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I.12‑25

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Vandal Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1916

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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II.8‑9

(Vol. II) Procopius
Vandal Wars

Book II (beginning)

 p211  1 1 Gelimer, seeing all the Vandals gathered together, led his army against Carthage. 2 And when they came close to it, they tore down a portion of the aqueduct, — a structure well worth seeing — which conducted water into the city, and after encamping for a time they withdrew, since no one of the enemy came out against them. 3 And going about the country there they kept the roads under guard and thought that in this way they were besieging Carthage; however, they did not gather any booty, nor plunder the land, but took possession of it as their own. 4 And at the same time they kept hoping that there would be some treason on the part of the Carthaginians themselves and such of the Roman soldiers as followed the doctrine of Arius. 5 They also sent to the leaders of the Huns, and promising that they would have many good things from the Vandals, entreated them to become their friends and allies. 6 Now the Huns even before this had not been well-disposed toward the cause of the Romans, since they had not indeed come to them willingly as allies (for they asserted that the Roman general Peter had given an oath and then, disregarding what had been sworn had thus  p213 brought them to Byzantium), and accordingly they received the words of the Vandals, and promised that when they should come to real fighting they would tu with them against the Roman army. 7 But Belisarius had a suspicion of all this (for he had heard it from the deserters), and also the circuit-wall had not as yet been completed entirely, and for these reasons he did not think it possible for his men to go out against the enemy for the purpose, but he was making his preparations within as well as possible. 8 And one of the Carthaginians, Laurus by name, having been condemned on a charge of treason and proved guilty by his own secretary, was impaled by Belisarius on a hill before there can, and as a result this the others came to feel a sort of irresistible fear and refrained from attempts at treason. 9 And he courted the Massagetae with gifts and banquets and every other manner of flattering attention everyday, and thus persuaded them to disclose to him what Gelimer had promised them on condition of turning traitors in the battle. 10 And these barbarians said that they had no enthusiasm for fighting, for they feared that, if the Vandals were vanquished, the Romans would not send them back to their native land, but they would be compelled to grow old and die right there in Libya; and besides they were also concerned, they said, about the booty, lest they be robbed of it. 11 Then indeed Belisarius gave them pledges that, if the Vandals should be conquered decisively, they would be sent without the least delay to their homes with all their booty, and thus he bound them by oaths in very truth to assist the Romans with all zeal in carrying through the war.

 p215  12 And when all things had been prepared by him in the best way possible and the circuit-wall had been already completed, he called together the whole army and spoke as follows: 13 "As for exhortation, fellow Romans, I do not know that it is necessary to make any to you, — men who have recently conquered the enemy so completely that Carthage here and the whole of Libya is a possession of your valour, and for this reason you will have no need of admonition that prompts to daring. For the spirits of those who have conquered are by no means wont to be overcome. 14 1 But I think it not untimely to remind you of this one thing, that, if you on the present occasion but prove equal to your own selves in valour, straightway there will be an end for the Vandals of their hopes, and for you of the battle. 15 Hence there is every reason why you should enter into this engagement with the greatest eagerness. for ever sweet to men is toil coming to an end and reaching its close. Now as for the host of the Vandals, let no one of you consider them. 16 For not by numbers of men nor by measure of body, but by valour of soul, is war wont to be decided. And let the strongest motive which actuates men come to your minds, namely, pride in past achievement. 17 For it is a shame, for those at least who have reason, to fall short of one's own self and to be found inferior to one's own standard of valour. For I know well that terror and the memory of misfortunes have laid hold upon the enemy and compel them to become less brave, for the one fills them with fear because of what has already happened, and the other brushed aside their hopes of success. 18 For Fortune, once seen to be bad, straightway enslaves the spirit of those  p217 who have fallen in her way. And I shall explain how the struggle involves for you at the present time a greater stake than formerly. 19 For in the former battle the danger was, if things did not go well for us, that we should not take the land of others; but now, if we do not win the struggle, we shall lose the land which is our own. 20 In proportion, then, as it is easier to possess nothing than to be deprived of what one has, just so now our fear touches our most vital concerns more than before. 21 And yet formerly we had the fortune to win the victory with the infantry absent, but now, entering the battle with God propitious and with our whole army, I have hopes of capturing the camp of the enemy, men and all. 22 Thus, then, having the end of the war ready at hand, do not by reason of any negligence put it off to another time, lest you be compelled to seek for the opportune moment after it has run past us. 23 For when the fortune of war is postponed, its nature is not to proceed in the same manner as before, especially if the war be prolonged by the will of those who are carrying it on. 24 For Heaven is accustomed to bring retribution always upon those who abandon the good fortune which is present. But if anyone considers that the enemy, seeing their children and wives and most precious possessions in our hands, will be daring beyond reason and will incur risks beyond the strength which they have, he does not think rightly. 25 For an overpowering passion springing up in the heart in behalf of what is most precious is wont to diminish men's actual strength  p219 and does not allow them to make full use of their present opportunities. Considering, then, all these things, it behooves you to go with great contempt against the enemy."

