Flavius Belisarius (Greek: Φλάβιος Βελισάριος, c. 500 – 565) was a military commander of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental in the reconquest of much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century before.
Germane, modern-day Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria
|Died||c. March 565 (aged 65)|
Saints Peter and Paul, Constantinople
|Commands held||Roman army in the east, land and sea expedition against the Vandal Kingdom, Roman army|
One of the defining features of Belisarius's career was his success despite varying levels of available resources. His name is frequently given as one of the so-called "Last of the Romans".
Belisarius is considered a military genius who conquered the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa in the Vandalic War in nine months and much of Italy during the Gothic War. He defeated the Vandal armies at the battles of Ad Decimum and played an important role at Tricamarum, compelling the Vandal king to surrender. During the Gothic War he took Rome and held out against great odds during the Siege of Rome.
He also won an important battle against the Persians at Dara but lost one at Callinicum. He successfully repulsed a Hunnish incursion at Melantias. Also known for military deception, he repulsed a Persian invasion by deceiving their commander, and lifting the Siege of Ariminum without a fight.
Early life and careerEdit
Belisarius was probably born in Germane or Germania, a fortified town of which some archaeological remains still exist, on the site of present-day Sapareva Banya in south-west Bulgaria, within the borders of Thrace and Paeonia, or in Germen, a town in Thrace near Adrianople, in present-day Turkey. Born into an Illyrian or Thracian family that spoke Thracian as a mother tongue. He spoke Latin as a second language and was noted as being a native speaker, he is also noted to have spoken some kind of Slavic language. He became a Roman soldier as a young man, possibly as young as 16, serving in the bodyguard of Emperor Justin I. He also served in the guard of magister militum Praesentalis and future emperor Justinian.
He came to the attention of Justin and Justinian as a promising and innovative officer. He was given permission by the emperor to form a bodyguard regiment (bucellarii), of heavy cavalry, which he later expanded into a personal household regiment, 1,500 strong. Belisarius's bucellarii were the nucleus around which all the armies he would later command were organized. Armed with a lance, (possibly Hunnish style) composite bow, and spatha (sword), they were fully armoured to the standard of heavy cavalry of the day. A multi-purpose unit, the bucellarii were capable of shooting at a distance with bow, like the Huns, or could act as heavy shock cavalry, charging an enemy with lance and sword. In essence, they combined the best and most dangerous aspects of both of Rome's greatest enemies, the Huns and the Goths. During this time he played an important part in multiple Roman defeats, in the first battle were he commanded a independent force (together with Sittas, most likely a duel command) he suffered a resounding defeat, but he and Sittas were noted for leading successful raids into Persian territory during for example the first invasion of Persarmenia of the war taking place shortly before. At the next battle he fought, at Tanurin, Belisarius held a high position again and in this role fled with his troops after his colleges were lured into a trap. His army was then defeated at Mindouos but he was promoted shortly afterwards so this was probably not seen as being his fault. At first he was probably a junior partner to some higher placed commander like Sittas while at Thanurin there was no overall commander. Mindouos was probably the first battle in which he led the army entirely on his own.
Following Justin's death in 527, the new emperor, Justinian I, appointed Belisarius to command a Roman army in the east despite earlier defeats. In June/July 530, during the Iberian War, he led the Romans to a stunning victory over the Sassanids in the Battle of Dara. This victory caused the shah to open peace negotiations with the Byzantines. At the battle Belisarius had dug trenches in order to direct the more mobile Sassanian force to a location were he could attack them from the rear. On other fronts the Byzantines were also winning. The Persians and their Arabic allies, with a mobile force of 15,000 high quality cavalry, invaded Byzantine lands again, now via Euphratensis, a route they had never taken before. Belisarius was taken by surprise and was unsure whether this was a faint or a real attack so at first he did not move. He did call upon the help Roman-allied Arab tribes for help and received 5,000 troops. Eventually Belisarius with 20,000 Byzantines and 5,000 Arabs moved against the Persians leading to the defeat at Callinicum despite heavy numerical superiority. During the battle Belisarius fled the field probably long before the fighting was over. While the war went on after Dara and Callinicum the death of the Persian shah Kavadh soon led to a peace treaty. The new shah, Khosrow, saw Justinian was in a rush to sign peace and thought he could quickly reach a favourable peace, as such the so called eternal peace heavily favoured the Persians. Belisarius was recalled to Constantinople and charged incompetence and responsibility for the defeats at Thannuris and Callinicum but after an investigation the charges against him were cleared.
In Constantinople Justinian had been busy reforming the empire. In this he had been assisted by John the Cappadocian and Tribunianus who were corrupt. The corruption of John and Tribunianus, the curbing of corruption of other influential figures, loss of influence and employment because of a decrease in funding for the civil service, Justinian’s low birth, extremely high taxes, cruel methods of tax collection, the curbing of the power of the chariot racing factions and the execution of rioters led to great anger among the population and eventually the Nika riots of 532. The riots were led by the chariot racing factions: the blues and the greens. At the time the riots broke out Belisarius was in Constantinople. He and the Mundus, the magister militum per Illyricum renowned as a great commander, and Narses, a eunuch and confidant of Justinian who would later also known as a great commander, were called upon to suppress the revolt. At this point much of the city had been burned down by the rioters but the blue faction began to calm down and after Narses distributed gifts to them many returned home while others began spreading moderate views among the other rebels. Belisarius tried to enter the hippodrome where the rioters were gathered through the emperor’s box but was blocked by the guards. Belisarius was surprised and informed Justinian who ordered him to enter from another direction. Entering the hippodrome he wanted to arrest hypatius, who was declared emperor by the revolters. Hypatius was defended by guards who he would first need to get rid of but if he attack the rioters would be in his rear. Belisarius decided to deal with the rioters and bypassing the door to Hypatius location charged into the crowd. Mundus hearing the sound of battle also charged while Narses blocked the other exits in order to trap the rioters. Thus the revolt ended in a massacre, at least 30,000 and up to 60,000 died, mostly unarmed civilians.
In 533 Belisarius began a campaign against the Vandal Kingdom. The Byzantines had political, religious and strategic reasons for such a campaign. The Vandals persecuted Nicene Christians, refused to mint coins with depictions of the emperor on them and had banished the Roman nobility replacing them with a Germanic elite. The recent Byzantine emperors had spent much effort on reunifying pro-Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian Christians and uniting the eastern and western parts of the church, so the prosecution of “good” Christians by Arian heretics was an especially big issue. The persecution had started after the popular and successful Vandal military leader Gelimer had overthrown his cousin, the king, Hilderic, a childhood friend of Justinian in the year 530. In a recent war against the Moors the Vandals had lost 5,000 men in two decisive defeats, only when Gelimer was appointed commander did the tide shift. As king Gelimer acquired a reputation for greed and cruelty and became unpopular with the people and nobility. Two revolts broke out at nearly exactly the same time, probably orchestrated by Justinian. With a large amount of vandals killed by the Moors and the Ostrogoths still angry because of the actions of Hilderic the Vandals were a tempting target. Using the fact that Gelimer had defied him and the pleas of African Catholics as justification an invasion-force was sent.
There were multiple reasons to choose Belisarius to lead such an expedition. He had shown military competence at Dara, been cleared of incompetence in his other battles by an inquiry and was befriended to the emperor and thus obviously loyal to him. As an inhabitant of Germana which was in or near Illyricum and west-oriented and a “native” speaker of Latin he wasn’t considered an untrustworthy Greek by the natives. Belisarius was reappointed Magister Militum per Onentem and given command of the expedition. This time Belisarius would be free from dual command for the duration of the war.
The expedition consisted of 5,000 high quality Byzantine cavalry under multiple commanders, 10,000 infantry under overall command of John of Epidamnus, Belisarius’ guard, mercenaries (including 400 Heruls led by Pharas and noted by Procopius for their excellence and 600 Huns under multiple commanders) and finally a contingent of foederati of unknown size led by Dorotheus, Magister Militum per Armeniam and a man called Solomon. As praetorian prefect, in charge of the logistics of the force, Belisarius got Archelaus, an extremely experienced officer, in order to lighten the burden of command. In total the force is estimated to have been around 17,000 strong while 500 transport ships and 92 warships crewed by 30,000 sailers and 2,000 marines were also put under Belisarius’ command. While it is the view of many that Belisarius set sail for North Africa with “only” 15,000 soldiers to conquer the region his force included more troops and many sailors. It was a well balanced force with quite possibly a larger percentage of high quality troops than the armies facing Persia. Gelimer probably had only 20,000 men at his disposal at this time and his force had no horse archers or units fit to fight them and he had less and lower quality officers.
