Justinian was not less energetic in increasing the prestige and strengthening the power of the Empire by his diplomacy than by his arms. While his generals went forth to recover lost provinces, he and his agents were incessantly engaged in maintaining the Roman spheres of influence beyond the frontiers and drawing new peoples within the circle of Imperial client states. The methods were traditional and are familiar, but he pursued and developed them more systematically than any of his predecessors. Youths of the dynasties ruling in semi-dependent countries were educated at Constantinople, and sometimes married Roman wives. Barbarian kinglets constantly visited the capital, and Justinian spared no expense in impressing them with the majesty and splendour of the Imperial court. He gave them titles of Roman rank, often with salaries attached; above all, if they were heathen, he procured their conversion to Christianity. Baptism was virtually equivalent to an acknowledgment of Roman overlordship. He used both merchants and missionaries for the purposes of peaceful penetration. And he understood and applied the art of stirring up one barbarian people against another.1Perhaps no Emperor practised all these methods, which are conveniently comprehended under the name of diplomacy, on such a grand scale as Justinian, who was the last to aspire to the Imperial ideal expressed by the Augustan poet:

illa inclyta Roma

imperium terris, animos aequabit Olympo.

The objects aimed at varied in different quarters. On p293 some frontiers they were mainly political, on others largely commercial. In the north, the European provinces against invasion by managing the rapacious barbarians who lived within striking distance. In the Caucasian regions, the chief concern was to contend against the influence of Persia. In the neighbourhood of the Red Sea commercial aims were predominant. In a general survey of these multifarious activities it will be convenient to notice the hostile invasions which afflicted the Balkan provinces during this reign and the system of fortifications which was constructed to protect them, and to describe the general conditions of commerce. We have already seen examples of the Emperor’s diplomatic methods in his dealings with the Moors and with the Franks.2

§ 1. The Slavs

The array of barbarous peoples against whom Justinian had to protect his European subjects by diplomacy or arms, from the Middle Danube to the Don, were of three different races. There were Germans and Huns as before, but a third group, the Slavs, were now coming upon the scene. The German group consisted of three East German peoples, the Gepids of Transylvania, and the Heruls and the Langobardi to the north-west of the Gepids. The Huns were represented by the Bulgarians of Bessarabia and Walachia, and the Kotrigurs further east. The Slavs lived in the neighbourhood of the Bulgarians on the banks of the lower Danube in Walachia.

This general disposition of peoples had resulted from the great battle of the Netad which dissolved the empire of Attila. One of the obscure but most important consequences of that event was the westward and southward expansion of the Slavs towards the Elbe and towards the Danube.

It has been made probable by recent research that the prehistoric home of the Slavs was in the marshlands of the river Pripet, which flows into the Dniepr north of Kiev.3 This unhealthy district, known as Polesia, hardly half as large as England, p294 is now inhabited by White Russians. It could produce little cornº as it could only be cultivated in spots, and it was so entirely unsuitable for cattle that the Slavs had no native words for cattle or milk. They may have reared swine, but perhaps their food chiefly consisted of fish and the manna-grass which grows freely in the marshy soil. The nature of the territory, impeding free and constant intercourse, hindered the establishment of political unity. The Slavs of Polesia did not form a state; they had no king; they lived in small isolated village groups, under patriarchal government.

Their history, from the earliest times, was a tragedy. Their proximity to the steppes of Southern Russia exposed them as a prey to the Asiatic mounted nomads who successively invaded and occupied the lands between the Don and the Dniester. Living as they did, they could not combine against these enemies who plundered them and carried them off as slaves. They could only protect themselves by hiding in the forest or in the waters of their lakes and rivers. They built their huts with several doors to facilitate escape when danger threatened; they hid their belongings, which were as few as possible, in the earth. They could elude a foe by diving under the water and lying for hours on the bottom, breathing through a long reed, which only the most experienced pursuers could detect.4

At a time of which we have no record the Slavs began to spread silently beyond the borders of Polesia, northward, eastward, and southward. In the fourth century they were conquered p295 by Hermanric, king of the Ostrogoths, and included in his extensive realm.5 They enjoyed a brief interlude of German tyranny instead of nomad raids; then the Huns appeared and they were exposed once more to the oppression which had been their secular lot. They had probably learned much from the Goths; but when they emerge at length into the full light of history in the sixth century, they still retained most of the characteristics which their life in Polesia had impressed upon them. They lived far apart from one another in wretched hovels;6 though they had learned to act together, they did not abandon their freedom to the authority of a king. Revolting against military discipline, they had no battle array and seldom met a foe in the open field.7 Their arms were a shield, darts, and poisoned arrows.8 They were perfidious, for no compact could bind them all; but they are praised for their hospitality to strangers and for the fidelity of their women.

As we might expect, they had no common name. Slav, by which we designate all the various peoples who spread far and wide in Eastern Europe from the original Polesian home, comes from Slovene, which appears originally to have been a local name attached to a particular group dwelling at a place called Slovy; and the fortunes of the name are due to the fact that this group was among the first to come into contact with the Roman Empire. Before the reign of Justinian these Sclavenes, as the historian Procopius calls them,9 had along with another kindred people, the Antae, settled in the neighbourhood of the Bulgarians, p296 along the banks of the Lower Danube. Antae is not a Slavonic name, and it is not unlikely that they were a Slavonic tribe which had been conquered and organised by a non-Slavonic people — somewhat as in later times the Slavs of Moesia were conquered by the Bulgarians and took their name. However this may be, these new neighbours of the Empire now began to exchange the rôle of victims for that of plunderers.

