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The Isaurian Zeno was restored in Constantinople as Emperor of the Roman empire in 476; but Praetorian Prefect Erythrius had resigned, because he refused to oppress people to gain the needed revenue. He was replaced by Sebastian, who raised funds by selling offices. Zeno appointed Illus Master of the Offices; but Illus was hated by the empresses Verina and Ariadne, who instigated attempts on his life. Prefect Epinicus was banished for hiring an assassin, who failed. Illus learned from Epinicus about Verina's part and insisted on Zeno removing her. Verina became a nun and was also exiled to Isauria. This stimulated Marcian, son of Western Emperor Anthemius, to try to overthrow Zeno in 479 based on the innovative claim of his marriage to Leo's daughter Leontia. The barbarians in the capital, supporting Marcian and his brother Procopius, overcame the imperial guards; but they were defeated the next day. Marcian was ordained a priest and banished to Cappadocia, while his wife Leontia entered a convent. Ariadne also sent an assassin, who wounded Illus and was killed. Illus went to Antioch as Master of Soldiers in 481.
Alexandria patriarch Timothy Salophaciol sent the monk John Talaia to Constantinople to urge the Emperor to support the Chalcedon doctrine. Zeno agreed but made Talaia swear he would not accept the episcopal office. However, when Salophaciol died in 482, Talaia was elected bishop of Alexandria. Zeno was afraid that Illus would use Talaia to get the Egyptians against him. So the Emperor deposed Talaia and accepted Constantinople patriarch Acacius' advice that Peter Mongus should be the Alexandrian patriarch. Zeno issued an edict called the Act of Union (Henotikon) that affirmed the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus against any other views including those of Chalcedon, thus ambiguously refusing to accept or reject Chalcedonian decrees. In 483 the new Roman pope Felix wrote Zeno and Acacius that Peter Mongus was a condemned heretic, although Peter accepted the Henotikon, and Felix was persuaded by Talaia to summon Acacius. When the Byzantine patriarch did not comply, Pope Felix excommunicated Acacius the next year, causing a schism between Rome and Constantinople.
Although Emperor Zeno continued to recognize as Western emperor the exiled Nepos until he was murdered in 480, he declared Italy's new king Odovacar Patrician. Consuls were still elected for the empire from the West; but Odovacar only allowed Rome's city prefects to serve for one year. The Roman nobility was compelled to support the army, and the Herulian Odovacar settled about 20,000 of his Germans in Italy. To keep Odovacar out of Illyricum, Zeno got the Rugians to invade Italy; but they were defeated, and the Rugian king Feletheus and his queen were beheaded. A Roman synod excommunicated the patriarch of Alexandria, because they challenged the Emperor Zeno's right to dictate to the church.
Theodemir's son Theodoric had spent much of his youth as a hostage in Constantinople, although he apparently did not learn to write. Theodoric succeeded his father before 475 and settled his people in Lower Moesia. Another Theodoric named Strabo had been proclaimed king by German troops and made a general by Emperor Leo; but the restored Zeno gave Strabo's military position to Theodoric. Zeno got Theodoric to march against Strabo; but then he joined his namesake in 478. Zeno prepared for war; but when his army disbanded in winter, he made terms with Strabo, because Theodoric was destroying Thrace. Now Strabo replaced the other Theodoric as master of soldiers. So Theodoric fled with his army into Macedonia. Thessalonicans rebelled against Illyricum's praetorian prefect and gave his keys to their archbishop. While Zeno's envoy Adamantius tried to negotiate with Theodoric, Zeno's general Sabinian Magnus fought the Goths in Epirus. After a year and a half Sabinian was murdered and replaced by John the Scythian.
During Marcian's revolt of 479 Strabo's forces approached Constantinople and got money from Zeno; but refusing to surrender two conspirators in his camp, Strabo was declared an enemy, allied with Theodoric again, and ravaged Thrace. In 481 Strabo's army marched on Constantinople but was turned away. After Strabo's accidental death, his place was taken by his son Recitach; he ruled Thrace even worse than his father. Three years later Zeno instigated Theodoric to murder Recitach. The Emperor gave Moesia and Dacia Ripensis to Theodoric's Ostrogoths and received his help against Illus. Yet in 486 Theodoric ravaged Thrace.
In 484 when Illus refused to release Zeno's imprisoned brother Longinus, the Emperor replaced Illus with John the Scythian and confiscated the property of Illus' friends. This resulted in a civil war that lasted four years as Illus proclaimed Marcian emperor. Illus appealed to Odovacar and the Persians; but Odovacar refused, and the Persians had their hands full fighting the Ephthalites, who killed Persian emperor Peroz that year. Illus retrieved Verina and got her to crown the patrician Leontius in place of Marcian while repudiating Zeno for avarice. Though rejected at Chalcis and Edessa, the new Emperor was welcomed at Antioch. Zeno appealed to Ostrogoth king Theodoric to supplement his Isaurian troops. Zeno's army then defeated the rebellion the same year; but the siege of the fortress of Cherris lasted four years until it was treacherously taken. Illus and Leontius were beheaded. Zeno died of epilepsy in 491.
Before Theodoric invaded Italy in 489, he got Zeno to agree that he could replace Odovacar. Theodoric's army defeated the forces of Odovacar, who fled to Ravenna, as his commander Tufa surrendered most of his army. Theodoric trusted Tufa with some of his Gothic troops; but Tufa rejoined Odovacar instead of attacking him and put the Goths in irons. The next year Odovacar was able to regain Milan; but Visigoths reinforced the Ostrogoths, and Theodoric decisively defeated Odovacar, who fled again to Ravenna. The Roman Senate acknowledged that Theodoric ruled southern Italy and Sicily. Meanwhile Burgundian king Gundobad's army plundered northern Italy, capturing thousands. Theodoric also had to fight the Vandals, who were trying to regain Sicily. Odovacar held out under siege for two and a half years until a blockade compelled him to negotiate in 493. However, Theodoric suspected Odovacar, and ten days later at a banquet he was killed with a sword. Theodoric then had Odovacar's wife, son, and many of his supporters slaughtered. The next year Bishop Epiphanius crossed the Alps to plead with Gundobad and persuaded him to restore more than 6,000 captives to Italy. In 497 Epiphanius got Theodoric to reduce taxes on Liguria by two-thirds.
At Constantinople in 491 Empress Ariadne chose Anastasius to succeed Zeno, though the church patriarch Euphemius insisted that Anastasius declare his orthodoxy in writing. Ariadne married Anastasius the next month. The Isaurians had expected Longinus to succeed his brother Zeno; when they rioted at the Hippodrome and set it on fire, Anastasius ordered his soldiers to expel the Isaurians from the capital. He replaced the unpopular city prefect Julian with his brother-in-law Secundinus. Longinus was exiled to a religious life at the Thebaid in Egypt. Anastasius confiscated Zeno's property and 1400 pounds of gold the late emperor had allowed his countrymen. A rebellion of 100,000 in Isauria was defeated in Phrygia by the imperial army under John of Scythia and John the Hunchback in 493. Isaurians led by Longinus of Kardala and Athenodorus held out in fortresses until they were captured and executed four years later. Large colonies of Isaurians were re-settled in Thrace.
Anastasius economized on state expenditures and in 498 abolished the Chrysargyron tax that had oppressed the poorest people. Christians were pleased by this, because it had tacitly acknowledged the work of prostitutes by taxing them. More revenue was gained from the private estates. Anastasius appointed the Syrian Marinus, and he relieved local community leaders from collecting taxes by assigning the job to vindices, though they could be bribed. Curial assemblies often had been afraid to offend wealthy landowners. Many farmers had been driven into bankruptcy, and this put the tax burden on the other farms. Though many governmental officials were less affluent because of the new policies, Anastasius was able to build up a public reserve of 320,000 pounds of gold.
In 498 an invasion of Saracens from the desert into Euphratesia, Syria, and Palestine was defeated. Another brief raid four years later led by the Saracen Harith resulted in a treaty. Huns known as Bulgarians had encroached on the empire as early as 493, and they invaded again in 499 and 502, stimulating Anastasius to build a long wall around Constantinople. A century of invasions by Germans and Huns into the Balkans had depopulated the region.
In Persia Balash (r. 484-488) succeeded Peroz and kept peace with Armenia by granting them religious toleration. Yet the Ephthalites to the east of Persia were exacting tribute, and Kavadh (r. 488-531), who spent his youth there, became king of Persia only four years after these White Huns had defeated and killed Peroz. Persia had suffered from the wars and famines, and in the economic hardship Kavadh tried to borrow money from Anastasius to no avail. Mazdak started a movement based on the teachings of Mani and the socialist sharing of goods (including wives), and Kavadh championed the people against the aristocracy. Kavadh enacted laws to liberate women from harems; but he was deposed, imprisoned, and put on trial. Mazdak was also imprisoned but was freed by his disciples. Then Kavadh escaped to the Ephthalite court, returned with their army in 499, and took the throne back from his brother Zamasp. The long truce with Rome was breaking up. Because Persia had not given back Nisibis in 483 after 120 years according to the 363 treaty, Rome had stopped making payments. Dependent on Ephthalite soldiers and needing to pay them tribute, in 502 Kavadh invaded Armenia, gained Theodosiopolis by treachery, took Martyropolis by force, and besieged Amida. A persuasive priest prevented a massacre, and the inhabitants of Amida were enslaved and replaced by a garrison of 3,000.
Anastasius sent an army led by Areobindus, Patricius, and his nephew Hypatius. A personal conflict between the latter two resulted in a Persian victory. Areobindus retreated into Edessa, which Christians believed was specially protected by Jesus Christ. Kavadh blockaded Edessa and then agreed to withdraw for 2,000 pounds of gold. When payment was not made, he renewed the blockade but eventually abandoned it. Jews in Constantia were suspected of conspiring to deliver the city, and Greeks slaughtered many of them. Celer replaced Hypatius and devastated Arzanene, while Areobindus invaded Persian Armenia, and Patricius tried to liberate Amida, which agreed to surrender for 1,000 pounds of gold. Since Kavadh was now at war with the Ephthalites, he agreed to a truce with Celer in 505. During the wars the people suffered so much from the occupation by the German mercenaries in the imperial army that many preferred Persian rule. Near Nisibis that defended the Persians, the Emperor had a fortress built and named after himself Anastasiopolis.
In theology Emperor Anastasius inclined toward the Monophysites. Complaints by Alexandrian and Jerusalem patriarchs that Euthemius was a heretic led to the Constantinople patriarch being deposed by a local council in 496. His successor Macedonius held similar views but was more compliant and signed the Henotikon. Two years later rock-throwing at the Hippodrome in the presence of the Emperor escalated to another fire. A new city prefect named Plato was appointed. Anastasius abolished contests with wild beasts in 499, and a pagan dance of the Brytae festival that caused bloody riots was also banned two years later. In 511 Macedonius was forced to abdicate and was replaced by the Monophysite Timothy. A noisy conflict between orthodox church-goers and heretical priests caused Praetorian Prefect of the East Marinus and City Prefect Plato to send in imperial troops, killing some and imprisoning others. The next day people proclaimed Emperor the general Areobindus, who was married to Valentinian III's granddaughter; they pulled down statues of Anastasius and burned the house of Marinus. Anastasius was ready to abdicate, but after his speech in the Hippodrome, the people persuaded him to remain.
In Antioch the moderate patriarch Flavian was replaced by the leading Monophysite theologian Pisidian Severus in 512. Vitalian was the military Count of the federates in Thrace, who were mostly Bulgarians. He championed the religious cause of Flavian and Macedonius, and he claimed that his federates had been deprived of promised provisions. Hypatius was Master of Soldiers in Thrace, but he retreated to Constantinople. Vitalian marched on the capital with a reported 50,000 men. Anastasius made gifts and promises, recommending that the church of Rome decide the religious issue. Vitalian and his army returned to Lower Moesia, followed by Cyril, who had replaced Hypatius.
When Cyril was assassinated, the Senate declared Vitalian a
public enemy and sent an army (said to have 80,000 men) under
the Emperor's nephew, another Hypatius. After an initial victory
in 513 the imperial army was driven over precipices and lost a
reported 60,000 men. Hypatius was captured and ransomed for 9,000
pounds of gold. Vitalian, after raising a navy of 200 ships, was
appointed Master of Soldiers in Thrace. A church council was scheduled
for 515 but never met. So once again Vitalian marched to the capital.
Marinus commanded the imperial forces that defeated the rebels
in the naval battle of the Golden Horn. A chemical compound invented
by an Athenian that set fire to ships greatly aided the imperial
victory. Vitalian fled with the remains of his army. Emperor Anastasius
was 88 when he died three years later in 518.
As Patrician Theodoric (r. 490-526) replaced many of Odovacar's Germans with his Ostrogoths. The Roman senator Liberius assigned the Goths one-third of the Roman estates. It was not until 497 that Anastasius recognized Theodoric as the Governor of Italy. Being under the Emperor, Theodoric could issue edicts but could not make laws though he called himself king. Theodoric acknowledged the Roman Senate as a comparable authority. Civil offices were reserved for Romans; but the military was all Goths, as Romans were forbidden to carry arms. Theodoric, like the Emperor, could hear any judicial case as the supreme royal court and did so more often than the Emperor. In religion Theodoric was tolerant, and he wrote to all the Jews of Genoa that people could not be compelled to believe against their will. Theodoric apparently got along well with Romans, but the society essentially segregated Goths and Romans. Intermarriage was illegal, and Goths used the Gothic language. According to Cassiodorus the Goths learned how to respect laws and refrain from private revenge.
As the king's secretary Cassiodorus wrote letters for Theodoric. In one to a sword-bearer named Unigis, the king expressed his delight living under Roman laws and his interest in maintaining morality even in war. What benefit is there in ending the turmoil of barbarians, he asked, unless they live under law? He would let other kings glory winning battles, taking cities, and causing ruin, his purpose with God's help was to rule in such a way that his subjects would grieve they had not gained the blessing of his dominion sooner. Theodoric urged racial harmony and civility, restraining Goths from oppressing the Romans. He made alliances by marrying his daughters to the Visigothic king Alaric II and the Burgundian prince Sigismund in 494. Theodoric married Audafleda, sister of Clovis, and his sister Amalfrida wed the Vandal king Thrasamud in 500.
After Symmachus and Laurentius were both elected pope in Rome on the same day in 498, Theodoric the next year chose Symmachus. The Byzantine-supported Laurentius went on but had to retire after the Sirmium conflict aroused Italian patriotism against the empire; Symmachus also excommunicated him. While fighting Gepids to recover Sirmium, the Gothic army clashed with imperial troops in 504 and held the city against a force led by Sabinian the next year. In 507 Theodoric settled some Alamannic people in Pannonia. Campaigns in Gaul saved Arles and Narbonensis, and Provence was taken from Burgundy. Alaric II died in 507, and after 511 Theodoric ruled Spain for his grandson Amalaric. Theodoric chose Ravenna as his capital and built a new palace and an Arian church dedicated to St. Martin.
Near the end of his life Theodoric was concerned about the persecution of Arian Christians in the Eastern empire, and he sent Pope John (523-526) to Constantinople to persuade Justin to moderate the decree against the Arians. When Albinus was charged with political sympathy for imperial rule, the Master of the Offices Boethius defended him in the Senate. Even Pope John was suspected, and after returning from Constantinople he died in Theodoric's prison. Without investigating their cases properly Theodoric had the philosopher Boethius and the patrician Symmachus executed. Guilt over this and a sudden illness left Theodoric dead in 526.
Proclus was born about 410 in Constantinople and studied philosophy under Olympiodorus at Alexandria, then at Athens under a Plutarch and Syrianus, whom he succeeded as teacher at the Academy. Considered the last major Neo-Platonist, Proclus attempted to systematize the philosophy in his Elements of Theology, commentaries on Plato, and in other works. He never married, was a vegetarian, and believed he was the reincarnation of the Neo-Pythagorean Nicomachus. Proclus died in 485 and was succeeded by his biographer Marinus. In 529 Justinian prohibited teaching philosophy at Athens, and the last seven members of the Neo-Platonic school went to Khusrau I in Persia; they were disappointed and returned to Athens, though in the treaty of 532 Khusrau got Justinian to agree not to persecute them or force them to be Christians.
Proclus emphasized the unity of God and the universe in a hierarchy that descended from being, the ultimate cause, to power (of the cause) to mind (activity of the cause) to the world soul (power of that activity) and finally to becoming, the world of appearances. From the one God derived the gods of Greek religion and the Platonic ideas. The ethics of Proclus focused on the oneness of this absolute goodness. By renouncing the appearances of the body and its unnecessary physical desires, social and political relations, one could ascend into higher levels of awareness and increasing virtue. Three main stages are love, truth, and faith. Truth takes the soul beyond love to the beautiful and a knowledge of the true reality. Faith represents the mystical silence of the ineffable. The good is what draws all souls back to God, and evil is only the imperfection found in the lowest levels of becoming. Everyone naturally seeks the good.
Greatly influenced by the ideas of Proclus are the writings
attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite that appeared about 500
and transformed his Neo-Platonic hierarchy into a Christian cosmology
that included seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers,
authorities, principalities, archangels, and angels. In the Divine
Names Dionysius attempted to understand the indescribable
godhead by using such terms as goodness, being, eternal life,
wisdom, mind, truth, cause, beginning, reason, and power. For
Dionysius goodness is the highest name, and it is experienced
by means of prayer. Evil is only a term that is used for what
is deficient in goodness or is inadequate; but it has no existence
of its own. Evil is only a deprivation, defect, weakness, disproportion,
error, or absence of divine qualities such as purpose, beauty,
life, understanding, reason, and perfection. In Mystical Theology
Dionysius attempted to describe a way toward the knowledge of
God, which is essentially mystical and ineffable. Paradoxically
this reality can only be experienced in the darkness of unknowing.
