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Ch. 19, §§4‑8
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of the Later Roman Empire

by J. B. Bury

published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has not been proofread.
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Ch. 19, §§13‑14


(Part 3 of 4)

§ 9. Battle of Sena Gallica (A.D. 551)

Totila realised that a supreme effort was now to be made to destroy the Ostrogothic power in Italy. The appointment of Narses was hardly less significant than the appointment of Germanus. He had always understood the importance of reconciling the Italians to his rule, and he now urgently pressed forward the rebuilding of Rome in order to ingratiate himself with the Romans. His immediate military objects were the capture of Ancona and Croton, two of the few valuable places that were still left to the Empire. In the autumn of A.D. 551, his forces, as we saw, were besieging Ancona, but it is probable that he had not yet sent an army against Croton. At the same p259 time, he was employing his fleet. Three hundred vessels sailed to the shores of Greece. The rich island of Corcyra was ravaged, and on the mainland the districts around Nicopolis, Anchialus, and Dodona. Transports conveying supplies to the army of Narses at Salona were intercepted and captured.

The garrison of Ancona was hard pressed, for it was blockaded by sea as well as by land. Forty-seven Gothic warships hindered any provisions from reaching it by sea. The general, Valerian, who was stationed at Ravenna and was not strong enough to send relief, wrote to John at Salona an urgent letter on the gravity of the situation. John promptly manned thirty-eight warships with seasoned men,76 and at Scardona, higher up the Dalmatian coast, they were joined by twelve more which came across from Ravenna with Valerian. The two generals and their fleet sailed to Sena Gallica, of which the distance by sea to Ancona is about seventeen miles. The two squadrons were practically equal in strength, and the Gothic commanders, Indulf and Gibal,77 immediately determined to risk a naval battle, and sailed to Sena.

The action, as in a land battle, was begun by the archers; then some of the vessels closed with each other, and the crews fought with sword and lance. But the Goths were at a great disadvantage. They had not the natural aptitude of the Greeks for handling ships, and they can have had very little training in the operations of maritime warfare. They were unable, in the excitement of the action, to maintain a suitable distance between their ships. Some of these were too far from their neighbours and were easily sunk by the enemy, but most of them were too close together and had no room to manoeuvre. Their opponents, on the other hand, kept perfect order, and with cool readiness took advantage of all the blunders of the Goths, who at last, weary and helpless, gave up the contest and fled. Thirty-six Gothic ships were sent to the bottom and Gibal was captured; Indulf escaped with eleven ships, which he burned as soon as he landed, and reached the camp at Ancona. When p260 the victorious fleet arrived, they found that enemy had abandoned the camp and taken refuge in Auximum. The crushing victory meant more than the safety of Ancona, it dealt a heavy blow to the power and prestige of the Goths.78

Soon after this Artabanes, who had arrived in Sicily, recovered the four fortresses which the Goths had captured. The tide seemed to have definitely turned, and the Goths were acutely conscious of the change in their prospects. They felt that if the enemy came in strength they would be unable to hold out. Once more Totila sent ambassadors to Constantinople to propose terms of peace, offering to resign the claim to Sicily and Dalmatia, and to pay the taxes to which the tenantless estates in those provinces were liable. But the Emperor refused to listen to the pleadings of the envoys. He was so bitter against the Ostrogoths that he had determined to expunge their name from the map of the Roman world.

One more success was achieved by Totila, though it was perhaps purchased too dearly. He had sent a fleet to Corsica and Sardinia with forces sufficient to overcome the Roman garrisons. As those islands belonged to the African Prefecture, it devolved upon John, the Master of Soldiers in Africa, to defend them, and he sent an army to Sardinia (autumn, A.D. 551). It was defeated near Cagliari, and sailed back to Carthage, to return in the spring in greater strength. Whatever prestige Totila gained by the occupation of the islands can hardly have counterbalanced the disadvantage of reducing the numbers of his fighting forces in Italy, when every man was needed for the approaching struggle with the armies of Narses.

During the spring Croton was hard pressed by the Goths who were blockading it. No one came to its relief until the Emperor, hearing that it would inevitably fall unless speedy help arrived, ordered the troops stationed at Thermopylae to embark immediately and sail thither. The mere appearance of the relief squadron in the harbour sufficed to terrify the besiegers, who hastily broke up their camp and fled. The effect of this bloodless victory was that the commanders of the Gothic garrisons in Tarentum and Acherontia offered to surrender those places on condition that their own safety was secured. Their proposals were referred to the Emperor.

p261 § 10. Battle of Busta Gallorum and Death of Totila (A.D. 552)

In the spring of A.D. 552 Narses was at length ready to set out for Italy. He had collected large forces in addition to those which had been recruited two years before by Germanus, and which had remained at Salona under the command of John. We are not told what was the entire strength of the army, though we know the number of some of the particular contingents. The Lombard King Audoin sent more than 5500 fighting men;79 there were more than 3000 Heruls;80 there were p262 400 Gepids; there were Huns,81 of course, and there was a band of Persian deserters.82 All these foreign auxiliaries can hardly have amounted to less than 11,000. For the regular Imperial regiments which the Emperor placed at the disposal of Narses, for the Thracian and Illyrian troops which Germanus and Narses had specially recruited at their own expense we have Norman figures, but it will not be extravagant to suppose that they were more numerous than the foreign contingents, and to conjecture 25,000 as a probable figure for the strength of the whole army which marched with Narses from Salona along the Dalmatian coast road to the head of the Hadriatic.83

The towns and forts which commanded the road from the east into Venetia were in possession of the Franks, and Narses, when he approached the Venetian borders, sent envoys to the commanders asking them to permit a friendly army to pass in peace. The request was refused on the pretext that Lombards who were bitter foes of the Franks accompanied the Imperial army. Then Narses learned that, even if the Franks did not oppose his passage, he would be held up when he reached the Adige, inasmuch as Teïas, one of the most capable of Totila's captains, had arrived at Verona with all the best Gothic troops, to hinder and embarrass his march. Every possible measure had been taken to make the road from the Adige to Ravenna impracticable. By the advice of John, who was acquainted with the country, it was decided that the troops should march along the sea coast from Istria, attended by a few ships and a large fleet of small boats to transport them across the mouths of the rivers. Time was lost, but Ravenna was safely reached. But it is curious that an expedition for which long preparations had been made should have been allowed to find itself in such a predicament. One would have thought that an adequate fleet of transports could have been collected at Salona to convey the whole army direct to Classis.84

p263 At Ravenna the army rested for nine days and was reinforced by the troops of Justin and Valerian. Then, leaving Justin in charge of Ravenna, Narses pushed southward along the coast road. He was determined not to spend time or strength in lesser operations, but to come face to face with Totila and decide the issue of the war by a battle involving all the forces of both belligerents. Totila was in the neighbourhood of Rome, and therefore it was on the road to Rome that Narses hastened. When he reached Ariminum he found that the bridge across the river had been destroyed. His engineers bridged it and he might easily have taken the town, for the commander of the garrison, who had sallied out to see what the Romans were doing, was slain by a Herul. But Narses did not tarry; Ariminum could wait. In ordinary circumstances the quickest route for an army marching from Ariminum to Rome was along the coast as far as Fanum and thence by the Via Flaminia. But this way was not open to Narses, for the eastern end of the Via Flaminia was commanded by the enemy who were in possession of Petra Pertusa, a barrier which might be found insuperable. It was therefore necessary for him to strike the road a some point to the west of that fortress. We do not know whether he left the coast near Ariminum or further on, at Pisaurum. In either case he probably reached the Via Flaminia about five miles on the Romeward side of the gorge of Petra Pertusa, at a place which is now known as Acqualagna.

