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Book V
Chapter 8

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 10

Book V (continued)

Vol. IV
Chapter IX

The Blockade


Sources: —

Procopius, De Bello Gotthico, II.3‑10.

For Papal history, the so‑called Anastasius Bibliothecarius, Vita Silverii (apud Muratori, III.129‑130), and the Breviarium of Liberatus, cap. xxii.

The Campaign of Famine, 1632. In the terrible struggle of the Thirty Years' War there was a memorable interlude when Gustavus Adolphus and Wallenstein watched one another for eleven weeks before the walls of Nuremberg, the Swede in vain attempting to storm the intrenchments of the Bohemian, the Bohemian hoping that famine and pestilence would force the Swede to move off and leave Nuremberg to his mercy. That 'Campaign of Famine' was virtually a drawn game. Gustavus was forced to evacuate his position, but Wallenstein's army was so weakened by hunger and disease that he had to leave the famine-stricken city unattacked.

Doubtful issue of the contest. Somewhat similar to this was the position of the two armies that now struggled for the possession of Rome. It was clear that the Goths could not carry the defences of the City by simply rushing up to them in undisciplined valour with their rude engines of war,  p211 and seeking to swarm over them. It was equally clear that the little band of Belisarius could beat off the enemy by a pitched battle on the plains of the Campagna. The siege must therefore become a mere blockade, and the question was which party in the course of this blockade would be soonest exhausted. In the course of the Crimean War a Russian diplomat uttered the famous saying, 'My master has three good generals, and their names are January, February, and March.' Even so in the dread conflict that was impending, two spectral forms, each marshalling a grim and shadowy army, were to stalk around the walls of the City and the six camps of the Goths. They would fight on both sides, but the terrible question for Belisarius and for Witigis was, to which side would they lend the more effectual aid. The names of these two invisible champions were Limos and Loimos (Famine and Pestilence).

The intersection of the aqueducts fortified by the Goths. Recognising the changed character of the siege, Witigis took one step which he would have done well to have taken three months before, towards completing the blockade of Rome. About three and a‑half miles from the City​1 there is a point now marked by a picturesque mediaeval tower called Torre Fiscale, where two great lines of aqueducts cross one another, run for about 500 yards side by side, and then cross again. The lofty arcade of the Anio Novus and Claudia is one of these lines, running at first to the south of its companion, then north, and then south again. The other is the arcade of the Marcian, Tepulan, and Julian  p212 waters, which has been used by Pope Sixtus V as the support of his hastily-constructed aqueduct, the Aqua Felice. Even now, in their ruined state, these long rows of lofty arches, crossing and re‑crossing one another, wear an aspect of solemn strength; and were a battle to be fought over this ground to‑day they might play no unimportant part in the struggle of the contending armies. Here then the Goths, filling up the lower arches with clay and rubble, fashioned for themselves a fortress, rude perchance, but of considerable strength. They placed in it a garrison of 7000 men, who commanded not only the Via Latina (which was absolutely close to the aqueducts), but also the Via Appia​2 (which runs nearly parallel to the Latina at about a mile's distance), so effectually that the transport of provisions to Rome along either of those roads seems to have become practically impossible.

Discouragement in the city. When the citizens saw these two great roads to the south blocked, discouragement began to fill their hearts. They had long looked forward to the month of Quintilis​3 — that month which also bore the name of the great Julius, and in which they had celebrated for a thousand years the victory of the Lake Regillus — as the month of their deliverance from the Goths; Sibylline prophecy. and indeed a prophecy of the Sibyl was in circulation among the remnant of the Patricians which intimated  p213 not very obscurely that this should come to pass.​4 Yet Quintilis with its burning heat had come, was passing away, and still the yellow-haired barbarians clustered about the walls. So long as the crops stood  p214 in the Campagna some slight mitigation of the impending famine was afforded by bands of daring horsemen who rode forth at nightfall, hurriedly reaped the standing ears, laid them on their horses' backs, and galloped back to Rome to sell the furtive harvest at a high price to the wealthy citizens. Famine beginning. But now even this resource was beginning to fail, and all the citizens, rich and poor alike, were being reduced to live on the grass which, as Procopius remarks, always, in winter and summer alike, covers with its green robe the land of the Romans. For animal food the resource of the moment was to make a kind of sausage out of the flesh of the army-mules which had died of disease. Thus was the General, Limos, beginning to show himself in great force on the side hostile to Rome.

Deputation from the citizens to Belisarius. Belisarius, who was already sorely harassed by the daily increasing difficulties of commissariat, had the additional vexation of receiving, one day, an ambassador from the hunger-stricken Romans. They told him in plain words that the patriotism and the loyalty to the Empire, on which they prided themselves when they opened to him the gates of the city, now seemed to them the extremity of foolishness. They felt that they were

'Cursed with the burden of a granted prayer,'

and longed for nothing so much as to be put back into the same happy state they were in, before a soldier from Byzantium showed his face among them. But that now could never be. Their estates in the country round were wasted. The city was so shut up that none of the necessaries of life could enter it. Many of their fellow-citizens were already dead; and upon these they thought with envy, wishing that they could  p215 be laid quietly under­ground beside them. Hunger made them bold to speak thus to the mighty Belisarius. Hunger made every other evil that they had ever endured seem light. The thought of death by hunger made any other mode of death seem a delightful prospect. In one word, let him lead them forth against the enemy, and they promised that he should not find them fail from his side in the stress of battle.

Answer of Belisarius. With a haughty smile and a profession of equanimity which masked his real discouragement, Belisarius replied: 'I have expected all the events that have occurred in this siege, and among them some such proposal as this of yours. I know what the populace is; fickle, easily discouraged, always ready to suggest impossible enterprises, and to throw away real advantages. I have no intention, however, of complying with your counsels, and so sacrificing the interests of my master and your lives as well. We do not make war in this way by a series of ill‑considered, spasmodic efforts. War is a matter of calm and serious calculation, and my calculations of the game tell me that to wait is our present policy. You are anxious to hazard all upon a single throw of the dice, but it is not my habit to take any such short cuts to success. You announce that you are willing to go with me to battle. Pray when did you learn your drill? Have you never heard that a certain amount of practice is necessary to enable men to fight; and do you imagine that the enemy will be kind enough to wait while you are learning how to use your weapons? Still, I thank you for your readiness to fight, and I praise the martial spirit which now animates you. Reinforcements promised. To explain to you some of my reasons for delay, I will inform you that the largest  p216 armament ever sent forth by the Empire has been collected by Justinian out of every land, and is now covering the Ionian Gulf and the Campanian shore. In a few days I trust they will be with us, relieving your necessities by the supplies which they will bring, and burying the barbarians under the multitude of their darts. Now retire. I forgive you for the impatience which you have shown, and I proceed to my arrangements for hastening the arrival of the reinforcements.'

Procopius despatched to Naples. Having with these boastful words revived the spirits of the Romans, the General despatched the trusty Procopius to Naples to find out what truth there might be in the rumours of coming help. The historian set out at nightfall, escorted by the guardsman Mundilas with a small body of horse. The little party stole out of the Porta San Paolo, escaped the notice of the Gothic garrison at Torre Fiscale, and felt themselves, before long, past the danger of pursuit by the barbarians. Procopius then dismissed his escort and proceeded unattended to Naples. Antonina to Naples. Soon the General's wife Antonina followed him thither, under the escort of Martin and Trajan, partly in order that Belisarius might know that she was in a place of safety, but also that her considerable administrative talents might be employed in organising expeditions of relief. Certainly they did not find that vast Byzantine host darkening all the bays of Magna Graecia of which Belisarius had bragged to the Roman populace. But they did find in Campania a considerable number of unemployed cavalry;​5 they also found that it was possible safely  p217 to diminish some of the Campanian and Apulian garrisons, and above all, as the Romans had command of the sea, it was easy to collect a goodly number of well-loaded provision-ships. Procopius alone, before he was joined by Antonina, had forwarded five hundred soldiers to Rome, together with a great number of provision-ships, which possibly unloaded their cargoes at Ostia.