God is in all and yet transcends all as the cause of all things.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was born about 480 into the illustrious Anician Roman family that had been Christian for about a century. His father was a consul in 487 but died soon after that. Boethius translated Greek works on theology by Plato, logic by Aristotle, arithmetic by Nicomachus, geometry by Euclid, music by Pythagoras, and astronomy by Ptolemy into Latin, and he wrote four tractates on Christian theology. In these he attempted to explain with Aristotelian logic the unity of God as substance and the trinity of divine persons in terms of relation, describing Christ as having both divine and human nature. He was consul of Rome in 510, and in 522 his two sons were appointed consuls by King Theodoric and Emperor Justinian, while Boethius himself was serving as master of the offices.
When Senator Albinus was accused of conspiring with Emperor Justin, Boethius in the Senate said the charge by Cyprian was false and that if Albinus was guilty, then he and the entire Senate were also. This led to the charge of treason being extended to Boethius but not to other senators. Cyprian then brought forth false witnesses against both Albinus and Boethius. In 523 Boethius was locked up in prison at Ticinum (Pavia) about 300 miles from Rome for about a year while his conviction was confirmed by the Senate. He had hoped to translate all the works of Plato and Aristotle to show their essential agreement; but left without his library, Boethius wrote the brilliant work, The Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius was tortured and beaten to death with a club in 524, and his father-in-law Symmachus was taken from Rome to Ravenna to be executed the next year.
The Consolation of Philosophy alternates passages of verse with prose. Boethius is bewailing his fate in prison after his sudden fall from the peak of good fortune when Philosophy appears to him in a gown that stretches from the practical on the lower hem to the theoretical or divine at the top as symbolized by the Greek letters Pi and Theta. Boethius complains that he is suffering unjustly. He had followed the advice of Plato that the wise should go into politics lest the good be destroyed by bad citizens; but in watching justice with a free conscience he displeased the powerful. He had worked to reduce taxes during famine and stopped an enforced sale. Having seen the brave consul Paulinus devoured by Palatine dogs, he exposed himself to the informer Cyprian in order to prevent a similar injustice against Albinus. He was then denounced by the informers Basilius, Opilio, and Gaudentius so that they would not be expelled by royal decree. Boethius explained that forged letters blamed him because he hoped for Roman liberty, and he believed he would be vindicated by the wise judgment of posterity. Harmful penalties due the wicked are pressing the innocent, while perverted morals on a high throne trample on the pious.
Philosophy promises to cure him. She uses a dialectical method and discovers that at least Boethius understands that God created the universe and watches over it; but she is surprised that knowing the beginning, he does not understand how the universe is governed and to what end. Boethius thinks of himself as a reasoning but mortal animal, and this belief she diagnoses as the chief cause of his illness, not knowing how the universe is guided. His attitude makes things appear wretched, because he seeks happiness outside instead of within himself. Philosophy discusses how the various human desires for riches, gems, clothes, servants, and so on do not extend their external good to their possessors. Most creatures are satisfied with their own intrinsic good; only humans lower themselves to seek worthless things. Yet humans can know themselves. Because power, position, and fame may be used for evil, they have no intrinsic good. Philosophy suggests that he let Fortune and her friends depart so that he can find more precious friends such as love. Love is what binds all people together by treaties they may not break. Love binds in holy wedlock and trusted friendship; it even rules the universe.
Boethius is now ready for the sharper remedy of Philosophy. She reveals that the true goal is the highest good that includes all happiness which everyone seeks. The vanity of riches, positions, political power, fame, noble birth, and desires of the flesh lead people astray from what is their true good. Human welfare is troubled, because it is not whole, and it may not continue. Sufficiency easily becomes excess by adding what is unpleasant or harmful. Honor does not come to the virtuous from their position; but rather from virtue honor comes to the position. Paradoxically Philosophy points out that adversity is more beneficial than fortune, because the latter is a pretense of happiness that deceives with external goods, while the former instructs by true experience that brings wisdom and goodness. Fortune draws one away from the truly good by devious allurements, but adversity leads one back to the good. The dialectic determines that the highest good includes happiness, satisfaction, power, glory, veneration, and joy. They begin by calling on God as Philosophy's pupil Plato did in his Timaeus and discover that the highest and perfect good is found in the highest Deity that includes true happiness. Thus God rules the universe for the highest good, and all things move toward that good according to their own will.
In the fourth book Philosophy discusses good and evil. Boethius asks why the virtuous lack rewards and are trampled under the feet of the wicked, being punished instead of the criminals. She says that would be monstrous if true; but the good is always powerful, and evils are helpless. Ultimately vice cannot escape penalty, and virtue is not without reward; for happiness comes to the good, while the bad cannot help but suffer misfortune eventually. Everyone seeks the good, and those who gain it are strong. Evil is really nothing, and the dishonest are incapable of achieving anything real. The bad are really weak, because they have not attained the good. The bad have limited themselves to a partial reality. From God's viewpoint everything is good, because the bad are improved by the punishment their actions bring, and good actions in spite of adversity strengthen virtue, which is a lasting good.
By honesty alone may someone rise beyond the human level to the divine, while the dishonest lower their condition. A violent robber is like a wolf, the quarrelsome like a dog, the deceptive ambusher like a fox, the angry like a lion, the fearful like a deer, the lazy like an ass, the trivial like flighty birds, and the lusty like swine. By deserting honesty one is turned into a beast, not physically but psychologically. Schemes of crimes are often destroyed suddenly, limiting the misery. The longer one is worthless the worse it is. The dishonest are made happier by paying their punishment than if there were no penalty of justice. Baseness makes one wretched by its own nature; yet the misery of the injured victim is not the recipient's but the perpetrator's. All fortune, whether pleasant or difficult, is to reward and discipline the good, or to punish and correct the dishonest.
In the fifth and last book Philosophy explains that chance events are unexpected, because they are different than the conscious purpose. Yet they have their own causes too. Fate is used to describe events when one is far from the center of God, and so they seem random. Those closer to the creator can more easily see the hand of divine providence. Finally Philosophy takes on the difficult dilemma of resolving how free will can still exist if God is omniscient and knows the future. She uses the example of a man walking into the sunset. Everyone knows that the movement of the setting sun is inevitable, but the man is freely choosing to walk. In this way God is able to watch the future just as we are able to watch the present. The awareness of God is more like providence than foreseeing and is beyond not only sense perception but reason as well. Divine light illuminates all and is aware of all while still allowing individuals their free expression. Perhaps another way of putting it is that God understands all the possibilities and probabilities which may be chosen and all their possible results. Since some things are determined by necessity, while other human concerns result from the ability to choose and act, humans are responsible for the consequences of their actions and the discipline, rewards, or penalties that result. Thus the divine laws are just, and prayers to God are not in vain. Philosophy concludes,
Then reject vices, cultivate virtues,
lift up your soul to right hopes,
offer to the heights humble prayers.
Great is the necessity of honesty indicated for you,
if you are not to deceive with appearances,
since you do all before the eyes of a discerning judge.2
Next to the Bible, The Consolation of Philosophy would become the most widely distributed book during the middle ages by which many could absorb the essential Platonic principles of ethics that affirm virtue, self-knowledge, and the inner spiritual life of love and joy rather than the extrinsic values of outer baubles like riches, pleasures, positions, and honors. It would be translated into Old, Middle, and Elizabethan English by King Alfred, Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth.
Although Guizot wrote that the German race called themselves Franks, meaning freemen, in the Attic language Frank means fierce. Childeric, the Merovingian chief of the Salian Franks, died in 481 and was succeeded by his 15-year-old son Clovis. After the Visigoth king Euric died in 486, Clovis and his relative Ragnachar attacked at Soissons the Roman authority of Syagrius, son of Aegidius. The forces of Syagrius were defeated and fled to the new Goth king Alaric II at Toulouse. Alaric handed Syagrius over to Clovis, who had him imprisoned and later secretly killed. The pagan Franks plundered the churches, and once Clovis killed one of his soldiers for denying his right to take a valuable vase. Five years later they subjected the Thuringians as Frank rule expanded its territory. In 493 Ostrogoth king Theodoric married the sister of Clovis, Audafleda, and Clovis married Chilperic's exiled daughter Clotild. When their first child was baptized into the Catholic faith and died, Clovis complained; but a second baptized child, Chlodomer, survived. In 496 while battling the Alamanni, Clovis prayed to Jesus Christ for a victory. When his enemies submitted, Clovis became a Christian. 3,000 of his warriors deserted him for Ragnachar, the Frank king of Cambrai, but another 3,000 soldiers were baptized along with Clovis and his two sisters.
A letter from the Arian Godigisel in Burgundy, offering to betray his brother Gundobad, persuaded Clovis to march his army against the latter. During the battle Godigisel joined forces with Clovis, and they defeated Gundobad near Dijon. Gundobad retreated to Avignon and, besieged, promised to pay an annual tribute but then did not do so. Instead he besieged his brother at Vienne, and Godigisel was killed along with an Arian bishop in a church. In 498 Clovis met Alaric II on an island in the Loire, and they swore eternal friendship. Alaric promulgated the Roman law of the Visigoths for Spain and part of Gaul in 506. However, the next year Clovis assembled his chiefs and decided to attack the Arian Goths at Poitiers. At Tours he gave orders to respect St. Martin and take only grass and water. As an example he slew a soldier who had robbed a poor farmer of his hay. Clovis killed Alaric but was wounded.
The next year the Franks occupied the Visigoth capital at Toulouse. While his son Theodoric subdued the region, Clovis managed to take Angouleme. However, King Theodoric from Italy sent forces to keep the Franks out of the eastern provinces of the Visigoths. The Ostrogoth army took Provence, and their general Ibbas retook Septimia. Yet Frank territory had expanded from the Loire to the Pyrenees. Clovis ordered all captured clergy, widows, and serfs of the church to be released. Churches were reconsecrated for the Catholic faith, and Arian priests could be reconciled by a laying on of hands. Emperor Anastasius sent word that he made Clovis honorary consul, and the Frank king calling himself Augustus established his capital at Paris.
Now Clovis aimed to unite all the Franks. He secretly sent a message to Chloderic, son of Ripuarian Frank king Sigibert, and the prince had his father assassinated. Chloderic offered to share his treasure with Clovis, but the envoys who came for it murdered him. Yet Clovis claimed he had no part in this crime against his relative. Next Clovis marched against Chararic, who twenty years before had refused to support him against Syagrius. He ordered Chararic and his son to have their hair cut short for the religious life; but when they threatened to let their hair grow long in the royal manner of the Franks, Clovis had them beheaded. Although Ragnachar had supported him against Syagrius, Clovis bribed his guards with counterfeit gold and defeated Ragnachar's army. Clovis then used his ax to kill Ragnachar and his brother Ricchar. He ordered a third brother to be put to death at Le Mans. Thus by eliminating his own relatives Clovis united the Frank kingdom; yet he later lamented that he had no relations left to help him. In 511 a church convocation of 32 bishops at Orleans drew up 31 canons granting the church great privileges and influence, expressing respect for human rights, and binding the church to the state while giving royalty great power. Clovis approved them before dying later that year at Paris after ruling for thirty years.
Also before he died, Clovis proclaimed the laws of the Salian Franks in writing as the Lex Salica. This codified ancient German common laws of vengeance that forced criminals to pay wergild, meaning man-payment. Only half went to the state, as half went to the victim or the family of the deceased. The amount was based on the seriousness of the offense and on the social position of the victim. For murder of a king's follower one had to pay 600 solidi. The Roman gold coin solidus was equal to one cow, and payment was usually in livestock. A freeman was worth 200, a pregnant woman 700, a priest 600, a bishop 900, a Roman landowner or a German serf 100, a slave 30, or more if skilled in a craft. If one could not pay, the criminal might be executed or mutilated, cutting off an ear or a finger. Torture and flogging were common. A thief might lose an eye for the first offense, a nose for the second, and one's life for the third. Yet free Franks feared imprisonment or slavery even more than these. The accused might swear innocence with a solemn oath or undergo an ordeal by various forms of burning. Under the Salic law personal property was equally divided by sons and daughters, but all the land must go to a male heir.
After Clovis died in 511, the Frank kingdom was ruled by his four sons who all called themselves kings - Theodoric of Metz, Chlodomer of Orleans, Childebert of Paris, and Chlotar of Soissons. Their sister Clotild was sent to Spain with a dowry to marry Visigoth king Amalaric. When Danes led by king Hygelac raided the coast, Theodoric sent his son Theudebert with an army that defeated them and killed their king in a naval battle. The Thuringians across the Rhine were ruled by three brothers; but Hermanfrid defeated and killed Berthar. Hermanfrid then offered to share part of this kingdom with Theodoric if he would help him defeat and kill the other brother Baderic. Theodoric did so, but Hermanfrid did not keep his promise. In Burgundy Sigismund succeeded his father Gundobad as king; but his second wife suspected her step-son and persuaded her husband to have the boy strangled. To avenge her parents Frank Queen Clotild urged her four sons to attack Sigismund and his brother Godomar. After the Burgundian army was defeated in 523, Sigismund was captured; but Godomar escaped, rallied his forces, and won back the kingdom.
Although the abbot Avitus urged him not to murder Sigismund and his family lest he be killed in battle, Chlodomer nonetheless ordered them thrown into a well. His brother Theodoric marched to support Chlodomer; but in 524 the Burgundians isolated Chlodomer and cut off his head. Nevertheless the Franks forced Godomar to flee and took over his territory until Godomar won it back a third time. In 528 Theodoric got Chlotar's help marching against Hermanfrid. After a bloody battle Hermanfrid fled, and the Franks took over the Thuringian territory. While there Theodoric plotted to kill Chlotar with an ambush, but Chlotar perceived the danger and survived. Theodoric gave Hermanfrid safe conduct and gifts; but someone pushed him off a wall to his death. By 531 the Thuringians had lost their independence. Chlotar married the captured Thuringian princess Radegund, but she left him to found a nunnery at Poitiers.
From Spain the Catholic Clotild wrote that her husband Amalaric was mistreating her. Childebert left Clermont, and one of his soldiers killed Amalaric as he was entering a church. Childebert carried off much church treasure, but his sister Clotild died on the journey back to Paris. In 534 Chlotar and Childebert attacked Burgundy and besieged Autun; once again Godomar fled as they occupied all of Burgundy. When Munderic proclaimed himself king, Theodoric sent Aregisel to promise him safety and then kill him. Theodoric and Childebert made a treaty not to attack each other, and they exchanged hostages. At Paris Childebert became jealous that his mother Clotild was lavishing all her affection on the sons of Chlodomer. So he summoned Chlotar, and they sent Arcadius to the queen with scissors and a sword, asking her if she wanted her grandsons to have their hair cut or be killed. She defiantly chose the latter if they could not be kings. Chlotar killed the oldest boy. Then even though a weeping Childebert pleaded for the other boy, Chlotar murdered him too. Then their attendants and tutors were slain. The third son Chlodovald escaped and devoted his life to God as a priest. Chlodomer's lands were equally divided between kings Childebert and Chlotar.
The Goths had regained much territory they had lost to Clovis; so Theodoric sent his son Theudebert, and Chlotar sent his son Gunthar to try to win it back. While her husband was away, Theudebert fell in love with Deuteria, and they conceived a child. Theodoric killed his relative Sigivald and sent his son Theudebert a secret message to kill Sigivald's son; but Theudebert warned the younger Sigivald instead, and he fled to Arles and Italy. Theodoric died of illness in 534. Childebert and Chlotar tried to take his kingdom, but Theudebert bought them off and then married Deuteria. Young Sigivald returned from Italy, and Theudebert restored to him the property his father had confiscated from Sigivald's father. The historian Gregory of Tours praised Theudebert for being virtuous and liberal to the churches and the poor. Theudebert had been engaged to Wisigard for seven years, and he eventually gave in to social pressure to desert Deuteria and marry her. Wisigard soon died though, but Theudebert married another woman and did not take Deuteria back, possibly because she had killed their daughter out of jealousy.
When Childebert and Theudebert joined forces to march against their brother Chlotar, Queen Clotild prayed to St. Martin to prevent civil war. According to Gregory, a hailstorm stopped the aggressors. In 542 Childebert and Chlotar attacked Zaragoza and conquered a large part of Spain, bringing back St. Vincent's tunic as a relic to Paris. Theuda (r. 531-548) succeeded Amalaric as king of Visigothic Spain; but he was assassinated, as were his successors Theudigisel in 549 and Agila in 554. Gregory considered this killing of kings they did not like a reprehensible habit of the Goths. Theudebert's army invaded Italy in 539 and gained booty, but many soldiers died in an epidemic. Queen Clotild died in 544, and king Theudebert died after a long illness in 548. The Franks hated Parthenius so much for levying taxes that they took this opportunity to stone him to death. Theudebert was succeeded by his son Theudebald.
Chlotar demanded that the churches in his kingdom pay one-third of their revenue to his treasury, but Tours bishop Injuriosus refused to pay the king money that should help the poor. Chlotar feared St. Martin would punish him and apologized, canceling his order. Count Chanao of Breton killed three of his brothers, but Macliaw escaped to become a bishop. After Chanao, died, Macliaw renounced his vows and grew his hair long, for which he was excommunicated. Theudebald had a stroke and died in 555, and Chlotar took over the lands of the Ripuarian Franks. That year the Saxons revolted, and Chlotar marched an army against them. The Saxons asked for peace and offered to pay half of all they had; Chlotar was willing to accept, but his soldiers insisted on fighting. The Franks were victorious, but many were killed on both sides. The Saxons had to pay an annual tribute of 500 cows, and Thuringia was ravaged for supporting the Saxons. Childebert also died after a long illness in 558. Chlotar by taking his territory and treasure now ruled over a united Francia. His son Chramm had conspired against him with Childebert and committed many crimes. When he marched his army against his father's, Chramm was defeated. Chlotar ordered Chramm burnt to death with his wife and daughters. Exactly one year later in 561 Chlotar died of a fever.
