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I.24‑29

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1919

The text is in the public domain.

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II.8‑15

(Vol. III) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book II (beginning)

 p289  1 1 After this the Romans no longer dared risk a battle with their whole army; but they engaged in cavalry battles, making sudden sallies in the same manner as before, and were generally victorious over the barbarians. 2 Foot-soldiers also went out from both sides, not, however, arrayed in a phalanx, but accompanying the horsemen. 3 And once Bessas in the first rush dashed in among the enemy carrying his spear and killed three of their best horsemen and turned the rest to flight. 4 And another time, when Constantinus had led out the Huns in the Plain of Nero in the late afternoon, and saw that they were being overpowered by the superior numbers of their opponents, he took the following measures. 5 There has been in that place from of old a great stadium1 where the gladiators of the city used to fight in former times, and the men of old built many other buildings round about this stadium; consequently there are, as one would expect, narrow passages all about this place. 6 Now on the occasion in question, since Constantinus could neither overcome the throng of the Goths nor flee without great danger, he caused  p291 all the Huns to dismount from their horses, and on foot, in company with them, took his stand in one of the narrow passages there. 7 Then by shooting from that safe position they slew large numbers of the enemy. And for some time the Goths withstood their missiles. 8 For they hoped, as soon as the supply of missiles in the quivers of the Huns should be exhausted, to be able to surround them without any trouble, take them prisoners, and lead them back to their camp. 9 But since the Massagetae, who were not only good bowmen but also had a dense throng to shoot into, hit an enemy with practically every shot, the Goths perceived that above half their number had perished, and since the sun was about to set, they knew not what to do and so rushed off in flight. 10 Then indeed many of them fell; for the Massagetae followed them up, and since they know how to shoot the bow with the greatest accuracy even when running at great speed, they continued to discharge their arrows no less than before, shooting at their backs, and kept up the slaughter. And thus Constantinus with his Huns came back to Rome at night.

11 And when Peranius, not many days later, led some of the Romans through the Salarian Gate against the enemy, the Goths, indeed, fled as hard as they could, but about sunset a counter-pursuit was made suddenly, and a Roman foot-soldier, becoming greatly confused, fell into a deep hole, many of which were made there by the men of old, for the storage of grain, I suppose. 12 And he did not dare to cry out,  p293 supposing that the enemy were encamped near by, and was not able in any way whatever to get out of the pit, for it afforded no means of climbing up; he was therefore compelled to pass the night there. 13 Now on the next day, when the barbarians had again been put to flight, one of the Goths fell into the same hole. 14 And there the two men were reconciled to mutual friendship and good-will, brought together as they were by their necessity, and they exchanged solemn pledges, each that he would work earnestly for the salvation of the other; and then both of them began shouting with loud and frantic cries. 15 Now the Goths, following the sound, came and peered over the edge of the hole, and enquired who it was who shouted. 16 At this, the Roman, in accordance with the plan decided upon by the two men, kept silence, and the Goth in his native tongue said that he had just recently fallen in there during the rout which had taken place, and asked them to let down a rope that he might come up. 17 And they as quickly as possible threw down the ends of ropes, and, as they thought, were pulling up the Goth, but the Roman laid hold of the ropes and was pulled up, saying only that if he should go up first the Goths would never abandon their comrade, but if they should learn that merely one of the enemy was there they would take no account of him. So saying, he went up. 18 And when the Goths saw him, they wondered and were in great perplexity, but upon hearing the whole story from him they drew up his comrade next, and he told them of the agreement  p295 they had made and of the pledges both had given. 19 So he went off with his companions, and the Roman was released unharmed and permitted to return to the city. 20 After this horsemen in no great numbers armed themselves many times for battle, but the struggles always ended in single combats, and the Romans were victorious in all of them. Such, then, was the course of these events.

21 A little after this an engagement took place in the Plain of Nero, wherein various small groups of horsemen were engaged in pursuing their opponents in various directions; in one group was Chorsamantis, a man of note among the guards of Belisarius, by birth a Massagete, who with some others was pursuing seventy of the enemy. 22 And when he had got well out in the plain the other Romans rode back, but Chorsamantis went on with the pursuit alone. As soon as the Goths perceived this, they turned their horses about and came against him. 23 And he advanced into their midst, killed one of the best of them with his spear, and then went after the others, but they again turned and rushed off in flight. 24 But they were ashamed before their comrades in the camp, who, they suspected, could already see them, and wished to attack him again. 25 They had, however, precisely the same experience as before and lost one of their best men, and so turned to flight in spite of their shame, and after Chorsamantis had pursued them as far as their stockade he returned alone. 26 And a little later, in another battle, this man was wounded in the left shin, and it was his  p297 opinion that the weapon had merely grazed the bone. 27 However, he was rendered unfit for fighting for a certain number of days by reason of this wound, and since he was a barbarian he did not endure this patiently, but threatened that he would right speedily have vengeance upon the Goths for this insult to his leg. 28 So when not long afterwards he had recovered and was drunk at lunch time, as was his custom, he purposed to go alone against the enemy and avenge the insult to his leg; and when he had come to the small Pincian Gate he stated that he was sent by Belisarius to the enemy's camp. 29 And the guards at the gate, who could not doubt the word of a man who was the best of the guards of Belisarius, opened the gates and allowed him to go wherever he would. 30 And when the enemy spied him, they thought at first that some deserter was coming over to them, but when he came near and put his hand to his bow, twenty men, not knowing who he might be, went out against him. 31 These he easily drove off, and then began to ride back at a walk, and when more Goths came against him he did not flee. 32 But when a great throng gathered about him and he still insisted upon fighting them, the Romans, watching the sight from the towers, suspected that the man was crazy, but they did not yet know that it was Chorsamantis. 33 At length, after making a display of great and very noteworthy deeds, he found himself surrounded by the army of the enemy, and paid the penalty for his unreasonable daring. 34 And when Belisarius and the Roman army learned this, they mourned greatly, lamenting that the hope which all placed in the man had come to naught.

