« ՆախորդըContinue »
Remembering the dangers of her own youth, she built a great institution for the reclaiming of fallen women—the first of the kind known in Christendom. She was zealous in buying and freeing slaves, and in caring for the bringing up of orphans and the marriage of dowerless girls.
Theodora was by all accounts the most beautiful woman of her age. Even the 'Secret History' allows this, adding only that she was rather below the middle stature, that her complexion was somewhat pale, and that she devoted untold hours to the mysteries of the toilet. Two portraits of her have survived, one at a monastery on Mount Sinai, the other in the Church of San Vitale at Ravenna—two spots so far apart as to call up vividly to our memory the wide extent of her influence. Unfortunately the hieratic style of art into which Roman portraiture had long sunk, and the intractable nature of mosaic as a material do not allow us to judge from these representations what was her actual appearance.
Justinian has left behind him an almost unparalleled reputation as a conqueror, a builder, and a lawgiver, besides a less happy record of theological activity. It is mainly, however, with his foreign policy that we shall have to concern ourselves: the other spheres of his labour are better fitted for another work. But his dealings with Africa, Italy, and Spain form a great landmark and turning-point in the history of southern Europe, and their results were not entirely exhausted till the eleventh century. His long struggles with Persia are less interesting and less important, but they filled a great space in the view of contemporary observers, and were not without their moment.
Justinian's reign opened with a fierce war with the old Persian king Kobad. The struggle which this monarch had waged with Anastasius, twenty-five years before, had been so indecisive that the Sassanian longed for a new trial of arms. Almost immediately on Justinian's accession he issued his declaration of war, using as a pretext the erection of some fortifications near Nisibis, which were being constructed by Belisarius, governor of Daras, a young officer whose name was destined to be intimately associated with the whole history of Justinian's reign. The war opened with a defeat in the open Fjrst war field, suffered by the Roman army of Mesopo- with Persia, tamia; but when reinforcements came up the 528"31Persians retreated beyond their frontier. After the winter of 528-29 was over neither side advanced in force, and all that occurred was a flying Roman raid into Assyria, and an equally hasty Persian incursion into Syria, both of which did some harm, but had no practical result on the fate of the war. Things went far otherwise in the next year, 530: the Persians crossed the frontier in full force, and marched on Daras, where they were met by Belisarius, who had lately been appointed commander-in-chief in the East. Under the walls of Daras the decisive battle of the war was fought, in which Belisarius, with 25,000 men, defeated 40,000 Persians by means of his tactical skill. The plan which he worked was to draw back his centre, containing all the Roman infantry, and when the Persians followed it, to launch against their exposed flanks all his cavalry, a miscellaneous gathering of Hunnish light horse, Teutonic Heruli from the Danube, and Roman Cataphracti or cuirassiers. This plan, much resembling Hannibal's manreuvre at Cannae, and perhaps consciously copied from it, resulted in the complete rout of the Sassanian host.
After this defeat Kobad commenced abortive negotiations for peace, but the war was protracted into the next year, and Belisarius did not fare so well in 531. In stopping a Persian raiding force on the middle Euphrates, which aimed at Syria, and had turned the southern flank of the Mesopotamian fortresses, he suffered serious loss at the affair of Callinicum. Though he was defeated, his resistance had yet turned and frustrated the Persian expedition. Four months later king Kobad died, and his successor Chosroes I. made peace on the base of the status quo ante, fearing to continue the Roman war while his throne was insecure. (September, 531.)
The end of the Persian war left Justinian free to cast his eyes on the affairs of his neighbours to the West. Though so indecisive, it had not been without its uses, for it had permitted him to test the solidity of his army, and to discover several officers of merit, and one general of commanding ability— the young victor of Daras. Belisarius was now twenty-six years of age: he was, like his master, a native of the borderland between Thrace and Illyricum, bred at an unknown
Belisarius. „, „ . . , _
village named Germama, but not, as the name of his birthplace might seem to suggest, of Teutonic but of Thracian blood.1 He had entered the army at a very early age, and had fought his way up to the post of governor of the great fortress of Daras before he was twenty-four. His favour with Justinian had been confirmed by his marriage with Antonina, the friend and confidante of the empress Theodora. She was a clever, unscrupulous, domineering woman, several years older than her husband, and exercised over him a domestic tyranny which any man less easy tempered than the young general would have found unbearable. The position of Belisarius and Antonina at the Court of Justinian has been not unaptly compared to that of Marlborough and his imperious wife at 'the court of Queen Anne; but it is only fair to the East-Roman to say that he was in every way a better man than the Englishman, while his wife had all the faults of Duchess Sarah, without her one redeeming virtue of fidelity to her spouse.