Julianus Pomerius was the teacher of Caesarius at Arles, and about 500 at the request of a bishop he wrote The Contemplative Life. The contemplative life is to see God; but life in the world is a trial and confusing. God is not really seen until one receives the reward of a virtuous life, though by discipline one can receive intimations of God's glory. The active life is what makes a person holy by restraining the body according to reason and seeking perfection. The active life is the journey; the contemplative life is the summit attained. Pomerius warned that bishops can become so preoccupied with worldly business that they think more of themselves and their reputations than of virtue and God, thus losing the benefits of contemplation. He recommended confession as a way of reconciling oneself with God and of escaping the vice of deceit.
Pomerius held that priests should have no possessions and that the church should share its possessions as common goods. To seek profit from the church or to deny the church the goods it needs to help sinners is a sin. He criticized the pretension of virtue as a lie that is doubly guilty, because one refuses to do what God demands and is deceitful too. Pomerius believed that pride is the cause of all sins, which are contempt for God. The virtue of humility will lead to all the other virtues. He also extolled charity as the goal of heaven's precepts. Pomerius believed that the four cardinal virtues of temperance, prudence, justice, and courage are gifts of God and are given to those who live by faith. Fear, desire, sorrow, and joy can be good emotions when they accompany virtue.
Caesarius was born into a wealthy Gallo-Roman family in Chalon-sur-Saone in 470. When he was 20, he entered the Lerins monastery. After being ordained a priest he served as abbot on an islet monastery in the Rhone near Arles. In 502 Caesarius succeeded his relative Aeonius as archbishop of Arles. Three years later he was briefly banished to Bordeaux by Alaric II for suspicion of favoring Burgundian rule. When Caesarius was released, he prevented his accuser Licinianus from being stoned. After Alaric was killed by Clovis in 507, Arles was besieged by the Franks and Burgundians, who destroyed a nunnery Caesarius was having built. Arles was rescued by Italy's King Theodoric the next year. Caesarius used much church treasure to ransom captives. In 513 Caesarius was arrested and taken to Ravenna. Theodoric was impressed with him and gave him a large silver dish, but Caesarius sold it to free more captives.
In Rome Pope Symmachus appointed Caesarius papal vicar of Gaul,
and he organized several synods. The most important was the second
council of Orange in 529 when he settled a controversy by rejecting
the semi-Pelagianism of John Cassian and accepting a moderate
interpretation of Augustine. A brief biography by his colleagues
glorified his pastoral service and numerous healings by prayer.
Caesarius was especially known for the persuasiveness of his sermons,
which were published and circulated. Caesarius also wrote a monastic
rule. After nearly 40 years as archbishop of Arles, Caesarius
died in 542.
Benedict was born at Nursia in the aristocratic Anicius family about 480. He was educated in Rome but was shocked by the licentiousness he saw there. When he was fourteen, Benedict retired to a cave forty miles away near Subiaco, where for three years the monk Romanus provided him with food for his hermit life. To end the temptation to go back and find a beautiful woman he had met previously, Benedict took off his clothing of skins and rolled in thorns and briers. He became the head of a monastery at Vicovars; but his way of disciplining was so unpopular that the monks attempted to poison him, and he returned to Subiaco. As disciples came to him, Benedict founded twelve monasteries, each with twelve monks and a prior and all under his authority. Intrigues of a neighboring priest caused him to leave there.
At Monte Cassino, halfway between Rome and Naples, about 530 Benedict founded a monastery on the ruins of a temple of Apollo. There he converted many pagans by his preaching, charity, and healings. His sister Scholastica founded and supervised a nunnery nearby, and they would see each other once a year. Benedict received visitors, the most noteworthy being the Gothic king Totila about 542. When he died standing up about 547, Benedict left behind the Rule he had written for the monastic community that would become extremely influential. Benedict established a second cloister near Terracina, and his disciples Placidus and Maurus took his regulations to Sicily and France. Monte Cassino was destroyed by Lombard Duke Zotto in 589 and was not rebuilt until 720.
The Rule of Benedict begins with a prolog that advises the monk to listen with the "ear of the heart" to the master's instructions and put them into practice. The labor of obedience will bring one back from where he may have drifted by sloth. Every good work should be begun with prayer, and the sovereignty of God will be attained by good deeds. Life is extended like a truce so that we may amend our misdeeds. These regulations were drawn up for a school of the Lord's service without being harsh or burdensome. Some strictness is in order to amend faults and safeguard love for the good of all concerned. Progress in this way of life will enable one to run on the path of God's commandments.
The Rule contains 73 succinct chapters. The four kinds of monks are the cenobites who serve under a rule and an abbot, hermits who are self-reliant, sarabaites who do whatever they like, and worst of all are the gyrovagues who wander as guests to different monasteries and are slaves to their appetites. The abbot must never teach anything that deviates from the Lord's instructions, and he is addressed as the Christ. He should point out what is good more by example than by words, and he must not do what he teaches should not be done. The abbot should avoid favoritism, but he may change anyone's rank according to justice. After giving one or two verbal warnings he may use blows or physical punishment. He should not gloss over sins but cut them out as soon as he can before they sprout. The stubborn, arrogant, or disobedient may require blows at the first offense. The abbot must remember that as the shepherd he is responsible for his flock. He may summon all the brothers to a council to hear their advice. The brothers may humbly express their opinions but should not defend them obstinately. The decision is the abbot's, and all must obey. In a monastery no one is to follow their heart's desire nor should anyone presume to contend with the abbot. On less important matters the abbot may confer with only the senior monks.
Monks are taught not to injure anyone and to bear injuries patiently. "If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge."2 Keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God sees all. The abbot is to be obeyed without reservation even if his conduct is at odds with what he says. For those who cherish Christ, humility comes from obedience that should be given gladly and without grudging. Those who grumble will be punished rather than rewarded unless they change for the better. Silence is practiced unless one is given permission to speak. Teaching is the master's task; the disciples are to be silent and listen. The Rule outlines twelve steps of humility as always remembering that God knows our thoughts, not to love one's own will nor take pleasure in satisfying one's desires, submitting obediently to one's superior, obeying even under difficult or unjust conditions, not concealing sinful thoughts from the abbot, being content with low and menial treatment, being convinced that one is inferior to all, following the common rule of the monastery, remaining silent unless asked a question, not laughing, speaking gently and with modesty, and having a humble bearing by bowing the head and looking down.
Monks were allowed nearly eight hours sleep, spent five hours or so praying and in liturgy, worked for five or six hours, and read scriptures and spiritual writings for about four hours, though community prayers were to be brief. For a large community the Rule recommends a dean for every group of ten. Monks slept in their clothes in separate beds but in the same room. Those who did not reform could be excommunicated. Associating with an excommunicated brother without authorization could also result in excommunication. The abbot was to care for wayward brothers as a physician does for the sick. Anyone who refuses to amend after frequent reproofs might be expelled so that one diseased sheep will not infect the flock. Yet brothers who leave could be re-admitted as many as three times. Those who join the monastery give up all private property to the poor or the monastery. The abbot assigns clothing, tools, and other goods according to need. The original probationary period of one year was later extended to three years. Then a three-fold vow that implied poverty, chastity, and obedience to the abbot as the representative of God isolated the monk from the world.
If anyone commits a fault, loses or breaks something, he should
come to the abbot and make satisfaction. If it is made known by
another, the correction is more severe. Guests eat at the abbot's
table, and no one is allowed to associate with guests unless bidden.
Monks must get the abbot's permission to exchange letters or gifts.
Monks are ranked by date of entry and by the decision of the abbot
according to virtue. The abbot is elected by the whole community
or by some part of it that has sounder judgment. This is to prevent
the community from electing someone to go along with their evil
ways. Qualities the abbot should not have are being excitable,
anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous, or overly suspicious. The
Rule recommends that the prior be chosen by the abbot instead
of elected so that he will not engage in conflict with the abbot.
In conclusion the Rule once again emphasizes obedience
as the way to God, though the Rule is only the beginning
During his long life of nearly a century Cassiodorus had a varied career. He served the Ostrogoth king Theodoric as quaestor (507-511) and consul (514); in 523 he replaced Boethius as master of the offices, acting as the king's secretary during his last years. He had written a historical chronicle up to the year 519, but his History of the Goths in twelve books only survived in a short abridgment by Jordanes. Cassiodorus became praetorian prefect under Athalaric in 533. Four years later he published twelve books of Variae that included 468 official letters and documents he wrote for Theodoric; his own treatise on the soul and its immortality was added in 540. After that he founded the monastery Vivarium, collected a library, and worked to perpetuate classical culture. His encyclopedic writings did much to preserve ancient learning through the middle ages.
In his most important work for the future of education, Divine Institutions and Secular Literature, Cassiodorus emphasized the seven liberal arts recommended by the fourth-century pagan Martianus Capella that to the traditional Roman trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic added the mathematical quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. In his 93rd year Cassiodorus compiled De Orthographia from the works of eight grammarians. He had two monasteries in Calabria; one was a hermitage for solitary asceticism, but at Vivarium he established a scriptorium for the copying of secular as well as religious manuscripts. This practice would be adopted by the Benedictine and other monastic institutions so that the ancient culture would continue to exist in writing.
When Emperor Anastasius died in 518, the high chamberlain Amantius gave money to Justin, Count of the Excubitors, in order to bribe troops and make Theocritus emperor. At the Hippodrome other names were put forward, but no one was accepted. So the Senate elected Justin, and he was crowned by the patriarch John and acclaimed Emperor by the assembly; he donated a pound of silver to each soldier. Justin was 66 and an Illyrian peasant brought up with Latin, but he was uneducated. He joined the army at Constantinople and served in the Isaurian and Persian wars. He married a captive concubine he had purchased, and she was crowned Augusta Euphemia. He had adopted his elder nephew who took the name Justinian. Justin began his reign by executing Amantius and Theocritus, though some blamed Justinian for this. Vitalian was summoned and assured of the orthodoxy of the new Emperor, and he was appointed master of the soldiers. Justinian was appointed count of the domestics and also helped restore the ecclesiastical unity. However, this led to persecution of the Monophysites. Marinus was made praetorian prefect of the East in 519.
Justinian was held responsible for the murder of consul Vitalian in 520. From then until his succession seven years later, Justinian was considered the power behind the throne. He took the side of the Blue partisans who were orthodox and mostly from the upper classes, and he protected them from being punished for their many riots until in 524 a scandalous murder led Justin to have many executed while Justinian was ill. This restrained the Blues, and the next few years were more peaceful. In 527 Justin became seriously ill, and the Patriarch crowned Justinian Emperor before the imperial guards rather than in the Hippodrome. Justin recovered but died a few months later. Justinian was about 45 when he became Emperor. He was interested in theology and loved to study and work. He abstained from wine and lived on salads with oil and vinegar. His great ambition was to extend his power in a larger empire, and he claimed control over the church. Those entering the presence of the Emperor or Empress had to prostrate themselves, and officials called them Lord and Lady.
Empress Theodora was the illegitimate child of a bear-keeper, an actress who performed lascivious mimes, and probably a prostitute; but as Augusta she was faithful to the Emperor and powerful with her own intelligence service. Her devotion to the Monophysites offered some balance to her husband's position, as she tried to protect them from his laws. The Greens she supported also tended to be Monophysites from the lower classes. As Empress she had large estates and access to great financial resources for her intrigues. By her influence strict laws were enacted to suppress the procuring of young girls for prostitution, and she paid the compensation given for the girls who were liberated. The women were put into a converted convent called Metanoia, meaning repentance. According to the Secret History by Procopius, Theodora often cruelly punished those who had offended her, and she was greatly feared. Theodora banished the corrupt imperial secretary Priscus, who had become rich on public money, and Justinian confiscated his property.
The large surplus built up by the frugality of Anastasius had been dissipated during the reign of Justin, and the destruction caused by the 526 Antioch earthquake and the ensuing Persian wars led to heavy taxes being imposed. The aging Persian king Kavadh wanted to secure the throne for his younger son Khusrau and asked Justin to adopt him. The quaestor Proclus dissuaded the Emperor by pointing out that his son could then legally inherit the Roman empire. During Justin's reign Theodora's brother-in-law Sittas had been sent to subdue raiding by the Tzani on the borders of Lazica (Colchis) and Armenia, and they had accepted Christianity. Lazi king Tzath visited Constantinople. Persia had previously ruled the Lazi, but now they were Christian too. Kavadh ordered their neighbor Iberians to stop burying their dead (as Christians instead of exposing them like the Zarathustrans). The Iberian king Gurgenes appealed to the Roman Emperor for protection. As the Persians invaded Iberia, Gurgenes fled to Lazica and then Constantinople. Sittas and Belisarius attacked Persarmenia, but the Romans' second expedition was defeated.
When Justinian became emperor, he ordered Belisarius to fortify Daras (Anastasiopolis), and the historian Procopius was selected as his advisor. In 528 Persian prince Xerxes led an army of 30,000 into Mesopotamia and defeated the Roman army while incurring heavy losses. Belisarius escaped, and Justinian sent more troops. The next year Hira king Mundhir with Persian and Saracen forces raided Syria and quickly retreated. In reaction Phrygians plundered Persian and Saracen country. Belisarius, only 25, was appointed master of soldiers in the East, but negotiations failed. That year Samaritans revolted, and 50,000 who escaped the massacre threatened to betray Palestine to the empire's enemies.
The Heruls had been granted land in Illyria, where their practices of killing the old and sick and letting wives hang themselves at their husbands' funerals were modified when they were converted to Christianity after Justinian became Emperor in 527; then they were given better land in Second Pannonia. Some Heruls sent to Scandinavia for a king, while others preferred Suartuas, who had been selected by Justinian. This conflict resulted in most Heruls joining the Gepids, while the remainder served the empire as federates. When the Langobards (later known as Lombards) became independent of the Heruls, they lived north of the Danube near the Gepids. In 528 Justinian tried to strengthen his hold on Bosporus by converting Hun king Grod to Christianity; but when Grod melted down their images, angry pagan priests killed him and the Bosporus garrison, selecting a new king. So the Emperor sent enough forces to intimidate the Huns and fortify Bosporus and Cherson.
In 529 Bulgarians moved through Lower Moesia and Scythia, defeating imperial forces led by generals named Justin and Baduarius. The Bulgarians crossed the Balkans and invaded Thrace, where they captured the Roman general Constantiolus and ransomed him for 10,000 gold pieces from the imperial treasury. The next year Illyricum master of soldiers Mundus stopped the Bulgarians with heavy losses, and for three years Thrace's master of soldiers Chilbudius kept barbarians from crossing the Danube by raiding their countries until he was defeated and killed by Sclavenes (Slavs).
The Romans had 25,000 troops at Daras; but in 530 they were met by a Persian army of 40,000 led by Perozes. The Roman strategy to use its cavalry succeeded, and the Persians fled. Roman arms were also victorious in Persarmenia. The next year Mundhir led an army again into Syria, and after fighting the Romans by the river near Callinicum, both sides retreated. Belisarius was recalled and replaced by Mundus, who stopped two Persian attempts to take Martyropolis. When Kavadh died, Khusrau (r. 531-579) succeeded him and made a peace that was ratified in 532. The Romans restored two fortresses in Persarmenia, and borders remained the same, though the Romans had to pay 11,000 pounds of gold to defend the Caucasian passes. A plot involving Kavadh's older son Zames, who had been excluded from the throne because of a damaged eye, was discovered by Khusrau, and he had Zames and all his brothers put to death. Khusrau restored the property of the aristocracy that had been taken in the Mazdakite revolution, and the state provided education for the nobility's children. All men were required to serve in an army of peasant soldiers. Khusrau tolerated Christians, while Armenians leaned toward Monophysitism, as their patriarch Narses got the doctrine of two natures condemned at a synod.
By 531 John of Cappadocia had risen from a clerk to become praetorian prefect in Constantinople. His unscrupulous methods were very successful at raising revenues, and he became rich himself too. He also saved money by reducing state services such as the postal roads. This lack of public transportation resulted in quantities of grain rotting and farmers being impoverished. In 532 an incident led to a revolt in the capital. Justinian had ordered that crimes and disorders be punished impartially. When a Blue and a Green survived hanging, both factions shouted for mercy in the Hippodrome. Their shouts "Nika" (win or conquer) soon led to breaking open the prison to release criminals and kill officials. The building was set on fire, which spread to part of the Great Palace, the Senate-house, and the church of St. Sophia. The next day a demonstration demanded that John of Cappadocia, the city prefect Eudaemon, and the quaestor Tribonian all be replaced; Justinian yielded to these demands by appointing Phocas, Tryphon, and Basilides to their positions.
On the day after that Belisarius rode into the capital with Goths and Heruls to suppress the revolution by killing protesters. Street fighting went on for several more days until on Sunday Emperor Justinian granted amnesty and promised to comply with their demands. However, many did not trust him, and they appealed to Hypatius, who was carried to the Forum of Constantine and then was proclaimed Emperor in the Kathisma of the Hippodrome. John of Cappadocia and Belisarius advised Justinian to flee; but Theodora urged him to remain and fight. Justinian sent out the eunuch Narses with money to persuade people. Belisarius then ordered his soldiers to charge, and according to all estimates at least 30,000 people were killed. Hypatius and Pompeius were seized and executed. Eighteen senators were banished and had their property confiscated. John of Cappadocia and Tribonian were reinstated in their offices. The church of St. Sophia was rebuilt more magnificently than ever and was completed five years later.