 p299  2 1 Now a certain Euthalius, at about the spring equinox, came to Taracina from Byzantium with the money which the emperor owed the soldiers. 2 And fearing lest the enemy should come upon him on the road and both rob him of the money and kill him, he wrote to Belisarius requesting him to make the journey to Rome safe for him. 3 Belisarius accordingly selected one hundred men of note from among his own bodyguards and sent them with two spearmen to Taracina to assist him in bringing the money. 4 And at the same time he kept trying to make the barbarians believe that he was about to fight with his whole army, his purpose being to prevent any of the enemy from leaving the vicinity, either to bring in provisions or for any other purpose. 5 But when he found out that Euthalius and his men would arrive on the morrow, he arrayed his army and set it in order for battle, and the barbarians were in readiness. 6 Now throughout the whole forenoon he merely held his soldiers near the gates; for he knew that Euthalius and those who accompanied him would arrive at night. 7 Then, at midday, he commanded the army to take their lunch, and the Goths did the same thing, supposing that he was putting off the engagement to the following day. 8 A little later, however, Belisarius sent Martinus and Valerian to the Plain of Nero with the troops under their command, directing them to throw the enemy's camp into the  p301 greatest possible confusion. 9 And from the small Pincian Gate he sent out six hundred horsemen against the camps of the barbarians, 10 placing them under command of three of his own spearmen, Artasires, a Persian, and Bochas, of the race of the Massagetae, and Cutilas, a Thracian. And many of the enemy came out to meet them. 11 For a long time, however, the battle did not come to close quarters, but each side kept retreating when the other advanced and making pursuits in which they quickly turned back, until it looked as if they intended to spend the rest of the day at this sort of thing. 12 But as they continued, they began at last to be filled with rage against each other. The battle then settled down to a fierce struggle in which many of the best men on both sides fell, and support came up for each of the two armies, both from the city and from the camps. 13 And when these fresh troops were mingled with the fighters the struggle became still greater. And the shouting which filled the city and the camps terrified the combatants. 14 But finally the Romans by their valour forced back the enemy and routed them.

In this action Cutilas was struck in the middle of the head by a javelin, and he kept on pursuing with the javelin still embedded in his head. 15 And after the rout had taken place, he rode into the city at about sunset together with the other survivors, the javelin in his head waving about, a most extraordinary sight. 16 During the same encounter Arzes, one of the guards of Belisarius, was hit by one of the Gothic  p303 archers between the nose and the right eye. 17 And the point of the arrow penetrated as far as the neck behind, but it did not shew through, and the rest of the shaft projected from his face and shook as the man rode. 18 And when the Romans saw him and Cutilas they marvelled greatly that both men continued to ride, paying no heed to their hurt. Such, then, was the course of events in that quarter.

19 But in the Plain of Nero the barbarians had the upper hand. For the men of Valerian and Martinus, fighting with a great multitude of the enemy, withstood them stoutly, to be sure, but suffered most terribly, and came into exceedingly great danger. 20 And then Belisarius commanded Bochas to take his troops, which had returned from the engagement unwearied, men as well as horses, and go to the Plain of Nero. 21 Now it was already late in the day. And when the men under Bochas had come to the assistance of the Romans, suddenly the barbarians were turned to flight, and Bochas, who had impetuously followed the pursuit to a great distance, came to be surrounded by twelve of the enemy, who carried spears. 22 And they all struck him at once with their spears. But his corselet withstood the other blows, which therefore did not hurt him much; but one of the Goths succeeded in hitting him from behind, at a place where his body was uncovered, above the right armpit, very close to the shoulder, and smote the youth, though not with a mortal stroke, nor even one which brought him into danger of death. 23 But another Goth struck him in front and pierced his left thigh, and cut the muscles there; it was not a straight blow, however, but only a slanting cut. 24 But Valerian and Martinus saw what  p305 was happening, and coming to his rescue as quickly as possible, they routed the enemy, and both took hold of the bridle of Bochas' horse, and so came into the city. Then night came on and Euthalius entered the city with the money.

25 And when all had returned to the city, they attended to the wounded men. Now in the case of Arzes, though the physicians wished to draw the weapon from his face, they were for some time reluctant to do so, not so much on account of the eye, which they supposed could not possibly be saved, but for fear lest, by the cutting of membranes and tissues such as are very numerous in that region, they should cause the death of a man who was one of the best of the household of Belisarius. 26 But afterwards one of the physicians, Theoctistus by name, pressed on the back of his neck and asked whether he felt much pain. 27 And when the man said that he did feel pain, he said, "Then both you yourself will be saved and your sight will not be injured." And he made this declaration because he inferred that the barb of the weapon had penetrated to a point not far from the skin. 28 Accordingly he cut off that part of the shaft which shewed outside and threw it away, and cutting open the skin at the back of the head, at the place where the man felt the most pain, he easily drew toward him the barb, which with its three sharp points now stuck out behind and brought with it the remaining portion of the weapon. 29 Thus Arzes remained entirely free from serious harm, and not even a trace of his wound was left on his face. 30 But as for Cutilas, when the javelin was drawn rather violently from his head (for it was very deeply  p307 embedded), he fell into a swoon. 31 And since the membranes about the wound began to be inflamed, he fell a victim to phrenitis2 and died not long afterwards. 32 Bochas, however, immediately had a very severe hemorrhage in the thigh, and seemed like one who was presently to die. And the reason for the hemorrhage, according to what the physicians said, was that the blow had severed the muscle, not directly from the front, but by a slanting cut. In any event he died three days later. 33 Because of these things, then, the Romans spent that whole night in deep grief; while from the Gothic camps were heard many sounds of wailing and loud lamentation. 34 And the Romans indeed wondered, because they thought that no calamity of any consequence had befallen the enemy on the previous day, except, to be sure, that no small number of them had perished in the encounters. 35 This had happened to them before in no less degree, perhaps even to a greater degree, but it had not greatly distressed them, so great were their numbers. 36 However, it was learned on the following day that men of the greatest note from the camp in the Plain of Nero were being bewailed by the Goths, men whom Bochas had killed in his first charge.