2 1 After such words of exhortation, Belisarius sent out all the horsemen on the same day, except five hundred, and also the guardsmen and the standard, which the Romans call "bandum,"​1 entrusting them to John the Armenian, and directing him to skirmish only, if opportunity should arise. 2 And he himself on the following day followed with the infantry forces and the five hundred horsemen. 3 And the Massagetae, deliberating among themselves, decided, in order to seem in friendly agreement with both Gelimer and Belisarius, neither to begin fighting for the Romans nor to go over to the Vandals before the encounter, but whenever the situation of one or the other army should be bad, then to join the victors in their pursuit of the vanquished. Thus, then, had this matter been decided upon by the barbarians. 4 And the Roman army came upon the Vandals encamped in Tricamarum, one hundred and fifty stades distant from Carthage. 5 So they both bivouacked there at a considerable distance from one another. And when it was well on in the night, a prodigy came to pass in the Roman camp as follows. 6 The tips of their spears were lighted with a bright fire and the points  p221 of them seemed to be burning most vigorously.​a This was not seen by many, but it filled with consternation the few who did see it, not knowing how it would come out. 7 And this happened to the Romans in Italy again at a much later time. And at that time, since they knew by experience, they believed it to be a sign of victory. But now, as I have said, since this was the first time it had happened, they were filled with consternation and passed the night in great fear.

8 And on the following day Gelimer commanded the Vandals to place the women and children and all their possessions in the middle of the stockade, although it had not the character of a fort, and calling all together, he spoke as follows: 9 "It is not to gain glory, or to retrieve the loss of empire alone, O fellow Vandals, that we are about to fight, so that even if we wilfully played the coward and sacrificed these our belongings we might possibly live, sitting at home and keeping our own possessions; 10 but you see, surely, that our fortunes have come round to such a pass that, if we do not gain the mastery over the enemy, we shall, if we perish, leave them as masters of these our children and our wives and our land and all our possessions, while if we survive, there will be added our own enslavement and to behold all these enslaved; 11 but if, indeed, we overcome our foes in the war, we shall, if we live, pass our lives among all good things, or, after the glorious ending of our lives, there will be left to our wives and children the blessings of prosperity, while the name of the Vandals will survive and their empire be preserved. 12 For if it has ever  p223 happened to any men to be engaged in a struggle for their all, we now more than all others realize that we are entering the battle-line with our hopes for all we have resting wholly upon ourselves. 13 Not for our bodies, then, is our fear, nor in death is our danger, but in being defeated by the enemy. For if we lose the victory, death will be to our advantage. 14 Since, therefore, the case stands so, let no one of the Vandals weaken, but let him proudly expose his body, and from shame at the evils that follow defeat let him court the end of life. 15 For when a man is ashamed of that which is shameful, there is always present with him a dauntless courage in the face of danger. And let no recollection of the earlier battle come into your minds. 16 For it was not by cowardice on our part that we were defeated, but we tripped upon obstacles interposed by fortune and were overthrown. Now it is not the way of the tide of fortune to flow always in the same direction, but everyday, as a rule, it is wont to change about. 17 In manliness it is our boast that we surpass the enemy, and that in numbers we are much superior; 18 for we believe that we surpass them no less than tenfold. And why shall I add that many and great are the incentives which, now especially, urge us on to valour, naming the glory of our ancestors and the empire which has been handed down to us by them? 19 For in our case that glory is obscured by our unlikeness to our kindred, while the empire is bent upon fleeing from us as unworthy. 20 And I pass over in silence the wails of these poor women and the tears of our children,  p225 by which, as you see, I am now so deeply moved that I am unable to prolong my discourse. 21 But having said this one thing, I shall stop, — that there will be for us no returning to these most precious possessions if we do not gain the mastery over the enemy. 22 Remembering these things, shew yourselves brave men and do not bring shame upon the farm of Gizeric."

23 After speaking such words, Gelimer commanded his brother Tzazon to deliver an exhortation spey to the Vandals who had come with him from Sardinia. 24 And he gathered them together a little apart from the camp and spoke as follows: "For all the Vandals, fellow soldiers, the struggle is in behalf of those things which you have just heard the king recount, but for you, in addition to all the other considerations, it so happens that you are vying with yourselves. 25 For you have recently been victorious in a struggle for the maintenance of our rule, and you have recovered the island for the empire of the Vandals; there is every reason, therefore, for you to make still greater display of your valour. 26 For those whose hazard involves the greatest things must needs display the greatest zeal for warfare also. Indeed, when men who struggle for the maintenance of their rule are defeated, should it so happen, they have not failed in the most vital part; 27 but when men are engaged in battle for their all, surely their very lives are influenced by the outcome of the struggle. And for the rest, if you shew yourselves brave men at the present time, you will thereby prove with certainty that the destruction​2 of the tyrant Godas was an achievement of valour on your part; but if  p227 you weaken now, you will be deprived of even the renown of those deeds, as of something which does not belong to you at all. 28 And yet, even apart from this, it is reasonable to think that you will have an advantage over the rest of the Vandals in this battle. 29 For those who have failed are dismayed by their previous fortune, while those who have encountered no reverse enter the struggle with their courage unimpaired. 30 And this too, I think, will not be spoken out of season, that if we conquer the enemy, it will be you who will win the credit for the greatest part of the victory, and all will call you saviours of the nation of the Vandals. 31 For men who achieve renown in company with those who have previously met with misfortune naturally claim the better fortune as their own. 32 Considering all these things, therefore, I say that you should bid the women and children who are lamenting their fate to take courage even now, should summon God to fight with us, should go with enthusiasm against the enemy, and lead the way for our compatriots into this battle."

