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  • The Danger of the Soft Life:Manly and Unmanly Romans in Procopius's Gothic War

Procopius's Secret History has attracted the attention of a generation of social historians. Yet, the significant, albeit subtler ways, in which gender colors Procopius's most significant work, the Wars, has received far less notice. Seeking to address this imbalance, the present study examines how gender shapes Procopius's presentation of the Goths, East Romans, and Italo–Romans in his Wars. Rather than uncovering the Goths, Byzantines, and Italians "as they really were," this paper seeks to unearth some of the purpose and reasoning behind Procopius's gendered depictions and ethnicizing worldview. A careful investigation of Procopius's discussions about the manly and unmanly provides crucial insights into not just the larger narrative but also the historian's knotty authorial agenda. Despite the Gothic War's reliance on classical ethnic and gender patterns, Procopius did not compose his history in a vacuum. Indeed, the gendered discourse, which undergirds much of the Wars, must be understood within the broader context of the political debates reverberating around the late antique Mediterranean at a time when control of Italy from Constantinople was contested.

In a modern world obsessed with sex and celebrity scandals, it should not surprise that the scurrilous Secret History, by the mid-sixth century writer Procopius, represents a favorite text on the bookshelves of university students. Teeming with accounts of the carnal escapades and the political misdeeds of puissant women, often at the expense of enfeebled men, the work offers students an apt corrective to stereotypes of the Byzantines as androcentric "prudes" with minimal interest in sexual matters.1 Procopius's fondness for [End Page 473] gendered discourse has also attracted the attention of scholars.2 The Secret History's notorious views on gender, especially in its portraits of the seminal power-couples of sixth-century Byzantium—Theodora and Justinian on the one hand, and Antonina and Belisarius on the other—have held the attention of a generation of social historians.3 Yet the significant, albeit subtler and less erotic ways in which gender colors Procopius's most important work, the Wars—recounting Byzantium's struggles against the Persians in the East and the "reconquest" of the lost Western Provinces against the Vandals in North Africa and the Goths in Italy—has received only minimal attention.4

Seeking to address this imbalance, this essay shifts its attention to Procopius's description of the Italian campaigns found in the Wars.5 Instead of focusing heavily on individuals, as my previous research has done,6 the present study investigates how gender shapes Procopius's presentation of the Goths, East Romans, and Italo–Romans during the nearly two-decade struggle for Italy.7 My goal is not to uncover the Goths, Byzantines, and Italians "as they really were," but rather to elucidate some of the reasoning and purpose behind Procopius's gendered depictions and ethnicizing worldview.8 [End Page 474] I will suggest that by examining his discussions about the manly and the unmanly carefully, one may obtain crucial insights into the larger narrative and Procopius's complex personal and political agendas.9

Rhetoric and Reality

Those relying on Procopius for their vision of the sixth century need to first address some issues of literary representation. While valuing its details and admiring its artistry, one must always keep in mind the extent to which the Wars offers a genuine reflection of sixth-century realities, and that to which it reflects conventional elements adopted from his classical models.10 Homer, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Herodotus, Polybius, Plato, and Xenophon have all been shown to greater and lesser degrees to have influenced his writings.11 Choosing to compose a grand history of warfare in the classical style, Procopius naturally adhered to certain expectations for his selected genre: the use of Attic Greek, didacticism, a reliance on set speeches before battles, a rather limited vocabulary, a fondness for anecdotes, and finally, archaic names and gender assumptions for his portrayals of the characteristics of nations and peoples.12 As a result, the neat distinctions that Procopius routinely makes among East Romans, Goths, and Italo–Romans, disguises a more complicated sixth-century reality.13

Gender scholars have also noticed dissonances between Procopius's characterizations of individuals and their "actual" motivations, personalities, and deeds. As Cooper observes, Procopius's "tendency to rely on ethnic and gender patterns" leads to highly stylized and, at times, deceptive portrayals [End Page 475] of key individuals such as the Gothic Queen Amalasuintha.14 Similarly, an important article by Brubaker argues that Procopius's construction of feminine and masculine virtues closely followed classical Roman and Christian precepts; particularly in the Secret History, Theodora represents "everything a late Roman woman should not be." So, while Brubaker believes Procopius's writings can teach us about sixth-century gender constructions,15 she questions whether the historian tells us anything about the "real" Theodora and Justinian, declaring that the Secret History "is useless as a source of information about 'what really happened.'"16 Although this paper challenges aspects of both these assertions, they offer timely reminders on the difficulties facing one hoping to recover sixth-century realities in the Wars.17

Yet, in Procopius's writings, deceptions can be as important as truths. Exploring the text beneath the text has shined needed light on formerly underappreciated paradigms and possibilities.18 A greater appreciation of Procopius's sophistication represents one welcome by-product of these innovative approaches. Recent intertextual studies have shown how Procopius cleverly deployed direct and indirect classical allusions as literary tools—and often potent weapons—to delve into sensitive topics, including political issues. Operating in a shared thought-world of symbol and allegory, the author and select members of his audience were privy to details in the text that the less educated might miss.19 In this way, Procopius could skillfully manipulate classical mimesis to criticize or praise individuals, ethnic groups, or Byzantine foreign policy.

A Soft Empire

Let us begin by discussing the role that Procopius suggests the fifth-century Western imperial government had played in the Vandals and the Goths' triumphs. This account provides an excellent starting point for considering how gender shapes not only the Gothic War but also wider sixth-century discussions on the decline of imperial power in the fifth-century West. Procopius echoed Justinianic and Ostrogothic propaganda by placing primary responsibility for these losses on the unmanly or "effeminate" (which amount to the [End Page 476] same thing) West Roman emperors' leadership, and what he described as the fifth-century West Romans' demilitarization.20

The Vandal War's prologue submits that Western decay originated during the reign of Honorius (ruled 395–423). Procopius chooses to see this decline through a moral rather than a political lens. In sharp contrast to his soldier–emperor father, Theodosius I (ruled 379–396), Honorius preferred life within the palace with his chickens, rather than fighting on the field of battle with his soldiers.21 Consequently, the "Gothic nations" ran amok and seized his lands.22 In Procopius's portrayal, only a combination of good fortune and divine intervention halted for a time the barbarians' predation.23 After describing Alaric and his Goths' sack of Rome in August of 410, Procopius explains that God's proclivity to assist even the idiotic and inactive—as long as they were not wicked—saved Honorius and his realm.24

Yet, this respite proved temporary. Procopius then tells us how a continuing turning away from masculine martial virtues during the reign of Honorius's successor, Valentinian III (ruled 425–455), led to further defeats and even more catastrophic territorial losses. Valentinian failed emphatically in his essential masculine role as the guardian of the State and of his family, and consequently both of his wards fell captive to the barbarians. Procopius's description is worth quoting in full:

Placidia, his mother, had reared this emperor and educated him in a womanish way (θηλυνομένην παιδείαν), and because of this, from childhood, he was filled with wickedness (κακίας). He socialized with many sorcerers and astrologers, and was an extraordinarily fervent pursuer of amours with other men's wives. He lived indecently although he was married to a woman of extraordinary beauty. Not only that, he failed to rescue for the empire anything that had been taken before, and he lost Libya [North Africa], and moreover, was himself killed. When this happened, his wife and children fell captive.25 [End Page 477]

The biographic sketches above reveal how Procopius connected his moralizing, theological, and gendered rhetoric. In telling the story of Honorius, Procopius prepares his audience for the subsequent portrait of Valentinian III. Unlike the case of the unmanly yet benevolent fool Honorius, the prologue confirms that divine agency did not protect the politeia of the dually "wicked" and "effeminate" Valentinian III.26

