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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

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(Vol. IV) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book II (end)

 p113  28 1 After the capture of Auximus, Belisarius made haste to lay siege to Ravenna, and he brought up his whole army against it. He also sent Magnus with a large force beyond Ravenna, with orders to move constantly along the bank of the river Po and keep guard, with the purpose of preventing the Goths thereafter from bringing in provisions by way of the river. 2 Furthermore, Vitalius, who had come from Dalmatia with an army to join him, was guarding the other bank of the river. It was here that the Romans met with a piece of good fortune which made it perfectly clear that Fortune herself was determining the course of events for both sides. 3 For the Goths had previously collected a large number of boats in Liguria and brought them down to the Po, and after filling them with grain and other provisions were purposing to set sail for Ravenna. 4 But  p115 the water in this river fell so low at that time that it was altogether impossible to navigate upon it, until the Romans came up and seized the boats with all their cargoes. 5 Then the river not long afterward returned to its proper volume and became navigable thereafter. And as far as we know from tradition, this had never happened to the river before. 6 By this time the barbarians had already begun to experience some lack of provisions. For they were both unable to bring anything in by the Ionian Gulf, since their enemy commanded the sea everywhere, and they were shut off from the river. 7 And the rulers of the Franks, learning what was going on and wishing to gain Italy for themselves, sent envoys to Vittigis, holding out a promise of an offensive and defensive alliance, on condition that they should rule the land jointly with him. 8 Now when Belisarius heard this, he also sent envoys, among whom was Theodosius, who stood at the head of his own household, in order to speak against the Germans.

9 So the envoys of the Germans were admitted first to Vittigis' presence and spoke to the following effect: "The rulers of the Germans have sent us to you, in the first place because they are vexed to hear that you are thus besieged by Belisarius, and, in the second place, because they are eager to avenge you with all possible speed in accordance with the terms of our alliance. 10 Now we suppose that our army, numbering not less than five hundred thousand fighting men, has by now crossed the Alps, and we boast that they will bury the entire Roman army  p117 with their axes at the first onset. 11 And you, on your part, ought to conform to the purpose, not of those who intend to enslave you, but of those who are entering into the danger of war because of their loyalty to the Goths. 12 And apart from this, if, on the one hand, you unite your forces with ours, the Romans will have no hope left of facing both our armies in battle, but from the very outset and without any effort at all we shall gain the supremacy in the war. 13 But if, on the other hand, the Goths choose to array themselves with the Romans, even in that case they will not withstand the Prankish nation (for the struggle will not be evenly matched in point of strength), but the ultimate result for you will be defeat in the company of the most hostile of all men. 14 But to plunge into a disaster which can be foreseen, when the opportunity is offered to be saved without danger, is utter folly. Besides, the Roman nation has proved itself altogether untrustworthy toward all barbarians, since by its very nature it is hostile to them. 15 We therefore propose, if you are willing, to share with you the rule of all Italy, and we shall administer the land in whatever manner seems best. And for thee and the Goths the natural course to follow is that one which is destined to redound to your advantage." Thus spoke the Franks.

16 And the envoys of Belisarius also came forward and spoke as follows. "That the multitude of the Germans will inflict no injury on the emperor's army — and it is with this that they seek to scare you — why should one enter into a lengthy proof before you, seeing that you, certainly, have come to understand by long experience what wholly governs the course of war, and know that valour is in no  p119 circumstances wont to be overcome by mere throngs of men. 17 For we need not add that, in point of fact, the emperor surpasses all others in the ability to outstrip his enemies in regard to multitude of soldiers. But as touching the loyalty of these Franks, which they proudly claim to shew toward all barbarians, this has been well displayed by them, first to the Thuringians and the Burgundian nation, and then to you also, their allies. 18 And indeed we, on our part, should take pleasure in asking the Franks by what god they can possibly intend to swear when they declare that they will give you surety for their loyalty. 19 For you understand surely in what manner they have honoured the one by whom they have already sworn — they who have received from you vast sums of money, as you know, and also the entire territory of Gaul as the price of their alliance, and yet have decided not merely to render you no assistance at all in your peril, but have actually taken up arms thus wantonly against you, if any account of those things which happened on the Po is preserved among you.1 20 But why need we demonstrate the impiety of the Franks by recounting past events? Nothing could be more unholy than this present embassy of theirs. 21 For just as if they had forgotten the terms they themselves have agreed upon and the oaths they have taken to secure the treaty, they claim the right to share your all with you. 22 And if they do actually obtain this from you, it befits you to consider what will be the end of their insatiable greed for money."