Way to AfricaEdit
In June 533 the army embarked from Constantinople. On the expedition alcohol was not allowed. When on the way two drunken Huns killed another soldier Belisarius had them executed to reinforce discipline. Such a cruel measure could also undermine his authority and give him the reputation of a cruel leader but he prevented negative repercussions with a speech. Belisarius had the staff-ships marked and lanterns put up so that they would always be visible. The usage of signals kept the fleet organised and sailing close together, even at night and was praised heavily by Procopius. When arriving at Methone 500 men died of eating improperly prepared bread, Belisarius quickly fixed the situation by acquiring fresh bread from the locals. instead of dealing with impossible logistics he would make several extra stops during his journey to acquire extra bread during the voyage. In Methone he also organised his forces, because his force included many officers it was well led but confusion was easy to arise which was prevented here. Before the Byzantines could cross over to Gothic Sicily, which they were allowed to use to get to Vandal Africa by the pro-Byzantine, anti-Vandal queen Amalasuintha, they had to cross the Adriatic. Despite acquiring fresh water the weather caused the water supply to be spoiled before arrival and only Belisarius and a select view other had access to unspoiled water. At Sicily Procopius was sent to acquire supplies from Syracuse and gather intel about the Vandal’s recent activities. There he found out that the Vandals had taken no measures to defend against a Byzantines invasion (they were unaware one was coming). Procopius also found out that most of the Vandal fleet was occupied around Sardinia. At this point Dorotheus died and Belisarius and his troops were demoralised but when they heard Procopius’ discovery they quickly left for Africa. In total unfavourable winds had protracted their journey to 80 days. Despite the long duration the journey went better than that of any other Roman invasion of Vandal Africa, all three ending before reaching the coast. During and before the journey to Africa Belisarius had had no chance to personally train his units which would make his campaign in Africa more difficult, this was in contrast to his campaign in the east, unit cohesion was especially lacking during this invasion.
While the full conquest of Africa is often portrayed as the original objective of the campaign it is unlikely this was actually the case. Belisarius had gotten full authority to act in any way he saw fit. Only when Belisarius was already on Sicily was the choice made to sail straight for the Vandal heartland. If the vandal fleet would have been ready such an operation would have been unlikely to succeed. When information arrived in Constantinople it was already weeks if not months old so it seems unlikely that Justinian would have made the decision on weather to move to the area at all back at Constantinople. Only at Sicily would one be in any kind of position to decide on how to proceed. Justinian had been reluctant to launch a campaign in the first place and Hilderic was still alive at this point, conquest seems not to have been the absolute intention. On the other hand Justinian had lost almost all his prestige and much of his power through defeat against Persia, the Nika riots, the slow progress of the current legal reforms and the failure of his quest for reconciliation in the church. He would need some kind of victory to repair his prestige. Capturing the undefended region of Tripolitania, which lacked vandal settlement almost entirely, was currently rebelling and which vulnerability could be detected from Constantinople, would be such a victory. As such this seems to be likely to have been his minimal demand. If successful the Byzantines could use the region as a springboard to conquer the entire country later on, giving an extra reason to make it the minimal demand. As such it is Belisarius’ decision at Sicily that kicks off Justinian’s reconquest.
With Gelimer being four days inland and his troops scattered Belisarius could have taken Carthage before the Vandals even knew he was coming and were certainly not in a position to react. Archelaus argued in favour of this approach, pointing out that Carthage was the only place in the Vandal Kingdom which had a fortified harbour. Belisarius considered being cornered in Carthage with the Vandals holding a superior naval position, his forces vulnerable to attack when landing and no intel on the position of the Vandals so troops possibly being present too dangerous. There also was the risk of unfavourable winds which led to disaster in 468, they might be trapped in an unfavourable situation before even reaching Carthage. Instead the Byzantines landed at Caput Vada, 162 miles away from Carthage. Belisarius ordered fortification to be constructed, guards to be posted and a screen of light ships to be deployed to defend the army and fleet. This invasion wouldn’t be defeated by fire ships. During the construction of the base a spring was found which Procopius called a good omen from god.
When he heard of the Byzantine landing Gelimer rapidly moved to consolidate his position. He had Hilderic and other captives executed, ordered his treasury to be put on a ship ready for evacuation to Visigothic Iberia if necessary and began gathering his troops, he had already made a plan to ambush and encircle the Byzantines At Ad Decimum. Gelimer had instantly recognised the Byzantines would move to Carthage via the coastal road but still sent garrisons to guard other roads.
At the same time that Gelimer was preparing his ambush Belisarius was gathering intel on the natives and preparing to move to Carthage via the coastal road, as Gelimer expected. During the first night on African soil some Byzantine soldiers had picked some fruit without asking the locals for permission, Belisarius had them put to death. Only after he had already ordered the soldiers to be executed did Belisarius gather his men and tell them to behave. He warned his men that if they didn’t have the support from the local the expedition would end in a Vandal victory. next he sent a unit of his personal guards under Boriades to the town of Syllectus to test the willingness of the locals to join his side. Boriades was denied entry to the town but after three days eventually gained entry by joining a group of wagons entering the town. When the locals found out the Byzantines were in the town they submitted without a fight. The Byzantines also captured a Vandal messenger who Belisarius decided to release. The messenger was paid to spread the message to Justinian was only waging war on the man who had imprisoned their rightful king and against the Vandal people. The messenger was to afraid of the possible repercussions to tell it to anyone but close friends. Eventough this early attempt failed Belisarius made it well known throughout the campaign that he was only there to restore the rightful king.
When Belisarius advanced again he positioned his troops in such a way that he and his guards could rapidly reenforce any position that could be attacked, especially the flank as the last known Vandal position was to the south and the army moved north. He also sent 300 guards ahead to scout while the 600 Huns guarded his left flank and the fleet his right flank. When the army arrived in Syllectus their civilised behaviour caused the city to give their full support to the Byzantines. This positive reputation of the Byzantine army began immediately spreading causing much of the population to support the Byzantines. Marching at the speed of around 7 and 9 miles a day the Byzantines advanced on Carthage, their speed dictated by the need to build a fortified camp every day.
Now Belisarius was 40 miles away from Carthage, he knew the Vandals would be near at this point and that they would act before he could reach Carthage but was not aware of the location and wanted to gather information of his situation first. Part of the rearguard encountered a Vandal force sent ahead by Gelimer which gave Belisarius the knowledge that at least some Vandal troops were behind his own force. His journey now became increasingly dangerous as the fleet had to sail around Cape Bon and the road curved inland so it became impossible to rapidly evacuate by which he could have done at any time he wanted until now. Belisarius ordered Archelaus and the naval commander Calonymus remain at a distance of at least 22 miles from Carthage. He advanced on land with about 18,000 men himself. Soon he would encounter Gelimer at Ad Decimum.
The Byzantines were located in between the Vandal forces in the north and the south. Gelimer needed a victory at Ad Decimum to unite his forces. Numbering about 10,000-12,000 the Vandals were outnumbered. The valley in which the ambush was to take place was narrow and as two of the three roads to Carthage became one in the valley it seemed like a great spot for an ambush to Gelimer. Ammatus, with 6,000-7,000 was ordered to block the northern exit and attack the Byzantines head on the drive them further back into the valley and cause disorder. Meanwhile 5,000-6,000 Vandals under Gelimer was already advancing towards Belisarius from the south as the earlier clash showed, these would be in the near vicinity when Belisarius entered the valley and attack the from behind after all Byzantines had moved into the valley. Brogna states that this plan was doomed to fail as coordination over dozens of miles was needed however Hughes disagrees and calls the plan “elegant and simple” but does state that the plan relied too much on hard to pull off timing and synchronisation.
