[ocr errors][merged small]

.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 Belisarius, 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 camp of the preceding day, and would nave 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, shewed 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 sedition of Constantinople amply discharged his obligations to the emperor. Whe^ the African war beA.D. 529-532.] HE CONDUCTS THE AEBICAN WAE. 365

came the topic of popular discourse and secret deliberation, each of the Roman generals was apprehensive, rather than ambitious, of the dangerous honour; but as soon as Justinian had declared his preference of superior merit, their envy was rekindled by the unanimous applause which was given to the choice of Belisarius. The temper of the Byzantine 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 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 armour, 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

and fortune. Tour hundred of the bravest of the Heruli marched under the banner of the faithful and active Pharas; their untractable valour was more highly prized than the tame submission of the Greeks and Syrians; and of such importance was it deemed to procure a reinforcement of six hundred Massagetse, or Huns,f that they were allured by

* See the birth and character of Antonina, in the Anecdotes, c. 1, and the notes of Alemanus, p. 3. + [The Massagetae were

not Huns. They appear in history, driving the Celtic Kymri . westward, many ages before any Huns were heard of. (See Herodotus, 1.1, c. 6. 15. 16; 1. 4, c. 1. 11. 12; but these chapters must be studied carefully.) They were a section of the great Gothic race. The prefix to their generic name was an early denotement of united strength, which may be traced through all language down to our modern word



personal ambition of favour

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

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 Iaauria, yielded to the more prevailing use and reputation of the cavalry; and the Scythian bow was the weapon on which the armies of Home 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 heavy-armed 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 bowstring to their breast,f and dismissed a feeble and lifeless arrow. But 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 accus

maas and its correlatives in other tonguas. After they entered Europe, their name was latinized into Moesi, and being found by the Romans along the southern bank of the Danube, from them the province was denominated Mcesia. We know that in Ovid's time it was peopled by Goths, and they remained there in the days of Ulphilas, when the language, into which he translated the Scriptures, was consequently called the Mceso-Gothic. Hence the erroneous idea has been entertained, that the people were so designated from the country in which they lived, instead of having originally given to it their name. This was either applied by Procopius to some of them who were serving in the army of Belisarius; or he confounded with them a mercenary band of Huns from the opposite bank of the Danube. But the fables which he relates of them, belong to other tribes and earlier times.—En.] * See the preface of Procopius. The enemies of archery might quote the reproaches of Diomede (Iliad, X. 385, &c.), and the permittere vulnera ventis of Lucan (8. 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 warriors who insulted them as women or children. + Neupj)v pkv paZy iriXaatv,

To%(fi li otSrjpov. (Iliad, A. 123.) How concise—how just—how beautiful is the whole picture! I see the attitudes of the archer—I hear the twanging of the bow,

jSiog, vivpijli piy la%iv aXro £' b'icros.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

toined 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 bowstring not to the breast, but to the right ear, firm indeed must be the armour 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 harbour 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 military 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. The 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 hun

* The text appears to allow for the largest vessels fifty thousand medimni, or three thousand tons (since the medimnus weighed one hundred and sixty Roman, or one hundred and twenty 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 medimnut. (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. Grsec. tom, iv, p. ii, p. 34.) By reducing the wwmber of ships from five hundred to fifty, and translating ntdifivoi by mines or pounds, Cousin has generously allowed five hundred tons for the whole of the imperial fleet t— Did he never think?

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

dred yhips was ranged in martial pomp before the gardens of the palace. The patriarch pronounced his benediction, the emperor signified his last commands, the general's trumpet gave the signal of departure, and every heart, according to its fears or wishes, explored with anxious curiosity the omens of misfortune and success. The first halt was made at Perinthus or Heraclea, where Belisarius waited five days to receive some Thracian horses, a military gift of his sovereign. From thence the fleet pursued their course through the midst of the Propontis; but, as they struggled to pass the straits of the Hellespont, an unfavourable wind detained thein four days at Abydus, where the general exhibited a memorable lesson of firmness and severity. Two of the Huns, who, in a drunken quarrel, had slain one of their fellow-soldiers, were instantly shewn to the army suspended on a lofty gibbet. The national indignity was resented by their countrymen, who disclaimed the servile laws of the empire, and asserted the free privilege of Scythia, where a small fine was allowed to expiate the hasty sallies of intemperance and anger. Their complaints were specious, their clamours were loud, and the Romans were not averse to the example of disorder and impunity. But the rising sedition was appeased by the authority and eloquence of the general: and he represented to the assembled troops the obligation of justice, the importance of discipline, the rewards of piety and virtue, and the unpardonable guilt of murder, which, in his apprehension, was aggravated rather than excused by the vice of intoxication.* In the navigation from the Hellespont to Peloponnesus, which the Greeks, after the siege of Troy, had performed in four days,t the fleet of Belisarius was guided in their course by hia master-galley, conspicuous in the day by the redness of the sails, and in the night by the torches blazing from the mast-head. It was the duty of the pilots, as they steered between the islands, and turned the capes of Malea and Taenarum, to preserve the just order

* I have read of a Greek legislator, who inflicted a double penalty on the crimes committed in a state of intoxication; but it seems agreed that this was rather a political than a moral law.

+ Or even in three days, since they anchored the first evening in the neighbouring isle of Tenedos : the second day they sailed to Lesbos, the third to the promontory of Eubcea, and on the fourth they reached Argos. (Homer, Odyss. r. 130—183. Wood's Essay on Homer, p. 40—46.) A pirate sailed from the Hellespont to the seaport of Sparta in three days. (Xenophon. Hellen. 1 . 2, c . 1.)

« ForrigeFortsett »