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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Vandal Wars


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.
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(Vol. II) Procopius
Vandal Wars

Book II (continued)

 p271  8 1 So the Vandalic war ended thus. But envy, as is wont to happen in cases of great good fortune, was already swelling against Belisarius, although he provided no pretext for it. 2 For some of the officers slandered him to the emperor, charging him, without any grounds whatever, with seeking to set up a kingdom for himself,​1 a statement for which there  p273 was no basis whatever. 3 But the emperor did not disclose these things to the world, either because he paid no heed to the slander, or because this course seemed better to him. 4 But he sent Solomon and gave Belisarius the opportunity to choose whichever of two things he desired, either to come to Byzantium with Gelimer and the Vandals, or to remain there and send them. 5 And Belisarius, since it did not escape him that the officers were bringing against him the charge of seeking supreme power, was eager to get to Byzantium, in order that he might clear himself of the charge and be able to proceed against his slanderers. 6 Now as to the manner in which he learned of the attempt of his accusers, I shall explain. When those who denounced him wished to present this slander, fearing lest the man who was to carry their letter to the emperor should be lost at sea and thus put a stop to their proceedings, they wrote the aforesaid accusation on two tablets, proposing to send two messengers to the emperor in two ships. 7 And one of these two sailed away without being detected, but the second, on account of some suspicion or other, was captured in Mandracium, and putting the writing into the hands of his captors, he made known what was being done. 8 So Belisarius, having learned in this way, was eager to come before the emperor, as has been said. Such, then, was the course of these events at Carthage.

9 But the Moors who dwelt in Byzacium and in Numidia turned to revolt for no good reason, and they decided to break the treaty and to rise suddenly against the Romans. And this was not out of keeping with their peculiar character. 10 For there is among the Moors neither fear of God nor respect for men.  p275 For they care not either for oaths or for hostages, even though the hostages chance to be the children or brothers of their leaders. 11 Nor is peace maintained among the Moors by any other means than by fear of the enemies opposing them. Now I shall set forth in what manner the treaty was made by them with Belisarius and how it was broken. 12 When it came to be expected that the emperor's expedition would arrive in Libya, the Moors, fearing lest they should receive some harm from it, consulted the oracles of their women. 13 For it is not lawful in this nation for a man to utter oracles, but the women among them as a result of some sacred rites become possessed and foretell the future, no less than any of the ancient oracles. 14 So on that occasion, when they made enquiry, as has been said, the women gave the response: "There shall be a host from the waters, the overthrow of the Vandals, destruction and defeat of the Moors, when the general of the Romans shall come unbearded." 15 When the Moors heard this, since they saw that the emperor's army had come from the sea, they began to be in great fear and were quite unwilling to fight in alliance with the Vandals, but they sent to Belisarius and established peace, as has been stated previously,​2 and then remained quiet and waited for the future, to see how it would fall out. 16  And when the power of the Vandals had now come to an end, they sent to the Roman army, investigating whether there was anyone unbearded among them holding an office. 17  And when they saw all wearing full beards, they thought that the oracle did not indicate the present time to them, but one many generations later, interpreting the saying in  p277 that way which they themselves wished. 18 Immediately, therefore, they were eager to break the treaty, but their fear of Belisarius prevented them. 19 For they had no hope that they would ever overcome the Romans in war, at least with him present. 20 But when they heard that he was making his departure together with his guards and spearmen, and that the ships were already being filled with them and the Vandals, they suddenly rose in arms and displayed every manner of outrage upon the Libyans. 21 For the soldiers were both few in each place on the frontier and still unprepared, so that they would not have been able to stand against the barbarians as they made inroads at every point, nor to prevent their incursions, which took place frequently and not in an open manner. 22 But men were being killed indiscriminately and women with their children were being made slaves, and the wealth was being plundered from every part of the frontier and the whole country was being filled with fugitives. These things were reported to Belisarius when he was just about setting sail. 23 And since it was now too late for him to return himself, he entrusted Solomon with the administration of Libya and he also chose out the greatest part of his own guards and spearmen, instructing them to follow Solomon and as quickly as possible to punish with all zeal those of the Moors who had risen in revolt and to exact vengeance for the injury done the Romans. 24 And the emperor sent another army also to Solomon with Theodorus, the Cappadocian, and Ildiger, who was the son-in‑law of Antonina, the wife of Belisarius. 25 And since it was no longer possible to find the revenues of the districts of Libya set down in order in documents,  p279 as the Romans had recorded them in former times,​3 inasmuch as Gizeric had upset and destroyed everything in the beginning, Tryphon and Eustratius were sent by the emperor, in order to assess the taxes for the Libyans each according to his proportion. But these men seemed to the Libyans neither moderate nor endurable.

