Procopius Of Caesarea: The Secret History
The “Secret History”
- an eye witness account of the fall of Christianity
Who was Justinian, and why is hecentral to world history?
I have argued in this web site that the last traces of the original church died in the late sixth century. One man dominates this period. He is the emperor Justinian (527-565).
“The reign of Justinian was an extremely significant period. It marked the final end of the Roman empire; the establishment of the new, Byzantine empire; the beginning of western Europe’s unique position within the civilizations of the old world; and made possible the spread of Islam and the rise of the franks.”
“Justinian died, an old man of eighty-two, in 565. In the half century or so during which he had ruled the Roman world he had been amazingly successful in his ambition to restore the imperial authority in the lost provinces of the West. . . . But the cost had been too great. It had exhausted the resources of the treasury and it had exhausted the emperor himself. Nor was the reconquest in any sense final. Huns, Slavs and Avars continued to raid the recovered Illyricum. Thessalonica, and the capital itself, more than once were threatened, and the hordes only bought off by the pledge of an annual pension. To Italy, in 568, there came the last, and worst, of her plagues — the Lombards”
Justinian, more than any other individual, fulfilled Daniel’s prophecies regarding Europe, the little horn. He made Rome give birth to Europe. His reign was marked by some of the greatest military achievements of all time under the generals Belisarius and Narses – reconquering the three key ex-Roman states of Italy, Spain, and North Africa (as foreseen by Daniel).
The “Secret History”:introduction
The world remembers Justinian as a powerful ruler, a very able man, a great builder, conqueror, teacher and lawgiver. But this is only because “history is written by the winners”, and Justinian was a winner. The most important and respected source for this period is Procopius of Caesarea. Procopius accompanied Belisarius on some of his great conquests, and wrote some official histories of the wars and of Justinian’s immense building programs. He ensured that we remember Justinian as a superman.
But that was not the whole truth.
Procopius dared not say what was really going on. He feared for his life (and the lives of his family) if he did. So he wrote another, secret history, with strict instructions that it was not to be published until after his death. This history was so shocking, so devastating, that scholars wanted to believe it was a forgery. Yet its pedigree, and every test that can be made on it, shows it is no forgery. As the introduction states plainly, “it is now generally accepted that Procopius wrote it.”
This, according to the most reliable eye-witness, is what really happened in the sixth century when Justinian ruled the Roman empire. The emperor was demonic. In rebuilding the empire he was destroying it.
Procopius was not alone in hating Justinian. The chronicler Evagrius also agreed that Justinian would go to hell.
All quotations, unless stated, are from Procopius: Secret History, translated by Richard Atwater, (Chicago: P. Covici, 1927; New York: Covici Friede, 1927), reprinted, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1961, with indication that copyright had expired on the text of the translation. It is available on-line at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/procop-anec.asp , courtesy of Internet Medieval Source Book.
The contents of the “SecretHistory”
Simply listing some of the chapter names will give a fair idea of the contents of the book.
- How Theodora Humiliated the Conqueror of Africa and Italy
- How the Defender of the Faith Ruined His Subjects
- Perceptive Affability and Piety of a Tyrant
- Justice for Sale
- How All Roman Citizens Became Slaves
- What Happened to Those Who Fell Out of Favor with Theodora
- How He Seized All the Wealth of the Romans and Threw It Away
- The Sky Tax, and How Border Armies Were Forbidden to Punish Invading Barbarians
- Further Corruption in High Places
- How Landowners Were Ruined
- Unjust Treatment of the Soldiers
- How He Robbed His Own Officials
- How He Spoiled the Beauty of the Cities and Plundered the Poor
- How the Defender of the Faith Protected the Interests of the Christians [by promoting murderers and removing honest men]
- His Violation of the Laws of the Romans
And so on. The great historian Procopius saw Justinian and Theodora (his wife) as tyrants of the worst degree. But this web site is only interested in the church of the time. How did the church fare? There are three questions that are relevant to the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation:
- Could any true Christians – “the man child” of Revelation 12 – have survived until this time?
- If so, could they have survived any longer?
- Did Byzantium (the “little horn” of Daniel 8) become Medieval Europe (the “little horn” of Daniel 7)? Or are they entirely different – opponents with no continuity between them? If there is no continuity, then my entire theory falls down flat.
|The final death of true Christians|
Could any true Christians havesurvived until this time? And if so, could they have survived anylonger?
The answer, according to Procopius, was yes to the first question – and no to the second.
Procopius, of course, like his contemporary Gildas, did not recognise that Roman Christianity was wrong. (If he had, perhaps it would not have triumphed so soon). So he writes as a good Roman. But he recognizes that, until that time, there were many small groups who were different from the Roman majority, and claimed to have the authentic truth. But Justinian put an end to them.
