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494 Conquests or The Aetssinians. [cm. xi.n
by religious zeal. The Jews, powerful and active in exile, had seduced the mind of Dunaan, prince of the Homerites. They urged him to retaliate the persecution inflicted by the imperial laws on their unfortunate brethren: some Roman merchants were injuriously treated; and several Christians of Negra* were honoured with the crown of martyrdom.f The churches of Arabia implored the protection of the Abyssinian monarch. The Negus passed the Eed Sea with a fleet and army, deprived the Jewish proselyte of bis kingdom and life, and extinguished a race of princes, who had ruled above two thousand years the sequestered region of myrrh and frankincense. The conqueror immediately an
remained subject to the parent country. After the fall of Jerusalem, many of the dispersed Jews fixed their abodes in Arabia, and formed several petty independent states. Kindred religion preserved relations of amity between them and their neighbours, the Homerites. But, when the latter, after the conversion of Abyssinia by Frumentius, embraced the Christian faith, jealousy and aversion succeeded to cordiality and friendship. In the time of Justinian (Bruce says Justin) an Abyssinian named Karwaryat or Aryat, by the Arabians, and Aretas by the Greeks, was the Christian chief in Najiran. Seeking probably to gain proselytes to bis creed, he fell into the hands of Phineas, the Jewish king of Yathreb, and with ninety companions or disciples, perished in a pit of fire. His son, of the same name, and the Christians of Najiran, appealed to the Greek emperor for protection and redress. Justinian, unable to spare any forces for that purpose, sent his embassy to Caled, the Nagasch of Abyssinia, who ordered Abreha, his governor in Yemen, to employ the army, under his command, in this holy war. Phineas was defeated and the Christians secured from farther persecution. But no Jewish kingdoms were destroyed. They and the Homerites still subsisted till they were overthrown by Persia and then subdued by Mahomet. This narrative combines consistently in one, what the Greek histories, which Gibbon followed in different parts of this chapter, divide into two perplexed and contradictory transactions. The name of Aretas is introduced by thoil in such distant situations and opposite circumstances, that it appears to designate two separate persons. Yet there can have been but one. The Byzantine authors evidently wrote what they heard vaguely reported, while in Abyssinia authentic records were kept.—Ed.]
* The city of Negra, or Nag'ran, in Yemen, is surrounded with palm-trees, and stands in the high-road between Saana the capital, and Mecca; from the former ten, from the latter twenty, days' journey of a caravan of camels. (Abulfeda, Des>cript. Arabise, p. 52.)
+ The martyrdom of St. Arethas, prince of Negra, and his three hundred and forty companions, is embellished in the legends of Metaphrastes and Nicephorus Callistus, copied by Baronius, (a.d. 622, No. 22—66; A.d. 523, No. 16—29,) and refuted, with obscure diligence, by Basnage, (Hist, des Juifs, tom, xii, 1. 8, c. 2, p. 333—348,) who investigates the state of the Jews in Arabia and ^Ethiopia.
