One of the defining features of Belisarius' career was his success despite varying levels of available resources.
136 Facts About Belisarius
Belisarius's name is frequently given as one of the so-called "Last of the Romans".
Belisarius conquered the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa in the Vandalic War in nine months and conquered much of Italy during the Gothic War.
Belisarius defeated the Vandal armies in the battle of Ad Decimum and played an important role at Tricamarum, compelling the Vandal king, Gelimer, to surrender.
Belisarius won an important battle against the Persians at Dara but was defeated at Callinicum.
Belisarius was known for military deception; he repulsed a Persian invasion by deceiving their commander and lifted the siege of Ariminum without a fight.
Belisarius was probably born in Germania, a fortified town of which some archaeological remains still exist, on the site of present-day Sapareva Banya in south-west Bulgaria, within the borders of Thrace and Paeonia, or in Germen, a town in Thrace near Orestiada, in present-day Greece.
Belisarius' guards formed the nucleus of all the armies he would later command.
The next battle was fought at Tanurin, where Belisarius played a leading role again.
Belisarius fled with his troops after his colleagues were lured into a trap.
Belisarius's army was then defeated at Mindouos, but he was promoted shortly afterward, meaning he was not likely held responsible for the defeat.
At the battle Belisarius had dug trenches in order to direct the more mobile Sassanian force to a location where he could attack them from the rear, this was adopted from the Sasanians at Tanurin two years earlier.
Belisarius was taken by surprise and was unsure whether this was a feint or a real attack, so at first, he did not move.
Belisarius called upon Roman-allied Arab tribes for help and received 5,000 troops.
Belisarius forced the Persians to retreat with a successful strategic maneuver but he kept pursuing the fleeing Persians, reportedly because his soldiers threatened mutiny if no battle was fought.
Belisarius fled the field probably long before the fighting was over.
Belisarius was recalled to Constantinople and charged with incompetence and responsibility for the defeats at Thannuris and Callinicum, but after an investigation, he was cleared of the charges against him.
At the time the riots broke out, Belisarius was in Constantinople.
Belisarius tried to enter the hippodrome, where the rioters were gathered, through the emperor's box but was blocked by its guards.
Belisarius was surprised and informed Justinian, who ordered him to enter from another direction.
Belisarius decided to deal with the rioters and, bypassing the door to Hypatius' location, charged into the crowd.
In 533, Belisarius began a campaign against the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa.
Belisarius had shown military competence at Dara, been cleared of incompetence in his other battles by an inquiry, and was a friend to the emperor and thus obviously loyal to him.
Belisarius was reappointed Magister Militum per Orientem and given command of the expedition.
When on the way two drunken Huns killed another soldier, Belisarius had them executed to reinforce discipline.
Belisarius had the staff-ships marked and lanterns put up so that they would always be visible.
Belisarius would make several extra stops during his journey to acquire extra bread during the voyage.
Belisarius had the full authority to act in any way he saw fit.
Only when Belisarius was already in Sicily was the choice made to sail straight for the Vandal heartland.
Belisarius considered potentially being cornered in Carthage, with the Vandals holding a superior naval position, his forces vulnerable to attack when landing, and no information on the position of the Vandals to be too dangerous.
Belisarius ordered fortification to be constructed, guards to be posted and a screen of lightships to be deployed to defend the army and fleet, so that this invasion would not be a repeat of the Battle of Cape Bon where the Byzantines were defeated by fire ships.
Belisarius had Hilderic and other captives executed, ordered his treasury to be put on a ship ready for evacuation to Visigothic Iberia if necessary, and began gathering his troops.
Belisarius had already made a plan to ambush and encircle the Byzantines at Ad Decimum.
Only after he had already ordered the soldiers to be executed did Belisarius gather his men and tell them how to behave.
Belisarius warned his men that if they didn't have the support from the locals, the expedition would end in defeat.
The Byzantines captured a Vandal messenger who Belisarius decided to release.
Belisarius sent 300 guards ahead to scout while the 600 Huns guarded his left flank, and the fleet his right flank.
When Belisarius was 40 miles away from Carthage, he knew the Vandals would be near at this point and that they would act before he could reach Carthage, but he was not aware of the location and wanted to gather information of his situation first.
Belisarius ordered Archelaus and the naval commander Calonymus remain at a distance of at least 22 miles from Carthage.
Four miles from Ad Decimum, Belisarius found an ideal spot to camp.
When Belisarius arrived at the battlefield, the first three stages of the battle had already taken place.
Belisarius then camped outside the city as he was afraid of a Vandal ambush in its streets and of his troops sacking the city under the cover of darkness.
Belisarius ordered him to give everything back, even though Calonymus secretly managed to keep it.
The Vandals hiding in Carthage and the surrounding area were gathered in Carthage by Belisarius, who guaranteed their safety.
Belisarius prevented their desertion, but for example, the Huns would not take part in the battle until after the winner had been practically decided.