The peace treaty the Roman empire made with Vandal king Gaiseric in 476 was observed by both sides under Vandal kings Huneric (r. 477-484), Gunthamund (r. 484-496), and Thrasamund (r. 496-523) except when the Vandals attacked Sicily during the war between Odovacar and Theodoric. Vandal king Hilderic (r. 523-530) restored two hundred bishops to their churches and tolerated the previously persecuted Catholics. When Gelimer deposed Hilderic and put him in prison, Justinian demanded that Gelimer send Hilderic to Constantinople or he would terminate the treaty. Praetorian Prefect John of Cappadocia argued against intervening; but a bishop told the Emperor of a dream in which God said to protect the Christians in Libya. So the Emperor ordered Belisarius to organize a campaign that included 10,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, 600 Huns, and 400 Heruls transported on 500 ships guarded by 92 warships. At the same time the Vandal governor of Sardinia revolted, and Gelimer sent a force of 5,000 there, while a revolt at Tripolitana gave the Romans a safe place to land in Africa.
The Roman fleet landed at Caputvada in September 533, and they marched toward Carthage, giving out a letter that they were not breaking the treaty nor at war with the Vandals but only intended to overthrow the tyrant. Belisarius punished with impaling two drunk Massagatae who killed a man for ridiculing them, and then he explained to his men that God helps the just gain victory in war. Procopius reported that this caused the whole army to fear doing anything unlawful. John of Cappadocia had tried to save money by not baking the bread as dry, which caused it to rot, and at least 500 men died. When Gelimer learned that the Romans had landed, he ordered his brother Ammatas at Carthage to have Hilderic and the other prisoners put to death. Approaching Carthage, John the Armenian's vanguard killed Ammatas, who was out surveying. While Gelimer was mourning his brother, Belisarius attacked, causing the disordered Vandals to flee. The next day the Roman army was welcomed into Carthage, and the imperial fleet sailed into the Lake of Tunis.
Gelimer's brother Tzazo returned from Sardinia, and their joined forces marched on Carthage. Repeated Roman cavalry charges finally broke through the Vandal lines, and the imperial soldiers seized the treasures and women in the Vandal camp. Vandal warriors took refuge in churches, surrendered, and were sent to Constantinople. Belisarius sent detachments to take over Sardinia, Corsica, Balearic Islands, Septum at the Gibraltar Straits, and Caesarea on the coast of Mauretania. Gelimer took refuge on Mount Papua in Numidia, where they were blockaded for the winter by Heruls led by Pharas. In March 534 Gelimer surrendered and was taken to Constantinople. Justinian granted the regal Vandal an estate in Galatia but refused to call him a patrician, because he was an Arian Christian. Suspected of imperial ambition, Belisarius returned to the capital in triumph. In Africa Arian churches became Catholic; Arian believers were persecuted as heretics; and Vandals were forbidden to hold office. Vandal warriors were made slaves of the Romans, who married the Vandal women. Even though it had been a century since the Vandal invasion, attempts were made to restore estates to the descendants of their previous owners.
When Theodoric was succeeded as king of Italy by his 8-year-old grandson Athalaric in 526, the boy's mother (Theodoric's daughter) Amalasuntha acted as regent. She assured the Romans they would be well treated and restored the confiscated properties of Boethius and Symmachus to their children. Amalasuntha had a Roman education, but Gothic leaders objected to her son being given a soft upbringing, wanting him to be raised like a Gothic warrior. Athalaric was given young male companions, but they led him into debauchery that ruined his health and his relationship with his mother. She wrote to Justinian and had a ship loaded with gold to prepare for her departure; but after the three most dangerous Gothic leaders she had sent away were murdered, she decided to stay at Ravenna. Her cousin Theodahad, son of the Vandal queen Amalafrida, had greedily acquired most of Tuscany, because he did not like neighbors. He offered to give these estates to Justinian for money if he was made a senator and could live at Constantinople.
When Athalaric died in 534, Amalasuntha offered to make Theodahad king while she still ruled. Theodahad accepted but called together the relatives of the murdered Goths, had others faithful to her killed, and imprisoned Amalasuntha on an island in Tuscany, where she was strangled in a bath before Justinian could protect her. In the public history of Procopius the Emperor's envoy Peter told Theodahad that his crime meant war; but in his Secret History Procopius revealed that the Empress Theodora, jealous of a Gothic queen coming to Constantinople, bribed Peter to persuade Theodahad to get rid of Amalasuntha. Since Theodahad refused to abdicate, Justinian prepared for war, sending envoys to Frank kings asking for their help against the Arian Goths, while his master of soldiers in Illyricum, the loyal Gepid Mundus, defeated Goth forces and occupied Salona in 535. Belisarius with 8,000 troops seized Catane and occupied Syracuse in Sicily. Theodahad sent Pope Agapetus to Constantinople to ask for peace but to no avail. A large Gothic army sent to Dalmatia killed Mundus and his son Maurice, forcing the imperial army to withdraw.
Justinian appointed Count Constantian to lead the Illyrian army back into Dalmatia and ordered Belisarius to invade Italy. At Naples the Jews supported resistance, because they had benefited by Theodoric's policies. After a short siege imperial troops entered Naples through a broken aqueduct, and their Huns slaughtered many before Belisarius could stop the carnage and order the 800 captured Goths to be well treated. Goths from Rome and Campania met at Regata in November 536 and deposed Theodahad, acclaiming the royal Amal Witigis king. Cassiodorus wrote that Witigis was elected by the free judgment of the people, not in the royal bedchamber like Theodahad, who was then killed fleeing Rome on his way to Ravenna by his enemy Optaris, whom Witigis had sent. Witigis left a garrison of 4,000 in Rome and took some senators hostage with him to Ravenna, where he married Athalaric's sister Matasuntha against her will. Theodahad had offered the Franks Ostrogothic territory in Gaul with 2,000 pounds of gold if they would be his allies against the Emperor, and Witigis continued the arrangement. Since Theodahad had been punished for killing Amalasuntha, and Matasuntha had become queen, Witigis wrote to Justinian that the cause of war was removed. However, the army of Belisarius entered Rome in December 536, as the Gothic garrison withdrew.
In Africa a eunuch named Solomon had replaced Belisarius and was made praetorian prefect and master of soldiers. Each of the four provinces was threatened by native rebellions - Tripolitana by the Louata, Byzacena by the Frexi, Numidia by Aurasian Moors, and Mauretania by the Berbers. The Moors accused the Romans of breaking promises Belisarius had made by taking their possessions. Solomon defeated the Moors in Byzacena and established forts there and in Numidia. In 536 imperial soldiers mutinied, because their pay was delayed, Arians were persecuted, and the lands of their Vandal wives were being confiscated. Solomon escaped an assassination attempt, and the historian Procopius went to Sicily to get help from Belisarius. Stotzas led 9,000 desiring freedom from imperial rule; but they were defeated by Belisarius at Membressa. The rebels fled; but more troops revolted in Numidia, forcing Justinian to send his cousin Germanus, who estimated that two-thirds of the army was in rebellion. Germanus wisely declared that he was not there to punish mutiny but to rectify grievances. Those who returned to loyalty were given their arrears in pay including their period of mutiny. Stotzas attacked Carthage in 537 but was defeated. Germanus re-established military discipline, but he was replaced by Solomon two years later. Solomon transferred suspected soldiers, expelled Vandal women from Africa, and built hundreds of forts.
After the Goth siege of Salona failed, and their attempts to regain Perugia were defeated, King Witigis marched a large army to surround the army of Belisarius at Rome in March 537. This siege lasted a year and nine days and destroyed the various aqueducts that for centuries had supplied Rome with abundant water. The luxurious tradition of Roman baths ended, as they went back to drawing water from the Tiber and wells. Belisarius immediately sent the women, children, and slaves not involved in garrison duty out of the city. Artisans and traders were drafted into military service and were paid a small wage. Witigis ordered the senators held hostage at Ravenna put to death, though a few escaped. Martin and Valerian brought into Rome Huns and Slavs who made up most of 1600 cavalry. Imperial forces began making successful sorties against the Goths, who did not have their cavalry armed with bows. Belisarius sent Procopius out with a small detachment to gather troops and provisions in Campania. 3,000 Isaurians came by sea to Ostia, while John brought to Rome on the Appian Way 1800 cavalry along with 500 raised by Procopius. A strong sortie led by Belisarius routed the Gothic camp near the Flaminian Gate and allowed them into the city.
Defeated in various encounters, the Goths agreed to a truce for three months, and hostages were exchanged. Hunger caused Witigis to withdraw garrisons from Portus, Centumcellae, and Albanum, which were then taken over by imperial troops. When his officer Constantine refused to return two daggers he had taken in violation of the truce and actually threatened the life of Belisarius, the Roman general had him executed. Procopius criticized Belisarius for this, because he believed he was influenced by his wife Antonina's hatred for Constantine, who had told Belisarius to kill her for her adultery. The truce was soon broken as Goths kept trying to sneak into Rome. So Belisarius sent John to attack the Picentine provinces. John disobeyed his commander in passing by Auximum and Urbinum to seize Ariminum, because it was closer to Ravenna. Matasuntha, who hated her husband, proposed to betray Ravenna and marry John. Word of Ariminum falling caused the Goths to give up the siege of Rome and depart in March 538; but Belisarius attacked them as they were crossing the Milvian Bridge, killing many.
John occupied Ariminum with 2,000 Isaurian cavalry. Not wanting them bottled up there, Belisarius sent Martin and Ildiger with 1,000 cavalry to replace John's forces with infantry from the Ancona garrison. John refused to obey and was besieged by Witigis, causing distressful hunger. From the East came a new army with 5,000 imperial troops led by the eunuch Narses and Illyricum master of soldiers Justin along with 2,000 Heruls. A desperate letter from John added to the persuasion of his friend Narses and made Belisarius order the relief of John's forces. A large force sent by sea under Ildiger and land forces led by Belisarius and Martin converged on Ariminum, forcing the Goths to flee in confusion without a battle or casualties. Amid rivalry with Narses, Belisarius managed to successfully besiege Urbinum, while John went off to subjugate the Aemilian province. In 539 a hungry Urbs Vetus had to surrender to Belisarius.
Frank king Theudebert of Austrasia helped the Goths by bringing 10,000 Burgundians across the Alps to blockade Milan. Delays by imperial officers Martin, Uliaris, John, and Justin resulted in Mundilas and his garrison of 300 soldiers having to surrender in 539. Although these soldiers were honorably treated, according to Procopius, the Goths and Burgundians massacred all the men of Milan, enslaved the women, and razed the wealthiest city in Italy to the ground. The Goths now controlled the territory of Liguria. Justinian recalled Narses so there would be no doubt that Belisarius was in command. Seeing Narses leaving, the Heruls also departed and sold their slaves and animals to Uraias in Liguria for gold, promising not to fight the Goths. Italy was so ravaged that crops had not been planted, and many thousands were now dying of hunger and disease.
Belisarius sent Justin and Cyprian to besiege Faestulae, while he oversaw the blockade of Auximum. Meanwhile Theudebert led a large army to plunder northern Italy. Goths helped the Franks to cross the Po at Ticinum, but they were surprised to see Franks sacrificing Goth women and children. Franks also turned on the Goths and began slaughtering them. On the road to Ravenna the Franks attacked Goths and then imperial forces too. In the harsh conditions of a war-torn country dysentery broke out among the Franks, killing about a third of them before they went home. After six months those starving at Faestulae surrendered and were marched to Auximum, which then capitulated also, agreeing to divide their wealth with the Romans and promising to serve the Emperor. Belisarius wasted no time in besieging Ravenna, and he bribed someone to set fire to the public warehouses, which destroyed the grain supply. The Franks proposed that the Goths should divide Italy with them; but Witigis could not trust the treacherous Franks and began negotiating with Belisarius. Uraias gathered 4,000 men from northern garrisons to reinforce his uncle Witigis; but when John and Martin captured the forts with the wives and children of the Goths, the Goths deserted Uraias and went over to John.
Between 532 and 539 Justinian had engineers oversee the construction of better walls to defend towns in Syria and Mesopotamia. In 539 Ostrogoth king Witigis appealed to the Persian Khusrau to fight their common enemy. The Armenians called on Persia after they had killed the Roman governor Acacius for exacting too much tribute from their country; their rebellion also killed the Roman general Sittas. In 540 Khusrau stopped tribute to the Ephthalites and himself led an army that attacked Sura, killing many, enslaving the rest, and burning the city. The Romans blamed Khusrau for breaking the peace treaty, but he claimed they had caused the war by writing to the Huns. Seriopolis bishop Candidus promised to ransom 12,000 captives for 200 pounds of gold; but few prisoners survived the ordeal. The Persians demolished Beroea and besieged Antioch, which had not been taken by an enemy in three centuries. Khusrau ordered the city burned except for the cathedral, which was merely robbed. Khusrau entered Apamea; Chalcis bought its safety with 200 pounds of gold, and the stronghold Edessa paid the same amount to spare its surrounding region. Khusrau besieged Daras but left it alone after receiving 1,000 pounds of silver.
Faced with an imminent war in Persia, Emperor Justinian agreed to divide Italy at the Po River, giving Witigis territory to the north; the treasury at Ravenna would also be divided. Belisarius did not like this compromise and refused to sign the agreement. The Goths offered to submit to Belisarius if he became Western Emperor; but he had sworn loyalty to Justinian. Belisarius got the imperial envoys to accept all of Italy and the treasury and gave the Goths pledges on everything except becoming Emperor. He then sent his fleet to Ravenna to feed its starving people and marched into the city with his army in 540. He took the palace treasury but allowed the Goths to keep their private property and prohibited plundering. Most northern garrisons surrendered also until they learned that Belisarius had refused the purple. Witigis was held in honorable captivity; but his nephew Uraias refused to take his place to fight for freedom. He recommended the Visigoth Ildibad, who was proclaimed king. Belisarius took Witigis and leading Goths with the royal treasure back to Constantinople; Justinian named Witigis patrician and gave him an estate near Persia.
Bulgarians invaded again in 540, occupying Chersonesus and terrorizing the suburbs of Constantinople. They devastated Thessaly and northern Greece, capturing tens of thousands. Justinian responded by building or repairing about 600 forts in Thrace, Macedonia, Dardania, Epirus, and Greece.
After the Persians had invaded Iberia, the Romans felt it necessary to defend Lazica to keep them from the Black Sea. John Tzibus established a monopoly at the Petra fortress and raised money by oppressing the Lazi grain traders. The Lazica king Gubazes invited Khusrau to reclaim this kingdom by driving out the Romans. The Persian emperor brought his army and besieged Petra but took only the holdings of the former governor Tzibus. Meanwhile Belisarius led his Gothic army into Mesopotamia and captured the fortress at Sisaurana, releasing the Christians and sending the Zarathustrans to Constantinople. As the Goths were used to fight the Persians, the Persian captives later fought the Goths. The Mesopotamian heat persuaded the Roman army to retreat, though some blamed Belisarius for returning to punish his unfaithful wife. John of Cappadocia continued to oppress the eastern provinces until he was caught by intrigue conspiring to overthrow the Emperor in 541. He was banished to Cyzicus, but the generous Justinian allowed him to retain enough of his estate to live in luxury.
Without Belisarius in the west various generals had independent authority. Most prominent was John, nephew of Vitalian, but there was also Vitalius at Venetia, Constantian at Ravenna, Justin at Florence, Conon at Naples, Cyprian at Perugia, and Bessas at Spoletium. Meanwhile the imperial logothete Alexander was making the army and others miserable by collecting back taxes while getting rich on the one-twelfth he was allowed to keep for himself. The Goths held Ticinum; King Ildibad at Verona had only about a thousand soldiers, but they defeated an attack by Vitalius and Heruls. After his queen was insulted by the wealthy wife of Uraias, Ildibad had Uraias murdered. In reaction a Gepid with a grudge against the king killed Ildibad at a palace banquet in 541. Rugians, who had submitted to the rule of Ostrogoth Theodoric, nominated their Eraric as king; but he tried to sell northern Italy to Emperor Justinian and was put to death when Totila became king five months later.
Alexander and Constantian marched with 12,000 men upon Verona while a small band led by the Armenian Artabazes entered the city; but quarrels between commanders delayed the imperial forces, and 5,000 Goths led by Totila won an astonishing victory near Faventia, capturing all the imperial standards. Totila marched against Florence; but Justin was reinforced by John, Bessas, and Cyprian. However, at Mucellium a rumor that John had fallen caused the imperial troops to flee the pursuing Goths. Totila treated his prisoners well and persuaded them to join his forces. While John retreated to Rome, Totila took towns in Umbria, razed the walls of Beneventum, and began collecting taxes in the provinces Lucania, Brutti, Apulia, and Calabria.
Conon and a thousand Isaurians were besieged at Naples. Emperor Justinian appointed the civilian Maximin praetorian prefect of Italy; but he did little and was soon followed by Demetrius as master of soldiers. Totila's navy captured most of his men in the Bay of Naples, though Demetrius escaped. Ships with Demetrius sent from Syracuse by Maximin were caught in a storm; Demetrius and the crews not killed were captured. In 543 Conon and the garrison at Naples surrendered, and Totila wisely doled out gradually increasing amounts of food to the starving Neapolitans. Totila punished one of his guards for violating the daughter of a Calabrian, arguing that it is not possible to commit injustice and still win glory in battle. While the imperial commanders were plundering the people of Italy, Totila wrote to the Roman Senate that men are responsible for the intentional wrongs they commit, and he believed the Roman army was being avenged for the suffering they caused the Italians.
