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Book V
Chapter 4

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!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book V
Chapter 6

Book V (continued)

Vol. IV
Chapter V

The Long Siege Begun


Sources: —

Procopius De Bello Gotthico, I.16‑19.

Vacillation of Witigis. Vacillation and feebleness of purpose marked the counsels of Witigis, as the consequences of the fatal error which he had committed in abandoning Rome made themselves manifest to his mind. At first his chief desire was to wait till his forces should be strengthened by the return of Marcias with the considerable army which he had under his command for the defence of Gothic Gaul against the Franks. Energy of Belisarius. Then came tidings which showed that Belisarius felt his hold of Rome so secure that he might venture onwards into the Tuscan province. Occupation of Narni, Bessas was sent to Narni, about fifty miles from Rome, the first strong position on the Flaminian Way. The inhabitants being well affected to the imperial cause, he occupied this post without difficulty. Constantine, the rival of Bessas in martial glory, was sent with some of the body-guards of Belisarius, and other troops, among whom figured several Huns,​1 in order to seize some positions yet further from the city. Spoleto, and Perugia. Spoleto, twenty-five miles  p115 further from Rome on the Flaminian Way, was occupied by a garrison. Etruscan Perugia on her lofty hill‑top, some forty miles further north than Spoleto, but lying a little off the great Flaminian highway, was next taken possession of, and here Constantine fixed his head-quarters. The troops which Witigis despatched against Perugia were defeated, and their generals​2 were sent as prisoners to Rome.

Gothic operations in Dalmatia. The tidings of these reverses roused Witigis to more vigorous action; but, strangely enough, after tarrying so long in order to be joined by the recalled troops from Gaul, he must now weaken himself still further by sending a division into Dalmatia. It is true that of the two generals despatched on this errand, one, Asinarius, was sent round the head of the Hadriatic Gulf, to gather round his standard the barbarians who dwelt in the districts which we now call Carniola and Croatia. But the other, Uligisal, who sailed straight to Dalmatia, must have taken with him some troops who could be ill‑spared from the defence of Italy. It is not necessary to trouble the reader with the details of these ill‑advised, and in the end resultless, operations on the east of the Hadriatic. The Goths met with reverses,​3 but succeeded for some time in closely investing Salona both by sea and land.​4 The Dalmatian capital, however, fell not; and after a siege of uncertain duration, the Gothic soldiers probably recrossed  p116 the Hadriatic to take part in the more urgent work of resisting Belisarius in Italy.5

Tidings of Roman disaffection to the Imperial cause. About this time word was brought to the Gothic King that the citizens of Rome viewed with impatience the presence and the exactions of the Imperial army. That there was some foundation of truth for this statement will appear by a reference to the last chapter; but it was evidently much exaggerated, and it by no means followed that the citizens who grumbled the most bitterly at the general's preparations for the siege would lift a finger for the surrender of the city to the justly enraged Gothic army. However, the tidings kindled immediately a flame of hope in the feebly forecasting soul of Witigis: and now he, who had wasted precious months in purposeless inaction, thought every day an age till he had recovered possession of the abandoned city. Witigis marches southwards with 150,000 men. With the whole armed nation of the Goths (except the division that had been ordered to Dalmatia) he marched southwards in hot haste along the Flaminian Way. The numbers of his army amounted, if we trust the estimate of Procopius, to 150,000 men. The historian evidently uses round numbers, and has probably exaggerated the size of the besieging host in order to increase the fame of Belisarius; but there can be no doubt that Witigis was followed by a very large army, out‑numbering many times over the little band of the Imperialists. The proportions of infantry and cavalry are not stated, but we are told that the greater number, both of the horses and men, were completely encased in defensive armour.6

 p117  Eagerness of Witigis. Once started on his march, Witigis was tormented by a fond fear that Belisarius would escape him, and was earnest in his prayers by night and by day that he might behold the walls of Rome while yet the Imperial forces stood behind them. On the journey the army fell in with a priest who had just quitted the city, and who was brought with shouts to the King's tent. 'Is Belisarius yet in Rome?' asked Witigis, breathless with anxiety. 'Ay, and likely to remain there,' was the answer of the priest, who had a better idea of the state of the game than his questioner.

