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A.D. 546.] DISTEESS OF THE INHABITANTS.
they were gradually reduced to feed on dead horses, dogs, cats, and mice, and eagerly to snatch the grass, and even the nettles, which grew among the ruins of the city. A crowd of spectres, pale and emaciated, their bodies oppressed with disease, and their minds with despair, surrounded the palace of the governor, urged, with unavailing truth, that it was the duty of a master to maintain his slaves, and humbly requested that he would provide for their subsistence, permit their flight, or command their immediate execution. Bessas replied, with unfeeling tranquillity, that it was impossible to feed, unsafe to dismiss, and unlawful to kill, the subjects of the emperor. Yet the example of a private citizen might have shown his countrymen, that a tyrant cannot withhold the privilege of death. Pierced by the cries of five children, who vainly called on their father for bread, he ordered them to follow his steps, advanced with calm and silent despair to one of the bridges of the Tiber, and covering his face, threw himself headlong into the stream, in the presence of his family and the Roman people. To the rich and pusillanimous, Bessas* sold the permission of departure; but the greatest part of the fugitives expired on the public highways, or were intercepted by the flying parties of Barbarians. In the meanwhile, the artful governor soothed the discontent, and revived the hopes, of the Romans, by the vague reports of the fleets and armies which were hastening to their relief from the extremities of the East. They derived more rational comfort from the assurance that Belisarius had landed at the port; and, without numbering his forces, they firmly relied on the humanity, the courage, and the skill of their great deliverer.
The foresight of Totila had raised obstacles worthy of such an antagonist. Ninety furlongs below the city, in the narrowest part of the river, he joined the two banks by strong and solid timbers in the form of a bridge; on which he erected two lofty towers, manned' by the bravest of his Goths, and profusely stored with missile weapons and
* The avarice of Bessas is not dissembled by Procopius (1 . 3, e. 17. 20). He expiated the loss of Rome by the glorious conquest of Petra (Goth. 1. 4, c. 12): but the same vices followed him from the Tiber to the Phasis (c. 13); and the historian is equally true to the merits and defects of his character. The chastisement which the. author of the romance of Belisaire has inflicted on the oppressor of Rome, is more agreeable to justice than to history.
ATTEMPT Of BELISAEIUS. [CH. XLHI.
engines of offence. The approach of the bridge and towers was covered by a strong and massy chain of iron; and the chain, at either end, on the opposite sides of the Tiber, was defended by a numerous and chosen detachment of archers. But the enterprise of forcing these barriers, and relieving the capital, displays a shining example of the boldness and conduct of Behsarius. His cavalry advanced from the port along the public road, to awe the motions and distract the attention of the enemy. His infantry and provisions were distributed in two hundred large boats; and each boat was shielded by a high rampart of thick planks, pierced with manv small holes for the discharge of missile weapons. In the front, two large vessels were linked together to sustain a floating castle, which commanded the towers of the bridge, and contained a magazine of fire, sulphur, and bitumen. The whole fleet, which the general led in person, was laboriously moved against the current of the river. The chain yielded to their weight, and the enemies who guarded the banks were either slain or scattered. As soon as they touched the principal barrier, the fire-ship was instantly grappled to the bridge; one of the towers, with two hundred Goths, was consumed by the flames; the assailants shouted the victory; and Rome was saved, if the wisdom of Belisarius had not been defeated by the misconduct of his officers. He had previously Bent orders to Bessas to second his operations by a timely sally from the town; and he had fixed his lieutenant, Isaac, by a peremptory command, to the station of the port. But avarice rendered Bessas immoveable; while the youthful ardour of Isaac delivered him into the hands of a superior enemy. The exaggerated rumour of his defeat was hastily carried to the ears of Belisarius: he paused; betrayed in that single moment of his life some emotions of surprise and perplexity; and reluctantly sounded a retreat to save his wife Antonina, his treasures, and the only harbour which he possessed on the Tuscan coast. The vexation of his mind produced an ardent and almost mortal fever; and Rome was left without protection to the mercy or indignation of Totila. The continuance of hostilities had imbittered the national hatred, the Arian clergy was ignominiously driven from Rome; Pelagius, the archdeacon, returned without success from an embassy to the Gothic camp; and a Sicilian bishop, the envoy or nuncio of the pope, was
deprived of both his hands, for daring to utter falsehoods in the service of the church and state.
Famine had relaxed the strength and discipline of the garrison of Rome. They could derive no effectual service from a dying people: and the inhuman avarice of the merchant at length absorbed the vigilance of the governor. Four Isaurian sentinels, while their companions slept, and their officers were absent, descended by a rope, from the wall, and secretly proposed to the Gothic king, to introduce his troops into the city. The offer was entertained with coldness and suspicion; they returned in safety; they twice repeated their visit; the place was twice examined; the conspiracy was known and disregarded; and no sooner had Totila consented to the attempt, than they unbarred the Asinarian gate, and gave admittance to the Goths. Till the dawn of day they halted in order of battle, apprehensive of treachery or ambush; but the troops of Bessas, with their leader, had already escaped; and when the king was pressed to disturb their retreat, he prudently replied, that no. sight could be more grateful than that of a flying enemy. The patricians, who were still possessed of horses, Decius, Basilius, &c., accompanied the governor; their brethren, among whom Olybrius, Orestes, and Maximus are named by the historian, took refuge in the church of St. Peter; but the assertion, that only five hundred persons remained in the capital, inspires some doubt of the fidelity either of his narrative or of his text. As soon as daylight had displayed the entire victory of the Goths, their monarch devoutly visited the tomb of the prince of the apostles; but while he prayed at the altar, twenty-five soldiers, and sixty citizens, were put to the sword in the vestibule of the temple. The archdeacon Pelagius* stood before him with the gospels in his hand. "O Lord, be merciful to your servant." "Pelagius," said Totila with an insulting smile, "your pride now condescends to become a suppliant." "I am a suppliant," replied the prudent archdeacon. "God has now
* During the long exile, and after the death of Vigilius, the Roman church was governed, at first by the archdeacon, and at length (a.d. 555) by the pope Pelagius, who was not thought guiltless of the sufferings of his predecessor. See the original lives of the popes, under the name of Anastasius (Muratori, Script. Her. Italicarum, tom. iii, P. 1, p. 130, 131), who relates several curious incidents of the sieges of Rome and the wars of Italy.