In the meantime Totila, learning that Narses had reached Ravenna, had recalled Teïas and his army from Venetia, and, as eager for battle as Narses, set out for the north. It is not clear where he expected to encounter the Imperialists,85 but when the news reached him that the enemy had left Ravenna and passed Ariminum he struck into the Apennines by the Via p264Flaminia and encamped near (probably to the north of) Tadinum.86 Immediately afterwards the army of Narses reached the neighbourhood and encamped at a place of which the name, Busta Gallorum, preserved a tradition of the wars of the early Roman republic with the Celts of the north. The only other clue the historian gives us as to its position is the statement that it was about fourteen miles from the camp of Totila. We may conjecture that the place is to be sought to the east of the Flaminian Way, in the neighbourhood of Fabriano.

As soon as his army had encamped, Narses sent some trusted officers to Totila, to recommend him to make submission without attempting to oppose much superior forces, and, if he were determined to fight, to invite him to name a day for the battle. Totila would not hear of peace or submission. He said, "Let us do battle in eight days." But Narses was too shrewd to trust the Goth's word. He guessed that Totila would attack him on the next day and made his preparations for battle. So it fell out. The Goths moved during the night, and at dawn the Romans saw their army drawn up within two bowshots of their own line.

Narses placed the Lombards, the Heruls, and the other barbarian auxiliaries in the centre. They were mounted troops but he made them dismount and used them as infantry. On the two wings he posted his regular troops, on the right, under himself and John, on the left under Valerian, Dagisthaeus, and John Phagas; and in front of each wing he stationed 4000 archers. Beyond the extremity of his left, he placed a reserve of 1500 cavalry. Of these one squadron of 500 was to bring help to any part of the line that might be hard pressed;87 the other body of 1000 was to attempt, when the Gothic infantry were engaged, to ride round and take them in the rear.

Narses had chosen a strong defensive position. It was such that the only way by which the enemy could send a detachment to circumvent him and attack him from behind was a narrow path which ran by the slopes of a small hill close to his left wing. p265 It was, therefore, important to hold this position, and before daybreak fifty men stationed themselves in the bed of a stream on the slope of the hill facing the Goths. When Totila espied them he sent a squadron of horse to dislodge them, but the Romans held their ground against repeated attacks, performing prodigies of valour. Others were sent, but with the same result, and Totila abandoned the attempt. In the meantime the armies did not join battle. Narses, in his strong position, was determined not to attack first, and Totila had a reason for delaying the action. He was expecting every moment a force of 2000 cavalry under the command of Teïas, who had not arrived in time to march with the main army. Outmatched as he was in numbers by the enemy, this reinforcement was of supreme importance; it might decide the issue of the day. Accordingly he resorted to devices to gain time. Coccas, a horseman of great physical strength, who had deserted from the Imperial to the Gothic side, rode up to the Roman line within speaking distance and challenged the enemy to send out a champion to engage with him in single combat. Anzalas, an Armenian, one of the retainers of Narses, accepted the invitation. Coccas rode hard at him, aiming at his stomach, but Anzalas made his own horse swerve just in time to avoid the lance and at the same moment struck at his opponent's left side. Coccas fell mortally wounded, and cries of triumph rang out from the Roman ranks. After this interlude, Totila himself, caparisoned in shining armour, adorned with gold and purple trimmings, rode out into the space between the armies, on a huge steed, hurling his spear in the air and catching again as he galloped, and performing other feats of horsemanship. Finally he sent a message to Narses, proposing negotiations, but Narses knew that he was not in earnest.

By these devices Totila wore away the forenoon, and at length in the early afternoon the belated two thousand arrived. The Goths immediately dissolved their array of battle and retired within the precincts of their camp to dine. Apparently Totila was confident that Narses would not attack,88 and that p266 the Romans would likewise break their ranks for the purpose of a meal. He thought that he might possibly take them unawares. But their cautious commander did not allow them to move from their places or take off their armour or lie down to rest. They took food as they stood.

In the morning the array of the Goths had been much the same as that of the Imperial army, but when they returned to fight in the afternoon, Totila adopted an entirely different plan. He placed all his cavalry in front and all his infantry behind. His idea seems to have been that his best chance was to attempt to break the enemy ranks by a concentrated charge of all his horse, and then bring up his infantry (probably few in number) to take advantage of the confusion which his cavalry had wrought. And he issued the extraordinary command that all the troops alike should discard the use of all weapons except their spears.

To meet the tactic of the Goths Narses made a slight change in his dispositions. The two large bodies of archers on the wings,89 which had faced the enemy full front, were now turned half round so as to form crescents facing each other; and when the Gothic cavalry charged they were assailed from both sides p267 by showers of arrows and suffered considerable losses before they came to grips with the main line. The battle was fierce, but apparently short, and towards evening the Goths gave way and were gradually pressed back on the infantry who had hitherto taken no part in the fighting, and now, instead of opening a way for the cavalry to pass through their ranks and themselves facing the enemy, turned and retreated with them. The retreat soon became a flight. About 6000 were slain; many were taken alive, to be put to death afterwards; all the rest fled as they could.

The description of the battle, which we owe to the historian Procopius, and which he doubtless derived from an eyewitness, is so deficient in details that it is difficult to form any definite opinion as to the merits of the combatants. Above all, we do not know the numbers of either army. We are not told how Totila and his ablest general Teïas behaved during the action, nor whether the wings or the centre of the Imperialists were the more heavily engaged. Praise is given to the bravery of the barbarian troops of Narses and of "some of the Romans," but the military critics of the day seem to have ascribed the swift discomfiture of the Goths largely to the strange order of their king that the spear only was to be used. We can, however, divine that Totila's generalship was deficient and that, even if his forces were inferior in number, he might have made better use of them.