Other authors from the fifth and sixth centuries likewise faulted the "unmanly" Theodosian–Valentinian emperors for the "loss" of the West.27 In the opinion of the mid-sixth century historian Jordanes, the naming of Marcian as Eastern emperor in 450 had helped to reinvigorate an Empire, which had suffered for nearly sixty years under the rule of his "effeminate predecessors" (delicati decessores).28 As Arnold has recently underlined, the sixth-century Italo–Roman author Cassiodorus (about 490–583) spun a similar tale whereby the slack militarism of an effeminate regime brought about a decline in the West Roman army's manly vigor.29 In his Variae, Cassiodorus complained that under Placidia—who had served as Valentinian III's regent from 423 to 437—the West's armed forces had been "weakened through too much inaction."30 Indeed, unable to hone their skills on the field of battle," the West Roman soldiery had, instead, been "softened (molire) by extended peace."31 This passive and effeminate West Roman rule stood in stark contrast to Cassiodorus's depiction of the manly, martial rule of queen Amalasuintha (ruled from 525 to about 534) and her Goths.32 Procopius largely followed this vision of a manly and sagacious Amalasuintha in the Wars and the Secret History.33 Moreover, immediately after describing the enfeebled rule of Valentinian III, the historian famously said of the two fifth-century West Roman [End Page 478] generalissimos, Bonifatius and Flavius Aëtius, "if one were to call either of them 'the last man of the Romans,' he would not err."34

After relating in the remainder of books 3 and 4 the East Romans' relatively straightforward victory over the Vandals, the Gothic War begins by summarizing events that had led to the Gothic control of Italy.35 In contrast to his more even-handed approach throughout the Wars, Procopius here adheres to a strict polarization between "barbarian" and "Roman."36 The barbarization of the Western army and the Italians' demilitarization helps to explain the "loss" of Italy.37 As the non-Roman element of the Western army rose, the Roman soldiers' status waned. In Procopius's opinion, these non-Romans had little grasp of Roman law and slight regard for the Italo–Romans. Non-Roman dominance within the army led to an incapacity on the part of the West Romans to protect themselves from these "barbarians" who, according to Procopius, tyrannically demanded a share of Italy's land. Under the incompetent rule of the last West Roman emperors, non-Roman generals became the true power behind the throne. In 476, a group of these rebellious barbarians proclaimed one of these strongmen, Odoacer, king. Odoacer deposed the West Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus (ruled 475–76), whom Procopius does not name.38

In sharp contrast to the "passive" West Romans, Procopius stressed that the East Romans' continued adherence to a martial lifestyle and control over their armed forces had allowed them to continue to employ non-Romans as their pawns. Even perilous threats such as that posed by Theoderic could be managed by a sturdy and intelligent Roman emperor. For instance, Procopius showed the soldier–emperor Zeno (ruled 474–91) and Theoderic colluding to eliminate Odoacer. To avoid a disastrous confrontation with the Goths, the emperor advised Theoderic to move his people into Italy and overthrow Odoacer. After a four-year struggle, Theoderic slew Odoacer at a banquet and secured his rule of Italy as rex.

Whether one accepts Procopius's version and interpretation of these complex events—and some skepticism is merited—the historian clearly respected [End Page 479] Theoderic.39 Looking back on Theoderic's reign, Procopius declared it a "Golden Age."40 Much of the historian's praise focuses on the Gothic king and his soldiers' martial qualities, which had provided political stability and a renewed martial pride to an Italy humiliated by its fifth-century impotence. Procopius's vision of Theoderic revealed that the Gothic king had mastered many of the civilized and military qualities that had long defined idealized Roman emperors and manly men.41 These qualities earned for Theoderic the love of both the Goths and the Italians.42

Vita Militaris

As noted above, Procopius offers a skewed vision of fifth- and early sixth-century Italy. To borrow the words of Averil Cameron, "Procopius writes as an East Roman; in his account of western history in the fifth-century his viewpoint is strictly that of Constantinople."43 Certainly, Procopius's vision of an increasingly demilitarized fifth-century Italian aristocracy is inaccurate.44 In fact, the fifth-century West Roman Empire appears to have become more militarized; the ban on civilians carrying arms had been lifted and many aristocrats led their own private armies.45 However, it is true that after 493 the Goths largely monopolized military roles within Italy.46

It is important to emphasize that Ostrogothic sources offer a comparable vision of an Italy divided between martial Goths and civilian Italo–Romans. In their lucid studies on Theoderic's Italy, Moorhead and Arnold share the conviction that the martial virtues and, indeed, the Goths' manliness, were key factors in their acceptance as Rome's legitimate protectors. As Moorhead comments, "Our narrative (Italian) sources for the history of the Ostrogoths persistently associate the word (virtus), with its overtone of force and masculinity, with [End Page 480] both the people in general and Theoderic in particular."47Arnold explains, "what separated the Goths from these [other Romanized peoples] was the fact that they remained proudly, perhaps even defiantly, unconquered by Rome." Whereas the Goths were depicted as reinvigorated Romans, the same propaganda cast the East Romans as unmanly Greeks. Arnold continues:

Goths and Gothicness represented martialism, the old Roman virtue of virtus (the very source of the term "virtue"), meaning 'manliness' or 'courage.' Virtus was an ideal that the Romans had seemingly lost, becoming overly effeminate (perhaps even overly Greek), yet that until recently had been fundamental to Romanness and the existence of a Roman Empire.48

Italo–Roman sources frequently assert that the Goths should do the fighting while the native Italians bask in tranquility.49 Cassiodorus commented that, "While the Gothic army wages war, let the Roman be at peace."50 When describing Theoderic's thrust into Italy in 489, Ennodius of Pavia (about 473–521), declared, "Rome, the mistress of the world, demanded you [Theoderic] for the restoration of her status."51 In this vision, the Goths personify an active manliness and real Roman values. Cassiodorus explained that the warlike Goths strove constantly to test their courage in battle.52 Raised in educational systems based on a steady diet of classical Latin authors, Cassiodorus's Italo–Roman audience would have understood readily the time-honored idealization of the military ethic as an essential aspect of both manly Romanitas and Rome's right to imperium.53 [End Page 481]

Such sentiments had deep roots in earlier Greek and Roman literature.54 Roman intellectuals had long espoused the manly virtues of the soldier's life.55 We find the Stoic Seneca (about 4 bce–65 ce), for instance, arguing that there was no virtue if there was no adversary.56 Such an intimate connection between conflict and virtue explains why Romans such as Seneca believed that the "finest men" became soldiers.57 This is not to claim that martial virtues or the soldier's life represented the sole path to Roman manhood. Since the days of the Republic, alternative routes to "true" manliness had been available to Roman elites who chose a civilian life. Extreme ascetics, courageous martyrs, fearless philosophers, and powerful political and church leaders were all, at times, compared favorably to military men and, at times, more favorably.58

Despite these alternative pathways to a "true" masculine identity, one senses a tension within ancient literature over what authors described as the Romans' hazardous abandonment of their military roles. The supposed demilitarization of the Romans in the later Empire was a popular topic for early Byzantine authors to discuss.59 To take just two examples from among many, we find Priscus, the mid-fifth century East Roman diplomat and historian, in his celebrated debate with a former citizen who had joined the Huns, arguing over whether the Roman state had fallen into decline because of its citizens' rejection of their martial legacy.60 At the close of the fourth century, Synesius of Cyrene condemned in overtly gendered terms what he described as the Goths growing domination of the Eastern Roman army, declaring:

The same organization holds good for the politeia as in the household; the male must defend while the female takes care of the household. How then can you allow the male element to be foreign?61 [End Page 482]

Of course, the Romans' adulation of their past guaranteed that contemporary achievements would often pale in comparison with the heroic and manly deeds of their ancestors.62 Roman literature had a tradition of presenting Roman masculinity in a perpetual state of crisis.63 As early as the second century Bce, the Greek Polybius had cautioned the Romans that universal dominion could be hazardous for Roman masculine ideals premised on battle and strict living.64 Polybius, who had composed his history, in part, to explain Greece's decline and Rome's rise, illustrated that, just like the Greeks before them, the Romans remained in constant danger of succumbing to the temptation of the easy, and therefore, the effeminate life.65 By surrendering to the unmanly temptations of civilization, "soft" Roman men threatened the survival of the state. It is only against this backdrop that we can appreciate some of the Gothic War's gendered themes. With this in mind, we now turn to Procopius's dramatic portrayal of the first siege of Rome (537/538).

