The Secret History/Part 1

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The Secret History by Procopius
Chapters I - V

Chapter I[edit]

All that has befallen the Roman Nation in its wars up to the present day has been narrated by me, as far as it proved possible, on the plan of arranging all the accounts of its activities in accordance with their proper time and place. Henceforth, however, this plan of composition will be followed by me no longer, for here shall be set down everything that came to pass in every part of the Roman Empire. The reason for this is that it was not possible, as long as the actors were still alive, for these things to be recorded in the way they should have been. For neither was it possible to elude the vigilance of multitudes of spies, nor, if detected, to escape a most cruel death. Indeed, I was unable to feel confidence even in the most intimate of my kinsmen. Nay, more, in the case of many of the events described in the previous narrative I was compelled to conceal the causes which led up to them. It will therefore be necessary for me in this book to disclose, not only those things which have hitherto remained undivulged, but also the causes of those occurrences which have already been described.

As I turn, however, to a new endeavour which is fraught with difficulty and is in fact extraordinarily hard to cope with, being concerned, as it is, with the lives lived by Justinian and Theodora, I find myself stammering and shrinking as far from it as possible, as I weigh the chances that such things are now to be written by me as will seem neither credible nor probable to men of a later generation; and especially when the mighty stream of time renders the story somewhat ancient, I fear lest I shall earn the reputation of being even a narrator of myths and shall be ranked among the tragic poets. but I shall not flinch from the immensity of my task, basing my confidence on the fact that my account will not be without the support of witnesses. For the men of the present day, being witnesses possessing full knowledge of the events in question, will be competent guarantors to pass on to future ages their brief in my good faith in dealing with the facts.

And yet there was still another consideration which very often, when I was eager to undertake my narrative, held me back for a very long time. For I conceived the opinion that for men of future generations such a record as this would be inexpedient, since it will be most advantageous that the blackest deeds shall if possible be unknown to later times, rather than that, coming to the ears of sovereigns, they should be imitated by them. For in the case of the majority of men in power their very inexperience always causes the imitation of the base actions of their predecessors to be easy, and they ever turn with greater ease and facility to the faults committed by the rulers of an earlier time. But after I was brought to write my history of these events by the thought that it will assuredly be clear to those who hereafter shall hold sovereign power that, in the first place, punishment will in all probability overtake them likewise for their misdeeds, just as befell these persons; and, in the second place, that their own actions and characters will likewise be on record for all future time, so that consequently they will perhaps be more reluctant to transgress. For what man of later times would have learned of the licentious life of Semiramis or of the madness of Sardanapalus and Nero, if the records of these things had not been left behind by the writers of their times? And apart from these considerations, in case any should chance to suffer like treatment at the hands of their rulers, this record will not be wholly useless to them. For those who have suffered misfortunes are wont to receive consolation from the thought that not upon themselves alone have cruel disasters fallen. For these reasons, then, I shall proceed to relate, first, all the base deeds committed by Belisarius; and afterwards I shall disclose all the base deeds committed by Justinian and Theodora.

Belisarius had a wife, whom I have had occasion to mention in the previous books; her father and grandfather were charioteers who had given exhibition of their skill in both Byzantium and Thessalonica, and her mother was one of the prostitutes attached to the theatre. This woman, having in her early years lived a lewd sort of a life and having become dissolute in character, not only having consorted much with the cheap sorcerers who surrounded her parents, but also having thus acquired the knowledge of what she needed to know, later became the wedded wife of Belisarius, after having already been the mother of many children. Straightway, therefore, she decided upon being an adulteress from the very start, but she was very careful to conceal this business, not because she was ashamed of her own practices, nor because she entertained any fear so far as her husband was concerned (for she never experienced the slightest feeling of shame for any action whatsoever and she had gained complete control of her husband by means of many tricks of magic), but because she dreaded the punishment the Empress might inflict. For Theodora was all too prone both to storm at her and to shew her teeth in anger. But after she had made her tame and manageable, by rendering services to her in matters of the greatest urgency — having, in the first place, disposed of Silverius in the manner which will be described in the following narrative, and later having brought about the ruin of John the Cappadocian, as related by me in my earlier books — then at last she felt no hesitation in carrying out all manner of wickedness more fearlessly and with no further concealment.