The battle consisted of four separate stages. Four miles from Ad Decimum Belisarius found an ideal spot to camp. Leaving the infantry behind to build a camp he rode out with his cavalry to meet the Vandals who he as previously mentioned suspected were nearby. This way he left his infantry, baggage and wife in a secure position. Unlike the large infantry force he would easily be able to control this small force of cavalry and it was the main strength of the Byzantine army anyways. When Belisarius arrived at the battlefield the first three stages of the battle had already taken place. The Byzantines sent ahead to scout and the Huns guarding the flank had routed the units numerically superior forces opposing them. Before Belisarius arrived at the field of battle he ran into some units routed by Gelimer’s army who informed him on the situation in the third stage, when Gelimer arrived himself. When Belisarius arrived Gelimer had seen his brother Ammatus was killed in combat. Mourning, he remained idle, and allowed Belisarius to attack his force in a disorganised state in the fourth and last stage of the battle.
Carthage and TricamarumEdit
After this victory Belisarius marched on Carthage. He arrived at nightfall. He then camped outside the city as he was afraid of a Vandal ambush in its streets and of his troops sacking the city under the cover of darkness. When Calonymus heard of the victory he did use part of his fleet to rob a number of merchants, Belisarius forced him to give everything back eventhough he secretly managed to keep it. The Vandals hiding in Carthage and the surrounding area were gathered in Carthage by Belisarius, who guaranteed the their safety by him. When Tzazo, the vandal commander fighting rebellion on Sardinia, sent message of his victory to Carthage the messenger was captured providing Belisarius with intel on the strategic situation. Belisarius also had Carthage’s wall repaired. The news of the capture of Carthage reached Iberia by now and its king refused to make an alliance with the envoy Gelimer sent earlier. Due to Belisarius’ benevolence many cities changed sides so it became impossible for Gelimer to fight a protracted campaign. Before making his next move Gelimer had received reinforcements under Tzazo and tried to convince some Balisarius’ to desert. Belisarius prevented their desertion but for example the Huns would not take part in the battle until after the winner had been practically decided. When a Carthaginian civilian was caught working for the Vandals Belisarius had him publicly executed.
Later a second Battle was fought at Tricamarum. In this battle Belisarius played only an advisory role to John the Armenian as he arrived at the battlefield later on. After winning that battle Belisarius sent John the Armenian to chase Gelimer. John was killed by accident and Gelimer managed to escape to Medeus. The 400 Heruls under Pharas were to besiege it. Gelimers treasure failed to depart and was captured and the kind of the Visigoths, Theudis, refused and alliance with Gelimer. After a failed assault in which Pharas lost 110 men Gelimer surrendered. Meanwhile Belisarius himself had been reorganising the captured territory and had sent Cyril on a mission to capture Sardinia which would capture that island and later also Corsica. The effort to locate and gather Vandal soldiers was still going on, in this way the class the entire Vandal Military and political systems were based around could be wholly deported to the east, Vandal power forever broken. Jealous subordinates now contacted Justinian and claimed Belisarius wanted to rebel. Belisarius was presented with a choice by Justinian, he could either continue governing the new territory as its official governor or return to Constantinople and get a triumph. If he wanted to rebel he was sure to choose the governorship but instead he choose the triumph convincing Justinian of his loyalty once again. The entire war was over before the end of 544.
Some time after Belisarius left a mutiny broke out in Africa. Soldiers angry about religious persecution by the Byzantines and the inability of the empire to pay them rose up en masse and nearly broke Byzantine rule in the area. Belisarius would return for a short while just before the Gothic War to help fight the revolt. When the rebels heard of his arrival they lifted the Siege of Carthage at the beginning of the siege the rebel force numbered 9,000 plus many slaves. Belisarius went after them with just 2,000 troops winning a victory in the battle of the River Bagradas. During the battle Stotzas, the rebel leader, tried to move his army into a new position in front of the Byzantine force. When the units moved without cover being provided Belisarius launched a successful attack against them which caused the entire rebel army to panic and flee. Rebel power was broken and Belisarius left for Italy.
In 535, Justinian commissioned Belisarius to attack the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy. The Ostrogothic king Theodahad had technically gained the throne by marriage. Power had been held however by the pro-Byzantine Amalasuintha until he had her imprisoned and then killed. Seeing internal division similar to that in Africa Justinian expected the Goths were weak. Belisarius got 4,000 troops which included regular troops and possibly foederati, 3,000 Isaurians, 300 Moors and 200 Huns. In total including his personal guards his force numbered roughly 8,000. Belisarius landed in Sicily and took the island in order to use it as a base against Italy, while Mundus recovered Dalmatia. Justinian wanted to pressure Theodahad into relinquishing his throne and annex his kingdom through diplomacy and limited military action. This worked at first but the army in the balkans retreated and the war continued. Belisarius pushed on on Sicily. The only Ostrogothic resistance came at Panormus, which fell after a quick siege, here Belisarius used archer fire from boats on top of the masts of his ships to subdue the garrison. He made a triumphal entry to Syracuse on 31 December 535. The preparations for the invasion of the Italian mainland were interrupted in Easter 536, when Belisarius sailed to Africa to counter an uprising of the local army (as described above). His reputation made the rebels abandon the siege of Carthage, and Belisarius pursued and defeated them at Membresa. Thereupon he returned to Sicily, and then crossed into mainland Italy, where he captured Naples in November and Rome in December 536. Before reaching Naples he had met no resistance as the troops in southern Italy were disgusted by Theodahad and switched sides. At Naples a strong Gothic garrison resisted the Byzantines using its strong fortifications. Belisarius could not operate safely at Rome with such a strong garrison in his rear. He couldn’t storm the strong fortifications, he couldn’t besiege the city or use engineering to create elaborate siege-works as Gothic reinforcements could arrive while bribery and negotiation, employed at once by bribing a negotiator, failed. He couldn’t use his fleet either as there was artillery on the wall. Now Belisarius cut the aqueduct but the city had enough wells so he resorted to making many costly assaults failed assaults. After their failure Belisarius planned on abandoning the siege and marching on Rome. By chance an entrance to the city via an aqueduct was found and a small byzantine force entered the city. When this force had entered the city Belisarius launched an all out assault so the Goths couldn’t concentrate against the intruders. Despite having taken the city by force he showed leniency to the city and garrison as to entice as many other Goths to join his side or surrender later on, this way he would avoid costly action as much as possible and preserve his small force. The failure to reinforce the city caused Theodahad to be deposed. While the new Gothic king Witigis, had sent a garrison to Rome, the city was left undefended as the troops fled after noticing the pro-Byzantine attitude of the population. Much of Tuscany submitted willingly to Belisarius' troops at this point. Belisarius garrisoned towns on the supply lines from the gothic heartland in the north to Rome, as such forcing Witigis to besiege these towns before he could march on Rome.
Siege of RomeEdit
From March 537 to March 538 Belisarius successfully defended Rome against the much larger army of Witiges. He inflicted heavy casualties by launching many successful sorties. While the range of the horse archers Belisarius used has often been credited with the success of these raids in the terrain around Rome this wouldn’t make sense instead is was the Gothic unpreparedness and the command expertise of Byzantine officers which made sure the Goths were unable to respond. When Witigis tried to post units to prevent these raids Belisarius sent out bigger units that encircled them, the Gothic officers being unable counter this. 18 days into the siege the Goths launched an all out assault, Belisarius ordered a number of archer to shoot at the oxen pulling the siege equipment, as a result the assault failed with heavy casualties. When the Goths retreated from a certain section of the wall Belisarius launched an attack on their rear, inflicting extra casualties. However when he tried to end the siege by sallying out with a large force Witigis used his numbers to absorb the attack and then counter-attack winning the battle. Regardless Witigis was losing the siege so he decided to make one last attempt on the wall which ran along the Tiber, were the wall was much less formidable. He bribed men to give the guards drugged wine but the plot was revealed and Belisarius had a traitor tortured and mutilated as a punishment. An armistice had been signed shortly before but with both the Goths and the Byzantines openly breaking it the war continued. By now Byzantine forces captured Ariminum and approached Ravenna so Witigis was forced to retreat. The siege had lasted from March 537 to March 538.
Belisarius sent 1,000 men to support the population of Mediolanum against the Goths. These captured much Liguria, garrisoning the major settlements in the region. He captured Urbinum in December 538 when the Gothic garrison ran out of water after a three-day siege.