The Contest

In March of 537, Justinian's reconquest of Italy was in trouble. The East Roman army and its commander Belisarius found themselves ensconced in Rome, while a large Gothic force led by King Vittigis gathered outside the city's formidable but poorly defended circuit of walls. An eyewitness to the siege, Procopius composed what has recently been described as "one of the most remarkable combat narratives in any text from antiquity."66

Procopius divides the account's perspective three ways among Goths, Italians, and East Romans. The Goths and the Italians perceive the situation similarly: the sanguine Goths expect an easy victory, while the Italo–Romans dread what they envision as the inescapable storming of Rome and the inevitable punishment for their disloyalty to the Goths.67 Awaiting the arrival of a relieving army from the emperor, the undermanned Belisarius had been forced to press the Italo–Romans into service as guards along the city's poorly defended walls. Unused to the rigors of warfare and craving their civilian [End Page 483] luxuries, according to Procopius, the Italo–Romans descend even further into despair.68

Alerted to the simmering tensions between the Italo–Romans and the East Romans within the city, Vittigis organized a delegation to seek Belisarius's surrender. Though it is likely that the historian was present at the actual meeting, he embroidered his version of the encounter with invented speeches laced with classical motifs, as Procopius was prone to do. He frames the meeting around a debate based on Aristotelian distinctions and connections among the Greek concepts of fear, rashness, virtue, and courageous manliness.69 Addressing Belisarius with a group of Byzantine officers and Italo–Roman senators looking on, the Gothic diplomat, Albis, defines the two sides of thrasos. "Rashness" (θράσος) differs from courage (ἀνδρεία)," he announces, "for rashness, when it takes hold of a man, leads him into danger with dishonor, but courage grants him a reputation for valor (ἀρετῆς)."70 The diplomat advises sardonically that if the Byzantines had attacked the Goths because of a belief in their "manliness" (ἀνδρεία), then by all means they should take the opportunity to "play the man" (ἀνδραγαθίζεσθαι) in battle against the Goths. However, if, as the Goth suspects, the Byzantines had been driven by "rashness" (θράσει) when they launched their attack, then the Goths would give them the chance to come to their senses and repent of their recklessness." Albis makes a final attempt to coax Belisarius to submit, pleading with the commander to ease the suffering of the Italo–Romans, "men whom Theoderic had nurtured like children in a life of soft luxury (βίῳ τρυφερῷ) and stop hindering him [Vittigis] who is master of the Goths and the Italians." Conjoining the East Romans and Italo–Romans, he enquires why they remained "trapped" in Rome, "cowering, while the king of this city [Vittigis] spends his time in an entrenched camp exacting the evils of war upon his own subjects?" Hoping that the Byzantines would now repent their "folly," he offers Belisarius and his army safe passage out of the city.71 The Gothic envoy then closes his remarks [End Page 484] by rhetorically asking the Italo–Romans why "they had betrayed both us and themselves."72

Belisarius responds by rejecting the notion that Rome ever belonged to the "usurping" Goths, emphasizing the point—that after sixty years—Rome had now returned to its rightful rulers.73 Procopius then has Belisarius shift gears. Foreshadowing the coming Byzantine triumph, Belisarius warns the Goths that a day would soon come when they would need to hide, but they would find no shelter. As if the Goths or Procopius's wider audience needed any more evidence that Belisarius was not one of the "soft" Italo–Romans, the general proclaims heroically, "Whoever of you has hope of setting foot in Rome without a fight is mistaken in his judgement. For as long as Belisarius lives, it is impossible to relinquish the city."74 To bolster his contrast between the "active" East Romans and the "passive" Italo–Romans even further, Procopius concludes his account with a vivid and telling depiction of the Italo–Roman senators' stunned reaction to Belisarius's bravado. The Roman senators, frozen "by a great fear" (δέει μεγάλῳ), sit by silently, while the Gothic envoys hurl further abuse at them for their "betrayal" (προδοσία).75

Upon their return to camp, Vittigis asks his envoys "what kind of man Belisarius was, and where he stood in regard of abandoning Rome." The representatives reply, "the Goths were mistaken if they believed that they would scare Belisarius." The Goths who had met with Belisarius were beginning to realize that the general and his soldiers were not the meek and unmanly Romans the Goths had been expecting to rout in battle.76

In this negotiation, we see how Procopius's seemingly trite classical mimesis, gendered vocabulary, and bombastic set-speeches set the ground for the combat to come. It soon becomes evident that the Goths were the rash party, and that Belisarius had not been compelled by rashness or fear but by a justified belief in the Byzantines' superior manly virtues and tactical advantages.77 The portrait that Procopius painted of Belisarius indeed [End Page 485] offered his learned Greek audience the quintessence of the andreios man: the East Roman general, to borrow the words of Bassi, "neither fears too much nor too little."78

One can offer a further plausible explanation for why Procopius packed this incident with gendered rhetoric. Although the East Romans achieved a resounding victory over the Goths in April of 537, it did not bring the war to a close. For Procopius, it did nevertheless accomplish two important things. First, it helped Procopius to establish the East Romans as the rightful possessors of Rome. And second, by revealing that the Byzantines were more than worthy military rivals to the martial Goths, it countered Gothic rhetoric found earlier in his account of the siege that taunted the East Romans as unmanly "Greeks."79

With some exceptions, the sentiments that Procopius expresses in book 5 towards the Italo–Romans, Goths, and Byzantines remain relatively consistent throughout the remainder of the Gothic War.80 On the one hand, the evenly matched Goths and East Romans' military dominance and political control of Italy ebb and flow due to a combination of shifting factors such as politics, fortune, infighting, and good or bad generalship. On the other hand, unable to defend themselves from the two warring parties and faced with deteriorating conditions within Italy, the Italo–Romans become passive observers to an increasingly miserable fate.81

Aeneas's Ship

To delve a bit deeper into Procopius's attitudes towards the Italians, East Romans, and Goths, let us move to the final book of the Wars, and a digression that touches on many of the issues we have already discussed. At the opening of book 8, Procopius explains that the citizens of Rome were unable to defend or rebuild their city after it had been damaged by the continual tit-for-tat warfare between the Goths and East Romans. Procopius wrote: "But these Romans, now being reduced to the state of captives, and stripped of all [End Page 486] their money, were not only unable to lay claim to the public funds, but could not even secure those that belonged to them personally."82

Although the passage just quoted is consistent with Procopius's generally disapproving outlook found throughout the Gothic War, in what follows, he seems to admire the Italians' tenacity in remembering their past:

The Romans indeed love their city above all the men we know, and are eager to protect their heritage and preserve it, so that nothing of the ancient legacy of Rome may be obliterated. Even though they have lived for a long time under barbarous rule, they preserved the buildings of the city and most of the adornments, those which could withstand so long a lapse of time and such neglect through the sheer excellence of their workmanship.83

We can see in this quotation that Procopius renders the Italo–Romans as some sort of museum custodians of their ancient past. The historian did not stop here; he then describes how the citizens had preserved the ship of the legendary founder of Rome, Aeneas.84 Recent scholarship has pointed to the anecdote's significance for reconstructing how sixth-century Italians linked themselves to their civilization's legendary founder.85 For our purposes, two examples of this modern view should suffice. Rutledge believes that for Procopius the ship "symbolized the Romans' weathering of adversity, and their native fortitudo et constantina…. It is an instance where the literal evidence of an object served to mirror the endurance and antiquity of an ancient people."86 Averil Cameron places less importance on the digression, maintaining that while interesting, it offers merely the observations of a tourist.87

Although each scholar provides plausible interpretations, both fail to mention Procopius's likely reason for attaching this digression to the Gothic War's finale. As is true with many of his digressions, Procopius's "authentic" viewpoints become clear only when one probes further into his account. The episode sets the stage for the impending naval battles. Context and sequence matter. Immediately following the digression, Procopius reported that the [End Page 487] Goths under Totila had built their own fleet of 300 vessels to attack Greece. Despite some initial successful raiding and the capture of the East Roman general Narses's supply ships, according to Procopius, this fleet failed to inflict any serious damage on the East Romans' cause.88 The point is obvious; the Goths were only playing at being martial sailors. Procopius's conscious appeal to a distinguished Roman naval past thus served a larger narrative aim.

Who then in the historian's mind were the true heirs of Aeneas? Surely not the feeble Italo–Romans, who, as Procopius had shown throughout the Gothic War, had preserved merely a token of their native martial past, while abandoning the manly virtues found in the soldier's life.89 The East Romans, in contrast, perform throughout book 8 deeds of martial manliness worthy of their pugnacious Roman ancestors. Even more telling, a contemporary of Procopius, the North African court poet Corippus explicitly described Justinian and his soldiers as "the sons of Aeneas."90 Therefore, it is likely that this anecdote is not superfluous to Procopius's larger didactic purpose.

