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III.12‑15

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1928

The text is in the public domain.

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III.25‑29

(Vol. IV) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book III (continued)

 p281  16 1 And Vigilius, the chief priest of Rome, in obedience to the emperor's summons, came to Byzantium from Sicily; for he had been waiting a considerable time in Sicily for this summons.

2 It was at about this time that the Romans besieged in Placentia, seeing that all their provisions had now been completely exhausted, resorted to foods of an unnatural sought under constraint of famine. 3 In fact they had actually tasted each other's flesh. And it was because of this situation that they came to terms with the Goths and  p283 surrendered both themselves and Placentia to them. Such was the course of events here.

4 At Rome likewise, as it laboured under the siege of Totila, all the necessaries of life had already failed. 5 Now there was a certain man among the priests of Rome, Pelagius by name, holding the office of deacon; he had passed a considerable time in Byzantium and had there become especially intimate with the Emperor Justinian, and it so happened that he had a short time previously arrived at Rome possessed of a great fortune. 6 And during this siege he had bestowed a great part of his fortune upon those destitute of the necessaries of life; and thus, though he had been a notable person even before that time, among all the Italians, now quite naturally he won still greater renown for philanthropy. 7 So the Romans, finding their situation desperate by reason of the famine, persuaded this Pelagius to go before Totila and negotiate for them an armistice of only a few days, the understanding to be that, if within the time of that armistice no help should reach them from Byzantium, they would surrender both themselves and the city to the Goths. 8 Pelagius accordingly went on this mission to Totila. And when he came, Totila greeted him with great respect and friendliness, and then spoke first as follows:

9 "Among all barbarian peoples it is a well-nigh universal custom to reverence the office of ambassadors, and I for my part have always been eager to honour particularly those, such as yourself, who can lay claim to excellence. 10 Now it is my opinion that the distinction between honour and insult to a man  p285 clothed with the office of ambassador is not made by a smiling countenance or bombastic utterances on the part of those who receive him, but either by simply speaking the truth or, on the other hand, by addressing him with insincere speeches. 11 For signal honour, on the one hand, is conferred upon him who has not been dismissed until the truth has been disclosed to him with directness, but the greatest possible insult, on the other hand, has been heaped upon that ambassador who takes his departure after hearing only deceitful and insincere phrases. 12 Now, therefore, O Pelagius, with the exception of three things you will never fail to receive from us whatever you may crave. 13 These things, then, you had best avoid and pass by without mention, so that you may not, though having been yourself most to blame for failing to accomplish any of the objects of your coming, impute to us the blame for this failure. 14 For the inevitable consequence of making a request inappropriate to the actual situation is generally failure to gain one's object. I warn you, then, that you are to make no plea in the interest of either anyone of the Sicilians, or the fortifications of Rome, or the slaves who have put themselves under our protection. 15 For it is impossible either for the Goths to shew any mercy to anyone of the Sicilians or for this wall to remain standing or for the slaves who have been serving in our army to return to the service of their former masters. And in order to avoid the appearance of advancing these demands in a spirit of unreason, we shall clear ourselves of that suspicion by stating our grounds immediately.

 p287  16 "In the first place, then, that island​1 from ancient times enjoyed an unrivalled degree of prosperity, as evidenced by its revenues and by the abundance of the crops produced therein, so that it not only provided enough for its inhabitants, but you Romans also were abundantly supplied by importing annually as tribute the produce of Sicilian fields. 17 It was for this reason that the Romans begged Theoderic at the beginning of his reign that no numerous garrison of Goths should be placed there, so that no check might be put upon the freedom of the inhabitants or their general prosperity. 18 In such circumstances the enemy's army put in at Sicily with a force which was a match for us neither in numbers of men nor in any other respect whatever. 19 But the Sicilians, upon seeing the fleet, did not report this to the Goths, did not even shut themselves into their strongholds, did not consent to show hostility to our adversaries in any other manner, but opening the gates of their cities with all zeal received the army of the enemy with open arms,​2 just as I suppose the most untrustworthy slaves would do, who had for a long time been watching for the favourable moment to escape from the hand of their owners and find some new and unknown masters. 20 Then by using that island as a base, the enemy, as if fighting from an advanced fortress, without difficulty distressed themselves of all Italy and seized upon this city of Rome, having brought with them from Sicily such a great quantity of grain that, though they were besieged for an entire year, it continued to suffice for the whole  p289 population of the city. 21 Such is the case of the Sicilians, whose misdeeds have been such that it will be utterly impossible for the Goths to shew them forgiveness, seeing that the gravity of the accusations sweeps away all compassion for the guilty.

22 "In the second place, it was within these walls that our enemy shut himself and from which he was quite unwilling to come down into the plain and array himself against us, but by crafty wiles and baffling tricks, he ever flouted the Goths from day to day, and thus became, quite undeservedly, master of our possessions. 23 Consequently it is worth while for us to make provision that we shall not have this same experience a second time. For when men who have once met with a reverse through ignorance fall into the same evil plight again without providing against the calamity which has already become familiar to them by experience, men believe that what has befallen them to be no adversity of fortune, but in all likelihood a proof of the folly of the victims of the disaster. 24 And one might add that the destruction of the walls of Rome will benefit you above all others. For you will not hereafter be shut in with others and excluded from all the necessaries of life while you suffer siege at the hands of the assailants of the city, but, on the contrary, the two armies will stake their chances in open battle against one another, while you, without perils on your part, will simply become the prize of the victors. 25 In the third place, regarding the slaves who have put themselves under our protection, we shall say only this, that if, after they have taken their places in  p291 our ranks against our adversaries and have received from us the promise that we will never abandon them to their former masters, we should at the present juncture decide to put them into your hands, we shall have no right to be trusted by you either. 26 For it is impossible — impossible, I say — for the man who makes light of his covenant with the most unfortunate of men to give evidence of a spirit that can be relied on in dealing with anyone else, but he always carries along with him his untrustworthiness, just as he does any other characteristic that reveals his true nature in all his dealings with other men."

27 Thus spoke Totila; and Pelagius replied as follows: "Though you began, excellent Sir, by saying that you have the very greatest admiration not only for me, but also for the ambassadorial title, you have in fact assigned us to the very lowest grade of dishonour. 28 Indeed I for my part think that he who really insults one who is both friend and ambassador is not the man who may strike him on the head or otherwise maltreat him, but rather he who decides to allow his visitor to depart with his mission unaccomplished. 29 For it is not with the purpose of achieving any honour at the hands of those who receive them that men are accustomed to submit to the labours of an embassy, but in order that they may return with some good accomplished to those who have sent them. 30 Consequently, it will be more favourable to their purpose to have been treated with wanton counterpart and still have accomplished some of the objects for which they came, then, after hearing more courteous words, to return disappointed in  p293 their hope. Turning now to the present situation, I know not what plea I ought to make concerning those things which you yourself have mentioned. 31 For why should one importune him who had refused an agreement before hearing the plea? This, however, I could not leave unsaid, that it is clear what measure of kindness you are purposing to display toward the Romans who have taken up arms against you seeing that, with regard to the Sicilians, you have determined to vent your enmity upon them without mercy, though they have in no way opposed you. 32 But as for me, I shall give over my petition to you and refer my mission to God, who is accustomed to send retribution upon those who scorn the prayers of suppliants."