There was a certain youth from Thrace in the household of Belisarius, Theodosius by name, who had been born of ancestors who professed the faith of those called Eunomians. Now when Belisarius was about to embark on the voyage to Libya, he bathed this youth in the sacred bath, from which he lifted him with his own hands, thus making him the adopted child of himself and his wife, as is customary for Christians to make adoptions, and consequently Antonina loved Theodosius, as she naturally would, as being her son through the sacred word, and with very particular solicitude she kept him near herself. And straightway she fell extraordinarily in love with him in the course of this voyage, and having become insatiate in her passion, she shook off both fear and respect for everything both divine and human and had intercourse with him, at first in secret, but finally even in the presence of servants of both sexes. For being by now possessed by this passion and manifestly smitten with love, she could see no longer any obstacle to the deed. And one occasion Belisarius caught them in the very act in Carthage, yet he willingly allowed himself to be deceived by his wife. For though he found them both in an underground chamber and was transported with rage, without either playing the coward or attempting to conceal the deed, remarked "I came down here in order to hide with the aid of the boy the most valuable of our booty, so that it may not get to the knowledge of the Emperor." Now she said this as a mere pretext, but he, appearing to be satisfied, dropped the matter, though he could see that the belt which supported the drawers of Theodosius, covering his private parts, had been loosened. For under compulsion of love for the woman, he would have it that the testimony of his own eyes was absolutely untrustworthy.

Now this wantonness kept growing worse and worse until it had become an unspeakable scandal, and though people in general, observing what was going on, kept silence about it, yet a certain slave-girl named Macedonia, approaching Belisarius in Syracuse, when he had conquered Sicily, and binding her master by the most dread oaths that he would never betray her to her mistress, told him the whole story, adducing as witnesses two lads who were charged with the service of the bedchamber. Upon learning these things, Belisarius ordered certain of his attendants to destroy Theodosius. He, however, learned this in advance and fled to Ephesus. For most of the persons in attendance upon Belisarius, moved by the instability of the man's temper, were more eager to please the wife than to seem to the husband well-disposed towards him, and for this reason they betrayed the command laid upon them at that time touching Theodosius. And Constantinus, observing that Belisarius had become very sorrowful at what had happened, sympathized with him in general and added the remark, "If it were I, I should have destroyed the woman rather than the youth." And when Antonina heard of this, she nourished her anger against him secretly, in order that she might, when occasion offered, display the hatred she bore him. For she had the ways of a scorpion and concealed her wrath in darkness. So not long afterwards, using either magic or beguilement, she persuaded her husband that the accusation of this girl was unsound, and he without delay recalled Theodosius and agreed to hand over Macedonia and the boys to the woman. And they say that she first cut out all their tongues, and then cut them up bit by bit, threw the pieces into sacks, and then without ado cast them into the sea, being assisted throughout in this impious business by one of the servants named Eugenius, the same one who performed the unholy deed upon Silverius. And not long afterwards Belisarius, persuaded by his wife, killed Constantinus also. For at that time fell the affair of Presidius and the daggers, as has been set forth by me in the preceding narrative. For though the man was about to be acquitted, Antonina would not relent until she had punished him for the remark which I have just mentioned. As a result of this act Belisarius became the object of great hostility on the part of both the Emperor and all the Roman notables.

Such was the course of these events. But Theodosius declared that he was not able to come to Italy, where Belisarius and Antonina were then tarrying, unless Photius should be got out of the way. For Photius was by nature prone to be vexed if anyone had more influence than he with any person, and in the case of Theodosius and his associates he chanced to have a just cause to be sorely aggrieved, in that he himself, though a son, was made of no account, while Theodosius enjoyed great power and was acquiring great wealth. For they say that at Carthage and Ravenna together he had plundered as much as one hundred centenaria from the two Palaces, since he chanced to manage these without any associate and with full power. Now when Antonina learned of the decision of Theodosius, she did not cease laying snares for the youth Photius and pursuing him with certain murderous plots, until she succeeded in bringing it about that he departed from there and set out for Byzantium, being no longer able to withstand her snares, and Theodosius came to Italy to join her. There she enjoyed to the full both the attentions of her lover and the simplicity of her husband and later on came to Byzantium in company with both of them. There Theodosius became terrified by the consciousness of his guilt and his mind was in torment. For he thought that he would by no means escape detection altogether, since he saw that the woman was no longer able to conceal her passion nor to let it break out in secret only, but on the contrary did not object either to being or being called outright an adulteress. So once more he repaired to Ephesus and first assuming the tonsure, as was the custom in such cases, enrolled himself among the monks, as they are called. Theodora thereupon became utterly frantic, and changing her dress together with the routine of her life to the mourning mode, she went about through the house moaning constantly, weeping and wailing even when her husband was close at hand and lamenting what a good thing had been lost from her life, how faithful he was, how charming, how gracious, how energetic. Finally, she dragged even her husband into these scenes of lamentation and made him sit there. At any rate the poor man used to weep and call upon the beloved Theodosius. And later he actually went to the Emperor, entreating both him and the Empress, and persuaded him to recall Theodosius as being both for the present and for the future an indispensableº part of his household. But Theodosius declined absolutely to leave the place where he was, asserting that he intended to observe the practice of the monks as steadfastly as possible. Yet this answer proved to be fictitious, his purpose being that as soon as Belisarius should depart from Byzantium, he himself should come secretly to the side of Antonina. And this is exactly what happened.