Only after reading about the campaigns of Totila's navy in the Mediterranean Sea, and another seemingly innocuous depiction by Procopius on the geography of Homer (BG 8.22.16–29), and a description of another mythical ancient vessel (this one the ship that had taken Odysseus home to Ithaca in the Odyssey) does the reader finally discover who the true Romans were in regard to naval competence, namely the East Roman fleet led by its naval commanders John and Valerian.91 Procopius's account of the subsequent sea battle supplies the cipher for understanding the earlier digression on Aeneas's ship.

Once again, Procopius employed two set speeches to set up the combat and the lessons to be learned from it. The speeches by John and Valerian are Thucydidean and straightforward.92 The Romans must wage the battle to protect their supply lines. Without sustenance, there can be no virtue or courage. The commanders declare that "excellence is incompatible with hunger, since nature does not permit one to be hungry and to be a valiant man."93 Indeed, even if the Roman troops decided to behave in a cowardly fashion, the Roman commanders bleakly reminded their men that there would be little chance of escape, since the Goths controlled the land and the sea.94 [End Page 488]

This straightforward advice by the Roman commanders stands in stark contrast to the Goths' subsequent harangue. Lest we forget the gendered framework of the dispute that structures the Gothic War, Procopius has the Gothic naval commanders exhort their men as follows: "Show them, therefore, straightaway that they (the East Romans) are Greeks, unmanly (ἄνανδροι) by nature, and they are merely putting on a bold face when defeated, and do not allow this experiment of theirs to continue." "For unmanliness (ἀνανδρία)," the Goth continued, "when merely looked down upon, is emboldened, because audacity loses its restraints merely by being allowed to exist."95 Here, the Gothic leader harks back (once again) to old Theoderican, and indeed West Roman propaganda, that sought to disparage the East Romans as unmanly Greeks.96 The experiment discussed is nothing less than Justinian's entire reconquest.

The Goths' boastful and condescending words prove mistaken.97 The battle concludes with an overwhelming East Roman victory. Procopius reveals John and Valerian's men to be manly Romans, not unmanly Greeks. After providing a rather muddled account of the naval battle, Procopius explains to his readers that "the barbarians, being inexperienced in naval warfare, fought with great indiscipline."98 The imperial navy had come a long way since the opening of the campaign against the Vandals in 533, where in book 3 of the Wars, Procopius had described the East Romans' "terror of naval warfare."99 In the remainder of the Gothic War, the East Romans fought manfully, while the Goths acted frequently in an unmanly way.100

What Procopius deemed a major turning point in the entire Italian campaign was not that decisive a victory. The historian's subsequent account undermines his hyperbolic suggestion that the battle of Senogallia had broken Totila and the Goths' fighting spirit.101 As one scholar has posited recently, this distortion likely indicates Procopius's fuzzy knowledge of naval warfare and his ignorance of the actual military maneuvering and tactics employed by both sides during the campaign's final stages.102 Yet, such a naval victory better fit Procopius's larger narrative. In all his writings, Procopius manipulated chronology, distorted the truth, and, at times, told outright lies if it created a [End Page 489] more dramatic and edifying narrative.103 Although such a solution may trouble those hoping to uncover the actual events at the conflict's close, it provides insights into Procopius's mindset towards Justinian's reconquest as a return of "true" Romans from the East. Moreover, if I am right in this, it points to a more optimistic vision of the campaign's final years than some scholars allow.

Narses's "Sack" of Rome

Let us complete our discussion with a final example from the close of book 8 that magnifies the native Italians' precarious position near the end of the campaign. In 552, after defeating a Gothic army and killing Totila at the battle of Busta Gallorum, the East Roman eunuch–general Narses and his army retook Rome. This sack represents one of the last key events in the Wars. Historians are divided on whether by this time Procopius had tired of the prolonged Italian war.104 Indeed, the sack has been used as evidence that the historian had turned against the campaign.105 A closer examination of the evidence offers a rather different conclusion.

The battle begins with the barbarian Herules leading the East Romans' attacks on Rome's circuit-walls.106 Procopius clearly found the rampant slaughter that prevailed throughout the city once Narses's forces breached the walls upsetting:

For this conquest turned out to be for the Roman senate and people a cause of far greater destruction, in the following manner. In escaping, the Goths had abandoned the mastery of Italy, but along the way they slew any Roman they happened upon, sparing no one. The barbarians in the Roman army also treated as enemies all whom they chanced upon as they entered the city.107

Even more appalling, the Goths then executed all the three hundred upper-class Italo–Romano children they had been holding hostage. Procopius's [End Page 490] lament that for mankind "even those things which appear to be lucky, instead lead to their destruction"108 has been seen by Kaldellis as a sign that the historian had irreversibly turned against the campaign, and that he believed primarily in tychē.109

Undeniably, Procopius blamed some of this misfortune on the whims of fate.110 Yet should we go so far as to claim that this angst indicates that Procopius did not support a Roman victory? The two passages quoted above share similarities with Procopius's depictions of previous sieges. This sack was not the first time that the Italians had suffered at the hands of the East Romans. During the Gothic War's early stages, Procopius described a similar slaughter of native Italians during Belisarius's capture of Naples in November of 536. In this instance, the Gothic garrison sent out the Neapolitan Stephanus to treat with Belisarius. In a dramatic address, Stephanus protested to the East Romans that the natives had little choice but to support their masters, the barbarian Goths. He appealed to Belisarius not to take the field against fellow Romans, but rather to head straight to Rome, and if he took it, then Naples would recognize his rule.111 Belisarius replied by warning the Neapolitans that if they refused to surrender the city to a "fellow" Roman he would be unable to control his barbarian troops who were eager for vengeance:

I pray that an ancient city, which for ages has been inhabited by Christians and Romans, may not meet with such a fate, especially while I am commanding the Roman army, not least because my army contains many barbarians who have lost brothers or relatives before the wall of this city. I will be unable to restrain their wrath if they take the city in war.112

Belisarius's prediction came true, and when his army sacked the city the "barbarians" took merciless revenge on the city's defenseless citizenry. Only swift action by Belisarius prevented a full-scale slaughter.113

Just as in the carnage at Naples in 536, Procopius emphasized in Narses's sack of Rome in 552 that it was not the native East Romans soldiers who had [End Page 491] caused most of the destruction. Instead, he blamed the "barbarians" in Narses's army who had cut down the Italo–Romans indiscriminately. Since they led the offensive, we may conclude that the Herules were the major culprits. Their behavior should not surprise, since throughout the Gothic War, the historian hurled particularly harsh vitriol against the Herules.114 Given the fact that Procopius had stressed Narses's reliance on these rowdy auxiliaries time and again in the Wars, his account of the "barbarian sack" may be a criticism of Narses's inability to control these unruly men.115 In the Wars, discipline represents a quality essential to successful armies and idealized generals.116 Narses's soldiers' indiscipline thus may be contrasted to the historian's consistent praise throughout the Wars of Belisarius's ability to control his wilder allies such as the Huns through displays of strict discipline.117 Just behavior towards the Italo–Romans, which Procopius maintained throughout the Gothic War would determine the victor in the contest, was conspicuously missing on both sides.118

Calling attention to the collateral damage in the Byzantines' final capture of Rome may have suited Procopius's purposes. It provided a dig at Narses, while not undercutting his larger accomplishments, which I believe Procopius supported. Perhaps Procopius supposed that, given the opportunity to lead such a large force, Belisarius would have achieved a similar result, albeit without the disastrous repercussions for the local populace. It also served as a useful reminder of what could happen to a non-martial people such as the Italians in times of war, when military prowess determined a people's fate.119 Incapable of protecting themselves from either side, the Italians were gradually bled dry both by the Goths and the Byzantines.120 It is in this context that we should see Procopius's account of Narses's sack of Rome.121

Indeed, the stress at the close of the Wars on the Byzantine soldiers' superior martial virtues and the Italo–Romans' impotence furnishes further proof that Procopius's view of Justinian's reconquest may be far less gloomy than some [End Page 492] assert.122 Even more telling is the fact that Procopius's contemporaries make no mention of the historian's supposed negative attitude towards the return of Roman power in the West. For example, writing in the reign of Justin II (ruled 565–574), Procopius's continuator, Agathias, saw the Wars as pro-reconquest, asserting that they described how "Sicily, Rome, and Italy had cast off the yoke of foreign domination."123 This was a common view of the reconquest in the East. We find similar rhetoric at the famous close of Jordanes Getica:

