Short URL for this page:
For a complete analysis of the character of Procopius, literary and political, and for a careful estimate of his position in reference both to Justinian and Belisarius, I must refer my readers to Dahn's 'Prokopius von Cäsarea.' In the history of the Persian War I have been helped by Rawlinson's 'Seventh Oriental Monarchy,' in that of the Vandal campaign by Papencordt's 'Geschichte der Vandalen.' Lord Mahon's 'Life of Belisarius,' though occasionally helpful, is upon the whole a disappointing performance.
War between the Empire and Persia, 526‑532. The peace between the Roman and the Persian Empires which was concluded in 505, after lasting for twenty‑one years, was broken upon a strange cause of quarrel. The Persian king, Kobad, now far advanced in years, in order to secure the succession to the throne for his favourite son Chosroes, proposed to the Emperor Justin that that monarch should adopt him as his son. Justin was prepared to assent, but, listening to the dissuasions of the Quaestor Proclus, who feared that Chosroes might found on such an adoption a claim to the Roman as well as the Persian diadem, he eventually refused this act of courtesy. There were already some p574 grievances against the Romans rankling in the mind of Kobad. They would not pay their promised quota towards the defence of the passes of the Caucasus from the Northern barbarians. They had built, contrary to agreement, the strong city of Darasa close to the Persian frontier, almost overlooking the lost and bitterly lamented city of Nisibis.1 When tidings came that the Macedonian peasant who called himself Augustus would not recognise the descendant of so many kings as his son, or would at most only confer upon him that military adoption as 'son-in‑arms' which was a compliment paid to Gepid and Ostrogoth princes, the old monarch of Ctesiphon was furious. He must have war with Rome; and war accordingly was waged by him and his son after him, for five years, among the Mesopotamian highlands and on the fertile plains of Syria.
Early history of Belisarius. With the details of this war we have no concern except in so far as they are connected with the entrance upon the stage of history of the young hero-general, Belisarius. Born about the year 505, probably of noble parentage, in the same Macedonian mountain-country2 from which Justin and his nephew had descended to Thessalonica, Belisarius was serving in the body-guard of Justinian, and had the first manly p575 down upon his lip3 when, in the year 526, he and another officer of his own age were entrusted with the command of the troops which were to invade the Persian (or Eastern) portion of Armenia. Fields were laid waste and many hapless Armenians were carried into captivity, but no successes in battle were earned by the young generals.
Belisarius commandant of Daras, 527. Soon after, Belisarius was made commandant of the newly-erected fort and city of Daras: and while in this command he made a selection which has had more to do with his subsequent renown than many victories. Procopius the 'counsellor' of Belisarius. He chose 'Procopius of Caesarea who compiled this history' to be his Judge-Advocate.4 The office which I attempt to indicate by this suggested English equivalent was known among the Romans by names which we have borrowed from them, those of Counsellor and Assessor.5 Nature of his office. For a Roman general like Belisarius, exercising by virtue of his office judicial power over civil as well as military persons, but having received himself no legal education, it was absolutely necessary to have a trained jurist ever by his side, who might so guide his decisions that they should be conformable to the laws of the Empire. Occasions would also often arise in connection with the diplomatic duties that Belisarius had to discharge towards the rulers of the lands invaded by him, in which the presence of a learned Byzantine official would be of great assistance to a comparatively unlettered soldier. Such an adviser, legal assessor and diplomatic counsellor, was Procopius: not the general's p576 private secretary, but, it may be said, in a certain sense, his official colleague, though in a very subordinate capacity.
His fifteen years of intimacy with the general, 527‑542. Whether Procopius held precisely this relation to Belisarius during all the fifteen years that they were campaigning together, in Mesopotamia, in Africa and in Italy, it is difficult to say. It is slightly more probable that the official tie may have been sundered, and that the learned civilian may have remained on as a visitor and trusted friend in the tent of his chief, by whom he was occasionally employed on semi-military enterprises which required especial tact and exercise of the diplomatic faculty. It seems clear that, during all the period above mentioned, something more than official relations existed between the two men; that the counsellor loved and admired the general, and that the general respected and liked the counsellor. We shall have hereafter to trace, or if we cannot trace, to conjecture, the disastrous influences by which a friendship so honourable to both parties, and cemented by so many years of common danger and hardships, was at last broken asunder; and owing to which Procopius in his old age became the passionate reviler of the hero whom in his youth and middle life he had so enthusiastically admired.
Literary position of Procopius. The position occupied by Procopius in the history of literature is interesting and almost unique. After so many generations of decline, here, at length, the intellect of Hellas produces a historian, who though not equal doubtless to her greatest names, would certainly have been greeted by Herodotus and Thucydides as a true brother of their craft. Procopius has a very clear idea of how history ought to be written. Each of p577 his books, on the Persian, the Vandal, and the Gothic wars, is a work of art, symmetrical, well proportioned, and with a distinct unity of subject.6 His style is dignified but not pompous, his narrative vivid, his language pure, and the chief fault that we can attribute to it is a too great fondness for archaisms, especially for old Homeric words, which are somewhat out of place in the pages of a prose author. He exhibits a considerable amount of learning, but without pedantry; and resembles Herodotus in his eager, almost child-like interest in the strange customs and uncouth religions of barbarian nations. He picks up from hearsay all that he can as to a land like Thulë (Iceland or the North of Norway) lying within the Arctic Circle, and only regrets that, though earnestly desirous of the journey, he has never been able to visit that land in person and be an eye‑witness of its wonders.7
Political attitude of Procopius. In politics Procopius shows himself an ardent lover of the glory of the great Roman Empire, of which he feels himself still thoroughly a citizen. In his most important work (the De Bellis) he preserves a truly dignified tone towards the Emperor, whose great achievements he praises without servility: but he often contrives to introduce in the speech of a foreign ambassador or letter of a hostile king some tolerably severe Opposition-criticism on the home or foreign p578 policy of the omnipotent Justinian. Very different from the manly and moderate tone of this his standard work are the sickening adulation of the De Aedificiis and the venomous tirade of the Anecdota, both of which books must belong to the old age of Procopius, the former being apparently written to the Emperor's order and therefore crowded with insincere and extorted compliments, while the latter was never to leave the author's desk while he lived, and therefore received all the pent‑up bitterness of his insulted and indignant soul.
His religious position. The attitude of Procopius towards the religious questions which agitated the Eastern world is as peculiar as his literary position. While all, or nearly all of his contemporaries are taking sides in the bitter theological controversies of the day, he stands aloof and looks coldly on the whole shrill logomachy. That he can speak the language of the Christian faith, when Court etiquette requires him to do so, is proved by some passages in the De Aedificiis which have an entirely Christian sound.8 But, though he will not go to the stake for his faith, nor indeed forego any chance of Court favour for the sake of it, it is clear that his real convictions are not Christian, but that he is a philosophical Theist of the school of Socrates and Plato: and we may be almost certain that he derived his religious creed as well as his rhetorical style from p579 those philosophers of the University of Athens, whom Justinian banished and silenced in his lifetime.9 In his own writings he wavers in some degree between a devout Theism and a half-sullen acquiescence in the decrees of a blind, impersonal destiny: but, upon the whole, Theism rules his mind, and he sometimes speaks, even with a reverent love, of the dealing of Providence with mankind. Probably the following passage from an early chapter of his Gothic history10 tells us as much as he himself knew about his innermost thoughts on religious subjects. After describing an embassy from the Pope to the Emperor 'on account of the doctrine about which the different Churches of Christendom dispute among themselves,' he continues: —
Procopius' confession of faith. 'But upon the points in dispute. I, though well acquainted with them, shall say as little as possible, for I hold it to be proof of a madman's folly to search out what the Nature of God is like. For, by man, not even the things of a man can in my opinion be accurately apprehended, far less those which pertain to the Nature of God. I shall therefore pass over these subjects in safe silence, only remarking that I do not disbelieve in those things which other men reverence. For I would never say anything else concerning God, except that He is altogether good and holds all things in His own power. But let every one else, whether priest or layman, speak on such subjects according to his own presumed knowledge.'
His Hellenism an important element in his character as a historian. There have been times in the history of the world, p580 with reference to which an inquiry of this kind as to the religious opinions of their describer would be irrelevant and almost impertinent. No one who knows the spirit of the sixth century will say this of Procopius. His attitude of aloofness from special theological controversy secures his impartiality between warring sects. His philosophical Theism is the key to much that would otherwise be perplexing in his own writings. As a 'Hellenising' rather than a Christian historian he stands in a direct line of succession from authors with whose works we have already made considerable acquaintance, Ammianus, Eunapius, Priscus, and Zosimus: and it would be an interesting inquiry, had we space for it, to ascertain where his Heathenism agrees and where it differs from theirs. Upon the whole, in the age of change and transition in which he lived, Procopius would seem to have clung fast to two great facts in the World-History of the Past, the wisdom of Greece and the greatness of Rome, and not to have accepted that clue to the interpretation of the Present and the anticipation of the Future which was offered him by Augustine's vision of the City of God.
