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Lingering Martial Romanitas in Byzantium


Howdy, readers! Easter break provides the rare opportunity to make a post. I have a ton of projects that I am simultaneously working on at the moment. I have just finished a clearance review of a book and  an article. Both are very good, which makes the task more pleasing. I have article coming out in the next AABS publication that is very hard work because it needs a substantial rewrite, since much of what I wrote originally on Narses has already been published. This turned out to be a good thing since a refocus on other eunuch-commanders such as Solomon and Eleutherios has made for a much more interesting and innovative piece. I may offer some bits here. What follows is very much a draft from the conclusion from my forthcoming book…so enjoy and make comments  and criticisms if you like.



Why did you assume you were addressing an assembly of women, insulting our nature as well as our race? With words you misrepresent deeds, bringing shame on the council. Did you not realize that you were pouring forth disgraceful words in the presence of men [ἀρρένων]? Or do you not see an assembly of Roman people, proud of their zeal, vigorous in arms, knowledgeable in their experience of danger and Providence for future advantage?

Theophylact Simocatta, History 2.14.3 (trans. Whitby).

The excerpt above comes from what would prove to be the last Greek history composed in the grand classical style for more than three centuries.[1] The Egyptian Theophylact published his work in the euphoric period surrounding the soldier-emperor Heraclius’ emphatic victory over the Persians in 628—a brief interlude of triumphant calm before the sudden emergence of the Arab threat in the 630s that saw the near snuffing out of the Byzantine Empire.[2] The sudden disappearance after 640 of many genres of secular literature and inscriptions, as well as the Muslims’ emergence as a new religious and political rival in this period,[3] demarcate the dawning of a new age.[4] I have chosen the era of Theophylact’s history to conclude this investigation for these reasons, as well as the obvious martial aspect and gendered implications of the passage. The set-speech from which this quotation is drawn certainly touches on two of this book’s primary themes: the primacy of military matters and the manliness of war. In the anecdote, which describes the Roman response to an Avar invasion of Thrace in 587, the historian constructed a debate between two Roman soldiers, one a tribune, and the other a grizzled veteran. The deliberation provides the reader with both the standard commentary on the fine lines between courage and rashness and the familiar linking of traditional martial virtues to masculinity. The tribune suggested that it was best to avoid a direct confrontation with the Avars, whilst the veteran advocated a more aggressive approach. The older soldier appeared to win the debate with his refrain that Rome’s rise to world dominance had been due to its men’s embrace of the rigours and courageous virtues of the soldier’s life.[5] His assertion from the rhetorical opening of the speech that bold action on the battlefield helped to prove that Roman soldiers’ souls were ‘masculine’ [ἄρρενας] like their bodies serves as an important final reminder for my readers of how conceptualizations of the Roman soldier’s life remained linked intimately to masculine ideology.[6] According to Theophylact, ‘courage’ in battle represented a sure sign of ‘manliness’, whereas ‘cowardice’ in the face of conflict indicated that one had fallen into the realm of ‘effeminacy’.[7]

We have seen such motifs before. Indeed, the emotive rhetoric associating traditional Roman codes of masculinity with idealised visions of the soldier’s life is so common in the ancient Roman and the early Byzantine sources that the modern reader is tempted to skip over such bombastic speeches to get to the ‘relevant’ parts. Ancient and modern scholars have quite rightly criticised Theophylact for his heavy reliance on ‘extravagant metaphors, sententious artistry, and ornate rhetoric’.[8] Yet, as I have argued throughout this study, an exploration of these standard themes helps one to understand these early Byzantine texts and the society that produced them. Although such anecdote’s heavy reliance on standard rhetoric and stock heroes and villains may tell one very little about the combatants’ ‘real’ personalities, or the actual debates among the Roman soldiers before battle, they provide important insights into wider societal attitudes towards gender and masculinity. The episode above, for instance, relied on the traditional appeal of the manly Roman soldier and the conventional disdain for the cowardly and effeminate man.

Martial virtues and images of the soldier’s life continued to represent an essential aspect of masculinity and Romanitas in the early Byzantine period. This is not to say that the masculinity of soldiers represented the only type of heroic manliness in this period. As was discussed in chapters 4 and 5, alternative pathways to achieving ‘true’ manliness had long been a feature of masculine ideology in the Late Roman and the early Byzantine period. Extreme ascetics, courageous martyrs, fearless philosophers, and powerful political and Church leaders were all, at times, compared favourably to military men. Moreover, Christian historiographical concepts like providence and miracles played a role in the classicising histories of Procopius, Menander, and Theophylact.[9]

Traditional hegemonic masculinity secured in acts of masculine bravery in warfare, however, proved resilient in the early Byzantine period. Certainly, one need not serve in the military to perceive the soldier’s life as an exemplar of the manly life. Civilian elites admired the manliness of war and the masculine deeds of the Empire’s soldiers. As Theophylact had the Bishop Domitianus of Melitene explain to a group of soldiers headed off to fight the Persians:

Let no one receive a scar on his back: the back is incapable of seeing victory. In the contest be united in spirit more than body, comrades in toils but not in cowardice. Let him who has not taken up the inheritance of danger be disowned. In death reach out for victory. Trophies are bought with wounds and blows. Sloth brings no glory. There is nothing sweeter than death in war, for if there is no advantage in growing old and being struck down by wasting disease, assuredly it is more appropriate for you heroes to die in the battle-line while you are young, reaping glory in your tombs.[10]

Scholars have long recognised how Heraclius’ wars against the Persians and Muslims neatly synthesised traditional secular and religious rhetoric.[11] This pairing is understandable since the martial and devout Heraclius was a by-product of a Byzantine world that inextricably interwove the political with the spiritual. Faced with a fight for its very survival, Heraclius’ Byzantium naturally ramped up the bombast. As Walter Kaegi suggests, Heraclius ‘was emphasizing participation and even deaths in this war as a means to heaven’. Nonetheless, we would be wise to heed Kaegi’s further warning, that Heraclius military campaigns were ‘no simple religious crusades’. They were ‘multidimensional’ conflicts ‘of which religious zeal was only one aspect’.[12] Of course, as we have observed in the previous chapters, these important developments of the seventh century had firm roots in earlier times. Unquestionably, however, the deft intermingling of spiritual and secular codes of warfare and masculinity had evolved somewhat over the years. The fifth-century Theodosian emperors lack of military experience and prowess had little place in a world where the Empire’s very survival was on the line. As we mentioned in Chapter 2, in 611 Heraclius had broken with precedent by leading the Roman army into battle against the Persians. The emperor probably had taken this step out of necessity since the Persian forces at this time were marauding freely within large swathes of Byzantine territory. In this highly charged climate, Heraclius’ propaganda naturally fell back on Old Testament and classical examples of warrior-leaders protected by God, manfully defending their religion and their lands.