The Mosaic of Theodoric. During the time, probably lasting four months (July to November), that Procopius was engaged on this important mission, we miss (as has been already remarked) all the minutely graphic touches of his pen as to the siege of Rome, and these are not compensated by much that is interesting as to his stay at Neapolis. He saw there the remains of a fine mosaic picture of Theodoric which had been set up in that monarch's reign.​6 Apparently the cement with which the little coloured stones were fastened to the wall was badly made. The head had fallen shortly before Theodoric's death; eight years after, the breast and belly had fallen, and Athalaric had died a few days afterward. The fall of the part representing the loins had preceded only by a little space the murder of Amalasuntha. And now the legs and feet had also fallen, evidently showing that the whole Gothic monarchy was shortly to come to an end.

Procopius describes Vesuvius.​a It was at this time also that Procopius studied the volcanic phenomena of Vesuvius, whose sullen caprices he describes very much in the language that would be used by a modern traveller. When he was there the mountain was bellowing in its well-known savage style, but had not yet begun to fling up its lava-stream;  p218 though this was daily expected. The upper part was excessively steep, the lower densely wooded. In the summit there was a cave so deep that it seemed to reach down to the very roots of the mountain, and in that cave, if one dared to bend over and look in, one could see the fire. People still kept alive the remembrance of the great eruption of 472,​7 even as they now speak with awe of the eruption which occurred exactly fourteen centuries later, and point out to the traveller the wide- wasting desolation caused by the 'lava di settanta due.' In that earlier eruption the light volcanic stones were carried as far as Constantinople, so alarming the citizens that (as was mentioned in the last volume)​8 an annual ceremony (something like the Rogations in the Church at Vienne) was instituted for deliverance from this peril. In another eruption the stones were carried as far as Tripoli in Africa. But Vesuvius upon the whole had not an evil reputation. The husbandmen had observed that when it was in a state of activity their crops of all kinds were more abundant than in other years: and the fine pure air of the mountain was deemed so conducive to health that physicians sent consumptive patients to dwell upon its flanks.

Belisarius begins to hem in the Goths. Leaving Procopius and Antonina at Naples, we return with their escorts to Rome. Great joy was brought to the citizens when Mundilas reported that the Appian Way was practically clear by night, the Goths not venturing to stir far from their aqueduct fortress after sunset. Belisarius hence inferred that while still postponing a general engagement he might  p219 adopt a somewhat bolder policy with the enemy, a policy which would make them besieged as well as besiegers. Martin and Trajan, after they had escorted Antonina on the road to Naples, were directed to take up their quarters at Tarracina. Gontharis and a band of Herulians occupied the yet nearer post of Albano, situated, like Tarracina, on the Appian Way, but at only one‑fourth of the distance from Rome.9

Tivoli occupied. Albano, it is true, was before long taken by the Goths, but the general policy of encompassing, harassing, and virtually besieging the besiegers remained successful. Magnus, one of the generals of cavalry, and Sinthues, another of the brave guardsmen of Belisarius, were sent up the Anio valley to Tibur. They occupied and repaired the old citadel which stood where Tivoli now stands, surrounded by the steaming cascades of Anio, and, from this coign of vantage, by their frequent excursions grievously harassed the barbarians, whose reserves were perhaps quartered not far from the little town. In one of these forays Sinthues had the sinews of his right hand severed by a spear-thrust, and was thus disabled from actual fighting ever after.

Basilica of St. Paul occupied. On the southern side of Rome the Basilica of St. Paul, connected by its long colonnade with the Ostian Gate of the city (where stands the pyramid of Caius Cestius), and protected on one side by the stream of the Tiber, furnished a capital stronghold, but one which, from religious reasons, the Goths had hitherto refrained from including in their sphere of operations.10  p220 The orthodox Belisarius was troubled with no such scruples. All the Huns in his army — the Huns were still heathen — were sent thither under the command of Valerian to form a camp between the Basilica and the river. Here they could both obtain forage for their own horses and grievously interfere with the foraging excursions of the Goths from their fortress at Torre Fiscale. In truth, hunger, as the result of all these operations of Belisarius, was now beginning to tell severely on the unwieldy Gothic host. Pestilence in the Gothic camp, And not Hunger only: the other great general, Pestilence, began to lay his hand heavily on the barbarians. He was present in all their camps, but in none more terribly than in the new one between the Aqueducts. At length that stronghold had to be abandoned, and the dwindled remnant of its defenders returned to the camps nearer Rome. and among the Huns. The deadly malaria had communicated itself also to the Huns in their trenches by S. Paolo, and they too returned to Rome. Already we seem to perceive in the sixth century the phenomenon with which we are so familiar in the nineteenth, that the malaria is more fatal in the solitary Campagna than in the crowded city.

Return of Antonina to Rome. So the autumn wore on, both armies suffering terrible privations, but each hoping to outlast the other. Probably about the month of October, Antonina returned to her fond and anxious husband. At least, on the 18th of November​11 we find her taking part in  p221 a strange transaction, the particulars of which are preserved for us with dramatic vividness by the old Papal biographer. To understand it we must turn back a page or two in the tedious history of the Monophysite controversy. Papal affairs. It will be remembered that the venerable Pope Agapetus during his visit to Constantinople in 536 had convicted Anthimus, the Byzantine Patriarch, of Monophysite heresy, had brought about his deposition from his see, and had consecrated Mennas in his room. Theodora desires the restoration of Anthimus. The Empress Theodora, who clung to her Monophysite creed as passionately as if it had been some new form of sensual gratification, set her heart on the reversal of this deposition; and seeing the influence exerted over her husband's mind by the successors of St. Peter, determined that Anthimus should be replaced by the mediation of the Roman Pontiff. To the restless and intriguing intellect of the Empress the torrents of noble blood which were being shed in desperate conflict round the walls of the Eternal City meant merely that she was a little nearer to or a little further from the accomplishment of her project for having her own Bishop reinstated in his see. With this view she sent letters to the new Pope, Silverius, urging him to pay a speedy visit to Constantinople, or, failing in that act of courtesy, at least to restore  p222 Anthimus to his old dignity. Silverius, when he read the letters, said, 'Now I know that this woman will compass my death;' but trusting in God and St. Peter he returned a positive refusal to recall the heretic who was justly condemned for his wickedness.

She decides to replace Silverius by Vigilius. Finding Silverius inflexible, Theodora listened to the offer which had been already made by the archdeacon Vigilius, who was at this time acting as Apocrisiarius, or, in the language of later times, Nuncio of the Roman Bishop at the Imperial Court. This man, who, it may be remembered, was the expectant legatee of the Papal dignity, if Pope Boniface II had obtained the power to will away that splendid heritage,​12 now offered full compliance with all Theodora's demands in favour of the Monophysites, and in addition, it is said, a bribe of 200 pounds weight of gold (about £8000) if he were enthroned instead of Silverius in the chair of St. Peter. The Empress therefore addressed a letter 'to the Patrician Belisarius,' directing him to find some occasion against Silverius to depose him from the Pontificate, or, if that were impossible, to force him to repair to Constantinople. The noble Belisarius, who had little liking for the task, and had enough upon his hands in the defence of Rome without plunging into the controversy concerning the Two Natures, had perhaps lingered in the fulfilment of this odious commission. Now, if our reading of the course of events be correct, Antonina, anxious to win the favour of Theodora, having returned from her successful mission to Campania, urged her unwilling husband to execute the commands of their patroness.

