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Ravenna, A Study by Edward Hutton

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barbaric confederates, who had placed him where he was, to grant them
a third of the lands, certainly, of the great Italian landowners; but
he created nothing new; like all the barbarians he was sterile, his
only service was a service of destruction. With him even this service
was small.

His fall was curious and is exceedingly significant.

In 481, after the murder of the emperor Julius Nepos in Salona,
Odoacer led an expedition into Dalmatia to chastise the murderers and
seized the opportunity to make himself master of Dalmatia. This action
at once renewed the suspicion of Constantinople; but when in 484
Odoacer entered into negotiations with Illus, the last of the
insurgents who disturbed the reign of Zeno, Constantinople decided
that he must be broken; therefore Feletheus, king of the Rugians upon
the Danube, was stirred up against him, and when that failed, for
Odoacer defeated him, Constantinople sent Theodoric and his
Ostrogothic host into Italy to dispose of Odoacer the patrician[1].

[Footnote 1: Cf. Anon. Valesii, "Missus ab imperatore Zenone de
partibus orientis ad defendendam sibi Italiam...."]

Theodoric, another unlettered barbarian and heretic, but a man of a
great and noble character, set out for Italy from Nova on the southern
bank of the Danube, where he had been a constant danger to the Eastern
provinces, in the autumn of 488. His purpose, set forth in his own
words to the Emperor Zeno, was as follows: "Although your servant is
maintained in affluence by your liberality, graciously listen to the
wishes of my heart. Italy, the inheritance of your predecessors, and
Rome itself, the head and mistress of the world, now fluctuate under
the violence and oppression of Odoacer the mercenary. Direct me with
my national troops to march against this tyrant. If I fall, you will
be delivered from an expensive and troublesome friend; if, with the
Divine permission, I succeed, I shall govern, in your name and to your
glory, the Roman senate and the part of the republic delivered from
slavery by my victorious arms."

That march was an exodus. Procopius tells us that, "with Theodoric
went the people of the Goths, putting their wives and children and as
much of their furniture as they could take with them into their
waggons," and as Ennodius, bishop of Ticinum, asserts, it was "a world
that migrated" with Theodoric into Italy, "a world of which every
member is nevertheless your kinsman." "Waggons," says he, "are made to
do duty as houses, and into these wandering habitations all things
that can minister to the needs of the occupants are poured. Then were
the tools of Ceres, and the stones with which the corn is ground,
dragged along by the labouring oxen. Pregnant mothers, forgetful of
their sex and of the burden which they bore, undertook the toil of
providing food for the families of thy people. Followed the reign of
winter in thy camp. Over the hair of thy men the long frost threw a
veil of snowy white; the icicles hung in a tangle from their beards.
So hard was the frost that the garment which the matron's persevering
toil had woven had to be broken before a man might fit it to his body.
Food for thy marching armies was forced from the grasp of the hostile
nations around, or procured by the cunning of the hunter."[1] It has
been supposed by Mr. Hodgkin that not less than 40,000 fighting men
and some 200,000 souls in all thus entered Italy. To us it might seem
that no such number of people could have lived without commissariat
during that tremendous march of seven hundred miles through some of
the poorest land of Europe in the depth of winter. However that may
be, Theodoric after many an encounter with barbarians wilder than his
own descended from the Julian Alps into Venetia in August 489, after a
march of not less than ten months.

[Footnote 1: Ennodius, _Panegyricus_, p. 173. Trs. by Hodgkin, _op.
cit_. iii. 179-80.]

Odoacer was waiting for him. He met him near the site of the old
fortress of Aquileia, which Attila had annihilated, that once held the
passage of the Sontius (Isonzo). He was defeated and all Venetia fell
into the hands of the Ostrogoth. Odoacer retreated to Verona, that red
fortress on the Adige; once more and more certainly he was beaten. He
retreated to Ravenna,[2] while Theodoric advanced to Milan, to Milan
which now led nowhere.

[Footnote 2: "Et Ravennam cum exercitu fugiens pervenit." Anon.
Valesii, 50.]

After Verona, Theodoric had received the submission of a part of
Odoacer's army under Tufa. When he had possessed himself of Milan, he
sent these renegades and certain nobles with their men from his own
army, apparently under the leadership of Tufa, to besiege Ravenna.
They came down the Aemilian Way as far as Faventia (Faenza). There no
doubt a road left the great highway for the impregnable city of the
marshes. At Faventia, then, Theodoric expected to begin to blockade
Ravenna. In this he was mistaken. Suddenly Tufa deserted his new
master, was joined by Odoacer, who came to Faventia, and certain of
the Ostrogothic nobles, if not all of them, were slaughtered. The
expedition was lost and not the expedition alone: Milan was no longer
safe. Therefore Theodoric evacuated that city, always almost
indefensible, and occupied Ticinum (Pavia), which was naturally
defended by the Ticino and the Po. There he established himself in
winter quarters.

A new diversion from the west, a frustrated attack of Gundobald and
his Burgundians, kept Theodoric busy for a year. Meantime Odoacer
appeared in the plain, retook and held all the country between
Faventia and Cremona and even visited Milan, which he chastised. Then
in August 490 Theodoric met him on the Adda, and again Odoacer was
defeated, and again he fled back to Ravenna. All over Italy his cause
tottered, was betrayed, or failed. A general massacre of the
confederate troops throughout the peninsula seems to have occurred.
And by the end of the year there remained to him but Ravenna, his
fortress, and the two cities that it commanded, Cesena upon the
Aemilian Way and Rimini in the midst of the narrow pass at the head of
the Via Flaminia. Theodoric himself began the siege of Ravenna.

This siege, the first that Ravenna had ever experienced, endured for
near three years, from the autumn of 490 to the spring of 493. "_Et
mox_" says a chronicle of the time, "_subsecutus est eum patricius
Theodoricus veniens in Pineta, et fixit fossatum, obsidiens Odoacrem
clausum per trienum in Ravenna et factus est usque ad sex solidos
modicus tritici_...."[1] Theodoric established himself in a fortified
camp in the Pineta with a view to preventing food or reinforcements
arriving to his enemy from the sea. Ravenna was closed upon all sides
and before the end of the siege corn rose in the beleaguered city to
famine price, some seventy-two shillings of our money per peck, and
the inhabitants were forced to eat the skins of animals and all sorts
of offal, and many died of hunger.

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii.]

In 491, according to the same chronicler,[1] a sortie was made by
Odoacer and his barbarians, but after a desperate fight in the Pineta
this was repelled by Theodoric. In 492, another chronicle tells us,[2]
Theodoric took Rimini and from thence brought a fleet of ships to the
Porto Leone, some six miles from Ravenna, thus cutting off the city
from the sea. Till at last in the beginning of 493 Odoacer was
compelled to open negotiations for surrender. He gave his son Thelane
as a hostage, and on the 26th February Theodoric entered Classis, and
on the following day the treaty of peace was signed. Upon the 5th
March 493, according to Agnellus, "that most blessed man, the
archbishop John, opened the gates of the city which Odoacer had
closed, and went forth with crosses and thuribles and the Holy Gospels
seeking peace, with the priests and clergy singing psalms, and
prostrating himself upon the ground obtained what he sought. He
welcomed the new king coming from the East and peace was granted to
him, not only with the citizens of Ravenna, but with the other Romans
for whom the blessed John asked it."

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii.]

[Footnote 2: Agnellus, _Liber Pontificalis Rav_.]

The terms of that treaty are extraordinarily significant of the
importance of Ravenna in the defence of Italy. It would seem that
Theodoric had possessed himself of everything but Ravenna easily
enough, yet without Ravenna everything else was nothing. The city was,
in spite of blockade and famine, impregnable, and it commanded so
much, was still indeed, as always, the key to Italy and the plain and
the very gate of the West, that not to possess it was to lose
everything. Its surrender was necessary and Theodoric offered
extraordinary terms to obtain it. Odoacer was not only to keep his
life but his power. He was to rule as the equal of Theodoric. This
mighty concession shows us at once what Ravenna really was, what part
she played in the government of Italy, and how unique was her position
in the military scheme of that country.

Theodoric had certainly no intention of carrying out the terms of his
treaty. In the very month in which he signed it, he invited Odoacer to
a feast at the Palace "in Lauro" to the south-east of Ravenna. When
the patrician arrived two petitioners knelt before him each clasping
one of his hands, and two of Theodoric's men stepped from hiding to
kill him. Perhaps they were not barbarians: at any rate, they lacked
the courage and the contempt alike of law and of honour necessary to
commit so cold a murder. It was Theodoric himself who lifted his sword
and hewed his enemy in twain from the shoulder to the loins. "Where is
God?" Odoacer, expecting the stroke, had demanded. And Theodoric
answered, "Thus didst thou to my friends." And after he said, "I think
the wretch had no bones in his body."

The barbarian it might seem had certainly nothing to learn from the
worst of the emperors in treachery and dishonour.

Theodoric set up his seat in the city he had so perfidiously won, and
for the next thirty years appears as the governour of Italy. He had
set out, it will be remembered, as the soldier of Constantinople, had
asked for leave to make his expedition, and had protested his
willingness to govern in the name of the emperor and for his glory. It
is not perhaps surprising that a barbarian, and especially Theodoric
who knew so well how to win by treachery what he could not otherwise
obtain, should after his victory forget the promise he had made to his
master. After the battle of the Adda he had the audacity to send an
embassy to the emperor to request that he might be allowed to clothe
himself in the royal mantle. This was of course refused. Nevertheless
the Goths "confirmed Theodoric to themselves as king without waiting
for the order of the new emperor Anastasius."[1] This "confirmation,"
whatever it may have meant to the Goths, meant nothing to the Romans
or to the empire. For some years Constantinople refused all
acknowledgment to Theodoric, till in 497 peace was made and Theodoric
obtained recognition, much it may be thought as Odoacer had done, from
Constantinople; but the ornaments of the palace at Ravenna, which
Odoacer had sent to New Rome, were brought back, and therefore it
would seem that the royalty of Theodoric was acknowledged by the
empire; but we have no authority to see in this more than an
acknowledgment of the king of the Goths, the vicegerent perhaps of the
emperor in Italy. What Theodoric's title may have been we have no
means of knowing: _de jure_ he was the representative of the emperor
in Italy: _de facto_ he was the absolute ruler, the _tyrannus_, as
Odoacer had been, of the country; but he never ventured to coin money
bearing his effigy and superscription and he invariably sent the names
of the consuls, whom he appointed, to Constantinople for confirmation.
He ruled too, as Odoacer had done, by Roman law, and the Arian heresy,
which he and his barbarians professed as their religion, was not till
the very end of his reign permitted precedence over the Catholic
Faith. For the most part too he governed by means of Roman officials,
and to this must be ascribed the enormous success of his long

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesu, 57.]


For that he was successful, that he gave Italy peace during a whole
generation, is undeniable. In all the chronicles there is little but
praise of him. The chief of them[1] says of him: "He was an
illustrious man and full of good-will towards all. He reigned
thirty-three years[2] and during thirty of these years so great was
the happiness of Italy that even the wayfarers were at peace. For he
did nothing evil. He governed the two nations, the Goths and the
Romans, as though they were one people. Belonging himself to the Arian
sect, he yet ordained that the civil administration should remain for
the Romans as it had been under the emperors. He gave presents and
rations to the people, yet though he found the treasury ruined he
brought it by hard work into a flourishing state. He attempted nothing
against the Catholic Faith. He exhibited games in the circus and
amphitheatre, and received from the Romans the names of Trajan and
Valentinian, for the happy days of those most prosperous emperors he
did in truth seek to restore, and at the same time the Goths rendered
true obedience to their valiant king according to the edict which he
had given them.

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii. This was probably Bishop Maximian, a
Catholic bishop of Ravenna. I follow, with a few changes, Mr.
Hodgkin's translation.]

[Footnote 2: Thirty-two years and a half from the death of Odoacer;
thirty-seven from his descent into Italy.]