The set of nine seventh-century silver plates known as the David plates (e.g., plate 15: ‘fight between David and Goliath’), which illustrate various Old Testament scenes from King David’s life, offer us visual evidence of elements of this propaganda. Modern research suggests that the scenes depicted on the plates intentionally provide direct analogies with events from Heraclius’ Persian war. Ruth Leader, for example, posits that the use of ‘imperial costumes and settings’ represent the designer’s attempts to invoke ‘a visual analogy between the kingdom of Israel and the Roman Empire’.[13] Such iconography echoed similar motifs found in Heraclian literature. As Mary Whitby explains, contemporary writers like George of Pisidia took a keen interest in depicting Heraclius as a military leader who, through a combination of God’s guidance and his own courage, wisdom, clemency, and mildness achieves ‘not only personal, but also cosmic salvation’.[14] This model of strong spiritual convictions and traditional active militaristic leadership would continue to play an essential role in imperial self-definition throughout the Byzantine period. Indeed, the majority of Byzantine emperors who followed Heraclius served as actual rather than symbolic warriors; 2/3 of these emperors had ‘led troops before or after their accession’.[15]

With East Rome in crisis, Byzantium’s enemies also wielded gendered religious rhetoric to endorse their own rights to dominion. The seventh-century Armenian historian, Sebeos has a Muslim commander accepting the surrender of parts of the Eastern Roman Empire scoff at the protective power of Christ and the cross. Recording what seems to be a genuine ultimatum from the caliph,[16] the historian wrote:

If you wish, he said, to preserve your life in safety, abandon that vain cult which you learned from childhood. Deny that Jesus and turn to the great God whom I worship the God of our father Abraham. Dismiss from your presence the multitude of your troops to their respective lands. And I shall make you a great prince in your region and send prefects. I shall make an inventory of the treasures and order them to be divided into four parts: three for me and one for you. I shall provide you with as many soldiers as you wish, and take tribute from you as much as you are able to give. But if you do not, that Jesus whom you call Christ, since he was unable to save himself from the Jews, how can he save you?[17]

The tactic used by the Muslim commander above, of criticizing the unmanliness of Christ’s crucifixion should cause little surprise, since, as Colleen Conway states, ‘it was Jesus’ death that most called his masculine honor into question’. In fact, despite multifaceted attempts by the New Testament to portray Christ’s crucifixion as a manly act similar to examples in the Greco-Roman noble death traditions, many Christian Romans appeared reluctant to embrace these more pacifist strains of Christ’s masculinity.[18]

This sentiment helps to explain why in the first thousand years of the Church’s history the figure of the dead Christ was almost never shown. Christian tradition seemed reluctant to portray Christ as a suffering man, preferring to emphasize his divine power (e.g. plate 8).[19] As Felicity J. Harley-McGowan explains, there was ‘A fundamental hesitancy on the part of Christians to approach this particular narrative, but also an inherent lack of creativity in formulating iconography for the representation of critical episodes from that narrative, such as the Crucifixion or the Resurrection’.[20] This hesitancy was not limited to visual iconography. One finds early Byzantine writers like Eusebius largely ignoring details of the crucifixion, concentrating instead on His rebirth, and focusing on the ‘treachery’ committed by the Jews in Christ’s condemnation.[21] The same is largely true as well for the fourth and fifth century Church Fathers from both halves of the Roman Empire.[22]

We see in his history, however, Sebeos subtly addressing the Muslim commander’s denigration of Christ’s feebleness. Likely writing between 656-661, a period when internal divide within the Muslim world stalled its expansion, Sebeos went on to relate the Byzantines’ ‘glorious’ victory over an Arab naval attack on Constantinople in 654— a victory that the historian attributed to God and the ‘pious prayers’ of the Emperor Constans II (ruled 641-668). We know of course, that this respite was only temporary, and that Byzantium survived by the thinnest of margins.

Historians have long admired the Byzantines for their resilience in the face of near extinction at the hands of a seemingly relentless Muslim foe. These perilous circumstances have tended to shape opinions of the age as one of doom and gloom. James Howard-Johnston echoes the voice of modern consensus when he insists that a long series of military defeats at the hands of the Muslim armies had convinced many Byzantines that the hand of God was against them:

Each successive defeat likewise impressed on Christians the plain truth that the Muslims were indeed agents of the Lord and that the End of Time was approaching. No wonder then that the morale of an army might suddenly plummet or that a whole province might submit once there was no prospect of help from field forces. There was also no point in continuing resistance from the cities, doomed as it was to failure and likely cost their ruling elites all their suburban villas, gardens, and orchards.[23]

There is definitely some truth in this view. Nonetheless, we should not place all of the ebbs and flows of Byzantine fortunes at the feet of eschatological and apocalyptic Christian belief. If apocalyptic paralysis represents the primary factor behind the Muslim’s triumphs and the Byzantines’ failures in the second half of the seventh century, it does little to explain Byzantine resilience in the same period and at the siege of Constantinople in 717-718. Surely if the majority of the Byzantines believed whole heartedly that the long-line of Arab victories and territorial conquests served as a ‘true’ sign that God had turned against them, Constantinople’s citizens and its armies would have bowed down to the inevitable. On the contrary, they innovated, resisted and survived.

As is well known, the seventh-century Byzantines’ ability to adopt political reforms and adapt ‘new’ military technologies helped them to survive the initial shock of the rapid Muslim advance. The use of the incendiary compound we call ‘Greek-fire’ represented a crucial factor in the Byzantine’s capacity to resist the Muslim naval attacks on Constantinople.[24] So too did the resettlement of Slavs during Constans II’s reign into areas of Anatolia depopulated by the Arab invasions play a part in Byzantium’s defense. Furthermore, Constan’s refinement of the basic elements of what would become by the eighth and the ninth centuries the themata (a division of Roman territory into separate military provinces, whereby a general [stratēgos] held civilian and military power) assisted in ensuring the East Romans’ long-term survival.[25] Such practical tactical and organisational innovations demonstrate that political and military leaders did not place Byzantium’s survival purely in the hands of God, but continued to seek practical solutions to the military dilemmas they faced.