37 And other encounters also, though of no great importance, took place, which it has seemed to me unnecessary to chronicle. This, however, I will state, that altogether sixty-seven encounters occurred during this siege, besides two final ones which will be described in the following narrative. 38 And at that time the winter drew to its close, and thus ended the second year of this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

 p309  3 1 But at the beginning of the spring equinox famine and pestilence together fell upon the inhabitants of the city. There was still, it is true, some grain for the soldiers, though no other kind of provisions, but the grain-supply of the rest of the Romans had been exhausted, and actual famine as well as pestilence was pressing hard upon them. 2 And the Goths, perceiving this, no longer cared to risk a decisive battle with their enemy, but they kept guard that nothing in future should be brought in to them. 3 Now there are two aqueducts between the Latin and the Appian Ways, exceedingly high and carried on arches for a great distance. 4 These two aqueducts meet at a place fifty stades distant from Rome3 and cross each other, so that for a little space they reverse their relative position. 5 For the one which previously lay to the right from then on continues on the left side. 6 And again coming together, they resume their former places, and thereafter remain apart. Consequently the space between them, enclosed, as it is, by the aqueducts, comes to be a fortress. 7 And the barbarians walled up the lower arches of the aqueducts here with stones and mud and in this way gave it the form of a fort, and encamping there to the number of no fewer than seven thousand men, they kept guard that no provisions should thereafter be brought into the city by the enemy.

 p311  8 Then indeed every hope of better things abandoned the Romans, and every form of evil encompassed them round about. As long as there was ripe grain, however, the most daring of the soldiers, led on by lust of money, went by night to the grain-fields not far from the city mounted on horses and leading other horses after them. 9 Then they cut off the heads of grain, and putting them on the horses which they led, would carry them into the city without being seen by the enemy and sell them at a great price to such of the Romans as were wealthy. 10 But the other inhabitants lived on various herbs such as grow in abundance not only in the outskirts but also inside the fortifications. For the land of the Romans is never lacking in herbs either in winter or at any other season, but they always flourish and grow luxuriantly at all times. 11 Wherefore the besieged also pastured their horses in those places. And some too made sausages of the mules that died in Rome and secretly sold them. 12 But when the corn-lands had no more grain and all the Romans had come into an exceedingly evil plight, they surrounded Belisarius and tried to compel him to stake everything on a single battle with the enemy, promising that not one of the Romans would be absent from the engagement. And when he was at a loss what to do in that situation and greatly distressed, some of the populace spoke to him as follows:

13 "General, we were not prepared for the fortune which has overtaken us at the present time; on the contrary, what has happened has been altogether the opposite of our expectations. 14 For after achieving what  p313 we had formerly set our hearts upon, we have now come into the present misfortune, and we realize at length that our previous opinion that we did well to crave the emperor's watchful care was but folly and the beginning of the greatest evils. 15 Indeed, this course has brought us to such straits that at the present time we have taken courage to use force once more and to arm ourselves against the barbarians. 16 And while we may claim forgiveness if we boldly come into the presence of Belisarius — for the belly knows not shame when it lacks its necessities — 17 our plight must be the apology for our rashness; for it will be readily agreed that there is no plight more intolerable for men than a life prolonged amid the adversities of fortune. And as to the fortune which has fallen upon us, you cannot fail to see our distress. 18 These fields and the whole country have fallen under the hand of the enemy; and this city has been shut off from all good things for we know not how long a time. 19 And as for the Romans, some already lie in death, and it has not been their portion to be hidden in the earth, and we who survive, to put all our terrible misfortunes in a word, only pray to be placed beside those who lie thus. 20 For starvation shews to those upon whom it comes that all other evils can be endured, and wherever it appears it is attended by oblivion of all other sufferings, and causes all other forms of death, except that which proceeds from itself, to seem pleasant to men. 21 Now, therefore, before the evil has yet mastered us, grant us leave on our own behalf to take up the struggle, which will result either in our overcoming the enemy or in deliverance  p315 from our troubles. 22 For when delay brings men hope of safety, it would be great folly for them prematurely to enter into a danger which involves their all, but when tarrying makes the struggle more difficult, to put off action even for a little time is more reprehensible than immediate and precipitate haste."

23 So spoke the Romans. And Belisarius replied as follows: "Well, as for me, I have been quite prepared for your conduct in every respect, and nothing that has happened has been contrary to my expectation. 24 For long have I known that a populace is a most unreasoning thing, and that by its very nature it cannot endure the present or provide for the future, but only knows how rashly in every case to attempt the impossible and recklessly to destroy itself. 25 But as for me, I shall never, willingly at least, be led by your carelessness either to destroy you or to involve the emperor's cause in ruin with you. 26 For war is wont to be brought to a successful issue, not by unreasoning haste, but by the use of good counsel and forethought in estimating the turn of the scale at decisive moments. 27 You, however, act as though you were playing at dice, and want to risk all on a single cast; but it is not my custom to choose the short course in preference to the advantageous one. 28 In the second place, you promise that you will help us do battle against the enemy; but when have you ever taken training in war? Or who that has learned such things by the use of arms does not know that battle affords no room for experiment? Nor does the enemy, on his part, give opportunity, while the struggle is on, to practise on him. 29 This  p317 time, indeed, I admire your zeal and forgive you for making this disturbance; 30 but that you have taken this action at an unseasonable time and that the policy of waiting which we are following is prudent, I shall now make clear. The emperor has gathered for us from the whole earth and despatched an army too great to number, and a fleet such as was never brought together by the Romans now covers the shore of Campania and the greater part of the Ionian Gulf. 31 And within a few days these reinforcements will come to us and bring with them all kinds of provisions, to put an end to our destitution and to bury the camps of the barbarians under a multitude of missiles. 32 I have therefore reasoned that it was better to put off the time of conflict until they are present, and thus gain the victory in the war with safety, than to make a show of daring in unreasoning haste and thus throw away the salvation of our whole cause. To secure their immediate arrival and to prevent their loitering longer shall be my concern."