"He gave one of his daughters in marriage to the king of the Visigoths
in Gaul, another to the son of the Burgundian king; his sister to the
king of the Vandals and his niece to the king of the Thuringians. Thus
he pleased all the nations round him, for he was a lover of
manufactures and a great restorer of cities. He restored the Aqueduct
of Ravenna which Trajan had built, and again after a long interval
brought water into the city. He completed but did not dedicate the
Palace, and he finished the Porticoes about it. At Verona he erected
Baths and a Palace, and constructed a Portico from the Gate to the
Palace. The Aqueduct, which had been destroyed long since, he renewed,
and brought in water through it. He also surrounded the city with new
walls. At Ticinum (Pavia) too he built a Palace, Baths, and an
Amphitheatre and erected walls round the city. On many other cities he
bestowed similar benefits.

"Thus he so delighted the nations near him that they entered into a
league with him hoping that he would be their king. The merchants,
too, from many provinces flocked to his dominions, for so great was
the order which he maintained, that, if any one wished to keep gold
and silver in the country it was as safe as in a walled city. A proof
of this was that he never made gates for any city of Italy, and the
gates that already existed were never closed. Any one who had business
to do, might go about it as safely by night as by day."

But if such praise sound fulsome, let us hear what the sceptical and
censorious Procopius has to say:

"Theodoric," he tells us, "was an extraordinary lover of justice and
adhered vigorously to the laws. He guarded the country from barbarian
invasions, and displayed the greatest intelligence and prudence. There
was in his government scarcely a trace of injustice towards his
subjects, nor would he permit any of those under him to attempt
anything of the kind except that the Goths divided among themselves
the same proportion of the land of Italy as Odoacer had given to his
confederates. Thus then Theodoric was in name a tyrant, in fact a true
king, not inferior to the best of his predecessors, and his popularity
increased greatly both with the Goths and the Italians, and this was
contrary to the ordinary course of human affairs. For generally as
different classes in the state want different things, the government
which pleases one party incurs the hatred of the other. After a reign
of thirty-seven years he died having been a terror to all his enemies,
but leaving a deep regret for his loss in the hearts of his subjects."

In these panegyrics, which we cannot but accept as sincere, mention is
made of one of the greatest virtues of Theodoric, his reparation of
and care for the great monuments of the empire. In Ravenna we read he
repaired the Aqueduct which Trajan had built and which had long been
out of repair, so that Ravenna always deficient in water had for many
years suffered on this account. In the _Variae_ of Cassiodorus, his
minister and a Roman, we read as follows:--

"_King Theodoric to all Cultivators_.

"The Aqueducts are an object of our special care. We desire you at
once to root up the shrubs growing in the Signine channel, which will
before long become big trees scarcely to be hewn down with an axe and
which interfere with the purity of the water in the Aqueduct of
Ravenna. Vegetation is the peaceable overturner of buildings, the
battering-ram which brings them to the ground, though the trumpets
never sound for siege. Now we shall have Baths again that we may look
upon with pleasure; water which will cleanse not stain[1]; water after
using which we shall not require to wash ourselves again; drinking
water too, such as the mere sight of it will not take away all
appetite for food[2]."

[Footnote 1: Cf. Sidonius Apollinaris above.]

[Footnote 2: Cassiodorus, _Variae_, v. 38. Trs. Hodgkin, _The Letters
of Cassiodorus_ (Oxford, 1886).]

The general restoration of the great material works of the empire was
characteristic of the reign of Theodoric and could only have been
carried out by Roman officials and workmen. It is especially frequent
in Ravenna and in Rome. Theodoric will, if he can help it, have
nothing more destroyed. He is afraid of destruction, and that is a
mark of the barbarian. He wishes, Cassiodorus tells us, "to build new
edifices without despoiling the old. But we are informed that in your
municipality (of Aestunae) there are blocks of masonry and columns,
formerly belonging to some building, now lying absolutely useless and
unhonoured. If this be so, send these slabs of marble and columns by
all means to Ravenna that they may again be made beautiful and take
their place in a building there."[1] And again: "We rely upon your
zeal and prudence to see that the required blocks of marble are
forwarded from Faenza to Ravenna without any extortion from private
persons; so that, on the one hand, our desire for the adornment of
that city may be gratified, and, on the other, there may be no cause
for complaint on the part of our subjects.[2]

His care and adornment of Ravenna are remarkable. It was his capital
and he built there with a truly Roman splendour. We hear vaguely of a
Basilica of Hercules which was to be adorned with a mosaic, though
what this may have been we do not know; but we still have the
magnificent Arian church of S. Apollinare, which he called S. Martin
_de Coelo Aureo_ because of its beautiful gilded roof; and less
perfectly there remains to us the Arian church he built, called then
S. Theodore and now S. Spirito, and the Arian baptistery beside it;
the ruin, known as his palace, and his mighty tomb.

The government of Theodoric was great and generous, Roman in its
completeness and in its largeness; but he did not succeed in
establishing a new kingdom, a nation of Goths and Romans in Italy.

The answer to that question must be given and it is this: Theodoric
and his Goths were Arians. Much more than race or nationality religion
forms and inspires a people, welds them into one or divides them
asunder. Even though there had been no visible difference in culture
and civilisation between the Goths, when for a generation they had
been settled south of the Alps, and the Romans of the plain and of
Italy, nevertheless they would have remained barbarians, for Arianism
at this time was the certain mark of barbarism.[3] Had the barbarians
not fallen into this strange heresy, had the Goths, above all, been
Catholics, who knows what new nation might have arisen upon the ruin
of the Western empire to create, more than five hundred years before,
as things were, it was to blossom, the rose of the Middle Age?

[Footnote 1: Cassiodorus, op cit. iii. 9. Trs. Hodgkin, op. cit.]

[Footnote 2: Cassiodorus, op. cit. v. 8.]

[Footnote 3: Heathenism even more so of course. It cannot be
altogether a cooincidence that those barbarians which first became
Catholic, though they had been ruder and rougher than the rest, were
destined to re-establish the empire in the West--the Franks.]


[Illustration: Colour Plate THE MAUSOLEUM OF THEODORIC]

But this was not to be. The work of Theodoric, a useful work as we
shall see, was serving quite another purpose than that of establishing
a new Gothic kingdom. As for him and his government, they were utterly
to pass away and by reason of the religion they professed.

The first blow at the endurance and security of the Ostrogothic
hegemony was the conversion of Clovis to Catholicism in 496. This
changed the political relations, not only of every state in Gaul, but
of every state in Europe, and enormously to the disadvantage of the
Arians. The second was the reconciliation, in 519, of the pope and the
emperor, which rightly understood was the death warrant of the Gothic
kingdom. Had the Goths been Catholic, either that reconciliation would
not have taken place, or it would have been without ill results for
them. As it was it was fatal, though not all at once.

The Arian heresy, if we are to understand it aright, must be
recognised as an orientalism having much in common with Judaism and
the later Mahometanism. It denied several of the statements of the
Nicene Creed, those monoliths upon which the new Europe was to be
founded. It maintained that the Father and the Son are distinct
Beings; that the Son though divine is not equal to the Father; that
the Son had a state of existence previous to His appearance upon
earth, but is not from Eternity; that Christ Jesus was not really man
but a divine being in a case of flesh. Already against it the future
frowned dark and enormous as the Alps.

Such was the heresy at the root of the Ostrogothic kingdom, and it is
significant that the cause of the first open alienation between
Theodoric and the Catholics of Italy was concerned with the Jews. It
seems that the Jews, whom Theodoric had always protected, had, during
his absence from Ravenna, mocked the Christian rite of baptism and
made sport of it by throwing one another into one of the two muddy
rivers of that city, and also by some blasphemous foolishness aimed at
the Mass. The Catholic population had naturally retaliated by burning
all the Jewish synagogues to the ground. Theodoric, like all the
Gothic Arians, sided with the Jews and fined the Catholic citizens of
Ravenna, publicly flogging those who could not pay, in order that the
synagogues might be rebuilt. Such was the first open breach between
the king and the Romans, who now began to remind themselves that there
was an Augustus at Constantinople. This memory, which had slumbered
while pope and emperor were in conflict--such is the creative and
formative power of religion--was stirred and strengthened by the
reconciliation between the emperor Justin and the Holy See. It is
curious that the man who was to lead the Catholic party and to suffer
in the national cause had translated thirty books of Aristotle into
Latin; his name was Boethius and he was master of the offices.

This great and pathetic figure had been till the year 523 continually
in the favour of Theodoric. In that year suddenly an accusation was
brought against the patrician Albinus of "sending letters to the
emperor Justin hostile to the royal rule of Theodoric." In the debate
which followed, Boethius claimed to speak and declared that the
accusation was false, "but whatever Albinus did, I and the whole
senate of Rome with one purpose did the same." We may well ask for a
clear statement of what they had done; we shall get no answer.
Boethius himself speaks of "the accusation against me of having hoped
for Roman freedom," and adds: "As for Roman freedom, what hope is left
to us of that? Would that there were any such hope." To the charge of
"hoping for Roman freedom" was added an accusation of sorcery.

Boethius was tried in the senate house in Rome while he was lying in
prison in Pavia. Without being permitted to answer his accusers or to
be heard by his judges he was sentenced to death by the intimidated
senate whose freedom he was accused of seeking to establish. From
Pavia, where in prison awaiting death he had written his _De
Consolatione Philosophiae_ which was so largely to inform the new
Europe, he was carried to "the _ager Calventianus_" a few miles from
Milan; where he was tortured, a cord was twisted round his forehead
till his eyes burst from their sockets, and then he was clubbed to
death. This occurred in 524, and in that same year throughout the
empire we find the great movement against Arianism take on new life.

[Illustration: CAPITAL FROM S. VITALE]

This irresistible attack began in the East and Theodoric seems at once
to have seen in it the culmination of all those dangers he had to
fear. He recognised, too, at last, that it was Catholicism he had to
face. Therefore he sent for pope John I. When the pope, old and
infirm, appeared in Ravenna, Theodoric made the greatest diplomatic
mistake of his life. He bade the pope go to Constantinople to the
emperor and tell him that "he must not in any way attempt to win over
those whom he calls heretics to the Catholic religion."

Apart from the impertinence of this command to the emperor from the
king of the Goths, it was foolish in the extreme. His object should
have been, above all else, to keep the emperor and the pope apart, but
by this act he forced them together; only anger can have suggested
such an impolitic move. "The king," says the chronicler[1], "returning
in great anger [from the murder of Boethius] and unmindful of the
blessings of God, considered that he might frighten Justin by an
embassy. Therefore he sent for John the chief of the Apostolic See to
Ravenna and said to him, 'Go to Justin the emperor and tell him that
among other things he must restore the converted heretics to the
(Arian) faith.' And the pope answered, 'What thou doest do quickly.
Behold here I stand in thy sight. I will not promise to do this thing
for thee nor to say this to the emperor. But in other matters, with
God's help, I may succeed.' Then the king being angered ordered a ship
to be prepared and placed the pope aboard together with other bishops,
namely, Ecclesius of Ravenna, Eusebius of Fano, Sabinus of Campania,
and two others with the following senators, Theodorus, Importunus,
Agapitus, and another Agapitus. But God, who does not forsake those
who are faithful, brought them prosperously to their journey's end.
Then the emperor Justin met the pope on his arrival as though he were
St. Peter himself[2], and when he heard his message promised that he
would comply with all his requests, but _the converts who had given
themselves to the Catholic Faith he could by no means restore to the

[Footnote 1: Anon. Valesii, _ut supra_.]

[Footnote 2: "Prone on the ground the emperor, whom all other men
adored, adored the weary pontiff.... When Easter-day came, the pope,
taking the place of honour at the right hand of the patriarch of
Constantinople, celebrated Mass according to the Latin use in the
great cathedral."--Marcellinus Comes, quoted by Hodgkin, _op. cit_.
iii. p. 463.]

That was a great day not only for the papacy but for Italy. The pope
can never have hoped that Theodoric would open to him so great an
opportunity for confirming the reconciliation between the emperor and
the papacy which was the great need of the Latin cause. There can be
little doubt that pope John used his advantage to the utmost. Early in
526 he returned to Ravenna to find Theodoric beside himself with
anger. The barbarian who had perfidiously murdered Odoacer his rival,
and most foully tortured the old philosopher Boethius to death, was
not likely to shrink from any outrage that he thought might serve him,
even though his victim were the pope. Symmachus, the father-in-law of
Boethius, a venerable and a saintly man, was barbarously done to death
and Pope John and his colleagues were thrown into prison in Ravenna,
where the pope died on May 18 of that same year, and one hundred and
four days later was followed to the grave by the unhappy Gothic king.