A lingering sense of manly martial Romanitas offers a further explanation of Byzantine endurance in the face of extinction. As we have seen, Romans—Christian and pagan—had a long record of overcoming foreign foes in similarly dire situations. One cannot help but to suspect that a combination of a continued belief in the resilience of Roman military virtues and the practical need to survive, represent the primary factors behind Byzantium’s continued resistance and century-long battle back to relevance.

Manly Romanitas, then, helped to hold Byzantine society together.[26] Certainly one finds evidence of the power of cultural memory in later Byzantine historians. Anguishing over his contemporaries’ failure to live up to the martial masculine prowess and ideals of his Republican Roman forbearers, the eleventh-century Byzantine aristocrat and historian Michael Attaleiates encapsulates the appeal of a continuing belief in the vital connection between martial virtues, manly Romanitas, and the prosperity of the Roman State that we have explored throughout this monograph. When explaining the reasons behind his Roman forbearer’s greatness, he opined:

For the noble Romans of that time did not strive for money and the acquisition of wealth but simply for renown, the demonstration of their manliness, and their country’s safety and splendour.[27]

The sentiments expressed above, reveal the extent that a later Byzantine like Michael could identify with his non-Christian Roman past. Michael sees himself as one of the ‘modern Romans’ [Τοῖς δὲ νῦν Ῥωμαίοις] admiring the manly martial virtues of his pagan ‘Roman ancestors’ [οἱ πάλαι Ῥωμαῖοι].[28] A mutual admiration of the manly values found in the soldier’s life united these ancient and modern Romans. His Republican forebears may not have shared all of Michael’s Christian values, but they both embraced the manly and martial virtues that represented a fundamental facet of their shared Romanitas. An ability to tap into this Roman cultural memory represents a key factor in Byzantium’s longevity. In this process, the State was not essential. Indeed, the social bonds among aristocrats were particularly important during periods when the State’s authority waned. In these times of crisis, the ruling elites could become the voice of the social order. By conjuring a view of aristocratic power and Roman identity that stretched back to the Roman Republic, Michael thus vividly roused his fellow members of the social hierarchy. This helps us to understand why a societal value like manly martial Romanitas remained largely impervious to the tides of political and communal change.[29]

Therefore, I suspect that for many Byzantines, defeat at the hands of their enemies did little to shake the entrenched notion that ‘Roman’ greatness had been earned by the manly blood of its soldiers. The battlefield continued to provide one of the easiest places for men in Byzantine civilisation to prove not only their courage, but also to express their enduring manly Romanitas.

[1] For some possible reasons for this decline in almost all genres of Greek secular literature, see Whitby ‘Greek Historical Writing’, pp. 66-74, Treadgold, Byzantine Historians, pp. 348-9, 393-9, Croke, ‘Historiographical Audience’, pp. 34-5. On the disappearance of stone inscriptions, see M. Whittow, ‘Early Medieval Byzantium and the End of the Ancient World’, Journal of Agrarian Change 9.1 (2009), pp. 134-53.

[2] Theophylact’s career and the date of composition and publication of his history are discussed in M. Whitby, The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford, 1998), pp. 39-45.

[3] For the seventh-century conquests of Byzantine territory as primarily a Muslim, not an Arab phenomenon, see J. Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford, 2010), p. 527. On the idea that Islam’s formation and subsequent ‘militant ideology’ represented a ‘late antique’ phenomenon, see R. Hoyland, ‘Early Islam as a Late Antique Religion’, in The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, ed S. F. Johnson (Oxford, 2007), pp. 1053-77.

[4] On the transformative nature of this age for Byzantium, see J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1997).

[5] Theophylact, History 2.14.6, ed C. de Boor and re-ed P. Wirth. (Stuttgart, 1972); trans. M. and M. Whitby (Oxford, 1986).

[6] Theophylact, History 2.14.1: ‘Men of Rome, unless you would belie the name by your actions; men, that is if your souls [ψυχάς] are masculine [ἄρρενας] like your body. Even though the tribune is expert at high-flown talk and at confusing the issue, nevertheless deeds are more vigorous than words and do not tolerate empty sounds’. I have changed the translator Whitby’s ‘hearts’ for ψυχάς to ‘souls’.

[7]Theophylact, History 3.13.4: ‘Comrades-you are my comrades both in toils and tumults because of the war-the engagement is established as a test of virtue [ἀρετῆς] and vice [κακίας], and is the arbiter of souls: for this day will either convict us of effeminate [θηλυπρεπὲς] cowardice [δειλίας], or with garlands and glorious triumphs will proclaim our manly [ἀρρενωπὸν] bravery [εὐτολμίας]’. I have changed the translator Whitby’s ‘courage’ for ἀρετῆς to ‘virtue’ and ‘cowardice’ for κακίας to ‘vice’.

[8] Whitby, introduction to Theophylact, History, p. 28. For a later Byzantine view, see Photius, Bibliotheca cod. 65.

[9] For this role in Theophylact and his sixth-century predecessor, Menander, see Whitby, ‘Greek Historical Writing’, p. 44

[10] Theophylact, History 5.4.8-9.

[11] On the increasing focus in Heraclian propaganda in the Persian war based on religious themes, see S. Alexander, ‘Heraclius, Byzantine Imperial Ideology, and the David Plates’, Speculum 52 (1977), pp. 217-37, M. Whitby, ‘Defender of the Cross: George of Pisidia on the Emperor Heraclius and his Deputies’, in The Propaganda of Power: The Role of the Panegyric in Late Antiquity, ed Mary Whitby (Leiden, 1998), esp. pp. 247-65, Y. Stoyanov, Defenders and Enemies of the True Cross, The Sasanian Conquest of Jerusalem in 614 and Byzantine Ideology of Anti-Persian Warfare (Vienna, 2011). For Byzantine attitudes towards ‘crusade’ and ‘holy war’, see J. Koder and I. Stouraitis, eds Byzantine War Ideology Between Roman Imperial Concept and Christian Religion (Budapest, 2012).

[12] Kaegi, Heraclius, p.126. Cf. Dennis, ‘Holy War’, pp 31-9.

[13] R. Leader, ‘The David Plates Revisited: Transforming the Secular in Byzantium’, The Art Bulletin 82. 3 (2000), pp. 413-14.

[14] Whitby, ‘Defender of the Cross’, p. 263.

[15] Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, pp. 1, 214.

[16] Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis, p. 91.

[17] Sebeos, The Armenian History of Sebeos 50 (170), trans. R. W. Thomson, TTH 31 (Liverpool, 1999).

[18] Conway, Behold the Man, p.177.

