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Book IV
Note I

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book V
Chapter 2

Book V (beginning)

Vol. IV
Chapter I

The First Year of the War


Sources: —

Procopius de Bello Gotthico, I.5‑7; II.26‑38.

(When quotations are made thus, II.26, the reference is to the volume and page of the Bonn edition. When they are made thus, De B. G. I.5, the reference is to the book and chapter of the History of the Gothic War.)1

The Truceless War. It was 'a truceless war' which Justinian's ambassador had denounced against the cringing Theodahad when he heard of the murder of Amalasuntha. And in truth all the schemings and machinations of the Byzantine Court had been rewarded beyond their deservings by as fair and honourable an excuse for war as ever prince could allege. Lilybaeum and  p2 Gratiana, Sicilian forts and Hunnish deserters, had all faded into the background. The great Emperor now appeared upon the scene in his proper character as Earthly Providence, preparing to avenge, on an ungrateful and cowardly tyrant, the murder of the noble daughter of Theodoric. The pretext was better than that put forth for the Vandal War, the foe infinitely baser. At the same time it might perhaps be discovered that, notwithstanding the ambassador's brave words about a truceless war, the Earthly Providence was not unwilling to arrange terms with the murderer if it could secure any advantage for itself by doing so.

In the summer of 535, nine years after Justinian's accession to the throne,​2 the armies were sent forth from Constantinople, and the Gothic War began.

Troops sent to Dalmatia. Troops, the number of whom is not stated, but probably not more than 3000 or 4000, were sent by land to invade the great Gothic province of Dalmatia, on the east of the Hadriatic. This province (as was explained in a previous volume)​3 was larger than the present kingdom of Dalmatia, since it included also a good deal of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its capital was still Salona, that great city close to which rose the vast palace of Diocletian (now represented by half of the modern town of Spalato), the city where Nepos reigned after he had been driven from the halls of the Palatine, where his rival Glycerius chanted mass in  p3 the basilica, where Odovacar avenged his murder by the death of Ovida and Viator.

Mundus general of the Dalmatian army. The commander of the Dalmatian army was himself a barbarian by birth, a Gepid of the name of Mundus; a man whose fiery valour was not chilled by age, and who was heartily loyal to the Emperor.​4 It was Mundus who, during the sedition of the Nika, when the throne of Justinian seemed rocking to its overthrow, had penetrated with a band of Heruli to the Hippodrome, where Hypatius at that moment was being saluted as Emperor, and had, in co‑operation with Belisarius, by a ruthless massacre of the insurgents, succeeded in stamping out the rebellion. At the outset of the present campaign his operations were completely successful. The Goths who met his invading army were defeated, and he marched on to Salona, which he entered unopposed.

Belisarius commander-in‑chief of the Italian army. The chief interest, however, was excited by the Italian expedition, commanded by Belisarius, the successful combatant with Persia, the conqueror of Africa — Belisarius who had been drawn a few months before in his triumphal car through the streets of Constantinople, and who now, sole Consul for the year, was setting forth to gather fresh laurels in the country where the Marcelli and the Fabii gathered theirs eight centuries ago.

His generals: Constantine, The chief generals under Belisarius were Constantine, Bessas, and Peranius. Constantine was a native of Thrace, a brave and strenuous lieutenant of the great  p4 commander, but rapacious, fierce, and not imbued with the soldierly instinct of subordination, as was eventually proved by the strange events which ended his career.

Bessas, Bessas also came from Thrace, but was of Gothic descent, and we are expressly told​5 that he was 'one of the race who had of old dwelt in Thrace, but did not follow Theodoric.' He too, though brave and warlike, showed on a critical occasion a selfish and grasping nature, which preferred its own ignoble gains to military duty and the most obvious interests of the Empire.6

Peranius. Peranius came from the far east of the Empire. He was the eldest son of Gurgenes, king of Iberia, part of that province between Caucasus and Ararat which we now call Georgia. In the course of the endless tussle between the Roman Emperor and the Persian King, Iberia was invaded by the Persian army; and Gurgenes, finding himself unable to defend his dominions, and disappointed of the expected help from Justinian, fled to the mountains which divided his country from Colchis, and there seems to have maintained a straitened but honourable independence. As the dynasty was Christian, its princes naturally inclined to Constantinople rather than to Ctesiphon. Thus it was that Peranius entered the service of the Emperor, in which he soon rose to all but the highest position.