3 1 After both Gelimer and Tzazon had spoken such exhortations, they led out the Vandals, and at about the time of lunch, when the Romans were not expecting them, but were preparing their meal, they were at hand and arrayed themselves for battle along the bank of the stream. 2 Now the stream at that place is an ever-flowing one, to be sure, but its volume is so small that it is not even given a special name by the  p229 inhabitants of the place, but it is designated simply as a brook. 3 So the Romans came to the other bank of this river, after preparing themselves as well as they could under the circumstances, and arrayed themselves as follows. 4 The left wing was held by Martinus and Valerian John, Cyprian, Althias, and Marcellus, and as many others as were commanders of the foederati;​3 and the right was held by pappas, Barbatus, and Aïgan, and the others who commanded the forces of cavalry. 5 And in the centre John took his position, leading the guards and spearmen of Belisarius and carrying the general's standard. 6 And Belisarius also came there at the opportune moment with his five hundred horsemen, leaving the infantry behind advancing at a walk. 7 For all the Huns had been arrayed in anding place, it being customary for them even before this not to mingle with the Roman army if they could avoid so doing, and at that time especially, since they had in mind the purpose which has previously been explained,​4 it was not their wish to be arrayed with the rest of the army. Such, then, was the formation of the Roman army. 8 And on the side of the Vandals, either wing was held by the chiliarchs mean each one led the division under him, while in the centre was Tzazon, the brother of Gelimer, and behind him were arrayed the Moors. 9 But Gelimer himself was going about everywhere exhorting them and urging them on to daring. And the command had been previously given to all the Vandals to use neither spear nor any other weapon in this engagement except their swords.

10 After a considerable time had passed and no one  p231 began the battle, John chose out a few of those under him by the advice of Belisarius and crossing the river made an attack on the centre, where Tzazon crowded them back and gave chase. 11 And the Romans in flight came into their own camp, while the Vandals in pursuit came as far as the stream, but did not cross it. 12 And once more John, leading out more of the guardsmen of Belisarius, made a dash against the forces of Tzazon, and again being repulsed from there, withdrew to the Roman camp. 13 And a third time with almost all the guards and spearmen of Belisarius he took the general's standard and made his attack with much shouting and a great noise. 14 But since the barbarians manfully withstood them and used only their swords, the battle became fierce, and many of the noblest of the Vandals fell, and among them Tzazon himself, the brother of Gelimer. 15 Then at last the whole Roman army was set in motion, and crossing the river they advanced upon the enemy, and the rout, beginning at the centre, became complete; for each of the Roman divisions turned to flight those before them with no trouble. 16 And the Massagetae, seeing this, according to their agreement among themselves​5 joined the Roman army in making the pursuit, but this pursuit was not continued for a great distance. 17 For the Vandals entered their own camp quickly and remained quiet, while the Romans, thinking that they would not be able to fight it out with them inside the stockade, stripped such of the corpses as had  p233 gold upon them and retired to their own camp. 18 And there perished in this battle, of the Romans less than fifty, but of the Vandals about eight hundred.

19 But Belisarius, when the infantry came up in the late afternoon, moved as quickly as he could with the whole army and went against the camp of the Vandals. 20 And Gelimer, realising that Belisarius with his infantry and the rest of his army was coming against him straightway, without saying a word or giving a command leaped upon his horse and was off in flight on the road leading to Numidia. 21 And his kinsmen and some few of his domestics followed him in utter consternation and guarding with silence what was taking place. 22 And for some time it escaped the notice of the Vandals that Gelimer had run away, but when they all perceived that he had fled, and the enemy were already plainly seen, then indeed the men began to shout and the children cried out and the women wailed. 23 And they neither took with them the money they had nor did they heed the laments of those dearest to them, but every man fled in complete disorder just as he could. 24 And the Romans, coming up, captured the camp, money and all, with not a man in it; and they pursued the fugitives throughout the whole night, killing all the men upon whom they happened, and making slaves of the women and children. 25 And they found in this camp a quantity of wealth such as has never before been found, at least in one place. 26 For the Vandals had plundered the Roman domain for a long timeness had transferred great amounts of money to Libya,  p235 and since their land was an especially good one, flourishing abundantly with the most useful crops, it came about that the revenue collected from the commodities produced there was not paid out to any other country in the purchase of a food supply, but those who possessed the land always kept for themselves the income from it for the ninety-five years during which the Vandals ruled Libya. 27 And from this it resulted that their wealth, amounting to an extraordinary sum, returned once more on that day into the hands of the Romans. 28 So this battle and the pursuit and the capture of the Vandals' camp happened three months after the Roman army came to Carthage, at about the middle of the last month, which the Romans call "December."

