthmus securely, because much of the old wall had already fallen down. 28 And he built fortresses there and established garrisons. In this manner he  p241 made all the towns in the Peloponnesus inaccessible to the enemy, even if somehow they should force the defences at Thermopylae. Thus were these things done.

[link to original Greek text] 3 1 There was a certain city in Thessaly, Diocletianopolis by name, which had been prosperous in ancient times, but with the passage of time and the assaults of the barbarians it had been destroyed, and for a very long time it had been destitute of inhabitants; and a certain lake chances to be close by which was named Castoria.​20 There is an island in the middle of the lake, for the most part surrounded by water; 2 but there remains a single narrow approach to this island through the lake, not more than fifteen feet wide. 3 And a very lofty mountain stands above the island, one half being covered by the lake while the remainder rests upon it. 4 Wherefore this Emperor passed over the site of Diocletianopolis, since it was manifestly easy of access and had long been in a state of collapse, as has been stated, and built a very strong city on the island, and, as was right, he allowed it bear his own name. 5 Furthermore, he restored the circuit-walls of Echinaeus and of Thebes and Pharsalus and of all the other cities of Thessaly, including Demetrias and Metropolis, as it is called, and Gomphi and Tricca,​21 making them safe and strong, since they had all suffered with the passage of time and could be captured easily, if anyone should attack them.

[link to original Greek text] 6 But now that we have reached Thessaly, let us direct our account at once to Mt. Pelion and the  p243 Peneus River. 7 This river flows from Mt. Pelion​22 with a gentle stream which encircles and beautifies the city of Larissa; Phthia​23 is no longer in existence, this being the work of the long passage of time. 8 And this river flows on with a very easy descent all the way to the sea. The country is indeed productive of all kinds of crops and has a surfeit of drinking-water, yet the inhabitants of the region could not derive the least enjoyment from these things because they were in a state of constant terror and ever expected the barbarians to fall upon them, since there was no stronghold anywhere in this district where they might take refuge and find safety. 9 Even Larissa and Caesarea,​24 since their defences had suffered excessively, had come to be practically unwalled. 10 But the Emperor Justinian made the defences of both very strong, and in this way brought the blessings of true prosperity to the region. 11 And not far away rise precipitous mountains, covered with lofty trees — the home of the Centaurs. 12 This was the spot where the battle of the Lapiths took place against the race of the Centaurs, as our myths have it from of old, childishly pretending that in early times a strange race of men existed, compounded of the nature of two creatures. 13 Ancient times have also left a certain testimony to the myth in a name applied to a fort in the mountains there; for the place is called Centauropolis  p245 even to my day. 14 The wall of this fort, which had already fallen down, as well as the fortress of Eurymenê, near by, which was in the same state, was rebuilt and strengthened by the Emperor Justinian. 15 This Emperor restored also many other forts in Thessaly, the names of which I shall include a little further on in the list of towns in Macedonia which have been provided with walls.

[link to original Greek text] 16 But now, in order that no portion of Greece may be left unmentioned, we must go to the island of Euboea, for it stands close to Athens and Marathôn. 17 This island of Euboea is thrown out into the sea in front of Greece, and it looks as if it had been cut off somehow from the mainland, having been one with the continent formerly, but later split off by a strait. 18 An arm of the sea breaks the continent there near the city of Chalcis, collecting itself in a narrow stream and being compressed by its banks to the breadth of a brook. 19 The portion of land which is thus cut off forms an island, and the strait is called Euripus. 20 Such then is Euboea; and a bridge over the strait is formed by a single timber laid across it. This the natives put in place whenever they wish, and thus they seem to be mainlanders when they cross on foot to the opposite shore; but when they remove it and cross the strait in boats, they become islanders again, so that by the pla­cing or removal of one timber they may either walk or go in boats​25 . . . they call the enclosed portion Pallenê.  p247 21 The natives in ancient times had closed the entrance with a cross-wall, with which they had linked together the two seas; and they had built there a city which in former times they called Potidaea, but now Cassandria. 22 But time so ruined all the buildings in this place that a Hunnic tribe, in overrunning that region not long ago, destroyed the city and the wall without fear, quite as if they were doing something just by the way, though since the world began they had never stormed a wall. 23 But this too provided the Emperor Justinian with an opportunity to display his skill and his magnanimity. 24 For, by always bringing his wisdom to bear in circumventing the difficulties he meets with, he straightway uses beneficent measures, thus transforming the greatest disasters into a happier state of affairs. 25 So in this way he brought it about that both the city of Pallenê, which stands as a bulwark of the whole region, and the cross-wall at the entrance of the peninsula, became manifestly impregnable and able to defy any who should wish to attack them. 26 These things, then, were done by him as his service to Macedonia.

