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blocked his way, Chosroes found that he could effect nothing; after looking at Edessa he found it too strong, and made his way to Daras. To this town he laid siege, but was beaten off without much difficulty, and then returned home for the winter (540).
The Persians were never destined to win again such successes as had fallen to them in this the first year of the war. By the next spring Justinian had reinforced the eastern frontier with all his disposable troops, and the mighty Belisarius himself had arrived to take command of the army of Mesopotamia. But it was not fated that the great king and the great captain should ever measure themselves against each other. Hearing that the frontier to the south was now well guarded, the Persian had resolved to make a dash at a new point of the Roman line of defence. While expected on the Euphrates he quietly marched north through the Median and Iberian mountains, crossed many obscure passes, and appeared on the Black Sea coast by the river Phasis. The Romans here held the shore by their great castle of Petra, while the Lazi, the tribes of inland Colchis, were Roman vassals. Chosroes overran the land, constrained the Lazi to do him homage, and, after a short siege, took Petra.
Meanwhile Belisarius, on finding the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia delayed, had crossed the frontier in the far south, beaten a small Persian force in the field, and ravaged Assyria from end to end, though he could not take the great fortress of Nisibis. On hearing of this raid Chosroes returned from Colchis with his main army, whereupon Belisarius retired behind the ramparts of Daras. The campaign had not been eventful, but the balance of gain lay on the side of the Persians, whose frontier now touched the Black Sea.
Nor was the next year (542) destined to see any decisive fighting. Belisarius had concentrated his army at Europus on the Euphrates and waited to be attacked, but save one raid no attack came, though Chosroes had brought the full force of his empire up to Nisibis. The Roman chronicles ascribe his sluggishness to a fear of the reputation of Belisarius, but another cause seems to have been more operative. The great plague of 542 had just broken out in Persia, and its ravages were probably the real cause of the retreat and disbanding of the army of Chosroes, much as in 1348 the 'black death' caused English and French to drop for a time their mutual hostilities.
This awful scourge merits a word of notice. It broke out in Egypt early in the year, and spread like wildfire over Syria, the lands of the Euphrates valley, and Asia Minor, thence making its way to Constantinople and the West. It is impossible to make out its exact nature, but we know that it was accompanied by ulcers, and by a horrible swelling of the groin. Few whom it struck down ever recovered, but of Plague of 542. these few was Justinian himself, who rose from his bed when the rumour of his death was already abroad and a fight for the succession imminent. At Constantinople the plague raged with such violence that 5000, and even 10,000 persons are said to have died in a single day. The historian Procopius marvelled at its universal spread. 'A man might climb to the top of a hill, and it was there, or retire to the depths of a cavern, but it was there also. It took no note of north or south, Greek or Persian, washed or unwashed, winter or summer: in all alike it was deadly.' This awful scourge, which is thought to have carried off a third of the population of the empire, was not the least of the causes of that general decay which is found in the later years of Justinian's reign. It swept away tax-payers, brought commerce to a standstill, and seems to have left the emperor himself an old man before his time.
The plague then sufficiently accounts for the stagnation of the war in 542. Perhaps we may also allow something for the personal troubles of Belisarius, who, in the previous winter, had fallen on evil times. He had detected his intriguing wife Antonina in unfaithfulness, and, for throwing her into a dungeon, and kidnapping her paramour, had incurred the wrath of Theodora, which seriously handicapped him in the rest of his career, so great was her influence with her imperial spouse. He was no longer supported from Constantinople as he had once been, and was at last compelled to disarm Theodora's displeasure by liberating his wife. The imperial ill-humour may, perhaps, have stinted his resources during the summer that followed his domestic misfortune.
In 543, the plague having somewhat abated, Chosroes once more assumed the offensive, and moved towards Roman Armenia, following the valley of the upper Euphrates; but a fresh outbreak of pestilence forced him to turn back, and the Romans were consequently enabled to invade Persarmenia. Belisarius was not with them, and they suffered a serious defeat from an inferior force, and returned with discredit to their old cantonments. The great general had been recalled with ignominy to Constantinople. Justinian had heard that, when the news of his supposed death had reached the army of the Euphrates, Belisarius had shown some signs of arranging for a military pronunciamento. He did not make this his pretext for recall, but dwelt on some unsettled charges of money lost from the Vandal and Gothic treasures, for which there was some foundation, for Belisarius, like Marlborough, had an unhappy taste for hoarding. For some months the general was in disgrace: his body-guard was dispersed—7000 men was too large a comitatus for even the most loyal of men—and much of his wealth confiscated, but, on his consenting to be reconciled to his wife, and to depart for Italy, the empress Theodora consented to forget her displeasure and allow Justinian to give Belisarius the charge of a new war (543).