Belisarius concentrates his forces. Still, the Imperial general was for a moment perplexed by the tidings that so vast a host was rolling on towards him. It was not for his own position that he was in fear, but he felt that he could scarcely hold the latest conquests in Tuscany in the face of such an army. After some anxious deliberation he ordered Constantine and Bessas to garrison three towns only, and then to fall back on Rome. The three towns were Spoleto, Perugia, and Narni; all situated on the top of high hills, and therefore easily defended. Narni, especially built on

'that grey crag where girt with towers

The fortress of Nequinum lowers

O'er the pale waves of Nar,'

 p118  and commanding the entrance to a deep and picturesque gorge spanned by the stately bridge of Augustus (one of whose arches still remains), struck the mind of the historian by the grand inaccessibility of its position.​7 Skirmish at Narni. Bessas, who lingered somewhat over the execution of the orders of his chief, had the excitement of a successful skirmish with the vanguard of the Gothic army before he retired from this fortress to Rome.

Witigis at the Milvian Bridge. Notwithstanding the fact that these strongholds were in the possession of the enemy, Witigis appears to have pushed on by the Flaminian Way which winds at their feet; and was soon standing with his 150,000 men at the Etruscan end of the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber, two miles from Rome.​8 This bridge, so  p119 well known under its modern name of Ponte Molle to the fashionable loungers in Rome, is in its present shape the handiwork of Papal architects; but the foundations of the piers are ancient, and the general appearance of the six arches with which it spans the stream is probably not very different from that which it wore in the days of Belisarius. A bridge whose name had often been in the mouths of the Roman people in stirring times, in the crises of Punic wars and Catilinarian conspiracies, it had earned yet greater fame two centuries ago (A.D. 312) by the bloody battle fought under its parapets between the soldiers of Constantine and those of Maxentius, a battle the result of which ensured the triumph of Christianity through the whole Roman world, and which has been for this reason commemorated by Raffaele and Romano with splendid strength in the Stanze of the Vatican.

Belisarius's preparations for the defence of the bridge. Expecting that the Goths would attempt to cross the river here, and anxious to retard their progress,​9 though without hope of finally preventing them from reaching the eastern bank of the river, Belisarius had  p120 erected a fortress on the Etruscan bank, and decided to pitch his camp close to the stream on the Latian side, in order to over‑awe the barbarians by this show of confidence. And, indeed, the ardour of the Goths was not a little chilled when they saw the castle above, and the tawny river before them. They bivouacked between Monte Mario and the Tiber for the night, postponing till the morrow the assault on the bridge-fort. The night, however, brought gloomy forebodings to other hearts than theirs. The bridge-fort deserted by its defenders. It seemed to the garrison impossible that the bridge could be effectually defended against that vast horde of men whose camp-fires filled the plain. Twenty‑two soldiers of the Roman army, themselves of barbarian origin, horsemen in the troop of Innocentius, went over to the foes and informed them of the state of discouragement which prevailed in the garrison. As night wore on, the rest of the men on duty in the bridge-fort deserted their post. They did not dare to show themselves in Rome, but slunk away to Campania. When day dawned the Goths marched without difficulty through the empty guard-house, across the undefended bridge, and now they stood on the eastern bank of the Tiber with no natural obstacle between them and Rome.