Like the Huns, the Antae and Sclavenes supplied auxiliaries for the Roman army.10 And along with the Huns they were always watching for an opportunity to cross the Danube and plunder the Roman provinces. In the invasions which are recorded in the reign of Justinian, it is sometimes the Slavs, sometimes the Bulgarians who are mentioned, but it is probable that they often came together. In A.D. 529 the Bulgarians overran Lower Moesia and Scythia. They defeated Justin and Baduarius, the generals who opposed them, and crossing the Balkan passes, invaded Thrace.11 There they captured another general, Constantiolus, and obtained from the Emperor ten thousand pieces of gold for his release. Another incursion in the following year was repulsed with numerous losses to the invaders by Mundus, the Master of Soldiers in Illyricum;12 and Chilbudius, who was appointed Master of Soldiers in Thrace about the same time, not only prevented the barbarians from crossing the Danube for three years, but terrorised them by making raids into their own country. His success made him rash. Venturing to cross the river with too small a force, he was defeated and slain by the Sclavenes. No one of the same ability replaced him, and the provinces were once more at the mercy of the foe.13 We hear, however, of no serious invasion till A.D. 540, when the Bulgarians, with a host exceptionally huge, devastated the peninsula from sea to sea.14 They forced p297 their way through the Long Wall and spread terror to the suburbs of the capital. They occupied the Chersonesus, and some of them even crossed the Hellespont and ravaged the opposite coast. They laid waste Thessaly and Northern Greece; the Peloponnesus was saved by the fortifications of the Isthmus. Many of the castles and walled towns fell into their hands,15 and their captives were numbered by tens of thousands. This experience moved Justinian to undertake the construction of an extensive system of fortifications which will be described hereafter.

Soon after this invasion a quarrel broke out between the Sclavenes and the Antae, and Justinian seized the opportunity to inflame their rivalry by offering to the Antae a settlement at Turris, an old foundation of Trajan on the further side of the Lower Danube, where as federates of the Empire, in receipt of annual subsidies, they should act as a bulwark against the Bulgarians.16 We are not told whether this plan was carried out, but we may infer that the proposal was accepted, from the fact that in the subsequent invasions the Antae appear to have taken no part.17 In A.D. 545 the Sclavenes were thoroughly defeated in Thrace by Narses and a body of Heruls whom he had engaged for service in Italy.18 Three years later the same marauders devastated Illyricum as far as Dyrrhachium,19 and in A.D. 549 a band of 3000 penetrated to the Hebrus, where they divided into two parties, of which one ravaged Illyricum and the other Thrace. The maritime city of Topirus was taken, and the cruelties committed by the barbarians exceed in atrocity all that is recorded of the invasions of the Huns of Attila.20 In the following summer the Sclavenes came again, intending to attack Thessalonica, but Germanus happened to be p298 at Sardica, making preparations to take reinforcements to Italy. The terror of his name diverted the barbarians from their southward course and they invaded Dalmatia.21 Later in the year the Sclavenes, reinforced by newcomers, gained a bloody victory over an Imperial army at Hadrianople,22 penetrated to the Long Wall, but were pursued and forced to give up much of their booty.

Two years later there was another inroad, and on this occasion the Gepids aided and abetted the Sclavenes, helping them, when they were hard pressed by Roman troops, to escape across the river, but exacting high fees from the booty-laden fugitives.23

Permanent Slavonic settlements on Imperial soil were not to begin till about twenty years after Justinian’s death, but the movements we have been following were the prelude to the territorial occupation which was to determine the future history of south-eastern Europe.

§ 2. The Gepids and Lombards; Kotrigurs and Utigurs

The most powerful of the barbarous peoples on the Danube frontier, against whom the Emperors had protect their European subjects, were the Gepids of Transylvania. The old policy of recognising them as federates and paying them yearly subsidies, seems to have been successful until Sirmium was taken from the Ostrogoths by Justinian, and being weakly held was allowed to fall into their hands. Establishing themselves in this stronghold they occupied a portion of Dacia Ripensis and made raids into the southern provinces.24 Justinian immediately discontinued the payment of subsidies and sought a new method of checking their hostilities. He found it in the rivalry of another East-German nation, the Langobardi, who had recently appeared upon the scene of Danubian politics. Yet another people, the Heruls, who belonged to the same group, payed a p299 minor part in the drama, in which the Gepids and Langobardi were the principal actors, and Justinian the director.

It was more than a century since the Langobardi, or Lombards, as we may call them in anticipation of the later and more familiar corruption of their name, had left their ancient homes on the Lower Elbe, where they were neighbours of the Saxons, whose customs resembled their own, but the details of their long migration are obscure.25 Soon after the conquest of the Rugians by Odovacar, they took possession of the Rugian lands, to the north of the province of Noricum, but they remained here only for a few years and then settled in the plains between the Theiss and the Danube.26 At this time, it was in the reign of Anastasius, they lived as tributary subjects of another East-German people, more savage than themselves. We have already met the Heruls taking part in the overthrow of the Hunnic realm and contributing mercenary troops to the Imperial service. In the second half of the fifth century they seem to have fixed their abode somewhere in North-western Hungary, and when the Ostrogoths left Pannonia they became a considerable and aggressive power dominating the regions beyond the Upper Danube. They invaded the provinces of Noricum and Pannonia, and won overlordship over the Lombards. Theoderic, following his general policy towards his German neighbours, allied himself with their king Rodulf, whom he adopted as a son.27 But soon p300 afterwards (A.D. 507‑512), they attacked the Lombards without provocation and were defeated in a sanguinary battle.