Theodoric had utterly failed in everything he had attempted. His
Romano-Gothic kingdom proved to be a hopeless chimaera, and this
because he had not been able to understand the forces with which he
had to deal. Nor was he capable of learning from experience. Even
after the death of Pope John he countersigned the death warrant of his
kingdom by an edict, issued with the signature of a Jewish treasury
clerk, that all the Catholic churches of Italy should be handed over
to the Arians. He had scarcely published this amazing document,
however, when he died after three days of pain on August 30, 526, the
very day the revolution was to have taken place.

The Gothic king was buried outside Ravenna upon the north-east and in
the mighty tomb--a truly Roman work--that the Romans, at his orders,
had prepared for him: a marvellous mausoleum of squared stones in two
stories, the lower a decagon, the upper an octagon covered by a vast
dome hewn out of a single block of Istrian marble. There in a porphyry
vase reposed all that was mortal of the great barbarian who failed to
understand what the Roman empire was, but who almost without knowing
it rendered it, as we shall see, so great a service. But the body of
Theodoric did not long remain in the enormous silence of that
sepulchre. Even in the time of Agnellus (ninth century) the body was
no longer in the mausoleum and what had become of it will always
remain a mystery. A weird and awful legend, in keeping with the
tremendous tragedy that was played out in his time and in which he had
filled the main role, relates how a holy hermit upon the island of
Lipari on the day and in the hour of the great king's death saw him,
his hands and feet bound, his garments all disarrayed, dragged up the
mountain of Stromboli by his two victims, pope John and Symmachus, the
father-in-law of Boethius, and hurled by them into the fiery crater of
the volcano.

Agnellus, of Ravenna, who records that the body of Theodoric was no
longer in the great mausoleum, tells us that as it seems to him it was
cast forth out of that sepulchre. A later suggestion would lead us to
suppose that this was done by the monks of a neighbouring monastery,
who are said to have cast the body in its golden armour into the
Canale Corsini close by[1]. A few pieces of a golden cuirass
discovered there and now in the museum of Ravenna, seem to confirm
this story, which certainly is not unreasonable though of course it is
the merest conjecture. It is possible that the body of Theodoric did
not rest longer in its tomb than the Gothic power remained in Italy.
For already within a year of the death of Theodoric the new saviour
had appeared. Once more a great man sat upon the throne of the empire,
in whose mind and in whose will was set the dream of the reconquest,
of the re-establishment of the empire through the West, of the
promulgation of the great code by which the new Europe was to realise
itself. Justinian reigned in the New Rome upon the Bosphorus.

[Footnote 1: There is apparently no foundation for the assertion of
Fra Salimbene, the thirteenth-century chronicler of Parma (_Cronica_,
ed Holder-Egger, pp 209-210), that it was S. Gregory the Great himself
who ordered the body of Theodoric to be cast forth from its tomb. Cf.
E.G. Gardner _The Dialogues of S. Gregory_ (1911), p 273]




The failure of Theodoric, the failure of barbarism, of Arianism that
is, for barbarism and civilisation were now for all intents and
purposes mere synonyms for heresy and Catholicism, was probably fully
appreciated by the Gothic king, who was, nevertheless, incapable of
mastering his fate. The great lady who succeeded to his power in Italy
as the guardian of her son, his heir, Athalaric, was certainly as
fully aware as Theodoric may have been of the cause of that failure,
and she made the attempt, which he had not wished or dared to make, to
save the kingdom. The value of her heroic effort, which, for all its
courage, utterly failed, lies for us in the confirmation it gives to
our analysis of the causes of the Gothic failure to establish an
enduring government in the West.

That Amalasuntha wished to become a Catholic is probably true enough;
it is certain that she understood from the first that, in such an act,
she would not be able to carry her people with her. Therefore, she did
what she could short of this the only real remedy. She attempted to
educate her little son as a Roman, and hoped thus to insure his power
with the Latin population, trusting that the fact of his birth would
perhaps ensure the loyalty of the Gothic nation. In this she was
wholly to fail, because, as her attempt shows, she had not
fundamentally understood, any more than her father had been able to
do, the realities of the situation in which she found herself.

For all her genuine love for Roman things, her contempt of Gothic
rudeness and barbarism, she failed to see that the one living thing
that impressed the Roman mind, and really differentiated the Latin
from the Goth, was religion, was Catholicism. She remained, possibly
from necessity, but she remained, an Arian, and though she brought
Athalaric up "in all respects after the manner of the Romans," she did
not make him a Catholic, nor did she attempt the certainly hopeless
task of leading the Gothic nation towards the only means of
reconciliation that might have been successful.

The compromise she adopted was useless and futile, and only succeeded
in alienating the Goths, without winning her a single ally among the
Romans. Her own people utterly disapproved of her method of education
for her son, their king, "because they wished him to be trained in
more barbaric style so that they might the more readily oppress their
subjects." Presently they remonstrated with her: "O Lady, you are not
dealing justly with us, nor doing what is best for the nation when you
thus educate your son. Letters and book-learning are different from
courage and fortitude, and to permit a boy to be trained by old men is
the way to make him a coward and a fool. He who is to dare and to win
glory, and fame, must not be subjected to the fear of a pedagogue, but
must spend his time in martial exercise. Your father, Theodoric, would
never suffer his Goths to send their sons to the grammarians, for he
used to say: 'If they fear the teacher's strap they will never look on
sword or javelin without a shudder.' He himself, who won the lordship
of such wide lands and died king of so fair a kingdom, which he had
not inherited from his fathers, knew nothing, even by hearsay, of book
learning. Therefore, lady, you must say 'good-bye' to these
pedagogues, and give Athalaric companions of his own age, who may grow
up with him to manhood, and make him a valiant king after the manner
of the barbarians."[1]

[Footnote 1: Hodgkin, _Theodoric_ (Putnam, 1900), pp. 307-308.]

Amalasuntha was forced to bow to this, the public opinion of her own
people. The result was disastrous; for the young Athalaric, like a
true barbarian, was soon led away into a bestial sensuality which
presently destroyed his health and sent him to an early grave. Seeing
his instability both of body and mind, Amalasuntha entered into secret
communication with Constantinople, where Justinian was now emperor,
and even prepared for a possible flight to that city. Thus in 534,
when she received an ambassador in Ravenna from Justinian who demanded
of her the surrender of Lilybaeum, a barren rock in Sicily which
Theodoric had assigned to Thrasamund on his marriage with his sister
Amalafrida, in public she protested vigorously against the attempt of
the emperor to pick a quarrel with "an orphaned king" too young to
defend himself; but in private she assured the imperial ambassador of
her readiness "to transfer to the emperor the whole of Italy."

Italy was in this unstable state when, on the 2nd October 534,
Athalaric died in his eighteenth year. This apparently upset
Amalasuntha's plans. At any rate, we see her suddenly face quite about
and sending for Theodahad, the son of Amalafrida, upon whom she had
but lately pronounced a humiliating sentence, she offered to make him
her official colleague upon the Gothic throne. This man was an
ambitious villain. Of course he accepted Amalasuntha's foolish offer
and swore to observe the agreement made between them. But before many
weeks had passed he had made her a prisoner and had her securely
hidden upon an island in the Lake of Bolsena in Umbria. But Theodahad
appears to have been a fool as well as a villain. Having disposed of
Amalasuntha, he sent an embassy to Constantinople to explain his
conduct and to attempt to come to terms with Caesar. For his
ambassadors he chose not Gothic nobles, who might have found his
actions to their advantage, but Roman senators all but one of whom
told a plain tale. Justinian immediately despatched his ambassador
Peter to reassure Amalasuntha of his protection and to threaten
Theodahad that if she were hurt it would be at the price of his own
head. Peter however, had scarcely landed in Italy when he had news of
Amalasuntha's murder in her island prison. He continued at once on his
way to Ravenna, and there in the court before all the Gothic nobles
not only denounced the murderer, but declared "truceless war" upon the

[Footnote 1: Cf. Procopius, _De Bello Gotico_, 25. The murder of
Amalasuntha served the interests of the imperialists so well that
public opinion at Constantinople attributed it to Peter the ambassador
and to Theodora, the wife of Justinian. It remains, however, extremely
doubtful whether there is any truth in this accusation, although it is
certain that Theodora was in communication with Theodahad.]

The truth was that Justinian was ready, the hour had struck, and with
the hour had appeared the man who with his great master was ready to
attempt the reconquest of the West for civilisation.

We shall see the true state of affairs from the point of view of
Constantinople if we retrace our steps a little.

Justinian had succeeded Justin upon the imperial throne in 527. This
great man had early set before himself the real recovery of the West
for the empire. Circumstances, which he was not slow to use, caused
him to attempt first the reconquest of Africa from the Vandals, and
the true state of affairs is disclosed by the causes which brought
about this great campaign.

Hilderic, who had succeeded Thrasamund on the Vandal throne in Africa,
had put Amalafrida, the queen dowager, the sister of Theodoric, to
death. In June 531, he was deposed. Now Hilderic favoured the
Catholics, was the ally of the empire, and was descended on his
mother's side from the great Theodosius. Justinian determined to
avenge him, and in avenging him to reconquer Africa for the empire.
The hour had struck as I say, and the man had appeared with the hour.
That man was the great soldier Belisarius, the instrument of Justinian
in all his heroic design.

Belisarius was entirely successful in his African campaign. On 15th
September 533, he entered Carthage, and "was received by the majority
of the citizens who spoke the Latin tongue and professed the Catholic
Faith with unconcealed rejoicing." And as it happened he entered
Carthage only to hear of Hilderic's murder. Before the end of the year
the reconquest was complete. Africa was once more and in reality a
province of the empire, and offered an excellent base of operations
for the conquest of Italy, now to be undertaken.

In the summer of 535, eighteen months later, Justinian began the great
war against the Goths, the opportunity for which was offered him by
the murder of Amalasuntha, and the result of which was to be the
re-establishment of the empire in Italy. Rightly understood the true
service of Theodoric--and it was a real and a precious service--was
that the thirty years of settled government and peace which he had
given Italy had prepared the way for the reconquest.

That reconquest occupied five years. It was begun with an attack upon
Sicily and proceeded northward by way of Naples and Rome to Ravenna,
with the fall of which it was achieved. From a purely strategical
point of view Belisarius was wrong to attack Sicily first and to carry
the campaign from south to north; he should have attacked Ravenna
first, and from the sea, and thus possessed himself of the key of
Italy, and this especially as his base was Constantinople. But
politically he was absolutely right. Sicily was almost empty of Gothic
troops and the provincials were eagerly Catholic and only too willing
to make a real part of the Roman empire. Thus the campaign opened with
surrender after surrender, was indeed almost a procession; only
Palermo offered resistance, and this because it was held by a garrison
of Goths; but before the end of 535 the whole island was once more
subject to the empire.

Early in 536 a rebellion in Africa, which proved to be little more
than a mutiny in Carthage, took Belisarius away; but he was back in
Sicily before the end of the spring, and in the early summer was
marching through southern Italy almost unresisted, welcomed everywhere
with joy and thanksgiving till he came to the fortress of Naples,
which was held by a Gothic garrison. Here the people wished to welcome
him and surrender the city, but were prevented by the garrison, which,
however, was soon cleverly outwitted and taken prisoner, and by the
end of November all southern Italy was in Belisarius' hands.

The fall of Naples brought Theodahad to the ground. The Goths deposed
him and raised upon their shields Vitiges the soldier. As for
Theodahad he was overtaken on the road to Ravenna, whither he was
flying, and his throat was cut as he lay on the pavement of the way,
"as a priest cuts the throat of his victim."

