Adding Rome back into
Adding Rome back into
the Roman Empire
The Gothic War between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy took place from 535 until 554. The war had its roots in the ambition of the East Roman Emperor Justinian I to recover the provinces of the former Western Roman Empire, which the Romans had lost to invading barbarian tribes in the previous century.
In 533, utilizing a dynastic dispute, Justinian had sent his most talented general, Belisarius, to recover the North African provinces held by the Vandals. The Vandalic War produced an unexpectedly swift and decisive victory for the Roman Empire.
Now another dynastic dispute gave Justinian an excuse to invade Italy. Amalasuntha (c. 495 – 30 April 534/535) was a regent of the Ostrogoths during the minority of her son from 526 to 534, and ruling queen regnant from 534 to 535. Amalasuntha had allowed the Roman fleet to use the harbors of Sicily, which belonged to the Ostrogothic Kingdom, as bases of operation against the Vandals.
Seeking support, she chose her cousin Theodahad, to whom she offered the kingship. It was a fatal move, as Theodahad lost little time in having her arrested and then, in early 535, executed.
Through his agents, Justinian tried to save Amalasuntha's life, but to no avail. Her death, in any case, gave him cause for war with the Goths. As Procopius writes: "as soon as he learned what had happened to Amalasuntha, being in the ninth year of his reign, he entered upon war."
Command of the seas. Initially at the start of Justinian's wars of re-conquest the Western Mediterranean was controlled by the fleet of the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. With the collapse of the Vandals all of the Mediterranean from Palestine to the Pillars of Hercules became a Roman Lake.
The military importance of this control cannot be overstated. With the Vandals gone the Roman fleet was able to transport troops and supplies at will to almost any location.
The navy allowed for the conquest and resupply of towns all along the North African coast, the capture of Corsica, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands and Spain.
The navy was a vital if unsung component in the Gothic War. In Dalmatia the navy was at the side of Roman land troops as they marched north.
In Sicily the navy was a major factor. The fleet transported 7,500 Roman troops, their horses, pack animals and supplies in an amphibious operation to capture a huge island from the Goths.
As always we are privileged to view events directly through the eyes of Procopius who was at the side of General Belisarius during these campaigns.
|The Roman Navy was vital in the campaigns of reconquest.
By Procopius of Caesarea
500 - 554 AD
History of the Wars, Book V
Theodatus confined Amalasuntha and kept her under guard. But fearing that by this act he had given offence to the emperor, as actually proved to be the case, he sent some men of the Roman senate, Liberius and Opilio and certain others, directing them to excuse his conduct to the emperor with all their power by assuring him that Amalasuntha had met with no harsh treatment at his hands . . .
And the emperor, upon learning what had befallen Amalasuntha, immediately entered upon the war, being in the ninth year of his reign. And he first commanded Mundus, the general of Illyricum, to go to Dalmatia, which was subject to the Goths, and make trial of Salones.
|The Emperor Justinian attacked the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy on two fronts at the same time. One army marched north from the Roman Balkan frontier invading the Gothic controlled Dalmatian coast.
As was done against the Vandals in Africa another Roman army was transported by the navy and mounted an amphibious operation landing in Sicily.
|The Sicily Campaign
#1) Belisarius lands in Sicily the summer of 535. #3) The conquest of Sicily is complete with the capture of Pamormus in December of 535. #4) Belisarius sails to Carthage to put down a rebellion by the army (March-April 536). #6) Belisarius crosses into Italy and captures Rhegium (June 536). #8) Belisarius advances to Naples (Autumn 536).
Now Mundus was by birth a barbarian, but exceedingly loyal to the cause of the emperor and an able warrior.
Then he sent Belisarius by sea with four thousand soldiers from the regular troops and the foederati, and about three thousand of the Isaurians.
And the commanders were men of note: Constantinus and Bessas from the land of Thrace, and Peranius from Iberia which is hard by Media, a man who was by birth a member of the royal family of the Iberians, but had before this time come as a deserter to the Romans through enmity toward the Persians; and the levies of cavalry were commanded by Valentinus, Magnus, and Innocentius, and the infantry by Herodian, Paulus, Demetrius, and Ursicinus, while the leader of the Isaurians was Ennes. And there were also two hundred Huns as allies and three hundred Moors.
But the general in supreme command over all was Belisarius, and he had with him many notable men as spearmen and guards. And he was accompanied also by Photius, the son of his wife Antonina by a previous marriage; he was still a young man wearing his first beard, but possessed the greatest discretion and shewed a strength of character beyond his years.
And the emperor instructed Belisarius to give out that his destination was Carthage, but as soon as they should arrive at Sicily, they were to disembark there as it obliged for some reason to do so, and make trial of the island. And if it should be possible to reduce it to subjection without any trouble, they were to take possession and not let it go again; but if they should meet with any obstacle, they were to sail with all speed to Libya, giving no one an opportunity to perceive what their intention was.
And he also sent a letter to the leaders of the Franks as follows: "The Goths, having seized by violence Italy, which was ours, have not only refused absolutely to give it back, but have committed further acts of injustice against us which are unendurable and pass beyond all bounds. For this reason we have been compelled to take the field against them, and it is proper that you should join with us in waging this war, which is rendered yours as well as ours not only by the orthodox faith, which rejects the opinion of the Arians, but also by the enmity we both feel toward the Goths." Such was the emperor's letter; and making a gift of money to them, he agreed to give more as soon as they should take an active part. And they with all zeal promised to fight in alliance with him.
Now Mundus and the army under his command entered Dalmatia, and engaging with the Goths who encountered them there, defeated them in the battle and took possession of Salones.
As for Belisarius, he put in at Sicily and took Catana. And making that place his base of operations, he took over Syracuse and the other cities by surrender without any trouble; except, indeed, that the Goths who were keeping guard in Panormus, having confidence in the fortifications of the place, which was a strong one, were quite unwilling to yield to Belisarius and ordered him to lead his army away from there with all speed.
But Belisarius, considering that it was impossible to capture the place from the landward side, ordered the fleet to sail into the harbour, which extended right up to the wall. For it was outside the circuit-wall and entirely without defenders.
Now when the ships had anchored there, it was seen that the masts were higher than the parapet. Straightway, therefore, he filled all the small boats of the ships with bowmen and hoisted them to the tops of the masts. And when from these boats the enemy were shot at from above, they fell into such an irresistible fear that they immediately delivered Panormus to Belisarius by surrender.
As a result of this the emperor held all Sicily subject and tributary to himself. And at that time it so happened that there fell to Belisarius a piece of good fortune beyond the power of words to describe. For, having received the dignity of the consulship because of his victory over the Vandals, while he was still holding this honour, and after he had won the whole of Sicily, on the last day of his consulship, he marched into Syracuse, loudly applauded by the army and by the Sicilians and throwing golden coins to all.
This coincidence, however, was not intentionally arranged by him, but it was a happy chance which befell the man, that after having recovered the whole of the island for the Romans he marched into Syracuse on that particular day; and so it was not in the senate house in Byzantium, as was customary, but there that he laid down the office of the consuls and so became an ex-consul. Thus, then, did good fortune attend Belisarius.
|Belisarius and his Staff
(Johnny Shumates Portfolio)
|Late Roman Infantry
Roman Re-Conquest of Dalmatia
But meantime, while the emperor was engaged in these negotiations and these envoys were travelling to Italy, the Goths, under command of Asinarius and Gripas and some others, had come with a great army into Dalmatia.
And when they had reached the neighbourhood of Salones, Mauricius, the son of Mundus, who was not marching out for battle but, with a few men, was on a scouting expedition, encountered them. A violent engagement ensued in which the Goths lost their foremost and noblest men, but the Romans almost their whole company, including their general Mauricius.
And when Mundus heard of this, being overcome with grief at the misfortune and by this time dominated by a mighty fury, he went against the enemy without the least delay and regardless of order. The battle which took place was stubbornly contested, and the result was a Cadmean victory for the Romans. For although the most of the enemy fell there and their rout had been decisive, Mundus, who went on killing and following up the enemy wherever he chanced to find them and was quite unable to restrain his mind because of the misfortune of his son, was wounded by some fugitive or other and fell.
Thereupon the pursuit ended and the two armies separated. And at that time the Romans recalled the verse of the Sibyl, which had been pronounced in earlier times and seemed to them a portent. For the words of the saying were that when Africa should be held, the "world" would perish together with its offspring. This, however, was not the real meaning of the oracle, but after intimating that Libya would be once more subject to the Romans, it added this statement also, that when that time came Mundus would perish together with his son. For it runs as follows: "Africa capta Mundus cum nato peribit." But since "mundus" in the Latin tongue has the force of "world," they thought that the saying had reference to the world. So much, then, for this.
As for Salones, it was not entered by anyone. For the Romans went back home, since they were left altogether without a commander, and the Goths, seeing that not one of their nobles was left them, fell into fear and took possession of the strongholds in the neighbourhood; for they had no confidence in the defences of Salones, and, besides, the Romans who lived there were not very well disposed towards them.
But when the Emperor Justinian heard these things and what had taken place in Dalmatia, he sent Constantianus, who commanded the royal grooms, into Illyricum, bidding him gather an army from there and make an attempt on Salones, in whatever manner he might be able; and he commanded Belisarius to enter Italy with all speed and to treat the Goths as enemies.
So Constantianus came to Epidamnus and spent some time there gathering an army. But in the meantime the Goths, under the leadership of Gripas, came with another army into Dalmatia and took possession of Salones; and Constantianus, when all his preparations were as complete as possible, departed from Epidamnus with his whole force and cast anchor at Epidaurus which is on the right as one sails into the Ionian Gulf.
Now it so happened that some men were there whom Gripas had sent out as spies. And when they took note of the ships and the army of Constantianus it seemed to them that both the sea and the whole land were full of soldiers, and returning to Gripas they declared that Constantianus was bringing against them an army of men numbering many tens of thousands. And he, being plunged into great fear, thought it inexpedient to meet their attack, and at the same time he was quite unwilling to be besieged by the emperor's army, since it so completely commanded the sea; but he was disturbed most of all by the fortifications of Salones (since the greater part of them had already fallen down), and by the exceedingly suspicious attitude on the part of the inhabitants of the place toward the Goths.
And for this reason he departed thence with his whole army as quickly as possible and made camp in the plain which is between Salones and the city of Scardon. And Constantianus, sailing with all his ships from Epidaurus, put in at Lysina, which is an island in the gulf. Thence he sent forward some of his men, in order that they might make enquiry concerning the plans of Gripas and report them to him. Then, after learning from them the whole situation, he sailed straight for Salones with all speed.
And when he had put in at a place close to the city, he disembarked his army on the mainland and himself remained quiet there; but he selected five hundred from the army, and setting over them as commander Siphilas, one of his own bodyguards, he commanded them to seize the narrow pass which, as he had been informed, was in the outskirts of the city. And this Siphilas did. And Constantianus and his whole land army entered Salones on the following day, and the fleet anchored close by.
Then Constantianus proceeded to look after the fortifications of the city, building up in haste all such parts of them as had fallen down; and Gripas, with the Gothic army, on the seventh day after the Romans had taken possession of Salones, departed from there and betook themselves to Ravenna; and thus Constantianus gained possession of all Dalmatia and Liburnia, bringing over to his side all the Goths who were settled there.
Such were the events in Dalmatia. And the winter drew to a close, and thus ended the first year of this war, the history of which Procopius has written.
|6th Century Eastern Empire Cavalry