This defeat had important results. It led to the dissolution of the Herul nation into two portions, of which one migrated northward and returned to the old home of the people in Scandinavia. The rest moved first into the former territory of the Rugians, but finding the land a desert they begged the Gepids to allow them to settle in their country. The Gepids granted the request, but repaid themselves by carrying off the cattle and violating their women. Then the Heruls sought the protection of the Emperor, who readily granted them land in one of the Illyrian provinces.28 But their rapacious instincts soon drove them to plunder and maltreat the provincials, and Anastasius was compelled to send an army to chastise them. Many were killed off; the rest made complete submission, and were suffered to remain. No people quite so barbarous had ever yet been settled on Roman soil. It was their habit to put to death the old and the sick; and the women were expected to hang themselves when their husbands died. When Justinian came to the throne he effected their conversion to Christianity. Their king with his nobles was invited to Constantinople, where he was baptized with all his party, the Emperor standing sponsor, and was dismissed with handsome gifts. Larger subsidies were granted to them, and better lands in the neighbourhood of Singidunum, with the province of Second Pannonia (A.D. 527‑528).29Henceforward, for some years, they fulfilled their duties as Federates, and supplied contingents to the Roman army. But though their savagery had been mitigated after they embraced the Christian faith, they were capricious and faithless; they had not even the merit of chaste manners, for which Tacitus and Salvian praise the Germanic peoples; they were the worst people in the whole world, in the opinion of a contemporary historian.30

Suddenly it occurred to them that they would prefer a republican form of government, though their kings enjoyed only a shadow of authority. Accordingly they slew their king, but p301 very soon, for they were unstable as water, they repented, and decided to choose a ruler among the people of their own race who had settled in Scandinavia. Some of their leading men were sent on this distant errand and duly returned with a candidate for the throne.31 But in the meantime, during their long absence, the Heruls, with characteristic indecision, bethought themselves that they ought not to elect a king from Scandinavia without the consent of Justinian, and they invited him to choose a king for them. Justinian selected a certain Suartuas, a Herul who had long lived at Constantinople. He was welcomed and acclaimed by the Heruls, but not many days had passed when the news came that the envoys who had gone to Scandinavia would soon arrive. Suartuas ordered the Heruls to march forth and destroy them; they obeyed cheerfully; but one night they all left him and went over to the rival whom they had gone forth to slay. Suartuas returned alone to Constantinople.

The consequence of this escapade was that the Heruls split up again into two portions. The greater part attached themselves to the Gepids; the rest remained federates of the Empire.32 This was the position of affairs when about the middle of the sixth century war broke out between the Gepids and the Lombards.

The Lombards are represented as having been Christians while they were still under the yoke of the Heruls. After they had won their independence they lived north of the Danube in the neighbourhood of the Gepids.33 We hear nothing more of them until we find their king Wacho, in A.D. 539, refusing to send help to the Ostrogoths on the ground that he was a friend and ally of Justinian.34 Some years later the Emperor assigned to them settlements in Noricum and Pannonia,35and granted them the subsidies which it was usual to pay to federates. We p302 may take it that he deliberately adopted this policy in order to use the Lombards as a counterpoise to the Gepids, with whom he had recently broken off relations.36

It was not long before these two peoples quarrelled and prepared for war. Audoin at this time was king of the Lombards37and Thorisin of the Gepids. They both sent ambassadors to Constantinople, the Lombards to beg for military aid,38 the Gepids hardly hoping to do more than induce the Emperor to remain neutral. Justinian decided to assist the Lombards and sent a body of 10,000 horse, who were directed to proceed to Italy when they had dealt with the Gepids. These troops met an army of hostile Heruls and defeated them severely, but in the meantime the Lombards and Gepids had composed their differences, to the disappointment of Justinian. It was felt, however, by both sides that war was inevitable and was only postponed. The Gepids, fearing that their enemies, supported by Constantinople, would prove too strong for them, concluded an alliance with the Kotrigurs.

The Kotrigurs, who were a branch of the Hunnic race, occupied the steppes of South Russia, from the Don to the Dniester, and were probably closely allied to the Bulgarians39 or Onogundurs — the descendants of Attila’s Huns — who had their homes in Bessarabia and Walachia. They were a formidable people and Justinian had long ago taken precautions to keep them in check, in case they should threaten to attack the Empire, though it was probably for the Roman cities of the Crimea, Cherson and Bosporus, that he feared, rather than for the Danubian provinces. As his policy on the Danube was to p303 use the Lombards as a check on the Gepids, so his policy in Scythia was to use another Hunnic people, the Utigurs, as a check on the Kotrigurs. The Utigurs lived beyond the Don, on the east of the Sea of Azov, and Justinian cultivated their friendship by yearly gifts.