But in spite of the slightness of our information as to the course of the battle, it is clear that Narses displayed exceptional military talent and deserves full credit for his victory. His plan was original, differing entirely from the tactic employed by Belisarius in the Persian campaigns. He opposed unmounted troops to the mounted troops of the enemy, and used his bowmen to weaken and disconcert the charge of the cavalry. Thus aided, the barbarian auxiliaries did what the Roman infantry had failed to do on the field of Hadrianople, and resisted the shock of the Gothic horsemen. The battle has been described as "the first experiment in the combination of pike and bow which modern history shows," and reminds us of the battle of Crecyº which was won by similar tactic.90

Totila himself had fled in the dark and there were various p268 stories as to what befell him. According to one tale, accompanied by four or five of his followers he was pursued by Asbad the Gepid leader, and some others who were unaware of his identity. Overtaking him, Asbad was about to strike when a Gothic youth cried, "Dog, will you smite your master?" The Gepid drove his spear with all his might into Totila's body, but was himself wounded by one of the king's companions. The Goths dragged their wounded lord for about seven miles, not halting till they reached Caprae, a village not far from Tadinum. Here he died and was hastily buried. His fate and place of sepulture was revealed to the Romans by a Gothic woman; the body was exhumed and identified; the blood-stained garments and the cap adorned with gems which he had worn were taken to Narses, who sent them to Constantinople, where they were laid at the feet of the Emperor as a visible proof that the enemy who had so long defied his power was no more.91

A leader who has fought a long fight in a not ignoble cause and failed in the end will always arouse some sympathy and pity, with whatever satisfaction we may view his failure. The sudden reversal of Totila's fortune after an almost unbroken career of success had just the elements of tragedy which appealed even to the imagination of his enemies. He had revived the cause of his nation when it seemed utterly lost and restored their hope, and in a struggle of nine years, in which he displayed untiring energy, unwavering confidence, and some political capacity, had reconquered the whole of Italy except three or four towns. But this long run of success does not argue that he possessed transcendent talents. He owed it to the fact that the Emperor starved his military forces in Italy, refused to send the necessary supplies of money and men, and at first did not even appoint a supreme commander. As soon as Justinian decided, after the return of Belisarius, to make a serious effort to end the war and adopted proper measures for the purpose, the situation began immediately to change, and all that Totila had achieved in nine years was undone in two. But though the weakness and mistakes of his enemies were chiefly responsible for Totila's fame, though he did not possess military genius of a p269 high order, and was capable of such a political blunder as the abandonment of Rome when he had captured it, he will always be remembered as one of the great figures in the German heroic age.

Some modern writers have idealised him as a romantic hero, distinguished among all his barbarian fellows by chivalrous sentiments and noble behaviour towards his foes, gentle and humane in his instincts. It is difficult to find much in the record of his accounts to justify such a conception of the man. He was clear-sighted enough to realise that it was good policy to conciliate the Italians and to attract to his standards deserters from the Imperial army, and for these purposes he often showed a moderation which in time of war was unusual. Perhaps his considerate treatment of the inhabitants of Naples, which the historian Procopius ungrudgingly admired, has won for him a reputation which his conduct on other occasions can hardly be said to bear out. But his friendliness to the Neapolitans was plainly dictated by policy. It was to reward them for the obstinate resistance they had offered to Belisarius eight years before, and Totila intended it to be contrasted with the punishment which he hoped to inflict upon the Sicilians who had received Belisarius with open arms. In the practice of deliberate cruelties can it be said that there is much to choose between this Ostrogoth and other leaders of his race and age? What instinct of clemency can we attribute to the man who mutilated Demetrius at Naples, who cut off the hands of the bishop from Porto, who put Isaac the Armenian to death, who did not spare his unhappy captive Gilacius, who shamefully mutilated Chalazar? What are we to say of the assassination of Cyprian at Perusia? Can we call him humane who suffered the bishop and inhabitants of Tibur to be done to death in such atrocious fashion that the historian declines to describe the treatment? Did he treat the inhabitants of Rome as leniently as Alaric or Gaiseric? Narses had no illusions about his character, and it was well for him that, when Totila named a day for the great battle which was to be fought between them, he did not imagine him to be a pure chevalier, but knew him for an ordinary perfidious barbarian and took corresponding precautions.92

p270 § 11. Battle of Mons Lactarius (A.D. 552)

The first act of Narses after his great success, for which he piously ascribed all the credit to the Deity, was to dismiss his savage allies, the Lombards, who, as soon as the victory was won, were devoting themselves to the congenial occupations of arson and rape. He rewarded them with large sums of gold, and committed to Valerian the task of conducting them to the Italian frontier. When Valerian had parted from these undesirable friends, he encamped outside Verona and parleyed with the Gothic garrison. The Goths were willing to capitulate, but the Franks who were firmly stationed in the Venetian province intervened and the negotiations were broken off. Valerian withdrew to the Po, and Narses ordered him to remain there to watch the movements of the Goths, who had not yet given up their cause as lost. The remnant of Totila's army had fled with Teïas northward to Ticinum. There Teïas was elected king,93 and he hoped with the help of the Franks to restore the fortunes of his people. He had at his disposal the treasures which Totila had prudently left in Ticinum.

In the meantime Narses himself had advanced on Rome. On his way he occupied Narnia and Spoleto, and sent a detachment to take Perusia. The Gothic garrison in Rome was much too small to attempt to defend the great circuit of the city, and Totila had constructed a little fortress round the Mausoleum of Hadrian by building a new wall attached to the external wall. When the army of Narses arrived, the Goths made some attempt to hold the fortifications wherever they were attacked, but the Imperialists soon succeeded in scaling the wall with ladders and opening the gates. The garrison then retreated into the inner fortress; some escaped to Portus. But seeing that further defence was useless they surrendered on condition that their lives were spared. This was the fifth time that Rome had been assaulted and captured during the war. p271 Narses sent the keys to the emperors. Soon afterwards Portus surrendered.

The Goths now showed themselves, without any reserve, in their true colours. (1) In Campania they put to death the senators who had been sent there by Totila and now proposed to return to Rome. (2) Before Totila went forth to meet Narses he had selected three hundred boys from Roman families of repute and sent them to the north of Italy as hostages. Teïas seized them and slew them all. (3) It will be remembered that Ragnaris, the commander in Tarentum, had agreed to surrender on conditions which Pacurius, the commander of Hydruntum, had gone in person to submit to the Emperor; in the meantime he had given hostages. Learning that Teïas was resolved to renew the struggle and counted on the help of the Franks, Ragnaris changed his plans. When Pacurius returned from Constantinople,94 he asked him to send a few Roman soldiers to conduct him safely to Hydruntum and thence by sea to Constantinople. Pacurius sent fifty men. Ragnaris imprisoned them and then informed Pacurius that they would not be released until the Gothic hostages had been restored. The Roman commander lost no time in marching to Tarentum with all his forces. At his approach Ragnaris put the fifty men to death and marched out to meet him. The Goths were defeated and Ragnaris fled to Acherontia. These circumstances of the recovery of Tarentum deserved to be recorded as an illustration of the character of the Ostrogoths.

Narses meanwhile had not been idle. He sent a force to reduce Centumcellae, and another into Campania to lay siege to Cumae. The importance of this fortress lay in the fact that Totila had deposited in it all the Gothic treasure that was not stored at Ticinum, and left it in the custody of his brother Aligern.95 When the news that this store was in immediate danger reached Teïas, who had been waiting in the vain hope that the Franks would provide an army to help him, he determined to make an attempt to rescue Cumae. It was a long p272 march from Ticinum to Campania, and even a small army, moving more rapidly than usual, could not accomplish it in much less than a month. The shortest route was through Etruria, and Narses sent a force under John to watch the Etruscan roads. But Teïas did not choose the shortest route. His object was to avoid the enemy, and he went by devious and roundabout ways, finally following the coast road of the Hadriatic. He must have crossed the peninsula by Beneventum, where he could proceed either by Capua or by Salerno to the neighbourhood of Naples.96

Narses, when he found that the enemy had eluded both John, who was guarding the western roads, and Valerian, who had captured Petra Pertusa97 and was thus master of the Via Flaminia, recalled both these generals and proceeded with all his forces to Campania. When Teïas at last reached the southern foothills of Vesuvius, near Nuceria, he found a Roman army drawn up on the bank of the Draco.

