From his second expedition to Italy Belisarius brought back nothing but
disgrace: for in the entire five years of the campaign he was unable to
set foot on that land, as I have related in my former books, because
there was no tenable position there; but all this time sailed up and
down along the coast.
Totila, indeed, was willing enough to meet him before his city walls,
but could not catch him there, since like the rest of the Roman army he
was afraid to fight. Wherefore Belisarius recovered nothing of what had
been lost, but even lost Rome in addition; and everything else, if there
were anything left to lose. His mind was filled with avarice during
this time, and he thought of nothing but base gain. Since he had been
given no funds by the Emperor, he plundered nearly all the Italians
living in Ravenna and Sicily, and wherever else he found opportunity:
collecting a bill, as it were, for which those who dwelt there were in
no way responsible. Thus, he even went to Herodian and asked him for
money, and his threats so enraged Herodian that he rebelled against the
Roman army and gave his services, with those of his followers and the
city of Spoletum, to Totila and the Goths.
And now I shall show how it came about that Belisarius and John, the
nephew of Vitalian, became estranged: a division that brought great
disaster to Roman affairs.
Now so thoroughly did the Empress hate Germanus, and so conspicuously,
that no one dared to become a relative of his, though he was the nephew
of the Emperor. His sons remained unmarried while she lived, and his
daughter Justina, though in the flower of eighteen summers, was still
unwedded. Consequently, when John, sent by Belisarius, arrived in
Constantinople, Germanus was forced to approach him as a possible
son-in-law, though John was not at all worthy in station of such an
alliance. But when they had come to an agreement, they bound each other
by most solemn oaths to complete the alliance by all means in their
power; and this was necessary because neither had any confidence in the
good faith of the other. For John knew he was seeking a marriage far
above his rank, and Germanus feared that even this man might try to slip
out of the contract.
The Empress, of course, was unable to contain herself at this: and in
every way, by every possible device, however unworthy, tried to hinder
the event. When, for all her menaces, she was unable to deter either of
them, she publicly threatened to put John to death. After this, on
john's return to Italy, fearing Antonina might join the plot against
him, he did not dare to meet Belisarius until she left for
Constantinople. That Antonina had been charged by the Queen to help
murder him, no one could have thought unlikely; and when he considered
Antonina's habits and Belisarius's enslavement by his wife, John was as
greatly as he was reasonably alarmed.
The Roman expedition, already on its last legs, now collapsed entirely.
And this is how Belisarius concluded the Gothic war. In despair he
begged the Emperor to let him come home as fast as he could sail. And
when he received the monarch's permission to do this, he left
straightway in high spirits, bidding a long farewell to the Roman army
and to Italy. He left almost everything in the power of the enemy; and
while he was on his way home, Perusia, hard pressed by a most bitter
siege, was captured and submitted to every possible misery, as I have
As if this were not enough, he suffered a further personal misfortune in
the following manner. The Empress Theodora, desiring to marry the
daughter of Belisarius to her nephew, worried the girl's parents with
frequent letters. To avoid this alliance, they delayed the ceremony
until they could both be present at it," and then, when the Empress
summoned them to Constantinople, pretended they were unable at the time
to leave Italy. But the Queen was still determined her nephew should be
master of Belisarius's wealth, for she knew his daughter would inherit
it, as Belisarius had no other child. Yet she had no confidence in
Antonina; and fearing that after her own life was ended, Antonina would
not be loyal to her house, for all that she had been so helpful in the
Empress's emergencies, and that she would break the agreement, Theodora
did an unholy thing.
She made the boy and girl live together without any ceremony. And they
say she forced the girl against her will to submit to his clandestine
embrace, so that, being thus deflowered, the girl would agree to the
marriage, and the Emperor could not forbid the event. However, after the
first ravishing, Anastasius and the girl fell warmly in love with each
other, and for not less than eight months continued their unmarital
But when, after Theodora's death, Antonina came to Constantinople, she
was unwilling to forget the outrage the Queen had committed against her.
Not bothering about the fact that if she united her daughter to any
other man, she would be making an ex-prostitute out of her, she refused
to accept Theodora's nephew as a son-in-law, and by force tore the girl,
ignoring her fondest pleadings, from the man she loved.
For this act of senseless obstinacy she was universally censured. Yet
when her husband came home, she easily persuaded him to approve her
course: which should have openly disclosed the character of the man.
Still, though he had pledged himself to Photius and others of his
friends, and then broken his word, there were plenty who sympathized
with him. For they thought the reason for his perjury was not
uxoriousness, but his fear of the Empress. But after Theodora died, as I
have told, he still took no thought of Photius or any of his friends;
and it was clear he called Antonina his mistress, and Calligonus the
pander, his master. And then all men saw his shame, made him a public
laughing stock, and reviled him to his face as a nitwit. Now was the
folly of Belisarius completely revealed.
As for Sergius, son of Bacchus, and his misdeeds in Libya, I have
described that affair sufficiently in my chapter elsewhere on the
subject: how he was most guilty for the disaster there to Roman power,
and how he disregarded the gospel oath he had sworn to the Levathae, and
criminally put to death their eighty ambassadors. So there remains for
me to add now only this, that neither did these men come to Sergius with
any intention of treachery, nor did Sergius have any suspicion that
they did; but nevertheless, after inviting them to a banquet under
pledge of safety, he put them shamefully to death. This resulted in the
loss of Solomon, the Roman Army, and all the Libyans. For consequent to
this affair, especially after Solomon's death, as I have told, neither
officer nor soldier was willing to venture the dangers of battle. Most
notably John son of Sisinnolus, kept entirely from the filed of war
because of his hatred of Sergius, until Areobinus came to Libya.
This Sergius was a luxurious person and no soldier; juvenile in nature
and years; a jealous and swaggering bully; a wanton liver and a
blowhard. But after became the accepted suitor of her niece and was this
related to Antonina, Belasarius's wife, the Empress would not allow him
to be punished or removed from his command, even when she saw Libya
sure to be lost. And with the Emperor's consent she even let Solomon,
Sergius brother, go scot-free after the murder of Pegasius. How this
happened, I shall now relate.
After Pegasius had ransomed Solomon from the Levathae, and the
barbarians had gone home, Solomon with Pegasius his ransomer and a few
soldiers, set out for Carthage. And on the way Pegasius reminded Solomon
of the wrong he had done, and said he should thank God for his rescue
from the enemy. Solomon vexed at being reproached for having been taken
captive, straightway slew Pegasius; and this was his requital to the man
who saved him. But when Solomon arrived in Constantinople, the Emperor
pardoned him on the ground that the man he killed was a traitor to the
Roman state. So Solomon this escaping justice, left gladly for the East
to visit his native country and his family. Yet God's vengeance overtook
him on the very journey, and removed him from the world of men.
This is the explanation of the affair between Solomon and Pegasius.