When a host of 12,000 Kotrigurs, incited by the Gepids, crossed the Danube and ravaged the Illyrian lands, Justinian immediately despatched an envoy to Sandichl, king of the Utigurs, to bid him prove his friendship to the Empire by invading the territory of their neighbours. Sandichl, an experienced warrior, fulfilled the Emperor’s expectations; he crossed the Don, routed the enemy, and carried their women and children into slavery. When the news reached Constantinople, Justinian sent one of his generals40 to the Kotrigurs who were still plundering the Balkan provinces, to inform them of what had happened in their own land, and to offer them a large sum of money to evacuate Roman territory. They accepted the proposal, and it was stipulated that if they found their own country occupied by the Utigurs, they should return and receive from the Emperor lands in Thrace. Soon afterwards another party of 2000 Kotrigurs, with their wives and children, arrived as fugitives on Roman soil. They were led by Sinnion, who had fought in Africa as a commander of Hunnic auxiliaries in the Vandal campaign of Belisarius. The Emperor accorded them a settlement in Thrace. This complacency shown to their foes excited the jealous indignation of the Utigurs, and king Sandichl sent envoys to remonstrate with Justinian on the injustice and impolicy of his action. They were appeased by large gifts, which it was obviously the purpose of their coming to obtain.41

In the following year (A.D. 552), the war so often threatened and so often postponed between the Lombards and Gepids broke out. The Gepids sought to renew their old alliance with the Empire, and Justinian consented,42 but when the Lombards soon afterwards asked him to fulfil his engagements and send p304 troops to help them he denounced his new treaty with the Gepids on the pretext that they had helped Sclavenes to cross the Danube. Among the leaders of the forces which marched to co-operate with the Lombards, were Justin and Justinian, the Emperor’s cousins, but they were detained on their way to suppress a revolt at Ulpiana, and never arrived at their destination. Only those troops which were commanded by Amalfridas, the brother-in‑law of the Lombard king,43 pursued their march and took part in the campaign. The Lombards won a complete victory over the Gepids, and Audoin, in announcing the good news to Justinian, reproached him for failing to furnish the help which they had a right to expect in consideration of the large force of Lombards which had recently gone forth to support Roman arms in Italy.

After this defeat the Gepids concluded treaties of perpetual peace with the Lombards and with the Empire,44 and peace seems to have been preserved so long as Justinian reigned. After his death the enmity between these two German peoples broke out again, and the Lombards, aided by other allies, eliminated the name of the Gepids from the political map of Europe.

§ 3. The Invasion of Zabergan (A.D. 558)

In a few years the Kotrigurs recovered from the chastisement which had been inflicted upon them by their Utigur neighbours, and in the winter of A.D. 558‑559, under a chieftain whose name was Zabergan, a host of these barbarians crossed the frozen Danube, and passing unopposed through Scythia and Moesia, entered Thrace. These provinces would seem to have been entirely denuded of troops. In Thrace Zabergan divided his followers into three armies. One was sent to Greece, to ravage the unprotected country; the second invaded the Thracian Chersonese; the third army, consisting of seven thousand cavalry, rode under Zabergan himself to Constantinople.

The atrocities committed by the third body are thus described by a contemporary writer:45

p305 As no resistance was offered to their course, they overran the country and plundered without mercy, obtaining a great booty and large numbers of captives. Among the rest, well-born women of chaste life were most cruelly carried off to undergo the worst of all misfortunes, and minister to the unbridled lust of the barbarians; some who in early youth had renounced marriage and the cares and pleasures of this life, and had immured themselves in some religious retreat, deeming it of the highest importance to be free from cohabitation with men, were dragged from the chambers of their virginity and violated. Many married women who happened to be pregnant were dragged away, and when their hour was come brought forth children on the march, unable to conceal their throes, or to take up and swaddle the new-born babes; they were hauled along, in spite of all, hardly allowed even time to suffer, and the wretched infants were left where they fell, a prey for dogs and birds, as though this were the purpose of their appearance in the world.

To such a pass had the Roman Empire come that, even within the precincts of the districts surrounding the Imperial city, a very small number of barbarians committed such enormities.46 Their audacity went so far as to pass the Long Walls and approach the inner fortifications. For time and neglect had in many places dilapidated the great wall, and other parts were easily thrown down by the barbarians, as there was no military garrison, no engines of defence. Not even the bark of a dog was to be heard; the wall was less efficiently protected than a pig-sty or a sheep-cot.

The Huns encamped at Melantias, a village on the small river Athyras, which flows into the Propontis. Their proximity created a panic in Constantinople, whose inhabitants saw in imagination the horrors of siege, conflagration, and famine. The terror was not confined to the lower classes; the nobles trembled in their palaces, the Emperor was alarmed on his throne. All the treasures of the churches, in the tract of country between the Euxine and the Golden Horn, were either carted into the city or shipped to the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus. The undisciplined corps of the Scholarian guards, ignorant of real warfare, did not inspire the citizens with much confidence.

On this critical occasion Justinian appealed to his veteran general Belisarius to save the seat of empire. In spite of his years and feebleness Belisarius put on his helmet and cuirass once more. He relied chiefly on a small body of three hundred men who had fought with him in Italy; the other troops that he mustered knew nothing of war, and they were more for appearance than for action. The peasants who had fled before p306 the barbarians from their ruined homesteads in Thrace accompanied the little army. He encamped at the village of Chettus, and employed the peasants in digging a wide trench round the camp. Spies were sent out to discover the numbers of the enemy, and at night many beacons were kindled in the plain with the purpose of misleading the Huns as to the number of the forces sent out against them. For a while they were misled, but it was soon known that the Roman army was small, and two thousand cavalry selected by Zabergan rode forth to annihilate it. The spies informed Belisarius of the enemy’s approach, and he made a skilful disposition of his troops. He concealed two hundred peltasts and javelin-men in the woods on either side of the plain, close to the place where he expected the attack of the barbarians; the ambuscaders, at a given signal, were to shower their missiles on the hostile ranks. The object of this was to compel the lines of the enemy to close in, in order to avoid the javelins on the flank, and thus to render their superior numbers useless through inability to deploy. Belisarius himself headed the rest of the army; in the rear followed the rustics, who were not to engage in the battle, but were to accompany it with loud shouts and cause a clatter with wooden beams, which they carried for that purpose.