This river, now the Sarno, runs into the bay of Naples, north of the Sorrento peninsula. The remnant of the Gothic fleet was assembled in the bay of Naples. As Teïas might expect that the land approaches to Cumae, north of Naples, would be guarded, his plan probably was to embark his troops near Sorrento and reach Cumae by sea. There was no fleet at hand to oppose him, and the plan was only foiled by the vigilance and good intelligence service of the Roman general, who was just in time to prevent him from reaching the sea.

The armies remained for weeks98 facing each other on either bank of the narrow stream, which neither infantry nor cavalry could ford on account of the steepness of the banks, the archers carrying on a desultory battle. There was indeed a bridge on p273 which the Goths who held it erected towers and assailed their enemies with bolts from ballistae. Teïas succeeded in getting into touch with his fleet and it was able to supply him with provisions. The situation was changed when Imperial warships which Narses summoned began to come in great numbers from Sicily and other places. The Gothic naval commander, anticipating their arrival, surrendered his fleet. The food-supply of the army was thus cut off, and at the same time it began to suffer from the play of the engines which Narses installed in wooden towers along his bank of the stream. Teïas broke up his camp and retreated to the shelter of the mountain which overlooks the valley. This mountain, belonging to the St. Angelo range, was known as Mons Lactarius and still retains the name as Monte Lettere. On the slope of this hill the Goths were safe from attack, which the nature of the ground would have rendered too dangerous an enterprise, but they found themselves worse off for food, and they soon repented their change of ground. At length they resolved to make a surprise attack upon their foes. It was their only chance.

They appeared so unexpectedly in the valley that the Romans had no time to form themselves in the regular array prescribed by military handbooks.99 The Goths had left their horses behind and advanced as a solid mass of infantry. The Romans received them in the same formation.100 In the battle there was no room for tactic, it was a sheer trial of personal strength, bravery, and skill. The Gothic king, a few warriors by his side, led the assault, and, the Romans recognising him and thinking that if he fell his followers who were formed in a very deep phalanx would not continue the contest, he became the mark for their most dexterous lancers and javelin-throwers. It was a Homeric combat, and the historian has described it vividly. Teïas stood covered by his shield, which received the spears that were hurled or thrust at him, and then suddenly attacking laid many of his assailants low. When he saw that the shield was full of spears he gave it to one of his squires, who handed him another. He is p274 said to have fought thus for a third part of the day, then his strength failed. There were twelve spears sticking in his shield, and he found he could not move it as easily as he would. Without retreating a foot or moving to right or left, smiting his foes with his right hand, he called the name of a squire. A new shield was brought, but in the instant in which he was exchanging it for the old his chest was exposed, and a lucky javelin wounded him mortally.101

The head of the fallen hero was at once severed from his body and raised aloft on a pole that all his host might know that he had fallen. But the expectation of the Romans that their enemies would abandon the struggle was not fulfilled. The Goths did not flee like fawns, nor lay down their arms. They were animated by a spirit of desperation, and in a very different temper from that which they had displayed in the last battle of Totila. They fought on till nightfall, and on the next day the fray was resumed, and again lasted till the evening. Then, seeing that they could not win and recognising that God was against them, they sent some of their leaders to Narses to announce that they would yield, not, however, to live in subjection to the Emperor, but to retire somewhere outside the Roman frontiers where they could live independently. They asked to be allowed to retire in peace, and to take with them any money or belongings that they had individually deposited in Italian fortresses.

On the advice of John, who made a strong plea for moderation, these conditions were accepted, on the undertaking of the Goths that they would not again make war on the Empire.102

§ 12. The Franco-Alamannic Invasion (A.D. 553‑554): Battle of Capua

The shields of Teïas had not availed to avert the doom of his people. He was their last king. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths went down on the hard-fought field under Mount Lactarius. But there was still fighting to be done. The great defeat did not lead to the immediate surrender of the strongholds which p275 were still held by Gothic garrisons. There was Cumae, there was Centumcellae, there were a number of towns in Tuscany, and there was North Italy beyond the Po. Narses had still much strenuous military work before him. He might have hoped to complete the reduction of the land by the following summer, but his plans were disconcerted by the appearance of a new and more barbarous enemy upon the scene.

Teïas had invoked the assistance of the Franks. The answer of the young king Theodebald103 to the pleadings of his envoys was unfavourable. The Franks had no mind to embark on a war for the sake of the Ostrogoths; they coveted Italy for themselves,104 but at the moment they judged neutrality to be the best policy. But neutrality was only official. Two chieftains of their subjects the Alamanni, Leutharis and Buccelin, who were brothers, formed the plan of invading Italy. Ostensibly Theodebald did not approve of this act of aggression, but he took no steps to prevent it.105 The two adventurers raised a host of 75,000, in which Franks as well as Alamanni served, and descended into Italy in the spring of A.D. 553, confident that they could overwhelm Narses, for whose military talents, eunuch and chamberlain as he was, they professed supreme contempt.106

Narses spent the winter months in besieging Cumae, but Aligern and the little fortress held out obstinately. When all his assaults and devices failed, he left a small investing force, and proceeded to Central Italy, where he found the Gothic garrisons ready to make terms. Centumcellae surrendered, and the Tuscan towns, Florence, Volaterrae, Pisa, and Luna did likewise. Lucca alone bargained for a delay; if no help came to them before thirty days expired, surrender was promised, and p276 hostages were given. The help which the Goths of Lucca looked for was the arrival of the Franks, who had already crossed the Alps. It was the imminence of their invasion that had probably decided Narses to march northward, and he had sent the greater part of his army under John and Valerian to guard the passages of the Po.

The thirty days passed and the garrison of Lucca refused to abide by their agreement. Some of his officers, in their indignation at this breach of faith, suggested that the hostages should be put to death. Narses was not a Goth; he would not commit the injustice of executing innocent men. But he led them forth, with their hands bound across their bodies and their heads bowed, within sight of the walls, and proclaimed that they would be slain if the town were not surrendered. Thin pieces of wood, wrapped in pieces of cloth, had been fastened on the backs of the hostages from the neck to the waist, and, when the garrison gave no sign of yielding, guardsmen stepped forward and drawing their swords brought them down on the well-protected necks. The victims, who had been let into the secret, fell forward, as if they had been decapitated, and their bodies feigned the spams and contortions of death. The spectators on the wall set up howls and wails, for the hostages belonged to noblest families; mothers and affianced brides rushed along the battlements rending their garments. All cried shame on the bloody cruelty of Narses.

