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Updated on February 22, 2012

Procopius was a Byzantine historian (circa AD 500 – circa AD 565) born in Caesarea, Palestine, he was educated in Caesarea and Gaza, where he studied rhetoric and law, he went to Constantinople to practice the legal profession. There he became quickly known, for in 527 he named legal adviser and secretary to Belisarius, Justinian's great general. This appointment gave him access to important sources of information and enabled him to participate in the military campaigns of Belisarius: against the Persians in the First Persian War (527-531) and perhaps also in 541, against the Vandals in Africa in 533, and against the Goths in Italy in 536. We find him in Constantinople in 542, but then lose sight of him. It is quite probable, however, that the Procopius who prefect of Constantinople in 562-563 the same person as the historian. Procopius attained the rank of illustris and probably also the higher one of patricius.

Considered the most accomplished Greek historian since Polybius, Procopius wrote three important historical works: The History of the Wars; the Anecdota, known in the West as the Historia Arcana (Secret History) ; and the Buildings. The first of these is a detailed account of the wars of Justinian in eight books, the first seven of which were published in 550 and the eighth in 553.

The first two books are devoted to the wars with the Persians, and the next two to the wars in Africa; the three that follow relate the wars in Italy, while the eighth covers operations that took place after 550 in any locality. The emphasis of the work is on military operations, but there is enough other information to make it a general history of the reign of Justinian.

The Anecdota, never published by Procopius but certainly his work, is a devastatingly critical evaluation of Justinian, his wife Theodora, and, to a lesser extent, #Belisarius#.

It attributes all the misfortunes of the empire to Justinian and is the source of what is known of the scandalous conduct of Theodora before her marriage. Despite its exaggerations the Anecdota is extremely valuable as a source. The Buildings is a eulogistic account of the building activity of Justinian and written no doubt at the request of the emperor himself. These three works make it possible to know the reign of Justinian better than that of any other Roman or Byzantine emperor. In writing them, Procopius used as his models Herodotus and Thucydides, especially the latter.


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