« ForrigeFortsett »
the twenty years of the Gothic war had consummated the distress and depopulation of Italy. As early as the fourth campaign, under the discipline of Belisarius himself, fifty thousand laborers died of hunger" in the narrow region of Picenum; * and a strict interpretation of the evidence of Procopius would swell the loss of Italy above the total sum of her present inhabitants.” I desire to believe, but I dare not affirm, that Belisarius sincerely rejoiced in the triumph of Narses. Yet the consciousness of his own exploits might teach him to esteem without jealousy the merit of a rival; and the repose of the aged warrior was crowned by a last victory, which saved the emperor and the capital. The Barbarians, who annually visited the provinces of Europe, were less discouraged by some accidental defeats than they were excited by the double hope of spoil and of subsidy. In the thirty-second winter of Justinian's reign, the Danube was deeply frozen : Zabergan led the cavalry of the Bulgarians, and his standard was followed by a promiscuous multitude of Sclavonians.f The savage chief passed, without opposition, the river and the mountains, spread his troops over Macedonia and Thrace, and advanced with no more than seven thousand horse to the long wall which should have defended the territory of Constantinople. But the works of man are impotent against the assaults of nature: a recent earthquake had shaken the foundations of the wall; and the forces of the empire were employed on the distant frontiers of Italy, Africa, and Persia. The seven schools,” or companies of the guards or domestic troops, had been aug. mented to the number of five thousand five hundred men, whose ordinary station was in the peaceful cities of Asia. But the places of the brave Armenians were insensibly supplied by lazy citizens, who purchased an exemption from the duties of civil life, without being exposed to the dangers of military service. Of such soldiers, few could be tempted to sally from the gates; and none could be persuaded to remam in the field, unless they wanted strength and specd to escape from the Bulgarians. The report of the fugitives exaggerated the numbers and fierceness of an enemy, who had polluted holy virgins, and abandoned new born infants to the dogs and vultures; a crowd of rustics, imploring food and protection, increased the consternation of the city, and the tents of Zabergan were pitched at the distance of twenty miles,” on the banks of a small river, which encircles Melanthias, and afterwards falls into the Propontis.” Justinian trembled: and those who had only seen the emperor in his old age, were pleased to suppose, that he had lost the alacrity and vigor of his youth. By his command the vessels of gold and silver were removed from the churches in the neighborhood, and even the suburbs, of Constantinople ; the ramparts were lined with trembling spectators; the golden gate was crowded with useless gen. erals and tribunes, and the senate shared the fatigues and the apprehensions of the populace, But the eyes of the prince and people were directed to a feeble veteran, who was compelled by the public danger to resume the armor in which he had entered Carthage and defended Rome. The horses of the royal stables, of private citizens, and even of the circus, were hastily collected; the emulation of the old and young was roused by the name of Belisarius, and his first encampment was in the presence of a victorious enemy. His prudence, and the labor of the friendly peasants, secured, with a ditch and rampart, the repose of the night; innumerable fires, and clouds of dust, were artfully contrived to magnify , the opinion of his strength; his soldiers suddenly passed from despondency to presumption; and, while ten thousand voices demanded the attle, Belisarius dissembled his knowledge, that in the hour of trial he must depend on the firmness of three hun. dred veterans. The next morning the Bulgarian cavalry advanced to the charge. But they heard the shouts of multitudes, they beheld the arms and discipline of the front; they were assaulted on the flanks by two ambuscades which rose from the woods; their foremost warriors fell by the hand of the aged hero and his guards; and the swiftness of their evolutions was rendered useless by the close attack and rapid pursuit of the Romans. In this action (so speedy was their flight) the Bulgarians lost only four hun. dred horse; but Constantinople was saved; and Zabergan, who felt the hand of a master, withdrew to a respectful distance. But his friends were numerous in the councils of the emperor, and Belisarius obeyed with reluctance the commands of envy and Justinian, which forbade him to achieve the deliverance of his country. On his return to the city, the people, still conscious of their danger, accompanied his triumph with acclamations of joy and gratitude, which were imputed as a crime to the victorious general. But when he entered the palace, the courtiers were silent, and the emperor, after a cold and thankless embrace, dismissed him to mingle with the train of slaves. Yet so deep was the impression of his glory on the minds of men, that Justinian, in the seventy-seventh year of his age, was encouraged to advance near forty miles from the capital, and to inspect in person the restoration of the long wall. The Bulgarians wasted the summer in the plains of Thrace; but they were inclined to peace by the failure of their rash attempts on Greece and the Chersonesus. A menace of killing their prisoners, quickened the payment of heavy ransoms; and the departure of Zabergan was hastened by the report, that double-prowed vessels were built on the Danube to intercept his passage. The danger was soon forgotten; and a vain question, whether their sovereign had shown more wisdom or weakness, amused the idleness of the city.” About two years after the last victory of Belisarius, the emperor returned from a Thracian journey of health, or business, or devotion. Justinian was afflicted by a pain in his head; and his private entry countenanced the rumor of his death. Before the third hour of the day, the bakers'
* A still greater number was consumed by famine in the southern provinces, without (*xros) the Ionian Gulf. Acorns were used in the place of bread. Procopius had seen a deserted orphan suckled by a she-goat. Seventeen passengers were lodged, murdered, and eaten, by two women, who were detected and slain by the eighteenth, &c.” * Quinta regio Piceni est: quondam uberrimae multitudinis, ccclx. millia Picentium in fidem P R. venere (Plin. Hist Natur. iii. 18). In the time of Vespasian, this ancient population was already diminished. * Perhaps fifteen or sixteen millions. Procopius (Annecdot. c. 18), computes that Africa lost five millions, that Italy was thrice as extensive, and that, the depopulation was in a larger proportion. But his reckoning is inflamed by passion, and clouded with uncertainty. * In the decay of these military schools, the satire of Procopius (Anecdot. c. 24, Aleman, pp. 102, 103) is confirmed and illustrated by Agathias (l. v. p. 159), who cannot be rejected as a hostile witness.
* Denina considers that greater evil was inflicted upon Italy by the Grecian reconq}est than by any other invasion. Revoluz. d’Italia, t. i. i. v. p. 247.— M.
i Zabergau was king of the Cutrigours, a tribe of Huns, who were neither Bulgarians nor Sclavonians. St. Martin, Vol. ix. pp. 408-420.-M.
* The distance from Constantinople to Melanthias, Villa Caesariana (Ammian. Marcellin. xxx. 11), is variously fixed at 102 or 140 stadia (Suidas, tom. ii. pp. 522, 523. Aga hias, l. v. p. 158), or xviii., or xix. miles (Itineraria, pp. 138,230, 323,332, and Wesseling's Observations). The first xii. miles, as far as Rhegium, were paved by Justinian, who built a bridge ever a morass or gullet between a lake and the sea (Procop. de Edif. l. iv. c. 8).
* The Atyras (Pompon. Mela, l. ii. c. 2, p. 169, edit. Voss). At the river's mouth, a town or castle of the same name was fortified by Justinian (Procop. de Edif. l. iv. c. 2. Itinerar. p. 570, and Wesseling).
* The Bulgarian war, and the last victory of Belisarius, are imperfectly repRosented in the prolix declamation of Agathias (1.5, pp. 154, 174), and the dry Chronicle of Theophanes (pp. 197, 198).
shops were plundered of their bread, the houses were shut, and every citizen, with hope or terror, prepared for the impending tumult. The senators themselves, fearful and suspicious, were convened at the ninth hour; and the praefect received their commands to visit every quarter of the city, and proclaim a general illumination for the recovery of the emperor's health. The ferment subsided; but every accident betrayed the impotence of the government, and the factious temper of the people: the guards were disposed to mutiny as often as their quarters were changed, or their pay was withheld : the frequent calamities of fires and earthquakes afforded the opportunities of disorder; the disputes of the blues and greens, of the orthodox and heretics, deenerated into bloody battles; and in the presence of the ersian ambassador, Justinian blushed for himself and for his subjects. Capricious pardon and arbitrary punishment imbittered the irksomeness and discontent of a long reign : a conspiracy was formed in the palace; and, unless we are deceived by the names of Marcellus and Sergius, the most virtuous and the most profligate of the courtiers were associated in the same designs. They had fixed the time of the execution; their rank gave them access to the royal banquet; and their black slaves * were stationed in the vestibule and porticos, to announce the death of the tyrant, and to excite a sedition in the capital. But the indiscretion of an accomplice saved the poor remnant of the days of Justinian. The conspirators were detected and seized, with daggers hidden under their garments: Marcellus died by his own hand, and Sergius was dragged from the sanctuary. Pressed by remorse, or tempted by the hope of safety, he accused two officers of the household of Belisarius; and torture forced them to declare that they had acted according to the secret instructions of their patron." Posterity will not hastily believe that a hero, who, in the vigor of life, had disdained the fairest offers of ambition and revenge, should stoop to the murder of his prince, whom he could not long expect to survive. His followers were impatient to fly; but flight must have been supported by rebellion, and he had lived enough for nature and for glory. Belisarius appeared before the council with less fear than indignation ; after forty years’ service the emperor had prejudged his guilt; and injustice was sanctified by the presence and authority of the patriarch. The life of Belisarius was graciously spared; but his fortunes were sequestered, and, from December to July, he was guarded as a prisoner in his own palace. At length his innocence was acknowledged; his freedom and honors were restored; and death, which might be hastened by resentment and grief, removed him from the world about eight months after his deliverance. The name of Belisarius can never die: but instead of the funeral, the monuments, the statues, so justly due to his memory, I only read, that his treasures, the spoils of the Goths and Vandals, were immediately confiscated by the emperor. Some decent portion was reserved, however, for the use of his widow ; and as Antonina had much to repent, she devoted the last remains of her life and fortune to the foundation of a convent. Such is the simple and genuine narrative of the fall of Belisarius and the ingratitude of Justinian.* That he was deprived of his eyes, and reduced by envy to beg his bread,” “Give a penny to Belisarius the generall ” is a fiction of later times,” which has obtained
* "Ivčovs. . They could scarcely be real Indians; and the AEthiopians, sometimes known by that name, were never used by the aiicients as guards or followers: they were the trifling, though costly objects of female and royal luxury (Terent. Eunuch. act i. Scene ii. Sueton. in August. c. 83, with a good note of Casaubon, in Caligulá, c. 57).
* The * Sergius (Vandal. 1. ii. c. 21, 22. Anecdot. c. 5) and Marcellus (Goth. 1. iii. c.32) are mentioned by Procopius. See Theophanes, pp. 197,201.
* Alemannus. (p. 3) quotes an old Byzantian MS., which has been printed in the Imperium Orientale of Banduri.
* Some words, “the acts of,” or “the crimes of,” appear to have fallen from the text. The omission is in all the editions I have consulted.—M.
68 Of the disgrace and restoration of Belisarius, the genuine original record is preserved in the Fragment of John Malala (tom. ii. pp. 334–243) and the exact Chronicle of Theophanes (pp. 194–204). , Cedrenus (Compend. pp. 387,388) and Zonaras (tom. ii. 1. xiv. p. 69) seem to hesitate between the obsolete truth and the growing falsehood.
09 The source of this idle fable may be derived from a miscellaneous work of the xiith century, the Chiliads of John Tzetzes, a monk t (Basil. 1546, ad calcem Lycophront. Colon. Allobrog. 1614, in Corp. Poet. Graec.). He relates the blindness and beggary of Belisarius in ten vulgar or political verses (Chiliad iii. No. 88. 339-348, in Corp. Poet. Graec. tom. ii. p. 311).
* Exmoua $vãovov kparov, Höða ré utyło,
This moral or romantic tale was imported into Italy with the language and manuscripts of Greece; repeated before the end of the xvth century by Crinitus Pontanus, and Volaterranus ; attacked by Alciat, for the honor of the law ; and
* Le Beau, following Alemannus, conceives that Belisarius was confounded with John of Cappadocia, who was thus reduced to beggary (vol. ix. pp. 58,449). Lord Mahon has, with considerable learning, and on the authority of a yet unquoted writer of the xith century, endeavored to re-establish the old tradition. I eannot acknowledge that I have been convinced, and am inclined to subscribe to the theory of Le Beau.—M. , , f l know not where Gibbon found Tzetzes to be a monk; I suppose he considered his bad yerses a proof of his monachism. Compare the preface of Gerbe—ius in Kiesling's edition of Tzetzes.—M.