All fell out as Belisarius had planned. The Huns, pressed by the peltasts, thronged together, and were hindered both from using their bows and arrows with effect, and from circumventing the Roman wings. The noise of the rustics in the rear, combined with the attack on the flanks, gave the foe the impression that the Roman army was immense, and that they were being surrounded; clouds of dust obscured the real situation, and the barbarians turned and fled. Four hundred perished before they reached their camp at Melantias, while not a single Roman was mortally wounded. The camp was immediately abandoned, and all the Kotrigurs hurried away, imagining that the victors were still on their track. But by the Emperor’s orders Belisarius did not pursue them.

The fortunes of the Hunnic troops who were sent against the Chersonese were not happier. Germanus, a native of Prima Justiniana, had been appointed some time previously commandant in that peninsula, and he now proved himself a capable officer. As the Huns could make no breach in the great wall, p307 which barred the approach to the peninsula and was skilfully defended by the dispositions of Germanus, they resorted to the expedient of manufacturing boats of reeds fastened together in sheaves; each boat was large enough to hold four men; one hundred and fifty were constructed, and six hundred men embarked secretly in the bay of Aenus (near the mouth of the Hebrus), in order to land on the south-western coast of the Chersonese. Germanus learned the news of their enterprise with delight, and immediately manned twenty galleys with armed men. The fleet of reed-built boats was easily annihilated, not a single barbarian escaping. This success was followed up by an excursion of the Romans from the wall against the army of the dispirited besiegers, who then abandoned their enterprise and joined Zabergan, now retreating after the defeat at Chettus.

The other division of the Huns, which had been sent in the direction of Greece, also returned without achieving any signal success. They had not penetrated farther than Thermopylae, where the garrison of the fortress prevented their advance.

Thus, although Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly suffered terribly from this invasion, Zabergan was frustrated in all three points of attack, by the ability of Belisarius, Germanus, and the garrison of Thermopylae. Justinian redeemed the captives for a considerable sum of money, and the Kotrigurs retreated beyond the Danube. But the wily Emperor laid a trap for their destruction. He despatched a characteristic letter to Sandichl, the king of the Utigurs, whose friendship he still cultivated by periodical presents of money. He informed Sandichl that the Kotrigurs had invaded Thrace and carried off all the gold that was destined to enrich the treasury of the Utigurs. “It would have been easy for us,” ran the Imperial letter, “to have destroyed them utterly, or at least to have sent them empty away. But we did neither one thing nor the other, because we wished to test your sentiments. For if you are really valiant and wise, and not disposed to tolerate the appropriation by others of what belongs to you, you are not losers; for you have nothing to do but punish the enemy and receive from them your money at the sword’s point, as though we had sent it to you by their hands.” The Emperor further threatened that, p308 if Sandichl proved himself craven enough to let the insult pass, he would transfer his amity to the Kotrigurs. The letter had the desired effect. The Utigurs were stirred up against their neighbours, and ceaseless hostilities wasted the strength of the two peoples.47

The historian who recorded the expedition of Zabergan concludes his story by remarking that these two Hunnic peoples were soon so weakened by this continual warfare that though they were not wholly extinguished they were incorporated in larger empires and lost their individualities and even their names.48 The power which threatened them was already at the gate of Europe at the time of Zabergan’s invasion.49

§ 4. The Defences of the Balkan Peninsula

Unable to spare military forces adequate to protect the Balkan provinces against the inroads of the barbarians, Justinian endeavoured to mitigate the evil by an elaborate system of fortresses, which must have cost his treasury large sums. In Thrace, Macedonia, Dardania, Epirus, and Greece, new forts were built, old forts were restored and improved, about six hundred in all.50

Thrace had always been defended by a line of fortresses on both sides of the Danube. They were now renovated and their number was increased. Behind them, in the provinces of Lower Moesia and Scythia, there were about fifty walled towns and castles. South of the Balkan range, the regions of Mount Rhodope and the Thracian plain were protected by 112 fortresses. The defences of Hadrianople and Philippopolis, Plotinopolis and p309 Beroea (Stara Zagora) were restored, and Topirus, under Mount Rhodope, which the Sclavenes had taken by assault, was carefully fortified. Trajanopolis and Maximianopolis, in the same region, were secured by new walls, and the populous village of Ballurus was converted into a fortified town. On the Aegean coast, the walls of Aenus were raised in height, and Anastasiopolis strengthened by a new sea-wall. The wall, which hedged in the Thracian Chersonese but had proved too weak to keep out the Bulgarians, was demolished, and a new and stronger defence was built, which proved effective against the Kotrigurs. Sestos was made impregnable, and a high tower was erected at Elaeûs. On the Propontis, Justinian built a strong city at Rhaedestus and restored Heraclea. Finally, he repaired and strengthened the Long Wall of Anastasius.