Belisarius Magister Militum, 530. From this sketch of the character of the biographer we return to survey the actions of his hero, the young imperial guardsman, Belisarius. The campaigns of the three years from 527 to 529 seem to have consisted of desultory and indecisive skirmishes: but in the last year Belisarius was appointed Magister Militum per Orientem; and this concentration of power in the hands most capable of wielding it was soon followed by a brilliant victory. Persian attack. In 530, in the midst of negotiations for peace, the Persian Mirran or commander-in‑ p581 chief, Perozes, made a dash at the new, much-hated fortress of Daras. In point of strategy he seems to have shown himself superior to the imperial general, since he was able to concentrate 40,000 men for the attack, while Belisarius could muster only 25,000 for the defence. Deeming the battle as good as won Perozes sent an arrogant message to the Roman commander: 'Prepare me a bath in Daras, for I intend to repose there to‑morrow.' But when the Persian troops advanced to the attack they soon perceived that they were in the presence of a master of tactics and that their victory would not be an easy one. Under the walls of Daras Belisarius had ordered his troops to dig a long but not continuous trench, with two side-trenches sloping away from it at an obtuse angle at either end. His irregular troops, consisting chiefly of Huns,11 Heruli, and other barbarians, were stationed in the intervals which had been purposely left between the various parts of this line of defence. Behind them, ready to take advantage of any victory which might be won by the irregulars, lay the disciplined masses of the main body of the imperial army.12
Battle of Daras.
First day. On the first day of the battle the Persians advanced, but retreated, seeing the imminent danger they were in of a flank attack if they threw themselves upon any point of the half-hexagon. Again they advanced and won some slight advantage, but failed to maintain it. The sun was now near setting, and the attention of both armies was distracted by the brave deeds of Andreas, a gymnastic master and the bathing attendant of a Roman general, who engaged two Persian champions in succession and slew them both. In the second encounter the spears of the two combatants were both shivered on the opposing breastplates; the horses met in full career and fell to the earth from the violence of their onset. Then ensued a struggle which of the two champions would first rise from the ground; a struggle which the gymnastic skill of Andreas terminated in his favour. He struck the Persian who had risen on one knee, with another blow he felled p583 him to the earth, and so slew him amid the tumultuous applause of the Roman soldiery.
Battle of Daras.
Second day. That night was passed by both armies in their previous positions. In the early morning (while the Persian general was marching up 10,000 additional troops from the city of Nisibis), messages were interchanged between the generals. Belisarius, avowing that he held it to be the highest mark of generalship to obtain peace, invited the Mirran even now, at the eleventh hour, to relinquish an attack which, made as it was in the midst of negotiations for peace, had in it something of the nature of treachery, and to retire within the Persian frontier. The Mirran replied: 'If you were not Romans we would listen gladly to your arguments: but you belong to a nation which neither promises nor oaths can bind. We have met you now in open war, and will either die here or fight on till old age overtakes us, that we may force you to do us justice.' Said Belisarius; 'Calling us hard names alters not the truth of facts. God and justice are on our side.' The Mirran answered: 'We too know that the gods are on our side, and with their help we shall to‑morrow be in Daras. As I said before, let my bath and my breakfast be prepared within the fortress.' Belisarius put the letters on the point of his standards, as a symbol to all the army that he fought against men who were truce-breakers and perfidious.
Before beginning the action, the Mirran did his best to re‑assure his soldiers as to the unexpected check of the previous day, and the strange new signs of cohesion and discipline exhibited by their Roman antagonists. His oration, as reported by Procopius, is, if we may rely on its genuineness, the most striking of p584 all testimonies to the genius of the Roman general in turning a disorderly mass of discordant nationalities into a harmonious whole, animated by one spirit, and mighty either for onset or resistance. Belisarius, in his brief speech to his soldiers, insisted on the paramount necessity of order and discipline, the secret of their previous day's success and the means of securing on that day a far more splendid triumph. Especially he bade them not to be discouraged by the superior numbers of the enemy. The Persians possessed some brilliant corps d'élite (such as the troops known as the Immortals): but the great mass of the army, according to the Roman general's statement, consisted of squadrons of clumsy rustics, labourers rather than soldiers, good at undermining walls or plundering the bodies of the slain, but whose only notion of fighting consisted in covering themselves with their huge shields, keeping their own bodies safe for a time, but powerless to injure the enemy.
The battle began at noon, the Persians, who dined late, having purposely chosen this time for the attack, because they deemed that the Romans, debarred from their usual mid‑day meal, would be faint with hunger. A cloud of arrows from both sides soon darkened the air. In number the missiles of the Persians greatly exceeded; but a favouring wind gave a deadly energy to the fewer darts of the Romans. The Mirran had drawn up his army in two divisions, intending continually to recruit his first line with drafts from the unwearied troops behind them. On the Roman side, the trench with its two flanking lines was still the framework of the position: but Pharas the Herulian, anxious to do great deeds, and not seeing his opportunity p585 in the crowded lines at the left-hand angle of the trenches, asked and obtained leave to make a long flank march and to occupy an eminence in the rear of the Persian right.
Two generals, under the Mirran, commanded the Persian army, Pituazes on the right, Baresmanas on the left. The onset of Pituazes at first met with some success: perhaps the withdrawal of Pharas had unduly weakened the Roman line at the point assailed by him. Soon, however, the generals who were posted behind the main trench saw their opportunity to make a charge on the advancing Persians: and at the same time the appearance of Pharas on his hill in their rear turned the repulse into defeat. Belisarius, who saw that no further danger was to be apprehended from this quarter, withdrew Sunica, a Hunnish commander who had been stationed on the left of the main line, and swung him and his 600 Hunnish horsemen round to strengthen the Roman right, at this time sorely pressed by the advancing Persians. In fact, the Roman troops at the end of the main line were already in full flight. But the Huns on the flanking trench, under Simas and Ascan, joined by their brethren under Sunica and Aegan, now swooped down upon the pursuing Persians. Sunica himself, at the critical moment of the battle, struck down the standard-bearer of Baresmanas. Defeat of the Persians. The Persians found that they were being assailed both on the right and the left. They wavered a little in their headlong pursuit: the fugitive Romans finding themselves not followed, turned and faced them: they were soon hopelessly cut off from the rest of the Persian army. Sunica slew Baresmanas and dashed him from his horse to the ground. Great p586 fear fell on all the Persians when they saw their standard fallen, their general's horse riderless. Five thousand of their soldiers, thus surrounded, were cut to pieces: and the rest of the Persians, seeing the slaughter, dashed down their great shields and fled in panic from the field.
Belisarius, mindful of his great inferiority in numbers and fearful of an ambuscade, forbade a distant pursuit of the enemy. Character of the tactics of Belisarius. The battle, which was a decisive one, had in truth been gained by tactics not unlike those which had in old times been practised by the Parthians against their enemies, namely, by taking advantage of the disorder into which the very fact of pursuit betrays an apparently successful squadron. We can see that the mode of fighting is as dissimilar as possible to the old steady advance of the heavy-armed legions of Rome. Belisarius's army, Roman only in name, consists largely of Huns, Herulians, and other stalwart barbarians drawn from along the northern frontier of the Empire. Courage they have in abundance: they need but discipline to make them irresistible, and that the subtle brain and commanding presence of Belisarius, a born general and king of men, supply in perfection.
Campaign of 531. How entirely the success of the imperial arms was due to the personal ascendency of Belisarius over his troops was clearly shown in the campaign of 531, when, for want of proper subordination on their part, the battle of Sura was lost by the Romans. In the deliberations in the Persian Court at the beginning of that year, Perozes, the late Mirran, appeared shorn of his dignity, and no longer wearing the circlet of gold and pearls which had before wreathed his brows. This p587 was the punishment inflicted by the King of Kings on the general who had lost the battle of Daras. Advice of a Saracen chief to the Persian king. While the King and his counsellors were discussing the possible routes for invading the Empire by the old battle-fields of Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia, Alamundar, king of the Saracens, who had been all his life waging a guerrilla war against the Empire on its Arabian frontier, proposed a new plan of campaign. He would avoid the strong border fortresses on the Upper Euphrates and its affluents, cross the river lower down, traverse the wide desert north of Palmyra, and so, reaching that frontier of the Empire upon which there were no fortresses, because the desert was supposed to be its bulwark, strike boldly at Antioch itself. The plan thus proposed, coming from the lips of the king of the Saracens, was a too fatal forecast of the woes which should fall upon the Empire from that very quarter, when the sons of the desert should no longer be serving as vassals of the Persian king, but should be overthrowing empires on their own account, and fighting under the standard of the Prophet.
The Persians invade Syria. The counsel of Alamundar pleased Kobad and his nobles, and accordingly 15,000 men were ordered to cross the Middle Euphrates at Circesium,13 their new general being a Persian noble named Azareth, and Alamundar himself being their guide across the desert. p588 The expedition at first obtained some successes, and the citizens of Antioch, fearing for the safety of their city, streamed down the valley of the Orontes to the coast of the Mediterranean.14 Belisarius pursues the invading army in its retreat. But tidings of the invasion having reached Belisarius, he ventured to leave the upper frontier comparatively undefended and to make a forced march with an army of 20,000 men to the little lake of Gabbula, •about sixty miles east of Antioch, where the enemy were mustered. On hearing of his approach they abandoned the enterprise in despair, and began to retreat towards the Persian frontier. Belisarius followed, slowly pushing them down the western bank of the Euphrates, avoiding a pitched battle, and each night encamping in the quarters which the enemy had occupied the night before. He had in this way reached the little town of Sura, nearly opposite the city of Callinicus. The latter, though on the other side of the Euphrates, was a Roman city, for down to this point both banks of the great river were still included in the Empire. Here the invaders were intending to cross the Euphrates and make their way back across the desert to their own land. Nor was Belisarius minded to stop them. True, they still carried with them some of the spoil which they had gathered in the plains of Chalcis, but the shame of a thwarted enterprise more than outweighed this advantage.
