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Book V
Chapter 13

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 15

Book V (continued)

Vol. IV
Chapter XIV

Affairs at Constantinople


Sources: —

Procopius, De Bello Gotthico, III.1; De Bello Persico, I.24‑25; Anecdota (Hist. Arcana), 1‑3.

Joannes Lydus, De Magistratibus, III.57‑69.

540 Fall of Antioch. The year 540 was a memorable one for the monarchy of Justinian, both by its disasters and its triumphs. In June of that year, not many weeks after the fall of Ravenna, the troops of Chosroës entered Antioch. Heavily had the citizens of that fair and luxurious city, for near three centuries the inviolate capital of Syria, the place where 'the disciples were first called Christians,' to pay for the taunts and gibes which, confiding in the strength of their walls, they had levelled at the haughty King of the fire-worshippers. Men, women, and children were mixed in one promiscuous carnage; long and stately streets were turned into smoking ruins; the sad remnant of the population which had laughed at Julian and rebelled against Theodosius was carried away into captivity beyond the Euphrates, beyond the Tigris, and there in the new city of Chosroantiocheia pined in vain for the groves of Daphne and the streams of Orontes, themselves the living monuments of their tyrant's triumph.

 p354  Arrival of Belisarius at Constantinople. But, also in the same year, and very shortly after these terrible tidings reached Constantinople, the ships bearing Belisarius with his captives and the Gothic hoard cast anchor in the Golden Horn. There was no regular triumph, as there had been when the Vandal King was led through the streets of the City. The jealous timidity of the Emperor was aroused, and he feared to grant the soldiers and the populace so tempting an opportunity for shouting 'Belisarius Imperator tu Vincas,' and pla­cing the brilliant General on the throne of the studious and secluded monarch.

The Gothic captives in Constantinople. But though the formal pageant was withheld, none the less must the day when the successor of Theodoric prostrated himself in the purple presence-chamber of the caes have been felt as a real triumph for Belisarius. Then might the Byzantines see Witigis and his wife, the grand-daughter of the great Amal, followed by a long train of Gothic warriors whose stately frames and noble countenances filled even the exacting Justinian with admiration. With them came the children of the gallant Ildibad, unwilling hostages on behalf of the newly-crowned King. The vessels of gold and silver, and all the ponderous magnificence of the great Gothic hoard, were exhibited to the wondering Senators, though not to the multitudes outside the palace. Then Witigis having made his prostration was raised by the Emperor and received the title of Patrician. Death of Witigis. After he had spent two years at the capital, honoured by the friendship of the Emperor,1  p355 the old Gothic King died. A man apparently who in his younger and hungrier days had done the State some service; but when his countrymen gave him a palace and a crown and a royal bride as rewards for the deliverance which they expected at his hands, he replied, by his acts or rather by his utter absence of acts, in the words of Horace's wealthy soldier,

'Let him fight battles who has lost his all.'​2

Second marriage of Matasuentha. His young wife, Matasuentha, soon after his death married Germanus, at that time the favourite nephew of Justinian. What mattered to her the ruin of her people and the downfall of the edifice erected by the wise patience of her illustrious grandfather? She had seen Constantinople, that Paradise of all degenerate Teutons, she had been able to copy the dresses of the crowned circus-dancer Theodora, she was even admitted into the family of the Dardanian peasants who swayed the destinies of the Empire.

Reception of Belisarius by the people. As for Belisarius himself, the man who had brought two kings to the footstool of Justinian; who had subdued the two races of most terrible renown in the wars of the preceding century, the Goths and the Vandals; who had again, as it seemed, united to the Empire its severed Western portion, — his name and fame were in the mouths of all men. Though the well-earned triumph had been denied him, every day that he showed himself in the streets of Constantinople was in fact a triumph. It was a pleasure of  p356 which the Byzantines never tired, to see him ride through the city from his palace to the Agora. Before him went troops of tall Vandals and Goths, of swarthy Moors the wiry sons of the desert. All had at one time or another felt his conquering sword, yet all delighted to sound his praises. His body-guard. Behind him rode some of his own domestic body-guard, itself a little army of 7000 men when all were mustered; each horse a stately charger, each man nobly born and of noble aspect, and one who had done great deeds fighting in the foremost ranks with the enemy. In the course of this history we have heard continually of the exploits performed by this 'spear‑man'​3 or that 'shield-bearer'​4 of Belisarius. No wonder that the astonished Senators of Rome had said, 'One household alone has destroyed the kingdom of Theodoric,' when they marked the great part played by the body-guard of the General, in the world-famous defence of Rome.5