Narses sent a herald to address them.107 "You have yourselves to blame," he said, "for the shameless violation of your oaths. But if you will come to your senses even now it will be well for you; these men will come to life again and you will suffer no harm." The Goths had no doubt that he was deceiving them, but they readily swore that if he showed them the hostages alive they would at once capitulate. Then at the general's command all the dead stood up together and shied themselves safe and sound to their friends, who were divided between incredulity and joy. But incredulity prevailed, and then Narses, with a magnanimity which was well calculated, set his prisoners free, and allowed them, without imposing any conditions, to return to their people in the town. They went back loud in his p277 praises, but Lucca did not surrender. Oaths and solemn engagements were of no account in the eyes of the Goths, who were elated with new hopes by the successful advance of the Franks.

For Buccelin and his Alamanni had won possession of Parma, and had cut to pieces a force of Heruls who, under a brave but rash leader, attempted to recover it. All the Goths in the Ligurian and Aemilian provinces had rallied to the invaders, and it is probable that these were in command at Ticinum itself. John and Valerian, upon whom Narses relied to keep them back from Etruria while he was engaged in reducing Lucca, had withdrawn to Faventia. Lucca, however, he was determined to take, and he prosecuted the siege with vigour. It would have surrendered soon if Frank officers had not succeeded in entering the town and stiffening the defence. But at length the will of the majority prevailed, and the Luccans opened their gates and received the army of Narses, who had agreed not to punish them for their ill-faith.

The siege had lasted three months, and it was now the end of autumn. Narses went to Ravenna to arrange the dispositions of the troops for the winter, and presently Aligern, the Gothic commander of Cumae, which had held out all this time, arrived at Classis and gave him the keys of the town, Aligern had come to the conclusion that the Franks had no intention of restoring to Ostrogothic power, and that whether they succeeded or not in conquering Italy, in neither event had he the least chance of inheriting the throne of Teïas. He therefore decided to resist no longer but to become a subject of the Empire.

Narses spent the winter in Rome, and in the spring (A.D. 554) his army, which had been dispersed among the forts and towns in the Ravennate region for the winter, was collected and reunited at Rome. We do not know his reasons for this retreat, which meant the abandonment of Etruria and the Hadriatic provinces to the enemy. He could rely with some confidence on his garrisons in the great fortresses, but the open country and unwalled towns were at the mercy of the invader.

The host of Buccelin and Leutharis moved southward, without haste, plundering and destroying. When they approached Rome they divided into two separate armies, of which the larger under Buccelin, avoiding Rome itself, marched through Campania, Lucania, and Bruttii to the Straits of p278 Messina,108 while Leutharis led the other through Apulia and Calabria as far as Hydruntum. The provinces were systematically plundered, and an enormous booty was collected. In this work of pillage and devastation there was a marked difference between the conduct of the Franks and their Alamannic comrades. The Franks, who were orthodox Christians, showed respect for churches, but the heathen Alamanni were restrained by no scruples from carrying off the ecclesiastical plate and pulling down the roofs of the sacred buildings.109

When he had reached the limits of Calabria, Leutharis laden with spoils decided to return home to enjoy them. He had no political ambitions, and his one thought was to get safely away with his wealth and run no further risks. He marched along the coast as far as Fanum, but there his troops suffered considerable losses through an attack by the Roman garrison of Pisaurum, and the greater part of the booty was lost. Leaving the coast he struck into the Apennines and reached the Po safe but dispirited.110 At the Venetian town of Ceneta,111 where he took up his quarters to rest, a virulent plague broke out in the army and Leutharis himself was one of its victims.

His brother Buccelin was more enterprising and ambitious. He had professed to the Goths that his object was to restore their kingdom, and many of them doubtless attached themselves to his army in his southern march. He fell under the influence of their flatteries; they told him that they would proclaim him king if he drove Narses out of Italy; and he was finally persuaded to risk everything in a battle with the army which he had hitherto aimed at avoiding.

He returned to Campania and encamped on the banks of the Vulturnus112 close to Casilinum and Capua, which are only a few p279 miles apart. Casilinum is the modern Capua, and the ancient Capua is the modern village of S. Maria di Capua Vetere. On one side the river formed the wall of his camp, on the other side he fortified it securely.113 He had some hopes that he would soon be reinforced, for his brother had promised that when he had reached Venetia he would send back his troops. As soon as Narses learned that Buccelin had occupied this position at Capua he marched from Rome with his army, numbering about 18,000, and encamped not far from the enemy. The battle which ensued was probably fought across the Appian Way which passed through Capua and crossed the river at Casilinum.

The course of the battle was affected by an accident. One of the Herul captains killed his servant for some delinquency, and when Narses called him to account asserted that masters had the power of life and death over their slaves and that he would do the same thing again. He was put to death by the command of Narses, to the great indignation of the Heruls, who withdrew from the camp and said they would not fight. Narses drew up his line of battle without them. He placed his cavalry on the two wings and all the infantry in the centre. There was a wood on the left, and Valerian and Artabanes, who commanded on that side, were directed to keep a part of their forces concealed in the wood till the enemy attacked. Narses himself commanded on the right. The leader of the Heruls, Sindual, who was burning to fight, implored Narses to wait until he could persuade his followers to reserve a place for them, where they could fall in, if they arrived late. Accordingly he left an open space in the middle of the infantry.

Meanwhile two Heruls had deserted to the enemy, and persuaded Buccelin that his chance was to attack at once, as the Romans were in consternation at the defection of the Herul troops. Buccelin had drawn up his army, which consisted entirely of infantry, in the shape of a deep column, which should penetrate like a wedge through the hostile lines.114 In this array p280 the Franks arrived, armed with missile lances, swords, and axes,115 confident that they would sweep all before them at the first rush. They penetrated into the central space which was to have been occupied by the Heruls, dislodging the outer ranks of the Roman infantry on either side. Narses quietly issued orders to his wings to face about, and the enemy were caught between the cross fire of the cavalry, who were all armed with bows. The Franks were now facing both ways. The archers on the right wing aimed at the backs of those who were fighting with the infantry on the left, the archers on the left wing at the backs of those who were engaged with the right. The barbarians did not understand what was happening. They saw the foemen just in front of them with whom they were fighting hand to hand, but they could not see the enemies who from far behind were raining arrows upon their backs. Their ranks were gradually mown down, and then Sindual and his Heruls appeared upon the scene. The defeat of the Franks was already certain; it was now to be annihilation. Buccelin was slain and only a handful escaped alive from the stricken field. The Roman losses were small.116 It will be noticed that Narses won this, his third victory, by a tactical plan similar to that which he had employed in the battle with Totila.

The Italians had been terror-stricken by the ruthless deeds of the northern barbarians, and they were wild with joy at the news of their utter destruction. Narses and thoughtful people had little hope that the brilliant victory of Capua head dispelled the danger. They reflected that the foes whose corpses were strewn on the banks or floated in the waters of the Vulturnus were such a small fraction of the Frank people and their dependents, that their fate would provoke rather than intimidate. They expected that a greater host would soon come down to p281 avenge the fallen and restore German prestige.117 These fears were not realised, as they might well have been if Theodebert had been still alive; his feeble son Theodebald, who suffered from a congenital disease, died in the following year. Narses was able to complete in peace the settlement of Italy.