9 1 Belisarius, upon reaching Byzantium with Gelimer and the Vandals, was counted worthy to receive such honours, as in former times were assigned to those generals of the Romans who had won the greatest and most noteworthy victories. 2 And a period of about six hundred years had now passed since anyone had attained these honours,​4 except, indeed, Titus and Trajan, and such other emperors as had led armies against some barbarian nation and had been victorious. 3 For he displayed the spoils and slaves from the war in the midst of the city and led a procession which the Romans call a "triumph," not, however, in the ancient manner, but going on foot from his own house to the hippodrome and then again from the barriers until he reached the place where the imperial throne is.​5 4 And there was booty, — first of all, whatever articles are wont  p281 to be set apart for the royal service, — thrones of gold and carriages in which it is customary for a king's consort to ride, and much jewelry made of precious stones, and golden drinking cups, and all the other things which are useful for the royal table. 5 And there was also silver weighing many thousands of talents and all the royal treasure amounting to an exceedingly great sum (for Gizeric had despoiled the Palatium in Rome, as has been said in the preceding narrative),​6 and among these were the treasures of the Jews, which Titus, the son of Vespasian, together with certain others, had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem. 6 And one of the Jews, seeing these things, approached one of those known to the emperor and said: "These treasures I think it inexpedient to carry into the palace in Byzantium. 7 Indeed, it is not possible for them to be elsewhere than in the place where Solomon, the king of the Jews, formerly placed them. 8 For it is because of these that Gizeric captured the palace of the Romans, and that now the Roman army has captured that of the Vandals." 9 When this had been brought to the ears of the Emperor, he became afraid and quickly sent everything to the sanctuaries of the Christians in Jerusalem. 10 And there were slaves in the triumph, among whom was Gelimer himself, wearing some sort of a purple garment upon his shoulders, and all his family, and as many of the Vandals as were very tall and fair of body. 11 And when Gelimer reached the hippodrome and saw the emperor sitting upon a lofty seat and the people standing on either side and realized as he looked  p283 about in what an evil plight he was, he neither wept nor cried out, but ceased not saying over in the words of the Hebrew scripture:​7 "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." 12 And when he came before the emperor's seat, they stripped off the purple garment, and compelled him to fall prone on the ground and do obeisance to the Emperor Justinian. This also Belisarius did, as being a suppliant of the emperor along with him. 13 And the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora presented the children of Ilderic and his offspring and all those of the family of the Emperor Valentinian with sufficient sums of money, and to Gelimer they gave lands not to be despised in Galatia and permitted him to live there together with his family. 14 However, Gelimer was by no means enrolled among the patricians, since he was unwilling to change from the faith of Arius.

15 A little later the triumph​8 was celebrated by Belisarius in the ancient manner also. For he had the fortune to be advanced to the office of consul, and therefore was borne aloft by the captives, and as he was thus carried in his curule chair, he threw to the populace those very spoils of the Vandalic war. 16 For the people carried off the silver plate and golden girdles and a vast amount of the Vandals' wealth of other sorts as a result of Belisarius' consulship, and it seemed that after a long interval of disuse an old custom was being revived.​9 These things, then, took place in Byzantium in the manner described.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 i.e. there in Africa, as successor to the throne of the Vandal kings.

2 Book III.xxv.2‑4.

3 Examples of the Roman system have come to light in Egyptian papyri; of the declarations of personal property, ἀπογραφαί, Pap. Lond. I, p79; Flinders Petrie Pap., III, p200, ed. Mahaffy and Smyly.

4 Since a triumph was granted only to an imperator, after the establishment of the principate by Augustus all triumphs were celebrated in the name of the emperor himself, the victorious general receiving only the insignia triumphalia. The first general to refuse a triumph was Agrippa, after his campaign in Spain, about 550 years before Belisarius' triumph in Constantinople.

5 The barriers (carceres), or starting-point for the racers, were at the open end of the hippodrome, the imperial box at the middle of the course at the right as one entered.

6 Cf. Book III.v.3; that was in A.D. 455. The spoliation of Jerusalem by Titus had taken place in A.D. 70.

7 Ecclesiastes, i.2.

8 Not an actual "triumph," but a triumphal celebration of his inauguration as consul.

9 The reference is to the old custom of distributing to the populace largesses (congiaria) of money or valuables on the occasion of events of interest to the imperial house, such as the emperor's assumption of the consular office, birthdays, etc. The first largesse of this kind was made by Julius Caesar.

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