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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. IV) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book III (continued)

 p213  8 1 Now when Totila captured Naples, he made a display of kindness to his captives which was to be expected neither from an enemy nor from a barbarian. 2 For finding sickness prevalent among the Romans owing to famine — and indeed their bodily strength had already been reduced by it — he feared lest, if they suddenly sated themselves with food, they would in all probability choke to death, and so he devised the following plan. 3 Stationing guards both at the harbour and at the gates, he gave orders that no one should go away from the city. 4 Then he himself, with a sort of provident parsimony, proceeded to issue food more sparingly than they desired it, adding each day only so much to the quantity  p215 that the increase from day to day seemed not to be noticed at all. 5 And only after having thus built up their strength did he open the gates and allow each man to go wherever he wished.

6 As for Conon and the soldiers under his command, as many as were by no means satisfied to remain there he embarked on ships and bade them sail wherever they chose. And thinking that the return to Byzantium would bring disgrace upon them, they were purposing to sail with all speed for Rome. 7 But since the wind stood against them and they were consequently quite unable to put out from the harbour, they were in great perplexity, fearing lest Totila, seeing he had been victorious, should decide to disregard his agreement in some measure, and they should suffer some great harm at his hand. 8 When Totila perceived this, he called them all together and reassured them and gave still further confirmation of the pledges he had given, bidding them take courage immediately, mingle with the Gothic army with no fear, and buy from them their provisions and procure whatever else they lacked as from friends. 9 But later, since the wind was still blowing against them and much time had been wasted, he provided them with both horses and pack animals, presented them with travelling-money, and bade them make the journey to Rome by land, sending with them some of the Gothic notables as an escort.

10 And he set about razing the wall of Naples to the ground, so that the Romans might not take  p217 possession of it again and, by using it as a strong base, make trouble for the Goths. 11 For he preferred to reach an outright decision by a battle with them on a plain rather than to carry on a long contest by means of sundry devices of craft and cunning. But self tearing down a large part of it he left the rest.

12 While Totila was thus engaged, a certain Roman came before him — a Calabrian by birth — and made the charge that one of Totila's bodyguards had violated his daughter, who was a maiden, utterly against her will. 13 Whereupon, seeing that the man did not deny the charge, Totila made haste to punish him for the offence and confined him in prison. 14 But the most notable men among the barbarians began to feel alarm for him (for he was, as it happened, an active fellow and a good warrior), and so they straightway gathered together and went before Totila with the request that he dismiss the charge against the man.

15 But he, gently and with no excitement, after hearing their statement, spoke as follows: "Fellow-soldiers, the reason for my speaking as I now do is not that I am yielding to a harsh inhumanity, or taking especial delight in the misfortunes of my kinsmen, but it is that I feel the greatest possible apprehension lest some mischance befall the Goths. 16 Now I, for my part, know this, that the great majority of mankind twist and turn the names of things until they reverse their meaning. 17 For, on the one hand, they are accustomed to call kindness that which is really lawlessness, the outcome of which is that everything respectable is brought to utter confusion; and, on the other hand, they call  p219 any man perverse and exceedingly difficult who wishes to preserve the lawful order with exactness — to the end, plainly, that by using these names as screens for their wanton deeds they may be able more fearlessly to do wrong and display their baseness. 18 But I urge you not to sacrifice your own security for the sinful act of a single man, nor to assume any share yourselves in this foul sin, seeing that you have done no wrong. For the act of committing a sin and that of preventing the punishment of those who have committed sin are, in my judgment, on the same plane. 19 I wish, accordingly, that you make your decision concerning the matter in hand taking this point of view — that two alternatives are now presented to your choice, either that this man should not pay the penalty for the wrong he has done or that the Gothic nation should be saved and achieve victory in the war. 20 For I would have you consider this: we had, at the beginning of this war, a vast army unsurpassed both in renown and in actual experience of war; our wealth, to put all in a word, was too great to be reckoned; we possessed an extraordinary abundance of both horses and weapons; and, lastly, we held all the fortresses that there are in Italy. And truly these things are regarded as not entirely useless equipment when men are entering into a war. 21 But while we were arrayed under Theodatus, a man who made less of justice than of his desire to become wealthy, the lawlessness of our daily conduct caused God to be in no wise propitious to us, and to what our fortune has come as a result of this you are, of course, well aware, as you know what kind of men and how few of them  p221 have defeated us. 22 But now that God has inflicted upon us sufficient punishment for the sins we committed, he is once more ordering our lives in accordance with our desire, and, to speak comprehensively, he is guiding our affairs in a better way than we could have hoped for, inasmuch as we have had the fortune to be victorious over our enemies beyond the measure of our actual strength. 23 To preserve, therefore, the justification of our victory by acting righteously will be more to our interest than, by reversing our course, to let it seem that we have become envious of our own selves. 24 For it is not possible, no, not possible, for a man who commits injustice and does deeds of violence to win glory in battle, but the fortune of war is decreed according to the life of the individual man." Thus then spoke Totila. 25 And the notables of the Goths, approving his words, no longer begged for the bodyguard's release, but consented that he be treated in whatever manner Totila might deem best. And he executed the man not long afterwards, and gave to the injured girl all the money that belonged to him.