And now we have recited the origin of the Goths, the noble line of the Amali, and the deeds of brave men. This glorious race yielded to a more glorious prince and surrendered to a more valiant leader, whose fame will be silenced by no ages or cycles of years; for the victorious and triumphant Justinian and his consul Belisarius will be named and known as Vandalicus, Africanus, and Geticus.124

Here, like generations of barbarians before them, the martial Goths have submitted honorably to the superior manly Romanitas of Justinian and Belisarius.125

In another testimony, we see an Eastern contemporary of Procopius, John Lydus, explaining that Justinian had sent his imperial forces to rescue the Italians from the Goths:

He [Justinian] attacked the Getans [Goths], who were both tearing asunder sacred Rome and all that was under its authority and were abusing the time-honored patricians of Rome, and captured them with their households, and presented them with Vitigis their tyrant, and restored to Rome what was Rome's.126 [End Page 493] The subtext of the passage above is clear: incapable of protecting themselves, Rome's patricians needed to rely on Justinian and his soldiers for their liberation from the Goths.127

We find similar sentiments in Justinian's visual propaganda.128 A vestment that was placed over Justinian's coffin at his funeral in 565 depicted the emperor "amid his court, trampling on the bold neck of the Vandal king" while the personifications of Libya and Old Rome looked on in approval.129


When describing Theoderic's Italy, one thing the Goths and the Byzantines seemed to agree on was the notion that the Italo–Romans lacked the manly courage and martial virtues necessary to protect their native land.130 As discussed earlier, the Wars reflects accurately some of the gendered propaganda brandished by each side.131 This was a propaganda that emphasized the Italians' passive and non-martial role in the conflict.

In a work that focused on battle and the exploits of soldiers, it should not shock us that in the Wars a "manly man" (ἀνὴρ ἀνδρεῖος) was a military man.132 As I have argued elsewhere at greater length, Procopius's portrayal of the final battle in the Wars between the Goths and the East Romans, at Mons Lactarius, was sympathetic to both sides.133 While appreciating the fighting qualities and, indeed, the Goths' manliness, the historian had already confirmed the East Romans as the superior and manlier side. Therefore, as did Agathias, Jordanes, and John Lydus, Procopius perceived the return to be the restoration of the proper order whereby barbarian warrior elites were subdued by manly Roman military might, and then either destroyed, evicted, or reintegrated into a reinvigorated Empire.134 [End Page 494]

In Procopius's rhetoric, as the Goths became more attuned to Roman masculine ideals, the Italo–Romans became less martial and hence more effeminate. For Procopius, this left them particularly helpless and vulnerable to barbarian aggression. Indeed, even when Justinian employed Italo–Romans for pivotal roles in the imperial army, Procopius denigrated them for their cowardice and inexperience in military matters.135 Largely excluded from the Gothic and Roman armed forces, Italian aristocrats, who had been able to forego their martial roles for more intellectual forms of male self-fashioning, had a more difficult time being "true" men during Justinian's wars, when Italy's destiny was on the line. Therefore, contrary to some recent arguments, Procopius's descriptions of the Italians' suffering at the hands of the Goths and the Byzantines should not be used as evidence that the historian was anti-reconquest.136

Moreover, the reconquest in Procopius's account did not signify the reunification of two Roman peoples. Although the Byzantine Empire remained active throughout the Western and Eastern Mediterranean for many centuries to come, too much had changed within Italy for the Roman Empire to reestablish its dominance or invigorate the Italians. As Amory reasons insightfully, by the mid-sixth century, the concept of a united Roman culture and identity had already disappeared in the West:

The eventual failure of Justinian and his successors to retain the allegiance of Africa and Italy and finally after Phocas, the Balkans, was partly a result of the inadequacy of imperial ideology to draw together the varied elites of new frontiers into a single homogeneous cultural, religious, and political culture determined by Constantinople.137

Procopius's writings provide further evidence of this decoupling. As I have argued throughout this paper, Procopius did not compose the Wars in a vacuum. Though shaped by classical precepts, Procopius's tailored contrast [End Page 495] throughout the Gothic War of unmanly Italo–Romans and manly Romans reflects an era when rule of Italy from Constantinople was contested. The Wars offers insights into the issues in play before and during Justinian's Western military campaigns. In Procopius as well as sixth-century Italo–Roman sources, the West Romans' "decision" to forego their martial roles in the fifth century had not only led to the rise of the "barbarian" Vandals and Goths, but it had separated the Italians from an essential component of manly Romanitas—martial virtues. This helps to explain why gendered martial rhetoric undergirds the Gothic War. In the increasingly militarized and competitive Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity—where might still made right—it was natural for Procopius to conclude that only when the manly martial Romans from Constantinople defeated the "trespassing" Goths would Italy once again become truly Roman.138

Michael E. Stewart
University of Queensland


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I am grateful to Noel Lenski and the two readers of this journal for their invaluable advice and assistance, which improved considerably my argument and prose. Lastly, I must thank Mathew Kuefler for introducing me to the fascinating world of Procopius.

1. On the apt call for more studies on Byzantine sexuality, see Kaldellis 2015, 185.

2. Procopius has received much needed attention in the past thirty years. Cameron 1985 and Kaldellis 2004 provide thorough reviews of the earlier literature and stimulating, if at times opposing, ideas on Procopius's religion, methods, intentions, and merits as a historian. Greatrex (2003, 45–67; 2014, 76–121 with Addenda, 121a–121e) provides a thorough summary of Procopian scholarship in the last twenty years.

3. For just a small sample of this topic's extensive literature, see Fisher 1978; Herrin 1983; Baldwin 1987; Allen 1992; Garland 1999; James 2001; Brubaker 2005; Ziche 2012–2013; Börm 2015.

4. Procopius's gendered portrait of the Gothic Queen Amalasuintha in the Wars has received recent attention, see Frankforter 1996; Fauvinet-Ranson 1998; La Rocca 2012; Stewart 2014; Cooper 2016.

5. A consensus has emerged that what is commonly referred to as Justinian's reconquest resulted from opportunity rather than a long-held plan to restore the glory of the Roman Empire; see, for instance, Heather 2013, 137–53. For the notion that Procopius presented the Italian campaign as "a punishment of rebels" rather than a reconquest, see Boy 2014, 202–29. For an examination of the ideologies behind Justinian's Western military campaigns, see Brodka 1999, 243–55.

7. Although Procopius used the term "Byzantine" when referring to a denizen of Constantinople or at times "Greek" to describe the East Romans, the historian's preferred term was "Roman." Throughout this article, I employ "East Roman," "Byzantine," and "Roman" to describe Justinian's soldiers. Procopius also distinguished between Goths and Italians in what he saw as a post-Roman kingdom (see, for example, Proc. Bell. 5.1.26). I use "Italians" and "Italo–Romans" to describe the "natives" of late fifth- and early sixth-century Italy. Finally, to better reflect Procopius's usage, "Goth" will be preferred instead of "Ostrogoth." On some of these distinctions from a sixth-century perspective, see Dmitriev 2015a, 4–11.

8. For the Italians' views of the Goths and the East Romans, see Moorhead 1983, 575–96; Kouroumali 2013, 968–1000. Rejecting Moorhead's conclusion that the Italians during Justinian's conquest were primarily pro–East Roman, Kouroumali proposes that the Italians had no preference for one side or the other, but merely made alliances with their own best interests in mind.

9. As Kaldellis 2007, 87–89 cautions, the terminology used by the Romans and the Byzantines to describe ethnicity (ethnos, genos, and phylon) had more nuanced, flexible, and frequently contradictory meanings than the modern concepts of "nations," "races," or "peoples." In its most common usage, a ethnos could signify the "Romans" themselves or any barbarian group no matter how it was comprised. It could also be employed to describe assemblages of women, philosophers, and Christians. On the other hand, genos usually denoted a "biological relation, and was often used to designate one's family," and phylon is a term that best represents the modern concept of "race." However, genos, phylon, and ethnos could likewise be used interchangeably "to designate any category of things regardless of how they were constituted."

10. On Procopius's reliance on classical sources for his descriptions of sieges and battles, see Shaw 1999, 133. See, however, Whately 2016, esp. 232–34, arguing forcefully that despite Procopius's literary aims, "Procopian combat is real combat."