Meanwhile, Belisarius himself had been reorganizing the captured territory and had sent Cyril on a mission to capture Sardinia which would capture that island, and later Corsica.
Jealous subordinates now contacted Justinian and claimed Belisarius wanted to rebel.
Belisarius was presented with a choice by Justinian: he could either continue governing the new territory as its official governor or return to Constantinople and get a triumph.
Sometime after Belisarius left, a mutiny broke out in Africa.
Belisarius attacked them with just 2,000 troops, winning a victory in the Battle of the River Bagradas.
The rebels' power was broken and Belisarius left for Italy.
Belisarius assembled 4,000 troops, which included regular troops and possibly foederati, 3,000 Isaurians, 300 Berbers and 200 Huns.
Belisarius landed in Sicily and took the island in order to use it as a base against Italy, while Mundus recovered Dalmatia.
The preparations for the invasion of the Italian mainland were interrupted in Easter 536 when Belisarius sailed to Africa to counter an uprising of the local army.
Belisarius's reputation made the rebels abandon the siege of Carthage, and Belisarius pursued and defeated them at Membresa.
When this force had entered the city, Belisarius launched an all-out assault so the Goths couldn't concentrate against the intruders.
When Vitiges tried to post units to prevent these raids, Belisarius sent out bigger units that encircled them; the Gothic officers proved unable to counter this.
Eighteen days into the siege, the Goths launched an all-out assault, and Belisarius ordered a number of archers to shoot at the oxen pulling the siege equipment.
Belisarius bribed men to give the guards drugged wine, but the plot was revealed and Belisarius had a traitor tortured and mutilated as a punishment.
Belisarius sent 1,000 men to support the population of Mediolanum against the Goths.
Belisarius was to replace him with the Deacon Vigilius, Apocrisarius of Pope John II in Constantinople.
Belisarius had him stripped of his vestments and exiled to Patara in Lycia in Asia Minor.
Belisarius built two hospices for pilgrims and a monastery, which have since disappeared.
Belisarius ordered the cavalry garrison of Ariminum to be replaced by infantry.
The force had been too small to actually challenge the Goths, but through deception, Belisarius had managed to convince the Goths otherwise.
Belisarius had approached from multiple sides including over the sea, which convinced the Goths they faced a huge force.
Narses' supporters tried to turn Narses against Belisarius, claiming that a close confidant of the emperor should not take orders from a "mere general".
Belisarius, in turn, warned Narses that his followers were underestimating the Goths.
Belisarius pointed out that their current position was surrounded by Gothic garrisons, and proposed to relieve Mediolanum and besiege Auximus simultaneously.
Belisarius ultimately decided against this, as he was afraid this would spread his troops too thin.
Belisarius showed a letter from Justinian that said that he had absolute authority in Italy to act "in the best interests of the state" to force Narses into accepting the decision.
Narses replied that Belisarius wasn't acting in the best interests of the state.
Belisarius gave up his original plan and instead of sending forces to besiege Urviventus and himself besieging Urbinus.
In 539, Belisarius set up siege forces around Auximum and sent troops to Faesulae, starving both cities to submission by late 539.
Belisarius led the siege of Auximum himself; knowing he couldn't storm the city, he tried to cut the water supply but this failed.
Belisarius stationed his army around the Ostrogothic capital of Ravenna in late 539.
When Belisarius besieged Ravenna, the Gothic nobles, including Vitiges, had offered the throne of the "western empire" to him.
Belisarius feigned acceptance and entered Ravenna via its sole point of entry, a causeway through the marshes, accompanied by a comitatus of bucellarii, his personal household regiment.
Belisarius prepared a grain shipment to enter the city when it surrendered.
Belisarius returned home with the Gothic treasure, king and warriors.
When Belisarius arrived in the east he sent spies to gather information.
Belisarius was told that the Persians were moving north to fight the Huns.
Meanwhile, Belisarius had trained and organized his troops who had been terrified of the Persians before his arrival.
Some of Belisarius' officers protested, as staging an offensive would leave the Lakhmids free to raid the eastern provinces.
Belisarius pointed out that the Lakhmids would be filling the next months with religious celebrations and that he would be back within two months.
When Belisarius approached Nisibis he ordered a camp to be set up at a significant distance from the city.
Belisarius's officers protested at this, but he explained to them that this was so that if the Persians sallied out and were defeated, the Byzantines would have more time to inflict casualties during the retreat.
At the battle of Rome, during the siege of Rome, Belisarius had been defeated, but much of his army was able to retreat the short distance back to the city, something which he did not want to occur when the roles were reversed.
At this point, up to a third of Belisarius' forces had caught a fever, and the Lakhmids were about to take up arms again.
Belisarius disregarded the fact that no information on Persian dispositions was available and Belisarius hadn't been able to take Sisauranon by force, making it unlikely he could have stormed Ctesiphon.
Khosrow had wanted to raid Byzantine territory again but Belisarius moved to the area.
When Khosrow sent an ambassador, Belisarius took 6,000 of his best men with him for a meeting.