If Theodahad was a villain as well as a fool, perhaps Vitiges was only
the latter. At any rate, he is generally considered to have acted with
criminal folly, when, as the first act of his reign, he abandoned Rome
and fell back upon Ravenna, determined to make his great defence in
northern Italy. But I think, if we consider the position more closely,
we shall see that Vitiges was not such a fool as he looks. He had seen
the two great fortresses of Palermo and Naples fall, and mainly for
the same reason, the fact that the whole of their populations except
the Gothic garrisons were eagerly on the side of the enemy. The
situation of Rome, its great size, made it difficult to defend except
with a very great army, and this would become a hundred times more
difficult, if not impossible, if the population were to side with the
attack. Yet not only was that already certain, but the sympathies of
the citizens there might be expected to be even more passionately
Roman than others had been elsewhere; for Rome was the capital of
Catholicism, the throne of the Church, the seat of Peter. The Goth had
to face the fact that, while he was perhaps hardly holding his own in
Rome, Belisarius might stealthily pass on to overthrow the Gothic
citadel at Ravenna. He had to ask himself whether he could expect to
defend both Rome and Ravenna, for if Ravenna were to fall the whole
kingdom was lost, since now, not less but rather more than before,
Ravenna was the key to Italy.

There is this also; Justinian had in the summer of 535 despatched two
armies from Constantinople. One of these was that which Belisarius had
disembarked in Sicily, and which till now had been so uniformly and so
easily victorious. The other under Mundus had entered Dalmatia which
it had completely wrested from the Goths by the middle of 536. It is
probable that Vitiges expected to be attacked in the rear and from the
north by this victorious army. If that should fall upon Ravenna while
the Gothic strength was engaged in the defence of Rome, what would be
the fate of that principal city, and with that lost, what would become
of him in the Catholic capital?

Of course Vitiges ought to have met the imperial army in the field and
given battle. That was the true solution. But no Gothic army ever
dared to face Belisarius in the open, for though the Goths enormously
outnumbered his small force of some 8000 men, they feared him as the
possessor of a superior arm in the _Hippotoxotai_, mounted troops
armed with the bow, and above all they feared his genius.

But Vitiges was no fool; his cause was hopeless from the first. He
abandoned Rome and fell back upon Ravenna, because that was the best
thing to be done in the circumstances in which he found himself. Among
these must be reckoned the newness of his authority and the necessity
of consolidating it by a marriage with a princess of the blood of
Theodoric. As it happened, this retreat enabled him to prolong a war
that at first looked like coming to an end in a few months for four
more years.

Vitiges then abandoned Rome, but it seems not altogether. What he may
be supposed to have imagined Belisarius doing to his disadvantage,
that he himself did. He left in Rome a garrison of four thousand men
under a veteran general Leudaris, while he himself with the Gothic
army fell back upon Ravenna. No sooner was he gone than the surrender
of the City was offered to Belisarius by pope Silverius who spoke for
the citizens and the Roman people. This was the reality of the
situation. Then indeed an almost incredible blunder was committed, but
not by Vitiges. The four thousand Goths whom he had left to hold the
City, and at least to delay and waste the imperialists, marched out of
Rome along the Flaminian Way as Belisarius entered from the south by
the Via Latina. Leudaris alone refused to quit this post. He was taken
prisoner, and sent with the keys of the Eternal City to Justinian.

Belisarius established himself upon the Pincian Hill, and his first
act after his occupation of the City is significant both of his
profound knowledge of the barbarians and of the immutable
characteristics of a Latin people.

It is possible that the Romans, seeing the fall of Palermo and Naples
and the occupation of Rome itself obtained so easily, believed that
the Goths were finally disposed of. But Belisarius' vast experience of
the character of the barbarians taught him otherwise. He immediately
began to provision Rome from Sicily as fast as he could, and he at
once undertook the fortification of the City, the repair of the
Aurelian Wall. In these acts of Belisarius two things become evident.
We see that he expected the return of the Goths, and we are made aware
of the fact that they had neglected to fortify the City.

It must be well seized by the reader, that the Gothic armies very
greatly outnumbered the imperial troops, who were but a small
expedition of not more than eight thousand men face to face with an
immense horde of barbarians. The great advantage of the imperialists
was that they were fighting in a friendly country, and they had too
certain superiorities of armament which civilisation may always depend
upon having at its command as against barbarians. Nevertheless,
Belisarius knew that his end would be more securely won if he could
wear down the barbarians, always impatient of so slow a business as a
siege, from behind fortifications. He expected the barbarians,
unstable in judgment and impatient of any but the simplest strategy
and tactics, to swarm again and again about the City, and he was
right: what he expected came to pass.

On the other hand, we see in the neglect on the part of the Goths of
all fortification of the City a neglect instantly repaired by
Belisarius, a characteristic persistent and perhaps ineradicable in
the Teutonic mind from the days of Tacitus to our own time. The Romans
had always asserted, and those nations to-day who are of their
tradition still assert, that the spade is the indispensable weapon of
the soldier. But the barbarians and those nations to-day who are of
their tradition, while they have not been so foolish as to refuse the
spade altogether, have always fortified reluctantly. You see these two
characteristics at work to-day in the opposite methods of the French
and the Germans, just as you see them at work in the sixth century
when Belisarius rebuilt the fortifications of the City which the Goths
had neglected.

And if we have praised Vitiges for his retreat upon Ravenna, how much
more must we praise Belisarius for the fortification of Rome. For if
the one had for its result the prolongation of the war for some four
years, the other determined what the end of that war should be.

Let us once more consider the military situation. It is evident that
Vitiges evacuated Rome because he was afraid of losing Ravenna, his
base, by an outflanking movement on the part of Belisarius and perhaps
by a new attack from Dalmatia.[1]

[Footnote 1: My theory of the strategy of Vitiges and of his purpose
is perhaps unorthodox; the orthodox theory being that he was a fool
and the abandonment of Rome a mere blunder. But my theory would seem
to be accurate enough, for Vitiges's first act from Ravenna was to
despatch an army into Dalmatia.]

In leaving a garrison within the City of some four thousand men--say
half as many as the whole imperialist army--he at least hoped to delay
the enemy till he had secured himself in the north and to waste him. I
do not think he expected to hold the city for any length of time, for
the whole country was spiritually with the enemy.

What he hoped to gain by his retreat was, however, not merely the
security of the north. He hoped also to lure Belisarius thither after
him where, in a country less wholly Latin and imperialist, he would
have a better chance of annihilating him by mere numbers once and for
all. To this supreme hope and expectation of the Goth's, the
refortification of Rome by Belisarius finally put an end. It was a
countermove worthy of such a master and entirely in keeping with the
Roman tradition.

At first it must have appeared to Vitiges that the course he had
expected Belisarius to pursue was actually being followed; for
presently the imperialists began to move up the Flaminian Way. But it
was soon evident that this was no advance in force, but rather a part
of the fortification of the City. All the places occupied were
fortresses and all were with one exception upon the Via Flaminia which
they commanded. The first of these strong places was Narni, which held
the great bridge over the Nera at the southern exit of the passes
between the valley of Spoleto and the lower Tiber valley, where the
two roads over the mountains, one by Todi, the other by Spoleto, met.
The second place occupied was Spoleto at the head, and the third was
Perugia at the foot, of the great valley of Spoleto, from which the
Via Flaminia rose to cross the central Apennines. The three places
were occupied without much trouble, and it was thus attempted to make
the great road from the north impassable.

If Vitiges, as I believe, thought the imperialists would immediately
follow him northward he was no more deceived than the Romans
themselves. They had surrendered the City to Belisarius to save it
from attack and the last thing they desired was to suffer a siege. A
feeling of resentment, the old jealousy of Constantinople, seems to
have appeared, and in this Vitiges thought he saw his opportunity.
With 150,000 men, according to Procopius, he issued from Ravenna and
marched upon Rome, avoiding apparently the three forts held by the
imperialists, for he came, again according to Procopius, through
Sabine territory and therefore his advance was upon the eastern bank
of the Tiber. However that may be, he got without being attacked as
far as the bridge over the Anio on the Via Salaria, or as the Milvian
Bridge over the Tiber where the Via Cassia and the Via Flaminia meet
to enter the City.[1] This bridge, whichever it was, Belisarius had
determined to hold, but without his knowledge it was deserted. The
Goths were crossing unopposed when the general himself appeared with
1000 horse. A tremendous fight followed in which, such was his rage
and astonishment, Belisarius bore himself rather like a brave soldier
than a wise general. Unhurt in spite of the _melee_ he fell back
either upon the Porta Salaria[2] or upon the Porta Flaminia (del
Popolo), which he found closed against him, for the City believed him
dead. Almost in despair he rallied his men and made a desperate
charge, which, such was the number of the Goths in the road and the
confusion of their advance, was successful. The barbarians fled and
Belisarius and his gallant troopers entered the City at nightfall.

[Footnote 1: Procopius tells us both that Vitiges advanced through the
Sabine country and that he crossed the Tiber--an impossible thing.
Gibbon and Hodgkin refuse the former, Gregorovius the latter
statement. I agree with Gregorovius, for Procopius confuses the Tiber
and Anio elsewhere, notably iii. 10.]

[Footnote 2: Possibly the Porta Pinciana.]

[Illustration: Sketch Map of VITIGES, MARCH]

All through that night the walls of Rome were aflame with watchfires
and disastrous tidings, happily false; and when the dawn rose out of
the Campagna, Rome was still inviolate.

Thus began the first siege of Rome in the early days of March 537. It
lasted for three hundred and seventy-four days and ended in the sullen
retreat of the barbarians to save Ravenna, which as Vitiges had at
first foreseen would happen was threatened with attack. But as so
often in later times, those three hundred and seventy-four days had
dealt incomparably more hardly with the besiegers than with the
besieged. The Campagna had done its work, and it has been calculated
that of the 150,000 men that are said to have marched with Vitiges to
attack the city, not more than 10,000 returned to Ravenna.

Meanwhile during the great siege Belisarius, by means of his
subordinate general, John, had carried on a campaign in Picenum and
had been able to send assistance to the people of Milan, eagerly Roman
as they were.

In Picenum, John had perhaps rashly pushed forward from Ancona to
Rimini; which he held precariously and to the danger of Ancona. The
first act of Belisarius after the raising of the siege of the City was
to despatch troops post haste to Rimini. He sent Ildiger and Martin
with a thousand horse to fight their way if necessary to Rimini to
withdraw John and his two thousand horse. He purposed to hold Rimini
only with the tips of his fingers, for his determination was to secure
all he held before he entered upon a final and a real advance

The position of Belisarius seemed more insecure than in fact it was.
If we consider the great artery of his advance northward, the Via
Flaminia, we shall find that he held everything to the east of the
road between Rome and Ancona save one fortress, Osimo above Ancona,
which was held by four thousand of the enemy. But all was or seemed to
be insecure because he held nothing to the west of the great road save
Perugia: Orvieto, Todi, Chiusi, Urbino were all in Gothic hands, while
the Furlo Pass over the Apennines was also held by the enemy.

Well might Belisarius desire the cavalry of John, useless in Rimini,
for the direct road to that city was still in the hands of the enemy.
But when John got his orders he refused to obey them and Ildiger and
Martin returned without him. What excuse is possible for this refusal
of obedience on the part of a subordinate which might well have
imperilled the whole campaign? This only: that he had orders from one
superior even to Belisarius. It is probable that John in Rimini and
Ancona was aware that he might expect reinforcement from
Constantinople and that Belisarius knew nothing of them. These
reinforcements arrived under Narses, the great and famous chamberlain
of Justinian, not long after Rimini had begun to suffer the memorable
siege that followed the departure of Ildiger and Martin, and Ancona
had only just been saved. The presence of Narses in Italy changed the
whole aspect of the campaign, and whatever motives Justinian may have
had for sending him thither, the effect of his landing at Ancona with
great reinforcements can have had only a good effect upon the war.


Belisarius had now secured himself to this extent that Todi and Chiusi
were in his hands, and he hastened to meet Narses at Fermo forty miles
south of Ancona. There a council of war was held in which Belisarius
maintained his plan, namely, that Rimini should be abandoned because
Osimo, very strongly held over Ancona, was in the hands of the Goths.
Narses, on the contrary, looked only to the spiritual side of war. He
maintained that if a city once recovered for the empire was abandoned
the moral result would be disastrous. At any cost he was for the
relief of Rimini. Somewhat reluctantly, realising the danger,
Belisarius consented to try. A screen of a thousand men was placed
before Osimo, an army was embarked for Rimini and another was sent out
by the coast road, while Belisarius himself and Narses with a column
of cavalry set out from Fermo westward, crossed the Apennines above
Spoleto, struck into the Flaminian Way, recrossed the Apennines by the
Furlo, and had come within a day's journey of Rimini when they came
upon a party of Goths, who fled and gave the alarm to Vitiges. But
before the Goth could decide what to do, Ildiger was upon him from the
sea, Martin was upon him with a great army from the south, and
Belisarius and Narses came down from the mountains in time to rejoice
at the delivery of the city.

