The Secret History/Appendices
The Factions of the Hippodrome in Constantinople
The following account of the strange nature and the pernicious activity of the Green and the Blue Factions, derived, it would appear, from the four parties of the Roman Circus, is taken from Bury's edition of Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, IV.220 ff.
"Constantinople adopted the follies, though not the virtues, of ancient Rome; and the same factions which had agitated the circus, raged with redoubled fury in the hippodrome. Under the reign of Anastasius, this popular frenzy was inflamed by religious zeal; and the Greens, who had treacherously concealed stones and daggers under baskets of fruit, massacred, at a solemn festival, three thousand of their Blue adversaries. From the capital this pestilence was diffused into the provinces and cities of the East, and the sportive distinction of the two colours produced two strong and irreconcilable factions which shook the foundations of a feeble government. The popular dissensions, founded on the most serious interest, or holy pretence, have scarcely equalled the obstinacy of this wanton discord, which invaded the peace of families, divided friends and brothers, and tempted the female sex, though seldom seen in the circus, to espouse the inclinations of their lovers or to contradict the wishes of their husbands. Every law, either human or divine, was trampled under foot, and as long as the party was successful, its deluded followers appeared careless of private distress or public calamity. The licence, without the freedom of democracy, was revived at Antioch and Constantinople, and the support of a faction became necessary to every candidate for civil or ecclesiastical honours. A secret attachment to the family or sect of Anastasius was imputed to the Greens; the Blues were zealously devoted to the cause of orthodoxy and Justinian, and their grateful patron protected, above five years, the disorders of a faction whose seasonable tumults overawed the Palace, the Senate, and the capitals of the East."
The Christian Heresies
It was the intention of Procopius to write a book on the subject of the doctrines of Christianity and the long and often bitter debates in the course of which these were formulated, as definitely stated in Chap. xi.33 of the Secret History — a promise which he repeated in the eighth book of the Histories, xxv.13. It is most unfortunate that he was prevented from fulfilling this promise, for his point of view was that of a liberal who was puzzled by the earnestness with which his contemporaries entered into the discussion of these matters (cf. Chap. xi.25 and Book V.iii.6). For the whole Roman world was deeply agitated by the discussions of the churchmen, and all, even the man in the street, and often the p363women, held decided opinions and beliefs which they were more than ready to defend. Even the Emperor himself, as well as the Empress, felt called upon to support the cause of orthodoxy, and they were constantly concerned either to persuade or to force all dissenters into conformity (Chap. xiii.7).
The numerous and varied heresies which had developed already are themselves sufficient evidence of the important place which Christianity held in the consciousness of the people. The Arian heresy had been definitely condemned by the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), but it was not extinguished by an edict, and it persisted long after the time of Justinian. Other less important heresies mentioned by Procopius were those of the Eunomians, the Sabbatiani and the Montani. Other groups at variance with the state religion were the Manichaeans, devotees of an independent religion, though often regarded as a perversion of Christianity, the Samaritans, whose creed was older than that of Christianity, and the Polytheists, who seem to have included, for Procopius, the adherents of the ancient religions of Greece and of Rome.
As to doctrine, the Arians maintained that the three Persons of the Trinity are not of the same substance: that the Son is indeed like the Father, but not identical in essence. Their central tenet was expressed in the Greek word homoiousion as contrasted with the homoousion of the doctrine of Athanasius which became orthodox through the adoption of the Nicene Creed. The Eunomians similarly held that God alone is ungenerate. The Montani were led by Montanus, assisted by two pious women, who claimed the gift of prophecy and announced that the p364end of the world was imminent, a belief which probably consoled them in their act of self-immolation (Chap. xi.23). The Sabbatiani were an offshoot of the Novatiani; for heresies sprang from other heresies as well as from the central body of belief. This group had originated in a contested election and developed independent doctrines only after their schism. The Manichaeans and the Samaritans were monotheistic but had a theology independent of the Christian system. The Polytheists of course had no body of doctrine as such.
These and many other heresies which Procopius did not have occasion to mention were both defended and attacked with great violence, and the consequent disputes held the active interest of the civilized world for many centuries before and after the age of Justinian. See Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, or Smith and Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography.
The Statue of Domitian (Chap. viii.13‑21)
The statement of Procopius that a devoted wife performed the gruesome act described in this passage is devoid of support, as well as extremely improbable. The evidence in the case is well presented by D. Bassi in a note in the (posthumous) edition of the Secret History by Comparetti (1928). The note follows, in translation.
"No ancient historian records the details, evidently legendary, which Procopius is pleased to recount. The legend, which is pathetic enough, is based on two supposed facts which really are both very distressing, but false and purely imaginary, and both entirely deprived of historical consistency. Domitian was not hacked to pieces, but was murdered in his chamber by conspirators, first receiving a wound in the groin, then, in the scuffle which followed, seven other wounds which finished him. His body was not piously buried by his wife Domitia, who instead co-operated with the conspirators to accomplish the murder. This pious office was fulfilled by the nurse of the murdered man, Phyllis by name, who, with the assistance of common undertakers, took charge of the body privately, performed his last rites at his villa on the Via Latina and then, after it had been cremated, deposited the ashes in the tomb of the Flavian family together with those of Julia, daughter of Titus, of whom she had also been nurse.