made us your subjects, and as your subjects we are entitled to your clemency." At his humble prayer, the lives of the Eomans were spared: and the chastity of the maids and matrons was preserved inviolate from the passions of the hungry soldiers. But they were rewarded by the freedom of pillage, after the most precious spoils had been reserved for the royal treasury. The houses of the senators were plentifully stored with gold and silver; and the avarice of Bessas had laboured with so much guilt and shame for the benefit of the conqueror. In this revolution, the sons and daughters of Roman consuls tasted the misery which they had spurned or relieved, wandered in tattered garments through the streets of the city,- and begged their bread, perhaps without success, before the gates of their hereditary mansions. The riches of Rusticiana, the daughter of Symmachus and widow of Boethius, had been generously devoted to alleviate the calamities of famine. But the Barbarians were exasperated by the report, that she had prompted the people to overthrow the statues of the great Theodoric; and the life of that venerable matron would have been sacrificed to his memory, if Totila had not respected her birth, her virtues, and even the pious motive of her revenge. The next day he pronounced two orations, to congratulate and admonish his victorious Goths, and to reproach the senate, as the vilest of slaves, with their perjury, folly, and ingratitude; sternly declaring, that their estates and honours were justly forfeited to the companions of his arms. Yet he consented to forgive their revolt, and the senators repaid his clemency by dispatching circular letters to their tenants and vassals in the provinces of Italy, strictly to enjoin them to desert the standard of the Greeks, to cultivate their lands in peace, and to learn from their masters the duty of obedience to a Gothic sovereign. Against the city which had so long delayed the course of his victories, he appeared inexorable: one-third of the walls, in different parts, were demolished by his command; fire and engines prepared to consume, or subvert, the most stately works of antiquity: and the world was astonished by the fatal decree, that Rome should be changed into a pasture for cattle. The firm and temperate remonstrance of Belisarius suspended the execution; he warned the Barbarian not to sully his fame by the destruction of those monuments, which were
the glory of the dead, and the delight of the living; and Totila was persuaded, by the advice of an enemy, to preserve Eome as the ornament of his kingdom, or the fairest pledge of peace and reconciliation. When he had signified to the ambassadors of Belisarius, his intention of sparing the city, he stationed an army at the distance of one hundred and twenty furlongs, to observe the motions of the Roman general. With the remainder of his forces, he marched into Lucania and Apulia, and occupied, on the summit of mount Garganus,* one of the camps of Hannibal.f The senators were dragged in his train, and afterwards confined in the fortresses of Campania: the citizens, with their wives and children, were dispersed in exile; and during forty days Eome was abandoned to desolate and dreary solitude. J
The loss of Rome was speedily retrieved by an action, to which, according to the event, the public opinion would apply the names of rashness or heroism. After the departure of Totila, the Roman general sallied from the port at the head of a thousand horse, cut in pieces the enemy who opposed his progress, and visited with pity and reverence the vacant space of the eternal city. Resolved to maintain a station so conspicuous in the eyes of mankind, he summoned the greatest part of his troops to the standard which he erected on the Capitol: the old inhabitants were recalled by the love of their country and the hopes of food; and the keys of Rome were sent a second time to the emperor Justinian. The walls, as far as they had been demolished by the Goths, were repaired with rude and dissimilar materials; the ditch was restored; iron spikes§ were profusely
* Mount Garganus, now Monte St. Angelo, in the kingdom of Naples, runs three hundred stadia into the Hadriatie sea (Strab. 1 . 6, p. 436), and in the darker ages, was illustrated by the apparition, miracles, and church of St. Michael the archangel. Horace, a native of Apulia or Lucania, had seen the elms and oaks of Garganus labouring and bellowing with the north wind that blew on that lofty coast. (Carm. 2. 9. Epist. 2. 1. 201.) + I cannot ascertain
this particular camp of Hannibal; but the Punic quarters were long and often in the neighbourhood of Arpi. (T. Liv. 22. 9. 12; 24. 3, &c.)
X Totila .... Romam ingreditur . . . . ac evertit muros, domos aliquantas igni comburens, ac omnes Romanorum res in prsedam accepit, hos ipsos Romanos in Campaniam captivos abduxit. Post quam devastationem, xl aut amplius dies, Roma fuit ita desolata, ut nemo ibi hominum, nisi (nullwl) bestise morarentur. (Marcellin. in Chron. p. 54.) § The triluli are small engines with four
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