 p121  23 Thus spoke the envoys of Belisarius in their turn. As for Vittigis, after long conference with the noblest of the Goths, he gave his preference to the proposed treaty with the emperor, and sent away the envoys of the Germans unsuccessful. And from that time the Goths and the Romans began directly to carry on negotiations with each other, but Belisarius was no whit the less on his guard to prevent the barbarians from bringing in provisions for themselves. 24 Furthermore, he commanded Vitalius to go to Venetia and bring over as many of the towns of that region as possible, while he himself, with Ildiger, whom he had sent forward, was maintaining a guard over both banks of the Po, in order that the barbarians might yield more readily through lack of provisions and make the treaty as he himself wished. 25 And since he learned that a large amount of grain was still lying in storage in public warehouses inside Ravenna, he bribed one of the inhabitants of the city to set fire secretly to these same warehouses and destroy the grain with them. 26 But they say that, in reality, it was by the will of Matasuntha, the wife of Vittigis, that they were destroyed. Now some few were led by the fact that the grain burned suddenly to believe that the thing had been carried out by a plot, but others suspected that the place had been struck by lightning. 27 Still, whichever of the two views they took, both the Goths and Vittigis were, more than ever, plunged into a state of helplessness, unable as they were even to trust their own compatriots thereafter, and thinking that war was being waged against them by God Himself. Such was the course of these events.

28 Now there are numerous strongholds in the Alps  p123 which separate Gaul from Liguria, and which the Romans call the Cottian Alps. 29 These strongholds were garrisoned as had been the custom for many years, by many of the noblest of the Goths, who resided in them together with their wives and children; and when Belisarius heard that these garrisons wished to submit themselves to him, he sent to them one of his officers, Thomas by name, with some few men, with instructions to give pledges and accept the surrender of the barbarians there. 30 And when they reached the Alps, Sisigis, who commanded the garrisons of that district, received them in one of the fortresses, and not only submitted himself but also urged each of the other commanders to do likewise. 31 Just at this time Uraias, who had selected four thousand Ligurians and men from the fortresses in the Alps, was moving with all speed toward Ravenna with the intention of relieving the city. 32 But when these men learned what had been done by Sisigis, they became fearful for their families and demanded that they should first go to them. 33 Consequently Uraias entered the Cottian Alps with his whole army, and laid siege to Sisigis and the force of Thomas. Now when John, the nephew of Vitalian, and Martinus learned of this situation (for they happened to be very near the Po), they came to the rescue as quickly as possible with their whole army; and by falling suddenly upon some of the fortresses in the Alps, they captured them and made slaves of their inhabitants, and a large number of these captives, as chance would have it, proved to be children and wives of the men who were serving  p125 under Uraias. 34 For the most of the men under his command were natives of these very fortresses. 35 And when these men learned that their own homes had been captured they detached themselves suddenly from the army of the Goths having decided to go over to the troops under John, and as a result of this Uraias was able neither to accomplish anything there nor to bring assistance to the Goths endangered in Ravenna, but he returned unsuccessful with a few men to Liguria and remained quietly there. And Belisarius without interference held Vittigis and the nobles of the Goths confined in Ravenna.

29 1 It was in these circumstances that envoys arrived from the emperor, Domnicus and Maximinus, both members of the senate, in order to make peace on the following terms. 2 Vittigis was to receive one-half of the royal treasure, and to rule over the territory which is north of the river Po; but the other half of the money was to fall to the emperor, and he was to make subject and tributary to himself all that lay south of the Po. 3 So the envoys, having shewn the emperor's letter to Belisarius, betook themselves to Ravenna. And when the Goths and Vittigis had learned the purpose of their coming, they gladly agreed to make the treaty on these terms. 4 But Belisarius, upon hearing this, was moved with vexation, counting it a great calamity that anyone should prevent him from winning the decisive victory of the whole war, when it was possible to do so with no trouble, and from leading Vittigis a captive to Byzantium. 5 So when the envoys returned  p127 to him from Ravenna, he refused absolutely to ratify the agreement by his own signature. 6 And when the Goths became aware of this, they began to feel that the Romans were offering them peace with treacherous intent, and became very suspicious of them; and they forthwith declared flatly that without both the signature and the oath of Belisarius they would never make a compact with the Romans.