17 1 With such words Pelagius departed. And when the Romans saw him returning unsuccessful, they fell into a state of helpless despair. For the famine, becoming still more acute, was working terrible havoc among them from day to day. The soldiers, however, had not yet exhausted their supplies, but they could still hold out. 2 The Romans therefore gathered in a throng and came before Bessas and Conon, the commanders of the emperor's army; there with weeping and loud lamentation they spoke to them as follows: "The fate, Generals, which we see to be upon us at the present time is such that, if we actually had the power to commit some unholy deed against you, such a crime would have brought upon us no reproach. 3 For the overwhelming constraint of necessity furnishes of itself  p295 a sufficient defence. But newsmen seeing that our strength cannot suffice for our defence, we have resorted to words and have come before you to make our position clear and to lament v our misfortune; and do you hear us with forbearance, not being stirred up by the boldness of our words, but judging it with due regard to the acuteness of our suffering. 4 For he who has been compelled to despair of safety can no longer control his actions — nor, nor his words — so as to preserve decorum. 5 As for us, Generals, do not consider us to be either Romans or fellow-countrymen of yours, or even to have assimilated our ways of government to yours, and do not suppose that in the beginning we received the emperor's army into the city willingly, but regard us as enemies from the first and as men who have taken up arms against you, and later, when defeated in battle, have become your captive slaves simply in accordance with the customs of war. 6 And do you furnish sustenance to these your captives, if not in quantities sufficient for our needs, at least in such measure as to make life possible, that by your so doing we too may survive and render you such service in return as it is it is fitting that slaves should render their masters. 7 But if you find this difficult or contrary to your wish, then at least consent to release us from your hands, by which action you will gain this advantage that you will not be troubled by the burial of your slaves. And if even this favour is not left us, deign to put us to death and do not deprive us of an honourable end nor begrudge us death, which to us is the sweetest  p297 of all things, but by a single act free the Romans from 1ot troubles." 8 When Bessas and his officers heard this, they asserted, firstly, that to furnish them with provisions was impossible, secondly, that to put them to death would be unholy, and, thirdly, that even to release them was not without danger. But they insisted that Belisarius with the army from Byzantium would arrive right speedily, and after thus consoling them sent them away.

9 But the famine, becoming more severe as time went on, was greatly increasing its ravages, driving men to discover monstrous foods unknown to the natural desires of man. 10 Now at first, since Bessas and Conon, who commanded the garrison in Rome, had, as it happened, stored away a vast supply of grain for their own use within the walls of Rome, they as well as the soldiers were constantly taking from the portion assigned for their own needs and selling at a great price to such Romans as were rich; for the price of a bushel had reached seven gold pieces.​3a 11 Those however, whose domestic circumstances were such that they were unable to partake of food which was so much dearer, were able, by paying in cash one fourth of this price, to get their bushel measures filled with bran; this was their food and necessity made it most sweet and dainty to their taste. 12 As for beef, whenever the bodyguards of Bessas captured an ox in making a sally, they sold it for fifty gold pieces.​3b And if any man had a horse or any other animal which had died, this Roman was counted among those exceedingly fortunate, seeing that he was able to live luxuriously  p299 upon the flesh of a dead animal. 13 But all the rest of the numerous inhabitants were eating nettles only, such as grow in abundance about the walls and among the ruins in all parts of the city. 14 And in order to prevent the pungent herb from stinging their lips and throat they boiled them thoroughly before eating.

15 So long, then, as the Romans had their gold currency, they bought their grain and bran in the manner described and went their way; but when their supply of this had at length failed, then they brought all their household goods to the forum and exchanged them for their daily sustenance. 16 But when, finally, the soldiers of the emperor had no grain which they could possibly sell to the Romans (except, indeed, that Bessas still had a little left), nor had the Romans anything with which to buy, they all turned to the nettles. 17 But this food was insufficient for them, for it was utterly impossible to satisfy themselves with it, and consequently their flesh withered away almost entirely, while their colour, gradually turning to a livid hue, gave them a most ghostly appearance. 18 And it happened to many that, even as they walked along chewing the nettles with their teeth, death came suddenly upon them and they fell to the ground. And now they were even beginning to eat each other's dung. 19 There were many too, who, because of the pressure of the famine, destroyed themselves with their own  p301 hands; for they could no longer find either dogs or mice or any dead animal of any kind on which to feed.

20 Now there was a Roman in the city, the father of five children; and they gathered about him and, laying hold of his garment, kept demanding food. 21 But he, without a word of lament and without letting it be seen that hes sorely troubled, but most steadfastly concealing all his suffering in his mind, bade the children follow him as if for the purpose of getting food. 22 But when he came to the bridge over the Tiber, he tied his cloak over his face, thus concealing his eyes, and leaped from the bridge into the waters of the Tiber, the deed being witnessed both by his children and by all the Romans who were there.

23 From that time on the imperial commanders, upon receiving further money, released such of the Romans as desired to depart from the city. 24 And only a few were left in the city; for all the rest made their escape by flight in whatever manner proved possible for each one. But the most of these, since their strength had been utterly wasted away by the famine, perished as soon as they had begun their journey, whether by water or by land. 25 Many too were caught on the road by the enemy and destroyed. To such a pass had come the fortune of the senate and people of Rome.

18 1 When the army under John and Isaac had reached Epidamnus and joined Belisarius, John, on the one  p303 hand, urged that they ferry all the troops across the gulf and proceed by land with the whole army, meeting together whatever opposition might develop against them; but Belisarius, on the other hand, considered this plan inexpedient, and thought that more was to be gained by sailing to the neighbourhood of Rome; 2 for in going by land they would consume a longer time, and would perhaps be confronted by some obstacle; John meanwhile was to march through the territory of the Calabrians and the other peoples of that region, drive out the few barbarians who were there, and, after reducing to submission the territory south of the Ionian Gulf, march to the neighbourhood of Rome and rejoin his friends; 3 it was here, indeed, that Belisarius purposed to land with the rest of the army. For he thought that, whence the Romans were suffering most cruelly in the siege, even the smallest delay would, in all probability, bring disaster to their cause. 4 And if they went by sea and met with a favouring wind, it would be possible to land at the harbour of Rome on the fifth day, while an army marching by land from Dryus could not reach Rome even within forty days.