Deposition of Pope SilveriusEdit
During the Siege of Rome an incident occurred for which the general would be long condemned: Belisarius, a Byzantine Rite Christian, was commanded by the monophysite Christian Empress Theodora to depose the reigning Pope, who had been installed by the Goths. This Pope was the former subdeacon Silverius, the son of Pope Hormisdas. Belisarius was to replace him with the Deacon Vigilius, Apocrisarius of Pope John II in Constantinople. Vigilius had in fact been chosen in 531 by Pope Boniface II to be his successor, but this choice was strongly criticised by the Roman clergy and Boniface eventually reversed his decision.
In 537, at the height of the siege, Silverius was accused of conspiring with the Gothic King and several Roman senators to secretly open the gates of the city. Belisarius had him stripped of his vestments and exiled to Patara in Lycia in Asia Minor. Following the advocacy of his innocence by the bishop of Patara he was ordered to return to Italy at the command of the Emperor Justinian and, if cleared by investigation, reinstated. However, Vigilius had already been installed in his place. Silverius was intercepted before he could reach Rome and exiled once more, this time on the island of Palmarola (Ponza), where by one account he is said to have starved to death, while others say he left for Constantinople. However that may be, he remains the patron saint of Ponza today.
Belisarius, for his part, built a small oratory on the site of the present church of Santa Maria in Trivio in Rome as a sign of his repentance. He also built two hospices for pilgrims and a monastery, which have since disappeared.
Belisarius and NarsesEdit
Belisarius ordered the cavalry garrison of Ariminum to be replaced by infantry. In this way the cavalry could join with other cavalry forces and use their mobility outside of the city while the infantry would under some unwell-known commander guarding the city would draw less attention to the city than a strong cavalry force under John. Witiges sent a large army to retake Mediolanum while he moved to besiege Ariminum himself. Witigis tried to hinder Byzantine movement by garrisoning an important tunnel on the road to Ancon this garrison was defeated while Witigis had to manoeuvre himself around a number of Byzantine garrisons to avoid losing time in fighting useless engagements. Ultimately the Byzantines were successful in reinforcing Ariminum. The John refused to leave the city however. During John managed to prevent the siege tower used by the Goths from reaching the walls which caused Witigis to withdraw. John wanted to prevent this and sallied out but was, like Belisarius at Rome, defeated which caused Witigis to keep besieging the now weakened garrison. Needing less men as no assault was to be made Witigis sent troops against Ancon and reinforce Auximus. Belisarius could either take Auximus and the move on Ariminum with a secure rear or bypass Auximus to save time. If it took too long to get there Ariminum might fall. The Byzantines were divided into two groups, one led by Narses wanted to move on Ariminum immediately while the other wanted to first take Auximus. A message from John eventually convinced Belisarius to move to Ariminum. During this operation Belisarius would station a part of his forces near Auximus to secure his rear. The arrival of a Byzantine relief force under Belisarius and Narses compelled the Ostrogoths to give up the siege and retreat to their capital of Ravenna. The force had been to small to actually challenge the Goths but trough deception Belisarius had managed to convince the Goths otherwise. Belisarius had approached from multiple sides including over the sea which convinced the Goths they faced a huge force. The troops were also ordered by Belisarius to light more campfires than necessary to strengthen the deception.
John made it a point to thank Narses for his rescue instead of Belisarius or Ildiger, who was the first to reach the city. This might have been to insult Belisarius or to avoid being indebted according to the Roman patronage tradition of which some remnants were probably still part of Byzantine culture. John (and Narses) might not have been convinced of Belisarius’ competence as the Vandals and Goths were by now perceived as weak while he had been relatively unsuccessful against the Persians.
Narses’ supporters tried to turn Narses against Belisarius claiming that a close confident of the emperor should not take orders from a “mere general”. Belisarius In turn warned Narses that his followers were underestimating the Goths. He pointed out that their current position was surrounded by Gothic garrisons and proposed to relieve Mediolanum and besiege Auximus simultaneous. Narses accepted the plan with the addition that he and his troops would move into the region of Aemilia. This would pin down the Goths at Ravenna and as such put Belisarius forces in a secure position as well as preventing the Goths from reclaiming Aemilia. Narses claimed that if this wasn’t done the rear of the troops besieging Auximus would be open to attack. Belisarius ultimately decided against this as he was afraid this would spread his troops too thin. Showing a letter from Justinian that said that he had absolute authority in Italy to act “in the best interests of the state” to force Narses into accepting the decision. Narses replied that Belisarius wasn’t acting in the best interests of the state.
From the later part of the Siege of Rome onwards reinforcements had arrived in Italy, during the Siege of Ariminum another 5,000 reinforcements landed in Italy close to the siege were they were needed, clearly by design. The last group of reinforcements was 7,000 strong and led by Narses. After these arrived the Byzantines had around 20,000 troops in Italy in total. John claimed that about half of the troops were loyal to Narses instead of Belisarius.
Belisarius gave up his original plan and instead sending forces to besiege Urviventus and himself besieging Urbinus. Narses refused to share a camp with Belisarius and he and John claimed the city could not be taken by force and abandoned the siege. As Belisarius sent the assault forwards the garrison surrendered as the well in the city stopped working. Narses reacted by sending John to take Caesena. While that attack failed miserably John quickly moved to surprise the garrison at Forocornelius and as such secured Aelimia for the Byzantines. Shortly after Belisarius arrival the Urviventus garrison ran out of supplies and surrendered.
In late December, shortly after the siege of Urbinus and Urviventus, Belisarius sent troops to reinforce Mediolanum. Unsure of the gothic numbers, they requested aid from John and other troops under Narses. John, and the other commanders, refused to follow Belisarius’ order to assist stating that Narses was their commander. Narses repeated the order but John fell ill and they paused for him to recover. Meanwhile the revolt at Mediolanum was bloodily suppressed by the Goths. The desperate garrison had been promised safety in return for abandoning the city which they subsequently did. As the population had revolted they were considered traitors and many were slaughtered. Subsequently the other cities in Liguria surrendered to avoid the same faith. Narses was subsequently recalled.
Finishing the conquestEdit
In 539, Belisarius set up siege forces around Auximum and sent troops to Faesulae, starving both cities to submission by late 539. He led the Siege of Auximum himself, knowing he couldn’t storm the city he tried to cut the water supply but this failed. When the captured leaders from the Faesulae garrison were paraded in front of the city its garrison too surrendered. If he moved on Ravenna his rear would now be secure. Witigis hadn’t been able to reinforce these places as there was a food shortage throughout Italy and he couldn’t gather enough supplies for the march. Now Belisarius stationed his army around the Ostrogothic capital of Ravenna in late 539. The grain shipment to the city hadn’t been able to proceed to the city so when the Byzantines advanced on Ravenna the grain was captured. Cut off from outside help by the Byzantine navy patrolling the Adriatic Sea. When Belisarius besieged Ravenna the Gothic nobles, including Witigis, had offered the throne of the “western empire” to him. Belisarius feigned acceptance and entered Ravenna via its sole point of entry, a causeway through the marshes, accompanied by a comitatus of bucellarii, his personal household regiment (guards). He also prepared a grain shipment to enter the city when it surrendered. Soon afterwards, he proclaimed the capture of Ravenna in the name of the Emperor Justinian. The Goths' offer raised suspicions in Justinian's mind and Belisarius was recalled. He returned home with the Gothic treasure, king and warriors.
For his next assignment Belisarius went to the east to fight the Persians. Unlike during the Gothic and Vandalic wars he wasn’t accompanied by his wife. The Byzantines expected that Khosrow, like in the previous year, would move through Mesopotamia but instead Khosrow attacked Lazica, were the population was treated poorly by the Byzantines. The Lazicans had invited Khosrow who concealed his movement by claiming he was going to fight the Huns in the north while instead the Huns assisted Khosrow. When Belisarius arrived in the east he sent spies to gather information. He was told that the Persians were moving north to fight the Huns. Meanwhile Belisarius had trained and organised his troops who had been terrified of the Persians before his arrival. He decided he could attack Persia in relative safety. Some of Belisarius’ officers protested as staging an offensive would leave the Lakhmids free to raid the eastern provinces. Belisarius pointed out that the Lakhmids would be filling the last next months with religious celebrations and that he would be back within two months.