[19] The literature on the transformation from ‘triumphant’ to ‘suffering’ Christ in both literary and visual forms has attracted much interest, see e.g., C. Morris, the Discovery of the Individual (New York, 1972), C. Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era (Cambridge, 2001), R. Viladesau, The Beauty of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Catacombs to the Eve of the Renaissance (Oxford, 2006). Boin (Coming Out Christian, pp. 50-53), considers some of the reasons behind early Roman-Christians’ reluctance to embrace images of the ‘crucified’ Christ.

[20]F. J. Harley-McGowan, ‘The Narration of Christ’s Passion in early Christian Art’, in AABS 16 (Melbourne, 2006), p. 223.

[21] Eusebius, HE 1.2.

[22] See, e.g. A. Bain, Four Interpretations of Biblical Crucifixion Narratives in the Latin West, c. 350-430. (PhD thesis, Queensland University, 2007).

[23] Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis, p. 473. Cf. F. M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Cambridge MA, 2010), pp. 14-17, G. J. Reinink, ‘Pseudo-Methodius: A Concept of History in Response to the Rise of Islam’, in The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, ed A. Cameron and L. Conrad (Princeton, 1992), pp. 149–87.

[24]On the current debates surrounding the development and effectiveness of this weapon, see J. Haldon, ‘“Greek fire” Revisited: Recent and Current Research’, in Byzantine Style, Religion and Civilization: In Honour of Sir Steven Runciman, ed E. Jeffreys (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 290–325.

[25] The literature on the origins and extent of the implementation of the thematic administration in the seventh century is vast. For good introductions, see R. J. Lilie, ‘Die zweihundertjährige Reform: zu den Anfängen der Themenorganisation im 7. Und 8. Jahrhundert’, BS 45 (1984), pp. 27-39, 190-201, J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 208-53.

[26] C. Leyser (‘Introduction: Making Medieval Societies’, in Making Early Medieval Societies: Conflict and Belonging in the Latin West, 300-1200 [Cambridge, 2016], pp.1-15) discusses the ways such shared convictions hold societies together during periods of political rupture.

[27] Michael Attaleiates, History 27.11, Greek text according to the edition of E. Tsolakis, Michaelis Attaliatae Historia [CFHB 50], (Athens 2011), pp. 169-170. Cf. Miguel Ataliates: Historia, ed I. Perez Martin, (Madrid 2002); trans. according to A. Kaldellis and D. Krallis, The History, DOML (Cambridge MA, 2012) : Οὐ γὰρ πρὸς ἀργύριον καὶ πλούτου ἐπίκτησιν οἱ εὐγενέστατοι Ῥωμαῖοι τὸ κατ᾽ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ ἠγωνίζοντο, ἀλλὰ δι᾽ εὔκλειαν μόνην καὶ ἀνδρίας ἐπίδειξιν καὶ τῆς ἰδίας πατρίδος σωτηρίαν τε καὶ λαμπρότητα.

[28] For this theme in Michael’s history, see A. Kaldellis, ‘A Byzantine Argument for the Equivalence of All Religions: Michael Attaleiates on Ancient and Modern Romans’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14. 1/2 (2007), pp. 1-22, L. Neville, Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium (Cambridge 2012).

[29] For this communal stability in societies beset by political turmoil and fragmentation, see Leyser, ‘Making Early Medieval Societies’, p. 5.

Justin I: Dumb Uncle or Byzantine Trump?



Inspired by the work of David Parnell on the complex social webs among Justinian’s generals, I am thinking of examining the social networks among generals during the reigns of Anastasios and Justin I. I have done a great deal of work on Leo I, Zeno, and Justinian… so this new work is only natural. The general Vitalian who rose up against the emperor Anastasios and for a while wielded power during the emperor Justin’s reign before being assassinated by a power-faction led by the future emperor Justinian is of particular interest to me. Indeed, one of the interesting things about these assassinated generals is that when they were purged it did not mean their social networks were culled. This explains why Vitalian’s and the Alan generalissimo Aspar’s (assassinated by Leo I) relatives continued to hold key military command in the Byzantine army long after the regime that killed them had disappeared. To explore these connections and explain the complex power-relationships in early Byzantium I will need to answer a number of questions. But first, I will need to do a great deal of research on the reigns of Anastasios and Justin I. I am familiar with these emperors and their periods, but the old consensus about a dullard Justin manipulated by his nephew Justinian has recently been challenged convincingly…so I am going to start digging into the primary sources again and form my own opinions, which brings me to Justin I.


The long-neglected reign of the Emperor Justin (ruled 517-527) has  received some much-needed attention in the past decade. Since the days of mid-sixth century historian Procopius, Justin has mostly been dismissed by historians as a dullard puppet of his ambitious adopted reletive, the future emperor Justinian (ruled 527-565). This paradigm has begun to shift. Far from an illiterate peasant, Justin has been portrayed as another in a long-line of Thracian generals who deftly manipulated contemporary religious and political disputes in the reign of Anastasios to their advantage.[1] Moreover, important articles by Brian Croke and Charles Pazdernik have convincingly shown that Justin’s relationship with Justinian was far more complex and, indeed, rocky than previous scholarship has recognised.[2] Far from being controlled from the beginning by his adopted son, Justin only gradually granted Justinian the power and offices that would lead to him becoming the most powerful Late Antique  Byzantine ruler. Indeed, Justinian’s close involvement with the circus factions almost led to his downfall. Certainly, as Croke points out, scholars have relied far too heavily upon Procopius scurrilous Anecdota for their portrait of Justin and the puissance of Justinian in the early 520s. One can only hope that one of these writers takes on the challenge of writing a new monograph on Justin.


So, as I did with Leo I, I will begin to blog on this research..hopefully it will lead to another published article.


[1] Geoffrey Greatrex, “Justin and the Arians” ;“The Early Years of Justin I’s Reign in the Sources,” Electrum 12 (2007): 99-113.

[2] Brian Croke, “Justinian under Justin: Reconfiguring a Reign,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 100. 1 (2007):13-56; Charles Pazdernik, “The Quaestor Proclus,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 55.1 (2015): 221-49.

Headed to the “Zoo

Ï am headed to give a paper in Kalamazoo next May. Jon Arnold was kind enough to invite me to his session on barbarians and barbarian kingdoms. I am also just finishing up with the final proofs of my forthcoming book The Soldier’s Life, which really look great. The editor has done a fine job, particularly with the images.Once this is finished, a project which lasted 15 years will be done and dusted. This should give me time to start on the Procopius book.