That deliverance but disclosed the two parties that divided the
imperial army. When John refused obedience to Belisarius we may be
sure he was not acting wholly without encouragement, and this at once
became obvious after the deliverance of Rimini which Belisarius had
carried out but which had been conceived by Narses. It will be
remembered that Milan was by the act of Belisarius in the hands of the
Romans; it was, however, now besieged even as Rimini had been by a
very redoubtable Gothic leader, Uraius. Orvieto and Osimo also were
still in barbarian hands. Belisarius now proposed to employ the army
in the relief of the one and the capture of the others. Narses, on the
other hand, proposed to take his part of the army and with it to
reoccupy the province of Aemilia between the Apennines and the Po.
These rivalries and differences were to cost the life of a great city,
Milan. For since Narses would not consent to the plan of Belisarius,
only what seemed most urgent was done; Orvieto was taken, Urbino too,
and the energy of the imperial army and its purpose, also, was
expended upon many unimportant things, an attempt upon Cesena, the
reduction of Imola, which involved a hopeless dispersal of forces upon
no great end. Belisarius, warned of the danger, ordered John to the
relief of Milan; again that creature of Narses refused. And down came
Milan before Uraius the Goth, who fell upon the helpless citizens and
massacred three hundred thousand of them, being all the men of the
city; and the women he gave as payment to his Burgundian ally; and of
Milan he left not one stone upon another. But when Justinian read the
despatch of Belisarius, he recalled Narses, for if the fall of Rimini
would have injured so sorely the imperial cause, what of the fall of
Milan, the massacre of its inhabitants, the utter destruction of the
city? So great was its effect that we read even Justinian thought of
treating with the Goths; for he was haunted by the weakness of his
Persian frontier, and he had soon to look to the western Alps.

Not so Belisarius. He went on his way and first he reduced two
fortresses that had long threatened him, Osimo and Fiesole, and then
and at long last he began the great advance upon Ravenna.

In this he was attempting with a small and weary force what had never
before been accomplished. Theodoric, it is true, had entered Ravenna
as a conqueror, but only by stratagem and deceptive promises after a
siege of three years. Belisarius, none knew it better than he, had
neither the time nor the forces that were at the disposal of the great
Gothic king. He must act quickly if at all, and nowhere and on no
occasion does this great and resourceful man appear to better
advantage than in his achievement at Ravenna, which should have been
the last military action of the reconquest.

Procopius, who was perhaps an eye-witness of the whole business of the
siege and certainly entered Ravenna in triumph with Belisarius, tells
us that, after the fall of Osimo, Belisarius made haste to Ravenna
with his whole army. He sent one of his generals, Magnus, before him
with a sufficient force, to march along the Po and to prevent
provisions being taken into the impregnable city from the Aemilian
Way; while another general, Vitalius, he called out of Dalmatia with
his forces to hold the northern bank of the river. When this was done
a most extraordinary accident occurred which it seems impossible to
explain. "An accident then befell," says Procopius, "which clearly
shows that Fortuna determines even yet every struggle. For the Goths
had brought down the Po many barges from Liguria[1] laden with corn,
bound for Ravenna; but the water suddenly grew so low in the river
that they could not row on; and the Romans coming upon them took them
and all their lading. Soon after the river had again its wonted stream
and was navigable as before. This scarcity of water had never till
then occurred so far as we could hear."

[Footnote 1: Cf. Cassiodorus, _Variae_, II. 20, where we read of
Theodoric in a time of scarcity supplying Liguria with food from
Ravenna. "Let any provision ships which may be now lying at Ravenna be
ordered round to Liguna, which in ordinary times supplies the needs of
Ravenna herself."]

Owing to this accident and the closeness of the investment the Goths
began to be short of provisions, for they could import nothing from
the sea, since the Romans were masters there. In their need, however,
the King of the Franks, knowing how things were, sent ambassadors to
Vitiges in Ravenna, and so did Belisarius. The Franks offered to lead
an army of five hundred thousand men over the Alps and to bury the
Romans in utter ruin if the Goths would consent to share Italy with
them. But the Goths feared the Franks, and the ambassadors of
Belisarius were able to persuade them to reject their offers. From
this time forward negotiations went on without ceasing between
Belisarius and the Goths, for the one was short of time, the other of
food. Nevertheless, the Romans did not relax their investment of the
city in any way. Indeed, Belisarius chose this moment for his
shrewdest and cruellest blow. "For hearing how there was much corn in
the public magazines of Ravenna, he won a citizen with money to set
them afire; which loss, some say, happened by Matasuntha's advice, the
wife of Vitiges. It was so suddenly done that some thought it was by
lightning, as others by design, and Vitiges and the Goths, taking it
in either kind, fell into more irresolution, mistrusting one another,
and thinking that God himself made war against them."

At this misfortune Uraius, the destroyer of Milan, proposed to attempt
to relieve Ravenna, but Belisarius easily outwitted him and his
intervention came to nothing.

Nevertheless time, so scarce with the Romans, was running short.
Justinian was impatient to have done with the Italian war, for the
general situation was extremely grave; upon the Danube an invasion of
Slavs was gathering; in Asia, Persia threatened the empire. It is not
altogether surprising then that Justinian now made an attempt to come
to terms with Vitiges behind the back of Belisarius. He sent two
ambassadors to offer peace upon the following really amazing terms,
namely, that the Goths were to have half the royal treasure and the
dominion of the country beyond the Po, that is to say, to the north of
the Po; the other half of the revenues and the rest of Italy with
Sicily were to be the emperor's. The ambassadors showed their
instructions to Belisarius, who had them conducted into Ravenna, where
Vitiges and the Goths gladly consented to make peace and to accept
these conditions. But both sides had reckoned without Belisarius, who
doubtless saw that such a peace could not endure and that all his
labour, if such terms were to be made, had gone for nothing. Nothing
would satisfy his ideas of security save the absolute defeat of the
Goths with its natural sequel, the bringing of Vitiges to
Constantinople as a prisoner. He, therefore, refused to sign the
treaty, leaving it to be established by the ambassadors alone. But
when the Goths saw this they thought that the Romans cozened them, and
refused to conclude anything without the signature and oath of

That Belisarius was right we cannot doubt; but his action naturally
laid him open to be accused of a design, against the emperor's
intentions, to prolong the war for his own glory. Nor were certain of
his generals slow to make such an accusation. When he heard of it, he
(who had suffered more than enough from the disloyalty of
subordinates) called them all together, and in the presence of the
ambassadors confessed that Fortune was the great decider of war, and
that a good opportunity for peace should ever be seized. Then he bade
them speak their minds in the present case. They declared then, one
and all, that it were best to follow the instructions of the emperor.
When Belisarius heard them speak thus he was glad and bade them put
their opinions in writing, that neither he nor they might afterwards
deny their confession that they were not able to subdue the enemy by

But Belisarius was sure of his ground. The Goths pressed by famine
could hold out no longer, and weary of Vitiges, who had given them no
success, yet afraid of yielding to the emperor lest he should remove
them out of Italy to Constantinople and thereabout, they resolved, of
all things, to declare Belisarius emperor in the West. Secretly they
sent to entreat him to accept the empire, professing to be most
willing to obey him. Such an astonishing proposal must have filled
Belisarius with delight. He, indeed, had no intention of receiving
from such hands a gift so fantastic, for he hated the name of usurper;
but he saw at once how this proposal might help his ends. He
immediately called his generals and the ambassadors together and asked
them if they did not think it a matter of importance to make all the
Goths and Vitiges the emperor's captives, to capture their wealth, and
to recover all Italy to the Romans. They answered it would be an
extreme high fortune and bade him effect it if he could. Then
Belisarius sent to the Goths and bade them perform what they had
offered. And they, for the famine was too hard to bear, agreed and
sent ambassadors to take the oath of the great Roman for their
indemnity and that he would be King of Italy, and when they had it, to
return into Ravenna with the Roman army. Now as to their indemnity
Belisarius bound himself, but touching the kingdom he said he would
swear it to Vitiges himself and the Gothic commanders. And the
ambassadors, not thinking he would forego the kingdom, but that he
desired it above all things, prayed him forthwith to march into
Ravenna. And he himself with his army and the Gothic ambassadors
entered Ravenna; and he commanded also ships to be laden with corn and
to come into Classis.

"When I saw," says Procopius, whose account of the siege and fall of
Ravenna I have followed so far, "when I saw the entrance of their army
into Ravenna, I considered how actions are not concluded by valour,
multitudes, or human virtue, but by some Divinity that steers the acts
and judgements of men. The Goths had much the advantage in numbers and
power, and since they came to Ravenna no defeat there had overthrown
them, yet they became prisoners and thought it no shame to be slaves
to fewer in number. The women (who had heard from their husbands that
the enemy were tall and gallant men and not to be numbered) looked
with contempt upon the Roman soldiers when they saw them in the city,
and spat in the faces of their husbands, reviling them with cowardice,
pointing at their conquerors."

Thus Ravenna, the impregnable city, was taken by stratagem and
willingly; never again to pass out of Roman hands till Aistulf the
Lombard in 752 seized it for a few years and thus caused Pepin to
cross the Alps to vindicate the Roman name.

* * * * *

The first Gothic war, against Vitiges, (536-540) had thus for its
crown and end, the capture of Ravenna; the second, against Totila
(541-553), proceeded from Ravenna for the reconquest, yet once again,
of Italy.

In 540, after Ravenna had been occupied, Belisarius recalled, and
Vitiges taken as a captive to Constantinople, the Romans held all
Italy except the city of Pavia. In 544, when Belisarius returned, they
held only Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, and a few other strongholds such as
Perugia and Piacenza. Nor was this all. In this second war all Italy
was laid waste and ruined, Rome was twice besieged and occupied by the
Goths, and in 546, when Totila had done with her, during a space of
forty days the City remained utterly desolate, without a single
inhabitant. How had such a miserable and unexpected catastrophe
befallen the Catholic cause?

In the first place it must be admitted that the capture of Ravenna by
stratagem was not the final catastrophe it appeared for the Goths. It
is true that that triumph seemed to give, and indeed did give, all
Italy into the hands of the Romans, but that gift was never secured.
Belisarius, partly from necessity, partly on account of the suspicious
jealousy of the emperor, was withdrawn from Italy too soon. He was
victorious, but he was not given time to secure his victories. The
extraordinary incompetence and rivalries of the committee of generals
which succeeded him let the opportunity for securing and establishing
an enduring peace slip through its fingers; the inevitable reaction
that followed the departure of Belisarius was not met at all, the
whole situation that then developed was misunderstood, with the result
that the Goths were soon able to find a leader, perhaps the most
formidable, and certainly the most destructive, that they had ever

The cause of the imperial incompetence and failure would appear to
have been financial. The empire had been perhaps always, certainly for
two hundred years, bankrupt. Its administration and above all its
defence were beyond its means. The Gothic war had been a tremendous
strain upon the imperial finances already incredibly involved in the
defence of the East. It was necessary to find in Italy the money for
that war and for the future defence of that country; but Italy had
been ruined by the Gothic war and above all things needed capital and
a period of reproductive repose. These Justinian was unable to give
her. His necessities forced him to cover the peninsula with tax
gatherers, to bleed an already ruined country of the little that
remained to her. If the result was a reaction, in the north actively
Gothic, in the centre and south certainly indifferent to the imperial
cause, we cannot wonder at it. The spiritual situation and the
economic or material would not chime. The result was the appalling
confusion we know as the second Gothic war.

