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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The conquerors of the Avars solicit our alliance


[Footnote

1: See the family of Justin and Justinian in the Familiae Byzantine of Ducange, p. 89--101. The devout civilians, Ludewig (in Vit. Justinian. p. 131) and Heineccius (Hist. Juris. Roman. p. 374) have since illustrated the genealogy of their favorite prince.]

[Footnote 2: In the story of Justin's elevation I have translated into simple and concise prose the eight hundred verses of the two first books of Corippus, de Laudibus Justini Appendix Hist. Byzant. p. 401--416 Rome 1777.]

[Footnote 3: It is surprising how Pagi (Critica. in Annal. Baron. tom. ii. p 639) could be tempted by any chronicles to contradict the plain and decisive text of Corippus, (vicina dona, l. ii. 354, vicina dies, l. iv. 1,) and to postpone, till A.D. 567, the consulship of Justin.]

[Footnote 4: Theophan. Chronograph. p. 205. Whenever Cedrenus or Zonaras are mere transcribers, it is superfluous to allege their testimony.]

On the seventh day of his reign, Justin gave audience to the ambassadors of the Avars, and the scene was decorated to impress the Barbarians with astonishment, veneration, and terror. From the palace gate, the spacious courts and long porticos were lined with the lofty crests and gilt bucklers of the guards, who presented their spears and axes with more confidence than they would have shown in a field of battle. The officers who exercised the power, or

attended the person, of the prince, were attired in their richest habits, and arranged according to the military and civil order of the hierarchy. When the veil of the sanctuary was withdrawn, the ambassadors beheld the emperor of the East on his throne, beneath a canopy, or dome, which was supported by four columns, and crowned with a winged figure of Victory. In the first emotions of surprise, they submitted to the servile adoration of the Byzantine court; but as soon as they rose from the ground, Targetius, the chief of the embassy, expressed the freedom and pride of a Barbarian. He extolled, by the tongue of his interpreter, the greatness of the chagan, by whose clemency the kingdoms of the South were permitted to exist, whose victorious subjects had traversed the frozen rivers of Scythia, and who now covered the banks of the Danube with innumerable tents. The late emperor had cultivated, with annual and costly gifts, the friendship of a grateful monarch, and the enemies of Rome had respected the allies of the Avars. The same prudence would instruct the nephew of Justinian to imitate the liberality of his uncle, and to purchase the blessings of peace from an invincible people, who delighted and excelled in the exercise of war. The reply of the emperor was delivered in the same strain of haughty defiance, and he derived his confidence from the God of the Christians, the ancient glory of Rome, and the recent triumphs of Justinian. "The empire," said he, "abounds with men and horses, and arms sufficient to defend our frontiers, and to chastise the Barbarians. You offer aid, you threaten hostilities: we despise your enmity and your aid. The conquerors of the Avars solicit our alliance; shall we dread their fugitives and exiles? [5] The bounty of our uncle was granted to your misery, to your humble prayers. From us you shall receive a more important obligation, the knowledge of your own weakness. Retire from our presence; the lives of ambassadors are safe; and, if you return to implore our pardon, perhaps you will taste of our benevolence." [6] On the report of his ambassadors, the chagan was awed by the apparent firmness of a Roman emperor of whose character and resources he was ignorant. Instead of executing his threats against the Eastern empire, he marched into the poor and savage countries of Germany, which were subject to the dominion of the Franks. After two doubtful battles, he consented to retire, and the Austrasian king relieve the distress of his camp with an immediate supply of corn and cattle. [7] Such repeated disappointments had chilled the spirit of the Avars, and their power would have dissolved away in the Sarmatian desert, if the alliance of Alboin, king of the Lombards, had not given a new object to their arms, and a lasting settlement to their wearied fortunes.


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