Subordinate officers. The subordinate officers were — of the cavalry, Valentine, Magnus, and Innocentius; of the infantry,  p5 Herodian, Paulus, Demetrius, and Ursicinus; none of whom require at present any special notice on our part. The commander of the Isaurian contingent was named Ennes. Belisarius was attended by a large body-guard of tried and daring soldiers; and, in a capacity perhaps resembling that of a modern aide-de‑camp, Photius, Antonina's son by a former marriage, accompanied his renowned stepfather.

Number of the host. The total number of the army which was setting forth to reconquer Italy was only 7500 men, scarcely more than the equivalent of one legion out of the thirty which followed Caesar's footsteps. How it figured on the muster-rolls of the Empire it is not easy to say. We are told that there were 4000 soldiers 'of the Catalogues and the Foederati,' 3000 Isaurians, 200 confederate Huns, and 300 Moors. The 'Catalogues' must in some way represent the dwindled Legions; as the Foederati, drawn perhaps from the medley of Teutonic and Slavonic peoples who roamed along the banks of the Lower Danube, represent the Socii of the early days of Rome. It will be observed by the reader how large a proportion the gallant Isaurian highlanders, those Swiss of the Byzantine empire, bore to the whole army, and we shall have frequent occasion in the course of the war to notice the service rendered to Belisarius by their mountaineering skill and headlong bravery.

The army only nominally Roman. After all, the armament, though it gloried in the title of Roman, and was sometimes called Greek in derision by its enemies, was Roman or Greek only in name. It was essentially a barbarian band. Every great exploit which we hear of in connection with it was performed, as a rule, by some Gepid, or Herul,  p6 or Isaurian. But the barbaric strength and stolid stalwart courage of the soldiers were directed by generals who still cherished some of the traditions of scientific warfare which had been elaborated in the twelve centuries of the Roman Republic and Empire; and at the centre of the whole machine was the busy brain of Belisarius, a man of infinite resource and patience as well as courage, and certainly one of the greatest strategists that the world has ever seen.

Cavalry the chief arm. The student who remembers how the battles of Republican Rome were generally won, namely, by the disciplined valour of the heavy-armed foot-soldiers of the Legion, experiences some surprise when he finds that the victories of Belisarius were chiefly won by his cavalry, armed with the bow and arrow, a force which, as has been already observed, may perhaps be compared to the mounted rifles of a modern army, but which certainly five centuries before was more celebrated in the tactics of Parthia than in those of Rome.

Secret of the victories which Belisarius was to win. At the outset of the first campaign it may be interesting to quote from a later page of Procopius​7 the reasons which Belisarius himself, in conversation with his friends, assigned for the long series of victories which he had then achieved over the Goths: —

The Goths had no force of mounted bowmen (Hippotoxotai). 'In public the Romans naturally expressed their wonder at the genius of Belisarius which had achieved such a victory, but in private his friends [no doubt including Procopius himself] enquired of him what was the token which, in the first day of successful engagement with the enemy, had led him to conclude that in this war he should be uniformly victorious. Then  p7 he told them that, at the beginning, when the engagement had been limited to a few men on each side, he had studied what were the characteristic differences of each army, in order that when the battles commenced on a larger scale he might not see his small army overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. The chief difference which he noted was that all the Romans and their Hunnish allies were good archers on horseback (Hippotoxotai). The Goths, on the other hand, had none of them practised this art. Their cavalry fought only with javelins and swords, and their archers were drawn up for battle as infantry, and covered by the cavalry. Thus the horsemen, unless the battle became a hand-to‑hand encounter, having no means of replying to a discharge of weapons from a distance, were easily thrown into confusion and cut to pieces, while the foot-soldiers, though able to reply to a volley of arrows from a distance, could not stand against sudden charges of horse. For this reason Belisarius maintained that the Goths in these encounters would always be worsted by the Romans.'

Easy occupation of Sicily, As yet, however, there was little opportunity for the display of military skill on the part of Belisarius, for his first laurels were all easily gathered, in the region of politics rather than of war. His instructions were to land in Sicily, nominally again making of that island only a house of call on his way to Carthage; if he found that he could occupy the island with little trouble he was to do so, but if there was likely to be tough opposition he was to leave it for the present and proceed to Africa. The former alternative was that which he adopted. He found the Sicilians all ready and eager to become subjects of the Emperor.  p8 Catana, Syracuse,​8 and every other city in Sicily, opened her gates to him. except Palermo. Only in Panormus (Palermo) was there a Gothic garrison strong enough to oppose the wishes of the inhabitants; and to the siege of Palermo he now addressed himself.