Skirmish at the eastern end of the bridge. Little dreaming of the cowardice of the garrison, Belisarius, who thought the barbarians were still on the other side of the river, sent 1000 picked horsemen to the bridge‑end to reconnoitre for a suitable camping-ground. They fell in with a party of Gothic horsemen who had just crossed the bridge, and an equestrian battle followed. Then, says the historian, Belisarius forgot for a moment the discretion which ought  p121 to be manifested by a general, and by exposing himself like a common soldier brought the Imperial cause into the extremest peril. Belisarius in the battle. Springing upon his charger he hurried to the place whence the clash of arms was heard, and was soon in the thickest of the fight. His horse, a noble creature, which did everything that a horse could do to carry its rider harmless through the fray, was well known to all the army. Dark‑roan,​10 with a white star upon its forehead, it was called by the Greeks Phalius,​11 and by the barbarians in the army Balan.​12 The deserters knew the steed and his rider, and strove to direct the weapons of the Goths against them. 'Balan! Balan! Aim for the horse with the white star,' was their eager exclamation. The cry was caught up by the Goths, scarce one of whom understood its meaning. But they knew that the horse with the white star must carry some personage of importance: and 'Balan! Balan"' resounded from a thousand Gothic throats through the confused roar of the battle. All their bravest thronged to the place, some with lances, some with swords, striving to transfix or to hew down the horse and his rider. To right, to left, Belisarius dealt his swashing blows. The best men of his body-guard gathered round him, some protecting his body and that of his horse with their shields, others thrusting back the onset of the barbarians by impetuous counter-charges. It was a true Homeric battle, in which all that was martial in the two armies was drawn to a single point, and on  p122 one group of fighting men rested the whole fortune of the day. At length Roman arms and Roman discipline prevailed. After a thousand Gothic warriors of the foremost rank and many of the bravest men of the Roman general's household had fallen, the barbarians fled to their camp,​13 and Belisarius emerged absolutely unwounded from the fray.

Second fight nearer Rome. When the fugitives reached the Gothic camp their comrades poured out in support of them. The Romans retreated to a hill near at hand, and here again a battle of cavalry took place, in which the deeds of greatest daring were wrought by a certain Valentine, who served in the humble capacity of groom to the son-in‑law of Belisarius. Alone the brave menial charged an advancing squadron of the Goths, and rescued his comrades from imminent peril. Flight of the Imperial troops. The advance of the barbarians was, however, too strong to be resisted, and at length the whole Roman army, with Belisarius at their head, were in full flight to the walls of the city. They reached the Pincian Gate,​14 which, from that memorable day, was long afterwards known by the name of the Gate of Belisarius. Down the sides of the fosse swarmed the  p123 crowd of fugitives, The gate closed against Belisarius. but only to find to their despair the folding doors of the Porta Pinciana obstinately closed against them. The hoarse voice of Belisarius was heard, loudly and with threats calling to the sentinels to open the gate, but in vain. In that face all covered with sweat, and dust and gore, they did not recognise, now that twilight was coming on, the countenance of the general whom they had so often seen serene in his hours of triumph: his voice they could not distinguish through the din of the refluent tide of war. Above all, the terrible rumour had reached their ears, brought by the first fugitives from the field, that Belisarius, after performing prodigies of valour, had been left dead upon the plain. This thought most of all unnerved them. They were left, it seemed, without a general and without a plan, and as they stooped forward from the round towers​15 by the gate, to see by the fading light how went the fortune of the fight, they felt themselves to be doomed men whose only chance of safety lay in keeping fast the doors by which, if opened, Goth and Roman would enter together.

Belisarius charges the Goths. This was the state of affairs, the Roman soldiers huddled together under the wall, so close to one another that they could hardly move, their comrades above refusing to open the gates, the Goths just preparing to rush down the fosse and make an exterminating charge, when the lost battle was retrieved by the wise rashness of Belisarius. Collecting his men into a small but orderly army he faced round and made a vigorous charge upon the pursuing Goths.  p124 Already thrown into disorder by the ardour of their pursuit, unable by the fading light to discern the small number of their foes, and naturally concluding that a new army was issuing from the gates of Rome to attack them, the barbarians turned and fled. Belisarius wisely pursued them but a short distance, reformed his ranks, and marched back in good order to the gate, where he had now no difficulty in obtaining an entrance.

Brave deeds of Belisarius and Bandalarius. Thus did the battle, which had commenced at dawn and lasted till dark, end after all not disastrously for the Imperial troops. By universal consent the praise of highest daring on that day was awarded to two men, to Belisarius on the side of the Romans, and on that of the barbarians to a man whom they called Wisandus Bandalarius, meaning perhaps thereby Bandalarius the Bison.​16 The latter was conspicuous in the thickest of the fight round Belisarius and the dark-roan steed, and it was not till he had received his thirteenth wound that he ceased from the combat. His victorious comrades saw and passed on from what they deemed to be the corpse of their champion; but three days after, when they came at their leisure to bury their dead, a soldier thought he saw signs of life in the body of Bandalarius and implored him to speak. Hunger and a raging thirst prevented him from doing more than make one gasping request for water. When that was brought him consciousness fully returned,  p125 and he was able to be carried into the camp. He lived after this many years, having achieved great glory among his countrymen by his prowess and his narrow escape from death.

