The Secret History of Procopius, tr. by Richard Atwater, , at sacred-texts.com
FROM his second expedition to Italy Belisarius brought back nothing but disgrace: for in the entire five years of the campaign he was unable to set foot on that land, as I have related in my former books, because there was no tenable position there; but all this time sailed up and down along the coast.
Totila, indeed, was willing enough to meet him before his city walls, but could not catch him there, since like the rest of the Roman army he was afraid to fight. Wherefore Belisarius recovered nothing of what had been lost, but even lost Rome in addition; and everything else, if there were
anything left to lose. His mind was filled with avarice during this time, and he thought of nothing but base gain. Since he had been given no funds by the Emperor, he plundered nearly all the Italians living in Ravenna and Sicily, and wherever else he found opportunity: collecting a bill, as it were, for which those who dwelt there were in no way responsible. Thus, he even went to Herodian and asked him for money, and his threats so enraged Herodian that he rebelled against the Roman army and gave his services, with those of his followers and the city of Spoletum, to Totila and the Goths.
And now I shall show how it came about that Belisarius and John, the nephew of Vitalian, became estranged: a division that brought great disaster to Roman affairs.
Now so thoroughly did the Empress hate Germanus, and so conspicuously, that no one dared to become a relative of his, though he was the nephew of the Emperor. His sons remained unmarried while she
lived, and his daughter Justina, though in the flower of eighteen summers, was still unwedded. Consequently, when John, sent by Belisarius, arrived in Constantinople, Germanus was forced to approach him as a possible son-in-law, though John was not at all worthy in station of such an alliance. But when they had come to an agreement, they bound each other by most solemn oaths to complete the alliance by all means in their power; and this was necessary because neither had any confidence in the good faith of the other. For John knew he was seeking a marriage far above his rank, and Germanus feared that even this man might try to slip out of the contract.
The Empress, of course, was unable to contain herself at this: and in every way, by every possible device, however unworthy, tried to hinder the event. When, for all her menaces, she was unable to deter either of them, she publicly threatened to put John to death. After this, on John's
return to Italy, fearing Antonina might join the plot against him, he did not dare to meet Belisarius until she left for Constantinople. That Antonina had been charged by the Queen to help murder him, no one could have thought unlikely; and when he considered Antonina's habits and Belisarius's enslavement by his wife, John was as greatly as he was reasonably alarmed.
The Roman expedition, already on its last legs, now collapsed entirely. And this is how Belisarius concluded the Gothic war. In despair he begged the Emperor to let him come home as fast as he could sail. And when he received the monarch's permission to do this, he left straightway in high spirits, bidding a long farewell to the Roman army and to Italy. He left almost everything in the power of the enemy; and while he was on his way home, Perusia, hard pressed by a most bitter siege, was captured and submitted to every possible misery, as I have elsewhere related.
As if this were not enough, he suffered a further personal misfortune in the following manner. The Empress Theodora, desiring to marry the daughter of Belisarius to her nephew, worried the girl's parents with frequent letters. To avoid this alliance, they delayed the ceremony "until they could both be present at it," and then, when the Empress summoned them to Constantinople, pretended they were unable at the time to leave Italy. But the Queen was still determined her nephew should be master of Belisarius's wealth, for she knew his daughter would inherit it, as Belisarius had no other child. Yet she had no confidence in Antonina; and fearing that after her own life was ended, Antonina would not be loyal to her house, for all that she had been so helpful in the Empress's emergencies, and that she would break the agreement, Theodora did an unholy thing.
She made the boy and girl live together without any ceremony. And they say she
forced the girl against her will to submit to his clandestine embrace, so that, being thus deflowered, the girl would agree to the marriage, and the Emperor could not forbid the event. However, after the first ravishing, Anastasius and the girl fell warmly in love with each other, and for not less than eight months continued their unmarital relations.
But when, after Theodora's death, Antonina came to Constantinople, she was unwilling to forget the outrage the Queen had committed against her. Not bothering about the fact that if she united her daughter to any other man, she would be making an ex-prostitute out of her, she refused to accept Theodora's nephew as a son-in-law, and by force tore the girl, ignoring her fondest pleadings, from the man she loved.
For this act of senseless obstinacy she was universally censured. Yet when her husband came home, she easily persuaded him to approve her course: which should
have openly disclosed the character of the man. Still, though he had pledged himself to Photius and others of his friends, and then broken his word, there were plenty who sympathized with him. For they thought the reason for his perjury was not uxoriousness, but his fear of the Empress. But after Theodora died, as I have told, he still took no thought of Photius or any of his friends; and it was clear he called Antonina his mistress, and Calligonus the pander, his master. And then all men saw his shame, made him a public laughing stock, and reviled him to his face as a nitwit. Now was the folly of Belisarius completely revealed.
As for Sergius, son of Bacchus, and his misdeeds in Libya, I have described that affair sufficiently in my chapter elsewhere on the subject: how he was most guilty for the disaster there to Roman power, and how he disregarded the gospel oath he had sworn to the Levathae, and criminally put
to death their eighty ambassadors. So there remains for me now to add only this, that neither did these men come to Sergius with any intention of treachery, nor did Sergius have any suspicion that they did; but nevertheless, after inviting them to a banquet under pledge of safety, he put them shamefully to death. This resulted in the loss of Solomon, the Roman army, and all the Libyans. For consequent to this affair, especially after Solomon's death, as I have told, neither officer nor soldier was willing to venture the dangers of battle. Most notably John, son of Sisinniolus, kept entirely from the field of war, because of his hatred of Sergius, until Areobindus came to Libya.
This Sergius was a luxurious person and no soldier; juvenile in nature and in years; a jealous and swaggering bully; a wanton liver and a blowhard. But after he became the accepted suitor of her niece and was thus related to Antonina, Belisarius's wife, the Empress would not allow him to be
punished or removed from his command, even when she saw Libya sure to be lost. And with the Emperor's consent she even let Solomon, Sergius's brother, go scotfree after the murder of Pegasius. How this happened I shall now relate.
After Pegasius had ransomed Solomon from the Levathae, and the barbarians had gone home, Solomon, with Pegasius his ransomer and a few soldiers, set out for Carthage. And on the way Pegasius reminded Solomon of the wrong he had done, and said he should thank God for his rescue from the enemy. Solomon, vexed at being reproached for having been taken captive, straightway slew Pegasius; and this was his requital to the man who had saved him. But when Solomon arrived in Constantinople, the Emperor pardoned him for the crime on the ground that the man he killed was a traitor to the Roman state. So Solomon, thus escaping justice, left gladly for the East to visit his native country and
his family. Yet God's vengeance overtook him on the very journey, and removed him from the world of men.
This is the explanation of the affair between Solomon and Pegasius.