5 So Belisarius gave these directions to John and set sail from there with his whole fleet; but a violent wind fell upon them, and they put in at Dryus. 6 And when the Goths who had been stationed there to besiege the fortress saw this fleet, they abandoned the siege and straightway betook themselves to the neighbourhood of Brundisium, a city two days' journey distant from Dryus,​4 situated on the coast  p305 of the gulf and without walls; for they supposed that Belisarius would immediately pass through the strait at Dryus;​5 and they reported their situation to Totila. 7 He, for his part, put his own army in readiness to oppose Belisarius and commanded the Goths in Calabria to keep the passes under guard as best they could.

8 But when Belisarius, finding a favourable wind, sailed away from Dryus, the Goths in Calabria thought no more of him and began to conduct themselves carelessly, while Totila was content to remain quiet and to guard still more closely the approaches to Rome, so that it might be impossible to bring any kind of provisions into the city. 9 And he devised the following structure on the Tiber. Observing a place where the river flows in a very narrow channel, about ninety stades distant from the city, he placed very long timbers, reaching from one bank to the other, so as to form a bridge at that point. 10 Then he constructed two wooden towers, one on either bank, and placed in each one a garrison of warlike men, so that it might be no longer possible for boats of any kind whatever to make their way up from Portus and so enter the city.

11 Meanwhile Belisarius, on his part, landed at the harbour of Rome, while John with his army was remaining where he was. Then John ferried his go over to Calabria, quite unobserved by the Goths, who, as stated avail, were waiting in the neighbourhood of Brundisium. 12 And he captured two of the enemy who were going out as scouts,  p307 one of whom he killed immediately; but the other laid hooked of his knees and begged to be made a prisoner. 13 "For," he said, "I shall not be useless to you and the Roman army." And when John asked him what advantage he could possibly confer upon the Romans and him if he was not destroyed, the man promised to enable him to fall upon the Goths while they had not the least expectation of such a thing. 14 Then John said that his prayer should not fail to be heard, but first he must shew him the pastures of their horses. This too the barbarian agreed to do and so he went with him. 15 And first, upon finding the enemy's horses pasturing, all the men who happened to be on foot leaped upon their backs; and there was a large number of such men comprising some of the best troops. Next they advanced at full speed upon the camp of their opponents. 16 And the barbarians, being unarmed and utterly unprepared, and terror-stricken by the suddenness of the attack, were most of them destroyed where they stood, utterly forgetful of their valour, and only a small number succeeded in escaping and made their way to Totila.

17 Then John began to console and pacify all the Calabrians, endeavouring to win them to loyalty to the emperor and promising that they would receive many benefits both from the emperor and from the Roman army. 18 Then, departing as quickly as he could from Brundisium, he captured a city, Canusium​6 by name, which is situated approximately at the centre of Apulia and is distant from Brundisium five days' journey as one goes westward from Rome. 19 Twenty- p309 five stades away from this city of Canusium is Cannae, where they say the Romans in early times suffered their great disaster at the hand of Hannibal, the general of the Libyans.

20 In that city a certain Tullianus, son of Venantius, a Roman who possessed great power among the Bruttii and Lucani, came before John and made charges against the emperor's army for the treatment they had previously meted out to the Italians, but he agreed that, if the army thereafter should treat them with some degree of consideration, he would hand over Bruttium and Lucania to the Romans, to be again subject and tributary to the emperor no less truly than they had been before. 21 For it was not, he said, by their own will that they had yielded to men who were both barbarian and adorns, but because they had been placed under most dire constraint by their opponents, and had also been treated with injustice by the emperor's soldiers. 22 And upon John's declaration that thereafter the Italian would receive every blessing from the army, Tullianus went with him. 23 Consequently the soldiers no longer entertained any suspicion as regards the Italians, but the most of the territory south of the Ionian Gulf had become friendly to them and subject to the emperor.

24 But when Totila heard this, he selected three hundred of the Goths and sent them to Capua. These men he instructed that, whenever they saw the army of John marching thence toward Rome, they should simply follow him without drawing attention to themselves; for he himself would attend to the rest. 25 In consequence of this John became afraid that he would fall into some trap and be  p311 surrounded by the enemy, and so discontinued his movement to join Belisarius, and instead marched into the territory of the Bruttii and Lucani.

26 Now there was a certain Rhecimundus among the Goths, a man of note whom Totila had appointed to keep guard over Bruttium; he had under him some of the Goths as well as Roman soldiers and Moors who had deserted, and his instructions were to guard with these troops the Strait of Scylla​7 and the adjoining coast, so that no one might be able fearlessly to set sail from there for Sicily nor to land there from the island. 27 This army was surprised by John, whose presence had not been reported to them; and he fell upon them at a point between Rhegium and Vevon,​a threw them into consternation by a sudden attack, utterly heedless as they were of their valour, and turned them immediately to flight. 28 And they sought refuge by fleeing to the mountain which rises near by, a difficult one to climb and generally precipitous; but John pursued them and reached the steep slopes along with the enemy, and thus, before they had as yet secured their position on the rough mountain-side, he engaged with them and killed many of the Moors and Roman soldiers, though they offered a most vigorous resistance, and captured by surrender Rhecimundus and the Goths together with all who remained.

29 After accomplishing this feat, John still continued to remain where he was, while Belisarius, constantly expecting John, remained inactive. And Belisarius kept reproaching him because he would not take the risk of meeting in battle the force on guard at Capua, only three hundred in number, and endeavour  p313 to make his way through, in spite of the fact that he had barbarians under his command who were men selected for their valour. But John abandoned that plan, and proceeded to a place in Apulia, called Cervarium,​8 where he remained in idleness.

19 1 Belisarius, therefore, dreading that the besieged would do something desperate because of the lack of provisions, began to make plans to convey his supplies into Rome by some means or other. 2 And since he plainly had no force sufficient to pit against the enemy, so that he could fight a decisive battle with them in the plain, he first arranged the following plan. 3 He chose two skiffs of very unusual breadth and, after tensioning them together and lashing them very firmly to one another, constructed a wooden tower upon them, making it much higher than those made by the enemy at their bridge. 4 For he had previously had them accurately measured by sending some of his men, who, as it was made to appear, were going over to the barbarians as deserters. 5 Next he built wooden walls upon two hundred swift-sailing boats and launched them in the Tiber, having caused openings to be made in all parts of the wooden walls, in order that his men might be able to shoot at the enemy through them. Finally he loaded grain and many other kinds of provisions on these boats and manned them with his most warlike soldiers. 6 He also stationed other troops, both infantry and cavalry, on either side of the river in certain strong positions near the  p315 mouth of the Tiber, commanding them to remain at their posts and, if any of the enemy should threaten Portus, to prevent them with all their strength. 7 But he stationed Isaac inside Portus, and it was to him that he entrusted both the city and his wife and whatever else he happened to possess there. And he directed him in no circumstances to go away from the city, not even if he learned that Belisarius had perished at the hand of the enemy, but to maintain a close and constant guard, so that, if any reverse should befall the Romans, they might have a place where they could take refuge and save themselves. 8 For they held no other stronghold at all in that region, but the whole country in every direction was hostile to them.