I am also busy with 220 or so students…December can not come soon enough. What follows is an abstract (draft) for my paper, enjoy!


The Fine Line between Fear and Courage in Book III of Procopius’s Vandalic Wars


Fear plays a vital if subtle role in the Wars of the mid sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius. Book III, describing the East Roman’s attempts to wrest North Africa from the Vandals, particularly relies upon the Greek concept of fear as a narrative tool. Several important articles have recently stressed Procopius’ heavy emphasis on the Romans’ foreboding when the Emperor Justinian announced that he was readying to confront the Vandals. According to Wars, Justinian’s magistrates and generals acutely feared a repeat of the disastrous naval campaign in 468 against the Vandals under the Emperor Leo I, which had seen the Roman navy destroyed by Vandal fire-ships and East Rome nearly bankrupted. Only the praetorian prefect John the Cappadocian, however, had the nerve to warn the emperor about the “folly” of his venture. Following John’s advice, Justinian relented and abandoned temporally his plan for war. Only when a visiting bishop advised the emperor that God had visited him in a dream and commanded the bishop to remind Justinian that God would too fight on his side “and make him master of Libya”, was the emperor’s confidence in the invasion restored.

The papers mentioned above, have used this and subsequent episodes in book III of Wars, which accentuate  Belisarius and Procopius’ concerns for the prospects of the impending campaign, to suggest that not only was the historian not the general’s apologist, but, indeed, sought to paint Belisarius and the East Roman army in a hostile light. For these revisionists, it offers further proof that Procopius was against Justinian’s reconquest from the beginning. This paper will refute all of these claims. It will suggest that the views discussed above simplify not only the role that fear plays in Procopius and other early Byzantine writers, but misunderstand the complex early Byzantine concept of fear. Far from a negative trait, fear represented an essential aspect of sound generalship and soldiering in Wars. Procopius, in fact, echoes notions found in Aristotle and early Byzantine military manuals that demonstrate that fear when properly controlled represented an essential quality for good generals and manly soldiers to possess. Indeed, in Wars courageous and manly men—both Roman and non-Roman—were often those who followed Aristotle’s famous adage that andreios men feared neither too much nor too little.



Climate, Plague, and the End of the Middle Ages

Okay, that title sounds a bit dramatic. At the moment I am teaching the medieval and early Modern World. Since it is outside of my specialty I am writing a short introduction to each lecture. I hate reading things out in lecture, but I am using this as a tool. I have not edited this too much or used any citations.

Introduction to Lecture 2


The fourteenth century was a watershed period in European and Medieval History. Although it is difficult to draw a sharp line between the Medieval and the early Modern worlds, events in the 1300s would play a key part in this transition. Though few would have guessed it in 1300, the coming century would witness disasters and challenges that many contemporaries would compare with the Biblical Days of Noah and the flood. In fact, in the aftermath of multiple famines and waves of devastating plague that culled perhaps half of Europe’s population, devout medieval people cannot be blamed for believing that the end of days foretold in the New Testament was at hand.

In large part to famine and disease, Europe’s 300 years of dramatic demographic growth from 1000-1300 came not only to a screeching halt, but careened into a tailspin that would not see the population return to its previous levels until, at least, the 17th century.

As we can see by this slide (5), the population between Sicily and Scandinavia and Russia and Ireland had increased significantly from around 40 million in the eleventh century to around 75 million in the fourteenth century. This population growth was matched by an emergent and increasingly confident Europe on the world stage. Next to China, the globe’s economic heartland in this period centred on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Despite rapid gains, in comparison to the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate, Europe remained an economic and cultural backwater. The magnificent Christian-Byzantine city of Constantinople and the Muslim Caliphate’s capital in Baghdad, were at least ten-times larger and far more monetarily and culturally richer than the pride of Europe…Paris.  Despite this economic and demographic disparity, a deft blend of religious conviction teetering on fanaticism and martial capabilities and military innovations acquired warring amongst themselves, had allowed the Europeans to create a powerful war-machine that took a largely divided Muslim world by surprise. This led to a relatively united Western Christendom under the banner of the Pope in Rome recapturing Jerusalem in 1099 after nearly 500 years of Muslim rule. Though increasingly bickering amongst  themselves, the Western Crusaders had managed in a few short years to carve out a series of kingdoms in the Biblical— and more recently Muslim and Byzantine—heartlands in the Levant. Though subsequent crusades would never match the success of the first, the crusader’s triumphs, though ephemeral have had long-lasting impacts that continue to resonate.

Slide 7


More lasting were the Christians gradual absorption of Muslim Spain. Though largely a local movement, outside crusaders had played a role in the successful Christian Reconquista that culminated with the unification of the formerly independent Christian Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon in 1469 and the defeat of the Emirate of Granada in 1492.

Slide 8

We know some of the reasons behind the sharp rise in population and, as a result, Western Christendom’s wealth and power. Advancements in agricultural techniques, technology, urbanisation, wealth through the growth of medieval trade and commerce, and a warmer climate all contributed to expansion.

In England, the population increased over these three centuries from about 2 to 5 million

In France, from 6 to 14 million

In Germany, the estimates are from 4 to 11 million

By modern standards, Europe in 1300 was not overpopulated at all. But it was fully populated in relation to the existing technology and patterns of soil exploitation. That is, there were more people than the soil could care for – over-stretched resources. Like medieval Donald Trumps, one finds contemporary authors continually complaining about over-population…..those damn Frisians and Venetians they are eating all of our grain!

Indeed, population increased rapidly in rural areas especially, and the subsequent overpopulation in the countryside generated a steady stream of migration from these rural areas to the emerging cities that had begun sprouting up since the new millennium. In the twelfth-century half of most city’s or town’s population came from somewhere else.

Slide 9

Though filthy, crowded, fire-prone and dangerous, these urban areas offered an escape from the power of the local lord and church…and for some a chance to find a craft or skill that could lead to service in one the many guilds that was changing the social and economic structure of northern and southern Europe in the High Middle Ages. Indeed, most major towns had severed feudal obligations to secular and ecclesiastical lords alike. In these urban areas techniques had improved to create taller buildings…though mostly windowless and cramped these residences contained fewer people than the typical filled to the brim rural housing of the age. Moreover, from the 11th century larger settlements had taken the first steps to improve fire safety and sanitation. London established public latrines by 1100. After 1212, London required that roofs be made of tile rather than highly flammable thatch and straw. Despite these advances, fertility rates remained much lower in these urban areas than the countryside.