9 While Totila was thus engaged, meantime the commanders of the Roman army, as well as the soldiers, were plundering the possessions of their subjects,1 and they did not shrink from any act of insolence and licentiousness whatsoever, but the commanders, for their part, were revelling with mistresses inside the fortresses, while the soldiers,  p223 shewing themselves more and more insubordinate to their commanders, were falling into every form of lawlessness. 2 As for the Italians, the result of the situation for them was that they all suffered most severely at the hands of both armies. 3 For while, on the one hand, they were deprived of their lands by the enemy, the Emperor's army, on the other hand, took all their household goods. And they were forced besides to suffer cruel torture and death for no good cause, being hard pressed as they were by the scarcity of food. 4 For the soldiers, though utterly unable to defend them when mistreated by the enemy, not only refused to feel the least blush of shame at existing conditions, but actually made the people long for the barbarians by reason of the wrongs they committed. 5 And Constantianus, being at a loss because of this situation, sent a letter to the Emperor Justinian, setting forth plainly that he was unable to hold out in the war against the Goths. 6 And the other commanders, as if giving their vote in support of this view, indicated in this same letter their reluctance to carry on the struggle. Such then were the fortunes of the Italians.

Meantime Totila sent a letter to the Roman senate written in the following terms. 7 "Such men as wrong their neighbours, being either the victims of ignorance or blinded by some forgetfulness that has come upon them, may fairly be forgiven by the victims of their ill‑treatment. For their ignorance or forgetfulness, which led to their wrongdoing, also excuses it for the most part. 8 If, however, any man does wrong as a result of deliberate intent solely, such a man will have nothing left with which even  p225 to defend his conduct. 9 For it is not the deed alone, but also the intention, for which this man himself must, in justice, bear the responsibility. 10 Therefore, since this is so, consider forthwith what defence you will possibly be able to make for your actions toward the Goths. Has it really come to pass that you are ignorant of the good deeds of Theoderic and Amalasuntha, or have they been blotted from your minds with the lapse of time and forgetfulness? 11 No, indeed; neither one of these is true. For it was not in some small matter, nor toward your ancestors in olden times that their kindness was displayed, but it was in matter of vital importance, dear Romans, towards your very selves, recently and in days that are close at hand. 12 But was it because you had been informed by hearsay or learned by experience the righteousness of the Greeks toward their subjects that you decided to abandon to them as you did the cause of the Goths and Italians? 13 At any rate, you, for your part, have, I think, entertained them royally, but you know full well what sort of guests and friends you have found them, if you have any recollection of the public accounts of Alexander.2 14 For I need make no mention of the soldiers and the commanders by whose friendliness and magnanimity you have profited; and it is precisely this conduct of these men which has brought their fortunes to such a pass. 15 Now let no one of you think that I am moved by youthful ambition to bring these reproaches against them nor that I am inclined to boastful  p227 speech merely because I am a ruler of barbarians. 16 For the overmastery of those men, I say, has not been a work of our valour, but I confidently maintain that a sort of vengeance has overtaken them for the wrongs you have suffered at their hands. 17 How then could it fail to appear a most atrocious act on your part, that you, while God is exacting vengeance from them in your behalf, should cling fondly to that atrocity of theirs and be unwilling to be rid of the ills arising therefrom? 18 Give yourselves, therefore, some ground for the defence you must make to the Goths, and give us, on the other hand, some ground for forgiveness toward you. And you will give this if, without proposing to await the conclusion of the war, now that there is only scant hope left in you, and that too of no avail, you choose the better course and set right the wrongs which you have committed against us."