7 And Belisarius, upon hearing that some of the commanders were criticizing him bitterly, on the ground that he was plainly plotting against the emperor's cause, and for this reason was quite unwilling to bring the war to an end, called them all together, and, in the presence of Domnicus and Maximinus, spoke as follows. 8 "I am not alone in knowing that the fortune of war is by no means fixed and firm, but I think that each one of you shares this same view with me regarding it. 9 For many men have been deceived by the hope of victory when it seemed certain that it would come to them, while men who, to all appearances, have met with disaster, have many a time had the fortune to triumph unexpectedly over their adversaries. 10 Consequently I say that men deliberating with regard to peace should not put before them only the expectation of success, but reflecting that the result will be either way,2 they should make their choice of policy on this basis. 11 In view of this, it has seemed best to me, at any rate, to bring to a conference you, my colleagues, and these envoys of the emperor, to the end that the present occasion may afford an opportunity to choose at our leisure whatever course may seem destined to be of advantage to the emperor, that  p129 after the event you may never bring any reproach against me. 12 For it would be a thing most monstrous, first to be silent as long as it is possible to choose the better course, and later upon surveying the outcome decreed by fortune, to bring accusations. 13 Now as to the emperor's decision with a view to the conclusion of the war, and as to the wishes of Vittigis, you are of course well informed. 14 And if you, too, think this course advantageous, let each man come forward and speak. If, however, you think that you are able to recover the whole of Italy for the Romans and to gain the mastery over the enemy, nothing will prevent you from speaking with complete frankness." 15 When Belisarius had thus spoken, all expressed the opinion with certainty that the emperor's decision was best, and that they would be unable to do the enemy any further harm. 16 And Belisarius was pleased with the expression of the commanders' opinion, and asked them to set it down in writing, in order that they might never deny it. They accordingly wrote a document stating that they were unable to achieve superiority over their opponents in the war.

17 These deliberations, then, were being carried forward in the Roman camp. But the Goths, hard pressed by the famine and no longer able to endure their suffering, were in a state of suspense; for while they were hostile to the rule of Vittigis, seeing that he had been unfortunate in the extreme, still they were reluctant to yield to the emperor fearing only this, that upon becoming slaves of the emperor they would be compelled to remove from Italy and go to Byzantium and settle there. 18 So after deliberating among themselves, all the best of the Goths decided  p131 to declare Belisarius Emperor of the West. And sending to him secretly, they begged him to assume the royal power; for upon this condition, they declared, they would follow him gladly. 19 But Belisarius was quite unwilling to assume the ruling power against the will of the emperor; 20 for he had an extraordinary loathing for the name of tyrant, and furthermore he had, in fact, been bound by the emperor previously by most solemn oaths never during his lifetime to organize a revolution; still, in order to turn the situation before him to the best advantage, he let it appear that he received the proposals of the barbarians gladly. 21 And Vittigis, perceiving this, became fearful, and saying that the deliberations of the Goths had arrived at the best possible result, he too secretly urged Belisarius to enter upon the royal power; for no one, he said, would stand in his way. 22 Then indeed Belisarius again called together the envoys of the emperor and all the commanders and asked them whether it seemed to them a matter of great importance to make all the Goths with Vittigis captives, and to secure as plunder all their wealth, and recover the whole of Italy for the Romans. 23 And they said that this would be for the Romans a great and overwhelming piece of good fortune, and they begged him to bring it about as quickly as possible, by whatever means he could. 24 Accordingly Belisarius at once sent to Vittigis and the notables of the Goths some of his intimates, bidding them carry out what they had promised. 25 And indeed the famine would not permit them to put off the matter to any other time, but, by its increasing pressure, was driving them to this decision. 26 Consequently  p133 they again sent envoys to the camp of the Romans, with instructions to make some vague statement openly, but in secret to receive pledges from Belisarius, both that he would do no harm to anyone of the Goths, and that thenceforth he himself would be king of the Goths and Italians; this accomplished, they were to come with him and the Roman army into Ravenna. 27 As for Belisarius, he swore to everything else, just as the envoys required of him, but concerning the kingship he said that he would swear to Vittigis himself and the rulers of the Goths. 28 And the envoys, thinking that he would never reject the kingship, but that he would strive for it above all other things, made not the least hesitation in urging him to come with them into Ravenna. 29 Then Belisarius ordered Bessas and John and Narses and Aratius to go with their several commands to different places (for these were the men whom he suspected of being exceedingly hostile to him), and to provide provisions for themselves; for he alleged that it was no longer possible for him, in the place where he was, to bring in provisions for the whole army. 30 So these officers, as well as Athanasius, the pretorian prefect, who had recently come from Byzantium, proceeded to carry out the instructions given them, but he himself with the remainder of the army marched into Ravenna with the envoys of the Goths. 31 And loading a fleet of ships with grain and other provisions, he gave orders that they should sail with all speed into the harbour of Classes; for thus the Romans call the suburb of Ravenna where the harbour is.