The provinces belonging to the Prefecture of Illyricum were strewn with fortresses proportionate in number to the greater dimensions of the territory. The stations on the Danube from Singidunum to Novae were set in order. In Dardania, the Emperor’s native province, eight new castles were built and sixty-one restored. Here he was concerned not only to provide for the defence of the province but to make it worthy of his own greatness by imposing and well-furnished cities. Scupi, near the village where he was born, began a new era in its history under the name of Justiniana Prima, though the old name refused to be displaced, and the town is now Üsküb. It was raised to high dignity as the ecclesiastical metropolis of Illyricum; the number of its churches, its municipal offices, the size of its porticoes, the beauty of its market-places impressed the visitor. Ulpiana (Lipljan), too, was embellished, and became Justiniana Secunda,51 and near it the Emperor founded a new town called Justinopolis in honour of his uncle. In the centre of the peninsula the walls of Sardica and Naissus were rebuilt.

The inhabitants of Macedonia were protected by forty-six forts and towns. Cassandrea, which had failed to withstand the Sclavenes, was made impregnable. In the two provinces of Epirus, forty-five new forts were built and fifty rehabilitated. In Thessaly, the decayed walls of Thebes, Pharsalus, Demetrias, p310 Larissa, and Diocletianopolis on Lake Castoria, and other towns52 were restored. The defences of Thermopylae were renewed and improved, and the historic barrier which had hitherto been guarded by the local farmers was entrusted to 2000 soldiers.53 The Isthmus of Corinth was fortified anew,54and the walls of Athens and the Boeotian towns, which were dilapidated by age or earthquakes, were restored.

This immense work of defence did not avail to keep the barbarians out of the land. Writing in A.D. 550 Procopius sums up the situation: “Illyricum and Thrace, from the Ionian Sea to the suburbs of Byzantium, were overrun almost every year since Justinian’s accession to the throne by Huns, Sclavenes, and Antae, who dealt atrociously with the inhabitants. In every invasion I suppose that about 200,000 Roman subjects were killed or enslaved; the whole land became a sort of Scythian desert.”55 The historian’s supposition doubtless exaggerates the truth considerably, and he would have been more instructive if he had told us how far the improved fortifications mitigated the evils of the invasions. It is clear, however, that it was a great advantage for the inhabitants to have more numerous and safer refuges when the barbarians approached; and we may guess that if statistics had been kept they would have shown a decrease in the number of the victims.


EXERPT FROM THE BOOK History of the Later Roman Empire 
by J. B. BurY

published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,1923

The text is in the public

The Author’s Notes:

1 He is praised for his dexterity in this art in the contemporary anonymous treatise Περὶ στρατηγικῆς, II.4 p58.

2 There is a comprehensive survey of “the diplomatic work” of Justinian in Diehl’s monograph p367 sqq. Commerce is treated separately (533 sqq.).

3 This theory is based on a combination of botanical and linguistic evidence. It was originated (1908) by Rostafinski and has been developed by Peisker. The Slavs have no (p294)native words for the beech, the larch, and the yew, but they have a word for the hornbeam; hence their original home must have lain in the hornbeam zone, but outside the zones of the other trees, and this consideration determines it as Polesia. The brief sketch I have given of the primitive Slavs is derived from the writings of Peisker ,especially from C. Med. H. II chap. XIV. Rostafinski’s article, Les demeures primitives des Slaves, will be found in Bull. de l’Acad. des Sciences de Cracovie, Cl. de phil. 1908.

4 Pseudo-Maurice, Strateg. XI.5. (It has been conjectured by Kulakovski, Viz. Vrem. VII.108 sqq., that the word πλωταίwhich occurs in this chapter for rafts or flosses is the Slavonic plot.) The accounts of the manners of the Slavs in this sixth-century treatise and in Procopius, B. G. III.14, are in general agreement and supplement each other. For their religion (cult of fire, worship of nymphs and rivers) see Peisker, op. cit. p425; Jireček, Geschichte der Bulgaren, 102 sqq. The Slavs under this name are, I think, first mentioned in the fourth century by Caesarius (brother of Gregory of Nazianzus), Quaestiones,P. G. XXXVIII p985: οἱ Σκλαυηνοὶ καὶ Φυσωνῖται, οἱ καὶ Δανούβιοι προσαγορευόμενοι, οἱ μὲν γυναικομαστοβοροῦσιν ἡδεῶς διὰ τὸ πεπληρῶσθαι τοῦ γάλακτος, μυῶν δίκην τοὺς ὑποτίτθους ταῖς πέτραις ἐπαράττοντες, οἱ δὲ καὶ τῆς νομίμης καὶ ἀδιαβλήτου κρεωβορίας ἀπέχουσιν. See Müllenhoff, Deutsche Altertumskunde, II p367.

Thayer’s Note: “Long reed” is suspect on technical grounds. A useful breathing tube or snorkel cannot be more than about 50 cm long, since beyond that human lungs, subjected to increasing water pressure, do not have the strength to expel the breathed air to the surface and exchange it for fresh. The physics — of the extreme case in which the lungs are assumed to have a 100% oxygen absorption efficiency — are given in detail in “Theoretical Limit to the Depth at Which a Snorkel May Be Used” (paper by A. Toohie, J. McGuire and A. Pohl of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester).