A.D. 533.] THEIR ALLIANCE WITH JUSTINIAN. 495
nounced the victory of the gospel, requested an orthodox patriarch, and so warmly professed his friendship to the Roman empire, that Justinian. was flattered hy the hope of diverting the silk-trade through the channel of Abyssinia, and of exciting the forces of Arabia against the Persian king. Nonnosus, descended from a family of ambassadors, was named by the emperor to execute this important commission. He wisely declined the shorter, but more dangerous road through the sandy deserts of Nubia; ascended the Nile, embarked on the Red Sea, and safely landed at the African port of Adulis. From Adulis to the royal city of Axume is no more than fifty leagues, in a direct line; but the winding passes of the mountains detained the ambassador fifteen days; and as he traversed the forests, he saw, and vaguely computed, about five thousand wild elephants. The capital, according to his report, was large and populous; and the village of Axume is still conspicuous by the regal coronations, by the ruins of a Christian temple, and by sixteen or seventeen obelisks inscribed with Grecian characters.* But the Negus gave audience in the open field, seated on a lofty chariot, which was drawn by four elephants superbly caparisoned, and surrounded by his nobles and musicians. He was clad in a linen garment and cap, holding in his hand two javelins and a light shield; and, although his nakedness was imperfectly covered, he displayed the barbaric pomp of gold chains, collars, and bracelets, richly adorned with pearls and precious stones. The ambassador of Justinian knelt; the Negus raised him from the ground, embraced Nonnosus, kissed the seal, perused the letter, accepted the Roman alliance, and, brandishing his weapons, denounced implacable war against the worshippers of fire. But the proposal of the silk-trade was eluded; and notwithstanding the assurances, and perhaps the wishes, of the Abyssinians, these hostile menaces evaporated without effect. The Homerites
* Alvarez (in Kamusio, tom. i, fol. 219, vers. 221, vers.) saw the flourishing state of Axume in the year 1520—luogo molto buono o grande. It was ruined in the same century by the Turkish invasion. No more than one hundred houses remain; but the memory of its past greatness is preserved by the regal coronation. (Ludolph. Hist. et Comment . 1. 2, c. 11.) [Axume was the Greek form of Agzaab, which, in the language of the shepherd tribes, denoted their chief town. (Bruce ii . 387.) It was burnt in 1535 by the Moors of Adel, against whom David, then king of Abyssinia, carried on an unsuccessful war.—Ed.]
THE HOMEEITES OF YEMEN. [CH. XXILT.
were unwilling to abandon their aromatic groves, to explore & sandy desert, and to encounter, after all their fatigues, a formidable nation from 'whom they had never received any
fersonal injuries. Instead of enlarging his conquests, the ing of Ethiopia was incapable of defending his possessions. Abrahab, the slave of a Eoman merchant of Adults, assumed the sceptre of the Homerites; the troops of Africa were seduced by the luxury of the climate; and Justinian solicited the friendship of the usurper, who honoured, with a slight tribute, the supremacy of his prince. After a long series of prosperity, the power of Abrahah was overthrown before the gates of Mecca; his children were despoiled by the Persian conqueror; and the Ethiopians were finally expelled from the continent of Asia. This narrative of obscure and remote events is not foreign to the decline and fall of the Roman empire. If a Christian power had been maintained in Arabia, Mahomet must have been crushed in his cradle, and Abyssinia would have prevented a revolution which has changed the civil and religious state of the world.*
CHAPTER XLIII.—Rebellions Oi Afrioa.—Restoration or The
GOTHIC KINGDOM BY TOTILA.—LOSS AND RECOVERY OF ROME.— FINAL CONQUEST OF ITALY BY NARSES.—EXTINCTION OF THE OSTROGOTHS.— DEFEAT OF THE FRANKS AND ALLEMANNI.— LAST VICTORY,
DISGRACE, AND DEATH OF BELISARIUS DEATH AND CHARACTER OF
JUSTINIAN.—COMETS, EARTHQUAKES, AND PLAGUE.
The review of the nations from the Danube to the Nile has exposed on every side the weakness of the Romans; and our wonder is reasonably excited that they should presume to enlarge an empire, whose ancient limits they were incapable of defending. But the wars, the conquests, and the
* The revolutions of Yemen in the sixth century must be collected from Procopius (Persic. 1. 1, c . 19, 20); Theophanes Byzant. (apud Phot. cod. 63, p. 80); St. Theophanes (in Chronograph, p. 144, 145. 188, 189. 206, 207, who is full of strange blunders); Pocock (Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 62. 65); D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orientale, p. 12. 477); and Sale's Preliminary Discourse and Koran (c. 105). The revolt of Abrahah is mentioned by Procopius; and his fall, though clouded with miracles, is an historical fact. [Resting on statements so much at variance with more authentic records, the contingency by which Gibbon supposed that the success of Mahomet might have been pre
triumphs, of Justinian, are the feeble and pernicious effort! of old age, which exhaust the remains of strength, and accelerate the decay of the powers of life. He exulted in the glorious act of restoring Africa and Italy to the republic; but the calamities which followed the departure of Belisarius betrayed the impotence of the conqueror, and accomplished the ruin of those unfortunate countries.