Starting in 542 bubonic plague spread from Egypt through Palestine and Syria to Asia Minor and Constantinople, where about 300,000 died in 543. The epidemic also discouraged the military activities of the Persian and Roman empires during these years, though the Persians did demolish Callinicum in 542. The Persians besieged Edessa in 544; but the mound they built failed to achieve its purpose, and Khusrau had to settle for 500 pounds of gold. The next year a five-year truce was made, and Justinian agreed to pay 2,000 pounds of gold. Khusrau gained a Greek physician named Tribunus and was so grateful that at his request he released 3,000 Roman prisoners.
In Africa Justinian's nephew Sergius was such a corrupt and immoral governor of Tripolitana that he provoked the Louata to fight. When Solomon offended the Moor chief Antalas, they joined forces and defeated the Romans at Cillium in 544, killing Solomon. Emperor Justinian sent patrician Areobindus, who had married his niece Praejecta; but he and Sergius quarreled and were defeated badly at Carthage. Sergius was replaced by Areobindus, who was assassinated in 546 when Numidian duke Guntarith seized the palace at Carthage. Guntarith claimed to rule for a month until he was murdered by the Armenian Artabanes, who was appointed master of soldiers in Africa. Artabanes wanted to marry Praejecta; but he was already married, and Theodora would not permit a divorce. Justinian appointed John Troglita, whose diplomatic and military skill enabled him to defeat the forces of Antalas in 547. Moors led by Carcasan won a victory; but his coalition of Moors was finally defeated early the next year. John's victories were celebrated by the African poet Corippus in his Johannis. Africa was then fairly peaceful under Roman imperial rule until master of soldiers John Rogathinus ordered the elderly chief Cutsina assassinated in 563, which caused a Numidian revolt. Peace was re-established by diplomatic means only after Justinian sent his nephew Marcian with an army.
When Totila besieged Otranto and marched on Rome in 544, Justinian recalled Belisarius from Persia and sent him to command in Italy. Belisarius recruited 4,000 troops in Thrace and Illyria and sent an expedition to relieve Otranto. Belisarius believed that he had been sent to correct the wrongs the other commanders had done; but in the Secret History Procopius wrote that he plundered the Italians indiscriminately, because he had received nothing from the Emperor. This caused Herodian to turn over his command and Spolitium to Totila and the Goths. Fortresses in Aemilia were taken; but when Illyrians heard that the Huns were devastating their homes, they went back to their country. Bononia and Auximum fell back into the hands of the Goths. Totila was blockading Rome, and Tibur fell to him because the Isaurians quarreled with the inhabitants and betrayed it. Procopius refused to describe the atrocity that left the inhabitants dead. In 545 Belisarius wrote to the Emperor that he needed more men and money, because the provinces could not supply them. Meanwhile John was in Constantinople marrying the daughter of Germanus, the Emperor's cousin. Totila's Goths were taking towns in Picenum and Tuscany; though he was unable to bribe Perugia, which remained loyal even after Cyprian was assassinated by Ulifus. Narses, using Heruls he had recruited for the Italian war, defeated invading Sclavenes.
In 546 Totila returned to the siege of Rome, where Bessas commanded 3,000 troops. Pope Vigilius tried to send grain from Syracuse; but the ships were captured by the Goths. Hungry Rome asked for a truce; but Totila told the envoy Pelagius that he refused to show mercy to Sicily, because it welcomed and supplied the imperial war nor would he allow the walls of Rome to defend imperial troops nor would he give up slaves who had deserted to them. Thus negotiations failed, and Rome was soon captured, as Bessas, the garrison, and a few senators with horses fled. The victorious Totila sent Pelagius to Constantinople asking for the peace that was enjoyed by Theodoric in the era of Anastasius. Justinian wrote back that the war was being conducted by Belisarius and that he should negotiate peace with him. As the walls of Rome were being torn down, Totila received a letter from Belisarius, asking him to spare the beautiful buildings, because only the unintelligent destroy such civilization. Totila stopped the vandalism.
Totila left Rome deserted in 547, placed a force to watch Belisarius at Portus, and marched south to regain Lucania, Apulia, and part of Calabria. When Belisarius recovered his health, he entered Rome and had the walls rebuilt without mortar; but the gates could not be rebuilt yet, because he lacked carpenters. The Goths attacked for two days, while valorous imperial soldiers fought at the gates. Then the Goths retreated, and new gates were built, while Totila fortified Tibur. John defeated Gothic cavalry at Capua and liberated many Roman captives. Totila marched an army of 10,000 men into Lucania; but attacking John's camp at night, only 100 were killed while 900 escaped in the dark. Justinian sent 2,000 soldiers. Belisarius sailed to Sicily with 900 men, but their camp was surprised and also decimated by Totila's men. Totila besieged Rossano; when no help came, they surrendered. Totila pardoned all except the commander Chalazar, whom he executed for breaking his word.
At Rome the garrison had mutinied and killed their commander Conon. They sent clergy to Constantinople threatening to turn over Rome to the Goths unless they were pardoned and paid their arrears; the Emperor accepted their conditions. Belisarius provisioned Rome, established discipline, and left a garrison of 3,000 under Diogenes before he left Italy in 549. Then Perugia fell after a siege of four years. Marauding Sclavenes had just devastated Illyricum, and in 549 half split off to ravage Thrace, taking the port of Topirus.
Dagistheus was sent to Lazica in 549 with 7,000 Romans to regain the fortress of Petra. Mermeroes brought Persian reinforcements, relieved the siege, and garrisoned Petra with 3,000 men and provisions before withdrawing to Persarmenia. However, Dagistheus and Gubazes led an attack that killed those men and destroyed the provisions. The next year Dagistheus defeated the invading Chorianes; but Justinian ordered Dagistheus arrested for the Petra debacle, and he was replaced by the elderly Bessas. He managed to suppress a revolt of the Abasgians, a Christian kingdom that had profited by selling boys as eunuchs, a practice that Justinian abolished. Bessas besieged Petra and regained the fortress in 551. The truce with Persia was renewed for another five years as the Romans agreed to pay 2600 pounds of gold, though the hostilities in Lazica were not affected. Lazi king Gubazes quarreled with Roman commanders Bessas, Martin, and Rusticus, complaining to Justinian. Bessas was recalled, but Rusticus and his brother John contrived to murder Gubazes. The Lazi people got the Emperor to nominate the younger brother of Gubazes as their new king, and senator Athanasius investigated the assassination. Rusticus and John were arrested, tried, and executed.
Totila besieged Rome for the third time, and in January 550 the Isaurians opened the gates to the Goths. Diogenes and a few escaped. Paul and 400 cavalry held out and were willing to fight to the death; but Totila offered to let them go if they swore not to fight the Goths ever again, or they could fight equally with the Goths; all joined the Goths except Paul and one other who returned to Constantinople. Totila now realized it was better to rebuild and repopulate illustrious Rome. His peace envoy was turned away by Emperor Justinian, who replaced Belisarius with 80-year-old Liberius and then Germanus. With a navy of 400 ships Totila besieged Rhegium and captured Tarentum, but he could not take Messina. Germanus recruited barbarians in Thrace and Illyria, and his reputation from his victory over the Antae was such that the Sclavenes stopped moving south but invaded Dalmatia instead, though they won a costly victory over imperial forces at Hadrianople. Germanus had married the Gothic queen Matasuntha, and the hopes of many were dashed when he died of a sudden illness in 550. Meanwhile Totila besieged Syracuse. Justinian appointed the eunuch chamberlain Narses supreme commander; he insisted on sufficient forces and money to win the war. Totila made a treaty with the Franks, allowing them territory they had seized.
In 551 the Goths blockaded Ancona by sea and land. John responded to an urgent letter by gathering fifty ships, which sunk 36 Gothic ships and rescued Ancona, as the Goths burned their remaining eleven ships and abandoned the siege. Once more Totila tried to make peace with Justinian by offering to give up Sicily and Dalmatia and pay taxes on their tenantless estates in Italy; but the Emperor refused again. The tide of the war was turning as Artabanes led imperial forces in recovering the four Sicilian fortresses the Goths had taken. Yet Totila sent a fleet and captured the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
The Gepids led by Thorosin and the Lombards under King Audoin were about to go to war, and both appealed to Justinian for imperial help. The Emperor sent the Lombards 10,000 cavalry in exchange for their help in the Italian war. The Gepids allied with the Kotrigurs, who crossed the Danube and ravaged Illyria with 12,000 men. Justinian countered with Utigur king Sandichl, who crossed the Don and defeated the Kotrigurs, enslaving their women and children. Then the Emperor sent Aratius to bribe the Kotrigurs, who were plundering the Balkans, to go home, promising to settle them in Thrace if the Utigurs had taken their land; both happened. Justinian broke a promise to help the Gepids against the Lombards, because they had helped the Sclavenes cross the Danube, and the imperial forces did not reach the Lombards, who nevertheless defeated the Gepids. A peace treaty between the Gepids, the Lombards, and the empire would last to the end of Justinian's reign. By 552 Narses had collected 5500 Lombards, 3,000 Heruls, and others to amass an imperial army of about 25,000. They marched to Ravenna; but Totila would not submit without a battle. About 6,000 Goths were killed, as was Totila.
To stop the Lombards from burning and raping, Narses gave them gold and had Valerian escort them to the northern frontier. Then Valerian negotiated with the Goths at Verona; but the Franks in the Venetian province blocked a truce. Totila's remaining army was led by the warrior Teias to Ticinum, where he was elected king of the Goths. Perugia surrendered, though Ulifus and his followers were killed resisting. Rome was captured again by Narses, and Portus surrendered. The desperate Goths put to death Roman senators they could find and 300 boys from Roman families they held hostage. Tarentum commander Ragnaris had surrendered and asked for fifty men to conduct him to Constantinople and then killed the fifty when Pacurius would not exchange the Gothic hostages for them. Teias collected the treasure left at Ticinum and headed for Cumae, where the Goths stored most of their money. Narses had Cumae besieged and met the army of Teias at Mons Lactarius. There Teias was killed, and the Goths asked to be allowed to live outside the Roman empire in peace. John persuaded Narses to accept on the promise that they not make war on the empire.
In 553 two Alamanni chiefs, Leutharis and Buccelin, led an army of about 75,000 that included some Franks south into Italy. Narses was besieging Lucca, which broke its agreement to surrender after thirty days but capitulated two months later. Aligern, Gothic commander at besieged Cumae, finally surrendered also. The Alamanni bypassed Narses, who was at Rome, and plundered the Italian provinces as far south as Calabria; they even stole from the churches that the Franks with them respected. Leutharis died of a plague in Venetia; but Buccelin, eager to drive out Narses and become king of the Goths, met the imperial army at Capua in 554. When Narses had a Herul officer executed for killing his servant, the Heruls left the center of the Roman lines. Yet this opening enabled the two flanks of the imperial army to aim their arrows at the backs of the Alamanni fighting the other flank, and they were slaughtered with few Roman losses. Ragnaris still led 7,000 Goths; but he was killed the next spring when he tried to shoot Narses after a negotiation. The remaining Goths surrendered and were sent to Constantinople. Imperial authority was restored in Italy south of the Po, and the north was gradually recovered.
Justinian had handed down the Pragmatic Sanction to Narses and Antiochus in 554 to apply the Imperial Code to Italy. Grants made by Athalaric, Amalasuntha, and Theodahad were valid, but those of Totila were annulled. Property that had been forcibly taken was restored, enabling the aristocracy and the church to regain most of their land. Public funds were allocated for public buildings and aqueducts in Rome, and the food dole was re-established. Provincial governors were no longer appointed but were elected by local land-owners and bishops. Narses administered Italy as Patrician for thirteen years, though he was resented for the wealth he accumulated.
In Spain after Theodoric died, the general Theudis continued to rule and became king when Theodoric's grandson Amalaric was killed in an army mutiny in 531. After Theudis died in 548, Agila became king the next year; but there was a civil war until Athanagild defeated Agila in 554. Liberius established an imperial province in Baetica in 550 that would last about seventy years.
Late in 558 the Kotrigurs led by chief Zabergan crossed the frozen Danube and invaded Thrace with little resistance and threatened the capital. However, imperial forces rallied, and three separate bands of Kotrigurs were defeated by a reinvigorated Belisarius in Thrace, by Germanus in Macedonia, and by the Thermoplyae garrison in Thessaly. Justinian paid much gold for the captives, and the Kotrigurs went back beyond the Danube. Then the Emperor suggested to Sandichl that the Utigurs could enrich their treasury by attacking the Kotrigurs, which they did, weakening both sides. Also in 558 Justinian began diplomatic relations with the Avars by giving their king Candich gifts. The Avars then attacked the Sabirs and the Utigurs, invaded the Kotrigurs, and by 562 had over-run central Europe as far as the Elbe.
A new truce with Persia in 557 had included Lazica. About 560 the Persians allied with western Turks led by Mo-Kan (r. 553-572) and destroyed Ephthalite power, partitioning its territory among the allies and making the Oxus River Persia's eastern border. It was 562 before Khusrau and Justinian signed a treaty for fifty years. The Romans agreed to pay 30,000 gold pieces annually, but Persia recognized Roman rule in Lazica. Other provisions indicate the nature of Roman-Persian relations. Persia agreed to keep Huns and Alans from crossing the Caucasus into Roman territory. Both sides had Saracen allies that were included in the peace. Persian-Roman trade was to occur at custom houses in prescribed places. Ambassadors could use public posts without paying custom duties. Saracens and others were to trade at Daras and Nisibis and were not to smuggle by other roads. Migration was restricted to the return of deserters. Disputes were to be settled by a committee on the frontiers in the presence of the Persian and Roman governors. Towns near the frontier were not to be fortified. Neighboring tribes should not be attacked nor harassed. Daras was not to have a large garrison. Treachery could be appealed to the sovereign of the injured person. Curses were called down on the party that should violate the treaty. Persia also agreed to tolerate Christians and their burial practices, and they were to be free of persecution by the Magi; but they had to refrain from proselytizing.
In his histories of Justinian's imperial wars Procopius gave a fairly objective account from the usual perspective of the Romans, and he portrayed Belisarius as a noble and great commander. Yet in his Secret History written about 550 Belisarius is foolishly manipulated by his wife Antonina; Justinian is castigated in a diatribe as the worst ruler possible, and Theodora is described as a shameless whore, who became a cunningly powerful empress. Yet internal evidence does not give scholars adequate reasons for denying that Procopius wrote this extremely different view. Certainly Justinian's imperialistic wars did cause extensive killing and much human misery throughout his empire and in the regions conquered; but the unrelentingly negative judgments of Procopius in every aspect of his government are likely exaggerated in some outpouring of emotion though there is probably much truth in his criticisms. Procopius exposed the dark and private sides of Justinian, Theodora, Belisarius and his wife Antonina, hoping that by showing how their misdeeds overtook them future monarchs would be less likely to transgress.
Procopius accused Justinian of murdering thousands of people and plundering their property with no provocation at all. His many changes destroyed valuable institutions. He not only ruined the Roman empire but took over Libya and Italy in wars that cost millions of lives. In refusing to prosecute Blues, gangs were allowed to rob the upper class with impunity. People despaired because when they suffer violence from state authorities, they have little hope of finding justice. Justinian spent large amounts of the treasure he exploited erecting buildings along the sea-front that had to be protected from floods by erecting expensive walls. While Procopius argued that every purpose of Justinian was dishonest, he was an easy mark for anyone who wanted to deceive him. He seized other people's money stealthily without hesitating.
According to Procopius the Emperor squandered the people's wealth by giving it to foreign tribes like the Huns, encouraging other chiefs to raid imperial territory and bringing about the enslavement of the Roman empire. Justinian was also a religious hypocrite, robbing the wealth of Arians and other heretics. Samaritans in Palestine were also persecuted. Justinian criminalized homosexuality and had offenders castrated, even if it was in their past. At first he only used this law against the rival Greens or other political enemies. Forgery of wills and letters was used to take property from leading senators such as Tatian, Demosthenes, and Hilara. The hall of justice was turned into a marketplace as judgments and even the making of laws were sold to the highest bidders. To account for this extreme pattern of evil Procopius assumed that Justinian must be possessed by a demon if not the king of demons. He estimated that at least five million people died in the Libya war and three times as many in the drawn-out war in Italy, because for so many years the Emperor would not make peace or provide the necessary troops and funds to win. In the Persian wars Procopius blamed Justinian for being aggressive during truces, but he refused to spend his money to defend the empire against the invasions of Khusrau in which unnumbered men and women were killed and enslaved.
Procopius had no doubt that Justinian ruled during the reign of the illiterate Justin and that he quickly spent the surplus Anastasius had acquired. Then he appointed officials to strip the wealthy of their estates, and the money collected was soon given to the empire's enemies on its frontiers. He established monopolies to squeeze money out of every class. Quaestors such as the noted jurist Tribonian or the Libyan Junilus, who knew little about law, used the office to enrich themselves. Constantine made a pile of money from the law-courts and by selling access to his friend, the Emperor. After the praetorian prefect collected great wealth from taxes, Justinian would then take everything he had with one stroke, as he did to John of Cappadocia. Provincial officials were the most corrupt men he could find so that people continually looked back at the past as not as bad as what was currently happening, so rapid was the degeneration of the empire. After John was succeeded by Theodotus, he was soon replaced by a Syrian money-changer named Peter, who was even more avaricious. During a good harvest high prices were charged while much grain rotted. The next year had a lean harvest, and hunger resulted in constant rioting in the capital by unpaid troops. Justinian refused to give the usual debt relief, and taxes for the many wars were unrelenting, while pay for soldiers fell years behind.