5 Jordanes, Get. 119, where they are called Veneti (as in Pliny and Tacitus). They attempted to resist, numerositate pollentes — sed nihil valet multitudo imbellium. We can put no credence in what Jordanes (after Cassiodorus) tells us of Hermanric’s immediate successors (which is at variance with statements of Ammian), and I cannot accept (as Peisker does, op. cit. p431) his statement that King Vinithar subdued the Antae soon after the Hunnic invasion (ib. 247).

6 Procopius, ib. 24.

7 Pseudo-Maurice, who describes them as ἄναρχα καὶ μεισάλληλα (pp275‑276).

8 Ib., and Procopius, ib. 25, who says that some of them went into battle without tunic or cloak, and wearing only trousers. He describes them as tall and brave, and in complexion reddish.

9 Jordanes also has Sclaveni (e.g. Rom. 388), distinct from Antae. In Pseudo-Maurice we get as the generic term Σκλάβοι. Procopius says (ib. 29) that Antae and Sclavenes had originally a common name Σπόροι, which, according to Dobrovsky and Šafarik (Slav. Altertümer, I.95), is a corruption of Srbi (Serbs). The thesis maintained by Šafarik and Drinov, and defended by Jireček, that Slavs had begun to settle into the Balkan Peninsula already in the third century A.D., and that the Carpi and Kostoboks were Slavonic peoples, must be rejected as resting on insufficient evidence. See Šafarik, op. cit.I.213 sq., Jireček, op. cit. ch. III.

10 See Procopius, B. G. I.27.2. They must have supplied recruits already in the fifth century, for in 468 we meet a man of Slavonic name (Anagast) who had risen to be Mag. mil. of Thrace. See above vol. I p434.

11 John Mal. XVIII.437. Theophanes, A.M. 6031. Justin was slain. Baduarius is not to be confused with his namesake, son-in‑law of the Emperor Justin II.

12 Ib. 451 Οὗννοι μετὰ πολλοῦ πλῆθους διαφόρων βαρβάρων, Marcellinus, sub a. (Bulgares).

13 Procopius, B. G. III.14. Chilbudius was appointed in the year of Justinian, A.D. 530‑531, and was slain three years later. Here the Οὗννοι, Ἄνται and Σκλαβηνοί are associated as invaders.

14 Procopius, B. V. II.4. John of Ephesus, who was then in Constantinople, speaks of Justinian barricading himself in his Palace, H. E. Part II p485.

15 Thirty-two fortresses in Illyricum were taken, and the town of Cassandrea was captured by assault.

16 Procopius, B. G. III.14. Turris had long been derelict; Justinian apparently proposed to have it restored at his expense.

17 The Antae accepted, on condition that a captive, whom they believed to be Chilbudius (the general who was slain inA.D. 533‑534), should organise the settlement. The impostor was sent to Constantinople and captured by Narses in Thrace, and his pretensions were exposed. Procopius does not tell the sequel.

18 Ib. III.13.

19 Ib. III.29.1‑3.

20 Procopius relates this invasion under the year 549‑550 (III.38). I infer that it belongs to 549, from the fact that the next invasion was clearly in the summer of 550 (III.40.1; cp. 39.29). It is often placed in 551 (as by Diehl, op. cit. 220). The impalings which the Sclavenes practised may have been learned from the Huns.

21 Germanus had formerly inflicted a great defeat on the Antae, when he was Master of Soldiers in Thrace (ib. 40.6); the date is unknown.

22 The defeated army was under well-known leaders: Constantian (Count of the Stable), Aratius, Nazares (who was or had been mag. mil. Illyrici, B. G. III.11.18), Justin, son of German us, and John Phagas, but the supreme command was entrusted to Scholasticus, a Palace eunuch, otherwise unknown. The soldiers forced their leaders to give battle against their wish.

23 A piece of gold for every person they ferried into safety. Ib. IV.25.5.

24 Procopius, B. G. II.14.

25 The original home of the Langobardi was in Scandinavia, but they had settled in the regions of the Lower Elbe before the time of Augustus. Their southward migration is dated by modern historians as not earlier than the beginning of the fourth century. It is probable that the old interpretation of their name (Long Beards) is the true one (see Blasel, Die Wanderzüge der Langobarden, 129 sqq.). The chief sources of their early history are the Origo gentis Langobardorum(c. A.D. 650); Fredegarius, Chron. III.65 (embodying Lombard tradition); Paulus Diac. Hist. Lang. Book I (based on theOrigo). See, on the difficult geographical and chronological questions connected with the movements of the Lombards, Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vol. V; Schmidt, Gesch. der deutschen Stämme, I.427 sqq.; Blasel, op. cit. (where a bibliography will be found).

26 Campi patentes = Feld (Origo and Paul, Hist. Lang. I.20); which in Chron. Gothorum, ch. II, is called Tracia.

27 Cassiodorus, Var. IV.2, a letter addressed to the king of the Heruls, whose name comes from the Lombard sources. Its date is between 507 and 511, so that the battle must be placed, not c. 505 with Schmidt, but at earliest 507‑508, and at latest 511‑512 (see next note). If it is true that the Lombards moved from Rugia to the Campi patentes three years before the battle (Paul, ib.), the earliest date for their change of abode is 504‑505. The name of the Lombard king at this time was Tato. Rodulf, the Herul, was slain in the battle (Paul, ib.). The best source is Procopius, B. G. II.14; the fuller story of Lombard tradition is largely legendary.