The army clamours for a battle. But now arose a strange delusion in the Roman army, shared alike by the most experienced officers and by the rawest recruits just drawn from following the plough in the valleys of Lycaonia, to face, for the p589 first time, the realities of war.15 They all thought that they could read the fortunes of the game better than the general: and they dared to impute to that dauntless spirit the greatest of all sins in a soldier's code of morality — cowardice. In vain did Belisarius remonstrate against this infatuated determination to jeopardy the substantial fruits of the campaign for the sake of the mere name of victory. In vain did he remind them that they were exhausted by the rigour of their Paschal fast: — 19 April, 531 it was the day before Easter Sunday, and no orthodox Byzantine would touch any food from daybreak to nightfall. All was in vain. The soldiers only shouted more loudly what they had before murmured in secret, 'Belisarius is a coward! Belisarius hinders us from beating the enemy!' Seeing that the troops were getting out of hand, and knowing that some of their officers were openly siding with the men, Belisarius with a heavy heart yielded to their clamour, pretended that he had only opposed, in order to test, their eagerness, and made his arrangements for the coming battle.
Arrangement of the troops. The Romans, with their faces to the south, touched the shore of the Euphrates with their left, and at this end of their line was stationed the bulk of the Roman infantry. In the centre, Belisarius himself commanded the cavalry, at that time the most important portion of the army. On the right, the Roman position was strengthened by the steepness of the ground. Here fought those Saracen tribes who were friendly to the Empire, and mingled with them were some soldiers p590 who bore the name of Isaurians. In reality, however, they were the Lycaonian rustics to whom reference has already been made. Like the name of Switzer after the great battles of Granson and Morat, so was Isaurian in the armies of the Empire, a title of honour sometimes claimed by men who had little right to it.
On the other side, Azareth and his Persians by the Euphrates faced the Roman left and centre: while the Saracens under Alamundar faced their countrymen on the Roman right.
Battle of Sura
(or Callinicus). For some time the battle hung in suspense. Both armies were fighting with missile weapons, and the Roman archers, though less numerous, drew a stronger bow and did more deadly execution to the Persian. After two‑thirds of the day had thus elapsed, an impetuous charge of Alamundar caused the Roman right to waver. Ascan the Hun, by the prodigies of valour which he performed, checked for some time the route of this portion of the army, but after he and the 800 braves who were with him had fallen, there was no longer a show of resistance in this part of the field. The Lycaonian rustics, who were lately so loud in teaching lessons of valour to Belisarius, fell like sheep before the knife, scarcely lifting a weapon in self-defence. The Saracens, pursued by their brother Saracens and the mighty Alamundar, streamed in disorder across the plain.
Rout of the Romans. Belisarius, when he saw the death of Ascan, was forced to flee with his cavalry to the infantry beside the Euphrates. Dismounting from his horse, he fought as a foot-soldier in the ranks, and bade his companions do the same. Turning their backs to the river, the little band of Romans with tightly-locked shields p591 formed a solid wedge, against which the masses of Persian cavalry dashed themselves in vain. Again and again the unavailing charge was attempted. At length night fell, and under its friendly shelter Belisarius and the brave remnant of his army escaped across the river to Callinicus, where they were safe from the Persian pursuit. When Easter Sunday dawned, the Persians as masters of the field buried the bodies of the slain, and found to their dismay that as many of their own countrymen as of the Romans lay upon the plain.
Return of the Persians to their own land. The event of the battle, though abundantly vindicating the wisdom of Belisarius in desiring to decline it, did not greatly alter the course of the campaign. The Persian generals continued their retreat: and when they appeared in the presence of Kobad, the aged monarch asked them what Roman city they had added to his dominions, or whether they had brought him any of the spoil of Antioch. 'Not so, O King of Kings, answered Azareth, 'but we return from winning a victory over Belisarius and the Roman army.' 'At what cost?' said Kobad. 'Let the arrows be counted.' It was an ancient custom in the Persian state that the army, when about to start for a campaign should defile before the king, and that each soldier should cast an arrow into a basket at his feet. The baskets were sealed with the king's seal, and kept in a place of safety til the return of the host. They then again marched in order past the king, each soldier as he passed drawing forth an arrow from the basket. The arrows undrawn told the tale of the soldiers who returned not from the enemy's land. Now, after the day of Sura so numerous were these, p592 the arrows of the dead, that Kobad taunted the triumphant general with his too dear-bought victory; and never after was Azareth entrusted with any high command.
Death of Kobad, 8 Sept. 531.
Four months after the battle of Sura, Kobad died; his long and eventful life being ended by a rapid attack of paralysis.
Accession of Chosroës.
His third son, the celebrated Chosroës or Nushirwan, succeeded to the throne, though not without a struggle, in which he put to death every male of his father's house. Possibly these domestic troubles made him the more ready to end the war with the Roman Emperor.
Peace concluded, 532.
Ratified by Justinian, 533. After some little diplomatic wrangling a peace, proudly called 'The Endless Peace,'16 was arranged between the two Empires. The fortresses taken on either side were to be restored; Daras was not to be occupied as a military post; and Justinian was to pay Chosroës 11,000 pounds' weight of gold (£440,000) as a contribution towards the expenses of guarding the Caucasus frontier from the barbarians. Upon the whole, the terms were a confession on each side that the game was drawn.
Recall of Belisarius, 531. Meanwhile, shortly after the battle of Sura, Belisarius had been recalled to Constantinople by his master, who already meditated employing the talents of this brilliant officer in an entirely new field. His marriage. It was probably at this time that the young general met and married the woman who was thenceforward to exercise so mighty an influence over his fortunes. Antonina, whose father and grandfather had been charioteers, and whose mother had been a woman of loose character connected with the theatre, could not p593 be considered on the score of birth an equal mate for the young guardsman. Age and character of Antonina. In years also she had the disadvantage, being according to Procopius17 twenty‑two years, and certainly not less than twelve years, her husband's senior. She was a widow, and had two grown‑up children, when Belisarius married her. The strong and abiding affection which bound the great general to this strangely chosen wife, his deference for her clear and manly judgment, his toleration of her strange vagaries, and even of the stain which she more than once brought upon his honour, all seemed like a reflection of his imperial master's passion for Theodora. At present, however, the two great ladies, the comic dancer and the actress's daughter, were not on friendly terms with one another. At a later period, the friendship of Theodora for Antonina was to be a factor strongly influencing the fortunes of Belisarius both for good and for evil.
The projected Vandal war. The service upon which Justinian meditated employing Belisarius was to lie in the lands of the West, as far as Constantinople in that direction as the plains of Mesopotamia were in the other. He was to renew the attempt, in which Basiliscus had failed so disastrously sixty-five years before — the attempt to pull down the great Vandal kingdom and restore the provinces of Africa to the sway of the Emperor.
Two months after the battle of Sura a revolution took place at Carthage which furnished Justinian p594 with an admirable pretext for such an enterprise. Hilderic King of the Vandals, May, 523. We have seen that Thrasamund was succeeded by Hilderic, the elderly grandson of Gaiseric, with Catholic sympathies derived from his mother Eudocia, daughter of Valentinian III. Not only by his religious divergence from the ancestral creed was Hilderic ill‑fitted for the Vandal throne. His subjects, though they had lost much of their old warlike impetuosity, still loved at least to talk of battle and the camp: while Hilderic, in the exceeding softness and tenderness of his nature, could not bear that any one should even speak of warlike matters in his presence.18 For eight years the Vandal nation and the family of Gaiseric bore, with increasing impatience, the rule of such a king. Gelimer deposes Hilderic, June, 531. At length, in June, 531, his cousin Gelimer, the great-grandson of Gaiseric, a man who had himself almost passed middle life, a warrior and head of a brotherhood of warriors, unwilling to wait any longer, thrust the feeble Hilderic from the throne and mounted it himself, with the full consent of the Vandal nobility. The two nephews of Hilderic, one of whom, Höamer, had been called, on rather slight martial cause, the Achilles of the Vandals, shared his captivity.
Remonstrances of Justinian. On hearing these tidings Justinian, who had commenced a friendly correspondence with Hilderic before his own accession to the throne, wrote to remonstrate with Gelimer, and to insist that the aged monarch should continue to wear at least the title, if not to wield the power, of a king. Throughout the correspondence p595 p596 the Emperor assumed the attitude of one who watched over the execution of the testament of Gaiseric, Gaiseric once the irreconcilable enemy of Rome, but now, by a constitutional fiction, her traditional friend and ally.
Höamer blinded. To the remonstrances of Justinian, Gelimer replied by blinding the Vandal Achilles and by subjecting Hilderic and his other nephew to a yet closer captivity. Further correspondence. A letter of stronger remonstrance from Constantinople was answered by a brief and insolent note, Insolence of Gelimer. in which 'King Gelimer informed King Justinian19 that nothing was more desirable than that a monarch should mind his own business.' Irritated by this reply, Justinian began seriously to meditate an expedition to chastise the insolence of the Vandal. Negotiations were commenced with Chosroës which resulted in 'the Endless Peace' with Persia, and a pretext was made for recalling Belisarius to Constantinople that the plan of the coming campaign might be discussed with him.
Belisarius in the insurrection of the Nika, 532. All these schemes were for a time cut short by the terrible insurrection of the Nika, in which the timely presence of Belisarius at the capital saved the throne of Justinian. That chapter closed, the Emperor began again to discuss with his counsellors his designs of African conquest. The proposed war was universally unpopular. The terrible loss of treasure and life in the unsuccessful expedition of Basiliscus was in every one's mouth. Each general dreaded the responsibility of so distant and uncertain an enterprise. p597 The soldiers, who seemed to themselves to have come from the uttermost ends of the earth toward the sun‑rising, murmured at the thought of visiting the equally distant lands of the sunset, before they had had time to taste any of the pleasures of the capital. The great civil officers groaned over the prospect of the toil they would have to undergo and the odium they must incur in collecting money and stores for so remote an expedition.