The poor suffered too from the monopolies, and even bread and water were hard to obtain. In Egypt Alexandrians experienced similar misery under its governor Hephaestus, as he controlled the economy to enrich himself and the Emperor. Justinian sent Liberius to replace Rhodo as governor of Alexandria after the latter tortured Psoes to death at the instigation of Paul and Arsenius. Archdeacon Pelagius was sent by Pope Vigilius to investigate. Rhodo fled to Constantinople, where Justinian had him beheaded and confiscated his property. Theodora got Liberius to execute Arsenius, who previously had been useful to her and had only accompanied Paul; yet Paul, who was convicted of homicide, only lost his priesthood. Later Justinian appointed Paul bishop of Alexandria.
Yet four or five years after Procopius wrote The Secret History, which the Emperor apparently never saw, he published Buildings, praising Justinian for the many edifices he had constructed. He began by writing that the Emperor purified and strengthened the laws, eliminating their contradictions. Procopius flattered Justinian for doubling the territory of the empire and increasing its power, noting that he even allowed those caught plotting to assassinate him to keep their property. He dedicated 25 churches in Constantinople, and some funds were spent for wells and hospitals to relieve pilgrims. Many bridges, hospitals, and aqueducts were constructed, and in Buildings Procopius even credited Justinian with saving the empire with the ring of fortresses that lined the borders.
The many new laws proclaimed by Justinian make it clear that at least attempts were made to reform abuses. Governors who took bribes were liable to exile, confiscation of property, and even corporal punishment. Subjects were exhorted to obey the laws and pay their taxes in full because of the Emperor's acquisitions of territory. Many provinces were reorganized, as dioceses were eliminated. Wanting uniform Roman law and to break up large estates, Justinian objected to Armenian prohibitions of women inheriting property. Consuls were expected to pay such large amounts for public spectacles and largesses that few could afford the honor, and the state became too broke to subsidize the office. After Belisarius in 535 and John of Cappadocia in 538, Basilius in 541 became the last consul. The traditional way of designating the Roman years for nearly a millennium now became the number of years since the consulship of Basilius.
Because of expenditures for the disasters of war, famine, plague, and earthquakes, the state could no longer pay teachers and physicians, and few people could afford a lawyer. Public amusements were greatly decreased, and some towns could not afford to light their streets. Not until most of the wars were over in 552 was the Emperor able to cancel arrears of taxation. Yet conquests, particularly in Africa, enabled the state to increase greatly its imperial lands. Justinian feared the large landowners, who had their own private armies and tax collectors, and one of his new laws blamed the abuses and crimes of the local managers of landlords' estates for the plundering of the state. In 542 Peter Barsymes made the manufacture of silk a state monopoly; ten years later two monks smuggled silk worm eggs from China, and soon orchards of mulberry trees spread in Syria, giving the empire a lucrative new industry. When the price of labor increased after the plague, the Emperor issued an edict in 544 to enforce the old prices and wages. Justinian reduced the maximum interest rate from twelve to eight percent and prohibited senators and aristocrats from charging more than four percent, though 12% could still be charged for risky sea voyages. Roman coins were still the most respected in the commercial world, and many found their way to India and China, though Persians controlled this trade through Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
Justinian spent much of his time studying and discussing Christian theology, and his life was dedicated to establishing one state, one law, and one church in a revived and expanded Roman empire. He issued an edict that canons of the four ecumenical councils were valid imperial laws. All citizens must be orthodox Christians, and those who strayed very far could lose their civil rights and have their earthly goods withheld. To serve the state one must have three witnesses declare one's orthodoxy. Heretics were barred from the professions of law and teaching, and a woman could lose her dowry and property. Manichaeans and relapsed heretics could even be executed. Jews and especially Samaritans were persecuted. After a revolt broke out in Samaria in 529, according to Malalas, 20,000 Samaritans were killed and 20,000 more were sold into slavery to the Saracens; this is probably more accurate than the report by Procopius that 100,000 died. Jews generally retained their civil rights but could not serve the state.
The intolerance of Justinian meant the final death throes of paganism as even the Athenian schools were closed in 529. A zealous Monophysite named John of Ephesus in 542 was sent as a missionary to heathens in the eastern provinces and claimed in his Ecclesiastical History that he converted 70,000, as temples were destroyed, and 96 churches and 12 monasteries were founded. Four years later he denounced grammarians, sophists, lawyers, and physicians, subjecting them to torture and imprisonment. Pagan books were publicly burned in Constantinople in 559.
Most affected by Justinian's laws against heresy were the many Monophysite Christians in Egypt and the East. After Justinian gained the reconciliation with the western church in 518, Monophysite bishops were expelled from their sees. Banished from Antioch by the synod of Tyre, the Monophysite leader Severus found refuge in Alexandria. About ten years later the exiled prelates and monks were allowed to return, though Severus refused to attend the conference at Constantinople in 531. Montanists had been forbidden to assemble or baptize in 530. Empress Theodora favored the Monophysites and got Anthimus elected patriarch at Constantinople in 535. Pope Agapetus came from Rome and insisted that he be deposed, and he consecrated Menas in his place. Anthimus hid in Theodora's palace. This resulted in renewed persecution and torture of Monophysites led by Ephraim of Antioch. When Agapetus died, Theodora sent 200 pounds of gold to get Vigilius elected; but Theodahad in Rome selected Silverius. In 537 Belisarius met with both Silverius and Vigilius, banishing the former to Lydia as a monk and allowing Vigilius to be ordained bishop of Rome.
Justinian replaced the Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria in 537 with Paul; but he was so violent that the Emperor had to banish him to Gaza. Monophysites in Egypt came under attack for espousing doctrines derived from Origen such as the rejection of eternal damnation. In 546 Justinian tried to settle the theological difficulties by promulgating an edict referred to as the Three Chapters that condemned the Nestorian views of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Ibas. Pope Vigilius went to Constantinople and opposed the Three Chapters in his Judicatum. This effort by the Emperor to proclaim church dogma led eventually to the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553. Pope Vigilius kept changing his mind and was also condemned by the council, and Pelagius was imprisoned for signing the Pope's document. Vigilius had spent seven years in Constantinople and died in Syracuse before he could get back to Rome. Pelagius changed his view and was made the next bishop of Rome in 555 by the Emperor's influence, though opposition in the West caused Pelagius to change his mind again. This Fifth Council settled little but caused a temporary schism in the West since northern Italy disagreed.
Justinian made a lasting contribution to civilization by having Roman laws revised and clarified. The latest of three Codes had been that of Theodosius II in 438. Soon after Justinian became Emperor himself he appointed a commission of ten jurists led by Tribonian and Theophilus, and the Codex Justinianus was published in ten books in 529, becoming law and replacing the three older codes. Next Tribonian supervised sixteen lawyers for three years to produce the fifty books of the Digest or Pandects in 533, arranging, reducing, and revising the works of previous jurists. The commission read 2,000 books by 39 authors; but the five main commentators were Gaius, Papinian, Ulpian, Paulus, and Modestinus, and a majority of their opinions ruled with Papinian being authoritative if they were equally divided. This also became valid law and rendered all other books by jurists obsolete. The next year two books were added to the Codex, giving it a total of 4652 laws. Tribonian and law professors Theophilus from Constantinople and Dorotheus from Beirut also produced the Institutions from the commentaries of Gaius. This also had authority and was to be used as a text with the others for law students at Constantinople, Rome, and Beirut, now the only law schools in the empire. Beirut was destroyed by an earthquake, tidal wave, and fire in 551; the law school moved to Sidon but declined. Justinian's laws were completed by the 153 new laws he enacted which were called Novels. Many of these were published in spoken Greek for easy comprehension.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Corpus Juris Civilis Justiniani was the legal support it gave to monarchical authority. In the republic laws had been made by assemblies, magistrates, and the Senate; but during the empire the Emperor promulgated most laws by edict. This new law code simply bore the name of the Emperor. Civil laws were simplified by eliminating most of the ambiguities of freed slaves by classifying everyone as either citizens or slaves, though the freed still had obligations to their patrons. Slavery derived from the laws of nations since slaves usually originated as war captives; but it became hereditary. Gaius noted though that one person becoming the property of another was contrary to natural right. Justinian's new laws made it easier to free slaves and no longer limited the number that could be manumitted. The traditional Roman power of the father continued but was moderated by limiting his power to sell his children into slavery. Parents were liable for the exposure of a child, and the new code prohibited making an exposed child a slave.
Punishments were still much more severe for the lower classes than they were for senators, knights, soldiers, veterans, decurions, and their children. Slaves, of course, were punished even more cruelly, though in imperial Rome, as opposed to the old republic, the lower classes could be tortured too. The privileged were never thrown to wild beasts in the arena and rarely were sent to work in the mines, but they were more likely to be deported or have property confiscated. In this century mutilation became more common, indicating the middle ages were beginning. Serfs called cultivators (coloni) composed most of the population and were still legally tied to the land.
The new laws codified the increased rights of women as well as children. Dissolving the father's power over the child was made easier, either to make the child independent or adopted. Divorces were easy to obtain, though the influence of Christianity was now making them more difficult. Divorce was by mutual consent or by one spouse repudiating the other by stating the reason to seven citizens. Constantine had greatly reduced the allowable reasons and made adultery a capital crime; Theodosius II abolished those restrictions but later revived some of them. Justinian added the grounds of the husband's impotence or if either person wanted to live ascetically. His law in 542 required wives and husbands who repudiated their mates without legal grounds to be consigned to a monastery, and this confinement also replaced the death penalty for adultery. The number of grounds for divorce were reduced; but a husband could still divorce his wife for banqueting or bathing with strange men or staying out of the house or visiting circus shows or theaters without his consent.
Previously only patricians had been married by religious ceremony, while others were wed by fictitious sale (coemptio) or by cohabiting for one year (usus). These methods had put the wife under the control (manus) of her husband, but now this became obsolete as marriage was by consent. Wives were no longer under the father's power (patria potesta) or guardianship (tutela) like daughters, as guardianship only affected those who had not yet reached puberty. Because of Paul's view that the man is the head, women could be cruelly punished for deriding men. Concubinage was allowed to gratify passion rather than for founding a family; any children produced had no legal relation to the father. Concubinage was socially disapproved by many though, especially if the man was already married.
Ulpian had summarized the maxims of law as living honestly, harming no one, and giving everyone what is due. Paulus wrote that robbery with violence was liable to quadruple damages, and Ulpian added that whoever has suffered violence and can prove it may proceed by a public criminal action. Violence makes robbery malicious, but it can also be malicious without violence by dishonesty. Roman delicts allowed one to sue for damages due to negligence.
After his death in 565 the expanded empire of Justinian fell apart. Justinian was succeeded by his nephew Justin II (r. 565-578); he banished his cousin Justin, son of Germanus, to Alexandria, where he was assassinated, and the senators Aetherius and Addaeus were executed for treason in 566. The Gepids sent gifts, and Roman forces led by Baduarius helped Kunimund win a battle over Alboin's Lombards. Alboin turned to the Avar Khagan Baian, because the Romans had not paid their tribute. Baian agreed for one-tenth of the Lombard animals and half the spoils of the conquered Gepids. A Lombard embassy to the Emperor complaining about the Gepids secured Roman neutrality. The Gepids were driven from their territory, and Kunimund was killed, though his grandson took the Gepid treasury to Constantinople. Alboin took Kunimund's daughter Rosamund as his wife. The Avars besieged Sirmium, while Baian sent 10,000 Kotrigur Huns across the Save to plunder Dalmatia. Tiberius urged Justin to accept the Avar terms; but he refused until Tiberius had been defeated in battle about 570.
The Turks as Persia's eastern enemy sent an envoy in 568 to offer Justin II an alliance with an alternative trade route to China. Since Justin was imposing orthodoxy on Armenia, Khusrau I sent the Surena to build a fire temple at Dovin and impose the Zarathustran faith in Persarmenia. The Armenians gained a promise from Justin that they would have religious toleration in the Roman empire, and they defeated 15,000 Persians and killed the Surena in 571. Now with an empty treasury Justin broke the treaty with Persia by refusing to pay the tribute for the northern forts, and he sent Julian to urge Axum's Abyssinian king Arethas to invade Persia. Also as the patriarch John's diplomatic efforts had failed to reconcile the Monophysites, Justin ordered heretics persecuted. Justin's cousin Marcianus invaded Arzanene and besieged Nisibis in 573. The Roman army abandoned Nisibis when Marcianus was replaced by Acacius Archelaus. Khusrau had relieved Nisibis and now successfully besieged Dara, while Adarmaanes invaded Syria, capturing Antioch and 292,000 prisoners. These disasters pushed the mentally suffering Justin over the edge; he stopped trade in the capital and was deemed so insane that the Empress and Tiberius took over the government. She offered to pay 45,000 gold coins (nomismata) for peace with Persia, and Tiberius was adopted as Justin's son and named Caesar in 574.
Tiberius stopped the ecclesiastical oppression of the Monophysites and tried to support the people against the aristocratic policies of Justin by remitting taxes for a year and relieving the ravages the Persians had inflicted on Syria. Tiberius gained a truce with Persia for three years so he could re-organize the army; but as Armenia was not included, Khusrau I invaded and burned Melitene, though Roman forces then chased him across the Euphrates. Justinian's forces pillaged Persia but were defeated in Armenia in 576. Tiberius appointed Maurice chief commander, and he recruited a larger army. Justin crowned Tiberius Emperor just before he died in 578. In 580 Baian's Avars begin constructing a bridge across the Save, and before he died in 582 Tiberius allowed Sirmium to surrender and pay 240,000 nomismata. In his final days Tiberius made Maurice Caesar and crowned him Emperor.
After Maurice's commander Philippicus retreated from a Persian battle in 587, Heraclius became commander in the East. Philippicus warned Maurice not to cut the soldiers pay by a quarter; but he was replaced by Priscus, who had to flee a mutiny to Constantina. Riots there and at Edessa drove him back to the capital. Aristobolus took gifts to the soldiers, and Germanus invaded Persia with 4,000 men, capturing 3,000. Philippicus tried to recapture Martyropolis in Armenia in 590; but he failed and was replaced by Comentiolus. In Persia the misrule of Hormizd IV (r. 579-590) caused a revolt in Khuzistan and Kerman. Hormizd turned to the Turks, but Shaweh Shah used the opportunity to march toward the Persian capital. Media's governor Vahram Chobin defeated the Turks and made them pay tribute. Vahram then invaded the Roman territory of the Caucasus, but he was eventually defeated by Romanus and recalled by Hormizd. At Ctesiphon a conspiracy assassinated Hormizd and crowned Khusrau II (r. 590-628), but his troops deserted to Vahram. Khusrau went to Circesium, asking for Roman protection in exchange for Armenia, Martyropolis, and Dara. So Maurice provided funds and troops under Narses, who defeated Vahram and restored Khusrau on his throne in 591.
The Balkans had been invaded and plundered by Avars and Slavs with the latter settling permanently. The Persian treaty enabled Maurice to move his army west, and they attacked the Slavs and Avars across the Danube in 592. Maurice also reverted to religious persecution, and conflicts between the Blues and Greens tore apart all the major cities. Comentiolus wanted to surrender the northern frontier in 600 and fled to the capital; but the next year Priscus won battles killing many thousands, and in 602 some Avars deserted to Peter's imperial forces. However, orders for the army to winter beyond the Danube resulted in a mutiny led by the centurion Phocas. In the capital Maurice could rely on the 900 Blues, but they were opposed by 1500 Greens. Germanus, believing he was suspected of treason, armed his followers and took refuge in the Sophia cathedral; but the Emperor's use of force there started a riot. Maurice fled, and the Greens, mistrusting Germanus, had Phocas crowned Emperor by the Patriarch in another church. Maurice was executed after witnessing the murder of his five sons. Comentiolus, Peter, and other aristocrats were also killed.
Phocas (r. 602-610) recognized the Roman church as the head, and his orthodox policy persecuted Monophysites and Jews. The Greens turned against him and were banned from holding offices, while the Blues terrorized the empire in civil war. Phocas failed to stop Slav and Avar invasions of the Balkans with more tribute and withdrew the army from Thrace. Khusrau II, claiming to avenge the murder of Maurice, regained Armenia. Narses revolted and seized Edessa for Persia; he later was induced to surrender, but Phocas broke his word and had him burned to death in the capital. The Persian army captured the Dara fortress in 605, overran Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia, and in 608 invaded Cappadocia, taking Caesarea and reaching the Bosporus two years later. At Antioch in 608 Monophysites gathered, fought imperial troops, and killed the orthodox patriarch. Bonosus was sent to repress Antioch and from there went to quell riots in Jerusalem.
Carthage exarch Heraclius challenged the tyranny of Phocas
and negotiated with the Senate. His son Heraclius and his chief
general's son Nicetas carried out the revolution by organizing
forces in the Pentapolis and Alexandria. Bonosus left Jerusalem
to march against Nicetas at Alexandria; but after taking the Delta,
Bonosus had to flee through Asia to Constantinople. When Heraclius
arrived with a fleet at the capital, Phocas was brought to him
by his own ministers and put to death. Heraclius was crowned Emperor
by Patriarch Sergius, and the standard of the Blues was burned
in the Hippodrome. The Roman empire had become a Byzantine empire
in the East.