Before he was able to turn his attention to the West, and just after the crisis of the Persian war had passed, Justinian was exposed to a sharp and sudden danger, the most perilous experience of his whole career. We have already spoken at some length of the rivalries of the Blue and Green factions,2 and explained how, in the early sixth century, the Greens were reckoned heterodox and supporters of the house of Anastasius, while the Blues were orthodox and favoured Justinus and his
1 There seems no reason to make him a Slav, as some have done on account of his rather Slavonic-looking name.
2 See page 50.
nephew. Accident conspired with the innate turbulence of the factions to stir them up into fierce disorder in the year 532, and brought about the celebrated 'Nika' sedition. To provide for the expenses of the Persian war, Justinian had not only drawn upon the hoarded wealth of Anastasius, but had imposed heavy additional taxation. This act made his instruments the Quaestor Tribonian and the Praetorian Prefect John of Cappadocia very unpopular. Both of them were suspected—and not incorrectly—of having used the opportunity to fill their pockets at the expense of the public, and John the Cappadocian had made himself particularly odious by his cruel treatment of defaulting debtors. In January 532 there were riotous scenes in the circus, caused by the protests of the Greens against the oppression they were suffering. There soon followed tumults in the streets, and the factions settled their grievances with bludgeon and knife. Justinian The, Nika, often allowed the Blues a free hand in dealing with Sedition, 533. their adversaries, but, on this occasion, his supporters had gone too far. The police seized many ring-leaders of both factions, and seven of the chiefs were condemned to the axe or the cord. While an angry crowd stood round, five of the rioters were put to death, but when the last two, a Blue and a Green, were being hung, the cord slipped twice, owing to the nervousness of the executioner, and the criminals fell to the ground. The populace then burst through the police and hurried off the men to sanctuary in a neighbouring monastery. This incident proved the beginning of a fearful uproar. Instead of dispersing, the mobs paraded the place shouting for the dismissal of the unpopular ministers John and Tribonian. Blues and Greens united in the cry, the whole city poured out into the streets, and the police were trampled down and driven away.
Frightened by the storm Justinian had the weakness to yield; instead of sending out the imperial guard to clear the streets, he announced that he had determined to remove the obnoxious Quaestor and Prefect. This only made matters worse; after burning the official residence of the prefect of the city, the mob mustered in a most threatening attitude outside the palace. This constrained the emperor to use force, but he happened to be very short of soldiery at the moment. All the garrison of Constantinople save 3500 of the scholarii, or imperial guard, had been sent off to the Persian war. Only two regiments had as yet returned, a corps of 500 cuirassiers under Belisarius, and a body of Heruli of about the same number. Five thousand men were hardly enough to cope with an angry populace of half-a-million souls in the narrow streets of the capital.
When attacked by the troops the rioters set fire to the city, and an awful conflagration ensued. The great church of St. Sophia perished among the flames, together with all the houses and public buildings to the north and east of it. Blood having once flowed, the mob were set upon something more than a riot—a revolution was in the air, and the Greens, who took the lead in the struggle, sought about for their favourite the Hypatius patrician Hypatius, the nephew of their old patron proclaimed Anastasius I. But Hypatius was a prudent and mpi.roi. cautious person, with no ambition to risk his head; he had entered the palace and put himself in Justinian's hands to keep out of harm's way. It was not till the emperor, who feared traitors about him, ordered all senators to retire to their homes that Hypatius fell into the hands of his own partisans. The unhappy rebel in spite of himself was at once hurried off to the Hippodrome, placed on the imperial seat, and crowned with a diadem extemporised from his wife's gold necklace.
It was in vain that Justinian issued from the palace next day, and proclaimed an amnesty; he was chased back with insulting cries. Losing heart he summoned the chief of his The Counsel courtiers and guards, and proposed to them to of Theodora, abandon Constantinople and take refuge in Asia, as Zeno had done in a similar time of trouble. John of Cappadocia and many of the ministers advised him to fly; but the intrepid Theodora stepped forward to save her