Speech of John of Cappadocia against the African expedition. The chief of these civil officers, the ablest, the most illiterate, and the most unscrupulous man among them, the Praetorian Prefect, John of Cappadocia, delivered an oration in full consistory, earnestly dissuading the Emperor from his enterprise. 'You wish, O Augustus, to reach with your arms the city of Carthage. That city lies at a distance from us of 140 days' journey if you go by land. If you sail to it you must cross a wide waste of waters and reach the utmost limits of the sea. Should misfortune overtake your army, it will be a whole year before we hear the tidings of it. And even if you conquer Africa, O Emperor, never will you be able to hold it while Italy and Sicily own the sway of the Ostrogoth. In a word, success in my opinion will bring you no lasting gain, and disaster will involve the ruin of your flourishing Empire.'
The project abandoned. For the time Justinian was shaken by the unanimous opposition of his counsellors, and was willing to relinquish the project. But the insulting words of Gelimer rankled in his breast; the glory of restoring the province of Africa to the Empire and her Church to the Catholic communion was too alluring to be abandoned: and when a Bishop from a distant p598 Eastern diocese announced that he had come to Constantinople, commissioned by the Almighty in a dream, to rebuke the slackness of Justinian and to say, 'Thus saith the Lord, I myself will be his partner in the war and I will subdue Libya under him,' The project resumed. the ardour of the Emperor could no longer be restrained; soldiers and ships were collected, and Belisarius was ordered to be in readiness to take the command of the expedition on the earliest possible day. He was invested, for the second time, with the rank of Magister Militum per Orientem: he was surrounded by a brilliant staff, and Archelaus the Patrician, formerly Praetorian Prefect, was attached to the expedition as Paymaster of the Forces.
Belisarius was accompanied by his two trusty counsellors, Antonina and Procopius. The latter tells us honestly that he had shared the general dread and dislike of the enterprise, but he too had had his favourable dream which had put him in better heart and caused him to enter upon the service with eagerness.
Numbers of the army and fleet. The army consisted of 10,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, and was composed of regular Roman soldiers and foederati, the latter probably preponderating. Huns and Heruli occupied prominent positions, not only in the ranks but in the general's tent. The fleet conveying this army comprised 500 ships, the largest of which was of 750 tons burden, and the smallest 45.20 The large number of 20,000 sailors (forty to each ship, great and small) manned this fleet. There were besides ninety‑two fast war‑ships, p599 of the kind called dromones, rowed by 2,000 Byzantines. These ships had only one bank of oars, and were roofed over to protect the rowers from the enemy's darts. We may perhaps consider that they occupied a similar position in the Byzantine fleet to that held by the torpedo-boats of to‑day in a modern navy.
The fleet sets sail, June, 533. About Midsummer‑day, in the year 533, the armament, the subject of so many hopes and fears, sailed from the quay in front of the Imperial Palace at Constantinople. Epiphanius the Patriarch came on board the general's ship, offered the accustomed prayers, and, for greater good-fortune, left a newly-baptized soldier, a convert to Christianity, under the flag of Belisarius. Calms detained the fleet for some days in the Hellespont, and, while there, two drunken Hunnish soldiers slew a man with whom they had quarrelled.21 Belisarius hung them up at once in sight of the whole army on a hill overlooking Abydos. Their comrades murmured; but the general, in a short, vigorous speech, reminded them that their only hope of success in the enterprise which they had undertaken lay in the observance of strict justice, without which neither God's favour nor man's could be looked for by them. And as for the plea of drunkenness, no man, whether Roman or barbarian, should be allowed to plead that as an excuse for his crime, which was rather its aggravation. The soldiers heard the general's words, looked upon the gallows from which their comrades were hanging, and conceived a salutary fear of offending against the laws which found so prompt a defender.
p600 Detention at Methone. The winds were not favourable, and at Methone22 there was another long detention of the fleet. The misery of sickness was added to the misery of inaction, Dishonesty of John of Cappadocia. and that sickness was caused by the dishonest cupidity of a Byzantine official. John of Cappadocia, who had contracted to supply the fleet with a certain number of pounds' weight of biscuit, had sent the dough to be baked at the furnace which heated one of the public baths at Constantinople. He had thus economised baker's wages and fuel, and he had prevented the shrinking in volume which resulted from a proper application of the process. But the so‑called twice-baked bread,23 only once baked and that imperfectly, was a loathsome and corrupting mass when the sacks containing it were opened at Methone. The commissaries at first insisted on supplying it to the men. A pestilence was the natural result, from which five hundred soldiers died. As soon as the matter came to the ears of Belisarius, he at once reported the Prefect's dishonesty to Justinian, stopped the issue of the unsound stores to the troops, and purchased the bread of the district for distribution among them.
Voyage from Zante to Catania. At length the fleet reached Zante and there took in water. Still so idly flapped their sails that it took them sixteen days to cross from Zante to Catania in Sicily, and during this passage many of the ships' crews suffered severely from want of water. On board the general's ship, however, there was abundance; for p601 the provident Antonina had stored a large quantity of the precious fluid in some glass amphorae, which she had then deposited in an improvised wooden cellar, constructed in the hold of the ship and carefully covered over with sand. Thus the general and his staff, including the grateful Procopius, had always plenty of cool draughts of water, while their comrades on board the other ships were parched with thirst.
Friendly reception in Sicily. About two months had probably elapsed from the time of the fleet's departure from Constantinople before it reached Sicily. Owing to the unhealed quarrel between the Vandals and Ostrogoths, resulting from the death of Amalafrida, and owing also to the relations of intimate alliance which the Romanising Amalasuntha had established with Justinian, Sicily afforded the imperial troops not only a safe but a friendly resting-place, where they could re‑fit and re‑victual their ships at pleasure. Without this advantage, which the madness of the Vandals had thrown in their way, it may be doubted if the Byzantine expedition could possibly have succeeded.
Anxiety of Belisarius. Belisarius, however, notwithstanding this point in his favour, was racked with doubts and fears as to the issue of the campaign. His absolute ignorance of the numbers and position of the Vandal army, his want of all information as to the best points for landing, or the condition of the roads, were most unsatisfactory to a general who, with all his splendid personal courage, looked upon war as a science and knew what the postulates of that science demanded. And then, he knew not whether he should be allowed to join battle with the Vandals by land. They had a powerful fleet and might attack him, as they had attacked Basiliscus, p602 by sea. Ominous murmurs were being uttered by the disheartened soldiery — and some of them reached his ears — that, though they would do their duty in an engagement on land and would show themselves brave men there, if they were attacked at sea by the ships of the enemy they would at once seek safety in flight.
Procopius sent to Syracuse. Oppressed by these cares, Belisarius sought the quarters of his counsellor Procopius. He wished that the secretary would visit the city of Syracuse, ostensibly in order to buy stores for the army but really to obtain all possible information as to the doings of the Vandals, the near neighbours of Sicily. Procopius gladly accepted the mission, and after some days presented himself at the general's quarters at Caucana,24 the meeting-place of the troops on the south coast of the island, •about fifty miles from Syracuse. The Secretary's face showed that he brought good tidings, and he had a living voucher for their truth. Almost immediately on his arrival at Syracuse he had met with a person who had been a friend of his from childhood, but who, on account of his interest in some shipping property, had quitted the East and was now settled in the Sicilian capital. When Procopius cautiously propounded his questions about Carthage, his friend replied, 'I have the very man who can give you the needed information. This servant of mine returned but three days ago from Carthage: ask him.' The servant declared that no preparations worth speaking of were being made by the Vandals to meet the Byzantine armament. They did not even know p603 that it had left Constantinople. Gelimer was at an inland place called Hermione, a considerable distance from Carthage. Vandal expedition to Sardinia under Gelimer's brother Tzazo. And, most important of all, by a piece of rare good-fortune for the Romans, all the best Vandal soldiers had sailed away to Sardinia, under the command of Tzazo, Gelimer's brother, to put down the rebellion of one Godas, a Goth who had been sent thither by the Vandal King to collect tribute but who was now trying to open communications with the Emperor on his own account, and affected the airs of an independent sovereign.
Procopius kidnaps his Sicilian friend's slave. All this was better news than Procopius had dared to hope for. That Belisarius might be satisfied of its truth, he took his friend's slave down with him to the port, which was still called 'the Harbour of Arethusa,' continued an eager conversation with the man till they were on board ship, and then gave a sign to the captain to weigh anchor and leave the harbour with all speed. The owner of the kidnapped slave, Procopius's friend from childhood, stood on the shore bewildered and inclined towards anger: but his old schoolfellow shouted out to him that he must not be grieved, for that it was absolutely necessary that the man should be brought into the general's presence; but after he had shown the Roman army the way to Carthage he should soon be sent back to Syracuse bringing a large reward.25
Voyage to Africa. Cheered by the tidings brought by this messenger Belisarius ordered the mariners to hoist sail. They passed the islands of Malta and Gozo, and the next p604 day, a brisk east wind having sprung up, they reached the coast of Africa. It was now about the beginning of September, and nearly three months since they had sailed forth from the harbour of Constantinople.
The fleet reaches Caputvada. The point of the African coast which the fleet had made was called Caputvada,26 and was •about 130 miles in a straight line south by east of Carthage. The coast of Africa here runs nearly due north and south, and the corner where it turns from its usual east and west direction, the very conspicuous promontory of Cape Bon27 (called by the Greeks and Romans Hermaeum), lies 130 miles due north of Caputvada, and •about thirty east of Carthage.
Council of war.