4 1 With these words Belisarius encouraged the Roman populace and then dismissed them; and Procopius, who wrote this history, he immediately commanded to go to Naples. For a rumour was going about that the emperor had sent an army there. 2 And he commissioned him to load as many ships as possible with grain, to gather all the soldiers who at the moment had arrived from Byzantium, or had been left about Naples in charge of horses or for any other purpose whatever — for he had heard that many such were coming to the various places in  p319 Campania — and to withdraw some of the men from the garrisons there, and then to come back with them, convoying the grain to Ostia, where the harbour of the Romans was. 3 And Procopius, accompanied by Mundilas the guardsman and a few horsemen, passed out by night through the gate which bears the name of the Apostle Paul,4 eluding the enemy's camp which had been established very close to the Appian Way to keep guard over it. 4 And when Mundilas and his men, returning to Rome, announced that Procopius had already arrived in Campania without meeting any of the barbarians, — for at night, they said, the enemy never went outside their camp, — everybody became hopeful, and Belisarius, now emboldened, devised the following plan. 5 He sent out many of his horsemen to the neighbouring strongholds, directing them, in case any of the enemy should come that way in order to bring provisions into their camps, that they should constantly make sallies upon them from their positions and lay ambushes everywhere about this region, and thus keep them from succeeding; on the contrary, they should with all their might hedge them in, so that the city might be in less distress than formerly through lack of provisions, and also that the barbarians might seem to be besieged rather than to be themselves besieging the Romans. 6 So he commanded Martinus and Trajan with a thousand men to go to Taracina. And with them he sent also his wife Antonina, commanding that she be sent with a few men to Naples, there to await in safety the fortune which would befall the Romans. 7 And he sent Magnus and Sinthues the guardsman, who took with them  p321 about five hundred men, to the fortress of Tibur, one hundred and forty stades distant from Rome.a 8 But to the town of Albani,5 which was situated on the Appian Way at the same distance from the city, he had already, as it happened, sent Gontharis with a number of Eruli, and these the Goths had driven out from there by force not long afterward.

9 Now there is a certain church of the Apostle Paul,6 fourteen stades distant from the fortifications of Rome,b and the Tiber River flows beside it. In that place there is no fortification, but a colonnade extends all the way from the city to the church, and many other buildings which are round about it render the place not easy of access. 10 But the Goths shew a certain degree of actual respect for sanctuaries such as this. And indeed during the whole time of the war no harm came to either church of the two Apostles7 at their hands, but all the rites were performed in them by the priests in the usual manner. 11 At this spot, then, Belisarius commanded Valerian to take all the Huns and make a stockade by the bank of the Tiber, in order that their horses might be kept in greater security and that the Goths might be still further checked from going at their pleasure to great distances from their camps. And Valerian acted accordingly. 12 Then, after the Huns had made their camp in the place where the general directed, he rode back to the city.

13 So Belisarius, having accomplished this, remained quiet, not offering battle, but eager to carry on the defence from the wall, if anyone should advance  p323 against it from outside with evil intent. 14 And he also furnished grain to some of the Roman populace. But Martinus and Trajan passed by night between the camps of the enemy, and after reaching Taracina sent Antonina with a few men into Campania; and they themselves took possession of the fortified places in that district, and using them as their bases of operations and making thence their sudden attacks, they checked such of the Goths as were moving about in that region. 15 As for Magnus and Sinthues, in a short time they rebuilt such parts of the fortress8 as had fallen into ruin, and as soon as they had put themselves in safety, they began immediately to make more trouble for the enemy, whose fortress was not far away, not only by making frequent raids upon them, but also by keeping such of the barbarians as were escorting provision-trains in a constant state of terror by the unexpectedness of their movements; but finally Sinthues was wounded in his right hand by a spear in a certain battle, and since the sinews were severed, he became thereafter unfit for fighting. 16 And the Huns likewise, after they had made their camp near by, as I have said, were on their part causing the Goths no less trouble, so that these as well as the Romans were now feeling the pressure of famine, since they no longer had freedom to bring in their food-supplies as formerly. 17 And pestilence too fell upon them and was destroying many, and especially in the camp which they had last made, close by the Appian Way, as I have previously stated.9 18 And the few of their number who had not perished withdrew from that camp to the other camps. The Huns also  p325 suffered in the same way, and so returned to Rome. Such was the course of events here. 19 But as for Procopius, when he reached Campania, he collected not fewer than five hundred soldiers there, loaded a great number of ships with grain, and held them in readiness. 20 And he was joined not long afterwards by Antonina, who immediately assisted him in making arrangements for the fleet.