The Goths deeply resent the defection of the Sicilians. This eager defection of the islanders from the Gothic rule was a deep disappointment to their late lords, and was long and bitterly remembered by them. Sicily was still rich in the wealth that had been stored up there since the days of Gelon, rich in all manner of fruits, above all rich in corn,º of which it sent large exports every year to Rome. For this reason the Roman inhabitants had prayed Theodoric that they might be left to themselves, and not vexed by the presence of large bodies of Gothic troops. Their request had been listened to; they had been left for the most part to their own sense of honour to defend the connection which had benefited them so greatly and had imposed such light burdens upon them. And this was their return. Not a city defended, not a skirmish fought, no pretence of overwhelming necessity forthcoming; but as soon as the insignificant armament of Belisarius hove in sight, every emblem of Gothic domination torn down and the islanders vying with one another in demonstrations of servility towards Belisarius and his master. So keenly was this ingratitude felt by the Goths that, as we shall see, eleven years afterwards, when there was a talk of peace between them and the Empire, and the Gothic King seemed to be in a position to dictate its terms, one of his indispensable conditions was that there  p9 should be no interference with the revenge of his nation on ungrateful Sicily.9

Siege of Palermo. Belisarius, having reconnoitred Palermo, decided that the fortifications on the landward side were too strong to be attacked with any hope of success. Of these fortifications no vestige now remains, and indeed the very site of the ancient city, successively Carthaginian, Greek, and Roman, is hopelessly obliterated by the busy prosperity of the modern capital of Sicily. Three features of the landscape only can we indisputably claim as identical with those which met the enemies of Belisarius. They are (1) the beautiful, land-guarded bay (reminding the traveller of the bay of Naples), from which the city derived its Greek name, All‑Anchorage;​10 (2) the rich plain stretching inland, and now known as the Golden Shell (Conchaº d'Oro); (3) the grand natural fortress of Monte Pellegrino, 2000 feet high, a few miles out of the city, rising, like the Rock of Gibraltar, square and steep out of the sea to northward of the bay. B.C. 247 to 244 Here Hamilcar Barca maintained for three years a sturdy opposition to Rome near the close of the First Punic War. But the Gothic garrison of Sicily resorted to no such desperate measure of defence against the army of Belisarius. Trusting in the strength of their walls, they refused to surrender the city and bade him begone with all speed.

Palermo taken. The line of wall skirting the harbour was that which attracted the attention of the Byzantine general. It was detached from the ordinary line of circumvallation, it was left altogether bare of soldiers, and, high as it  p10 was, when he had collected his navy in the harbour he found that their masts overtopped the battlements. With his usual fertility of resource he at once hoisted the ships' boats filled with soldiers up to the yardarms of the vessels, and told his men to clamber from the boats out on to the parapet. The manoeuvre, though somewhat resembling that tried by the Venetians A.D. 1204 at the Latin siege of Constantinople, would have been too perilous to be executed in the face of an active foe. As it was, practised against an unguarded wall, it was completely successful. Soon the Byzantine soldiers, from their position of vantage on the high sea‑wall, were shooting their arrows down into the ranks of the enemy in the city. The Goths were cowed by the unexpected sight, and offered terms of capitulation which Belisarius at once accepted.

Conquest of Sicily complete. Thus was all Sicily now subject to the Emperor's rule, and soon found itself paying heavy tax and toll to the imperial exchequer.​11 The conquest of Sicily, peaceful comparatively as was its character, had occupied about seven months. 31 Dec. 535. Belisarius lays down the consul­ship. On the last day of the year the Consul Belisarius, who had commenced his year of office while his victories over the Vandals were fresh in every one's mouth, closed it by a solemn procession through the streets of Syracuse, greeted by the loud and genuine applause of his soldiers and the  p11 Sicilians, upon whom his lavish hands scattered a welcome largesse of Justinian's aurei.