In the West Lombard king Alboin invaded Italy with a large army that included 20,000 Saxons in 568, the year after Italy's governor Narses was recalled to the capital at the request of suffering Italian tax payers who resented his immense wealth. Alboin's forces entered Milan the next year as Archbishop Honoratus fled from the Arians to Genoa. Pope John III (561-574) went to Naples and begged Narses to return to Rome. Narses did so and administered Rome until he died in 571 at the age of 95. By the next year the Lombards had established Pavia as their capital and had taken over most of the Italian peninsula except Ravenna, Rome, and the seaports with walls that prevented land attacks. Alboin had married Kunimund's daughter Rosamund; but revolted by having to drink out of her father's skull, she conspired with Alboin's foster-brother Helmechis and the powerful Peredeo, and they murdered Alboin in his bed in 572. Rosamund and Helmechis took the Lombard treasure and fled to Ravenna, where Helmechis made her take the poison she had given him. The Saxons left Italy for Gaul, but they were repulsed by the Frank forces led by Mummolus. A year later the Saxons managed to get through Gaul, though punished by Mummolus; but at their old home most of them were killed by immigrant Swabians.
Duke Cleph became king of the Lombards at Ticinum (Pavia), but he was murdered in 574. After that the Lombard bands in Italy were ruled by 35 dukes. The Lombards divided the land, and the coloni continued to work as their serfs. During their first seven years in Italy the Lombards raided Gaul five times. An imperial army led by Justin's son-in-law Baduarius was defeated by the Lombards in 576, and Baduarius was killed. Military and civilian control of remaining imperial territory was given to a powerful exarch in Ravenna, and Africa was ruled by an exarch in Carthage. Subordinate provinces remained in Rome, Naples, and Venice.
Emperor Maurice sent 50,000 solidi to Austrasia's king Childebert so he would invade the Lombards in 584. That year the Lombards elected Cleph's son Authari king and granted him half their lands. Authari used diplomacy and gained a truce for three years. In 589 Authari married Theodelinda, daughter of Bavarian king Garibald. That year Ravenna's new imperial exarch Romanus took back the towns Altinum, Modena, and Mantua, and the next year twenty Frank dukes crossed the Alps and ravaged Italy as the Lombards stayed inside their fortifications; but famine and epidemics soon caused the Franks to make peace and go home, as Authari died in 590. Turin duke Agilulf married Authari's widow Theodelinda and was proclaimed king by Lombards assembled at Milan in 591. He secured the northern border by making a treaty with the Avars. Benevento duke Arichis consolidated southern Italy, and in 592 Spoleto duke Ariulf broke the land communication between Rome and Ravenna.
The next year Pope Gregory seems to have made a treaty with
Ariulf; but Exarch Romanus thought the prelate was duped and seized
Perugia and several other cities. King Agilulf in reaction to
this breach of faith occupied Perugia and besieged Rome until
Pope Gregory arranged a treaty, agreeing to pay the Lombards 500
pounds of gold from church funds. However, the imperial Exarch
did not acknowledge it, and the war went on until Romanus died
in 596. Gregory's confidant Abbot Probus negotiated another treaty
for the next exarch Callinicus in 598 that lasted three years;
then the fighting continued as the Lombards used Slavs and Avars
as allies. In the armistice of 605 Exarch Smaragadus agreed to
pay 12,000 solidi, and this armistice was prolonged until
Agilulf died in 616.
A portion of Spain had been taken back into the empire in 554, but that year Athanagild became king of the Visigoths, established his capital at Toledo, and engaged in a war with the imperial forces that would last thirteen years. The Visigoths also ruled part of Gaul, and his two daughters helped form alliances by marrying two Frank kings; Brunhild married Sigibert of Austrasia, and in 567 Galswintha married Chilperic of Neustria. Athanagild's brothers Liuwa and Leovigild succeeded him in 568. By the reign of Theodomir (559-570) the Suevi kingdom in northwest Spain had been converted to Catholicism by Martin of Braga. Leovigild invaded the Sueves in 569, and the war went on until his brother Liuwa died in 573. Leovigild made his son Hermenegild duke of Narbonne and his son Recared duke of Toledo, as he tried to consolidate his power; but rebellious nobles caused him to quell insurgencies in Toledo and Evora with severe punishments in 574. Further campaigns to control independent territories lasted another four years.
Hermenegild was sent to Seville, where he was converted from
Arianism to Catholicism by his wife Ingundis and Bishop Leander,
inspiring Spanish Romans to proclaim him their king. Leovigild
convoked a synod of Arian bishops at Toledo in 580 to expand their
faith. The next year Leovigild's forces occupied rebelling Vasconia.
Before attacking Seville in 583 Leovigild bought off the Byzantines
with 30,000 gold coins. The siege of Seville lasted two years,
and Hermenegild was finally killed by Duke Sigebert in Tarragona
in 585 because he refused to abjure Catholicism. By then the Suevic
kingdom had fallen and was made a Visigothic province. Recared
was fighting the Franks in Septimania when he learned his father
was dying; Leovigild repented and entrusted the spiritual care
of his son Recared to Leander. Recared returned to Spain and was
elected king in 586. Recared had Sigebert executed and converted
to Catholicism, making it the religion of the Visigothic state
in 589 at a Toledo council. In 603 Recared was killed in an insurrection
led by Count Witteric, who was supported by Arians; but in 610
the Catholics killed him, and the nobles made Gundemar king.
Martin was born in Pannonia (Hungary) and migrated to the Suevic kingdom in the middle of the 6th century. He was called Martin of Braga, where he founded a monastery, and he was ordained bishop at Dumium in 556. He attended the first council of Braga in 561 and supervised the second council there in 572. He died in 579. Martin enhanced Christian enlightenment in the region by translating Sayings of the Egyptian Fathers from Greek into Latin and adapted the moral teachings of the eastern monks and John Cassian by writing on vanity, pride, and humility. His work "Anger" is closely based on the essay by Seneca, and his "Rules for an Honest Life" written for the accession of Suevi king Miro in 570 recommends the four classical virtues of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice.
Leander of Seville became a friend of Gregory when they were both in Constantinople in the early 580s. His sermon on the church's triumph at the conversion of the Goths at Toledo in 589 is preserved. In this he compared heresy to the thorns outside of paradise and to adulterous women and prostitutes, while he delighted in unity. Leander wrote The Training of Nuns for his sister Florentina. In this book he praised virginity and described how nuns should avoid the laity, shun holy men as well as young men, serve other nuns, repay those who love them, have a sense of shame, endure a slanderer yet slander no one, not be proud but humble, eat temperately, not criticize other nuns, pray and study continuously, not speak to a man alone, not laugh presumptuously, be steadfast in poverty and abundance, not eat meat, stay in one monastery, not have personal possessions, not take an oath, not speak with another nun alone, and not desire to return to the world. When Leander died in 600, he was succeeded as bishop of Seville by his younger brother Isidore, who would go on to become a famous scholar and educator.
When Chlotar died in 561, the Frank kingdom was divided by his four sons - Charibert at Paris, Sigibert at Metz in Austrasia, Guntram at Orleans in Burgundy, and Chilperic at Soissons in Neustria. As the son of a different mother, Chilperic hated his three half-brothers. In 562 while Sigibert was fighting off the Avars on his eastern frontier, Chilperic attacked Rheims, beginning a civil war. Sigibert reacted by capturing Soissons and Chilperic's son Theudebert, who was released after a year on his promise not to fight his uncle.
Charibert married in succession three servant girls and quarreled with priests; but he died in 567, and his kingdom was divided by his brothers, each agreeing not to enter Paris without the others' permission. Charibert's latest wife Theudechild was ready to marry his brother Guntram; but instead Guntram took her treasure and sent her to a nunnery at Arles. When she tried to escape to a Spanish Goth, Theudechild was beaten and locked up for the rest of her life. Guntram also had concubines, and his wife Marcatrude killed the son of one. When Marcatrude's own son died, Guntram dismissed her and married Austrechild, a servant's daughter. Guntram appointed Mummolus patrician to lead his army in fighting off invading Lombards.
In 566 Sigibert married Brunhild, daughter of Visigothic king Athangild of Spain. Though Arian, she was well educated and converted to Catholicism. For her wedding she was praised in verse by the poet Fortunatus. Chilperic then married Brunhild's sister Galswinth; but he had already married Audovera, who had three sons and a daughter, and he was even more captivated by her maidservant Fredegund. After Fredegund tricked Audovera into baptizing her daughter Basina without a godmother, Chilperic sent Audovera to a nunnery and married Fredegund, who had Audovera murdered about 580. Galswinth brought a large dowry; but she complained that Chilperic did not keep his promise to put away his other wives, and she begged to go home. However, Fredegund ordered Galswinth killed in her sleep. Brunhild's resentment at her sister's death increased the enmity between Chilperic and Sigibert.
Fredegund used her charms to gain an alliance with Guntram and got Chilperic to go to war with his brother Sigibert in 573. Chilperic sent his son Theudebert to invade Sigibert's western territory, and his forces captured Tours and Poitiers, burning and plundering churches and monasteries. Sigibert called in Teutonic mercenaries and marched on Paris; but Brunhild and Paris bishop Germain successfully pleaded that the city be spared. Theudebert was killed, and Guntram changed sides and signed a treaty with Sigibert. Chilperic sent his son Clovis to attack Guntram's Burgundy; but he was expelled from Tours by Mummolus and escaped to Bordeaux. Many of Chilperic's suffering people turned their allegiance to Sigibert. Bishop Germain warned Sigibert not to kill his brother, or he would die. Yet Sigibert gathered some of Chilperic's mutinous army at Vitry and prepared to besiege his brother at Tournai; Queen Fredegund sent two young men, who assassinated Sigibert in 575.
Brunhild in Paris began ruling as the regent for her five-year-old son Childebert; but Chilperic marched to Paris and exiled Brunhild in a convent at Rouen, taking her treasure. Duke Gundovald helped the boy Childebert escape to Metz, where he was crowned. King Chilperic allowed Queen Brunhild to return to Metz to please the Austrasian Mayor of the Palace and the nobles. She took control as regent for her son Childebert II, whom she saw well educated, and she had the Roman roads and buildings repaired; but the aristocracy was not happy with the increased taxation.
Chilperic complained the church had become so wealthy that no one had power anymore except the bishops, and he began taxing church lands and canceling wills that bequeathed property to the church. His taxing was so oppressive that many people chose to emigrate or rebel; in Limoges the tax collector Mark was only saved by Bishop Ferreolus, while a mob burned his records. Chilperic sent in soldiers to punish the city and enforce the taxation. Brittany also revolted and was suppressed. Chilperic was influenced by Roman emperor Tiberius and modified the Salic law, allowing women to inherit, and he had amphitheaters built at Soissons and Paris. Chilperic wrote poetry, which was praised by Fortunatus. Chilperic used the Jew Priscus to purchase art works and argued with him about theology. The king had been godfather to several Jews, who had been forced to convert, and one of them murdered Priscus. Relatives of Priscus killed the murderer and were not prosecuted because of Chilperic's law that criminals were outside the law and could be punished by private individuals.
Chilperic sent Duke Roccolen to invade Aquitane; but he did little damage at Tours when Bishop Gregory refused his demands. At Poitiers the duke ate so many baby rabbits that he died in agony. So King Chilperic sent his son Merovech with an army to attack Poitiers, but instead Merovech marched on Tours. Then he went to Rouen to visit his mother Audovera and married Brunhild, Bishop Praetextatus performing the ceremony. Chilperic objected, because Merovech had married his uncle's widow; they took sanctuary in the church of St. Martin until Chilperic promised them safety. Chilperic banished Praetextatus, and a council of bishops convicted him of conspiring against Chilperic. Gregory reported that Fredegund tried to bribe him with 200 pounds of silver to testify against Praetextatus; but the historian bishop refused.
Meanwhile troops attacked Soisson, driving out Fredegund and Chilperic's son Clovis until Chilperic returned with his army to re-take his capital. Chilperic sent Clovis to raise an army at Tours, and they marched through Touraine and Anjou. King Guntram's commander Mummolus invaded Limoges and attacked Chilperic's commander Desiderius, killing 5,000 of his troops. Chilperic had Merovech's long hair cut off as he was ordained a priest and sent to a monastery in Le Mans. Merovech threw off the monastic garb and went to St. Martin's church in Tours, asking the historian Bishop Gregory for sanctuary. The angry Chilperic threatened to set fire to the region; but Gregory provided hospitality. Merovech next took sanctuary at Auxerre; but Austrasian nobles prevented his reunion with Brunhild. He was surrounded by his father's soldiers at Rheims. Merovech requested his servant Gailen kill him with his sword, and he did. Queen Fredegund ordered the loyal Gailen horribly mutilated.
In 580 Fredegund's two little sons were infected by the plague; she realized her many possessions had little value if she lost her sons, and she burned the tax rolls of her cities. Chilperic also had a change of heart and remitted taxes and gave more charity to the poor for the rest of his life; but their two sons died anyway. Fredegund had Chilperic send Clovis, his son by Audovera, to Berny, hoping he would die of the plague too. He survived; but when she heard Clovis boasting he would rule all of Gaul, she had him imprisoned for witchcraft and murdered. During the same plague Queen Austrechild got her husband Guntram to kill her two doctors when she died of the disease.
The next year Childebert broke his treaty with Guntram and allied with Chilperic, and Mummolus fled Guntram's kingdom to Avignon. Queen Brunhild boldly stopped an attack on Duke Lupus of Champagne by his enemies Ursio and Berthefried when she placed herself between their forces. The latter then stole property from the house of Lupus, who took refuge at the court of Guntram. Chilperic sent Desiderius to attack King Guntram; Desiderius forced Duke Ragnovald to flee and occupied Périgueux. King Chilperic tried to avoid a curse for entering Paris without permission by sending in relics of saints first. In 583 Desiderius and Bladast attacked Bourges, and 7,000 were killed in the battle. Then Guntram's army destroyed most of Chilperic's, and the next morning the two brothers made peace.
In 584 Chilperic was assassinated by two men after a hunt; according to a later chronicler they were sent by Queen Fredegund after her husband had learned of her lover Landeric, possibly the father of her infant Chlotar II, who now became king of Neustria. Fredegund went to Paris and invited King Guntram to take charge of his late brother's kingdom for her tiny baby. Guntram marched his army to Paris; but the Parisians refused to allow Childebert II to enter the city. Guntram claimed the territory of Charibert, because both Sigibert and Chilperic had entered Paris without permission and died. Childebert sent messengers demanding that Guntram turn over Fredegund; but he protected her. The Neustrian aristocrats swore allegiance to Guntram and his nephew Chlotar II. Guntram kept guards around himself wherever he went, and he asked for three years to bring up his two nephews, whom he adopted as his sons; his own two sons had died of dysentery in 577.
Chlotar's mother Fredegund ruled as regent with help from Landeric, the Mayor of the Palace. After Burgundy king Guntram traveled to Paris three times for the baptism of Chlotar to no avail, he suspected he was not the son of Chilperic. So Fredegund gathered three bishops and 300 reputable citizens to swear that he was. Chlotar II eventually became the sole heir of the Merovingian dynasty and would rule the Frank kingdom until 628. Unlike her rival Brunhild, Fredegund was not influenced by Roman culture, and she had more support from the aristocrats, who were less Teutonic in Neustria. Fredegund used torture to learn about the conspiracy of Leudast, Count of Tours, and then tortured him to death. After Chilperic died, Praetextatus regained his see; but Fredegund could not stand his criticism and had him murdered in his cathedral at Rouen.
Gundovald claimed to be a son of Chlotar I and thus the brother of Guntram; but his father had not acknowledged him and cut off his hair. Gundovald worked painting walls; he went to Guntram, who dismissed him as the son of a weaver or miller. King Sigibert also had his hair shorn and imprisoned him. Gundovald escaped to Constantinople, where he was treated as royalty at the imperial court for about fifteen years. Gundovald was given treasure by Emperor Maurice and gained the support of many Austrasian nobles including Duke Desiderius and the general Mummolus, who was in exile from Guntram's Burgundy. Warriors proclaimed Gundovald king in 585. Guntram raised a large army with universal conscription and marched against rebelling Poitiers; the region was looted, the buildings set on fire, and the inhabitants were massacred. The troops also plundered Tours. Gundovald went to Angouleme, where he bribed the chief citizens and gained oaths of loyalty. From there he went to Périgueux and Toulouse with his army. Guntram summoned Childebert II, whom he acknowledged as a grown man and his heir. At Comminges Gundovald was deserted by Desiderius, then by Duke Bladast, and he was finally betrayed by Mummolus, Bishop Sagittarius, and Waddo. Gundovald was killed, and Guntram ordered Mummolus and Sagittarius executed. Every person in Comminges was massacred including the priests, and the whole city was burned to the ground.
In this bloody year of 585 almost all of Gaul suffered famine, as Guntram also marched his army against the Goths in Septimania. Crops and herds along the Saone and the Rhone were destroyed, as many were killed and booty was taken from churches. At Carcassonne they met the Visigoths; the Frank army panicked and headed for home. Goths using ambushes killed many and stole their goods. Since the crops of Provence had been burned, about 5,000 were killed or died of hunger marching home. King Guntram summoned the bishops and criticized his commanders for no longer keeping the conventions of their forefathers. He argued that plundering holy places and slaughtering ministers were the causes of their defeats. As Guntram concluded his speech, a messenger reported that Leuvigild's son Recared had captured the Cabaret castle and ravaged the region of Toulouse. Guntram appointed Leudegisel commander and assigned 4,000 troops to the region of Arles. Recared sent envoys to negotiate peace; but Guntram resented the death of his niece Ingund at Carthage. However, Childebert and his mother Brunhild promised peace to Recared's envoys.