Slide. 10

The city in the High Middle Age was like a castle on a grander scale. As we can see in this slide of medieval Genoa most urban areas in Western Europe were highly fortified. Particularly in the Italian city-states, wealthier families constructed great towers which dominated the skyline. Like castles in the country side, these medieval skyscrapers both protected the urban elites interests and advertised their wealth and position in hierarchal local society. As John Cots posits, while beautiful to look at, these towers “testify to the relative weakness of public authority in some urban areas” in Western Europe in the High Middle Ages.


These growing populations in the cities and country-side in Western Christendom of course needed to be fed. By the dawn of the fourteenth century, technological advance, however, often failed to keep pace with increasing demands for food. In an attempt to grow more food, fields were frequently over-exploited and yields fell. Consequently, the price of grain in the first half of the 14th century skyrocketed. As we see in Hatcher’s book, this caused a real problem for the majority of the population who was dirt poor. Moreover, for those new migrants to the towns and cities things could be even worse, since most produced no food of their own, so were particularly vulnerable to shortages and famine.


As we can see in this slide, Western Europe’s population declined sharply after 1300. Famine in the early decades. contributed perhaps to a 10% decline, whilst as we discussed above, in the middle of the century, plague culled a further 30 to 50%.

Slide 11

An important factor to consider here is the climate. As we can see here, the years from 1000 to 1250 had been unusually warm. Indeed, grapes are reported being grown in Southern England.

Agriculture is always subject to climatic conditions, and a gradual change in the environment directly influenced levels of agrarian production. Even small drops of temperature can lead to shorter growing seasons and thus smaller yields. Of course, climatic condition occurred only gradually, as we recognise today with the modern issue of Global Warming. But one thing is for sure: The climate played a major part in the mischief 70 or 80 years before the Black Death.

Slide 12

Climatologists have described the period from the early 14th to the late 19th centuries, as the Little Ice Age. According to recent research, volcanic eruptions just before the year 1300 triggered the expansion of Arctic sea ice, setting off a chain reaction that lowered temperatures worldwide. Europe bore the brunt of its ill effects, experiencing harsh and fickle weather for several centuries.

Intense cold led to advances of polar and Alpine glaciers; high rainfall caused a rise in the Caspian Sea. Wheat, vine, and cereals were crippled and virtually extinguished in places like Iceland, England, and Denmark. Greenland, which had been settled by the Norsemen in the late tenth century had to be abandoned by the 15th. This colder and wetter weather led to a number of disastrous harvests, particularly in England, where famine was reported in 1272, 1277, 1283, 1292, and 1311.

But the great calamity struck between 1315-1317, when a great famine struck Western Europe. In 1316, when the harvest seriously failed, and almost every country in Europe lost the whole of their harvest

After a reported 150 days of straight rain, followed by draught, we can understand why this might have happened. Just as many today live pay check to pay check. In the fourteenth century people lived harvest to harvest…..there were no tinned foods or Woolworths!

Consequently, in the winter, many people died of starvation and from diseases commonly afflicting a starving population. These conditions would have serious consequences for the generation that grew up in the shadow of famine. In fact, as we will discuss in greater detail in a future lecture, some modern scientists conclude that this frailty may help to explain, in part, the plagues’ devastating effect on an already weakened population.


Let us now look at how the people we find in Hatcher’s book survived in this period.


A Cry Against Anti Intellectualism.


Toffs and Toughs - The photo that illustrates the class divide in pre-war Britain, 1937 July 9th, 1937 ‘Toffs and Toughs’ Harrow School Boys beside local working class (credit: Rare Historical Photos)

I live in a house divided. But that house is an entire incredulous country. Outside of London there are no hordes of rampaging leavers, or glorified celebration parties. Instead there is only fear, quiet terror and disbelief – on all sides. Those who we think should be celebrating instead woke to the news that the pound had dropped lower than in living memory, that Scotland seeks a second referendum which will see it leave the United Kingdom, and that the promise to end freedom of movement and immigration was a lie. We live in a country of ruins, shattered by an elite political class that sought to undermine and stigmatise education, encourage division, and vilify external forces for internal problems. It was a simple game of smoke and mirrors, a magic trick carried…

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Love and Sex in the High Middle Ages

In, Ennobling Love: In Search of a New Sensibility, C. Stephen Jaeger famously explores the gradual transformation of the concept of love in Western Europe in the High Middle Ages. Jaeger argues that, from the early to the High Middle Ages, the Western European aristocracy had developed two distinct forms of love. The first form, “Ciceronian” or old love, was based on Greco-Roman ideals that were adapted by the early medieval courts. This love was based on the nobility of a person’s mind and soul. So although the language may seem sexual to the modern observer, this shared love was chaste and a reflection of both parties’ superior virtue. The individuals were not in love with the other’s physical beauty, but with their inner worth, which made these relationships predominantly non-sexual.

To express this feeling of mutual excellence, this form of love needed to be a public affair, which perhaps explains the need by late antique and medieval men to record these exchanges. Such bonds between men had always been prevalent in warrior societies, where comradeship was vital for both the individual’s and the society’s survival. Jaeger observes a new pattern of courtly love emerging in the twelfth century, that of “Ovidian” or “new love”. He argues that this development reflected the increased inclusion of women in society and the proliferation, in learned society, of the sensuous poems of the Roman poet Ovid and the racy new literature of courtly love. This form of love differed greatly from its chaste Ciceronian counterpart, in that it involved women, and was sexual in nature. In this form of love the woman became the reward for the man’s moral improvement. Unlike the logical relationships between males, Ovidian love was highly passionate, and at times illogical. Love was portrayed as part of the natural world and came to be seen as beyond the control of human beings.

In a world where, following Biblical precedent, sexuality was viewed with suspicion, courtly literature sought to reconcile this physical love with ennobling love. For historians of sexuality, Jaeger presents the challenge of whether the study of “homosexuality” is even valid. He argues that modern scholars are too influenced by Freudian thinking and fail to comprehend the different mindset and aims of the medieval individual. So where John Boswell famously read in Anselm’s intense and emotive letters to his fellow monks and male students a sexual subtext, Jaeger, to my mind rightly, sees a typically chaste Ciceronian “love-affair” among like-minded men. Yet, as one observes in the letters of Abelard and Heloise, similarly emotive language may also be used by our medieval writers to describe both physical and spiritual love. Surely then, the language of Ciceronian love could be used to mask more physical, and by the twelfth century standards, more illicitly sexual relationships between men.

Somewhat ironically in an age where an increasingly centralised and reformed Catholic Church sought to monitor men and women’s relationships, there came to be a greater acceptance of the value of passionate love and, indeed, the sexual act. As Sally Vaughn has recently argued, the clergy played a part in this change. She shows that Anselm’s friendships extended to woman. Here, Anselm was more revolutionary. Vaughn suggests that the increasing adulation in the twelfth century of the Virgin Mary’s role as the theotokos had a somewhat unintended consequence. To borrow Vaughn’ words, “the union of God and Mary into one flesh, an analogy to the biblical metaphor for sexual union”, helped to redeem humanity from original sin. “In the recreation of the universe”, Vaughn continues, “perhaps sexual love was also transformed, because human beings sharing God’s nature, were freed from sin.”[1]

[1] Sally Vaughn, “Saint Anselm and His Students Writing About Love: A Theological Foundation for the Rise of Romantic Love in Europe,” Journal of Sexuality 19.1 (2010): 54-73.




Justinian’s Eunuch-General Solomon


Narses gets all the press but Solomon was another of Justinian’s eunuch generals. This is a little piece I am working on at the moment…so enjoy…

The magister militum and two-time praetorian prefect Africae (534-6, 539-44) Solomon (c. 480-90-544) was the first of three eunuchs to command Byzantine armies during Justinian’s reign. Another castrate, Scholasticus, served as commander of an army sent against the Sklavenoi in 551. While the most famous eunuch-commander of all, Narses (c. 480-573)  had achieved major victories over the Goths in 552 at the battle of Taginae (Busto Gallorum) and versus the Franks and Alamanni in 554 at the battle of Casilunus that helped to secure the Emperor Justinian I’s (ruled 527-565) retaking of Italy from the Goths after an arduous nineteen-year struggle. Perhaps as result of the successful precedents set by Solomon and Narses, the number of eunuch-generals in Byzantium rose in subsequent centuries.[1]

We first hear of Solomon serving under Belisarius.  The Monophysite Chronicle of Pseudo- Zachariah records:

Accompanying him (Belisarius) was Solomon, a eunuch, from the fortress of Idriphthon. He was an astute man, capable in the affairs of the world, having been a notarius to the dux Felicissimus [Felicissimo duci notarius Fureat] and having been attached to the rest of the governors, and he had become cunning through training by [tackling] problems.


Felicissimus had been dux of Mesopotamia in 505/506, so Solomon’s career in the intervening two decades remains a mystery. It is likely by 527 Solomon was already an experienced soldier. Belisarius probably chose Solomon for his previous experience as a secretary and  soldier who knew the politics and main players in and about the dangerous Eastern border with Persia.[2]

We do not hear much about Solomon’s service in the Persian campaigns, but he had obviously gained Belisarius’ trust, and the Vandal war in 533 found him serving as Belisarius’ domesticus (the protectores domestici were an elite guard unit of the early Byzantine Army, who functioned as both body guards and staff officers). The sixth-century historian of Justinian’s military campaigns in the East and the West, Procopius, memorably introduced Solomon as one of two commanders of Belisarius’ foederarti[3]: This Solomon was a eunuch, but it was not by the intent of any man that his genitals had been severed: some accident imposed this lot upon him when he was a child’. [4] Though differentiated from other eunuchs in this passage, Byzantines like Procopius placed accidental eunuchs in the same category of man-made castrates and ‘born eunuchs’—those individuals who either had undescended testes, or were born without them’.[5]

Solomon’s status as a eunuch did nothing to inhibit his rapid advancement within the East Roman army. When Belisarius headed to Sicily to organise his impending invasion of southern Italy, he named Solomon as the supreme commander (praetorian prefect) of North Africa, a role that combined military and political leadership.[6] The command of this newly reconquered region points to the faith both Belisarius and the emperor Justinian placed in Solomon’s capabilities.[7] Solomon indeed represents the rare individual in Wars whom Belisarius, Procopius, and Justinian trusted and admired.[8] That Belisarius’ assessor Procopius knew and seemingly had a close relationship with Solomon, helps to explain why in Wars, Solomon comes off more as a genuine human-being.[9] Certainly, Procopius’ depicted Solomon’s trials and tribulations during his two tenures in North Africa in a highly sympathetic light. Though far from perfect, Solomon is loyal, intelligent, restrained, innovative, and courageous. In fact, Solomon has been described “as the most highly praised person in Vandal War.”[10]

Although, it is not within this paper’s scope to provide a detailed account of Procopius’ portrait of Solomon, a few anecdotes from Wars concerning his career should offer evidence that both Romans and non-Romans in North Africa seemed to have cared little about Solomon’s status as eunuch. After his introduction, Procopius only rarely mentions Solomon’s eunuchism.[11] Instead, Procopius cast him as an idealised battle-hardened leader, a man’s man. Unquestionably, Solomon’s selfless courage and adroit generalship are on display throughout the narrative.[12] For just one example of several in Wars, at the battle of Mammes in 534, when directing his cavalry against the Berbers, Solomon astutely observing the panic of his men’s horses because of the Berbers’ use of camels, leapt of his horse, and ordering his men to do the same, formed a fulcum of 500 men and won the day by slaughtering the camels that were protecting the enemy camp.[13]

Even Solomon’s setbacks were largely explained away by Procopius. Solomon’s failure during his first command in North Africa, according to Procopius, resulted from his fierce loyalty to Justinian and his policies. Following an imperial edict Solomon refused to permit the Roman soldiers who had taken Vandal wives to inherit these women’s lands. Moreover, adhering to Justinian’s religious policies for the newly conquered province, he would not allow the 1,000 Arians in his army to practice their religion. Solomon’s devotion to Justinian nearly got him killed. Whipped up by the Vandal clergy and the soldier’s Vandal wives, Solomon narrowly escaped a plot by a group of these men to assassinate him on Easter Sunday (23 March) 536, fleeing along with Procopius to Sicily, where the pair then sought Belisarius’ assistance to put down the revolt.[14] For the next three years, North Africa would be wracked by internal and external rebellion.