Archelaus tries to dissuade Belisarius from landing. Before landing, Belisarius called a council of war on board his ship. The Patrician Archelaus, his civil Assessor and Paymaster-General, was earnest in his advice that they should not land there, but sail round to the great pool28 close to the harbour of Carthage, where there would be shelter and ample berthing-room for all the ships, and where they would be quite close to the scene of operations. There was much to be said on behalf of this view, and it was well said by Archelaus, who, as master of the commissariat department, especially insisted on the difficulties that would beset the provisioning of the troops upon a land-march if the fleet, their base of supply, should be dashed to pieces against the Libyan coast. Belisarius, however, who felt that he could trust his troops by land and could not trust them by sea, refused to give the Vandals another chance of bringing on a naval p605 engagement, Disembarkation. and gave his decisive voice in favour of disembarking at Caputvada and proceeding from thence to Carthage by land. The soldiers were ordered at once to fortify the position at Caputvada with the usual fosse and vallum of a Roman camp.29 In doing so they discovered a copious spring of excellent water, welcome for its own sake, but doubly welcome because it was looked upon as something supernatural and a token of Divine favour on the enterprise.
As it proved, this fossatum or entrenched camp was not needed by the Romans. The extraordinary apathy, or panic, or ever-confidenceº of the Vandals still left the imperial army free from attack. Syllectum opens its gates. The neighbouring city of Syllectum, at the persuasion of the Catholic bishop and the leading citizens — men doubtless of Roman nationality — gladly opened her gates to the Emperor's generals. Defection of the Vandal postmaster. An even more important defection was that of the Vandal Postmaster of the Province,30 who placed all the post-horses of his district at the general's disposal. One of the King's messengers (veredarii) was captured, and Belisarius sought to make use of him to circulate Justinian's proclamation, which, in the usual style of such documents, stated that the invading army came, not to make war on the people of the land, but only on the p606 tyrant and usurper Gelimer. The veredarius handed copies of the proclamation to some of his friends, but not much came of his proceedings. Sovereigns and statesmen generally overrate the importance of such manifestoes.
Order of march of the imperial army. For eleven days31 Belisarius and his army moved steadily northwards, covering a distance of •about thirteen miles a day. A force of 300 men under the command of his steward,32 John the Armenian, preceded the main body of the army at a distance of •about three miles. The Huns rode at the same distance to the left. Thus, if danger threatened from either quarter, the general was sure to have early notice of it. His right wing was of course sufficiently protected by the sea, where his ships slowly accompanied the march of the land forces. Belisarius sternly repressed the slightest disposition on the part of his soldiers to plunder, and insisted on every article of food required being punctually paid for. He was rewarded for this exercise of discipline by the hearty good-will of the provincials, who evidently gave no information of his movements to the enemy. The Paradise of the Vandal kings at Grassé. The soldiers, too, had their reward for their painful self-denial when, •about sixty miles from Carthage, they p607 reached the 'Paradise' which surrounded the beautiful palace of the Vandal kings at Grassé.b Here were springing fountains, a great depth of shade, and fruit-trees in overpowering abundance. Into these lovely gardens poured the dusty, travel-worn Byzantines, and found them indeed a Paradise. Each soldier made himself a little hut under the boughs of some fruit-tree and ate his fill of its luscious produce: yet, strange to say, when the bugle sounded and the army had to leave the too brief delights of Grassé, it seemed as if there was still the same wealth of fruit upon the trees that hung there when the first soldier entered.
Gelimer's movements. Now at length, on the 13th of September,33 four days after leaving Grassé, when the army reached Ad Decimum, came the shock of grim war to interrupt this pleasant promenade through the enemy's land. When Gelimer heard the tidings of the enemy's landing, his first step was to send orders to Carthage that Death of Hilderic. Hilderic and his surviving relatives and friends should be put to death: his next, to desire his brother Ammatas, who commanded at Carthage, to arm all the Vandal soldiers and prepare for a combined attack on the invaders. The place chosen for this combined attack was a point •ten miles from Carthage (Ad Decimum), where the road went between steep hills, and it seemed possible to catch the enemy as in a trap. Plan of the Vandals' triple attack. Three divisions were to co‑operate in the p608 movement. While Ammatas, sallying forth from Carthage, attacked the Roman van, King Gelimer himself with the main body of the army was to fall upon their rear, and at the same hour his nephew Gibamund, moving over the hills from the west, was to fall upon their left flank.
Battle of Ad Decimum, 13 Sept. 533. The plan was skilfully conceived, and Procopius himself expresses his astonishment that the Roman host should have escaped destruction. Some part of the credit of their deliverance was due to the arrangements made by Belisarius for obtaining early information of what was going on in front of him and on his left flank, but more to the Chance or Fate or Providence (Procopius scarcely knows which to style it) that caused Ammatas to issue too early from Carthage and deliver his attack too soon.34 He came about noonday, and dashed impetuously, with only a few of his followers, against the Roman vanguard, led by John the Armenian. Death of Ammatas. Ammatas slew with his own hand twelve of the bravest of the imperial soldiers, but he then fell mortally wounded, and his death changed the whole fortune of the day. His men fled, and John's pursuing soldiers wrought grievous havoc among the Vandals issuing from Carthage, p609 who, in no regular order, were scattered along the road from the city to the battle-field. Procopius says that lookers‑on conjectured that 20,000 Vandals were thus slain, but the estimate was probably an exaggerated one.
Defeat of Gibamund. Equally unsuccessful was Gibamund's attack on the left flank of the Roman army. According to the arrangement of Belisarius above described, the troops that he fell in with were the covering squadron of Huns. The Vandals had often heard of the headlong bravery of these old enemies of the Gothic nations, but had not before met them in battle. Now, a Hun belonging to a noble family, which had by long usage a prescriptive right to draw first blood in every battle, rode alone close up to the Vandal ranks. These, surprised and terrified, did not assail the solitary champion, who returned to his comrades, shouting loudly that God had given these aliens to them as food for their swords. The Hunnish squadron advanced, and the Vandal detachment, two thousand men in number, fled panic-stricken from the field.
Temporary success of Gelimer. Very different at first was the fortune of the main body of their army led by Gelimer himself. Procopius's description of this part of the action is somewhat confused; but it seems clear that the hilly nature of the ground hid the movements of Belisarius and Gelimer from one another. The Roman general had inadvertently drawn out his line too wide; and the Vandal King, equally by accident, slipped in between Belisarius and the centre of his army. He was thus enabled to make a most dangerous flank attack on the Roman centre, and in fact to gain the victory, if he had known how to keep it. If after his p610 defeat of the infantry he had moved to the left against the small body of that surrounded Belisarius, he might easily have overwhelmed them. If he had pushed forward he would have annihilated John's forces still scattered in all the disorder of pursuit, and saved Carthage. He did neither. As he was leisurely descending a hill, his possession of which had given him the victory over the Roman centre, he came upon the dead body of Ammatas, still unburied and gashed with honourable wounds. Grief at this sight drove every thought of battle from the mind of Gelimer. He burst out into loud bewailings, and would not stir from the place till he had given his brother befitting burial. Meanwhile Belisarius was rallying his fugitive soldiers; was learning the true story of the vanguard's encounter with Ammatas; put heart into his beaten army, and before nightfall had got together a large body of men with whom he dashed at full speed against the unprepared and unmarshalled Vandals. Now at length the battle was really won. Gelimer loses the day. Gelimer's soldiers fled westwards from the field in wild disorder, and the Romans of all three divisions encamped that night among the hills of Ad Decimum, victorious.
Gelimer's ill‑timed display of sorrow for his brother was attributed by Procopius to a Heaven-sent infatuation. A modern historian is probably more disposed to turn it into ridicule. But after all, there is a touch of Northern chivalry and tenderness even in the absurdity of the proceeding. Hardly would any rhetoric-loving Greek, or materialistic Roman have been tempted to lose a battle in order to take the last farewell fittingly of the relics of a brother.
p611 March to Carthage, 14 Sept. 533. On the next day Antonina and the rearguard of the troops came up, and the whole army moved on over the ten miles which separated them from Carthage, and encamped at nightfall at the gates of the capital. The whole city gave itself up to merriment: lights were lit in every chamber, and the night shone like the day. The Vandals, hopelessly outnumbered and recognising that the sceptre had departed from their nation, clustered as timid suppliants round the altars; but Belisarius sent orders that the lives of all of that people who peaceably submitted themselves were to be spared. Meanwhile, still fearing some stratagem of the enemy, he refused for that night to enter the illuminated city. Carthage entered, 15 Sept. 533. Next day, having satisfied himself that the enemy had indeed vanished, and having harangued his soldiers on the duty of scrupulously respecting the lives and property of the Carthaginian citizens, fellow-subjects with themselves of the Roman Emperor, and men whom they had come to deliver from the degrading yoke of the barbarian, he at length marched into the city, where he was received with shouts of welcome by the inhabitants. The hundred years of Vandal domination were at an end. The Emperor, Senate, and People of Rome were again supreme in the great colony which Caius Gracchus had founded on the ruins of her mighty antagonist. And yet, strange contradiction, suggestive of future labours and dangers for the great commander, at that very time Rome herself, her Senate and her People, obeyed the orders of the Gothic princess, Amalasuntha.
Orderly conduct of the troops. The exhortations of Belisarius to his troops bore memorable fruit. Never did soldiers march into p612 a conquered town in more friendly guise. Although it was notorious that generally even a little handful of imperial soldiers marching into one of the cities of the Empire would fill the air with their boisterous clamour, and would terrify the peaceful inhabitants with their military braggadocio, now the whole army entered in perfect order and without an unnecessary sound. No threats were heard, no deed of insolence was done. The secretaries of the army, gliding about from rank to rank, distributed to each man his billet, and he departed tranquilly to his appointed lodging. In the workshops, the handicraftsmen plied their accustomed tasks; in the agora, the buyer and the seller bargained as of old. No one would have dreamed from the appearance of the city that a mighty revolution had that very day been consummated in the midst thereof.