[Illustration: Colour Plate S. VITALE: THE GALLERY]

I say it was a confusion. No clear issue seems to present itself from
beginning to end; the old democratic cause, the Catholicism of the
people rising in rage and fury against the Arianism of the courts,
burnt low for a moment, and was indeed in part extinguished by the
appalling misery of the material situation of Italy. Upon this
materialism, the material benefits that Theodoric had undoubtedly
conferred upon the Italian people, Totila, that formidable chieftain
who now came to the front as the Gothic leader, based his appeal and
his hope of victory. "Surely," he says to the Roman senate, "you must
remember sometimes in these evil days the benefits which you received
not so very long ago at the hands of Theodoric and Amalasuntha." And
again: "What harm did the Goths ever do you? And tell me then what
good you received from Justinian the emperor?... Has he not compelled
you to give an account of every _solidus_ which you received from the
public funds even under the Gothic kings? All harassed and
impoverished as you are by the war, has he not compelled you to pay to
the Greeks the full taxes which could be levied in a time of
profoundest peace?" Totila based his appeal upon the material
well-being of the people. It was a formidable appeal; it nearly
succeeded. That it did not succeed, though it had so much in its
favour, is the best testimony we could have to the real nature of the
war, which was not a struggle between two races or even primarily, at
any rate, between barbarism and civilisation, but something greater
and more fundamental, a fight to the death between two religions
Arianism and Catholicism, upon the result of which the whole future of
Europe depended.

The confusion of the second Gothic war, in which the future of the
world and the major interests of man were in jeopardy, may be divided
into three parts. The first of these is that in which the whole
administration precariously established by Belisarius fell to pieces
before the earthquake that was Totila, who, never systematically met
and opposed, by the year 544 held all Italy with the exception, as I
have said, of Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, Perugia, Piacenza, and a few
other strongholds. The second is that in which Belisarius again
appears, and from the citadel of Ravenna, without ceasing or rest, but
without much success, opposes him everywhere. In this period Rome was
occupied and reoccupied no less than four times, and, as I have said,
in 546 was left utterly desolate. Nevertheless, when for the second
time Belisarius was recalled, in 548, he left things much as he had
found them. He had at least--and with what scarcity of men and money
we may see in his letters to the emperor--opposed and perhaps stemmed
the overwhelming Gothic advance. At his departure the imperialists
held Ravenna, Rome (but after the sack of 546), Rimini, Spoleto,
Ancona, and Perugia. But before he arrived in Constantinople, Perugia
had fallen; in the same year, 549, a mutiny in Rome gave the City to
the Goths and Rimini was betrayed. In the year 551, the year of
Narses' appointment as general-in-chief in Italy and the opening of
the third period, only Ravenna and Ancona, with Hydruntum (Otranto)
and Crotona in southern Italy, remained to the empire.

In that year, 551, however, everywhere the Gothic cause began to fail.
In a sea-fight off Sinigaglia the imperial forces disposed of the
Gothic sea power and relieved Ancona, which was in grave danger. About
the same time Sicily was delivered from the Gothic yoke, and in the
spring of 552 Crotona was relieved. Meanwhile, in Illyricum, Narses
gathered his army, in which Ardoin, King of the Lombards, rode at the
head of two thousand of his people, and prepared for the great march
into Italy.

He came through Venetia round the head of the Adriatic, close to the
sea (for a formidable Frankish host held the great roads), crossing
with what anxiety we may guess, the mouths of the Piave, the Brenta,
the Adige, and the Po by means of his ships, and having thus turned
the flank of the Frankish armies he triumphantly marched into Ravenna.
There he remained for nine days, as it were another Caesar about to
cross the Rubicon.

While he waited in Ravenna an insulting challenge reached him from the
barbarian Usdrilas who held Rimini. "After your boasted preparations,
which have kept all Italy in a ferment, and after striking terror into
our hearts by knitting your brows and looking more awful than mortal
men, you have crept into Ravenna and are skulking there afraid of the
very name of the Goths. Come out with all that mongrel host of
barbarians to whom you want to deliver Italy and let us behold you,
for the eyes of the Goths hunger for the sight of you."[1] And Narses
laughed at the insolence of the barbarian, and presently he set
forward with the army he had made, upon the great road through Classis
for Rimini, till he came to the bridge over the Marecchia, there which
Augustus had built and which was held by the enemy. There in the fight
which followed--little more than a skirmish--the barbarian Usdrilas
came by his end, and Narses ignoring Rimini marched on, his great
object before him, Totila and his army, which he meant, before all
things else, to seek out and to destroy. So he went down the Flaminian
Way to Fano and there presently left it for a by-way upon the left,
rejoining the great highway some miles beyond the fortress of Petra
Pertusa, which he disregarded as he had done that of Rimini. He
marched on till he came to the very crest of the Apennines, over which
he passed and camped upon the west under the great heights, at a place
then called Ad Ensem and to-day Scheggia.

[Footnote 1: Hodgkin's free translation of Procopius, _op. cit_. iv.

[Illustration: Sketch Map NARSES' MARCH FROM RAVENNA _To Meet_ TOTILA]

Meanwhile Totila had come to meet him from Rome, and had managed to
reach Tadinum, the modern Gualdo Tadino, when he found Narses,
unexpectedly, for he must have thought the way over the mountains
securely barred by the fortress of Petra Pertusa, upon the great road
before him.

Narses sent an embassy to Totila to offer, "not peace, but pardon;"
this the barbarian refused. Asked when he would fight Totila answered,
"In eight days from this day." But Narses, knowing what manner of man
his enemy was, made all ready for the morrow, and at once occupied the
great hill upon his left which overlooked both camps. In this he was
right, for no sooner had he seized this advantage than Totila
attempted to do the same, but without any success.

Then on the morrow Totila, having meanwhile been reinforced with two
thousand men, rode forth before the two armies and "exhibited in a
narrow space the strength and agility of a warrior. His armour was
enchased with gold; his purple banner floated with the wind; he cast
his lance into the air; caught himself backwards; recovered his seat
and managed a fiery steed in all the paces and evolutions of the
equestrian school."[1] No doubt Narses the eunuch smiled. The
barbarians were all the same, and they remain unaltered. Totila's
theatrical antics are but the prototype to those amazing cavalry
charges, excellently stage-managed, that may be seen almost any autumn
during the German manoeuvres, a new Totila at their head.

[Footnote 1: Gibbon's free translation of Procopius, iv. 31.]

When Totila had finished his display the two armies faced one another,
the imperialists with Narses and John upon the left, the Lombards in
the centre, and Valerian upon the right with John the Glutton; the
Goths in what order of battle we do not know. At length at noon the
battle was joined. The Gothic charge failed, Narses drew his straight
line of troops into a crescent, and the short battle ended in the
utter rout of the Goths, Totila flying from the field. In that flight
one Asbad a Gepid struck at him and fatally wounded him. He was borne
by his companions to the village of Caprae, more than twelve miles
away, and there he died.

Thus ended Totila the Goth and with him the Gothic cause in Italy. A
remnant of his army made its way to Pavia, where it was contained by
Valerian; and all over Italy the Gothic fortresses hastened to
surrender, Perugia, Spoleto, Narni, all opened their gates, and Narses
marched on to occupy Rome which he did without much difficulty. All
Italy lay open to the imperialists, and when Totila's successor Teias
was slain all hope of recovery was gone. The Goths offered to leave
Italy, and their offer was accepted. For a year longer a desultory
war, the reduction of Cumae and Lucca, occupied Narses; but by 554
this too was brought to an end, and unhappy Italy was once more
gathered into the government of the empire.




Such was the inevitable end of the Gothic war in Italy. The issue thus
decided was, as I have tried to show, something much more tremendous
than the mere supremacy of a race. Nothing less than the future of the
world was assured upon those stricken fields and about those ruined
fortresses, the supremacy of the Catholic religion in which was
involved the whole destiny of Europe, the continuance of our
civilisation and culture. For let it be said again: these wars of the
sixth century were not a struggle to the death between two races, but
between two religions; the opponents were not really Roman and Goth,
but Catholic and Arian, and in the victory of the former was involved
the major interest of mankind. The whole energy of that age was
devoted to the final establishment of what for a thousand years was to
be the universal religion of Europe, the source of all her greatness
and the reason of her being. What was saved in those unhappy campaigns
was not Italy, but the soul of Europe.

Certainly it was not Italy. Materially the result of those eighteen
years of war, which began with the invasion of Italy by Belisarius in
536, reached their crisis in 540 with the capture of Ravenna, and were
finally decided by Narses in 552-554, was the ruin of Italy.
Exhausted, devastated, and unfilled, the prey, for half a generation,
of a fundamental war, Italy was materially ruined by Justinian's
Gothic campaigns, and so hopelessly that, when in 568 the Lombards
fell upon her, she was almost unable to defend herself, to offer any
resistance to what proved--and in part for this reason--the only
barbaric invasion which had upon her any enduring consequences.
Visigoths, Huns, Vandals, Ostrogoths, all poured over her, and
presently, like winter floods, retreated and subsided, leaving nothing
to remind us of their fear and devastation; the Lombards remained.

I say this was largely due to the appalling exhaustion and ruin of
Italy in the Gothic war; but there was something else which we must
not forget. The Gothic war was a religious war. The Arianism of the
Goths had really threatened our civilisation. But the Lombards were
largely mere heathens. Their heathenism was not at all dangerous to us
as a heresy must always be.[1] Therefore Italy never roused herself
from her exhaustion, one might almost say her indifference. It was
only her material well-being that was at stake, her future was safe.
Her great attempt against the Lombards was a spiritual effort, was an
effort for their conversion, and their final discomfiture, wrought not
from within the peninsula, but from over the Alps, did not involve
their expulsion from Italy, but was seized upon as the opportunity for
the re-establishment in name and in fact of the Western Empire, and
for the great crowning of Charlemagne by the pope in S. Peter's

[Footnote 1: It was not the paganism of the Italian Renaissance but
the heresy of the Teutons which destroyed the unity of Europe in the
sixteenth century.]

Italy, and with Italy Europe, were, then, saved from nothing less than
death when Narses finally disposed of Totila in the Apennines in 552;
but that war which had a result so very glorious had materially ruined
the country.

From this general bankruptcy one city certainly escaped; that city was
Ravenna, which since the year 540, when she had opened her gates to
Belisarius, had been free from attack, and had more than ever been
established as the capital of the West. That position was secured to
her, as I have already said, by her geographical position, which now
that Constantinople had reasserted the claim of the empire to Italy
established her more than at any time in her history as the necessary
seat of military and administrative power; and from Ravenna as from
the citadel the whole of the second part of the Gothic war was waged
by the imperialists. As we might expect the true nature of that war is
immediately manifested in her history at this time.

It would seem that very shortly after the occupation of Ravenna by the
imperialists in 540, the re-edification of the city and its splendid
embellishment was begun. The church of S. Vitalis begun by S.
Ecclesius (_c_. 521-532) was finished and gloriously adorned with
mosaics by S. Maximianus (_c_ 546-556), and not long after S.
Apollonaris in Classe begun by S. Ursicinus (532-536) was completed
and adorned by the same great bishop.

But this eagerness to mark and to express in such glorious monuments
as these the great victory for Catholicism and civilisation that was
then in the winning becomes even more manifest after the death of
Totila and the end of the war. To the S. Agnellus and to the Church of
Ravenna Justinian "_rectae fidei Augustus_" gave all the substance of
the Goths, according to the _Liber Pontificalis_,[1] "not only in
Ravenna itself, but in the suburban towns and in the villages, both
sanctuaries and altars, slaves and maidens, whatever was theirs. _S.
Mater Ecclesia Ravennas, vera mater, vera orthodoxa nam ceterae multae
Ecclesiae falsam propter metum et terrores Principum superinduxere
doctrinam; haec vero et veram et unicam Sanctam Catholicam tenuit
Fidem, nunquam mutavit fluctuationem sustinuit, a tempestate quassata
immobilis permansit_. Therefore S. Agnellus the archbishop reconciled
all the churches of the Goths, which in their time or in that of King
Theodoric had been built or had been occupied by the false doctrines
of the Arians.... He thus reconciled the church of S. Eusebius which
Unimundus the (Arian) bishop had built in the twenty-third year of
King Theodoric. In the same year he reconciled the church of S.
Georgius (S. Giorgio ad Tabulam fuori delle Mura) ... the church of S.
Sergius which is in Classis and of S. Zenone which is in Caesarea." In
Ravenna itself he reconciled the churches of S. Theodorus (S.
Spirito), S. Maria in Cosmedin (the Arian Baptistery), the church of
S. Martin (S. Apollinare Nuovo) which Theodoric had built, which was
called _Caelum Aureum_ and which Agnellus re-decorated with the
mosaics of the Martyrs and Virgins we see and the effigies of
Justinian and himself.