Belisarius sent 1,000 cavalry into the Persian retreat route; if an engagement was fought this might have pointed out Byzantine weakness.
The meeting had been just a ruse to spy on the Byzantine troops, and as such, when Belisarius took the pressure off, Khosrow attacked some Byzantine towns.
Some claimed that by not harassing Khosrow, Belisarius had made a serious error, but this view was not brought up in court.
Crucial to the success of Belisarius' deception had been Khosrow's fear of catching the plague if he remained in Byzantine territory for too long, which made maintaining a tactical position in Byzantine territory highly dangerous.
Belisarius trimmed the edges of coins and kept the trimmings of precious metal to increase his own wealth.
Belisarius charged many soldiers with corruption and demanded they pay fines, and he decreased military spending and demanded that tax withheld from the Goths would be instead paid to the Byzantines.
In 544, Belisarius was reappointed to hold command in Italy.
The Byzantine garrison at Dryus were running out of supplies and made plans to surrender, but when Belisarius arrived, he quickly arranged for supplies to be sent by ship.
Belisarius fell for the ruse, so Totila immediately knew the state of his army; he wouldn't be deceived like Khosrow.
Not wanting to remain idle, Belisarius sent troops into Aemilia.
Still wanting to retain some initiative, Belisarius sent men to rebuild some nearby forts.
Belisarius undertook no other operations, so despite winter arriving, Totila started the sieges of some towns, secure from the Byzantine threat.
When requesting reinforcement, Belisarius asked for barbarian horse archers, as he knew the Goths were unable to counter these.
When Belisarius attempted to assist the city with supplies, he came up against a blockade on the Tiber.
Belisarius overcame this using a siege tower with a boat on top.
Belisarius had left a force under Isaac the Armenian to guard Portus with orders not to leave the city under any circumstances.
Now Belisarius heard he had been captured and rushed back to Portus.
However, it is worth noting a letter that Belisarius wrote to Totila, according to Procopius, reportedly prevented Totila from destroying Rome:.
Famine had spread throughout much of Italy and as he did not have to fear Belisarius sending aid to besieged towns, he could take full advantage.
Belisarius had spent the winter in Epidamnus and when he sailed back to Italy, he did so with reinforcements from Justinian.
Belisarius received the reply that Belisarius was in charge of Italy.
In 551, after economic recovery the eunuch Narses led a large army to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion; Belisarius retired from military affairs.
At the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, Belisarius was one of the Emperor's envoys to Pope Vigilius in their controversy over The Three Chapters.
The retirement of Belisarius came to an end in 559, when an army of Kutrigur Bulgars under Khan Zabergan crossed the Danube River to invade Roman territory and approached Constantinople.
Belisarius got only 300 heavily armed veterans from the Italian campaign and a host of civilians, including or entirely consisting of 1,000 conscripted refugees fleeing from the Huns, to stop the 7,000 Huns.
Belisarius camped close to the Huns and had the civilians dig a trench for protection, and lit many torches to exaggerate their numbers.
When 2,000 Huns attacked, Belisarius had his 100 veterans who were blocking the path charge, while the civilians made a lot of noise behind him.
The Huns fled in disorder, and Belisarius applied so much pressure to them during the retreat that they didn't even use the Parthian shot to harass their pursuers.
In Constantinople Belisarius was referred to as a hero.
In 562, Belisarius stood trial in Constantinople, having been accused of participating in a conspiracy against Justinian.
Belisarius was found guilty and imprisoned but not long after, Justinian pardoned him, ordered his release, and restored him to favor at the imperial court, contrary to a later legend that Belisarius had been blinded.
Empress Theodora reportedly saved Antonina when Belisarius tried to charge his wife at last.
Belisarius owned the estate of Rufinianae on the Asiatic side of the Constantinople suburbs.
Belisarius had created no reserve at all, so he was not able to plug the gap, despite superior numbers.
At this he was so efficient that Totila refused to engage in them until Belisarius was unable to take the initiative due to supply shortages.
Belisarius tried to keep his strategic rear secure, besieging, for example, Auximus so he could safely move on Ravenna.
Belisarius wanted not to split his forces into two small contingents, like Gelimer had been forced to do at Ad Decimum, so when Narses proposed a plan to operate with a secure strategic rear, Belisarius refused it with the reason that he would divide his forces too much.
Procopius' portrayal of Belisarius being weak-willed can often be explained with a good understanding of politics; taking action against his wife, for example, would not have been appreciated by empress Theodora at all.
Belisarius often moved out with only a small force, with which he would have no control and communication problems.
Belisarius recognized John was competent and knew more about the situation, and as such John remained in overall command, winning a great victory.
One of the attributes of Belisarius' campaigns was his benevolence towards soldiers and civilians alike.
Belisarius is generally held in extremely high regard among historians.
Philip Stanhope, a 19th-century British philologist who wrote Life of Belisarius, believed the story to be true, based on his review of the available primary sources.
Belisarius was featured in several works of art before the 20th century.