With the same reasoning he used in Italy for the siege of Auximus and other sieges and the marching column in Africa he determined that Nisibis had to be taken first to secure his rear if he moved further into Persia. Meanwhile the war was going poorly for the Byzantines to the north, Lazica was taken and a significant Byzantine garrison changed sides, possibly not having been paid for years.
When Belisarius approached Nisibis he ordered a camp to be set up at a significant distance from the city. His officers protested at this but he explained them that this was so that if the Persians sallied out and were defeated the Byzantines would have more time to inflict casualties during the retreat. At the battle of Rome, during the siege of Rome, Belisarius had been defeated but much of his army was able to retreat the short distance back to the city, something which he did not want to occur when the roles were reversed. Some of his officers disagreed so vehemently that they left the main force and camped close to the city. Belisarius warned them that the Persians would attack just before the first Byzantine meal but the officers still sent their men to get food at this time and as a result were caught in disorder by an attack. Belisarius observed what was going on and was already marching to their aid before messengers requesting aid even arrived. He turned the tide and won the battle. Having defeated the garrison but still being not being in a strong enough position to storm the fortifications he moved past the city. He didn’t have fear being attacked from the rear by the garrison anymore, mostly because their confidence was broken. While he besieged Sisauranon he sent troops to raid the rich lands beyond the Tigris. While Belisarius’ assaults on the city were repulsed by its 800 strong garrison and suffers heavy losses the city ran out of supplies and the garrison changed sides. At this point the troops raiding Persia returned home without informing Belisarius. At this point up to a third of Belisarius’ force had caught a fever and the Lakhmids were about to take up arms again. As he did with other major decisions Belisarius asked his officers’ opinions, they concluded they should retreat. Procopius heavily criticised this claiming that Belisarius could have marched on and taken Ctesiphon. He totally disregards the facts that no information on Persian dispositions was available and Belisarius hadn’t been able to take Sisauranon by force making it unlikely he could have stormed Ctesiphon.
In the campaign of 542, Belisarius's got the Persians to call off their invasion using trickery. Khosrow had wanted to raid Byzantine territory again but Belisarius moves to the area. When Khosrow sent an ambassador Belisarius took 6,000 of his best men with him for a meeting. Taking only hunting equipment with them it seemed like it was a hunting party from a larger equally high-quality force. Fooled by the deception the Persians, knowing that if they were defeated they would trapped in Byzantine territory, retreated. Belisarius also sent 1,000 cavalry into the Persian retreat route, if an engagement was fought this might have pointed out Byzantine weakness. During the retreat Belisarius constantly kept the pressure on, preventing Khosrow from raiding. In return for the Persian withdrawal from imperial lands the Byzantines would sent ambassadors, as the Persian ambassador had requested from Belisarius at their meeting. The meeting had been just a ruse to spy at the Byzantine troops and as such, when Belisarius took the pressure off, Khosrow attacked some Byzantine towns. Sacking Callinicum Khosrow could claim success, some claimed that by not harassing Khosrow Belisarius had made a serious error but this view was not brought up in court. Despite Callinicum Belisarius was acclaimed throughout the East for his success in repelling the Persians. Crucial to the success of Belisarius’ deception had been Khosrow’s fear of catching the plague if he remained in Byzantine territory for too long which made maintaining a tactic position in Byzantine territory highly dangerous. By showing his best troops in the open Belisarius made clear that his army was not weakened by the plague and seemingly not afraid to catch it.
Return to ItalyEdit
While Belisarius was in the east the situation in Italy had vastly deteriorated. The governor sent to the area, a man named Alexander, was corrupt. He trimmed the edge off of coins to increase his own wealth. His policy was no better than this. He charged many soldiers with corruption and demanded they pay fines, he decreased military spending and demanded that tax withheld from the Goths would be instead payed to the Byzantines. As a result many Byzantine soldiers defected or mutinied. The command of the troops in Italy was divided by Justinian to prevent any commander from becoming too powerful. Most of the time these commanders refused to work together as Justinian’s plague made it dangerous to leave base. Meanwhile the Goths under the brilliant and energetic leadership of IldIbad and Totila went on the offensive and recaptured all of northern Italy, and parts of the south. apparently Totila considered to opportunity win an easy victory greater than the risk of losing his force due to plague. As a result they won many engagements against the uncoordinated Byzantines including the Battle of Treviso, Siege of Verona, Battle of Faventia, Battle of Mucellium and Siege of Naples. But by now they weren’t powerful enough to capture Rome.
In 544 Belisarius was reappointed to hold command in Italy. Before going to Italy Belisarius had to recruit troops. When he finished his force numbered roughly 4,000 men. Justinian wasn’t able to allocate significant recourses as most troops were still needed in the east and the plague had devastated the empire.
During the upcoming campaign Totila mostly wanted to avoid sieges. The Byzantines had proven themselves adept at sieges but he had proven multiple times he could defeat them in open battle. As such he raised the walls of towns he took, he wanted neither to be besieged there nor to have to besiege them later. Belisarius on the other hand wanted to avoid battle, he had entirely avoided battle after the battle of Rome. With force as small as his he wanted to avoid losing to many men and instead avoid the Goths from making progress through other means.
In Italy many soldiers were mutinous or changed sides which Belisarius hoped would stop when he was reappointed, it didn’t. The Byzantine garrison at Dryus were running out of supplies and made plans to surrender but when Belisarius arrived he quickly arranged for supplies to be sent by ship. The Goths failed to notice the ships until it was to late and abandoned the siege. Now Belisarius himself sailed to Italy, landing at Pola. Totila quickly heard of this and sent spies pretending to be Byzantine messengers. Belisarius fell for the ruse and so Totila immediately knew the state of his army, he wouldn’t be deceived like Khosrow. Belisarius himself didn’t remain idle and went to Ravenna to recruit extra troops. While people respected Belisarius they were smart enough to notice that a fair deal made with Belisarius would be ruined by his often corrupt and incompetent successors. As a result not a single man enlisted. This also meant that Belisarius’ normal strategy of winning over the people through benevolence wouldn’t work.
Not wanting to remain idle, Belisarius sent troops into Aemilia. This was successful until the Illyrian troops went home to deal with a Hunnish incursion. The remaining Byzantines successfully ambushed a significant Gothic force, the incursion ended in a victory. Next Belisarius sent some men to assist the besieged Auximus, they succeeded but the were defeated while moving back. Still wanting to retain some initiative, Belisarius sent men to rebuild some nearby forts. Belisarius undertook no other operations so despite winter arriving Totila started the sieges of some towns, secure from the Byzantines threat.
When requesting reinforcement Belisarius asked for barbarian horse archers as he knew the Goths were unable to counter these. Justinian was fighting wars on many fronts and the plague was devastating Constantinople for a second time and as such was unable to provide even the equipment and money needed to reequip and pay the forces already in Italy.
Totila was enjoying great success in his recent sieges. Herodian, commander of a garrison, surrendered very quickly to the Goths, having seen the unfavourable treatment Justinian had given Belisarius after his recent Persian campaign. By now the Goths had acquired enough strength to move on Rome. Like Herodian the commander of the Roman garrison, Bessas, was afraid of poor treatment or even being prosecuted after the siege was lifted. As a result he remained idle when Belisarius ordered him to assist in the relieve of the city. When Belisarius attempted to assist the city with supplies he came up against a blockade on the Tiber. He overcame this using a siege tower with a boat on top. The boat was filled with burnable materials so when it was thrown into one of the Gothic towers which the blockade was centred around the entire garrison died either on impact or because of the fire. Belisarius had left a force under Isaac the Armenian to guard Portus with orders not to leave the city under any circumstance. Now Belisarius heard he had been captured and rushed back to Portus, Isaac had left the city and was captured outside its walls, the city was safe. With surprise lost, no assistance from Bessas or John, who was blocked off in Calabria, and with little resources Belisarius wasn’t able to prevent Totila from eventually capturing the city. However, it is worth noting a letter that Belisarius wrote to Totila, according to Procopius, reportedly prevented Totila from destroying Rome:
"While the creation of beauty in a city which has not been beautiful before could only proceed from men of wisdom who understand the meaning of civilization, the destruction of beauty which already exists would be naturally expected only of men who lack understanding, and who are not ashamed to leave to posterity this token of their character. Now among all the cities under the sun Rome is agreed to be the greatest and the most noteworthy. For it has not been created by the ability of one man, nor has it attained such greatness and beauty by a power of short duration, but a multitude of monarchs, many companies of the best men, a great lapse of time, and an extraordinary abundance of wealth have availed to bring together in that city all other things that are in the whole world, and skilled workers besides. Thus, little by little, have they built the city, such as you behold it, thereby leaving to future generations memorials of the ability of them all, so that insult to these monuments would properly be considered a great crime against the men of all time ; for by such action the men of former generations are robbed of the memorials of their ability, and future generations of the sight of their works. Such, then, being the facts of the case, be well assured of this, that one of two things must necessarily take place : either you will be defeated by the emperor in this struggle, or, should it so fall out, you will triumph over him. Now, in the first place, supposing you are victorious, if you should dismantle Rome, you would not have destroyed the possession of some other man, but your own city, excellent Sir, and, on the other hand, if you preserve it, you will naturally enrich yourself by a possession the fairest of all; but if, in the second place, it should perchance fall to your lot to experience the worse fortune, in saving Rome you would be assured of abundant gratitude on the part of the victor, but by destroying the city you will make it certain that no plea for mercy will any longer be left to you, and in addition to this you will have reaped no benefit from the deed. Furthermore, a reputation that corresponds with your conduct will be your portion among all men, and it stands waiting for you according as you decide either way. For the quality of the acts of rulers determines, of necessity, the quality of the repute which they win from their acts."