The winter months which followed the battle of Capua were spent in besieging Capsa, a strong place in the Apennines, where seven thousand Goths had established themselves under the leadership Ragnaris, the man who had behaved so treacherously at Tarentum.118 Campsa has been identified with Conza, about fifty miles east of Naples. Its position defied assault and Narses sat down to blockade it, but a large stock of provisions had been laid in. At the beginning of spring (A.D. 555), Ragnaris proposed to Narses that they should meet and discuss terms. Narses refused to agree to his proposals, and he retired in great wrath. When he was near the wall of the fort he turned round, drew his bow, and aimed an arrow at the general who was returning to his lines. It missed its mark, but one of the guardsmen who were with Narses had a surer aim, and transfixed the treacherous Goth. He fell dead, and the garrison surrendered immediately and were sent to Constantinople.

All Italy south of the Po was now restored to the Imperial authority. Of the subjugation of the Transpadane provinces, where Goths and Franks were still in possession, we have no record. It was a slow business, and Verona and Brixia were not recovered till A.D. 562. In November of that year Narses sent the keys of their gates to Justinian.119


On the Battle of Busta Gallorum

The route taken by Narses after he crossed the river at Ariminum is not precisely indicated by Procopius. His words are (B. G. IV.28.13): ὁδοῦ δὲ τῆς Φλαμηνίας ἐνθένδε ἀφέμενος ἐν ἀριστερᾷ ἤλει. The sentence seems to have been misunderstood by Hodgkin, who contended that Narses marched along the coast to a point south of Fanum and north of Sena Gallica, and then turned inland by a road ascending the valley of the Sena (Cesano), and reaching the Via Flaminia at Ad Calem (Cagli). Such a road is noticed in the Itinerarium Antonini.143 But if he had taken this route Narses would have had the Via Flaminia on his right, whereas Procopius plainly says the opposite: "He marched having left the Flaminian Way on his left from this point."144 In order to have the Flaminian Way on his left he must have turned inland between Ariminum and Fanum.

The word ἐνθένδε "from this point," shows that Procopius supposed that Narses diverged from the coast road close to Ariminum. If this statement is correct, it might imply (1) that Narses passed San Marino, followed a road now well defined to Pieve di S. Stefano, crossed the watershed of the Apennines, reached the town now called Città di Castello:145 from which point he could proceed p289 either (a) to Urbania, and thence to Acqualagna, or (b) to Iguvium (Gubbio), and thence to Aesis (Scheggia). But (2) it is not improbable that there was a direct road from Ariminum to Urbinum (by Coriano, Montefiore, Tavoleto, Schieti), and thence to Acqualagna by Fermignano.º The engineer, P. Montecchini, found traces of it north of Fermignano (La Strada Flaminia dall' Apennino all' Adriatico, pp38 sqq., 1879, published at Pesaro).

The other alternative which was open to Narses was to proceed along the coast road as far as Pisaurum, and there to take the road to Urbinum, and it may be said that we cannot pass ἐνθένδε so strictly as to exclude this possibility from our consideration; if the informant of Procopius omitted to mention Pisaurum, the historian might easily have received a wrong impression.

It is safer to accept the statement of Procopius as it stands, but the question is not important for the subsequent course of events. By one of three routes the army could reach the Via Flaminia at Acqualagna, about five miles on the Roman side of Petra Pertusa. In any case Gibbon saw the truth as to the general direction taken by Narses: he "traversed in a direct line the hills of Urbino and re-entered the Flaminian Way nine miles beyond the perforated rock."

The situation of the camp of Narses is named by Procopius — Busta Gallorum; the difficulty is to identify it. The district here east of the Flaminian Way lay in the ager Sentinas, the limits of which are unknown; Sentinum itself was close to Sassoferrato. Somewhere in this district the consuls Fabius and Decius defeated the Gauls (in the ager Sentinas, Livy, X.27) in B.C. 295, and the name — Sepulchres of the Gauls — evidently commemorated that defeat, like the Busta Gallica at Rome which commemorated their repulse from the city nearly a century before (Livy, V.42).

Cluverius in Italia antiqua, lib. II c. VI, identified Busta Gallorum with a small "town" in the Apennines called Bosta or Basta:

Extat hodie in Apennino inter Sentinum, Fabrianum, Matilicam et Sigillum oppida . . . oppidum vulgari vocabulo Bosta: quod plerique notiore vulgaris linguae vocabulo, quod Latine valet sufficit, seu satis est, adpellant Basta.

No town or village of the name seems to exist now: but Cluver doubtless meant the castle called Bastia, a few miles west of Fabriano, close to the railway connecting that town with Sassoferrato (it will be found marked on maps of the Italian Touring Club). If so, his description of its situation is incorrect, as it does not lie between Matelica and any of the other three towns.

Colucci in his Antichità Picene, vol. VIII pp42‑106, has discussed at great length the two questions where the Romans defeated p290 the Gauls and where Narses defeated Totila. He identifies Bastia with Cluver's Basta and with Busta Gallorum, and comes to the conclusion that the battle of Narses was fought in the plain south of Sassoferrato (Piano della Croce) and the battle of Fabius and Decius further south "nella gran pianura in cui ora esiste Fabriano."

A very different view from these was developed by Hodgkin,146 who, having brought Narses from Sena to Cagli, makes him advance along the Via Flaminia and encamp at Scheggia, "or at some point south of that place where the valley is somewhat broader."147 As Totila encamped at Tadinae, the distance between the two camps would be about 15 miles. Procopius says that the distance was 100 stadia, which is about 14 Roman miles. The battle was fought, according to Hodgkin, somewhere south of Scheggia and north of Tadino. He thinks it "safe to disregard the Busta Gallorum of Procopius altogether."

The only other theory he considers is that the battlefield was near Sassoferrato, and he rules this out on the ground that Totila could not have marched thither "consistently with the narrative of Procopius. The best of the roads between Tadino and Sassoferrato is a high mountain pass, somewhat resembling the Pass of Glencoe. The rest are little more than mountain paths carried through deep gorges in which no armies could manoeuvre."

There are three objections to Hodgkin's reconstruction of the event. (1) The ground along the Via Flaminia between Tadinae and Aesis in unsuitable for such a battle as Procopius describes. (2) It is very difficult to believe that, if this had been the scene, Aesis or Helvillum, or the Via Flaminia itself, would not have been mentioned to Procopius by his informants, who knew the place where Totila encamped and the village to which his body was carried. (3) No account is taken of the name Busta Gallorum.

The data seem to me to point to the conclusion that the battle was fought somewhere between the Via Flaminia and the river Aesis (Esino), and probably in the neighbourhood of Fabriano. Narses, having reached Acqualagna, marched southward along the Via Flaminia as far as Cagli, and there diverging to the east proceeded by a road, passing (the village of) Frontone and Sassoferrato, to the valley of the Bono (a stream which joins the Esino some p291 miles east of Fabriano). He expected that Totila would march along the Via Flaminia — probably news of the movements of the Goths reached him at Cagli — and he decided to choose his own battleground.