Silverius accused of treasonable correspondence with the Goths. A letter was produced, written in the name of  p223 Silverius and addressed to King Witigis, offering to open the Asinarian Gate to the Goths. There was this much of plausibility in the alleged treason, that the Lateran Church is close to the Asinarian Gate, and possibly it might seem not inconsistent with the office of a Christian bishop to end the frightful sufferings of his flock even by such an act of disloyalty as this. The contemporaries, however, of Silverius seem to have entirely acquitted him of responsibility in this matter: and even the names of the forgers of the document are given by one historian. They were, Marcus a clerk, probably employed at the General's head-quarters, and a guardsman named Julian.13

Silverius is adjured by Belisarius to obey the Empress. With this letter in his hand, Belisarius sent for Silverius and urged him to avert his own ruin by obeying the mandates of the terrible Augusta, renouncing the decrees of Chalcedon and entering into communion with the Monophysites. For a moment Silverius seems to have wavered. He left the palace, withdrew from the dangerous Lateran, shut himself up in the church of St. Sabina on the desolate Aventine, and there took counsel with his friends what he should do. Photius, the son of Antonina, was sent to lure him from his retreat by promises of safety. The Pope went once to the Pincian, notwithstanding the advice of his friends 'to put no confidence in the oaths of the Greeks.'​14 He returned that time in safety though still unyielding; Silverius at the Pincian Palace. but going a second time with a heavy heart and fearing the malice of his enemies, he was,  p224 Liberatus tells us, 'seen by his friends no more.' The expressive silence of this historian corresponds with the fuller details given by the, perhaps later, Papal biographer: 'At the first and the second veils' (such were the semi-regal pomp and seclusion which the great General maintained) 'all the clergy were parted from him. Then Silverius, entering with Vigilius only into the Mausoleum,​15 found Antonina the Patrician's wife lying on a couch, and Vilisarius [Belisarius] sitting at her feet. And when Antonina the Patrician's wife saw him, she said to him, "Tell us, Lord Pope Silverius, what have we done to thee and to the Romans that thou shouldest wish to betray us into the hands of the Goths?" While she was yet speaking the sub‑deacon John, District-visitor​16 of first Region, stripped the pallium from his shoulders and led him into a bedroom. There he stripped him, put on him the monastic dress, and concealed him. Then Sixtus the sub‑deacon, District-visitor of the sixth Region, seeing him already turned into a monk, went forth and made this announcement to the clergy, "The Lord Pope has been deposed and made a monk." Then they, hearing this, all fled; and Vigilius the Archdeacon received Silverius as if into his protection, and sent him to banishment in Pontus,' — or rather, as Liberatus tells us, to Patara in Lycia. Assuredly the first-fruits of the restored Imperial dominion in Italy were bitter for the Roman Bishops who had so large a share in bringing about the change. That a Pope, the son of a Pope and  p225 a great Roman noble, should have the pallium torn from him and be thrust forth into obscure exile at the bidding of a woman, and that woman the daughter of an actress and a circus-rider, was a degradation to which the Arian Theodoric and his successors had never subjected the representative of St. Peter.17

Silverius in exile. We will anticipate the course of the narrative by a few months in order to finish the story of Silverius. When he arrived at Patara his wrongs stirred the compassion of the Bishop of that city, who sought an audience with the Emperor and said, 'Of all the many kings who reign in the world not one has suffered such cruel reverses of fortune as this man, who, as Pope, is over the whole Church.'​18 Justinian, who was perhaps ignorant of his wife's machinations, ordered that Silverius should be carried back to Rome and put on his trial. If the letters attributed to him were genuine, he should still have the choice of the episcopate of any other city but Rome; if forged, he should be restored to the Papal throne. Vigilius — so his enemies asserted — terrified by the return of his rival, sent a message to Belisarius, 'Hand over to me Silverius; else can I not pay the price which I promised for the popedom. The unhappy ex‑pontiff was transferred to the custody of two of the body-guard​19 of  p226 Vigilius, and by them taken to the desolate island of Palmaria,​b where, being fed on the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, he expired on the 21st of June, 538. Posterity reverenced him as a martyr, and many sick persons were cured at his tomb.20

Fresh troops for Rome, Dec. 537. We return to the siege of Rome. The month of December was now reached. Fresh troops, whose numbers were considerable when compared with the little band of Belisarius, though not when compared with the still remaining multitudes of the besiegers, had been despatched from the East, and were collecting in the harbours of Southern Italy. There were at Naples 3000 Isaurians under Paulus and Conon, at Otranto 800 Thracian horsemen under John, and 1000 other cavalry under Alexander and Marcentius. There had already arrived in Rome by the Via Latina 300 horsemen under Zeno; and the 500 soldiers (perhaps infantry) collected by Procopius were still in Campania waiting to enter Rome.

John the Sanguinary, nephew of Vitalian. Of the fresh generals who thus appear upon the scene, the only one of whom we need take special notice is John. He was the nephew of Vitalian, and from that relation­ship might have been supposed to  p227 be not a safe servant for Justinian, by whom Vitalian had been murdered. But we can discern no evidence of his being regarded with suspicion on this account. He was a skilful general and a stout-hearted soldier, absolutely incapable of fear, and able to vie with any of the barbarians in the endurance of hardship and in contentment with the coarsest fare.​21 Either a cruel disposition, or, possibly, mere love for the gory revel of battle, had procured for him the epithet of Sanguinarius, under which he appears in the Papal Biography.​22 Next to Bessas and Constantine, he was probably the most important officer now in the Imperial service in Italy, and, as we shall see hereafter, his fame was viewed with some jealousy by Belisarius. Although there were other officers bearing the same popular name, to prevent the tedious repetition either of his gory epithet or of his relation­ship to Vitalian, he will in these pages be called simply John, the others being distinguished by their peculiar epithets.

The reinforcements reach Ostia. The large number of troops under Paulus and Conon were ordered to sail with all speed to Ostia. John, with his 1800 horsemen, to whom were joined the 500 soldiers raised by Procopius, marched along the Appian Way, escorting a long train of waggons laden with provisions for the famishing citizens of Rome. If the enemy should attack them their purpose was to form the waggons in a circle round them and fight behind this hastily raised barrier. No such attack, however, appears to have been made. The Goths at this time  p228 were thinking of embassies and oratory rather than of cutting off the enemy's supplies. It was no small disappointment to John and his troops to find Tarracina destitute of Roman forces. They had reckoned on meeting there Martin and Trajan, whom Belisarius had a few days before withdrawn into the city. However, favoured perhaps in part by the fight which was at the same time going on round the walls of Rome, both divisions of the army, by sea and land, arrived safely at Ostia, with all the stores of cornº and wine with which they had freighted their ships and piled their waggons. The Isaurians dug a deep ditch round their quarters in the harbour-city, and the troops of John placed themselves 'in laager' (to use the phrase with which the South African warfare has made us familiar) behind their waggons.