9 Then he himself embarked on one of the swift boats and led on the fleet, giving orders to tow the boats on which he had constructed the tower. 10 Now he had placed on the top of the tower a little boat which he had caused to be filled with pitch, sulphur, resin, and all the other substances on which fire naturally feeds most fiercely. 11 And on the other bank of the river — that on the right as one goes from Portus to Rome — a force of infantry was also drawn up along the stream to support him. 12 But he had sent word to Bessas the day before commanding that on the following day he should make a sally with a strong force and throw the enemy's camp into confusion; and indeed this was the same command that he had already sent him many a time before. 13 But neither on previous occasions nor during the present battle did Bessas see fit to carry out his orders. 14 For now he was the only one who  p317 still had any grain left, since of all the grain which the magistrates of Sicily had previously sent to Rome to suffice both for the soldiers and for the whole population, he had let an exceedingly small amount go to the populace, while he had taken for himself the largest part on the pretext of providing for the soldiers and had hidden it away; and since he was selling this reserve to the senators at high prices, he by no means wished the siege to be broken.

15 Meanwhile Belisarius and the Roman fleet were making their way upstream in spite of the difficulty caused by the adverse current. The Goths, however, offered no opposition, but remained quietly in their fortified camps. 16 But immediately upon coming close to the bridge, the Romans encountered a hostile guard; this force had been stationed on either side of the river to protect an iron chain which Totila had put in place there not long before, the which chain reached from one bank of the Tiber to the other, and its purpose was to make it difficult for the enemy to get even as far as the bridge. 17 And they killed some of the guards with their missiles and turned the rest to flight, then lifted out the chain and went straight on toward the bridge. And as soon as they came up to it, they odd their attack, while the barbarians, shooting from the towers, were striving most vigorously to drive them back. 18 By this time, too, the barbarians had started out from their fortified camps and were rushing to the bridge.

Just at that moment Belisarius brought the skiffs on which the tower had been built as close as possible to one of the towers of the enemy — the  p319 one which stood on the road to Portus at the very edge of the water — and gave orders to set fire to the little boat and throw it on top of the enemy's tower. 19 And the Romans carried out this order. Now when this little boat fell upon the tower, it very quickly set fire to it, and not only was the tower itself consumed, but also all the Goths in it, to the number of about two hundred. 20 And among those thus burned was Osdas, their commander, who was the most warlike of all the Goths. Whereupon the Romans took courage and began to discharge their missiles still faster than before against the barbarians who had come to the support of their comrades. 21 As for the Goths, they were struck with consternation at the turn of events, and facing about rushed off in flight, each man as best he could. The Roman then began to destroy the bridge and were ready, after wrecking it in a twinkling, to go ahead and proceed into Rome with no further opposition. 22 But, since this was not the will of fortune, some envious spirit interposed and contrived to ruin the cause of the Romans in the following manner.

23 While the two armies were engaged in the operations just described, meantime a report fraught with ill for the Romans reached Portus and the tidings spread that Belisarius was victorious and had taken up the chain after destroying the barbarians at that point, and all the rest which I have told above. 24 Now when Isaac heard this, he could no longer contain himself, but was eager to have a hand in that glorious victory. So, disregarding the instructions of Belisarius, he was off as quickly as possible to the other side of the river. 25 And he took with him a hundred horsemen from among the troops  p321 which Belisarius had stationed there, and advanced against the enemy's stockade, which was commanded by Ruderic, a capable warrior. 26 Then he made a sudden assault upon the barbarians in the camp and smote a certain number of them, including Ruderic who had come out against him. 27 The Goths, for their part, immediately abandoned the camp and withdrew, either because they supposed that Isaac had a very large hostile force in the rear, or by way of deceiving their opponents so that they might be able to capture them, as actually happened.

28 So Isaac's men penetrated the hostile camp, and began to plunder the silver which lay there and the other valuables. 29 But the Goths immediately returned and slew many of their opponents, but took Isaac alive along with some few others. Horsemen then hastened to Belisarius and reported that Isaac was in the hands of the enemy.30  Belisarius was thunderstruck at what he heard, and, without investigating in what manner Isaac could have been captured, but thinking that both Portus and his wife were lost and that complete disaster had fallen upon the Romans, in that no other stronghold remained where they could now take refuge and save themselves, he fell into a state of speechlessness, an experience which he had never had before. 31 It was for this reason that he hastily withdrew his forces to the rear, with the intention of attacking the enemy while they were still in disorder and recovering the town at all costs.

So the Roman army withdrew from the bridge  p323 without accomplishing its object. 32 But when Belisarius reached Portus, he learned of the madness of Isaac and perceived that his own excitement had been without reason; whereupon he was so overcome with sorrow at the adversity of fortune that he fell sick. 33 For a fever came on which by its long continuance harassed him sorely and brought him into danger of death. 34 Two days later it came about that Ruderic died, and Totila, being exceedingly grieved at his loss, put Isaac to death.

20 1 Meanwhile Bessas continued to grow more wealthy than ever by retailing his grain, since his prices were fixed by the necessity of those who wanted it. And since he was entirely wrapped up in his concern for this traffic, he neither paid heed to the defence of the walls nor concerned himself with any other measures for security whatsoever, but any of the soldiers who so wished were allowed to neglect their duties; and meanwhile there was only an insignificant garrison on the walls, and even this received very little attention. 2 For those who chanced from day to day to be assigned to guard duty were freely permitted to special, since no one was put in command of them who might possibly take some notice of such an act; nor did any officers consent to go the rounds of the fortifications, as had been customary, and inspect the guards to see what they were doing, and furthermore not one of the citizens was able to assist them in keeping guard;  p325 3 for an exceedingly small number, as I have said, were left In the city and these were wasted to the last degree by the famine.

4 Thus it came about that four Isaurians who were keeping guard by the Asinarian Gate did as follows: having waited carefully for that part of the night during which it always fell to the lot of the soldiers next them to sleep while the guarding of that portion of the wall devolved upon them, they fastened ropes to the battlement long enough to reach down to the ground, and laying hold of these with both hands got outside the fortifications; then they went before Totila and agreed to receive him and the Gothic army into the city; for, as they declared, they were able to do this without any trouble. 5 And Totila promised that he would be exceedingly grateful to them if they made good these promises and that he would put them in possession of great sums of money; he then sent with them two of his men to look over the place from which these men claimed that the Goths could effect an entrance into the city. 6 So this party came up beside the wall and, laying hold of the ropes, ascended to the battlement, where not a man uttered a sound or observed what was going on. 7 So when they reached the top, the Isaurians shewed the barbarians everything, namely that those who wished to ascend would meet with no obstacle, and that after they had come up they would have complete freedom of action, meeting as they would with not the least resistance; then, after bidding them carry this report to Totila, they sent them away.

8 Now when Totila heard this report, he was, in a  p327 way, pleased at the intelligence, but, notwithstanding this, he felt a suspicion as regards the Isaurians and was not inclined to place very much confidence in them. 9 Not many days later these men came to him again, urging him to undertake the enterprise. Totila thereupon sent two other men with them, with instructions that they too should make a thorough investigation of the whole situation and bring back a report. 10 And these men, upon returning to him, made a report in all respects like that of those previously sent. But during this time a large force of Roman soldiers, who were out on a reconnoitering expedition, charged upon ten Goths walking along a road not far from the city, and they took them prisoners and straightway brought them before Bessas. 11 And he enquired of these barbarians what Totila's purpose really was; and the Goths said that he was in hopes that some of the Isaurians would deliver the city to him: for the story had already become known to many of the barbarians. 12 But even when Bessas and Conon heard this, they treated the matter with great unconcern and took no heed of the report. And a third time the Isaurians came into the presence of Totila and tried to induce the man to do the deed. 13 So he sent with them a number of men and amongst them one related to him by blood, and they, upon returning to him, reported the whole situation and encouraged him to proceed.

14 Totila, then, as soon as night came on, put his whole force under arms in silence and led them up near the Asinarian Gate. And he commanded four men who were conspicuous among the Goths for  p329 their bravery and strength to climb up the ropes with the Isaurians to the battlements, during that part of the night, of course, in which the guarding of that portion of the wall fell to the Isaurians while the others were taking their turn at sleeping. 15 And when these men got inside the fortifications, they descended to the Asinarian Gate without meeting any opposition; there they shattered with axes both the wooden beam with which the Romans customarily made the gates fast by fitting it into recesses in the wall on either side, and also all the ironwork into which the guards always inserted their keys to shut the gates or open them according to the need of the moment. 16 Then they swung the gates open, just as they wished to do, and without any trouble received Totila and the Gothic army into the city.

But Totila collected his men there in one place and would not allow them to scatter at all, for he feared that they would fall into some ambush set by the enemy. 17 And tumult and confusion, as was natural, fell upon the city, and the most of the Roman soldiers were fleeing with their commanders through another gate, each one taking whatever course he found easy to follow, while only a few with the rest of the Romans were taking refuge in the sanctuaries. 18 Among the patricians Decius and Basilius, in company with a few others (for horses happened to be at hand for them) succeeded in escaping with Bessas. 19 But Maximus, Olybrius, Orestes, and some others fled to the church of the Apostle Peter.​9 Among the common people, however, it so fell out that only five hundred men had  p331 been left throughout the whole city, and these with difficulty found refuge in the sanctuaries. 20 For all the rest of the population were gone, some having departed to other lands and some having been carried off by the famine, as I have stated above. Now many persons during that night kept reporting to Totila that both Bessas and the enemy were fleeing. But he, saying the report they had given was a pleasing one, would not permit a pursuit. 21 "For what could be sweeter for a mina," he said, "than a fleeing enemy?"

22 When it was already day and there was now no suspicion left of any ambush, Totila, for his part, went to the church of the Apostle Peter to pray, but the Goths began to slay those who fell in their way. 23 And in this manner there perished among the soldiers twenty‑six, and among the people sixty. And when Totila had come into the sanctuary, Pelagius came before him carrying the Christian scriptures in his hand, and, making supplication in every manner possible, said "Spare thine own, O Master." 24 And Totila, mocking him with a haughty air of indifference, said "Now at last, Pelagius, you have come to make yourself a suppliant before me." "Yes" replied Pelagius, "at a time when God has made me your slave. 25 Nay, spare your slaves, O Master, from now on." And Totila received this supplication with favour and forbade the Goths thereafter to kill any Roman at all, but he permitted them, while setting aside for him the most valuable of the property, to have unrestricted authority to plunder all the rest for themselves.

 p333  26 Now he found much of value in the houses of patricians, but most of all in the house where Bessas had lodged. For that ill‑starred wretch had been only collecting for Totila the outrageous sums which, as set forth above, he had charged for the grain. 27 And thus the Romans in general, and particularly the members of the senate, found themselves reduced to such straits that they clothed themselves in the garments of slaves and rustics, and lived by begging bread or any other food from their enemies; a very notable example of this change of fortune being that of Rusticiana, the daughter of Symmachus, who had been wife of Boethius, a woman who was always lavishing her wealth upon the needy. 28 Indeed these wretches went about to all the houses and kept knocking at the doors and begging that they give them food, feeling no shame in doing so.

29 Now the Goths, on their part, were eager to put Rusticiana to death, bringing against her the charge that after bribing the commanders of the Roman army, she had destroyed the statues of Theoderic, her motive in so doing having been to avenge the murder not only of her father Symmachus, but also of her husband Boethius. 30 But Totila would not permit her to suffer any harm, but he guarded both her and all the other women safe from insult, although the Goths were extremely eager to have intercourse with them. 31 Consequently not one of them had the ill fortune to suffer personal insult, whether married, unwed, or widow, and Totila won great renown for moderation from this course.

 p335  21 1 On the day following the capture Totila gathered all the Goths together and spoke as follows: "Fellow-soldiers, it is not with the purpose of making to you any new or unknown exhortation that I have brought you together in this place, but in order to say those very things which I have often said to you, and which you for your part have heeded with the result that the greatest of blessings have fallen to your lot. 2 Do not, therefore, on this account regard this present exhortation as of little moment. 3 For when words lead to good fortune, men ought not to feel surfeit of them, even though the speaker seem to wear out his hearers with much speaking; for they cannot reasonably reject the benefit gained from such words. 4 Now what I would say is this: only yesterday, as it were, we assembled a host of two hundred thousand most warlike soldiers, we had at our disposal enormous wealth, and could display a lavish abundance of both horses and arms, we had a numerous company of mature men of the greatest discretion — a circumstance considered most advantageous for those entering upon a war — and yet, with all this in our favour, we were vanquished by five thousand Greeklings,​10 and for no good reason were stripped of our power and everything else that was ours. 5 But now it has been our fortune, though reduced to a small number, destitute of arms and in pitiable plight and without any experience at all, to gain the mastery over an enemy more than twenty thousand strong. 6 Our experience, then, to put it in a word, has been such  p337 as I have described. But the causes of this outcome, though you know them full well, I must now state to you. The Goths in earlier times paid less heed to justice than to any other thing, and treated each other and their Roman subjects as well in an unholy manner; wherefore God was then moved to take the field against them on the side of their enemies. 7 And so, although we were far superior to our opponents in number and in valour and in the general equipment for war, we were defeated by a power which was invisible and quite uncomprehended. 8 It will therefore rest with you to guard your blessings — manifestly by continuing to observe justice. For if you change your course, God too will instantly change His favour and become hostile to you. 9 For it is not His wont to fight with a race of men or a particular nation, but with such as shew the greater honour to justice. And for Him it is no labour to transfer his blessings from one people to the other. 10 For whereas only to refrain from wrong-doing inheres in the will of man, God by His very nature has all things in His power. 11 I say, therefore, that you must observe justice strictly both in your dealings with each other and with your subjects; for it would amount to the same thing to tell you to preserve your good fortune for ever."