Effect of the conquest on Theodahad. Meanwhile, the tidings which were coming from Sicily to Rome,​12 cleverly enlarged upon at repeated audiences by the ambassador Peter, threw the wretched Theodahad into an agony of terror. Already in imagination he saw himself walking, as Gelimer had walked, a captive before his conqueror Belisarius, and heard the well-deserved cry, 'Death to the murderer of Amalasuntha!' thundered forth by the populace of Byzantium. Negotiations for peace. In a private conference with Peter he consented to make peace with Justinian on the following humiliating conditions: (1) Sicily was to be abandoned to the Emperor; (2) Theodahad was to send to Justinian every year a golden crown weighing not less than 300 pounds [at present values worth about £12,000]; (3) he was to furnish 3000 warlike Goths whenever Justinian should require their services; (4) except with the Emperor's leave, the Gothic King was not to sentence any senator or any priest [Catholic priests, of course, were here meant] either to death or confiscation of goods;​13 (5) he was not to confer the dignity of Patrician, or any office involving senatorial rank, upon any of his subjects without the same gracious permission; (6) at the Hippodrome, the Theatre, and all places of public resort the people were always to shout 'Vivat Justinianus' before they  p12 shouted 'Vivat Theodatus'; (7) never was a statue of bronze or any other material to be raised to Theodahad alone, but wherever he stood Justinian must stand beside him on his right side.

Character of the conditions imposed on Theodahad. The conditions were degrading enough and well exemplified the Byzantine habit of making the subjection of an inferior as galling and as wounding to his self-love as possible. That undefined relation of dependence on the Empire which Odovacar and Theodoric had ignored rather than contradicted, and into which Amalasuntha had been gradually sinking, was here proclaimed as offensively as possible by the Augustus, and admitted as abjectly as possible by the Thiudans. Though the word belongs to a later century, Theodahad would have become by this compact virtually the vassal of Justinian. Still, even this relation­ship, though marking a great fall from the proud 'moral hegemony' of Theodoric, might in the course of centuries have worked not unfavourably for the happiness of Italy. Leaning on the arm of her elder sister of Byzantium, the new Romano-Gothic state might have gradually reconciled Teutonic force with classical culture. In the convulsions which shook the Eastern world in the seventh century, her loyalty might have been a stay and staff to the Eastern Caesar. Greece and Italy united, and occupying their natural place at the head of European civilisation, might have formed front against the Saracen in the East, against the Frank in the West. At the least, had such a confederacy been possible, the Hesperian land would have escaped the extortions of Byzantine blood-suckers on the one hand, the ravages of half-savage Lombards on the other.

 p13  Theodahad raises the market against himself. But it is useless to speculate on what might have been. The portentous cowardice of Theodahad rendered him unable even to wait for an interchange of embassies with Constantinople to know whether his terms were accepted or rejected. He had not yet despatched his own ambassador, when he sent for Peter, who on his leisurely journey had now reached Albano, the second station on the Appian Way, that delightful little town which, nestling under the high volcanic cone of Monte Cavo, looks down on the one side over its own peaceful little Alban Lake, and on the other over the broad Campagna to the faintly-seen towers of Rome. Peter came, when summoned, to yet another private audience with the King. The following strange dialogue then passed between them:

Dialogue between the King and the Ambassador. Theodahad. 'Do you think, Ambassador, that the Emperor will be pleased with the compact into which we have entered?'

Peter. 'I conjecture that he will.'

Theodahad. 'But if he should chance to quarrel with the terms, what will happen then?

Peter. 'Then, noble sir, the next thing will be that you will have to fight.'

Theodahad. 'Is that fair, dear Ambassador?'

Peter. 'Where is the unfairness, my good friend, in each of you feeling the bent of his own genius?'

Theodahad. 'What do you mean by that?'

Peter. 'I mean this. All your pleasure is acting the part of a philosopher; but Justinian finds his, in acting as beseems a noble Roman Emperor. For a man who practises the precepts of philosophy to devise the death of his fellow-creatures, especially on so large  p14 a scale as this war involves, is quite unbecoming; and for a Platonist, it is pre‑eminently necessary to keep his hands clean from human blood. But for the Emperor to vindicate his rights to a land which once formed part of his Empire is in no way unbecoming.'

