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the Gothic garrison felt that they were left deserted among a populace ready to betray them to the enemy; indeed Pope Silverius and the Senate had already written to Belisarius pray Belisanus to deliver them. When the Im- takes Rome, perialists appeared before the southern gate, the 536' Goths fled out of the northern, in a panic that was inexcusable, for they were well-nigh as numerous as the 5000 men that Belisarius brought with him. (December 9, 536.)
Belisarius was now master of Rome, but he knew that his hold on it was precarious. Witiges had settled matters with the Franks by paying them 130,000 gold solidi and ceding his Transalpine dominions in Provence. After marrying Mataswintha, the sister of the late king Athalaric, and the last scion of the house of the Amals, he resolved to return and deliver Rome. All north Italy had sent him its Gothic warriors, and 100,000 men marched under his banner to besiege Rome in the spring of 537.
The defence of Rome is the greatest of all the titles to glory that Belisarius won. The walls of Aurelian were strong, but there were only 5000 men to defend their vast circuit, and within was an unruly mass of cowardly citizens, liable to all sorts of panic fears—mouths to be fed without hands to strike, for hardly a Roman took arms to aid the imperial troops. In the middle of March the Goths appeared before the walls, and pitched seven camps opposite the northern and eastern gates of the city. They then cut all the aqueducts which supplied Rome with water, and commenced the construction of siegeengines for a great assault. With the want of thoroughness that he always displayed, king Witiges made no adequate preparation for blockading the southern side of the city, or for stopping its communications with Ostia and Naples. All through the siege convoys of provisions and reinforcements were frequently able to creep into Rtime by night, eluding the outposts which were all that Witiges placed on the side of the Tiber and the Campagna.
A fortnight after arriving in front of the walls Witiges had his engines ready, and delivered his great assault on the northern and north-eastern fronts of the city. Everywhere the attack failed; the towers and rams which the Goths had drawn forward never reached the walls; the oxen which drew them were shot down before they neared the ditch. But thousands of wild warriors with scaling-ladders delivered assaults against innumerable portions of the enceinte. In most cases they failed entirely; the walls of Aurelian were too strong; but at two points, at opposite ends of the city, they nearly won spccess. At the Praenestine gate a battering-ram broke in the outer bulwarks, and a swarm of Goths was only held back by an inner entrenchment till the reinforcements of Belisarius arrived. But greater danger still was encountered at the Mausoleum of Hadrian (castle of St. Angelo), just Belisarius beyond the yElian Bridge. There the Goths defends filled the ditch, overwhelmed the defenders with Rome, 536-37- arrowS] and were fitting their ladders to the embrasures, when they were at last checked by a strange expedient. The walls of the mausoleum were lined with dozens of splendid statues, some of them figures of emperors, others the ancient spoils of Greece. At the supreme moment the desperate garrison flung these colossal figures on the besiegers below, and drove them off by the hail of marble fragments.
At the end of the day Belisarius was everywhere successful; 20,000 Goths had fallen, and the self-confidence of Witiges was so broken that he never again tried a general assault. He relied instead on a blockade, but, though he inflicted great misery on the garrison, and still more on the populace, he never closed the roads or the river sufficiently to exclude occasional convoys of provisions. He did not prevent Belisarius from transferring to Campania the greater part of the women, aged men, and slaves in the city. Meanwhile the summer drew on, and the Gothic hosts began to suffer from malaria, and from the filthy state of the crowded camps. On the other hand, Belisarius at last began to receive reinforcements from Constantinople, and was able to make sallies, in which his horsemen handled the Gothic outposts very roughly.
When both assault and blockade had been proved ineffectual, and when an attempt to creep into the city through the empty aqueducts had been foiled, Witiges would probably have done well to raise the siege, and throw on Belisarius, whose army was still very small, the burden of taking the offensive. Instead of doing this he lay obstinately in his camp for a year and nine days, watching his army melt away under the scourge of pestilence, and allowing the numbers and boldness of the Imperialists to increase. At last Belisarius had been so strongly reinforced that he was able, while still holding Rome, to put a second force in the field. This he sent, under an officer named John the Bloody, through the Sabine hills to make a dash into Picenum and menace Ravenna. John, a very able officer, seized the important town of Sie e of Rimini, only thirty-three miles from Ravenna, in Rome raised, February 538. The news that his capital was 538' being threatened, and that the enemy was in his rear, at last forced the sluggish king of the Goths to move. He set his seven camps on fire, and retired up the Flaminian Way into Picenum. Thus the prudence and valour of Belisarius were at last vindicated, and the Romans, after a siege of 374 days, could once more breathe freely.
