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Belisarius

Updated on August 24, 2010

Belisarius (505-565) was a famous general of the Eastern Roman Empire. Under Justinian, he won great victories over the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.

He is first mentioned about 525, during the war with Persia, when procopius became his secretary. In 530, appointed commander of the army in the East by Justinian I, he defeated the Persians at Daras, though they soon had their revenge. Recalled to Constantinople, he married Antonia, a wealthy woman who was a friend of the Empress Theodora.

In 533 he led the reconquest of Africa from Gelimer, King of the Vandals, returning in triumph the next year. In 534 he took Carthage, making the Vandal king Gelimer prisoner.

In 535 he was made sole consul. He invaded Sicily and Italy, capturing Ravenna, together with the Ostrogothic king Vitiges.

In 536 he took Naples and Lower Italy, and at the end of the year entered Rome. During 537 he was besieged there by Vitiges, the Gothic king, but in 540 captured Ravenna, Vitiges's capital. During 541-42 he was engaged in a campaign against the Persians, but in 544 the Ostrogoths, under Totila, revolted. Belisarius returned to Italy, but suffered several defeats, and was recalled to Constantinople.

He then retired, only emerging in 559 to defeat a Bulgarian attack on the city. In 563 he was imprisoned on a charge of conspiracy against Justinian, but his innocence was soon established, and he was released after six months.

Legend recounts that he became a blind beggar.

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