32 And while I watched the entry of the Roman army into Ravenna at that time, an idea came to  p135 me, to the effect that it is not at all by the wisdom of men or by any other sort of excellence on their part that events are brought to fulfilment, but that there is some divine power which is ever warping their purposes and shifting them in such a way that there will be nothing to hinder that which is being brought to pass. 33 For although the Goths were greatly superior to their opponents in number and in power, and had neither fought a decisive battle since they had entered Ravenna nor been humbled in spirit by any other disaster, still they were being made captives by the weaker army and were regarding the name of slavery as no insult. 34 But when the women, as they sat at the gate, had seen the whole army (for they had heard from their husbands that the enemy were men of great size and too numerous to be counted), they all spat upon the faces of their husbands, and pointing with their hands to the victors, reviled them for their cowardice.

35 As for Belisarius, he held Vittigis under guard, but not in disgrace, and urged those of the barbarians who lived south of the river Po to go to their own lands and care for them unmolested. 36 This he did because he felt that he would have no hostile force to deal with in that quarter, and that the Goths of that region would never unite, because he had, as it happened, previously established a large number of Roman troops in the towns there. So these Goths gladly made haste to return. 37 And thus the Romans were now making their position secure, for in  p137 Ravenna at least they were no longer outnumbered by the Goths. He next took possession of the money in the palace, which he intended to convey to the emperor. 38 But as for the private property of the Goths, neither did he take plunder from any individual, nor would he permit any other Roman to take such plunder, but each one of them preserved his property according to the terms of the agreement. 39 Now when those of the barbarians who were keeping guard in the strongest of the towns heard that both Ravenna and Vittigis were held by the Romans, they began to send envoys to Belisarius, craving permission to submit themselves by surrender and the places they guarded. 40 And he most willingly furnished pledges to them all, and thus took over Tarbesium​3 and such other strongholds as there were in Venetia. For Caesena was the only one remaining in Aemilia, and this he had previously taken over along with Ravenna. 41 And the Goths who commanded these towns, as soon as they received the pledges, came to Belisarius and remained with him — all except Ildibadus, a man of note, who commanded the garrison in Verona; for though he too sent envoys to Belisarius on the same mission as the others, especially because Belisarius had found his children in Ravenna and taken possession of them, still he did not either come to Ravenna or submit himself to Belisarius. For fortune brought him to a situation which I shall now describe.

 p139  30 1  Certain officers of the Roman army, out of malice toward Belisarius, began to slander him to the emperor, advancing against him a charge of usurpation for which there were no grounds whatever in his case. 2 And the emperor, not so much because he was persuaded by these slanders as because the Medic war was already pressing upon him, summoned Belisarius to come as quickly as possible, in order to take the field against the Persians; meanwhile he commanded Bessas and John with the others to take charge of Italy, and directed Constantianus to go to Ravenna from Dalmatia. 3 Now the Goths who inhabited the country to the north of the Po and of Ravenna, upon hearing that the emperor was summoning Belisarius, at first, indeed, paid no heed to the matter, thinking that Belisarius would never regard the kingdom of Italy as of less account than loyalty to Justinian. 4 But when they learned that he was making preparations for his departure in real earnest, all the loyal Goths of that region who were still left formed a common purpose and went to Uraias, the nephew of Vittigis, at Ticinum; and after first lamenting long with him, they spoke as follows: 5 "The man who has proved to be chiefly responsible for the present misfortunes of the nation of the Goths is no other than you. For we, on our part, should have long ago removed that uncle of yours from the kingship, seeing that he has led us in such a cowardly manner and with such ill fortune, just as we removed Theodatus, the nephew of Theoderic, unless, out of respect for the natural vigour which you seemed to display, we had decided  p141 to concede to Vittigis merely the title of king, but in fact to entrust to you alone the rule of the Goths. 6 What, however, seemed then consideration, now stands out clearly as folly and the cause of these misfortunes of ours. 7 For very many of the Goths, as you know, dear Uraias, and our noblest, have perished in the war, and such nobles as are left among the survivors Belisarius will lead away along with Vittigis and all our wealth. 8 And no one could deny that we too shall suffer this same fate a little later, seeing that we are reduced to a small and pitiable band. 9 Since, therefore, such a dire fate has encompassed us, it will be preferable for us to die with glory rather than to see our wives and children led by the enemy to the extremities of the earth. 10 And we shall, in all probability, accomplish something worthy of valorous men, if only we have you as leader of our struggles." Thus spoke the Goths.