Theodahad is willing to make a full surrender of his crown. The result of this dialogue (in which it suited both King and Ambassador to ignore the fact that the hands of the former were already stained with the blood of his benefactress) was, that Theodahad swore to the Ambassador to sell his crown to Justinian if he should be required to do so; and for some reason which is not expressly stated, but probably because of her admitted ascendancy over the mind of Theodahad, his Queen Gudelina was made a partner in the oath. Peter on his part was made to swear that he would not disclose the last and highest offer till he had fairly put the lower offer before the Emperor, and found that it was hopeless to press it. What prudent man would thus bid against himself even in the purchase of a field? With such utter fatuity did these children of the barbarians play their little bungling game against the veteran diplomatists of Constantinople.

Return of Peter to Constantinople. Peter was accompanied on the return embassy by Rusticus, a Roman, a priest (probably of the orthodox Church), and an intimate friend of Theodahad.​14 They  p15 arrived at Constantinople; they stood in the presence of the Emperor; they set forth the first offer of Theodahad. Had Peter sent a private messenger to his master, or did he now, by ever so slight and scarcely perceptible a gesture, imply that, were he in Justinian's place, he would not accept the offered vassalage? We know not, but it is certain that Justinian declared that the terms, abject as was their humbleness of surrender, did not at all please him. Theodahad's letter produced. Then Rusticus produced the Gothic King's letter, which had been reserved for this stage of the negotiations. It was a strange letter to be written by a member of the race whose forefathers swept like night over the shores of the Aegean, by a grandson and great-nephew of the brave Amal kings who stood unflinching by the side of Attila 'in that world-earthquake' on the Catalaunian plains.

Theodahad to Justinian.

'I am not, O Emperor, a new comer into the halls of kings. It was my force to be born a king's nephew and to be reared in a manner worthy of my race: but I am not altogether well versed in war and its confusions. From the first I have been passionately fond of literature and have spent my time in the study thereof, and thus it has been till now my lot to  p16 be always far from the clash of arms. It seems therefore unwise of me to continue to lead a life full of danger for the sake of the royal dignity, when neither danger nor dignity is a thing that I enjoy. Not danger, since that new and strange sensation perturbs my thoughts; not the royal dignity, since possession of it has, according to the general law, brought satiety.

'Therefore, if some landed property could be secured to me, bringing in a yearly income of not less than twelve cwt. of gold [£48,000], I should consider that more valuable to me than my kingship: and I am willing on those terms to hand over to thee the sovereignty of the Goths and Italians. I think that I shall thus be happier as a peaceful tiller of the soil than as a king immersed in kingly cares, no sooner out of one danger than into another. Send me then as speedily as possible a commissioner to whom I may hand over Italy and all that pertains to my kingship.'

The letter gave supreme delight to the Emperor, and obtained the following reply.

Justinian to Theodahad.

Justinian's reply. 'I heard long ago by common fame that you were a man of high intelligence, and now I find by experience that this is true. You show your wisdom in declining to await the arbitrament of war, which has plunged some men who staked their all upon it into terrible disasters. You will never have occasion to repent having turned us from an enemy into a friend. You shall receive all the property that you ask for, and, in addition, your name shall be inscribed in the highest rank of Roman nobility. I now send Athanasius and Peter to exchange the needful ratifications,  p17 and in a very short time Belisarius will come to complete the transaction thus settled between us.'

Ambassadors sent to complete the transaction. Athanasius was the brother of Alexander who was sent the year before as ambassador to Athalaric. The duties entrusted to him and to Peter were mainly to settle the boundaries of the new Patrimonium which was to be assigned to Theodahad, to put the compact in writing, and to secure it by oaths given and taken. Belisarius summoned from Sicily to Italy. Belisarius was sent for in all speed from Sicily to receive charge of the fortresses, arsenals, and all the machinery of government from the royal trafficker. These arrangements were probably made towards the end of the year 535.

The war in Dalmatia. When the ambassadors arrived at the Gothic Court they found the mood of Theodahad strangely altered. To understand the reason of the change we must look again at the affairs of Dalmatia. We left Mundus the Gepid there, holding the retaken capital, Salona, for Justinian. A large Gothic army under the command of Asinarius and Grippas entered the province, apparently about the middle of autumn, and approached Salona. Maurice the son of Mundus, on a reconnoitring expedition, approached too near the main body of the Gothic army and was slain. Maddened with grief, the old barbarian, his father, fell upon the Gothic host. Though he attacked in too loose order he was at first successful, and broke the ranks of the foe, Death of Mundus. but pressing on too hotly in pursuit, he was pierced by the spear of one of the fugitives and fell dead. His fall stopped the onward movement of his troops. Both armies dispersed, and neither dared to appropriate the prize of war, the city of Salona; the Romans having got altogether out of hand since the  p18 death of their general, and the Goths misdoubting both the strength of the walls and the loyalty of the citizens.