Chapter II[edit]

For soon Belisarius was despatched with Photius to carry on the war against Chosroes, while Antonina remained in Byzantium, contrary to her previous custom. For in order that the man might not be alone and thus come to himself, and scorning her enchantments might come to think as he ought concerning her, she had taken care to travel all over the world with him. Furthermore, in order that Theodosius might once more have access to her, she took measures to have Photius put out of her way. So she persuaded some of the retinue of Belisarius to torment him constantly and insult him, sparing him not a moment; she herself, meanwhile, by writing practically every day was maintaining a steady attack of slander and was moving everything against the youth. So he in turn, under the compulsion of these measures, decided to resort to slander against his mother, and when a certain person arriving from Byzantium announced that Theodosius was secretly staying with Antonina, he straightway brought him before Belisarius, bidding him to reveal the whole story. And when Belisarius heard the story, he was transported with rage and fell on his face before the feet of Photius and begged him to avenge his father who was suffering unholy treatment from those who, least of all, should do such things. And he said: "O son most beloved, you have no knowledge of what your father was, since while you were still being nourished at the breast, he fulfilled the term of life and left you and you have profited by no portion of his estate; for he was not very fortunate in the matter of possessions. but you were reared under my care, who am only your stepfather, and you are now of such an age that it is your duty to defend me to the utmost when I suffer injustice; and you have risen to the rank of Consul and have acquired such a mass of wealth, my noble boy, that I might justly be called, and indeed might be, both father to you and mother and all your kindred. For it is not by ties of blood, but in very truth by deeds, that men are wont to gauge their affection for one another. The time has come, then, for you not to stand by and see me, in addition to the ruin of my home, also deprived of property in so vast an amount and your own mother fastening upon herself a disgrace so great in the eyes of all mankind. And bear in mind that the sins of women do not fall upon the husbands alone, but affect their children even more; for it will generally be their lot to carry with them a certain reputation to the effect that they resemble their mothers in character. Thus would I have you take counsel concerning me, that I love my wife exceedingly, and if it be granted me to take vengeance upon the corrupter of my home, I shall do her no harm; but while Theodosius lives, I cannot forgive her the accusation against her." Upon hearing all this Photius said that he would indeed assist in everything, but that he feared he might suffer some harm there from, for he decidedly could feel no confidence in the unsteady judgment of Belisarius in matters touching his wife; for many circumstances, and in particular the fate of Macedonia, troubled him. Accordingly the two men swore to each other all the oaths which are the most terrible among the Christians and are in fact so designated by them, that they would never betray each other, even in the presence of dangers threatening their destruction. And so for the present it seemed to them not advisable to undertake the deed, but when Antonina should arrive from Byzantium and Theodosius should go to Ephesus, at that moment Photius was to arrive in Ephesus, where without difficulty he would lay hands upon Theodosius and the money. Now at that time, while they were making the invasion into the land of Persia with the whole army, the affair of John the Cappadocian chanced to be taking place in Byzantium, as has been set forth by me in the preceding narrative. But in the other account one fact was passed over in silence by me through fear — that Antonina had practised deception upon John and his daughter, not without intent, but after giving them the assurance of countless oaths, than which none is accounted more terrible among Christians, at any rate, that she was not acting with any treacherous purpose towards them. So after she had completed this transaction and felt a much greater confidence in the friendship of the Empress, she sent Theodosius to Ephesus and herself, foreseeing no obstacle, set out for the East. And just after Belisarius had captured the fortress of Sisauranon, it was reported to him by someone that she was on the way. Whereupon he, counting all other things as of no importance, led his army back. For it so happened that certain other things too, as related by me previously, had occurred in the army which influenced him to this retreat. This information, however, led him much more quickly to the decision. But, as I said at the beginning of this book, it seemed to me at that time to be dangerous to state all the causes of what had taken place. As a result