Posted by: ken98 | June 22, 2011

Romans Retaking German Rome, Germans Wanting Roman Pensions, Americans Imitating Roman Generals

Day 649 – Ken here (W)(6-22-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.650-660)(pages read: 1710)

WHAT I'M BACK IN - a Saddle - this, a photo of a reconstruction of a Roman Cavalry Saddle - note no stirrups - in our time (500's) Europeans weren't using them yet, we'll have to wait a century or so until Europeans start imitating their Asian cousins and attach foot-holders to their saddles

WHAT I'M BACK IN - a Saddle - this, a photo of a reconstruction of a Roman Cavalry Saddle - note no stirrups - in our time (500's) Europeans weren't using them yet, we'll have to wait a century or so until Europeans start imitating their Asian cousins and attach foot-holders to their horse-seats


 
I’m tired, and prone to tangents just now, but gradually getting used to being back in the saddle again – the Gibbonian saddle that is, one which is used both for LONG-DISTANCE riding (like a ride that takes 1500 years to complete), and quick spurts (10 pages a day) to get out the historical nuggets of the moment (I’m losing it…onto Gibbon)

A short(er) day today, but a significant one.

Belisarius up to this point has led a somewhat charmed life – he re-took the entire Vandal empire in a year (and the native Romans welcome and love him), now he lands in Sicily, takes it (and the native Romans welcome and love him), moves onto S.Italy (and the native Romans welcome and love him), and takes Naples at the last minute, and marches into a Rome which has opened its gates to him rejoicing. It looks like all Justinian has to do is send Belisarius to any once-Roman-now-German part of the empire and magically Justinian recovers his long-lost provinces, one by one.

Italy will be different, though no one knows it yet – the Italian campaigns will stretch on for decades by accident, will bankrupt Justinian’s empire, and more importantly absolutely STRIP the ENTIRE ITALIAN PENINSULA CLEAN of wealth – at one point in the war, Rome will have a population of ZERO – a city of ruins and wild beasts, the precursor to the bucolic, pastoral Rome of the Middle Ages, covered with grazing sheep, ruined palaces, and churches. And THIS IS WHEN IT WILL START – with Justinian’s/Belisarius’s War of Attrition. A very long, drawn-out Pyrrhic Victory (to continue with the Italian Invasion Motif we have going here today).

so, on to the beginning of the end…

The Story
 
Belisarius Invades, Takes Sicily (535)
 
  • Casus Belli for Justinian of Italian war – Theodatus, weak king of Ostrog. Italy, after killing his wife Amalasuntha (first cause), negotiates with Paul, the Roman ambassador to hand over Italy and retire (like all good former German kings) to a villa near Constantinople (2nd cause) – Theodatus reneges at the last moment, on the point of handing it over
  • Belisarius gathers together a miniscule army (~8000) in Constantinople to battle the entire Ostrogothic army (~200,000) per Gibbon, per Procopius of course – take with grain of salt – this is an example of Just. penny-pinching and may or may not be accurate
  • Invade Italy through Sicily – much the same path taken by Allies in WWII
  • Sicily (like N. Africa) spontaneously rises and accepts the Roman re-conquest
  • Gothic Palermo holds out, famous scene of Bel. raising archers into the rigging of his ships in the harbor to sight over the walls and win the fortress – Ostrogoths join Romans – Bel. enters Syracuse peacefully
  •  

    Mutiny in North Africa, Sicily (535-536)
     
  • Supposedly Just. doesn’t pay the Solomon the Eunuch to pay the occupation force in former Vandal North Africa – a mutiny, which Bel. humanely puts down with almost no people – gains back the army’s loyalty
  • Another mutiny in Sicily – he comes back to shore up the occupation force there – of course all this from Procopius who blames penny-pinching Just.
  •  

    Belisarius lands in Italy, takes Foot, Siege of Naples(536)
     
  • Bel. marches up crosses from Messina to Rhegium to land on Ital. peninsula – same way the many of the Allies marched in 1944
  • Again, populace spont. rises up and gives loyalty to Bel., another Gothic commander gives up the fortress in exch for a pension in Constantinople, Bel. begins the 300 mile march up the coast to Naples
  • Naples goes back and forth on giving in to Bel. – eventually says no
  • Famous Aqueduct scene, where Bel., on the point of leaving Naples untaken and going north before winter to get at the Ostrogoths, a lowly “private” Isaurian finds a dry aqueduct through which 400 troops crawl through, taking Naples – General Sack of the city
  •  

    The Ostrogoths – Theodatus Tries to Retire, Vitigis Becomes King (536)
     