But, before relating the doings of the humbled and heartbroken Belisarius in the West, we must finish the Persian war. In 544 Chosroes, freed alike from the plague and from the fear of Belisarius, invaded Mesopotamia and laid siege to its capital Edessa. After a siege of many months, in which the gallant garrison beat off every effort both of open force and of military engineerings,—mounds, mines, rams, and towers availed nothing against them,—Chosroes withdrew humbled to Nisibis, and began to negotiate for a truce; it was successfully made on the terms that the Persians should retain the homage of their conquests in Colchis, and receive 2000 lbs. of gold on evacuating their other conquests—which were of small value. On the all-important Mesopotamian frontier the great fortresses had held good, and there was nothing of importance for the king to restore. This truce was concluded for five years, at the end of which the war was renewed (545-550).
Meanwhile all Italy was once more aflame with war. After Ravenna surrendered, and Witiges was led captive to Byzantium, all the Gothic fortresses surrendered save two, Verona and Pavia, the only towns of northern Italy in which the Teutonic element seems to have outnumbered the Roman. The remnant of the Ostrogoths in Pavia, though they did not Hiidibad, number 2000 men, took the bold step of proclaimkingofthe ing a new king, a warrior named Hildibad, who Goths, 540-41. was (.he nephew of Theudis, king of Spain, and
who promised his uncle's help to his followers. Hildibad's resistance might have been crushed if he had been promptly attacked, but the Roman commanders were occupied in taking over the towns that made no resistance, and in quelling some disorders among their own men. After Belisarius left, there were five generals in the peninsula of whom none was trusted with supreme authority over the rest. Each left to another the task of treading out the last sparks of Gothic resistance, and gradually Hildibad grew stronger as the scattered remnants of the army of Witiges made their way to his camp. When he recovered most of Venetia, the Romans thought him worthy of notice, but he won a battle near Treviso over the army that came against him. The Italians were now far from showing the devotion to the imperial cause that they had once displayed. The Logothetes from Constantinople were harassing them with new imposts, and most especially with the preposterous attempt to gather the arrears of taxation for the years during which the «'.;r had raged, a time at which the emperor had, as a matter of fact, no firm hold on the country.
In 541 Hildibad was murdered by a private enemy ere yet he had succeeded in freeing all the land north of the Po. But this hero of the darkest hour, who had saved the Goths from extinction when salvation seemed impossible, found a still worthier successor. After a few months, during which a certain Rugian, named Eraric, ruled at Pavia, Hildibad's nephew, Baduila, was raised on the shield and saluted as king. Baduilal was, after Theodoric, the greatest of all the Goths of East or West: he showed a moral elevation, a single-hearted purity of purpose, a chivalrous courtesy, a justice and piety worthy of the best of the knights of the Middle Ages. As a warrior his feats were astonishing: he out-generalled even the great Belisarius himself. The only stain on his character, during eleven years of rule, are one or two unjustifiable executions of prisoners of war who had roused his wrath, and caused the old Gothic fury to blaze forth.
From the first moment of his accession Baduila went forth conquering and to conquer. The Roman generals frightened by his first successes were at last induced to combine: he foiled them at Verona, followed them across the Baduila, Po, and inflicted on them at Faenza in ^Emilia Wngofthe a decisive defeat in the open field, though they Goths>54I-53> had 12,000 men to his 5000. Then crossing the Apennines he won all Tuscany by a second battle on the Mugello near Florence. By these two victories all Italy north of Rome, save the great fortresses, fell into his hands: Rome and Ravenna, with Piacenza in the valley of the Po, and Ancona and Perugia in the centre, were left as isolated garrisons, rising above the returning tide of Gothic conquest. All the surviving Goths had rallied under Baduila's banner, and many of the imperial mercenaries of Teutonic blood took service with him when the cities which they garrisoned were subdued. After conquer
1 This, as his coins show, was his real name, but the Constantinopolitan historians call him Totila.
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