of this action Belisarius was accused by all Romans as having subordinated the most vital interests of the State to those of his own family. For from the first he was so constrained by the misconduct of his wife that he had been quite unwilling to get to a region as distant as possible from Roman territory, in order that he might be able, as soon as he learned that the woman had come from Byzantium, to turn back and to catch and to punish her immediately. So for this reason he ordered Arethas and his men to cross the Tigris River and they, after having accomplished nothing worthy of mention, departed for home, while as for himself he saw to it that he did not get even one day's march from the Roman boundary. For while the fortress of Sisauranon, if one goes by way of the city of Nisibis, is indeed for an unencumbered traveller more than one day's journey from the Roman boundary, yet by another road it is only half that distance. And yet if he had been willing in the first place to cross the Tigris River with his whole army, I believe that he would have plundered the whole land of Assyria and would have reached the city of Ctesiphon without encountering any opposition whatever, and would have rescued the prisoners from Antioch and all the other Romans who chanced to be there before he finally returned to his native land. Furthermore, he was chiefly responsible for the fact that Chosroes returned home from Colchis in comparative security. And the manner in which this happened I shall straightway make clear. When Chosroes, son of Cabades, made his invasion into the land of Colchis and achieved all those things which have been set forth by me above, including the capture of Petra, it chanced that many of the army of the Medes were destroyed both by the fighting and by the difficult nature of the country. For Lazica, as I have stated, is a country of bad roads and everywhere abounds in precipices. In addition to these difficulties it chanced that a pestilence fell upon the army and many of the soldiers also met their death as a result of their lack of provisions. At this point also certain persons from the land of Persia, who were passing that way, announced that Belisarius had defeated Nabedes in a battle near the city of Nisibis and was moving forward, had taken the fortress of Sisauranon by siege and captured Bleschames and eight hundred horsemen of the Persians, and had sent out another Roman army under Arethas, leader of the Saracens, and that this army had crossed the Tigris River and laid waste that whole country, which had never been plundered before. It happened also that Chosroes had sent an army of Huns against the Armenians who are subjects of the Romans, in order that by reason of their preoccupation with this force the Romans there might take no notice of what was going on in Lazica. Still other messengers brought word that these barbarians had encountered Valerian and the Romans and, upon engaging with them, and having been heavily defeated in battle, had for the most part been destroyed. When the Persians heard these things and, partly because of the miseries which they had suffered in Lazica, and partly because they feared lest they might during the withdrawal chance upon some hostile force among the cliffs and the regions overgrown with thickets and all, in the utter confusion of their forces, be destroyed, had become exceedingly anxious for the safety of their wives and children and native land, then all the loyal element in the Medic army began to heap abuses upon Chosroes, charging him with having, in violation of his oaths and the obligations commonly held to by all mankind, made during a truce an invasion of Roman territory to which he had no claim, and was wronging a State which was ancient and worthy, above all states, of the highest honour, one which he could not possibly overcome in war; and they were on the point of a revolution. Now Chosroes was thoroughly disturbed by this situation, but he found the following remedy for the trouble. For he read to them a letter which the Empress had recently chanced to send to Zaberganes. Now this letter set forth the following: "How devoted I am to you, O Zaberganes, believing you to be loyal to our interests, you know already, since you quite recently came to us on an embassy. You would then be acting in accord with the high opinion I hold of you, if you should persuade King Chosroes to adopt a peaceful attitude toward our State. For in case you do this, I promise that great benefits will accrue to you from my husband, who can be counted upon to carry out no measure whatever without consulting my judgment." When Chosroes had read this to the Persian notables, he reproached any of them who thought that any real State existed when a woman was the administrator, and thus succeeded in checking the vehemence of the men. Yet even so he departed from there in the fear, thinking that the forces of Belisarius would block their way. No hostile force, however, encountered him, and he gladly repaired to his own land.