[Footnote 1: Agnellus, _Liber Pontificalis_ (ed. Holder-Egger. P. 334)
_ad vitam Sancti Agnelli_.]

Such was the work achieved in the fortunate capital. But ruined Italy
awaited a more necessary, if less splendid, labour. This can have been
nothing less than the resurrection of the country, which, in those
eighteen years of war, can have become little less than a desert; and,
as we might expect, all Italy desolate and depopulated looked to
Justinian to succour her in her misery if she was not to perish under
her ruins and her debts. The first step in that work was undertaken in
the very year of the peace, in the August of the year 554, and it took
the form of a solemn "Pragmatic Sanction" addressed to Narses and to
Antiochus, the Prefect of Italy,[1] in Ravenna. It had for its object
the social peace of Italy, the re-establishment of order out of the
chaos of the Ostrogothic war; and it is significant of the true
position of affairs that this decree asserts that it is issued by the
emperor in reply to the petition of the pope.

[Footnote 1: The fact that it was addressed to both surely seems to
show that Narses at this time only held a military power in Italy.
This is interesting as touching the discussion later on of the genesis
of the exarchate.]

It consists of twenty-seven articles, and first establishes what is to
be considered as still having authority in that tempestuous past; what
part of it is to remain and to be confirmed and what is to be utterly
swept away. Thus the emperor confirms all dispositions made by
Amalasuntha, Athalaric, and Theodahad, as well as all his own
acts--and these would include Theodoric's--and those of Theodora. But
everything done by "the most wicked tyrant Totila" is null and void,
"for we will not allow these law-abiding days of ours to take any
account of what was done by him in the time of his tyranny."[1] Totila
had indeed most cruelly attacked the great landed proprietors whom he
suspected of too great an attachment for Constantinople; he had
attacked them in their persons and in their wealth. With a single
stroke of the pen Justinian, as it were, effaced all the ordinances of
the tyrant and rendered again to their legitimate masters, as far as
it could be done, their lands, their flocks, their peasants, and their
slaves which had been taken from them, or which fear had caused them
to alienate.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Hodgkin, _op. cit_. vi. pp. 519-520.]

Such were the political achievements of the decree. Nor were its
financial provisions less far-reaching. Something had to be done to
meet the crisis resulting from the enormous quantity of debt.
Everywhere Justinian undertook great public works, and tried to repair
the destruction caused by the war; but it is probable that in reality
he achieved very little. He had enriched the Church; he had
re-established the great proprietors in their lands and their rights,
but the industry and commerce of Italy, save perhaps at Ravenna and at
Naples, he could not restore. And we seem to understand that the mere
lack of men left whole districts of Italy uncultivated and desert.

As for the administrative and legal clauses of the decree, they gave
the Italian--the Roman as he is called--the right to have his suit
heard by a civil judge instead of a military official. This
established the security of the Italian against the barbaric hosts the
imperial armies had brought into the country. But perhaps more
important, and certainly more significant, is the twelfth clause of
the decree which relates to the way in which the _Judices
Provinciarum_ are to be appointed. "We order," says Justinian, "that
only fit and proper persons able to administer the local government
shall be chosen, and this by the bishops and chief persons of each
province from the inhabitants of that province." This clause was soon
proved to contain so much wisdom that in 569 by Justinian's successor
it was extended to the provinces of the Eastern empire.

In all this we recognise the work of the great reformer who had
already produced the _Corpus Juris Civilis_, consisting of the
Institutes, Digest, Code, and Novellae, which more than anything else
he did--and he did everything--determined that Europe, which he had
secured for ever, should be a Roman thing established upon Roman Law.
But are we also to see in this great man the creator of the exarchate,
that citadel of the empire in Italy which was to endure, though almost
all else perished, till Charlemagne appeared and the empire itself
suddenly re-arose, armed at all points and ready for battle? It might
seem that we are not to attribute that great scheme to Justinian, but
rather to a later recognition of the force and reality of the
disasters that so few years after his death descended once more upon

When Narses at the head of the armies of Justinian had in 554
conquered the Goths and possessed Italy, the administrative divisions
of the peninsula would seem to have remained almost the same as they
had been in the time of Honorius. Indeed the re-entry of Italy within
the empire was accompanied by no important change in the provincial
divisions of the peninsular because there was no necessity for it.
Narses, who ruled just eleven years in Ravenna, was never known by the
title of exarch. On the contrary, Procopius and Agathias call him
simply the general-in-chief of the Roman army [Greek: o Romaion
strataegos], and pope Pelagius calls him _Patricius et Dux in Italia_,
and others, among them Gregory the Great and Agnellus, simply
_Patricius_. But it is obvious that there was something new in the
official situation and that certain extraordinary powers were
conferred upon Narses. And it is the same with his successor Longinus.
All the texts that mention him, including the _Liber Pontificalis_,
call him _Praefectus_. But the transformation from which the exarchate
arose was more obscure and far more slow than any official reform of
Justinian's could have been. It is in part the result of the new
condition of the country, which Justinian had had to take into
account, but it is much more the result of the progress of the Lombard
conquest and the new necessities of defence, which not one of the
three great men who had restored Italy to the empire lived to see.

For Belisarius and Justinian both died in 565, and Narses, who was
recalled in that year by the foolish and insolent Sophia, the wife of
the new emperor Justin II., seems to have died about 572.

It is difficult to determine to which of these three great and heroic
figures Italy, and through Italy, Europe, owes most, but since it was
Justinian who chose and employed them we must, I think, accord him,
here too, the first place in our remembrance.

Belisarius, who had fought the first great war so gloriously against
Vitiges, and for so long and with so little encouragement had opposed
Totila in the second, is of course one of the great soldiers of the
world and perhaps the greatest the empire ever employed. His capture
of Ravenna, by stratagem it is true, but against time and, as it were,
in spite of the emperor, brought the first Gothic war to an end, and
would, had he been left in Italy a few months longer, have prevented
all the long drawn out agony of the second. As it was his achievement,
and his achievement alone, made that second war something better than
the hopeless affair it seemed for so long, and though he himself to
all appearances made little headway against Totila, it was his series
of heroic campaigns, in which he refused despair, that made the ever
glorious march of Narses possible, and the final crushing of the
barbarian in the Apennines after all but the crown of his endeavour.

Of his master, the great emperor, it is not for me to speak since to
this day his works speak for him. The thirty-eight years of his reign
are the most brilliant period of the later Roman empire, and if the
military triumphs he conceived were the work of Belisarius and Narses
we must attribute to him alone the magnificent conception, the
tireless energy, and the heroic purpose which established the great
pillars of the _Corpus Juris Civilis_ which is the legal foundation of
mediaeval and of modern Europe, the basis of all Canon Law and of all
Civil Law in every civilised country. Of his great ecclesiastical
polity perhaps we must speak with less enthusiasm, though not with
less wonder; while his glorious buildings remain only less enduring
than his codification of the laws. If in Ravenna we are most nearly
and splendidly reminded of him in S. Vitale, we do not forget that he
was the creator of perhaps the greatest ecclesiastical building left
to us, the mighty church--lost to us now for near five hundred
years--of S. Sophia in Constantinople. On the whole we see in
Justinian the greatest of all the emperors save Augustus, and perhaps
Constantine. Nor can any later state show us so great a ruler.

Justinian in his Italian designs had been very well served by
Belisarius, nor were his ideas less splendidly carried out by Narses.
Indeed, in many ways the eunuch was the better instrument and
especially in administration. He ruled in peace in Ravenna as I have
said for eleven years, devoting himself to the resurrection of unhappy
Italy. In this we may think he was as successful as the shortness of
the time of his rule would allow. The catastrophe that put an end
alike to his work and to the regeneration of Italy was the death of
Justinian. In that very year, 565, the great eunuch was deposed, an
insulting recall reached him from the empress Sophia, and he retired
to Rome, where he passed the few years that remained to him in
retirement, and died there, it is thought, in 572.

A curious and certainly an unproved accusation hangs over his name. It
seems that his government of Italy was not wholly grateful to the
Italians, who it must be remembered were ruined and whom many years of
eager self-denial would hardly render solvent again. Now the business
of Narses was to achieve this solvency and to pay out of Italy some
sort of interest upon the enormous sums Justinian had disbursed for
the great war. If he incurred the hatred of the Italians it would not
be surprising, nor would it lead us to accuse him of tyranny. "Where
Narses the eunuch rules," they said, "he makes us slaves." This cry
came to the ears of the emperor for whom it was meant. No doubt, being
a fool, he was anxious to be rid of Justinian's pro-consul. However
that may be, Narses was recalled, the empress, it is said, sending him
a message to the effect that as he was a eunuch she would appoint him
to apportion the spinning to the women of her household. To this
Narses is reported to have replied, doubtless with much the same smile
as that with which he had greeted the equestrian display of Totila,
that he would spin her a thread of which neither she nor the emperor
Justin would be able to find the end. In the course of time this
mysterious threat, which was probably never uttered, was said to refer
to the enormous catastrophe which within three years of Narses' recall
fell upon Italy--the Lombard invasion. And Narses, who had employed
the Lombards in the last campaign against Totila, was said to have
revenged himself by inviting them into Italy to possess it.

The accusation rests upon no good authority, and is altogether
unlikely when we remember how great a part of his life had been
devoted to the incorportion of Italy within the empire. But there is
this much truth in it we may perhaps think; that had the great eunuch
been left in command, Alboin would not have dared to come on, and if
he had dared, would have found an army and an Italy ready to fling him
back into his darkness.




It was upon the second day of April 568, upon the Monday within the
octave of Easter, that Alboin set out to cross the Julian Alps, to
descend upon an Italy which even the great Narses had not been able,
in the short sixteen years of peace he had secured her, to recover
from the utter exhaustion of a generation of war. No army awaited him,
no attempt was made to crush his rude and barbarous army in the
marches, he was unopposed, save that the bishop of Treviso begged him
to spare the property of his church, and presently the whole province
of Venetia, with the exception of Padua, Mantua, and Monselice, was in
his hands. Those who could, doubtless fled away, for the most part to
that new settlement in the Venetian lagoons which was presently to
give birth to Venice and which had been founded by those who had fled
from Attila; but there were many who could not flee. These came under
the cruel yoke of the invader. Perhaps Alboin spent the winter in
Verona, perhaps in Friuli; wherever it was, he but prepared his
advance and still no one appeared to say him nay. By the end of 569
all Cisalpine Gaul with Liguria and Milan, except Pavia, the coast,
Cremona, Piacenza, and a few smaller places, were in his hands.
Indeed, in all that terrible flood of disasters we hear of but one
great city which offered even for a time a successful resistance. This
was Pavia, naturally so strongly defended by the Po and the Ticino.
Alboin established an army about it, and swore to massacre all its
inhabitants since it alone had dared to resist him. Pavia fell to the
Lombard, after a three years' siege, in 572; but Alboin was prevented
from carrying out his vow, and not long after Pavia became the capital
of the Lombard power in Italy.

Meantime, those three years, during which Pavia held her own, had not
been wasted by the barbarian. He crossed the Apennines, we may believe
as Totila had done, by the old deserted way to Fiesole, brought all
Tuscany under his yoke and a great part both of central and of
southern Italy, establishing there two "duchies" as the centres of his
power at Spoleto and Benevento. Then he returned to take Pavia, all
this time besieged, and in the same year, 572, it is probable that
Piacenza fell also, and Mantua. All Italy was in confusion, the system
of government re-established by Narses broken; the work of Justinian's
reconquest seemed all undone. That it was not wholly undone, that it
lived on and was at last re-established, we owe to two great facts:
the conversion of the Lombards to Catholicism by Gregory the Great and
the establishment of the exarchate, the entrenchment of Roman power
and civilisation in Ravenna. Let us consider these things.

