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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Took Vitiges prisoner and sent him to Constantinople



While these changes were taking place in the West, Justinian had not been idle in the East. He was fortunate in having two great generals, Belisarius and Narses, who had already restored the lost prestige of the Imperial army. His first movement was to recover Northern Africa from the Vandals, who had now been settled there for a hundred years, and began to consider themselves the inheritors of the Carthaginian power. Belisarius, with a fleet and a powerful army, was sent against them. Here, again, the difference of religious doctrine between the Vandals and the Romans whom they had subjected, made his task easy. The last Vandal king, Gelimer, was defeated and besieged in a fortress called Pappua. After the siege had lasted all winter, Belisarius sent an officer, Pharas, to demand surrender. Gelimer refused, but added: "If you will do me a favor, Pharas, send me a loaf of bread, a sponge and a harp." Pharas, astonished, asked the reason of this request, and Gelimer answered: "I demand bread, because I have seen none since I have been besieged here; a sponge, to cool my eyes which are weary with weeping; and a harp, to sing the story of my misfortunes." Soon afterwards he surrendered, and in 534 all Northern Africa was restored to Justinian. The Vandals disappeared from history, as a race, but some of their descendants, with light hair, blue eyes and fair skins, still live among the valleys of the Atlas Mountains, where

they are called Berbers, and keep themselves distinct from the Arab population.

[Sidenote: 552.]

Amalasunta, in the mean time, had been murdered by a relative whom she had chosen to assist her in the government. This gave Justinian a pretext for interfering, and Belisarius was next sent with his army to Italy. The Ostrogoths chose a new king, Vitiges, and the struggle which followed was long and desperate. Rome and Milan were taken and ravaged: in the latter city 300,000 persons are said to have been slaughtered. Belisarius finally obtained possession of Ravenna, the Gothic capital, took Vitiges prisoner and sent him to Constantinople. The Goths immediately elected another king, Totila, who carried on the struggle for eleven years longer. Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians and even Alemanni, whose alliance was sought by both sides, flocked to Italy in the hope of securing booty, and laid waste the regions which Belisarius and Totila had spared.

When Belisarius was recalled to Constantinople, Narses took his place, and continued the war with the diminishing remnant of the Ostrogoths. Finally, in the year 552, in a great battle among the Apennines, Totila was slain, and the struggle seemed to be at an end. But the Ostrogoths proclaimed the young prince Teias as their king, and marched southward under his leadership, to make a last fight for their existence as a nation. Narses followed, and not far from Cumae, on a mountain opposite Vesuvius, he cut off their communication with the sea, and forced them to retreat to a higher position, where there was neither water for themselves nor food for their animals. Then they took the bridles off their horses and turned them loose, formed themselves into a solid square of men, with Teias at their head, and for two whole days fought with the valor and the desperation of men who know that their cause is lost, but nevertheless will not yield. Although Teias was slain, they still stood; and on the third morning Narses allowed the survivors, about 1,000 in number, to march away, with the promise that they would leave Italy.

Thus gloriously came to an end, after enduring sixty years, the Gothic power in Italy, and thus, like a meteor, brightest before it is quenched, the Gothic name fades from history. The Visigoths retained their supremacy in Spain until 711, when Roderick, their last king, was slain by the Saracens, but the Ostrogoths, after this campaign of Narses, are never heard of again as a people. Between Hermann and Charlemagne, there is no leader so great as Theodoric, but his empire died with him. He became the hero of the earliest German songs; his name and character were celebrated among tribes who had forgotten his history, and his tomb is one of the few monuments left to us from those ages of battle, migration and change. The Ostrogoths were scattered and their traces lost. Some, no doubt, remained in Italy, and became mixed with the native population; others joined the people which were nearest to them in blood and habits; and some took refuge among the fastnesses of the Alps. It is supposed that the Tyrolese, for instance, may be among their descendants.

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