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Belisarius' Struggle for Rome

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          The year was 533 A.D. Barbarians overran Rome, mother of Europe, founder of culture, and emperor of empires. They lay in every corner of the western continent, living in the former Western Roman Empire. With the arrival of the Vandals, the Goths, and others, Europe began its decline into the Dark Ages, and the progress of the Romans seemed doomed to ignorance.

          But a wind blew in the East. On the sandy shores of North Africa, one man stepped out onto the beaches with courage in his step, and hope in his eyes. His name was Flavius Belisarius, and he was the Last of the Romans. Standing alongside the Eastern Roman Empire he would not stand for the fall of western civilization. 

          Every young boy living in the Eastern Roman Empire likely dreamt of seeing Rome. The city is legendary even today, and was called "the Eternal City". Belisarius must have wanted to see Rome as well; freed, and under the banner of the Eastern Emperors. When Justinian ascended to the throne, he got his chance. 

          An emperor and a young soldier, both with dreams of the West, and both worked as hard as they could for the benefit of the Empire. First a bodyguard, Belisarius rose through the ranks, finally becoming a general. The military accomplishments and continued survival of the Eastern Roman Empire would not have been possible without Belisarius. When the Sassanids (a Neo-Persian empire) struck them, Belisarius was ready. He forced peace between the two nations, and as a result he and Justinian could finally look West. 

          After quieting a revolt in Constantinople, Justinian fabricated a cause for war on the Vandals in North Africa, which leads me back to where I started. As Belisarius looked on the sands of North Africa, he had to have known it would not be an easy fight. Which makes it all the more surprising that he marched directly to Carthage, seemingly without care for any enemy armies. His straightforward plan surprised the encircling Vandals, who had planned to ambush him. Their armies became disorganized, and attacked in piecemeal rather than in force. 

          In a mere nine months, Belisarius had reconquered North Africa for the Eastern Roman Empire. Ecstatic with success from crushing the Vandals, Justinian shifted their focus to the Italian Ostrogoths. After quickly seizing the island of Sicily, Belisarius moved into Italy proper, even as winter slowed the northern Ostrogothic soldiers. The entirety of the South fell by November, 535 A.D.

          By December, the long anticipated arrival took place. Belisarius and his men entered into the city of Rome. Unlike in stories, however, the campaign did not end at its destination. Far different from the legends of the city the Romans would have heard, the city had not fared well in barbarian hands. Architecture lay in neglect, and the city walls would not stand repeated assault.

          For the rest of his campaigns in Italy, Rome would be lost and retaken, repeatedly. Belisarius managed to conquer as far north as Ravenna in Northern Italy before disaster struck in the homeland. The Sassanids attacked Syria, betraying the peace treaties he had established with them earlier. Jealous of Belisarius' success, and worried by Belisarius' feigned acceptance of an invitation the Ostrogoths had made to make him their Emperor, Justinian forced him to return.

          When Belisarius returned to Italy after defeating the Sassanids, things were substantially different. Totila, the newest leader of the Ostrogoths, was aggressive, and had pushed the boundary between the two countries back to Naples, retaking Rome. Even with limited troops, and supplies, and overwhelmed by the Ostrogothic strength in numbers, Belisarius managed to fight them back once more.

          Belisarius retired from the military several years later. When he died in 565 A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire had recovered North Africa, Italy, Illyria, and even parts of southern Hispania. He practically doubled the size of the Empire (45% increase). Before his death, he saw the triumph of Rome, and civilization over the many barbarians which had destroyed the western half of his country. Yet shortly after his death the Eastern Roman Empire slowly declined, crumbling further and further up until 1453, exactly 888 years after his death. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople, and thus brought the might empire to an end. I hope this has been insightful. 
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