Sortie of the Imperialists from Rome. Meanwhile to divert the attention of the barbarians from the movements of the relieving armies Belisarius had planned a fresh sortie.​23 The story of these sallies is becoming monotonous, from their almost uniform success, but we are nearing the end of the catalogue. The main attack was to be made this time from the Porta Flaminia, a gate which had been so fast closed up by Belisarius that the Goths had practically come to regard it not only as unassailable, but also as containing for them no menace of a sally. Now, however, the General removed by night the large masses of stone (taken very likely from the agger of Servius Tullius) with which he had filled it up and drew up the great body of his troops behind it. A feigned  p229 attack made by 1000 horsemen under Trajan and Diogenes, issuing from the Pincian Gate, distracted the attention of the Goths, and caused them to pour out from the neighbouring camps in chase of the flying Romans. When they were in all the confusion of pursuit, Belisarius ordered the Flaminian Gate to be opened and launched his well-drilled troops against the unsuspecting foe. First Gothic Camp attacked. The Romans charged across the intervening space, and were soon close up to the ramparts of that which we have called the First Gothic Camp, nearest of all the camps to the walls of Rome. A steep and narrow pathway which led to the main gate of the camp was held for a time, in Thermopylae fashion, by a courageous and well-armed barbarian, but Mundilas, the brave guardsman, at length slew the Gothic Leonidas and suffered no one to fill his place. The Roman soldiers pressed on, and swarmed round the ramparts of the camp, but, few as were the defenders within it, they were kept for some time at bay by the strength of the works. 'For the fosse,' says our historian, 'was dug to a great depth, and the earth taken out from it, being all thrown to the inside, had made a very high bank which served the purpose of a wall, and was strongly armed with very sharp stakes and many of them.'​24 Then one of the household guard of Belisarius, an active soldier named Aquilinus, catching hold of a horse's bridle leaped upon its back, and was carried by its spring right over the rampart into the camp.​25 Here he slew many of the Goths, but gathering round him they  p230 hurled upon him a shower of missiles. The horse was killed, but the brave and nimble Aquilinus escaped unhurt, and leaping down from the wall, joined on foot the stream of Roman soldiers who were pouring southwards from the Gothic camp​26 towards the Pincian Gate, where the barbarians were still pursuing the flying troops of Trajan. Flight of the Goths. A shower of arrows in their rear slew many of the Goths: the survivors looked round and halted: the lately flying Romans also turned: the Goths found themselves caught between two attacks:​27 they lost all cohesion and fell by hundreds. A few with difficulty escaped to the nearest camps, the occupants of which kept close and dared not stir forth to help them.

Trajan wounded. In this battle, successful as were its main results for the Romans, Trajan received a wound which was well-nigh fatal. An arrow struck his face, a little above his right eye, in the angle formed by the eye and the nose. The whole of the iron tip, though long and large, entered and was hidden in the wound: the wooden part of the arrow, not well joined to the iron, fell to the earth. Notwithstanding his wound Trajan went on pursuing and slaying, and no ill results came of it. 'Five years after,' says the historian, 'the arrow‑tip of its own accord worked its way to the surface and showed itself in his face. For three years it has protruded a little from the surface. Every one expects that in course of time it will work out  p231 altogether. Meanwhile Trajan has suffered no inconvenience from it of any kind.'28

The Goths, dispirited, send an embassy to Belisarius. The result of this sally was to strike deep discouragement into the hearts of the barbarians. 'Already,' said they to one another, 'we are as much the besieged as the besiegers. Famine and Pestilence are stalking through all our camps. New armies, we cannot tell how large, are on their way from Constantinople, and the terrible Belisarius, who knows that only a few of us are left to represent the many myriads who sat down before Rome, is actually daring to assault us in our camps, one of which he has all but taken.' In some kind of assembly, which the historian calls their Senate, they debated the question of raising the siege, and decided on the desperate expedient of an appeal to the justice and generosity of Byzantium, while sending an embassy to Rome to plead their cause with Belisarius. The embassy consisted of an official of high rank in the Gothic state but of Roman lineage (one who occupied in fact nearly the same position formerly held by Cassiodorus, but whose name Procopius has not recorded),​29 and with him two Gothic  p232 nobles. The arguments used by the Gothic Envoys and the replies of Belisarius, which are probably in the main correctly reported by the historian, himself present at the interview, may best be presented in the form of a dialogue.

Gothic Envoys. 'This war is inflicting upon both the combatants indescribable miseries. Let us each moderate our desires, and see if some means cannot be found of bringing it to an end. The ruler should think not merely of the gratification of his own ambition, but also of the happiness of his subjects, and that assuredly is not being promoted on either side by the continuance of the war. We suggest that the conference be not concluded by means of studied orations on either side, but that each party say out that which is in their minds without preparation, and that if anything he said which seems improper, exception be taken to it at once.'

Belisarius. 'I shall interpose no hindrance to the dialogue proceeding as ye propose: but see that ye utter words that are just and that tend towards peace.'

Gothic Envoys. 'We complain of you, O Romans, that you have taken up arms without cause against an allied and friendly people: and we shall prove our complaint by facts which no man can gainsay. Gothic account of Theodoric's conquest of Italy. The Goths came into possession of this land not by violently wresting it from the Romans, but by taking it from  p233 Odovacar, who, having overturned the Emperor of that day, changed the constitutional government which existed here into a tyranny.​30 Now Zeno who was then Emperor of the East was desirous to avenge his colleague on the usurper and to free the country, but was not strong enough to cope with the forces of Odovacar. He therefore persuaded our ruler Theodoric, who was at that very time meditating the siege of Byzantium, to forego his hostility to the Empire in remembrance of the dignities which he had already received in the Roman State, (those namely of Patrician and Consul), to avenge upon Odovacar his injustice to Augustulus, and to confer upon this country and his own people the blessings of a just and stable government. Thus then did our nation come to be guardians of this land of Italy. The settled order of things which we found here we preserved, nor can any man point to any new law, written or unwritten, and say "That was introduced by Theodoric."​31 As for religious affairs, so anxiously have we guarded the liberty of the Romans that there is no instance of one of them having voluntarily or under compulsion adopted our creed, while there are many instances of Goths who have gone over to yours, not one of whom has suffered any punishment. The holy places of the Romans have received the highest honour from us, and their right of sanctuary has been uniformly respected. The high offices of the State have been always held by Romans,  p234 not once by a Goth. We challenge contradiction if any of our statements are incorrect. Then, too, the Romans have been permitted by the Goths to receive a Consul every year, on the nomination of the Emperor of the East.

'To sum up. You did nothing to help Italy when, not for a few months but for ten long years, she was groaning under the oppression of Odovacar and his barbarians: but now you are putting forth all your strength upon no valid pretext against her rightful occupants. We call upon you therefore to depart hence, to enjoy in quiet your own possessions and the plunder which during this war you have collected in our country.'

Belisarius (in wrath). 'You promised that you would speak briefly and with moderation, but you have given us a long harangue, full of something very like bragging. Byzantine account of the same transaction. The Emperor Zeno sent Theodoric to make war upon Odovacar, not in order that he himself should obtain the kingship of Italy (for what would have been the advantage of replacing one tyrant by another?), but that the country might be restored to freedom and its obedience to the Emperor. Now all that Theodoric did against the usurper was well done, but his later behaviour, in refusing to restore the country to its rightful lord, was outrageously ungrateful: nor can I see any difference between the conduct of a man who originally lays hands on another's property, and his who, when such a stolen treasure comes into his possession, refuses to restore it to its true owner. Never, therefore, will I surrender the Emperor's land to any other lord. But if you have any other request to make, speak on.'

 p235  Goths offer to surrender Sicily. Gothic Envoys. 'How true is all that we have advanced every member of this company knows right well. But, as a proof of our moderation, we will relinquish to you the large and wealthy island of Sicily, without which your possession of Africa is insecure.'

Belisarius offers to surrender Britain. Belisarius (with sarcastic courtesy). 'Such generosity calls for a return in kind. We will freely grant permission to the Goths to occupy the whole of Britain, a much larger island than you offer to us, and one which once belonged to the Romans as Sicily once belonged to the Goths.'

Gothic Envoys. 'Well then, if we talk about adding Naples and Campania to our offer, will you consider it?'

Belisarius. 'Certainly not. We have no power to grant away the lands of the Emperor in a manner which he might not approve of.'

Gothic Envoys. 'Or if we pledged ourselves to pay a certain yearly tribute to your master?'

Belisarius. 'No, not so. We can treat on no conditions but those which secure that the Emperor shall have his own again.'

A truce proposed and accepted. Gothic Envoys. 'Come then: allow us to send ambassadors to the Emperor to treat about all the matters in dispute, and let there be a cessation of hostilities on both sides for a fixed period, to give the ambassadors time to go and return.'