Meanwhile Totila had also been very successful in his other efforts. Famine had spread throughout much of Italy and as he did not have to fear Belisarius sending aid to besieged towns he could take full advantage. Belisaeius had spent the winter in Epidamnus and when he sailed back (before attempting to relieve Rome) to Italy he did so with reinforcements from Justinian. He split his force in two, one part successfully campaigning in Calabria under John nephew of Vitalianus, the other part, under Belisarius’ command, tried to lift the siege of Rome but failed. A frock sent by Totila prevented John from leaving Calabria. After capturing Rome Totila sought peace, sending a message to Justinian. He received the reply Belisarius was in charge in Italy. 
Belisarius decided to march on Rome himself after Totila left the area. On the way however he marched into an ambush. Despite successfully ambushing Belisarius, the fighting eventually turned in favour of the Byzantines. Belisarius retreated, as it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to surprise the city, but later marched on Rome again and took it. Totila marched on the city again, but quickly abandoned the siege. Rome remained in Byzantine hands until after Belisarius left.
Following this disappointing campaign, mitigated by Belisarius' success in preventing the total destruction of Rome, in 548–9, Justinian relieved him. In 551, after economic recovery (from the effects of the plague) the eunuch Narses led a large army to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion; Belisarius retired from military affairs. At the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553), Belisarius was one of the Emperor's envoys to Pope Vigilius in their controversy over The Three Chapters. The Patriarch Eutychius, who presided over this council in place of Pope Vigilius, was the son of one of Belisarius's generals.
The retirement of Belisarius came to an end in 559, when an army of Kutrigur Bulgars under Khan Zabergan crossed the Danube River to invade Roman territory and approached Constantinople. Zabergan wanted to cross into Asia Minor as it was richer than the often ravaged Balkans. Justinian recalled Belisarius to command the Byzantine army. Belisarius got only 300 heavily armed veterans from the Italian campaign and a host of civilians, including or entirely consisting of 1,000 conscripted refugees fleeing from the Huns, to stop the 7,000 Huns. These were probably retired soldiers living in the region. Belisarius camped close to the Huns and had the civilians dig a trench for protection and light many torches to exaggerate his numbers. Determining the path the Hunnish advance would take he stationed 100 veterans on each side and another 100 to block their advance. In the narrow defile the Huns wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre, exploit their greater numbers. and use their arrow fire effectively When 2,000 Huns attack Belisarius had his 100 veterans who were blocking the path charge, while the civilians made a lot of noise behind him. This confused the Huns, and when he struck their rear they were pressed together so tightly that they could not draw their bows. The Huns fled in disorder, Belisarius applied so much pressure to them during the retreat that they didn’t even use the Parthian shot to harass their pursuers. After the defeat the Huns fled back over the Danube. In Constantinople Belisarius was once again referred as a hero.
In 562, Belisarius stood trial in Constantinople on a charge of corruption. The charge is presumed to have been trumped-up and modern research suggests that his former secretary Procopius of Caesarea may have judged his case. Belisarius was found guilty and imprisoned but not long after, Justinian pardoned him, ordered his release, and restored him to favour at the imperial court.
In the first five chapters of his Secret History, Procopius characterises Belisarius as a cuckolded husband, who was emotionally dependent on his debauched wife, Antonina. According to the historian, Antonina cheated on Belisarius with their adopted son, the young Theodosius. Procopius claims that the love affair was well known in the imperial court and the general was regarded as weak and ridiculous; this view is often considered biased, as Procopius nursed a longstanding hatred of Belisarius and Antonina. Empress Theodora reportedly saved Antonina when Belisarius tried to charge his wife at last.
Belisarius and Justinian, whose partnership had increased the size of the empire by 45 percent, died within a few months of each other in 565. Belisarius owned the estate of Rufinianae on the Asiatic side of the Constantinople suburbs. He may have died there and been buried near one of the two churches in the area, perhaps Saints Peter and Paul.
During his first Persian campaign Belisarius was on the winning side ones, at Dara. In his first few battles he didn’t hold overall command and as he was promoted soon after these defeats his performance was probably positive. At Dara he won a resounding victory by predicting and influencing enemy movement. When the enemy concentrated and broke through he moved against their rear and defeated them. At the next battle, at Callinicum he probably tried to copy his own success at Dara. However he positioned himself at the low ground and was not able to see it when the enemy concentrated to brake trough. He had created no reserve at all so wasn’t able to plug the gap despite superior numbers. Belisarius failure to position himself properly, make a cohesive plan, take advantage of the terrain and his failure to plug the created gap caused a disastrous defeat. Once the Persians had concentrated for a decisive attack they held numerical superiority at the point of pressure despite inferior numbers overall.
In Africa he walked accidentally into the battle of Ad Decimum. His ability to see an opportunity to gain the advantage and to take it contrast positively with Gelimer’s inactivity. As such Hughes judges his generalship during that battle to be superior.
In Italy he mostly relied on sieges to defeat the Goths. At this he was so efficient that Totila refused to engage in them until Belisarius was unable to take the initiative due to supply shortages.
In Italy, to deal with a changing situation, he made multiple strategies inside the span of a year. Meanwhile his opponent Witigis had no coherent strategy after the failure of the siege of Rome.
Belisarius tried to keep his strategic rear secure, besieging for example Auximus so he could safely move on Ravenna. When he saw fit he sometimes did operate with a force in his strategic rear like at the Siege of Ariminum or when he planned to move on Rome without having taken Naples. In the east he understood that the Persian garrison of Nisibis would the afraid to give Battle a second time after being defeated in the open earlier. Here too Belisarius operated with a force in his strategic rear.
He wanted not to split his forces into two small contingents, like Gelimer had been forced to do at Ad Decimum, so when Narses proposed a plan to operate with a secure strategic rear Belisarius refused it with as reason he would divide his forces too much.
In Belisarius’ campaigns Brogna sees the overarching theme of the strategic offensive then tactical defence followed by offence. This forced his enemy to attack strong defensive positions, like the walls of Rome, suffering horrendous losses. After which Belisarius could use the main strength of his force, his cavalry, which contained horse archers to which the Goths and Vandals had no effective response, to finish off the enemy. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder would come up with the idea to use so called offensive-defensive campaigns in to defend Germany centuries later. In these he would also go on a strategic offensive, take up defensive positions on enemy supply lines and have the larger Russian and French forces attack his strong position. In both cases the purpose of this kind of strategy was to defeat larger enemy forces effectively. When using such tactics the higher quality of Byzantine troops compared to the “barbarians” was exploited to the fullest as wave after wave of Goths, relying on brute force to win, was defeated, In the case of the [imperial] Germans this was also the goal, as they like the Byzantines could muster superior firepower because of their higher quality troops.
In his assessment of the commander Hughes concludes that Belisarius’ strategic abilities were unrivalled.