21 At that time the mountain of Vesuvius rumbled, and though it did not break forth in eruption, still because of the rumbling it led people to expect with great certainty that there would be an eruption. And for this reason it came to pass that the inhabitants fell into great terror. 22 Now this mountain is seventy stades distant from Naples and lies to the north10 of it — an exceedingly steep mountain, whose lower parts spread out wide on all sides, while its upper portion is precipitous and exceedingly difficult of ascent. 23 But on the summit of Vesuvius and at about the centre of it appears a cavern of such depth that one would judge that it extends all the way to the bottom of the mountain. 24 And it is possible to see fire there, if one should dare to peer over the edge, and although the flames as a rule merely twist and turn upon one another, occasioning no trouble to the inhabitants of that region, yet, when the mountain gives forth a rumbling sound which resembles bellowing, it generally sends up not long afterward a great quantity of ashes. 25 And if anyone travelling on the road is caught by this terrible shower, he cannot possibly survive, and if it falls upon houses, they too fall under the weight of the great quantity of ashes. 26 But whenever it so  p327 happens that a strong wind comes on, the ashes rise to a great height, so that they are no longer visible to the eye, and are borne wherever the wind which drives them goes, falling on lands exceedingly far away. 27 And once, they say, they fell in Byzantium11 and so terrified the people there, that from that time up to the present the whole city has seen fit to propitiate God with prayers every year; and at another time they fell on Tripolis in Libya. 28 Formerly this rumbling took place, they say, once in a hundred years or even more,12 but in later times it has happened much more frequently. 29 This, however, they declare emphatically, that whenever Vesuvius belches forth these ashes, the country round about is bound to flourish with an abundance of all crops. 30 Furthermore, the air on this mountain is very light and by its nature the most favourable to health in the world. And indeed those who are attacked by consumption have been sent to this place by physicians from remote times. So much, then, may be said regarding Vesuvius.

5 1 At this time another army also arrived by sea from Byzantium, three thousand Isaurians who put in at the harbour of Naples, led by Paulus and Conon, and eight hundred Thracian horsemen who landed at Dryus, led by John, the nephew of the Vitalian who had formerly been tyrant, and with them a  p329 thousand other soldiers of the regular cavalry, under various commanders, among whom were Alexander and Marcentius. 2 And it happened that Zeno with three hundred horsemen had already reached Rome by way of Samnium and the Latin Way. And when John with all the others came to Campania, provided with many waggons by the inhabitants of Calabria, his troops were joined by five hundred men who, as I have said, had been collected in Campania. 3 These set out by the coast road with the waggons, having in mind, if any hostile force should confront them, to make a circle of the waggons in the form of a stockade and thus to ward off the enemy; and they commanded the men under Paulus and Conon to sail with all speed and join them at Ostia, the harbour of Rome;13 and they put sufficient grain in the waggons and loaded all the ships, not only with grain, but also with wine and all kinds of provisions. 4 And they, indeed, expected to find the forces of Martinus and Trajan in the neighbourhood of Taracina and to have their company from that point on, but when they approached Taracina, they learned that these forces had recently been recalled and had retired to Rome.

5 But Belisarius, learning that the forces of John were approaching and fearing that the enemy might confront them in greatly superior numbers and destroy them, took the following measures. 6 It so happened that the enemy had encamped very close to the Flaminian Gate; this gate Belisarius himself had blocked up at the beginning of this war by a  p331 structure of stone, as has been told by me in the previous narrative,14 his purpose of course being to make it difficult for the enemy either to force their way in or to make any attempt upon the city at that point. 7 Consequently no engagement had taken place at this gate, and the barbarians had no suspicion that there would be any attack upon them from there. 8 Now Belisarius tore down by night the masonry which blocked this gate, without giving notice to anyone at all, and made ready the greatest part of the army there. 9 And at daybreak he sent Trajan and Diogenes with a thousand horsemen through the Pincian Gate, commanding them to shoot missiles into the camps, and as soon as their opponents came against them, to flee without the least shame and to ride up to the fortifications at full speed. 10 And he also stationed some men inside this gate. So the men under Trajan began to harass the barbarians, as Belisarius had directed them to do, and the Goths, gathering from all the camps, began to defend themselves. 11 And both armies began to move as fast as they could toward the fortifications of the city, the one giving the appearance of fleeing, and the other supposing that they were pursuing the enemy.

12 But as soon as Belisarius saw the enemy take up the pursuit, he opened the Flaminian Gate and sent his army out against the barbarians, who were thus taken unawares. 13 Now it so happened that one of the Gothic camps was on the road near this gate, and in front of it there was a narrow passage between steep banks which was exceedingly difficult of access. 14 And one of the barbarians, a man of splendid physique and clad in a corselet, when he saw the enemy  p333 advancing, reached this place before them and took his stand there, at the same time calling his comrades and urging them to help in guarding the narrow passage. 15 But before any move could be made Mundilas slew him and thereafter allowed none of the barbarians to go into this passage. 16 The Romans therefore passed through it without encountering opposition, and some of them, arriving at the Gothic camp near by, for a short time tried to take it, but were unable to do so because of the strength of the stockade, although not many barbarians had been left behind in it. 17 For the trench had been dug to an extraordinary depth, and since the earth taken from it had invariably been placed along its inner side, this reached a great height and so served as a wall15; and it was abundantly supplied with stakes, which were very sharp and close together, thus making a palisade. 18 These defences so emboldened the barbarians that they began to repel the enemy vigorously. But one of the guards of Belisarius, Aquilinus by name, an exceedingly active man, seized a horse by the bridle and, bestriding it, leaped from the trench into the middle of the camp, where he slew some of the enemy. 19 And when his opponents gathered about him and hurled great numbers of missiles, the horse was wounded and fell, but he himself unexpectedly made his escape through the midst of the enemy. 20 So he went on foot with his companions toward the Pincian Gate. And overtaking the barbarians, who were still engaged in pursuing Roman horsemen,16 they began to shoot at them from behind and killed some of them.