In order to reach the camping place of Narses, Totila (if his camp was actually at the station of Tadinae) would only have to march a few miles northward along the Via Flaminia to the place which is now Fossato and there diverge to his right and cross the Colle di Fossato, by the same route which leads to‑day from Fossato to Fabriano. Assuming that Narses was encamped west of Fabriano, Totila in descending the mountain pass could have turned to the left (a road is marked on modern maps) and reached Melano, which is about halfway between Fabriano and Bastia.

There seems, however, to be a considerable probability in the conjecture that the camp of Totila was not actually at the station of Tadinae, but some kilometres to the north of it, at Fossato, "the Camp"; for if the Gothic camp was pitched here on the occasion of the memorable battle, the original of the place-name Fossatum is accounted for. As there was no Roman station here, the locality would naturally be associated by the informants of Procopius with the name of one of the nearest stations, either Tadinae or Helvillum.

Procopius gives two indications of distance. He says that (1) the distance between the camps, that is between "Tadinae" and Busta Gallorum, was 100 stades, i.e. somewhat more than 14 Roman miles, and that (2) the distance from the place where Totila was wounded to the village of Caprae was 84 stades, i.e. 12 Roman miles. Caprae has been identified, no doubt rightly, with the little village of Caprara which lies to the west of the Via Flaminia, about six kilometres to the south-west of Fossato.148 But as we do not know how far Totila had fled from the battlefield before he was wounded, this second indication does not help us much. The first indication, however, is closely in accordance with my theory if the camp of Totila was at Fossato. For the distance from Fossato, by Melano, to the neighbourhood of Bastia is about 20 kilometres, which is equivalent to about 14 Roman miles, the distance given by Procopius.

I must acknowledge help which I have received from my friend Mr. E. H. Freshfield in investigating this subject. I have had the advantage of seeing in MS. a study (soon to be published) of the Via Flaminia by Mr. Ashby and Mr. Fell, and they introduced me to the book of Montecchini.

The Author's Notes:

76 It is clear that Narses had not yet arrived at Salona, for Procopius says that John took upon himself to disobey the Imperial command that he should not stir till Narses came.

77 Indulf had formerly been a retainer of Belisarius. The MSS. of Procopius (III.35.23 and 29; iv.12) vary between Ἰλαούφ, Ἰνδούλφ, Ἰλδούφ and Γουνδούλφ. I have followed Haury.

78 B. G. IV.24.42.

79 Two thousand five hundred warriors and a comitatus (θεραπεία) of more than 3000.

80 More than 3000 under Philemuth and others; and many others under Aruth, a Romanised Herul.

81 Very numerous (παμπλήθεις).

82 Under Kavad, grandson of king Kavad, and nephew of Chosroes.

83 Hartmann, Gesch. Italiens, i. p346, conjectures 30,000.

84 Totila was aware of the deficiency of transports, and had hoped that if the troops were conveyed in relays to Italian ports he would be easily able to oppose their landing. B. G. IV.26.23. For the coast route, marked in the Tabula Peut., from Ravenna to Altinum, via Ad Padum, Neronia, and Hadria, see Miller, Itin. pp309‑311. The Goths had probably beset the road and destroyed the bridges of the Meduaco, the Adige, and the Po, and Narses made his way (p263) through the lagoons with the help of boats from Altinum as far as Ad Padum, which was 24 Roman miles north of Ravenna. The date of his arrival in Ravenna was on a Thursday in June (see Agnellus, c62, where the month July is a mistake); Körbs (op. cit. 84) thinks it was on June 6, and this suits the probable date of the battle of Busta Gallorum, which cannot be placed later than the end of June or first days of July.

85 Waiting ἐν τοῖς ἐπὶ Ῥώμης χωρίοις till the troops of Teïas arrived, he marched intending to choose his own ground for the battle, ὡς τοῖς πολεμίοις ἐν ἐπιτηδείῳ ὑπαντιάσων ἤλει. B. G. IV.29.2. Procopius does not record the number of his forces, but it is not probable that, even with the 2000 which arrived late, he had many more than 15,000.

86 Close to the modern village Gualdo Tadino. Procopius gives the name as Τάγιναι but the identity is unquestionable. For the topographical questions see Appendix to this chapter.

87 The natural position for such a reserve would have been in the centre. Narses must have placed it on the left, because he anticipated that it would be most likely to be needed on that side.

88 It may be thought strange that Narses did not attack, but he was determined to avail himself of the strength of his defensive position. Cp. Delbrück, Kriegskunst, ii.372.

89 They must have been on elevated ground above the plain, or they would have been swept away by the Gothic cavalry. Delbrück, Kriegskunst, ii.375.

90 Oman, Art of War, p35. Tacticians of the time had contemplated battles fought by Roman cavalry against enemy cavalry; cp. the passage of Urbicius quoted in Pseudo-Maurice, Strat. xii.24.

91 Here John Mal. xviii p486 supplements Procopius. The passage was transcribed by Theophanes, sub A.M. 6044, who adds a sentence which evidently belonged to the original text of Malalas but is omitted in ours (καὶ ἐρρίφησαν εἰς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ βασιλέως ἐπὶ σεκρήτου).

92 Totila's reputation for cruelty is illustrated by the story told by Pope Gregory I (Dial. 3, c11) that he condemned Cerbonius, bishop of Populonium, to be thrown to a bear because he had given shelter to some (p270) soldiers of the Imperial army. Totila expected to enjoy the spectacle of the execution, but the bear lay down and licked the bishop's feet. Though Gregory appeals to survivors at Rome who witnessed the amazing incident, we can hardly credit this version of Androcles and the lion. But it shows Totila's reputation.

93 His father's name was Fritigern. He is Theia (also Teia, Thela, Thila) on his coins, which have the head of Anastasius. Wroth, p95 sqq.

94 The journey to Constantinople and back need not have taken much more than a month, as the business need have caused no delay.

95 Agathias, i.8, records the name, but says he was the youngest brother of Teïas. Procopius says he was the brother of Totila, B. G. IV.34.19. Cumae is about 200 kilometres from Rome, so that an army leaving Rome just after the middle of July would have arrived before the end of the month.

96 The possible route of Teïas is discussed by Körbs (op. cit. p82), who calculates that he had about 814 kilometres to cover, that he probably did at least 30 kilometres a day, that he started soon after the middle of July and reached Campania after the middle of August.

97 B. G. IV.34.24; but the Petra Pertusa which is mentioned (ib. 16) along with Nepi and Porto seems to have been another place, also on the Via Flaminia, but quite close to Rome, north of Prima Porta. See Tomassetti, La Campagna Romana, iii pp138, 260‑261.

98 Two months, acc. to Procopius, IV.35.11. This must be a considerable exaggeration if Agnellus is right in his dating of the battle to Oct. 1 (in Kal. Octobris, c79). Teïas could not at the earliest have reached Campania before the middle of August; it seems more likely that he arrived at the end of the month. If Procopius is accurate the date of Agnellus is wrong.