Appearance and character of Belisarius. The central figure of this brilliant cavalcade, Belisarius himself, was of mighty stature, with well-proportioned limbs and a countenance of manly beauty. Though, as we have seen, he had not the power of attaching to himself the loyal devotion of his officers of highest rank, his affability with the multitude, his tender care over the common soldier, even his desire to mitigate the horrors of war for the peasants of the invaded lands, were the theme of universal praise. He visited his wounded soldiers, doing all that money could do to assuage their sufferings. The successful  p357 champions received from his own hand armlets of costly metal, or chains of gold or silver. If a brave but needy warrior had lost his horse or his bow in the combat, it was from the private stores of the General that the loss was supplied. No soldier, where Belisarius commanded, was permitted to straggle from the high road and tread down the growing crops of grass or of corn.º Even the fruit hanging ripe from the trees was safe from depredation when he marched past with his men. All provisions were paid for on a liberal scale, and thus, like our own Wellington on his march from the Pyrenees to Paris, he made even the greed of the peasant the most effectual helper of his commissariat.

His military qualities. His military character, as it had thus far revealed itself, has been sufficiently indicated by his deeds. Nothing seemed to daunt or perplex him; and whatever move his antagonist might make, he was always ready with the reply. He was bold to the very edge of rashness, when only by audacity could the game be won; but when time was on his side, he could delay like Fabius himself. Strong, and even terrible, when sternness was required, yet with a disposition naturally sympathetic, temperate at the banquet, for 'no man ever saw Belisarius intoxicated,' chaste in morals and faithful to his wedded wife through all the licence of a camp, he anticipates, in some features of his character, the ideals of knight errantry and Christian soldier­ship, the Sir Galahad and the Bayard of chivalry, the Gustavus and the Havelock of the modern age.

The worm at the root. Such was Belisarius in the midsummer of his greatness and renown, at the thirty-sixth year of his age, a  p358 year younger than Napoleon at Austerlitz, four years older than Hannibal at Cannae.​6 Unfortunately, the happiness of his lot was only in outward seeming. Even while he strode through the Agora of Constantinople, followed by the yellow-haired giants from Carthage or Ravenna, his heart was brooding sadly over the thought that the wife whom he loved with such passionate devotion no longer cared for him, and that all her affection seemed to be reserved for a shaven monk at Ephesus.

Infidelities of Antonina. The whole story of the infidelities of Antonina, told with a cruel zest in the Anecdota of Procopius, need not be repeated here. The backstairs-gossip of  p359 a palace does not become worthy material for history, because it happens to relate to the wrongs of a warrior and a statesman. Intrigues with Theodosius. It is enough to say that the wife of Belisarius, though she had already reached or passed middle life,​7 unmindful of her conjugal duty was passionately in love with her handsome chamberlain Theodosius, the godson and adopted child of herself and her husband. At Carthage and at Syracuse Belisarius saw and heard enough to rouse his suspicions: but he put the terrible thought away from him, and even consented, as we have seen, to put to death (ostensibly for another offence) the officer, Constantine, who had expressed an opinion unfavourable to the honour of Antonina. So the years had gone by, Theodosius holding a place of honour and trust in the General's palace, passionately loved by its mistress, and Belisarius the only person therein who was ignorant of the dishonour. When the whole party returned to the capital, Theodosius felt that the risk which he was running was too terrible, and retired to Ephesus, where he entered a convent. Antonina made no attempt to conceal her wild grief at his departure, and actually persuaded Belisarius to join her in entreating the Emperor to command his return.