Belisarius's arrangements for the night. For Belisarius, not even yet were the labours and anxieties of this long day ended. He mustered the soldiers and the greater part of the citizens upon the walls, and ordered them to kindle frequent fires along their circuit and to watch the whole night through. Then he went round the walls himself, arranging who was to be responsible for the defence of each portion, and especially which generals were to be on guard at each of the gates. False alarm of the Goths at the gate of St. Pancratius. While he was thus engaged, a messenger came in breathless haste from the Praenestine Gate​17 at the south-east of the city to say that Bessas, who was commanding there, had learned that the enemy were pouring in by the Gate of St. Pancratius​18 on the other side of the Tiber. Hearing this, the officers round him besought him to save himself and the army by marching out at some other gate. Unshaken by these disastrous tidings, Belisarius calmly said that he did not believe the report. A horseman, despatched with all speed to the Trastevere, returned with the welcome news that the enemy had not been seen in that part of the city. Belisarius improved the opportunity by issuing a general order that under no circumstances, not even if he heard that the Goths were inside the walls, was the officer entrusted with the defence of one gate to leave it in order to carry assistance to another. Each one was to attend to his own allotted portion of work and  p126 leave the care of the general defence to the commander-in‑chief.

Harangue by Wacis. The earnest work of the defence was interrupted by the comedy of a harangue from a Gothic chief named Wacis, who by order of Witigis, drew near to the walls. With much vehemence he inveighed against the faithlessness of the Romans, who had betrayed their brave Gothic defenders and handed themselves over, instead, to the guardian­ship of a company of Greeks, men who had hitherto never been heard of in Italy except as play-actors, mimics, or vagabond sailors. Belisarius bade the men on the walls to treat this tirade with silent contempt: and in truth, after the deeds of that day, to revive the taunts which had passed current for centuries against Grecian effeminacy was an impertinence which refuted itself. None the less, however, did the Roman citizens marvel at and secretly condemn the calm confidence of success, the absolute contempt for his foe which was displayed on this occasion by Belisarius, so lately a fugitive from the Gothic sword. He understood the rules of the game, however, better than they, and having repaired the error of the morning, knew that no second opportunity of the same kind would be afforded by him to the enemy.

Belisarius takes his first refreshment. And now, at last, when the night was already far advanced, was the general, who had fasted from early morning, prevailed on by his wife and friends to take some care for the refreshment of his body, hastily snatching a simple meal.

The Siege of Rome begun. This memorable day was the beginning of the First Siege of Rome by the Ostrogoths, the longest and one of the deadliest that the Eternal City has ever  p127 endured. It began in the early days of March 537, and was not to end till a year and nine days later in March of 538.​19 When morning dawned, the Goths, who entertained no doubt of an early success against so large and helpless a city, proceeded to intrench themselves in seven camps, six on the eastern and one on the western side of the Tiber. They did not thus accomplish a perfect blockade of the city, but they did obstruct, in a tolerably effectual manner, eight out of its fourteen gates. Gates of Rome. As frequent reference in the course of this history will be made to one or other of these gates, it will be well to give a list of them here, with their ancient and modern names, printing those that were obstructed by the Goths in italics.

To give some idea of the distance of one gate from another the number of square towers between each pair of gates is added on the authority of the Pilgrim of Einsiedeln. The intervals between the towers varied from 100 to 300 and even 400 feet, the wider spaces being chiefly found on the west side of the Tiber.