“Now among the Christians in the entire Roman Empire, there are many with dissenting doctrines, which are called heresies by the established church: such as those of the Montanists and Sabbatians, and whatever others cause the minds of men to wander from the true path. All of these beliefs he ordered to be abolished, and their place taken by the orthodox dogma: threatening, among the punishments for disobedience, loss of the heretic’s right to will property to his children or other relatives. ”
Could any of the old ways survive?
“As soon as Justinian came into power he turned everything upside down. Whatever had been before by law, he now introduced into the government, while he revoked all established customs: as if he had been given the robes of an Emperor on the condition he would turn everything topsy-turvy. Existing offices he abolished, and invented new ones for the management of public affairs. He did the same thing to the laws and to the regulations of the army; and his reason was not any improvement of justice or any advantage, but simply that everything might be new and named after himself. And whatever was beyond his power to abolish, he renamed after himself anyway.”
Justinian was famous for making himself the head of everything – including the church. As Mark E. Petersen noted in his pamphlet “Which Church is Right”, Justinian is credited with ending the old system of “common consent”. Before Justinian, the church members had freedom to accept or reject their bishops. After Justinian that freedom as taken. The members became just cattle, or puppets.
Modern scholars agree. According to “THE REIGN OF JUSTINIAN” in History 607.01 from Ohio State University:
“Throughout his reign Justinian’s administration was characterized by unabashed totalitarianism:
a. Justinian seems to have believed firmly that he was the chosen instrument of God’s rule.
b. He disregarded all opposition and refused to follow any procedures unless he agreed with them.
c. He offended the established aristocracy by choosing men of humble birth as his closest advisors.
d. This totalitarianism was nothing new; Justinian simply carried it to its extreme. “
So nobody is claiming that is was easy for unorthodox Christians to survive before the time of Justinian. But after Justinian it was just about impossible.
What happened to anyone teachingunorthodox views?
“Agents were sent everywhere to force whomever they chanced upon to renounce the faith of their fathers. This, which seemed impious to rustic people, caused them to rebel against those who gave them such an order. Thus many perished at the hands of the persecuting faction, and others did away with themselves, foolishly thinking this the holier course of two evils; but most of them by far quitted the land of their fathers, and fled the country. The Montanists, who dwelt in Phrygia, shut themselves up in their churches, set them on fire, and ascended to glory in the flames. And thenceforth the whole Roman Empire was a scene of massacre and flight. ”
“He recklessly killed all whodissented” from his brand of Christian doctrine
“When he himself thus illegally got possession of estates of people alive or dead, he would straightway make them over to one of the churches, gilding his violence with the color of piety-and so that his victims could not possibly get their property back. Furthermore he committed an inconceivable number of murders for the same cause: for in his zeal to gather all men into one Christian doctrine, he recklessly killed all who dissented, and this too he did in the name of piety. For he did not call it homicide, when those who perished happened to be of a belief that was different from his own.”
|Justinian: key to the “little horn”|
Did Justinian lead directly to thefall of Rome and rise of the northern European tribes?
“As the Romans were now at peace with all the world and he had no other means of satisfying his lust for slaughter, he set the barbarians all to fighting each other. And for no reason at all he sent for the Hun chieftains, and with idiotic magnanimity gave them large sums of money, alleging he did this to secure their friendship.”
“These Huns, as soon as they had got this money, sent it together with their soldiers to others of their chieftains, with the word to make inroads into the land of the Emperor: so that they might collect further tribute from him, to buy them off in a second peace. Thus the Huns enslaved the Roman Empire, and were paid by the Emperor to keep on doing it. ”
“This encouraged still others of them to rob the poor Romans; and after their pillaging, they too were further rewarded by the gracious Emperor. In this way all the Huns, for when it was not one tribe of them it was another, continuously overran and laid waste the Empire.”
“These misfortunes, and those that were caused by the Medes, Saracens, Slavs, Antes, and the rest of the barbarians, I described in my previous works. But, as I said in the prefa
ce to this narrative, the real cause of these calamities [Justinian’s evils] remained to be told here. ”
The devil himself was behind this -and the events had world-wide significance
“There have been many enough men, during the whole course of history, who by chance or by nature have inspired great fear, ruining cities or countries or whatever else fell into their power; but to destroy all men and bring calamity on the whole inhabited earth remained for these two to accomplish, whom Fate aided in their schemes of corrupting all mankind. For by earthquakes, pestilences, and floods of river waters at this time came further ruin, as I shall presently show. Thus not by human, but by some other kind of power they accomplished their dreadful designs. ”
|Justinian and the Beast|
Justinian was not the Beast (Rome), but he did rule Rome at the crucial time when the true church was eliminated. In that light, the following contemporary vision is of interest:
“How he seized all wealth I will next discuss: recalling first a vision which, at the beginning of Justinian’s rule, was revealed to one of illustrious rank in a dream. ”
“In this dream, he said, he seemed to be standing on the shore of the sea somewhere in Constantinople, across the water from Chalcedon, and saw Justinian there in mid channel. [See Daniel 7:3 and Revelation 13:1] And first Justinian drank up all the water of the sea, so that he presently appeared to be standing on the mainland, there bring no longer any waves to break against it; then other water, heavy with filth and rubbish, roaring out of the subterranean sewers, proceeded to cover the land. And this, too, he drank, a second time drying up the bed of the channel. This is what the vision in the dream disclosed.”
