June 07, 2006

Procopius and Belisarius

It's been a while since I posted something and I guess it's about tiem I add something new. I guess I could have added something sooner, but this is first really important thing that I think I need to share (even if it's really only with myself). I am considering adding other more stuff to my blog, and non–school related things, but that may be a while yet. Still, you never know. Anyway, on with the show.

A common theme propounded by modern scholars is this idea that Procopius entered or rather embarked upon his work with such optimism, particularly after witnessing such astounding achievements as Belisarius' victory at Dara, and then the victories at Ad Decimum and Tricamarum, before losing his way and becoming hostile towards Belisarius and the whole enterprise by the Gothic Wars. As a result, he started blaspheming the Romans and their efforts. But is this really so? I'm starting to think that it's no; instead, Procopius presents this story that gets increasingly better throughout the Persian Wars before reaching its peak midway through the Vandal Wars. Then, there are still successes bu things start to go wrong. This, I think, is likely even true for particular Wars themselves, like the Persian, Vandal, and Gothic Wars. So, what I think happened is that Procopius always planned on including the positive and negative of Belisarius, who is for all intents and purpsoses, the protagonist of the Wars. In the first 3 books he measures up very well, particularly compared with his Persian and Vandal contemporaries. Much is made of how positive Procopius' treatment of the Goth Totila is in the Gothic Wars, but I might ask how negative IS his treatment of Gelimer and even Khusrau in the Persian Wars? What we see instead is the changing fortunes of Belisarius, which had always been Procopius' intention;. He said in the preface that he planned on including BOTH the successes and failures of his most intimate acquaintances. And, might not th evolving and tragic character of Belisarius be, in effect, what makes these wars so great? After all, it's not a history of the successes of Justinian, and wars have a nasty habit of revealing both the good and the bad in everyone. One last thing: I think that Belisarius is the Roman state in microcosm, for his fortunes and failures match those of the state in the narrative as well. And, there is much continuity within the Wars as a whole, and individual wars.

So where does teh Secret History and book 8 fit in? I'm not sure. The most I can say at this point is that books 1 through 7 were published altogether; book 8 was a later addition. It's character is different from its predecessors and so there's no need to see its inclusion with books 1 – 7 as problematic for my theory. Anyway. This theory could be modified further once I explore the Gothic Wars and Book 8 in more depth.

- One comment Not publicly viewable


    a little off topic, but it needed saying

    08 Jun 2006, 17:11

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