grave discourse the certain difficulties and the mncertain event. “You undertake,” said the praefect, “to besiege Carthage: by land, the distance is not less than one hundred and forty days’ journey; on the sea, a whole year “must elapse before you can receive any intelligence from your fleet. If Africa should be reduced, it cannot be preserved without the additional conquest of Sicily and Italy. Success will impose the obligation of new labors; a single misfortune will attract the Barbarians into the heart of your exhausted empire.” Justinian felt the weight of this salutary advice; he was confounded by the unwonted freedom of an obsequious servant; and the design of the war would perhaps have been relinquished, if his courage had not been revived by a voice which silenced the doubts of profane reason. “I have seen a vision,” cried an artful or fanatic bishop of the East. “It is the will of Heaven, O emperor " that you should not abandon your holy enterprise for the deliverance of the African church. The God of battles will march before your standard, and disperse your enemies, who are the enemies of his Son.” The emperor might be tempted, and his counsellors were constrained, to give credit to this seasonable revelation: but they derived more rational hope from the revolt, which the adherents of Hilderic or Athanasius had already excited on the borders of the Vandal monarchy. Prudentius, an African subject, had privately signified his loyal intentions, and a small military aid restored the province of Tripoli to the obedience of the Romans. The government of Sardinia had been intrusted to Godas, a valiant Barbarian : he suspended the payment of tribute, disclaimed his allegiance to the usurper, and gave audience to the emissaries of Justinian, who found him master of that fruitful island, at the head of his guards, and proudly invested with the ensigns of royalty. The forces of the Van dals were diminished by discord and suspicion; the IRoman armies were animated by the spirit of Belisarius; one of those heroic names which are familiar to every age and to every nation. The Africanus of new Rome was born, and perhaps educated, among the Thracian peasants," without any of those advantages which had formed the virtues of the cláer and younger Scipio; a noble origin, liberal studies, and the emulation of a free state. The silence of a loquacious secretary may be admitted, to prove that the youth of Belisarius could not afford any subject of praise; he served, most assuredly with valor and reputation, among the private guards of Justinian ; and when his patron became emperor, the domestic was promoted to military command. After a bold inroad into Persarmenia, in which his glory was shared by a colleague, and his progress was checked by an enemy, Belisarius repaired to the important station of Dara, where he first accepted the service of Procopius, the faithful companion, and diligent historian, of his exploits." The Mirranes of Persia advanced, with forty thousand of her best troops, to raze the fortifications of Dara; and signified the day and the hour on which the citizens should prepare a bath for his refreshment, after the toils of victory. He encountered an adversary equal to himself, by the new title of General of the East; his superior in the science of war, but much inferior in the number and quality of his troops, which amounted only to twenty-five thousand Romans and strangers, relaxed in their discipline, and humbled by recent disasters. As the level plain of Dara refused all shelter to stratagem and ambush, Belisarius protected his front with a deep trench, which was prolonged at first in perpendicular, and afterwards, in parallel, lines, to cover the wings of cavalry advantageously posted to command the flanks and rear of the enemy. When the Roman centre was shaken, their well-timed and rapid charge decided the conflict: the standard of Persia fell; the Immortals fled; the infantry threw away their bucklers, and eight thousand of the vanquished were left on the field of battle. In the next campaign, Syria was invaded on the side of the desert; and Delisarius, with twenty thousand men, hastened from Dara to the relief of the province. During the whole summer, the designs of the enemy were baffled by his skilful dispositions: he pressed their retreat, occupied each night their the hero; but his Germania, a metropolis of Thrace, I cannot find in any civil or ecclesiastical lists of the provinces and cities.*

* A year—absurd exaggeration The conquest of Africa may be dated A. D. 533, September 14. It is celebrated by Justinian in the preface to his Institutes; which were published November 21 of the same year. Including the voyage and return, such a computation might be truly applied to our Indian empire.

* * shoun to 8s 6 Bextoraptos éx Tepuavias in opakovre kai 'IAAvptov ue raču ket rat (Y?rocop. Vandal. 1. i c. 11). Aleman (Not. ad Anecdot. p. 5), an Italian, could easily reject the German vanity of Giphanius and Welserus, who wished to claim * The two first Persian campaigns of Belisarius are fairly and copiously related by his secretary (Persic. l. i. c. 12–18).

* M. Vonhammer (in a review of Lord Mahon's Life of Belisarius in the Vienna Jahrbucher) shows that the name of Belisarius is a Sclavonic word, Beli-tzar, the White Prince, and that the place of his birth was a village of Illyria, which still bears the name of Germany.−M.

camp of the preceding day, and would have secured a bloodless victory, if he could have resisted the impatience of his own troops. Their valiant promise was faintly supported in the hour of battle; the right wing was exposed by the treacherous or cowardly desertion of the Christian Arabs; the Huns, a veteran band of eight hundred warriors, were oppressed by superior numbers; the flight of the Isaurians was intercepted; but the Roman infantry stood firm on the "left; for Belisarius himself, dismounting from his horse, showed them that intrepid despair was their only safety.” They turned their backs to the Euphrates, and their faces to the enemy: innumerable arrows glanced without effect from the compact and shelving order of their bucklers; an impenetrable line of pikes was opposed to the repeated assaults of the Persian cavalry: and after a resistance of many hours, the remaining troops were skilfully embarked under the shadow of the night. The Persian commander retired with disorder and disgrace, to answer a strict account of the lives of so many soldiers, which he had consumed in a barren victory. But the fame of Belisarius was not sullied by a defeat, in which he alone had saved his army from the consequences of their own rashness; the approach of peace relieved him from the guard of the eastern frontier, and his conduct in the scdition of Constantinople amply discharged his obligations to the emperor. When the African war became the topic of popular discourse and secret deliberation, each of the IRoman generals was apprehensive, rather than ambitious, of the dangerous honor; but as soon as Justinian had declared his preference of superior merit, their envy was rekindled by the unanimous applause which was i. to the choice of Delisarius. The temper of the

yzantine court may encourage a suspicion, that the hero was darkly assisted by the intrigues of his wife, the fair and subtle Antonina, who alternately enjoyed the confidence, and incurred the hatred, of the empress Theodora. The birth of Antonina was ignoble; she descended from a family of charioteers; and her chastity has been stained with the foulest reproach. Yet she reigned with long and absolute power over the mind of her illustrious husband ; and if Antonina disdained the merit of conjugal fidelity, she expressed a manly friendship to Belisarius, whom she accompanied