Belisarius. 'Be it so. Never shall my voice be raised against any proposition which is really made in the interests of peace.' And thereupon the ambassadors returned to the Gothic camp to make arrangements for the coming truce.

Thus ended this memorable interview between the  p236 representative of Caesar and the servants of the Gothic King. Memorable, if for no others, assuredly for us, the dwellers in that well-nigh forgotten island whose sovereignty Belisarius tossed contemptuously to the Goths as a reply to their proposed surrender of Sicily. Would that we had a Procopius to tell us what was passing at the moment in 'the island much larger than Sicily, which had belonged aforetime to the Romans!' Three years before, as we are told, Cerdic, the half-mythical ancestor of King Alfred and of Queen Victoria, had died (if indeed he had ever lived), perchance in some palace rudely put together on the ruins of the Roman Praetorium at Winchester. His people had been for near twenty years pausing in their career of conquest, during that mysterious interval, or even refluence of the Saxon wave, which legend has glorified by connecting it with the great deeds of Arthur. In the far north, ten years after this time, King Ida was to rear upon the basaltic rock of Bamburgh, over­looking the misty flock of the Farne Islands, that fortress-city which was to be the capital of the Bernician kingdom, and which narrowly missed being the capital of England itself and rivalling the world-wide fame of London. When we have said this we have told nearly all that is known of the deeds of our fathers and the fortunes of our land during this central portion of the sixth century after Christ.

Belisarius under cover of the truce re‑victuals Rome. The negotiations for a truce, and the consequent slackening of the vigilance of the Goths, came at the most opportune moment possible for the plans of Belisarius. Vast quantities of corn, wine, and other provisions for the relief of the hunger-stricken City were collected at Ostia, but a murderous struggle  p237 would have been necessary to cover their entrance into Rome. On the very evening of the day of conference Belisarius, accompanied apparently by his wife and attended by 100 horsemen, rode to Ostia to meet the generals who were in command of the Isaurians at that port. He encouraged them by the tidings of the negotiations that had been commenced, urged them to use all possible diligence in the transport of the provisions to Rome, and promised to do all in his power to secure them a safe passage. With the first grey of the morning he returned to the City, leaving Antonina behind to consult with the generals as to the best means of conveying the stores. The only practicable towpath — as was before said — ran along the right bank of the river, and was commanded by the Gothic garrison of Portus. Moreover, the draught-oxen were half dead with hunger and hardship. In these circumstances Antonina and the generals decided to trust to sails and oars alone. They selected all the largest boats belonging to the navy at Ostia, fitted each one with rude battlements of tall planks to protect the rowers from the arrows of the enemy, freighted them with the cargoes of provisions, and began their perilous voyage. A considerable part of the army accompanied them along the left bank of the river by way of escort, but several of the Isaurians were also left at Ostia to guard the ships. Apparently the wind blew from the south-west, for wherever the stream pursued a straight course their sails were full and all went pleasantly; but in the windings of the river they had to resort to their oars, and hard was the toil needed to traverse these portions of the stream.

 p238  The Goths offer no opposition. Strangely enough, the Goths, though no truce was formally concluded, offered no opposition to this proceeding, though they must have known that that day's work, if successful, would undo, in great measure, the results of the last six months of blockade. The garrison at Portus lay quiet, marvelling at the ingenuity of the Romans, and saw the heavy barges sail almost under the towers of their fortress. The Goths in the six camps lay quiet too, partly comforting themselves with the assurance that the Romans would never get their city re‑victualled in that way, partly thinking that it was not worth while to imperil the results of the conference and lose the longed‑for truce by any hostile action which might offend the terrible Belisarius. So they let their opportunity slip. The barges passed and repassed till all the stores were safely transported to Rome. 21 Dec. 537 The ships then returned to Constantinople with all speed to avoid the peril of storms, the winter solstice being now reached. A few Isaurians, under the command of Paulus, were left at Ostia, but the great mass of the new soldiers entered Rome in safety.

Truce for three months concluded and hostages exchanged. When the Goths had quietly looked on at all these important operations, they might just as well have at once recognised the hopelessness of their task and marched away from Rome. They still clung however, or rather perhaps their King alone still clung, to the expedient of a truce and an embassy, and to the hope of obtaining favourable terms from the justice of Justinian. It was arranged that Gothic ambassadors should be sent under Roman escort to Constantinople, that a truce for three months should be concluded between the two armies to give the embassy time to go and return, and that hostages of high rank should  p239 be given on both sides. The Gothic hostage was a nobleman named Ulias; the Roman hostage was Zeno, a cavalry officer who, as was before stated, had recently entered Rome by the Latin Way.

Gothic positions evacuated and occupied by Belisarius. In the whole course of these negotiations the Goths had been thoroughly outwitted by Belisarius. Nothing had been said about the question of revictualling Rome; and Belisarius had quietly decided that question in his own favour, under the very eyes of the puzzled barbarians. Neither does anything seem to have been said expressly as to the case of either army ceasing to occupy all its positions in force, a case which soon arose. Shut off from the coast by the Byzantines' command of the sea, and having, very likely, failed to maintain the Roman roads in good condition, the Goths found great difficulty in provisioning the garrisons at some of their distant posts. Under the stress of this difficulty they withdrew their garrisons from Portus, from Centumcellae (the modern Civita Vecchia), and from Albanum. As fast as each square was thus left vacant on the chess-board, Belisarius moved up a piece to take possession of it. The Goths remonstrate. The Goths, who found themselves thus ever more and more hemmed in by the Roman outposts, sent an embassy of angry complaint to Belisarius. 'Was this in accordance with the terms of the armistice? Witigis had sent for the Goths in Portus to come to him for a temporary service, and Paulus and his Isaurians had marched in and taken possession of the undefended fortress. So, too, with Albanum and Centumcellae. All these places must be given back to them or they would do terrible things.' Belisarius simply laughed at their threats, and told them that all the world knew perfectly well for what  p240 reason those fortresses had been abandoned. The truce still formally continued, but both parties eyed one another with jealousy and distrust.

Troops sent into the Abruzzi under John. By the new reinforcements which had been poured into Rome, Belisarius found himself at the head of so large a number of troops that he could even spare some for distant operations. He therefore despatched John at the head of 800 horsemen to the mountains of the Abruzzi. Two other bodies of troops, amounting to 1200 in all, were to follow his motions and adapt their movements to his, but, perhaps for reasons of commissariat, not to occupy the same quarters. One of these supporting armies was commanded by Damian, nephew of Valerian, and his troops were drawn from that general's army. The orders given to John were to pass the winter at Alba [Fucentia], a city about seventy miles from Rome, in the heart of the Apennines and near to the little lake of Fucinus. Here he was to rest, not disturbing the Goths so long as they attempted no hostile operation. The moment that he perceived the truce to be broken, he was to sweep like a whirlwind on the territory of Picenum, between the Apennines and the Hadriatic, to ravage the Gothic possessions (scrupulously respecting those of the Romans), to collect plunder from every quarter, and to carry off their women and children into slavery. All this could be easily effected, since the men of the district were all serving in the Gothic armies. He was to take every fortress that threatened his route, leaving none to molest his rear, and he was to keep his plunder intact till the time came for dividing it among the whole army. 'For it is not fair,' said Belisarius, with a laugh, 'that we should have the  p241 trouble of killing the drones and that you should divide all the honey.'

Visit of Datius, Archbishop of Milan. Two events relieved the tedium of the siege during the early months of the year 538: the visit of the Archbishop of Milan and the quarrel between Belisarius and Constantine. Datius, the Ligurian Archbishop, came at the head of a deputation of influential citizens to entreat Belisarius to send a small garrison to enable them to hold their city (which had apparently already revolted from the Gothic King) for the Empire. They enlarged on the populousness and wealth of Mediolanum, the second city of Italy, its important position (eight days' journey from Ravenna and the same distance from the frontiers of Gaul), and the certainty that Liguria would follow whithersoever its capital might lead. Belisarius promised to grant their request as soon as possible, and meanwhile persuaded Datius and his companions to pass the winter with him in Rome.