Escape of the Byzantine merchants. On the morning of this eventful day many Byzantine merchants whom Gelimer in his rage had arrested, and whom he meant to have put to death on the very day of the battle of Ad Decimum, were cowering in a dark dungeon in the King's palace, expecting every moment to be ordered forth to execution. The gaoler entered and asked them what price they were willing to pay for their safety. 'My whole fortune,' each one gladly answered. 'You may keep your money,' said he. 'I ask for nothing but that you should help me if I too should be in danger of my life.' With that he removed a plank from before their prison window. With blinking eyes they looked forth to the blinding sky over the blue Mediterranean, and saw the imperial fleet drawing near to the city of their captivity. The chain which had stretched across the harbour was p613 broken by the citizens' own hands, and they were crowding down to the port to welcome their deliverers.35 At that sight the prisoners knew that their chains also were broken. The gaoler opened the prison doors and went down into the streets in their company.
Belisarius in Gelimer's palace. When noon was come, Belisarius, who had already entered the palace and seated himself on the throne of Gelimer, commanded that the mid‑day meal should be served to him and to his officers in the Delphic chamber, the great banqueting-hall of the palace. Among the generals and officers sat the secretary Procopius, and mused on the instability of Fortune, as he found himself and his comrades waited upon by the royal pages, and eating, from the gold and silver plate of the Vandal, the very same luxurious meats and drinking the same costly wines which had been prepared for the repast of Gelimer himself.
The cathedral claimed by the Catholics. A similar example of sowing without reaping was furnished by the cathedral church of Carthage, named after her great martyred bishop, St. Cyprian. Many a time, says Procopius, during the stress of the Vandal persecution, had the saint appeared in visions to his disciples and told them that they need not distress themselves, since he himself in time would avenge their wrongs. On the eve of his great yearly festival, which as it chanced, was the very day that Ammatas rode forth from Carthage to fall among the hills of Ad Decimum, the Arian priests, who had of course the sole right to minister in the cathedral, made great preparations, sweeping out the church, making ready p614 the lights, bringing their costliest treasures out of the sacristy. Then came the decisive victory, by which African Arianism was for ever overthrown. The orthodox Christians flocked to the church, lighted the lamps, displayed the treasures, and rejoiced that they had at length received the long-delayed fulfilment of the promise of St. Cyprian.
Gelimer's camp at Bulla Regia. Gelimer, after the defeat of Ad Decimum, formed a camp at Bulla Regia, in the province of Numidia, and •about a hundred miles west of Carthage. Here were collected the remains of the Vandal army, a still formidable host, and here were stored the vast treasures of the kingdom, those treasures which ninety-four years of sovereignty in the rich and fertile province of Africa had enabled the family of Gaiseric to accumulate.
Intercepted letter from Tzazo. While he was in this camp, meditating how best to recover possession of his capital, a letter was despatched from his brother Tzazo, the commander of the expedition to Sardinia. Tzazo, who had as yet heard nothing of the disasters of his people, wrote in a cheerful tone, announcing the easy victory which he had gained over the rebels, and prognosticating that even so would all the other enemies of the Vandals fall before them. By the irony of Fate, the messengers brought this letter to Carthage and had to deliver it to the hands of Belisarius, who read it and dismissed them unharmed.
Gelimer summons him from Sardinia. Meanwhile Gelimer, who had perhaps gained information of the contents of the letter, wrote to his brother. 'Not Godas, but some cruel decree of destiny wrenched Sardinia from us. While you, with all our bravest, have been recovering that island, Justinian has been making himself master of Africa. p615 With few men did Belisarius come against us, but all the ancient valour of the Vandals seemed to have departed, and with it all our old good-fortune. They turned faint-hearted when they saw Ammatas and Gibamund slain, and fleeing, left horses and ships and the province of Africa, and, worst of all, Carthage itself, a prey to our enemies. Here then we sit encamped in the plain of Bulla. Our only hope is in you. Leave Sardinia to take care of itself, and come and help us. It will be at least some comfort in our calamities to feel that we are bearing them together.'
The army of Sardinia returns. When Tzazo and his Vandals received these grievous tidings in Sardinia, they broke forth into lamentations, all the more bitter because they had to be repressed whenever any of the subject islanders were near. Then, with all speed, they set sail, reached the point of the African coast where the Numidian and Mauritanian frontiers joined, and marched on foot to the plain of Bulla, where they met the rest of the army. Pathetic meeting of the two brothers. The two brothers, Gelimer and Tzazo, fell on one another's necks and remained for long locked in silent embrace, neither of them able to speak for tears, but clasping one another's hands. Their followers did the same, and for a space no word was uttered. Neither the victory in Sardinia nor the defeat at Ad Decimum was spoken of by either host. The lonely and desolate spot where they met, and which was all that they could now call home, told with sad and sufficient emphasis all the tale of the last fatal month.36
p616 After the battle of Ad Decimum active hostilities on both sides had ceased for a time. Belisarius repairs the fortifications of Carthage. Belisarius had been busily engaged in the superintendence of a great number of workmen whom he had engaged to repair the numerous breaches caused by time and neglect in the walls of Carthage, to dig a fosse around it, and plant stakes upon the vallum formed of the earth thrown up out of the fosse. Gelimer had attempted nothing beyond a guerrilla war, conducted by some of the African peasants, with whom he was personally popular, and stimulated by a bounty for the head of every Roman brought into his camp.
Gelimer marches to the neighbourhood of Carthage. Now that, by his junction with Tzazo, he found himself at the head of forces considerably outnumbering the Roman army,37 Gelimer took a bolder line; marched to Carthage; broke down the aqueduct, an exceedingly fine one, which supplied the city; and encamped at Tricamaron, a place •about twenty miles distant from the capital, from whence he could block more than one of the roads leading thither. The secret negotiations which he set on foot with the Arians in Carthage and in the army of Belisarius were discovered by the general, who at once hung Laurus the chief traitor, on a hill overlooking the city. With the fierce and ungovernable Huns, who had listened to Gelimer's proposals, it was not possible to take such severe measures. In the battle which all men knew to be now impending they had determined to take no active part till Fortune should have declared herself and then to join the victorious side.
p617 Battle of Tricamaron, 15 (?) Dec. 553. At length, about the middle of December, Belisarius marched forth from Carthage to fight the battle of Tricamaron. Gelimer, who had placed the Vandal women and children in the middle of the camp, in order that their cries might stimulate their husbands and fathers to a desperate defence, harangued his troops, adjuring them to choose death rather than defeat, which involved slavery and the loss of all that made life delightful both for themselves and for these dear ones. Tzazo added a few words, specially addressed to the army of Sardinia, exhorting them, who had yet suffered no defeat, to prove themselves the deliverers of the Vandal name. The battle began stubbornly. Twice was the desperate charge of the Roman cavalry, under John the Armenian, beaten back; and the third charge, though more successful, led to a fierce hand-to‑hand encounter, in which for some time neither side could get the better of its antagonists. But then, in the crisis of the battle, Tzazo fell. Flight of Gelimer. Gelimer, again unmanned by a brother's death, forgot his own valour-breathing words and hurried swiftly from the field. The Huns now struck in on the side of the Romans. The rout of the Vandals was complete, and they fled headlong from the field, leaving camp, treasure, children and wives, all at the mercy of the enemy.
Demoralisation of the Roman army. The utter demoralisation which spread throughout the conquering army at the sight of this splendid prize would have ensured their overthrow, had Gelimer and a few faithful followers hovered near to take advantage of it. Intent on stripping off the golden armour of the Vandal officers, enraptured at finding themselves the possessors of money, of jewels, of comely p618 and noble-looking slaves, the host of barbarians who bore the name of a Roman army abandoned all thought of military obedience, forgot even the commonest maxims of prudence in the presence of a beaten foe, and were intent upon one only aim, to convey themselves and their spoil back within the walls of the city as soon as possible. Murder went as ever hand in hand with lust and greed. Not one of the Vandal warriors who was captured was admitted to quarter. Belisarius restores discipline. When day dawned, Belisarius, standing on a neighbouring hill to survey the scene, succeeded by his shouted adjurations in restoring some degree of order, first among the soldiers of his own household, and then, through their means, in the rest of the army. So were all the soldiers with their captives and spoils at length safely marched back to Carthage. The numerous Vandal suppliants in the churches of the district were admitted to quarter, and preparations were made for shipping off the greater number of them as prisoners to Constantinople. The Vandal possessions in the Mediterranean secured. Experienced officers were sent to Sardinia, to Corsica, to the Balearic Isles, to Ceuta and other Mauritanian towns, and easily brought all these recent possessions of the Vandals into the obedience of the Emperor. Affair of Lilybaeum. Only at Sicilian Lilybaeum (now Marsala) were they unsuccessful. Here the Goths, though friendly to the Romans, entirely refused to recognise that conquest gave Justinian any right to claim Amalafrida's dowry, and declined to surrender the city.
Pursuit of Gelimer. When Gelimer escaped from the field of Tricamaron, Belisarius ordered John the Armenian to follow after him night and day, and not to rest till he had taken him prisoner. For five days did this pursuit p619 continue, and on the following day it would probably have been successful but for a strange misadventure. There was among John's soldiers a barbarian named Uliaris, a brave soldier, but flighty, impetuous, and a drunkard. On the morning of the sixth day, at sunrise, Uliaris, who was already intoxicated, saw a bird sitting on a tree and tried to shoot it. He aimed so clumsily that his arrow, missing the blackbird, pierced his general from behind in the nape of his neck. Death of John the Armenian. John languished a few hours in great pain, desiring that the offence of his unwilling murderer might be forgiven. Belisarius, who was at once sent for, wept bitterly at the grave of his friend, whose character and achievements had seemed to mark him out for a high career; and fulfilled his dying wishes by pardoning Uliaris.