The battle was fought on Easter Sunday, April 19, not at the end of the sum mer. The date is supplied from John M. by Lord Mahon, p. 47.--M.

with undaunted resolution in all the hardships and dangers of a military life.” The preparations for the African war were not unworthy of the last contest between Rome and Carthage. The pride and flower of the army consisted of the guards of Belisarius, who, according to the pernicious indulgence of the times, devoted themselves, by a particular oath of fidelity, to the service of their patrons. Their strength and stature, for which they had been curiously selected, the goodness of their horses and armor, and the assiduous practice of all the exercises of war, enabled them to act whatever their courage might prompt; and their courage was exalted by the social honor of their rank, and the personal ambition of favor and fortune. Four hundred of the bravest of the Heruli marched under the banner of the faithful and active Pharas; their untractable valor was more highly prized than the tame submission of the Greeks and Syrians; and of such importance was it deemed to procure a rečnforcement of six hundred Massagetae, or Huns, that they were allured by fraud and deceit to engage in a naval expedition. Five thousand horse and ten thousand foot were embarked at Constantinople for the conquest of Africa; but the infantry, for the most part levied in Thrace and Isauria, yielded to the more prevailing use and reputation of the cavalry; and the Scythian bow was the weapon on which the armies of Rome were now reduced to place their principal dependence. From a laudable desire to assert the dignity of his theme, Procopius defends the soldiers of his own time against the morose critics, who confined that respectable name to the heavyarmed warriors of antiquity, and maliciously observed, that the word archer is introduced by Homer as a term of contempt. “Such contempt might perhaps be due to the naked youths who appeared on foot in the fields of Troy, and lurking behind a tombstone, or the shield of a friend, drew the bow-string to their breast,” and dismissed a feeble and lifeless arrow. Dut our archers (pursues the historian) are mounted on horses, which they manage with admirable skill; their head and shoulders are protected by a casque or buckler; they wear greaves of iron on their legs, and their bodies are guarded by a coat of mail. On their right side hangs a quiver, a sword on their left, and their hand is accustomed to wield a lance or javelin in closer combat. Their bows are strong and weighty; they shoot in every possible direction, advancing, retreating, to the front, to the rear, or to either flank; and as they are taught to draw the bow-string not to the breast, but to the right ear, firm indeed must be the armor that can resist the rapid violence of their shaft.” Five hundred transports, navigated by twenty thousand mariners of Egypt, Cilicia, and Ionia, were collected in the harbor of Constantinople. The smallest of these vessels may be computed at thirty, the largest at five hundred, tons; and the fair average will supply an allowance, liberal, but not profuse, of about one hundred thousand tons," for the reception of thirty-five thousand soldiers and sailors, of five thousand horses, of arms, engines, and milltary stores, and of a sufficient stock of water and provisions for a voyage, perhaps, of three months. The proud galleys, which in former ages swept the Mediterranean with so many hundred oars, had long since disappeared; and the fleet of Justinian was escorted only by ninety-two light brigantines, covered from the missile weapons of the enemy, and rowed by two thousand of the brave and robust youth of Constantinople. Twenty-two generals are named, most of whom were afterwards distinguished in the wars of Africa and Italy: but the supreme command, both by land and sea, was delegated to Belisarius alone, with a boundless power of acting according to his discretion, as if the emperor himself were present. #. separation of the naval and military professions is at once the effect and the cause of the modern improvements in the science of navigation and maritime war. In the seventh year of the reign of Justinian, and about the time of the summer solstice, the whole fleet of six hundred ships was ranged in martial pomp before the gardens

7 See the birth and character of Antonina, in the Anecdotes, c. i. and the notes of Alemanthus. p. 3. 8 See the }. of Procopius. The enemies of archery might quote the reroaches of Dioimede (Iliad. A. 385, &c.) and the permittere vulnera ventis of .ucan (viii. 384); yet the Romans could not despise the arrows of the Parthians; and in the siege of Troy, Pandarus, Paris, and Teucer, pierced those haughty war. riors who insulted them as women or children. * Newpmv učv wagog tréAao ev, T65-o be oričmpov (Iliad. A. 123). How concise—how

ust—how beautiful is the whole picture I see the attitudes of the archer—i. ear the twanging of the bow :—

- Aiyêe Bios, vevpil & Méy' taxev, &Aro & biords.

10 The text appears to allow for the largest vessels 50,000 medimni, or 3000 tons (since the medimnus weighed 160 Roman, or 120 avoirdupois, pounds). I have given a more rational interpretation, by supposing that the Attic style of Procopius conceals the legal and popular modius, a sixth part of the medimnus (Hooper's Ancient Measures, p. 152, &c.). A contrary and indeed a stranger mistake has crept into an oration of Dinarchus (contra Demosthenem, in Reiske Orator. Graec. tom. iv. P. ii. § 34). By reducing the number of ships from 500 to 50 and translating ueðiu vot }. mines, or pounds, Cousin has generously allowed 500 wons


for the whole of the Imperial fleet ! Did he never think?

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »