Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

and regular intervals of such a multitude of ships ; as the wind was fair and moderate, their labours were not unsuccessful, and the troops were safely disembarked at Methone on the Messenian coast, to repose themselves for awhile after the fatigues of the sea. In this place they experienced how avarice invested with authority, may sport with the lives of thousands which are bravely exposed for the public service. According to military practice, the bread or biscuit of the Eomans was twice prepared in the oven, and a diminution of one-fourth was cheerfully allowed for the loss of weight. To gain this miserable profit, and to save the expense of wood, the prefect John of Cappadocia had given orders that the flour should be slightly baked by the same fire which warmed the baths of Constantinople: and when the sacks were opened, a soft and mouldy paste was distributed to the army. Such unwholesome food, assisted by the heat of the climate and season, soon produced an epidemical disease, which swept away five hundred soldiers. Their health was restored by the diligence of Belisarius, who provided fresh bread at Methone, and boldly expressed his just and humane indignation: the emperor heard his complaint; the general was praised; but the minister was not punished. From the port of Methone, the pilots steered along the western coast of Peloponnesus, as far as the isle of Zacynthus or Zante, before they undertook the voyage (in their eyes a most arduous voyage) of one hundred leagues over the Ionian sea. As the fleet was surprised by a calm, sixteen days were consumed in the slow navigation; and even the general would have suffered the intolerable hardship of thirst, if the ingenuity of Antonina had not preserved the water in glass bottles, which she buried deep in the sand in a part of the ship impervious to the rays of the sun. At length the harbour of Caueana,* on the southern side of Sicily, afforded a secure and hospitable shelter. The Gothic officers, who governed the island in the name of the daughter and grandson of Theodoric, obeyed their imprudent orders, to receive the troops of Justinian like friends and allies; provisions were liberally supplied, the cavalry was remounted,t and Procopius soon returned from Syra

* Caueana, near Camariua, is at least fifty miles (three hundred and fifty or four hundred stadia) from Syracuse. (Cluver. Sicilia Antiqus, p. 191.) + Procopius, Gothic. 1. 1, o. 3. Tibi tollit hinnitunj

TOI. IV. 2 B

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

cuse with correct information of the state and designs of the Vandals. His intelligence determined Belisarius to hasten his operations, and his wise impatience was seconded by the winds. The fleet lost sight of Sicily, passed before the isle of Malta, discovered the capes of Africa, ran along the coast with a strong gale from the north-east, and finally cast anchor at the promontory of Caput Vada, about five days' journey to the south of Carthage.*

If Gelimer had been informed of the approach of the enemy he must have delayed the conquest of Sardinia, for the immediate defence of his person and kingdom.

A detachment of five thousand soldiers, and one hundred and twenty galleys, would have joined the remaining forces of the Vandals; and the descendant of Genseric might have surprised and oppressed a fleet of deep-laden transports, incapable of action, and of light brigantines, that seemed only qualified for flight.f Belisarius had secretly trembled when he overheard his soldiers, in the passage, emboldening each other to confess their apprehensions; if they were once on shore, they hoped to maintain the honour of their arms; but if they should be attacked at sea, they did not blush to acknowledge that they wanted courage to contend at the same time with the winds, the waves, and the barbarians. J The knowledge of their sentiments decided

apta quadrigis equa, in the Sicilian pastures of Grosphus. (Horat. Cairo. 2. 16). Agragas .... magnanimum quondam generator equorum. (Virg. .iEneid, 3. 704.) Thero's horses, whose victories are immortalized by Pindar, were bred in this country. [It does not appear, that Sicily was noted for its breed of horses in later times. Its fertility seems to have been more profitably devoted to growing corn, fruits, and table luxuries for the Romans. Even at an earlier period, as it will be found stated by Gibbon himself, in a Note to ch. 45, the steeds of Dionysius of Syracuse, which gained for him so many victories in the Olympic games, consisted, not of Sicilian, but cf Venetian horses. In the Ode here quoted, Horace tells his friend indeed, that "SicuUe vaccse" lowed around him, but not that the steeds, trained to draw his four-yoked chariot, neighed in his " Sicilian pastures."—Ed.]

* The Caput Vada of Procopius, (where Justinian afterwards founded a city—de Edific. 1. 6, c. 6,) is the promontory of Ammon in Strabo, the Brachodes of Ptolemy, the Capaudia of the moderns, a long narrow slip that runs into the sea. (Shaw's Travels, p. 111.) + [These "light Brigantines" were undoubtedly the Naves Libv/rnse, which have been often referred to, as the favourite and most serviceable portion of the Roman marine force. Gibbon has here spoken of them too contemptuously.—Ed.] + A centurion of Mark Antony expressed,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Belisarius to seize the first opportunity of landing them on the coast of Africa, and he prudently rejected, in a council of war, the proposal of sailing with the fleet and army into the port of Carthage. Three months after their departure from Constantinople, the men and horses, the arms and military stores, were safely disembarked, and five soldiers were left as a guard on board each of the ships, which were disposed in the form of a semicircle. The remainder of the troops occupied a camp on the sea-shore, which they fortified according to ancient discipline, with a ditch and rampart; and the discovery of a source of fresh water, while it allayed the thirst, excited the superstitious confidence, of the Romans. The next morning, some of the neighbouring gardens were pillaged; and Belisarius, after chastising the offenders, embraced the slight occasion, but the decisive moment, of inculcating the maxims of justice, moderation, and genuine policy.—" When I first accepted the commission of subduing Africa, I depended much less," eaid the general, "on the numbers, or even the bravery, of my troops, than upon the friendly disposition of the natives, and their immortal hatred to the Vandals. You alone can deprive me of this hope: if you continue to extort by rapine what might be purchased for a little money, such acts of violence will reconcile these implacable enemies, and unite them in a just and holy league against the invaders of their country." These exhortations were enforced by a rigid discipline, of which the soldiers themselves soon felt and praised the salutary effects. The inhabitants, instead of deserting their houses, or hiding their corn, supplied the Romans with a fair and liberal market: the civil officers of the province continued to exercise their functions in the name of Justinian; and the clergy, from motives of conscience and interest, assiduously laboured to promote the cause of a Catholic emperor. The small town of Sullecte,* one day's journey from the camp, had the honour of being foremost to open her gates, and to resume her ancient

though in a more manly strain, the same dislike to the sea and to naval combats. (Plutarch in Antonio, p. 1730, edit. Hen. Steph.)

* Sullecte is perhaps the Turris Hannibalis, an old building, now as large as the tower of London. The march of Belisarius to Leptis, Adrumetum, &c., is illustrated by the campaign of Caesar, (Hirtius de Bello Afrioano, with the Analyse of Guiehardt,) and Shaw's Travels,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

allegiance: the larger cities of Leptis and Adrumetum imitated the example of loyalty as soon as Belisarius ap

Grasse, a palace of the Vandal kings, at the distance of fifty miles from Carthage. The weary Romans indulged themselves in the refreshment of shady groves, cool fountains, and delicious fruits; and the preference which Procopius allows to these gardens over any that he had seen, either in the East or West, may be ascribed either to the taste or the fatigue of the historian. In three generations prosperity and a warm climate had dissolved the hardy virtue of the Vandals, who insensibly became the most luxurious of mankind. In their villas and gardens, which might deserve the Persian name of paradise * they enjoyed a cool and elegant repose; and, after the daily use of the bath, the barbarians were seated at a table profusely spread with the delicacies of the land and sea. Their silken robes, loosely flowing, after the fashion of the Medes, were embroidered with gold: love and hunting were the labours of their life; and their vacant hours were amused by pantomimes, chariot-races, and the music and dances of the theatre.

In a march of ten or twelve days, the vigilance of Belisarius was constantly awake and active against his unseen enemies, by whom, in every place, and at every hour, he might suddenly be attacked. An officer of confidence and merit, John the Armenian, led the vanguard of three hundred horse; six hundred Massaget® covered at a certain distance the left flank; and the whole fleet, steering along the coast, seldom lost sight of the army, which moved each day about twelve miles, and lodged in the evening in strong camps or in friendly towns. The near approach of the Romans to Carthage filled the mind of Gelimer with anxiety and terror. He prudently wished to protract the war tiil his brother, with his veteran troops, should return from the conquest of Sardinia; and he now lamented the rash policy

(p. 105—113,) in the same country. * HapaSiioog (caXXurrof

airdvrwv i)v iJ/uiTf to/up. The paradises, a name and fashion adopted from Persia, may be represented by the royal garden of Ispahan. (Voyage d'Olearius, p. 774.) See, in the Greek romances, their most perfect model. (Longus, Pastoral. 1. 4, p. 99.101. Achilles Tatius, L 1, p. 22, 23.)

[graphic]

opposition as far as

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

of his ancestors, who, by destroying the fortifications of Africa, had left him only the dangerous resource of risking a battle in the neighbourhood of his capital. The Tandal conquerors, from their original number of fifty thousand, were multiplied, without including their women and children, to one hundred and sixty thousand fighting men: and such forces, animated with valour and union, might have crushed, at their first landing, the feeble and exhausted bands of the Roman general. But the friends of the captive king were more inclined to accept the invitations, than to resist the progress, of Belisarius; and many a proud barbarian disguised his aversion to war under the more specious name of his hatred to the usurper. Yet the authority and promises of Gelimer collected a formidable army, and his plans were concerted with some degree of military skill. An order was dispatched to his brother Ammatas, to collect all the forces of Carthage, and to encounter the van of the Soman army at the distance of ten miles from the city: his nephew Gibamund, with two thousand horse, was destined to attack their left, when the monarch himself, who silently followed, should charge their rear, in a situation which excluded them from the aid, or even the view of their fleet. But the rashness of Ammatas was fatal to himself and his country. He anticipated the hour of the attack, outstripped his tardy followers, and was pierced with a mortal wound, after he had slain with his own hand twelve of his boldest antagonists. His Vandals fled to Carthage; the highway, almost ten miles, was strewed with dead bodies; and it seemed incredible that such multitudes could be slaughtered by the swords of three hundred Romans. The nephew of Gelimer was defeated, after a slight combat, by the six hundred Massagetae: they did not equal the third part of his numbers: but each Scythian was fired by the example of his chief, who gloriously exercised the privilege of his family, by riding foremost and alone to shoot the first arrow against the enemy. In the meanwhile, Gelimer himself, ignorant of the event, and misguided by the windings of the hills, inadvertently passed the Roman army, and reached the scene of action where Ammatas had fallen. He wept the fate of his brother and of Carthage, charged with irresistible fury the advancing squadrons, and might have pursued and .perhaps decided

« ForrigeFortsett »