Departure of Belisarius for the East. At length, in the spring of 541, all his preparations being completed, Belisarius started for the East to try conclusions with Chosroës. Photius convinces him of Antonina's guilt. On the eve of his departure, Photius, son of Antonina, driven to despair by the machinations of his unnatural mother against  p360 his life laid before the General convincing proof of her past unfaithfulness. He proved to him also that Theodosius, who had refused to leave his convent in obedience to the Emperor's orders, was in reality only waiting for the moment of Belisarius's departure to return to Constantinople and resume the interrupted intrigue. Now at length the emotion of jealousy, so long kept at bay, took full possession of the General's soul. He made Photius his confederate, and devised with him a scheme for separating the guilty lovers and imprisoning Theodosius. Then he started for the field; but with a mind distracted by these bitter thoughts, and hampered by the necessity of keeping open his communications with his stepson, he failed to achieve any brilliant success over Chosroës. Antonina imprisoned and Theodosius banished. The plan, however, devised between him and Photius was at first successfully executed. Antonina was kept in harsh durance, and her lover was carried off to a fortress in Cilicia, the very name of which was known only to Photius. Interference of Theodora. So far the avengers of the injured honour of the husband had succeeded; but now Theodora appeared upon the scene, her aid being invoked by the guilty but furious wife; and whenever Theodora condescended to intervene, all laws human and divine must give way before her. To understand the Empress's motives for interfering, obviously on the wrong side, in this wretched matrimonial dispute, we must turn to the political history of the times and take note of another event which signalised this year 541, the fall of John of Cappadocia.

532 Justinian's unpopular ministers. It will be remembered that in the terrible insurrection of the ΝΙΚΑ, the fury of the populace had been especially directed against two ministers of the  p361 Emperor, Tribonian the quaestor, and John of Cappadocia the Praetorian Prefect. Both had bowed before the storm, but both, soon after the suppression of the revolt, had been restored to their old offices. Tribonian. Tribonian had probably learned the lesson that the ministers of a king must at least seem to do justice. At any rate, his courteous demeanour, his honeyed words, and the vast learning of which he was undoubtedly master, caused the people to acquiesce patiently in his subsequent tenure of office, 545 and he died, a few years after the time which we have now reached, at peace with all men.

John of Cappadocia. Far different was the career of his early partner in unpopularity, the coarse-fibred, ignorant, but singularly able John of Cappadocia. 533‑541 For eight years this remorseless tyrant was the ruling spirit in the internal administration of the Empire. When it came to a question of foreign policy, such as the Vandal expedition, which he would fain have dissuaded Justinian from undertaking, he might be, and was outvoted: but when a new tax had to be levied, or a provincial governor too chary of the fortunes of his subjects to be reprimanded, the voice of John was supreme. He had essentially the slave-driver's nature, the harsh bullying voice, the strong clear brain, the relentless heart, which enable a man in authority to get the maximum of work out of those below him, if they have no choice but to obey. Such a man with the powers of a Grand Vizier was invaluable to Justinian, whose expensive and showy policy required that a great number of harsh and even cruel deeds should be done, though personally his not unkind disposition and his studious nature would have shrunk from the doing of them.

 p362  His cruelty. Of any such scruples the hard heart of the Cappadocian felt not a trace. As pitiless as he was quick-witted, a man who lived for the gratification of his lusts, and who believed in nothing else, except in a sorcerer's spells, John was both cruel himself and the cause of cruelty in others. He erected the stocks and the rack in a secret chamber of the Prefect's palace, and there tortured those whom he suspected of concealing their wealth from him, till they had given up the uttermost farthing. One old man, Antiochus by name, was found when he was loosed from the ropes​8 to have died under the severity of the torture. What the Prefect was doing himself in the capital, his minions, emulous of his cruelty, were doing in all the provinces of the East. Joannes Maxilloplumacius. One in particular, also named John, and surnamed Baggy-cheek​9 from the fat and flabby cheeks which made his face hideous, laid waste the province of Lydia and the city of Philadelphia with his cruel exactions. Story of Petronius. A certain Petronius possessed a valuable jewel which had been handed down to him by his ancestors. Of this jewel the Governor was determined to obtain possession; whether for the Emperor's treasury or his own, who shall say? The owner was put in irons; was beaten with rods by stalwart barbarians; still he refused to part with the inheritance of his fathers. He was shut up in a mule-stable and compelled to spend his days and nights in that filthy dwelling. All his fellow-citizens bewailed, but none were able to  p363 help him. The Bishop of Philadelphia, timidly venturing on some words of remonstrance, backed by an appeal to the sacred writings, was assailed by such a torrent of abuse, for himself, for his office, for the holy books, as might only have been rivalled in the lowest stews of Constantinople. The Bishop wept, but Petronius, seeing that he had fallen into the hands of a monster who feared neither God nor man, sent to his house for the jewel, handed it to the tax‑collector, and was permitted to depart, after he had given several pieces of gold to his tormentors as a fee​10 for their labours in chastising him.