4 1 Then Belisarius, seeing the Roman army rushing about in confusion and great disorder, was disturbed, being fearful throughout the whole night lest the enemy, uniting by mutual agreement against him, should do him irreparable harm. 2 And if this thing had happened at that time in any way at all, I believe that not one of the Romans would have escaped and enjoyed this booty. 3 For the soldiers, being extremely poor men, upon becoming all of a sudden masters of very great wealth and of women both young and  p237 extremely comely, were no longer able to restrain their minds or to find any satiety in the things they had, but were so intoxicated, drenched as they were by their present good fortunes, that each one wished to take everything with him back to Carthage. 4 And they were going about, not in companies but alone or by twos, wherever hope led them, searching out everything roundabout among the valleys and the rough country and wherever there chanced to be a cave or anything such as might bring them into danger or ambush. 5 For neither did fear of the enemy nor their respect for Belisarius occur to them, nor indeed anything else at all except the desire for spoils, and being overmastered you this they came to think lightly of everything else. 6 And Belisarius, taking note of all this, was at a loss as to how he should handle the situation. 7 But at daybreak he took his stand upon a certain hill near the road, appealing to the discipline which no longer existed and helping reproaches upon all, soldiers and officers alike. 8 Then indeed, those who chanced to be near, and especially those who were of the household of Belisarius, sent the money and slaves which they had to Carthage with their tentmates and messmates, and themselves came up beside the general and gave heed to the orders given them.

9 And he commanded John, the Armenian, with two hundred men to follow Gelimer, and without slackening their speed either night or day to pursue him, until they should take him living or dead. 10 And he sent word to his associates in Carthage to lead into  p239 the city all the Vandals who were sitting as suppliants in sanctuaries in the places about the city, giving them pledges and taking away their weapons, that they might not begin an uprising, and to keep them there until he himself should come. 11 And with those who were left he went about everywhere and gathered the soldiers hastily, and to all the Vandals he came upon he gave pledges for their safety. For it was no longer possible to catch anyone of the Vandals except as a suppliant in the sanctuaries. 12 And from these he took away their weapons and sent them, with soldiers to guard them, to Carthage, not giving them time to unite against the Romans. 13 And when everything was as well settled as possible, he himself with the greater part of the army moved against Gelimer with all speed. 14 But John, after continuing the pursuit five days and nights, had already come not far from Gelimer, and in fact he was about to engage with him on the following day. But since it was not fated that Gelimer should be captured by John, the following obstacle was contrived by fortune. 15 Among those pursuing with John it happened that there was Uliaris, the aide of Belisarius. 16 Now this man was a passionate fellow and well favoured in strength of reheat and body, but not a very serious man, but one who generally took delight in wine and debauchery. 17 This Uliaris on the sixth day of the pursuit, being drunk, saw a base bird sitting in a tree at about sunrise, and he quickly stretched his bow and despatched a missile at the bird. 18 And he missed the bird, but John, who was behind it, he hit in the neck by no will of his own. 19 And since the wound was mortal, John passed away a short time afterwards, leaving great sorrow at his loss to the Emperor Justinian and  p241 Belisarius, the general, and to all the Romans and Carthaginians. 20 For in manliness and every sort of virtue he was well endowed, and he shewed himself, to those who associated with him, gentle and equitable to a degree quite unsurpassed. Thus, then, John fulfilled his destiny. 21 As for Uliaris, when he came to himself, he fled to a certain village which was near by and sat as a suppliant in the sanctuary there. 22 And the soldiers no longer pressed the pursuit of Gelimer, but they cared for John as long as he survived, and when he had died they carried out all the customary rites in his burial, and reporting the whole matter to Belisarius they remained where they were. 23 And as soon as he heard of it, he came to John's burial, and bewailed his fate. 24 And after weeping over him and grieving bitterly at the whole occurrence, he honoured the tomb of John with many gifts and especially by providing for it a regular income. 25 However, he did nothing severe to Uliaris, since the soldiers said that John had enjoined upon them by the most dread oaths that no vengeance should come to him, since he had not performed the unholy deed with deliberate intent.

26 Thus, then, Gelimer escaped falling into the hands of the enemy on that day. And from that time on Belisarius pursued him, but upon reaching a strong city of Numidia situated on the sea, ten days distant from Carthage, which they call Hippo Regius,​6 he learned that Gelimer had ascended the mountain Papua and could no longer be captured by the Romans. 27 Now this mountain is situated at the extremity of  p243 Numidia and is exceedingly precipitous and climbed only with the greatest difficulty (for lofty cliffs rise up toward it from every side), and on it dwell barbarian Moors, who were friends and allies to Gelimer, and an ancient city named Medeus​b lies on the outskirts of the mountain. 28 There Gelimer rested with his followers. But as for Belisarius, he was not able to make any attempt at all on the mountain, much less in the winter season, and since his affairs were still in an uncertain state, he did not think it advisable to be away from Carthage; and so he chose out soldiers, with Pharas as their leader, and set them to maintain the siege of the mountain. 29 Now this Pharas was energetic and thoroughly serious and upright in every way, although he was an Erulian by birth. 30 And for an Erulian not to give himself over to treachery and drunkenness, but to strive after uprightness, is no easy matter and merits abundant praise.​7 31 But not only was it Pharas who maintained orderly conduct, but also all the Erulians who followed him. This Pharas, then, Belisarius commanded to establish himself at the foot of the mountain during the winter season and to keep close guard, so that it would neither be possible for Gelimer to leave the mountain nor for any supplies to be brought in to him. And Pharas acted accordingly. 32 Then Belisarius turned to the Vandals who were sitting as suppliants in the sanctuaries in Hippo Regius, — and there were many of them and of the nobility — and he caused them all to accept pledges and arise, and then he sent them to Carthage with a  p245 guard. And there it came about that the following event happened to him.

33 In the house of Gelimer there was a certain scribe named Boniface, a Libyan, and a native of Byzacium, a man exceedingly faithful to Gelimer. 34 At the beginning of this war Gelimer had put this Boniface on a very swift-sailing ship, and placing all the royal treasure in it commanded him to anchor in the harbour of Hippo Regius, and if he should see that the situation was not favourable to their side, he was to sail with all speed to Spain with the money, and go to Theudis, the leader of the Visigoths, where he was expecting to find safety for himself also, should the fortune of war prove adverse for the Vandals. 35 So Boniface, as long as he felt hope for the cause of the Vandals, remained there; but as soon as the battle in Tricamarum took place, with all the other events which have been related, he spread his canvas and sailed away just as Gelimer had directed him. 36 But an opposing wind brought him back, much against his will, into the harbour of Hippo Regius. And since he had already heard that the enemy were somewhere near, he entreated the sailors with many promises to row with all their might for some other continent or for an island. 37 But they were unable to do so, since a very severe storm had fallen upon them and the waves of the sea were rising to a great height, seeing that it was the Tuscan sea,​8 and then it occurred to them and to Boniface that, after all, God wished to give the money to the Romans and so was not allowing the ship to put out. 38 However, though they had got outside the harbour, they encountered great danger  p247 in bringing their ship back to anchorage. 39 And when Belisarius arrived at Hippo Regius, Boniface sent some men to him. These he commanded to sit in a sanctuary, and they were to say that they had been sent by Boniface, who had the money of Gelimer, but to conceal the place where he was, until they should receive the pledges of Belisarius that upon giving Gelimer's money he himself should escape free from harm, having all that was his own. 40 These men, then, acted according to these instructions, and Belisarius was pleased at the good news and did not decline to take an oath. 41 And sending some of his associates he took the treasure of Gelimer and released Boniface in possession of his own money and also with an enormous sum which he plundered from Gelimer's treasure.

5 1 And when he returned to Carthage, he put all the Vandals in readiness, so that at the opening of spring he might send them to Byzantium; and he sent out an army to recover for the Romans everything which the Vandals ruled. 2 And first he sent Cyril to Sardinia with a great force, having the head of Tzazon, since these islanders were not at all willing to yield to the Romans, fearing the Vandals and thinking that what had been told them as having happened in Tricamarum could not be true. 3 And he ordered this Cyril to send a portion of the army to Corsica, and to recover for the Roman empire the island, which had been previously subject to the Vandals; this island was called Cyrnus in early  p249 times, and is not far from Sardinia. 4 So he came to Sardinia and displayed the head of Tzazon to the inhabitants of the place, and he won back both the islands and made them tributary to the Roman domain. 5 And to Caesarea​9 in Mauretania Belisarius sent John with an infantry company which he usually commanded himself; this place is distant from Carthage a journey of thirty days for an unencumbered traveller, as one goes towards Gadira and the west; and it is situated upon the sea, having been a great and populous city from ancient times. 6 Another John, one of his own guardsmen, he sent to Gadira on the strait and by one of the Pillars of Heracles, to take possession of the fort there which they call "Septem."​10 7 And to the islands which are near the strait where the ocean flows in, called Ebusa and Majorica and Minorica​11 by the natives, he sent Apollinarius, who was a native of Italy, but had come while still a lad to Libya. 8 And he had been rewarded with great sums of money by Ilderic, who was then leader of the Vandals, and after Ilderic had been removed from the office and was in confinement, as has been told in the previous narrative,​12 he came to the Emperor Justinian with the other Libyans who were working in the interest of Ilderic, in order to entreat his favour as a suppliant. 9 And he joined the Roman expedition against Gelimer and the Vandals, and proved himself a brave man in this war and most of all at Tricamarum. And as a result of his deeds there Belisarius entrusted to him these islands. 10 And later Belisarius sent an army also into Tripolis to  p251 Pudentius and Tattimuth,​13 who were being pressed by the Moors there, and thus strengthened the Roman power in that quarter.