Chapter III[edit]

When Belisarius had reached Roman territory, he found that his wife had arrived from Byzantium. And he kept her under guard in disgrace, and though he many times set about destroying her, his heart was softened, being vanquished, as it seems to me, by a sort of flaming-hot love. But they say that it was also through her magic arts that he was brought under the control of the woman and immediately undone. Now Photius set off in haste for Ephesus, taking with him as a prisoner one of the eunuchs, Calligonus by name, who acted as a go-between for his mistress, and he on this journey revealed to him under torture all the woman's secrets. But Theodosius, having advance information, fled for safety to the sanctuary of the Apostle John, which is the most holy one there and held in very high honour. Andreas, however, the Chief Priest of Ephesus, accepted a bribe and delivered the man over to Photius. At this point Theodora, being solicitous for Antonina (for she had heard all that had happened to her), summoned Belisarius and her to Byzantium. And Photius, upon hearing this, sent Theodosius into Cilicia where the spearmenº and guards chanced to be passing the winter, instructing the escort to convey this man with the utmost secrecy, and when they reached Cilicia, to keep him in very strictly hidden confinement, giving information to no man where in the world he was. He himself, meanwhile, with Calligonus and the money of Theodosius, which amounted to a rather imposing sum, came to Byzantium. There the Empress made an exhibition before all mankind, shewing that she knew how to requite bloody favours with greater and more unholy gifts. For whereas Antonina had recently laid snares for one enemy for her, the Cappadocian, and had betrayed him, she herself delivered over to Antonina a host of men and brought about their destruction without even a charge having been brought against them. For she first tortured certain intimates of Belisarius and Photius, alleging against them only the fact that they were on friendly terms with these two men, and then so disposed of them that up to this day we do not yet know what their final fate was; others too she punished by banishment, laying this same charge against them. But one of those who had followed Photius to Ephesus, Theodosius by name, though he had attained the dignity of Senator, she stripped of his property and forced him to stand in an underground chamber which was utterly dark, tying his neck to a sort of manger with a rope so short that it was always stretched taut for the man and never hung slack. So the poor wretch stood there continuously at this manger, both eating and sleeping and fulfilling all the other needs of nature, and nothing except braying was needed to complete his resemblance to the ass. And a time amounting to not less than four months was passed by the man in this existence until he was attacked by the disease of melancholy, became violently insane and so finally was released from this confinement and then died. And she forced Belisarius, quite against his will, to become reconciled with his wife Antonina. She then inflicted sundry servile tortures upon Photius, among others combing his back and his shoulders with many lashes and commanded him to tell where in the world Theodosius and the go-between were. But he, though being racked with torture, determined to hold fast to his oath; for though he was a sickly person and had in earlier life been dissolute, yet he had been devoted to the care of his body, having experienced neither wanton treatment nor hardship. At any rate, he disclosed not one of the secrets of Belisarius. At a later time, however, everything which hitherto had remained secret came to light. She also found Calligonus there and handed him over to Antonina. And she summoned Theodosius to Byzantium, and upon his arrival, straightway concealed him in the Palace; and next day, calling Antonina to her, she said "O dearest Patrician, yesterday a pearl fell into my hands, such as no man ever saw. If you wish, I should not begrudge you the sight of this, nay, I shall shew it to you." And she, not comprehending what was going on, begged her earnestly to shew her the pearl. And she brought Theodosius out of the room of one of the eunuchs and shewed him to her. And Antonina was so overjoyed that she at first remained speechless with pleasure, and then she acknowledged that Theodora had done her a great favour, calling her Saviour and Benefactor and Mistress in very truth. And so the Empress detained this Theodosius in the Palace and bestowed upon him luxury and all manner of indulgence, and threatened that she would make him a Roman General after no long time. But a sort of justice forestalled her, for he was seized by an attack of dysentery and removed from the world. Now Theodora had concealed rooms which were completely hidden, being dark and isolated, where no indication of night or day could be observed. There she confined Photius and kept him under guard for a long time. From this place he had the fortune, not once but even twice, to escape and get away. The first time he fled to the Church of the Mother of God, which among the Byzantines is considered most holy, as it indeed was designated in its name, and he sat as a suppliant beside the holy table. Thence she forced him with great violence to rise and once more put him into confinement. And the second time he reached the sanctuary of Sophia, and he suddenly seated himself close to the divine receptacle itself, which the Christians have been wont to reverence above all things. But the woman succeeded in dragging him away even from there. For no inviolable spot ever remained inaccessible to her, but it seemed nothing to her to do violence to any and all sacred things. And not only the populace but also the priests of the Christians, smitten with terror, stood aside and conceded everything to her. So a period of three years was passed by him in this manner of life, but afterwards the prophet Zachariah stood over him in a dream and with oaths, they say, commanded him to flee, promising that he would lend him a hand in this undertaking. Persuaded by this vision he got away from there and escaping detection came to Jerusalem, and though countless persons were searching for him, no man saw the youth, even when he stood before him. There he shaved his head, and by clothing himself in the garb of the monks, as they are called, he succeeded in escaping the punishment of Theodora. But Belisarius had neglected his oath and had chosen in no way to support this man, though he was suffering unholy treatment, as I have said; and so, in all his undertakings thereafter, he naturally found the power of God hostile. For straightway, being sent against the Medes and Chosroes, who were making their third invasion into Roman territory, he was guilty of cowardice. And yet he did seem to have accomplished something of note in having shaken off the war from that quarter. Yet when Chosroes crossed the Euphrates River, captured the populous city of Callinicus which had not a man to defend it, and enslaved many thousand Romans, and when Belisarius was not concerned even to follow up the enemy, he won the reputation of having remained where he was for one of two reasons — either because he was wilfully negligent or else because he was a coward.

Chapter IV[edit]