Ancient Name

Modern Name

No. of Towers

East bank of the Tiber: —
1. Porta Flaminia P. del Popolo  
2. Porta Salaria P. Salara  
3. Porta Nomentana near to P. Pia  
4. Porta Tiburtina P. San Lorenzo  
5. Porta Praenestina & P. Maggiore 26
6. Porta Labicana
7. Porta Asinaria P. San Giovanni  
8. Porta Metrovia
(or Metronia)
9. Porta Latina Closed  
10. Porta Appia P. San Sebastiano  
11. Porta Ostiensis P. San Paolo  
35 to the Tiber
West bank of the Tiber: —
12. Porta Portuensis, near to P. Portese  
13. Porta Aurelia20
(or Sancti Pancratii)
P. San Pancrazio  
24 to the Tiber
14. Porta Cornelia (or Sancti Petri) Destroyed (opposite Ponte S. Angelo)  

Between the Flaminian and the Salarian gates stood the somewhat smaller Porta Pinciana, now closed, which was the scene of some hot encounters during the siege. It is possible that Procopius may have reckoned the Porta Pinciana as one of the fourteen  p129 gates belonging to the whole circuit of the walls, and one of the six gates on the eastern side of the Tiber that were blocked by the enemy. In that case we must treat the Labicana and Praenestina as one gate, which their close proximity to one another justifies us in doing. It seems more probable, however, that Procopius, who is generally very careful to denote the Pincian by the term gate‑let (πυλίς), and who informs us that there were fourteen gates 'besides certain gate-lets,'​21 did not mean to reckon the Pincian among the great gates of Rome.

Total extent of the walls. The total circuit of the walls of Aurelian and Honorius was about twelve miles. The space blockaded by the Goths amounted probably to about two‑thirds of this circumstance.

The seven Gothic camps. The camps of the barbarians were works of some solidity. Deep fosses were dug around them: the earth dug out of the fosse was piled on its inner face so as to make a high rampart, and a fence of sharp stakes was inserted therein. Altogether, as Procopius says, these Gothic camps lacked none of the defences of a regular castle. A careful observer (Mr. Parker), who has had the advantage of several years' residence in Rome, considers that the traces of all these camps are still visible. Without venturing to pronounce an opinion on a question requiring such minute local knowledge, it will not be amiss to place before the reader the result of his investigations. In any event the Gothic camps must have been near the sites which he has assigned to them.

First camp. The first camp was placed 'within a stone's throw  p130 of the Porta Flaminia (to the north-east), in the grounds which formerly belonged to the villa of the Domitii.'​22 This camp was obviously required in order to obstruct the great northern road of Rome and to threaten the gate leading to it.

Second camp. The second, probably the largest and most important of all, was erected in what are now the gardens of the Villa Borghese. The woods and shady coverts of this, which is one of the most beautiful of the parks surrounding the walls of Rome, make it now very difficult to get a clear view of the ground and to reconstruct in imagination the scene of so many terrible encounters. Still it is possible to behold the quickly-rising ground on which the camp was placed. 'The raised platform for the tents to stand upon' (one of these tents was probably the royal pavilion of Witigis) 'and the cliffs around it are' (says Mr. Parker) 'very visible.' Clearly seen from it were doubtless the high walls of the city, the Pincian gate‑let, and the Pincian gardens surrounding the palace in which Belisarius dwelt.

Third camp. The third camp, 'concealed from view by modern walls,' says Parker, 'lay on the left hand of the Via Nomentana, about half‑way (or rather less) to the ancient church of 'St. Agnes outside the walls.'

Fourth and fifth camps. Rounding the sharp projecting angle of the Castra Praetoria we come to two camps, the fourth and fifth, one on the north and one on the south of the Via Tiburtina. The fifth, says Parker, 'is very near to the great church and burial-ground of St. Laurence outside the walls, from which the cliffs of it are distinctly seen.' The fourth is apparently placed by  p131 him only about a couple of hundred yards away near the Villa Santo Spirito. It may perhaps be doubted whether Parker is right in putting these two camps so near to one another.

Sixth camp. The sixth, and last on this side of the river, is placed about half-a‑mile from the south-eastern corner of the walls along the Via Praenestina.