Sibylline prophecy. It was some slight consolation to the Romans that these reverses robbed of its terrors an old Sibylline prophecy which had been much of late in the mouths of men. This prophecy, couched in mysterious characters, which are a marvel upon the page of Procopius,​15 had been thus interpreted: —

'First Rome reconquers Afric. Then the World

Is with its progeny to ruin hurled.'

Belisarius' capture of Carthage had seemed to bring the end of the world alarmingly near. But now the battle of Salona reassured men's minds. It was not the world and all its inhabitants but only Mundus and his too daring son, with whose fate the oracle was full.

Salona reoccupied by the imperial troops, 536. The fortune of the Roman arms in Dalmatia was soon retrieved. Constantian, who held the office of Comes Stabuli16 in the imperial household, was sent with a well-equipped army to recover Salona, which had been entered by the Goths. Having apparently the entire command of the sea, he sailed northwards from Epidamnus (Durazzo), and was soon to be seen in the offing from the coast of Epidaurus (a little  p19 south of the modern Cattaro). The panic-stricken Gothic general Grippas, who was informed by his scouts that 'myriads of Romans were approaching by sea,' evacuated Salona and pitched his camp a little to the west of that city. Constantian sailed some hundred miles or so up the gulf and anchored at the island of Lissa, memorable to this generation for the naval battle fought there between the Italians and Austrians in 1866. Finding from his scouts that Salona was deserted he landed his troops, occupied it in force, repaired its ruinous walls, and posted 500 men to occupy the narrow pass by which it was approached from the west. After seven days of waiting, the two Gothic generals, with that feebleness and absence of resource which mark the barbarian strategy in the earlier stages of this war, simply marched back again to Ravenna.

Dalmatia sundered from the Italian state. Dalmatia and Liburnia (or the province of Illyricum),​17 which had for the most part followed the fortunes of Italy for a century and a half since the death of Theodosius, were thus permanently recovered by the State, which we must in this connection call the Eastern Empire, although it was, to a loyal Roman, simply the Empire, one and undivided. From this time forward the eastern coast of the Hadriatic, though subject to Avar invasions, Sclavonic migrations, Bosnian kingships, maintained a more or less intimate political connection with Constantinople, till the conquests of the Venetians in the tenth century brought it back once more into the world of Italian domination.

But these were the far‑reaching results of the expedition of Mundus. Effect of the Gothic successes in Dalmatia on Theodahad. We have to do with the more  p20 immediate effects of the early disasters of the imperial forces on that feeble and futile thing, the mind of King Theodahad. That royal student, if versed in the 'Republic' of Plato, had not laid equally to heart the more popular philosophy of Horace. At least he conspicuously disobeyed the precepts of that familiar ode in which 'the mortal Dellius' is exhorted to preserve a temper 'serene in arduous and reasonable in prosperous' circumstances. As pusillanimous as he had shown himself at the news of the successes of Belisarius, so intolerably arrogant did he become when the tidings reached him of the death of Mundus and his son. When the ambassadors who arrived about the same time as the news (probably somewhere about December 535) ventured to claim the fulfilment of a solemn promise to surrender the kingdom, he flatly refused. Peter spoke somewhat plainly as to the royal faithlessness. His dispute with the imperial ambassadors. Theodahad petulantly answered, 'The privilege of ambassadors is a holy thing, but it is conceded on the supposition that it be not abused. It is admitted that the person of an ambassador who seduces the wife of a citizen of the country to which he is accredited is not sacrosanct; and I shall not scruple to apply the same principle to an ambassador who insults the King.' Peter and Athanasius made a spirited reply: 'O ruler of the Goths, you are seeking by flimsy pretexts to cover unholy deeds. An ambassador may be watched as strictly as his entertainer pleases, and therefore the talk about injury to female honour is altogether beside the mark. But as for what the ambassador says, be it good or bad, the praise or blame for it rests solely on him who sent him. The ambassador is a mere mouthpiece, and to  p21 him attaches no responsibility for his words. We shall therefore say all that we heard from the lips of the Emperor: and do you listen patiently, for if you become excited you will perhaps commit some outrage on our sacred character. We declare then that the time is come for you loyally to fulfil your compact with the Emperor. Here is the letter which he wrote to you. The notes which he has addressed to the chief men among the Goths we shall hand to no one but themselves only.'