11. Complete discussion in Whately 2016, 45–56.

12. Kaldellis 2004, 11–12, 18. On the necessity of seeing classicizing histories like the Wars as products of their age, see Croke and Emmett 1983, 5–7; Cameron 1985, 32. Kaldellis 2004 challenges aspects of Cameron's position. The debate hinges largely over the extent to which Christianity defined early Byzantine culture and Procopius's political and religious attitudes.

14. Cooper 2016, 298–99. For a similar problem with Procopius's depiction of the Emperor Justin I (ruled 518–527), see Croke 2007.

16. Brubaker 2005, 432. Many scholars, however, maintain—I believe correctly—that even the most virulent rhetoric found in the Secret History contains kernels of truth; see, for example, Evans 2003, 15.

17. For the underlying truthfulness of the Wars, see Brodka 2007; Whately 2016, 13–20. For Procopius as an accurate source on the Persians, see Börm 2007. And for the Goths, see Vitiello 2014.

18. For some stimulating examples of this approach, see Pazdernik 2000; Kaldellis 2004, 18–36; Kruse 2013.

20. For Justinian's attitude towards his predecessors' failures in the West, see Nov. 30.11.2 (ed. R. Schoell, Corpus Juris Civilis 3: 234); see also Joh. Lyd. De mag. 3.55.

21. Proc. Bell. 3.2.25–26 offers the famous story of Honorius's relief upon finding out from his advisor that it was the city of Rome that had "perished" in August of 410 and not his beloved rooster named "Rome."

22. Proc. Bell. 3.2.1–2. The Gothic nations for Procopius included the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and Gepids.

23. Kaldellis 2004, 178–79, points to Procopius's emphasis on tychē in this episode, and what he perceives to be Procopius's intended sarcasm and irreligious attitude. See, however, the analysis of Wood 2011, 431–37 on the cases of Christian miraculous interventions found in the Wars.

24. Proc. Bell. 3.2.34–40: φιλεῖ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τοῖς οὔτε ἀγχίνοις οὔτε τι οἴκοθεν μηχανᾶσθαι οἴοις τε οὖσιν, ἢν μὴ πονηροὶ εἶεν, ἀπορομένοις τὰ ἔσχατα ἐπικουρεῖν τε καὶ ξυλλαμβάνεσθαι.

25. Proc. Bell. 3.3.10–13. The translations from the Wars are mine unless otherwise specified. I have consulted Anthony Kaldellis's excellent revision and modernization of H. B. Dewing's (1914–1928) long-standard, but increasingly dated English translation.

26. I therefore question Kaldellis's contention (2004, 179), that Procopius believed that, "[h]ad Honorius been more wicked, he might have preserved his realm."

27. Byzantine historians likewise attributed the mid-fifth century military struggles of the East Roman Empire to the unwarlike and cowardly nature of the emperor Theodosius II's (ruled 408–450); see Prisc. fr. 3.2 (ed. Blockley 1981–1983, 2: 229): Θεοδόσιος, βασιλεὺς Ῥωμαίων, ὁ μικρός. οὗτος διαδεξάμενος παρὰ πατρὸς τὴν ἀρχήν, ἀπόλεμος ὢν καὶ δειλίᾳ συζῶν καὶ τὴν εἰρήνην χρήμασιν οὐχ ὅπλοις κτησάμενος, πολλὰ προεξένησε κακὰ τῇ Ῥωμαίων πολιτείᾳ. The disparate, gendered rhetoric surrounding Theodosius II's reign is discussed at greater length in Stewart 2016, 165–201.

28. Jord. Rom. 332 (MGH.AA 5: 42). See also Sid. Apoll. Pan. Maj. 350–69 (ed. Anderson 1936–65). Croke 2005 discusses Jordanes's negative assessment of Roman generals and emperors' military prowess.

29. This section on Cassiodorus owes much to Arnold 2014, 48–50.

30. Cass. Var. 11.1.9: Militem quoque nimia quiete dissolvit.

31. Cass. Var. 11.1.10: "Qui [i.e. exercitus] provida dispositione liberates nec assiduis bellis aderitur nec iterum longa pace mollitur, Williams 2013, 240–63 offers a lucid discussion on the ancient association of mollitia with effeminacy.

33. Proc. Bell. 5.2.3–4; Anecd. 16.1.

34. Proc. Bell. 3.3.15, trans. Kaldellis 2014, 150: … ἄνδρα Ῥωμαίων ὕστατον. …

35. Though, book four, which describes events in North Africa after Belisarius's departure for Italy, is far less optimistic than the triumphalist book three. One finds an adroit treatment of these shifts in Wood 2011, 424–47. See, however, the revisionist views found in Kaldellis 2016, 13–22.

36. On Procopius's generally enlightened attitude towards non-Romans, see Greatrex 2000; Kaldellis 2004, 221.

37. Proc. Bell. 3.3.15. For a further examination of Procopius's depiction and disapproval of this "demilitarization," see Liebeschuetz 1996, 230–39. I see Procopius's attitude towards the large non-Roman component of Justinian's armies as more nuanced and less hostile than Liebeschuetz posits.

38. Proc. Bell. 5.1.1–39.

39. Arnold 2014, esp. 64–69, 78–79, 94–95, in particular, rejects Procopius's version of Theoderic's rise and rule as anachronistic. On some of the basic factual errors found in Procopius's account of fifth-century West Roman history, see Treadgold 2007, 215–16.

40. Proc. Bell. 7.9.10, 7.21.12–23.

41. For the idea that an idealized late Roman emperor needed to be both a philopolemos (lover of war) and a philologos (lover of reason), see Themistius Or. 4.54a. Compare Ennodius's need, in his Pan. (e.g. 2.5, 3.11), to highlight Theoderic's military and intellectual achievements.

42. Proc. Bell. 5.1.27–29: ἔρως τε αὐτοῦ ἔν τε Γόθοις καὶ Ἰταλιώταις.

44. On the increased militarization of the concept of Romanitas and the East Roman Empire from the fourth century, see Merrills and Miles 2010, 88–93; Whately 2013, 49–57.

46. On the Goths' dominant role within Theoderic's armies, see O'Donnell 1981, 38–39; Moor-head 1992, 271–75; Kouroumali 2013, 982–83.

48. Arnold 2014, 124, 141. Yet, as Arnold explains (148–49), the Italo–Romans could admire the Byzantines for their sophistication, paidea, and piety. Nevertheless, Procopius primarily used the terms "Ἕλλην" and "Γραικοί" pejoratively; see Kaegi 1990, 79–81.

49. The thorny question of how sincerely the Italo–Romans accepted such imperial rhetoric on behalf of the Goths is discussed in Devecka 2016.

50. Cass. Var. 12.5.4, trans. Barnish 1992, 164: Dum belligerat Gothorum exercitus, sit in pace Romanus. A division between the civilian and military spheres was accepted in the late Roman Empire; see, for example, Amm. 21.16.3: Valdeque raro contigerat, ut militarium alquis ad civilia regenda transiret.

51. Ennod. Pan. 30, quoted in and translated by Arnold 2014, 56: te orbis domina ad status reparationem Roma poscebat.

52. Cass. Var. 1.24.1: Innotescenda sunt magis Gothis quam suadenda certamina, quia bellicosae stirpi est gaudium comprobari: laborem quippe non refugit, qui virtutis gloriam concupiscit.

53. Arnold 2014, 13–14. Merrills and Miles 2010, 88–89 define Romanitas not as shared biological traits of "a specific group" but as the fluid characteristics "that made a man Roman, made him an appropriate husband, father, general, and politician, and which distinguished him from a woman, child, barbarian or slave." Moreover, distinct ethnic groups and regional identities could both appropriate and shape "the form in which Romanitas was expressed in different places and in different circumstances."

54. For Hellenic influences on Roman definitions of manliness and virtue in the late Republic and early Empire, see McDonnell 2003.