Procopius then relates how Justinian robbed the empire and left it almost desolate.
“To all the barbarians, on every occasion, he gave great sums: to those of the East and those of the West ‘ to the North and to the South, as far as Britain, and over all the inhabited earth; so that nations whose very names we had never heard of, we now learned to know, seeing their ambassadors for the first time. For when they learned of this man’s folly, they came to him and Constantinople in floods from the whole world. [See Revelation 17:1-2, 17-18] And he with no hesitation, but overjoyed at this, and thinking it good luck to drain the Romans of their prosperity and fling it to barbarian men or to the waves of the sea, daily sent each one home with his arms full of presents. ”
“Thus all the barbarians became masters of all the wealth of the Romans, either being presented with it by the Emperor, or by ravaging the Roman Empire, selling their prisoners for ransom, and bartering for truces. And the prophecy of the dream I mentioned above, came to pass in this visible reality.”
At this same time, in AD 550, Andreas of Caesaria said the Beast would reunite the Roman Empire and reign at Jerusalem. This was written at precisely the time that Justinian had reunited the empire and had a special interest in rebuilding Jerusalem. (See Wm Smith vol 3: appendix B:”Antichrist”)
|The year 570|
So, what has this to do with the year 570, as Justinian died in 565? Procopius records that some of those who disagreed with Justinian managed to escape to foreign countries. The true church could have already been very weak, so could not survive long when further spread out and away from “civilisation”. When Justinian died, the survivors had a chance to return and re-group. But what happened in the year 570 to 571 was the last straw that would have broken the camel’s back.
The turning point for Byzantium
“The reign of Justinian (527-65) is frequently described as the Golden Age of the early Byzantine period. The uncertainty of earlier years was replaced by certainty of a new synthesis of ancient and Christian society. Nevertheless, despite the obvious glories of the age, historians are aware of the crisis that soon followed the emperor’s death and ask: to what extent were the difficulties of the late sixth and seventh centuries the result of mis-government under Justinian?
“In contrast to the age of Justinian, the later sixth century was characterized by political, economic, and military collapse. The reasons for this are difficult to explain; one has to ask how much of the disaster was caused by the excess of the reign of Justinian and how such was a result of mistakes made later in the century. From the disasters of this period the emperors rebuilt the Byzantine state on a new basis, one that was to lead the empire to its greatest days of prosperity and power. But before that recovery the empire was nearly destroyed.”
Justinian’s successor, Justin II, started off well (making friends, paying off debts, etc.), but in AD 570 things began to go very wrong. By March 571 he had to give up any hope of defending the empire against the latest wave of invaders (by allowing Slavs and Bulgars to settle without assimilating).
Worse, in 571 he tried to “strengthen” the empire by instituting a policy of strict religious persecution. By 574 he had gone insane. If any true Christians had survived, this would have been the end for them.
AD 570: The last battles with (e.g. no more need to fight with) the old gods of Paganism
“We may pass quite quickly over the well-known dates and facts that serve as landmarks in the battle against the old gods carried out publicly in the fourth century by the Church, which was associated with the ruling power except during the short restoration under Julian (361-363). The repression that had begun with Constantine reached its official end with the general prohibition against the ancient religion proclaimed by Theodosius I in 392. Nevertheless, the reign of Justinian I (527-565) was still marked by the confiscation of sanctuary properties and the prohibition of teaching by pagans. Although Bishop Porphyry tore down the sanctuary of Marneion of Gaza at the end of the fourth century, the last internal missions, notably those in the mountains of Asia Minor, were established around 542, and the last matters involving personalties of the capital, including the patriarch himself, occurred around 570.”
The remaining centuries of Byzantine history never came close to the glory of Justinian I. The next century saw losses to the Moslems. Then came a long and painful schism over the iconoclastic dispute (particularly damaging to an empire where church and state were the same). During this time, Byzantium did achieve some successes and glories, but they were not l
ike the old Roman days. The state was fundamentally different (see earlier quote). The decline continued with the greatest schism of all in 1054, the formal split with the western church. The much reduced empire struggled on until the fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century – which marked a new era for Europe. But that’s another story.
the bottom line
Justinian is the human link between the little horn (Europe) and the Beast (Rome) at the crucial period – the late sixth century.