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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The Gepidae are your brave and faithful allies


[Footnote

1: It will be a pleasure, not a task, to read Herodotus, (l. vii. c. 104, 134, p. 550, 615.) The conversation of Xerxes and Demaratus at Thermopylae is one of the most interesting and moral scenes in history. It was the torture of the royal Spartan to behold, with anguish and remorse, the virtue of his country.]

[Footnote 2: See this proud inscription in Pliny, (Hist. Natur. vii. 27.) Few men have more exquisitely tasted of glory and disgrace; nor could Juvenal (Satir. x.) produce a more striking example of the vicissitudes of fortune, and the vanity of human wishes.]

[Footnote 3: This last epithet of Procopius is too nobly translated by pirates; naval thieves is the proper word; strippers of garments, either for injury or insult, (Demosthenes contra Conon Reiske, Orator, Graec. tom. ii. p. 1264.)]

[Footnote 4: See the third and fourth books of the Gothic War: the writer of the Anecdotes cannot aggravate these abuses.]

[Footnote 5: Agathias, l. v. p. 157, 158. He confines this weakness of the emperor and the empire to the old age of Justinian; but alas! he was never young.]

[Footnote 6: This mischievous policy, which Procopius (Anecdot. c. 19) imputes to the emperor, is revealed in his epistle to a Scythian prince, who was capable of understanding it.]

Even the Gothic victories

of Belisarius were prejudicial to the state, since they abolished the important barrier of the Upper Danube, which had been so faithfully guarded by Theodoric and his daughter. For the defence of Italy, the Goths evacuated Pannonia and Noricum, which they left in a peaceful and flourishing condition: the sovereignty was claimed by the emperor of the Romans; the actual possession was abandoned to the boldness of the first invader. On the opposite banks of the Danube, the plains of Upper Hungary and the Transylvanian hills were possessed, since the death of Attila, by the tribes of the Gepidae, who respected the Gothic arms, and despised, not indeed the gold of the Romans, but the secret motive of their annual subsidies. The vacant fortifications of the river were instantly occupied by these Barbarians; their standards were planted on the walls of Sirmium and Belgrade; and the ironical tone of their apology aggravated this insult on the majesty of the empire. "So extensive, O Caesar, are your dominions, so numerous are your cities, that you are continually seeking for nations to whom, either in peace or in war, you may relinquish these useless possessions. The Gepidae are your brave and faithful allies; and if they have anticipated your gifts, they have shown a just confidence in your bounty." Their presumption was excused by the mode of revenge which Justinian embraced. Instead of asserting the rights of a sovereign for the protection of his subjects, the emperor invited a strange people to invade and possess the Roman provinces between


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