19 Such then was the message which the writing set forth; and now Totila, placing it in the hands of some of the captives, commanded them to go to Rome and give it to the senators. And they did this. 20 But John prevented those who saw this letter from making any reply to Totila. For this reason Totila made a second attempt, writing a large number of short letters, in which he gave expression to the most solemn oaths, swearing in explicit terms that never would the Goths do any harm to anyone of the Romans. 21 Now as to what persons conveyed these writings to Rome, I cannot speak; for all of them were posted late at night in the conspicuous places in the city, and only when it came day were they discovered; but the commanders of the Roman  p229 army entertained grave suspicions against the priests of the Arians, and consequently removed these all from the city immediately.

22 Totila, upon hearing this, sent a certain portion of his army into Calabria, bidding them make trial of the fortress at Dryus.3 But since the troops keeping guard in this fortress absolutely refused to yield to him, he commanded the force which had been sent there to institute a siege, while he, with the greater part of the army, went to the vicinity of Rome. 23 When the emperor heard this, he was greatly embarrassed, and, in spite of the fact that the Persians were still pressing him very hard, was compelled to send Belisarius against Totila. And the winter drew to a close, and the ninth year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

10 1 Thus Belisarius, for the second time, went to Italy. But since he had an exceedingly small number of soldiers — for it was quite impossible for him to detach his own troops from the army in Persia — he proceeded to travel about the whole of Thrace, and, by offering money, to gather fresh volunteers. 2 And by the emperor's command he was accompanied by Vitalius, the General of Illyricum, who had recently returned from Italy, where he had left the Illyrian soldiers. 3 So together they collected about four thousand men and went to Salones4 with the intention  p231 of going to Ravenna first of all and conducting the war from there in whatever manner might be possible. 4 For they could in no wise effect a landing near Rome, either by keeping their movements secret from the enemy (since, as they had heard, the Goths were encamped both in Calabria and in Campania), nor by overpowering the enemy in any manner whatsoever; for they were going against them without sufficient strength to meet them on even terms.

5 In the meantime the Romans besieged in Dryus, seeing that their provisions had been absolutely exhausted, made an agreement with the besieging barbarians, stipulating that they would hand over the place by surrender, and a definite day was meanwhile agreed upon by both. 6 But Belisarius loaded ships with provisions for a year's time and commanded Valentinus to sail with them to Dryus, and to remove the former garrison from the fortress as quickly as possible — for he learned that they had been much weakened by disease and famine — and to establish as a garrison in place of them some of the men sailing with him; for by this arrangement it would be comparatively easy for them, being fresh and not in want of any necessaries, to guard the fortress in security. 7 So Valentinus, chancing to find a favourable wind, sailed with this fleet to Dryus, and arrived four days before the time appointed for the surrender; and finding the harbour unguarded, he took possession of it, and succeeded without trouble in entering the fortress. 8 For the Goths, being confident in the agreement they had made, and supposing that they would encounter no obstacle in  p233 the interval, were now giving little heed to their operations against Dryus and were remaining quiet. 9 Then, however, upon seeing the fleet suddenly bearing down upon them, they took fright and abandoned the siege, and going to a great distance from the place, they made camp and reported to Totila all that had befallen them. So close was the peril from which the fortress of Dryus escaped. 10 But some of Valentinus' men, wishing to plunder the adjoining country, began to make excursions; and by some chance they encountered the enemy near the shore of the sea, and engaged with them. 11 And being badly defeated in the battle, the most of them fled into the sea‑water; in this way they lost one hundred and seventy men, and the rest withdrew to the fortress.

12 Valentinus, upon finding the previous garrison half dead, removed them from the fortress, and substituted other fresh men, just as Belisarius had instructed him to do, and leaving them supplies for a year's time, returned with the rest of the army to Salones.

13 Then Belisarius, setting sail from there with the whole fleet, put in at Pola, where he remained for a short time, putting the army in order. 14 But Totila, hearing that Belisarius had reached Pola, and wishing to discover the strength of the army which he was bringing, took the following measures. There was a certain Bonus, nephew of John, commanding the garrison in Genoa. 15 He accordingly made use of this man's name and wrote a letter to Belisarius purporting to be from this Bonus, and urging him  p235 to come with all possible speed to their assistance, as they were in some extreme peril. 16 Then he chose out five men of an especially inquisitive nature, put the letter into their hands, and instructed them to observe accurately the force of Belisarius, while palming themselves off as having been sent from Bonus. 17 So when the men came before Belisarius, he received them with great friendliness, as was his custom. 18 And after reading the letter, he bade them report back to Bonus that he would come with the whole army after no long time. Then, after they had looked over everything exactly as Totila had directed them to do, they returned to the Gothic camp and declared that the force of Belisarius was by no means considerable.