Story of Proclus. Sadder yet was the history of Proclus, a retired veteran, whom the tyrant assailed with a demand for twenty aurei (£12), which the unfortunate soldier did not possess. The exactors thought that he merely feigned poverty, and blunted all their instruments of torture on his miserable frame.​11 Wearied out at length he said, 'Very well, then, come home with me and I will give you the twenty aurei.' On the road he asked leave to tarry for a few minutes at a wayside inn. His oppressors waited outside, but as he was long in returning, they broke into the chamber and found the poor wretch hanging by a cord from a hook. Indignant at being thus outwitted by a man who had dared to die instead of satisfying the tax‑gatherer, they cast his body into the Agora to be trodden under foot of men, and appropriated to the Imperial treasury the slender fortune which might  p364 otherwise have sufficed, and not more than sufficed, for the costs of his burial.

The collector of the public revenue is always and everywhere spoken against, and we generally read the stories of his wrongdoing with some abatement for probable exaggeration. But in this case the most grievous tales of oppression come to us, not from the oppressed provincials, but from a leading member of the Civil Service, from the Somerset House (so to speak) of Constantinople; and the remarkable but unconcerted agreement between Joannes Lydus and Procopius gives great additional value to the testimony of each.

Domestic life of the Cappadocian. The daily life of the master-extortioner John of Cappadocia is painted by these writers in vivid colours, too vivid indeed and too horrible to be reproduced here. The official palace in which he abode had been built by one of his most virtuous predecessors, Constantine, some seventy years previously, in the reign of Leo, and was then a modest well-proportioned building, such as suited the chief minister of a well-ordered state. It was adorned — and here we get an interesting glimpse of the arts of the Fifth Century — by a picture in mosaic representing the installation of its founder. A later Prefect, Sergius, had added a large upper story, which somewhat spoilt the proportions of the building and in these upper rooms John of Cappadocia spent his nights and days, wallowing in all kinds of brutal and sensual indulgences.​12 His gluttony. Sea and land were ransacked  p365 to supply the materials for his gluttony, and while he reclined at the banquet, with his head covered with a veil to look like a king upon the stage, and while troops of the most degraded of mankind of both sexes shared his orgies, the grave and reverend members of his staff, men who had enrolled themselves in the officium of the Prefect, believing that they were entering a learned and honourable profession, were compelled to wait upon him at table, like the basest of menials, doing his bidding and that of the shameless crew by which he was surrounded. If any one dared to thwart the will of the tyrant in this or any other matter, he was handed over to the rough chastisement of John's barbarian men-at‑arms, 'men with wolfish souls and wolfish names.'13

His cowardice. So passed the Cappadocian's evening, in flagitious and obscene orgies prolonged far into the night.​14 When his troop of parasites had left him and he had to seek his bed‑chamber, then the timidity of the bully showed itself. He knew that he had many enemies (one especially, mightiest and most unscrupulous of them all), and in spite of his thousands of body-guards he could never shake off the haunting fear that he should wake up to see some barbarian's eyes gleaming at him from under shaggy eye‑brows and the knife raised to strike him to the  p366 heart. He started up at intervals to peep out from under the eaves of his dwelling, looking this way and that way at every avenue leading to the palace. Thus with fitful and broken slumbers the night wore away.​15 But when morning came, the fears, the half-formed resolutions of amendment made in the night, had all vanished. His popularity-hunting. He perhaps bethought him that it was well to cultivate his popularity with the mob; for this man, whose hand was so heavy on wealthy senators and Christian bishops, had a certain following among the lowest of the populace, particularly among the Green faction and the brawny Cappadocian porters, his countrymen. Accordingly, dressed in a robe of vivid green, which made more conspicuous the paleness of his sodden face, he would rush through the Agora courting the salutations and the applause of the multitude. Then back to the palace to spend the morning in schemes for amassing money by extortion, the evening in devices for squandering it on bodily delights: and so day was added to day in the life of the Praetorian Prefect of the East.