At about this time another thing also befell him, as follows. The plague which I mentioned in the previous narrative was ravaging the population of Byzantium. And the Emperor Justinian was taken very seriously ill, so that it was even reported that he had died. And this report was circulated by rumour and was carried as far as the Roman army. There some of the commanders began to say that, if the Romans should set up a second Justinian as Emperor over them in Byzantium, they would never tolerate it. But a little later it so fell out that the Emperor recovered, and the commanders of the Roman army began to slander one another. For Peter the General and John whom they called the Glutton declared that they had heard Belisarius and Bouzes say those things which I have just mentioned. The Empress Theodora, declaring that these slighting things which the men had said were directed against her, became quite out of patience. So she straightway summoned them all to Byzantium and made an investigation of the report; and she called Bouzes suddenly into the woman's apartment as if to communicate to him something very important. Now there was a suite of rooms in the Palace, below the ground level, secure and a veritable labyrinth, so that it seemed to resemble Tartarus, where she usually kept in confinement those who had given offence. So Bouzes was hurled into this pit, and in that place he, a man sprung from a line of consuls, remained, forever unaware of time. For as he sat there in the darkness, he could distinguish whether it was day or night, nor could he communicate with any other person. For the man who threw him his food for each day met him in silence, one as dumb as the other, as one beast meets another. And straightway it was supposed by all that he had died, but no one dared mention or recall him. But two years and four months later she was moved to pity and released the man, and he was seen by all as one who had returned from the dead. But thereafter he always suffered from weak sight and his whole body was sickly.

Such was the experience of Bouzes. As for Belisarius, though he was convicted of none of the charges, the Emperor, at the insistence of the Empress, relieved him of the command which he held and appointed Martinus to be General of the East in his stead, and instructed him to distribute the spearmen and guards of Belisarius and all his servants who were notable men in war to certain of the officers and Palace eunuchs. So these cast lots for them and divided them all up among themselves, arms and all, as each happened to win them. And many of those who had been his friends or had previously served him in some way he forbade to visit Belisarius any longer. And he went about, a sorry and incredible sight, Belisarius a private citizen in Byzantium, practically alone, always pensive and gloomy, and dreading a death by violence. And the Empress, learning that he had much money in the East, sent one of the Palace eunuchs and had it all brought back. But Antonina, as I have said, had indeed quarrelled with her husband, yet was on terms of closest friendship and intimacy with the Empress, seeing she had recently accomplished the ruin of John the Cappadocian. So the Empress, in her determination to shew favours to Antonina, left nothing undone to have it appear that the woman had interceded successfully for her husband and had rescued him from such overwhelming misfortunes, and to bring it about that she should not only be completely reconciled with the wretched man, but also that she should unequivocally rescue him as though he were a prisoner of war whose life had been saved by her. And it came about as follows. Belisarius had on one occasion come early in the morning to the Palace, accompanied, as was his wont, by a small and pitiful escort. And finding the Emperor and the Empress not well disposed towards him, and also having been insulted there by men of the base and common sort, he departed for his home late in the evening, often turning about as he walked away and looking around in every direction from which he might see his would-be assassins approaching. In such a state of terror he went up to his chamber and sat down alone upon his couch, thinking not one worthy thought nor even remembering that he had ever been a man, but perspiring constantly, with his head swimming, trembling violently in helpless despair, tortured by servile fears and apprehensions which were both cowardly and wholly unmanly. Meanwhile Antonina, as though not understanding at all what was going on or expecting any of the things which were about to happen, was walking up and down there repeatedly, pleading an attack of indigestion; for they still maintained a suspicious attitude towards one another. In the meantime a man from the Palace, Quadratus by name, arrived after the sun had already set, and passing through the door of the court, suddenly stood by the door of the men's apartments, stating that he had been sent there by the Empress. When Belisarius heard this, he drew up his hands and feet upon the couch and lay there upon his back, completely prepared for destruction; so thoroughly had all his manhood left him. And before Quadratus had come into his presence, he displayed to him a letter from the Empress. And the writing set forth the following. "You know, noble Sir, how you have treated us. But I, for my part, since I am greatly indebted to your wife, have decided to dismiss all these charges against you, giving to her the gift of your life. For the future, then, you may be confident concerning both your life and your property; and we shall know concerning your attitude towards her from your future behaviour." When Belisarius had read this, being transported with joy and at the same time wishing to give immediate evidence of his feelings, he straightway arose and fell on his face before the feet of his wife. And clasping both her knees with either hand and constantly shifting his tongue from one of the woman's ankles to the other, he kept calling her the cause of his life and his salvation, and promising thenceforth to be, not her husband, but her faithful slave. As for his property, the Empress gave thirty centenaria of it to the Emperor and restored the remainder to Belisarius.

Such, then, was the turn of events in the case of Belisarius the General, the man at once whom not long before Fortune had delivered Gelimer and Vittigis as captives of war. But for a long time back the wealth of this man had been exceedingly irritating to both Justinian and Theodora, as being excessive and worthy of a royal court. And they kept saying that he had hidden away in secret the greater part of the State funds of both Gelimer and Vittigis, and had given only a small and utterly insignificant portion of them to the Emperor. But as they reckoned up the great labours of the man and the slanderous talk in which outsiders would indulge, and since at the same time they could not lay hands on any satisfactory pretext against him, they remained quiet. But just then the Empress, catching him terrified and utterly reduced to cowardice, by a single act brought it about that she became mistress of his entire property. For the two entered forthwith into a relationship by marriage and Joannina, the only daughter of Belisarius, was betrothed to Anastasius, grandson of the Empress. Now Belisarius made the request that he should receive back his proper office and, upon being designated General of the East, should again lead the Roman army against Chosroes and the Medes, but Antonina would have none of it; for she maintained that she had been insulted by him in those regions, and never would he again set eyes upon them.