Letters to the Gothic nobles. However, the Gothic nobles who were present authorised the ambassadors to hand over their letters to Theodahad. These despatches congratulated the Goths on the near prospect of their absorption in the great polity of Rome, a state with whose laws and customs they had long ago become acquainted [in their capacity of Foederati]; and Justinian promised that they should find their dignity and credit increased, not diminished, by the change.

The nobles support Theodahad in his resistance. This was not, however, the view which the Gothic nobles took of the situation. Whatever their secret contempt for the weakly truculent character of their King, they were ready to second him heartily in his present mood of defiance to the Empire. Both sides therefore prepared for that which was now to be really 'a truceless war.'​18 In these preparations the winter of 535‑536 wore away, and the second year of the great Gothic War commenced.

The Author's Notes:

1 A new and critical edition of the De Bello Gotthico of Procopius (greatly superior to the slovenly Bonn edition) with an Italian translation, is being published at Rome by the Istituto Storico Italiano, edited by Domenico Comparetti. Unfortunately for me only the first book has yet appeared (1895).

2 Justinian's reign commenced April 1, 526. The words of Procopius do not necessarily imply that the war began on the ninth anniversary of the accession, and Peter's report of his mission could hardly reach Constantinople till June, 535.

3 Vol. I p678.

4 Clinton thinks that this Mundus is the same as the Mundo, grandson of Attila, whom, in the war of Sirmium, Theodoric's troops delivered from the Byzantine general Sabinianus (vol. III p396). This is possible, but does not to me seem probable.

5 Procopius, De Bell. Goth. I.16; II.81.º

6 The career of Bessas suggests some points of comparison with that of Marshal Bazaine.

7 II.128‑9.

8 Sinderith was the name of the Gothic governor of Syracuse (Jord. De Reb. GeticisLX).

9 Procopius, II.342 (De Bell. Gotth. III.16).º

10 Πάν‑ορμος.

11 By the LXXVth Novel (LXXIXth in Zachariä's edition) issued in the year 537, Justinian 'secundum instar antiquitatis' placed Sicily under a Praetor who was to decide private lawsuits and provide for the expenses of the army. Appeals were to go straight to Constantinople 'quia semper Sicilia quasi peculiare aliquid commodum imperatoribus accessit' (See Bury, II.37).

12 It seems probable that Theodahad through the greater part of 535 was at Rome, not at Ravenna.

13 This stipulation seems to me to confirm the suggestion made in a previous chapter (vol. III p483) as to the meaning of the charge against Boethius that he was 'guilty of desiring the safety of the Senate.'

14 Baronius, and most of the ecclesiastical historians following him, suppose that this is the embassy on which Pope Agapetus was sent to Constantinople, and that either Rusticus is another name for Agapetus or else that Procopius has blundered. Neither supposition seems to me probable or necessary. The mission of Agapetus to Constantinople took place (according to the conjecturally altered text of Anastasius;º see Clinton, F. R. I.763) on the 20th of February, 536: at least that was the day on which he entered Constantinople. Procopius does not give us precise dates for the return embassy of Peter and Rusticus, but according to the natural sequence of the narrative October or November of the previous year would be a probable time for it. It is most unlikely that a literary official like Procopius would make a mistake as to the person of Theodahad's ambassador at such a crisis. The mission of the Pope was probably a separate event.

15 In the hope of attracting philologists to make another attempt at the decipherment of these characters (which have no doubt suffered much from transcription), I here reprint them: —


[In Comparetti's edition this inscription as written in the Vatican Codex, partly in Greek and partly in Roman letters, is almost legible: —

Africa αεριϲα capta ϲαπτα . . . (n) mudus   cum natu peribit (?) or peribunt (?) ρεριϲταλ

16 The Comes Stabuli is not mentioned in the Notitia, but is in the Theodosian Code (Lib. XI Tit. 17 l. 3). The Connétable of mediaeval France derives his name from this officer.

17 See vol. I p678.

18 Apparently however Theodahad, perhaps on hearing of Constantian's successes in Dalmatia, made one more effort at peace by sending Pope Agapetus to Constantinople: but the story of that mission will be best told a little later on, when we resume the thread of the Papal history.

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