His ambitious schemes. The man, though enslaved to bestial pleasures, had yet some stirrings of ambition, and probably some intellectual qualities which made him fit to rule and he had a fixed persuasion that he would one day be chosen Emperor. It was a natural thing for a Praetorian Prefect, already so near the summit of the State, —

'Lifted up so high,

To scorn subjection, and think one step higher

Would set him highest.'

 p367  Power and dignity of the Praetorian Prefect. He wore already a cloak​16 dyed in the purple of Cos, but differing from the Emperor's in that it reached only to the knees, while the Emperor's swept the ground; and the gold lace with which the Prefect's was trimmed was of a different and less conspicuous shape.​17 When the Praetorian Prefect entered the room in the palace where the Senate was assembled, the chief officers of the army rose from their seats and fell prostrate before him. The etiquette was for him to raise them and assure them by a kiss, of his good-will to the military power. A minister thus highly distinguished might, as has been said, think the last step an easy one, and yet practically we do not find in the history of the Empire that it was often made.​18 Officers of the guard and ministers of the household were hailed Imperator more often than Prefects of the Praetorium.

John's faith in diviners. In the case of John of Cappadocia the coming elevation was not a matter of political calculation but of superstitious belief. Though he feared not God nor regarded man, he had great faith in the power of sorcerers and soothsayers; and the prediction with which these men flattered him, 'Thou shalt be wrapped in the mantle of Augustus,' sank deep into his heart. Often might he be seen kneeling the whole night through on the pavement of a Christian church, dressed in the short cloak of a priest of  p368 Jupiter, and not engaged, so men said, in Christian devotions, but muttering some Pagan prayer or spell, which, as he hoped, would save his life from the assassin's dagger, and make the mind of the Emperor yet more pliable in his hands than it was already.

Theodora's dislike to him. But it was the Emperor only, not his more quick-witted wife, whose mind submitted to the ascendancy of the Cappadocian. Utterly insensible as Theodora was to the distinction between right and wrong, her artistic Greek nature felt keenly the difference between the beautiful and the uncomely; and the coarse, clumsy profligacy of the Prefect filled her with disgust. He courted the favour of the Green faction to whom she had vowed a life-long enmity. She read doubtless his designs on the Imperial succession, and knew that, if they prospered, the days of Justinian's widow would be numbered. Thus it came to pass that, early in the career of John of Cappadocia, Theodora was his declared foe. At the time of the sedition of the ΝΙΚΑ she had counselled his disgrace, and we may fairly conclude that his second tenure of office, though it lasted eight years, was one long struggle for power between the Emperor's minister and his consort. There is one notable instance, that of Richelieu, in which such a struggle has terminated in the minister's favour; but generally speaking, however indispensable the counsellor may seem, the final victory rests with the wife.

John's jealousy of Belisarius. When Belisarius returned from the Gothic war, his popularity and his renown were wormwood to the jealous Prefect, who laid many an unsuccessful snare for his rival. Belisarius started for his Eastern campaign; but his wife, a far more dangerous foe,  p369 remained behind. Antonina plots his ruin. Antonina, who had set her heart on obtaining the favour of Theodora, and knew that John's destruction would be the surest means to that end, devised a scheme for his ruin, so dishonourable that even the brutal Prefect wins a moment's sympathy when we see him thus ensnared. The one amiable feature in his character was his fondness for his only child Euphemia, a young and modest girl, who must assuredly have been brought up out of sight and hearing of her father's orgies. With this child Antonina cultivated an apparent friendship, and, after many visits had established seeming intimacy, she one day burst out into angry complaints of the way in which the Empire was now governed. Conversation with John's daughter Euphemia. 'See what an ungrateful master Justinian has been to Belisarius. After extending the bounds of the Roman Empire further than it had ever reached before, and bringing two kings with all their treasures captive to Constantinople, what thanks has my husband received?' Other words were added to the same effect. Euphemia, who young as she was, shared her father's enmity to Theodora, delighted at this prelude, replied, 'Dear lady, the fault is surely yours and your husband's. You could make an end of all this, but will not, and seem to be satisfied with things as they are.' 'We are powerless,' said Antonina, 'by ourselves. Our strength lies only in the camp, and unless some one in the cabinet seconds our efforts, we can do nothing; but if your father would help us, by God's blessing we might perhaps accomplish something worth telling of.'