56. Sen. Prov. 2.4: Marcet sine adverserio virtus.

57. Sen. Prov. 5.1: Adice nunc, quod pro omnibus est optimumqumque, ut ita dicam, militare et edere operas.

58. On the gradual shift away from a Roman code of masculinity based primarily on martial virtues beginning in the late Republic, see McDonnell 2006, esp. 320–89; Gleason 1995; Edwards 1999. For the early Christians adoption, rejection, and reshaping of Rome's adulation of martial manliness, see Harlow 1998; Conway 2008. On the growth of "pacifist" Christian masculine ideals in the wake of Roman military "decline" in the fourth and fifth centuries, see Burrus 2000; Kuefler 2001. See, however, Stewart 2016 for the lingering relevance of martial virtues as an essential aspect of Byzantine ideology.

59. Revisionist military historians have challenged the notion that the late Roman army was highly barbarized; see Whitby 2004, 166–73; Lee 2007, 79–85.

60. Prisc. fr. 11.2.405–53 (ed. Blockley 1981–1983, 2: 266–70).

61. Synes. de regno 14.8 (ed. Terzaghi 1944: 169–70): τέτακται γὰρ ὥσπερ ἐν οἴκῳ καὶ πολιτείαι ὁμοίως τὸ μὲν ὑπερασπίζον κατὰ τὸ ἄρρεν, τὸ δὲ εἰς τὴν ἐπιμέλειαν ἐστραμμένον τῶν εἴσω κατὰ τὸ θῆλυ. πῶς οὖν ἀνεκτὸν παρ' ἡμῖν ἀλλότριον εἶναι τὸ ἄρρεν; Compare Pl. Meno 17e.

62. See, for example, Polyb. 31.25; Hdt. 2.2. 3–6; Amm. 31.5.14.

64. On "the opposition between virtue and pleasure" in Greek philosophy, and the absorption of this ideal in Republican Rome, see McDonnell 2006, 114–16.

65. Polyb. 31.25 (ed. Paton 1922–1927, 6: 213–15). See also Dio Cass. 62.6.4 (ed. Cary 1982–1995, 8: 93). For Polybius's influence on Procopius, see Evans 1972, 133. On the contrasts between Roman manliness and "softness" and "luxury," see Williams 2010, 153.

66. Whately 2016, 159. Procopius (Bell. 1.12.24) had been appointed assessor to Belisarius in 527 and accompanied the general to Italy in 535. For a further discussion of this episode, see Stewart 2014, 37–41.

67. Proc. Bell. 5.19.1.

68. Proc. Bell. 5.20.5–6.

69. As Bassi 2003, 53 suggests, Aristotle (Eth. Eud. 1228a26–30a37, 1230a26–33), considered ἀνδρεία as "the attributes of a man whose actions demonstrate a moderate negotiation between 'boldness' [θάρσος] and 'fear' [φόβος]." One finds further instances of this theme in Proc. Bell. 5.20.8, 6.23.29–30. See also Thuc. 2.40.3. Kaldellis 2004, 149, 212, 220 discusses Procopius's familiarity with Aristotle.

70. In classical Greek θάρσος or θράσος describes either recklessness or valor, while, depending on its usage, the term ἀνδρεία can mean either "courage" or "manliness." Nevertheless, as Cohen stresses (2003, 145), "even in cases where 'courage' seems an appropriate translation (for andreia) the broader concept of 'manliness' always determines the Classical conceptualization of 'courage'." As in Herodotus (Harrell 2003, 79), Procopius in this debate associates andreia with strength in war, and emphasizes the gendered aspect of the concept.

71. Proc. Bell. 5.20.8–12.

72. Proc. Bell. 5.20.14, trans. Kaldellis, 2014, 299.

73. Proc. Bell. 5.20.17–18: Ῥώμην μέντοι ἑλόντες ἡμεῖς τῶν ἀλλοτρίων οὐδὲν ἔχομεν, ἀλλ' ὑμεῖς ταύτης τὰ πρότερα ἐπιβατεύσαντες, οὐδὲν ὑμῖν προσῆκον, νῦν οὐχ ἑκόντες τοῖς πάλαι κεκτημένοις ἀπέδοτε. See also Proc. Bell. 5.14.14. On Procopius's consistent linking of the East Romans with the legacy of the city of Rome and the former Empire, see Saradi 2000, 313–29; Borgognoni 2013, 455–80.

74. Proc. Bell. 5.20.18, trans. Kaldellis 2014, 300.

75. Proc. Bell. 5.20.15–20. Compare Bell. 6.6.22–33.

76. Proc. Bell. 5.21.1, trans. (modified) Kaldellis 2014, 300.

77. After his victory, Belisarius explains to his men (Proc. Bell. 5.28.26–27) that his earlier confidence stemmed from a tactical advantage that he had spotted during his first skirmish with the Goths. He realized that, in a larger battle, his mounted archers would have a distinct advantage over the Gothic cavalry, who carried spears.

79. See Proc. Bell. 5.18.40: ὃς ἐνταῦθα ἐλθὼν καὶ Ῥώμαίους τῆς ἐς Γότθους ἀπιστίας, κακίσας τὴν προδοσίαν ὠνείδιζεν ἣν αὐτοὺς ἐπί τε τῇ πατρίδι πεποιῆσθαι καὶ σφίσιν αὐτοῖς ἔλεγεν, οἳ τῆς Γότθων δυνάμεως Γραικοὺς τοὺς σφίσιν οὐχ οἵους ἀμύνειν ὅντας ἠλλάξαντο, ἐξ ὧν τὰ πρότερα οὐδένα ἐς Ἰταλίαν ἥκοντα εἶδον, ὅτι μὴ τραγῳδούς τε καὶ μίμους καὶ ναύτας λωποδύτας. On the unmanly reputation of Greeks, mimes, and actors in the Roman literary tradition, see Williams 2010, 35, 65, 153–55.

81. Procopius, who appreciated Rome's legacy (e.g. Bell. 7.22.9–16), also exhibits genuine concern for the native population's suffering during the purges, plagues, and famines that ravaged Italy during the war (e.g. Bell. 5.20.5–7, 6.3.8–32, 6.20.15–33, 7.6.7, 8.34.3–5).

82. Proc. Bell. 8.22.4 (trans. Kaldellis 2014, 511). On the intimate links between unmanliness and servility in Procopius's writings, see Kaldellis 2004, 145; Stewart 2015, 14–18.

83. Proc. Bell. 8.22.5–6: Καίτοι ἀνθρώπων μάλιστα πάντων ὧν ἡμεῖς ἴσμεν φιλοπόλιδες Ῥωμαῖοι τυγχάνουσιν ὄντες, περιστέλλειν τε τὰ πάτρια πάντα καὶ διασώζεσθαι ἐν σπουδῇ ἔχουσιν, ὅπως δὴ μηδὲν ἀφανίζηται Ῥώμῃ τοῦ παλαιοῦ κόσμου. οἵ γε καὶ πολύν τινα βεβαρβαρωμένοι αἰῶνα τάς τε πόλεως διεσώσαντο οἰκοδομίας καὶ τῶν ἐγκαλλωπισμάτων τὰ πλεῖστα, ὅσα οἷόν τε ἦν χρόνῳ τε τοσούτῳ τὸ μῆκος καὶ τῷ ἀπαμελεῖσθαι δἰ ἀρετὴν τῶν πεποιημένων ἀντέχειν.

84. Proc. Bell. 8.22.7–16.

88. Proc. Bell. 8.22.17–32. Procopius later contradicts himself by depicting continued Gothic naval puissance (Bell. 8.24.31).

89. On the rise of Byzantine naval power in the sixth century, see Cosentino 2007, 577–603.

90. Coripp. Ioh. 1.1–19 (ed. Shea 1988, 64).

91. Hom. Od.13.157–87.

93. Proc. Bell. 8.23.16: λιμῷ γὰρ οὐκ οἶδεν ἡ ἀρετὴ ξυνοικίζεσθαι, πεινῆν τε καὶ ἀνδραγαθίζεσθαι οὐκ ἀνεχομένης τῆς φύσεως.

94. Proc. Bell. 8.23.14–22.

95. Proc. Bell. 8.23–25.

96. Arnold 2014, 153. See Proc. Bell. 5.18.40–41.

97. Procopius often used such inaccuracies in his set speeches as a means of later undermining the speaker's overall argument. See, for instance, Bell. 5.18.40–1, 5.20.9–12, 7.21.4–12.