 p335  21 Now when Trajan and his men perceived this, since they had meanwhile been reinforced by the horsemen who had been standing near by in readiness, they charged at full speed against their pursuers. 22 Then at length the Goths, being now outgeneraled and unexpectedly caught between the forces of their enemy, began to be killed indiscriminately. 23 And there was great slaughter of them, and very few escaped to their camps, and that with difficulty; meanwhile the others, fearing for the safety of all their strongholds, shut themselves in and remained in them thereafter, thinking that the Romans would come against them without the least delay. 24 In this action one of the barbarians shot Trajan in the face, above the right eye and not far from the nose. 25 And the whole of the iron point, penetrated the head and disappeared entirely, although the barb on it was large and exceedingly long, but the remainder of the arrow immediately fell to the ground without the application of force by anyone, in my opinion because the iron point had never been securely fastened to the shaft. 26 Trajan, however, paid no heed to this at all, but continued none the less killing and pursuing the enemy. But in the fifth year afterward the tip of the iron of its own accord began to project visibly from his face. 27 And this is now the third year since it has been slowly but steadily coming out. It is to be expected, therefore, that the whole barb will eventually come out, though not for a long time. But it has not been an impediment to the man in any way. So much then for these matters.

 p337  6 1 Now the barbarians straightway began to despair of winning the war and were considering how they might withdraw from Rome, inasmuch as they had suffered the ravages both of the pestilence and of the enemy, and were now reduced from many tens of thousands to a few men; and, not least of all, they were in a state of distress by reason of the famine, and while in name they were carrying on a siege, they were in fact being besieged by their opponents and were shut off from all necessities. 2 And when they learned that still another army had come to their enemy from Byzantium both by land and by sea — not being informed as to its actual size, but supposing it to be as large as the free play of rumour was able to make it, — they became terrified at the danger and began to plan for their departure. 3 They accordingly sent three envoys to Rome, one of whom was a Roman of note among the Goths, and he, coming before Belisarius, spoke as follows:

4 "That the war has not turned out to the advantage of either side each of us knows well, since we both have had actual experience of its hardships. 5 For why should anyone in either army deny facts of which neither now remains in ignorance. 6 And no one, I think, could deny, at least no one who does not lack understanding, that it is only senseless men who choose to go on suffering indefinitely merely to satisfy the contentious spirit which moves them for the moment, and refuse to find a solution of the troubles which harass them. 7 And whenever this situation arises, it  p339 is the duty of the commanders on both sides not to sacrifice the lives of their subjects to their own glory, but to choose the course which is just and expedient, not for themselves alone, but also for their opponents, and thus to put an end to present hardships. 8 For moderation in one's demands affords a way out of all difficulties, but it is the very nature of contentiousness that it cannot accomplish any of the objects which are essential. 9 Now we, on our part, have deliberated concerning the conclusion of this war and have come before you with proposals which are of advantage to both sides, wherein we waive, as we think, some portion even of our rights. 10 And see to it that you likewise in your deliberations do not yield to a spirit of contentiousness respecting us and thus destroy yourselves as well as us, in preference to choosing the course which will be of advantage to yourselves. 11 And it is fitting that both sides should state their case, not in continuous speech, but each interrupting the other on the spur of the moment, if anything that is said shall seem inappropriate. 12 For in this way each side will be able to say briefly whatever it is minded to say, and at the same time the essential things will be accomplished." 13 Belisarius replied: "There will be nothing to prevent the debate from proceeding in the manner you suggest, only let the words spoken by you be words of peace and of justice."

14 So the ambassadors of the Goths in their turn said: "You have done us an injustice, O Romans, in taking up arms wrongfully against us, your friends and allies. And what we shall say is, we think, well known to each one of you as well as to ourselves.  p341 15 For the Goths did not obtain the land of Italy by wresting it from the Romans by force, but Odoacer in former times dethroned the emperor, changed the government of Italy to a tyranny, and so held it.17 16 And Zeno, who then held the power of the East, though he wished to avenge his partner in the imperial office and to free this land from the usurper, was unable to destroy the authority of Odoacer. Accordingly he persuaded Theoderic, our ruler, although he was on the point of besieging him and Byzantium, not only to put an end to his hostility towards himself, in recollection of the honour which Theoderic had already received at his hands in having been made a patrician and consul of the Romans,18 but also to punish Odoacer for his unjust treatment of Augustulus, and thereafter, in company with the Goths, to hold sway over the land as its legitimate and rightful rulers. 17 It was in this way, therefore, that we took over the dominion of Italy, and we have preserved both the laws and the form of government as strictly as any who have ever been Roman emperors, and there is absolutely no law, either written or unwritten, introduced by Theoderic or by any of his successors on the throne of the Goths. 18 And we have so scrupulously guarded for the Romans their practices pertaining to the worship of God and faith in Him, that not one of the Italians has changed his belief, either willingly or unwillingly, up to the present day, and when Goths have changed,19 we have taken no notice of the matter. 19 And indeed the sanctuaries of the Romans have received from us the highest honour; for no one who has taken refuge  p343 in any of them has ever been treated with violence by any man; nay, more, the Romans themselves have continued to hold all the offices of the state, and not a single Goth has had a share in them. 20 Let someone come forward and refute us, if he thinks that this statement of ours is not true. And one might add that the Goths have conceded that the dignity of the consulship should be conferred upon Romans each year by the emperor of the East. Such has been the course followed by us; 21 but you, on your side, did not take the part of Italy while it was suffering at the hands of the barbarians and Odoacer, although it was not for a short time, but for ten years, that he treated the land outrageously; but now you do violence to us who have acquired it legitimately, though you have no business here. 22 Do you therefore depart hence out of our way, keeping both that which is your own and whatever you have gained by plunder."