An interview arranged between John and Antonina. All this conversation was duly reported to John of Cappadocia, who, thinking that now at last the  p370 words of the soothsayers were coming true and that by the arms of Belisarius he was to be seated on the throne of the Caesars, fell headlong into the trap prepared for him and pressed for an immediate interview with Antonina, at which they might arrange their plans and exchange oaths of secrecy and fidelity. Apparently in order to gain time to communicate with Theodora, Antonina replied that an interview in the capital would be inexpedient and dangerous, but that on her approaching departure to join her husband at the camp, John could safely pay her a valedictory visit at the suburb which marked the first stage of her journey. The deceived Prefect willingly accepted the invitation. And yet the very scene of their meeting might have suggested thoughts of prudence. It was a country house of Belisarius, but it was named Rufinianum, having no doubt once belonged to 395 the aspiring Prefect of Arcadius, who mounted the platform to be saluted as Emperor, and descended from it a mutilated and dishonoured corpse.19

The interview. All these arrangements were duly communicated to Theodora, and by her to the Emperor.​20 Narses the Eunuch and Marcellus Captain of the Household Troops​21 were sent with a considerable number of troops to listen, and if they heard treasonable words to arrest the traitor. Antonina arrived at the country house where she was to pass the night,  p371 and whence she was to start on the morrow. John of Cappadocia came there too, having, so it was said, received and disregarded a message from Justinian — 'Have no secret interview with Antonina.' At midnight they met, the deceived and the deceiver, apparently in the garden of the palace. Behind a low fence crouched Narses and Marcellus with some of their followers. The Cappadocian began open-mouthed about the plot, binding himself and seeking to bind Antonina by the most terrible oaths to secrecy. John's attempted arrest. When they had heard enough, the spies arose and came towards John to arrest him. He uttered a cry: his own guards rushed to the spot, and a struggle followed in which Marcellus was wounded, but not mortally, by a soldier ignorant of his rank. His escape and capture. In the scuffle John escaped. Men thought that even then, if he had gone straight to Justinian and appealed to the Imperial clemency, he might still have retained his office; but by fleeing to a church for refuge he left the field free to Theodora, who made his ruin sure. Having been seized in the church, he was degraded from his dignity of Prefect and taken to the city of Cyzicus, on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmora, where he was forced to assume the priestly office, changing his name from John to Peter. He is wrapped in the mantle of Augustus. It was noted by those who were present at the sacred ceremony, that a priestly robe not having been specially prepared for the unwilling candidate, the garment of a clerical bystander was borrowed for the purpose, that the name of his bystander chanced to be Augustus, and that thus the promises of the sorcerers to the Prefect were literally fulfilled, since he had been 'wrapped in the mantle of Augustus.'

 p372  Further fortunes of John of Cappadocia. By the favour of the Emperor, who had not yet lost his kindly feeling towards him, the new‑made priest was allowed to retain a sufficient portion of his vast and ill‑gotten wealth to excite the sore envy of his fellow-citizens. The murder of a highly unpopular bishop of Cyzicus, of which crime John was unjustly accused, afforded a pretext to the Commissioners of the Senate to inflict upon him a terrible punishment. The former Consul, Patrician, and Prefect was stripped naked, like the meanest criminal, grievously scourged, and compelled to recite in a loud voice all the misdeeds of his past life. Then, with no possessions but one rough mantle, bought for a few pence, he was shipped on board a vessel bound for the coast of Africa. At what port soever the ship touched he was constrained to go on shore and beg for a crust of bread or a few obols from the passers‑by. Such was the fall of the man whose wealth had been counted by millions, and who had once been practically lord of Asia. Still, even in his abject misery, he cherished his old dreams of coming empire, and in fact, after seven years of exile,​22 he was, upon the death of Theodora, recalled by her husband to the capital. He regained, however, none of his former honours, but spent the rest of his life in obscurity, and died a simple presbyter.