19 Meanwhile Totila captured the city of Tibur, which contained a guard of Isaurians, through an act of treason; this happened in the following manner. 20 Some of the inhabitants of the place were guarding the gates together with the Isaurians. These men, having quarrelled with the Isaurians who kept guard with them, although the Isaurians had given no cause for offence, now invited the enemy, who were encamped close by, to come in by night. 21 But the Isaurians, on their part, adopted a common plan while the city was being captured, and practically all of them succeeded in making their escape. 22 Among the inhabitants, however, not a man was spared by the Goths but they were all killed, together with the priest of the city, in a manner which I shall by no means mention, although I know it well, in order that I may not leave records of inhuman cruelty to future times. Among these victims Catellus also perished, a man of note among  p237 the Italians. 23 So the barbarians took possession of Tibur, and the Romans, in consequence, were no longer able to bring in their provisions from Tuscany by way of the Tiber. For the city, situated as it is fronting the river5 about a hundred and twenty stades above Rome, became thereafter an outpost against those wishing to sail into Rome by that route.

11 1 Such was the fate which befell Tibur. As for Belisarius, he arrived at Ravenna with the whole fleet; there he gathered those of the Goths who were in the city and the Roman soldiers, and spoke as follows: "This is not the first occasion on which it has come to pass that the achievements of virtue have been brought to naught by wickedness. 2 For from of old this is wholly natural in human affairs, and many a time the depravity of persons of the basest sort has been quite sufficient to frustrate and destroy the deeds of good men. And now, too, this very thing has ruined the cause of the emperor. 3 And he, for his part, is so deeply concerned to correct the mistakes which have been made that he has considered the task of defeating the Persians as of less moment than this situation, and so has decided at the present time to dispatch me to you, in order that I may be able to set right and remedy whatever has been wrongly done by the commanders in their treatment of his soldiers or of the Goths. 4 Now it is not human that no mistakes at all should be committed by anyone, nor is it  p239 possible in the natural progress of events; but the task of setting right the mistakes which have been made is one eminently befitting an emperor, and also one which can well afford consolation to his beloved subjects. 5 For not only will you find riddance from your distress, but you will also straightway be privileged to understand and enjoy the emperor's good-will toward you. And of all things in the world what could be a greater boon for a man than this? 6 Seeing then that I am here with you for this very purpose, it is incumbent upon each one of you, in your turn, to exert himself to the utmost that you may profit by the service thus offered. 7 If any one of you, then, chances to have relatives or friends with the usurper Totila, let him summon these as quickly as possible, explaining the emperor's purpose; 8 for by such a course you could achieve both the blessings which flow from peace and those which fall from the hand of the mighty emperor. For I, for my part, have neither come here with a lust for war against anyone, nor should I ever, willingly at least, be an enemy of the subjects of the emperor. 9 If, however, they consider it even now too trivial a thing to choose the course which is better for themselves, and if they take their stand against us, it will be necessary for us likewise, even though it be sorely against our will, to treat them as enemies."

10 So spoke Belisarius. But not one of the enemy came over to him, either Goth or Roman. 11 Next he sent his bodyguard Thurimuth and some of his own troops with Vitalius and the Illyrian soldiers into Aemilia, commanding them to make trial of the towns there. 12 So Vitalius with this force took up a position near the city of Bononia,6 and, after taking  p241 some of the neighbouring fortresses by surrender, remained inactive in Bononia. 13 But not long after this the whole body of the Illyrians who were serving under him, suddenly and without having either experienced any hard treatment or heard any rebuke withdrew secretly from the town by night and betook themselves homeward. 14 And sending envoys to the emperor, they begged him to grant them pardon, seeing that they had come to their homes in this manner for no other reason than that, after their long service in Italy without receiving the regular pay at all, the state now owed them a large sum of money. 15 But it so happened that a Hunnic army had fallen upon the Illyrians and enslaved the women and children, 16 and it was because of this intelligence, and also because they had a scarcity of provisions in Italy, that they withdrew. And though the emperor was at first angry with them, he afterwards forgave them.

Now Totila, upon learning of the withdrawal of the Illyrians, sent an army against Bononia in order to capture Vitalius and the troops with him by a swift attack. 17 But Vitalius and Thurimuth laid ambuscades in several places and thus destroyed many of the attacking force and turned the rest to flight. 18 There Nazares, a man of note and an Illyrian by birth, commander of the troops in Illyricum, surpassed all others by the remarkable exhibition he made of warlike deeds against the enemy. Thereupon Thurimuth came to Belisarius in Ravenna.