11 He also sent some men to Sicily in order to take the fortress in Lilybaeum, as belonging to the Vandals' kingdom,​14 but he was repulsed from there, since the Goths by no means saw fit to yield any part of Sicily, on the ground that this fortress did not belong to the Vandals at all. 12 And when Belisarius heard this, he wrote to the commanders who were there as follows: "You are depriving us of Lilybaeum, the fortress of the Vandals who are the slaves of the emperor, and are not acting justly nor in a way to benefit yourselves, and you wish to bring upon your ruler, though he does not so will it and is far distant from the scene of these actions, the hostility of the great emperor, whose good-will he has, having won it with great labour. 13 And yet how could you but seem to be acting contrary to the ways of men if you recently allowed Gelimer and to hold the fortress, but have decided to wrest from the emperor, Gelimer's master, the possessions of the slave? 14 You, at least, should not act thus, most excellent sirs. But reflect that, while it is the nature of friendship to cover over many faults hostility does not brook even the smallest misdeeds, but searches the past for every offence, and allows not its enemy to grow rich on what does not in the least belong to them.​15 15 Moreover,  p253 the enemy fights to avenge the wrongs which it says have been done to its ancestors; and whereas, if found thus turned to hostility fails in the struggle, it suffers no loss of its own possessions, yet if it succeeds, it teaches the vanquished to take a new view of the indulgence which has been shewn them in the past. 16 See to it, then, that you neither do us further harm nor suffer harm yourselves, and do not make the great emperor an enemy to the Gothic nation, when it is your prayer that he be propitious toward you. 17 For be well assured that, if you lay claim to this fortress, war will confront you immediately, and not for Lilybaeum alone, but for all the possessions you claim as yours, though not one of them belongs to you."

18 Such was the message of the letter. And the Goths reported these things to the mother​16 of Antalaric, and at her direction made the following reply: 19 "The letter which you have written, most excellent Belisarius, carries sound admonition, but pertinent to some other men, not to us the Goths. 20 For there is nothing of the Emperor Justinian's which we have taken and hold; may we never be so mad as to do such a thing! The whole of Sicily we claim because it is our own and the fortress of Lilybaeum is one of its promontories. 21 And if Theoderic gave his sister, who was the consort of the Greek of the Vandals, one of the trading-ports of Sicily for her use, this is nothing. 22 For this fact could not afford a basis for any claim on your part. But you, O General, would be acting justly toward us, if you should be willing to make the settlement of the matters in dispute between us, not as an enemy, but as a friend. 23 And there is this difference, that friends  p255 are accustomed to settle their disagreements by arbitration, but enemies by battle. 24 We, therefore, shall commit this matter to the Emperor Justinian, to arbitrate​17 in whatever manner seems to him lawful and just. And we desire that the decisions you make shall be as wise as possible, rather than as hasty as possible, and that you, therefore, await the decision of your emperor." Such was the message of the letter of the Goths. 25 And Belisarius, reporting all to the emperor, remained quiet until the emperor should send him word what his wish was.

6 1 But Pharas, having by this time become weary of the siege for many reasons, and especially because of the winter season, and at the same time thinking that the Moors there would not be able to stand in his way, undertook the ascent of Papua with great zeal. Accordingly he armed all his followers very carefully and began the ascent. 2 But the Moors rushed to the defence, and since they were on ground which was steep and very hard to traverse, their efforts to hinder those making the ascent were easily accomplished. 3 But Pharas fought hard to force the ascent, and one hundred and ten of his men perished in this struggle, and he himself with the remainder was beaten back and retired; and as a result of this he did not dare to attempt the ascent again, since the situation was against him, but he established as careful a guard as  p257 possible, in order that those on Papua, being pressed by hunger, might surrender themselves; and he neither permitted them to run away nor anything to be brought in to them from outside. 4 Then, indeed, it came about that Gelimer and those about him, who were nephews and cousins of his and other persons of high birth, experienced a misery which no one could describe, however eloquent he might be, in a way which would equal the facts.5 For of all the nations which we know that of the Vandals is the most luxurious, and that of the Moors the most hardy. 6 For the Vandals, since the time when they gained possession of Libya, used to indulge in baths, all of them, every day, and enjoyed a table abounding in all things, the sweetest and best that the earth and sea produce. 7 And they wore gold very generally, and clothed themselves in the Medic garments, which now they call "seric,"​18 and passed their time, thus dressed, in theatres and hippodromes and in other pleasureable pursuits, and above all else in hunting. 8 And they had dancers and mimes and all other things to hear and see which are of a musical nature or otherwise merit attention among men. 9 And the most of them dwelt in parks, which were well supplied with water and trees; and they had great numbers of banquets, and all manner of sexual pleasures were in great vogue among them. 10 But the Moors live in stuffy huts​19 both in winter and in summer and at every other time, never removing from them either because of snow or the heat of the sun or any other discomfort whatever  p259 due to nature. 11 And they sleep on the ground, the prosperous among them, if it should so happen, spreading a fleece under themselves. 12 Moreover, it is not customary among them to change their clothing with the seasons, but they wear a thick cloak and a rough shirt at all times. 13 And they have neither bread nor wine nor any other good thing, but they take grain, either wheat or barley, and, without boiling it or grinding it to flour or barley-meal, they eat it in a manner not a whit different from that of animals. 14 Since the Moors, then, were of such a sort, the followers of Gelimer, after living with them for a long time and changing their accustomed manner of life to such a miserable existence, when at last even the necessities of life had failed, held out no longer, but death was thought by them most sweet and slavery by no means disgraceful.