Antonina in favour with Theodora. The help which Antonina had given to the Empress in his deadly duel with the Prefect made the former one of the most important personages in the State. Theodora was not ungrateful, and her influence, now all‑powerful, was thrown enthusiastically into the scale on behalf of her new ally. Hence, to go back to the  p373 dreary domestic history of Belisarius, it is easy to understand why the General was prevented from inflicting punishment on his faithless wife. Antonina's petition for help reached the ears of Theodora. She was herself delivered from her prison, Photius tortured and imprisoned. Photius was tortured (but in vain) to make him reveal the place where Theodosius was confined, and was then thrown into a dark dungeon. He made two attempts to flee, after each of which Theodora caused him to be dragged away from the Holy Table itself, under which he had taken refuge. At length, however, he escaped to Jerusalem, where, taking the habit of a monk, he, by a life of obscurity and hardship, succeeded in evading the further persecutions of his unnatural mother and her Imperial ally.

Theodosius brought back to Antonina. The Empress at length succeeded in discovering the retreat of Theodosius, and, as if she were performing the most meritorious of actions, restored him to the arms of Antonina. Belisarius humbled. Belisarius, cowed and spirit-broken by the malice of two wicked women, was forced humbly to beg forgiveness from the wife who had so deeply wronged him. Tortures, banishment, loss of property, were the punishments showered upon the unhappy dependents of Belisarius and Photius, who had sided with their masters against the adulteress. The guilty intimacy of Antonina and her lover was soon dissolved by the death of Theodosius, who fell a victim to an attack of dysentery; but from this time onwards the General was made to feel that he was an outcast from the Imperial favour, and that only as Antonina's husband was he to expect even toleration at the hands of Theodora. Such was the reward which services, perhaps the most brilliant and the most faithful which  p374 ever were rendered by a subject to his sovereign, received at the Court of Byzantium.

Virtual abolition of the Consulship. The year 541, which saw the fall of John of Cappadocia, was also memorable in the history of the Roman State, as witnessing the death of that venerable institution, which had survived the storms of ten centuries and a half, the Roman Consulship. For some years the nominations to this high office had been scanty and intermittent. There were no consuls in 531 and 532. The Emperor held the office alone in 533, and with a colleague in 534. Belisarius was sole consul in 535. The two following years, having no consuls of their own, were styled the First and the Second after the Consulship of Belisarius. John of Cappadocia gave his name to the year 538, and the years 539 and 540 had again consuls, though one only for each year. In 541 Albinus Basilius​23 sat in the curule chair, and he was practically the last of the long list of warriors, orators, demagogues, courtiers, which began (in the year 509 B.C.) with the names of Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. All the rest of the years of Justinian, twenty-four in number, were reckoned as 'Post Consulatum Basilii.' Afterwards, each succeeding Emperor assumed the style of consul in the first year of his reign, but the office, thus wholly absorbed in the sun of Imperial splendour, ceased to have even that faint reflection of its former glory, which we have traced in the fifth and sixth  p375 centuries. The pretext for abolishing a dignity so closely connected with the remembrance of the heroic days of the Roman State was, that the nobles upon whom it was conferred frittered away their substance in pompous shows exhibited to the people. The real reason doubtless was that precisely by means of those glorious associations it kept alive in the minds of men some remembrance of the days when the Emperor was not all in all, nay, was not yet even heard of. Consuls, as the centuries rolled on, had found their power encroached upon and limited by the Dictators, who seemed to be imperatively called for by the disorders of the Roman State. The temporary figure of the Dictator had given way to the Imperator, the Princeps invested with Tribunician powers, the undefined All‑ruler who was yet only first citizen in the commonwealth, the wonderful Republican Autocrat whom Julius and Augustus had imagined and had bodied forth. Gradually the Imperator had become more of a king and less of a citizen, till under Diocletian the adoring senators, the purple sandals, all the paraphernalia of Eastern royalty, marked him out as visibly supreme. Still, many remains of the old Roman constitution, especially the venerable magistracy of the Consulship, subsisting side by side with the new dominion bore witness to the old order out of which it sprang. Now, the last remains of the withered calyx fall away, and the Imperial dignity exhibits itself to the world, an absolute and undisguised autocracy. The Emperor is the sole source of power; the people have not to elect, but to obey.

The Author's Notes:

1 'Perductum Vitiges [lege Vitigem] Constantinopolim patricii honore donavit: ubi plus biennio demoratus imperatorisque in affectu conjunctus, rebus excessit humanis' (Jordanes, De Reb. Get. LX).


' "I, bone, quo virtus tua te vocat, i pede fausto,

Grandia laturus meritorum praemia. Quid stas?