28 Probably Dacia Ripensis. Marcellinus, s. a. 512; Procopius, ib. XV.i.1.

29 Procopius, B. G. II.14.33; III.34.42; John Mal. XVIII.427; John Eph., H. E. Part II p475 (sub a. 844 = A.D. 533). Cp. Menander, fr. 9 (F. H. G. IV).

30 Procopius, ib. II.14.36 καὶ μίξεις οὐχ ὁσίας τελοῦσιν, ἄλλας τε καὶ ἀνδρῶν καὶ ὀρνιθων.

31 In his account of this episode Procopius (ib. 15) designates Scandinavia as Thule and describes it as ten times larger than Britain. Among the peoples who inhabit it he knows of two, the Gauts and the Skrithifinoi. Of the Gauts in Sweden we otherwise know, and it is natural to identify the Skrithifinoi with the Finns.

32 Procopius, B. G. III.34.43, who says that the total fighting strength of the Heruls was 4500 men, of whom 3000 joined the Gepids. Cp. II.15.37.

33 This was the period of the linguistic change, which is known as the second shifting of consonants and produced the High German language. It originated in southern Germany, and the Lombard language was affected by it.

34 Proc. B. G. II.22. Above, p205.

35 Ib. III.33.10 Ηωρικῶν τε πόλει (Noreia = Neumarkt) καὶ τοῖς ἐπὶ Παννονίας ὀχυρώμασί τε καὶ ἄλλοις χωρίοις.

36 Procopius relates two events together, under the fourteenth year of the Gothic War, i.e. A.D. 548‑549, but in a digression which assigns only the loose date “when Totila had gained the upper hand” (ib. 7). In the following chapter (III.34) he anticipates the chronology (χρόνῷ δὲ ὔστερον) and narrates the war of the Gepids and Lombards, which was thus subsequent to A.D. 549.

37 Audoin (half-brother of Wacho) married the daughter of Hermanfrid, king of the Thuringians. The marriage was arranged by Justinian. For after Hermanfrid’s death, his wife Amalaberga (Theoderic’s niece) had returned to Italy with her children, and they were after brought to Constantinople by Belisarius. See B. G. I.31.2; IV.12.

38 Procopius, who puts long speeches into the mouths of the envoys, makes the Lombards urge that they were Catholics, not Arians like the Gepids (III.34, 24). Yet when they subsequently conquered Italy, they were Arians. They seem to have been exceptionally indifferent to religion. Cp. Hodgkin, op. cit. V.158.

39 The name Kotrigur is to be compared with Kotragos in the genealogy of the Bulgarians. Theophanes describesΚότραγοι near L. Maeotis as ὁμόφυλοι of the Bulgarians (A.M. 6171).

40 Aratius, the Armenian. The name of the Kotrigur leader was Chinialon.

41 Procopius, B. G. IV.18 and 19. The long speech which the author puts into the mouths of the envoys is, of course, his own criticism of Justinian’s policy. The date of these events seems to be A.D. 551. Cp. ib. 21, 4.

42 Ib. 25.8‑9. Procopius obliquely criticises Justinian by emphasising the solemnity of the oaths with which the treaty was confirmed.

43 He was son of Hermanfrid; see above, p302, n2.

44 Ib. 27.21.

45 Agathias V.2; cp. John Mal. XVIII p490; Theophanes, A.M. 6051. The Huns were almost a whole year in Roman territory. See Clinton, F. R., sub A.D. 559.

46 Theophanes, ib., notices that two generals, Sergius and Edermas, were defeated by the Huns before they reached the Long Wall.

47 Agathias, V.25; John Ant., fr. 217 (F. H. G. IV); Menander, fr. 1, De leg. Rom. Another invasion of Huns is recorded inA.D. 562 (Theophanes, A.M. 6054); Anastasiopolis was captured.

48 Agathias, V.25; while the Kotrigurs were subjugated by the Avars, the Utigurs were conquered by the western Turks about 576 (cp. Menander, fr. 14, De leg. Rom. p208).

49 Below, § 6.

50 The source is Procopius, Aed. IV (Thayer Note: in my Web transcription, in Parts B and C), where full lists of the forts (of which few can be identified) will be found. It seems probable that the fortifications were carried out on a general plan, afterA.D. 540 (we know that Cassandrea and the Chersonese were fortified after that date, and Topirus after 549). The invasion of that year had displayed the deficiencies of the existing fortifications. Most of the old military forts had only one tower (they were called μονοπύργια). Justinian’s seem to have been larger and had several towers. Ib. 5.4. On the general principles of the defensive fortifications of the provinces, as illustrated by the remains in Africa, see above, p148.

51 For the identification of the two Justinianas see Evans, Antiquarian Researches in Illyricum, Part III.62 sq.; Part IV.134 sqq. Scupi had been ruined by an earthquake in 518 (Marcellinus, s. a.).

52 Metropolis (near the modern Karditsa), Gomphi, Tricca (now Trikkala), Caesarea, Centauropolis.

53 Procopius, Aed. IV.2.14; H. A. 26.33, where it is said that, on the pretext of paying the garrison, the municipal rates of all the cities of Greece were appropriated to the treasury; this change is attributed to the logothete Alexander Psalidios.

54 The fortress of Megara had been restored apparently under Anastasius, CIG IV.8622. Cp. Hertzberg, Gesch. Griechenlands, III.469.

55 H. A. 18.20.

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