99 According to local tradition the scene of the battle was at Pozzo dei Goti, a kilometre west of Angri at the foot of Monte Lettere.

100 Procopius does not explain why the Goths should have advanced on foot, or why Romans should have dismounted. Delbrück (op. cit. 382) conjectures that the Romans had constructed fortifications (earthworks and ditch?) to blockade the Goths, and thus the Goths were obliged to attack on foot, and the Romans to defend the line on foot.

101 The whole account of the first part of the battle seems fanciful and improbable. The deep phalanx of the Goths plays no part in the action, and Teïas alone occupies the stage. His heroism is assuredly a fact, but the narrative of Procopius cannot be accepted as a true account of the battle.

102 The History of Procopius ends with the victory of Mons Lactarius, and the story is taken up by Agathias.

103 Theodebald married Vuldetrada, daughter of Wacho, king of the Lombards. Her mother was Austriguna, a Gepid princess. Gregory of Tours, Hist. Fr. iv.9.

104 Procopius, B. G. IV.34.18.

105 Agathias says (i.6) that the king was opposed to the invasion. On the other hand, the invaders sent him a portion of the treasures which they collected in Italy (Gregory of Tours, H. F. iii.32; Paulus Diac. H. Lang. ii.2). Agathias has much to tell us about the Franks. I conjecture that he gathered his information from the ambassadors of King Sigebert, who visited Constantinople in A.D. 566. It was their cue to represent the invasion of Italy as not countenanced by Theodebald. Rastia, in which the Alamanni had been settled by Theoderic, had been abandoned by the Goths (Totila?) and Theodebert had brought it under his rule (Agathias ib.).

106 Agathias is the main source for the invasion, but we have also brief accounts in western sources: Marius of Aventicum, Chron., sub 555, 556; Gregory of Tours, Hist. Fr. iii.32, iv.9; Paulus Diac. Hist. Lang. ii.2.

107 Ταῦτα δὲ αὐτῶν ἐπιβοώντων . . . ἔφη ὁ Ναρσῆς (Agathias, i.43); a herald is not mentioned but is clearly to be presumed.

108 Gregory (iii.32) says that Buccelin defeated Narses in a battle, and then occupied Sicily. These statements may be due to exaggerated rumours derived from Buccelin's report of his successes. It is probable that when he reached Rhegium, he despatched a message to Theodebald.

109 Agathias (i.7) describes the nature worship of the Alamanni, their cults of trees, rivers, and hills, but thinks that it will soon disappear through the influence of the Franks.

110 Οὕτω τε ἰθὺ Αἰμιλείας καὶ Ἀλπισκοτίας ἐλθόντες; here Agathias (ii.3) betrays his ignorance of Italian geography. He supposed that the district of Alpes Cottiae was adjacent to Venetia.

111 Paulus, loc. cit., says near lake Garda, between Verona and Trent. Ceneta, now Ceneda, lies between Oderzo and Feltre.

112 Agathias (ii.4) calls it the Casulinus. Paulus says the battle was fought at a place called Tannetum (al. Cannetum).

113 Agathias says that his army amounted to about 30,000, and that the numbers were considerably reduced by dysentery, attributed to the immoderate use of ripe grapes. The figure of 30,000 is probably too high.

114 Agathias (ii.8) describes the formation as a triangular (δελτωτῷ) wedge, with the point towards the enemy, and compares it to the "head of a boar." It was simply the cuneus described by Vegetius (iii.19): cuneus dicitur multitudo peditum, (p280) quae iuncta cum acie primo angustior deinde latior procedit et aduersariorum ordines rumpit, quia a pluribus in unum locum tela mittuntur. Quam rem milites nominant caput porcinum. There must have been the same number of men in each rank of the column, but in advancing the men of the first ranks drew closer together, and the columns became a trapezium instead of a rectangle, with the smallest side towards the foe.

115 See Agathias ii.5 for Frank armour (cp. Sidonius, Epp. iv.20). The axe was called francisca, the lance for hurling angon. The Franks generally fought naked to the waist, with leather trousers, without breastplate or greaves, and bareheaded, though a few had helmets.

116 Agathias says only five Franks escaped, and that only eighty Romans were killed; Marius that Buccelin cum omni exercitu suo interiit.

117 See the speech of Narses to his army in Agathias, ii.12.

118 There can hardly be any doubt as to the identity.

119 John Mal. xviii p492 =Theophanes, A.M. 6055. With the recovery of Verona and the end of the warfare in Venetia we may perhaps connect the defeat of the Frank Aming and the Goth Widin, of whom we hear in Paul Diac. (l.c.) and Menander (De leg. Rom., fr. 2, p171). Aming opposed a Roman army which was about to cross the Adige. Narses sent envoys warning him to depart, as a truce had been concluded (p282) between the Empire and the Franks. Aming replied that he would not retreat so long as his hand could wield a javelin. He had come to the assistance of a Goth named Widin (possibly the commander in Verona). A battle ensued; Aming was slain by the sword of Narses, Widin made prisoner and sent to Constantinople.

a Thayer's Note: In the print version, this Appendix is given at the end of the chapter. In this Web transcription, I've moved it up to the end of the section it relates to; that also accounts for the discontinuity of the note numbering. Notes 120‑142 will be found in the last section of Chapter XIX, on the next webpage.

143 As to this road Nissen observes (Ital. Landeskunde, ii.1.92n): "Das It. Ant. 315 erwähnt eine Strasse von Helvillum über ad Calem und ad Pirum nach Sena und Ancona jedoch is dieselbe nicht nachgewiesen und die Entfernungen ganz entstellt." But see on the other hand Cuntz, in Jahresh. Österr. arch. Inst. vii.61. Muratori (Annali d' Italia, iii p433) says: "voltò Narsete a man destra per valicar l' Apennino," but does not specify at what point he turned.

144 The phrase is illustrated infra, 34.23 Τείας ὁδοὺς μὲν ἐν δεξιᾷ τὰς ἐπιτομωτάτας ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖστον ἀφείς.

145 Situated on the upper waters of the Tiber, and identified with Tifernum Tiberinum.

146 Italy and Her Invaders, iv.710‑713, and 726‑728; and a special memoir (1884) referred to p726.

147 We have several lists of the stations on the Via Flaminia: Itin. Ant. 125, 310; Itin. Hier. 613; Tab. Peut.; and CIL XI.3281‑3284. They are set out together for the section we are concerned with in CIL XI p995. The distances are:

Ad Calem to Aesis (Scheggia)
Aesis to Helvillum (Sigillo) 6 miles
Helvillum to Tadinae 7 miles

Tadinae is 1½ mile from Gualdo Tadino, near the church of S. Maria Tadinae (Nissen, op. cit. 392). Above Tadinae comes in from the west the road from Iguvium, from the east a road from the valley of the Aesis (Esino).

148 According to Nissen (op. cit. p393) the Via Flaminia ran far to west of the present road: "Die Strasse lief nicht wie jetzt an der östlichen Seite der Einsenkung über Fossato und Gualdo sondern an der entgegensgesetzten Seite an Caprara vorbei."

Page updated: 24 Aug 12