Posted by: ken98 | August 23, 2011

The 2nd to the Last Barbarian Invasion, 2 Empire-Shaking Deaths, and Italy is Now One of 2 New Frontiers for Rome

Day 709 – Ken here (T)(8-23-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.43 pp.760-770)(pages read: 1820)

A short day here – we end Justinian’s reign, see the Franks and Alemanni invade Italy (and get beaten back by Narses), and both Justinian and Belisarius die (within a few months of each other).

The Story
End of Italian Reconquest/Beg of Last Barb Invasions: Battle of Vulturnus (554)
  • Narses the Eunuch, Roman General is mopping up the Gothic Resistance in Italy
  • Franks and Alemanni (2 Alemanni bros – Buccelin and Lothaire) invade and ravage and pillage for spoil with 80,000 men – successfully
  • The Next year, Buccelin is attacked by Narses with 18,000 Heruli, other barbs – gathered from all over Italy
  • Buccelin waits for Lothaire (not knowing his army is decimated and he is dead from plague)
  • Narses attacks, thru a ruse wipes them out – also success of heavily armored cavalry (in imit of/reaction to Persians Sassanid heavily armored cavalry) over frankish javelin/axe/lightly armored foot soldiers – a sea change in mil strategy

    Settlement of Italy
  • The old Diocletian absolute separation of civil/military powers abandoned after 300 years (since 285)
  • Italy and N. Africa are ruled by 2 EXARCHS (kind of vice-roys) – (of Ravenna, of Carthage) – absolute power is given to these men – almost in imitation of emperor – kind of return to a kind of subs caesar
  • Narses, 1st Exarch for Italy for next dozen years or so
  • Exarchs over unruly FRONTIER AREAS – N Africa (due to Berber tribes), Italy (due to barbarian – Lombard, Frank etc – invasion) – ITALY IS NOW AN IMPERIAL FRONTIER – the 2 new frontiers are Africa-Carthage (incl coast of Spain) and Italy-Ravenna
  • Exarchs are the bridge that allows (Byzantine) Venice to become master of the Med evenutally, also, provides strong emperor raw material in the very dark days to come (the 600’s, 700’s) – example the African Exarch Heraclius saves the day with the Persians (608) – rebelling and becoming emperor

    Belisarius and Invasion of Bulgarians (559) – 2nd to Last Barb. Inv of Italy
  • Zabergan, Bulg king, during harsh winter, Danube frozen over, crosses and lays waste (with Bulg cavalry and hosts of Slavs) to all of Balkans, camping 20 miles from Constantinople
  • Only the Scholae avail – ie the palace guards, and they are worthless – the positions are bought for their salaries – scholae really dont expect to fight
  • a very old Belisarius called in one last time out of retirement, he plays tricks with the small army to make it seem bigger, and with a small picked force, ambushes the large Bulg horde over and over, convincing him to retreat

    Belisarius DISGRACE and DEATH (561-565)
  • Justinian is sick (561), there is a riot anticipating his death (interesting that)
  • 2 courtiers (Marcellus, Sergius) apparently decide to hasten the end
  • They are discovered, tortured, executed, but implicate Belisarius (pretty unlikely) and Belisarius is stripped of honors, wealth, and put under house arrest (12-5-563)
  • Belisarius, after 40 years of service, imprisoned – after 6 months – he is pardoned (7-19-564), but dies 8 months later (3-13-565)

    Justinian dies 9 months after Belisarius (11-14-565)
  • reign of 38 years, 83 years old
  • Gibbon gives 1-1/2 pages of review of Justinian’s life and his character – generally very favorable – and generally ignoring most of the craziness in Procopius Secret History

    A day of 2's

    A day of 2's

    Last Word…
    Buccelin and Lothaire

    The romance of German sojourns into Italy was especially interesting to the hyper-nationalistic histories of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Here is a section on the brothers Buccelin and Lothaire (whose pillaging adventures Gibbon related yesterday and today) in mock-heroic voice. Kingsley follows Gibbon’s account (who is in turn following Agathias) pretty faithfully.

    I can’t get over the poetic/heroic vocabulary and tone – it sounds more (I think to the modern ear) like an overly-contrived ye-olde-tyme narrative voice-over for an MMO Massively Multiplayer Online Game than a popular history book. But I have to say, for Antique Prose, Kingsley knows his stuff.

    This from Roman and the Teuton by Charles Kingsley – a series of lectures given at Cambridge in 1864, 70 years after Gibbon published what we read today.

    Kingsley is speaking of Alboin, king of the Lombards contemplating his invasion of Italy (568)…

    He has heard enough (as all Teutons have) of Italy, its beauty, and its weakness. He has sent five thousand chosen warriors to Narses, to help him against Totila and the Ostrogoths; and they have told him of the fair land and large, with its vineyards, olive-groves, and orchards, waste by war and pestilence, and crying out for human beings to come and till it once more.

    There is no force left in Italy now, which can oppose him. Hardly any left in the Roman world. The plague is come; to add its horrors to all the other horrors of the time–the true old plague, as far as I can ascertain; bred, men say, from the Serbonian bog; the plague which visited Athens in the time of Socrates, and England in the seventeenth century: and after the plague a famine; woe on woe, through all the dark days of Justinian the demon-emperor. The Ostrogoths, as you know, were extinct as a nation. The two deluges of Franks and Allmen, which, under the two brothers Buccelin and Lothaire, all on foot (for the French, as now, were no horsemen), had rolled into Italy during the Gothic war, had been swallowed up, as all things were, in the fatal gulf of Italy. Lothaire and his army, returning laden with plunder, had rotted away like sheep by Lake Benacus (Garda now) of drink, and of the plague. Buccelin, entrenched among his plunder-waggons by the Volturno stream in the far south, had waited in vain for that dead brother and his dead host, till Narses came on him, with his army of trained Herules and Goths; the Francisc axe and barbed pike had proved useless before the arrows and the cavalry of the Romans; and no more than five Allmen, says one, remained of all that mighty host. Awful to think of: 75,000 men, they say, in one column, 100,000 in the other: and like water they flowed over the land; and like water they sank into the ground, and left no trace.

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