Middle Italy was now lost to the Goths, and the scene of operations shifted into Picenum, north Etruria, and the valley of the Po, where the war was to endure for two years more (538-40). It resolved itself into a struggle for the coast towns between Ravenna and Ancona, and for the command of the passes of the Apennines. One half of the Roman army was concentrated at Rimini and Ancona, while Belisarius himself with the other was occupied in clearing the Gothic garrisons out of northern Etruria. Two Gothic armies at Ravenna and Auximum penned the northern Roman force into the narrow sea-coast plain, and at last laid siege to both Rimini and Ancona. Here Witiges seemed for once likely to succeed, but, when the garrisons had been brought to the last extremity, they were relieved by new forces from Constantinople commanded by the eunuch Narses the praepositus sacri cubiculi.
Thrown on the defensive Witiges drew back to Ravenna, and allowed the Romans to overrun the province of ^Emilia, and even to cross the Po, and raise an insurrection in the great city of Milan. There now followed a long pause: Belisarius found that Narses was set on asserting an independent authority over the newly-arrived army, and had to send to the emperor to beg him to recall the eunuch. Meanwhile he laid siege to the last two Gothic fortresses south of Ravenna, the towns of Fiesole in Etruria and Auximum (Osimo) in Picenum. Both cities made a gallant resistance, and while Belisarius was at a standstill Uraias, the warlike nephew of Witiges, stormed and sacked Milan, and restored the Gothic dominion north of the Po (539). Meanwhile the king took the only wise step which occurred to him during the whole war: he sent ambassadors to the East to inform Chosroes, king of Persia, that well-nigh the whole Roman army was occupied in Italy, and that he might overrun Syria and Mesopotamia with ease. Taken two years earlier, this step might have saved the Goths, but now it was too late: Chosroes moved, but moved only in time to hear that Witiges was dethroned and a captive.
After holding out seven months, Auximum surrendered to Belisarius at mid-winter, 539-40. Witiges had done nothing to save the gallant garrison, alleging that a Frankish raid into the valley of the Po prevented him from moving. The excuse was true but insufficient, for when the Franks of Theudibert, thinned by disease, turned home again, the Gothic king did not stir any the more.
At last, in the spring of 540, Narses had been recalled, and Belisarius had full possession of all Picenum and Etruria, and could safely advance on Ravenna. After posting a covering force to ward off any attempt to relieve the town by the Goths of northern Italy, he drew his main army round the great fortress in the marshland, the chosen home of Theodoric, the Storehouse of the hoarded wealth of the Amals. The defence was weak, far weaker than that of the smaller stronghold of Auximum. Witiges seemed to have the power of communicating his sloth and hesitation to all who came near him. He listened first to offers from Theudibert the Frank, then to proposals for surrender sent in by Belisarius. At last he determined to close with the terms offered by Justinian, that he should resign all Italy South of the Po, give up half the royal hoard, and reign in the Transpadane as the emperor's vassal. The terms were not hard, for Justinian had just been attacked by Persia, and wished to end his Italian war at once. It would have been well for all parties if they had been carried out; but two wills intervened: the Gothic nobles were wildly indignant at their master's cowardice: Belisarius, looking at his military advantages, thought the terms too liberal. From this „,. .
6' .' Witiges sur
discontent came an extraordinary result: the renders Teutonic chiefs boldly proposed to the imperial Ravenna' 540. general that he should reign over them,—whether as king of the Goths or Roman Caesar they cared not,—but their swords should be his, and the craven Witiges should be cast away, if he would take them as his vassals and administer Italy. Belisarius temporised, and the simple Goths, believing that no man could resist such an offer, threw open the gates. But the great general was loyal to the core: instead of proclaiming himself emperor, he took over the town in Justinian's name, bade the Gothic warriors disperse each to his own home, and shipped all the golden stores of Ravenna off to Constantinople. It seemed as if the monarchy of the Goths was ended: nothing remained to them save Pavia, Verona, and a few more north Italian cities. Justinian resolved to recall Belisarius before these places should fall; meaner generals would suffice to take them. Two motives stirred the emperor: his great captain was wanted on the eastern frontier to keep back