[link to original Greek text] 27 Not far from Thessalonica flows a certain river, Rhechius by name,​26 which wanders through a goodly land of deep soil and then empties into the sea near by. 28 The river flows with a steady current, the water is calm and drinkable, and the ground is level with many ploughed fields and bottom-lands with good pasturage. 29 In these respects the land is blessed, but  p249 it used to be completely exposed to the barbarians, having neither fortress nor any other defence in a space of forty miles. 30 Consequently the Emperor built a new fort of great strength beside the mouth of the Rhechius River, near the shore of the sea, and it has been named Artemisium.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 For the Sauromatae cf. Herodotus, IV.xxi, etc. Both (p221)epithets of the Sauromatians ("Living in waggons" and "Migraters"º) describe their mode of life. A Scythian race, their habitat included European Russia and westward to the Vistula River.

2 See the description of the Adriatic Sea in WarsV.xv.16, and the note there. By "Adriatic" here is meant a part of the Mediterranean; Procopius' "Ionian Gulf" is our Adriatic Sea.

3 I.e. farther to the north.

4 Cf. N. Vulić, "L'Origine ethnique de l'empereur Justinien," Actes du IVe congrès international des études byzantines, Sofia, 1934 (Bull. de l'Inst. arch. Bulgare, ix. 1935), pp400‑405.

5 "Four Towers," modern Ochrida.

6 Modern Scupi.

7 Modern Lipljan.

8 Called Triaditza in medieval times; modern Sofia.

9 Naïssus, modern Nish.

10 A mistake for Pautalia; the place is mentioned again in the list below, Chap. iv, ὑπὸ πόλιν Παυτά. Cf. A. Salač, "The City of Pautalia in Procopius, περὶ κτισμάτων," Listy filologické, lviii. 1931, pp392‑395, in Czech, with French summary, p487.

11 Cf. page 250, note 2.

12 Modern Adrianople or Edirne.

13 "Fair-flowing."

14 Euroea was probably on the site of the modern village of Gardiki, near the city and lake of Ioannina.

15 To the south.

16 A northern arm of the Gulf of Corinth.

17 Cf. Secret History, xxvi.31‑33 for a very different statement of the case.

18 See above, III.iii.2, note.

19 Possibly the route indicated was by way of the valley of the Sperchius, the upper portion of which might be characterised as a cleisura; in its lower reaches, however, near which Heraclea Trachinia is situated, the valley is wide and open.

20 Cf. A. D. Keramopoullos, " Ὀρεστικὸν Ἄργος — Διοκλητιανούπολις — Καστορία," Byz.-neugr. Jahrbb., ix., 1930‑2, pp55‑63.

21 Later Trikala, Mod. Trikkala.

22 In fact its principal source arises in northwestern Thessaly; it is a small tributary that rises in Mt. Pelion and passes Larissa.

23 The reputed home of Achilles.

24 In western Macedonia, on the river Haliacmon. Cf. A. D. Keramopoullos, "Wo lag die Καισάρεια des Procopius?": Actes du IVe congrès international des études byzantines, Sofia, 1934 (Bull. de l'Inst. arch. Bulgare, ix. 1935), pp407‑413.

25 A lacuna of considerable extent must be assumed here. The author must have told of Justinian's fortifications at Chalcis and elsewhere in Euboea before passing to Macedonia, where he has mentioned Chalcidicê, on the westernmost of whose three peninsulas was Pallenê. The cross-wall, which (p247)made the lower part of this peninsula "the enclosed portion," seems to have been built across the narrow neck of this peninsula, thus "connecting" the Thermaic Gulf with the gulf east of Pallenê.

26 The Axius, modern Vardar?

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