At both Thannuris and Callinicum he fled before the battle was over. While improving the battlefield situation this did prevent his own troops from being destroyed. At the battle of Dara refused to duel with a Persian champion and instead sent a champion of his own. At Rome however he fought at the frontline with his soldiers. While he was not willing to take an unnecessary risk in the form of a dual he wanted and was capable of inspiring his men in combat and seems not to have lacked bravery. Procopius portrayal as Belisarius being weak willed can often also be explained away with a good understanding of politics, taking action against his wife for example would not have been appreciated by empress Theodora at all. Just like the weak mindedness in relation to his wife the influence his soldiers had on him was probably not enough to convince him to move out of Rome. Instead it was probably overconfidence on his own part. For the rest of his career he became a cautious commander. Which is in line with the notion that Belisarius knew his limits and tried to act within them. He often moved out with only a small force, with which he would have no control and communication problems. Another example of this is when at the battle of Tricamerum he merely advised John, not taking full command. He recognised John was competent and knew more about the situation and as such John remained in overall command, winning a great victory.
One of the attributes of Belisarius’ campaigns was his benevolence towards soldiers and Civilians alike. This caused the local population to support supply him which was vital to winning for example the battle of Ad Decimum. Many enemy garrisons also changed sides as they could expect leniency. It also put Gelimer under time constraints and as such forced him to fight the battle of Tricamerum.
He is also noted for his calmness in danger. At Rome when a rumour spread that the Goths were already in the city and his men begged him to flee he instead sent men to verify whether the claim was true and made clear to the officers that it was his job and his alone to deal with such a situation.
Belisarius is generally held in extremely high regard among historians. This is mostly because of the victories at Dara, Ad Decimum and Tricamarum. Little attention has been spent on his defeats in the east and at the Battle of Rome. Brogna puts him among the best commanders in history, Hughes says of him that he remains behind Alexander the Great and Caesar but not by much.
Legend as a blind beggarEdit
According to a story that gained popularity during the Middle Ages, Justinian is said to have ordered Belisarius's eyes to be put out, and reduced him to the status of homeless beggar near the Pincian Gate of Rome, condemned to asking passers-by to "give an obolus to Belisarius" (date obolum Belisario), before pardoning him. Most modern scholars believe the story to be apocryphal, though Philip Stanhope, a 19th-century British philologist who wrote Life of Belisarius believed the story to be true based on his review of the available primary sources.
After the publication of Jean-François Marmontel's novel Bélisaire (1767), this account became a popular subject for progressive painters and their patrons in the later 18th century, who saw parallels between the actions of Justinian and the repression imposed by contemporary rulers. For such subtexts, Marmontel's novel received a public censure by Louis Legrand of the Sorbonne, which contemporary theologians regarded as a model exposition of theological knowledge and clear thinking. Marmontel and the painters and sculptors depicted Belisarius as a kind of secular saint, sharing the suffering of the downtrodden poor—for example, the bust of Belisarius by the French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Stouf. The most famous of these paintings, by Jacques-Louis David, combines the themes of charity (the alms giver), injustice (Belisarius), and the radical reversal of power (the soldier who recognises his old commander). Others portray him being helped by the poor after his rejection by the powerful.
In art and popular cultureEdit
Belisarius was featured in several works of art before the 20th century. The oldest of them is the historical treatise by his secretary, Procopius. The Anecdota, commonly referred to as the Arcana Historia or Secret History, is an extended attack on Belisarius and Antonina, and on Justinian and Theodora, indicting Belisarius as a love-blind fool and his wife as unfaithful and duplicitous. Other works include:
Belisarius as a characterEdit
- Belasarius: a play by Jakob Bidermann (1607)
- The life and history of Belisarius, who conquer'd Africa and Italy, with an account of his disgrace, the ingratitude of the Romans, and a parallel between him and a modern hero: a drama by John Oldmixon (1713)
- Belasarius: a drama by William Philips (1724)
- El ejemplo mayor de la desdicha: a play by Antonio Mira de Amescua (1625)
- Bélisaire: a novel by Jean-François Marmontel (1767)
- Belisarius: A Tragedy: by Margaretta Faugères (1795). Though she wrote it as a play, Faugères "intended [this work] for the closet," i.e., to be read and not performed. Her preface voices complaints about "maledictions" and long-winded rhetoric in popular tragic drama, which she says tend to bore and even outrage a reader, and announces her intent to "substitute concise narrative and plain sense." The drama's plot and character development are secondary to moral conflicts, mainly between vengeance and mercy/pity, respectively associated with pride and humility.
- Beliar: 18th-century poem by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque.
- Kampf um Rom: a historical novel by Felix Dahn (1867)
- Belisarius, 19th-century poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Count Belisarius: a novel by Robert Graves (1938); Ostensibly written from the viewpoint of the eunuch Eugenius, servant to Belisarius's wife, but actually based on Procopius's history, the book portrays Belisarius as a solitary honorable man in a corrupt world, and paints a vivid picture of not only his startling military feats but also the colorful characters and events of his day, such as the savage Hippodrome politics of the Constantinople chariot races, which regularly escalated to open street battles between fans of opposing factions, and the intrigues of the emperor Justinian and the empress Theodora.
- Lest Darkness Fall: an alternative history novel by L. Sprague de Camp (1939). Belisarius appears first as the Roman opponent of the time traveler Martin Padway who tries to spread modern science and inventions in Gothic Italy. Eventually Belisarius becomes a general in Padway's army and secures Italy for him.
- The Belisarius series: six books by Eric Flint and David Drake (1998–2006). Science Fiction/Alternative History.
- The character "Bel Riose" in Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov is based on Belisarius (1952)
- A Flame in Byzantium: an historical horror fiction novel by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1987)
- Belisario: tragedia lirica by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Salvatore Cammarano after Luigi Marchionni's adaptation of Eduard von Schenl's Belisarius (1820), scenography by Francesco Bagnara, premiered during the Stagione di Carnevale, 4 February 1836, Venezia, Teatro La Fenice.
- Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold: comic book miniseries authored by Alisa Kwitney with art by Kent Williams, Michael Zulli, Scott Hampton, and Rebecca Guay (1997). Belisarius briefly appears as a jealous husband, imprisoning his wife in their quarters due to rumors of her affairs, instead of fighting in Italy.
- Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings: A video game by Ensemble Studios (1999). Belisarius is a "Hero" that can only be accessed in the map editor. He has the appearance of a Cataphract, the Byzantine unique unit. The second official expansion pack for the game, Age of Empires II: The Forgotten (2013), added a few campaigns in which Belisarius is featured as a player controllable unit.
- Age of Empires: Castle Siege: A video game by Microsoft Studios (2014). Belisarius is a "Hero" associated with the Byzantines civilization, with a special ability to undermine walls.
- Civilization IV: A video game by Take-Two Interactive (2005). Belisarius is a "Great Person"; specifically, one of many "Great Generals" that arise through gameplay via warfare with other civilizations (excluding barbarians).
- Civilization V: Belisarius, as in Civilization IV, appears as a "Great General".
- Total War: Attila: A video game by The Creative Assembly. The player can command the army of Belisarius at the Battle of Ad Decimum. He is also featured as the main protagonist in "The Last Roman" Campaign Pack where the player can take the role of Belisarius, tasked with reclaiming the former territory of the Western Empire. The campaign ends either with the player successfully recovering territory for the Byzantine Empire, or alternatively with Belisarius's forces declaring independence from the Byzantine Empire and resurrecting the Western Roman Empire.
- He is in a tutorial level of Empire Earth.
- Anastasian War
- Battle of Cape Bon (468)
- Battle of Faventia
- Battle of Mucellium
- Battle of Taginae
- Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty
- Byzantine Empire under the Leonid dynasty
- Conon (general under Justinian I)
- Cyprian (Byzantine commander)
- Flavius Aetius
- Gothic War (376–382)
- Liberius (praetorian prefect)
- Military deception
- Siege of Naples (542–43)
- Siege of Verona
- Strategikon of Maurice
- Theodoric the Great
- Visigothic Kingdom
- Mass, Michael (June 2013). "Las guerras de Justiniano en Occidente y la idea de restauración". Desperta Ferro (in Spanish). 18: 6–10. ISSN 2171-9276.
