The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

1140

NARSES.

However, Ancona was the only port left to the Romans in Italy between Ravenna and Otranto ; the Gothic fleet covered the sea ; and it was conse­quently dangerous to trust the safety of 100,000 men, and the issue of the whole undertaking to the chances of the weather or a naval battle. However, the Gothic fleet was beaten and destroyed off Sinigaglia. Narses nevertheless resolved to march round the Adriatic. This road presented no less formidable difficulties: the whole low country tra­versed by the Po, the Adige, &c., and their count­less branches, was an impassable swamp ; the bridges over the Po and the Adige had been broken down by the enemy ; and the only remaining pas­sage over the latter river, at Verona, was guarded by the gallant Teias with a strong body of veteran Goths. Narses consequently chose a middle course. He coasted the Dalmatian shore of the Adriatic as far as the northern corner of that sea, whence his army continued by land, while the fleet took a parallel course along the shore, and wherever a river or a canal checked the progress by land, the ships conveyed timber and other materials to the spot for the speedy construction of bridges. Thus he reached Ravenna, Teias being all the while quite unable to molest him. He remained nine days in that city. Thence he marched upon Rimini, and the Gothic garrison having dared to insult him, he drove them back within their walls, and slew their commander Usdrilas. Without losing time in be­sieging Rimini he proceeded on the Flaminian way to Rome, where king Totilas awaited him with his main army. They met in the plain of Lentaglio, between Tagina (Taginae, Tadinae) and the tombs of the Gauls: the left of the Romans was under the immediate command of Narses and Joannes, the nephew of Vitalienus, and the right was com­manded by Valerianus, John Phagas, and Dagis-theus. The Romans carried the day: 6000 Goths fell on the field, and king Totilas was slain in his flight: his armour was sent to Constantinople (July 552). Teias was now chosen king of the Goths. Narses reaped the fruits of his victory by receiving the keys of the strongest fortresses of the Goths in that portion of Italy. Rome was forced to surrender by Dagistheus, a distinguished general, whose name and that of his colleague Bessus are strangely connected with the chances of warfare ; for it was Bessus who commanded in Rome when it was reduced by the Goths in 546, a misfortune which he afterwards retrieved by reducing Petra, the bulwark of the empire towards the Caucasus, over which Dagistheus was appointed commander ; and Dagistheus having been compelled to surrender Petra again to the Persians, took in his turn his revenge by reducing Rome. In the course of the Gothic war Rome had been five times taken and retaken: in 536 by Belisarius, in 546 by Totilas, in 547 again by Belisarius, in 549 again by Toti­las, and in 552 by Narses. Narses despatched Valerian to the Po for the purpose of preventing the fugitive Goths from rallying round the head­quarters of Teias at Pa via and Verona ; but Teias eluded his vigilance, and, aided by a body of Franks whose alliance he had bought* suddenly broke forth from behind his lines, and appeared in Southern Italy to avenge the death of Totilas. But, instead of avenging it, he shared his fate on the banks of the Sarnus (Draco), a little river which flows into the bay of Naples (March, 553). In a bloody battle, which lasted two days, the

NARSES.

Gothic army was utterly defeated, Teias and a countless number were slain, and the rest capitu­lated, but were allowed to withdraw from Italy: this condition was never well observed. Narses now marched to the north, reducing one fortress after the other, and gaining the confidence of the inhabitants through his firm yet generous and faithful conduct. He thought he had subdued Italy when he was undeceived by the appearance of a host of 75,000 Alemanni and Franks, who came down the Alps under the command of the two gallant dukes of the Alemanni, Leutharis and Buccellinus. The Roman vanguard, commanded by Fulcaris, a brave but rash Herulian, was cut to pieces in the amphitheatre of Parma, and, in spite of the efforts of Narses, the barbarians rushed down into Southern Italy. Leutharis ravaged Apulia and Calabria, and Buccellinus plundered Campania, Lucania, and Bruttium ; but they were more for­midable as marauders than as soldiers ; they could overrun the country, but they oppressed it too much to be able to maintain themselves in it, and they consequently thought of returning to the Alps. Their ranks were thinned through losses and dis­eases, to which Leutharis fell a victim with his whole band, and while Buccellinus was staying near Capua, Narses came on with his veterans and slew him and his followers in a fierce battle at Casilinum, on the Vulturnus. Agathias says, that out of 30,000 men only 5000 escaped in this bat­tle. The power of the Goths was now irretrievably ruined, and Italy was once more a province of the Roman empire, which Justinian finally pacified and organised by his famous " Pragmatica." Narses was appointed governor of Italy, and took up his residence at Ravenna.

During many subsequent years the name of Narses is not once mentioned ; but we cannot but presume that in regulating the domestic affairs of Italy he acted in a way that did credit to his genius, although we know that his con­duct was far from being free from avarice. In 563 he had an opportunity of proving that he was still the old general. Vidinus, comes, caused a fierce revolt in Verona and Brescia, and was sup­ported by some Franks and a band of Alemanni under Amingus, who made sad havoc in Upper Italy, till Narses fell upon them and crushed them at once, whereupon Verona and Brescia sub­mitted. Sindual, a chief of the Herules, who had served Narses faithfully during many years, imi­tated the example of Vidinus and shared his fate ; but while Narses spared the life of the comes he ordered Sindual to be hanged, so incensed was he at his want of loyalty. These victories caused great joy in Constantinople; but the death of Jus­tinian, which took place in the same year, and the accession of Justin, were heavy checks upon the influence of Narses at the imperial court, and finally contributed to his ruin.

The death of Justinian and the extreme age of Narses caused two movements of great importance. The administration of the great exarch of Italy was vigorous but oppressive ; and although the Gothic war had impoverished that unhappy coun­try to an enormous degree, he extracted the last coin from its inhabitants. Had he continued to send a proportionate share of it into the imperial treasury, he might have continued his extortions without feeling the consequences ; but it appears that he was less liberal to Justin than to Justinian, and

Pages
About | First

1139

1140

1141
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.