For this reason, then, Belisarius was appointed Commander of the Royal Grooms and was sent to Italy a second time, having promised the Emperor, as they say, that he would never ask him for money during this war, but that he himself would provide the entire equipment for the war with his personal funds. Now all suspected that Belisarius, in arranging matters concerning his wife in the manner I have described, and in making this promise to the Emperor, as here related, concerning the war, was prompted simply by the desire to be quit of the life in Byzantium, and that, as soon as he got outside the circuit-wall of the city, he would seize arms immediately and set himself to some noble and heroic task to punish his wife and the others who had done him despite. He, however, disregarding all that had happened, and forgetting completely and neglecting the oaths which had been sworn to Photius and his other kinsmen, meekly followed the woman, being extraordinarily smitten with her, though she was already sixty years of age. However, when he got to Italy, matters kept going wrong for him every single day, because the hand of God was definitely against him. At first, to be sure, the plans of this General against Theodatus and Vittigis, in the existing circumstances, though they seemed ill adapted to what was going on, resulted for the most part in a favourable outcome; but in the latter period, though he did gain the reputation of having made his plans for the best because of the experience he had acquired in managing the affairs of this war, yet failing as he did in the sequel, most of his misfortunes were credited to what was accounted folly. Thus it is clear that it is not by the wisdom of men but by the power of God that human fortunes are regulated, though men are wont to call this "Fortune," since they do not know the reason why events turn out in the manner in which they become manifest to them. For that which appears unaccountable is wont to have the name of Fortune applied to it. But let each man form such an opinion about these matters as he likes.

Chapter V[edit]

Belisarius, coming to Italy for the second time, departed from there most ignominiously. For during a space of five years he did not succeed once in setting foot on any part of the land, as stated by me in the previous narrative, except where some fortress was, but during this whole period he kept sailing about visiting one port after another. And Totila was frantic to catch him outside a walled town, but he did not succeed because both Belisarius himself and the entire Roman army were possessed by great fear. Consequently he not only recovered nothing of what had been lost, but he even lost Rome in addition and practically everything else. And he became greedy for money during this period above all other men and a most assiduous schemer for shameful gain, seeing that he had brought nothing with him from the Emperor, and he recklessly plundered almost all the Italians who lived in Ravenna and in Sicily and anyone else whom he had the power to reach, alleging that he was making them pay a reckoning for the acts of their past lives. Thus he, for instance, even pursued Herodian with demands for money, holding every sort of threat over the man. This treatment made Herodian so indignant that he detached himself from the Roman army and straightway put himself and all his followers and Spoletiuma into the hands of Totila and the Goths. And how it came about that he and John, the nephew of Vitalian, quarrelled, an event which did the greatest harm to the Roman cause, I shall disclose forthwith.

The Empress had come to such a point of hostility towards Germanus (and was making her hostility perfectly obvious to all) that no one dared to make a marriage alliance with him, even though he was nephew to the Emperor, and his sons remained unmarried until they had reached middle age. And his daughter Justina, though she had reached the maturity of eighteen years, was still unwed. For this reason, when John came to Byzantium on a mission from Belisarius, Germanus was forced to open negotiations with him concerning marriage, though John was much below his rank. And since the project pleased both of them, they decided to bind one another by the most terrible oaths that they would put forth every effort to bring about the alliance, inasmuch as neither one of them had any confidence at all in the other, the one because he realized that he was reaching above his rank, the other because he was in sore need of a son-in‑law. The Empress, however, was beside herself, and resorting to every course she did not hesitate to bring every possible pressure to bear upon each of them to the end that she might put a stop to the negotiations. But since she was unable to convince either one of them, though she tried hard to intimidate them, she threatened explicitly that she was going to destroy John. Consequently, when John was sent back to Italy, he did not dare to meet Belisarius, fearing the hostility of Antonina, until after she had gone back to Byzantium. For that the Empress had commissioned her to murder him was a thing which anyone might quite reasonably have suspected and as he weighed the character of Antonina, knowing well, as he did, that Belisarius gave in to the woman in every matter, he came to feel a great fear which disturbed him much. This situation did, in any event, shatter the fortunes of the Romans, which even before that time had been standing on a single leg, and dashed them to the ground.