19 Then at length Belisarius sent three of his own  p243 bodyguards, Thurimuth, Ricilas and Sabinianus, with a thousand soldiers to the city of Auximus, in order to support Magnus and the Romans besieged there. 20 This force, slipping past Totila and the enemy's camp by night, got inside of Auximus, and then began planning to make sallies against their opponents. 21 So on the following day about noon, upon learning that some of the enemy were near at hand, they sallied forth with the purpose of confronting them; but, before proceeding, they decided to send scouts against them to spy out the enemy's strength so as not to make an attack on them without reconnoitring.

22 But Ricilas, the guardsman of Belisarius, who chanced to be drunk at the time, would not allow any others to go scouting, but he himself rode out alone on horseback and went on at full speed. 23 And happening upon three Goths on a steep slope, he at first took his stand with the intention of opposing them; for he was a man of extraordinary bravery; but upon seeing many men rushing toward him from all sides, he made haste to flee. 24 But his horse stumbled in a rough place, whereupon a great shout arose from the enemy and they all hurled their javelins at him. Then the Romans, hearing this uproar, came to the rescue on the run. 25 And Ricilas was killed, being buried under a great number of spears, but the troops of Thurimuth routed their opponents, and lifting up the body carried it inside the city of Auximus; thus did Ricilas meet his death in a manner unworthy of his valour.

26 Thereupon Sabinianus and Thurimuth in conference  p245 with Magnus found it inadvisable for them to spend any more time there, reasoning that while clearly, owing to his numbers, they would never be a match for the enemy in battle, they would, on the other hand, by using up the supplies of the besieged, doom the city to still earlier capture by their opponents. 27 And when this had been decided upon, they themselves and their thousand men began to prepare for their departure, intending to make the beginning of their journey at night; but one of the soldiers forthwith deserted secretly to the enemy's camp and made known the plans of the Romans. 28 Totila accordingly picked out two thousand men distinguished for their valour and, as night came on, set guards upon the roads at a distance of thirty stades from Auximus, keeping his movements entirely secret. 29 So when these guards at about midnight saw the enemy passing by, they drew their swords and began their attack. 30 And they killed two hundred of them, but Sabinianus and Thurimuth, together with the rest, thanks to the darkness, succeeded in escaping and fleeing into Ariminum. 31 However, the Goths captured all the pack animals which were carrying the servants, the weapons, and the clothing of the soldiers.

32 There are two fortresses on the coast of the Ionian Gulf, Pisaurus7 and Fanus,8 situated between the cities of Auximus and Ariminum. They had been dismantled at the beginning of this war by Vittigis, who had burned the houses in them and torn down their walls to about half their height, in order that the Romans might not, by seizing them, make  p247 trouble for the Goths. 33 One of these fortresses, Pisaurus, Belisarius decided to seize; for it seemed to him that the place was by its situation suitable for the pasturage of horses. So he sent by night some of his associates and secretly obtained the accurate measurements, as to breadth and height, of each one of the gate-ways. 34 He next had gates made and bound with iron and then loaded them on boats and sent them off, commanding the men of Sabinianus and Thurimuth to fit these gates quickly to the walls and then to remain inside the circuit-wall, and, after thus insuring their safety, to build up in whatever manner possible such parts of the circuit-wall as had fallen down, putting in stones and mud and any other material whatsoever. So they carried out these instructions. 35 But Totila, upon hearing what was going on, marched against them with a great army. 36 And he made an attempt on the town and tarried near it for some time, but since he was unable to capture it, he returned baffled to his camp at Auximus.

37 The Romans, however, were no longer making sallies against the enemy, but at each fortress they were remaining inside the walls. Furthermore, even when Belisarius sent two of his guardsmen to Rome, Artasires, a Persian, and Barbation of Thrace, in order to assist Bessas in guarding the city, he instructed them by no means to make sallies against the enemy. 38 As for Totila and the Gothic army, seeing that the force of Belisarius was not sufficient to array itself against them, they decided to harass the strongest of the towns. 39 They accordingly made camp in Picenum before Firmum9 and Asculum,10  p249 and commenced a siege. And the winter drew to a close, and the tenth year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The civil population of Italy.

2 See chap. i.32.

3 Hydruntum: modern Otranto.

4 Or Salona, near modern Spalato.

5 Hodgkin points out that Procopius here confused the Anio with the Tiber.

6 Modern Bologna.

7 Modern Pesaro.

8 Fanum Fortunae: Modern Fano.

9 Modern Fermo.

10 Modern Ascoli.

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Page updated: 14 Sep 20