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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a Chapter of
The Secret History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is 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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Chapter 4

The Anecdota
or Secret History

Chapter III

 p33  When Belisarius had reached Roman territory, he found that his wife had arrived from Byzantium. And he kept her under guard in disgrace, and though he many times set about destroying her, his heart was softened, being vanquished, as it seems to me, by a sort of flaming-hot love. 2 But they say that it was also through her magic arts that he was brought under the control of the woman and immediately undone. Now Photius set off in haste for Ephesus, taking with him as a prisoner one of the eunuchs, Calligonus by name, who acted as a go-between for his mistress, and he on this journey revealed to him under torture all the woman's secrets. 3 But Theodosius, having advance information, fled for safety to the sanctuary of the Apostle John, which is the most  p35 holy one there and held in very high honour. 4 Andreas, however, the Chief Priest of Ephesus, accepted a bribe and delivered the man over to Photius. At this point Theodora, being solicitous for Antonina (for she had heard all that had happened to her), summoned Belisarius and her to Byzantium. 5 And Photius, upon hearing this, sent Theodosius into Cilicia where the spearmenº and guards​1 chanced to be passing the winter, instructing the escort to convey this man with the utmost secrecy, and when they reached Cilicia, to keep him in very strictly hidden confinement, giving information to no man where in the world he was. He himself, meanwhile, with Calligonus and the money of Theodosius, which amounted to a rather imposing sum, came to Byzantium. 6 There the Empress made an exhibition before all mankind, shewing that she knew how to requite bloody favours with greater and more unholy gifts. 7 For whereas Antonina had recently laid snares for one enemy for her, the Cappadocian, and had betrayed him, she herself delivered over to Antonina a host of men and brought about their destruction without even a charge having been brought against them. 8 For she first tortured certain intimates of Belisarius and Photius, alleging against them only the fact that they were on friendly terms with these two men, and then so disposed of them that up to this day we do not yet know what their final fate was; others too she punished by banishment, laying this same charge against them. 9 But one of those who had followed Photius to Ephesus, Theodosius by name, though he had attained the  p37 dignity of Senator, she stripped of his property and forced him to stand in an under­ground chamber which was utterly dark, tying his neck to a sort of manger with a rope so short that it was always stretched taut for the man and never hung slack. 10 So the poor wretch stood there continuously at this manger, both eating and sleeping and fulfilling all the other needs of nature, and nothing except braying was needed to complete his resemblance to the ass. 11 And a time amounting to not less than four months was passed by the man in this existence until he was attacked by the disease of melancholy, became violently insane and so finally was released from this confinement and then died. And she forced Belisarius, 12 quite against his will, to become reconciled with his wife Antonina. She then inflicted sundry servile tortures upon Photius, among others combing his back and his shoulders with many lashes and commanded him to tell where in the world Theodosius and the go-between were. 13 But he, though being racked with torture, determined to hold fast to his oath; for though he was a sickly person and had in earlier life been dissolute, yet he had been devoted to the care of his body, having experienced neither wanton treatment nor hardship. 14 At any rate, he disclosed not one of the secrets of Belisarius. At a later time, however, everything which hitherto had remained secret came to light. 15 She also found Calligonus there and handed him over to Antonina. And she summoned Theodosius to Byzantium, and upon his arrival, straightway concealed him in the Palace; and next day, calling Antonina to her, she  p39 said 16 "O dearest Patrician, yesterday a pearl fell into my hands, such as no man ever saw. If you wish, I should not begrudge you the sight of this, nay, I shall shew it to you." 17 And she, not comprehending what was going on, begged her earnestly to shew her the pearl. And she brought Theodosius out of the room of one of the eunuchs and shewed him to her. 18 And Antonina was so overjoyed that she at first remained speechless with pleasure, and then she acknowledged that Theodora had done her a great favour, calling her Saviour and Benefactor and Mistress in very truth. 19 And so the Empress detained this Theodosius in the Palace and bestowed upon him luxury and all manner of indulgence, and threatened that she would make him a Roman General after no long time. 20 But a sort of justice forestalled her, for he was seized by an attack of dysentery and removed from the world. 21 Now Theodora had concealed rooms which were completely hidden, being dark and isolated, where no indication of night or day could be observed. 22 There she confined Photius and kept him under guard for a long time. From this place he had the fortune, not once but even twice, to escape and get away. 23 The first time he fled to the Church of the Mother of God, which among the Byzantines is considered most holy, as it indeed was designated in its name,​2 and he sat as a suppliant beside the holy table. Thence she forced him with great  p41 violence to rise and once more put him into confinement. 24 And the second time he reached the sanctuary of Sophia, and he suddenly seated himself close to the divine receptacle​3 itself, which the Christians have been wont to reverence above all things. 25 But the woman succeeded in dragging him away even from there. For no inviolable spot ever remained inaccessible to her, but it seemed nothing to her to do violence to any and all sacred things. 26 And not only the populace but also the priests of the Christians, smitten with terror, stood aside and conceded everything to her. 27 So a period of three years was passed by him in this manner of life, but afterwards the prophet Zachariah stood over him in a dream and with oaths, they say, commanded him to flee, promising that he would lend him a hand in this undertaking. 28 Persuaded by this vision he got away from there and escaping detection came to Jerusalem, and though countless persons were searching for him, no man saw the youth, even when he stood before him. 29 There he shaved his head, and by clothing himself in the garb of the monks, as they are called, he succeeded in escaping the punishment of Theodora. 30 But Belisarius had neglected his oath and had chosen in no way to support this man, though he was suffering unholy treatment, as I have said; and so, in all his undertakings thereafter, he naturally found the power of God hostile. For straightway, being sent against the Medes and Chosroes, who were making their third invasion into Roman territory, he was guilty of cowardice. 31 And yet he did seem to have accomplished something of note in having shaken off the war from that quarter. Yet when Chosroes  p43 crossed the Euphrates River, captured the populous city of Callinicus which had not a man to defend it, and enslaved many thousand Romans, and when Belisarius was not concerned even to follow up the enemy, he won the reputation of having remained where he was for one of two reasons — either because he was wilfully negligent or else because he was a coward.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Book IV.xviii.6.

2 This Church would seem to have been that known as the Church of the Mother of God, situated just outside the western city-wall on the Golden Horn, in what was later the "Blachernae" quarter of the city, and described in the Buildings (p39)(I.iii.3) as ἱερώτατος καὶ σεμνὸς ἄγαν. Yet this Church was at a considerable distance from the Palace where Photius was confined, and the context seems to demand a location much nearer to the Palace and to the Church of St. Sophia, to which he later escaped; possibly the predecessor of the later Church of St. Mary Panachrantos, if such there was, is indicated.

3 The Baptisterium.

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Page updated: 9 Jun 20