The Lombards were barbarians and therefore pagans or Arians, but their
Arianism was of a different kind from that of the Huns, different even
from that of the Ostrogoths. Indeed, though the Lombards may be called
Arian, for indeed such Christianity as they possessed was wholly
Arian, they were but little removed from mere heathenism. It is true
that they sacked churches, slaughtered priests, and carried off the
holy vessels everywhere as they came into Italy; but they did this, it
would seem, not from a sectarian hatred of the Catholic Faith, but
from mere heathenism. As pagans, heathen or semi-heathen, they might
be converted, and thus their advent was ultimately less dangerous to
our civilisation than the conquest of the Ostrogoths threatened to be.
I do not mean to suggest that that advent was without danger. It was
of course full of dreadful peril, but that peril was chiefly material
and not spiritual; it could destroy, but not create; moreover, since
in the main it was pagan, it could only destroy material things.

It is unthinkable that the Italy of the sixth century was for a moment
in danger of losing its Faith, of being dechristianised. That, all
things considered, in the third fourth and fifth centuries there had
more than once been a real danger of the victory of some heresy, and
especially of that subtle Arianism, the forerunner of Mahometanism,
which all the invaders professed, and most of them so bitterly, we
know; as we know that with the hard won victory of the Catholic Faith
the whole of the future was safe; but that in the Italy of the sixth
century the Faith was in danger from a horde of semi-pagan barbarians
is not to be thought of. To this extent, and it is three parts at
least of the whole, the Lombard invasion was less perilous than those
which had come and passed away before it. Once more, the Catholic
church was to be victorious, but in a different fashion. It cast out
the Visigoths, the Huns, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths from Italy,
for it could not convert them; the Lombards it converted and they
remained. It converted them because they were rather heathen than
Arian, and the victory was won by that great Gregory who, seeing our
forefathers in the Forum of Rome, and loving them for their bright
hair and open faces--_non Angli sed Angeli si Christiani_--sent S.
Austin to turn them too from their pagan rites and gather them into
the fold of Christ.

But there was something else beside the fact that the Lombards were
pagan, and therefore to be converted, which was a part of the
salvation of Italy.

It is possible that the Lombards might have been as Catholic as the
Franks and yet, barbarians as they were, have destroyed civilisation
in Italy, have broken the continuity of Europe, have obliterated all
our traditions, and altogether undone the great work of Justinian. It
is possible, but it is highly improbable; that it was impossible we
owe to Ravenna.

Ravenna was impregnable and her seaward gate was always open. During
all the years of the Lombard domination she was the citadel of the
empire in Italy, the seat of the prefect and the exarch, the imperial

It must be grasped that even after the fall of Ticinum in 572, as the
Byzantine historian tells us, perhaps no one, and certainly no one in
Ravenna, regarded the invasion as anything but a passing evil like all
the other barbarian incursions. No one believed Italy to be
irrevocably lost; on the contrary, everyone was assured that the lost
provinces could soon be delivered again.

This may explain, though perhaps it cannot excuse, the passive
attitude of Longinus, the successor of Narses, who in Ravenna
represented the emperor in Italy, perhaps till the year 584. We know
nothing of any attempts he may have made to stem the barbarian flood,
and indeed the only incident in his career with which we are
acquainted is romantic rather than military or political. For when
Rosamond, the queen of the Lombards, murdered her husband Alboin in
his palace at Verona, because he had forced her to pledge him in a
goblet fashioned from the skull of her father, she fled away with her
stepdaughter Albswinda, the great Lombard spoil, and her two
accomplices, Helmichis her lover and Peredeus the chamberlain, and
came to seek shelter in Ravenna. It seems she had written to Longinus
and he, perhaps, hoping for some political advantage, and certainly
full of the tales of her beauty, sent a ship up the Po to bring her to
him with her two companions. When he saw her he found that rumour had
not lied, and longing for her, suggested that she should kill
Helmichis and marry himself. Whether from fear or ambition she did
this thing, and slew her lover with a cup of poison as he came from
the bath. But he, even as he drank understanding all, suddenly forced
the same cup upon her, and standing over her with a naked sword forced
her to drink; so that they both lay dead upon the pavement.

Albswinda and the Lombard treasure, the spoil of the cities of Italy,
were sent with Peredeus to Constantinople. And it may be that it was
in them Longinus hoped to find his political advantage; in this,
however, he was deceived. It is true that a pause in the Lombard
advance followed the death of Alboin, and that Cleph, his successor,
was soon murdered. But the pause in the advance, though, through it
all, Rome was blockaded, was due to the fact that Authari, the heir to
the Lombard throne, was but a boy. Nevertheless, this interval was
used by Constantinople to despatch Baduarius, the son-in-law of the
emperor Justin, to Italy with an army, but without success; and in
578, the year in which Justin died, the Lombards were bought off from
Rome with imperial gold, only to turn upon the very citadel of the
empire in Italy, Ravenna itself. In the year 579 Faroald, duke of
Spoleto, fell upon Classis, and took it and spoiled it.

This, however, was but an isolated effort, and though the Lombards
held Classis, they achieved little else in Italy till after Authari
was chosen king in 584.

In the following year Smaragdus, as we may think, was appointed to
succeed Longinus and apparently with new powers, and three years
later, in the very year that the heroic Insula Comacina was taken by
the Lombards, Classis was recovered for the empire.

The Lombards had then been ravaging Italy for twenty years, an
extraordinary change had come over the provinces that Justinian had so
hardly recovered, and this change is at once visible in the imperial
administration in Italy. The exarchate appears.

It has been maintained by many historians that the great reform of
which the establishment of the exarch and the exarchate is the result
was the work of that very great reformer Justinian. It was worthy of
him; but the Italy he knew and saved was not in need of any change in
her administrative divisions which, as I have said, remained under
Narses almost the same as they had been in the last days of the
Western empire.[1]

[Footnote 1: For what follows cf. Diehl, _Etudes sur l'administration
Byzantine dans l'Exarchat de Ravenne_ (1888).]

The transformation out of which the exarchate arose was slow and
obscure, not the work of a great creative mind, but of necessity. It
was the result of many causes which it is not difficult to name; they
were the progress of the Lombard conquest, the condition imposed upon
the unconquered parts of Italy by that conquest, and especially the
new necessity for defence imposed on the imperial power.

It is obvious that the result of the first ten years of that conquest
was a complete destruction of the limits of the old Roman provinces of
Italy. A new grouping of territories was not only necessary but was
already forming itself under the pressure of the conquest and its
terror. The regions which had escaped the barbarians were drawing
together without any regard for the ancient provincial divisions and
were grouping themselves about the cities, where the resistance, such
as it was, was concentrating itself, and where the imperial
administration had taken refuge.

If we confine ourselves for the moment to Italy north of the
Apennines, we shall find that in the old province of Liguria the vicar
of the prefect of the praetorium had fled from Milan to Genoa, and
that about that city the debris of the old province was slowly
re-assembling itself. In Venetia we shall find that the governor had
departed to Grado, and about this town as a centre the eastern part of
the old province was gathered. The western part of that province, cut
off from its capital, attached itself by force of circumstances to
what remained of Aemilia and of Flaminia, whose neighbour she was, and
these fragments of the ancient provinces all together grouped
themselves about, or found their centre in, Ravenna, the capital of
Flaminia and the residence of the prefect of Italy.

In these new groupings the great pre-occupation and the supreme
interest are defence--the defence of civilisation against the

Now, it was to regulate this new state of affairs that the exarchate
was created; or rather the exarchate was the official acknowledgment
of a state of affairs that the disastrous invasion of the Lombards had
brought about. The new order was established at the end of the reign
of Justin II. (565-578) under a new and supreme official. Without
doing away with the prefect of Italy the emperor placed over him as
supreme head of the new administration the exarch[1] who was both the
military commander-in-chief and the governor-general of Italy; and,
since the chief need of Italy was defence, without entirely
suppressing the civil administration, he placed at the head of each of
the re-organised provinces a certain military officer--the duke.

[Footnote 1: For the discussion of the derivation of the title
"Exarch," _see_ Diehl, _op. cit_. pp. 15-16.]

The earliest document that remains to us in which we find definite
mention of the exarch is the famous letter, dated October 4, 584, of
pope Pelagius II. to the deacon Gregory, his nuncio in Constantinople.
It is probable that the exarch at this time was Smaragdus, but it is
extremely improbable that he was the first to bear the new title. This
it would seem was a much nobler and more notable person.

It will be remembered that in the year 575 Baduarius, the son-in-law
of the emperor, had appeared in Italy at the head of an army, had been
beaten by the Lombards, and a little later had died, probably in
575.[1] This man was not only a great Byzantine official, but the
destined successor of Justin and one of the first personages of the
empire. It is obvious, if at such a moment he commanded the imperial
armies in Italy, he was supreme governor of the province And it seems
certain that it was to mark the amalgamation in him of the two
offices, military and civil, that the new title of exarch was

[Footnote 1: Migne, lxxii. 865; Joannes Biclarensis, _s.a_. 575; cf.
Hodgkin, _op. cit_. v. p. 195, and Diehl, _u.s_.]

[Footnote 2: "It is only an hypothesis," says M. Charles Diehl, the
originator of this theory, "but it explains how, between the prefect
Longinus (569-572) and the exarch Smaragdus (584) was produced in the
years 572-576 the administrative transformation out of which rose the

At the same time as the central government took on a new form the
provincial administration was re-organised. Before the year 590, this
had been certainly achieved. Istria, as we have seen, was divided from
Venetia and formed a new and a special government. In Flaminia Rimini,
which till now had been a part of the same province as Ravenna, was
detached and became the capital of a new government in which a part of
the Picenum, Ancona, and Osimo were involved. While the exarchate
properly so called, that is the region of Ravenna from which Rimini
and Picenum were now separate, formed a new province under the direct
authority of the governors-general of Italy, that is to say, of the
exarch of Ravenna. By the year 590, then, we see Italy thus divided
into seven districts or governments: (1) the Duchy of Istria, (2) the
Duchy of Venetia, (3) the Exarchate to which Calabria is attached, (4)
the Duchy of Pentapolis, (5) the Duchy of Rome, (6) the Duchy of
Naples, (7) Liguria.

Geographically the exarchate of Ravenna was bounded on the north by
the Adige, the Tartaro, and the principal branch of the Po as far as
its confluence with the Panaro. Hadria and Gabellum were its most
northern towns in the hands of the imperialists. The western frontier
is more difficult to determine with exactitude; it may be said to have
run between Modena and Bologna. On the south the Marecchia divided the
exarchate from the duchy of Pentapolis whose capital was Rimini. The
Pentapolis consisted of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, and Ancona
upon the sea and of the five inland cities of Urbino, Fossombrone,
Jesi, Cagli, and Gubbio; while the great towns of the exarchate were
set along the Via Aemilia and were Bologna, Imola (Forum Cornelii),
Faenza, Forli, Forlimpopoli, and Cesena.

Such then, before the year 590, was the new imperial administration in
the Italy formed by the Lombard invasion.

[Illustration: SKETCH MAP]

In the year after the recapture of Classis from the Lombards, that is
to say, in 589, the exarch Smaragdus was recalled. He had apparently
become insane and had been guilty of extraordinary violence towards
the patriarch of Aquileia and three other bishops whom he dragged to
Ravenna. His successor was Romanus who held office till 597. In the
same year, 589, Authari was married at Pavia to Theodelinda, who was
to be so potent an instrument in the conversion of the Lombards and
therefore in the salvation of Italy. And in the following year, 590,
pope Pelagius II. died, and Gregory the Great was chosen to succeed

With the advent of the new exarch a brighter prospect seemed for a
moment to open for Italy. In the first year of Romanus's appointment
the imperialists regained the greater part of the cities of the plain;
they re-occupied Modena, Reggio, Parma, Piacenza, Altinum, and Mantua.
But the strength of the Latin position in Italy lay, and continued to
lie, in the two great imperial cities, Ravenna and Rome. Little by
little this position had crystallised and now a new state appeared, a
state which in one way or another was to endure till our day and which
our fathers knew as the States of the Church. With the two cities of
Ravenna and Rome as _nuclei_, this state formed itself in the very

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