Gelimer at Pappua. But meanwhile the hard-pressed Gelimer had succeeded in escaping from his pursuers to a steep mountain called Pappua, on the very verge of the Numidian province. Here he with his nephews and cousins, the remnant of the proud family of Gaiseric, dwelt for three months, dependent on the hospitality and loyalty of the half-savage Moors who inhabited this district. A terrible change it was for the dainty Vandals, the most luxurious of all the races that overran the Roman Empire, to have to live cooped up in the fetid huts of these sons of the desert. Contrast between the habits of the Vandals and the Moors. The Vandal was accustomed to sumptuous meals, for which earth and sea were ransacked to supply new delicacies. The Moor did not even bake his bread, but subsisted upon uncooked flour. The Vandal dressed in silken orbes, wore golden ornaments, and daily indulged in all the luxury of the Roman bath. The squalid Moor, p620 swarming with vermin, wore both in winter and summer the same rough tunic and heavy cloak; he never washed himself, and his only couch was the floor of his hut, upon which, it is true, the wealthy Mauritanian spread a sheep-skin before he laid him down to rest. In the delights of the chase, the theatre, and the hippodrome had passed the pleasure-tinted days of the Vandal lords of Africa. Now, instead of this ceaseless round of pleasure, there was only the dull and sordid monotony of a Moorish hamlet on a bleak mountain.38
Pharas the Herulian exhorts Gelimer to surrender. After the death of John, Pharas the Herulian with a band of hardy followers had been told off for the pursuit of Gelimer, and had followed him as far as the foot of the mountain. His attempt to carry the position by storm had failed. The Moors were still faithful to the exile, and the steep cliffs could not be climbed without their consent. Pharas therefore was obliged to turn his siege into a blockade; and during the three winter months at the beginning of 534 he carefully watched the mountain, suffering none to approach and none to leave it. At length, knowing what hardships the Vandal King must be enduring, he wrote him a skilful and friendly letter, asking him why, for the sake of the mere name of freedom, he persisted in depriving himself of all that made life worth living. He concluded thus: 'Justinian, I have heard, is willing to promote you to great honour, to confer upon you the rank of a Patrician, and to p621 give you houses and lands. Surely to be fellow-servant with Belisarius of so mighty an Emperor is better than to be playing the king in Pappua, really serving the caprices of a few squalid Moors, and that in the midst of hunger and every kind of hardship not only for yourself but for your unhappy kindred.'
Gelimer's reply. Gelimer's answer was characteristic. 'I thank you for your counsel, but I will not be the slave of a man who has attacked me without cause and upon whom I yet hope to wreak a terrible revenge. He has brought me, who had done him no wrong, to this depth of ruin, by sending Belisarius against me, I know not whence. But let him beware. Some change which he will not like may be impending over him also. I can write no more: my calamities take from me the power of thought. His three requests. But be gracious to me, dear Pharas, and send me a lyre, and one loaf of bread and a sponge.'
The end of this singular letter was a hopeless puzzle to the Herulian general, till the messenger who brought it explained that Gelimer wished once more to experience the taste of baked bread, which he had not eaten for many weeks, that one of his eyes was inflamed owing to his inability to wash it, and that having composed an ode on his misfortunes he wished to hear how it sounded on the lyre.
Gelimer decides to surrender. After all, a trifling incident broke down the stubborn resolution of Gelimer. A Moorish woman had scraped together a little flour, kneaded it into dough, and put it on the coals to bake. Two boys, one of them her son and the other a Vandal prince, nephew of Gelimer, looked at the process of cooking with p622 hungry eyes, and each determined to possess himself of the food. The Vandal was first to snatch it from the fire and thrust it, burning hot and gritty with ashes, into his mouth. At that the Moor caught him by the hair of his head, slapped him on the cheek, pulled the half-eaten morsel out of his mouth, and thrust it into his own. Gelimer, who had been watching the whole scene from beginning to end, was so touched by the thought of the misery which his obstinacy was bringing upon all belonging to him, that he wrote to Pharas, retracting his former refusal, and offering to surrender if he could be assured that the terms mentioned in the previous letter were still open to him.
The terms settled. Pharas sent the whole of the correspondence to Belisarius, who received it with great delight, and sent a general of foederati named Cyprian to swear that the terms of surrender named by Pharas should be kept. Gelimer came down from his hill; the mutual promises were exchanged, and in a few days the Vandal King was introduced into the presence of his captor at a suburb of Carthage named Aclae.
Belisarius and Gelimer meet, March 534. When Gelimer met Belisarius, to the surprise of all the bystanders, he burst into a loud peal of laughter. Some thought that the sudden reverse in his fortunes, the hardships, and the insufficient food of the last few months had touched his brain; and to a matter-of‑fact historian this will perhaps still seem the most probable reason for his conduct. Procopius, however, assigns a more subtle cause. The Vandal King, suddenly, at the end of a long and prosperous life, cast down from the height of human happiness, perceived that all the prizes for which men contend here so earnestly are p623 worthless. They are making all this coil about absolute nothingness, and whatever happens to them here is really worthy only to be laughed at. The story, as told by Procopius, and some other passages in the life of Gelimer, suggest that the character of the Vandal King might be so studied as to throw some light on that most enticing yet most difficult problem, Shakespeare's conception of the character of Hamlet.
Imputations against the loyalty of Belisarius. Meanwhile the conqueror — as well as the conquered — was feeling some of
'The stings and arrows of outrageous Fortune.'
Some of his subordinates, envious of his glory, sent secret messages to the Emperor that Belisarius was aiming at the diadem. No doubt his having seated himself on the throne of Gelimer on that day when he entered the palace of the Vandal King lent some probability to the utterly baseless charge. The general, by good fortune, obtained a duplicate of the letter written by his enemies: and thus, when a message came back from Justinian, 'The Vandal captives are to be sent to Constantinople: choose whether you will accompany them or remain at Carthage,' he knew what answer was desired. To return was by his own act to dispel the accusation of disloyalty: to stay would have been at once to take up the position which his enemies would fain assign to him of a pretender to the crown. He wisely and as a good citizen chose the former course.
Triumph of Belisarius. On his return to the capital, Belisarius was rewarded for his splendid services to the Senate and People of Rome by the honours of a triumph, which, says Procopius, had for near six hundred years never been p624 enjoyed by any but an Emperor. Even now he had not quite the full honours of an ancient Roman triumph. He walked from his palace, whereas a Scipio or a Fabius would have ridden in his chariot. But before him walked the throng of Vandal captives, ending with Gelimer and his kinsmen, all that remained of the mighty Asding name. When the Byzantine populace saw those strong and stately forms, they marvelled the more at the skill of the general who had brought all their power down into the dust. Gelimer himself, as he passed through the streets, and when he came into the Hippodrome and saw Justinian sitting on his throne and the ranks and orders of the Roman people standing on either side of him, neither laughed nor wept, but simply repeated again and again the words of the kingly Hebrew preacher, 'Vanity of vanities: all is vanity.' When he reached the throne of Justinian, the attendants took off the purple robe which floated from his shoulders and compelled him to fall prostrate before the peasant's son who bore the great name of Augustus. It may have been some mitigation of his abasement that his conqueror, the triumphant Belisarius, grovelled with him at Justinian's feet. Treatment of Gelimer, When the triumph was ended, Gelimer was admitted probably to a private audience of the Emperor. The rank of Patrician which had been promised him could only be his on his renouncing the Arian heresy, and this he steadily refused to do. He received, however, large estates in the Galatian province, and lived there in peace with his exiled kinsfolk. and of the family of Hilderic. The children and grandchildren of Hilderic, who had the blood of Valentinian and Theodosius in their veins, and who also p625 no doubt professed the Catholic faith, were especially welcomed and honoured by Justinian and Theodora, received large sums of money, and seem to have been invited to remain at the Byzantine Court.
Vessels from the Temple at Jerusalem. Besides the other magnificent spoils which were exhibited at this triumph, the thrones and sceptres, the costly raiment, the pearls and golden drinking-cups, many of which had formed part of Gaiseric's spoil of Rome eighty years before, there were also carried in the procession the vessels of the Temple at Jerusalem which had once adorned the triumph of Titus. But as has been already described,39 a Jew who was acquainted with a friend of the Emperor said: 'If those vessels are brought into the Palace they will cause the ruin of the Empire. They have already brought the Vandal to Rome, and Belisarius to Carthage: nor will Constantinople long wait for her conqueror if they remain here.' The superstitious side of Justinian's nature was affected by this suggestion, and he sent the sacred vessels away to Jerusalem to be stored up in one of the Christian churches.
Consulship of Belisarius, 535. The next year, when Belisarius entered upon his consulship, he had a kind of second triumph, which was in some respects more like the antique ceremony. He was borne on the shoulders of the captives: then he rode in his triumphal car and scattered gifts to the crowd from out of the Vandal spoils. Silver vessels and golden girdles and money from the great Vandal hoard were scattered by the new Consul among that Byzantine populace which claimed the title of the Roman People.
Effects and causes of the fall of the Vandal kingdom. The fall of the Vandal monarchy was an event full of meaning for the future history of Africa. There can p626 be little doubt that in destroying it Justinian was unconsciously removing the most powerful barrier which might in the next century have arrested the progress of Mohammedanism: and thus, in the secular contest between the Aryan and Semitic peoples, the fall of the throne of Gaiseric was a heavy blow to the cause of Europe and a great gain to the spirit of Asia.