Quarrel between Belisarius and Constantine. The quarrel with Constantine, in which Procopius sees the hand of Nemesis resenting the uniform prosperity of the Imperial cause, arose out of small beginnings. A certain Presidius, one of the leading citizens of Ravenna, having some cause of complaint against the Goths, determined to flee to the Imperial army. Leaving Ravenna on pretence of hunting, he passed through the Gothic lines (this happened just before Witigis started for the siege of Rome) and made his way to the army which under Constantine was then quartered at Spoleto. Affair of Presidius and his daggers. Of all his possessions he was able to bring with him nothing but two daggers in golden scabbards set with precious stones. The fame of the refugee from Ravenna and his jewelled  p242 poniards reached the ears of Constantine, who sent one of his guards named Maxentiolus to the church outside the walls, where Presidius had taken refuge, to demand the daggers in the General's name. Presidius was forced to submit to this spoliation, but hastened to Rome to lay his complaint before the General. In the turmoil of the Gothic assault and the Roman sorties, he found for long no suitable opportunity for stating his cause; but now that the truce had been proclaimed he sought and obtained an audience with the General, before whom he laid his complaint. Belisarius had other reasons for censuring his lieutenant; but at present he confined himself to a gentle remonstrance with Constantine, and the expression of a wish that he would abstain from such acts of rapacity. The Fate which was brooding over the covetous general prevented him from 'leaving well enough alone.' He must needs taunt Presidius, whenever he met him, with the loss of his daggers, and ask him what he had gained by complaining to Belisarius. At length the refugee could bear it no longer; but one day when Belisarius was riding through the Forum he seized his horse's bridle and cried out with a loud voice, 'Are these the far‑famed laws of Justinian, that when a man takes refuge with you from the barbarians ye should spoil him of his goods by force?' The General's retinue shouted to him to let go the horse's bridle, but he clung to it, repeating his cries and passionate appeals for justice, till Belisarius, who knew the rightness of his cause, promised that the daggers should be restored to him.

Assembly of generals. The next day there was an assembly of the generals in a chamber of the palace on the Pincian. Constantine  p243 was there, and Bessas and Valerian. There was also present Ildiger, son-in‑law of Antonina, who had lately come to Rome with a large troop of horsemen from Africa. Before all this assembly Belisarius related what had occurred on the previous day, blamed the unjust deed of Constantine, and exhorted him to make a tardy reparation for his fault by restoring the daggers to their owner. 'No,' replied Constantine, 'I will do nothing of the kind. I would rather throw the daggers into the Tiber than give them back to Presidius.' Belisarius asked him with some warmth if he remembered who was his general. 'In everything else,' said Constantine, 'I am willing to obey you, since the Emperor orders me to do so, but as for the matter that you are now talking about I will never obey you.' Belisarius ordered the guards to enter. 'To kill me, I suppose,' said Constantine. 'No,' was the answer, 'but since your armour-bearer Maxentiolus by force took these daggers away, by force compel him to restore them.' Constantine stabs Belisarius. Constantine, however, believing that his death was decided upon, determined to do some memorable deed while he yet lived, and drawing the dagger which hung at his side stabbed Belisarius in the belly. Wounded, but not fatally, the General staggered back, and clasping Bessas in his arms interposed the portly form of the Ostrogoth between himself and the assassin. He then glided out of the chamber. Constantine, mad with rage, was on the point of following him, but Ildiger seized him by the right hand and Bessas by the left, and they together pulled him in an opposite direction. Then the guards entered, and with much difficulty wrested the dagger from the furious officer.  p244  Constantine put to death. He was dragged off to a place of confinement in the palace, thence, after some days, to another house, and eventually was put to death by the order of Belisarius.

Other reasons as assigned for the execution of Constantine. The execution of a lieutenant who had so grossly insulted his superior officer and attempted his life does not appear to be a deed difficult to justify. Procopius remarks, however, that 'this was the only unholy action which Belisarius ever committed, and it was unlike his usual disposition. For he generally showed great gentleness in dealing with all men. But, as before remarked, it was fated that Constantine should come to a bad end.' This reflection convinces us that we have not heard the whole story, and that the affair of the jewelled poniards was rather the pretext than the cause of the death of Constantine. In the Anecdota, that Scandalous Chronicle written in the old age of Procopius, he informs us that when all Constantinople was talking about the gallantries of Antonina and the punishment inflicted on her lover by Belisarius, Constantine, in his condolence with the injured husband, said, 'It is not the young man but the lady that I should punish in such a case.' Antonina heard of the saying and treasured up her wrath till an occasion was found for wreaking it upon the injudicious officer.

Attempt of the Goths to enter by the Aqua Virgo. Not long after this affair, the Goths attempted to enter the City by guile. Agricola's aqueduct, the Aqua Virgo, is so constructed, for engineering reasons, as to form a long circuit round the east and north of the City. The course which it now pursues is almost entirely in the rear of the Gothic position, but there seems reason to think that in 538 it passed through the Gothic lines, that it touched the Wall of Aurelian  p245 near the Salarian Gate, and was then carried for some distance round the Wall on a low arcade only some three or four feet in height.​32 However this may be, there is no doubt that then as now it burrowed under the Pincian Hill, and emerged into a deep well-like chamber communicating with one of the palaces on that eminence. That palace was then the Pincian Palace inhabited by Belisarius. The dwelling which now rises immediately above the receptacle of the Aqua Virgo is the Villa Medicis, the home of the French Academy. A strong argument is thus furnished in favour of identifying the two sites. From the Pincian the water was carried then as now, to the Campus Martius, the fountain of Trevi, and the neighbourhood of the Pantheon; in fact the aqueduct ran right into the very heart of Rome.

The Goths in the aqueduct. A party of Goths, during this treacherous truce-time, determined to attempt an entrance into the City by this aqueduct, which of course, like all the others, was now only a tunnel bare of water. With lighted torches they groped their way through the specus, which is about six feet high by a foot and a half wide. They crept along unopposed, perhaps for a distance of one or two miles, till at last they were actually within the City, and close to the foot of the steps leading to the very palace of Belisarius. Here they found their further progress barred by a newly-erected wall. This wall had been built by command of Belisarius soon  p246 after his entry into the City. The wary General, who knew every move that his enemy ought to make upon the board, was not going to allow Rome to be taken from him as he had taken Naples from the Goths, by stealing through an aqueduct. Foiled in their present purpose, the Goths broke off a bit of stone from the walls as a record of their perilous expedition, and returned to tell Witigis how near they had been to success and why they had missed it.

The light of their torches seen by a sentinel. But while the explorers were moving along through the small part of the Aqua Virgo which was above ground, the flash of their torches through a chink in the walls attracted the attention of a sentinel, stationed perhaps in the fosse somewhere near the Pincian Gate. He talked to his comrades about this mysterious light, seen only a foot or two above the surface of the earth; but they only laughed at him, telling him that he must have seen a wolf's eyes gleaming through the darkness. However, the story of the sentinel and his wonderful light reached the ears of Belisarius. In a moment its true meaning flashed upon him. 'This is no wolf,' he said to himself; 'the Goths are trying the aqueduct.' At once he sent the guardsman Diogenes with a body of picked men to examine the channel. We must suppose that they took down part of the obstructing wall, and so entered the specus. They saw the place where the stone had been chipped off which was shown to Witigis. They pressed on: they found everywhere the droppings from the Gothic flambeaux, and at length discovered some Gothic lamps. It was clear that the enemy had been trying by these means to steal into Rome. The Goths soon perceived that  p247 Belisarius was acquainted with their adventure, and the design, which Witigis had discussed in a council of war, of following up the quest opened by the exploring party, was promptly abandoned.33

During the remainder of the three months of nominal truce two more attempts upon the City were made, or at any rate planned, by the barbarians. One was upon the Pincian Gate, and was arranged for the hour of the mid‑day meal, when but few soldiers were likely to be behind the battlements. The Goths were coming on in loose order, with ladders to mount the walls and fire to burn the gate. But not even in truce-time were the walls ever left quite bare of guards. Fortunately, it was then the turn of the gallant Ildiger to keep watch. He saw the loosely marshalled band advancing, at once divined their traitorous design, sallied out with his followers, easily changed their disorderly advance into an equally disorderly retreat, and slew the greater number of them. A great clamour was raised in Rome; the Goths saw that their design was discovered, and all returned to their camps.