- The exact date of his birth is unknown. PLRE III, p. 182
- Robert Graves, Count Belisarius and Procopius's Wars, 1938
- Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A history of the Byzantine state and society. Stanford University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-8047-2630-6. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Barker, John W. (1966). Justinian and the later Roman Empire. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-299-03944-8. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the death of Justinian volume 2, by J. B. Bury p.56
- The Age of Faith: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant, Chapter V
- Count Marcellinus and His Chronicle by Brian Croke, p.75
- Tucker, Spencer C. (2010). Battles that changed history : an encyclopedia of world conflict (1st ed.). Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-59884-429-0.
- Hughes, Ian (Historian), (2009). Belisarius : the last Roman general. Barnsley: Westholme Publishing. ISBN 9781473822979. OCLC 903161296.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Brogna, Anthony (2015). The Generalship of Belisarius. Hauraki Publishing.
- Evans, James Allan (2003-10-01). The Empress Theodora: Partner of Justinian. University of Texas Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-292-70270-7. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- Heather, P. J. (Peter J.), (2018). Rome resurgent : war and empire in the age of Justinian. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199362745. OCLC 1007044617.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Belisarius | Biography, Military Campaigns, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
- Captivating History (2018). Roman History: A Captivating Guide to Ancient Rome, Including the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and the Byzantium.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. Augustine Books. pp. 47–48.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 48.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 49.
- Charles River Editors (2014). Justinian the Great: The Life and Legacy of the Byzantine Emperor. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781503190375.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- This is the number given by Procopius, Wars (Internet Medieval Sourcebook.)
- In “The dark ages” Oman states that the Moors got close to Carthage during the conflict.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 52.
- Oman, Charles (2018). History of the Byzantine Empire: from the foundation to the fall of Constantinople. Madison & Adams Press.
- In “The dark ages” Oman states the same without mentioning Procopius
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. pp. 52–53.
- Brogna states Justinian’s reluctance was due to his advisers’ pleas
- In “The dark ages” Oman claims Gelimer was located in Numidia
- Heather claims he was in Byzacena
- Heather calls them “three hundred regular cavalry”
- Heather refers to them as Massagetae
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 53.
- Heather mentions part of the fleet going on a “private pillage”
- Heather mentions these claims but doesn’t mention who spread them
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 54.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 55.
- Brogna states “a few hundred Huns”
- Petersen 2013, pp. 501–502.
- [According to Hughes and Brogna] The fight was a Byzantine victory and the Goths were forced to withdraw from the region but the Byzantine commander, Mundus, was killed in the pursuit and his army lost heart and also retreated. [according to Hughes] The Goths then captured the city of Salona.
- According to Brogna it fell on 31st December, 535
- Hodgkin, Thomas (2014). Italy and Her Invaders Volume V: The Imperial Restoration. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1502853707.
- Petersen 2013, p. 502.
- Oman, Charles (2017). The dark ages. p. 56.
- Petersen 2013, pp. 502–504.
- Both Hughes and Brogna agree 600 men entered the city. Brogna claim Belisarius sent men to find another entrance into the city. Hughes claims the entrance was found by an Isaurian studying the building techniques of the ancients and doesn’t mention an intentional effort being made by Belisarius.
- Petersen 2013, p. 504.
- Petersen 2013, p. 507.
- Petersen 2013, pp. 511–512.
- "Saint Silverius | Italian saint". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
- "Saint Silverius". sanctoral.
- "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Pope St. Silverius". www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
- "History". sansilverioshrine.
- [Encyclopædia Britannica claims] Justinian was unaware of Theodora’s intrigue
- Petersen 2013, p. 509.
- Petersen 2013, pp. 509–510.
- Petersen 2013, pp. 514–516.
- Petersen 2013, p. 517.
- The Cambridge Ancient History 3rd Edition.
- The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 363-628 by Geoffrey Greatrex,Samuel N. C. Lieu, p. 108-110
- Procopius (November 4, 2018). "History of the wars". archive.org. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
- Dupuy, Trevor N. (Trevor Nevitt), 1916-1995. (1977). A genius for war : the German army and general staff, 1807-1945. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0133511146. OCLC 3088892.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Lord Mahon. Belisarius. Jovian Press.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: "Louis Legrand"
- Procopius, The Secret History of the Court of Justinian, online at Gutenberg Project.
- "Belisarius" Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 27 Apr 2009
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .
- R. Boss, R. Chapman, P. Garriock, Justinian's War: Belisarius, Narses and the Reconquest of the West, Montvert Publications, 1993, ISBN 1-874101-01-9.
- Henning Börm, Justinians Triumph und Belisars Erniedrigung. Überlegungen zum Verhältnis zwischen Kaiser und Militär im späten Römischen Reich. In: Chiron 43 (2013), pages 63–91.
- Glanville Downey, Belisarius: Young general of Byzantium, Dutton, 1960
- Edward Gibbon has much to say on Belisarius in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 41 online.
- Hughes, Ian (2009). Belisarius: The Last Roman General. South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 9781844158331.
- Lillington-Martin, Christopher 2006–2013:
- 2006, "Pilot Field-Walking Survey near Ambar & Dara, SE Turkey", British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara:Travel Grant Report, Bulletin of British Byzantine Studies, 32 (2006), pages 40–45;
- 2007, "Archaeological and Ancient Literary Evidence for a Battle near Dara Gap, Turkey, AD 530: Topography, Texts and Trenches" in: BAR –S1717, 2007 The Late Roman Army in the Near East from Diocletian to the Arab Conquest Proceedings of a colloquium held at Potenza, Acerenza and Matera, Italy edited by Ariel S. Lewin and Pietrina Pellegrini, p 299–311;
- 2008, "Roman tactics defeat Persian pride" in Ancient Warfare edited by Jasper Oorthuys, Vol. II, Issue 1 (February 2008), pages 36–40;
- 2009, "Procopius, Belisarius and the Goths" in: Journal of the Oxford University History Society,(2009) Odd Alliances edited by Heather Ellis and Graciela Iglesias Rogers. ISSN 1742-917X, pages 1– 17, Issue 7 (Special Issue - Colloquium 2009) - jouhsinfo;
- 2010, "Source for a handbook:Reflections of the Wars in the Strategikon and archaeology" in: Ancient Warfare edited by Jasper Oorthuys, Vol. IV, Issue 3 (June 2010), pages 33–37;
- 2011, "Secret Histories", Secret Histories, with Christopher Lillington-Martin;
- 2012, "Hard and Soft Power on the Eastern Frontier: a Roman Fortlet between Dara and Nisibis, Mesopotamia,Turkey, Prokopios' Mindouos?" in: The Byzantinist, edited by Douglas Whalin, Issue 2 (2012), pages 4–5, ;
- 2013a, "La defensa de Roma por Belisario" in: Justiniano I el Grande (Desperta Ferro) edited by Alberto Pérez Rubio, 18 (July 2013), pages 40–45, ISSN 2171-9276;
- 2013b, "Procopius on the struggle for Dara and Rome" in: War and Warfare in Late Antiquity: Current Perspectives (Late Antique Archaeology 8.1–8.2 2010–11) by Sarantis A. and Christie N. (2010–11) edd. (Brill, Leiden 2013), pages 599–630, ISBN 978-90-04-25257-8.
- Martindale, John R., ed. (1992). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume III, AD 527–641. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 181–224. ISBN 0-521-20160-8. Missing or empty
- Petersen, Leif Inge Ree (2013). Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400-800 AD): Byzantium, the West and Islam. Leiden: Brill Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-25199-1.
- Lord Mahon, The Life of Belisarius, 1848. Reprinted 2006 (unabridged with editorial comments) Evolution Publishing, ISBN 1-889758-67-1
- Lord Mahon, The Life of Belisarius, J. Murray, 1829. With a new critical introduction and further reading by Jon Coulston. Westholme Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-59416-019-8
- Ancient Warfare magazine, Vol. IV, Issue 3 (Jun/Jul, 2010), was devoted to "Justinian's fireman: Belisarius and the Byzantine empire", with articles by Sidney Dean, Duncan B. Campbell, Ian Hughes, Ross Cowan, Raffaele D'Amato, and Christopher Lillington-Martin.
- Hanson, Victor Davis. The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost. Bloomsbury Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-6081-9163-5 online edition
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Imp. Caesar Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus IV,
Flavius Decius Paulinus
| Consul of the Roman Empire
Title next held byJohn the Cappadocian