"With regard to these facts recorded by most authoritative historians, such as Suetonius, Dio Cassius and others, there cannot be any doubt. Still, the fact remains, equally incontestable, of the bronze statue of Domitian extant at the time of Procopius on the slope of the Capitol standing on the right of those ascending from the Forum; this statue, apart from being the only one of that Emperor remaining erect, because all the others had been demolished by order of the Senate, presented also the singular characteristic of being composed entirely of many pieces cleverly set together, but still always easily distinguishable. These facts, which the people at Rome explained at that time (four centuries and a little more since the murder of Domitian) by the pathetic little story which Procopius ingenuously recounts in the form in which it had been related to him, ought to be, and can be, explained rationally, taking into account what the historians say of what followed at Rome immediately after the murder of Domitian. The news of the murder was heard with indifference by the people, says Suetonius; not so by the army, which was most outraged by it and immediately started an agitation demanding that the murdered Emperor should receive divine honours and that the murderers should be tracked down and severely punished. Held with difficulty to allegiance to their commanders, the troops finally obtained what they sought. The Senate, on the other hand, which Domitian had always slighted and abused, received that news with a burst of joy and exultation, and immediatelyº ordered that the statues of the hated Emperor should be taken off the walls and thrown on the ground, and that all memory of him should be cancelled, abolished, and destroyed. These orders were carried out punctually, beginning, surely, with the statues nearest the Senate, the largest of which was the famous equestrian statue of colossal proportions which dominated the middle of the Forum, described and praised by Statius. Demolished and broken up into fragments, the huge mass of gilded bronze was forthwith put out of sight. Other smaller statues which stood in the vicinity of the Forum and of the Capitol were taken down and destroyed. One bronze statue of Domitian of natural size must have occupied a position in the neighbourhood of the temple of his father Vespasian on the slopes of the Capitol. That statue also was knocked over and reduced to fragments. However, all the fragments of that statue were gathered up by pious hands, probably soldiers, and secretly preserved. When, then, at a later time the fury of the Senate was abated, and the army, always faithful to the memory of that Emperor, obtained what they had persistently sought for, namely, that those responsible for the assassination be apprehended, tried and punished, they without hesitation formed the purpose of setting up the broken statue, the fragments of which had been religiously preserved. They rebuilt the statue with strong cement, but not so as to conceal the joints, so that everyone could see, as Procopius saw, that it was composed of a quantity of pieces set together. The statue, thus fabricated, was set up in the open on the slope on the right as one went from the Forum to the Capitol, that is, at a short distance from the Senate, and it stood there to record visibly the savage orders of destruction issued by the Senate and punctually carried out, particularly because that statue, thus fabricated, was the only one of the many of that Emperor which remained, or, better, that could be again set up. The Senate, which certainly had not repented of having given those orders, still did not dare to oppose that act of the powerful praetorians, who were devoted to Domitian and who, in spite of the disapproval of the good Nerva, had vindicated Domitian by killing with their own hands the principal authors of the assassination of that tyrant, quietly let matters take their course, and could not be displeased that there remained for future ages that evidence and testimony of the just action performed by them on the statues of that infamous sovereign.
"Thus tolerated by the Senate, this single statue of the abhorred Domitian, the story of which was familiar to all, remained intact up to the time of Procopius in that very much frequented spot. It was regarded as a curiosity and of such small material value that even the barbarians, Vandals and Goths, allowed it to stand. In fact the respect shewn by those tribes must have been due chiefly to the pious legend which the popular imagination could have created in the course of time regarding that statue and the fragments of which they noticed that it was composed, ignorant, as it was, of the true and genuine facts of history. Little by little they saw in that statue the tyrannical Domitian torn to pieces by the popular fury and the good and virtuous action of his widow who was loved and respected by the Senate, which granted to her the right to collect and put together the scattered members of her husband and to give burial to the body thus assembled. And when the wonderful widow, having got together the body of her husband in this way and with her own hands, had summoned the artisans, she commissioned them to make a statue of bronze exactly like the murdered sovereign's body, composed as it was of many pieces, then took that statue and set it up on the slope of the Capitol; and the Senate permitted her to do all this and did not result its approval. It cannot be denied that this story is pretty, moving and also edifying. This could have figured in the Gesta Romanorum Moralisata or in other similar medieval collections of edifying tales. The widow devoted to the memory of the husband, good or bad, who, surmounting grave difficulties, accomplishes his burial, is an appealing character of various legends and tales of every region; one of the many is that of the famous matron of Ephesus, narrated by Petronius. Procopius, who had noticed the remarkable similarity of the features of Domitian and those of Justinian, recounts the tale of that single surviving statue of Domitian without taking the trouble to investigate whether the account was history or legend. In any case that statue unquestionably represented Domitian and that was enough for him; nor could he go wrong. In his judgment Justinian was just as worthy to be butchered and cut into pieces as, according to the tale, was Domitian, who also resembled him in countenance."