Seventh camp. On the other side of the Tiber the Goths built a camp to assure their hold upon the Milvian Bridge and to threaten the gates of St. Peter and St. Pancratius. We are told that it was in the Campus Neronis. It must have been therefore not far from where the Vatican palace now stands: but after the vast changes which the Popes, from the fifteenth century onwards, have made in that region, it would be futile now to look for its remains.​23 Marcias, who had by this time arrived with the troops from Gaul, took command of this trans-Tiberine camp. A Gothic officer was placed in charge of each of the other camps, Witigis having a general oversight of all on the east of the Tiber and the particular oversight of one, which, as has been before said, was probably that in the Borghese gardens.24

On the Roman side Belisarius himself took the command of the portion of the walls between the Pincian gate‑let and the Salarian gate; the part which was considered least secure, and where the Roman opportunities for a sally were the most inviting.  p132 The Praenestine Gate (Maggiore) was assigned to Bessas, the Flaminia (P. del Popolo) to Constantine. The last-named gate was blocked up with large stones (perhaps taken from the old wall of King Servius), so that it might not be possible for traitors to open it to the enemy. For, on account of the close proximity of the first Gothic camp, a surprise at this gate was considered more probable than at any other.

The building of the seven camps of the barbarians was a temporary expedient, and when the war was over the traces of them, except for the eye of an archaeologist, soon passed away. Not so, however, with the next operation resorted to by the Goths, which may be said to have influenced the social life of Rome, and through Rome the social life of the kingdoms of Western Europe, throughout the ten centuries which we call the Middle Ages. This operation was the cutting of the Aqueducts. A deed of such far‑reaching importance requires to be treated of in a chapter by itself; nor will the reader possibly object to turn for a little space from the tale of barbarous battle to the story of the wise forethought of 'the Romans of ancient days,' the builders of the mighty water-courses which fed the Eternal City.

The Author's Notes:

1 The barbaric-sounding names of the Hunnish generals are Zanter, Chorsoman, and Aeschman.

2 Unilas and a second Pitzas (not of course the commander in Samnium who went over to Belisarius).

3 Uligisal was defeated at Scardona and shut up in Burnum, but liberated by the arrival of his colleague Asinarius.

4 It is interesting to note the tactics of besiegers and besieged. Constantian had surrounded Salona with a deep ditch. The Goths surrounded this ditch again with a high mound.

5 Procopius appears to have forgotten to tell us the sequel of the Dalmatian war.

6 Καὶ αὐτῶν τεθωρακισμένοι ξὺν τοῖς ἵπποις οἱ πλεῖστοι ἦσαν (De B. G. I.16). From the mention of the horses we may probably infer that they wore suits of flexible chain armour. Compare the remarks of the young lady in Claudian's poem on the sixth consul­ship of Honorius (569‑572): —

'Ut chalybem indutos equites, et in aere latentes

Vidit cornipedes: "Quanam de gente" rogabat

"Ferrati venere viri? Quae terra metallo

Nascentes informat equos?" '

7 'This bridge Caesar Augustus built in the times long ago, a sight about which much might be said. For of all the arches that we know this is the loftiest' (De B. G. I.17). The remaining arch is 60 feet high and about 30 feet broad.

8 I follow Gibbon, and almost all other historians who have described this march of the Goths, in interpreting Procopius' 'bridge over the Tiber at 14 stadia from Rome' by the Milvian Bridge. Gregorovius, however, points out (I.349, n. 1)º that if Witigis marched, as Procopius says he did, 'through the Sabine territory' (διὰ Σαβίνων τὴν πορείαν ποιούμενος), he would be on the east bank of the Tiber and would not need to cross that river at all. He therefore suggests that Procopius has here as elsewhere confused the Tiber with the Anio, and that we must understand by his words one of the bridges over the latter stream, probably the Ponte Salaro, which is about the right distance from Rome. I do not think, however, that this bridge corresponds with the description of the battle nearly so well as the Milvian. As we must admit some inaccuracy in Procopius, I prefer to sacrifice the words διὰ Σαβίνων rather than the words Τιβέριδος ποταμοῦ γεφύρᾳ. It is not necessary to admit that the large army of the Goths would be prevented, by the hostile occupation of Spoleto and Narni, from using the broad and convenient Via Flaminia. The view usually taken receives further confirmation from the fact that in the 19th chapter (p94) Procopius mentions the bridge ἢ Μιλβίου ἐπώνυμός ἐστιν as in the possession of the Goths, and essential to the combined operations of their army on the two banks of the river. He gives no hint that this is not the same bridge which they wrested from the soldiers of Belisarius at the commencement of the siege.