  • Theodatus bargains with Paul the ambassador, famous 2 letters story – Theodatus sends Paul back with 2 letters, one says he’ll give help to Just and acknowledge him, the 2nd says he’ll give up Italy directly to Just – Paul was supposed to present the 1st one to Just, if he didn’t accept, present the 2nd – WHY WOULD ANYONE BELIEVE A KING WOULD TRUST A FOREIGN AMBASSADOR TO LOOK OUT FOR THE BEST INTERESTS OF AN ENEMY? This just SCREAMS of Roman prejudices against Germans – that they are childlike and stupid – Kind of a STUPID THING actually for PROCOPIUS to put in his histories – but then Anna Komnena (Byzantine princess) in her Alexiad (about her father the Emperor Alexis I) 4 centuries later isn’t much better
  • Theodatus sells out his country for 48,000 lbs sterling (1780) or about $US 98 million – quite the golden parachute
  • Of course, he goes back on even this promise, is found out, tried to escape, and is killed like a pig being slaughtered (acc to Proc) – Witigis organizes a new army and is now king
  •  

    Belisarius Marches into Rome – 1st Taking of Rome (12-10-536)
     
  • Rome opens its gates to Bel. freely
  • The surrounding country is taken
  • Rome is HORRIFIED to find that Bel. ACTUALLY INTENDS TO PUT THEM THRU A SIEGE – and regrets somewhat their earlier enthusiasm
  • NOTE: this is the 1st TAKING of ROME – it will change hands in this war many many times and be just a shell of its former self at the end
  • Ostrogoths Retire for Winter, Later, 1st Siege of Rome (Mar 537)
     
  • NOTE: this is the 1st Siege of the War – one of many – Western Romans will RUE THE DAY the Eastern Romans landed to take back Italy
  • Witigis pulls together 150,000 men to lay siege to Bel. in Rome
  • Famous scene where Bel. is almost killed – Bel. goes out to relieve the fort at the Flaminian Gate of Rome, all the Ostrogothic army goes after his white horse, he retreats after a heroic repulse
  •  

     

    Photo of American General George S. Patton - Patton invaded and took Sicily using the same route Belisarius had used 1400 years before him - this was in all probability, no accident - Patton was a fanatical military historian - the crossing at Messina and the push up the Western coast were equally mirrored by Belisariuss invasion

    Photo of American General George S. Patton - Patton invaded and took Sicily using the same route Belisarius had used 1400 years before him - this was in all probability, no accident - Patton was a fanatical military historian - the crossing at Messina and the push up the Western coast were equally mirrored by Belisariuss invasion


     
     
     

    Last Word…
    Historians, Generals, and THOSE WHO ARE BOTH – Patton and Belisarius in Sicily
     

    The campaign for Italy in 1944 was a remarkable time for a man who was both in charge of a great number of troops, part of the military decision-making process, and a lover of history to boot – in other words: the American General Patton and his role in the Italian campaign.

    Patton took the same route Belisarius did in 535 when he invaded Italy from his safe bases in North Africa – hitting the southern beaches of the island, moving up to Palermo, crossing the top, taking Messina and crossing from there to Rhegium and the mainland (toe of Italy) – then up the western coast to Naples, then onto Rome. I suppose it could be argued that ANY invader of Sicily/Italy would take the same route, but its uncanny (or, more likely to me) it was a conscious decision to re-use an effective 1,400 year-old military strategy – I mean, the goal was the same, whether it be 535 or 1944: to take the entire Italian peninsula and island of Sicily away from a well-entrenched native enemy, starting from North Africa.

    What historian/General could resist that?

    Patton formed a provisional corps under his Chief of Staff, and quickly pushed through western Sicily, liberating the capital, Palermo, and then swiftly turned east towards Messina. American forces liberated the port city in accordance with the plan jointly devised by Montgomery and Patton. However, the Italians and Germans evacuated all of their soldiers and much of their heavy equipment across the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland under the cover of anti-aircraft artillery.

    per Wiki on Patton (here)

     

    Map of the Battle of Sicily - World War II, 1944 - the battle plan is very similar to Belisariuss invasion of 535 - probably not coincidentally

    Map of the Battle of Sicily - World War II, 1944 - the battle plan is very similar to Belisariuss invasion of 535 - probably not coincidentally


     

    Map of the campaigns of Central Italy WWII - the Gustav Line below Rome - the retreat of the Germans and the various lines of defense used by them were similar to the troop movements of Belisariuss Gothic (Italian) wars

    Map of the campaigns of Central Italy WWII - the Gustav Line below Rome - the retreat of the Germans and the various lines of defense used by them were similar to the troop movements of Belisariuss Gothic (Italian) wars


     

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