A conspiracy to assassinate King Childebert by Rauching, Ursio, and Berthefried was discovered early, and each was killed, Berthefried in a church. Young Childebert had accepted 50,000 gold coins from Roman Emperor Maurice to attack the Lombards in 584. He crossed the Alps with an army and then accepted gifts from the Lombards too; he did not respond when Maurice asked for his money back. Over the next years Childebert did occasionally attack the Lombards, and in 590 they captured five castles; but the wild Franks took to plundering the countryside and ended up devastated by hunger and dysentery. An invasion by Bretons into Nantes in 587 was thwarted by Guntram's army, and they agreed to pay a thousand gold pieces in compensation to Guntram and Chlotar. Two years later Guntram again sent his army to stop the Bretons ravaging Nantes and Rennes, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. In 588 the historian Gregory was sent from Metz to Guntram on a diplomatic mission, and he recorded the treaty that clarified the Frank kingdoms of Guntram, Childebert, and Brunhild. Guntram sent his army to attack Septimania again in 589; but they fell into a trap, losing 5,000 killed and 2,000 captured. King Guntram became so alarmed that he closed his border to Childebert's kingdom. That year Fredegund nearly strangled her own daughter Rigunth in a chest with her own hands, blaming her for sleeping with too many men.
When Childebert was told that his chamberlain Chundo had violated his hunting preserve, two surrogates were killed in a trial by combat; then Chundo was executed. Nuns led by the princesses Clotild and her cousin Basina left their monastery in protest of the Abbess and later attacked it. A commission of bishops excommunicated the two and restored the Abbess. Fredegund's attempts to assassinate Brunhild, Childebert II, and his son Theudebert failed. Twelve assassins were caught, tortured, and mutilated. In Tournai a feud between two families left only one family member. Then relations of the families began quarreling, and Queen Fredegund warned them to make peace. Finally she had the last three survivors invited to a banquet and had them beheaded. Other relations sent to King Childebert, and Fredegund had to flee. Fredegund chose this time to invite Guntram to baptize her son Chlotar II at Paris. In 590 the well educated monk Columban with twelve companions arrived from Ireland at the court of Burgundy king Guntram, who approved of their building a monastery in the mountains of the Vosges at Luxeuil and two other places. Hard work in agriculture as well as literary pursuits made them successful. Columban was much more strict than Benedict, as use of the rod for even minor offenses was frequent.
Childebert took over the kingdom of Burgundy when Guntram died in 592. The nobles had Childebert poisoned in 595 so that they could rule as guardians of his infant sons; but Brunhild took over as regent for his sons Theudebert II in Austrasia and Theodoric II in Burgundy. The nobles persuaded Theudebert to banish his grandmother in 599, and Brunhild went to her other grandson in Burgundy. Bishops objected to the independent Columban, but he refused to attend a synod regarding his Celtic methods in 603. Columban criticized Theodoric for using concubines and urged him to marry. When the young king chose Ermenberta, daughter of Visigothic king Recared, Brunhild felt her power threatened and opposed her so strenuously that he sent her back to Spain. Brunhild then asked Columban to baptize two of her grandchildren by Theodoric's concubines. The abbot refused, calling them "children of a brothel" and sent Theodoric a letter threatening to excommunicate him. The king reacted by putting Columban in jail, but the abbot miraculously escaped and went home. He would not allow Theodoric to enter his monastery and predicted his kingdom would be destroyed with his royal family within three years. Columban and his Irish monks were expelled in 610; but the ship to Ireland ran aground, and they went through Paris to the court of Austrasia king Theudebert at Metz.
Meanwhile Neustria's king Chlotar II had been encroaching on Burgundy until the brothers Theudebert II and Theodoric II joined to push him back and take part of Neustria. In 612 Brunhild persuaded Burgundy king Theodoric to attack his brother's kingdom of Austrasia. In a bloody battle at Zülpich the Burgundians were victorious; Theudebert was captured and beheaded. Theodoric ruled over Burgundy, Austrasia, and part of Neustria; but he died of dysentery the next year. Brunhild chose Theodoric's son Sigibert as king; but the aristocrats' powerful leaders Arnulf and Pepin offered the crown of all three kingdoms to Chlotar II, who paid off Brunhild's generals. The great grandmother was deserted by her army. After torturing her for three days Chlotar had Brunhild brutally trampled to death by an unbroken horse in 613.
During the civil war Columban had fled to Milan, where he was received by the Arian Lombard king Agilulf. Later Columban also visited Chlotar II and died in 615. By then there were forty monasteries using his rules, and within a century there would be 94 for men and women. Columban disagreed with the prevailing attitude that women are impure, and he founded double monasteries for both sexes and often counseled married women. He was not suspicious of pagan ideas and helped to foster Greek and Latin literature.
The Dane invader Hengest summoned a tribe of Saxons and settled them in Northumberland while he governed Kent from Canterbury for about forty years until he died in 488. Other Saxons as well as Angles and Jutes also invaded the island. The Saxon chief Aelle from Germany established a southern Saxony (Sussex) in 477; they defeated the Britons in a costly victory at Meareredsburn in 485. Aelle and his son Cissa led forces that massacred the British garrison Anderida in 491; but Aelle was stopped on the western side when western Saxons commanded by Cerdic and his son Cynric landed in 495. Cerdic called in more Saxons led by Port and his sons Bleda and Megla. After an initial victory in 508 by the Britons commanded by Natanleod, Cynric's Saxons triumphed, killing 5,000 Britons and Natanleod. The short swords of the Saxons proved superior to the arrows of the Britons. Cerdic then besieged Britons on Mount Badon; but the siege was raised in 520 by help from Arthur, prince of the Silures. Though little is known of the historical Arthur, great legends would develop. Cerdic continued to rule Wessex until he died in 534 and was succeeded by Cynric, who ruled until 560. Aelle conquered Lancashire and became king of Deira. Aelle's son Cissa ruled Sussex for 76 years.
In the middle of the 6th century a monk named Gildas wrote a history arguing that British miseries were caused by past mistakes and warning that their prosperous times could be lost if they did not mend their evil ways. Other Saxons had invaded the east coast of the British isle in 527. Uffa became king of the East Angles in 575, Crida of Mercia in 585, and Erkenwin of East Saxony (Essex) about the same time. The Saxon prince Ida, claiming descent from the war god Woden, subdued Northumberland in 547; that year he was crowned king of Bernicia and ruled for twelve years. Saxons led by Cynric defeated Britons in 552 at Sorbiodunum, in 556 at Barbury, in 571 at Bedford, and in 577 at Deorham. Mercians led by Crida settled in the center of the island in 586. In a century and a half of violent conflict these Saxon tribes valued valor most and established a heptarchy of seven kingdoms - Kent, Northumberland (Bernicia and Deira), East Anglia, Mercia, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex.
In Kent Hengest was succeeded by his son Aesc, who passed on a fairly peaceful kingdom to his son Octa in 512. During his reign the East Saxons established a kingdom and took Essex and Middlesex from Kent. When Octa died in 534, his son Hermenric became king of Kent. To smooth the transition of his power in 567 Hermenric associated in his rule his son Aethelbert, who the next year was defeated in battle by the ambitious Wessex king Ceawlin, grandson of Cerdic. In subjecting Sussex, Ceawlin stimulated the other princes to unite against him, and Aethelbert led the Saxon coalition and made all the other princes dependent except Northumberland. Afraid of Ceawlin's fate, Aethelbert wisely resigned Mercia to Webba, son of Crida, its founding king. Ceawlin's sons Cuichelme and Cuthwin ruled Wessex jointly until Cuthwin was expelled in 591, and Cuichelme died two years later. Then Ceolric ruled Sussex until 611.
While his father was still alive, Aethelbert in 584 married Bertha, daughter of Paris king Charibert and a descendant of Clovis. To gain this alliance Aethelbert had to promise her religious freedom. Bertha brought a French bishop to Canterbury and practiced her religion with devotion. Augustine and forty monks came as missionaries in 597 to Aethelbert, who granted them a residence in Canterbury. They lived simply, fasting and praying, and by their examples gradually won converts, including the king, to be baptized. Aethelbert was the first Saxon king to enact written laws; the Christians brought the influence of Roman law, but many Saxon laws on theft, murder, and other crimes were retained. Victims and the state had to be compensated according to the class of the victim. Aethelbert governed Kent for half a century until his death in 616.
In 588 King Aethelric combined his kingdom of Bernicia with Deira to form Northumberland, and Ida's grandson Aethelfrith became king of Northumberland in 593. He married Aelle's daughter Acca, expelled her brother Edwin from Deira, and ruled the combined kingdom of Northumberland. Aethelfrith won a victory over the Scots' King Aidan in 603 at Degsastan. According to the historian Bede, Britons who rejected Augustine were later punished by the army of Aethelfrith when 1200 monks who came to pray at the battle of Chester in 613 were killed. Aethelfrith was defeated and killed in 616 by East Angle king Raedwald, who had given refuge to Edwin, son of Aelle.
Gregory was born about 540 into the aristocratic Anician family in Rome, and he was the great-grandson of Pope Felix (483-492). His mother Sylvia entered a convent and was so devoted that she was later canonized as a saint, as were Tarsilla and Aemiliana, sisters of Gregory's father Gordianus. His education at Rome did not include learning Greek, and Gregory later condemned pagan literature. Emperor Justin II appointed Gregory prefect of Rome in 572 during the Lombard invasion. After his father died, Gregory gave up that position and converted the palace he inherited into St. Andrew's monastery; with the rest of his estate he established six convents in Sicily and helped the poor. Gregory lived as an ascetic monk, eating raw vegetables. After seeing three impressive English youths in the Roman slave market, Gregory asked Pope Benedict I (575-579) to let him be a missionary to convert the English; but the Romans got the Pope to call him back, and he was ordained a deacon in 578.
The next year Pope Pelagius II (579-590) sent Gregory as his representative to Constantinople, the only foreign post of the papacy at that time. There he made friends with several prominent women and men in the palace, including the Emperor's sister Theoctista. At this time Gregory wrote an influential commentary on the book of Job called Magna Moralia. He apparently had little success gaining aid for Rome against the Lombards, and in 584 he returned to Rome, where he became abbot of St. Andrew's.
In 590 Pelagius died in an epidemic, and Gregory was elected bishop of Rome despite his objections and an attempt to flee in a disguise. He did his best to serve the people by continuing to live ascetically and helping the poor with church resources, including 3,000 nuns who fled the Lombards. He called the pope "the servant of God's servants." Gregory was the first monk to become pope, and he made monks bishops and his legates, confirmed the Rule of Benedict at a council of Rome, and guaranteed the liberty and property of convents. Although he did not favor but only tolerated marriage, he considered it unlawful for married persons to enter monasteries without mutual consent. Gregory protested against the oppressive Byzantine taxes that forced some to sell their children or emigrate. However, in a letter to the imperial exarch Gennadius in Africa he urged fighting wars to convert the Donatists. He also objected to an imperial edict that prohibited soldiers from becoming monks, though he still performed his duty of transmitting the law.
Gregory made peace with the Lombards but was over-ruled by the exarch Romanus. He wrote to Empress Constantina complaining that Sicilians and Corsicans were being oppressed by the methods used to raise imperial taxes for war. For nine years Gregory tried to get a treaty between the empire and the Lombards but failed; then he negotiated a truce for Rome and the surrounding regions with King Agilulf. Yet he advised Queen Brunhild to use armed force to stop pagan sacrifices. Gregory's influence extended beyond the imperial boundaries, and in 596 he sent Augustine and forty monks from the St. Andrew's monastery as missionaries to England. By correspondence Gregory answered Augustine's questions. To replace animal sacrifices he suggested thanking God when animals were slaughtered for food. Other pagan festivals could also be replaced by similarly timed Christian celebrations. He warned him that sin comes from suggestion by the devil, pleasure in the flesh, and consent of the will. Yet the evils in the mind the body anticipates with pleasure can be rejected by the soul.
Gregory objected to Constantinople patriarch John calling himself universal, because his claim was based on the imperial authority of that city instead of apostolic tradition. Yet he did not place Rome above the patriarchies of Antioch and Alexandria. When Phocas became Emperor, he gained the support of Pope Gregory by reprimanding the Constantinople's patriarch Cyriacus, who had opposed him, and after Gregory's death an edict of Phocas declared Pope Boniface III the head of the church as "universal bishop."
Gregory administered church lands around Rome, in Calabria, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Dalmatia, and even in Gaul and Africa; by consolidating them he began what would become the Papal States. Gregory considered Arles bishop Virgilius his vicar in Childebert's kingdom, and he warned Virgilius and the bishops there about the simony that was corrupting their church. Theologically he was a moderate Augustinian, and Gregory favored a Christian republic. He worked to make the ecclesiastical authority superior to the secular powers. Gregory improved the mass, and a new way of chanting was called Gregorian after him. He preached often, drawing lessons in humility from the calamities of the time; he, like many, believed the end of the world was approaching.
Gregory criticized and deposed bishops for neglecting duty or committing crimes, and he often intervened in the elections of bishops in order to appoint men he knew and trusted. He strongly opposed simony and forbade clergy from exacting fees for their services. Although intolerant of heresy, he was more liberal than most toward Jews. He condemned forced baptism of Jews and reprimanded bishops for depriving them of synagogues. Yet Gregory opposed Jews obtaining or possessing Christian slaves. He made some effort to stop the slave trade and freed some slaves, although he bought and sold slaves himself. He rebuked those who mistreated slaves. However, Gregory sanctioned imprisonment of idolaters and diviners if they were free and even lashing and torture if they were slaves.
Gregory wrote his book on pastoral care called Pastoral Rules in 591. Like Gregory Nazianzen, he wrote this book to describe the awesome responsibilities of an office he doubted he could fill. The first book describes the characteristics of a spiritual ruler; the second advises him on his conduct; the third suggests how individuals should be admonished for varying behaviors and character traits; and the fourth book is an exhortation to uphold the dignity of the office in one's actions. Gregory believed that only those of tried virtue were capable of disciplining and governing others. Governing the soul is the highest art. He believed that no one does more harm than one in authority who acts badly, and he suspected anyone who sought authority. Governing others is liable to spread one's interests and result in confusion. Those who aspired to the position were often better when a bishop might become a martyr rather than those who want to lord it over others now. To harmonize the active and contemplative life one must reject whatever is evil or irrelevant. In an age when few could read, preaching was very important. The pastor should be a friend to the good but sternly correct the bad, taking a middle path between excessive strictness and over-indulgence.
In describing how to admonish more than forty different kinds of people Gregory demonstrated his psychological insights into moral character. He evaluated human actions by the effect they have on one's neighbors. He argued that wealth really belongs to the poor who need it and that the wealthy are obligated by justice to be charitable. Those with intellectual gifts have the same obligation to share their knowledge, just as a physician should apply medicine. Gregory believed that those who do not marry should use their time to serve others instead of being selfish. He emphasized the importance of motivation in judging human actions. Gregory often referred to scripture, the basis of his teachings, although his allegorical interpretations might be creative. Finally he emphasized that priests should practice what they preach and be more concerned with the good that has been left undone than with what they have already accomplished.
Gregory's book on pastoral care was dedicated to the archbishop of Ravenna, and a copy was sent to Leander in Seville; it was carried to Canterbury by Augustine, and Emperor Maurice had it translated into Greek by Antioch patriarch Anastasius. In the 9th century it was given to each bishop ordained in France, and King Alfred paraphrased it in the Saxon language, sending copies to all English bishops.
Gregory wrote his Dialogs in 593 in order to show that many miracles have occurred in Italy in recent times. The first and third books are filled with stories of saints working various miracles through prayer, by dreams, or simply by their spiritual power. Gregory is the main speaker, and he is questioned and praised by his deacon Peter. The second book tells the life story of Benedict and also includes many miracles difficult to believe today. Healings, raising the dead, prophecy, transcendent communication, increasing oil or bread, suddenly mending broken pottery, and even curses causing leprosy or death are some of the many miraculous incidents told by Gregory and willingly believed by the admiring Peter. Yet the stories also show that the virtue and faith of the saints are most important, because those are what make the miracles happen, while vices often bring miserable punishment.
During the Vandal invasion of Italy Nola bishop Paulinus distributed all the episcopal furniture to help prisoners and those in need. Then he offered to be sold into slavery to free a widow's son. Both went to Africa, and the son-in-law of the Vandal king bought Paulinus as a gardener. Eventually the wise gardener became known as a man of God, and he had to admit he was a bishop. The king offered him what he wanted and freed the captives in Africa Paulinus requested. Gregory argued that converting sinners by preaching is a greater miracle than raising the dead, because the latter will die again; but the former are brought to eternal life.
The fourth book of the Dialogs attempts to demonstrate mostly by anecdotes that souls continue to live after death. Gregory explains than many do not believe in the invisible things, because they know only the lowly visible things of earth. Yet the deaths of saints and their miraculous powers after their bodies are dead indicate the invisible soul continues beyond its former body. Heavenly singing or music often accompanies the death of holy ones, and listening to its sound relieves the pain of dying. The good recognize saints as well as those they knew on earth at the time of their deaths. Gregory definitely believes in the devil and the fires of hell for sinners, though he does suggest that some will be cleansed in the world to come if they performed good works in this life; this is one of the earliest references to the doctrine of purgatory. Peter asks some difficult questions near the end. He wonders whether it is just to inflict everlasting punishment for a finite fault, and he points out that a just person punishes servants in order to correct them. To what purpose, then, would anyone be burned in hell forever? Peter also asks how a soul can be called immortal if it dies spiritually in eternal fire. Gregory attempts to answer these questions by arguing they are lessons for the elect to be good; but in my view his answers to these questions are inadequate.
1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy 5:6 tr. Sanderson
2. The Rule of Saint Benedict 4 ed. Timothy Fry, p. 183.
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