12 After Totila had made this speech before the Goths, he likewise called together the members of the Roman senate, and reproached and abused them at length, saying that, although they had  p339 received many benefits from both Theoderic and Atalaric, in that they themselves had always been appointed to the chief offices throughout the kingdom and had thus administered the government, and had, furthermore, amassed vast wealth, still they had acted with such ingratitude toward the Goths, their benefactors, that, regardless of their obligations, they had planned a revolt to their own harm, and brought in the Greeks​11 to attack their fatherland, thus turning traitors to themselves on the impulse of the moment. 13 Then, after enquiring whether they had ever suffered any personal harm at the hands of the Goths, 14 he compelled them to state whether any good thing came to them from the Emperor Justinian, reviewing all that had happened in order: first, they had, he said, been stripped of practically all the offices; second, they had been maltreated by the logothetes,​12 as they were called, in that they had been compelled to settle accounts for their treatment of the Goths during their official careers; and, third, although they were in dire straits on account of the war, they were paying the Greeks not a whit less in public taxes than in times of peace. And he included many other things too in his speech, such things as an angry master might be expected to say in upbraiding men who have become his slaves. 15 Then he set before them Herodian and the Isaurians who had handed over the city to him, and said: "You, who have been reared together with the Goths, have not up to the present day seen fit to surrender to us even one empty town, but these men have received us into Rome itself and Spolitium. 16 By this action you have been reduced to the rank of household slaves,  p341 while these men, seeing that they have really proved themselves friends and kinsmen of the Goths, will hold your offices hereafter." 17 Now when the patricians heard this, they sat in silence. But Pelagius began to plead with Totila for them as men who had suffered reverse and misfortune, and would not let him go until he made them a promise of kind treatment and thus sent them away.

18 After this he sent Pelagius and one of the Roman orators, Theodorus by name, as envoys to the Emperor Justinian, having bound them by most solemn oaths that they would remain loyal to him and would make every effort to return to Italy as quickly as possible. 19 And he instructed them to exert themselves to the utmost to secure peace for him from the emperor, in order, as he said, that he, for his part, might not be compelled to raze Rome entirely to the ground, to destroy the members of the senate, and to carry the war into Illyricum. And he also wrote a letter to the Emperor Justinian. 20 Now the emperor had already heard of what had taken place in Italy. But when later on the envoys came before him, they delivered the message which Totila had instructed them to bring and put the letter into his hands.

21 Now the contents of the letter were as follows:

"As to what has transpired in the city of Rome, since I suppose thou hast learned everything, I have decided to remain silent. 22 But as to the purpose for which I have sent these envoys, thou shalt straightway be informed. We demand that thou, for thy part, take to thyself the advantages  p343 which flow from peace and also grant them to us. 23 these advantages are recalled and exemplified most admirably in the lives of Anastasius and Theoderic, who ruled as kings not long ago, and filled their whole reigns with peace and prosperity. 24 And if this same condition should perchance please thee, thou wouldst properly be called my father, and thou wilt also have us hereafter as allies against whomsoever thou mayest wish to use us." 25 When the Emperor Justinian saw this letter thus brought to him, and heard all the words of the envoys, he dismissed them instantly, giving them only this reply and writing it to Totila, that he had made Belisarius supreme commander in the war, and that he, consequently, had full power to make such settlement with Totila as he wished.

22 1 But while these envoys were travelling to Byzantium and returning to Italy, the following events took place in Lucania. 2 Tullianus gathered the rustics of that region and set a guard upon the pass (a very narrow one) which gives access to the district, with the purpose of preventing the enemy from entering to devastate the land of Lucania. 3 And three hundred Antae also were helping them to keep guard, men whom John had left there previously, as it happened, at the request of Tullianus; for these barbarians excel all others in  p345 their ability to fight on rough ground. 4 When Totila learned this, though he considered it inexpedient to assign Goths to the task, he gathered a multitude of results, and sent them with a very far Goths, with orders to try with all their strength to force the pass. 5 When these two forces engaged in battle, a violent struggle ensued, each side striving to force the other back, but the Antae by their valour, and also because the very roughness of the hungered was to their advantage, together with the results under Tullianus turned their opponents to flight; 6 and a great number of them were slaughtered.

But when Totila learned this, he decided first to raze Rome to the ground, and then, while leaving most of his army in that neighbourhood, to march with the rest against John and the Lucanians. 7 Accordingly he tore down the fortifications in many places so that about one third of the defences were destroyed. And he was on the point also of burning the finest and most noteworthy of the buildings and making Rome a sheep-pasture, but Belisarius learned of his design and sent envoys with a letter to him. 8 When these envoys came before Totila, they stated why they had come and delivered the letter, which conveyed the following.

"While the creation of beauty in a city which has not been beautiful before could only proceed from men of wisdom who understand the meaning of civilization, the destruction of beauty which already exists would be naturally expected only of men who lack understanding, and who are not ashamed to leave to posterity this token of their character.  p347 9 Now among all the cities under the sun Rome is agreed to be the greatest and the most noteworthy. 10 For it has not been created by the ability of one man, nor has it attained such greatness and beauty by a power of short duration, but a multitude of monarchs, many companies of the best men, a great lapse of time, and an extraordinary abundance of wealth have availed to bring together in that city all other things that are in the whole world, and skilled workers besides. 11 Thus, little by little, have they built the city, such as you behold it, thereby leaving to future generations memorials of the ability of them all, so that insult to these monuments would properly be considered a great crime against the men of all time; 12 for by such action the men of former generations are robbed of the memorials of their ability, and future generations of the sight of their works. 13 Such, then, being the facts of the case, be well assured of this, that one of two things must necessarily take place: either you will be defeated by the emperor in this struggle, or, should it so fall out, you will triumph over him. 14 Now, in the first place, supposing you are victorious, if you should dismantle Rome, you would not have destroyed the possession of some other man, but your own city, excellent Sir, and, on the other hand, if you preserve it, you will naturally enrich yourself by a possession the fairest of all; but if, in the second place, it should perchance fall to your lot to experience the worse fortune, in saving Rome you would be assured of abundant gratitude on the part of the victor, but by destroying the city you will make it certain that no plea for mercy will any longer be left to you, 15 and in addition to this you  p349 will have reaped no benefit from the deed. Furthermore, a reputation that corresponds with your conduct will be your portion among all men, and it stands waiting for you according as you decide either way. 16 For the quality of the acts of rulers determines, of necessity, the quality of the repute which they win from their acts."

Such was the letter of Belisarius.

