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Belisarius

justinian, italy, emperor, goths, army, constantinople and whom

BELISARIUS, Byzantine general: b. about 505; d. 565. To him the Emperor Justinian chiefly owed the splendor of his reign. Belisa rius first served in the bodyguard of the Em peror, soon after obtained the chief command of an army of 25,000 men stationed on the Per sian frontiers, and in the year 530 gained a complete victory over a Persian army of not less than 40,000 soldiers. The historian Proco pius was at this time secretary of Belisarius. In 531, however, he lost the battle of Callini cum against the same enemy, who had forced his way into Syria— the only battle which he lost during his whole career. He was recalled from the army and soon became at home the support of his master, the Emperor. In the year 532 civil commotions, proceeding from two rival .parties, who called themselves the green and the blue and who caused great disorders in Constantinople, brought the life and reign of Justinian into the utmost peril, and Hypatius was already chosen emperor, when Belisarius with a small body of faithful adherents restored order. Justinian, with a view of conquering the dominions of Gelimer, king of the Vandals, sent Belisarius with an army of 15,000 men to Africa. After two victories he secured the person and treasures of the Vandal King. Geli mer was led in triumph through the streets of Constantinople, and Justinian ordered a medal to be struck with the inscription 'Belisarius gloria Romanorum,' which has descended to our times. By reason of the dissensions exist ing in the royal family of the Ostrogoths in Italy, Justinian was induced to attempt to bring Italy and Rome tinder his sceptre. Belisarius reduced Sicily in 535 and in the following year received the submission of the cities of lower Italy, with the exception of Naples, which he carried by storm. In December of the same year he entered Rome, where he was besieged by the Goths for an entire year. The latter were finally compelled to raise the siege. In 538 Belisarius was reinforced by Narses, hut the latter failed to co-operate with him and Milan was sacked by the Goths under Braias. Narses was recalled and both armies were placed under the command of Belisarius. In

540 Belisarius pushed the Goths back to Ra venna, and here vanquished their army and cap tured their king, Vitiges, whom, together with many other Goths, he conducted to Constanti nople. The war in Italy against the Goths con tinued, but Belisarius, not being sufficiently supplied with money and troops by the Emperor, demanded his recall in 548. Narses, his rival, was appointed to the command. He afterward commanded in the war against the Bulgarians, whom he conquered in the year 559. Upon his return to Constantinople he was accused of having taken part in a conspiracy. But Jus tinian was convinced of his innocence, and is said to have restored to him his property and dignities, of which he had been deprived. His history has been much colored by the poets, and particularly by Marmontel, in his other wise admirable politico-philosophical romance. According to his narrative, the Emperor caused the eyes of the hero to be struck out, and Belisarius was compelled to beg his bread in the streets of Constantinople. Other writers say that Justinian had him thrown into a prison, which is still shown tinder the appellation of the Tower of Belisarius. From this tower he is reported to have let down a bag fastened to a rope and to have addressed the passers-by in these words: °Give an obolus to Belisarius, whom virtue exalted, and envy has oppressed.' Of this, however, no contemporary writer makes any mention. The blind Belisarius forms the subject of a noted painting by Gerard. Tzetzes, a slightly esteemed writer of the 12th century, was the first who related this fable. Certain it is that, through too great in dulgence toward his wife, Antonina, Belisarius was impelled to many acts of injustice, and that he evinced a servile submissiveness to the de testable Theodora, the wife of Justinian. Con sult Gibbon, E., 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' (edited by Bury, Vol. IV, London 1898) ; 'The Cambridge Mediaeval History' (Vol. I, New York 1911) ; Hodgkin, 'Italy and Her Invaders' (Oxford 1880-85); Bury, 'Later Roman Empire' (London 1893).