One of the best generals that the Byzantine Empire produced was Belisarius. Hailing from the Age of Justinian, he was vital to his master’s plans for conquest and expansion. Yet Justinian never used him fully because of jealousy and mistrust. Even so, Belisarius still managed to achieve great success despite the hindrances placed in his way. If I were Justinian, I would have treated Belisarius differently and given him my complete trust. The following are 5 reasons why I would want him to lead my armies.
1. He was a Brilliant Commander
Belisarius was a gifted leader who was well versed in the art of war. As a strategist he knew which objectives were important and which were not. His ability to swiftly capture North Africa and Italy despite the scant resources he had demonstrates his wisdom as a strategist. As a tactician, he was skilful in the deployment and manoeuvring of troops on the battlefield. In the many battles he fought, he usually won against superior numbers due to his tactical ability. The brilliance of Belisarius as a leader gives me the confidence to place my armies in his hands.
2. He was Resourceful
In his many campaigns, Belisarius always found himself poorly supplied and outnumbered. Yet he always managed to make do with what he had. The fact that he triumphed despite his problems shows his resourcefulness. It is clear from his actions that he was a man who focused on finding a solution whenever he faced a challenge. He was not content to just sit and wait for help to come. Due to his proactive nature, he would explore all kinds of possibilities to improve his situation. His campaigns and successes in North Africa and Italy were examples of his resourcefulness. This is another reason I would trust Belisarius.
3. He was Flexible in his Methods
When Belisarius laid siege to Ravenna; the capital of Gothic Italy, the Goths made him an offer. They proposed to make him Western Emperor if he would stop attacking and lead them instead. Although Belisarius had no wish to be emperor, he saw this as his chance to take the city with little bloodshed. Thus by feigning acceptance, he entered and captured the city. In war, the ends justify the means. A general who has the flexibility to vary his approach and seize any opportunity that offers itself wins the battle. I would be happy to have a general that can win battles with little bloodshed.
4. He was Loyal
The relationship between Justinian and Belisarius was not always smooth. War and conquests were the best ways to win glory in those days. Since Justinian gave the command of his troops to Belisarius, each success that the general had increased his prestige despite his efforts to credit them to Justinian. It soon got to a point where Belisarius’s popularity threatened his master and made him feel jealous. Out of jealousy, Justinian went so far as to hamper his general by withholding supplies during the campaigns. All of these actions would have pushed others to rebel. Yet, Belisarius chose to remain loyal. At any time, he could have revolted and wrested the empire from Justinian, but he never did. This quality gives me the peace of mind to place a large command under Belisarius.
5. He was of a Stoic Nature
Throughout his career as a general, Belisarius had to achieve great aims with meagre means. On top of that, he had to deal with suspicion from his ruler who placed all kinds of obstacles in his way. Even so, Belisarius endured all these tribulations with great patience. Not once did he slacken in his efforts to carry out his duties. Not once did he shirk the responsibility placed on his shoulders by Justinian. This was a man who could endure all kinds of hardships to get the job done. This is a man I would place my hopes in without worry.
Reflections of the Vizier
It is hard to find talented men. It is harder to find talented men who would serve you faithfully. This makes Belisarius a rare jewel. It is a pity that Justinian did not place greater trust in him. If Belisarius achieved all that he did despite the scant support he received, how much more could he have achieved with the full support of his master? Alas we will never know. But it would not be too far off the mark to imagine that he would have made even greater conquests.