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Flavius Belisarius: The African campaign – The first Italian campaign – Novo Scriptorium


Su NovoScripitorium un lungo articolo che dettaglia la campagna militare di Belisario, generale di Giustiniano I.

Justinian declared war on King Gelimer the moment that he had made peace with Persia, using as his casus belli, not a definite re-assertion of the claim of the empire over Africa—for such language would have provoked the rulers of Italy and Spain to join the Vandals, but the fact that Gelimer had wrongfully deposed Hilderic, the Emperor’s ally. In July, 533, Belisarius, who was now at the height of his favour for his successful suppression of the “Nika” rioters, sailed from the Bosphorus with an army of 10,000 foot and 5,000 horse. He was accompanied, luckily for history, by his secretary, Procopius, a very capable writer, who has left a full account of his master’s campaigns. Belisarius landed at Tripoli, at the extreme eastern limit of the Vandal power. The town was at once betrayed to him by its Roman inhabitants. From thence he advanced cautiously along the coast, meeting with no opposition; for the incapable Gelimer had been caught unprepared, and was still engaged in calling in his scattered warriors. It was not till he had approached within ten miles of Carthage that Belisarius was attacked by the Vandals. After a hard struggle he defeated them, and the city fell into his hands next day. The provincials were delighted at the rout of their masters, and welcomed the imperial army with joy; there was neither riot nor pillage, and Carthage had not the aspect of a conquered town.

The triumphal entry of Belisarius into Constantinople with his captives and his spoils, encouraged Justinian to order instant preparations for an attack on the second German kingdom, on his western frontier. He declared war on the wretched King Theodahat in the summer of A.D. 435, using as his pretext the murder of Queen Amalasuntha, whom her ungrateful spouse had first imprisoned and then strangled within a year of their marriage. The king of the Goths, whether he was conscience-stricken or merely cowardly, showed the greatest terror at the declaration of war. He even wrote to Constantinople offering to resign his crown, if the Emperor would guarantee his life and his private property. Meanwhile he consulted sooth-sayers and magicians about his prospects, for he was as superstitious as he was incompetent.

Next spring King Witiges came down with the main army of the Goths—more than 100,000 strong—and laid siege to Rome. The defence of the town by Belisarius and his very inadequate garrison forms the most interesting episode in the Italian war. For more than a year the Ostrogoths lay before its walls, essaying every device to force an entry. They tried open storm; they endeavoured to bribe traitors within the city; they strove to creep along the bed of a disused aqueduct, as Belisarius had done a year before at Naples. All was in vain, though the besiegers outnumbered the garrison twenty-fold, and exposed their lives with the same recklessness that their ancestors had shown in the invasion of the empire a hundred years back. The scene best remembered in the siege was the simultaneous assault on five points in the wall, on the 21st of March, 537. Three of the attacks were beaten back with ease; but near the Praenestine Gate, at the south-east of the city, one storming party actually forced its way within the walls, and had to be beaten out by sheer hard fighting ; and at the mausoleum of Hadrian, on the north-west, another spirited combat took place. Hadrian’s tomb—a great quadrangular structure of white marble, 300 feet square and 85 feet high—was surmounted by one of the most magnificent collections of statuary in ancient Rome, including four great equestrian statues of emperors at its corners. The Goths, with their ladders, swarmed at the foot of the tomb in such numbers, that the arrows and darts of the defenders were insufficient to beat them back. Then, as a last resource, the Imperialists tore down the scores of statues which adorned the mausoleum, and crushed the mass of assailants beneath a rain of marble fragments. Two famous antiques, that form the pride of modern galleries—the “Dancing Faun” at Florence, and the “Barberini Faun” at Munich—were found, a thousand years later, buried in the ditch of the tomb of Hadrian, and must have been among the missiles employed against the Goths. Thorough usage which they then received proved the means of preserving them for the admiration of the modern world.

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[…] Giustiniano I di Costantinopoli, prima sotto il comande del generale Belisario e poi sotto Narsete. Qui la prima parte, qui sotto un estratto – in […]

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