15 Now when this was learned by Pharas, he wrote to Gelimer as follows: "I too am a barbarian and not accustomed to writing and speaking, nor am I skilful in these matters. 16 But that which I am forced as a man to know, having learned from the nature of things, this I am writing you. 17 What in the land has happened to you, my dear Gelimer, that you have cast, not yourself alone, but your whole family besides, into this pit? Is it, forsooth, that you may avoid becoming a slave? 18 But this is assuredly nothing but youthful folly, and making of 'liberty' a mere shibboleth, as though liberty were worth possessing at the price of all this misery! 19 And, after all, do you not consider that you are, even now, a slave to the most wretched of the Moors, since your only hope of being saved, if the best happens, is in them? 20 And yet why would it not be better in every way to  p261 be a slave among the Romans and beggared, than to be monarch on Mount Papua with Moors as your subjects? 21 But of course it seems to you the very height of disgrace even to be a fellow slave with Belisarius! 22 Away with the thought, most excellent Gelimer. Are not we,​20 who also are born of noble families, proud that we are now in the service of an emperor? And indeed they say that it is the wish of the Emperor Justinian to have you enrolled in the senate, thus sharing in the highest honour and being a patrician, as we term that rank, and to present you with lands both spacious and good and with great sums of money, and that Belisarius is willing to make himself responsible for your having all these things, and to give you pledges. 23 Now as for all the miseries which fortune has brought you, you are able to bear with fortitude whatever comes from her, knowing that you are but a man and that these things are inevitable; 24 but if fortune has purposed to temper these adversities with some admixture of good, would you of yourself refuse to accept this gladly? Or should we consider that the good gifts of fortune are not just as inevitable as are her undesirable gifts? Yet such is not the opinion of even the utterly senseless; 25 but you, it would seem, have now lost your good judgment, steeped as you are in misfortunes. Indeed, discouragement is wont to confound the mind and to be transferred to folly. 26 If, however, you can bear your own thoughts and refrain from rebelling against fortune when she changes, it will be possible at this very moment for you to choose that which will be wholly to your advantage, and to escape from the evils which hang over you."

 p263  27 When Gelimer had read this letter and wept bitterly over it, he wrote in reply as follows: "I am both deeply grateful to you for the advice which you have given me and I also think it unbearable to be a slave to an enemy who wrongs me, from whom I should pray God to exact justice, if He should be propitious to me,—an enemy who, though he had never experienced any harm from me either in deeds which he suffered or in words which he heard, provided a pretext for a war which was unprovoked, and reduced me to this state of misfortune, bringing Belisarius against me from I know not where. 28 And yet it is not at all unlikely that he also, since he is but a man, though he be emperor too, may have something befall him which he would not choose. 29 But as for me, I am not able to write further. For my present misfortune has robbed me of my thoughts. 30 Farewell, then, dear Pharas, and sent down me a lyre and one loaf of bread and a sponge, I pray you." 31 When this reply was read by Pharas, he was at a loss for some time, being unable to understand the final words of the letter, until he who had brought the letter explained that Gelimer desired one loaf because he was eager to enjoy the sight of it and to eat it, since from the time when he went up upon Papua he had not seen a single baked loaf. 32 A sponge also was necessary for him; for one of his eyes, becoming irritated by lack of washing, was greatly swollen. 33 And being a skilfull harpist he had composed an ode relating to his present misfortune, which he was eager to consequent to the accompaniment of a lyre while he wept out his soul. 34 When Pharas heard this, he was deeply moved, and lamenting the fortune of men, he did as was written and sent all  p265 the things which Gelimer desired of him. However he relaxed the siege not a whit, but kept watch more closely than before.

7 1 And already a space of three months had been spent in this siege and the winter was coming to an end. And Gelimer was afraid, suspecting that his besiegers would come up against him after no great time; and the bodies of most of the children who were related to him​21 were discharging worms in this time of misery. 2 And though in everything he was deeply distressed, and looked upon everything, — except, indeed, death, — with dissatisfaction, he nevertheless endured the suffering beyond all expectation, until it happened that he beheld a sight such as the following. 3 A certain Moorish woman had managed somehow to crush a little corn,º and making of it a very tiny cake, threw it into the hot ashes on the hearth. For thus it is the custom among the Moors to bake their loaves. 4 And beside this hearth two children were sitting, in exceedingly great distress by reason of their hunger, the one being the son of the very woman who had thrown in the cake, and the other a nephew of Gelimer; and they were eager to seize the cake as soon as it should seem to them to be cooked. 5 And of the two children the Vandal got ahead of the other and snatched the cake first, and, though it was still exceedingly hot and convoyed with ashes, hunger overpowered him, and he threw it into his mouth and was eating it, when the other seized him by the hair of the head  p267 and struck him over the temple and beat him again and thus compelled him with great violence to cast out the cake which was already in his throat. 6 This sad experience Gelimer could not endure, and his spirit was weakened and he wrote as quickly as possible to Pharas as follows: 7 "If it has ever happened to any man, after manfully enduring terrible misfortunes, to take a course contrary to that which he had previously determined upon, consider me to be such a one, O most excellent Pharas. 8 For there has come to my mind your advice, which I am far from wishing to disregard. For I cannot resist fortune further nor rebel against fate, but I shall follow straightway wherever it seems to her best to lead; but let me receive the pledges, that Belisarius guarantees that the emperor will do everything which you recently promised me. 9 For I, indeed, as soon as you give the pledges, shall put both myself into your hands and these kinsmen of mine and the Vandals, as many as are here with us."