11 And Uraias replied as follows: "You say that we ought in our present extremity to choose the peril of battle rather than slavery, and this opinion I share with you. 12 But, on the other hand, I think it altogether inexpedient for me to ascend the throne of the Goths, in the first place because, being the nephew of Vittigis, a man who has been so unfortunate, I should appear to the enemy as worthy to be despised, since men believe that among kinsmen the like fortune is ever handed on from one to another; 13 and, in the second place, I should seem to act impiously in usurping the rule of my uncle, and in case I do this I shall probably have the most of you angry with me. 14 But my opinion is that Ildibadus must become ruler of the Goths for this  p143 perilous enterprise, a man who has attained the highest excellence and is conspicuously energetic. 15 And it is to be expected with certainty that Theudis also, the ruler of the Visigoths, seeing that he is Ildibadus' uncle, will assist him in the war because of his kinship. And this indeed will be ground for more confident hope in carrying on the struggle against our opponents."

16 When Uraias, in his turn, had spoken thus, it seemed to all the Goths that his words pointed out the course which would be to their advantage. And Ildibadus was straightway summoned by them and came from Verona. 17 Then, after clothing him in the purple, they declared him king of the Goths and entreated him to take the situation in hand and set matters right for them. Thus did Ildibadus come into the royal power. 18 But a short time after this, he called all the Goths together and spoke as follows: "All of you, fellow-soldiers, as I am well aware, have had experience in many wars, so that we shall probably never proceed to make war on the spur of the moment. For experience brings a man sober judgment, so that he is not wont to act rashly in any case. 19 Now you ought, in fairness to yourselves, to call to recollection all that has befallen us heretofore, and make plans to meet the present situation with this in mind. 20 For when forgetfulness of past events comes upon men, it often, through folly, exalts their minds at the wrong moment, and then, when their all is at stake, utterly overthrows them. 21 Now when Vittigis placed himself in the hands of the enemy, it was not against your will nor did you strive to prevent him, but at that time you bowed before the adversities of fortune and considered  p145 that we should best consult our own interests by sitting at home and obeying Belisarius rather than by risking our lives in endless dangers. 22 But now, upon hearing that Belisarius is setting out for Byzantium, you have decided to undertake a revolution. And yet each one of you ought to have taken into consideration that things do not always happen for men as they will them, but many times the outcome of events has unexpectedly gone contrary to what has been determined upon. 23 For chance or a change of heart have a way of setting most things right when least expected; and even now it is by no means improbable that this is what will happen to Belisarius. 24 It is better, therefore, to make enquiries of him first and to attempt to bring the man back to the earlier agreement, and only after this should you proceed to the next best step."

25 When Ildibadus had thus spoken, the Goths decided that he had counselled well, and he sent envoys to Ravenna with all speed. So these envoys, upon coming before Belisarius, reminded him of the agreement made with them and reproached him as a breaker of his promises, calling him a slave by his own choice, and chiding him because, they said, he did not blush at choosing servitude in place of the kingship; and with many other speeches of a similar sort they kept urging him to accept the rule. 26 For, should he do so, they declared that Ildibadus would come of his own accord in order to lay down the purple at his feet and do obeisance to Belisarius as king of the Goths and Italians. 27 So the envoys,  p147 on their part, kept making these speeches, thinking that the man would without any hesitation take upon himself the kingly title immediately. 28 But he, contrary to their expectation, refused them outright, saying that never, while the emperor Justinian lived, would Belisarius usurp the title of king. 29 So they, upon hearing this, departed as quickly as possible and reported the whole matter to Ildibadus.30  And Belisarius took his way to Byzantium; and the winter drew to its close and the fifth year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf.  chap. xxv.9, above.

2 i.e. either good or bad.

3 Modern Treviso.

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