98. Proc. Bell. 8.23.31. trans. Kaldellis 2014, 516.

99. Proc. Bell. 3.14.2: "… κατωρρωδηκότες τε τὴν ναυμαχίαν." See also Bell. 3.10.5.

100. See, for example, the acts of Byzantine ἀρετή and ἀνδρεία at Bell. 8.23.34, 8.29.22–23, 8.30.1, 8.32.11, whereas we observe instances of the Goth's shame and cowardice in Wars 8.23.36,8.24.3, 8.30.7, 8.32.19.

101. Proc. Bell. 8.24.42.

103. For these deceptions in Buildings, see Brown 2010, 355–72; in Wars, see Kaldellis 2004, 33.

104. Most scholars, however, subscribe to the contention of Cameron 1985, 8, 15, 52–54 that, as the Italian campaign dragged on, Procopius grew increasingly disillusioned with Belisarius and the war against the Goths. Kaldellis 2010, 255–56 contends, however, that an underlying negativity towards Belisarius permeates the Wars. See also Cesa 1981, 395–97. It seems to me that Procopius's opinion of the general and Justinian's reconquest frequently shifts in accordance with the campaign's military successes or failures.

106. Proc. Bell. 8.33.17–21.

107. Proc. Bell. 8.34.2–4: Ῥωμαίων γὰρ τῇ τε ξυγκλήτῳ βουλῇ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ τὴν νίκην τήνδε πολλῷ ἔτι μᾶλλον φθόρου αἰτίαν ξυνηνέχθη γενέσθαι τρόπῳ τοιῷδε. Γότθοι μὲν φεύγοντες καὶ τὴν Ἰταλίας ἐπικράτησιν ἀπογνόντες, ὁδοῦ ποιούμενοι πάρεργον, τοὺς παρατυχόντας σφίσι Ῥωμαίους οὐδεμιᾷ διεχρῶντο φειδοῖ. οἱ δὲ βάρβαροι τοῦ Ῥωμαίων στρατοῦ ὡς πολεμίοις ἐχρῶντο πᾶσιν οἷς ἂν ἐντύχοιεν ἐν τῇ ἐς τὴν πόλιν εἰσόδῳ.

108. Proc. Bell. 8.34.1: Τότε δὴ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις διαφανέστατα ἐπιδέδεικται ὡς ἅπασιν, οἷσπερ ἔδει γενέσθαι κακῶς.

110. Proc. Bell. 8.33.24. For Procopius's nuanced utilization of tychē as an aspect of causation, see Brodka 2004, 40–55.

111. The exchange echoes elements of Thuc. 2.71–72.

112. Proc. Bell. 5.9.27: πόλιν δὲ ἀρχαίαν καὶ οἰκήτορας Χριστιανούς τε καὶ Ῥωμαίους ἄνωθεν ἔχουσαν ἐς τοῦτο τύχης οὐκ ἂν εὐξαίμην, ἄλλως τε καὶ ὑπ ̓ ἐμοῦ Ῥωμαίων στρατηγοῦντος, ἐλθεῖν, μάλιστα ἐπεὶ βάρβαροι πολλοί μοι τὸ πλῆθος ἐν τῷ στρατοπέδῳ εἰσίν, ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ξυγγενεῖς πρὸ τοῦδε ἀπολωλεκότες τοῦ τείχους: ὧν δὴ κατέχειν τὸν θυμόν, ἢν πολέμῳ τὴν πόλιν ἕλωσιν, οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην.

113. Proc. Bell. 5.10.30–37. See, however, Proc. Anecd. 4.43.

114. Proc. Bell. 6.14.1–36, 7.34.43.

115. Proc. Bell. 6.18.6, 7.13.21–22, 7.16.13.

117. Proc. Bell. 4.42–4. Procopius also commended (Bell. 7.20.28–31) the Gothic king Totila for his sense of justice and iron discipline.

118. The question of Italian loyalty, according to Procopius (e.g. Bell. 7.4.16, 7.9.10–15, 7.30.24), had less to do with the East and West Romans' shared past, and more with which side, Greek or Goth, could protect the Italians and treat them justly.

120. Proc. Bell. 7.9.2. On the other hand, as Kouroumali 2005, 190–93 points out, the Italians, in Procopius's account, were treated far more harshly by the Goths than by the East Romans.

121. For Procopius's hostile attitude towards Narses, see Kouroumali 2005, 42–3. I believe that Procopius offers a more nuanced assessment of Narses, recording both positive and negative qualities; see Stewart 2015, 1–25.

123. Agath. praef. 30, trans. Frendo, 1975, 8: οὐδέ γε ὅπως Σικελία τε καὶ Ῥώμη καὶ Ἰταλία τοὺς ἐπήλυδας ἀποβαλοῦσα βαρβάρους πάλιν ἤθεσι πατρίοις μετεκοσμεῖτο.

124. Jord. Get. 315, trans. (slightly modified) Mierow 1915, 142: Haec hucusque Getarum origo ac Amalorum nobilitas et virorum fortium facta. Haec laudanda progenies laudabiliori principi cessit et fortiori duci manus dedit, cuius fama nullis saeculis nullisque silebitur aetatibus, sed victor ac triumphator Iustinianus imperator et consul Belesarius Vandalici Africani Geticique dicentur.

125. In his influential reading of the Getica's mid-sixth century political subtext, Goffart 1988, 72 contends: "The vision that Jordanes projects is of a new society, symbolized by the infant Germanus, in which the Goth and Romans intermarry and, in their progeny and in submission to Justinian, become one." See, however, Marion Kruse (2015, 233–45) who places Jordanes's emphasis on imperial failure in Romana within the larger landscape of what he sees as the wider anti-Justinianic sixth-century Byzantine literary landscape. Contra Kruse, Romana may be read—as in the case of Ostrogothic propaganda discussed throughout this paper—as a call to bolster Roman military prowess by integrating the martial Goths into the Roman state.

126. Joh. Lyd. De mag. 3.55 (trans. Bandy): I have changed Bandy's "king" for τυράννῳ to "tyrant." Scholars are divided on Lydus's attitudes towards Justinian and his military campaigns. For these opposing modern views and an erudite analysis of Lydus's multifaceted opinions on Justinian, see Dmitriev 2015b, 1–24.

128. Procopius (Aed. 1.10.16–20) also describes a magnificent mosaic from the vaulted ceiling of the Chalke palace in Constantinople commemorating the Empire's victories over the Vandals in North Africa and in Italy against the Goths.The imperial dishware displayed similar triumphant imagery; see Coripp. In laudem Iustini Augusti minoris 3.110–25 (ed. Cameron 1976, 104–05).

129. Coripp. In laudem Iustini Augusti minoris 1.288–90, trans. (slightly modified) from Cameron 1976, 92.

130. Proc. Bell. 3.3.10–13, 7.11.12–14.

131. See Proc. Bell. 5.18.40–1.

132. For just some of the many possible examples of Procopius's valorizing in the Wars of men with military backgrounds: Theodosius I (Bell. 3.1.2–3), Majorian (Bell. 3.7.4–13), Leo I (Bell. 3.6.11), Belisarius (Bell. 7.1.1–21), Totila (Bell. 7.6.4), and Germanus (Bell. 7.40.9).

134. Proc. Bell. 8.35.31–38. For this topos in Procopius and Roman literature more generally, see Conant 2012, 260–61.

135. Proc. Bell. 7.39.7, where he censures the leader of Justinian's campaign in Sicily (550), the Italo–Roman Liberius (about 465–554: PLRE 2: 677–81 Petrus Marcellinus Felix Liberius 3; O'Donnell 1981, 31–72), for his lack of military experience, an assertion that Cassiodorus contradicts (Var. 11.1.16; cf. Amory 1997, 153–54). Procopius may have been aware of Liberius's previous military and quasi-military appointments but instead chose to highlight the native Italian's lack of military expertise to better fit his vision of the non-martial Italians offered throughout the Gothic War. Procopius likewise condemned (Bell. 7.6.12) another of Justinian's military appointments, the Roman Senator and praetorian prefect of Italy, Maximinus, for his supposed ignorance of military matters and cowardice. On the uncertain identity of Procopius's "Maximinus" and a consideration of some of Justinian's reasoning for employing these Italo–Roman elites in these military roles, see Vitiello (2014, 121–22).

136. See, for example, Bjornlie 2013, 108.

138. This militant sentiment as a mandate to rule is expressed vividly in the prologue to Isidore of Seville's early seventh-century History of the Kings of the Goths.

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