The reasons which produced this overthrow cannot be enumerated at length. It is clear, however, that in the Vandal monarchy there was less approach towards amalgamation between the Teuton invaders and the Roman provincials than in any of the other kingdoms founded by the Northern invaders. The arrogance of Gaiseric and his nobles and the ferocity of their persecution of the Catholics had opened a chasm between the two nations, which could perhaps never have been bridged over. Then upon this state of affairs supervened the weakening of the fibre of the conquering race and its loss of martial prowess, through the progress of luxury and through the increase of something which was perhaps not wholly undeserving of the name of culture. The quarrel with the Ostrogoths deprived the Vandals of their natural allies, and gave to Belisarius the best possible base for his invasion of Africa. The character of Gelimer, impulsive, sentimental, unstable, additionally weighted the scale against his subjects. And finally, that which some would be disposed to call mere accident, the invasion of Sardinia, the absence of storms while the Roman fleet was voyaging along the coast, the failure of the concerted operations at Ad Decimum, all combined to turn the doubtful enterprise of Justinian and his general into an assured and splendid victory.
2 I believe our only hint as to the birthplace of Belisarius is in the De Bello Vandalico of Procopius (I.11): Ὥρμητο δὲ ὁ Βελισάριος ἐκ Γερμανίας, ἢ Θρᾳκῶν τε καὶ Ἰλλυριῶν μεταξὺ κεῖται. 'Between the Thracians and Illyrians' exactly describes Justinian's native land of Dardania. But I cannot help thinking that 'Germania' is due to some error of transcribers. Can the true name be Graniriana, which, I know not on what authority, appears in our classical atlases •about twelve miles north of Naissus, at the site of the modern Alexinatz?
Thayer's Note: Hodgkin may have got this one wrong. There was, in fact, a place called Germania in ancient Dacia, or at least the Catholic Church has since 1933 recognized a titular see by the name of Germania in Dacia (q.v.), and the modern Bulgarian town of Sapareva Banya claims to be its successor. I've been unable so far to find any evidence online for the claim.
As for Graniriana, Forbiger, Handbuch Der Alten Geographie, III.1093 lists among the towns of Moesia, "Rappiana (It. H. 566, auf der T. P. Graniriana u. beim G. Rav. 4, 7 Crambriana, j. Alexincze)"; Samuel Butler, in An Atlas of Antient Geography, places it at or near today's Aleksinac, giving its coördinates in his index as 43°34 N, 40°4 E (of Ferro = Hierro in the Fortunate Isles; converting to longitude E of Greenwich, 21°54).
Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Rappiana, gives the same names and ancient sources, but supplies Palma, Riedl and Baudoncourt as secondary authorities.
4 Τότε δὴ αὐτοῦ ξύμβουλος ᾑρέθη Προκόπιος, ὃς τάδε ξυνέγραψε.
5 Consiliarius and Assessor: in Greek, ξύμβουλος and πάρεδρος.
6 One must except from this statement the so‑called fourth book of the Gothic Wars, which is a mere supplement to all the others, and has no unity of subject.
8 These are collected by Dahn (Prokopius, 196‑201).º The heathen inhabitants of Borium turn to Christianity in order to save their souls (VI.2). Jesus is emphatically recognised as the Son of God (V.7). The Samaritans insulted the Christian mysteries in a manner 'about which we [Christians] must keep silence,' and so on.
9 Probably indignation at this act of shabby oppression and bigotry is one cause of the bitter tone of the Anecdota.
10 Probably indignation at this act of shabby oppression and bigotry is one cause of the bitter tone of the Anecdota.
11 Both here and in other passages of his histories Procopius has somewhat perplexed his successors by talking about the Massagetae. He gives us, however, the key to the riddle in a passage in the De Bello Vandalico (I.11): 'Aegan was of the race of the Massagetae, whom they now call Huns.' He always prefers archaic words and names, calls Constantinople Byzantium, and Dyrrhachium Epidamnus: and on the same principle prefers to call the Huns Massagetae because he finds the latter name in Herodotus and not the former. But there is no need for modern historians to follow his example: and I therefore use the word with which the story of Attila has made us familiar, instead of its shadowy Herodotean equivalent.
12 A diagram will make the description of the battle somewhat clearer. For a somewhat different arrangement, see Bury, II.375. DIAGRAM p582
13 It is pointed out by Rawlinson (Seventh Oriental Monarchy, p374) that Malalas here is more to be depended upon as to the route of the invaders than Procopius. The mention by the latter of the province of Commagene, •100 miles or so to the north of the district really invaded, is an instance of the too frequent topographical inaccuracy of the latter writer.
17 He says that Antonina was sixty in 543, and therefore born in 483. I suspect that Procopius has added some years to her age, but the ages of her children make it impossible that she could be born much, if at all, after 493. The birth-year of Belisarius was probably about 505.
19 Βασιλεὺς Γελίμερ Ἰουστινιανῷ βασιλεῖ. Of course βασιλεύς is a regular title for the Eastern Emperor: but Gelimer seems to wish to put himself on an equality with Justinian.
21 Procopius says that of all mankind the Huns were the most intemperate in drinking.
22 Now Modon, near Navarino, at the S. W. corner of the Morea.
23 Τὸν ἄρτον . . . δὶς μὲν ἐπάναγκες ἐς τὸν πνίγεα εἰσάγεσθαι. In other words, it ought to be biscuit, not bread.
24 I see no sufficient reason for Lord Mahon's proposal to read Catana, in defiance of all MS. authority, instead of Caucana.
25 Dahn suggests that possibly the kidnapping was only apparent, and that the slave was really a consenting party to his abduction (Prokopius, 23).
26 Translated by Procopius Κεφαλὴ Βράχους, 'Shoal-promontory;' now called Ras Kapoodia.
27 Or Ras Addar.
29 Procopius' words will be interesting to all students of Roman fortifications: Βελισάριος ἐκέλευε τήν τε τάφρον ὀρύσσειν καὶ τὸ χαράκωμα περιβαλέσθαι. . . . Αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἥ τε τάφρος ὀρώρυκτο καὶ τὸ χαράκωμα ξυντετέλεστο, καὶ οἱ σκολόπες κύκλῳ πανταχόθεν ξυνεπεπήχατο. Here we have the fosse, the vallum, and the palisading, exactly the Pfahl-graben of the Germans.
30 Ὁ τοῦ δημοσίου δρόμου ἐπιμελόμενος: Procurator (?) Publici Cursus.
31 The Itinerarium makes the distance from Tusdrus (which is about as far off as Caputvada) to Carthage, 157 Roman miles. Procopius tells us that Belisarius marched 80 stadia a day. The stadium is generally considered equivalent to the eighth of a Roman mile, but we know from Procopius (De Bello Gotthico, I.11) that 113 of his stadia = 19 Roman miles, or, roughly, six of his stadia = one mile. This would give about 13½ Roman miles for each day's march: and eleven of these marches would bring the army to Decimum, ten miles from Carthage.
32 Called at this time Optio: ὃς οἱ ἐπεμελεῖτο τῆς περὶ τὴν οἰκίαν δαπάνης· ὀπτίωνα τοῦτον καλοῦσι Ῥωμαῖοι.
33 We get this date from the statement of Procopius (De Bell. Vand. I.21) that Ammatas marched out of Carthage on the eve of St. Cyprian's day. This festival, which now falls on the 16th of September, according to the old ecclesiastical calendar fell on the 14th. Papencordt (p152, n. 1) is my authority for this statement.
34 How was it possible, before the invention of watches, to reckon with any certainty on concerted operations upon the battle-field? The clepsydra and other such clumsy contrivances for the measurement of time would surely be useless here. No doubt a practised eye would learn the time with sufficient accuracy from the position of the sun in the heavens when the sky was clear. But how, if it was overcast? Apparently the inevitable effect of storms and mist must have been hopelessly to bewilder the leaders of an army, as to their position in time as well as in space.
35 In point of fact the fleet did not enter the harbour, but for nautical reasons took up their position in Stagnum on the south-west of it.
36 Ἱκανὸς γὰρ αὐτοῖς ὁ χῶρος τεκμηριῶσαι τὰ ξυμπεσόντα ἐγίνετο. Compare Milton: —
'Though the event was dire
As this place testifies and this dire change
Hateful to utter.'
37 'Ten times larger,' he says in his speech before the battle of Tricamaron; but this is probably an exaggeration either on his part or on that of Procopius.
38 Procopius, De Bello Vandalico II.6. The hints here given, not only as to the luxury but the immorality of the Vandals, show the change for the worse which a century of domination in Africa had wrought in them. Compare vol. I p932.
b The battle would eventually take place at Ad Decimum, itself obviously about 10 Roman miles from Carthage by road, and thus somewhere within the modern city of Tunis: almost certainly on the N side of the modern city since no road could have traversed the Lake of Tunis, which already existed in Procopius' day.
Taking the speed of the march at "about thirteen miles a day", the distance between the place of the battle and the preceding R&R stop at Grassé would have been about 50 Roman miles. The march pretty much hugged the coast up to there, at which point the land forces had to head inland in order to reach Carthage as fast as possible, and Procopius specifically says that once Grassé was left behind, they could no longer see the fleet, because it was hidden from there by high hills along the coast and the fleet had to sail around the promontory; and the base of the Cap Bon promontory does put us at about the right distance. There, we find the modern town of Hammamet: the name of which is the Arabic word for baths, and very near which archaeologists have identified significant remains of the city of Pupput — Putput and other spelling variants — a place which steadily increased in importance under the Empire.
In his Handbuch der alten Geographie, having first mentioned various other candidates in the area around Hammamet, Forbiger lists his last one as follows (II.847, n. 100): "Falbe Recherches p69º sucht in dieser Gegend das vandalische Lustschloss Grasse (Γράσση), wo Belisar einen herrlichen Park und die reichsten Obstplanzungen fand (Procop. B. Vand. 3.17.8)." º
For the name Grassé, which we have only in Procopius' Greek transliteration, it's very tempting to substitute Latin Grassa (in earlier classical Latin, Crassa), "rich, fertile".
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 6 Sep 20