17 And Totila, after reading it over many time and coming to realize accurately the significance of the advice, was convinced and did Rome no further harm. So he sent a statement of his decision to Belisarius and immediately dismissed the envoys. 18 And he commanded the main body of the army to make camp not far from Rome at the town of Algedon,​13 which is about one hundred and twenty stades distant from the city toward the west, and to remain quietly there, in order that the troops of Belisarius might have no freedom to go anywhere outside Portus; but with the rest of the army he himself marched against John and the Lucanians. 19 As for the Romans, however, he kept the members of the senate with him, while all the others together with their wives and children he sent into CIA, refusing to allow a single soul in Rome, but leaving it entirely deserted.

20 When John learned that Totila was marching against him, he refused to remain longer in Apulia, but went hastily to Dryus. Now those patricians who were being taken into Campania sent certain of their domestics into Lucania, by direction of Totila, and bade their tenants abandon their  p351 present machinations, and till the fields as they were accustomed; for, the message announced, they would have the property of their masters. 21 So they detached themselves from the Roman army, and remained quietly on the land; whereupon Tullianus made off in flight, and the three hundred Antae decided to follow John in his retreat. 22 In this way the whole territory south of the Ionian Gulf, with the exception of Dryus, became once more subject to the Goths and Totila. And the barbarians by this time were filled with confidence and, scattering in small bands, began to overrun the whole country round about. 23 When John learned this, he sent a numerous force of his men against them. And this force, falling unexpectedly upon the enemy, killed a large number. 24 And Totila, as a result of this experience, became cautious and gathered all his troops together in the neighbourhood of Mt. Garganon,​14 which rises near the centre of Apulia, and encamping in the fortified enclosure of Hannibal the Libyan, he remained quiet.

23 1 At this time one of the men who had fled from Rome with Conon while the city was being captured — he was named Martinianus, a Byzantine by birth — came before Belisarius and asked permission to go to the enemy, pretending to be a deserter, and he promised to render the Romans a great service; and since this met with the approval of Belisarius, he  p353 went off. Now when Totila saw him, he was exceedingly pleased. 2 For he heard that the youth had won fame in single combats, and he had also seen him many times. And since the man had two children and his wife among the captives Totila immediately restored to him his wife and one of the children, but the other he continued to guard as a hostage, and sent Martinianus to Spolitium with a few others.

3 Now it so happened that when the Goths captured Spolitium by the surrender of Herodian, they had indeed razed the whole circuit-wall of the city to the ground, but they had thoroughly walled up the entrances of the structure in front of the city, which served for the keeping of wild animals and has come to be called an amphitheatre, and had established in it a garrison both of Goths and of Roman deserters, for the purpose of guarding the country round about. 4 So when Martinianus had come to Spolitium, he succeeded in winning the friendship of fifteen soldiers, whom he persuaded to return to the Roman army after first accomplishing some great explode against the barbarians. 5 And he also sent some men to the commander of the garrison in Perusia, bidding him send an army to him at Spolitium with all possible speed, and explaining to him the whole situation. 6 Now the garrison in Perusia was at that time commanded by Odalgan, a Hun, Cyprian having been treacherously removed from the world, as has been stated above,​15 by one of his own bodyguards. 7 And he came himself with an army to Spolitium,  p355 Then, when Martinianus ascertained that this army was close at hand, he in company with the fifteen soldiers suddenly slew the commander of the garrison and, opening the gates, received all the Romans into the fortress. And the most of the enemy they slew, but they made some prisoners and brought them before Belisarius.

8 Shortly after this Belisarius conceived the idea of going up to Rome and seeing into what condition it had fallen. So he selected a thousand of his soldiers and with them went toto city. 9 But a man of Rome went in haste to the enemy who were in camp at Algedon, and reported the presence of Belisarius' army. 10 So the barbarians occupied the district in front of Rome with several ambuscades, and, when they saw that the force of Belisarius had come close upon them, they rose from their places of ambush and attacked them. 11 Thereupon a fierce battle ensued, in which the Romans by their valour routed their enemy, and, after destroying the most of them, they withdrew immediately to Portus. Such was the course of events at Rome.

12 There is a city on the coast of Calabria called Tarentum, about two days' journey distant from Dryus, on the road from there to Thurii and Rhegium. 13 Thither John came with a few men, at the invitation of the Tarentines, having established the rest of his command as a garrison in Dryus. 14 And when he saw  p357 that this city was exceedingly large and entirely without defences, he thought that he would be utterly unable to defend the whole of it; but he observed that the sea to the north of the city formed a bay on either side of a very narrow strip of land, where the port of Tarentum is situated, and thus the space between the bays naturally forms an isthmus for a distance of not less than twenty stades; so he formed the following plan. 15 He cut off from the rest of there that portion which lay on the isthmus, and enclosed it by means of a wall extending from one bay to the other and along the wall he dug a deep trench. 16 There he collected not only the Tarentines but also all the inhabitants of the surrounding country, and he left them a garrison of considerable size. 17 In this way all the Calabrians were now in a secure position and they consequently purposed of the revolt from the Goths. Such was the course of events in this quarter.

18 Totila, for his part, occupied a very strong fortress in Lucania, situated close to the boundaries of Calabria, called Acherontis by the Romans; and after establishing there a garrison of not less than four hundred men, he himself with the rest of his army marched against Ravenna, leaving in Campania some of the barbarians, who were charged with the guarding of Roman prisoners, the members of the senate being in that place.

24 1 At that time Belisarius conceived a daring and far‑seeing plan, which in the beginning indeed appeared insane to those who first saw and heard of his actions,  p359 but its outcome proved to be a splendid achievement of marvellous importance. 2 For he sallied forth, leaving behind only a few of his soldiers to keep guard in Portus, and went halves with the rest of his army to Rome, with the intention of trying with all ship strength to establish himself in possession of the city. 3 And since he was unable in a short time to rebuild all the portions of the wall which Totila had torn down, he did as follows. 4 Gathering stones which lay close by, he threw them one on top of the other, regardless of order, without putting anything at all between the stones, since he had neither lime nor anything else of the sort, but caring only that the face of the masonry should be preserved, and he set a great quantity of stakes on the outside. 5 Now he had previously, as it happened, dug deep trenches around the entire circuit-wall, as stated in the previous narrative.​16 6 And since the whole army carried out this work with unbounded enthusiasm, in twenty-five days such parts of the fortifications as had been torn down had been finished in this manner. 7 And all the Romans who lived in the neighbourhood gathered in the city, both because of their desire to make their homes in Rome, and also because they had for a time been scantily supplied with provisions and they found bund there; for Belisarius had been able to bring this about by loading a great number of boats with all manner of provisions and bringing them up to Rome by the river.

