Page 1060


the extremes of Calabria. He then pitched

his camp before Rome, and with an impudence

not devoid of truth invited the Senate to compare his reign with the tyranny of the Greek


One of the alleged reasons for the recall

of Belisarius had been that he might be assigned to the defense of the East against the

armies of Persia. Having successfully accomplished this duty, he was again available as

the chief resource of Justinian in sustaining

the Greek cause in Italy. In the year 545

the veteran general was accordingly assigned

to the command in the West. Care was taken,

however, by the Emperor that the aged commander should be hampered with such restrictions as would make a conspicuous success

impossible. Meanwhile Totila laid actual siege

to Rome, and adopted starvation as his ally.

The city was defended by three thousand

soldiers under the command of Bessas, a veteran Goth. The besieged were gradually reduced to the extremity of eating bread made of

bran and devouring dogs, cats, and mice, to

say nothing of dead horses and offal. When

Belisarius landed in Italy he made an ineffectual attempt to raise the siege of the city,

and the Romans were then obliged to capitulate. In the day of the surrender the barbarian in Totila asserted itself, and the city

was given up to indiscriminate pillage. But

before the worst could be accomplished Belisarius sent so strong a protest to Totila that the

latter reversed his purpose, and the city was

saved from general ruin.

The Gothic king next directed his march

into Southern Italy, where he overran Lucania

and Apulia, and quickly restored the Gothic

supremacy as far as the strait of Messina.

Scarcely, however, had Totila departed upon

his southern expedition when Belisarius, who

had established himself in the port of Rome,

sallied forth with extraordinary daring, and

regained possession of the city. He then exerted himself to the utmost to repair the defenses, and was so successful in this work that

when, after twenty-five days, Totila returned

from the South the Goths were repulsed in

three successive assaults. Nor did it appear

impossible that with seasonable reinforcements from the East Belisarius might soon recover not only Rome but the whole of Italy.

To the message of his general, however, Justinian replied only after a long silence; and

even then the order transmitted to the West, was that Belisarius should retire into Lucania,

leaving behind a garrison in the capital. Thus

paralyzed by the jealousy of the Emperor, the

old veteran languished in the South, while the

Goths regained the advantage. In 549 they

again besieged and captured Rome. Totila

had now learned that to destroy is the smallest

part of rational conquest. The edifices of the

city were accordingly spared; the Romans

were treated with consideration, and equestrian games were again exhibited in the circus

under the patronage of barbarians.

In the mean time Belisarius was finally

recalled to Constantinople and was forced into

an inglorious retirement by a court which had

never shown itself worthy of his services. He

was succeeded in the command of the Roman

army in the West by the eunuch Narses, who

in a body of contemptible stature concealed

the spirit of a warrior. The dispatch of Justinian recalling Belisarius had declared that

the remnant of the Gothic war was no longer

worthy of his presence. It was this "remnant" that in the year 551 was entrusted to

Narses. His powers were ample and his genius

sufficient even for a greater work. On arriving in Italy he made haste to bring matters to

the crisis of battle. On his way from Ravenna

to Rome he became convinced that delay

would be fatal to success. On every side there

were evidences of a counter-revolution in favor

of the Goths. It was evident that nothing

but a victory could restore the influence of the

Byzantine government in the West. Advancing rapidly on the capital he met the Goths

in the Flaminian Way, a short distance from

the city. Here, in July of 552, the fate of

the kingdom established by Theodoric was

yielded to the arbitrament of arms. A fierce

and obstinate conflict ensued in which Totila

was slain and his army scattered to the winds.

Narses received the keys of Rome in, the name

of his master, this being the fifth time that the

Eternal City had been taken during the reign

of Justinian. The remnants of the Goths