9 But Procopius must surely be mistaken in saying that any other route than that by the bridge which they stormed would cause them a delay of twenty days. Doubtless they could have crossed by the bridge near Borghetto, about thirty‑six miles from Rome. This assertion, however, makes it more probable that Procopius is really thinking of the Milvian Bridge than of the little bridges over the Anio.

10 φαιός.

11 The Greek word for an animal with a white patch on its forehead.

12 Is this a Hunnish word, or (more probably) the equivalent of Phalius on barbarian lips?

13 Which must have been hastily pitched on the east bank of the Tiber.

14 The words of Procopius are, ἀμφὶ τὴν πύλην ἢ Βελισαρία ὠνόμασται νῦν (De B. G. I.18). We seem to be forced, by the language of Procopius in the 22nd chapter, to understand by this the Pincian Gate, although Procopius is generally careful to speak of that as a πυλίς, not a πύλη. [But probably the whole discussion is caused by an error of the text. Three Vatican MSS., one of which, according to Comparetti, is the best of all the MSS. hitherto collated, read ἀμφὶ τὴν πύλην ᾖ Σαλαρία ὠνόμασται. It will be well, therefore, to read above 'the Salarian' for 'the Pincian Gate.']

Thayer's Note: The editor of the Loeb Procopius agrees, as the reader will have seen on following the link. The Greek text adopted in that edition has Σαλαρία, though giving the variant reading Βελισαρία in its critical note.

15 Still visible, though the gate itself is closed.

16 This is the suggestion of Mr. Henry Bradley, in a letter to the 'Academy,' dated May 15, 1886. He thinks that the barbarian's name was probably Wandilaharis, and that the surname of Wisand, the Bison, was given him for his impetuous courage. Gibbon's rendering of Bandalarius as = a standard-bearer, he pronounces to be 'linguistically impossible.'

17 Porta Maggiore.

18 Still called Porta San Pancrazio.

19 Lord Mahon (Earl Stanhope), in his Life of Belisarius (p246) endeavours to fix the date of the beginning of the siege to March 12. He does this by assigning the vernal equinox (March 21) for its close. The words of Procopius, however (II.186, ed. Bonn), τὸ μὲν οὖν ἔτος ἀμφὶ τροπὰς ἐαρινὰς ἦν, seem to me too vague to support this exact conclusion: and, on the other hand, his statement that it began 'at the outset of March' (Μαρτίου ἱσταμένου ἡ πολιορκία κατ’ ἀρχὰς γέγονεν, p117), coupled with the general course of the narrative which describes a large number of events before 'the winter ended and the second year of the war' (p154), indicates a very early date in March for the beginning of the siege. It does not seem possible to define it more accurately than this.

Thayer's Note: The links are to the Bonn edition; the corresponding passages in the Loeb edition are

"p186" =  II.10.13  • "p117" =  I.24.31  • "p154" =  II.2.38

20 There is some little confusion about the application of the term Porta Aurelia. It seems clear that Procopius uses it of Gate No. 14, opposite the Tomb of Hadrian (Castle of S. Angelo), and equally clear that both in earlier and in later times No. 13 was known as Aurelia. Procopius knows the latter only by its ecclesiastical name, Porta Sancti Pancratii. Either there were two Portae Aureliae, or the memory of the historian, writing as he did some thirteen years after his visit to Rome, has played him false.

21 Ἔχει μὲν τῆς πόλεως ὁ περίβολος δὶς ἑπτὰ πύλας καὶ πυλίδας τινάς (De B. G. I.19).

22 Which, when Mr. Parker wrote, belonged to Mr. Esmeade.

23 I venture to differ here from Mr. Parker, who places this camp close to the Ponte Molle and just at the foot of Monte Mario, where he thinks remains of it are still visible.

24 Procopius is rather vague here: Τῶν δὲ ἄλλων Οὐίτιγις ἡγεῖτο ἐκτὸς αὐτός. Ἄρχων γὰρ ἦν εἷς κατὰ χαράκωμα ἕκαστον (De B. G. I.19).

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