After his return to Africa in 539, Procopius presented Solomon as a leader who had learned from his previous mistakes. He wrote: “Solomon sailed to Carthage and, having rid himself of Stotzas (the rebel Byzantine general) he ruled with moderation and setting the army in order. . . .Libya became powerful under his rule. [15] In a series of swift campaigns, Solomon stamped out the rebellion’s remnants and drove the Berbers from Numidia. As many idealised generals before him, Solomon treated his defeated enemies Roman and non-Roman with respect. Procopius described the aftermath of Solomon’s sage policies: “As a result of this all the Libyans who were subjects of the Romans, coming to enjoy secure peace and finding the rule of Solomon wise and very moderate, no longer had any thought of war in their minds, and seemed the most fortunate of all men.”[16]

As occurs regularly in Wars, through a combination of bad fortune and men’s propensity to moral depravity, the good times did not last. Justinian, probably out of good will towards Solomon, in 544, assigned the eunuch’s nephews Sergius and Cyrus to key commands in North Africa. Such nepotism was common in the early Byzantine army, [17] but Procopius, perhaps seeking to shift blame away from his hero Solomon, lamented, “And this man (Sergius) became the chief cause of great ruin to the people of Libya.” In these few words, Procopius emphasised the vital role that men’s virtues played in determining the fate of Justinian’s reconquest. According to Wars, the dux Tripolitaniae Sergius’ unjust murder of eighty of Berber envoys leads to a dangerous uprising and the defection of most of Solomon’s key Berber allies.

The subsequent uprising by the Berbers enraged by their heinous treatment at the hands of Sergius leads ultimately to Solomon’s downfall. Defections by Solomon’s Berber allies swings the balance of power back into the favour of the rebels. Solomon’s death, as described by Procopius, is heroic and tragic in the best Roman literary fashion.[18] Abandoned by the majority of his Roman and non-Roman soldiers, and overwhelmed by the Berber’s superior numbers, Solomon and his loyal bodyguards at the battle of Cillium in Byzancena make a hasty retreat. On the cusp of escaping danger, Solomon’s horse stumbles in a ravine, throwing its rider to the ground. Injured and unable to remount, Solomon is cut down while making a heroic last-stand.  A suiting end for a man Procopius revered throughout Wars as an idealised Roman soldier.[19]

What should attract our interest, however, is the vocabulary that Procopius wields in Secret History and Wars to describe Sergius in the aftermath of his uncle’s death. Out of loyalty to Solomon and respect for the eunuch’s heroic death, Justinian named Sergius as Solomon’s successor.[20] Procopius attributed Sergius’ subsequent failures in North Africa on his ‘unmanly, [ἄνανδρος] ‘soft’ [μαλθακòς] and ‘effeminate nature’ [γνáθους φυσων], gendered epithets that critics had long deployed to undermine eunuchs in positions of authority.[21] Whether consciously or not, Procopius inverts the old-trope of the unmanly eunuch undermining the rule of a noble Roman. While, the eunuch Solomon died nobly in battle, the non-eunuch Sergius’ deceit and unmanliness in his two short years as magister militum Africae nearly destroyed everything his uncle had achieved for the restored province.[22] Having served under Belisarius and Solomon, one suspects that few men could have met the historian’s expectations.  Therefore, the more pessimistic vision of Vandalic North Africa found at the close of book four of Wars, may not reflect Procopius’ general disillusionment with Justinian’s North African reconquest as a whole, as suggested by one recent scholar, but should perhaps be better seen as a symptom of the historian’s anguish over the loss of a man, Solomon, he respected equally as a leader, man, and probable friend.[23]

[1] For a select prosopography of eunuchs in Byzantine civilisation, see Tougher, 2008, 133-71.

[2] Moving up from the position of notarius (secretary, scribe) occurred rather frequently in the Early Byzantine Empire. Indeed, two sixth-century emperors, Tiberius II (ruled 574-582) and Maurice (ruled 582-602) had begun their careers as notarius. So to, in the fifth century, had the primicerius notarium (chief secretary of the Western court) John, had seized the throne (20 November 423).

[3]In the fourth century, foederati consisted primarily of non-Roman groups who had agreed to fight on the Roman’s behalf. Yet, as Procopius explained (Wars 3.11.3-5.), by the sixth century the φοιδερᾶτοι consisted of Romans and non-Romans.

[4] Procopius, Wars (trans. Kaldellis):  ‘ὁ δὲ Σολόμων οὕτος εὐνοῦχος μὲν ἦν, οὐκ ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς δὲ ἀνθρώπου τὰ αἰδοῖα ἐτύγχανεν ἀποτμηθείς, ὰλλά τις αὐτῷ τύχη ἐν σπαργάνοις ὄντι τοῦτο ἐβράβευσε.

[5]Tougher, 2008, 31

[6] Procopius, Wars 4.8.23

[7] Conant, 2012, 204-205: Conant posits reasonably that Justinian and Solomon probably had a close relationship.

[8] E.g., Procopius, Wars 3.29.19, 4.8, 4.22.11

[9] Procopius, Wars

[10] Kaldellis, 2004, 189.

[11] Procopius, Wars 4.12.28, where Procopius describes a Berber prophecy where ‘their nation would be destroyed by a beardless man [ὡς ἄρα τὸγένος αὐτοῖς προς ἀνδρὸς ἀγνείου ὀλεῖται].

[12] Whately, 2016, 138.

[13] Procopius, Wars 4.11.47-56.

[14] Procopius, Wars 4.14.30-37. That Procopius was one of only six individuals who escaped with Solomon, points to the pair’s close relationship. In Secret History (18.9-13), Procopius harshly criticised Justinian’s policies against Arians and native landowners. He was, however, clearly hostile to the rebels. Cf. Marcellinus, Chron. s.a. 535, which predates the rebellion by one year.

[15] Procopius, Wars 4.21.28.

[16] Procopius, Wars 4.20.33. Cf. Marcellinus, Chron. s.a. 540.

[17] It is just as likely that Solomon pushed for these appointments, since early Byzantine magister militum frequently appointed their own subordinate officers, see Conant, 2012,

[18] For a discussion of these idealised deaths in battle in Greco-Roman literature, see Eckstein, 1995, 42-43.

[19] Procopius Wars 4.21-22.1. Cf. Victor of Tonnena, Chron.  s.a. 543 (11, 201); Marcellinus, Chron. s.a. 541.3; Corippus, Iohannis 3.417-41.

[20] It was common practice in the early Byzantine army for magister militum to appoint close relatives as their successors, see Conant, 2012, 227-229.

[21] Procopius, Secret History 4.32-3, Wars 4.22.2: οἱ δὲ στρατιῶται, ὅτι δὲ ἄναδρός τε καὶ μαλθακòς παντάπασιν ἦν. For Procopius’ terminology to describe ‘good’ and ‘bad’ generals and political leaders, see Stewart, 2013, 200-207.

[22] Procopius (Secret History criticised Sergius’ successor in North Africa, the blue-blooded Easter senator Areobindus, with similar gendered language.

[23] Kaldellis, 2016, 15.