8 When Totila heard this, he immediately set his whole army in motion and marched against Belisarius  p361 and Rome, before Belisarius had as yet been able to fit the gates to the wall. 9 For it so happened that Totila had destroyed them all, and Belisarius had not up to that time succeeded in having gates built because of the lack of artisans. 10 And when the barbarian army came near the city, they made camp for the moment and bivouacked on the bank of the Tiber, but on the following day at sunrise they advanced, filled with great fury and shouting as they came, to a position before the walls. 11 But Belisarius had selected the most warlike of his soldiers and stationed them in the open gateways, commanding the rest to stand above and ward off the assailants from the wall with all their force. 12 So a fierce battle ensued; for the barbarians, on their part, at first entertained the hope that they would capture the city at the first shout, but since the attempt proved difficult, and the Romans offered a most vigorous resistance, they gave way to rage and began to press upon the foe, their fury inspiring them to daring beyond their strength. 13 The Romans, meanwhile, resisted with unexpected determination, the danger naturally arousing them to bravery. 14 Consequently a great slaughter of the barbarians took place, and both armies were becoming very weary and distressed; and the battle, which had begun in the morning, ended at night. 15 Thereupon the barbarians repaired to their camps and passed the night there, caring for their wounded; as for the Romans, some were keeping guard on the wall, while others, who were the men most conspicuous  p363 of all for their bravery, were guarding the open gateways in relays, having placed triboli in great numbers in front of them, so that the enemy might not make a surprise attack upon them.

16 Now these triboli17 are of the following sort. Four spikes of equal length are fastened together at their butts in such a manner that their points form the outline of a triangle on every side. 17 These they throw at random upon the ground, and because of their form three of the spikes all plant themselves very firmly upon the ground, while the remaining one stands up alone and always proves an obstacle for both men and horses. 18 And as often as anybody rolls over one of these triboli, the spike which hitherto has chanced to stand up straight in the air becomes planted on the ground, but another one takes its place above, as an obstacle to those who wish to advance in the attack. Such are the triboli. So both sides bivouacked thus after the battle.

19 On the following day Totila decided to storm the wall again with his whole army, and the Romans proceeded to ward them off in the manner described; and gaining the upper hand in the engagement, they plucked up courage to make a sally against their enemy. 20 And as the barbarians retreated, some of the Romans, in pursuing them, went to a considerable distance from the fortifications. These barbarians were on the point of surrounding, so that they might be unable to return to the city. But Belisarius, noting what was taking place, sent a large number of his men to that point and thus succeeded  p365 in rescuing the force. 21 After being repulsed in this way the barbarians withdrew, having lost many of their able fighting men, and bringing with them a great number of wounded to their camp. 22 There they remained quiet, caring for their wounds and attending to their arms, many of which had now been destroyed, and putting everything else in readiness.

Many days later they again advanced against the wall with the purpose of storming it, 23 But the Romans came out to meet them and joined battle. And by some chance the man who was bearing the standard of Totila received a mortal wound and not only fell from his horse himself, but also threw the standard to the ground. 24 Whereupon those of the Romans who were fighting at the front made a rush with the intention of seizing the standard and the corpse. But the most courageous of the barbarians got there first, seized the standard, and also cut off the left hand of the corpse and took it with them. 25 For the fallen man was wearing upon this hand a notable bracelet of gold, over which they were quite unwilling that their opponents should exult, and they sought thus to avoid the disgrace which its loss would involve. 26 Then the barbarian army was turned to retreat in complete disorder, while the Romans despoiled what was left of the corpse, and in pursuing the enemy to a great distance killed many of them, and then returned to the city without the slightest loss.

27 Then all the notable Goths came to Totila and inveighed against him and reproached him mercilessly for his lack of wisdom; after capturing Rome, they said, he had neither levelled the whole city  p367 to the ground so that it might be no longer possible for the enemy to take possession of it, nor had himself held it, but that which they had accomplished by a great expenditure of both labour and time, this he himself had undone in an altogether unreasonable manner. 28 Thus it is by nature inbred in men to accommodate their judgment in every case to the outcome of events and to allow their mind to be dominated by the current of fortune, and to make their changes of opinion instantly as a result of this. 29 It was indeed for this reason that while Totila was succeeding in his undertakings, the Goths had reverenced him equally with God, calling him an unvanquished and invincible leader, at the time when he allowed them to destroy only a portion of the defences of captured cities, but when he met with the reverse above mentioned, they did not feel it improper to inveigh against him, unmindful of what they had recently said about to have, and going contrary to these declarations without the least hesitation. 30 But these errors of judgment and others like them must inevitably be constantly committed by men, since they are due to human nature.

31 So Totila and his barbarians broke up the siege and went to the city of Tibur, having torn down practically all the bridges over the Tiber, that it might not be easy for the Romans to make an attack upon them. 32 One bridge, however, which bears the name of Mulvius, they were quite unable to destroy, since it was very close to the city. And they decided to rebuild the fortress in Tibur with all their might; for they had dismantled it previously; 33 and they deposited there all their possessions and remained quiet. 34 As for Belisarius, having now less  p369 cause for fear, he fitted gates to the circuit-wall of Rome on every side, bound them with iron, and once more sent the keys to the emperor. And the winter drew to a close, and the twelfth year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Sicily.

2 Literally "upturned hands."

3a 3b Presumably solidi aurei, at this time worth about 12s. 7d. or $3.06 each.

Thayer's Note: Assuming the above equivalence means anything at all, $3.06 in 1928 when this book was published was about the same as $46 now (2020), according to this U. S. Inflation Calculator.

In turn, that means that a "bushel", or rather a medimnus of wheat — however much that was, there's a great deal of uncertainty — was selling for about $320, and the ox for $2300. Protein for protein, I would advise you to buy the ox if you could, if you have a big family or can pool with others: the price is in the same range as the going price in the United States today (assuming that ox to weigh about as much as a 21c beef steer, which is unlikely). If you're just feeding yourself and one or two other people though, beef doesn't keep very long unless you have a lot of salt on hand: go for the wheat.

And then on the other hand, the levels of income were much lower back then; face it, you're going to starve.

4 To the north.

5 The Strait of Otranto; Belisarius would be hastening southward and so would leave them unmolested.

6 Modern Canosa.

7 Messina.

Thayer's Note: The ancient Scylla is not Messina in Sicily, but is a different town on the mainland side of the strait, now Scilla. The note should read "The Strait of Messina."

8 Modern Cervaro.

9 The Basilica commenced by Constantine, on the site of St. Peter's.

10 Cf. Book IV.xxvii.38, note.

11 Cf. Book IV.xxvii.38, note.

12 Cf. chap. i.32.

13 Perhaps Mt. Algidus (modern Ceraso), though this lies east, not west, of Rome and is remote from Portus.

14 Modern Gargano.

15 Cf. chap. xii.20.

16 Cf.  Book V.xiv.15.

17 Caltrops; used, for example, at Bannockburn.

Thayer's Note: See the article Tribulus in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

Thayer's Note:

a So the translator, for the Greek genitive Βέβωνος, which might equally stand for Bebo(n), Bevo(n), or Vebo(n). A footnote by the same translator would have been useful. The place is very likely the Bruttian town of Vibo (Vibo Valentia), about 75 km in a straight line from Rhegium (Reggio), and important enough today to be the capital of an Italian province.


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Page updated: 14 Sep 20