Scheme for drugging the guards on the river-wall. The next scheme was of a baser kind, and was worthy of the confused brain from which it sprung. It has been said that the wall of the City between  p248 the Tomb of Hadrian and the Flaminian Gate was low and destitute of towers, the military engineers of Aurelian having thought that the river would here be a sufficient protection. Witigis therefore argued thus with himself: 'If I could only lull to sleep the vigilance of the Roman sentinels on that piece of wall, a strong detachment of my army might cross the river in boats, climb the wall, and open the gates of the City to the rest of the army, who shall be all waiting outside.' He therefore took into his pay two Romans, probably of the labouring class, who dwelt near the great basilica of St. Peter. They promised to take a large skin of wine to these sentinels about nightfall, offer them refreshment, keep them drinking and talking far into the night, and when they were too drunk to observe anything, throw an opiate,​c with which Witigis provided the traitors, into their cups. The infamous scheme was revealed to Belisarius by one of its intended instruments,​34 who revealed also the name of his accomplice. The latter under torture confessed the criminal intention, and surrendered the opiate which he had received from Witigis. Belisarius cut off the nose and ears of the unhappy traitor, — these barbarous mutilations were becoming part of the penal code of Constantinople, — and sent him mounted on an ass to the Gothic camp to tell his dismal tale to his royal confederate. 'When the barbarians saw him they recognised that God did not bring their plans to a successful issue, and therefore that they would never be able to capture the City.'

John commences retaliatory measures in Picenum. By these two attempts (if we may trust the statement  p249 of Procopius, who probably throws more blame on the Goths than they deserve) the three months' truce was sufficiently broken to justify Belisarius in commencing a campaign of retaliation. He sent letters to John ordering him to begin the operations in Picenum which had been arranged between them. John marched with his two thousand horsemen through the settlements of the Goths, burning, plundering, wasting all that belonged to the enemy. Death of Ulitheus. Ulitheus, the aged uncle of Witigis, dared to meet him in battle, but was slain, and almost his whole army fell with him. After this, none would face him in the field. Pressing on through the country on the eastern slopes of the Apennines, he came to the fortresses of Urbino and Osimo, neither of them garrisoned by a large force of Goths, but both strong by their natural position. According to the orders of Belisarius he should have reduced each of these fortresses before proceeding further, but the cry of his army and his own military instinct both directed a bold forward movement to Rimini. Ariminum taken. To that city by the Hadriatic he accordingly marched, and such was the terror of the Goths that he carried it at the first assault. It is true that he had not here, as in the cases of Urbino and Osimo, to attack a high hill fortress, for Rimini, though surrounded with walls, lies in a wide plain at the mouth of the Marecchia; and the supremacy by sea which the Byzantines possessed would have made it a difficult city for the Goths to hold against a united attack by sea and land.

But whatever the cause, here was the victorious army of John in possession of an important city two hundred miles in the rear of the Gothic army, and  p250 only thirty-three, a single day's march, from their capital, Ravenna. John had rightly calculated that this step of his would lead to the raising of the siege of Rome. Effect of these tidings on the besiegers of Rome. The Goths, thoroughly alarmed for the safety of their capital, began to chafe at every day spent in sight of those walls which, as they felt, they never should surmount. Their King too had his own reasons for sharing their impatience when Treachery of Matasuentha. it began to be whispered that his young wife Matasuentha, proud and petulant, and never forgiving her lowly-born husband for the compulsion which had brought her to his side in wedlock, had sent secret messages to John at Rimini congratulating him on his success, and holding out to him hopes that she would betray the Gothic cause if he would accept her hand in marriage.

The siege raised, about March 12, 538. So it came to pass that when the three months of truce had expired, although no tidings had been received from the ambassadors, the Goths resolved to abandon their blockade of Rome. It was near the time of the Vernal Equinox, and 374 days from the commencement of the siege, when they carried this resolution into effect. At dawn of day, having set all their seven camps on fire, the dispirited mass of men began to move northward along the Flaminian Way.

The Goths depart. The Romans, who saw them departing, were for some time in doubt whether to pursue them or rather 'to make a bridge of gold for a retreating foe.' The absence of so many of their cavalry in Picenum was a reason for leaving them unmolested. They are attacked by Belisarius while crossing the Milvian Bridge. But Belisarius hastily armed as large a force as he could muster, both of horse and foot, and when half the Gothic army had crossed the Milvian Bridge he launched his soldiers  p251 forth from the Flaminian Gate, and made a furious attack on the Gothic rear. Mundilas, the escort of Procopius, conspicuous in so many previous battles, wrought great deeds of valour in this, fighting four barbarians at once and killing them all. Longinus,​35 an Isaurian, was also among the foremost in the fight, which, having been for some time doubtful, ended in the flight of the barbarians. Then followed a terrible scene, Goth struggling with Goth for a place upon the bridge and for a way of escape from the devouring sword. Many fell by the hands of their own comrades, many were pushed off the bridge, and, encumbered by the weight of their armour, sank in the stream of the Tiber. Few, according to the account of Procopius, succeeded in struggling across to the opposite shore, where the other half of the army stood awaiting them. In this statement there is probably some exaggeration, but there can be no doubt that the well-timed attack of Belisarius inflicted a severe blow upon the retreating enemy. The joy of the Romans in their victory was alloyed by grief for the death of the valiant Longinus.

So ended the long siege of Rome by Witigis, a siege in which the numbers and prowess of the Goths were rendered useless by the utter incapacity of their commander. Ignorant how to assault, ignorant how to blockade, he allowed even the sword of Hunger to be wrested from him and used against his army by Belisarius. He suffered the flower of the Gothic nation to perish, not so much by the weapons of the Romans as by the deadly dews of the Campagna. With heavy hearts the barbarians must have thought, as they  p252 turned them northwards, upon the many graves of gallant men which they were leaving on that fatal plain. Some of them must have suspected the melancholy truth that they had dug one grave, deeper and wider than all, the grave of the Gothic monarchy in Italy.

The Author's Notes:

1 Procopius says fifty stadia, but his memory has clearly played him false. Torre Fiscale is a little less than thirty stadia from Rome.

2 Procopius says that the intersection of the aqueducts was between the Appian and Latin Ways. This, however, must be a slight lapse of memory on his part, like his overstatement of the distance from Rome, since Torre Fiscale is actually upon the Via Latina or quite close to it. S. Lanciani assures me that there is no place precisely answering to the description by Procopius at all suitable for the purpose.

3 July.

4 Procopius on the Sibylline prophecy. 'And in Rome certain of the Patricians produced oracles of the Sibyl affirming that the danger of the city should continue only till the month of July. For then a king was to arise for the Romans, by whose means the Getic fear was to be removed in future from Rome. But the Getae mean the Goths. This was how the oracle ran: —



(De B. G. I.24 ; p117)

[Comparetti says on this passage, 'Only in the Vatican codices is any trace preserved of the original Latin script, in great measure transformed by the copyists into Greek characters. In V (the best Vatican MS.) we read: —

ΗΝΤΙ hοιμεΝᕋεᕋ7Βε |



The same with somewhat greater corruption is read in U and W (the two other Vatican MSS.). In all the other codices the writing is entirely Greek (as above, with slight variations). He deciphers it thus — Quintili mense sub novo Romanus rege nihil Geticum jam metuet.'