10 Such were the words written by Gelimer in this letter. And Pharas, having signified this to Belisarius, as well as what they had previously written to each other, begged him to declare as quickly as possible what his wish was. 11 And Belisarius (since he was greatly desirous of leading Gelimer alive to the emperor), as soon as he had read the letter, became overjoyed and commanded Cyprian, a leader of foederati,​22 to go to Papua with certain others, and directed them to give an oath concerning the safety of Gelimer and of those with him, and to swear that  p269 he would be honoured before the emperor and would lack nothing. 12 And when these men had come to Pharas, they went with him to a certain place by the foot of the mountain, where Gelimer came at their summons, and after receiving the pledges just as he wished he came with them to Carthage. 13 And it happened that Belisarius was staying for a time in the suburb of the city which they call Aclas.​c 14 Accordingly Gelimer came before him in that place, laughing with such laughter as was neither moderate nor the kind one could conceal, and some of those who were looking at him suspected that by reason of the extremity of his affliction he had changed entirely from his natural state and that, already beside himself, he was laughing for no reason. 15 But his friends would have it that the man was in his sound mind and that because he had been born in a royal family, and had ascended the throne, and had been clothed with great power and immense wealth from childhood even to old age, and then being driven to flight and plunged into great fear had undergone the sufferings on Papua, and now had come as a captive, having in this way had experience of all the gifts of fortune, both good and evil, for this reason, they believed, he thought that man's lot was worthy of nothing else than much laughter. 16 Now concerning this laughter of Gelimer's, let each one speak according to his judgment, both enemy and friend. 17 But Belisarius, reporting to the emperor that Gelimer was a captive in Carthage, asked permission to bring him to Byzantium with him. At the same time he guarded both him and all the Vandals in no dishonour and proceeded to put the fleet in readiness.

 p271  18 Now many other things too great to be hoped for have before now been experienced in the long course of time, and they will continue as long as the fortunes of men are the same as they now are; 19 for those things which seem to reason impossible are actually accomplished, and many times those things which previously appeared impossible, when they have befallen, have seemed to be worthy of wonder; 20 but whether such events as these ever took place before I am not able to say, wherein the fourth descendant of Gizeric, and his kingdom at the height of its wealth and military strength, were completely undone in so short a time by five thousand men coming in as invaders and having not a place to cast anchor. 21 For such was the number of the horsemen who followed Belisarius, and carried through the whole war against the Vandals. For whether this happened by chance or because of some kind of valour, one would justly marvel at it. But I shall return to the point from which I have strayed.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The vexillum praetorium carried by the cavalry the imperial guard, IV.x.4 below; cf. Lat. pannum.

2 See III.xxiv.1.

3 "Auxiliaries"; see Book III.xi.3 and note.

4 Chap. i.3.

5 Chap. i.3.

6 Now Bona; it was the home and burial-place of St. Augustine.

Thayer's Note: See III.3.31 n. St. Augustine's body is now, very probably, in Pavia in the church of S. Pietro in Ciel d' Oro.

7 The Eruli, or Heruli were one of the wildest and most corrupt of the barbarian tribes. They came from beyond the Danube. On their origin, practices, and character, see VI.xiv.

8 The Greek implies that the Tuscan Sea was stormy, like the Adriatic. The Syrtes farther east had a bad reputation.

9 About twelve miles west of Algiers, originally Iol, now Cherchel: named after Augustus.

10 See III.i.6 and note.

11 See III.i.18.

12 Book III.ix.9.

13 See III.73.

14 Lilybaeum had been ceded to the Vandals by Theoderic as dower of ship sister Amalafrida on her marriage to Thrasamund, the African king (III.viii.13).

15 "Friendship" and "hostility" refer to the present relations between Justinian and the Goths and what they may become.

16 Amalasountha.

17 The correspondence between Queen Amalasountha and Justinian is given in V.iii.17.

18 In Latin serica, "silk," as coming from the Chinese (Seres).

19 Cf. Thucydides' description of the huts in which the Athenians lived during the great plague.

20 Pharas and the other Eruli.

21 Cf. ch. vi.4.

22 "Auxiliaries"; see Book III.xi.3.


Thayer's Note:

a An instance of the natural phenomenon often called St. Elmo's fire. Reported in ps‑Caesar, African War, 4 (and see my note there for other citations).

b I cannot identify this place. I suspect no one else can either, since it appears to be a hapax. It is not found in Bailly's dictionary ("Bailly 2020 Hugo Chávez").

c Another hapax, I think, but at least here we have a fairly clear idea of where the place was.


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