And Belisarius said: "Although your promise gave us to understand that your words would be brief and temperate, yet your discourse has been both long and not far from fraudulent in its pretensions. 23 For Theoderic was sent by the Emperor Zeno in order to make war on Odoacer, not in order to hold the dominion of Italy for himself. For why should the emperor have been concerned to exchange one tyrant for another? But he sent him in order that Italy might be free and obedient to the emperor. 24 And though Theoderic disposed of the tyrant in a satisfactory manner, in everything else he shewed an extraordinary lack of proper feeling; for he never thought of restoring the land to its rightful owner. 25 But I, for my part, think that he who robs  p345 another by violence and he who of his own will does not restore his neighbour's goods are equal. Now, as for me, I shall never surrender the emperor's country to any other. 26 But if there is anything you wish to receive in place of it, I give you leave to speak."

27 And the barbarians said: "That everything which we have said is true no one of you can be unaware. But in order that we may not seem to be contentious, we give up to you Sicily, great as it is and of such wealth, seeing that without it you cannot possess Libya in security."

28 And Belisarius replied: "And we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain, which is much larger than Sicily and was subject to the Romans in early times. 29 For it is only fair to make an equal return to those who first do a good deed or perform a kindness."

30 The barbarians: "Well, then, if we should make you a proposal concerning Campania also, or about Naples itself, will you listen to it?"

31 Belisarius: "No, for we are not empowered to administer the emperor's affairs in a way which is not in accord with his wish."

The barbarians: "Not even if we impose upon ourselves the payment of a fixed sum of money every year?"

32 Belisarius: "No, indeed. For we are not empowered to do anything else than guard the land for its owner."

33 The barbarians: "Come now, we must send  p347 envoys to the emperor and make with him our treaty concerning the whole matter. And a definite time must also be appointed during which the armies will be bound to observe an armistice."

34 Belisarius: "Very well; let this be done. For never shall I stand in your way when you are making plans for peace."

35 After saying these things they each left the conference, and the envoys of the Goths withdrew to their own camp. 36 And during the ensuing days they visited each other frequently and made the arrangements for the armistice, and they agreed that each side should put into the hands of the other some of its notable men as hostages to ensure the keeping of the armistice.

7 1 But while these negotiations were in progress at Rome, meanwhile the fleet of the Isaurians put in at the harbour20 of the Romans and John with his men came to Ostia, and not one of the enemy hindered them either while bringing their ships to land or while making their camp. 2 But in order that they might be able to pass the night safe from a sudden attack by the enemy, the Isaurians dug a deep trench close to the harbour and kept a constant guard by shifts of men, while John's soldiers made a barricade of their waggons about the camp and remained quiet. 3 And when night came on Belisarius went to Ostia with a hundred horsemen, and after telling what had taken place in the engagement  p349 and the agreement which had been made between the Romans and the Goths and otherwise encouraging them, he bade them bring their cargoes and come with all zeal to Rome. "For," he said, "I shall take care that the journey is free from danger." 4 So he himself at early dawn rode back to the city, and Antonina together with the commanders began at daybreak to consider means of transporting the cargoes. 5 But it seemed to them that the task was a hard one and beset with the greatest difficulties. For the oxen could hold out no longer, but all lay half-dead, and, furthermore, it was dangerous to travel over a rather narrow road with the waggons, and impossible to tow the barges on the river, as had formerly been the custom. 6 For the road which is on the left21 of the river was held by the enemy, as stated by me in the previous narrative,22 and not available for the use of the Romans at that time, while the road on the other side of it is altogether unused, at least that part of it which follows the river-bank. 7 They therefore selected the small boats belonging to the larger ships, put a fence of high planks around them on all sides, in order that the men on board might not be exposed to the enemy's shots, and embarked archers and sailors on them in numbers suitable for each boat. 8 And after they had loaded the boats with all the freight they could carry, they waited for a favouring wind and set sail toward Rome by the Tiber, and a portion of the army followed them along the right23 bank of the river to support them. But they left a  p351 large number of Isaurians to guard the ships. 9 Now where the course of the river was straight, they found no trouble in sailing, simply raising the sails of the boats; but where the stream wound about and took a course athwart the wind, and the sails received no impulse from it, the sailors had no slight toil in rowing and forcing the boats against the current. 10 As for the barbarians, they sat in their camps and had no wish to hinder their enemy, either because they were terrified at the danger, or because they thought that the Romans would never by such means succeed in bringing in any provisions, and considered it contrary to their own interest, when a matter of no consequence was involved, to frustrate their hope of the armistice which Belisarius had already promised. 11 Moreover, the Goths who were in Portus, though they could see their enemy constantly sailing by almost near enough to touch, made no move against them, but sat there wondering in amazement at the plan they had hit upon. 12 And when the Romans had made the voyage up the river many times in the same way, and had thus conveyed all the cargoes into the city without interference, the sailors took the ships and withdrew with all speed, for it was already about the time of the winter solstice; and the rest of the army entered Rome, except, indeed, that Paulus remained in Ostia with some of the Isaurians.

13 And afterwards they gave hostages to one another to secure the keeping of the armistice, the Romans giving Zeno, and the Goths Ulias, a man of no mean station, with the understanding that during three months they should make no attack upon one  p353 another, until the envoys should return from Byzantium and report the will of the emperor. 14 And even if the one side or the other should initiate offences against their opponents, the envoys were nevertheless to be returned to their own nation. 15 So the envoys of the barbarians went to Byzantium escorted by Romans, and Ildiger, the son-in-law of Antonina, came to Rome from Libya with not a few horsemen. 16 And the Goths who were holding the stronghold at Portus abandoned the place by the order of Vittigis because their supplies were exhausted, and came to the camp in obedience to his summons. Whereupon Paulus with his Isaurians came from Ostia and took possession of it and held it. 17 Now the chief reason why these barbarians were without provisions was that the Romans commanded the sea and did not allow any of the necessary supplies to be brought in to them. 18 And it was for this reason that they also abandoned at about the same time a sea-coast city of great importance, Centum­cellae24 by name, that is, because they were short of provisions. 19 This city is large and populous, lying to the west of Rome, in Tuscany, distant from it about two hundred and eighty stades. 20 And after taking possession of it the Romans went on and extended their power still more, for they took also the town of Albani, which lies to the east of Rome, the enemy having evacuated it at that time for the same reason, and they had already surrounded the barbarians on all sides and now held them between their forces. 21 The Goths, therefore, were in a mood to break the agreement and do some harm to the Romans. So they sent envoys to Belisarius  p355 and asserted that they had been unjustly treated during a truce; 22 for when Vittigis had summoned the Goths who were in Portus to perform some service for him, Paulus and the Isaurians had seized and taken possession of the fort there for no good reason. 23 And they made this same false charge regarding Albani and Centum­cellae, and threatened that, unless he should give these places back to them, they would resent it. 24 But Belisarius laughed and sent them away, saying that this charge was but a pretext, and that no one was ignorant of the reason why the Goths had abandoned these places. 25 And thereafter the two sides were somewhat suspicious of one another.