Thus, then, the Gothic War proceeded for Belisarius. Finally, in despair, he begged the Emperor that he be permitted to depart from Italy with all speed. And when he found that the Emperor accepted his plea, he returned home immediately, well pleased to bid farewell to the Roman army and to the Italians; and he left most of the strongholds in the hands of the enemy and Persia in the grip of a very close siege; indeed this city, while he was still on this journey, was captured by storm and experienced every form of misery, as has been narrated by me previously. And it happened that misfortune fell upon his own house also, as will now be related.

The Empress Theodora, pressing to bring about the betrothal of the daughter of Belisarius to her grandson, kept writing constantly and harassing the parents of the girl. But they, seeking to avoid the proposed alliance, tried to put off the marriage until they should be present, and when the Empress summoned them to Byzantium, they pretended that at the moment they were unable to leave Italy. But she was itching to make her grandson master of the wealth of Belisarius, for she realized that the girl would be the heiress, since Belisarius had no other offspring; yet she had not the slightest confidence in the purpose of Antonina, and fearing that after she was gone Antonina would not shew herself faithful to her house, though she had found the Empress so generous at times of the greatest necessity, and would tear up the agreement, she performed an unholy deed. For she caused the young girl to live with the youth without any sanction of law. And they say that secretly she actually forced her to offer herself, much against her will, and thus, after the girl had been compromised, she arranged the wedding for her, to the end that the Emperor might not put a stop to her machinations. Still, when the deed had been accomplished, Anastasius and the girl found themselves held by an ardent love for one another, and a space of no less than eight months was passed in this way. But when Antonina, after the Empress' death, came to Byzantium, she purposely forgot the benefits which the Empress recently had conferred upon her, and paying no attention whatever to the fact that if the girl should marry anyone else, her previous record would be that of a prostitute, she spurned the alliance with the offspring of Theodora and forced the child, entirely against her will, to abandon her beloved. And from this act she won a great reputation for ingratitude among all mankind, yet when her husband arrived, she had no difficulty in persuading him to share with her in this unholy business. Consequently the man's character was openly revealed at that time. And yet, though he previously had given his oath to Photius and certain of his kinsmen, and though he utterly repudiated this oath, he received pardon from all the world. For they suspected that the cause of his faithlessness was not the domination of his wife, but his fear of the Empress. But when, after the death of Theodora which I have mentioned, he shewed no consideration either for Photius or for any of his other kinsmen, but his wife was seen to be mistress over him and Calligonus, the go-between, his master, then finally all men repudiated him, mocked him with busy tongues, and reviled him as one who had shewn himself guilty of sheer folly. Such, then, in a general way, to state the facts without concealment, were the sins committed by Belisarius.

Now the wrongs committed in Libya by Sergius, son of Bacchus, have been sufficiently described by me at the proper point in the narrative. This man, indeed, made himself chiefly responsible for the collapse of the Roman rule in that district, not only by disregarding the oaths which he had sworn on the Gospels to the Leuathae, but also by putting to death the eighty ambassadors without any justification; but at this point it will be necessary to add to my account only that neither did these men come to Sergius with evil intent nor did Sergius have any pretext for suspicion concerning them, but he had bound himself by oath when he invited the men to a banquet and there did them to death in a shameful manner. As a result of this act it came about that Solomon and the Roman army and all the Libyans were destroyed. For on account of him, especially after Solomon had died in the manner related by me, no one, either commander or soldier, cared to face the perils of war. And, most serious of all, John, the son of Sisinniolus, because of the hostility which he felt towards Sergius, refused to fight until Areobindus came to Libya. For Sergius was soft and unwarlike and he was very immature both in character and in years, yet he was dominated to an excessive degree by jealousy and a spirit of braggadocio towards all men, effeminate in his way of living and puffing out his cheeks with pride. But since he happened to have become a suitor of the daughter of Antonina, wife of Belisarius, the Empress was quite unwilling to inflict any punishment upon him or to discharge him from his office, though she saw that Libya was being most systematically ruined; indeed both she and the Emperor left Solomon, the brother of Sergius, unpunished for the murder of Pegasius. Now what this incident was I shall straightway explain.

When Pegasius had ransomed Solomon from the Leuathae and the barbarians had gone off home, Solomon, in company with Pegasius, who had ransomed him, and some few soldiers set out for Carthage; and on this trip Pegasius, catching Solomon committing some wrong or any other, made the remark that he ought to bear in mind that God had recently rescued him from the enemy. But he flew into a rage since he felt that Pegasius was reproaching him because he had been taken prisoner in battle and killed him out of hand and thus repaid the man for his rescue. And when Solomon came to Byzantium, the Emperor cleared him of the murder on the ground that he had slain a traitor to the Roman rule. And he provided him with a letter which guaranteed him immunity on that score. So Solomon, having escaped punishment in this way, gladly went to the East in order to see his native land and his relatives at home. But the punishment of God overtook him on this journey and removed him from the world. Such was the course of events touching Solomon and Pegasius.