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The Imperial Roman Armies defeat the Goths – The last phase of the Gothic War in Italy – Novo Scriptorium


Su NovoScriptorium la fase finale della guerra bizantina in Italia contro i Goti, voluta da Giustiniano I di Costantinopoli, prima sotto il comande del generale Belisario e poi sotto Narsete. Qui la prima parte, qui sotto un estratto – in inglese:

When the generals of Justinian marched against him, to finish the war by the capture of Verona and Pavia, he won over them the first victory that the Goths had obtained since their enemies landed in Italy. This was followed by two more successes; the scattered armies of Witiges rallied round the banner of the new king, and at once the cities of Central and Southern Italy began to fall back into Gothic hands, with the same rapidity with which they had yielded to Belisarius. The fact was, that the war had been a cruel strain on the Italians, and that the imperial governors, and still more their fiscal agents, or “logothetes”, had become unbearably oppressive. Italy had lived through the fit of enthusiasm with which it had received the armies of Justinian, and was now regretting the days of Theodoric as a long-lost golden age. Most of its cities were soon in Baduila’s hands; the lmperialists retained only the districts round Rome, Naples, Otranto, and Ravenna. Of Naples they were soon deprived. [A.D. 543.] Baduila invested it, and ere long constrained it to surrender. He treated the inhabitants with a kindness and consideration which no Roman general, except Belisarius, had ever displayed. A speech  which he delivered to his generals soon after this success deserves a record, as showing the character of the man. A Gothic warrior had been convicted of violating the daughter of a Roman. Baduila condemned him to death. His officers came round him to plead for the soldier’s life. He answered them that they must choose that day whether they preferred to save one man’s life or the life of the Gothic race. At the beginning of the war, as they knew well, the Goths had brave soldiers, famous generals, countless treasure, horses, weapons, and all the forts of Italy. And yet under Theodahat—a man who loved gold better than justice—they had so angered God by their unrighteous lives, that all the troubles of the last ten years had come upon them. Now God seemed to have avenged Himself on them enough. He had begun a new course with them, and they must begin a new course with Him, and justice was the only path. As for the present criminal being a valiant hero, let them know that the unjust man and the ravisher was never brave in fight; but that according to a man’s life, such was his luck in battle.

Such was the justice of Baduila; and it seemed as if his dream was about to come true, and that the regenerate Goths would win back all that they had lost. Ere long he was at the gates of Rome, prepared to essay, with 15,000 men, what Witiges had failed to do with 100,000. Lest all his Italian conquests should be lost, Justinian was obliged to send back Belisarius, for no one else could hold back the Goths. But Belisarius was ill-supplied with men; he had fallen into disfavour at Court, and the imperial ministers stinted him of troops and money. Unable to relieve Rome, he had to wait at Portus, by the mouth of the Tiber, watching for a chance to enter the city. That chance he never got. The famine-stricken Romans, angry with the cruel and avaricious Bessas, who commanded the garrison, began to long for the victory of their enemy; and one night some traitors opened the Asinarian Gate, and let in Baduila and his Goths. The King thought that his troubles were over; he assembled his chiefs, and bade them observe how, in the time of Witiges, 7,000 Imperial soldiers* had conquered, and robbed of kingdom and liberty, 100,000 well-armed Goths. But now that they were few, poor, and wretched, the Goths had conquered more than 20,000 of the enemy. And why ? Because of old they looked to anything rather than justice: they had sinned against each other and the Romans. Therefore they must choose henceforth, and be just men and have God with them, or unjust and have God against them.

Baduila had determined to do that which no general since Hannibal had contemplated: he would destroy Rome, and with it all the traditions of the world-empire of the ancient city—to him they seemed but snares, tending to corrupt the mind of the Goths. The people he sent away unharmed—they were but a few thousand left after the horrors of the famine during the siege. But he broke down the walls, and dismantled the palaces and arsenals. For a few weeks Rome was a deserted city, given up to the wolf and the owl [A.D. 550].

For eleven unquiet years, Baduila, the brave and just, ruled Italy, holding his own against Belisarius, till the great general was called home by some wretched court intrigue. But presently Justinian gathered another army, more numerous than any that Belisarius had led, and sent it to Italy, under the command of the eunuch Narses. It was a strange choice that made the chamberlain into a general; but it succeeded. Narses marched round the head of the Adriatic, and invaded Italy from the north. Baduila went forth to meet him at Tagina, in the Apennines. For a long day the Ostrogothic knights rode again and again into the Imperialist ranks; but all their furious charges failed. At evening they reeled back broken, and their king received a mortal wound in the flight [A.D. 553].

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.

“Flavio Belisario” di Alberto Magnani: la sua lunga carriera dentro e fuori dalle braccia dell’imperatore | OUBLIETTE MAGAZINE


Per me, che ho scritto l’Impero Restaurato, trattare dei Bizantini, di Giustiniano I e del suo tempo è sempre un’emozione. Segnalo quindi questa pubblicazione, Flavio Belisario, che parla diffusamente del generale di Giustiniano che conquistò buona parte dell’Italia e della parte occidentale di quello che una volta era l’ecumene romano. Da OublietteMagazine.

La parte occidentale dell’impero, dopo la caduta di Roma, era stata occupata da popolazioni di origine barbarica che, a più riprese, si erano appropriate di porzioni di territorio fino a diventarne i proprietari assoluti.

È proprio in questo spirito di rivincita e rivalsa che nasce Flavio Belisario (Flavius Balisarius), che fu uno degli ultimi grandi generali della romanità tutta.

Il generale nacque nella città di Germania nel 500 a.C. circa e morì a Costantinopoli nel 565, anno in cui morì anche l’imperatore a cui aveva dedicato la sua vita: Giustiniano.

I primi anni alla corte di Costantinopoli, Belisario li passò dedicandosi al suo addestramento, entrando prima nel corpo dei “protectores” e arrivando, infine, a ricoprire, lungo i suoi anni di servizio, numerose altre cariche militari e politiche affidategli dallo stesso Giustiniano.

La figura di Belisario, le sue azioni e la sua vita ci vengono narrate dallo scrittore Procopio di Cesarea che, al fianco del generale, svolgeva il compito di consigliere o segretario. All’inizio i rapporti tra i due erano idilliaci ma, ad un certo punto, si incrinarono fino a raggiungere, quasi, la derisione e il biasimo nelle “Carte Segrete”.

Il suo “biografo” non è l’unico con cui Belisario si trova ad avere dei dissapori. Durante la sua lunga carriera, tra successi e cadute in disgrazia, il generale si scontrò con altri suoi colleghi, alcuni usati come pungolo nei suoi confronti proprio dallo stesso imperatore.

Magnani, in questo suo scritto, ci illustra la figura, mostrandoci il suo essere soldato ma anche il suo essere uomo. Dai rapporti burrascosi con la moglie Antonina, che gli era infedele, alle sue difficoltà a comprendere per quale ragione l’imperatore lo caldeggiasse offrendogli il comando ma, al contempo, lo sminuisse inviando altre figure, come quella di Narsete, che erano pronte ad ostacolarlo.

Il quadro che ne risulta è quello di un generale che ha consacrato la sua esistenza all’unico compito di servire Costantinopoli – Roma e il suo imperatore Giustiniano ma anche quello dell’uomo che, spesso, si è sentito tradito e messo in ombra proprio da colui che così fedelmente serviva.

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