But later, when Belisarius saw that Rome was abundantly supplied with soldiers, he sent many horsemen to places far distant from Rome, and commanded John, the nephew of Vitalian, and the horsemen under his command, eight hundred in number, to pass the winter near the city of Alba, which lies in Picenum; 26 and with him he sent four hundred of the men of Valerian, whom Damianus, the nephew of Valerian, commanded, and eight hundred men of his own guards who were especially able warriors. 27 And in command of these he put two spearmen, Suntas and Adegis, and ordered them to follow John wherever he should lead; and he gave John instructions that as long as he saw the enemy was keeping the agreement made between them, he should remain quiet; but whenever he found that the armistice had been violated by them, he should do as follows: 28 With his whole force he was to make a sudden raid and overrun the land of Picenum, visiting all the districts of that region and reaching  p357 each one before the report of his coming. 29 For in this whole land there was virtually not a single man left, since all, as it appeared, had marched against Rome, but everywhere there were women and children of the enemy and money. 30 He was instructed, therefore, to enslave or plunder whatever he found, taking care never to injure any of the Romans living there. 31 And if he should happen upon any place which had men and defences, as he probably would, he was to make an attempt upon it with his whole force. 32 And if he was able to capture it, he was to go forward, but if it should so happen that his attempt was unsuccessful, he was to march back or remain there. 33 For if he should go forward and leave such a fortress in his rear, he would be involved in the greatest danger, since his men would never be able to defend themselves easily, if they should be harassed by their opponents. He was also to keep the whole booty intact, in order that it might be divided fairly and properly among the army. 34 Then with a laugh he added this also: "For it is not fair that the drones should be destroyed with great labour by one force, while others, without having endured any hardship at all, enjoy the honey." So after giving these instructions, Belisarius sent John with his army.

35 And at about the same time Datius, the priest of Milan, and some notable men among the citizens came to Rome and begged Belisarius to send them a few guards. 36 For they declared that they were themselves able without any trouble to detach from  p359 the Goths not only Milan, but the whole of Liguria also, and to recover them for the emperor. 37 Now this city is situated in Liguria, and lies about half way between the city of Ravenna and the Alps on the borders of Gaul; 38 for from either one it is a journey of eight days to Milan for an unencumbered traveller; and it is the first of the cities of the West, after Rome at least, both in size and in population and in general prosperity. And Belisarius promised to fulfil their request, but detained them there during the winter season.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Perhaps the Stadium of Caligula.

2 Inflammation of the brain.

3 Torre Fiscale; but it is only about thirty stades from Rome.

Thayer's Note: The straight-line distance from Tor Fiscale to Rome (measured from the actual Torre Fiscale, very near the trace of one of the aqueducts, to the Senate House in the Roman Forum, taken as an approximation to the center of the city) is 4.15 Roman miles, which by the usual rough reckoning of 8 stadia to the mile is around 33 stadia. If we take Procopius at face value, he would make 1 Roman mile equivalent to 12 stadia. If we measure only from the Torre Fiscale to the Porta Maggiore where some of those aqueducts entered Rome, Procopius' 50 stadia would be 2.85 miles, making the equivalence even farther out of line at 17.5 stadia to the mile.

4 The Porta Ostiensis.

5 See Book V.vi.7, note.

6 The Basilica of St. Paul stood south of the city, outside the Porta Ostiensis which is still called Porta S. Paolo.

7 St. Peter and St. Paul.

8 Tibur.

9 Chap. iii.7.

10 This is an error on the part of Procopius. In point of fact it lies to the south-east of Naples.

11 During the eruption of 472 A.D.

12 Since the great eruption of 79 A.D. — the first in historical times — eruptions have succeeded one another at intervals varying from one to more than one hundred years.

13 The regular harbour, Portus, was held by the Goths.

14 Book V.xix.6.

15 Cf. Book V.xix.11.

16 These were the forces of Trajan and Diogenes.

17 476 A.D. Cf. Book V.i.6-8 and note.

18 Cf. Book V.i.10, 11.

19 The Goths were Christians, but followed the Arian heresy.

20 Ostia, since the regular harbour, Portus, was held by the Goths.

21 i.e. facing upstream.

22 Book IV.xxvi.14.

23 zzzz

24 Modern Civita Vecchia.


Thayer's Notes:

a The straight-line distance from Tibur to Rome (measured from Tivoli's Rocca Pia, the modern fortress, to the Senate House in the Roman Forum, taken as approximations to the center of each city respectively) is 18.2 Roman miles, making Procopius' stadion here roughly 7.7 to the mile, in line with the equivalence found in other ancient authors.

b The straight-line distance from the Porta Ostiensis (Porta S. Paolo) to the church of S. Paolo fuori le Mura is 1.35 Roman miles. Here Procopius puts the Roman mile at just over 10 stadia.


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