Procopius goes on to explain that Quintilis meant July, but as he says, the whole prophecy was fallacious, for no deliverance was wrought in that month; no king arose to save Rome; and afterwards she suffered as much 'Getic terror' under Totila as she had ever done under Witigis. But, he continues, it is quite impossible to understand any prophecy of the Sibyl till after the event. For she observes no order in her predictions, but rushes about so wildly from Libya to Persia and from Rome to Assyria, and then from Assyria darts off so strangely to describe the sufferings of Britain, that it is quite beyond the human intellect to understand her meanings till time has made it clear. This last hint that the Sibylline prophecies included Britain is important (καὶ πάλιν ἀμφὶ Ῥωμαίοις μαντευομένη προλέγει τὰ Βρεττανῶν πάθη).

5 I do not quite understand what Procopius means when he says (p159) that these men ἣ ἵππων φυλακῆς ἕνεκα ἣ ἄλλου ὁτουοῦν ἐνταῦθα λελεῖφθαι.

6 De B. G. I.24.

7 The date is fixed by Marcellinus Comes (Roncalli, II.296).

8 Vol. III p411.

9 Fourteen miles instead of sixty‑two.

10 'To neither of the Apostles' temples during the whole period of the war was any unkind act done by the Goths, but all the accustomed sacred rites continued to be performed in them by the priests' (p160).º

11 The deposition of Silverius which is related here is placed by Procopius at an earlier date. He describes it in the 25th chapter of his First Book, and in the following chapter recounts the events of the 41st day of the siege (about 13th April, 537). But against this has to be set the very precise testimony of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, who puts the death of Agapetus on the 22nd April, 536, accession of Silverius 8th June in the same year, duration of his pontificate one year, five months, eleven days, thus bringing his deposition down to 18th November, 537 (see Clinton's Fasti Romani, pp767 and 769). Against these apparently precise dates of the Papal biographer I do not think that the mere recollections of Procopius, writing after an interval of thirteen years, ought to prevail.

12 See p78.

13 Liberatus calls them 'Marcum quemdam scholasticum et Julianum quemdam praetorianum.'

14 'Qui autem Silverio adstabant, persuadebant ei, ne Graecorum crederet juramentis' (Liberatus, xxii).

15 I am unable to explain this name. [It is Musileo in Duchesne.]

16 Regionarius. According to Ducange the Regionarii were ecclesiastical notaries who, each in his own Region of the city, represented the absent pontiff in the assembly of the clergy.

17 Procopius briefly mentions the deposition of Silverius, 'the high-priest of the city,' on a suspicion of treating with the Goths, and the substitution of Vigilius. He tells us that for the same reason Belisarius sent some of the Senators into temporary exile, among them Maximus, descendant of the rival of Valentinian III (De B. G. I.25).

18 An important assertion of Papal supremacy in the sixth century.

19 'Traditus est duobus Vigilii defensoribus et servis.'

20 Anastasius and Liberatus both substantially agree in attributing the death of Silverius to Vigilius. However strong may have been the prejudice against the latter Pope, I do not think we are justified in setting aside this double testimony against him on the strength of a passage in the Anecdota (p16, ed. Bonn), where Procopius says that Eugenius, one of the slaves of Antonina, 'wrought the deed of wickedness against Silverius' (ᾧ δὴ καὶ τὸ ἐς Σιλβέριον εἴργασται μίασμα). Alemannus says that the Editio Augustana reads Liberius instead of Silverius: but I do not understand this, as the Editio Princeps published at Augsburg (Editio Augustana) does not contain the Anecdota.

21 See his character in Procopius, De Bello Gotthico, II.10 (p185 ed. Bonn).

22 In Vita Vigilii (p296 ed. Duchesne). This epithet is never given him by Procopius.

23 Some little vivid touches of detail introduced into the narrative of this sortie would seem to show that by this time Procopius was again in Rome.

24 Again the Pfahlgraben style of fortification.

25 Λώρου λαβόμενος ἵππου ἐνθένδε ξὺν τῷ ἵππῳ ἐς μέσον τὸ χαράκωμα ἥλατο.

26 Was the Gothic camp actually taken by the Romans? I think not: certainly not held by them; but the language of Procopius is not very clear on this point.

27 I must not say 'between two fires,' though that expression has become so natural to us that it is difficult to dispense with it.

28 At first sight it would seem that this passage must have been written eight years after the wound was received, i.e. in 545‑6: and possibly this may have been the case, though the De Bello Gotthico as a whole was published (according to Dahn) in 550. But if we examine the passage minutely we shall see that there may be an interval of a few years between πέμπτῳ ὕστερον ἐνιαυτῷ and τρίτον τοῦτο ἔτος ('The point first showed itself after five years, and now for three years has been absolutely projecting from his face').

29 It is not improbable (as suggested by a writer in the Athenaeum, Sept. 11, 1886) that this person whom Procopius calls Ῥωμαίων ἄνδρα ἐν Γότθοις δόκιμον may have been Cassiodorus himself. 'The oration which is ascribed by Procopius (De B. G. II.6) to this unnamed Roman, and which provoked the sneer of Belisarius at its verbosity, is surely very much the kind of discourse that Cassiodorus would have delivered, and at that period there can hardly have been two Roman rhetoricians holding high positions in the Gothic service.'

Thayer's Note: The quote in The Athenaeum is actually in the Aug. 14, 1886 issue, No. 3068, p199. It's a bit strange that Hodgkin should have got the date of the issue wrong, since the passage is part of a longish (and favorable) review of his own edition of The Letters of Cassiodorus.

30 The term 'constitutional government' is of course an anachronism, but perhaps conveys best to a modern reader the meaning of politeia: ἐς τυραννίδα τὴν τῇδε πολιτεῖαν μεταβαλὼν εἶχε.

31 In the face of the Edictum Theodorici it is difficult to believe that the Gothic envoys are here reported correctly.

32 Depicted in one of Mr. Parker's photographs (No. 5). I follow his statement (Aqueducts, p47, n. 1, and pp121, 122) as to the alteration in the line of the Aqua Virgo, because some such deviation seems necessary to explain the narrative of Procopius, the present course of this part of the aqueduct being, I think, entirely subterranean.

33 For some useful hints about this aqueduct-scheme I am indebted to Mr. Bryce, whose example I followed in exploring the entrance into the Aqua Virgo in the Borghese Gardens and the two flights of steps leading down to it from the summit of the Pincian Hill. It seems to me possible that the steep spiral staircase outside the Villa Medicis, the entrance to which is by a door called 'Porta del Cocchigliare dell' Acqua Vergine,' may be the same cochlea by which the troops of Belisarius descended and by which the Goths hoped to ascend into the City.

34 'For it was not destined,' says Procopius, 'that Rome should be taken by this army.'

35 Named probably after Longinus the brother of Zeno.

Thayer's Notes:

a Wars, VIII.35.

b As pointed out in the article Pope St. Silverius in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), the Liber Pontificalis puts his place of exile not at Palmaria (off the shore of Liguria), but at Palmarola, "a much smaller and more desolate island near Ponza" (off the shore of Campania). This finds good support from the fact that the cult of St. Silverius first arose in Ponza, whose patron he is and where it is still vigorous.

c "Opiate" is not to be taken literally. Procopius' Greek (B. G. II.9.17) is the generic ὑπνωτικόν = a soporific. Now opium was well known in Antiquity, so this particular drug may well have been derived from poppies — or not.

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