Post haec ille catus quantumvis rusticus, "Ibit,

Ibit eo, quo vis, qui zonam perdidit," inquit.'

(Horace, Epist. II.2.37‑40)

3 δορυφόρος.

4 ὑπασπιστής.

5 Ῥωμαίων τε οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, ἡνίκα πρὸς Γότθων πολιορκούμενοι τὰ ποιούμενα ἐν ταῖς τοῦ πολέμου ξυμβολαῖς ἔβλεπον, ἐν θαύμασι μεγάλῳ ποιούμενοι ἀνεφθέγγοντο ὡς οἰκία μία ἄτην Θευδερίχου δύναμιν καταλύει (De Bello Gotthico, III.1; p283).

6 Comparative ages of great generals. On casting the horoscope, retrospectively, of eight of the greatest generals of ancient and modern times (Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Belisarius, Marlborough, Frederick, Napoleon, and Wellington), I find most accordance between those of Hannibal, Belisarius, and Napoleon. All of these three men did their greatest deeds before they were forty, or, to define the age more closely, between twenty-five and thirty-seven. After the latter age all three seem to lose their vigour, or at any rate their luck. Zama in the forty-seventh year of Hannibal is an exact pendant to Waterloo in the forty-seventh year of Napoleon, and corresponds generally with the least successful part of Belisarius's second command in Italy. Belisarius and Marlborough, whose domestic and political histories resemble one another so closely, differ strangely in this respect. Belisarius is one of the youngest of conquerors; Marlborough is quite the oldest upon our list, Blenheim and all his great battles having been won after his fifty-fourth year, when Belisarius was virtually superannuated. Wellington and Caesar won most of their victories between forty and fifty, and their careers show in many respects considerable correspondence. The two born kings, Alexander and Frederick, have of course exceptional opportunities of early distinguishing themselves; but while Alexander wins all his great battles before he is thirty and dies at thirty‑two, the really heroic part of Frederick's life, the Seven Years' War, does not begin till he is between the ages of forty-four and fifty‑one.

7 Certainly past fifty. She had a grown‑up son and daughter in 535, and Procopius informs us that she was sixty years old in 544, when Belisarius started the second time for Italy. But in his spite he may have added a few years to her age.

8 Joannes Lydus, on whose authority these particulars are given (p251), declares that he was an eye‑witness of this murder.

9 μαξιλλοπλουμάκιος.

10 Sportula, the French douceur. Literary English seems to have no word which exactly expresses the idea.

11 Πάντα τὰ τῶν ποινῶν ὄργανα ἀπήμβλυνε τοῖς νεύροις τοῦ ἀθλίου πένητος.

12 One of the accusations brought by Lydus against his enemy is that he turned the bath on the ground floor, which had been good enough for his predecessors, into a stable, and erected another bath in the top story, 'forcing the element of water to flow up to an enormous height.' One would like to know what were the means employed for this purpose by the hydraulic engineers of Constantinople.

13 Τοῖς θηριωδεστάτοις τῶν οἰκετῶν, βαρβάροις καὶ λύκοις ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἅμα καὶ ταῖς προσηγορίαις πρὸς τιμωρίαν ἐκτιθέμενος (Joann. Lydus, II.21).

14 Procop. De Bello PersicoI.24.

15 Procop. De Bello PersicoI.25.

16 Mandye.

17 Lydus says that the robe of the Praetorian Prefect had ταυλιαὶ (?) instead of segmenta (broad stripes) of gold, and that the latter might be worn only by the Emperor (II.13).

18 Philip, afterwards Emperor, was Praetorian Prefect under Decius. I cannot at present recall another instance of the same kind.

19 See vol. I p659 for the death of Rufinus.

20 Procopius in the Anecdota affirms that Antonina bound herself 'by oaths than which the Christians knew none more terrible' not to betray the Cappadocian.

21 Ἄρχων τῶν ἐν παλατίῳ φυλάκων. Probably he was (Illustris) Magister Militum Praesentalis.

22 Passed at Cyzicus and Antinoopolis.

23 His full name was Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius. He was a senator of Old Rome, who, after the capture of the city in 546 fled to Constantinople. (See Liber Pontificalis: Vita Vigilii, p298, in Duchesne: quoted and corrected by Usener, Anecd. Holderi, pp8 and 14).

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