From his new acquisitions, Justinian expected that hia avarice, as well as pride, shov'd be richly gratified. A rapacious minister of the finances closely pursued the footsteps of Belisarius; and as the old registers of tribute had been burnt by the Vandals, he indulged his fancy in a liberal calculation and arbitrary assessment of the wealth of Africa.* The increase of taxes, which were drawn away by a distant sovereign, and a general resumption of the patrimony or crown lands, soon dispelled the intoxication of the public joy: but the emperor was insensible to the modest complaints of the people, till he was awakened and alarmed by the clamours of military discontent. Many of the Roman soldiers had married the widows and daughters of the Vandals. As their own, by the double right of conquest and inheritance, they claimed the estates which Grenseric had assigned to his victorious troops. They heard with disdain the cold and selfish representations of their officers, that the liberality of Justinian had raised them from a savage or servile condition; that they were already enriched by the spoils of Africa, the treasure, the slaves, and the moveables, of the vanquished barbarians; and that the ancient and lawful patrimony of the emperors would be applied only to the support of that government on which their own safety and reward must ultimately depend. The
vented was quite ideal. The progress of the Arabian is attributed by Bruce to other causes, which will be considered in their proper place. —Ed.] * For the troubles of Africa, I neither have nor
desire another guide than Procopius, whose eye contemplated tha image, and whose ear collected the reports, of the memorable events ol his own times. In the second book of the Vandalic war he relates the revolt of Stotzas (c. 14—24), the return of Belisarius (c. 15), the victory of Germanus (c. 16—18—), the second administration of Solomon (c. 19—21), the government of Sergius (c. 22, 23), of Areobindus (c. 24), the tyranny and death of Gontharis (c. 25—28); nor can I discern any symptoms of flattery or malevolence in his variou* portraits.
VOL. IT. 2 K
498 THE TROUBLES OF £CH. XXIII.
mutiny was secretly inflamed by a thousand soldiers, for the most part Heruli, who had imhibed the doctrines, and were instigated by the clergy, of the Arian sect; and the cause of perjury and rebellion was sanctified by the dispensing powers of fanaticism. The Arians deplored the ruin of their church, triumphant above a century in Africa; and they were justly provoked by the laws of the conqueror, which interdicted the baptism of their children, and the exercise of all religious worship. Of the Vandals chosen by Belisarius, the far greater part, in the honours of the Eastern service, forgot their country and religion. But a generous band of four hundred obliged the mariners, when they were in sight of the isle of Lesbos, to alter their course: they touched on Peloponnesus, ran ashore on a desert coast of Africa, and boldly erected, on mount Aurasius, the standard of independence and revolt. While the troops of the province disclaimed the commands of their superiors, a conspiracy was formed at Carthage against the life of Solomon, who filled with honour the place of Belisarius; and the Arians had piously resolved to sacrifice the tyrant at the foot of the altar, during the awful mysteries of the festival of Easter. Fear or remorse restrained the daggers of the assassins, but the patience of Solomon emboldened their discontent; and at the end of ten days, a furious sedition was kindled in the circus, which desolated Africa above ten years. The pillage of the city, and the indiscriminate slaughter of its inhabitants, were suspended only by darkness, sleep, and intoxication: the governor, with seven companions, among whom was the historian Procopius, escaped to Sicily: two-thirds of the army were involved in the guilt of treason; and eight thousand insurgents, assembling in the fields of Bulla, elected Stotzas for their chief, a private soldier, who possessed, in a superior degree, the virtues of a rebel. Under the mask of freedom, his eloquence could lead, or at least impel, the passions of his equals. He raised himself to a level with Belisarius, and the nephew of the emperor, by daring to encounter them in the field; and the victorious generals were compelled to acknowledge that Stotzas deserved a purer cause and a more legitimate command. Vanquished in battle, he dexterously employed the arts of negotiation; a Roman army was seduced from their allegiance, and the chiefs,