What better way to start this blog than with what most historians probably will almost child like affinity love the most, maps! The Roman empire at its two generally accepted heights. In its original form under Trajan in 117, and the resurgent Eastern Empire under Justinian in 550 after the conquests performed mainly by the brilliant general Belisarius and a lesser extent the eunuch general Narses. Eunuch is important in there for a reason. Narses was always given a somewhat larger army than Belisarius since his *ahem* condition, made him ineligible for the position of emperor(eunuchs were often trusted officials high in the emperor’s inner circle), but he was still a pretty good general in his own right. Both Narses and Belisarius won pretty good favor with Justinian in helping to quash the Nika riots. As the story goes, Narses went into the hippodrome where both camps(The Greens and the Blues) were camped out united, and many armed, most likely by Senators who were not fond of Justinian’s new taxes on estates and general lack of respect for the nobility, as Justinian himself had come from humble roots. Narses went to the blues, distributed gold to the leaders to be split up among them, and reminded them that Justinian was a supporter of the Blues, and that the man they along with some Senators wanted crowned was in fact a Green. Reminded of this fact, and paid, the Blues stormed out of the hippodrome. As one would expect, the Green camp was a bit perplexed and confused. And that was the sign. With the encampment in the hippodrome now down by near half its size, Belisarius stormed in with elite imperial troops and up to 30,000 may have been killed in the hippodrome. And so ended the Nika revolt.
Anyways back to Belisarius though. As a very effective, and very popular general both among troops and the common people, Justinian was always a bit paranoid over Belisarius even though the man showed no intent of wanting the throne. Even more so paranoid was Empress Theodora. She had good reason though, to put it bluntly, she was basically a stripper before meeting Justinian, albeit a high class one. Being a smart and cunning woman, Justinian took an immense love of her, and eventually Theodora is one of the most powerful women in the world, wielding immense power behind the scenes. Obviously, this was something she didn’t want to give up, and she almost did. During the Nika riots, Justinian and company were at the imperial docks ready to abdicate and abandon Constantinople. Theodora though had ovaries of steel. No one will ever know what for sure she said to Justinian, but the famous line is “Purple makes a fine burial shroud as well.” Live by the purple, die by the purple.
Anyways to be succinct, Belisarius was essentially never given enough, or at least what should’ve been enough, to win his campaigns due to the imperial paranoia. Yet always outnumbered, he just kept on winning. Heck in the siege of Rome in 537, he with 5,000, latter augmented by a few thousand reinforcements held back over 40,000 Gothic soldiers. In the Vandal campaign in North Africa he was outnumbered over 3 to 1. Case in point, look at the disastrous Vandal campaign 65 years earlier when the eastern empire and remnants of the western empire tried to defeat and take back north Africa from the Vandals, with an army over 7x as large as Belisarius’s in what was one of the largest and most disastrous military campaigns of late antiquity.