Procopius: The Reconquest of Africa, 534
On the Wars IV.9
Justinian's program of renovatio of the Roman Empire,
expressed by his building program, his re-organization of the
Law, was perhaps clearest in his wars. Directed ar "reconquering"
the Western part of the Empire, they were for the most part successful.
Procopius work, On the Wars provides an excellent source
for this aspect of Justinian's program. Below he recounts the
success of Belasarius, Justinian's great general, in overthrowing
the Vandal Kingdom in northern Africa. This victory was easy,
but marked the first stage in the program of reconquest. The triumph
which was accorded Belisarius upon his return is described below
by Procopius. Note especially the continuity in the old Roman
traditions - as Procopius makes clear, the triumph itself was
part of the program or restoration.
Belisarius, upon reaching Byzantium with Gelimer [last king of
the Vandals, captured by Belisarius in 534] and the Vandals, was
counted worthy to receive such honours, as in former times were
assigned to those generals of the Romans who had won the greatest
and most noteworthy victories. And a period of about six hundred
years had now passed since anyone had attained these honours,
except, indeed, Titus and Trajan, and such other emperors as had
led armies against some barbarian nation and had been victorious.
For he displayed the spoils and slaves from the war in the midst
of the city and led a procession which the Romans call a "triumph,"
not, however, in the ancient manner, but going on foot from his
own house to the hippodrome and then again from the barriers [the
starting point for the racers at the open end of the Hippodrome]
until he reached the place where the imperial throne is. And there
was booty,-first of all, whatever articles are wont to be set
apart for the royal service,-thrones of gold and carriages in
which it is customary for a king's consort to ride, and much Jewelry
made of precious stones, and golden drinking cups, and all the
other things which are useful for the royal table. And there was
also silver weighing many thousands of talents and all the royal
treasure amounting to an exceedingly great sum (for Gizeric [leader
of the Vandals who had sacked Rome in 455] had despoiled the Palatium
in Rome) and among these were the treasures of the Jews, which
Titus, the son of Vespasian, together with certain others, had
brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem [70 A.D.]. And
one of the Jews, seeing these things, approached one of those
known to the emperor and said: "These treasures I think it
inexpedient to carry into the palace in Byzantium. Indeed, it
is not possible for them to be elsewhere than in the place where
Solomon, the king of the Jews, formerly placed them. For it is
because of these that Gizeric captured the palace of the Romans,
and that now the Roman army has captured that of the Vandals."
When this had been brought to the ears of the Emperor, he became
afraid and quickly sent everything to the sanctuaries of the Christians
in Jerusalem. And there were slaves in the triumph, among whom
was Gelimer himself, wearing some sort of a purple garment upon
his shoulders, and all his family, and as many of the Vandals
as were very tall and fair of body. And when Gelimer reached the
hippodrome and saw the emperor sitting upon a lofty seat and the
people standing on either side and realized as he looked about
in what an evil plight he was, he neither wept nor cried out,
but ceased not saying over in the words of the Hebrew scripture:
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." And when he came
before the emperor's seat, they stripped off the purple garment,
and compelled him to fall prone on the ground and do obeisance
to the Emperor Justinian. This also Belisarius did, as being a
suppliant of the emperor along with him. And the Emperor Justinian
and the Empress Theodora presented the children of Ilderic [one-time
king of the Vandals and friend of Justinian; overthrown by Gelimer]
and his offspring and all those of the family of the Emperor Valentinian
with sufficient sums of money, and to Gelimer they gave lands
not to be despised in Galatia and permitted him to live there
together with his family. However, Gelimer was by no means enrolled
among the patricians, since he was unwilling to change from the
faith of Arius.
A little later the triumph [in honor of his inauguration as consul]
was celebrated by Belisarius in the ancient manner also. For he
had the fortune to be advanced to the office of consul, and therefore
was borne aloft by the captives, and as he was thus carried in
his curule chair, he threw to the populace those very spoils of
the Vandalic war. For the people carried off the silver plate
and golden girdles and a vast amount of the Vandals' wealth of
other sorts as a result of Belisarius' consulship, and it seemed
that after a long interval of disuse an old custom was being revived.
. . .
Procopius, History of the Wars, IV, ix, translated by H.B.
Dewing (New York: C.P. Putnam's Sons, 1916), pp. 279-283.
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